27 July 2007

Apple Shoes

I left the government in the summer of 1979 to go back to Bloomington, Indiana, and work with Jeff Danielson who had his coffeehouse and bakery, The Runcible Spoon, up and running, to create a restaurant concept and menu and then to set up the restaurant within the business.

Jeff ran the beverage and bakery end of the business and, together with his wife, the administration of the ordering and employee payroll, etc.

Once the basement of the building was renovated and the kitchen equipment was installed, the menu was conceptualized and firmed up, we opened first with breakfasts only.

We got our feet firmly on the ground with breakfasts which centered around three egg omelettes in the French style--Bon Femme [with fried potatoes, bacon, and onions], Edouard [toasted croutons, garlic, and cauliflowers], Ciboulette [chives], etc. Also my Runcible Egg Rounds--two round griddled eggs on open-faced, toasted English muffins with grilled Canadian bacon, topped with a rich Hollandaise made from scratch every morning, were very popular.

Lunches followed next and we served a variety of sandwiches including our very popular Stage Door Deli-style tuna sandwich, a homemade soup du jour, a fresh garden salad, and a feature quiche of the day--my quiches all had an added zip with the addition of my secret ingredient--some zesty Bulgarian feta cheese.

Lastly we started serving dinners featuring two different entrees every day accompanied by appropriate side dishes. My philosophy was that the sides had to be as interesting and excellent as the entrees.

The restaurant was in the basement of the coffeehouse and the first floor was the coffeehouse. The bakery was also on the first floor as was the coffee roaster and the "barista" station as it came to be known later when Starbucks [founded 1971 as a local Seattle coffee roaster and coffee retailer] came on the scene.

One of our "baristas" was a young German woman who was attending Indiana University whose English was a bit spotty and heavily accented. One day when Jeff was not around upstairs, she came bouncing downstairs and somewhat excitedly told me, "Ed! Ve have no apfel shoes!" I was taken aback by her concern, by the strange visions of apples wearing shoes in my head, and by my total ignorance of "apfel shoes," let alone that we should have them.

It took a minute or two of international communication for me to realize that we needed to get some apple juice right away!

Woods Hole Memories

Between my freshman and sophomore year in high school (summer of 1956) , I had the opportunity to spend the summer with my uncle, Dr. Morris Rockstein, and his family at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

I stayed in a small apartment with my uncle, Morris, his wife, Elaine, and my two cousins, Sue and Mady. The building we lived in was owned by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). Upstairs around the corner was the renowed biologist, Julian Huxley [five years later I met Julian's brother, the author, Aldous Huxley , when he gave a lecture at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, California].

One of my uncle's early mentors was the Nobel Laureate, Otto Loewi, who this summer lived nearby. Loewi, a Jew, had been born in Frankfurt, Germany, but was teaching and doing research at the University of Graz in Austria when the Nazi's invaded, arrested him, and seized his assets. He was fortunate to get to the U.S. in 1940 and was teaching at NYU when my uncle met him. He and his wife were warm and welcoming people who could find time for a curious teenager who was fascinated by this brilliant couple.

One day, my uncle introduced me to a very distinguished looking gentleman whose name was
Winterton C. Curtis. It turned out that Mr. Curtis had been one of the scientists called to Dayton, Tennessee, by Clarence Darrow to be one of the expert witnesses for the defense at the Scopes "Monkey Trial," but the judge would not permit their testimony. Mr. Curtis had written an account of the trial which was included in the book D-Day at Dayton. He gave me an autographed off-print of his story, which, unfortunately, has disappeared over the intervening years.

I only met Sir Vincent Wigglesworth, the eminent British entomologist, once at Woods Hole that summer. We ate most of our meals in a large cafeteria-style chow hall that served the laboratory community. One day at breakfast Sir Vincent joined us at the table. On his tray was a stack of three pancakes with three pats of butter. My attention was drawn immediately to his eating as I was unfamiliar with Europeans' tendency to always keep their fork in one hand and their knife in the other, rather than cutting with the right and then taking up the fork with the right. Very soon, however, I became more fascinated by the precision with which he would cut off a precise piece of pancake and then a precise portion of butter from the pat and butter the cut piece. Each time the pat lasted exactly for one pancake. At the end of this prodigious feat, I was tempted to applaud his consummate skill, self-discipline, and precision! I had been hypnotized--I could not not watch him eat his pancakes! Later in life, I purchased Sir Vincent's Principles of Insect Physiology and was once again drawn in.

There was an evening lecture series at the MBL during the summer. One of the lectures I really enjoyed was by George Gamow, the physicist and author of 1,2,3 Infinity. Gamow picked a small topic, "The Origin and Evolution of the Universe." I was a bit "shocked" by his first slide, the Origin of the Milky Way (click the link to see the slide). This was my first exposure to cosmology, but it was presented in a very interesting and entertaining way just like his 1,2,3 Infinity, a mathematical sojourn into physics.

Another interesting (and influential for me) lecture was presented by George Wald, the discoverer of Vitamin A and later to be Nobel Laureate, who spoke on the "Origin & Evolution of Life." I learned about the Urey-Miller experiments to recreate the conditions of the primordial soup that lead to the chemical evolution of life. It was heady stuff for a soon-to-be high school sophomore who would be starting biology the coming fall.

On July 25, 1956, the Italian ocean liner the SS Andrea Doria was struck by the Swedish-America Line's SS Stockholm off Nantucket and sank. For much of the rest of that summer various bits and pieces of the items carried on the Andrea Doria washed up on the shores of Cape Cod.
Cape Cod, Woods Hole, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the whole gestalt were a wonderful eye opener for young boy from a sleepy town on the Delaware River in South Jersey in the 1950's!

More another day

26 July 2007

Playing the Piano by Ear

About 1947 or 1948 (around 60 years ago) when I was in second or third grade, we went from South Jersey up to Long Island to visit my father's youngest sister, Lillian; her husband, Uncle Mike; and my cousins.

I remember their house was much nicer than ours, Uncle Mike was a lawyer. The house had a stone facade and a very interesting (to me) doorbell button, with the image of a crescent moon on it. The house was on the small side, however, and we had to sleep on beds in the basement.

After a lovely dinner and boring (to me) adult conversation, we headed down to the basement to get ready for bed. In the basement near my parent's bed was a floor lamp, the main source of light in that part of the basement, and an old upright piano.

As we got ready for bed, my dad remarked, "Uncle Mike plays the piano by ear."

The next evening when we were in the basement with Uncle Mike tickling the ivories, I watched him very closely with increasing disappointment as his head, let alone his ear, never got close to the piano!

25 July 2007

Mr. Potato Head, Kim Hyok-jin

North Koreans the Irish of the Far East?????????
From the Korean Central News Agency website:

" International Scientific Symposium on Potato Held Pyongyang, July 24 (KCNA) -- An international scientific symposium on potato was held here on Monday and Tuesday. Present at the symposium were Kim Hyok Jin, vice-minister of Agriculture, officials concerned, and scientists, technicians and experts in the field of agriculture and representatives of the International Potato Center and different countries. The symposium discussed the theoretical and practical problems arising in putting the potato farming on a scientific and modern basis, increasing the potato production and widening its use. Ko Kum Hak, vice-president of the Academy of Agricultural Science, made an opening address which was followed by congratulatory speeches by Kim Hyok Jin and Regional Leader of the East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific of the International Potato Center Fernando N. Ezeta. The speakers expressed belief that the symposium would provide an opportunity to widely exchange advanced scientific and technological successes and good experience gained in different countries and thus make a great contribution to prosperity and development of each country and each nation and development of human civilization. The participants heard papers entitled "Potato farming and its prospect in the DPRK" and "Potato Research and Development Strategy for East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific." Then followed speeches made by scientists and researchers of the DPRK and other countries on the subjects of cooperation projects for potato cultivation, potato breeding, seed potato production, cultivation and insect pests of potato. A letter to leader Kim Jong Il was adopted at the symposium. "
KCI: Suffer the little potatoes to come unto me