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The awkward times

The Washington post did an experiment:

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. A young man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work.

A child prodigy, now 39 Joshua Bell is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, he had filled the house at Boston's Symphony Hall, where pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience. But
on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another street player.

Bell always performs on the same instrument. Called the Gibson ex Huberman, it was made in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master's "golden period," toward the end of his career. Bell bought it a few years ago for $3.5 million.

Bell decided to begin with "Chaconne" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell calls it "not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It's a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won't be

Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man turned his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. The man kept walking. A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.

Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to watch the performance for at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning
to look.

"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cell phone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change."

"The awkward times were right after each piece ended. The music stopped and then Nothing. The same people who hadn't noticed me playing didn't notice that I had finished. No applause, no acknowledgment."

Later that month Bell accepted the Avery Fisher prize, recognizing him as the best classical musician in America ...

You can read the whole story and see the video at:
Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out. 

God's like that: He gives us the best things every day. Our kids, our friends, our wives, our husbands, rain, sunshine, flowers, the smell of fresh bread, good coffee, laughter, love...And we miss it, too much to do, can't stop ..  PAY ATTENSION! God has great stuff to show us ..


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Desserts .. my favorite thing

I thought i would tell you some of my favorite desserts, each one by a great chef. This one is from Stephan Pyles' "New Texas cuisine" cookbook, one of the great cookbooks of all time and one of the greatest chefs of all time. His restaurant is in Dallas.

Warm apple spice cake with Caramel sauce and Vanilla bean Ice Cream

You get to buy the ice cream. This is an oil based cake which will seem weird at first but trust me, you'll love it. This is what you wish fruit cake tasted like when someone tries to unload one on you …

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I use a little more)
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (not olive oil, just plain old vegetable oil)
2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
5 granny smith apples
3/4 cup of pecans
1 cup of raisins(plus about 1/2 cup of bourbon, or apple juice)
Caramel sauce (see below)
Vanilla bean Ice cream(buy it if you want, but you really don't need it)

First .. Put the raisins in a cup or small bowl and cover them almost to the top with bourbon to plump them (rum, brandy, non smoky scotch works too). If you don't want to use bourbon, apple juice will work or just plain water. This takes a while so do this first.

Preheat your oven to 325

Butter & flour OR Spray Pam inside an 8 - 10 inch springform pan. (any cake pan or bread pan will work, just use a lot of Pam or butter it twice). I use Pam on this. If you are going to use butter, do it twice. i.e. smear butter all over the inside of the pan, covering it the best you can. Then when you think you have it completely covered, do it again. Then put about 1 /2 cup of flour in the pan and roll it around till all of the butter is covered with a thin sheet of flour, then pour out the excess flour, tapping the pan.

Roast the pecans. The easiest way is to spread them out on a cookie sheet and stick them in a 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes. You can tell when they a ready because you can smell them and the raw taste is gone. IF you're feeling lucky you can do this on top of the stove. Get a big dry skillet over medium heat and pour in the pecans. DON'T
LEAVE, this happens quick. Keep the pecans moving and flipping, don't let them burn. When you think they need to go just a little longer QUIT and get them out.. longer=burnt .. Now chop the pecans. You can do this with a knife or with about 3 pulses on a food processor.. you want the pecans to be chunky, no fine..

For the apples, get a large bowl of water and add about a tbsp salt and stir it around until most of it dissolves. Don't peel the apples. One at a time cut the apple in half from top to bottom, then cut each half in half from top to bottom. Cut out the core on each piece. With the cut side down slice the apple from top to bottom in 1/2 inch slices, holding it
together. Then turn the apple and slice across in 1/2 cuts making 1/2 cubes. Put the cubes in the water, this will keep them from turning brown. Do each apple this way.

Put the first 7 dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to blend.

Blend the oil and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed for 5 minutes. Then add the eggs one egg at a time and beat well. Gradually add the dry ingredients. If this gets too thick for your mixer, stop and do it by hand. To do it by hand, fold it with a spatula. Which means push the spatula down the side of the bowl and with an upward motion fold
the batter over in to the middle of the bowl. Keep moving around the edge of the bowl with the same motion..

Drain the apples and re-fill the bowl with fresh water and drain again. This will get rid of most of the salt.(At this point you may need a bigger mixing bowl. It needs to be big enough for the batter, the apples, raisins and pecans, about 6 quarts.)   Add the apples to the batter picking up handfuls of apples to transfer them to the bowl. This will leave most of the water out of the batter. Do the same thing with the pecans. This will leave any pecan shells out of the batter. Add the raisins along with all of the bourbon/apple juice. If you plumped them in water instead of bourbon, drain the water first. Now fold all of this together in the same way as before, around the edge and over, around the edge and over.

Pour the batter in to the springform pan. If it doesn't all fit, just get another pan. This cake is not pretty, so don't worry about trying to do it perfect.. Put the pan on top of a baking sheet or get a sheet of foil big enough to cover the bottom of the pan by several inches and fold around the bottom. All springform pans leak, don't want to mess up your oven. Bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean and mostly dry. This may take much longer than 1 1/2 hours, but be patient just keep checking every 15 minutes with the knife test once you get past the first 1 1/2 hours. If it starts to get burned looking on top drape a piece of foil over the top. Let the cake rest for a while (15 min) before you pop the springform, it will shrink away from the sides as it cools and make it easier to get out.

Caramel Sauce:

1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (the cheap stuff works too)
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup of heavy cream

This is quick so you can wait and do this after the cake comes out or re-heat it later.

Most caramel sauce is made by heating sugar in a pan until it melts and turns brown, then adding cream. It's easy to burn, it's dangerous because molten sugar is really, really hot and it bubbles up when you add the cream. But this one is easy and tastes better.

Put everything in a pan and heat it to 200 degrees while stirring.. That's it! Pretty tough. (I know you are tempted to stick your finger in to taste, but don't !!!! It's hot, real hot! Let it cool first) . All you need is a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer which you can get at the grocery store for about $1.50.. This is a great sauce for anything. If it separates, just stir it back together.

Serve warm or cold .. The caramel sauce is good warm or cold too. I love it for breakfast.  Standard rules apply: this is best at 2am in your PJ's with a fork and the refrigerator door open. Caramel sauce would be applied with your fingers .. 



Posted by Mack Oates at 11:00