… my wood pile. That’s 6 face cords of hardwoods stacked 3 deep.
Fireplace season is slowly drawing to a close, alas. But those roaring logs look, see, feel, and smell pretty good on this sunny 35-degree Hash Bash Day morning. My wood dealer Ken, whom I found randomly on Craig’s List, has kept me well supplied all season. He even gave me that gray barrel you see on the right, keeping it filled with kindling, on demand, for free. I do pay him for the logs, but Ken gives me a good price, pretty seriously undercutting the market. Unlike most big wood dealers, Ken doesn’t have his own barn to store the wood and let it season. So, his logs are a little tough to light, but once going they burn just fine. And we burn ‘em daily.
When Harry Baldwin built these 13 houses that make up the Fair Acres development on an old apple orchard perched atop the Defiance moraine in the late 50s, he put fireplaces in all of ‘em. He knew what people liked back then. The one house that may not have a hearth to warm is the box erected 2 doors west designed by the eventual Dean of the Architecture School Robert Metcalf, who didn’t like fireplaces, even in his own home (1). But our chimney is the only one on Harbal that belches regularly these days. The global warming is bad enough – each cord of wood when burned emits 2.5 tons of CO2, about 1/50th of what John Kerry’s Gulfstream puts out in a typical year. Not only are we killing the planet, we may be killing ourselves! Those itty-bitty soot particles, which now have the fancy name of “PM2.5” – indicating they are 2.5 microns or less – burrow deep into our lungs and enter our circulation, causing lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death (2). And we’re not just endangering ourselves, the whole neighborhood is at risk. California regulates fireplace use. Can Ann Arbor be far behind? So it’s not hard to see why, for many, fireplaces are just out of style (3).
Well, neither Kathy nor I were ever a dedicated follower of fashion. We love our fireplaces (Harry Baldwin put one downstairs, too) (4). Plus, they occasionally can be put to practical use (5). Mixed hardwoods generate roughly 20 million BTUs per face cord (6). So, I’ve got 120 million potential BTUs stacked out front. That’s equivalent to 866 gallons of heating oil, 985 gallons of gas, 35,170 kilowatt-hours of electricity, 1,312 gallons of propane, 115,718 cubic feet of natural gas, or 21 barrels of crude oil (7). That’s our energy, and we intend to liberate each and every last blessed British Thermal Unit, in the comfort of our living room.
If you’re looking for some of this natural, renewable, sustainable (!), source of your own, give Ken a call: (248) 437-2229.
Cain’t help myself. No, didn’t write this one. When those come around, the post will be titled “shameless plugs”. Anyway, yesterday, wandering into the M-Den after my haircut, I saw the bookshelf next to the jewelry case (looking for a money clip I’ve bought and lost at least 4 times). There among all the books on Harbaugh and Bo was this one about Michigan’s greatest coach, Fielding H. Yost.
Now I have one more to add to my bedside collection (1). Having become interested in him as the woke crowd descended on him last summer (2,3), I was hungry to learn more. I guess I’ll get my chance. I asked my buddy Joel, who sits on the historical committee that recommended to the Regents that Mr. Yost’s name be stripped from the ice arena he built (as a field house), what has happened to the recommendation? He said it has been referred over to the “powers that be”. He also indicates dispensation might be altered by the new administration. I think Mr. Yost is safe for now. In the meantime, I have time to read about his greatness. There’s a reason a plaque in his honor hangs next to my fireplace (see below). I, too, evince that deathless loyalty, even if the U doesn’t love me back. Go Blue!
I’ve been aiming to compile all of my posts on food and drink into another book: Foodies. Not a cookbook per se, although there will be a lot of recipes in it. More of a celebration of food and drink, especially as they have sustained us during the pandemic, as we sure did a lot of eating and drinking! I keep generating new posts about food and drink and don’t seem to know where to stop. My dear wife Kathy tells me to finish on a dessert. Now I face a peculiar situation there. Kathy, shortly after embracing her keto diet, totally lost her taste for sweets. There’s not likely to be a after-meal confection I could conjure for her that will satisfy, and I sneak my ice cream on the sly. But this morning I got inspired to whip up some French toast. We had some sourdough bread over a week old and the concept of the French’s “pain perdu” came to mind. Translated as “lost bread”, this was the bread getting stale that might be tossed. Why not dip it in egg and milk and fry it? Then comes the challenge of what to put over it. Butter and maple syrup always satisfies me, but what do you present to a woman with no sweet tooth? It brought to mind the concoction she came up with during last year’s strawberry season, having found that a little balsalmic vinegar and lemon juice with only a touch of sugar bring out the flavor and juice of the berries without adding the sweet (1).
We had some peaches and blueberries frozen away, and some dried currants on the shelf, and together they went into the food processor. Maybe a half-pound of peaches, a cup of blueberries, and a quarter cup of currants (total volume 2 cups). Plus the magical 2 t balsalmic, 2 T lemon juice, 2 t sugar. A marvelous mix it was, good on the French toast but likely to be good on most anything else, like ice cream. I’m guessing any fruit will work with this formula, and we’ll be experimenting through the coming seasons.
As I awoke to face this last (hopefully) wintry Sunday of the year, I was inspired to haul out my favorite recipe for a cold Sunday: lamb shanks. Now this is no ordinary lamb shanks recipe, as the little lamb legs rest in a pot with 2 full cups of peeled garlic cloves. The recipe is out of my favorite slim cookbook, The Stinking Cookbook (1), out of that marvelous San Francisco restaurant “The Stinking Rose”, which features all things allium sativa.
We picked up the cookbook when we ate there sometime in the 90s. Our hotel room the next morning stunk so much of allium emissions, we were sure they were going to have to fumigate and stick us with the bill. Didn’t happen, but we’ve left many rooms in a similar fashion since. Probably going to happen after tonight’s shanks.
The recipe will gladden my wife’s heart, not just because of the wondrous meal she will face, but because of the many emptyings of our refrigeration systems it would represent. Of course, out come the shanks: 2 monstrous one and a half pound numbers, courtesy of farmer Mark and wife Michelle, an ace rheumatology researcher and former colleague of mine. Their joint enterprise, “EMMA acres” keeps us supplied with some pretty good food.
I also thawed out the heart, which came from the last lamb of theirs I bought. The recipe calls for 4 shanks, but these 2 I had take up the pot. Then there’s that fennel I had frozen away, plus of course the 2 cups of peeled garlic gloves I had in the jar from Bombay Grocers. Some of those garlic mashed potatoes, frozen away since the Spei’s Christmas, will make a side, as will the green beans/peppers dish leftovers from last week. Our freezer still requires a paver block to hold down the lid, but after today there’s a little less.
The recipe is not fussy, especially if you got someone else to peel the garlic, but it has to cook for 3 hours in a 3500 oven. So, it can make for a late dinner if you don’t get on the stick early in the afternoon. Kathy is always after me to get dinner on the table before 7, which doesn’t always happen. She doesn’t share my admiration for the Spanish, who eat their dinners around 10. With nothing on the Monday AM plate for either of us this week, and our wonderful Sunday evening radio shows to accompany us, we’ll be fine when this comes out of the oven at 8. We might even take that second bottle of shiraz. Life is good.
Here’s the recipe. I adapted it for lamb necks but throw in 2-4 lamb shanks instead and you’ll be there. Bon Appetit!
Admit it. We non-essentials locked into our homes didn’t spend all that secluded time reading the classics. With the grocery store and the liquor store among the few allowed outings, we of course bought a few things for home use. I thoroughly enjoyed refining my cooking skills and to this day Kathy and I rarely bother to go out to eat. And the cook needs a nip at hand while tending the stove, and that good food calls for an equivalent wine to wash it down. And a glass at hand helps all those other idle activities – computer, reading, organizing the house, laundry, etc. – go better. We were told from the get-go how important alcohol was to fighting Mr. Corona – all that hand sanitizer, dontcha know – and I told people many times, while dousing your hands with alcohol, don’t forget your insides!
Clearly, that advice was heeded by many, although I doubt I had much to do with it, aside from my own personal consumption. Serious people examined this, and a meta-analysis published last July found plenty of evidence that drinking went way up during the pandemic, with a concomitant rise in medical complications, and even an increased risk of contracting COVID (1). My friend Fred runs the liver service at U Hospital and told me his business skyrocketed.
That stay-at-home lockdown stuff was supposed to protect us. As it turns out, it didn’t protect us from ourselves. Published this week in JAMA were results from an examination of US mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics which were used to compare numbers and rates of alcohol-related and all-cause deaths among all individuals 16 years or older in 2019 and 2020 (2). 74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64 died from alcohol-related causes, whereas only 67,991 under 65 died with COVID-19 as an underlying cause. And those were “with” numbers, so often the actual cause of death was something else.
Of course, we’re not satisfied just with the 2 carbon intoxicants. Americans’ ever-increasing taste for opioids produced nearly 92,000 deaths from drug-involved overdoses in 2020, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids (3). This number of opioid overdose deaths increased 38% in 2020 compared with 2019, with a 55% increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
So, was the cure worse than the disease? Sure looks like it. Mr. Corona did a number on us, but much of it wasn’t the virus’s fault.
Dontcha just love records? Not those little CDs in their precious plastic jewel boxes that play on forever and surely not the mp4s you can buy for cheap (it seems) on iTunes, but those black (usually) 12 inch slabs of vinyl you scraped to get for $3.25 back in the day. I’ve kept all of mine, except for those Kathy and I both had, and they sit downstairs in my cube system. I haven’t counted ‘em or catalogued ’em although I suppose that’s a future retirement project. I hear they have apps for that.
On this idyl afternoon, I tired of what Spotify was dishing up and went straight to the source. I’ve got a fine Linn Sondak turntable, bought on line at the recommendation of my crazy Barnes buddy Neff. I recently replaced the cartridge as it was turning my records into scratchy messes.
So, here’s what I’ve been listening to:
Hot out of Niles, Michigan, this was their first album. They had a hit with “Hanky Panky” but filled the album with all manner of stuff, including Motown classics.
Blasting out of Akron (those are Akron scenes on the cover), Joe Walsh and friends exploded with an ear blasting disc of innovation. Joe could also play keyboard, ya know, and it’s all over this record. If Joe and the boys never ever recorded another record, this one would remain legendary. Thank goodness they did, and Joe did, and we have everything from “Life’s been good to me so far” to “Analog Man” to enjoy.
Can there be a livelier time than one with Royal Oak’s Marshall Crenshaw? The little dude has been around since the early 80s and produced perhaps the most romantic song I’ve ever heard (“Whenever you’re on my mind” (1)). I heard this before I had a girlfriend to fit, but plugged away till I found one. Here’s a recent release, Marshall and his pals bopping around NYC shortly after they burst on the scene. Wonderful energetic stuff.
I can’t get through a day without my Cody fix. This is the infamous “orange album”, endorsed heartily by the Commander himself when I asked him to autograph it, as he said the band was in peak form at the time. This is the same year they played Hill and I caught them for the first time. A rip roaring time through a live show, which was always the best way to hear them.
Who was the genius behind Traffic? Sure, Stevie had the pipes, but the best songs came from this guy, who quit and reentered Traffic at least twice. This was his first solo album after finally quitting, and what a tour de force. That they were inscribed on a piece of marbleized vinyl just adds to the wonder. Not on here is his meal ticket “Feelin’ Alright”. He’s still cashin’ checks from that.
Well, the night is young. Perhaps I’ll impose a vinyl-only injunction. Well, we’ve already proceeded onto this young ‘un.
Sweet voice. Great songs
Then, let’s spend some time with the master. How I miss this guy. Thank God he left behind so many recordings. This one, his first, might be his best. Barely 25 when he cut it in ’71 and still carrying mail for a living – which gave him all that time to compose these songs in his head – he got to put down the bag but he never stopped deliverin’ messages.
The dive into vinyl is ever encountered with treasures. Listen past the scratches.
“Whenever You’re On My Mind” (1983) Marshall Crenshaw (HQ). YouTube 9/20/14.
Just what do those old, retired couples do with all that time? For me, in the 3 years that I haven’t answered an alarm clock or a clinic schedule, stuff to do just emerges. Often, it’s stuff I’d never thought of. But now there’s not enough time in the day to do all the things I want. My wife Kathy, having jealously observed my new life of freedom, will finally be joining me among the elderly unemployed in June. As she’s only working half time this term, her foot is already partway out the door. She’s seeing that what emerges aren’t single activities, but projects. And what project most consumes this doddering old couple? Our house! We’ve loved it since we bought it in ’85, but not so much that we haven’t renovated it twice, including a redo that had us move out completely for a year in ‘04-5 (1). For the past 3 years, with all that time to stare at these 4 walls and ponder how to make them better, I’ve suggested many improvements and Kathy has approved some of them. Now that she has some more idle time, the pace is picking up. While most of our time this past month or two has been devoted to figuring out how to plaster as many of our posters and certificates up on our walls, we’ve also been paying attention to our books. The dozen and a half or so bookcases of various shapes and sizes we already had up didn’t seem quite adequate, so we erected 3 more. That got us looking more closely at the books there on the shelves. I couldn’t help but notice the books I’d acquired fully intending to read them, but seldom got past the first few pages if I cracked them at all. I found a long time ago that, for me, action was more likely to happen if first I created a list of the items to be acted upon. So, to make it more likely that I might actually gain the joys, insights, and knowledge in these unread books, I made me a little list, and here it is. Books listed alphabetically by author. With comments. Book covers are not to scale.
Bacon, John U. The Great Halifax Explosion. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. 374pp. A Christmas present from Kathy a few years back. John is a local guy whom Kathy and I know a little bit, and hands down my favorite sportswriter. This ain’t a sporting event, but John’s such an excellent writer, I’m sure it’s a gripping tale.
Beatty, Paul. The Sellout. A Novel. New York: Farrer, Straus and Giroux, 2015. 289pp. This one’s out of the local library, sought at the advice of my dear friend and fellow Barnes survivor Rajiv, who said with my warped sense of humor I’d appreciate it. I didn’t know there was a racial angle. But Rajiv’s my best African American friend (born and raised in Kenya by Indian parents), so I’ll trust his judgment.
Bierley, Paul E. John Philip Sousa, American Phenomenon. Miami FL: Warner Bros. Productions, 1973. 231pp. Every morning at 7:15, Dave Wagner of WRCJ 90.9 plays the “SousaAlarm”, and if up, we are roused by something by the March King. Gitcha goin’. The little piece I wrote on the 90th anniversary of Sousa’s death got me interested in his ties to Michigan (2). I have folks at the Bentley Historical Library digging up stuff. I thought I’d familiarize myself with this remarkable man by reading this biography.
Crowell, Rodney. Chinaberry Sidewalks. A Memoir. New York: Vintage Books, 2011. 259pp. Purchased from the author’s wife at his merch table after his concert at the historic Capitol Theater in Clearwater Friday of our spring break week. Rodney’s a successful country singer-songwriter who’s been around since the 70s. Once Johnny Cash’s son-in-law, I hadn’t heard about him till I stumbled across his inspiring anthem for boomers everywhere, “It Ain’t Over Yet” (3), sung with his ex-wife, Rosanne.We first saw him in concert on Veteran’s Day in Chicago last year (4). My wife and I are still working through his amazing oeuvre finding good advice (5) and inspiration (6).
Harrison, Jim. Brown Dog. New York: Grove Press, 2013. 525pp. I was very into Harrison in the 90s. “Michigan’s Hemmingway”, only a much better cook. This is his 3rd to last book, and a whopper. He died in 2016.
Kennedy, Robert F. Jr. The Real Anthony Fauci. Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2021. 449pp. I can manage about 3-5 pages at a time. So dense. So frightening.
Kryk, John. Stagg vs. Yost. The Birth of Cutthroat Football. Lanham MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2015. 287pp. Having spent time in both Hyde Park and Ann Arbor, I find it thrilling that the contests between these two schools were the pinnacle of college football once upon a time. Plus, I can never know enough about Fielding H. Yost (7,8).
London, Jack. Complete and Unabridged. Six Novels. The Call of the Wild. The Sea-Wolf. White Fang. Martin Eden. The Valley of the Moon. The Star Rover. New York, Barnes and Noble, 2006. 1038pp. The motivation was to read The Valley of the Moon, which is a real place in Marin County where my good friend and favorite guitar player Bill Kirchen wed Louise. Plus, I love Jack London, having read White Fang and The Call of the Wild in high school.
Markson, Sharri. What really happened in Wuhan. New York: HarperCollins, 2021. 392pp. I’d sure like to know. I’ve spent some time in virology labs, though never handling biohazards. I’ve started the book, but it’s slow going with all the Chinese names.
Metaxas, Eric. Is Atheism Dead? Washington DC: Salem Books, 2021. 403pp. I submit that atheists are just lazy and not paying attention. I’m counting on Mr. Metaxas for examples and arguments.
Schembechler, Bo and Bacon John U. Bo’s Lasting Lessons. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2008. 313pp. The more the U tries to wash away the memory of Bo (9), the more I cling to what I already know and seek to learn more.
Schembechler, Bo; Seyferth, Fritz; Eagle, Kim. The Heart of a Champion. My 37-Year War Against Heart Disease. Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor Media Group, 2008. 125pp. This is Bo’s medical story, and an inspiring one. I worked with or at least know most of the docs in here. The pacemaker company Medtronics was giving this book away when it first came out. I gave what turned out to be my only copy to a protégée who is a big U of M fan. High time I read it.
Shepherd, Jean. Shep’s Army. Bummers, Blisters, & Boondoggles. New York: Opus, 2013. 225pp. Jean Shepherd was a witty, sarcastic guy out of Illinois who wowed ‘em with a nighttime radio show out of NYC spanning 3 decades. I have 12 CDs containing 756 of his shows from ’57-’77. Comedians from Jerry Seinfeld to Harry Shearer to David Letterman to Andy Kaufman cite him as an influence. His time in the peacetime Army Signal Corps was a rich source of material. Oh, yeah, he wrote “The Christmas Story” and he was Ralphie.
Wells, H.G. The Croquet Player. Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2004 (originally published 1937). 108pp. I believe I bought this slender book to impress my mother, who loves croquet. I should have realized that HG Wells wasn’t a sportswriter.
So here they all sit, that baker’s dozen plus one of unread knowledge, at the head of my bed, just ‘a waitin’ to be read. Wish me luck as I dive in.
I ran out of shallots again tonight. They went in to accompany the onions in Chicken Yakhni Pulao, an epic venture as Indian recipes often are. Began yesterday with a lamb leg bone to make the spicy stock yaknhi shorbaand continued today as I searched all over town to find cassis bark, a relative of cinnamon. All eventually came together and the product was pretty tasty. Here’s the instructions if you want to try it.
I’m very fond of shallots. The little bulbs have a delicate, slightly sweet, but rich flavor that complements the simple bold taste of onions.
Perhaps my first encounter with them was years ago as I was trying to duplicate “Five Lilly Soup”. It was a staple at the Lord Fox, our favorite restaurant where we had our wedding reception and always went to celebrate special occasions. The white house, built in 1880, sustained a restaurant since 1920. Operating as “Farmhouse Cupboard”, and operating as a “blind pig” before the repeal of prohibition, it was a favored spot for Sunday dinner for Henry Ford and henchman Harry Bennet, who rode their horses there over from Dearborn. It finally closed down in 2010 after 90 years of operation as a roadhouse destination.
Other iterations – with different names – have followed, but the jury is still out whether the latest operation will succeed. The charm of the old Lord Fox has been washed clean from the last 2 attempts at resurrection and we no longer bother going there. Please don’t confuse the place with Machus Red Fox, in Bloomfield Hills, still in operation, which was the last place Jimmy Hoffa was seen alive. But back to the lilies: the five members of the allium family – technically lilies – are all our friends: onions, garlic, green onions, leeks, and shallots. Makes a nice creamy rich soup, very tasty.
My recollection was that Babe Ruth expressed his fondness for one of the lillies – I think it was scallions (green onions) – which he said were good for a hangover. Maybe it was shallots. I’ve been unable to find the quote. Regardless, all these alliums are very, very good for you and “Five Lilly Soup” is true health food. Here’s how you make it.
Allium consumption has stupendous health benefits, well documented (1). So, as you’re laying in the onions, garlic, green onions, and leeks, don’t forget the lowly shallot. Your taste buds will be glad you didn’t.
1. Wan Q, Li N, Du L, Zhao R, Yi M, Xu Q, Zhou Y. Allium vegetable consumption and health: An umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. Food Sci Nutr. 2019 Jul 10;7(8):2451-2470. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.1117. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6694434/
Here listed are the references to the 2nd edition of Lost in the Ozone…Again! The Commander, his Boys, and Me. 50 years and Counting. Going in sometime soon. The first addition came out on Amazon/Kindle last May. With the help of Bill Kirchen I have made many improvements and additions. There are many links, such as the 38 to articles, 18 to single songs, 6 to movies and TV appearances, and so on. For those without a Kindle, links can be accessed through the URL for this post.
It just seemed a bit much this year. It’s not the high cost of beef. I’ve got a 4 pound brisket in the freezer. We’re nearing our limits again on available refrigerator space for leftovers. I was drawn to another of my favorites. Didn’t have any pie for pi day yesterday, so maybe this dish can count for that, too. It’s fine Irish fare and perfectly suited for St. Paddy’s day. Plus it’ll use up some of the garlic mashed potatoes left over from the Speis’ Christmas party at Cowboy Creek Lodge 3 1/2 weeks ago. If you want a break from beer -whatever color – you can wash this pie down with a nice Syrah. Can you get more sophisticated than that?
Of course, this affair calls for a soundtrack. There are a couple discs we always pull out for this day.
The late Danny Doyle always leads off, with sometimes soaring sometimes tear-jerking old Irish songs. Try to make it through “Kilkenny”(1), about the correspondence between an aging Irishman and his son in America, without blubberin’.
Next, we get a little more formal and ask the Irish Tenors to take a turn. Their songs are so classic they’re enumerated on the CD with Roman numerals.
TV Matters MUM9020 2001
I can’t find a link to the whole album, but here’s an hour plus performance by them live in Belfast (2).
Then, if we want to go deep Irish, I’ve got my record of Brendan Behan singing Irish Folksongs and Ballads. Picked it up used back in med school. Was inspired by one of my professors, an English cardiologist named Rory Childers who used to do a one man show as Brendan Behan.
Brendan Behan Sings Irish Folksongs and Ballads
Spoken Arts 760 unknown
Brendan for sure has the singing voice of a poet, but he puts his soul into it. The whole album is on YouTube!(3)
If those discs are all spun and we’re hungry for more, there’s always Spotify. They have several Irish music stations and I’m sure will have at least one made-up special for St. Patrick’s Day.
Less than two days to go. I’m sure Beidh dea-am ag gach duine!