Monthly Archives: November 2008
Just a few things you might not know about our famous potato.
- Sweet Potatoes are a tuberous root.
- They were the main source of nourishment for American homesteaders and soldiers of the Civil and Revolutionary Wars.
- The American Indians were growing Sweet Potatoes long before the arrival of Columbus.
- Columbus brought the sweet potato back to Spain who then started exporting them to England.
- They are very healthy and full of vitamin A & C as well as potassium, calcium, and iron.
- Sweet Potatoes were first grown in Central and South America about 5,000 years ago.
- George Washington grew sweet potatoes on his farm in Mt. Vernon.
- With their skin left on a sweet potato has more fiber than a bowl of oatmeal.
- The sweet potato helped Scarlett O’Hara to keep her 19” waist. Her nanny fed her sweet potatoes before going out so she wouldn’t get fat on party foods.
- They don’t like refrigerators.
- Sweet Potatoes are a part of the Morning Glory family.
- Sweet potatoes are good baked, mashed, or fried, and are also made into cookies, pies, soups, and chips.
- James Taylor wrote a song called “Sweet Potato Pie.” Below is a link to an old video of James Taylor performing his song.
It’s hard for me to enter the holidays and not think of the “Peanut” holiday specials and the extraordinary music of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi.
Born in San Francisco in 1928 Guaraldi played many “casuals” (west coast term) or what on the east coast is referred to as “club dates,” before getting his first break of filling in for jazz legend Art Tatum. He later created a trio with good friend jazz guitarist Eddie Duran and bass player Dean Reilly. He could also be heard on recordings for the Cal Tjader Trio, but spent most of his time honing his skills playing live in clubs in the North Beach section of SF, clubs like the Hungrey I.
Guaraldi continued to do session dates with Frank Rosselino, Cal Tjader and others, toured with Woody Herman’s band, and played with the Cal Tjader Quintet at the first Monterey Jazz Festival where they received a standing ovation. Soon Guaraldi was garnering fame nationally and internationally. Moved by the soundtrack by Antonio Carlos Jobim for the movie “Black Orpheus,” Guaraldi hit the studio and did a recording of his impressions of Jobim’s music in a record entitled “Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus.” “Samba de Orpheus” was the first cut or single from that album to be released with what was known back then as a “B” side cut on the back side, a composition that was called “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” It’s said that a DJ in Sacramento was responsible for helping to bring about the notoriety and future acclaim for the jazz composer by simply flipping the record over and playing the “B” side cut on his show. This helped to create Guaraldi’s first Gold Record and earned him a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz Composition.
Lee Mendelson around this same time was trying to produce a Christmas Special about the Peanut’s comic strip characters by Charles Shulz. He actually heard the cut of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” while riding in a taxi and contacted Ralph J. Gleason the jazz columnist for the SF Chronicle. Through this connection he was put in touch with Guaraldi. Mendelson then asked Guaraldi to write the music for his special and Guaraldi soon created the piece that became known as “Linus and Lucy.” Guaraldi would go on to compose the music for 16 “Peanut Charlie Brown” specials before his untimely death at the age of 47 due to a heart attack.
Well-known and loved by many the Guaraldi music of the Charles Shulz classics continue to live on and visit us each holiday season along with Charlie Brown, and all his friends whom over the years and generations have became our friends too. Below is a cut of the very familiar “Thanksgiving Theme,” recorded by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. To hear the piece simply cut and paste the link into your browser.
Vince Guaraldi Trio Thanksgiving Theme
Thursday is Thanksgiving. It was also my mother’s birthday and is my friend Rhonda’s birthday as well as my friend Joy’s, so it is definitely a day of celebration and a day full of memories.
When I was a kid there would be 25 to 30 people gathered around our table for the holiday dinner. My mother would buy a 27 lb. turkey, which became the centerpiece of our feast, and I would spend the day basting the turkey for my mother. We all knew that I took the job so I could nibble on the stuffing before anyone else. My mother had pilgrim and turkey candles on the table every year that we never lit, and Thanksgiving napkins and other decorations. My sister threatened to pull them out last Thanksgiving as neither of us could ever throw them away. They represented our parents and happy funny times together as a family.
I think Thanksgiving was our favorite holiday at least for us kids. Growing up Jewish in the Midwest, this was a holiday everyone celebrated and so did we. At Christmas time no matter how my father decorated our house for Chanukah, all my girlfriends felt sorry for me that I didn’t get to have a Christmas tree and that Santa skipped over our house. So Thanksgiving was a big deal in our house and our family did it up big. Our holiday dinner was a feast and a tradition that has continued with us kids, now the adults. Of course we have added a few of our own favorite dishes, and my nephew is a great vegan chef so along with the turkey there is now tempe and lots of other wonderful cooked vegetables. My sister has added a macaroni and four cheese platter to the already carbohydrate fat heavy dinner and my specialty is a mashed yam dish with lots of butter, pure maple syrup, chopped pecans or walnuts, a hint of cinnamon and a hint of cayenne, and on at least half the casserole there has to be melted marsh-mellows for my one niece.
Unfortunately this year for the first time we will all be scattered among NYC, Ohio, and Oregon. Parts of our family will be together but this is the most physically scattered we have ever been. We will really be stretched out among the three states. Some of it is because new families have begun and there are other obligations, part of it is because of these economically challenged times. But as happy as we will all be, there will also be a sadness in not being together, not sharing our one big holiday together. I know it will be a good day, but there will be something missing, first off my parents. I have no doubt they will be looking down upon each of us hoping that we’ll save them some leftovers but most of all they’ll be happy knowing they created a family that loves each other. We’ll all be on the phone to each other probably multiple times, and that will be nice. It is not the same but this year it will have to do. I will miss them all especially my youngest niece and nephew Kaya and Sky. They are so funny!
Thanksgiving is a day to show our gratitude, to be grateful for all our blessings big and small and if we’re lucky there is food on our table, we are safe, and surrounded by loved ones. Just those three things are not small accomplishments, so I for one will express my thanks and gratitude for having in my life those important ingredients, and I wish to you all the same and a wonderful holiday weekend and a Happy Thanksgiving Thursday!
This time of year becomes my own little film festival, well actually for me and every other member of one of the theatrical guilds. They used to start a little later as did most of the award shows and I preferred that. It was a good way to pass the winter in NYC. It also used to be easier to see any movie you wanted to see as all the theaters would just accept your membership card, but then the guilds got too big and it became an economical decision to tighten the ropes. But the film companies still needed us to see their movies as they needed our votes for the awards so they started to go out of their way to set up more private screenings then in previous years, and with those screenings came Q&A’s with the actors, writers, and directors and for me this has become the best part of it all. The only downside is when friends later in the year want to go see a movie or rent one, my response to most their selections is that I’ve seen it.
Last night I went to my first screening of the season. I was very excited. I can also bring one guest so that adds to the fun. The screenings have been going on for several weeks but none until yesterday fit into my schedule. I went and saw “Last Chance Harvey” with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who both participated along with writer director Joel Hopkins and a young actress I had not seen before, Liane Balaban, who plays Dustin Hoffman’s daughter in the movie, in a Q&A after the screening.
The Q&A portion of the evening began with Emma Thompson who was hoarse, imitating DeNiro “gangster” lines that Hoffman jokingly fed to her. She was very funny! What’s great about these Q&A’s is that they are very loose. There is a moderator who leads the session and gets it started and then it is open to the room and their fellow actors and writers, etc. Besides the moderator no press attends and no one is allowed to tape. The nature of the screenings bring about an honesty that you won’t find elsewhere and you get to know the actors and their process a little better and in each Q&A I’ve attended over the years there are always special unexpected moments that appear like magic. Two new things I learned last night about the actors were that Emma Thompson started by doing stand up and Dustin Hoffman wanted to be a jazz pianist and used to write music.
Later this week I am also attending a screening of the film “Milk” and Gus Van Saint, Emile Hirsch, and Josh Brolin will attend the Q&A that will follow. Then soon thereafter is “Vicky Christina Barcelona” with Penelope Cruz, and a few days later “Revolutionary Road” with Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Sam Mendes, and it goes on like this for the next month or two. It is a definite perk and for me a very special experience. During this time I appreciate even more the roads in my life that I have chosen because they also led to this place and these adventurers.