Archive for the ‘Humanities’ Category

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We’ve Moved!

February 1, 2010

The Indiana Humanities Council thanks you for joining the conversation at Hoosierati. We’ve currently moved our blog to the Indiana Humanities Council site, and we encourage you to continue to Think, Read and Talk–just at a new url.

Thanks!

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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: The Lacuna

January 27, 2010

By Kristen Fuhs Wells, communications director at the Indiana Humanities Council

This is the second Barbara Kingsolver book I’ve reviewed in the last six months, and I’m sure it won’t be my last (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is still on my list to read). As in Prodigal Summer, Kingsolver has created a whole new set of wonderful characters that stay with you long after you close The Lacuna.

The fictional book is narrated by Harrison Shepard (post-mortem, according to an archivist’s note), using journal entries and letters that span his life, starting in 1929 with his young teenage years in Mexico (but he lived in Washington D.C. for most of his childhood), and ending with—well I’m not sure, I’m only ¾ of the way through. But I’ve followed the young aspiring novelist’s career through servanthood at the Mexican home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, as a secretary for their friend Lev Trotsky, the doomed and idealistic Russian revolutionary, and now, to Asheville, N.C., where his first book has just been published and WWII is coming to an end.

The Lacuna is fascinating—from its inclusion of actual N.Y. Times articles describing Japanese American internment camps, to Kingsolver’s amazing ability to craft a beautiful sentence that I just want to read over, and over, and over.

Given that Food for Thought is in full swing, it’s also worth noting that food is central to the plot—as a young boy Harrison learns to cook, which lands him the job with Diego as a plaster-preparer, and later as their household cook where he prepares dishes for lavish parties. It’s over tamales that Frida and Harrison first become friends, and it’s during weekly shopping trips to the market in Washington D.C. that Harrison first falls in love.

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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Entrée to Judaism: Cooking in the Diaspora

January 13, 2010

Do these chocolate chip cappuccino brownies make my butt look big? 
By Patti Freeman Dorson, recovering attorney, facilitator for the Mothers Circle of Greater Indianapolis and cooking and eating enthusiast

Who but your mother would answer that question honestly?  But that is not the essential question to ask.  The real question is what is a recipe for chocolate chip cappuccino brownies doing in a book about Jewish cooking?

In her spectacular new book Entrée to Judaism: Cooking in the Diaspora, nationally known cooking instructor, food writer and professional speaker Tina Wasserman answers that question with historical and anthropological precision:

The expulsion from Spain and Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century sent many Jews fleeing to Holland, Brazil, and the Far East.  Trade routes were set up from the Caribbean and the Far East to Holland, and Jewish immigrants were directly responsible for the brisk trade in cocoa and coffee from their newfound countries to their relatives trading on the Dutch market. 

Who knew?

Growing up Jewish in Indianapolis, Jewish cooking seemed limited to the staples of Ashkenazic (Eastern European) tradition: beef brisket, honey cake, baked chicken, noodle kugel, chicken soup and matzah balls.  Wasserman takes us on a journey around the world, explaining the literal meaning of the phrase wandering Jew. 

Mass Jewish immigration has occurred in every age and for many different reasons: at the behest of not-so-benevolent government leaders, the pursuit of economic freedom, the instinct for self-preservation, or the dream of a better life.  Wasserman as storyteller and historian explains how Jews came to live in a certain place – Spain, India, Turkey, Russia, Latin America, Africa, the Far East – and how they adapted to local conditions and created Kosher dishes incorporating the flavors and colors of their new surroundings. 

Wasserman as food writer, cookbook author, cooking instructor and Jewish woman demonstrates the breathtaking variety of Jewish cooking in the Diaspora with exceptional recipes ranging from Syrian eggplant with pomegranate molasses to dolmas (Turkish stuffed grape leaves) to Chilean pastel de choclo to Sanbat Wat (Ethiopian Sabbath Stew) and so many more.  And in each recipe, she adds “Tina’s Tidbits”, her wisdom, ideas and variations to enrich the cook’s experience.

The book is divided into three sections: a region and ingredient specific world tour, recipes connected with the celebration of Jewish holidays and iconic Jewish ingredients as interpreted in many different cultures.  Wasserman’s collection has the breadth and depth of other international cookbooks (think Mark Bitman and The Best Recipes in the World) but she writes as she cooks – with passion, with soul and with love.

Oh, and about those Chocolate Chip Cappuccino Brownies:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 pound light brown sugar
1-1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon water
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces chocolate chips or white chocolate chips

1. Place the butter in a 3-quart saucepan and add the brown sugar. Stir over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add the espresso powder, water, and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool while you measure the other ingredients.

2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of a 9 X 9-inch pan with parchment paper, and butter or spray the sides of the pan to prevent sticking.

3. Meanwhile, using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and the vanilla into the butter mixture (still in the saucepan). Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to combine. Using a rubber spatula, add the chocolate chips and stir by hand to thoroughly incorporate without melting the chips.

4. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and back for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pan. The mixture should be very moist but not liquid.

5. Cool and cut into 1 ½-inch squares.

Note: This recipe may be doubled and baked in a 16 X 11 X 1-inch pan for 30 minutes.
Yield: 3-4 dozen small bars

Tina’s Tidbits

  • Do not overbake these brownies! When they’re done, a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan will come out clean.
  • Never cut brownies while they are not or the sides will mash down.
  • I keep a jar of instant espresso in the freezer to use whenever a recipe calls for some coffee flavoring.
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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Best Food Lit of 2009

January 6, 2010

For this week’s What-are-you-reading-Wednesday, we invite you to check out Amazon’s list of the best Food Lit from 2009 (composed of editor picks and bestsellers) here. Which ones have you read? Which ones are you planning to read for 2010?

Coming in at Number 1 is Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

Here’s the rest of the best:

Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater byFrank Bruni

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen by David Sax

Sex, Death and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover’s World Tour by Robb Walsh

Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple, Jr. by R. W. Apple

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell

Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York by William Grimes

Gourmet Rhapsody byMuriel Barbery

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Hoosier Dylan @ the Athenaeum

December 22, 2009

A group of Indiana’s finest musicians, along with the Indiana Poet Laureate, will pay tribute to Bob Dylan at 7:30 (doors 6:30) in the Athenaeum Theatre on Jan. 9, 2010.   Jennie DeVoe, Gordon Bonham, Jason Wilber, Tim Grimm, Bobbie Jane Lancaster, The White Lightning Boys, and Joyous Garde will sing songs by probably the greatest songwriter of the twentieth century, and Norbert Krapf, Indiana Poet Laureate, will recite Dylan-related poems with backing by Bonham and Grimm. Producer Grimm observes: “Dylan has served as the model for all singer-songwriters to follow. He was the first folk musician to go electric and the first successful writer of political and social commentary on a mass scale.”  Krapf says this show is his best vehicle for accomplishing his IPL mission of “reuniting those kissing kin, poetry and music.”  

Advance tickets for Hoosier Dylan are now available for $15 at Luna Music, both the Mass Ave. and College & 52nd St. locations, and Indy CD & Vinyl, Broad Ripple Ave. Door price: $18.

More info: http://krapfpoetry.com/hoosier_dylan_comes_to_indy.htm

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Celebrate Indiana’s Statehood on Dec. 11

December 3, 2009

By Ray E. Boomhower, senior editor of the Indiana Historical Society Press

December 11 marks the 193rd anniversary of Indiana’s entry into the Union as the nineteenth state. The occasion will be marked by ceremonies at the Indiana Statehouse and the usual pomp and circumstance. The thoughts of those who attend the event may turn to seven years from now, when the Hoosier State celebrates its bicentennial. How will such an anniversary be commemorated? For ideas, perhaps we should go back to how the state celebrated its centennial in 1916.

The fall of 1914 was a bloody one in Europe. The British and German were winding down the First Battle of Ypres and would soon dig in to begin the long and futile period of trench warfare. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, it was an election year. On November 3, Hoosiers trooped to the polls and “for a time the war dropped into the background as all Indiana played the election game,” wrote Cedric C. Cummins in his book on public opinion during World War I.

In addition to the usual candidates on the ballot, voters had the chance to register their opinions on two special issues: a convention to alter the state’s constitution and whether to celebrate the state’s centennial in 1916 by appropriating two million dollars for the construction of a memorial building to house the state library and other historical agencies. Both measures suffered defeat at the polls.

Democratic governor Samuel M. Ralston, who would become a leading force behind the state’s eventual centennial observance, believed the memorial plan was rejected not because Hoosiers were against celebrating the event, but because they objected to the amount of money sought for the building.

Ralston was proven right; in just two years, backed by the efforts of the Indiana Historical Commission and thousands of volunteers, Indiana residents would see the creation of state parks, the beginnings of an improved statewide road system, the creation of permanent memorials in numerous communities, and an overall awakening of interest in the nineteenth state’s history.

At Governor Ralston’s request, the 1915 Indiana General Assembly agreed to appropriate $25,000 and create a nine-member Indiana Historical Commission to promote the centennial celebration. The legislature’s financial support of the commission marked the first notable state commitment of funds to history in Indiana. Of the $25,000, $20,000 was earmarked for the promotion of centennial activities, while the remaining amount went to collecting, editing, and publishing Indiana’s past.

The Indiana Historical Commission first met on April 23 and 24, 1915, in Governor Ralston’s Statehouse office. An illustrious group joined Ralston on the commission, including James Woodburn of Indiana University, Reverend John Cavanaugh of the University of Notre Dame, and Charity Dye, an Indianapolis schoolteacher. The commission employed Professor Walter C. Woodward of Earlham College to direct the centennial celebration.

The commission set out to educate the state’s citizens about the centennial. Special bulletins were sent to county school superintendents asking for their cooperation; direct appeals were made to teachers in the summer and fall of 1915; a weekly Indiana Historical Commission newsletter began publication; and commission members addressed various clubs, civic organizations, churches, and historical societies (Dye alone gave 152 talks).

The Indiana Historical Commission also turned to film to get its message across to the public. Realizing it had neither the necessary funds nor skills needed to undertake such an enterprise, the commission called upon the public for help. Citizens soon responded by forming the Inter-State Historical Pictures Corporation, which contracted with the Selig Polyscope Company of Chicago to produce a movie titled Indiana. The seven-reel picture featured famed poet James Whitcomb Riley telling the story of the state’s development to a group of children.

To encourage former Indiana residents to return to the state for the centennial, the commission used the services of noted humorist and author George Ade. Honored, or “burdened,” Ade joked in speeches touting the centennial, with the chairmanship of the committee to “sound the call and bring all the wandering Hoosiers back into the fold,” he set about recruiting contributions from a veritable who’s who of Hoosiers for a book.

Titled An Invitation to You and Your Folks from Jim and Some More of the Home Folks, the book, published by Bobbs-Merrill Company of Indianapolis, contained messages from Governor Ralston, Vice President Thomas Marshall, Meredith Nicholson, and Booth Tarkington. Gene Stratton-Porter contributed the poem “A Limberlost Invitation,” and Riley the poem “The Hoosier in Exile.”

With the publicity campaign on its way to being a success, the commission had to turn its sights to how best to state the actual celebration; keeping in mind the lack of funds, it was clear that such events would have to be financed locally. The Indiana Historical Commission turned to staging historical pageants. These dramas appealed strongly to the commission because they could both focus attention on Indiana’s history and bring communities together.

The commission hired William Chauncy Langdon, former first president of the American Pageant Association, as the state pageant master. Langdon’s main duties were to write and direct three pageants, one at Indiana University, another at the old state capital of Corydon, and a final one at Indianapolis. Historical studies were made, music was especially composed, and costumes were designed “for the sole purpose of producing in the sequence of its various scenes a clear, beautiful and inspiring drama and a truthful impression of the development of the State of Indiana,” noted Langdon.

These same ideas were used by local communities in developing their own pageants. The commission gave what help it could, securing centennial chairmen in all but three of Indiana’s counties, with each responsible for selecting a county committee to plan the work. The plan worked. Director Woodward reported that forty-five county or local pageants presented in 1916 were seen by an estimated 250,000 people, and anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 Hoosiers participated in the performances.

Most counties used incidents from their past as the basis for the pageants. Miami County, for example, used the story of Frances Slocum, who was abducted at the age of five from her home in Pennsylvania by Delaware Indians. She was discovered by her family fifty years later in Miami County, Indiana, the wife of an Indian chief. Titled “Ma-con-a-quah,” the pageant opened with the following:

            Miami! What wealth of history

            This name suggests! Here in years

            A hundred past and more,

            The red forebears of your possessions

            Roamed the virgin wood, and called it Home.

            Here, in primal glory, ere white man’s craft

            Had fashioned this, your city, lived we, the Miamis.

Along with the week-long pageant in Indianapolis, capital residents had the chance to hear from President Woodrow Wilson as part of activities for Centennial Highway Day on October 12, 1916. Invited to speak by Governor Ralston, a vigorous supporter of roadway improvements, Wilson arrived in the city by presidential train (which was late). While in Indianapolis, the president reviewed an automobile parade before delivering a speech on the need for good roads to 10,000 people at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

Perhaps the commission’s crowning achievement came with the development of Indiana’s first state parks. The movement began in April 1915 when Governor Ralston received a letter from Juliet V. Strauss, a nationally known writer living in Rockville, Indiana, appealing for help in saving the Turkey Run area in Parke County from being sold to timber interests. The commission created a special parks committee with Richard Lieber, who would become the first director of the Indiana Department of Conservation, as chairman.

While talks for purchasing the Turkey Run property for the state were under way, the commission learned of the opportunity to purchase the rugged area of McCormick’s Creek in Owen County. A total of $5,250 was raised, one-fourth of which by Owen County residents, and McCormick’s Creek became Indiana’s first state park. The commission later acquired the Turkey Run property.

When the last notes of music from the various pageants faded away and celebrants packed their costumes, the commission attempted to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by the centennial observance. Although a 1917 bill calling for the establishment of a permanent state agency for history failed, the commission was resurrected following World War I to organize a county-by-county war history. Since that time, Indiana has consistently funded a state historical agency.

The commission’s spirit is today kept alive by the activities of the Indiana Historical Bureau, but few may know of the lasting legacy of the nine-member body that pushed and prodded the state to at last take a real interest in its own past.