Friday, February 27, 2009

Pepper Soup and Parmesan Crackers

Duarte's Restaurant in Pescadero has the second-best soup I've ever had (artichoke) and also the very best soup I've ever had, pepper soup. I've tried at least a dozen times to reproduce the pepper soup recipe and tonight's dinner was the closest yet. You cook until tender a chopped green pepper with two cups of frozen peas in three cups of chicken stock. Add a clove of garlic, 1/4 cup chopped onion, a dash of tabasco sauce and some celery seed. Put all this through a food mill (because the peas have a skin; if you don't mind this, you can use a blender or food processor), thicken with either a half-cup of bechamel sauce or 1/4 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Whisk over low heat until thick and warm and serve with parmesan crackers. Serves two people.

Parmesan crackers: Cover a baking dish with foil. Using a cookie cutter or a tuna can with both ends removed, put about a half-inch of shredded parmesan into the mold, press down, and remove the mold. Put under the broiler about 10 minutes, or until the cracker is brown. Cool slightly and then peel off from the foil while still warm.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Lance Armstrong and the 130-something other bikers on the Tour of California rode through our little town in the rain this morning, cheered on by a few people holding signs and yelling "Go, riders!" We watched from the back window with binoculars. A  blur of dark shapes blew down the Coast Highway, accompanied by motorcycles and cars whose headlights made long bright patterns on the wet road.

I have been wanting to write something about another biker we know, Kanellos Kanellopoulos. Kanellos was a 14-time bicycle champion in Greece, an Olympian cyclist, and still holds the world's record for human-powered flight.

In 1988, MIT, the Smithsonian Institution, NASA and the Greek government cooperated in the Daedalus Project, attempting to surpass the 1979 record for cycle-driven flight, the Gossamer Albatross passage of 22 miles over the English Channel. Kanellos piloted his craft from Crete to the island of Santorini, 72.44 miles, taking three hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds.

The Daedalus broke up yards from its destination when a gust of wind snapped the tail boom. The wings folded and the craft settled into the surf, leaving Kanellos to swim and wade to shore. Asked how he was able to achieve this incredible feat, Kanellos said that Saint Nicholas, patron of sailors, had protected him.

The mythic Daedalus, of course, had no such protection when he and his son Icarus attempted their flight from Crete. According to mythology, Icarus was so exhilarated by flying that he flew too near the sun, which melted the wax on his homemade wings.

Kanellos Kanellopoulos still rides his bike through the congested streets of Athens, but for a living he paints religious ikons, teaches Byzantine art techniques with the Eikonourgia group, and coaches physical education classes in an Athens high school. Schematics and photographs of the cycle-powered Daedalus are in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology archives.

(The photo is Kanellos and me at a fasting-day luncheon prepared by the silent nuns at a convent near Athens where Kanellos was working on a fresco.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What Happened?

No recording, photographs or videos were made at my Mozart concerto performance Saturday, whether by oversight or  budget restrictions I don't know and don't really much care. We are left with only my perception and the audience's impression of what happened.

Since the audience contained mostly friends and supporters, the perception was positive from their point of view. From mine, it was a relief to get through 52 pages of piano music without major mishap, especially since my left arm was killing me. It was a privilege to perform Mozart with the orchestra and to compose cadenzas (the free passages) which let me say some stuff I wanted to say.

The ancient Greeks usually took a poet with them into battle so that after everything settled down, they could find out what happened. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land had its Fair Witnesses for the same reason. We had neither at the concert, only people who wanted to support the community orchestra or liked Mozart's "Elvira Madigan" concerto or wanted to encourage me.

So we can remember it any way we want to. Here's a picture of me in my thrift-shop dress and eBay jewelry, taken right before we left for the hall. Deer in the Headlights.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Archetypes and Metaphors

Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly and many others have talked about how myths can frame lessons or dramas. They need not be literally true in order to contain truths. The Hopi oral history contains a tale of a great flood, for instance, and Rapunzel should warn against pilfering greens from your neighbor's garden.

Finding excuses not to practice my Mozart concerto, which has its last rehearsal with the orchestra tonight, I was looking at the painting which hangs above my piano. The title is "L'Oiseau Chant Avec Ses Doigts" (The Bird Sings With His Fingers), and the picture is supposed to be a boy Orpheus--the Greek God of music--making a lyre in the tree branches. The title comes from an old Jean Cocteau movie.

Who knows if there was ever a real Orpheus? Plays, poems, musical works have been written about the god who charmed the beasts with his playing, who even cast a spell over the Underworld so that it would release his beloved Eurydice from the dead.  The film "Black Orpheus" sets the story in Rio and has Orpheus making the sun rise with his song.

All this is a long way from my present chore. All I really want to do is what Nicodemus advises: Try to make it nice for the people.