Monday, March 31, 2008

And The Winner IS.......BBC "Spaghetti Tree"

#1 April Fool's Day Joke Of All Time(maybe): The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

The person who came up with the idea of the spaghetti harvest hoax was Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger. De Jaeger was born in Vienna in 1911. He worked in Austria as a freelance photographer before moving to Britain during the 1930s where he worked for the film unit of General Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Forces. He joined the BBC in 1943. De Jaeger had a reputation for being a practical joker. Early in his career at the BBC he was sent to the Vatican to interview the Pope. However, scheduling the interview proved difficult. Finally, he was told by a priest that “His Holiness will see you on Tuesday afternoon.” De Jaeger replied, “Yes, but is he a man of his word?”

The idea for the spaghetti harvest hoax grew out of a remark one of his Viennese school teachers often teasingly said to his class: “Boys, you’re so stupid, you’d believe me if I told you that spaghetti grows on trees.” As an adult, it occurred to de Jaeger that it would be funny to turn this remark into a visual joke for April Fool’s Day. He became quite obsessed with the idea, trying a number of times to sell the idea to different bosses. But it was only in 1957 while he was working for Panorama that he found some willing accomplices. During the 1950s, only two channels were available to British viewers—the BBC and ITV. Panorama was the BBC’s flagship news program, boasting a viewership of ten million. It aired every Monday night at 8 pm, easily beating out Wagon Train, the show ITV ran against it.

Since 1955 Panorama had been anchored by Richard Dimbleby, whose authoritative, commanding presence had made him one of the most revered public figures in Britain. If Dimbleby said it, people trusted that it was true. As one of his colleagues at Panorama put it, “He had enough gravitas to float an aircraft carrier.” Which is one of the reasons why the spaghetti harvest hoax fooled so many viewers. His participation lent the hoax an air of unimpeachable authority.

In 1957 April 1st fell on a Monday. De Jaeger realized this presented Panorama with a rare opportunity to include an April Fool’s Day segment in its broadcast. He shared his idea with one of his colleagues, the writer David Wheeler. Wheeler loved it. So the two of them pitched the concept to Michael Peacock, Panorama‘s editor.
One of the selling points de Jaeger stressed was that it would be relatively cheap to produce the segment. De Jaeger was going to be on assignment in Switzerland anyway, so could combine the costs with the other project. (De Jaeger was often sent on foreign assignments because he was fluent in English, Italian, French, and German.) Peacock was intrigued, and he decided to okay the plan. He granted them a budget of £100.

De Jaeger headed to Switzerland in March and, accompanied by a representative from the Swiss Tourist Office, scouted out a location. The weather proved problematic. It was misty and cold, and most of the trees were not in blossom. But eventually they found the perfect setting—a hotel in Castiglione on the shore of Lake Lugano surrounded by evergreen Laurel trees. De Jaeger obtained twenty pounds of uncooked homemade spaghetti, and began hanging it from branches to create spaghetti trees. But soon he encountered a problem. The spaghetti quickly dried out and wouldn’t hang from the branches. He tried to solve the problem by cooking the spaghetti and then hanging it, but once cooked the spaghetti became slippery and slid off the branches onto the ground. The tourist rep hit on the solution—placing the uncooked spaghetti between damp cloths to keep it moist until it was ready to use. With this problem solved, de Jaeger hired some local girls to hang the spaghetti in the trees. He had them wear their national costume, and then he filmed them as they climbed ladders carrying wicker baskets which they filled full of spaghetti, and then laid it out to dry in the sun. After he had all the shots he needed of the spaghetti harvest, he prepared a spaghetti feast for his actors, which he filmed also.The footage was rushed back to London where it was edited into a three-minute segment. Music was added to the background to provide the appropriate atmosphere. The selections chosen were “A Neapolitan Love Song” by Walter Stott and “Spring in Ravenna” by Hans May. Wheeler wrote the text that was read by Dimbleby.

Unlike the sign in the photo, Michael Peacock had kept his decision to include an April Fool’s Day joke in the Panorama broadcast a closely guarded secret, fearing his superiors would veto the decision. He only told his boss, Leonard Miall, at the last minute. Almost no one else at the BBC knew about it. The segment was not mentioned at all in the pre-transmission publicity handouts.The line-up for that day’s show included a long segment about Archbishop Makarios, leader of the Greek Cypriots, and a clip of the Duke of Edinburgh attending the premiere of the war film The Yangtse Incident. The second-to-last segment was about a wine-tasting contest, and then it came time for the spaghetti harvest. Dimbleby, sitting on the set of Panorama, looked into the camera and without a trace of a smile said: “And now from wine to food. We end Panorama tonight with a special report from the Swiss Alps.”The screen cut away to the prepared footage. When it was all over, Dimbleby reappeared and said, “Now we say goodnight, on this first day of April.” He emphasized the final phrase.

What follows is the complete text, written by David Wheeler and narrated by Richard Dimbleby, that Panorama viewers heard. The original clip of the spaghetti harvest hoax can be viewed on the BBC's website:
"It is not only in Britain that spring, this year, has taken everyone by surprise. Here in the Ticino, on the borders of Switzerland and Italy, the slopes overlooking Lake Lugano have already burst into flower at least a fortnight earlier than usual.
But what, you may ask, has the early and welcome arrival of bees and blossom to do with food? Well, it is simply that the past winter, one of the mildest in living memory, has had its effect in other ways as well. Most important of all, it’s resulted in an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop.
The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. There is always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavour and makes it difficult for him to obtain top prices in world markets. But now these dangers are over and the spaghetti harvest goes forward.
Spaghetti cultivation here in Switzerland is not, of course, carried out on anything like the tremendous scale of the Italian industry. Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of the vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley. For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair.
Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, the tiny creature whose depradations have caused much concern in the past.
After picking, the spaghetti is laid out to dry in the warm Alpine air. Many people are very puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced in such uniform lengths. This is the result of many years of patient endeavour by plant breeders who suceeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.
Now the harvest is marked by a traditional meal. Toasts to the new crop are drunk in these boccalinos, then the waiters enter bearing the ceremonial dish. This is, of course, spaghetti—picked early in the day, dried in the sun, and so brought fresh from garden to table at the very peak of condition. For those who love this dish, there is nothing like real home-grown spaghetti."

All the preceding was gathered from various websites and cobbled together as best I could. Thanks to all the sources. You can still view the broadcast courtesy of the BBC at their website. Until next time, take care.

April Fool's Day Theories (some anyway)

"If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day." ~ John A. Wheeler

"The first of April,
Some do say,
Is set apart,
As all Fool's Day.
Why people call it so,
Neither I,
Nor themselves,
Seem to know.
But on this day
Are people sent,
On purpose,
For pure merriment"
~ Anonymous

April Fool's Day or All Fool's Day is light hearted day of fun as a rule. The origins aren't certain, but some believe it a celebration related to the turn of the seasons,others believe it started with the adoption of a new calendar.Ancient peoples such as the Romans and the Hindus celebrated New Year's Day on or close to April first and much of Europe observed March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered that a new calendar replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year's Day to be January first. In that year France adopted the calendar and shifted New Year's day to January in accordance with the Pope's dictates. In a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or didn't learn of it, and continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April first. Others made fun of these traditionalists by sending them on "fool's errands" or telling them 'tall tales'. Eventually, the practice spread until all Europe was involved in the merriment.
There are at least two problems with this explanation. First, it doesn't account adequately for the spread of April Fools' Day to other European countries. The new calendar wasn't accepted by England until 1752, but April Fools' Day was already well established there by that time. Secondly, there is no direct historical evidence to support this explanation, only assumptions, and those appear to have been made more recently to fit the story, rather than resulting from the story.

Another explanation of April Fools' Day, provided by a professor of history at BU. He explains that the practice began during the reign of Constantine when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event. In those days fools were wise men, whose role It was to put things in perspective by using humor. This explanation was made public in an AP story run in many newspapers in 1983. The catch, BU Professor Boskin made the whole thing up. It took a couple weeks for the AP to realize that they'd been victims of an April Fools' joke themselves.

Various cultures had days of general silliness around April first, or within a couple weeks of the date. A Roman festival, 'Hilaria', adopted from the Greeks, was observed on March twenty-fifth for celebrating the resurrection of 'Attis', life-death-rebirth deity. The Hindu calendar has Holi, the Jewish calendar has Purim. Perhaps that time of year, and the change from winter to spring, itself is cause for lightheartedness to reign supreme. What better time to celebrate with goofiness?

April Fool's Day is observed throughout the Western world by sending folks on 'fool's errands, looking for that which doesn't exist, playing harmless pranks, and getting people believing the ridiculous. The French call April first 'Poisson d'Avril' or 'April Fish' French kids often attach a picture of a fish to the backs of their schoolmates while yelling 'Poisson d'Avril' when the picture is found. These are just a few of the many stories about the origins of the day's activities. Soon, a closer look at the 'spaghetti tree' story. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've some pranks to prepare. Until next time, take care.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Addendum To Nash-Metro Tales

A nifty little addition to the Nash-Metropolitan post sent my way by David Crews, who spent enough time here in the past to be an honorary Maine-Ah. But, since such a title doesn't officially exist, I guess he'll just have to accept my heartfelt thanks for showing us such a charming little toy. As Dave said, "I wish I could afford it", but I'm afraid it'd be 'battle stations' here if i brought it home.

Until next time, take care.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Local Food Treat, "Italians"

He started it all

The 'old days'

One of the shops today.

Making one at Amato's today.

"Italian" in the making.

The finished product.

At the foot of 'our hill' is the place on L/H side of photo with 'Pepsi" sign. This is Franchetti's, our usual supplier. It's about 100 yards(91.5 m) away.

In a world of hoagies, heroes, grinders,submarines, and similar fare, Portland, Maine is known as the birthplace of the Italian sandwich. It is considered Maine’s signature sandwich. Simply known as “Italians” to the people living in Maine.

During the beginning of the 20th century, Italians were emigrating to New England in large numbers to lay paving stones on streets, extend railway lines, and work as longshoremen on the waterfront. Giovanni Amato, an Italian immigrant, started selling fresh baked rolls from a pushcart to his fellow Italian immigrants working on the docks of Portland, Maine. At the workers' request, Giovanni added a little meat, cheese, and fresh vegetables, and the "Italian Sandwich" was born. Nobody knows the precise date of the first Italian Sandwich, but Amato's sandwich historians say it had happened by 1903. By the 1920s, Amato had opened a sandwich shop on India Street. In the 1950s, people would line up outside the shop to get their Italians, and Amato's would sell 5,000 sandwiches on Sundays. Amato's has several shops around Portland and surrounding areas. They don't extend up here where we live though, the closest is about a 1.5 hour drive in summer, but we have loads of alternatives.

Others may lay claim to inventing the Italian Sandwich, and there are now dozens of imitators selling them. Today, almost every corner grocery store in Maine makes their own version of this regional delight. According to most Italian Sandwich aficionados, the best Italian's in Maine are ALWAYS made in little Mom & Pop grocery stores. And the size of the sandwich making area relative to the rest of the store is a very good indication of the quality of product. Little place, GREAT Italians!!

The present day sandwich, unlike most sandwiches, doesn't have lettuce. Neither does it have mayo or mustard. Instead, it's topped with salt and pepper, and a squirt of oil. The freshly baked buns are soft, not crunchy (the sour pickles and soft rolls are what makes the Maine Italian Sandwich unique), and filled with veggies aplenty. The meat is ham or salami or both(boiled ham was introduced somewhere in the 1960’s and is as popular today as the original with only salami), and white American cheese. The sandwich is also a bit messy. The oil on the traditional Italian makes the sandwich a challenge to eat. They're also pretty inexpensive, a Mom & Pop store usually charges $3-$5.50 for a large, made to order treat.

The sandwich is typically made with a one-foot-long soft roll (not the hard sub roll), sliced 2/3 of the way through lengthwise (like a hot dog roll) and pulled open for ingredient insertion. Wrapped in white waxed paper, unwrap one end and eat directly from the wrap. As it is made today, it usually has:

White American cheese slices
Boiled ham slices and salami(originally was only salami)
Onions (chopped large)
Green pepper
Sour pickles (hand-sliced long and thin or now at times sliced round)
Black (Greek) olive halves
Olive Oil (or sometimes mixed olive and vegetable oils)
Salt & pepper
(you can generally custom order them with other veggie stuff and meats in them too)

I personnally love to make them myself and wrap in them plastic wrap, put in the refrigerator overnight so the pickle juice and oil mix together and that melts/partly disolves(?) the cheese so it permeates the sandwich, but doesn't make the roll soggy. Off to find something to munch. Until next time, take care.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just Plain Funny

The kittens were well-fed at least twice daily, but apparently the 'service' was slow! (NO KITTY WAS HARMED IN ANY WAY IN THESE VIDEOS) Not My usual type entries, just found them really cute & funny. Take care.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Origins, About, & Excerpts From The Trivia Files...

Trivia's Origins

Trivia File Labels

Trivial Stuff Administrator

Assistant Demonstrating Proper File Retrieval Procedures

Results Of Improper File Extraction

Containers After Posting Trivia On Blog

Assistant Administrator Disposing Of Used File Data

So now you know just how this worthless information is generated, filed, and properly disposed of. The preceding statement should be filed under 'Useless Information' or disposed of immediately.

And Now The Trivial Stuff:

-Some Eskimos have been known to use refrigerators to keep their food from freezing.
-It is illegal to play tennis in the streets of Cambridge.
-Custer was the youngest General in US history, he was promoted at the age of 23.
-It costs more to send someone to reform school than it does to send them to Eton.
-The American pilot Charles Lindbergh received the Service Cross of the German Eagle from Hermann Goering in 1938.
-The active ingredient in Chinese Bird's nest soup is saliva.
-Marie Currie, who twice won the Nobel Prize, and discovered radium, was not allowed to become a member of the prestigious French Academy because she was a woman.
-It was quite common for the men of Ancient Greece to exercise naked in public.
-John Paul Getty, once the richest man in the world, had a pay phone in his mansion.
-Iceland is the world's oldest functioning democracy.
-Adolf Eichmann (responsible for countless Jewish deaths during World war II), was originally a travelling salesman for the Vacuum Oil Co. of Austria.
-The national flag of Italy was designed by Napoleon Bonaparte.
-The Matami Tribe of West Africa play a version of football, the only difference being that they use a human skull instead of a more normal ball.
-John Winthrop introduced the fork to the American dinner table for the first time on 25 June 1630.
-Elizabeth Blackwell, born in Bristol, England on 3 February 1821, was the first woman in America to gain an M.D. degree.
-Abraham Lincoln was shot with a Derringer.
-The great Russian leader, Lenin died 21 January 1924, suffering from a degenerative brain disorder. At the time of his death his brain was a quarter of its normal size.
-When shipped to the US, the London bridge ( thought by the new owner to be the more famous Tower Bridge ) was classified by US customs to be a 'large antique'.
-Sir Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' cloakroom after his mother went into labor during a dance at Blenheim Palace.
-In 1849, David Atchison became President of the United States for just one day, and he spent most of the day sleeping.
-Between the two World War's, France was controlled by forty different governments.
-The 'Crystal Palace' at the Great Exhibition of 1851, contained 92,900 square meters of glass.
-It was the custom in Ancient Rome for the men to place their right hand on their testicles when taking an oath. The modern term 'testimony' is derived from this tradition.
-Sir Winston Churchill's mother was descended from an American Indian(N.A.).
-The study of stupidity is called 'monology'.
-Hindu men believe(d) it to be unluckily to marry a third time. They could avoid misfortune by marrying a tree first. The tree, his third wife, was then burnt, freeing him to marry again.
-More money is spent each year on alcohol and cigarettes than on Life insurance.
-In 1911 3 men were hung for the murder of Sir Edmund Berry at Greenbury Hill, their last names were Green, Berry , and Hill.
-A firm in Britain sold fall-out shelters for pets.
-During the seventeenth century, the Sultan of Turkey ordered his entire harem of women drowned and replace with a new one.
-Lady Astor once told Winston Churchill 'if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee'. His reply …'if you were my wife, I would drink it !'.
-There are no clocks in Las Vegas casinos.
-The Great Pyramid of Giza consists of 2,300,000 blocks each weighing 2.5 tons.
-On 9 February 1942, soap rationing began in Britain.
-Paul Revere was a dentist.
-Chop-suey is not a native Chinese dish, it was created in California by Chinese immigrants.
-The Russian mystic Rasputin was the victim of a series of murder attempts in 1916. The assassins poisoned, shot and stabbed him in quick succession, but they found they were unable to finish him off. Rasputin finally succumbed to the ice-cold waters of a river.
-Bonnie Prince Charlie, the leader of the Jacobite rebellion to depose of George II of England, was born 31 December 1720. Considered a great Scottish hero, he spent his final years as a drunkard in Rome.
-The Liberal Prime Minister, William Gladstone, was born of the 29th December 1809. Apparently, as a result of his strong Puritan impulses, Gladstone kept a selection of whips in his cellar with which he regularly chastised himself.
-A 'parthenophobic' person has a fear of virgins.
-South American gauchos were known to put raw steak under their saddles before starting a day's riding, in order to tenderise the meat.
-There are 240 white dots in a Pacman arcade game.
-King Solomon of Israel had about 700 wives as well as hundreds of mistresses.
-Urine was once used to wash clothes.
-North American Indian Chief Sitting Bull died on 15 December 1890. His bones were laid to rest in North Dakota, but a business group wanted him moved to a 'more natural' site in South Dakota. Their campaign was rejected so they stole the bones, and they now reside in Sitting Bull Park, South Dakota.
-St Nicholas, the original Father Christmas, is the patron saint of thieves, virgins and the formerly communist Russia.
-Dublin is home of the Fairy Investigation Society.
-Fourteen million people were killed in World War I, twenty million died in a flu epidemic in the years that followed.
-People in Siberia often buy milk frozen on a stick.
-Princess Ann was the only competitor at the 1976 Montreal Olympics that did not have to undergo a sex test.
-Ethelred the Unready, King of England in the Tenth-century, spent his wedding night in bed with his wife and his mother-in-law.
-Coffins which are due for cremation are usually made with plastic handles.
-Blackbird, who was the chief of Omaha Indians, was buried sitting on his favorite horse.
-The two highest IQ's ever recorded on a standard test both belong to women.
-The Tory Prime Minister, Benjamin Disreali, was born 21 December 1804. He was noted for his oratory and had a number of memorable exchanges in the House with his great rival William Gladstone. Asked what the difference between a calamity and a misfortune was Disreali replied: 'If Gladstone fell into the Thames it would be a misfortune, but if someone pulled him out again, it would be a calamity'.
-The Imperial Throne of Japan has been occupied by the same family for the last thirteen hundred years.
-In the seventeenth-century a Boston man was sentenced to two hours in the stocks for obscene behaviour, his crime, kissing his wife in a public place on a Sunday.
-President Kaunda of Zambia once threatened to resign if his fellow countrymen didn't stop drinking so much alcohol.
-Due to staggering inflation in the 1920's, 4,000,000,000,000,000,000 German marks were worth 1 US dollar.
-Gorgias of Epirus was born during preparation of his mothers funeral.
-The city of New York contains a district called 'Hell's Kitchen'.
-The city of Hiroshima left the Industrial Promotion Centere standing as a monument the atomic bombing.
-During the Medieval Crusades, transporting bodies off the battlefield for burial was a major problem, this was solved by carrying a huge cauldron into the Holy Wars, boiling down the bodies, and taking only the bones with them.
-A ten-gallon hat holds three-quarters of a gallon.
-George Washington grew marijuana in his garden.

Now don't you wonder how you ever survived without knowing all of that? Until next time, take care.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

'Tis The Season To Be Irish....

Map Of The Emerald Isle

Genuine Shamrocks

Genuine Green Scenery In Eire

Very often it seems, at least to me, that when I mention I'm nearly 'full blooded'(as opposed to having less blood inna veins??) Indian(N.A.), it becomes necessary for whoever I'm talking to to declare their own Indian ancestry in terms such as "I'm 1/16 Cherokee" etc. Taking this as my cue, I decided to celebrate St Patrick's Day in several ways, Irish sayings, Irish recipes(or adaptations thereof), Ireland images, and a touch of Irish trivia. Oh yeah, I also want to declare here for all to see that I'm proud to be 1/16 Irish!! It would seem that a great-grandfather on my dad's side of the old clan was a red-haired, bearded, French/Irish mix. Not sure if my math's right, but it's good enough for me. Seems this gentleman left a two-part legacy, descendants who are either full-bearded and have somewhat Caucasian features with coppery skin tone(me), or who look like they stepped straight from the pages of an illustrated history of Native American Peoples. The other trait, at least according to me, is a taste for all things Irish, especially good Irish whiskey. Seems it takes very little to rearrange the old family gene pool for generations to come. I also like French pastries and French Maid outfits, but that's another whole post. Oh, did I mention that SWMBO is Irish/Scot? This would account for my love for single malt scotch perhaps. She definitely serves as an example of an 'Irish Woman's Temper'! But that's a whole string of other posts.

First up, something for the youngsters, St. Patrick's Day 'Cookie Pops'

Stuff For Making Them

20 vanilla wafer cookies
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
green and yellow gumdrops
green Dots® candies
green and yellow Nerd® candies
cake decorating writer gel in green, yellow, red, orange, and black
1 tube of green cake decorator frosting with tip
green and yellow decorator sugar
green food coloring
ice cream or lollipop sticks
wax paper or paper plates

How To Do It

Spread peanut butter onto the flat side of the cookies. Place an ice cream stick into the peanut butter on half the cookies. Top with another cookie so the stick is sandwiched between the two cookies.
Melt chocolate chips following directions on package. Before melting, separate the white chips into two bowls. After melting, add a few drops of green food coloring to one of the bowls of white chips to make green chocolate.
Dip cookie pops in the melted chips, covering completely. Sprinkle with green and yellow sugar and lay or stand on waxed paper or paper plates. Place in refrigerator to chill.


After coating with white chocolate, dip top of pop into green sugar. Slice two yellow gumdrops to make beard. Allow to dry on wax paper. Use black and red decorator gel for eyes and mouth, and for trim on hat.

Rainbow with Pot of Gold
After coating with white chocolate, cut a green Dot in half lengthwise, adhere to chocolate. Before chocolate has a chance to dry, place 3-5 yellow candy nerds "in" pot. Create a rainbow with various colored decorator gel.

After coating with white chocolate, sprinkle with yellow decorator sugar, then draw on a shamrock using green cake decorator icing.

Four Leaf Clover
After coating with green chocolate, use green sliced gumdrops to create clover leaves. Slice a small strip out of remaining gumdrop for stem. Use a green candy Nerd for the center of the clover.

Note: Another variation is to use vanilla or chocolate frosting instead of peanut butter for the filling. These can also be made without sticks. Use one stick to be able to dip the cookies in chocolate and roll in sprinkles, then remove the stick and put on wax paper or paper plates, then chill.
(Trivia: Per capita, the Irish eat more chocolate than Americans, Swedes, Danes, French, and Italians.)
For While You're Waiting For Dinner

Irish Coffee
"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat."
~~Alex Levine

Original Version
1 C hot coffee
1 1/2 oz. Irish Mist liqueur
whipped cream for garnish

Modern Version
1 C hot coffee
1 oz. Irish Whiskey
3 sugar cubes
whipped cream for garnish
And Finally, what better dinner for the day than:

Irish Potato Bisquits

Yield: Makes 12 to 18 biscuits.

6 to 8 potatoes
1 cup milk or cream
1 tablespoon melted butter
salt, to taste
1/2 cup flour (approximately)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Boil and mash the potatoes, making sure they are free of lumps. Add the milk, butter, and salt. Add just enough flour to make a soft dough, then lay it on a floured board and roll out quickly and lightly to a half-inch sheet. Cut into rounds; bake about 10 minutes, or until just crisp on the outside. Butter and eat before they fall.
Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Yield: 1 large loaf
This delicious, wholesome loaf is quick to make and usually quick to disappear!
Try it slathered with butter and preserves -- perfect with a nice cup of tea.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-3/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well with a fork, making sure to break up any little lumps of brown sugar. Make a well in the dry mixture and pour the buttermilk into it. Using a wooden spoon, stir just until a soft dough is formed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 1 to 3 minutes until it is smooth. (You can add a little flour if the dough is too sticky, but too much will make a tough loaf.)
Shape the dough into a round loaf, flattened slightly, and place it on an ungreased baking sheet. Using a small sharp knife, cut a large X on the top of the loaf. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom. Cool completely before cutting. Slice very thin for serving.
Irish lamb Stew

Yield: Serves 6-8
Mint jelly and hot biscuits are a must with this traditional New England dish.

3-pound lamb shoulder
4 cups cold water
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
Flour for dredging
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup beef stock
2 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
3 to 4 onions, sliced
1 to 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut into
1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim meat from bones, cube, and set aside. Combine bones, water, onions, and celery in Dutch oven. Simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid. Discard bones and vegetables. Cool and skim fat from top of liquid. Dredge meat in flour. Melt butter in frying pan and brown meat on all sides. Place in Dutch oven, add stock, reserved liquid, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer gently, partially covered, 1 hour. Remove bay leaf and parsley. Add additional onions, potatoes, and carrots and cook, partially covered, 30 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.
And after the meal, something upon which to think while enjoying an Irish drink

"May you live as long as you want,
And never want as long as you live."
~~Irish Proverb

"Ireland is rich in literature that understands a soul's yearnings, and dancing that understands a happy heart."
~~Margaret Jackson

"People live in each other's shelter."
~~Irish Proverb

Trivial Stuff:
-The bubbles in Guiness beer sink to the bottom rather than float to the top as in other beers.
-According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34 million United States residents claim Irish ancestry, or nearly ten times the entire population of Ireland today, which stands at 3.9 million. Among U.S. ethnic groups, the number of Irish-Americans in the U.S. is second only to the number of German-Americans.
-Since 1820, 4.8 million Irish have legally immigrated to the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The agency reports that only four countries—Germany, Italy, Mexico, and the United Kingdom—have sent more native-born residents to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
-Guinness stout, first brewed by Arthur Guinness in Dublin, Ireland, in 1759, has become synonymous with Ireland and Irish bars. According to the company's Web site, 1,883,200,000 (that's 1.9 billion) pints of Guinness are consumed around the world every year.

Until next time, enjoy yourselves, take care, and keep smiling.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Nash/Hudson Metropolitan (1954-1962)

The 'Original' style.

Loadsa room for groceries or luggage!

Room for how many?

Blue & White 1960 Version

Final Version in basic black.

This post was inspired by having been asked by a gentleman if a Metropolitan restoration was possible at a reasonable cost. I was rather taken aback to find I was the only one of several people at the restoration shop who even knew what a Metropolitan was, looked like, and had ever actually worked on one. So, to enlighten those wishing it, here goes.
The story of the Metropolitan has many misconceptions, perhaps the biggest is the belief the car was designed by England's Austin Motor Company & Nash simply applied its name to an American version. Austin was known for small cars, so there is cause for that theory, but the Metropolitan was an American design resulting from years of experimentation by Nash Motor Corporation. Austin's 1200-cc engine developing 42 hp was the original power plant. Bodies were of unit construction as used on other lines by Nash. In 1956, a 1500-cc four-cylinder was added and upped the power to 52 hp. A column shifter changed a three-speed gearbox. A fourth gear was added to the American model. Shorter than a VW 'Bug', the high body rested atop a narrow track and skinny tires. Needless to add, handling was terrible. It was touted theoretically as a three-seater .
Nash & Hudson merged to form American Motors with Austin, but in the end, the Nash and Hudson names vanished and the Metropolitan was a stand-alone product. When consumers responded favorably to the small car concept, Nash took the unusual step of mailing a questionnaire with photos of the prototype, largely the work of designer W. Flajole, to several thousand folks. The survey convinced them that there was a market for a small, economical car. Nash didn't have capacity or the light-car expertise to produce the vehicle in large numbers, so they approached the British, whose auto works were taking longer to recover from World War II. Nash settled on the Austin Motor Company, which was the world's leader in making smaller cars. Initially called the Nash NKI for export to the USA, Nash provided the unit body and suspension component designs and Austin supplied a 1200cc four-cylinder.
Production began at Austin's Longbridge, England, factory in 1954. The Metro was compact and had little power, the engine being barely 1/4 the size of Chevy's high-compression V8. The Austin A-40 engine was a workhorse though, and powered many vehicles very well over time. It had a counterbalanced crankshaft, small Zenith downdraft carb, and 7.2:1 compression. The OHV four was reliable, and with a 0-60 miles per hour acceleration elapsed time of 30 seconds, wasn't exactly sporty. The Met was a light 1800 pounds with was 42 and later the 52 HP propulsion.The revised version of the Metro updated somewhat cuter styling. The new engine displaced 1500 cc, a 24% leap(?) in horsepower thanks to the increased compression of 8.31:1. Included was a new hood, mesh grille, and 'zig-zag' side design. The Metro's last full round of updates included luxuries such as a trunk lid, glove box door, seat adjusters, and window vents.
The two models, a 2-door convertible and a 2-door hardtop, were so cute you felt as if you were adding a pet to the family. Having an overall length of less than 150 inches riding on 13-inch wheels, the Metro was a tall 54 1/2 inches, making an interesting profile, accented by the "dip in the door." It was as irresistible as a baby kitten and began to sell in decent numbers. Maybe it would have been an even bigger success if Nash-Kelvinator hadn't merged with Hudson at the same time it made Metropolitans. The combined 'American Motors Corporation' still marketed under the Nash/Hudson names and the Metropolitan was sold at Nash and Hudson dealers. There are Hudson Metropolitans on the roads to this day, distinguishable by the 'continental tire kit' and usually a two-tone paint job.
Not sold as a "cheap" car, the suggested retail price for the Model 541 2-door convertible was $1,469, and for the Model 542 2-door HT a fairly high $1,445 in 1954. But the little Metro was loaded with standard features including dual sun visors,turn signals, map light, dual electric wipers, and of course, the aforementioned rear-mounted spare tire carrier and cover. Hardtops offered standard 2-tone paint and the convertible had the same look with a second-color rag-top. Of course, most buyers sprung for some options, like radio, heater, and white sidewall tires. After the 1962 model year, the AMC Metropolitan vanished from showrooms marking a nine-year run. During the course of its production, 94,986 Metropolitans were sold.
Even without the fake hood scoop of the pre-1500cc, the Metro's top speed increased from 70 mph to 80mph, making it a bit more suitable American driving conditions. It continued to be sold by AMC through 1962, though production ended in mid-1960. This curious little car was sold by the dealer closest to my hometown in large quantities as a 2nd car for mill worker's spouses. I remember there being 2 black and white ones, a red and white one, a few older monotone models, and a whole herd of blue and whites driven mostly by blue-haired ladies of the era. Until next time, take care and happy motoring.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Just One Of The Gang......

Yesterday was an unusual day in that it was the first really sunny day in about a week here. Not only was it a nice break from almost continuous snowstorms, it gave me a chance to indulge in a favorite pass-time of mine. I wasn't truly aware how wrapped up in the pass-time I become until my better half remarked from behind me that I was coming to resemble our five cats more every day. Not being absolutely clear what she meant, I inquired as to her thinking on the matter. Her answer, of course, led to another group of thoughts tumbling from my mouth about how this behavior on my part wasn't new, but had started when I was young and very curious growing up amid the wonders of a farm in the woods. The only real difference today is that I'm much older and curious. It seems the older I get, the more inquisitive I become, apparently so much so that the wife thinks I'm becoming like the cats.
And what activity on my part was the inspiration for this, probably very apt, observation on her part? It seems she'd been observing me from another room for quite some time trying to figure out just what was holding my attention so well, and that of the cats grouped around me sharing the view from the window. Nothing in particular I told her, just a couple different things. We're watching the snow falling past the window as it plunges from the roof. And, between the exciting moments of plunging snow, we're watching the water run down the sides of the icicles hanging from the eaves and freeze at the tips to increase their length one minuscule bit at a time. It was her observing this behavior that caused her to remark how she thought I was becoming more like the cats every day, how little she knows. I prefer to think of it as the cats, being younger than I even in 'kitty years', have come to appreciate the joys of learning the art of quiet observation of life's little miracles at the side of an 'old master'. Until next time, take care, and don't forget to observe this wonderful world at every opportunity. It sure beats working on the never-ending 'to do list'.