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Member since: Sat Nov 30, 2013, 05:06 AM
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Anniversary: Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" ballet, December 18, 1892, Maryinsky Theatre

The New York City Ballet, choreography by George Balanchine.

From Solomon Volkov's "Balanchine's Tchaikovsky, Conversations with Balanchine on His Life, Ballet and Music":

"'The Nutcracker' is Tchaikovsky's masterpiece. He said beforehand that he would write music that would make everyone weep! I danced in 'The Nutcracker' as a child at the Maryinsky Theatre. ... 'The Nutcracker' is a story by E. T. A. Hoffman that was incredibly popular in Russia. ... But Petipa did not develop the plot from the Hoffman story, he took the version by Dumas. ... Petipa was French, he could relate better to the French fairy tale. He never did learn how to speak Russian well. People say that when Petipa tried to speak Russian, he came up with all kinds of inadvertent obscenities.

"'The Nutcracker' is a ballet about Christmas. We used to have a fantastic Christmas in Petersburg. ... On Christmas night we had only the family at home: mother, auntie, and the children. And, of course, the Christmas tree. The tree had a wonderful scent, and the candles gave off their own aroma of wax. The tree was decorated with gold paper angels and stars, tangled up in silver 'rain,' or tinsel. I liked the fat glass pears -- they didn't break if they fell. ... Tchaikovsky remained a child all his life, he felt things like a child. He liked the German idea that man in his highest development approaches the child. Tchaikovsky loved children as themselves, not as future adults. Children contain maximum possibilities. Those possibilities often do not develop, they are lost.

"The second act of 'Nutcracker' is more French than German. Petipa liked the idea of Konfituerenburg because at the time in Paris there was a fad for special spectacles in which various sweets were depicted by dancers. Actually, 'Nutcracker's' second act is an enormous balletic sweetshop. In Petersburg there was a store like that, it was called Eliseyevsky's: huge glass windows big enough for a palace, high ceilings, opulent chandeliers, almost like the ones at the Maryinsky. The floors at Eliseyevsky's were covered with sawdust, and you could not hear footsteps -- it was like walking on carpets. The store had sweets and fruits from all over the world, like in 'A Thousand and One Nights.' I used to walk past and look in the windows often. I couldn't buy anything in there, it was too expensive. ... Everything that appears in the second act of 'Nutcracker' is a candy or something tasty. ... The Sugar Plum Fairy is a piece of candy and the dewdrops are made of sugar. The Buffon is a candy cane. It's all sugar! ... All this makes up Konfituerenburg, land of sweets. It was Hoffman's idea, but Petipa saw that it would be beautiful and interesting in a ballet."

Garrison Keillor: Halloween.

"Halloween was last night. Children went out trick-or-treating, dressed as hobos or rich glamorous people, and some kids went as grownups: wore dark dowdy clothes, walked stiff, talked funny, and got sore at everybody. The candy they received, and sweet rolls and apples and quarters, they richly deserved. It was the end of October, when the long dark places between houses seem to reach out for you, poor innocent child, and draw you toward the shadows.

"Most of the trees have lost their leaves, except one old maple across from Clint and Irene Bunsen's, which was slow to turn color, a luminous phosphorescent yellow -- at night, with the streetlight behind it. It was so bright you could read by it. Most other trees were bare, so sound travels farther, and last night, in the middle of supper, you could hear a door slam half a block away, and hear seven fast sharp footsteps, XXXXXXX. The door whanged when it hit the frame and bounced back open, and there were seven slow footsteps going back to shut it. Thunk. Everyone around the supper table stopped chewing. A man's voice: 'Get in here! It servers you right!' And a boy:'I can't talk to you, you're crazy!' Forks hovered as everyone around the table held their breath, waiting for the gunshot. The door was opened and closed, and there were muffled angry voices. My mother sighed, 'I always dread the week before an election.' she said."

The Raven:


PBS: Chef Tu David Phu's "Brief but Spectacular" take on the memory of food

His parents were Vietnamese immigrants, grew up in a food insecure community and household:

"When I think of family meals that my mom cooked at home, I think of a bare chicken carcass that she got from the butcher shop because it was free. Credit to a lot of our mothers in their efforts to innovate dishes, to create recipes, to nourish their family, to make things delicious, because that's what love is."

Phu tried concentrating on traditional Vietnamese food for his restaurant, but came back to his mother's food. That with all his training as a chef he couldn't cook better than his mother and other Vietnamese mothers who had spent their lives cooking.

Couple of years ago I read a book about a famous chef who used to have an exclusive expensive restaurant. His staff spent days in finicky preparation of complicated high tech innovations, but he said what stumped him, what he couldn't do no matter how he tried, was make a good tortilla. In Mexico he'd watch women make tortillas -- perfect every time.

PBS: It was supposed to be a quiet little cafe in Maine. It turned into a culinary phenomena

The Lost Kitchen. Funny that Judy Woodruff doesn't seem to know James Beard is dead.

Full Frontal, Samantha Bee: How (And Why) Black Voter Rights Are Under Attack

"No one can save us but us. We have to keep fighting."
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