Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eye-catching botantical prints of fruit and vegetables

Here's Joe Whitlock Blundell of the Folio Society on their new title The Herefordshire Pomona, images from which appear above and right:  "It is a masterpiece of chromolithography, and the loveliest fruit book I’ve ever seen. We are embarking on a facsimile edition, and here are a couple of plates before we started work on them. As you can see, the fruit have an almost super-real quality, which comes from their being printed in 8 or 10 colours."
Below is another botanical beauty; you can download the full-sized pdf of this vintage print of a pear here. Pair it with a thrift-store frame of choice and you've got instant kitchen decor.
Not to slight the vegetables, here are some artsy, antique images of rhubarb, peas, beans, cabbage, artichokes, lettuce, and more. (I must say, the one labeled broccoli looks like cauliflower to me.) These should also print out nicely if you change the resolution to match your printer's optimum capability (probably 150 dpi).
Whose tulips are up? Mine are! We'll go out with a pretty floral display.
FYI, you can take $2 off your next Daedalus Books order just by trying the "Fruits & Vegetables" Quiz in our latest Forum, described below.
If you're interested in various aspects of choosing, growing, or preserving healthy, delicious food—and who isn't?—then have a look at the latest Daedalus Books Forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." We've curated books that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate "homesteading" (growing, making, and preserving your own victuals!).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Calling all 'Modern-Day Pioneers': growing, brewing, baking, preserving, candlemaking, & more!

Yes chickens may be involved—but only if you want them to be!  You can use Charlotte Denholtz's The Modern-Day Pioneer: Simple Living in the 21st Century as a primer, picking and choosing the skills you want to hone as you so desire. Whether you're a fan of Little House on the Prairie or not, there are tips galore for both urban and rural do-it-yourselfers. Here's the breakdown of Denholtz's "pioneering" categories and what they entail.
  • growing your own food using the land you have (including composting, raised beds, using rainwater, and keeping chickens, rabbits, & bees)
  • canning and preserving (including pickling, freezing, drying, and curing meats)
  • recipes using your canned and preserved goods
  • baking bread and brewing beer
  • help for injuries and illness: herbal first aid and curing common ailments with herbs and food
  • soapmaking: equipment, basic recipe, and variations
  • candlemaking: rolled and poured container candles
  • quilting: fabrics, supplies and two starter projects—wall hanging and nine-patch baby quilt
  • sewing: hems, seams, holes, tears, buttonholes, taking in and letting out, and camouflaging repairs or stains.
Re the cured meats section: I knew I loved the delectable creation known as "corned beef" as soon as I sampled it (via the largesse of our Catholic family's Jewish friend, "Uncle Sol"), but had always questioned what the heck corn had to do with it. (Obviously, this was long before the answers to any and all conundrums were available in a flash, via the internet.) According to Denholtz, the "corn" refers to the coarse salt used in curing the beef. I must admit, I'm not appreciably enlightened—but I'm happy to have the recipe, which is reproduced below.
6 lbs beef brisket (flank or steak); 8 cups water; 1 cup Morton Tender Quick Salt; 3 tbsp sugar; 1 tsp ground pepper; 2 tsp mixed pickling spice; 2 bay leaves; 2 cloves garlic, minced. Cover meat with water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then let water cool for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When liquid is lukewarm, cover with a clean, triple-folded piece of cheesecloth. Weigh down meat to keep submerged in brine. Leave to cool for 36 hours or more.
If you're interested in various aspects of choosing, growing, or preserving healthy, delicious food—and who isn't?—then have a look at the latest Daedalus Books Forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." We've curated books that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate "homesteading" (growing, making, and preserving your own victuals!).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Deifying the lowly dung beetle: how 'Kheper nigroaeneus' hooks up with scarabs, Tut, and Amun-Re

Google's “doodle” for the 44th anniversary of Earth Day was a lovely one, with endearing animated illustrations of the Japanese macaque, the Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus; found mostly on the west coast of the U.S.), the puffer fish, veiled chameleon, moon jellyfish, and dung beetle (Kheper nigroaeneus).
The latter may seem lowly, but is actually both persistent and puissant in relation to its size. No wonder the Egyptians revered it as a god and immortalized it in gorgeous scarab jewelry and the like. This beetle's name, kheper, bore the metaphorical meaning “becoming, to come into being,” for they were intimately connected with Re, the Egyptians' supreme being and sun god. Many a Pharaoh incorporated kheper into his official “throne name,”  assumed at coronation. (The treasures of King Tutankhamun, for example, are decorated with elaborate cartouches of his throne name: Neb Kheperu Re: “The Lord of Becoming / Manifestation / Creations is Re.”)
Pectoral with the throne name of Tutankhamun
Greek commentator Plutarch had this to say about the Egyptians' idiosyncratic reverence for Kheper nigroaeneus:
One accepts (with the ancient Egyptians), that these varieties are only male beetles, that they put down their seed substance (semen) which forms a ball and the beetle rolls it forward with its widely spaced hind legs so that the beetle imitates the path of the sun as it went down in the west and rose in the east in the mornings.
Recent scientific research indicates that these beetles use the top of their dung balls to check their progress in relation to the position of the sun (even doing a little "dance"). So the observant Egyptians were right on track in associating them with the sun god!

Fascinated by Egyptology? Click here!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The "Sweet Swan of Avon!" is 450 today!

Daedalus Books is celebrating Shakespeare's nativity with a "Spotlight" collection containing a king's ransom of titles by and about the Bard of Avon. And The Daily Glean doeth its part by conjuring up an assortment of encomiums on him by other writers, as well as divers images of favorite actors and actresses in some of his plays. In the Comments section we beseech you to share your favorite quote from a Shakespeare play. Favorite play(s)? Are there any you hate?? We'll start with Dame Ellen Terry (1848-1928):
Wonderful women! Have you ever thought how much we all, and women especially, owe to Shakespeare for his vindication of women in these fearless, high-spirited, resolute and intelligent heroines?  
Left: Terry as Lady Macbeth, by John Singer Sargent, 1889. 
Below: Dame Judi Dench as Juliet with John Stride as Romeo, 1960, The Old Vic.
 Shakespeare — The nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God.—Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989). Dame Maggie Smith was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Desdemona to Olivier's Othello in the 1965 film they did together. Below, Alix Kingston as Lady Macbeth in a riveting production broadcast by the National Theater.
And there are Ben [Jonson] and William Shakespeare in wit-combat, sure enough; Ben bearing down like a mighty Spanish war-ship, fraught with all learning and artillery; Shakespeare whisking away from him - whisking right through him, athwart the big bulk and timbers of him; like a miraculous Celestial Light-ship, woven all of sheet-lightning and sunbeams!—Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Historical Sketches of Notable Persons and Events in the Reigns of James I

It is sometimes suspected that the enthusiasm for Shakespeare's works shown by some students is a fiction or a fashion. It is not so. The justification of that enthusiastic admiration is in the fact that every increase of knowledge and deepening of wisdom in the critic or the student do but show still greater knowledge and deeper wisdom in the great poet. When, too, it is found that his judgment is equal to his genius, and that his industry is on a par with his inspiration, it becomes impossible to wonder or to admire too much.
—George Dawson (1821-1876), Shakespeare and other lectures
Laurence Fishburne as Othello; Kenneth Branagh as Iago
He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature. He looked inwards, and found her there.—John Dryden (1631–1700) Essay of Dramatic Poesy
I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.—T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca
Helena Bonham-Carter played Olivia in the film version of Twelfth Night and Ophelia in Hamlet (Warner Brothers/ Fine Line)
When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Landor replies, “Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Letters and Social Aims

In Shakespeare the birds sing, the bushes are clothed with green, hearts love, souls suffer, the cloud wanders, it is hot, it is cold, night falls, time passes, forests and multitudes speak, the vast eternal dream hovers over all. Sap and blood, all forms of the multiple reality, actions and ideas, man and humanity, the living and the life, solitudes, cities, religions, diamonds and pearls, dung-hills and charnelhouses, the ebb and flow of beings, the steps of comers and goers, all, all are on Shakespeare and in Shakespeare.—Victor Hugo (1802-1885), William Shakespeare

I think Shakespeare never errs in his logical sequence in character. He surprises us, seems unnatural to us, but because we have been superficial observers; while genius will disclose those truths to which we are blind.—William A. Quayle (1860-1925), "Some Words on Loving Shakespeare." From A hero and some other folk, 1900

Right: Paul Scofield and Claire Bloom in Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1948. One of the 20th-century's greatest Hamlets, John Gielgud played the role more than 500 times, in London, in Elsinore, and on Broadway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day call to action: 10 ways to go green and save $$

In honor of Earth Day 2014, we present this guest blog by Diane MacEachern, author of  Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World
Want to go green but think it’s too expensive? Think again. You can actually SAVE over $100 every month by choosing products and services that protect the planet. Here's how:
  1. 

Buy reusables. Compare a sponge to a roll of paper towels. One sponge may cost as little as $.99. A roll of paper towels runs around $1.99. But one sponge lasts as long as SEVENTEEN ROLLS of paper towels. You could save as much as $33 in paper towels before you have to throw the sponge away. (Meanwhile, keep sponges fresh by washing in the dishwasher with the dishes; microwave on high heat for 30 seconds to kill germs.)
  2. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs. The CFLs may cost $2-4 more than the incandescent bulb you're used to. But the CFL uses 66% less energy and lasts ten times as long. So over the course of the lifetime of the bulb, you can save as much as $30-$50 on electricity. Plus, think of all the time you're saving changing light bulbs. LEDs are slightly more expensive than CFLs but last even longer. (NOTE: Choose ENERGY STAR-rated bulbs and don't turn them on and off frequently to make them last longest.) 
  3. 

Forget bottled water. When you buy bottled water, you're buying a plastic bottle, a label, the energy to transport the bottle to your store, a bottle cap, and the water inside the bottle — which, almost half the time is actually tap water! And even though water is very cheap when it flows out of your tap, it can cost as much as 10,000 times more when it’s served in a bottle. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up at your own tap. If you’re worried about water quality, use the money you save on bottled water to buy a filter for your faucet.
  4. Save gas. This sounds like a "no brainer," but you'd be surprised how many people waste gas — and money. Pump up your car tires to improve fuel efficiency by 3.3%. Use cruise control for as much as a 14% fuel efficiency gain. Go to Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas in your driving range. Carpool to share driving costs with others. Consider these other tips
  5. Buy in bulk. You pay nearly twice the price for the same weight when you buy small, individually wrapped servings of a product rather than the bulk size. Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, shampoo, soap, conditioner, snacks, soft drinks, and many other items offer a bulk or ‘economy’ size. Even buying a half-gallon container of juice is cheaper than buying individual juice boxes.
  6. Plug into a power strip. 40 percent of the energy used to power consumer electronics is devoured when the devices are turned off. That’s nearly 5 percent of the total electricity American homes consume. A power strip lets you plug several appliances or lots of office equipment into one larger outlet that you can turn off with minimal hassle, automatically cutting power to all devices that are plugged into it.
  7. Take a tax credit. New fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles save gas and earn you tax credits, too. The amount, as determined by the IRS, ranges from $250 to $3150.
  8. Use Craig’s List or Freecycle. Before you pay full price for furniture, appliances, sporting equipment, lawn and garden tools, etc., go “shopping” online — at clearinghouses that help you acquire the goods you need at no or low cost. In the same vein, get books from libraries or swap bought books with friends. Trade in your gently worn clothes at thrift stores, and pocket the savings or apply to the purchase of something equally thrifty.
  9. Donate. Giving your used clothing and household goods to the Salvation Army, your local church, or a local charity for veterans lightens the load at the landfill and earns you a tax write-off for your charitable donations.
  10. Choose quality over quantity. Simplify your needs overall. Then, buy clothes, jewelry, toys, tools, furniture and other commodities that are made to last. You may spend a few more dollars up front but save money in the long run when you don't need to replace items that break or wear out quickly.
You can find more "green purse/wallet" ideas from Diane MacEachern on her website. Her book is one of several ecologically minded tomes in the current Daedalus books forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." It's a special section of our website on which we've curated books and features that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate "homesteading" (growing, making, and preserving your own victuals!).
What's your favorite "green wallet" strategy?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eliot Porter & Henry David Thoreau: "portraying ecology"

Eliot Porter's exquisite In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World has sold more than 1 million copies. This classic tome combines the words of Henry David Thoreau with large-format color photographs by Porter of New England woods and streams, taken over a ten-year period. In them, Porter (19011990) is patently at one with Thoreau's philosophy: "Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain." (This slideshow from the current publisher offers a sampling of the photos—although they're tiny compared to the real thing!)
The book was first published by the Sierra Club, and Porter was elected to its board of directors in 1965, serving until 1971. In 1970, Porter wrote, "It has been said that wildness is a luxury, a commodity that man will be forced to dispense with as his occupancy of the earth approaches saturation. If this happens, he is finished. Wilderness must be preserved; it is a spiritual necessity."
Aspens by Lake, Pike National Forest, Colorado, September 14, 1959
In a profile in Sierra Magazine, Rebecca Solnit says many pertinent and perspicacious things about Porter's photography.
When "In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World"... appeared in November of 1962, nothing like it had been seen before. The book combined childhood wonder, modernist art, breakthrough color-photography technology, scientific acumen, and political awareness—a convergence that Porter and his editor, Sierra Club executive director David Brower, would refine through subsequent books and years.... Unlike his contemporary Ansel Adams, whose work located itself through landmarks, Porter’s did so through representative specimens—the sandstone of the Southwest, the warblers of the Midwest, the maple leaves of New England. With Adams’s monumental scenes, viewers felt they were remote from civilization; with Porter they could be a few feet from it. The creatures are small—caterpillars, moths, songbirds; the bodies of water are brooks, not rivers; the trees are maples, not bristlecones. In 1962, simply depicting the quiet splendors of the natural world was a powerful argument, in part because it had never been made as Porter made it. As one reviewer later wrote, "A kind of revolution was under way, for with the publication of this supremely well-crafted book, conservation ceased to be a boring chapter on agriculture in fifth-grade textbooks, or the province of such as birdwatchers."
Eastern Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus), Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, July 22, 1968. © 1990 Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist. Porter's goal was to "raise bird photography above the level of reportage, to transform it into an art," and he developed the first stop-action system for capturing them. He used a tripod-mounted camera that held 4-x-5-inch sheets of film and had two powerful strobe lamps, synchronized to the shutter. With a high-speed shutter and the smallest lens aperture, he could stop the movement of small, swift birds and capture them in sharp focus.
Ironically (or perhaps fittingly), Porter himself started out as a birdwatcher, making ornithological photographs in the scientific-aesthetic tradition of artist John James Audubon. From this modest initial definition of nature as birds and details of the New England landscape, Porter’s photography grew into a global picture. His work evolved as the environmental movement did, from protecting particular species and places to rethinking the human place in the world, a world reimagined as an entity of interconnected natural systems rather than one of discrete objects. In his densely layered pictures, Porter comes as close as any artist has to portraying ecology.
As his brother, the painter and critic Fairfield Porter, wrote of Porter’s color photographs: "There is no subject and background, every corner is alive." Porter’s most distinctive compositions are the close-ups. Unlike landscape photography, which generally depicts an empty center of open space, waiting to be inhabited, in Porter’s work nature itself fills that center, whether with leaves, stones, creatures, or clouds. This is nature photography, a wholly new genre Porter founded, with wild stuff in its own place for its own sake. Nature, not man, is the true inhabitant of Porter’s places.
November 8, 1858, from In Wildness... "As a child," Porter wrote, "all living things were a source of delight to me . . . I still remember clearly some of the small things—objects of nature—I found outdoors. Tiny potato-like tubers that I dug out of the ground in the woods behind the house where I lived, orange and black spiders sitting on silken ladders in their webs, sticky hickory buds in the spring, and yellow filamentous witch hazel flowers blooming improbably in November are a few that I recall. I did not think of them as beautiful, I am sure, or as wondrous phenomena of nature, although this second reaction would come closest to the effect they produced on me. As children do, I took it all for granted, but I believe it is not an exaggeration to say, judging from the feeling of satisfaction they gave me when I rediscovered them each year, that I loved them."
In his work on preserving "kettle lakes," geologist Robert Thorson (left) has been building on the legacy of Porter and Thoreau. Remnants of the Ice Age, kettle lakes are scattered along the path of retreating glaciers from Maine to Montana. Thoreau's Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts (seen below), is a classic New England kettle lake. You can find out all about kettle lakes in your region by perusing his book Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds; there's more information on his website as well.
Views of kettle lakes in New Hampshire

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here a chick, there a chick: vintage Easter images

The iconography of Easter cards = the apotheosis of cuteness. Seriously—we're talking kids, bunnies, birdies, chicks, flowers, colored eggs. Believe it or not, this collection has a low quotient (relatively speaking). Enjoy!
If you want to learn how to raise you own little chickadees, and other assorted useful matters, check out the latest Daedalus Books Forum, called "The Simple Life: Ideas to Nourish and Sustain." We've curated books that highlight cooking with fresh ingredients, that inspire going local, that talk about protecting the environment, and that celebrate "homesteading" (growing, making, and preserving your own victuals).