Connection Note:
Calling It In
30 October 2018

¶ As a favor to Kathleen, I went down to Duane Reade to fetch a clutch of refills for her. While I was there, I switched her phone number, so that now she’ll receive texts on her smartphone. She has been connecting with Duane Reade via the landline, which not only isn’t a landline anymore but doesn’t do texting. Also, I had to call in all her refill requests.

Kathleen has a beautiful, clear, and low-pitched voice, but she has trouble making herself understood to the drugstore’s robots, especially when reading in long prescription numbers. Part of the problem, if you ask me, is that she sounds somewhat fearful and annoyed, as who wouldn’t, in the face of constant rejection (“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.”). Several months ago, I offered to take over, and things have been going smoothly. I would put on my peppy, radio-trained, “You have just won a prize!” voice, and the lady robot at the other end always understood me. But even though I had silly fun overdoing the confidence of my inputs, Kathleen minded having to ask me.

So we’ll see how the texting goes.

Dinner Note:
Pork Roast
29 October 2018

It has never happened before. On two successive weekends, two law-school classmates showed up in town. Unfortunately, they missed one another — they were both housemates of Kathleen’s.

Once again, we gathered for dinner with Fossil Darling and Ray Soleil. This weekend’s guest has long nursed a crush, against crushing odds, on Fossil, and she wanted to have a look at Ray, whom she had never met, to see what he, despite the obvious, had that she didn’t. Also in the party was our friend’s daughter, who is hoping to get into one of the city’s eminent universities at some point during the next six weeks.

This time, we had dinner here, and not at a restaurant. I knew from the start that I was going to serve a big bowl of spaghetti; in the event, I sauced it with my ragù bolognese (which I’ve copied from Giuliano Hazan’s pasta book). I was thinking of grilled chicken with a salad for secondi, but when I was at Fairway I spotted a nice-looked boned and rolled loin of pork. It occurred to me that I could treat this as I do ham, lining the roasting pan with fresh pineapple rings. I would marinate the meat in a blend of ingredients that would probably include maple syrup. Indeed, I found just the right recipe in Classic Home Cooking. Since I had already done my shopping and had no intention of going out again, I substituted a cup of wine for a cup of pineapple juice. It was all pretty simple. Kathleen and our friend vetoed the salad when they saw that I had fresh corn kernels to sauté. Kathleen bought some pastries at Maison Keyser. 

It was pretty simple, but I was on my feet all afternoon. Then I sat down with everyone for an hour, even though I knew that it would be terrifically hard to get back up and into the kitchen. Nevertheless, it all came out well. I made a loaf of garlic toast, using a baguette from Keyser; I really must study the subject of garlic toast, because mine never comes out right, and I conclude that I need of some real recipes.

The pineapple juice would probably have made for a nicer jus than the wine. 

Our friend confessed that she is living vicariously through her pretty daughter’s love life, which isn’t active enough for Mom. I told her (Mom) that, for a goy, she was doing a very good sitcom Jewish mother. I sympathized with her daughter at every turn. That’s what old friends are for; just ask Fossil Darling.

Gotham Note:
Storm Warning
26 October 2018

¶ Why, I wondered, was Fairway so crowded on a late Friday afternoon? The girl at checkout suggested that people were “paranoid” about the storm — the Nor’easter promised for tomorrow. Such silliness! When does a Nor’easter really affect Manhattan? A lot of wind, maybe, and some drizzly rain (never a downpour). Does no one recall the story of the three pigs? The buildings here begin with bricks and get more formidable from there.

This one was forecast for snow. Does Trump write this stuff?

What it is, of course, is that people worry about supplies, and whether workers, who don’t live here, will be able to get to work. Not altogether unreasonable. And I suppose that a lot of people simply decided to do their weekend shopping a day early. The real problem is that there is only one food market in this neighborhood (Whole Foods doesn’t count). There used to be two, neither of which is doing business is anymore. And a third before that. 

Anyway, it was chaos at Fairway. Midway through the checkout line, I realized that, because I was concentrating on a dinner party tomorrow night, I had forgotten to buy sugar. What with all the lemonade for Kathleen’s Arnold Palmers, we go through plenty. I figured I had enough in the sugar bowls for another batch of simple syrup. But I’ll have to go back on Monday, and buy some more lemons as well. 

Souvenir Note:
Kondo No-No
25 October 2018

¶ There are still a few items on the dining table still haven’t found a place since I removed them from the linen closet. Two that I did manage to clear off were plastic containers of the kind that I hate, because with their snap lids &c they take up much more room than their contents merit.

One of these containers is the size of a shoebox. Inside was a smaller box, with no lid, containing a collection of shoe-polishing equipment. We don’t polish our shoes anymore. But you never know. So I took out the smaller box and returned it to the linen closet, where it didn’t take up much room.

The other container, somewhere between the size of a pencil case and a shoebox, contained fragments that any sane person would throw away. A piece or two of inlay from a folding screen that Ray Soleil took years to talk me out of having restored. (He carted it off to charity.) A couple of green glass leaves and rose glass petals that fell off an extravagant piece of decorola that my mother picked up somewhere, an Italian bouquet of something, about a cubic foot in size — Kathleen put up with it for years before we agreed that it was unsalvageably duty — and a pair of miniature Japanese clogs that belong to a geisha bunny doll that sits among pillows on a sofa in the living room.

I found a nice place for all of these bits, a lidded wicker basket for which my grandson makes a beeline whenever he visits, because it contains a whirly flashing light thing that I can’t even describe.

Reading Note:
Territorial Rights
24 October 2018

The latest book that I’ve re-read is Muriel Spark’s Territorial Rights, which I bought and read for the first time when it came out, in 1979. I bought it because (a) I hadn’t read any Muriel Spark yet, and thought I ought to, (b) the dust jacket featured a haunting watercolor by John Alcorn, and (3) I was looking for something like Daphne DuMaurier’s Don’t Look Now, or, rather, like Nicholas Roeg’s film adaptation of that novella. In this last, I was disappointed, because Territorial Rights, while mysterious in its way, isn’t at all spooky. And I was still too dense to discern Spark’s understated connections. But, because of the watercolor, I didn’t get rid of it. 

Nevertheless, we were parted for some time. I recaptured the book about ten years later, in a barn in Texas, where it had been sheltered since the breakup of my father’s household in Houston. I clutched it and carried it off to New York, where it sat undisturbed on various shelves for nearly a quarter of a century, until I pulled it down the other day. 

I much enjoyed reading it again. Territorial Rights is a very dry, very mordant ensemble comedy from a mistress of dry mordant comedies. The humor is almost entirely fixed in the language.

Amazon offers a couple of editions of the novel, but none with the Alcorn dust jacket.

Gaga Note:
At the Dentist
23 October 2018

¶ When I go the dentist for a cleaning, it is usually late on a Tuesday afternoon. A while ago, I discovered that the technician did not care to watch TV news any more than I did. She was happy to turn it off. She says that she gets her full diet of news on the one day of the week on which she works, and by four o’clock, she’s had it. I went at three today, and instead of the news there was Ellen, with the sound off. I was asked if I’d prefer to have it turned off, but I said no — as long as it wasn’t making any noise, I might find it a bearable distraction. Which I sort of did. My, though, what depravity! As I took my seat, two guys, one black and one white, were gyrating in the aisles like strip-club dancers. The women in the audience (which was composed mostly but not entirely of women) responded with corresponding enthusiasm. The thought crossed my mind is that this is how ladies like their porn. Everyone remains clothed, the ratio of women to men is fifty or sixty to one, and the ecstatic shrieking is anonymously choral. The guys probably don’t mind it, either: it’s all display, and they don’t have to pay attention to anybody else.  

Later in the show, Ellen — Ellen DeGeneres, whom I know only as a celebrity, never having seen her in anything — had a guest, by the surname of Pompeo, who dispensed with the talk-show format and, pivoting in her chair, sold her shtick directly to the audience. Very brash. As for Ellen herself, she was usually covering her face, or at least her smile, in a pretense of mortification.

My only question is why it took Trump so long. His audience has obviously been groomed for years.

Gotham Note:
A Visit
22 October 2018

My favorite thing is have friends from out of town come to visit and have lunch with me at the pub. This weekend, one of my law school pals flew up from South Carolina to see Marnie at the Met. We got together with her on Saturday night at Fossil Darling’s — he’s a pal of hers now, too — and we had dinner at Shun Lee, which is always a treat, but wasn’t quite what it might be, because Ray Soleil had stuffed me with his scrumptious hors d’oeuvres. 

After lunch, my friend came back to the apartment for a pot of tea. She was one of the two readers of the first draft of the writing project, and although she liked it, she agreed that my ideas for a complete overhaul were not bad. She said, “It was great fun to read, but there were all these threads that I would have liked to read more about.” “Not if I’d actually written about them, you wouldn’t.” What I learned from the first draft was that I don’t have the skill to write at length about things that interest me. Or let’s say, rather, that I’ve never bothered to develop it. How well I remember the protests of another law school pal, who protested that she was going to take my other site off her reading list altogether if there was one more entry about Hannah Arendt.

So, now I’m trying to figure out how to write about liberalism without appearing to deliver a treatise. It’s really hard!

Lackluster Note:
Out of Ertia
19 October 2018

¶ It would be nice to have something interesting to say about food, but Kathleen and I have both been too tired to digest anything more complicated than a sandwich or pasta or the usual stuff from the Chinese restaurant. Oh, and cheeseburgers. My latest little craze is spreading Russian dressing on mine’s bun. You’d be surprised by how nicely it brings back the delights of Burger King, closed now since last spring, its storefront still vacant. (Meanwhile, the Wahlburger branch around the corner has been padlocked for a few months, too. I don’t think that it was open for a year altogether.) 

Looking for something new, I noticed an outfit called Mochaburger across the street from the 83rd Street subway entrance. It took me a while to figure out that it’s a kosher burger joint. You can have “lamb bacon” if you like. Have you ever heard of lamb bacon? Although the awning promises delivery and announces a phone number, there’s nothing about this on the Web site. I withdrew.

The grilled cheese and (bacon) bacon sandwiches at Gracie’s Corner, across the street (it used to be at the other end of the block, on the First Avenue corner) are pretty good — if you are sitting at a booth and planning to eat them there. They do not travel well. By the time they get here, they resemble building materials, and taste little better. It’s as though traveling across the street in the fresh air somehow intensifies their greasiness. Nevertheless, for lack of alternatives, I resort somewhat desperately…

And yet the refrigerator is full, of something. So is the freezer.

The onset of dementia certainly makes for an exciting explanation, but I know that it’s just top-quality sloth.

Staying-Home Note:
Heyday
18 October 2018

¶ I don’t know how she does it. Kathleen got up at 4:15 on Monday morning to catch an early flight to Dallas. This morning, she did the same thing to come home.

She was glad that I wasn’t with her, she said, because both flights were bumpy. The flight out was conventionally turbulent, but the flight back — “It was more like going downstairs.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I didn’t ask.

It used to be that turbulence was the only discomfort of travel. Now every step of the way is fraught, beginning with worries about the intestinal fortitude (not a metaphor) that’s required to drive all the way to JFK.

I’m not given to romanticizing the past, but I should have been much, much happier in the heyday of railroads.

Genetic Note:
Not So Simple
17 October 2018

¶ At dinner a weekend or so ago, a friend persuaded me to give 23andme a try. She thought it would be interesting to find out how Irish I am.

Needless to say, I couldn’t care less about that — except that I’d be thrilled to discover that I’m a hundred percent Nederlands, which I rather doubt. Sometimes just plain Danish would do. Anything to be Continental. But Irish is the most likely story. According to one of the few shreds of paper that I have from the Foundling Hospital, my birth mother claimed that her father was a US Navy captain, posted mostly in Central America — which led to her incarceration in some Catholic girls’ boarding school in “the South.” (What a thought, really! It makes me work hard to imagine the other three grandparents!) She also claimed that my birth father told her (in a tender moment?) that he was a divorcé from San Francisco who had already sired three children. When I consider how strongly my daughter (in every way possible for someone of the opposite sex) and my grandson (in his wits and height) resemble or at least remind me of me, it’s very hard to work backward and imagine all these people. It comes, I think, from being the product of typical Boomer irresponsibility — committed, though, by an earlier generation. What did Boomers look like before there were Boomers?

So I signed up. I signed up for the cheaper version. I won’t learn anything about likely diseases, which is just as well given the ones I’ve already got. This ought, I think, to have spared me a lengthy and rather tiresome questionnaire about my medical history. Nobody warned me about this. I had to try to remember when I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, along with nearly a million other tediosities. The questionnaire is surely geared to younger, healthier clients, who can breeze right through it. 

I admitted to having smoked a hundred cigarettes in my lifetime. (I didn’t have to say that that was well under my weekly habit for twenty years.) They didn’t ask me how long it has been since my last drag, but I can tell you: 35 years. 

Then came the spitting. There must be something I don’t know. It took at least fifteen spits to reach the “Fill to Here” level — grueling work. If I had done it in the morning, and coughed up a blob of phlegm, it might have been easier. But there were no instructions or guidelines about any of this, and I felt, throughout, that I was botching the whole thing. 

The final conundrum was how to mail the packet back to the lab. The Post Office has gotten rather shirty about depositing packages in the mailbox, so I went to the local branch, where I was told that I could have I could have dropped it in the mailbox right outside the coffee shop across the street, but, as long as I was there, I would be given a receipt. So now I just wait. 

I omit the glitchy details of setting up a password for my 23andme account.

When the results tell me that I’m as Irish as a leprechaun, I won’t be unhappy. I used to be somewhat ashamed of my alleged lineage, but now I know that the Irish write the best English, or at least set the standard. Just my luck that so few people actually speak English anymore. 

Reading Note:
Real
16 October 2018

¶ Farewell to Matthew Josephson, the final chapter of whose Robber Barons I found immensely exciting, even though I’d read about the events recounted therein at least twice before. Josephson doesn’t admire any of the plutocrats he writes about, certainly not JP Morgan, who imposed law and order on the chaos of development that followed the Civil War, but at the cost of healthy competition, exposing the economy to the follies that led to the Crash. Nevertheless the reader will probably root for Morgan during the final battle for control of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

I’ve already written about Josephson’s sparkling prose. All I want to do here is to add another example. Josephson is writing about the speech that Charles Schwab gave at a large dinner party in December 1900. (It precipitated the organization of US Steel.) 

A born actor, an emotional and imaginative after-dinner speaker, using a plain, hearty, workaday charm with real disingenuousness, Schwab played his part to perfection. (424)

Real Estate Note:
Millstone
15 October 2018

When I read the Real Estate section in the Sunday Times, I focus on the ads, hoping to find a house in Bronxville that I happen to remember. Most I don’t. But I had barely taken a glance at a page featuring properties available through realtors William Pitt/Julia B Fee/Sotheby’s International when I spotted a very familiar façade.

Of course, when I last saw it, it was a dump, at least on the outside. That was probably in the winter of 1967-8, soon before the owner of the house, my father’s brother, took a new job in New Hampshire, and my own family moved to Houston. There was no swimming pool, needless to say. I think that there was some sort of reflection pond, but one was discouraged from closer examination by the parlous state of the steps. There was no landscaping to speak of, no gay awnings, no holiday tables. 

It’s on the market for $6,495,000. If you think that’s a lot of money, let me tell you that it’s on page seventeen of the Web site — the immediately preceding page has a whole bunches of houses priced at $6.5 million. But it’s certainly a very great deal more than my uncle paid for it back in the sixties. I think that he bought it, in slightly derelict condition, from the heirs of the people who commissioned David Adler to build it. In those days, there was hardly any market for houses like this. My father thought my uncle was nuts — also needless to say. My aunt and uncle, envisioning long years of DIY improvements, called it Millstone. But they lived there for only a few years. 

Of course, it was the grandest thing I’d ever seen, and the first time I visited, I wanted to move in. If my parents died in a plane crash, then this would be home. I adored my aunt and uncle, and when they died (not together), I had to work through a lot more unexamined grief than the deaths of my parents had caused. It was not very pleasant to see how needy my affection was, and how wilfully I inflicted myself upon them. I can make excuses, but that’s all they are; it’s not very pretty. But the house certainly is, wouldn’t you say? 

Closet Note:
Linens &c
12 October 2018

¶ The only way to deal with closets, drawers, and other spaces that can be closed to view is to empty them every now and then. Without the gift of OCD, “every now and then” is never going to come close to “often enough,” but we do what we can, or at least what we do. Today, I emptied the linen closet, for the first time since we moved in, nearly four years ago. Actually, Ray Soleil did all the work. He took everything out and put almost all of it back. 

Who knew what was in it? In the event, there weren’t any surprises, except, possibly, a sheaf of knitting pamphlets that Kathleen may have been looking for — what with a full weekend and most of next week in Dallas, she won’t get to it right away. A few odds and ends could be thrown away, while a box of unused Christmas cards and an upholstered portfolio seemed not to belong in the closet at all.

Everything pertaining to the air mattress (except the thing itself) was stowed more or less as it had been, on the top shelf, and the bottom shelf needed only a bit of straightening up. It was the disorder on the second shelf from the top that prompted the airing. Sheets and towels were in ever more extravagant disarray. But when Ray refolded the towels, everything fit very neatly where just yesterday there was chaos. 

As for the other two shelves, the only point of interest is that there is empty space on both of them. I don’t know how that happened. I don’t expect it to last very long. 

Medical Note:
Echocardiogram
11 October 2018

¶ This is the examination that I dread.

First of all, it’s very uncomfortable. I have to stretch out on my left side, which I never do in nature, and support my head with my left arm — a Buddha in agony. Then there’s the sonogram part. It’s all very nice to check out fetuses: there are no bones in the way. The heart is in a birdcage, playing peekaboo. The device in the doctor’s hand must be pressed hard; it sort of hurts. And all that goo, which takes about a dozen paper towels to scrape off. 

Second, I can’t bear to watch. It’s revoltingly obvious that natural selection has played no role in the appearance of internal organs. And even though mine is very slightly enlarged, the heart is really very small. Surely this can’t be right. 

Finally, there’s the possibility of terrifying news! I get so worked up about this beforehand that I’m almost disappointed when there turns out to be no news at all, when everything is more or less the same as it was last year, only slightly more worn and torn. That was again the case this time. My aortal valve is slightly blocked (not opening all the way, I think), but I was assured that there is nothing to be done about this for several years at least, by which time “the procedure” will probably be performed via catheter, not open-heart surgery. 

I take the doctor’s word for it. I do not come home and Google things. My faith in my doctors is very firm, and they cost the earth besides. I also understand that they can’t do everything, even today! So, as long as my heart keeps me alive, I won’t be thinking about it (I pray) until next year.

As a young man, I often wondered if I would live to see the new century. I have every reason to believe that, without the attentions of modern medicine, I’d have missed it. 

Library Note:
Two Down
10 October 2018

¶ Books about English history, Medieval history, and General history (including a few books about history) have been shelved in the history bookcase. Their locations have been recorded in Evernote. There is a little bit of wiggle room on each shelf. 

I have filled the rear of a third shelf with European history books. I have to pull them out again, to take note. Then I’ll do the same with the other half of the European history books, and line them up in the front.

French and American history books will go together on the next shelf down, and then histories of areas outside the West will take the bottom shelf.

Meanwhile, I am still reading Matthew Josephson’s The Robber Barons, and it is still striking the note of plus ça change… There seems to be an instinctive rapaciousness in large-scale American innovation. And why not? The American marketplace is obviously too large. There’s little to distinguish the arrogance of Rockefeller from that of Zuckerberg, except that where the former simply denied it, the latter apologizes. But nothing changes. 

Reading Note:
The New Sally Rooney
9 October 2018

¶ Just a small note of rave for Sally Rooney’s Normal People. I read a review somewhere that suggested that Rooney wrote Normal People first, before the novel that she published last year, Conversations With Friends. Maybe she did, but although I was very intrigued by young woman at the center of Conversations, I was nowhere near as moved by that book as I was by Normal People. 

Connell and Marianne are not normal people. They are both very bright, and both very complicated. They fall into a deep friendship in the last years of high school, but their friendship is a secret, because Connell’s complications are secret — he passes as a jock — while Marianne’s complications are baroque and austere at the same time. He’s a popular guy; she has no friends at all. If it were known that they were lovers, Connell would not know how to navigate the publicity. You know how high school is.

Then they both go to Trinity in Dublin, where they excel. They are lovers, as we say, but they are not quite in love. They miss too many connections; mutual misunderstandings pile up. They are saddled with low self-esteem, a problem that neither seems able to help the other with. This inability to form a stable relationship, to settle either in love or in friendship gives Normal People more than a strain of Romeo and Juliet: you worry that something terrible is going to happen accidentally. 

At one harrowing moment, Connell is flooded by a sense of how easy it would be to hit Marianne, to hurt her. He is so mortified by this vision that he slinks away as soon as he can, without having done anything but clam up. Only later do we see that Marianne has a taste for submission; retrospectively, we wonder, was she surreptitiously inviting Connell to gratify her itch?

When I put Normal People down, the idea that two people could fall in love and live happily ever after freakish, not human somehow. But I was sorry to reach the end. Normal People is a great love story. 

New Recipe Note:
Poulet à la crème
8 October 2018

¶ Why haven’t I known of this dish for years? In fact, I never heard about it until it was mentioned in a novel by Elizabeth Jane Howard. Then I looked it up in Mrs David. As I recall, she wasn’t very keen on it — too creamy and drab. I ought to have borne that in mind. Instead, I downloaded a recipe in French. I learned three things from the recipe. Revenir means, among other things, “to brown.” A boîte of mushrooms is a tin of cooked mushrooms. And don’t use this recipe again. Way too creamy and drab. 

My second mistake was to try to sauté eight pieces of chicken in one batch. Inevitably (but I hadn’t sautéed chicken in a while), the pieces stuck to the pan and the skin tore off. So the dish was deprived of the revenu — the chicken wasn’t really browned. The third mistake was to cook a package of pre-sliced button mushrooms. The mushrooms were slightly tired-looking when I bought them, to be honest. And then there was the crème fraîche. Cream or even sour cream would have had more flavor. 

Next time, I’ll sauté the chicken in my twelve-inch nonstick skillet. I’ll choose better mushrooms, and substitute shallots for the onion. As for the cream, how about stirring in some grated pepper jack? 

Shopping Note:
Yes To Tom
5 October 2018

Although I felt really pretty awful, there was one thing that I had to do today, and that was to shop at Agata & Valentina for tomorrow night’s dinner — a dinner for friends that has been put off again and again since July. So, without letting myself get involved in anything else, I got dressed and ran the errand, taking taxis both ways. Boom boom. 

It was so odd to have done this — to have gotten the shopping done first thing, instead of creatively procrastinating — that, all afternoon, after I had unpacked the bags (and tidied up the fridge a bit in the process), it seemed that I had gone to A & V yesterday, not today. Either that or, disconcertingly, that I still had to go.

Reading Note:
Operatic Understatement
4 October 2018

The Robber Barons, by Matthew Josephson, was already an old book — first published in 1934 — when I was in school, and that was one strike against it. Worse, it threatened to be a tedious screed about the rapaciousness of Gilded Age millionaires. I wasn’t exactly sympathetic to Gilded Age millionaires, but I believed that retrospective scoldings were not going to amount to much, unless, in the alternative, they had amounted to a lot, as witness the extinction (so we thought) of Gilded Age millionaires. But as it was a book that everybody was supposed to have read, I kept a copy on hand, in case of need. 

That’s no longer reason enough for a book to take up space in my library. The speculative criterion — “this may come in handy” — has itself been sent to the scaffold. Along with one or two other books, I brought The Robber Barons to my reading chair, and opened it in the middle, with “The Fight For Erie.” Just a few pages in: 

“Buy Erie,” Vanderbilt ordered his brokers. “Buy it at the lowest figure you can, but buy it!” His holdings increased visibly, and knowing nothing of the secret acquisitions of the Erie ring he assumed that the market would soon be bare of offerings. He possessed more shares than were known to exist. Erie’s stock climbed to 95. The shorts, he told himself gloatingly, would be soon trapped as in the famous Harlem corner. But suddenly a wave of crisp, newly printed Erie shares struck Wall Street, 50,000 of them, and smashed the market, so that the price broke to 50 a share, and Vanderbilt in the calamitous process was loser by some millions of dollars to the party headed by Daniel Drew. 

The rage and mortification of the Commodore now passed all bounds. (123)

It isn’t funny, exactly, but it is very tasty. “He possessed more shares than were known to exist” — that’s what I mean by operatic understatement. Then, that “wave of crisp, newly printed Erie shares.” Finally, “rage and mortification,” words plucked from Il Trovatore surely, only actually better, given the circumstances, in English. I sense the acute penmanship of W S Gilbert on every page.

I chose the extract for brevity; most of the book’s delights would require rather more copying. There’s a wonderfully ironic bit on the “probity” of the young Pierpont Morgan that runs from page 59 to 60. You have to read every word, and there are plenty of them, but what might have been dull outrage is too well-seasoned by giggles and snorts. 

Eventually, of course, I had to go back and start at the beginning, to find out what “the Harlem corner” was. (I had been under the impression that trying to corner the market in something never works. Not so!) Now, the point of opening The Robber Barons was simply to determine if the writing was any good. If it was, I was supposed to put the book down and look at the next one. But no, here I am reading the whole thing as if I had nothing else to do. 

Rep Note:
Ham Steak Rev’d
3 October 2018

¶ Last night, I took a different approach to supermarket ham steak. This time, I borrowed some of the ingredients from a recipe that I first noticed in Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. I mixed small quantities of cream, mustard, and tomato paste, and poured them onto the ham after it had sizzled in butter for four minutes (two on a side). With only a bit of stirring, the sauce reduced to almost nothing immediately. The result was really quite delicious.

The ingredient that I didn’t borrow was mushrooms. I wasn’t in the mood. Child’s recipe, “Ham Steak Surmain,” is an adaptation of a recipe for cooking a whole ham that she took from chef André Surmain. I tried the whole-ham recipe once, but found it less interesting than the sautéed steak, probably because there were none of those savory brown bits that not only improve the flavor of any meat dish but that also marry the sauce to what it’s blanketing.

I also had another go at roast sweet potato, this time coating the chunks with a mixture of a few tablespoons of oil and rather more maple syrup, combined with rosemary and the usual seasonings. (Kathleen had reminded me at an earlier dinner of the maple syrup that I used to use.)  Much improvement! Not perfect, though. Some chunks developed somewhat rubbery skins. I think that I need to try a hotter oven.