Saturday, November 15, 2014

we all have bad days

not far from the tree

My culinary influences come from growing up in mid-20th century Pennsylvania.

We were surrounded by orchards and the Amish-Pennsylvania Dutch culture was even in my high school lunchroom.

Apple cake in autumn, traditional “apfelkuchen”, is a staple. 

I made this one as a tart.

Start with what you’d expect: 
flour, butter, cinnamon, sugar and apples.

Line a buttered tart plate with parchment paper. 
I traced it with a pencil.

Now beat about 6 tablespoons of cold butter with ¼ cup of sugar. I used half white and half dark-brown.

Blend in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and one egg.

Now sift in one cup of white flour. 
I don’t have a sifter, so I used a sieve. 

Works fine.

Now ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon good, ground cinnamon. ½ cup cold milk.

And mix it up.

Now the fun part! 
Two layers with the batter in between.

Melt some butter, brush the apples and sprinkle with a bit more dark brown sugar.

It melts with the butter and makes a crust.

350〫for 40 minutes. 

Rich and warm, infused with apple.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are famous for resisting change.

No wonder. :-)

Friday, November 14, 2014

safe passage through starry night


Vincent van Gogh had a rough time in the final three years of his life.


Born in the Netherlands in 1853, he had lapses into mania and delusion throughout young adulthood. 

By age 33 in 1886, the year our ClockTower opened,
 he had lost his grip on reality.


He was already very ill from heavy drinking and smoker’s cough and possibly syphilis from his habit of local bordellos. 

But this was also arguably his most prolific period.


During an acute psychotic episode just before Christmas in 1888 he sliced off his own ear with a razor, and after that things went quickly downhill.


By 1889 he was suffering from deep depression and had fallen out with everyone around him, other artists and even his beloved brother Theo.

August 1888

September 1888

He painted “Starry Night” in that same year from his room in a French insane asylum, inspired by his view through a barred window.


But 1890 brought even deeper suffering.


He worked when he could but by July of that year he had lost his battle with psychosis.
On July 27th, 1890 Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver and died the next day, at only 37.

Now the Dutch have honored his Starry Night painting with a new bicycle path, absorbing sunlight through the day and offering a starry surface for safer nighttime riding.

According to Theo, his brother's last words were
 "The sadness will last forever."


Genius can come at high price.

Travel safe.
And have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

sleeping beauty

Last month we visited the grounds and stable of the amazing Bartow-Pell Mansion.

Today we tour the interiors. 

Wandering these 19th century chambers made me reflect on how our sense of beauty has evolved through the ages.

The entrance hall features show-off woodwork and a spectacular elliptical stair, colonial craftsmanship we’ll probably never see again.

The large “living rooms” (called parlors then) are separated by mahogany pocket doors, opened in winter only when a visiting crowd required the space.

Classic Greek detailing is everywhere.

No doubt, the 1840 fireplaces worked hard to make it livable in winter.


The wonderful Conservatory is unusual for a house from this era. It originally had a dirt floor, all the better to grow small oranges through winter.

Directly adjacent to the kitchen is the family dining room, painted an ashy-rose color believed at the time to aid digestion.

Now just wait 'til you see the second floor!

The daughters bedrooms are a beautiful, period fantasy. 

And the formal master bedrooms are superb. 
They showcase precious French antique furniture. 

Lafayette visited here.

Vice-President Aaron Burr, famous for shooting Alexander Hamilton in a duel, married a Bartow and his writing desk is still on the second floor.

There is beauty everywhere in this mansion, but modern living has allowed us to forget.

Simple chores were difficult then. 
These rooms were hard to heat.

Fashion, in our culture, comes and goes.

But the sleeping beauty of this Bronx mansion is forever. 

Go see.