28 December 2009

The Decade in Review

Barring some life-changing event in the next 4 days, I've been spending lots of time the last few days thinking back on the last 10 years -- because wow, it's been a helluva ride.  The following's not exhaustive by any means (in fact, it leaves out  a lot), but there have been some definite highlights and I've included some pictures of some of my favorite memories.

2000: Mum retired from teaching, which caused her to be home during the day, which was a change -- though she did not stay home and bake cookies.  Petra came to live with us -- the start of a beautiful friendship.  In August, we took off for Rome and I started high school at Marymount.  Over the course of the year, lots of our friends and family came to visit.

2001: Roma caput mundi.  I discovered Jack Kerouac and spent lots of time poking into interesting corners of Rome where tourists certainly don't go, spending time observing street people and taking pictures with my Pentax K1000.  I'd carry my camera and some lenses with me in my backpack.  The MMI girls basketball team ended up in the DoDDS European finals and so we went to Mannheim, Germany and slept in a middle school gym.  It was the period in which I gained my youthful fearlessness and an interest in radical politics was aroused.

2002: Further photoing, further fearlessness with trips to Athens and Berlin because I was becoming a museum geek -- without knowing it at the time, I was on a quest for the "aura of the original." Went to prom on the via Veneto like something out of La Dolce Vita. Unfortunately, my parents' marriage ended and we came back to the US on the QE2, where I began going to Vincentian.  It was like switching from the School of Athens to the School of Hard Knocks.

2003: Consolidated my reputation as one of the perhaps 5 left-leaning thinkers at my school during a very politically-charged period in which this iteration of the Iraq war began.  Went to Italy during spring break and to Slovakia for the first World Forum of Rusyn Youth! The good news was that I began doing excellent after-school activities at The Andy Warhol Museum, which introduced me to lots of people who supported me and my interests at a time when I was probably a bit vulnerable.  I registered to vote in September and in December, I took my driver's exam during a blizzard.

2004:  Protested with my mom, graduated high school, got my International Baccalaureate diploma, and started at Seton Hall.  Thus began 4 years of train rides back and forth from South Orange to Penn Station for lots of fun times.  Began a tradition (which could maybe continue again someday) of spending my birthday at the Festa di San Gennaro and having cannolis in lieu of birthday cake.

2005: Got as involved as I hope I ever do in a (extraparliamentary) political party.  Threw lots of great parties and made lots of excellent friends as a result of said bacchanals.  Went to Montreal in January, where I froze froze froze but had a great time, and Italy for spring break, where dad and I froze froze froze in Calabria but had a great time.  The second World Forum of Rusyn Youth was held in Krynica, Poland, but it was during that trip that we walked across the border to and from Ukraine at Uzhorod and went to Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv. 

2006:  Ended my involvement with active political organizing, happily.  More parties, trips to NYC museums, and the summer in Italy that caused the blog Maria in Italia -- and ubergeekdom about the Caravaggisti and lots of adventure and beer in San Demetrio Corone, Calabria.  Italy won the World Cup and I came home exhausted.  In the fall, I turned 21 and rather difficult seminars in Italian began and so I read more medieval and 19th century Italian texts than I ever thought I would, but I reveled in the scholarly pursuits and enjoyed my relatively frequent visits to the Gaslight in South Orange.

2007: The year started out with a bang in the form of me seeing Barry Manilow live at Madison Square Garden (thanks KC!) and it was such a fun time!  Went to Agape with Emily which was wonderfully renewing.  Spring break with mom in Catalonia was beyond fabulous even though it took me more than a week to actually enjoy being on a break and be able to rest, and then in May I was off on a wild solo trip across Europe from Paris to Sighet and back!  I came home exhausted and near the breaking point, and started my last two semesters in residence in South Orange. 

2008: Finished my residence in South Orange, interned at the ICP, spring breaked in Portland, had a uncharacteristic type of vacation in the Bahamas and took off for Slovakia, where by providence I found a job I ended up loving and begun research that is proving to be a gift that keeps on giving.  Going to Slovakia proved to be the right decision, right place at the right time.

2009: God, how time flies.  Rung in the New Year in Toronto, had my first experience skiing, went on some amazing hikes, taught some cool kids, and spent lots of time with some excellent people.  Professionally, and with lots of help, I organized the exhibit Dana Kyndrová: Podkarpatská Rus', which was well-received by the communities it was serving.  In the fall, I co-founded Slovo Translation Services, and now I'm finding myself in the position of gearing up for 2010 and keeping on keeping on.  My mom still has not stayed home and baked me cookies.

Large Scale
What word will define the 2000s? "Fierce."
What was the most significant political event of the 2000s? The election of Barack Obama.
What was the greatest TV series of the 2000s? Mad Men, the concepts of Top Chef and Project Runway, though not always in execution.
Greatest Tragedy of the 2000s
? The wars we're tied up in.
Most influential person of the decade? Dick Cheney

Of the ten years of the last decade, which one was your favourite?
2001 and 2009 -- bookends.
Which was your least-favourite?
2002, probably.
Was it a life changing decade for you? Absolutely -- things change all the time.
Highlight of the 2000s? In terms of sheer pluck and personal growth with a lot of fun, the summer of '06.
Lowlight of the 2000s?
The general reorganization of my nuclear family unit.
Are you happier or sadder? Since the decade began with me in the throes of puberty, I'd say I'm happier now.
What do you plan to tell your grandchildren about?
So many stories of adventures, with lots of well-planned exaggerations.

The Future
What is your greatest fear for the coming decade, on a global scale? Probably a growing lack of fresh water in the world.
What is your greatest fear on a national scale? Continued overextension of our military and Sarah Palin's continued presence on the national stage.
What is your greatest fear on a personal scale? To not have started something I plan to do now.
What is your greatest hope for the coming decade, on a global scale? Some kind of revolution -- political, financial, social, cultural, artistic -- the word can mean a wide range of many things and it need not be violent.
What is your greatest hope on a national scale?
Universal healthcare.
What is your greatest hope on a personal scale?
Financial stability.

25 November 2009

Julia Child's Kitchen

After my fab visit to the NMAI, my cohort (hi Kevin Coffee!) and I split and I set off on foot to Foggy Bottom to meet some of my crew from my Rome years.  But on my way, it popped into my head that in Julie & Julia they visit Julia's kitchen at the National Museum of American History.  So I thought I'd poke in and have a look.

What fun!

There's just one thing I want to point out about this exhibit, which was such a pleasure overall.  When we get into structuralist analysis, we sometimes describe artworks (literature, visual arts, music, architecture) in terms of a conversation between the artist and viewer.  Relatedly, I've often said that while I love visiting museums, I also can't not go anymore without really analyzing what's going on -- I read an exhibit the way I'd read a single painting or a text.  Most of the time, that makes for a rather serious intellectual exercise -- and something that makes my brain itch, not smile.

But I exclaim what fun! about this Julia Child exhibit, because in this case, it did make me smile and make me think that the curators and exhibit designers were having a good time while they were doing their job:

Julia Child is often credited as being a major influence on the development of Americans as wine connoisseurs.  On her ground-breaking TV show, she dug deeper by enjoying a glass of wine at the end.  But on television, it wasn't some Mouton Rothschild from the Child wine cellar -- it was a mixture of Gravy Master and water!  Now we have even more reason to love Julia, because she was capable of ingesting not only divine bœuf bourguignon but also this crazy spotiote of Gravy Master and water.

And so what made me smile about the exhibit design?  First, the 'setting apart' of this most banal, humble, and pop-culture-50s-housewife of "flavor enhancers" in an obviously custom acrylic case.  So we're having fun playing with high/low culture here when Gravy Master gets similar display treatment as the Venus of Willendorf.  And that's further ratcheted up a notch when behind the Gravy Master is a facsimile of the Child wine cellar inventory. 

Good to see that Museum People don't always take ourselves too seriously!

National Museum of the American Indian

It's Thanksgiving Week.  Apparently, it's a week now -- lots of friends get the week off, etc.  Since I'm working retail this holiday season, I'm part of the consumption more than usual, especially on Friday.  But on Sunday after church I was at the National Museum of the American Indian -- appropriate considering the origins of Thanksgiving.

In fact, I'm going to start with that.  Over at Bitch, PhD there's an interesting discussion in the comments about how to talk with kids about Thanksgiving -- and before everyone gets all upset, it's talking about the historical origins of Thanksgiving, which doesn't mean we're not allowed to be thankful.  We don't have to condone genocide and imperialism, either, though.  And check out this article deconstructing the myths while you're at it.  Then say a prayer thanking God for Howard Zinn for telling the history of those who don't fall under the category of dead white men*.
Until the lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.
If there's one museum I've been really excited about visiting in the last few years, it's this one.  I've had to read so many articles about it, some quite critical, and so I've been looking forward to it.  And it was worth it.  Simply put, this museum is about as open and inclusive as we Americans are capable of being, and my visit there confirmed so much about what I think about exhibit design, interpretation and curating material culture especially when so much is actually intangible.

I was visiting NMAI with two non-"Museum People" friends who are both practiced at reading culture and politics against the grain.  It's always fun to go to museums with folks like this and to also observe what they're experiencing because it helps me gain perspective on regular museum visitors -- I do my own visitor evaluation surveys when I visit museums with my friends.  And at NMAI, I think we pretty much agreed the introductory film was very well done, but it was also very well done propaganda.  But visiting this museum was a way of challenging our relationship to Native Americans -- three people from immigrant families -- we were aware of all of the broken treatieswhy sports teams have changed their names, and I've driven on I-90 near Buffalo quite a few times.  On the other hand, we'd seen Pocahontas and the word "papoose" is in our vocabulary with a smile.

Immediately I was struck by the gorgeous and generous pluralities of the interpretations.  Universes. Histories. Curators.  Better yet, community curators.  Teachings.  Nations.  Relations. And diseases and genocides.  We've always had a master narrative in museums, this gives an opportunity to have the master narrative and the narratives of the previously marginalized.

As I was impressed with the work of Jeff Thomas at the ROM, I can say now I'm a huge fan of Paul Chaat Smith.  Apparently I may be one of the last ones to get the memo, cause he's a big deal, but better late than never.  But the more important question here is how do I know now I'm a huge fan of Paul Chaat Smith? Because the labels have bylines!  Yes!  This is wonderful because the curator is no longer nameless and faceless, which I believe contributes to the current controversies about the disappearing curator and curator-as-concept, but rather is an actual human being.  Besides NMAI and the ROM, I've also seen attributable labels at the Brooklyn Museum.  Readers, where else have you seen labels with bylines? I'm curious.  There were so many good soundbites in the labels here, it made me so happy to read them and to revel in these other views of history.

Along the same lines of curators-with-a-face were the Community Curators.  How empowering!  And what a great way to bring some of the experts into the museum space!  So often in the Rusyn community I see people with inferiority complexes because they don't have Ph.D. after their name, when in fact they're just as expert about the topic because they actually live in the communities that the Ph.D.s need so that they can have something to study in the first place.  So let's bring the people from the community in and let them discuss what's important to them about their communities, and give them names and faces as well!

Community Curators in the Our Universes exhibit

But let's talk about the post-colonialism of this museum - in fact, of its very existence.  The aboriginal, indigenous, First Nations of this country were subjected to genocide and the horrors of colonialism right down to being marched across the country and fenced into reservations.  But now, with this museum, the aboriginal, indigenous, First Nations of this country have coöpted the same imperialist institution that used all sorts of exploitative means (ethnographic present, eugenics, anthropometry -- the long horrible list goes on) to justify their subjugation as a way of communicating the other sides of the story in a language the dead white man/kids of immigrant families multiculturally educated in American schools can understand.

One final thought is that the name of the museum is unfortunate, because it furthers the inaccurate name (that the dead white man gave) of aboriginal, indigenous, First Nations peoplesNot that it's an easy problem to solve, because it's not (hello, Musée du quai Branly).  But let's try to think of ways that we can help promote discussing groups by the way they self-identify instead of by the names dead white men give them.

Next time you're in Washington, DC -- go to this museum.  It's free and worth the visit.  OHHHH and how can I forget -- quite possibly the best museum cafeteria I've ever been to.  The menu is seasonal, fantastically unbelievably good and so well-thought-out.  You can get a cookbook at the museum, but as @shadow pointed out, finding ingredients may be difficult. So, I revise: it's free, worth the visit, and bring an appetite!

* I'm not against dead white men, per se, but am using the term rather tongue-in-cheekly here.  Don't take me too seriously.

27 October 2009

Recipe: Eggplant Wrapped Moussaka

this recipe at Sasha's request!

First, I'd like some credit for cooking something without bacon.  Thanks in advance.
Second, this recipe comes from The New Basics Cookbook, which is quite possibly my favorite out of the many I own.  Jamie Oliver's oeuvre comes in a somewhat-close second, and I use Betty Crocker and Silver Spoon for reference, but this is the cookbook I actually cook from.  This is the cookbook that taught me (and is teaching me) to make soups.  I got it at a Books Not Bombs Used Book Sale I helped organize at SHU and it's followed me around a few rented places and now back home -- it was a 1992 wedding present to a prof and her husband.  This cookbook is from 1989, which could be considered dated (like the recipes Judith Jones includes in The Tenth Muse -- dated recipes and she didn't like Julie Powell!) but actually, I think it was ahead of its time, because the recipes really encourage home- or local-grown produce, and seasonal cooking, among other things that are in vogue right now.
Which brings me to Third, some of the ingredients I used for this recipe came from our garden! Others were grown elsewhere in Pennsylvania! Yay!
Fourth, I am retyping the recipe from the cookbook.  I mostly followed it, but left a few things out (beef stock, fresh mint leaves and currants and mint in the yogurt sauce) and it still was amazing.

So without further adue:

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup milk
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup sliced almonds with skins
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 cup homemade beef stock or canned broth
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup dried currants
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 acorn squash, halved, seeded and cooked until soft
1/2 cup cooked white rice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Minted Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease two baking sheets and a 10-inch round, 2-inch-deep casserole (preferably glass).
  2. Combine the cumin, ginger, paprika, cinnamon, and cayenne in a small bowl.  Blend thoroughly.
  3. Combine the flour, 1 1/3 tablespoons of the spice mixture, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.  Mix well.  Pour the milk into another shallow bowl.
  4. Dip each eggplant slice first in the milk, letting any excess drip off, and then in the flour mixture, pressing lightly so it is evenly coated.  Shake off any excess flour, and arrange the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake until soft, 30 minutes.  Remove the eggplant but leave the oven on.
  5. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet.  Stir in the onion and almonds, and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and the almonds are toasted, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the lamb, raise the heat slightly, and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until browned, about 10 minutes.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet.
  6. Stir the remaining spice mixture into the meat, and cook 1 minute.  Then stir in the tomatoes, stock, apricots, currants, and mint.  Scoop the squash into the mixture in chunks.  Stir in the rice, lemon juice, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Remove the skillet from the heat.
  7. Arrange a layer of cooked eggplant on the bottom and up the sides of the prepared casserole.  Fill with the lamb mixture, and top with the remaining eggplant.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour.
  8. Remove the casserole from the oven and allow it to stand, still covered, for 15 minutes.  Then uncover and invert the moussaka onto a serving platter.  Cut it into wedges, and serve with the Minted Yogurt Sauce.
Minted Yogurt Sauce
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Mix it all together and refrigerate covered until ready to serve.

26 October 2009

Kaffirs (and Rusyns?) (and Roma?)

I happened upon this video via @brainpicker, and I'm so glad I did.  As a film, it's produced with love and fine craft, which is rare in these YouTube days.  But what is more important is the content of this film - and for me personally because it raises some questions that I think are also so applicable to the Rusyns.

I'm not going to write too much about the Kaffirs, because I don't know a lot about them and I'm sensitive to spreading misinformation.  But I am going to raise some of the questions raised by the filmmaker Kannan Arunasalam with regard to the Kaffirs that I think we can use as an examination of where we're at within the promotion and development of Carpatho-Rusyn culture. It's nothing new -- because we've been talking and debating Rusyns as a 'museum culture' for years at this point -- which is not unhealthy nor negative in my opinion.  But here are some thoughts:
  • Intermarriage as a way that cultures erode.  Now, I'm not into cultural purity, am really a fan of the creation of new cultures and new traditions, and am the product of an intercultural relationship, so please don't misunderstand me, but let's think about how normal that actually is.  Because Rusyns have always lived around Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, Roma, Jews, and Hungarians, and then were thrown into the lovely American melting pot (though I recognize how passé the term is now and use here it in a 19th century context) and ultimately I think this is an attractive thing because it does attract others to the cultural group.  And a culture is made up of people who identify with something, not certainly by pure ethnicity.  But assimilation doesn't necessarily happen nor have to happen.
  • Using music as a way to attract people to a cultural group.  In discussions I've had with other Rusyn friends, while admitting our bias and not intending to diminish neighboring culture's music, it's clear that Rusyn music is soulful and attractive whereas some music of neighboring cultures is less so.  While watching the video about the Kaffirs, I was thinking about the performance I saw yesterday of Slavjane girls singing Roma songs -- they were so into it and obviously having such a good time, and did a great job; but I was also thinking about how many times I've heard people complain about Roma and then say "well, but they do have nice music."  This is one of the most offensive things I think could be said.  So.  Music is a powerful tool for marketing within cultural groups, but I think it needs to be backed up with a lot of substance and infrastructure in the form of a consistent message of education and organization.
  • Language. OMGZ this is critical.  I liked how the Kaffir cultural leaders encourage kids to use their creole words along with the Tamil and Sinhala that they already speak.  It's a start, and could form a modified dialect, similar to Pittsburghese.  It's like what a friend already refers to as the Rusyn-Slovak-Šariš Esperanto of Eastern Slovakia.  Since language is a living thing, it works.
  • "There's a romance about a people on the cusp of disappearing. You see it in Hollywood films about Native Americans."
  • May x (culture) find a permanent, living home in y (country) whereever they live.
But enough of me, please take the time to watch this video!

20 October 2009

Bata Shoe Museum

I guess I should just get the discussion of museum architecture out of the way with this one -- Raymond Moriyama's exterior fits in well with Libeskind's down the street, and the galleries are galleries.

But I still don't know what to think about this museum.  Probably I'm a bit disappointed, because I had different expectations.  I thought I was going to see something very eurocentric (because I am!) and that would discuss the honorable history of the Baťa brand.  Nope.  Not bad that it wasn't completely eurocentric (in fact, that was a great strength) but I was expecting something else.

The exhibits were some of the most designed I've ever seen.  Of course, every exhibit has tons of design involved, and lots of time is spent thinking about it, but this one was designed -- to the extent that it was obviously not done in-house but rather by exhibit design firms.  That's ok, but it lacks the sort of museopunk feel that can be found even in huge museums like the Met or MoMA or Museum of Natural History.

The galleries were dark for preservation purposes - thank God for high ISO.

It was an interesting choice to have the shoes so low - which maybe makes sense because shoes are usually on the ground.

They had a huge emphasis on First Nations footwear, and put non-Western shoes in the same linear time trajectory, which was cool -- and how you have an image of a sculpture of Julius Caesar with the word 'Anasazi' under it.  

My Sperry Top-Sider loafers next to Indira Gandhi's footprint.

The current temporary exhibit Bound for Glory: Cutting-Edge Winter Sports Footwear also had the first Wiis I'd seen in a museum setting.  But I couldn't figure out why they were there and it was an awkward integration.  Edutainment?

Lots of the permanent collection was displayed with an open storage style in mind.  I like this because it deconstructs the museum, shows a lot of objects, and can be used to help visitors understand how museums work.  Again, though, really designed.

Napoleon's socks

some nice Victorian shoes with peacocks - which I admire but would never wear

Conservation Department

It was cool to see the Conservation Department - which also had some great labeling about what they do, how and why (also the preservation v. restoration explanation).  Again, so important, and so great to explain to visitors about the inside of a museum.  I wonder though, if working in a space like this is too much like working in a fishbowl?

My visit was about an hour, which was enough.  Despite it's unusual contents, this is a very professional, serious museum.

19 October 2009

Art Gallery of Ontario

Our visit here was unfortunately entirely too short because we got there close to closing time, but I was happy to see David Altmejd's work again, which I'd seen at the 2007 Venice Biennale.  The goal was to get to the Galleria Italia to see Gehry's work from the inside -- but on the way, one hiccup:

A salon-style hanging seems like a good idea, seems like it works for 19th century art, seems like it transports you back to Paris, etc.  But it doesn't work well if it's not explained, contextualized and somehow labeled.  People now aren't as smart as 19th century Parisians were, but they're no less curious.

It was nice to see some of the Group of Seven's work, albeit briefly, and I plan on this being some focus during my next visit.  Didn't get to see much of the museum, but Frank Gehry omgzfangirlwatchout:

Beautiful -- and it was great at night, but I look forward to visiting it during the day.  And Giuseppe Penone - gorgeous.  And very well-trained gallery attendants: A+.  Now go play with this website.  And since in my previous post I touched upon how negative starchitects can be for a museum, here's an unbelievable positive -- because the architecture didn't compete with the objects, but added to the experience of them -- and not just here in the Galleria Italia, but in the regular, whitewalled galleries of the AGO.  

If the Galleria Italia isn't poetic enough, what about this:

photo: SH

Yes, please.  The staircases we used were oval-spiral, lovely to walk up.

Another museum to return to.

Royal Ontario Museum

So if you're reading this and and are planning on visiting Toronto in the next few months, do go visit the ROM to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.  It does an amazing job of contextualizing the scrolls and explaining that era of Roman/Jewish history, which can get pretty confusing.  My favorite part of the whole exhibit was the part about preserving the scrolls and explaining how they prepared them for exhibition.  Unfortunately, there were no photos allowed so I haven't got any to show about how it was designed. The exhibit is a blockbuster, and as far as blockbusters go, this one was really well done.

They had recently reinstalled their Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth's Treasures and it was beautifully done, with really nice lighting and also a lot of natural light in the galleries.

There were also informational touchscreen kiosks in the gallery, which were cool and nonobtrusive but could have been done without.  Personally, I'm not a huge fan of kiosks in museums, but sometimes they're awesome (Musée des arts-et-métiers, for example).  The really well-done and well-integrated kiosks were part of the ROM's Must-See Treasures - and I'm so glad to see that some of them are available on YouTube:

Visiting the ROM (and also the Bata Shoe Museum) was really good for giving some perspective on how to respectfully handle Native Americans/First Nations in a museum setting, because I think it's possible for American museums to get caught up in NAGPRA and also in the culture the USA has developed in the way it responds to Native Americans, which is still essentially very imperialist and not very ideal - even as so many museum professionals work very hard to honor Native Americans and try to help to improve less-than-ideal situations.  This brings me to the reallyfamous painting at the ROM, which is Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe, one of the cornerstones of (North) American Art History.  It is a controversial painting, full of eurocentric meaning and propaganda.  ROM obviously recognizes this, and presents video of the Plains of Abraham, and three critical views: one from Jeff Thomas, a Iroquois Onondaga artist, curator and critic; another from Chantal Hébert, a Canadian political columnist; and finally Arlene Gehmacher, ROM curator of Canadian Art.  It's always nice to see multiple critical views, and it makes me so happy to see labels attributed to specific writers instead of an unseen-omniscient-curator voice in museum labels.

I'd also note here that folks from the USA don't really use the term North American very often, whereas Canadians use it all the time.  This shows how American-centric/USA-centric we are wired to be, when on the other hand Canada has a completely different perspective on the same situation, of course.

Without going into a load of detail, the ROM had some of the best explanation of Greek pottery that I've ever seen.  And let's be honest, we've all looked at a lot of Greek pottery in a lot of museums, but how often are we really helped to understand what we're looking at?  A little bit is all it takes to really appreciate this fine art, and they did a great job.

Just a final comment on the architecture: Daniel Libeskind's addition was at moments unsettling and sometimes competed with the contents of the museum -- when the architecture competes with the objects in a museum setting, then it becomes a question of priorities: which is more important, the contents of the museum or the museum building?  And my response is emphatically that the objects inside are more important.  The chair? Uncomfortable.  The atmosphere in the Spirit House? Also uncomfortable.

Overall, however, we had a great visit - most of the day, a marathon of a museum visit, and like all great museums, screaming to be revisited, because as I write this, I am reminded of all that we didn't get to see.

Rusyn-Italo-American Borscht

Borscht is one of my favorite soups, and I've been wanting to make it for weeks.  Stumbling across this blog and this recipe just made me even more anxious to do it.  On 25 September, the following exchange began on Facebook:
So, finally I'll give some thoughts on the recipe, and you can also read some usually not-punny thoughts on TV and media from my friend Tim.

First off. Vladimir Lavenko: who are you, where are you from, can we please have some more really good Rusyn recipes?? Am totally wanting to make the rice pudding next.

To comment on the recipe: it's soup. I've got most of the ingredients already, but I'm not going to follow the recipe exactly, because it's soup. Variations are the spice of life.

Above are most of my 'fresh' ingredients: bacon, carrot of indeterminate age, red potatoes, and Savoy cabbage.  Regular cabbage is generally not allowed in the Silvestri house -- and once you've had Savoy, it's hard to go back in terms of taste and texture.  The recipe calls for sausage, which we didn't have, but we always have bacon!  And yes, bacon is a vegetable.

So I started out by rendering the bacon in the pot (my signature style is to cut bacon with scissors), and then added a quart of chicken broth and a quart of regular water (recipe calls for 2 quarts of water).  Peeling the beets (from our garden!) was a relative pain, as they were small and squishy.  Instead of shredding them, which could have taken off a slice of my purple digits, I just sliced them really thin and added them to my boiling bacon-y broth.

It takes a long time for the beets to lose their color -- don't know how long, but a while.  The beets had been sitting out on our kitchen counter for a few days waiting for me to get to them, and they were not very consistently textured.  But the beets really do lose their color:

I did follow the recipe in the order in which I added things to the soup.  Beets first, then potatoes and shredded carrots, then the cabbage and tomatoes.  Again, the Savoy cabbage is amazing, and it doesn't lose its bite when it's been sitting in soup for a while.  While I was waiting for the potatoes and carrots to cook, I sautéed some onions in butter, and added those in after the cabbage -- we didn't have any tomato paste, so none of that, but the last thing I did do was to add in some raw garlic along with salt, pepper, and some red wine vinegar.

To finish, I went out to the garden to get some fresh parsley and chopped up some of that -- there will be dill in the garden next summer, I swear!  Plus some sour cream, which is a must with borscht.

Here was the finished result, which I promptly ate three bowls of:

I found it to be very hearty, and very, very tasty.

Since the fresh beets are gone and canned already, and the canned beets are on their way to being eaten really quickly, I'll probably be experimenting over the winter with borscht with not fresh beets, which is sad but may need to happen. 

If you try to make borscht, let me know how it goes!