Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pencil Factory

Dear Dodo-istes,

Here at the Dodo we received two suggestions for this excellent photo-essay on an American pencil factory.  I put it here, so you too can enjoy it. 

I hope you found the pencil I left for you in the Tate Gallery last month!

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Dear Sisters,

Here is a sound, here is a song, here is a woman that sounds like the singer you want to be:  Alice Phoebe Lou.  This song is not about the she of "did you see that fox fur stole she had on?" or the she of "she keeps calling me to complain about her job."  This is the She of all Shes, the one, the universal archetypal She.  This She is all of us and you too. 

As for the singer, she's quite a She herself; with hints & twinges of Nico and Patty Smith and Aretha Franklin, and she reminds me of the sweet and delightful Annette Hanshaw, too!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cakey, fudgy, gooey.

Dear Quotidian,

Today a meditation on the humble brownie.  When I was younger, brownies were made by my Mother.  She always made a recipe from Joy of Cooking, called Brownies Cockaigne.   Cockaigne is literally a land of plenty, a magical place like the Big Rock Candy Mountain, where "the houses were made of barley sugar cakes, the streets were paved with pastry, and the shops supplied goods for nothing." 

I have made many batches of brownies, some even from boxes.  The boxed brownie is especially chewy, possibly because of corn sugars, but I am just supposing here.  Chewy is my favorite of the brownie's possible attributes, which also include cakey, fudgy, gooey, and dense.  The brownie debate usually divides over the cakey vs. fudgy and the darkest chocolate vs. something less dark.  For a while, I was making a Gourmet recipe for Milk Chocolate Brownies (on the sweet side; fudgy).  I also often make Petites Trianons (cakey, dense, dark) from a Maida Heatter cookie book, and a Fannie Farmer recipe, for Parker Brownies (quick, chewy).  But, there are so many recipes to consider!  Another fine recipe is the one I used to make the brownie in the image- it is a slight adaptation of a recipe from the back of the See's Candies Chocolate Chips bag.  It makes a lot of nicely chewy, sweet brownies and it is one of my favorite brownie recipes.

I think the best thing for you to do is to undertake a months-long project of trying all 5 of these recipes.   I figure you could have the whole thing wrapped up by the Summer Solstice without having to dine on brownies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Let's begin with Brownies Cockaigne, adapted from Joy Of Cooking.

1/2 cup butter
4 oz. *unsweetened chocolate

Melt these two ingredients in a double boiler and let cool until room temperature.

4 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups of sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In a blender, whip these 4 ingredients until very light.  You can use a mixer if you'd prefer to.

Combine the chocolate and the sugar mixtures swiftly, by hand.  Then fold in:

1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of chopped nuts (optional)

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.  If you want the squares to be neat, with tidy edges, you will have to wait until they cool to cut them.

* My Mother used to use cocoa powder and additional butter instead of the unsweetened cocoa.  To substitute cocoa, use 3/4 cup of cocoa and 1/4 cup additional butter.

Milk Chocolate Brownies, adapted from Gourmet Magazine:

•1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
•8 ounces fine-quality milk chocolate, chopped
•3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•2 large eggs
•3/4 cup all-purpose flour
•1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.  Melt butter and half of chocolate in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is glossy and smooth.
Whisk together remaining ingredients, then stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in remaining chocolate.
Spread batter in pan and bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs adhering, 25 to 30 minutes.

Parker Brownies, adapted from Marion Cunningham's Good Eating.

•2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
•1/4 cup butter or margarine
•1 cup sugar
•1 egg
•1/8 teaspoon salt
•1/2 cup flour
•1/2 cup chopped walnuts
•1 teaspoon vanilla
•Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

Butter an 8-inch square pan. Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper, then butter and flour the paper. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring to blend. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, egg, salt, flour, walnuts, and vanilla. Spread in the prepared pan and bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and peel the wax paper from the bottom. Transfer to a cutting board and cut in squares.

Petites Trianons, adapted from Maida Heatter's Cookies.

1/2 cup butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Melt the butter with the chocolate in a medium saucepan.  Let cool a little while.  Add the following three ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

Gently fold in these last two ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Spread the batter in an 8 x 8 inch buttered pan.  Bake them at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes.  Don't let them over bake!  These are especially vulnerable to over baking.

See's Gooey Brownies, adapted from the recipe on the back of the See's Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips package.

16 oz chocolate chips
 1 can sweetened condensed milk
 2 sticks
 2 cups packed brown sugar
 2 eggs
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 2 cups all purpose flour
 1 teaspoon salt
 3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and the butter over very low heat.  Remove from heat, add the sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Fold in the flour, salt, and optional nuts.
Spread the mixture into a lightly oiled 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes. Do not over bake.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Optical Poem

Dear Audience,

During the week I lecture sometimes to students about art, composition, and color theory.  It's loads of fun, because I get to show off my (ordinarily under-valued) skill of mixing varying shades of violet.  Plus, there is often Lively Discussion and Exchanges of Ideas.  One of the young people during a recent Lively Discussion suggested this wonderful bit of animation. 


For an encore you might enjoy this small snippet.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It's in the water.

Dear Searchers,

This week you will find your song in the water, right here.  I love particularly that as a player of the lagoon, you must stand waist deep in your instrument.  It's a very lovely and poetic notion. 

Take another dip in, if you like.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018