Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Wonderful Emptiness

Tall and plainly dressed, a young woman stepped off the train that had brought her from Virginia to Amarillo, Texas one early autumn day in 1912. Georgia O’Keeffe was in love with the flat, colorful land of the Panhandle, a love that would last her long lifetime.       
“Wait a minute!” you say. “She painted in New Mexico.” Right you are, for part of her life. But this young O’Keeffe needed a job and she’d found one in a place that intrigued her. We can claim her as a Texas artist for she left a marvelous legacy of this young love. During the two years she taught art in the public schools of Amarillo she spent hours roaming the prairie and the orange rocks of Palo Duro Canyon with her charcoal and her sketch book at her side. Later she recalled, “It is the only place I ever felt that I really belonged, that I really felt at home. That was my country—terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness.”
             After her time in Amarillo, she headed back east to New York with a portfolio stuffed with those drawings. Some of these may have been in her 1916 exhibit at Alfred Stiglitz’s Gallery.
            Two years later, O’Keeffe came back to the Panhandle as head of the art department (of one) at West Texas Normal College in Canyon near Amarillo. She returned to her wandering life, but now she was painting in the abstract style that defines her work. She was not always fully appreciated.  The owner of her boarding house remarked after viewing one picture that it “did not look like any canyon that I’ve ever seen.”
Intrigued by O’Keeffe paintings of the lonely prairie and the wide night skies?  If you’re driving through the Panhandle, plan your trip to include the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum at West Texas A & M University, the campus where O’Keeffe taught. (You can even spend the night in the Hudspeth house where she took her meals.) And be sure and take the short trek to Palo Duro Canyon itself and watch the sunset. Surely you too will catch the magic.
When young Georgia made those long treks down Panhandle roads and Palo Duro trails, surely she had some sustenance tucked into the pockets of her black sweater. Here’s a long-ago Panhandle recipe she might have taken along.

Palo Duro Picnic Sandwich
1/2 cup softened butter
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 green onions, finely chopped
6-10 leftover dinner rolls (depends on size and how many are left!)
grated Longhorn cheese (about 2 tablespoons per roll)
1/2 pound thinly shaved or chopped leftover ham
Combine butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and onions. Split the rolls and spread the butter mixture on each half. Put cheese on the bottom half of the roll, top with the ham and put the two sides together.   Put sandwiches in a 350 degree oven (if it’s a wood stove—about baking temperature) for five minutes or until the cheese is melty. Wrap in brown paper and slip in your pocket. Of course, these days, we’ll wrap them in foil. They freeze well; then bake them for about 10 or 12 minutes.

Want to learn more about Georgia O’Keefe’s time in Texas? Start with Georgia O’Keefe in Texas: A Guide by Paul H. Carlson and John T. Becker.  For Georgia in the kitchen, try A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keefe by Margaret Wood. For a complete biography of this fascination woman, I recommend Roxana Robinson’s Georgia O’Keefe: A Life.
To see lots of images use Google Images or the search engine of your  choice. 

This entry is also posted at http://trillap.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Whirlwind Romance

Hijacking cars, robbing banks and capturing imaginations of Americans dragged down by the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow spent  years scaring many folks and killing more than a few. But before they started terrorizing the nation, they were just two tumble-down almost-kids who’d never known many good times between them and thought they’d found heaven when they found each other.
            Bonnie, born in Rowena, ‘way out in West Texas, lost her dad when she was only four. Her mom gathered up the brood and took them all to her mom in West Dallas’s Cement City. Bonnie shone as a good little girl, loving to read and write poetry; in 1922 she was the junior spelling champ of Dallas. The literary life of her dreams never materialized. By the time she turned  16, tiny Bonnie—she never reached five feet—was a married lady. Didn’t last long. Two years later, husband gone, soon to end up in prison she was on her own. She waited tables, did what she could. She truly hated one job as a housekeeper for an acquaintance suffering with a broken arm. She wanted nothing but out until one day in January, 1930, a fellow dropped by the house to pass the time. Out in the kitchen she found a dapper guy with a dimple in his chin, and she knew she’d found her heaven.
            If Bonnie knew hard times, Clyde Barrow knew harder. He knew how to land on his feet—usually running! Growing up in a squatters’ camp tent in a under the Oak Cliff Viaduct in Dallas, clever Clyde knew he’d get out, didn’t much matter how. Floyd Hamilton, who later went to Federal prison for harboring the duo, commented, “Life was desperate enough in West Dallas before the Great Depression, but after 1929, it was almost impossible to stay honest.” Certainly, that was true for Clyde.  At seventeen he rented a car, but he “forgot” to return it. The beginning. Three years later Clyde was on the lam when Bonnie found him in that kitchen.
            Soon after their meeting, he’d come a-courting at Bonnie’s mom’s house when the cops nabbed him. Did Bonnie drop that bad boy? No way. On Valentine’s Day, she penned a long letter to Clyde, now in the Waco jail.
Honey, I sure wish I was with you tonight. Sugar, I never knew I really cared for you until you got in jail.
He wasn’t in jail long. Bonnie smuggled in a gun. Clyde with three other fellows broke out. He wasn’t free for long. By midsummer he was in the state penitentiary system where he stayed for two years. He managed to kill one person will he was in. Patient Bonnie waited for her man. Clyde Barrow was paroled in February, 1932. In April, he robbed his first bank. The spree began. The nation, fascinated and frightened grabbed the papers to read about how the gang kidnaped the Chief of Police in Electra only days before they robbed the train station in Grand Prairie. Headlines screamed about  murders in Sherman and  Grapevine. Murders, shootings, robberies, more murders, more robberies until May, 1934 when the victims were Bonnie and Clyde, killed in ambush set up by a gang member.
            Newspaper sales broke all records. Their families buried them both in Dallas, but they do not lie together as they’d always promised each other.  Clyde is in Western Heights Cemetery                     .Bonnie, whose burial was almost delay when more than 20,000 folks tried to attend lies in  Fishtrap Cemetery. The largest bouquet at her service came from a group of Dallas news boys. In the day after her death, they’d sold a record-breaking more than half a million newspapers, and they loved her for it.       .

            But let’s go back to that exciting day when Bonnie found Clyde in her friend’s kitchen. What was the desperado cooking up? Every account of this fateful afternoon have Clyde standing at the stove mixing up some hot chocolate.  We don’t know his exact recipe but here’s one a tough guy like Clyde might concoct. No measuring, just crumbling, pouring and pinching.
 Clyde Barrow’s “Tough Guy’s Hot Chocolate”
1  milk chocolate candy bar, crumbled up (A standard Hershey works fine)
 About a cup of whole milk—either 2% or skim, makes it a little less wicked, but not nearly as good
1 pinch pumpkin pie spice, or ground cinnamon
 Place chocolate pieces in a saucepan over medium-low heat; add milk and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and well blended. Whisk in spices or cinnamon. Remove from heat; put in a cup and hand to your honey with a kiss.

            Want to learn more about Bonnie and Clyde. I recommend three books, and, of course, the great movie with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The books are Bonnie and Clyde: the Lives Behind the Legend (Paul Schneider), American Outlaws: The Lives and Legacies of Bonnie and Clyde (Charles River, Editors), and The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde (Jan I. Fortune).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's in the book--the cookbook

Julia Child.  I merely say her name and visions of food, food, food appear. And there’s more—fun, laughter, good company and learning—especially about food and fixing it. Yesterday marked Julia Child’s centennial.

            Let’s raise a glass. Here’s to Julia! Here’s to happy hours in the kitchen!

            And here’s to cookbooks!

            I’ve just had the pleasure of reviewing Bob Spitz’s outstanding biography of the intriguing Ms. Child—Dearie for Story Circle Book Reviews. (You can check the review out at http://t.co/fQ0pR3R0) While Julia turns out to be a dear, the title refers to how she addressed others—they were always “Dearie.”   Everyone, it seems, was dear to Julie. Okay, almost everyone.
The sticky notes assure you--I'll be
reading this one again--and, probably
            I’ve blogged about Julia (feel like I know her) before. I read the excellent collection of her correspondence with Avis DeVoto, As Always, Julia, and immediately wanted to share. (You can find it at http://bit.ly/PZmZCz .)
            Now it’s happened again. Like just about any good book about food and/or cooking, Dearie sent me off in two directions: to the kitchen to cook and to my cookbooks. Fortunately for me the cookbooks live in the kitchen bookcase so I could go in both at the same time.
Two old favorites--my newlywed favorite and my mom's.
            At the bookcase I grabbed a couple of books that have been with me a long, long time and are as full of memories as they are recipes. I wish I could remember who gave me Betty Crocker’s Dinner of Two as a wedding gift. No one could have needed it more. I barely knew where the kitchen in my folk’s home was— my writer mother encouraged me to write and read, but not to cook. So there I was a bride who could boil water for a cup of tea and prepare a mean batch of refrigerated biscuits. That was it. I needed, sorely needed, this book. It lived on the kitchen counter. The pages are still crinkled and brown from the spills and drips. But, not surprisingly, soon enough my family numbered five and Dinner for Two went off the counter and onto a shelf. Never once did I think of giving it away.
            Now as I through it, I remember that at-sea bride making the wonderful discovery that she loved to cook. Still does.  Oh yes, the romantic Meringue Heart, or the exotic—to me—raspberry-current sauce for ice cream. Did we only eat desserts?  No,  there were the meatloafs during the week and pot roasts on Sunday. Even liver and onions that the groom loved and the cook found not bad, once she learned it didn’t have to be cooked for over an hour as Mother did. (About 10 minutes does the trick.)
And my favorite recipe of all time that I’ve never made—yet. The instructions for “Pheasant Baked in Cream” begins, “Have the hunter . . .pluck, draw, clean and cut up the pheasant.” Good idea, that’s not the cook’s job. As soon as Hunter Bob brings me a plucked, drawn, cleaned and cut-up pheasant, I still may give it a try. Fact is I may try several of these now that the household is down to two again!
After I reveled for a while in the memories and promised myself broiled lamb chops with green peas and mint for dinner tomorrow. I turned to another even older volume—a wedding gift to my mother. Balanced Recipes put out by Pillsbury and copy written in 1933, two years before my folks married. The treasures here are not the printed recipes but the ones added in the back. I see Mother’s handwriting, and then my Grandmother Beeman’s and then my Grandmother Nordyke’s. Suddenly I’m blinking tears and decide to wait to explore this, and so—to be continued.
Meanwhile do you have some cookbook memories? When and where did you learn to love cooking?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In the beginning

What is it? I don’t know—but welcome!  I love it, and I love to write about it even if I don’t know what it is, I plan to visit often sharing my thoughts on food (culinary ramblings) and people (rambling on people--past and people present—that’s the anthropology part).  A quick search for the definition of anthropology reveals that it is the “study of humankind.” That’s what I’m going to be writing about here. Humankind when they are cooking and humankind when they are eating. Often it will be about this one member of humankind—me and her adventures with food.
            I’ve written about people and food. Several years ago, I did it formally with a newspaper column called “Stirring up memories” in the Bainbridge, Georgia Post-Searchlight. Check out www.trillap.com ; it’s ‘way, ‘way out of date (next resolution—do something about that!) but there’s a good sampling of the writing I’ve done about food, people and a little bit of local history and a dose of writing about myself with some food mixed in.
            There is no plan here. Only that I plan to see what happens. I’m in Houston now, a great place to write about food and people. I’ll visit restaurants, talk cooking (mine and others) and look at our wonderfully diverse population with a hungry eye. I’ve blogged about food at another location www.trillap.blogspot.com, and I’ll kick things off with some reposts of the food I’ve written about there.

  I’ll be posting! Meanwhile here’s a sampling of culinary anthropology.

Love to have one of these pies in
my pocket.

Food trucks, food trucks, all over Houston
all with mighty good eats!
Love it when Sylvia parks down the
street at the Menil Collection lot.

Fresh fruit is good for you. There's no fresher than these.

Cats gotta eat too.

My favoritest grocery. We'll do the Fiesta wars!

Good eating! Good friends!