Friday, December 19, 2008
To: All Staff
From: The Board of Directors
Date: December 19
Subject: New "Twelve Days of Christmas" Policy
The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole. Streamlining is due to the North Pole's loss of dominance in the season's gift distribution business. Home Shopping TV channels and mail order catalogues have diminished Santa's market share. He and the Board could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.
The reindeer downsizing was made possible through purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO's annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated. Reduction in the reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has received unfavourable press (gas and solid waste). We're pleased to inform you that Rudolph's role will not be disturbed. Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole!
Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph's nose get red, not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph "a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load" was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa's helpers and taken out of context at a time of the year when they are known to be under 'executive stress'.
As for further restructuring, today's global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" music subsidiary:
1) The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree, which never produced the cash crop forecast, will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance;
2) Two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are, therefore, eliminated;
3) The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French;
4) The four calling birds will be replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked;
5) The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals, as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks, appear to be in order;
6) The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day was an example of the general decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that, from now on, every goose it gets will be a good one;
7) The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes, thereby enhancing their outplacement;
8) As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching;
9) Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps;
10) Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords, plus the expense of international air travel, prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant as we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year;
11) Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music, and no uniforms, will produce savings which will drop right to the bottom line;
Overall we can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and related expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved. Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorneys' association seeking expansion to include the legal profession ("thirteen lawyers-a-suing"), a decision is pending. Deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to remain competitive.
Should this happen, the Board will request management to scrutinise the Snow White Division to determine if seven dwarfs is the right number.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful 2009.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
2008 will be marked forever as the year the Book Elves went green. No, not "green" the way they "went green" last St. Patrick's Day with that vat of permanent industrial dye, "green" as in ecologically-minded (as in using 300 feet of extension cord to tap into the neighbor's solar panels). For Thanksgiving they decided to go with a "free-range" turkey this year, a decision you would not normally expect to be a recipe for trouble, broken crockery, and numerous minor injuries...
Unfortunately the Book Elves neglected to fully grasp the huge difference between "free-range" and "feral", and proceeded to round up a flock of 20 wild turkeys and herded them onto the screen porch. Wild turkeys, unlike the domesticated variety, can fly, like to kick, have a bad attitude, and (rather like wolves) will attack, in packs, when they are angry.
But before a hungry pack of 20 wild turkeys ravaged the dining room, ate all the cranberry sauce, and locked the Book Elves in the pantry, and just before the fine folks from the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Wildlife showed up with a packet of summonses, the Book Elves finished our latest catalog-
"Catalog #315: 'To Furnish a Fine House' -Books on Furniture, Cabinetmakers, Metalwares, Textiles, and other Americana"
You can browse the catalog on our website , and we have free printed copies available, just send us your mailing address.
Monday, December 01, 2008
As we enter the month of December, Christmas Shopping Season, Holiday Party Season and all the other hoopla that go with the Holidays, sometimes it's good to take a step back and try to simplify.
In that spirit, I offer the following Amazingly Simple Home Remedies to Simplify Your Life which I stole from somewhere or other-
-Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop.
-Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.
-For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.
-A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.
-If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives; then you'll be afraid to cough.
-You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.
-Remember: Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
-If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
My, my, my... digging through a box of ephemera we uncovered this gem from the mid 1960s-
Of course, vodka has made a comeback in the past 10 years, with lime-flavored vodka, cherry-flavored vodka, and pistachio-flavored vodka, but somehow this little pamphlet appeals to me more than all the over-priced, over-hyped stuff they are trying to peddle now.
Not that you could actually give a "Vodka Party" today- somebody would hit a tree on the way home and you'd get your rear-end sued off. But let's just take a look at some of the snacks they recommend-
-avacado dip (matches the color of your new fridge)
-broiled anchovies (I actually love anchovies, but nobody is going to want to enter the house after you get done broiling a batch)
-cheese sticks (remember, what's good for Kraft is good for America)
-cheese logs (in case your arteries survived the cheese sticks)
-camembert almond balls (actually, I'd try those. I've never heard of such a thing, but it sounds as if it might be good, especially after a few vodkas).
The pamphlet then roves over toward the more "dramatic" entrees, incliuding "Flaming Dishes". I'm not sure I'd stick around for that performance- the host and hostess have had a half-dozen Moscow Mules, and then attempt to set fire to the turkey...
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I may need more coffee.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, [1803–1873) was a popular Victorian writer, perhaps best remembered to day for his florid, over-blown style. He was the author who penned the immortal opening sentence-
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
He is immortalized by the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which contestants vie to supply atrocious first sentences to imaginary novels. The following entries have appeared on the internet and are not actually contest entries, but they certainly capture the spirit of the whole thing!
So, we are proud to present-
(Not Really) the Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners-
10) As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the sound chamber he would never hear the end of it.
9) Just beyond the Narrows the river widens.
8) With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.
7) Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the east wall: Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep.
6) Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back-alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.
5) Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eking out a living at a local pet store.
4) Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.
3) Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
2) Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word fear, a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.
AND THE WINNER IS...
1) The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, she screamed madly, "You lied!"
Friday, October 31, 2008
Engineers vs. Management-
A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."
The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 6 degrees west longitude."
"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.
"I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."
The woman below responded, "You must be in management."
"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The Book Elves had two new interests this summer- watching the colorful hot-air balloons that drift lazily across the sky above the Cataloging Cave in the afternoons and evenings, and growing pumpkins.
Now, either of those interests would be innocent enough, but both combined, in the hands of the Book Elves, was bound to result in utter chaos and massive property destruction.
It all started one golden afternoon this fall, as they sat and contemplated a dozen pumpkins the size of small Volkswagens, and watched a balloon drift by overhead, and suddenly the idea of pumpkin balloons came to them.
Still, all might have gone well, or at least not gone badly, because even when hollowed out your average pumpkin, even one large enough to double as Snow White’s carriage, will not fly. There are certain things that will fly on hot air- silk balloons & politicians, for instance. But pumpkins, not so much.
Still, all might have gone well, or at least not gone badly, (isn’t it frightening how often that phrase recurs when discussing the Book Elves?) had the Book Elves not made the mistake of confusing helium with hydrogen, and not misunderstood that those gas-powered hot-air blowers are not necessary if you’re not using hot air...
The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s 24-point headline- “Holy Blazing Pumpkins in the Sky, Batman!!” perhaps best captures the ensuing conflagration, and is certainly much more colorful than the 6-page State Police report, or the rather frosty letter we received from the National Guard.
And the FBI van remains parked outside the Cataloging Cave.
But before they immolated enough pumpkin flesh to bake pies for the entire state of New Hampshire, the Book Elves finished our latest catalog-
RECENT ACQUISITIONS for NOVEMBER, 2008
-which features a new selection of books about decorative arts, fine arts and design.
The catalog is available on our website.
Friday, October 24, 2008
The prevailing wind in the Pioneer Valley is south to north, so every spring, summer and fall the early morning and early evening sky plays host to colorful hot-air balloons which take off down toward Springfield and drift up the valley over the broad fields of corn, potatoes and pumpkins to land here in Hatfield or just to our north in Whately, short of the rocky prominence of Mount Sugarloaf.
The view from the top of Mount Sugarloaf, looking back down the Valley along the Connecticut River-
In the spring and summer, when the windows are all open, often the first warning we have of a balloon overhead is the "whooooooosh!" of the gas-powered hot-air blower pumping more hot air into the balloon.
The balloons are all followed by chase crews, who are in radio contact with the balloon pilot and drive pickups or vans pulling the trailer that the balloon will be packed up into at the end of the flight. The balloon crew carries a bottle of champagne which they present to a farmer if they land in his field.
Last summer in the early evening a balloon drifted over the house and began to come down in the soccer field of the high school across the street. As the balloon slowly descended an entire convoy of vehicles came down the street, chase truck and trailer in the lead, followed by at least a dozen cars full of people. The balloon drifted left toward some trees, and the pilot "hit the gas", making the balloon bound upward and start to drift north toward a neighboring potato farm.
The convoy of followers turned into the school's long driveway, raced around the circle in front of the school and came racing back out, tearing off down the street in the direction of the rapidly-disappearing balloon.
A number of neighbors were out on the sidewalk at this point, because you never see a convoy of cars that large chasing a balloon, and we were curious about what was going on. The mystery was cleared up when a young woman in one of the last cars leaned out the window, holding a cell-phone in one hand, and yelled to us-
Most balloon fly-overs are far less dramatic, except for the random low-flyer who looks as if he may take the top of our chimney off. Balloons are beautiful at any time of year, but they are especially triking against the colorful fall leaves in the crisp, blue autmun sky.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
The Web site you seek
Can not be located but
Countless more exist.
Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.
Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.
First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
?My Novel? not found.
The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao until
You bring fresh toner.
Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.
A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.
Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Um, no, this is a dead end.
A bridge! I wonder where it goes...
Of course, it's everyone's favorite, the spud cannon!
A new feature this year is a gazebo with a camera obscura inside-
For a better view, you can climb the viewing platform-
Our friend Jeff appears satisfied with the day.
For completing the maze, finding the 24 numbered checkpoints, and getting out again, we got a free pumpkin, but not the one Jeff is sitting on!
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
His pots were ahead of their time, and not at all in keeping with the art pottery fashion of the day. Critics even accused him of "torturing" his clay...
In 1905 Ohr was invited to send four pieces of his work to be exhibited at the annual United states Potters Association convention. He sent the pieces, along with a note stating-
"I send you four pieces, but it is as easy to pass judgment on my productions from four pieces as it would be to take four lines from Shakespeare and guess the rest".
Ohr was also an amateur photographer, and delighted in creating improbable scenes featuring himself-
Potting at the Ohr pottery was a family affair-
Ohr's pottery never sold widely, and his work was largely forgotten after his death, but in 1972 a cache of more than 6,000 pots was discovered, forgotten and covered with dust, in a family warehouse. It was eventually purchased en bloc by an art pottery dealer, who took 3 months to unpack it, and then put it on the market gradually over a period of years, and so Ohr pottery is widely appreciated and avidly collected today.
It's too bad "The Greatest Potter in the World" never got to see that.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The current brouhaha brought back my memories of a really impressive melt-down, that of October 19, 1987. On that Monday, the NYSE plunged 22% -to equal that, todays market would have to lose 2,400 points in a single day. Ouch.
I can remember exactly where I was on Monday, October 19th, 1987- I was on a train to Chicago, where I was going to attend a big book auction on Tuesday. I've never been crazy about flying, so Sunday evening I got on an Amtrak train and headed from Boston to the Windy City, planning to arrive sometime after lunch on Monday and go over to the day-before-auction preview.
Back in Ye Olden Dayes, of course, we didn't have cellphones or WiFi or anything, so when you were on a cross-country train you were essentially cut off from all news of the outside world. When I rolled into Chicago around 1 pm I hadn't heard a word of news all day.
I grabbed a taxi for a ride to the auction house, and got a chatty driver. This was one of the big-city fancy-schmancy auction houses, so I'd put on a tie, and was carrying a briefcase which had my jammies & toothbrush in it, so I probably looked like a disheveled bond trader or something. The driver immediately started making cryptic remarks about "what a crisis, huh?" and "ever seen anything like this before?".
In situations like that I have this odd reflex reaction of trying not to look stupid and playing for time until I can figure out what the Hell is going on, so I made a few non-committal remarks, and we were suddenly at the auction gallery.
I got out of the cab with the odd sensation that the world was ending, and everyone knew it but me.
Big city fancy-schmancy auction houses are not the sorts of places you go up to someone and ask "pardon me, but have you heard a newscast lately?", so I got my catalog and started previewing. All round me the gallery front-office staff, which at places like this is mainly composed of attractive, well-bred young women trolling for well-off art-collecting husbands, had a hushed feeling of dread. They were whispering things to each other like, "my fiance sold all his positions this morning but we got wiped out anyway," and "well, my boyfriend works at the Board of Trade, and he says this could be the end of it ALL".
hehehehehe... I thought- I got to get me to a radio...
...and I eventually found one, playing softly in one corner of the gallery. The newscasters were using comforting phrases like "the worst disaster since the 'Crash of '29".
At times like that I am thankful that my business of buying and selling century-old books lends me a certain long-term perspective on such things. Well, the books and a few stiff scotch-and-waters did, anyway. And the good news was that on Tuesday everyone was completely spooked and I got some good buys at the auction.
And, of course, the markets went back up eventually. So a 500 point drop, or even a 1,000 point drop isn't something to worry about. It's that AIG thing that has me hoarding canned goods and being thankful we have 4 acres of cuttable firewood out back.
And I'm staying off trains.
Friday, September 05, 2008
"On the 23rd of September, a violent gale of wind destroyed a large amount of property. At sunrise the clouds seemed to be gathering, and there was every indication of an approaching storm-
We've got a picture of the book here.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The Book Elves love the internet very, very much. One of the things they love about it most (besides seeing who can sign up the most 'friends' they've never met before on Facebook) is the great offers they get through the email. But before they packed up the old VW Microbus and headed off for their new oceanside timeshare condo in Wheeling, West Virginia, they finished our latest catalog of books-
RECENT ACQUISITIONS FOR SUMMER, 2008 - Books on the decorative and fine arts, trades, and related subjects. The catalog is posted online.
Friday, August 15, 2008
"Catalogue of the Art Collection formed by the late Mrs. Mary J. Morgan..."
The catalog published in New York by the American Art Galleries for an auction held from March 3rd to March 15th, 1886. Subscriber’s Edition, limited to 500 numbered copies.
The very scarce Deluxe, illustrated edition of the catalog to one of America’s earliest blockbuster auctions and what was, for a time, the most famous art auction in America. The contents of the collection included modern paintings, Chinese porcelains, jades & crystal objects, “cabinet objects”, Sevres and other European porcelains, Minton porcelains, Webb cameo glass, other fine glass, silver, wood carvings, bronzes, and etchings.
Mary Morgan was the widow of a shipping tycoon, and collected a vast array of paintings and other art in her New York mansion. Upon her death Thomas Kirby of the American Art Association, the forerunner of Parke-Bernet, decided to make the Morgan sale a “can’t-miss” event.
The collection was controversial –Mrs. Morgan had simply walked in and bought her pictures from leading dealers instead of ingratiating herself personally with the artists as was the tradition of the day. Further, Lot 341 was an 8-inch Peachblow vase which Mrs. Morgan had bought from the American Art Association’s own retail galleries for $12,000 a few years previously. A print war broke out between the New York Times, which claimed Mrs. Morgan had paid a zero or two too much for the vase, and that in any case, there was no such thing as “Peachblow”, and Charles Henry Dana and the New York Sun, who stoughtly defended the AAA and the vase.
the Peachblow vase-
During the 3 week exhibition at the galleries prior to the auction 100,000 people viewed the paintings and Oriental art. The sale itself was standing-room only, and when they got to the vase, Baltimore connoisseur William T. Walters won it for $18,000 (which in no way stopped the controversy over its actual worth). The sale finally totaled $1,205,000 –with the exception of the 1882 Hamilton Palace sale in England, this was the highest total for any art collection at auction anywhere in the world.
The catalog itself was a groundbreaking achievement- “[Kirby’s] most striking innovation was the Mary Jane Morgan catalogue, a 305-page quarto volume that so far surpassed any cynosure of art collecting previously published in the United States that it not only launched the business at hand but synthesized Kirby’s whole new concept of the elite auction. Printed on heavy rag paper, with twenty-nine etchings, bound in pristine white boards with rich gold lettering, this weighty tome cost $40,000 to produce. It was a book to rest in splendor on the tables of the proudest salons. There was, of course, an ordinary catalog, without illustrations, for ordinary customers, the deluxe edition being limited to 500 numbered copies. The price was $10, but if mere money could have bought such a book, its propaganda value would have been lost. Except for a few copies sent to other cities, the entire edition was delivered by hand, with the compliments of the American Art Association, to the front doors of the most exclusive mansions in New York”.
For those wanting a more in-depth account, Wesley Towner devotes an entire chapter to Mrs. Morgan, her collection, this auction, the catalog, and the Peachblow vase in his book, “The Elegant Auctioneers”, from which we quoted above.
To see a full description and more pictures, go to our Ebay Store listing.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Book Geek Test -
-by Joyce Godsey
Have you ever deliberately bought another copy because it had a different cover than the one you have?
Have you ever bought extra copies just so you could give them away?
Have you ever spent more than 20.00 to replace a book you read as a kid?
Have you ever pre-ordered a book as soon as it was humanly possible?
Have you ever maxed out your library card?
Have you ever tried to acquire absolutely everything an author has ever written including, text books, liner notes and book jacket blurbs?
Can you sense whether there are books at a yard sale or a flea market booth before you get there?
When you're shopping with friends do they try to rush you past the books and then groan audibly when you stop?
Have you ever not heard your named called in a bookstore? On purpose?
Have you ever been asked to leave a bookstore because it was 10 minutes past closing?
Do you fix mis-shelved books in bookstores?
Do you help customers find books in stores you don't work in?
Have you ever stood outside a bookstore waiting for it to open?
Have you ever scribbled a recommended book title on the back of your checkbook register or deposit slip?
Have you ever made up fake plans so you could read undisturbed?
Have you ever stayed up all night to finish a book and then called in late the next morning?
Have you ever started reading a book at the store and bought it so you could finish?
Have you ever flung a book you didn't like across the room?
Do you turn magazines sideways so you can read the book titles in the picture backgrounds?
Do you surreptitiously try to get the titles off the books people are reading on the subway?
Do you wonder why the people on TV don't have more bookcases in their homes?
Has anyone in your household encouraged you to open a bookstore so you can sell all the books cluttering up the place?
Have you ever used something for a bookmark that was important and forgotten what book it was in?
Have you ever sat in the car in the driveway while listening to an audio book?
Have you ever sat in the car in the driveway reading a real book?
Do you take more books on vacation that you could read in three vacations?
Do you have more than 4 unread books on your bedside table? more than 10? more than 25?
Do you have no bedside table, just a pile of books?
Have you ever fantasized about a 10 minute bookshopping spree?
Do you know the home city of all the major publishers by heart?
-Joyce Godsey is a bookseller and author of the Bibliophile Bullpen Blog
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Ah, Summer is really here- the corn is in!
Please forgive me if I get a bit pedantic for moment, because summer corn is one of my favorite topics. Here are some guidelines to follow for the best summer corn- the kind whose sweetness and freshness just pops like a firecracker in your mouth.
First, a few observations- the main thing you have to be aware of is that the sweetness in corn is the sugar, and that this converts itself to starch after the ear is picked, and that this process goes more quickly dependng on how hot the ear gets and how old it is. Grocery store corn is hopeless, as it was picked a few days ago, and was probably not stored properly. Save your money.
For the best taste, buy your corn in the morning from a farm stand that has just harvested it. The ears need to be cool to the touch, and moist. If the tassels are brown you don't need to peel it down and look inside- just look for bug holes in the ear itself. Take it home and put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it. City people take heart- when we lived in the city, our local farmer's market consistently provided corn that had been picked that morning and was still cool when bought shortly after the market opened.
When cooking corn, get the biggest pot you have and fill it with water, and bring it to a boil. Then throw in the corn and bring it back to a boil as quickly as possible- put a cover on the pot if it has one. The point is to keep the corn in the water for as short a time as possible. Boil it for three minutes, not a second longer, take it out and plate it, with a towel for a cover until you eat it with butter, salt and pepper, hopefully within fifteen minutes.
There is no better summer food than fresh picked corn on the cob, if you store it and cook it correctly. Trust me- I bring a lifetime of experience to this question. Here is your diligent reporter harvesting corn straight from the garden some, um, well... ok, maybe 40 years ago.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
So, despite a taxing Summer schedule of barbecuing, gardening, woods-clearing, and reading on the porch, the Book Elves are hard at work getting all those books catalogued, pictured and up for sale! We'll be issuing printed catalogs on Furniture, Oriental Arts, and "Recent Acquisitions" this month, which will also be posted on the web, so stay tuned!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
We have a somewhat beat-up but desirable Martha’s Vineyard cookbook of an unusually early date up for auction this week-
"Island Cook Book. A Collection of Approved Recipes Contributed by the Women of Martha’s Vineyard for the Benefit of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital" Printed by Herald Printing Company of Oak Bluffs, in July, 1924.
This cookbook features several hundred recipes contributed by Vineyarders, as well as scores of advertisements by local businesses. In fact, leafing through the ads is almost as interesting as looking at the recipes, and gives one a real sense of life on the island at the time. Included is an ad for a “public Market” run by the Cronig brothers, which was located in Vineyard Haven (as it still is) and Oak Bluffs. If memory serves me right, Cronig’s was started in 1924, so the markets were only five years old at the time!
You can see the auction here. It began down low, and as always, there is no reserve!