Friday, December 30, 2011

Last one that I forgot: remember starting out at the Farmer's Markets this spring?

Read the Printed Word!
This first full week finally brings Spring to Tioga County, with the Wellsboro and the Mansfield Growers’ Markets now in full swing, every Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon, respectively. This past Sunday, a little extra time with Mom might have gotten shortchanged for time with the lawnmower. Most moms were probably fine with that, though, appreciating the first mown lawn of the new season, and perhaps the chance to dig in the landscaping some, too. I had to laugh this week when a good friend told me that his wife always asks for mulch for Mother’s Day.

Around here, Mother Nature and the locals move into Spring with gusto: the flowering trees all burst into bloom at once, and gardens seem to go in overnight, on the magic day that will allow the plants to escape the last frost but also enjoy the longest possible growing period. Many of us have too many jobs and responsibilities that separate us from the way food gets to our tables and can nourish our bodies. I would love to reconnect with fresh food, grown by people who live around me; to feed my body the healthy variety of food that it craves. I’m tired of washing down French fries with Diet Pepsi just because I have to put something in my body to keep it going through these busy days.

When I see the freshly turned dirt, the newly fenced in squares in my neighbors’ lawns, and the announcements for the Growers’ Markets, I turn to my Moosewood Cookbooks and start scheming. The Moosewood Restaurant is a cooperatively-owned business in Ithaca, NY, which originally opened in 1973. Over the last three decades, the Moosewood Collective has published dozens of cookbooks, featuring recipes dreamed up in the Moosewood kitchens and successfully “tested” on thousands of restaurant customers. The Moosewood emphasizes cooking with healthy, fresh foods, organic whenever possible. Vegetarianism as a lifestyle was an original influence on the restaurant when it opened, and has continued to be a part of the focus on offering an eclectic, nutritious menu. The Moosewood menu and its cookbooks, however, have expanded to use American regional dishes and international cuisine alike. Sunday nights at Moosewood are now celebrated for their various ethnic menus, and there is an accompanying cookbook, Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant.

My new favorite cookbook is The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without, by Mollie Katzen, author of the original Moosewood Cookbook. A tall, cheerful spring-green hardcover with colorful drawings of vegetables on the cover, it immediately puts me in the mind of finding fresh veggies at the local markets and bringing them home to my kitchen to experiment. Thankfully, the dishes are simple, often using only three or four ingredients. Few, if any, of the recipes require the cook to make a special trip to Wegmans for some exotic ingredient. In keeping with the Moosewood tradition, the dishes are healthy, fresh and tasty. Reading the recipes feels like talking to a friend who loves to cook. Sure, it’s fun to watch the cooking shows on TV, but this Moosewood cookbook reads like someone who understands your busy life and your limited time and energy. For those of us who want to inject some new nutrition into our routine menus but don’t want to have to spend hours in the kitchen experimenting, The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without goes a long way to meeting our needs.

As the vegetable gardens go in and the fresh veggies start coming up, grab a Moosewood cookbook, a couple of eggplant, a bulb of anise, or some zucchini, and try something new! If reading through a cookbook now has you salivating to try one of these dishes, maybe you’ll be inspired to grow something new in your garden this year. Ask the folks at the Growers’ Markets, or Pag-Omar, or Hampson’s Farm & Garden, or Rockwell’s, or Owlett’s Sunshine Market, what they recommend. Ask the ladies at the West End CafĂ© what regionally-grown food they’re serving these days, and what dishes inspire them. In the spirit of the Moosewood Cooperative, a cookbook is not just a collection of recipes, it’s an opportunity. This is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the dirt, the rain, the sun, your body … to have fun in the kitchen rather than routine … and to make new friends in the community.

Personalized service and conversation, or “Didya want fries with that?” Tell Hobo what you think, by sending him an email (He will definitely answer! Not just an automated response!) at or by contacting him via facebook (just search From My Shelf). Want to see Hobo’s earlier recipes for community sustainability and fixing good eats? Coming soon: Hobo’s cookbook, featuring recipes with chicken and catnip.

Going back through the old...

by Kasey Cox
Read the Printed Word!
Okay, so I see that I was rather lax in making certain that my Gazette columns were re-posted here at the blog. This one was "Part Two" of the article series I wrote on ereaders back in July, so I'm especially naughty for not following through and posting it then. (In my defense, I DID put it on our website, and on the now-sadly-defunct Viewshound). ANY-way, here's "FAQs about e-readers".... some of this information, however, is now a little dated, since things are changing so rapidly in this area of publishing and technology. Nevertheless, I'll post this article as I wrote it this summer, and ask you to refer to the bookstore website for updates on how to use your newest ereader gadget. (

What is an e-reader?

An e-reader is an “electronic reader”, an electronic device designed to be easily portable and light-weight, allowing the user to download books as electronic files and to be read on the device. An e-reader for books is comparable to the MP3 player for music: the same way that many people carry their music on the Apple ipod or Android or Zune, the electronics and publishing industries have sought a way for customers to use computer technology to carry many books in a small electronic device.

What’s the difference between an e-reader, like a ‘Nook’ or a ‘Kindle’, and a laptop computer, notebook, Apple iPad, or Android phone?

There are several e-readers on the market now – with many more to come – that are dedicated solely to the purpose of downloading and reading electronic books. These e-readers include the Nook, the Kindle, the Sony e-reader, the Kobo, and a number of generic devices. These devices differ from iPads, notebooks, “regular” computers, or Android devices because they are dedicated e-readers.

When the consumer wants to add more multimedia choices – music, games, Flash support for videos, web browsing, email, messaging, and more – then the best choice is clearly not an e-reader. The confusion comes from the fact that these multi-media devices have e-reader functions, which are heavily advertised by the companies that make them. Apple would much rather you buy an iPad than a Kindle, especially since the iPad costs considerably more (although, to be fair, it offers exponentially more applications and uses), and also encourages the buyer to use more services offered through Apple.

Okay, so what’s the difference between the e-readers? Isn’t a Kindle the best one?

If you’ve never heard the term “e-reader”, or if you’d heard it but didn’t really know what it means, you can thank All the money that Amazon has avoided paying in state sales taxes in all the states where it operates fulfillment warehouses to ship stuff you order from them (but that’s a separate article) – all that money is going to hard-core advertising to convince the public that “Kindle” is synonymous with “electronic book reader.” Amazon would have the public say “Kindle” for “e-reader” the same way we often say “Kleenex” for “tissue” or “Oreo” for “chocolate and cream sandwich cookies.” Caveat emptor – just because a company has the most money to put into advertising does not necessarily mean they have the best product on the market.

The Kindle is one of several dedicated e-readers available now. To be honest, as far as dedicated e-readers go, the Nook and the Kindle are the best choices on the market right now, and both offer you several choices in price, memory size, and a few other whistles and bells. It is important for consumers to be completely aware of their options, however, and Amazon would rather that the public not do any real comparing or questioning.

One reason many people decide to invest in an e-reader is the ease on aging and/or fatigued eyes. E-readers allow the reader to adjust font-size, making it unnecessary to carry reading glasses, magnifiers, or heavy large-print books. What Amazon doesn’t want you to know is this: the “Pearl” screen with “e-ink” which is so heavily touted for its readability, is now standard on all major e-readers. So, whether you're getting the 2011 Nook or the Kobo or the 2010 Sony Reader or the Kindle, you're basically getting the same exact screen.

In your last article, you said that owning a Kindle meant I could only download e-books from Amazon. But my friend owns an Android, and my sister owns an Apple iPad, and they can both buy e-books from Amazon. So, is Kindle exclusive to Amazon, or isn’t it?

If you buy a Kindle as your dedicated e-reader, the only e-books that can be downloaded on your Kindle are Kindle-formatted e-books, exclusively from Amazon. However, if you buy one of the many available e-readers or devices that allow you to read e-books, you can buy or download a “Kindle app” (application) that allows you to download books from Amazon, as well as a myriad of other places. This application is an idea which is akin to Coke allowing you to buy a can of Pepsi from a Coke machine, giving buyers a great deal of flexibility. The Androids, the Apple iPad, even your own generic laptop – all of these allow you to download the Kindle app so you can read ebooks from Amazon as well as ebooks from your library, Barnes & Noble, and your favorite independent bookstores. The Kindle does not allow you those choices.

Paper or plastic? Tell Hobo your opinions on electronic readers versus paper books, at Want to scroll through Hobo’s electronic archives? Follow his blog at, or follow him on facebook at Hobo tried to take his Nook in his little hobo sack, because it was lighter than taking a bunch of books, but it got wet when he fell in the pond. Read all about it in Hobo’s book, “Hobo Finds a Home” – proudly not available on the Kindle.

Stocking up for Christmas 2011

Read the Printed Word!
Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s that time of year again: we’re all dashing through the snow, trying to fit everything into the crazy December calendar. I know I’ve been making a list, then losing it twice. Here’s my annual column on great books that will fit a stocking but won’t put a big pinch on your rapidly-draining wallet.

The SAS Survival Guide by John “Lofty” Wiseman: A tiny little book measuring only 4.7 inches tall by 3.25 wide (smaller than most adult men’s palms), the cover touts that this newly-revised, second edition has “practical, easy-to-follow advice with diagrams and color illustrations.” Wiseman has taught survival training to special forces military for more than 26 years. This book, however, is not full of ninja-style tricks or James Bond gadgetry. This is wisdom of the essentials, from the perspective that any actual equipment you have with you is an added bonus. The book’s purpose is clearly stated several times: it isn’t for fun ‘survival games’ in the woods; it’s a reminder and an overview of all the things a person should keep in mind when faced with a true life-or-death, emergency situation. The book covers mental attitude, careful research and interpretation of the situation and climate in which you might find yourself, essential skills such as first aid, finding water, keeping warm, finding your way if you decide to move. That’s a lot of life and knowledge for less than $8.00. (Note to those who aren’t familiar with the “SAS” initials, the SAS is the Special Air Services, a sub-group of the British special forces, whose organization served as an example for the creation of special forces units all over the world.)

Now, on the flip side, for all of you who got depressed when I revealed that the SAS Guide didn’t include the James Bond gadgets: DK Publishing – publishing house especially known for thousands of great educational books on history and science for kids – now has a line of sturdy board books, shaped like a vehicle of some kind. The tractor and the dump truck, the fire engine and the sports car, all have real wheels that roll. A Velcro flap at the front cleverly holds the book together, but when opened, allows the reader to see many colorful drawings and a few quick words about the vehicle of their choice. Why not pop the silver convertible sports car in someone’s stocking? Without a doubt, lots of people like their car toys, not just little boys! Just think about the words to “Santa Baby”. It’s easier on the budget than the keys to a real one.

Another fun toy that’s a book comes from Klutz Press, who re-invented the idea of selling a book and an activity kit together. The one I like best for the Christmas stocking this year is the perfect shape for even the longest, thinnest stocking. Stop the Watch features a top-bound spiral book, with a stopwatch attached at the bottom. This is a great book to get you and your family moving, especially when it’s cold outside and we all feel sluggish from the last month or two of indulging in sweets and huge meals. It’s you against the stopwatch, as you take on the “Hippity Hoppity Marathon” (‘Put the watch in your kneepit and hop as long as you can until the watch falls out’) or the the “Speed Freeze” (Open the door to the fridge and find 3 things that begin with the letter ‘P’, then close the door. No slamming.) All the challenges give you a place to write your time for the first time you try it, your best time, and show you the best time they got at the Klutz Headquarters. There are more than 40 solo events and team events to try, which should only spark your imagination for hundreds of others.

This next series counts as several books, since it includes many gems, such as 101 Things I Learned in Business School and 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School (by Michael Priess and Louis Equaras, respectively). These books are the perfect gift for anyone curious about the featured profession, since they are written by well-known professionals at the top of their field (Louis Equaras, for example, is a famous chef from the Le Cordon Bleu program at California’s School of the Culinary Arts.) Each book gives a wealth of information, presenting a wide range of the trade. With the Culinary book, Equaras discusses everything from how to properly hold a knife to tidbits from the history of food to important tips on restaurant management. These books are a great addition and perhaps a much better overview than the “Dummies” or “Idiot’s” guides available on many subjects, and have the bonus of being more attractively packaged, at a better price.

Well, I’d better get back to trying to cover up the … uh, dark… no, I mean, crispy parts… of this batch of cookies with lots of frosting. I love that homemade confectionary sugar and milk icing; it covers a multitude of sins. I guess someone should buy me that Culinary School book...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Feet of Clay

Kevin Coolidge

Soft mud, warm sun -- for a moment the rabbi could forget the terror of the past…almost. His was a deeper calling. A duty to the people, the people he had sworn to teach and protect. He would mold this clay into the shape of a giant man, a golem. With the power invested by the Talmud and the study of Kabbalah, sacred and mystical rituals that delved into the nature of the eternal and creation, he would bring forth a protector to defend those who could not defend themselves. He would bring forth life.

In Jewish folklore, a golem is an artificially created human that is brought to life with magical religious ceremony. The most famous story involves Rabbi Judah of Prague who is said to have created a golem who not only worked as a servant, but also served to protect the Jewish community from being prosecuted under the rule of Rudolf the Second, the Holy Roman Emperor.

David Wisniewski tells this story in the children’s book Golem. This animated creature, however, can be a mixed blessing. Golems cannot speak and are not intelligent, but are perfectly obedient. They will perform instructions quite literally, never stopping until commanded. It is said that the emperor begged the rabbi to destroy the golem when it became violent. He promised safety from prosecution for the Jews. The rabbi deactivated the golem by rubbing out the first letter of the word emet (truth) from creature’s forehead, leaving the Hebrew word met meaning dead. The body was then stored and hidden, where it could be restored to life if needed.

The tale is said to have inspired the German poet, Goethe, and his ballad The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. One children’s book inspired by the original legend, as well Goeethe’s poem, is The Golem’s Latkes written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Aaron Jasinski. In this story, Rabbi Judah molds clay into a giant man and brings it to life by writing a magic word on the creature’s forehead.

Rabbi Judah calls his giant Golem, which means lump. He uses the creation to paint, and dig, and do other work. One winter’s day the rabbi found much to do and little time to do it. The first night of Hanukkah would soon begin, and the house must be made ready for his guests, but he had other duties and had to meet with the emperor.

He told his housemaid to prepare for the holiday. There was sweeping and dusting, and the latkes (potato pancakes traditionally served during Hanukkah) still needed to be made! There was so much to do. It was only fair that she should have help. It was only fair that Golem should help her.

“Golem, make latkes,” she said. Golem began peeling potatoes and chopping onions. Mixing them with eggs, salt, and pepper. Frying them in a huge iron pan. Peel, chop, fry. Peel, chop, fry. Soon the latkes filled the kitchen, then the house. The latkes pushed open the door and spilled into the street.

Rabbi Judah arrived home to find latkes blocking the door to his house. He climbed a crispy, golden pile and forced his way into the kitchen. There was the golem cooking by the stove. “Golem, enough!” shouted the rabbi.

“Our guests will be arriving soon. What are going to do with all these latkes?”

“What else do you do with latkes?” said the maid. “Eat them!”

Rabbi Judah invited all of Prague to his Hanukkah party. People from miles around came to join the feast that lasted eight days and nights. When Hanukkah had ended, the latkes were gone. It is said that Golem still exists. Perhaps in a dusty attic, or a forgotten cellar. Patient, quiet, waiting until he is needed once again…

Feet of clay? Or a spine of steel? Drop me an email at and let me know. Hungry for past columns? Visit and get your fill. Look for Hobo’s new cookbook where he slices, dices, and juliennes. Pass the ketchup and don’t pass on “Hobo Finds A Home,” a children’s book about a lost cat who found a home.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Legend of the Poinsettia

Kevin Coolidge

The Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe—each of these plants has a story intertwined with the Yuletide season. Each is an ancient tradition forever connected to Christmas, yet each plant and legend is European in origin. Only one Christmas plant tradition originates in the Americas, the poinsettia. What led this beautiful, tropic flower to its place in Christmas? The legend of the poinsettia begins in Mexico.

Many years ago, a young girl named Maria anxiously awaited the Christmas season. She lived in a small village and was very poor, but still looked forward to the festivities at the local church. It was a time of joy, and a time to honor the birth of Christ. The church would display a beautiful manger that would draw crowds from miles away, and people would bring expensive gifts and place them in the soft hay around the manger. This saddened Maria, for she had no money to buy a gift for the baby Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, Maria and her brother walked to church. She desperately wished for a gift to bring. A soft, glowing light shone from the darkness and an angel appeared. The children were afraid, but the angel comforted them, and instructed them to pick some of the weeds growing by the road. This would be their gift to the baby Jesus.

As the children placed the weeds by the manger, many of the villagers stared and laughed, and Maria was embarrassed. Suddenly, the dull, green leaves turned a beautiful shade of red and the church grew silent as they watched the green plants bloom into the brilliant crimson flowers we now call poinsettias.

This lovely Mexican flower is known by many names in Mexico: flor de la Nochebuena (flower of the holy night), flor de fuego (fire flower), or the flor de Navidad (Christmas flower). A graceful retelling of this legend is told and beautifully illustrated by Tomie dePaola in The Legend of the Poinsettia.

Joel Robert Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico, introduced poinsettias to the United States in 1825. He was an amateur botanist, and had some plants sent to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. After growing them in his own greenhouse, he began to send them to fellow horticulturists.

The poinsettia is an interesting plant. What appears to be the red flower petal is actually a petal-like leaf that turns red in response to the longer nights of November and December; the actual flower is the yellow star-like cluster at the center. This cluster is sometime said to represent the star of Bethlehem. Now, giving of the flower of the holy night has become a custom and a reminder that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable...

Deck the hall with boughs of holly? Or with poison ivy? Drop me an email at and let me know. Miss a column? Visit the ghosts of columns past at Looking for a children’s book for that stocking? Ho Ho Hobo the cat has a book called “Hobo Finds A Home” about a cat that found a forever home.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Ghosts of Owners Past: The People of the Book

Read the Printed Word!


I’m leafing through a used book, and to my wonder, a check falls out. Made payable to the Tolrevo Clinic for just over $2,000!! The name in the upper left corner identifies the check as belonging to one Sarah K. Cheever, of Baltimore, MD. I silently whistle: I bet Sarah was frantic to have misplaced that check! The date reveals that the check was written in May of 1993, so this has certainly been long-canceled, an expensive “bookmark” that Sarah evidently never found.

Why was Sarah writing such a big check to the Tolrevo Clinic? Was she sick? Had she gone over the amount her insurance would cover? Or, maybe, was she paying a bill for a loved one? Perhaps it was a donation to the Clinic for some new construction project or expensive piece of medical equipment. I wonder where Sarah is now. I briefly entertain the idea of sending her a letter, telling her I found this check so many years after she must have wondered where she lost it. Ultimately, I decide my contacting her would be too intrusive, that it may bring up bad memories of nearly two decades ago. What if Sarah – or the person whose bills she was paying – is now deceased?

I’d never found a check before, and haven’t since, but on a weekly basis, I find receipts, old lottery tickets, bookmarks from other stores, postcards, family photos, business cards, Post-It Notes, grocery lists. I always wonder about the slice of life I’m being presented. Sometimes I know to whom the book belonged; many times, I don’t. I wonder whose hands it has passed through, if they enjoyed the story, why they were reading this particular book, who bought the book and where, where the book has traveled.

In her 2008 novel, The People of the Book, Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks traces the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, infusing her fiction story with many of the true events that surround the history of this rare, illuminated Jewish devotional book. A haggadah gives the order of readings and rituals for the Passover Seder. The Sarajevo Haggadah is believed to have been made in Spain, in the mid-1300s, and rescued by Spanish or “Sephardic” Jews who were fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Its unusual survival across centuries of war, persecution, exile, religious and political fanaticism, the call for its destruction, and many hiding places, is only one of the attributes that makes it remarkable. The other is the detailed, colored pictures, so like the illuminated Christian Scriptures of the same era, but rarely (if ever) found in Jewish work, since such illustrations were seen by many to be idolatrous.

Brooks weaves together some fictionalized characters – such as her protagonist, the book conservator and rare book expert, Hanna Heath – with the historical characters such as the Sarajevo Museum’s chief librarian, Dervos Korkut, who stole the Haggadah right out from under the noses of the Nazis who sought to destroy it.

Of course, I find this kind of mystery especially fascinating with the provenance and journey of a book, but the same curiosity can be applied to any object – a house, a piece of furniture, a painting, a musical instrument. Author and art historian Susan Vreeland created a similar kind of story in her novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, which traces a recently-discovered painting back through all its owners. In addition to Vreeland’s lovely prose and the life she breathes into each historical era through which the painting passes, the question that drives the novel is whether or not the painting was created by Johannes Vermeer, or merely by a talented copycat.

Before I read Girl in Hyacinth Blue, I’d been charmed by a similar theme in the 1999 film, “The Red Violin”, which traces the story of a violin – from the 17th century of its creator, forward through all the owners, including an 18th century monastery in Vienna, a series of Gypsy Rom owners, a young noble Englishman and his Russian lover, and China during the Cultural Revolution, to present day. Like “Hyacinth Blue”, the big question surrounding the violin is whether or not it was made by Stradivarius.

Though this technique is not original, it seems to me an excellent way to build a story, tie together many interesting characters, and teach some history, geography, and art along the way.

Accordian Crimes, or Girl with a Pearl Earring? Tell Hobo the books you know that share the stories of an object and the people who touched them, via email, at Looking for a past slice of life? Check the archives at Hobo’s blog,