Honey

One of my primo recipes is Swedish pancakes.  On January 31st, I shared the recipe along with a picture of Chef Popi and his admirers.  I don’t use sugar in the mix.  I use honey.  Honey to me is more purely sweet and adds a subtle, gentle sweetness to the flavor.   In fact in baking (or even sauteing onions), when I have the choice, I use honey.  A healthy dessert that I make for myself is Greek yogurt, almond (or peanut) butter topped with honey.  How sweet it is!  

We all know that bees make honey but did you know that honey is the result of continuous regurgitation by the bees?    It goes up and down until it reaches a desired consistency then “Splat” it goes into the honeycomb.  Interestingly most microorganisms don’t grow in honey (low water content – .6%) thus honey normally does not spoil — even after decades or even centuries of sitting around (that’s true) just like Twinkies which have a shelf life of 37 years.  Honey gleaned from different flowers and plants results in varied flavor and qualities.  Honey is a healthier choice than sugar as it contains no cholesterol. 

Our ancestors were collecting honey 10,000 years ago.  The Old and New Testaments refer to honey (Judges 14:8 and Matthew 3:4) and the Qur’an devotes an entire Surra to honey (al-Nahl; The Honey Bee).  Sore throat?  Honey in hot water.   Cuts or scratches?  Honey (if no antiseptic is available).  MRSA bacteria?  Honey (New Zealand Mānuka).  Good stuff, honey.        

Coincidence

[A repeat from August 2, 2013]  You meet someone you know in a faraway place. Wow! What a coincidence. You run across someone that shares your name. Whoa! What a coincidence.  We’ve all had that moment of coincidence when we slap our forehead and go “that’s pretty cool.” 

I’ve had my share of coincidences but none more profound than happened when I was dating this girl I’d met on a blind date.  Donna.  I was in law school and she in grad school.  Donna had a subscription to the Lyric Opera.  One seat in the upper balcony.   I asked her where she sat.  “Maybe I’ll come join you one of these evenings” I offered.  She handed me an old ticket stub and I stuck it in my pocket.  A few weeks later, a night class was canceled and I had the evening off.   I thought tonight’s Donna’s opera night.  So – I’ll go to the opera.  I walked over to the Lyric’s box office and was directed to the 7th floor (as I recall) where there was a ticket office.   I pulled out the dog-eared ticket stub and handed it to the woman behind the counter.  “I’d like to get the seat next to this one for tonight.”  The woman looked at me like I was an idiot.  “Sir, tonight is Rigoletto.  We’ve been sold out for six months.  And we have a loooong waiting list.”   At that moment, the stars and planets fell into alignment.  The sages of the ages seemed to nod in somber agreement.  Just as I was about to turn around and leave, a woman walked from behind a partition and said “here’s a cancellation.”  And handed the woman I’d been talking to a piece of paper.  The woman looked at it.  And then at my ticket stub.  “Oh my. . . .” was about all she could say.  The cancellation was precisely, exactly, the seat next to Donna’s seat. 

The woman looked at me.  “I know we have a waiting list but I’m not sure I could give this to anyone else. . . under the circumstances.”  And she sold me the ticket for Rigoletto.   I arrived late.  The lights were out.  And I sat down, waited a brief moment and grabbed her leg.   She jumped and let out a whoop like Gilda, the soprano.  And the rest – as they say – is history.  What a coincidence. . . .   

Saturday Lunch

Saturday lunch is the quirkiest meal that I have during the week if I am not golfing.  It has been for years.  Why?  Because I never know quite what to have.  I usually end up grazing in the refrigerator and pantry and slapping together some odd bodkin agglomeration of whatever I can find.  Frequently PB & J on crackers.   If I find nothing if interest, I may dash out to the local food mart and snag a few pieces of spanikopita.  Regardless of what I have, Saturday lunch has rarely been satisfying.  A few years ago, however, all that changed.  A fork in the road. . . . . 

There is an old adage that if you give a monkey a typewriter and enough time (and paper), he will eventually tap out a serviceable poem or intelligent article (see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem_in_popular_culture).  Well after decades of trial and error, this chimp came up with a winner of a Saturday lunch. 

I sliced a baguette thinly.  Then spread a layer of Champagne (or honey) mustard, added some smoked salmon, a wedge of fresh avocado and some crumbly chive goat cheese.  I nuked it for about 30 seconds and – voila!   It was a Saturday lunch destined for the time capsule.  I made extra and served it to Donna and she immediately asked for the recipe.  That was a true endorsement of my creation. 

From then on, I have been scrupulous about keeping these treasured ingredients close at hand.  And I can’t wait for Saturday lunch.  Whether or not I’m golfing. . . .  

Autographs

I began collecting autographs at the ripe old age of 6.  My father would take me to Wrigley Field – home of the (then) hapless Chicago Cubs.  He would settle into his grandstand seat with a hot dog and a beer and I would gallop down the concrete steps to troll for autographs from the likes of Hank Sauer (see post of August 2, 2011).   Then things got serious. 

After buying and reselling the entire archives of the Chicago Rock Island Railroad (a 10 story building with 100,000 square feet of history) (see June 18, 2017), I began buying and selling autograph material.  For nearly 40 years, I published catalogs and listings of manuscript material.  And rare books.  Back in the day, when auction bids had no minimums, I might bid on a hundred items — and win five or ten.  At five to ten bucks each.  Then I’d arbitrage them.  Quickly. . . . 

Personally, I collect original handwritten letters and documents of Justices of the United States Supreme Court.   And have one of three collections in private hands.  

One of the great resources for collectors of history in its handwritten form is The Manuscript Society — http://www.manuscript.org .  I became President in 2002 – in Dublin and Belfast, NI.  I was invited to speak at Stormont – the NI Parliament (and sat in Ian Paisley’s seat).  The Manuscript Society is definitely worth the price of admission ($85.00 a year).  If you have an interest in history, manuscripts, genealogy or antiquarian curiosities, check it out.  You will not be disappointed.      

The Doyle Family

Do you know someone with the last name “Doyle”?  They may think they’re Irish.  But. . . .

In my post of December 16, 2011, I spoke of the Viking era (790 A.D. – 1066 A.D.).  And I mentioned that the Vikings who raided – and remained behind in — Ireland (usually because they had met a young lady) – were given the name “Doyle” which is from the Celtic Ó Dubhghaill, which means “son of the dark (or evil) foreigner.”  This is the name that indigenous Celts called Danish Vikings who started settling in Ireland and Scotland beginning in the 9th Century. 

Researchers in Ireland have distinguished two separate groups among the Viking raiders in Ireland.  The Lochlainn were the Norwegians who were described as “fair.”  The Danair were Danes who were described as “dark” because they wore chain-mail armor.  Beginning in 830 A.D., the Norwegians began sporadic raiding of the British Isles.  In 852 A.D., the Danish Vikings took control of Dublin and founded the Danish Kingdom of Dublin which continued for 300 years until the coming of the Anglo-Normans.  As might be expected over the course of occupation, the Vikings were absorbed into the social, religious and political life of Ireland.  They adopted the language and customs.  And they intermarried.  And it was those Danish Vikings who remained behind when their brethren left who were given the name “Ó Dubhghaill” or “Dubh-Ghaill.”  Or “Doyle” for those who want the translation.  The names McDowall, McDowell, McDuggal, Dowell, and McDougal all have a relationship to the Dubh-Ghaill – Doyle – family.  So you know someone named “Doyle”. . . . ? 

 

Bobby Jones

Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones (1902-1971) was one of the greatest golfers of all time.  During the 1920’s, Jones won 13 major championships  including golf’s coveted “Grand Slam.”  Jones was also an attorney (which still gives me some faint hope that I con combine my day job with my favorite sport). 

During the crucial opening round of the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones was addressing his ball, getting ready to hit.  Suddenly, he stepped back and called a penalty/stroke on himself because he had seen his ball move.  In golf, if you address the ball and it moves, it counts as a stroke.  No one but Jones had seen the ball move, but he still insisted on taking the added stroke.  Jones went on to lose the tournament — by one stroke.  When he was praised for his honesty, Jones responded testily “you might as well praise someone for not robbing a bank.” 

Integrity has its own rewards which can be quite personal (since our reputations live long beyond our days).  I find vignettes like this inspiring since they demonstrate the character that we can all (even politicians) aspire to.   And achieve.  

The “Lady be Good”

[A repeat from September 15, 2016]  I’m not talking about the 1924 Broadway show that featured music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. I’m talking about a B-24D Liberator that vanished after a bombing run over Naples during World War II. That fateful day was April 4, 1943.

When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to LIFE Magazine – the weekly news journal that was published from 1883 to 1972.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on LIFE when it walked in the door.  Simple kid that I was – I loved the pictures.  And the armchair adventure.  And I remember with clarity a day in 1960 when I learned that a mysterious B-24 Liberator that had been spotted a year before deep in the Sahara had been identified as the Lady Be Good.

The Lady Be Good on that early April day – was staffed by a newbie crew of nine – just one week off the boat.  Their first mission was a big one.  A night bombing run over Naples harbor.  The Lady Be Good took off with 25 other bombers from Soluch Field in Libya.  Near Benghazi.  Most of the bombers returned to base within a few hours — because of high winds.  But the noble Lady pressed on.  And ended up dumping her bombs in the Med.  And the Lady with its nine souls – began the return trip – alone.  In the black of night, the plane overflew the base and continued on.  Deep into the Libyan Desert.   The pilot believed the desert below was the ocean.  So they continued.  Until they ran out of fuel.  And the crew bailed out. . . . . .

In February 1960, the U.S. Army visited the plane and conducted a formal search for the remains of the crew.  Eight of the nine were found.  And in August 1994 the remnants of the plane were removed from the site.  Only one member of the crew – S/Sgt. Vernon L. Moore of New Boston, Ohio – was never found.  His body still rests – where it fell – 73 years ago. . . . .