Daughter Katherine brought home three friends from college.
Maturity and kindness, in each of them.
Stunned, leaving me.
If they are a true sample, we can all be reassured as to the quality of the generation preparing to take charge.
Move over, us.
What an improvement!
Oh! What a lucky group we are.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
My 189th consecutive posting.
Time is 12.01am
Boston’s temperature will reach a high of 58*
and it will be mostly sunny with a cool breeze.
Dinner is leftover roast chicken in a salad with the carcass to rip apart. I had no company today and could growl if I wanted.
Quiz Question of the Day
Name any two works of art that include lobsters.
So here’s a throwaway recipe, appropriately, Lobster Fra Diavolo.
Throwaway because once you have the Marinara Sauce made, remember that in my vernacular our own Marinara Sauce is always on hand, there’s nothing to it but the capturing and murdering of the lobster.
Dispatch the lobster according to the method outlined in the October 11 post (search website for the date or just click the question mark on the top right of the page, type in ‘lobster’ and click ‘enter.’ All the lobster entries will pop up.
Simply set the whole cleaned lobster into the pot of Marinara Sauce, 2 cups per lobster, and simmer for about 30 minutes. The lobster will be red all over.
We hadn’t done a movie for a couple of days and after talking about the book, yesterday, I think, I thought it would be appropriate for this film.
“The Agony and the Ecstasy” is a 1965 American film directed by Carol Reed, starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II.
The film was partly based on Irving Stone's biographical novel The Agony and the Ecstasy.
This film deals with the conflicts of Michelangelo and Pope Julius II during the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. It also features a soundtrack co-written by prolific composers Alex North and Jerry Goldsmith.
The movie does a terrific job in showing Michelangelo and his workers creating the frescoes for the Sistine Chapel, including building the scaffolding, mixing the pigments, and cutting papers to the exact fit of the panel to be painted.
The artist draws on these ‘cartoons’ the outlines of the figures that will be painted on the walls.
As soon as the section to be painted is plastered, the apprentices poke pinpoint holes in the cartoon, place the cartoons over the new plaster, brush charcoal dust over the cartoon to transfer the outline onto the wall, ready for the artist to paint.
I love that stuff.
Love your notes.
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It’s been a week or two since Howard has had a chance to put in a word.
But here he is, back, with some characteristically pedantic thoughts inspired by the web meister’s comments a few days ago about a hankering for lobster, and ways to prepare it.
"You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!"
—“Lobster Quadrille,” Lewis Carroll
One of the things I’ve learned, almost by necessity, since I am never usually preparing something like lobster for more than two people anyway, or, if I’m making what I call a Paella Royale (with shrimp and clams in the shell and lobster pieces), it’s best to cook with lobsters that are the size called, for some strange reason, “chicken” – which is to say, ideally, about a pound and a quarter or very slightly more – but the absolutely best size for individual lobsters is between one and a half and two pounds (or very very slightly less).
I never understood the virtue of getting gigantic, and presumably more and more mature, that is, long-lived specimens, simply because one is going to attempt to feed say six or eight people. For one thing, that’s probably counter-productive to sustainable lobster populations (which, I admit, do seem, realistically, to wax and wane for reasons they keep thinking they understand, but really don’t). I can say that, because it makes sense.
Anyway, if there were to be more than two people eating lobster, I’d get more than one lobster. For one thing, it’s easier to deal with the claws and tail, etc. of smaller lobsters in every aspect of preparation, cooking, serving, and eating.
But even more important, on the subject of executing one’s dinner before cooking it, it’s much easier to kill a lobster quickly for what one can persuade oneself are humane (i.e., lobsterian) reasons when they are smaller.
I still remember the ordeal of trying to plunge the tip of a very sharp blade of a 10” chef’s knife into the very tough head of a lobster that weighed somewhere north of two-and-a-half pounds. It was an ordeal for me, and I’m sure for the lobster. Especially as I was trying to minimize the discomfort the arthropod was going to experience at the same time I was trying to eliminate any possibility whatsoever of doing some harm, especially inadvertently to myself.
There is the expedient of cutting through the thinner carapace on the bottom of the beast, prior to bisecting the bug, one-half from the other. But as I can relate, it would still have been a bit of an ordeal, as when the size of the lobster increases so does the thickness of every aspect of his shell, even on the bottom.
Something to keep in mind.
I also happen not to have particularly tender meat from a very much larger specimen, not even in restaurants. That may be due to some kind of confirmation bias. But I’m pretty sure I’ve always had quite tender enough lobster meat from a nice small manageable shellfish.
It’s True: Before Cooking Comes the Killing
And there’s nothing else to call it. It’s not just tradition, certain mollusks and crustaceans (and, regarding the latter, the lobster as an arthropod with a carapace, along with shrimp, krill, and even barnacles, make up the preponderance of the taxon; it’s not exactly on point, but these are, to my mind, the creatures that exclusively deserve the cognomen “shellfish;” oysters and clams and such are mollusks, and they may live in water, but they aren’t fish, and those are shells, but bivalves are not only a different phylum, but a different species, and like the fox and hedgehog as described by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, the fox (or in this case, the arthropod) “knows many things, and the hedgehog”, i.e., bivalve, “knows one important thing”) should be alive just prior to preparing them for being eaten, usually through the intervention of being cooked.
I’ll grant, lobsters do have a heart, and it’s a noble, but I think mainly a symbolic, injunction to kill a lobster instantly by stabbing it in the heart with dispatch. But the lobster heart is pretty small, and it’s hard to locate from outside the body. Also, not unlike ours, it’s not precisely centered.
Also, lobsters have slightly decentralized nervous systems. So there’s a problem anatomically speaking with the more recent “humane” technique of providing for a conscientious instantaneous execution of the beast by plunging a sharp tool into its head. Their brains are tiny, and though there’s a major nerve in the “head” (the portion just behind the pointed section at the front, between the eyes and antennae), there are two other nerves there that serve auxiliary functions and likely keep it alive and kicking.
The Swiss government feels so strongly about humane killing of lobsters, they have made it a crime to boil them alive. Their prescribed method is electrocution (and naturally there’s a commercial product for restaurants, which costs about $3500, that does the trick), but this is impractical. In lieu of it, they say one should slightly anesthetize the lobster by giving it a dunk in salt water, and then plunging a knife into the head (at the same point I mentioned above, behind the pointed section of the head).
The alternative method, though not sanctioned by the Swiss government, it isn’t forbidden either, and the one that makes most sense is the one that most chefs with an ounce of humanity (shouldn’t that be lobsterity?) in them is to plunge a knife in the mid-section, with the lobster on its back.
The method fully, then, seems to be to plunge the knife in the mid-line and to split the creature in half as quickly and neatly as possible.
Let’s deal with the traditional methodology quickly by the way, even as we consider the philosophy behind thinking about the humane way to do the delicious creatures in. The worst thing you can do to a lobster is boil it alive. Other than that, there doesn’t seem to be a scientist alive at the moment who will say with certainty that a lobster (or a crab for that matter, or a crayfish) feels pain in the way humans understand pain. They have nerves, but nerves don’t exclusively transmit pain, in addition to whatever other signals they transmit.
And though it’s clear that experiments have proven that crabs, for one, will avoid their dark hidey-holes in order to avoid whatever it is they experience when shocked with electricity, it’s clear, for once and for all (for now) that the way to kill a lobster quickly is with a knife and a rapid dissection in half.
One of the reasons Jasper White’s pan roasted lobster recipe became my favorite way of cooking the beast is because it came out right about the time I learned how cruel it is to boil or steam (actually steaming is worse, apparently) a lobster, and cutting it in half alive is necessary to make the recipe. And then there’s the bourbon in his recipe, and a little extra of that, imbibed neat, helps assuage any sense of guilt as you anticipate the pleasure eating this awesome dish – actually any dish that includes lobster, because, let’s face it, even right out of the shell just after cooking them very quickly, they’re uniquely delicious.—© Howard Dinin, 2018.
My answers to naming two works of art that include lobsters
are all rooted in the genre of art called still life.
A still life (plural: still lifes) is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which are either natural (food, flowers, dead animals, plants, rocks, shells, etc.) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, etc.).
With origins in the Middle Ages and Ancient Greco-Roman art, still-life painting emerged as a distinct genre and professional specialization in Western painting by the late 16th century, and has remained significant since then.
One advantage of the still-life artform is that it allows an artist a lot of freedom to experiment with the arrangement of elements within a composition of a painting.
Still life, as a particular genre, began with Netherlandish painting of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the English term still life derives from the Dutch word stilleven.
Early still-life paintings, particularly before 1700, often contained religious and allegorical symbolism relating to the objects depicted.
Later still-life works are produced with a variety of media and technology, such as found objects, photography, computer graphics, as well as video and sound.
The term includes the painting of dead animals, especially game. Live ones are considered animal art, although in practice they were often painted from dead models.
Because of the use of plants and animals as a subject, the still-life category also shares commonalities with zoological and especially botanical illustration.
However, with visual or fine art, the work is not intended merely to illustrate the subject correctly.
Still life occupied the lowest rung of the hierarchy of genres, but has been extremely popular with buyers.
As well as the independent still-life subject, still-life painting encompasses other types of painting with prominent still-life elements, usually symbolic, and "images that rely on a multitude of still-life elements ostensibly to reproduce a 'slice of life'".
The trompe-l'œil painting, which intends to deceive the viewer into thinking the scene is real, is a specialized type of still life, usually showing inanimate and relatively flat objects.
Still Life with Fruit, Flowers, Glasses and Lobster. 1660s. Oil on canvas. 87,5 x 72,5 cm. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.
The artist, Jan Davidsz. de Heem (c. 17 April 1606 in Utrecht – before 26 April 1684 in Antwerp), was a still life painter who was active in Utrecht and Antwerp.
He is a major representative of that genre in both Dutch and Flemish Baroque painting.
Second from left
Still Life with Crab, Shrimps and Lobster
Clara Peeters (fl. 1607–1621) was a still-life painter who came from Antwerp and trained in the tradition of Flemish Baroque painting, but probably made her career mostly in the new Dutch Republic, as part of Dutch Golden Age painting.
Many aspects of her life and work remain very unclear, especially outside the period 1607 to 1621 from which period dated paintings are known.
As Seymour Slive puts it "Not a single uncontested document has surfaced about her life but there is reason to believe she was active in both Flanders and Holland."
She was unusual for her time in being a female painter, and is the earliest significant woman painter of the Dutch Golden Age; if regarded as a Flemish painter, she was the most famous Flemish woman of the 17th century.
Most female Dutch painters also specialized in still lifes, which did not require knowledge of anatomy, among other advantages for women.
Unlike Maria van Oosterwyck and Rachel Ruysch, who specialized in flower painting, Peeters painted mostly subjects including food, and was prominent among the artists who shaped the traditions of the Dutch ontbijtjes, "breakfast pieces" with plain food and simple vessels, and banketje, "banquet pieces" with expensive cups and vessels in precious metals.
More than any other artist, her works often include careful depictions of different types of cheese.
Second from right
A Pronk Still Life with Fruit, Oyters, and Lobsters
Andries Benedetti (c. 1615 – c. 1669) was a Flemish still life painter mainly active in Antwerp who is known for his fruit still lifes and pronkstillevens.
Still Life with Lobster and Oysters, c. 1660
Alexander Coosemans (1627, Antwerp –1689, Antwerp) was a Flemish Baroque painter specialized in still lifes of flower pieces, fruit, and inanimate subjects.
He painted vanitas still lifes, pronkstillevens and game pieces.
And so “Good Morning!” my friends.
Red is the color; salty is the smell; lobster is the vehicle; silkily succulent is the tactile; women trying to find a place in a man’s world that would be greatly improved by the addition of a woman or a girl is the theme.
Enjoy the day.