Nature at my window

One of the last videotapes I needed to convert was this half-hour of fox cub footage I took at my old place. Recorded years ago with a cheap VHS camera borrowed from the office and shot from behind a screen window, so it’s not the best quality, but it’s still fun to watch. I described the scenario on a UK forum back in 2008:

Here, [foxes are] not the rubbish-rooting scavengers they seem to be in the UK (I saw mom with a rabbit in her mouth more than once), and are a fair amount rarer, so it’s always nice to spot them. In the two or three weeks before I taped that, I had caught brief glimpses among the undergrowth of tiny foxes, as small as 8″ long, and decided to get a bag of dry dog food – figuring they’re closely related to canines – for a bit of nature-watching on a Saturday.

Saturday morning, I set the camera up in a front window and set it recording, thinking I’d rewind after a couple hours and keep trying until they showed up – but they started showing up just ten minutes after I set it up. I got about thirty minutes of footage of them eating and frolicking and chasing each other around like kittens before they each went down the hill, one by one, to the abandoned and quite dilapidated barn where they lived, until one straggler was left, going ’round in circles looking for his brothers and sisters.

For weeks afterward, until they went their separate ways, one or two of the litter would generally be to one side of the driveway when I got home and would nonchalantly look up at me as I passed.

The old place was a modest cottage of 1950s vintage I rented for more than a decade that was situated in the middle of twelve acres of woodland, back about 500 feet from the road. Though the place was tiny, it was fairly quiet – some background noise from the nearby highway – and home to lots of wildlife. The house was quick to heat in the winter and electricity was 1960s cheap because the town makes its own power and, at the time, charged about a third of National Grid’s rates, even giving everyone in town rebates three or four months of the year when they sold excess generated power. Now I’m one town away and paying through the nose for National Grid’s juice.* On the plus side, it’s even quieter where I live now – the loudest intrusion is the occasional low rumble of a freight train moving through town at a stately 4 or 5 mph.

I would have stayed there even longer had the heirs of the elderly lady who owned it not sold the land to a developer a year after she passed – with what I thought a rather discourteous thirty days notice to me. Now, instead of the bubbling brook, a nice mix of evergreens and deciduous, and the deer, pheasants, turkeys, owls, foxes, and turtles, there are three expensive homes with manicured lawns and neat rows of more manageable trees. What a shame.

I believe the soundtrack here is from Tony Furtado’s “Within Reach” (1992).

6am one Saturday morning, an hour after the snow stopped. It really was this striking blue. Click for the original size (this was March 2001, so not all that big).

Click for the original size

“Okay, fellas, let’s knock all this down,” someone probably said. This was the only size of this autumn photo I could locate. That’s unusual and probably means I mistakenly saved the edited smaller version over the original years ago.

*”Choose your own electricity provider” they tell us. Yeah, I looked into that. All the providers offer one- or two-year good deals, but then they can do whatever they like to you. And they do – shocking, ain’t it? – so you’re forced to go to another provider. In my case, I’d save maybe five to eight dollars a month. That’s not worth the admin trouble and what I feel would be intense aggravation at being gouged and re-gouged every year or two.

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My 15 seconds

So there I was, recording today’s Quote…Unquote S53E02 off iPlayer after grabbing The Unbelievable Truth S19E02 earlier. One minute in, my eyebrows like to shoot off my head as host Nigel Rees and Charlotte Green open the show with…well, me and a quotation I sent him last year. Pretty cool.

I wrote five years ago of the strange enmity UK comics seem to have for the show. I still hear it derided a few times a year and I still don’t understand. This is a 53-series programme panelled by the likes of Douglas Adams, Graham Linehan, Peter Cook, and John Lloyd. Sheesh.

Once every several weeks, I hear some comedian or other on a Radio 4 show or TV panel show slag off “Quote…Unquote”, a panel show also on Radio 4. Most make dismissive comments, but some seem to despise the programme with a passion, which puzzles me because I like it. It’s not my favourite Radio 4 programme (that’d be “The News Quiz”, which itself slags off “Quote…Unquote” approximately every fourth programme), but I always listen to QU and can usually identify about half the quotations before they’re through reciting them. There’s good humour and good stories in most episodes.

Why do all those comedians hate it so, and with such bizarre frequency? It’s a minor show that airs only very infrequently – six episodes a year in recent years – yet I hear more negative mentions of it in any given year than the number of QU episodes that aired that year. Is it simply because they know none of the quotations and are perhaps made to feel small, or did presenter Nigel Rees line up all their dogs in a row and run them over with a steamroller years ago?

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“We don’t need laptops. I don’t have to show you any stinking laptops!”

I didn’t know until a few days ago that many phones and tablets support USB mice, trackballs, and other devices through USB On-The-Go (OTG). After reading about it and that most Samsung devices support it, I got a pack of two Ugreen OTG micro-USB to USB Female adapters in the mail this week – US$7 – and was pleased to see it works on my 1920×1200 Galaxy Tab A 10.1″ tablet.

It’s a little strange the first time you see a traditional cursor on your tablet – see the middle of its lock screen in the photo below. I found that you can even control its speed under Language and Input settings on Android, so it’s now exactly the same speed as my desktop cursor. Buttons on my trackball duplicate the Android home and back functions, click-drag is the same as swiping, and the scroll wheel works perfectly. A slight touch of the trackball wakes up the tablet. With a trackball and a Bluetooth keyboard, there’s no need to touch the screen at all. Working with a remote 1920×1080 Windows 10 desktop becomes much easier and faster.

With a folding LED-backlit Bluetooth keyboard that has Android and Windows function keys, my favourite trackball connected through OTG, TeamViewer connected to my home or office desktop as in the photo below, a multi-angle folio cover, and a good pair of reading glasses, I’m not sure I have any need for a laptop. The only real difference is the screen size.

That trackball and its USB-connected receiver is Logitech’s Cordless Optical Trackman, long ago discontinued, with remaining new examples being sold for US$400-500 these days (when they were still being made, I believe their list price was $69). Why so exorbitant? Because it remains the best trackball anyone has ever made. I have two – bought at the much lower price, of course – that I’ve been using for many years at home and in the office, and this is one of three hot spares I still have that I bought for forty or fifty bucks apiece when they were still being made several years ago.

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A little overproofed

It seems that the local bakery I mentioned in this article has a) become a fair amount bigger than I knew and b) not scaled the operation up in the best way. The warning letter they got ten days ago from the FDA makes it clear they’re still operating a bit like they’re back in the good old days, when they were producing, say, several dozen loaves a day. When you grow quickly and start supplying some supermarket chains, you’re going to be inspected just as the big boys are and held to the same standards; they ought to have known that.

I began reading the letter with some dread because I like their sourdough. Thankfully, the infractions aren’t too awful, but I certainly hope they address them quickly and well. I wouldn’t want to read about “seizure and injunction” in a month or two.

One focus of the letter is that their “whole wheat” items aren’t, though they have some whole wheat flour. That you can tell at a glance – they’re far too light in colour. I just checked their web site and the whole wheat there is a lot darker than any loaf of theirs I’ve ever seen in person, so maybe they’ve already adjusted it. Not mentioned is their rye loaf, quite tasty but again far too light and too well-risen for a lot of rye to be involved; I think it’s probably a minority flour in that loaf.

I only found out about this because of news articles yesterday deriding the FDA’s admonition to Nashoba Brook Bakery to stop including “love” in their granola ingredient list. The CEO took exception to that and the whole wheat hand-slap, grumbling about the nanny state, and in the process, whether it was intentional or not – guess my guess! – successfully misdirected the majority of the media away from the lengthy list of mostly allergen-related violations in the FDA’s letter. But not everybody looked away to the pretty assistant at the crucial moment of the sleight. Personally, I would have fixed the problems post-haste, sent those responses the FDA never got, and kept my mouth shut.

Now, maybe love really is in there, but if honesty is always the best policy – see Mark Twain for the answer – we might see, for instance, Kraft required to list “indifference” and “avarice” among their processed cheese food product ingredients. I can easily see lawsuits if not fistfights breaking out over such subjective ingredients. Is this a road we want to go down? Probably not.

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“Regarding your question on the price of cheese in Denmark…”

I believe I’d last no more than one question and one follow-up as an interviewer.

Excuse me, Prime Minister, no. What the people want to hear about is whether you can or cannot sack Johnson. Most think you can’t because, to date, you’ve let him get away with everything. So please stop with the supremely annoying prevaricating your advisers teach you. It’s not as clever as you obviously think it is; in fact, it’s far past tedious. No redirection: Answer the question yes or no first and then briefly explain why.”

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These three are not invented

These excerpts are from just a dozen or so adjacent pages of Mark Twain’s Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World (1897; free ebook formats here), which I’m reading again. They succinctly reminded me why I love his work. I can easily imagine a wry smile and occasional arched eyebrow as he wrote.

Twain wrote the book after he finished what was essentially a British Empire stand-up tour designed to pay down massive business debts he’d incurred – primarily over-investing for years in a failed typesetting machine. He would generally speak for an hour-and-a-half or so, meandering from story to story with no particular plan, and all without a microphone or even raising his voice, so people had to pay close attention. They did: The combination of the sales of this book and ticket sales for his appearances, which grew as reviews preceded his travels, got him out of debt – and then some.

On gullibility:

It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive. There are people who think that honesty is always the best policy. This is a superstition; there are times when the appearance of it is worth six of it.

On the Southern Cross, as the ship approached Australia:

We are moving steadily southward—getting further and further down under the projecting paunch of the globe. Yesterday evening we saw the Big Dipper and the north star sink below the horizon and disappear from our world. No, not “we,” but they. They saw it—somebody saw it—and told me about it. But it is no matter, I was not caring for those things, I am tired of them, any way. I think they are well enough, but one doesn’t want them always hanging around. My interest was all in the Southern Cross. I had never seen that. I had heard about it all my life, and it was but natural that I should be burning to see it. No other constellation makes so much talk. I had nothing against the Big Dipper—and naturally couldn’t have anything against it, since it is a citizen of our own sky, and the property of the United States—but I did want it to move out of the way and give this foreigner a chance. Judging by the size of the talk which the Southern Cross had made, I supposed it would need a sky all to itself.

But that was a mistake. We saw the Cross to-night, and it is not large. Not large, and not strikingly bright. But it was low down toward the horizon, and it may improve when it gets up higher in the sky. It is ingeniously named, for it looks just as a cross would look if it looked like something else. But that description does not describe; it is too vague, too general, too indefinite. It does after a fashion suggest a cross—a cross that is out of repair—or out of drawing; not correctly shaped. It is long, with a short cross-bar, and the cross-bar is canted out of the straight line.

It consists of four large stars and one little one. The little one is out of line and further damages the shape. It should have been placed at the intersection of the stem and the cross-bar. If you do not draw an imaginary line from star to star it does not suggest a cross—nor anything in particular.

One must ignore the little star, and leave it out of the combination—it confuses everything. If you leave it out, then you can make out of the four stars a sort of cross—out of true; or a sort of kite—out of true; or a sort of coffin—out of true.

On the practice of blackbirding Queensland labour:

The truth is, Captain Wawn furnishes such a crowd of instances of fatal encounters between natives and French and English recruiting-crews (for the French are in the business for the plantations of New Caledonia), that one is almost persuaded that recruiting is not thoroughly popular among the islanders; else why this bristling string of attacks and bloodcurdling slaughter? The captain lays it all to “Exeter Hall influence.” But for the meddling philanthropists, the native fathers and mothers would be fond of seeing their children carted into exile and now and then the grave, instead of weeping about it and trying to kill the kind recruiters.

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I got mine at the GPO Bookstore

When I was a kid and through my late teens, I regularly visited the Government Printing Office Bookstore in Boston. The Federal Building was just a short walk from North Station, so I’d take the train in – never once getting kidnapped or murdered that I recall. They had a whole corner devoted to NASA books, usually forty or fifty of the most recent volumes, so for me, it was like visiting the Kennedy Space Center in miniature. I didn’t have much money, but I’m pretty sure train fare for the twenty-five minute run into town was between US$2 and $3 each way, so ten bucks carefully saved up would cover the trip plus one or two books.

I got several of my NASA books right there, at their gloriously low original GPO prices. For example, the 681-page This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury was US$5.50. This collectSPACE article lists most of the better NASA history volumes that were at one time or another in the bookstore.

The P in GPO now stands for Publishing, not Printing, and the Boston GPO Bookstore closed in 2001, but I still have all the books I got there. Now the real reason for this article is not nostalgia or sidelong swipes at milk-carton-kid-based helicopter parenting, satisfying though those are, but this: I recently found something of a bonanza for people who are interested in these books in their original form but don’t want to spend US$50, $100, or more for them – or who, like me, own them but would love the convenience and frugality of free PDFs of the originals. The NASA Technical Reports Server has full page-by-page scans – and good quality scans, I’ll point out – of many of the original books, including:

There are other good volumes there as well, including Apollo Expeditions to the Moonmine was $2.25, but it’s now $40 or $50 for a good condition original – Where No Man Has Gone Before, and the like. The part 1-3 articles linked in the collectSPACE article above mention more of these – there’s also a final part 5 not linked there. The best way to search the NTRS site is with NASA SP-nnnn where nnnn is the publication number.

Click on any of these page scans from the PDFs for a larger version. They’re larger than these screenshots in the PDFs.

From Moonport

From Chariots for Apollo

From Stages to Saturn

From Apollo Expeditions to the Moon

My copy of that one

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Jasper White’s Corn Chowder

I’ll likely be making Jasper White’s Lobster and Corn Chowder this weekend or next, but I had a hankering for chowder today – without quite so much work – and selected the simple and delicious Shaker-style corn chowder from White’s 50 Chowders book, the recipe below. The corn and Yukon Gold potatoes here are from Willard Farm.

The only change I sometimes make to this recipe is to use rosemary instead of cumin in step 3 for a completely different background note – either a couple springs of fresh rosemary, fished out afterward, or ½ teaspoon ground rosemary. Today I stuck to the original.

I forgot about the thinly-sliced scallion garnish in the prep bowl not even two feet away. Oh, well…still tasted great. Click for a larger version.

To go with, I made a couple loaves of simple crusty bread, River Cottage style, one of those to be frozen for later. At the end of this article, there’s a seven-minute River Cottage instructional video and recipe for the bread – do watch that video and see how easy it is. I’ve also included there Jasper White’s general notes on corn and on the importance of curing chowder (yes, some things do benefit from curing). I enthusiastically recommend his book on chowders – it’s both authoritative and fun.

Click for a larger version

Corn Chowder

From 50 Chowders – One-Pot Meals – Clam, Corn & Beyond by Jasper White (2000)

Yield: About 7 cups; serves 6 as a first course

Corn chowder is the king of farmhouse chowders. Hundreds of recipes for it have been published over the years, but since corn and salt pork were staples of the American farm, it is likely that corn chowder was being made and enjoyed long before any recipe was ever printed. The oldest recipe I have come across is by Mary Lincoln, founder of the famous Boston Cooking School, in her Boston Cook Book (1884). Fannie Merritt Farmer, her successor, also published a corn chowder recipe in the original Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1896). A crop of corn chowder recipes followed Mary Lincoln’s, appearing in cookbooks from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and just about everywhere in between. Some were thickened with flour, others with egg yolks. Some, like Fannie Farmer’s, used canned corn (which has been around since the mid-1800s), some used fresh corn. The use of milk, cream, or condensed milk also varies from recipe to recipe. The Shakers, members of the well-known utopian community, are renowned today for their austere yet beautiful furniture, but they were also highly regarded for their cooking skills, especially their farmhouse chowders. My version of corn chowder is made similar to the Shaker style, according to a recipe from the Shakers at Hancock Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (1900), using fresh corn, butter, and cream. Its mellow, sweet flavor and lovely pale golden color are very comforting, and it is a big favorite with children as well as adults.

Serve corn chowder as a starter, with toasted common crackers or Pilot crackers. Or serve with Sweet Corn Fritters, Skillet Corn Bread or Corn Sticks, or Anadama Bread on the side to add a delicious contrasting corn flavor to your meal.

Cook’s Notes

Since corn is the heart and soul of this dish, the success of your chowder will rely a great deal on the quality of the corn you use.

If you are making chicken stock or broth especially for this recipe, add the corn cobs (do not scrape them in this case) to that stock for more corn flavor.

Although potatoes help to thicken this chowder, I also use a bit of cornstarch to give it an extra smooth and creamy consistency. Mix the cornstarch and water to create a smooth paste, called a slurry, before you add it to the chowder.

The ground cumin adds an interesting but subtle contrast to the predominant corn flavor of this chowder. In the Southwestern-style corn chowder variation that follows, the amount of cumin is doubled, letting it stand out even more. The small amount of turmeric brightens the chowder’s color, making it a little more yellow.

For equipment, you will need a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot with a lid, a wooden spoon, and a ladle.

Ingredients

A note on this blog entry: For my own future reference, I’ve put double-recipe quantities in square brackets here – so “3 [6] medium ears” just means 3 for a single recipe and 6 for a double.

3 [6] medium ears fresh yellow or bicolor corn
4 [8] ounces slab (unsliced) bacon, rind removed and cut into 1/3-inch dice
2 [4] tablespoons unsalted butter
1 [2] medium onion (7 to 8 ounces [14 to 16 ounces]), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 [1] large red bell pepper (6 to 8 ounces [12 to 16 ounces]), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 to 2 [2 to 4] sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 [1] teaspoon)
1/2 [1] teaspoon ground cumin [alternate: 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary or two sprigs fresh rosemary]
1/8 [1/4] teaspoon turmeric
1 [2] pound Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 [6] cups Chicken Stock or Chicken Broth
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 [4] teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 [2] cup heavy cream

For Garnish
2 [4] tablespoons minced fresh chives or thinly sliced scallions

Directions

1. Husk the corn. Carefully remove most of the silk by hand and then rub the ears with a towel to finish the job. Cut the kernels from the cobs and place in a bowl. You should have about 2 cups. Using the back of your knife, scrape down the cobs and add the milky substance that oozes out to the corn kernels.

2. Heat a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over low heat and add the diced bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp and golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.

3. Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin [or rosemary], and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onion and pepper are tender but not browned. [If using rosemary sprigs, fish them out and discard.]

4. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, and stock, turn up the heat, cover, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes. Some of the potatoes will have broken up, but most should retain their shape. Use the back of your spoon to smash a bit of the corn and potatoes against the side of the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and season the chowder with salt and pepper.

5. Stir the cornstarch mixture and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.

6. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the chopped chives.

VARIATION: Corn Chowder with Tomato and Basil

Peel 1/2 pound ripe red tomatoes: Score an X in the bottom of each tomato. Drop into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, until the skins loosen. Cool the tomatoes in ice water, drain, and pull off the skin. Quarter the tomatoes and cut out their juicy centers, reserving them for another use. Cut the tomato flesh into 1/2-inch dice; you should have about 3/4 cup. Add the tomatoes to the chowder right after you add the cornstarch (Step 5). When you remove the chowder from the heat, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil along with the cream.

VARIATION: Southwestern-Style Corn Chowder

Increase the cumin to 1 teaspoon. Just before you add the cornstarch (Step 5), add 1 small poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into small to medium dice. After you add the cream, stir in 2 or more tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

VARIATION: Corn Chowder with Sweet Potatoes

To make this delectable sweet chowder, substitute 1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice, for the white potatoes. Sweet potatoes cook a little faster than all-purpose potatoes, so reduce the cooking time to about 8 minutes, then proceed with the recipe as instructed.

Simple White Loaf

From River Cottage

1 kg bread flour
10g fast-acting yeast
15g fine salt
1/2 tbsp canola or olive oil (optional), plus extra to oil the dough
600 ml water

1. Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil, if using (not essential, but it makes for a slightly softer, more supple crumb), then add the water. Stir to create a rough, sticky dough. The dough really should be quite sticky at this stage – if it isn’t, add a splash more water.

2. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, rhythmically stretching the dough away from you, then folding it back on itself. The idea is to stretch and develop the gluten within the dough, not to beat the living daylights out of it. Avoid adding more flour if you can: the dough will become less sticky and easier to handle as you knead, and a wetter dough is generally a better dough.

3. When the dough is smooth and elastic, form it into a ball, coat it very lightly with oil and place in a clean bowl. Cover with cling film or put inside a clean bin-liner and leave in a warm place until doubled in size – in the region of 1½ hours.

4. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and deflate with your fingertips. Reshape the dough into neat rounds and put on a lightly floured board to prove for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/gas mark 10, or its highest setting. Put a baking tray in to heat up.

5. When the loaves have almost doubled in size again, take the hot baking tray from the oven and sprinkle with a little flour. Carefully transfer the risen loaves to the tray. Slash the tops with a sharp, serrated knife and put in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 and bake for about 30 minutes more, or until the crust is well-coloured, and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it sharply with your fingers. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Jasper White on Corn

From 50 Chowders – One-Pot Meals – Clam, Corn & Beyond by Jasper White (2000)

The flavor of corn combines so naturally and beautifully with other chowder ingredients, it is little wonder that this staple of the American kitchen has found its way into hundreds of chowder recipes. The essence of chowder is making something special out of what is at hand, and for many people, especially those away from the coast, corn fits that criterion. In addition to playing the leading role in Corn Chowder, it performs wonderfully as a supporting ingredient in Lobster and Corn Chowder, Savory Summer Fish Chowder, Chicken Chowder with Corn, and several others.

Canned corn has been around for more than a hundred and fifty years, and its use in corn chowder is probably just as old. I do not use canned corn, but you can substitute canned or frozen niblets by volume in any of the recipes that call for fresh corn. Canned creamed corn has an artificial flavor I dislike, and I do not recommend it. My style of cooking celebrates fresh ingredients, and I don’t like to use foods that are not in season. Since chowder doesn’t call for or need the most tender delicate types of summer corn (trucked-in cellophane-wrapper supermarket corn works fine), I am content to make good corn chowders from fresh corn for eight or nine months of the year.

Types of Corn

The best types of sweet corn for chowder are the hearty yellow or bicolor varieties. Most of the corn in the market today is one of the sugar-enhanced hybrids. Unlike the old-fashioned varieties that need to be rushed from the field to the pot, these maintain their sweetness for long periods. Because of the extended cooking corn receives in chowder, texture is not a factor. When you stop for chowder corn at the supermarket, you most likely won’t have a lot of choice, but the corn will probably be right for chowder. At the farm stand, remember that tender young freshly picked white corn like Silver Queen, which is an ethereal experience when eaten on the cob with butter and salt, will not have the same result cooked in chowder. In either case, look for large ears, preferably of yellow corn; bicolor is the second choice. And it is fine to save a few pennies and buy yesterday’s corn. Some of the best varieties of yellow corn are Earlivee, Kandy Kwik, Sugar Buns, and Tuxedo. Among the most flavorful varieties of bicolor corn are Athos, Double Gem, Delectable, and Clockwork.

I have come across early chowder recipes that call for dried corn, but I’m sure these were driven by necessity, not choice. Sweet corn is a vegetable, but dried corn is a starch. Adding it to a chowder would produce something more akin to porridge than chowder.

Cutting Corn from the Cob

To prepare corn for chowder, husk it, then carefully remove the silk. Wiping the ear with a dry towel will remove any recalcitrant silk. Stand the ear with the tapered end up on the cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut from top to bottom, keeping the knife close to the cob but not cutting into it. Then use the back of the knife to scrape away the remaining moist bits of corn still attached to the cob — what I call the “milk.” The cobs can be broken in half and added to any stock that is intended for a corn chowder; if you are going to do this, don’t scrape the cob, just leave the milky bits on to flavor the stock.

Jasper White on “Curing” Chowder

The term curing is used in Cape Cod to describe one of the most consequential (and easiest parts) of chowder making — allowing chowder to rest while the flavors meld. Do not underestimate the importance of this process. It is during the resting and cooling-off period that chowder undergoes a metamorphosis, emerging with a deeper flavor and richer texture. Once you cook the chowder and remove it from the heat, you have two options: you can let it sit for up to 1 hour at room temperature to cure, or you can refrigerate it (curing it in the refrigerator) for up to 3 days. A 1-hour resting will improve your chowder immensely, and refrigerating overnight or longer is even better! If you decide to refrigerate your chowder, let it cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then place it in the refrigerator uncovered. Covering can prolong the cooling process, resulting in a warm center that is ideal for bacterial growth. Bacteria ruins the flavor and shortens the shelf life of food. Cover the chowder only after it has chilled completely. I do not recommend freezing chowder, because it destroys the texture of the ingredients, but the stocks and broths in this book, which are often more time-consuming to make than chowder, can be made up to 2 months in advance and kept frozen. Always date the stocks and broths you store in the freezer.

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New Print/PDF/Email function

I’ve added a new WordPress plugin called PrintFriendly for printing, emailing, and saving PDFs of individual articles on the site. I did this because for convenience I sometimes print or email myself the recipes I’ve posted here, and this plugin includes just the content of the article instead of the whole web page template, which was dumb. It’s much nicer looking and will save a lot of paper.

If you hover over sections of the article in the Print/PDF/Email dialog that opens, you’ll see that you can click to remove any paragraph, image, etc., making the output as abbreviated as you like, which I think is slick as a whistle. I’ve never seen this sort of feature in a print preview dialog.

The price for this is, alas, adverts the plugin author has included, but they appear only in the Print/PDF/Email dialog once you choose the output type, never on any page on my site or in your output. Without casting aspersions, I would suggest never clicking on them.

After enabling PrintFriendly, I removed the JetPack plugin Print, Email, and Pocket sharing buttons that used to be here. If you actually used the Pocket button, let me know and I’ll put it back in – I removed it because it looks cleaner without that button sitting all by its lonesome.

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Practical application of Lucrative Coincidence Theory

Saturday, 29 July: Equifax shuts down a security breach of 143 million people’s SSNs, DOBs, addresses, etc. that had been ongoing since May.

Tuesday, 1 August: Equifax Chief Financial Officer and President of Information Solutions both dispose of a total of US$1.5M of stock options in unscheduled sales

Wednesday, 2 August: Equifax President of Workforce Solutions disposes of a quarter-million bucks of shares in an unscheduled sale

Thursday, 7 September: After biding its time – perhaps waiting until summer was over and all the staff was back? – Equifax announces security breach 41 days after they shut it down. 41 days seems like an awfully long time to me, but I’m no expert on security. Or securities.

Later on Thursday: Equifax insists – don’t you love when that word is used in news stories instead of “said”? – the three officers knew nothing about the security breach before their stock sales.

Yes, that’s right, the President of Information Solutions – sounds like the top IT guy to me – knew nothing, nothing of what may be the largest security breach in US consumer history 72 hours after it was shut down. By his own department. Mebbe in the same Atlanta building as him, I dunno…but jeez, shockingly poor communication must abound in that place. Or his competence is on a par with Jen Barber. In either case: Tsk.

Results of Finley Quality Used Car Test: Would not buy one from any of those three guys. Especially the one on the left.

Edited to add this notice that just appeared on my Credit Union’s login page:

Wait, I know, I know! Is the answer ‘Sell a bunch of stock before anyone gets wind of this’? Too late, you say? Pah. Skunked again.

When there are two conflicting versions of a story, the wise course is to believe the one in which people appear at their worst.

H. Allen Smith

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