Sunday, July 30, 2006

Brunswick stew

Sales of beachfront property may have gone a little soft in Brunswick County, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to stew about. From 2000 to 2005, the population grew 21.9 percent (cf. 7.9 percent statewide). At the affordable housing summit that I participated in on Friday, I learned that the average price of new housing has topped $300,000.

Realtors have a lot to crow about: "With a wide variety of gated communities, quality health care and continuing education opportunities nearby, Brunswick county just could be the perfect place to live." Perfect, unless you make the median income of around $35,000 a year. There is more manufactured housing in Brunswick County, on the vulnerable coast, than just about anywhere in the state.

Signs of the dysfunctional housing economy are all around, even in the windows of fast-food franchises and other service-level employers: "Now hiring." Anecdotal evidence from the conference is that with the high cost of gas, workers commuting in are quitting their jobs. How many more people in comfortable houses who show up at Wal-Mart to get a new tire, only to find out that the auto repair department is closed for lack of workers, will it take to put some effort to solving the problem?

Friday's event was the second of three planned housing summits. Around 100 people, with lots of energy, were in the room. I wish them the best of luck.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Two views from Lebanon

A Lebanese writer who has seen it before.

I am also pissed off because no one realises how hard the postwar reconstruction was. Hariri did not work miracles. Every single bridge and tunnel and highway, the airport runways, all of these things were built at three times their real cost, because of kickbacks. We accepted this just to get things done. We wanted only to have a society which stood on its feet, more or less. A thriving Arab civil society. Schools were sacrificed for roads to service neglected rural areas or so that Syrian officers could get richer, and we accepted that the road was desperately needed, and that there was the ‘precarious national consensus’ to protect. Social safety nets were given up, as was universal healthcare, unions were broken and co-opted, public spaces taken over, and we bowed our heads and acquiesced. Palestinian refugees were hidden from sight, and we accepted it. In exchange we had a secular country where Hizbullah and the Lebanese forces could coexist and fight their fights in parliament, not with bullets. We bit our tongues, we protested and were defeated, we took to the streets, defied curfews, time after time, to protect that modicum of civil rights, that semblance of democracy. And it takes just one air raid for the fruits of all our sacrifices to be blown to smithereens.

A young woman from Chapel Hill whose commitment to peace is unshaken.

Leaving my friends, I feared that I would forget what was going on in Lebanon. Forget the friends that I had left behind. We all knew no one else could know what we had gone through together. We just have to continue to hope that by telling our story, we can get others to join us in our commitment to peace for the Lebanese people and for everyone in the region.

Now, traveling with my parents in Turkey, my memories of Lebanon are bittersweet. I know how Lebanon was, the real beauty of it. Even if I am able to go back to Beirut, it has all been changed.

I would like to ask all of you to remember ALL of those being affected by this war. Please pray for those who are there because there is nowhere else for them to go. We all have the choice to sit idle or to work for change. I believe that there is enough hope and love out there to build a better world.

Reading Jane Jacobs

I'll confess I've never read The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Here are the thoughts of someone who has:

Like many people, I’d made plenty of assumptions based on second- or thirdhand readings. For instance, because Jacobs is repeatedly cited in Suburban Nation, the New Urbanist tract by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, I assumed that she would have been a willing accomplice to that movement. It seems logical that Jacobs—with her reputation for advocating “close-grained” detail and mixed use—would support the calibrated street life meted out by Duany and his ilk. But as I read Jacobs it became clear that she never intended her ideas to be applied to smaller suburban settlements. She was writing only about big cities, with all their native grit and mess. Moreover, she consistently ridiculed the Garden City movement of the nineteenth century, the clearest precursor to New Urbanism, attributing to it the notion of “harmony and order imposed and frozen by authoritarian planning.”

[. . .]

Like many absorbers (as opposed to readers) of Jacobs, I had long thought that she wanted cities to look and behave like her beloved little block on Hudson Street. And I’d always assumed the knee-jerk opposition to anything new that inevitably surfaces at community board meetings—along with the plague of “contextual” faux historical architecture—could somehow be traced to her town-house door. Now I don’t think so.

Yes, Jacobs was articulate about her contempt for Le Corbusier and his vision of the Radiant City, which, she wrote, “had a dazzling clarity, simplicity, and harmony. It was so orderly, so visible, so easy to understand. It said everything in a flash, like a good advertisement.” Her target, however, was not his architectural style per se but rather the idea that vast stretches of green space were automatically beneficial to urban life, that Corbu’s brand of reductive thinking could produce a genuinely urbane place. I was delighted to find that Jacobs didn’t have a problem with new construction or contemporary architecture as long as it was well integrated into the urban fabric. She praised the new office towers of Park Avenue, such as Lever House and the Seagram Building, calling them “masterpieces of modern design.”

[. . .]
The mistake made by Jacobs’s detractors and acolytes alike is to regard her as a champion of stasis—to believe she was advocating the world’s cities be built as simulacra of the West Village circa 1960. Admirers and opponents have routinely taken her arguments for complexity and turned them into formulas. But the book I just read was an inspiration to move forward without losing sight that cities are powerful, dynamic, ever-changing entities made up of myriad gestures big and small. The real notion is to build in a way that honors and nurtures complexity. And that’s an idea impossible to outgrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Trouble for landfill moratorium

The NC Senate passed the landfill moratorium unanimously. What's going on in the House? Kirk Ross has an idea--and it stinks to high heaven.

Via Kirk Ross, Exile on Jones Street.

UPDATE: Breakthrough in the House.

In the kitchen with Oprah's chef

Episode four in the cookbook series.

I don't exactly remember why I bought In the Kitchen with Rosie, the cookbook published in 1994 by Oprah Winfrey's personal chef. I had a child a year old. Possibly the book interested me because it was small and colorful and the recipes looked, mostly, straightforward and simple: all appealing things when you're juggling a new baby for the first time. Maybe I was thinking it would be a nice time to have a personal chef, but I wouldn't have dwelled on that. Rosie's smiling face and encouraging command of the basics ("First, organize your kitchen and familiarize yourself with it . . .") were the kind of thing I needed.

One day, juggling the baby at the grocery store, carrying the cookbook with me as a grocery list--skipping, in haste, a crucial step--I lost it. I left the book in the grocery cart (for another shopper, a lucky day). So I bought another one, only to be shocked at my extravagance. As it seems with a lot of cookbooks, there were only a handful of recipes that I would probably have ever attempted. Was the whole book worth it for that? I could have gone to the library and made a few photocopies. Still it was a cheerful book, nice to have around.

Till yesterday, I hadn't cracked it in years.

Judging by the stains on the pages, the pasta recipes are what attracted me the most. Now that our baby is old enough to tolerate moderately spicy foods--which, of course, we encourage him to do--I chose one of them for dinner.

"Bow Tie Pasta with Blackened Scallops"

For the pepper sauce

2 roasted red bell peppers [Rosie teaches how to roast them, but I used a 7 oz. jar]
1/3 c chopped shallot [green onions]
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 T sherry vinegar
1/2 c seafood stock [hard to find even in Chapel Hill! I used vegetable stock]
2 T chopped fresh basil or 1 T dried basil

For the cilantro pesto

2 T chopped walnuts
2/3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves (2 bunches)
1/2 c seafood stock
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

8 oz. dried bow tie (butterfly) pasta
16 large sea scallops (about 1 pound) [heeding certain warnings, I chose bay scallops instead]
4 T blackening seasoning [I've made my own but this time used Pluto's Caribbean Bliss, made in Carrboro]
1 T paprika
1 t dried thyme
1/2 lemon

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.

In the meantime, make the sauce. Put the roasted peppers, shallots, garlic, and vinegar in a blender and puree until smooth. Add 1/2 c seafood stock and the basil and mix until blended. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan, cover, and warm over the lowest heat setting.

For the cilantro pesto, put the walnuts, garlic, and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor. [My Hamilton Beach blender was up to this.] Turn the machine on and add 1 T of the seafood stock through the feed tube. Drizzle in the lemon juice to form a paste. Transfer the contents of the food processor to a small mixing bowl and whisk in another 3 T of the stock.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta to the pot. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, to desired tenderness. Drain.

Dust the scallops with the blackening seasoning, paprika, and thyme. Heat a heavy frying pan for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. Spray the pan with vegetable oil. Add the prepared scallops and sear them for 2 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat to low and squeeze the lemon over the scallops. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the scallops are firm. [Less for bay scallops or they will be tough.]

Return the drained pasta to the pot. Over low heat, stir in the cilantro pesto.

Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Place 4 [or more!] scallops on top of each and pour the pepper sauce over the scallops. [Variation: layer as suggested over a bed of Romaine, trimmed with slices of fresh red and green pepper.]

The verdict: very good! There's a real difference between this recipe and the other three I've blogged about, all c. 1970s: This one is distinctly lighter and fresher. By Rosie's time we have come through the Alice Waters revolution: the quality and freshness of the ingredients is key. (The Edible Schoolyard project that she inspired at the Martin Luther King Junior Middle School in Berkeley is pretty incredible.)

Thanks, Rosie. I think I'll check in with you more often.

Monday, July 24, 2006

For richer, for poorer

A gloss on the Brookings Institution's recent report about the disappearance of middle-class neighborhoods in American cities: the social cost of economic segregation.

“This trend toward living and interacting with people who are like you is intensifying a lot,” said Professor Gyourko, who lives in the affluent suburb of Swarthmore, Pa. “I do not meet the full range of incomes and social classes within my neighborhood. Well, think about what happens if metropolitan areas like New York, San Francisco and the like turn into my suburb. You’ll have even less interaction. The most interesting and potentially foreboding implication of this sorting is that it changes the way we view life.”

UPDATE: Downtown condos cater to the well off in Raleigh. In Chapel Hill at least we are making a serious effort to require affordable housing in new downtown development projects.

From the Department of Silly Names

Can we at least grant government the power to regulate the spelling of the names of public streets? Apparently not.

(In my neighborhood, there's a "Shady Lane." I'm told it was originally "Shandy Lane," after Tristram Shandy, but nobody got it. Not even in Chapel Hill, the smartest town around.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Two down.

Yesterday was GreeneSpace's second anniversary.

I'm speechless.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

TJ is DJ again tomorrow.

Once again, Tucker is guest-hosting Dr. B's "Dance Jam" on WCOM-FM: tomorrow 2-4 p.m.

Time lapse photography

I love these before & afters. This collection has a nice trick: an old post card is actually in the new picture of the same scene.

Someone could do a "time machine" project for Chapel Hill starting with the thousands of photos that Roland Giduz took, which he has donated to the North Carolina Collection--over 18,000 negatives from 1948 to 1970! For example, during the 1950s Giduz edited the Chapel Hill News Leader. The paper had a weekly "building page" that featured a new Chapel Hill home. Here's an example of what you could do with those cool old photos.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Snakes alive (not really)

All your snakes are belong to us.

Via Michael Berube--who has been blogging like crazy about his pilgrimage to Yeats country . . .


. . . reminding me of a great trip Paul and I took there, where I snapped this photo that I used on my first web site: ENTC 311, University of Virginia, Spring 1996.

No snakes in Ireland, of course.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

NC anticohabitation law falls

Nice work by the ACLU of North Carolina in today's trial court victory. Here's what I said about the case previously.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Freedmen's Bureau: affirmative action undone

In Radicals in Robes, Cass Sunstein argues that whatever conservatives have against affirmative action, they can't say it is unconstitutional: he points to the Freedmen's Bureau, "created in 1865 [concurrently with the Fourteenth Amendment] as a means of providing special benefits and assitance for African-Americans." Opponents "contended that the bill made 'a distinction on account of color between the two races.'" The response to that now familiar facial antidiscrimination argument was an equally familiar antisubordination refrain: "the 'very object of the bill is to break down the discrimination between whites and blacks. . . . Therefore . . . the true object of this bill is the amelioration of the condition of the colored people.'"

The point is an interesting one, even if Sunstein's history is incomplete. The Freedmen's Bureau, at least in substance, actually preceded the 14th Amendment, dating from 1861. W.E.B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk, gives a fuller history of this organization, "one of the most singular and interesting of the attempts made by a great nation to grapple with vast problems of race and social condition." Though not perfect by any means, Du Bois concluded, the Freedmen's Bureau accomplished a great deal:

for some fifteen million dollars, beside the sums spent before 1865, and the dole of benevolent societies, this Bureau set going a system of free labor, established a beginning of peasant proprietorship, secured the recognition of black freedmen before courts of law, and founded the free common school in the South. On the other hand, it failed to begin the establishment of good-will between ex-masters and freedmen, to guard its work wholly from paternalistic methods which discouraged self-reliance, and to carry out to any considerable extent its implied promises to furnish the freedmen with land. Its successes were the result of hard work, supplemented by the aid of philanthropists and the eager striving of black men. Its failures were the result of bad local agents, the inherent difficulties of the work, and national neglect.

Until recently, with the wave of histories taking another look at Reconstruction and its aftermath, the balanced view that Du Bois offers was eclipsed by the self-interested interpretations of white Southerners. This description from a 1930s history of Carroll County, Mississippi, is typical:

The FREEDMEN'S BUREAU agency at Winona operated over Montgomery and Carroll counties, the agent being a Republican named Parker. Democrats denounced bitterly this agency, complaining that the freedmen's agent was prejudicing the blacks against the white people by saying the whites were robbing them. This agency annoyed planters very much by interfering in many trivial matters. On one occasion, four miles from Carrollton, a Negro was shot. He crawled to Winona and reported to the agency, charging the crime to two respected white men named Ramesy Heggie and -- Jones. The Negro was sent to Canton for safe-keeping, and the white men were tried by the bureau agent for Ku Klux. Heggie proved an alibi, showing that he was at home, nineteen miles distant. Both prisoners were released for want of proof.

The FEDERAL GARRISON at Winona sent squads all over Carroll County to protect the Freedmen's rights, and the blacks, feeling securely shielded by northern bayonets, persistently refused to work and held the whole land in terror. It was at this time that bands of white men began to solve the problem after their own ideas. They were not awed by the presence of Federal troops.

I've been looking at Freedmen's Bureau reports from Texas, as well as recent critical works on the Texas project, in an effort to find out more about the circumstances of Meshack Roberts' assault by the Klan.

Tex. report form

Details of his beating ("white men . . . solv[ing] the problem after their own ideas") are proving so far impossible to find within 32 unindexed microfilms of reports. But something of the true climate of violence in northeastern Texas in the years following the war comes across in this letter of July 17, 1868, from a black man, Joe Easley, in Sulphur Springs (Hopkins County):

Hopkins Co. letter

Dear Sir--I am this morning situated like a mariner whose vessel is sinking, and he is dripping out slips of paper, hoping they may fall into some friend's hands, that the world may know what became of him.

The reign of terror is set up in this county. I will not undertake to give a minute description of it; time and space is not sufficient. Suffice it to say that the history of the darkest ages of the world does not, in my estimation, afford a parallel. . . .

Read the full text (in Word). It appears to be addressed to an "Hon." Mr. Armstrong, and the "Convention" mentioned ("I see from the papers, you are doing all you can in the Convention to give protection") could be Texas' Constitutional Convention of 1868, which resulted (uneasily) in the Reconstruction Constitution of 1869. Wildly unpopular in Texas, with its strong centralized school system, strong centralized executive branch, voting rights for blacks, etc., it only lasted till 1875, when a very different Constitution was adopted. (Everyone knows about Texas' "weak governorship" thanks to a former governor's ascendancy to the imperial presidency--this is where it started, as a reaction to Reconstruction.)

Barry Crouch's work confirms that the early histories of the Freedmen's Bureau in Texas were as distorted as those in Mississippi and throughout the South. Though gradually improving, Crouch notes, "even some of the newer accounts still fail to grasp what the Bureau was attempting, or they find it a nuisance during the early years of Reconstruction." Certainly the project failed to live up to its promises to millions of newly freed Americans, but Du Bois' early assessment is the one that holds up today: "Its failures were the result of bad local agents, the inherent difficulties of the work, and national neglect."

Monday, July 17, 2006

How to do things with curry

Another in the cookbook series.

After the completely bland experience of Chicken Crab-Meat Rosemary, I pulled down one of several 1970s Sunset cook books--Cooking with Spices and Herbs--and decided on the lamb curry. Reading the list of spices in the recipe provoked a question a cook needs to ask occasionally: exactly how old are the spice jars in the pantry? When you don't know how old, you know the answer. So buying the ingredients for this recipe was expensive, not even counting the lamb. I didn't replace every spice in the cabinet--only several, including powdered ginger and cardamom (check the price of cardamom; what a plunge!).

In spite of the long list of spices, the recipe says, "don't be concerned that it will turn out overly spicy. The end product is smooth and exotic." So I forged ahead (halving the recipe).

"Lamb Curry"

2 medium-sized onions
2 cloves garlic
2 T ground coriander
2 t each salt and cumin seed [salt omitted]
1 1/2 t each black pepper, ground cloves, and ground cardamom
1 t each ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and poppy seed
1/3 c lemon juice
2 c unflavored yogurt
5 lb. boneless lamb, cut in 1 1/2 in. cubes
1/2 c (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine
curry powder (optional)

Cut 1 of the onions and 1 clove of the garlic directly into an electric blender. (If you don't have a blender, grate the onion and mash the garlic and combine in a bowl.) Add the coriander, salt, cumin, pepper, cloves, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, poppy seed, and lemon juice; whirl or beat until smooth and thoroughly blended. Blend in the yogurt. Pour this sauce over the meat in a large container, stirring until all the meat pieces are coated. Cover and let stand 1 to 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan or other heavy pan; thinkly slice the remaining onion and 1 clove garlic; and saute in the butter until golden. Add the meat, including the marinating sauce. Cover and simmer slowly until the lamb is tender (about 2 hours). This makes quite a mild curry, so taste and add prepared curry powder (we used about 3 teaspoons) if you want to increase the curry spiciness. Makes about 12 servings.

I left off the prepared curry powder--the basic combination was excellent, "smooth and exotic" as advertised. This dish takes some time, but there's nothing difficult about it. One nice thing about a 1970s cookbook--if you've never invested in a quality food processor--is that a good blender is the fanciest equipment you need.

My research shows that this out-of-print cookbook still has a following. Its strength is in the freedom to experiment that it gives you once you learn, for example, that curry "varies considerably throughout the world, but . . . is usually a combination of six or more of the following spices and herbs: cumin, coriander, tumeric, ginger, pepper, dill, mace, cardamom, and cloves. Together, they give the characteristic sweet-hot curry flavor and aroma."

This one's a keeper.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hidden histories on display

In the news today:

Georgetown used to be a slave port. After the Civil War, "a skilled black working class started to emerge alongside a handful of black professionals." Things got worse after that. The C&O Canal flooded; the Depression came; the New Dealers came in and gentrified the town; the "slums" were cleaned up.

Blacks were thus becoming invisible by the time the likes of Democratic doyenne Pamela Harriman started creating Georgetown's all-white "social salons" of such ludicrous legend. Indeed, racism was so entrenched in the nation's capital that even the glamorous young Sen. John F. Kennedy voluntarily signed a deed containing a "restrictive covenant" when he bought his house on N Street NW in 1957, agreeing that the home should not "ever be used or occupied or sold, conveyed, leased, rented, or given to Negroes or any person or persons of the Negro race or blood."

Capt. Penny of "Penny Lane" was a slave trader and vocal anti-abolitionist. This one gets complicated: there's a movement afoot in Liverpool to change the name of the streets that are named for slave traders; but considering the tourist trade, the City Council left that one well enough alone.

On air: Tucker

Tucker Jones is guest host for today's "Dance Jam" on WCOM-FM, 103.5 FM, Carrboro, from 2 to 4 p.m. Tune in to the live stream.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Brunswick Affordable Housing Summit

I've gladly accepted an invitation to speak at the Brunswick Affordable Housing Summit, July 27-28, at the Brunswick County Community College in Supply, N.C. This meeting is a follow-up to one they had on June 9.

At least they're thinking about it--unlike others closer to home.

Friday, July 14, 2006

14 juillet

On Bastille Day, it's neat to find the blog for Ed Cone et famille's recent trip to France. They're home now. We were in Paris on Bastille Day in 1999. They have a big parade that starts with military jets creating sonic booms. Restaurants bring their chairs and tables out into the streets. Fireworks are set off at the Eiffel Tower and all over the suburbs (we could see them from our flat at the top of an apartment building). It was magical.

Affordable housing: a new cottage industry?

"I wanted to create a more dignified version of the FEMA trailer," said Marianne Cusato, designer of the Katrina Cottage.

"The Katrina Cottage shows how we can create beautiful and affordable homes that give people a place of pride." She stands on the ramp leading to her smallest version of the cottage, on display in downtown Ocean Springs, Mississippi, while residents stop by to look inside. Marianne put her career of creating traditional homes on hold to bring beautiful design to the Katrina Cottage. "I've designed closets that are the size of this cottage, but my heart wasn't in it," says Marianne. "What I've always wanted to do is create a new version of the Sears, Roebuck kit home, and the time was right."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Got blog?

Are you merely a consumer of blogs? Want to become a producer? Here in the Triangle, Anton Zuiker wants you to know that BlogTogether is a welcoming forum for anyone interested in finding out what it's all about.

Landfill moratorium: What Frank Warren says.

It's never over till it's over in the state legislature. The debate on the landfill moratorium isn't over yet. Kirk Ross notes that the industry lobbyists were carrying on right loudly this morning.

To hear from someone who's been in the trenches, listen to this audio of my friend Frank Warren of Greene County that Kirk has posted.

Then, please get in touch with your local representatives and ask them to stand up for the environment on this one.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The disappearing art of the book

So I wanted a hard copy of the Wilmington Report. Sure it's online, but I wanted the thing itself. Getting one was easy enough through my state senator's office. But what a disappointment. It's photocopy paper with a spiral binding. Surely the state of North Carolina could have done better. I wasn't expecting a fancy hard cover, but a nice paperback, you know, with the state seal or something on it, would not have been a stretch. Is a real print edition planned? I haven't heard that it is.

Beautiful books have been made. Vanessa Bell designed covers for her sister.


Smith College has a collection of elegant book bindings.

poetry of life

Those were different times.

Many online resources on bookbinding.


Sometimes the same word can have a meaning entirely opposite from itself. Like "buckle" (hold together/break apart). I never knew there was a word for these.

Rogue waves and wild marriages

At the NYT, "Rogue Giants at Sea" has edged out "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage" as the most emailed article. I don't know what that means.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

All that you can be

John Allore, age 42, is concerned that he's being courted by the Army. With all due respect, John, I'm more worried about these guys.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Not so set in stone

LeRae Umfleet, principal researcher for the report of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission, was guest this morning on WNCU's "Legal Eagle" show with Irving Joyner. She noted that the public monuments scattered around the city in honor of the leaders of the Confederacy were erected in direct response to that event, the only overthrow of a duly elected government in our country's history.

George Davis, attorney general of the Confederacy, statue by Francis H. Packer, Wilmington, 1911

Indeed the memorials in Wilmington as well as in Raleigh, as Catherine Bishir has observed, played a crucial role in solidifying the history of the post-Reconstruction period. The lesson that 20th century schoolchildren would learn, punctuated by these towering monuments, was that a fearful threat of "Negro domination" had been put down--with violence to be sure, and that was unfortunate--so that white rule could be restored and the proper order of things reinstated. “With competing visions of the state’s past, present, and future all but silenced in official discourse, [North Carolina’s] leaders shared a powerful sense that both in politics and in the culture at large, matters had been returned to their correct alignment,” Bishir writes in Fitz Brundage's collection Where These Memories Grow. The state’s history was reinterpreted as a tapestry of “old family heritage, Anglo-Saxon supremacy, and military and political heroism,” all with an aim toward a “rebirth of southern progress and leadership in the nation.”

Thomas Ruffin, statue by Francis H. Packer, Raleigh (Court of Appeals Building), 1915

Judge Thomas Ruffin's statue is one of several monuments in Raleigh that came out of this historical moment of renewed pride and reflection. In dedicating the statue, J. Crawfurd Biggs, president of the North Carolina Bar Association, spoke for the state's ruling class when he emphasized the importance of placing the likenesses of great historical figures on public display:

We have not exerted ourselves to stimulate a healthy State pride, by preserving in marble and bronze the records of the past, by erecting statues and suitable memorials to commemorate the name and fame of the great men whose services have enriched and glorified the traditions of our Commonwealth. It is from the experience of the past that we draw inspiration for the future, and any act which emblazons in imperishable form the great deeds of our ancestors should be regarded with favor.

Across the country in this period, "Public monuments helped to celebrate and cement [a] progressive narrative of national history," writes Kirk Savage--a narrative that "instill[ed] a sense of historical closure. Memorials to heroes and events were not meant to revive old struggles and debates but to put them to rest—to show how great men and their deeds had made the nation better and stronger. Commemoration was a process of condensing the moral lessons of history and fixing them in place for all time; this required that the object of commemoration be understood as a completed stage of history, safely nestled in a sealed-off past."

But"[t]his logic of commemoration drastically shriveled history," Savage continues. "Women, nonwhites, laborers, and others who did not advance the master narrative of progress defined by a white male elite had little place in the commemorative scheme, except perhaps as the occasional foil by which heroism could be better displayed. This kind of commemoration sought to purify the past of any continuing conflict that might disturb the carefully crafted national narrative."

The success of just such "purification" of the past is what makes the Wilmington report so important for North Carolinians. Close to 500 pages in hard copy, it documents in fact after stubborn fact how "[e]very facet of African American life was affected by the events of 1898" (248). With other recent efforts to come to terms with Reconstruction--Thomas C. Holt's 2004 speech at UNC comes to mind--the work of LeRae Umfleet and the Wilmington Race Riot Commission un-fixes the past in productive ways. For as Savage puts it, "The history of monuments themselves is no more closed than the history they commemorate."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Accidental chicken soup

Moving on in my experiment, but staying within the 1970s collective cookbook genre, I chose a chicken and crabmeat casserole from The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook. Finding a recipe that didn't call for a can or two of soup took some effort. (I thought that was mostly a '50s and '60s thing.) I followed the instructions pretty closely. The rosemary was fresh from our garden.

The recipe:

"Chicken-Crab Meat Rosemary"

2 T. chopped union
1/2 c. butter
7 T. flour
3/4 t. salt [omitted]
3/4 t. paprika
1 T crushed rosemary
2 c. chicken broth [one can (lowfat and law salt), a bit less than 2 c.]
2 c. sour cream [nonfat]
3 c. chopped cooked chicken [store bought; see below]
2 6 1/2 oz. cans crab meat, flaked
1 1/2 c. avocado chunks with lemon juice
1 c. buttered coarse toast crumbs [omitted]

Saute onion in butter in saucepan until golden. Blend in flour, salt, paprika and rosemary; heat until bubbly. Remove from heat; add chicken broth gradually. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; blend in sour cream, small amount at a time. Add chicken and crab meat. Add avocado; mix well. Pour into 2-quart baking dish; cover with crumbs. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; garnish with parsley or watercress. Serve immediately Yield: 8 servings.

The execution:

Everything looked good to go when I put it in the oven. Thirty minutes later, it was still runny. Fifteen minutes after that, a golden crust had formed but mostly it was still runny. So we called it soup.

The verdict:

For the grown-ups, it required a serious shot of habanero sauce to make it work. Tucker ate most of his straight up. But this one is not worth repeating. It reminds me too much of high school home ec class: all it needed was whitebread toast to call it Chicken a la King.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Julie in reverse

Julie & Julia, the award-winning blook by Julie Powell, chronicles an amazing project: a young woman with more energy than sense takes Julia Child completely seriously and lets her own life be turned upside-down. It's a fine, fun read that has led me to some introspection.

I have many, many cookbooks. Most date from the 1970s and early 1980s, when I was in college and single and interested in cooking. I tore recipes out of newspapers on Wednesdays, the day of the grocery ads and the food sections. Some of them I tried, but more of them I stuck in file boxes or between the leaves of cookbooks, apparently randomly. I bought grocery store magazines for their recipes, especially the Christmas issues. I have three or four years of Gourmet magazine (three or four linear feet). The cookbooks and file boxes and magazines have followed me around for decades. Once I finally got married and had a family to care for, though, I was older and tireder. I was not all that interested in cooking. I mean, I don't mind it terribly, but it's a bit of a chore. You do it one evening and next thing you know, it's time to cook dinner again!

It has occurred to me I don't need all these cookbooks. There's only a handful I have used in many years. But surely some are worth keeping for that rainy day that I might decide to spend in the kitchen? So here's what I'm thinking. I'm going to take them down one by one and try a single promising-looking recipe. If it's a winner, the book's a keeper. If it's not worth the trouble, the book is out the door. Let's call this blog entry the first of an occasional series.

The book:

What's Cooking in our National Parks

The recipe:

"Chicken by Candlelight"

16 pieces chicken, assorted
1/4 c. butter
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. minced parsley
1 c. dry white table wine
Grape clusters

Place chicken in baking pan, skin side down. Put all remaining ingredients over pieces. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 1 hour. Turn chicken, skin side up. Continue baking for 30 minutes. Baste and increase temperature to 400 degrees to allow browning and looseness; bake about 30 minutes moore. Pour pan drippings over chicken for serving. Garnish with grape clusters. Good with rice. Yields about 4 servings.

Excellent for romantic setting and special occasions!

The execution:

I halved the recipe for my family of three. I followed the instructions pretty closely even though it seemed like too much cooking time. I forgot to garnish with grape clusters even though I had bought them.

The verdict:

Not worth it. If I were to do it again I would knock off 20-30 minutes of cooking time--it was charred and though the dark meat tasted OK the white meat was dry. The onions and parsley were so far cooked into the sauce that you didn't notice them. But the main thing is that it tasted about the same as a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and was no less expensive to make. Maybe if I had remembered the grape clusters . . .

So this book will be contributed to the PTA Thrift Shop. Bonus: a newspaper clipping, undated, "Kiss-Me Cake stays popular."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Busperson's holiday

Digital media artist and community activist David McConville set me up for coffee yesterday with Asheville City Council members Robin Cape and Brownie Newman. We shared a lot of common interests and a few frustrations. These folks would be among friends in Chapel Hill, but Asheville is lucky to have them.

UPDATE: We spent much of the Fourth on the Blue Ridge Parkway, walking Mount Mitchell, which we knew well, and the Craggy Pinnacle, which we didn't. Since the 1930s this area has been recognized as the largest continuous stand of wild rhododendrons on the continent, 600 acres back then (I wouldn't hazard a guess now, but it's still impressive).

Today 7/5: A delightful lunch with Mayor Terry Bellamy. Then home.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

See you in a few.

On ae's heels, we're off to Asheville for a few days. Like her we will walk around and look up. We have lesser digs than the Grove Park Inn, but the location is choice, right near the Old Kentucky Home. We've learned that our favorite coffee shop, Beanstreets, is closed! Should have found a hint in the fact that it wasn't in ae's narrative--though the City Bakery was.

Saturday, July 01, 2006