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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Colmar Deux in Jingles

Colmar’s not so very far
If you’re driving in a car.
If you’re walking, ‘nother story
Feels like you’re in purgatory.

She’s got those nice, long legs and she’s really really neat
You can see that fanny twitching as she’s walking down the street.
The guys all think she’s sexy, but her momma knows she’s sweet,
And when it comes to sweetness, well the guys just can’t compete.

A water pitcher on the roof,
Oh, my, it seems so aloof.
With a garden near or far.
I wonder how it’ll ever get thar.

Blue shoes do amuse
But not at all what I would choose.
I would choose the browns and blacks,
For they would go with all my slacks.
Although ordinary they may be,
If not for others, they suit me.
Still the blues do amuse.

I would rather watch a fowl,
Whether sparrow or an owl,
As they flutter in the wind,
…I’ve no idea how this will end!

I ate French bacon once or twice
And I found it very nice.
And I ate some salad, too
As you knew that I would do.
For I can never get enough
Of this Frenchy, savory stuff.

Darkest chocolate tempts my taste.
I will let none go to waste.
Spoon by spoon I pop it in
And then I pop some more again.
They say dark chocolate by the ounce,
Cures some ills I can’t pronounce.
So I gobble once again,
For chocolate is the body’s friend.

Now my stomach’s full of beer
I think I’ve made it very clear.
I may drink some wine or brandy
In fact the bottle’s very handy
And since the beer has left me full
My stomach needs a little lull
It's not the fault of brew alas,
But hand and eye that filled the glass.
And left me in this awful state
Of wanting more, but forced to wait.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Colmar, France and The Statue of Liberty

Colmar, France and The Statue of Liberty

On the highway leading into Colmar

This past week, we spent a couple of sunny days in Colmar, another treasure in the Alsace Region. Went there on the spur of the moment. We’d seen photos on the net and heard great things, but still, we didn’t know quite what to expect, other than old and beautiful.  Colmar is a fairly large city of about 71,000, but the place you want to spend your time is the old city.

I picked the hotel at random, with only two things in mind:  close proximity to the old city and an economical price.  I got both with Hotel Saint-Martin.  It’s a jewel set in a beautifully restored old stone building, with a friendly, helpful staff, some of whose English made mincemeat of my stumbling high school French.  After a sputtering attempt to blend, I asked the middle aged lady at the desk, Parlez-vous Anglais? Got a quick response: My English is a little rusty, but I will do what I can to help.

Yep, you’ll do.

I’d made arrangements at the hotel, but messed up both day and month.  In mere moments, the desk clerk patched up my self-inflicted wound and found us a very comfortable accommodation.  We dropped off our luggage and stepped out into the blazing sunshine of a perfect June day.

Old town Colmar is a maze of cobblestone walking streets, lined with two and three story half-timbered buildings, most of them over 400 years old, as evidenced by blackened and twisted timbers.   The Hotel Saint-Martin is right in the middle of these noble, historical tributes.

With hundreds of outdoor cafes on every corner of this self-porclaimed Capitol of the Alsatian wine region, it was time for refreshment.  But, on this , sunny, sweaty day, we grabbed a table in the shade and swigged a fruity Alsatian bière. Wait.  No we didn’t.  We swigged two big ones and fortified our period of rest and relaxation with stylish cups of Armagnac.

Don’t know Armagnac? Think of Cognac with more flavor and a smoother, rounded finish.  A luscious gift from the sun bleached south of France.

But, our trip was not all outdoor cafes.  There was also an outdoor supper in the fade of the day, in an out of the way, small and beautiful plaza.  I’ll let photos give you the details.

Aside from being surrounded by historic beauty, what else did we enjoy?

As my three faithful readers know, I don’t just visit a spot to snap a few photos and down a libation or six.  Certainly not!  I like to fill my curious mind, mostly about things no one else cares about.  In Colmar I found something that perhaps a few more may share my interest in.

The Bartholdi Museum

The Great Man himself.

Colmar is the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of one of America’s treasures, The Statue of Liberty, or as Bartholdi named it, Liberty Enlightening the World. This huge, copper statue, stands 151 feet 1 inch tall, and counting the base, it’s over 300 feet.

Of course we went to the Bartholdi maison, now a museum.  But, if you’ve seen one museum, you’ve…….STOP RIGHT THERE.  In this museum you get much more than dusty relics and trivial facts; you get an intimate tour of the mind of the artist.  Of course there are photos of his greatest work, which now resides on Liberty Island, but there is also the creative trail that led from concept to reality. No telling how many sketches Bartholdi made, and when he began to work in clay, the process fascinates even more, from crudely fashioned small, brown figurines, to the final gargantuan finish.   With glance upon glance you can follow the progressive growth of his final creation.  

The preposterous idea that a sculptor creates a masterpiece in an afternoon of light work and few sips of wine falls away.  Neither did Bartholdi work alone.  Although he was the driving force, he consulted with metal workers and engineers and so many others who accepted the challenges of such a massive work.

Here are some other little known details that connect Lady Liberty to America and the world at large: The statue’s tiara or diadem has seven spikes, symbolizing the seven continents and seven seas. In her left arm she holds a tablet engraved with the Roman numerals for 4 July 1776. Lady Liberty herself is modeled after the robed Roman goddess of liberty, Libertas.  Should you want to climb to the top, stand by for a steep climb of 20 stories and don’t expect to be able to take a view from the platform surrounding the torch.  It’s not been allowed since 1916.

Models with and without the seven spikes on the crown.

Aside from the famous statue, the museum is also a dispeller of so many myths.  While Bartholdi’s vast body of work is fully displayed in photos and smaller versions, most of it commissioned for public display in French towns and cities, many of his projects were abandoned for lack of cash, or because city fathers were not pleased with his ideas.  Other times he had to repeatedly change his work to comply with the wishes of this or that committee.

So, anything else to do in Colmar besides cafes and the Bartholdi museum?  You bet!  Colmar is also known as the Venice of Alsace and the Larch River flows down the middle of town.  Beautiful place for photographs or to treat yourself to a boat ride.  Then there’s the Unterlinden Museum of  Art, featuring art from the middle ages to the present. Monet and Picasso are two names I have to mention.  And don’t forget the magnificent Saint Martin’s Church, dating to 1235 (or perhaps earlier) and restored several times since.

We were only In Colmar for one full day and one night, but what an adventure and what a wonderful experience.  So, would I go back?  Mais, oui!  And would I drink more beer and dine on lovely French cuisine, and stay at the Hotel Saint-Martin?  I think you know the answer.

Getting there: Colmar is two and a half hours by train from Paris.  The cost is about 25€ or $30.  If you’re coming from Frankfurt, Germany, it is also two and a half hours and costs 35€ or $40.  From Luxembourg, the fastest trains are 2-3 hours and the cost ranges greatly, depending on the time of day.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

An Afternoon in Heidelberg

An Afternoon in Heidelberg

Lots of reasons to visit the historic city of Heidelberg.  But, today I didn’t need a real reason.  Didn’t plan to climb the many steps or ride the funicular railway to the top of the mountain and see the famous castle that overlooks the River Neckar. 

Didn’t plan to visit the famous University of Heidelberg founded in 1386, making it the oldest German university. Didn’t plan to dine at one of the famous student drinking inns, The Red Oxen, of which I have already written. Been operating for about 300 years and still owned by the same family. Nor did we try Zum Seppi, that's been around since the 17th Century.

So, why go if I wasn’t going to gape at the history and ooh and aah over this and that?  Heidelberg comforts me.  Just wanted to walk the cobblestone streets, mingle with the Saturday crowds, do some window shopping and eat some schnitzel and pommes frittes outside, overlooking the River, enjoying the sunshine and sipping a tall, cool Weissbier (wheat beer).   Sadly, no photos of the meal.  My camera fell into a deep well of hunger.

The Heidelberg Schnitzel Haus

So, what else did I do that was exciting?  Nada. Strolled the streets, took photos. Thought about some ice cream, but with camera in hand, I was adrift in my own world.

See, it’s part of my philosophy that a person doesn’t need to be constantly doing something.  Uninterrupted laser focus is not the path to a happy life. Sometimes for balance, ya just gotta stop and smell the beer.  I don’t call it lazy.  I call a very productive time of refreshing the mind.

I’m also good at watching sunsets and sunrises, and starring at bees as they make their floral rounds. Ants moving objects many times their own size?  Irresistible. Speaking with neighbors, or perfect strangers.  Or sometimes just creatively walking the streets of an ancient city and breathing the air of liberation from daily cares.

A wonderful afternoon!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Carrot, Eggplant, Sausage Pasta Sauce

Carrot, Eggplant, Sausage Pasta Sauce 

Let’s not mess around.  Grab your apron!  Time to get right to it!

2 Large eggplants, halved and roasted in a 400ºF oven (200º C).  Allow to cool and scrape out the meat.  Discard the skin.  Hint: I used a spray of Pam olive oil to keep the eggplant from soaking up too much oil.

2 Cans cooked carrots, with juice, about 28 ounces or 800 grams
3/4 Pound of loose Italian sausage, crumbled
1  Medium sized sweet onion, diced
5-6 Cloves of garlic, chopped
Small bunches each of fresh rosemary and sage, chopped
3-4 Good shakes of cinnamon
3 Teaspoons paprika for color.
1 Can coconut milk (Not coconut cream, or the sweetened style coconut cream)
Note: Chicken stock for thinning the mixture, if necessary.  I didn’t use any.
Salt and pepper to taste

Get your sous-chef to open a bottle of wine and pour you a glass.

If you’re a fainthearted cook, stop right here.  For this dish I used the TLAR method, That Looks About Right. If you’re a cook who worships the perfection of precise numbers, you’re on your own.

I put everything, but the sausage and coconut milk in my food processor and got it as close to a fine liquid as I could.  If you want to add the coconut milk as well, go ahead.  My machine wasn’t big enough!

Note: Don’t bother to clean the machine yet.  You’ll need it in a minute or two to shred the sausage.

Pour the mixture in a large pot, on medium heat, and stir in the coconut milk, if you haven’t already.  Put a top on the pot, but leave space for the steam to escape.  Stir from time to time to keep it from sticking on the bottom. Once the mixture gets to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer.  Taste and season.  All the ingredients are already cooked, so you’re heating it to let the flavors meld. 

The mixture is going to be thick, and as it cooks it will get thicker.

While the sauce cooks, fry the crumbled sausage in another pan until it is cooked through.  Drain off the grease, add the sausage to the food processor and turn it into a fine mince.  Pour it in the mixture in the pot and stir well.

Now you can clean the food processor and I have a splendid two word solution:  “Hey sous-chef!”

Serve over spaghetti! I used zucchini spaghetti.

But you say, “Not a pasta fan.”  Well, I have good news.  Often the difference between soup and sauce is all in what you like to call your mind! Try a bowl of this wonderful stuff all by itself!  Add some freshly diced onion, a big squeeze of fresh lemon and some Sriracha hot sauce! Delicious! 

Time to top off that glass of wine before you dig into this absolutely delicious, creamy and exciting pasta sauce or soup or creamy vegetable stew!