Archive for August, 2018

LoCal Hamburgers

I mean very low calorie. Try these miniature “hamburger” cookies. How perfect for your Labor Day Cookout/in!

Note the spoon for scale.

Gerry Porter and her 11-year-old granddaughter, Maddie, love all things mini. The two stars of  Margaret Grace’s Miniature Mysteries were playing around in the kitchen one Saturday, unable to choose between vanilla and chocolate cookies. They came up with a new recipe that combined the best of both. Using two soft vanilla cookies and one soft chocolate cookie, they created a mini hamburger. After their day of creative play, and adding embellishments, here’s  the result!

NO BAKE MINI “HAMBURGER” COOKIES

TIME TO PREPARE: about 15 minutes

YIELD: 12 mini hamburgers

INGREDIENTS:

I box vanilla wafers

1 box soft chocolate cookies (SnackWells or the equivalent)

1 tube green frosting

1 tube red frosting

1 tube yellow frosting

1/8 cup sesame seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Arrange 12 vanilla wafers, flat side up, on a tray or platter. These are the bottoms of the “hamburger buns.”

2. Using the green frosting tube, squirt a ring around the edge of each wafer. Using your finger or a toothpick, rough up the frosting so it resembles ragged lettuce.

3. Place 1 chocolate cookie (the meat!) on top of each green-ringed wafer.

4. Using the red frosting tube (ketchup!), squirt a ring around the flat edges of a dozen additional wafers (the tops of the “hamburger buns).

5. Using the yellow frosting tube (mustard!), squirt a yellow ring over the red ring of Step 4, allowing the two colors to mix in places.

6. Place each newly ringed wafer, flat side down (top of the bun!), on top of a chocolate cookie/wafer.

DONE!  You now have 12 hamburgers, with lettuce, ketchup, and mustard.

7. (optional) Dot the top of each “burger” with egg white, and use as adhesive for a few sesame seeds.

Other options: add a smooth ring of white frosting for an onion, a square of orange frosting for cheese, or smooth the red ring so it looks more like tomato.

A Good Sport

There was a time when I shunned everything to do with sports. Not that I didn’t ride my bike and even treadmill (v. i.) fairly regularly.

What I disliked was the pesky winner/loser aspect, especially where kids were involved. Because winning was so important, to the coaches and parents if not the kids themselves, some kids were left out. So, what was all the lip service to “they learn teamwork” if only the athletically endowed could profit? Didn’t kids with lame arms or poor eyesight also deserve to learn teamwork?

In the image of Luks’s painting, doesn’t it look like the boy isn’t at all interested in the baseball?

Boy with Baseball by George Luks, c. 1925, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Edward Joseph Gallagher, Jr., 1954

I’ve had a hard time avoiding sports metaphors, but I’ve succeeded on the whole.

Then the New York Times came out with a special article on the history of sports phrases and suddenly it feels very scholarly to say “That’s not in my wheelhouse.” *

You can read the complete article, but here are a couple of my favorites.

Talk about scholarly, how about this first one, from Shakespeare:

1. There’s the rub.

When Hamlet says, “To sleep — perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub!” he’s talking about something that’s difficult. “The rub” is from lawn bowling, and refers to an unevenness in the playing surface. Or so they say.

2. Out of left field.

Why is left field the spot where kooky ideas come from? Why not right or center? Well, no one is too sure, but there are a couple of fascinating theories—left field was often deeper than right in early baseball stadiums; weaker fielders were put in on the left; and left fielders tended to play farther back.

* Wheelhouse comes from baseball. It’s the area in which a batter feels most comfortable hitting the ball.

Here’s a closing image:

From the Girl Baseball Players series for Virginia Brights Cigarettes, Metropolitan Museum of Art, issued 1886, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick

OR, Girls also want to have fun.

The barometer

The start of school for many of us inspires me to drag out the famous (to some of us) story of The Barometer.

Miniature barometer next to miniature physics book. Pen for scale.

As the story goes, a physics teacher posed this question on an exam and got surprising results.

Show how it’s possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.

One student answered this way:

“Take the barometer to the top of the building and attach a long piece of rope to it. Lower the barometer until it hits the sidewalk, then pull it up and measure the length of the rope, which will give you the height of the building.”

What? The teacher expected a different answer, using the standard equation involving the difference in pressure at the top and bottom of the building.

When challenged to come up with “the right answer,” the student gave several more. Among them:

1. Take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building. Using simple proportion, determine the height of the building.

2. Take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.

And so on.

My favorite remains this one:

“Take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, say: ‘Mr. Superintendent, if you will tell me the height of this building, I will give you this barometer.’”

How would you grade this student?

** Legend has it that the student was Niels Bohr (1885-1962, Nobel Prize in physics, 1922), but then a legend can say anything and get away with it.

All Things Chocolate

Could you pass up a meeting like this? I couldn’t. Here’s where many sisters and misters from NorCal Sisters in Crime gathered last weekend:

Chocolate Seminar: Examining the myths, the realities, and the fantasies, as well as the usual suspects.

Tantalizing tastes presented by Janet Rudolph and Frank Price.

Frank Price, earning the title Chocolate Historian. Janet Rudolph is seated, far right.

Part One, just to make it clear that this was a crime writers meeting, Janet Rudolph gave expert advice on killing with chocolate, even providing a list of mysteries where chocolate is death, or at least a prime suspect. Here’s the Dying for Chocolate list — dozens of novels for your reading pleasure.

Tasters

Part Two, the lesson, from Frank Price. Chocolate is one of those nutritional pleasures that has become a part of the fabric of life for many. Chocolate is a finite resource subject to the pressures of weather, insects, over-cultivation, and political forces. At one time, worldwide, there were only a few companies who were “bean to bar.”  Now the number of “bean to bar” companies is growing as is the geographical, political, and manufacturing forces. And the ever-changing weather has caused the sourcing and manufacturing processes to become more intense and more complicated.

Consumers are becoming more demanding. Production techniques are more refined. Manufacturers are researching many different techniques to create a demarcation for their brand. Industry-wide experts guess that the supply of chocolate will be ever changing and the price for the basic bean will fluctuate in the global economy. At the same time that new manufacturers are popping up, there are many larger companies who are trying to add small artisanal brands to their portfolio so that they can launch products, packaging, and advertisement to fill various consumer niches from the everyday chocolate snacker to a more sophisticated palate, and to the baker, confectionary artist and restaurateur.

Part Three, when the fun (eating) began. We were treated to six different taste samples. (You can have your wine tasting; this is my wheelhouse)(although, port was provided for those who chose).
The samples: The presenters started us off with a 33% cacao milk chocolate, followed by darker pieces, up to 73%. Assembled tasters were asked to rank our favorites — the hands raised for each of the six samples followed a bell curve! Isn’t math great?

High School? Who remembers?

In June I attended my college reunion in Boston. (Too scary to say which one!)

But I will report on one of the conversations, the one that brought us back to high school.

Who thought that was a good idea? you ask. Probably someone who was Prom King. Or Head Cheerleader. Not me. But there were some good things about my time at RHS in Revere Massachusetts.

The old Revere High School

1. Miss Wiley. A math teacher who singled me out, with a few boys, for a special after school class in solid geometry. No one even bothers with that anymore; freshmen are too busy learning calculus already. But at the time, a century ago, solid geometry was considered “advanced math.” I often think of Miss Wiley, who must have had her own math education in the 1940s, without much feminine company. No wonder she decided to include a girl in the group. Lucky me.

2. Miss Mafera. An Italian teacher who stayed with us for 4 years, guiding us through L’Inferno of La Commedia in our senior year. We were oblivious to the fact that not every 16-year-old in a public school read Dante in the original. Later, in college, I had to read a translation whether I liked it or not.

3. Uncool Kids. Can you say cliques? At the time, I thought I wasn’t in one—the Cool Kids didn’t talk to me, wouldn’t have lunch with me, didn’t invite me to their parties.

Later I realized, I was simply in another clique—the Uncool Kids. There were enough of us, so I can’t say I was sorry being left out of the beer parties on the beach. (We went bowling. How Uncool can you get?)

Here’s a photo of me (center) with some of the Uncool Kids.

Champion bowlers

I’m sad to report that one of my best friends (far left) died 5 years ago. We stayed close over many decades. The leftmost guy, who wanted to be a doctor, died very young. I still get holiday cards from the middle guy. I wish I knew where the others in the photo are. If you’re reading this, please let me know.