Friday, May 2, 2014

"kk" means Königsberger Klopse

A dish you might want to try before you move your cooking outdoors for the summer is Königsberger Klopse: meatballs in gravy.  Savory meatballs, of course, date back to the Middle Ages, or further. Those known as Königsberger Klopse were invented in the city of Königsberg around 200 years ago.

Königsberg, once the capital of East Prussia, today is known as Kaliningrad, Russia.  It is not to be confused with the less famous Königsberg in Bavaria or with Königsberg in der Neumark (now known as Chojna in Poland).  Kaliningrad is a seaport city and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian "exclave" located between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea and geographically separated from the rest of Russia.  Unlike Königsberg, Kaliningrad does not have yummedy meatballs named after it.


3/4 lb. veal, ground
3/4 lb. beef chuck, ground
1/4 lb. pork, ground
2 small hard rolls
1/2 cup light cream
1 medium onion, chopped
6 Tbsp. butter
4 anchovy fillets (You can eyball fillets and use equivalent paste, but 
                         paste has added salt/vinegar, and maybe not 
                         as strong a flavor.  Fillets are about 1 1/2", 
                         so 1 1/2 to 2" paste should work.)
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Lemon juice
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
5 cups beef bouillon
1 cup dry white wine
4 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 small skinless/boneless sardines
1/3 cup drained capers

Have the beef, veal, and pork ground twice.

Break up the rolls and soak them in cream for 10 minutes.  Then press out the excess liquid.

Melt 1 tbsp. butter and saute onion, chopped fine, until lightly browned.

Combine meat, moistened rolls, sauteed onion, and anchovy in a blender.  Then add the eggs, salt, pepper, 1 tbsp. of lemon juice, the Worcestershire, 1 tbsp. of the parsley, and the marjoram.  Mix thoroughly and shape into 12 balls.

Heat the condensed beef bouillon and dry white wine in a deep skillet or pot.  When the liquid is just boiling, carefully drop the meatballs in, reduce to a simmer, and cook 15-20 minutes, covered.  Then remove the meatballs from the stock and keep them hot while you make the gravy.

Mix the dry mustard and flour, and cream with 4 tbsp. butter.  When the roux is smooth, add enough of the hot stock to make a thin paste free from lumps.  Turn up the heat under the stock and add the roux, stirring until smooth and boiling.  Mash the sardines with 1 tbsp. of butter and then stir into the gravy blending well.  Add the drained capers, 1 tbsp. of parsley, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. When all is blended, add the meatballs, reheat, and serve.

Most will serve this with boiled potatoes and pickled beets, but I recommend spätzle noodles with the beets or cole slaw.

*Adapted from Morrison Wood’s Cooking with Wine

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Revolution

Dear Gudrun –

Help!  I can’t think of a single New Year’s resolution I haven’t already made and promptly broken.   How do I make a New Year’s resolution I can keep?  Should I keep trying the old ones or start new ones?  Do people who successfully keep their resolutions make a special kind of resolution???  Are there resolutions to avoid?  And what about my Second Life?

                        Promesa Esperanzado

Dear Promesa,

In developing New Year’s resolutions, there are lots of missteps you should take pains to avoid.  In our brave new world, it is easy to fall prey to TV (or other intrusive media) advertising.  For example, you may see a lovely looking person with Crohn’s disease.  It’s perfectly natural to want to be like her and have the disease as well.  However, be forewarned, this is an ad for a TREATMENT, not a disease.  You needn’t have the disease to be equally attractive.  Do NOT incorporate it into your to-do list.

You also do not want to be sucked into a resolution to do something like trying the other half of a Twix bar.  This will not help you in any way.  It will not improve your standing with other members of the human race.  Both bars in a Twix package are the same, whatever they say in the ads.

New Year’s celebrations began in pre-Christian times, beginning (in our own cultural milieu, at least) with the Babylonians.  They made promises to their gods at the start of their year (in March) that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.

The Romans, in turn, began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.  Janus is the two-faced god who looks backward into the old year and forward into the new.  Janus was also the patron and protector of arches, gates, doors, doorways, and therefore endings and beginnings.  Frequently, images of Janus feature not only two faces, but a young face and an old face.

The Romans, of course, engaged in pagan revelry.  Nevertheless, the custom of setting “New Year's resolutions” with a moral flavor was also the norm in Rome, and mostly they were variations on being good to others.  But when Rome adopted Christianity as its state religion in the 4th century, the revelry became less pagan, and the resolutions more spiritual.  The revelry, of course did not disappear, cuz Christians, except for some sects, liked to party as much as anyone, pagan or otherwise.

In the Medieval era, at the end of the Christmas season each year, knights were required to place their hands on a roasted (and feather decorated) peacock and vow to continue living up to their pledge of chivalry.   Christians had adopted the peafowl as a symbol of immortality, and, of course, after the ceremony, the bird was eaten in a VERY festive setting.  (I think there were ladies/wenches also present.)

At Watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making resolutions.  Though it exists in many Christian traditions, the ritual was formalized by Methodists as a godly alternative to times of drunken revelry, such as Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, indulged in by other sects.  Typically, resolutions were enumerated as commitments to better employing one's talents, treating one's neighbors with charity, and avoiding one's habitual sins.  For Catholics and others, Midnight Mass and the Eucharist may replicate the Watchnight and Lovefeast, but Catholics, at least, seek to maintain a tradition of pagan revelry as well.

In the Unites States, an example of such revelry is the Tournament of Roses, "a festival of flowers, music and equestrian and sports events unequaled anywhere in the world."  (At least for those of you who have recovered sufficiently by mid-morning or so.)

Of course, the New Year traditions have never been exclusively Christian.  During Judaism's New Year through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur, one is to reflect upon one's behavior over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness.  The concept is the same kind of reflection with an eye toward self-improvement in any creed.

Anyway, time to look at typical resolutions over the years.

At the end of the 19th century, a typical New Year’s resolution was focused on good works. People resolved to become less self-centered, more helpful, more diligent workers, and to improve internal character.  Body image, health, diet, and desired possessions were rarely mentioned.

At the end of the 20th century, typical resolutions were totally self-centered and often focused on good looks.  People wanted to improve their physique, hairstyle, makeup, and fashionability.  At the start of the 21st century, about 40 percent of Americans created even more superficial and self-centered resolutions.  A few popular New Year’s resolutions might include: lose weight, exercise more, drink less alcohol, eat healthier foods, drink more water, pay off one's credit cards, find a better job, or manage stress more efficiently.

The University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology reports the following popular resolutions:

1 - Lose Weight
2 - Get Organized
3 - Spend Less, Save More
4 - Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5 - Stay Fit and Healthy
6 - Learn Something Exciting
7 - Quit Smoking
8 - Help Others in Their Dreams
9 - Fall in Love
10 - Spend More Time with Family

Okay...  We all know you're not gonna get fit, drink less booze, spend less, get organized, be a nicer person, or be more tolerant of ppl who bug you.  Resolutions in Real Life are SERIOUS business, and I think I’ve made some realistic suggestions as to what they might be.  But here are some things that I guarantee you can do in Second Life, and you will prolly be able to stick with them if you make ANY effort at all:

1 – Stay calm.  Don't be bothered by silly things like griefers.  Staying calm spoils their fun.  They're looking for a reaction, so they get bored and lose interest if you just stay calm.  Don’t be needlessly aggressive in retaliation…  There are many tools at your disposal.
2 - "Semper ubi sub ubi!"  Always where under where.  (That's a pun...  Actual Latin would be "Semper gere interulae.")  But you know why you need undies in SL, I'm sure.  (If you don’t, contact Harry Bailey, who is a perfect gentleman, and will explain.)
3 - Reorganize your inventory...  Or at least dump some trash, and do it more than once in your multi-year history.
4 - Get yourself some nice mesh feetz.  The feetz you avatar came with are prolly worthless, so get some good ones.
5 - Make contact with someone in RL at least once a day.  (You can do this using electronic media.)
6 – Play Zyngo ‘til you run out of Lindens, and then STOP!
7 – Alternatively, buy more Lindens, and play your chosen Zyngo machines until you have either exhausted your credit or have become a Lindillionaire.  Hey, they’re gonna pay off sooner or later, right?  Your call, Dudette!
8 – Stop stalking your crushes and mind your own business.  Stalking is a silly behavior, unfortunately made extremely easy by the many spying mechanisms in SL.
9 - Alternatively, stalk your prey fully utilizing all of the technological marvels at your disposal: avatar trackers, spy cameras, etc.
10 – Check your “Received Items” occasionally...  You may be surprised at what you own.

Okay, you may think these suggestions are silly.  Feel free to make up your own resolutions for both RL and SL!!!!

N.B. -
Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions - 45%
Percent of people in their twenties who achieve their resolution each year - 39%
Percent of people over 50 who achieve their resolution each year - 14%


                         Good Luck,

* This item also appears in the January REZ Magazine

Monday, December 16, 2013

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus...

Dear Gudrun:

I am 28 years old.   Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.  Papa says, "If you see it in GUDRUN'S COLUMN, it is so."   Please tell me the truth:  Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia Jejeune
119 West 192nd Street

Dear, Virginia:

If you are 28 and your friends are "little," they must be Munchkins or elves, or you are associating with a much, much younger age group.  And it's hard to believe that either Munchkins or elves would question the existence of Santa.  Be that as it may, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.  They do not believe anything they cannot see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible to their little teensy weensy minds.

("Teensy weensy" reminds me of the "Teenie Weenies" by Wm. Donahey.  This was my fave comic strip when I myself was teensy.  It ran in the Chicago Tribune from 1914 until about 1964.  The characters in the strip were just two inches tall and lived under a rose bush. Their world consisted of things made from discarded real world sized items like hats, jars, and boxes, all of which were gigantic to them.  The "Lady of Fashion" was my favorite Teenie Weenie.  At first she seemed vain and interested only in clothes, much like myself.  Then, however, she became the village school-mistress, nurse, etiquette supervisor, and housekeeper, much like myself.  So, see?  But wait, you're only 28, doubtless a yuppie, so nm.)

All minds, Virginia, whether they be those of children or yuppies, are teensy. In this great universe of ours we are mere insects in intellect as measured by any intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.  Refer to your Shakespeare, Virginia.  As the Prince of Denmark said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."   (Now, neither I nor my SL persona is Danish or a philosopher, but I get this.)

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as death and taxes, and lives in Washington, DC.  No, Wait...  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias (and it would be pretty darn dreary for you, if there were no Virginias). There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.  *Sigh*

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!  (????)  You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? (Probably it would prove that your papa should also have hired men to watch the men watching the chimneys.  And, btw Virginia…  Remember to lock your bedroom door!)

 Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

Now, if there are pretty red mushrooms with white spots in your lawn, you can probably make some "special" pickles or crispies and leave them out for Santa.    I guarantee that the men your papa hires will see Santa, and they will see flying reindeer and faeries on the lawn as well!  And so will you!

They look like this, and Christmas ornaments and marzipan candies are made in their image.  Tell me you haven't seen Amanita muscaria as a Christmas ornament.  As I said, you can make them into pickles or fry them up as crisps, but I take NO responsibility for anyone who does so.

Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms are considered deadly by some, and indeed, they are both attractive and deadly to cats and dogs.  But Russians eat them. So do Lithuanians, Finns, Italians, Japanese, and stateless hippies.

Most people eat only the caps or the very young buttons.  Siberians boil fly agarics and then drink the pot liquor to get plastered. They preserve the mushrooms for eating later.   After boiling, one can fry them like normal mushrooms (until crispy), pickle them, or preserve them in oil.  Italians do oil.  Japanese eat them as pickles, as do Lithuanians, Finns, and Russians.

Livestock in the boreal forests love this mushroom: in Siberia and Lapland we're not talking cows or sheep or whatever, but reindeer.  Reindeer will seek it out just for the high.   So it’s not too far a stretch to conjure up an image of a jolly, drunk, fat, bearded dude all dressed up for the North Pole — in a red suit with white trim — hitching up a bunch of flying reindeer.

Proofs of Santa:

The United States Post Office guarantees the delivery of mail to Santa, and has performed this service faithfully for nearly 200 years.  Is a letter to Santa ever "returned to sender"?  No, Virginia... unless, silly thing that you are, you addressed it to an ordinary person's home, and that person told the Post Office "Santa doesn't live here."

Rudolph, the ninth reindeer was not fictional (Santa really needed him that foggy night), and reindeer DO fly.  Apparently the reindeer in boreal forests (in Lapland, Siberia, etc.), eat those special red mushrooms.  Eat some, Virginia, and you will fly too. 

Apollo 8 reported seeing Santa Claus, though the sighting is buried deep in their logs.  (No idea whether or not they had any mushrooms along.)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks Santa every year.

Rebuttals to naysayers:

Some say the being himself, and the reindeer could not possibly exist, or get around the world so fast, any more than Santa could be everyplace at once.  This is patently not true.  Look in any department store, in any mall, or on any street corner...  look ANYwhere… Santa will be there!

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?  He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.  (If you are smart, Virginia, you will buy stock in the distilling company of your choice.   I have both Beam and Diageo.  Or you can hunt mushrooms.)  The warmth and joy of the season will go on

*   This item also appears in R_E_Z Magazine.
**Our sincere apologies to Francis Pharcellus Church of the New York Sun, who wrote the famous response in 1897.  BTW, Virginia O’Hanlon, the actual sender of the letter, was the daughter of a Coroner’s assistant who obviously read the Sun, and who apparently had enough cash to hire guys to watch his chimneys.  I guess in the Golden Age of Capitalism, if you weren’t a servant, you had enough dough to hire one.    :-/

Merry Christmas,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don’t Worry, Be Thankful!

Dear Gudrun -

Should I have Thanksgiving in Real Life or Second Life this year? 

Last year I had a fight with my mother over what is the best temperature/time combination to cook the perfect turkey.  I wound up getting up at 5:30 am to start it.  She likes to cook a turkey for six hours at 325 degrees, and she says the slower the better, so I put mine in for 8 hours at 250 degrees, and mine was better than anything that ever came out of her oven, thank you!  She’s still mad.

 Plus, I have a vegan to deal with…  Not only do I have to be careful with his food, but people tease him ‘til it hurts.  Plus his dad wants him, now that he’s 18, to carve the turkey.  Fortunately for the poor boy, many of us are comforting types.

And there’s an aunt I have to invite, whom I hate!  Last year I said something that sent her storming out of the dining room to sit in her car.  That was fine with me.  But I can’t remember what it was I said.  L

But, getting back to my original question…  Should I have Thanksgiving in RL or SL this year? 

                                                Thanking you in advance,
                                                Abundance Pleasance

Dear Abby -

Ummm...  whether to have it in RL or SL depends upon whether or not you actually want to eat...  also on whom you want to see at your table, or, as the case may be "table" (in the virtual sense).

Much of my time in RL is spent thinking about food: what's in the fridge, when to go to the store, what's for dinner, or is there a cool restaurant I really want to go to.  (Oddly, much of my time in SL is also spent thinking about food.  Like what delicious hors d’oeuvre I can consume with the cocktail I’m drinking :-/ )

My Thanksgivings are as complicated as anyone's...  Though most of my family are carnivores, we have two vegetarians (thankfully not vegans).  So we start out with a shrimp platter plus some cheese and veggie appetizers, then have turkey, Polish sausage (smoked and fresh), a Tofurkey, candied yams, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole, followed by pumpkin, mince, and apple pies, assorted candies and nuts, etc.

Eating, of course, is one of the joys of life. It’s an activity that engages all of the senses at once. In SL, however, food is not so engaging. No sound, no smell, no feel, and no taste. Why even have it then? Because like all the other things in SL that aren’t quite like they are in real life, it can be fun.
In RL, many questions need answers:

- Who carves the turkey?
- How do I seat people who aren't speaking?
- What would be the most appealing centerpiece for my table?

Oddly, the same issues arise in SL.  Your answers to these questions may, in fact may determine what life you have Thanksgiving in, or whether you have it at all.

"Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often."
- Johnny Carson

Anyway, how do you prepare for an SL Thanksgiving? 

I have to admit a passion for virtual food.  For many years, since I was a newb, one of my favorite places in SL has been the Cas food court at Voti (209, 21, 43), where you can purchase almost any virtual victual you could possibly desire. These foods are beautifully prepared and offer some cyber-enjoyment as well. They make great gifts and are handy to have on hand.  For entertaining I keep tea and crumpets, antipasto, tapas, oysters, artisan cheeses, champagne, whiskey drinks, wine flights, lemonade, and iced tea. I also have an absinthe fountain, for the truly adventurous imbiber (and you know who you are).  Cas also offers Gorean and vampire selections, and, of course, table settings.

Another fave is HomeLife at PondLife (77, 129, 21). Here you can purchase dining sets with fully animated food service (as opposed to just pictures of food), and a bunch of other kewl stuff, indoor and out, as well. Dining sets are the handiwork of Eladon Galsworthy, whose products I have always owned and greatly admire. To me, Eladon is certainly the pioneer of SL eating… For years ALL the better SL restaurants used his dining sets more or less exclusively.  (There are some lovely picnic blankets made by others at the store, but their attraction is not the food they have pictured, but the cuddles they include. :))

Not quite as overwhelming as Cas is Kitchen Korner (128, 128, 60), which does food, liquor, furniture, and dining anims with a somewhat different approach.  There are gender specific approaches to eating and drinking both fingerfoods and dining table items.  You may or may not prefer them.  The table dining offers variety and choice in how you eat.  You can also get groceries, pots and pans, etc. in addition to prepared dishes.  Also featured are a variety of buffet style food and drink dispensers. 

Utensils in SL are interesting. They're there if you want to use them, and of course, they contribute to a genteel dining experience. All of those I've seen operate in a European fashion: no one switches their fork to the right hand after cutting. This makes very good sense given the complexity of a hand switch in an animation.

And some of you may prefer one stop shopping - getting an entire Thanksgiving spread at a very reasonable price…  You can do so by visiting Angel Damask in SL Marketplace, or at her store in Winddragon (82, 74, 22 – Go here and find the shops on the Teleport map; explore Winddragon while you’re at it).  Angel can make you ready for ANY holiday!

But there are many who feel that all the fun of Thanksgiving lies in the cooking, often a convivial communal effort starting early in the morning, involving siblings, parents, aunts and other available help,  and consummating in the great feast, followed by a jolly clean-up party.  For those wishing to accomplish this is SL, there is some amazing stuff out there.  For example, the La Antigua kitchen, made by heart homes for the Aphrodite Shop.

This kitchen contains over 25 menus you can make; 55 single animations, 18 scenes, and 9 couple animations; over 105 items that dispense wearable props; working lamps, water, appliances, and cabinets; and all the necessary items - dishes, shelves, plants, cookbooks, pots, pans, jars, fruits, meats, vegetables, etc.  To get the the full impact of this remarkable creation, you MUST watch this video:

You can get it on Marketplace.

ANYWAY, whether you have Thanksgiving in RL or SL, you should probably make some Fig Toasties (adapted from Leah Eskin's "Home on the Range" in the Chicago Tribune).

4 slices crusty (artisan) bread
2 oz triple cream soft-ripened cheese
4 fresh ripe figs (these would be purple on the outside, pink inside)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 pinch crushed red pepper

Toast the bread golden brown
Spread cheese on the slices of bread and cut each into 3 pieces
Cut off the bottom of each fig, and slice each into 3 circles
Heat your butter in a skillet and sauté the fig slices ‘til the pink turns tan (about 1 min per side), drizzle on the vinegar, sprinkle on the pepper, and saute until deeply colored (1 min more per side)
Place figs on cheese toast, and eat.

*These instructions will, of course, vary depending upon the size of the bread and the size of the figs.

These yummedies can be served as appetizers at an RL feast, or you can have them with your favorite cocktail at your SL event.

So, beware of gluttony, defined as:  "prae-propere, laute, nimis, ardenter, studiose."

AND, above all, don’t talk to your food!

“Some of my best conversations were with a lettuce. I couldn't go on though, because people were starting to look at me funny. So I turned over a new leaf and ate it.”

TC ~ Gudrun