gracejones1

Hey There, Chicago…and internet sattelites…lil elote here, long time…I haven’t posted anything in a while, letting the others take the reigns of posting items to this very dear blog.

I’ve been quite busy y’know–I am in the midst of the recording process for the single for my upcoming LP “I am…lil elote.”  Check it out when it drops in the New Year. Its a really personal account of my rise in the art world.  Take notes, kids and aspiring stars–it’s time to learn from Teacher!

Self-plugging aside, I want to share something with y’all:  I woke up this afternoon at around 4:00pm and drank my coffee/breakfast, and the quiet aloneness of the holiday caused me to contemplate my artistic & personal growth, which I realized to be a process made possible by you all–the audience, my fans.

Here’s the first, in a three part holiday thank-you/love-you note from yours truly–lil elote

xoxo

lil elote

Waygones

December 25, 2008

posting by Caroline Picard

Passing by Clay Street in Annapolis she always heard the sounds of a different kind of life, a separate and impenetrable society. Clay Street wove behind her college house. It was the only black neighborhood in town. Supposedly there had been others. Surely there were more, but none so close to the historic district.     Fleet Street, they said, used to be a black street. Now, a quaint and crooked aside with Irish looking row-homes, stacked shoulder to shoulder in creaky colonial flights of stairs with doily curtains in the windows and garden hoses coiled in orderly loops. Bridget liked to recreate its ruddier past on her way to school. She liked imagining the black people from the black and white photos she’d seen, hovering on their stoops, smoking cigarettes with too many barefooted children all over the place. In the stills it didn’t look chaotic. It was frozen poetry, framed for affect in the local bed and breakfast Chez Amis. The place that tourists stayed on Fleet Street.
Girls worked there as chambermaids; college girls, Bridget’s classmates. They paid their tuition that way, ironing sheets and folding beds. They had to wear Band-Aids over any tattoos below the sleeve. Bridget liked to pretend it was a secret brothel. She never made that joke out loud.
Someone moved the poor folks from Fleet Street to Clay, eminent domain or some such thing, the property value in the downtown historic district was more than any housing project could justify, so the state pushed them off and sold everything to contractors. So much for the local alderman. What was once a street, alive and vibrant, and telling of old slave-time woes was refurbished with a domestic veneer of an upper middle class. People like to see that veneer, no matter how much they complained about gentrification. It was a visual success of the American Dream. Fleet street was empty. Did the houses miss the old noise?

Outside the Clay Street Cemetery, two perpendicular streets extended as alternative grounds, flagging the farthest bounds of Annapolis, they followed the edge of the river as far as West Street. One was Clay Street, the other, the farther, nameless. These streets, again, full of life, full of the tragic ferocity of the disenfranchised, the poor born of the poor and into a wild culture. When Bridget passed into the cemetery bounds, two black pimps, purple suits and gold chains, stood leaning on the gravestones.
“Best keep clear of the Northeast corner,” one of them had said.
She nodded, a little afraid. On her way out, she gave them twenty dollars.
“Don’t keep your face so sad,” said the other. His teeth were white, his face a smooth and flawless black.
On her way out she heard a baby crying in an upstairs window. The baby sounded small. A man yelled from the same story, “Shut the Fuck up!”

Defensive Communicant

December 25, 2008

posted & written by Caroline Picard

italian-market

Once Bridget took a train from Pittsburgh to Philly, took the train to see what it was like and was surprised by the vast distance between the two cities, surprised at the girth of Pennsylvania. Between sleep and conductor stories of loose pythons—a passenger had a python for a therapy pet and brought it on the train where it escaped and lived in the vents, eating mice and Triscuits supposedly—she’d read Black Spring her first Henry Miller that she’d plucked up because someone said his hookers were optimistic and even happy. She read about the adulterous wife, who in her imagination wore nothing but slips or worn silk and reveled in promiscuity. It took her husband years before he realized she was sleeping with all his poker buddies and then when he fucked her he stuck dollar bills in her cunt for a lark.

Bridget had always wanted to be a boy.

Gender seemed a difficult territory when alongside the ugliness that was also something fantastic about the horror: like a full-rich pulse. Fantastic in the willingness of people, all people, epic terrible Henry Miller people or naval cadets or coarse sorority drunks with pointy shoes and skinny legs that wobbled from too much tequila: they flourished a willing sex—it was all so easily horrible, from the position of any class, any caste, any body type and yet it was so easily adopted, the yoke of perpetuation, donned so quickly through some absurd faith of endurance and meaning.

In Philadelphia she had found an Italian market, watching for hours the strung up pigs and lambs that hung in the windows, strung up in a grimace of death, their corpses bleached, clammy and flayed. She wandered into a spice shop crowded with bottles and bins and handwritten labels that claimed the worldwide. She touched the saffron curry, amazed by its color, and ingested the full flavor of its scent. It was the taste of dust, but its color reminded her of silk and China and rivers in the Far East that decorated porcelain and china pots. Her childhood came back suddenly.

On the street she had continued farther, walking down the stretch of 9th Street, past the gun shops, the butchers, an ill-placed boutique From the Ballroom to the Bedroom with a discount special for Prom and one foot in front of the other into an isolated island of nostalgia where she saw the way it must have been. Old crones’ eyes watched her from everywhere, so still you could hardly see them from their respective shades, they sat, these old Italian women, fanning themselves in strict frowns, wearing cotton dresses with floral prints, their arms hanging out, oblique and freckled with liver spots, their necks sunk into the frame of their shoulders in weariness. They frowned and chortled under the shade of vinyl roofs, staring into the relentless bright of noon and brownstone, blinking intermittently, pointlessly, staring into such extremes that they saw nothing at all, except perhaps the blurred intuition of an automobile. They sat like grumpy potted plants, before and after an endless sea of time. Doomed to live forever.

They cooked turkey on Thanksgiving and ham on Christmas and always with rigatoni and calamari and always they would feed the same boy they’d fed for 46 years, the only bum on the block, born a cripple with a mullet and tennis shoes, he was the only grifter tolerated in the neighborhood because they’d seen him raised, they knew his mother and they shared the same shadows.
Bridget gave him a dollar, even though he looked well fed.

She’d bought their telephone at a thrift store full of old computers, radios and walkie-talkies.

On the way back to the train, Bridget passed a house, and in the dark saw a single light that cast a halo in from the back. Smoke came from the windows, and she saw the movement of strangers beyond it, stealing through the presumable safety of a run down habitat, lighting fags in secret arson. One of them was smoking a cigarette. Both dreamed big insurance dreams. The smoke streaming out of the windows grew thick.

That summer she had lived in Pittsburgh with the other boys. Her mother called her then, “Come back home,” her mother had said, “It’s your father’s last summer.” Bridget had gone to Philadelphia instead. When she got back to Pittsburgh, travlling on the same train, she placed their phone.

In Defense of Curiosity

December 25, 2008

 

 

by Eleanor Roosevelt

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A short time ago a cartoon appeared depicting two miners looking up in surprise and saying with undisguised horror, “Here comes Mrs. Roosevelt!” 

In strange and subtle ways, it was indicated to me that I should feel somewhat ashamed of that cartoon, and there certainly was something the matter with a woman who wanted to see so much and to know so much. 

Somehow or other, most of the people who spoke to me, or wrote to me about it, seemed to feel that it was unbecoming in a woman to have a variety of interests. Perhaps that arose from the old inherent theory that woman’s interests must lie only in her home. This is a kind of blindness which seems to make people feel that interest in the home stops within the four walls of the house in which you live. Few seem capable of realizing that the real reason that home is important is that it is so closely tied, by a million strings, to the rest of the world. That is what makes it an important factor in the life of every nation. 

Whether we recognize it or not, no home is an isolated object. We may not recognize it, and we may try to narrow ourselves so that our interest only extends to our immediate home circle, but if we have any understanding at all of what goes on around us, we soon see how outside influences affect our own existence. Take, for example, the money we have to spend. The economic conditions of the country affect our income whether it is earned or whether it is an income which comes to us from invested capital. What we are able to do in our home depends on the cost of the various things which we buy. All of us buy food, and food costs vary with conditions throughout the country and world. 

It took us some time to realize that there was a relationship between the farm situation and the situation of the rest of our country, but eventually wage earners in the East did feel the results of the lack of buying power on the farms in the Middle West. To keep an even balance between the industrial worker and the agricultural worker is an extremely difficult thing. Every housewife in this country should realize that if she lives in a city and has a husband who is either a wage earner or the owner of an industry, her wages or her profits will be dependent, not only on the buying power of people like herself but upon the buying power of the great mass of agricultural people throughout the country. The farm housewife must realize, too, that her interests are tied up with those of the wage earner and his employer throughout the nation, for her husband’s products can only find a ready market when the city dweller is prosperous. 

There is ever present, of course, the economic question of how to keep balanced the cost of living and the wages the man receives. The theory of low wages and low living costs has been held by many economists to be sound, for they contend what money one has will provide as much as high wages do in countries where living costs are also high. 

We have gone, as a rule, on the theory, in this country, particularly in eras of prosperity, that high wages and high costs make for a higher standard of living, and that we really obtain more for our money, even though our prices are higher. 

This question is argued back and forth, and the method by which one or the other theory shall be put into practice is an equally good field for arguments. 

It may seem like an academic discussion, but any housewife should know that it is the first way in which her home brings her in touch with the public questions of the day. 

The women of the country are discovering their deep concern as to the policies of government and of commercial agencies, largely because these policies are reflected in many ways in their daily lives. . . . 

This correlation of interests is something that every woman would understand if she had the curiosity to find out the reason for certain conditions instead of merely accepting them, usually with rather bad grace. 

To go a bit further afield, trouble with sheep in Australia may mean higher cost on winter coat, and a low standard of living in a foreign country may affect our own standards. The child whom we cherish within our home may suffer from health conditions quite beyond our control, but well within the control of the community or state. Having grown to manhood, this same child may be taken away from us and die defending his country and its ideals. Unless we have seen our home as part of this great world, it will come to us as somewhat of a shock that the world crowds in upon us so closely and so much. 

So many of us resent what we consider the waste of war, but if in each home there is no curiosity to follow the trend of affairs in various nations and our own conduct toward them, how can we expect to understand where our interests clash or to know whether our Government’s policies are fair and just or generally selfish? 

Out of the homes of our nation comes the public opinion which has to be back of every Government action. How can this public opinion be anything but a reaction to propaganda unless there is curiosity enough in each home to keep constant watch over local, state, national and international affairs? 

Therefore, anyone who fully appreciates the value of home life must, of necessity, reach out in many directions in an effort to protect the home, which we know is our most valuable asset. Even the primitive civilizations reached out from the home to the boundaries of their knowledge, and our own pioneer homes reached back into the countries from which they came and out into the new lands which they were discovering and subduing to their needs. 

It is man’s ceaseless urge to know more and to do more which makes the world move, and so, when people say woman’s place is in the home, I say, with enthusiasm, it certainly is, but if she really cares about her home, that caring will take her far and wide. 

People seem to think that having many interests or activities must mean restlessness of spirit which can only indicate dissatisfaction and superficiality in an individual. It may be that an interest in the home may lead one to dissatisfaction with certain phases of civilization, but the fact that one is active or busy does not necessarily mean that one is either restless or superficial. Some of the people who are the most occupied remain unhurried in what they do, and have the ability to relax and rest so completely in the time which is free, that they are less weary and give less appearance of hurry than many who fritter away hours of the day in unpurposeful activity. 

Repose and a feeling of peace is an absolute necessity to a home. One may find it in a cottage, one may find it in a palace, or one may not find it in either. Repose is not a question of sitting still. It is a kind of spiritual attitude; no superficial human being can have it; real repose requires depth, a rich personality. The person possessing it can create a feeling that life flows smoothly and peacefully. Though they may never sit with folded hands, you may be able to sit with them and experience complete relaxation. It is something that comes from the soul, and no home gives complete satisfaction unless the persons making it can create this atmosphere. Repose, however, does not mean stagnation. . . . 

It is perfectly obvious, of course, that intellectual curiosity, which makes you read history and science, will add greatly to your knowledge. Artistic curiosity will open up innumerable new fields in painting and sculpture and music and drama. If you have an opportunity to travel, you can add enormously to what you have already read in books or what you have experienced in art, by seeing with your own eyes some of the artistic masterpieces of the world in architecture and sculpture and in painting, by hearing great musicians and artists perform in their own countries. 

You may even reconstruct for yourself, by seeing old cities and old country sides, civilizations that have gone before us. Egypt or India, the Venice of the Doges, medieval Europe–all can rise before us if we know our history and our art, and have cultivated curiosity sufficiently to have acquired a vivid imagination. . . . 

A great soul may go down to the depths, but he can also soar to the heights, and the great Italian masters were never small, and all had the power of rising to heights above the average mind. These things, however, will hardly be understood if, in addition to intellectual curiosity, you do not have what we will call emotional curiosity, because without that, these things will not become alive to us or speak of the human element which has gone into all of them, and which alone makes them speak to us from generation to generation in a language which we can understand. . . . 

Young people say to me sometimes, “I have tried so hard to talk to So-and-So,” and I know at once that they have not, as yet, discovered curiosity. Curiosity will make you take such an interest in finding out what So-and-So has to offer as a human being that you will soon find conversation flowing easily. Curiosity will prevent your being closed behind a barrier, and will add, day by day, to your imagination and make your contacts increasingly easy. . . . 

For instance, I was traveling on a train once, and I noticed, across the aisle, a woman in tears. Our eyes met, and she came over to sit beside me. I soon found myself listening as the whole pitiful drama of her life unfolded before me. Her husband had been in the Army, but had left it when they married, and they had gone back on the vaudeville stage, where they had worked before. Two children had come to them, whom her mother cared for. As vaudeville actors do, they traveled from place to place, winter and summer, sometimes making fairly good money, sometimes having pretty lean years, always spending everything they had, but, on the whole, it was a gay life, and a happy one, for they loved each other. Then the dread disease of tuberculosis took hold of the man, and the Government took him back and gave him care in a Western hospital. She had to go on the road alone, to feed and house her mother and the children, and give her husband the little extras which meant so much to him. Now and then she would manage to get to see him. Six months before, they had a happy day together, and then came the telegram telling her that he was desperately ill, and, taking all she had, she went, only to see him die and to bring his body home. She was a realist and did not dramatize her situation, so tears were few, and even in her sorrow there was a certain gaiety, for she said, “We had good times, and I hope the children will have them too. Now I must be getting back to work.” 

Without curiosity, I would never have heard that story and I would have missed the lift which you get when you meet with courage that faces heartache and a future of hard work and anxiety and still can be gay, for this will mean much to you when your own road is rough, as it is sooner or later for every traveler in this most interesting world. 

In its simplest form, curiosity will help you to an all-around education. That is why little children are so often living question marks. They naturally desire to know about the world in which they live, and if they lose that curiosity, it is usually because we grown people are so stupid. . . . 

[What we talk of as personality is nothing more than the effect of experience and knowledge, filtering through the emotional system of an individual until it becomes part of his inner consciousness and radiates from it in what we recognize as personality. If we feel a person has a negligible personality, it usually means that that person has lacked the curiosity to see life and really understand it. It is quite easy to see a great many things and yet to be so lacking in curiosity and in understanding that one does not know what they mean.] 

I went to a play once, and in a part which was really tragic, the audience laughed. It was not the playwright’s fault, nor yet the actor’s, but what was shown upon the stage was so foreign and inexplicable to that particular audience that, instead of seeming tragic, it seemed funny. Laughter and tears are closely allied, but on this particular occasion, it was not nervous laughter, the laughter that verges on tears, but quite patently an inability to believe that a situation such as that play described could exist. On the whole, that particular audience had never been curious about that particular phase of life. 

In addressing a fairly rich city audience, I tried to describe certain conditions of life in a distant part of our own country, and thinking if I chose something which all of them possessed, and which was entirely lacking in the homes of the families I was trying to picture, it would mean something to them. I said that until the depression had forced us to set up relief and to find some projects on which women could work, there were innumerable families throughout certain portions of the country that had never known what it was to sleep upon a mattress. I was met with blank faces, and before I said another word, I realized that my audience was thinking, “Well, what did they sleep on?” because it had never occurred to them that it was possible to sleep on anything but a mattress. There might be poor ones or good ones, but that anyone did without a mattress was absolutely impossible for that audience to comprehend. 

It is not always our own fault when we lack curiosity, for our environment may have prevented its development. The lack of curiosity in parents will often mean that they will try to eliminate it in their children, and thus keep their homes from stimulating the youthful urge to acquire knowledge. 

A few years ago, when I was conducting a class in the study of city government, we took up one of the functions of the government–namely, public health. This is closely allied to housing, so I suggested that our group visit some of the different types of tenements. There was considerable concern among some of the mothers, for fear some illness might be contracted. It apparently never occurred to them that hundreds of young people lived in these tenements all the time, nor that, very likely, there entered into their sheltered homes daily people who served as delivery boys, servants and workmen, who spent much of their time in tenements; so, even if the sheltered children did not visit them, the tenement home radiated out all that was good in it and all that was bad in it and touched the home on Park Avenue. No home is isolated, remember, so why should we not have a curiosity about all the homes that must in one way or another affect our own? 

On visiting the various types of tenements, I found again that the lack of curiosity makes a poor background for real understanding. To these children of the rich, I had to explain what it meant to sleep in a room which had no window, what it meant to pant on fire escapes in hot July with people draped on fire escapes all around you, what it meant for a women with her husband and eight children to live in three rooms in a basement, and why a toilet with no outside ventilation could make a home unhealthy and malodorous. 

Lack of curiosity in these young people meant lack of imagination and complete inability to visualize any life but their own, and, therefore, they could not recognize their responsibility to their less-fortunate brothers and sisters. 

It is a far cry from Marie Antoinette playing at farm life in the Petite Trianon to our comfortable, sheltered young boys and girls, who have always had economic security and at least all the comforts and some of the luxuries of life, but, fundamentally, neither Marie Antoinette nor these children of ease knew real curiosity, so they rarely touched the realities of life. They knew only their own conditions, and they might as well have been blindfolded for all they saw as they walked their particular paths in life. 

. . . . Perhaps you will tell me that you live in a small place where nothing ever happens, so you can have but few interests. This is not so. 

The great experiences of life are the same wherever you live and whether you are rich or poor. Birth and death, courage and cowardice, kindness and cruelty, love and hate, are no respecters of persons, and they are the occasions and emotions which bring about most of the experiences of life. You cannot prevent unhappiness or sorrow entering into any life–even the fairy godmother of the legend could not give freedom from these experiences–but curiosity will insure an ever-recurring interest in life and will give you the needed impetus to turn your most baleful experience to some kind of good service. . . . 

It is curiosity which makes scientists willing to risk their lives in finding some new method of alleviating human suffering, often using themselves as the best medium of experimentation. It is curiosity which makes people go down under the water to study the life on the floor of the ocean, or up into the air and out and over new and untried trails to find new ways of drawing this old world closer together. 

I often wonder, as I look at the stars at night, if someday we will find a way to communicate and travel from one to the other. I am told that the stars are millions and millions of miles away, though sometimes they look so near, but it seems to me, at times, to be almost as hard for people who have no curiosity to bridge the gap from one human being to another. Perhaps the day will come when our curiosity will not only carry us out of our homes and out of ourselves to a better understanding of material things, but will make us able to understand one another and to know what the Lord meant when He said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” And we might well add: “He that hath eyes to see, let him see.” 
-The Saturday Evening Post, August 24, 1935

gift1posted by Lily, courtesy of ellen cronin.

 

Okay, so the last bit I’ll post from my essay–I try to add some drama to the critical claims of my rather creative essay by problematizing apartment galleries, informed by my participation in the local art community.  I am cognizant of the potential pitfalls of my engagement with the very artworld I feel at odds with at times…still, exploring such issues are important to me, insofar as I’m a marginally socially engaged artist.

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Though in some instances apartment galleries seem to accelerate their own demise, others can achieve sustainability.  Through continued positive reception of art exhibitions by an art-viewing public, an apartment gallery’s profile may rise, and through the expansion of its audience and exposure to art administrators (who wield the power of gatekeepers of the art world), an apartment gallery that was previously perceived as “alternative” can exchange that label for that of the “avant-garde,” thereby taking a legitimized place in the art world.  An example of an apartment gallery that has risen to a position of greater visibility and power in Chicago’s art world is Green Lantern Gallery & Press.
Green Lantern Gallery & Press started out as an apartment gallery and is now a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in the Wicker park neighborhood of Chicago.  It is divided in half; the street-side front is the exhibition space, and the back end was originally the living space of Caroline Picard, who started the apartment gallery in 2005.   Green Lantern went from hosting monthly art exhibitions to publishing literature and incorporating music and performance events.  In 2007 it started a monthly literary reading series, broadcast on the Internet as a widely available podcast.  As a result of the growth of the organization, Picard moved out of the space in the summer of 2008; during that time the space was renovated:  the gallery walls were pushed farther back, and the apartment portion was hidden more effectively.  The former apartment portion of the space now functions as a common area and office space.
Green Lantern was able to evade the common fate of apartment galleries’ demise in the face of gentrification by undergoing a rebirth as a non-profit organization and receiving state grants.  Though it initially presented itself as an alternative to established institutions, it has now gained a position of power within the local art world, through engaging a large and diverse audience via various mediums.  This raises the question: once an alternative art space like Green Lantern becomes a “legitimate” venue in the art world, does it become complicit in perpetuating the same issues of socioeconomic inequality in the art world, wherein artistic experience (education and exposure) is deemed necessary for the viewing of art–and adjudicates quality and success?  This tension is crystallized in Green Lantern’s recent release of the second annual national directory of alternative art spaces, PHONEBOOK.   In addition to providing a guide of alternative art spaces and potentially opening insular alternative art communities, PHONEBOOK can also be seen as a means of positioning alternative art spaces for cooption into the mainstream art world.
Perhaps this is an indication of the blurring distinctions between “alternative” culture and the “mainstream” art world.  So-called “alternative” art spaces have the potential to bridge communities and influence shifts in institutional hierarchies within the art world, which brings contention to the perceived distinction of apartment galleries as “alternative.”  The history of alternative discourses of dissention suggests that these discourses will continue to reinvent themselves concurrent with the cyclical reforms of institutional powers.  Thus, this process of reinvention belies the ideological flaws of an individual alternative art space at a particular moment.
Alternative or mainstream, non-commercial or commercial, the display of art remains a social and economic practice rooted in capitalist society.  Isolationist practices that reject the spectator and commerce also reject art’s social agency.  Apartment galleries play a role in the development of new art markets and socio-political-cultural markets alike.  Apartment galleries contribute to the greater art world, insofar as they exist within the same economic systems of the display, patronage, and commodification of art.

–Young Joon

posted by Caroline Picard; the original site for this article can be seen here.

kerouac

Joy of editing Jack Kerouac

manuscript

Dr Howard Cunnell
Published Date:
07 September 2007

The famous scroll manuscript of a bestselling novel has been edited by an Eastbourne man. The previously unpublished first full length draft of Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road was written in three weeks in April 1951.

A later version went on to become one of the best-selling novels of the 20th century.

Dr Howard Cunnell, born in Eastbourne in 1964, was invited to edit the 50th anniversary edition of the novel.

The former pupil of Eastbourne Grammar School said to be asked was a major accolade, prompted by a paper he gave at the USA Jack Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature in October 2005.

He said, “Reading Kerouac’s great novel of self-transformation, freedom, and self-realisation when I was 16 years old and living in Eastbourne had a huge and enduring impact on my life.

“A religious seeker and a writer of dreams and visions Kerouac is a source in that sense, if you are fixed on seeking answers, and once that kind of light goes on in your house it’s likely to stay on.

“Reading the novel put me on the road in all senses, and continues to inform the how and the why of my life.

“Editing the previously unpublished scroll manuscript, one of the most celebrated and mythical artefacts in contemporary American literature, has been a great privilege and joyous responsibility.”

Dr Cunnell, whose mother lives in Pevensey, teaches Creative Writing and American Literature at Kingston University.

He was awarded a PhD from Institute of United States Studies, University of London, in 2004, for a study of American Prison Writing and now lives in Brixton, London, with his wife, the actress Adjoa Andoh, and their three daughters.

Apart from writing he has worked as a bookseller, scuba diving instructor and guide, lifeguard, building worker and has just completed a novel set in Eastbourne at the time he was growing up — entitled Marine Boy Meets the Skinheads Uptown.

He is writing his second novel and, with fellow Eastbourne writer Matthew Loukes, researching a history of London tattooing for publication by Soul Bay Books in 2008/9.

Dr Cunnell will speak at a celebration of the life and work of Jack Kerouac at the British Library on September 17.

The book was published in the UK by Penguin Classics on September 5.

Candied Orange Peels

December 24, 2008

 

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Some festive holiday recipe action from Sarah Blake, R.G.S.

Once again, Sarah Neuburger comes through. She posted her own candy-making experience here, which is where I got the idea to make them. And so now, I share with you my own candy-making experience.

I am actually making these things right now!! As we speak! Or, I guess, as I write. Some simmering action is happening. It will be happening for quite some time, so I figured I might as well post now. This is also the sort of dish where you set out to make 1 thing, and end up with three equally delicious treats.

Necessary Food Items

3 oranges. You can use more, or less, depending on how big your oranges are and how many folks you wanna serve.
2-4 cups water. The specific amount will depend on how much peel you have.
2-4 cups of sugar. Again, dependent on how much peel you have, but you want a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar.
+at least 1 cup extra for later
Some extra water that you will use for boiling, but which will get discarded and not end up in the recipe.

Nice things, not necessarily necessary

1/4 tsp vanilla extract, peppermint extract
OR
some cloves, cinnamon sticks, or other spicy spices.
3 oz chocolate

Ok, so there are you deliciously wonderful ingredients. You can already tell we are off to a good start, can’t you. I can. Damn.

Because I love lists so incredibly much, I’m going to put the directions into list form (this will also allow me to show off my MAD HTML skills. Or rather, SKILLZ!)

  1. Take a small knife and cut into the orange peel. Slice it from the top to the bottom, 6 places or so, evenly spaced. Don’t cut into the actual orange, if you can help it (the juice escaping will make later steps more difficult). Gently peel the strips off by hand.
  2. Cut the strips into thinner strips. Don’t cut them TOO thin — about a quarter of an inch should work just fine.
  3. With your kuhniffy (aka the proper pronunciation of “knife,” according to my mother. Accent on the “niff”), scrape the pith (white shit on the inside) off the peels. You might be thinking, “Why would I do that now, instead of when I first cut it off, thus not having to do as many?” Why, indeed. It SEEMS like a less efficient way, but it is easier to get the pith off the small pieces than to get it off the big pieces, thus saving you much frustration. Plus it really doesn’t take that long. You won’t be able to get off ALL the white shit, but get off as much as you can without also slicing your fingers off.
    The best way to do it is to hold the strip at one end and half scrape, half slice from the middle to the other end. Flip around and repeat. You probably will break some, but whatever, that just means you’ll have more little itty bitty pieces to munch on that you can’t wrap and give to people as gifts, because they aren’t attractive enough. Aren’t I clever?
  4. Put the peels in a sauce pan and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil. Leave it boiling for a minute or two, and then drain it. Then do it again. AND again. And again. One more time for good measure. (That’s 5 times for those of you who can’t count).
    The best way to do this is to dump it all into a colander, then stick it back into the pot. Rinse out the colander in between each drainage: some of the excess pith will have come off, and you want to get as much of that loose stuff OUT as possible.
  5. After the last time, let the peels sit in the drain for a while. Combine the water and sugar in the pan you were using (no reason to dirty more dishes — give it a quick rinse first, though). Boil the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it’s clear. We call this concoction “simple syrup.” Which you should know already. If you don’t, for shame.
    1. While your syrup is working its way up to a boil, spread your peels out on a towel, made of paper or fabric, and then use another towel to pat them dry. Don’t smush them too much, just get some of the excess water out.
    2. This is where you would put in any sort of spices or oils you want to flavor your candy with. Keep in mind, though, that you will probably want to keep this syrup and use it in drinks or something, so don’t put in any weird shit.
  6. Once your syrup has boiled, add the peels. Turn the heat down super duper low, and let it simmer for about an hour, or until the peels are translucent. (This is where I am now, and you can also make orange juice or something while that’s happening. Go down a bit to see some tips on post-peeling juicing. Also, be aware that this project takes a lot of clean-up, especially of counters and utensils, so you can start doing that now. At least, that’s what I’d do. You know, if I weren’t sitting here writing a blog post.)
  7. Once the lovely little things are translucent, scoop ‘em on out. Use a slotted spoon, since you want to save that syrup. Spread the peels out on (a) a cookie sheet or two lined with parchment paper, or (b) wire racks, which are placed on top of a cookie sheet or two lined with parchment paper. B is probably the better option, but if you are like me, you don’t HAVE wire racks. So. You know. You gotta do whatcha gotta do.
  8. This is another place where you have options, depending on how much time you want to spend and whether or not you have ants. Ideally, you would leave the peels out to dry overnight. If you can’t do that, take a paper towel or two and dab them dry as best you can. You want them to be dry enough so that the sugar (next step) will not melt into the syrup.
  9. Put that extra sugar in a bowl or a plate or something, put your peels in there, and roll them about! Put them back on the parchment or wire rack, and let them sit for at LEAST half an hour. Then pack ‘em up.

ALTERNATIVELY:
Dip those suckers in some chocolate. Drizzle it on, too. Make it look pretty.

As for melting the chocolate, just stick it in the microwave for a minute. Take it out, mix it up a bit with a fork or something (fork is useful for later drizzling). Put it back in for 10-15 seconds if it didn’t melt enough. You can use pastilles or chips (chips are cheaper, but usually of a lesser quality. I particularly like Guittard chocolate pastilles). You can use whatever type of chocolate you like, but I would personally use semi-sweet (or, if you are going the fancy way, 55% dark). Darker would be delicious too, I’m sure. I’m not a big fan of milk or white chocolate with Orange. If you are doing lemon or lime or grapefruit peels, you might want to go for white chocolate or a milk chocolate instead, to contrast the tartness.

When you are done with the chocolate, leave the peels on the parchment paper, and stick your cookie sheet in the fridge. Let it sit there for a while, then take it out and pack it up all pretty.

What Am I Supposed to do with ALL THIS SYRUP?!?!

A very valid question. Find a container that will hold it all, will pour easily, and has a secure lid. A jar or an old wine/liquor bottle will work well. Get a funnel. Put it in the bottle. Get a wire strainer. Put it on the funnel. Pour away! The strainer will catch the bits of pith and peel that came off during cooking! The syrup will have a very nice, light orange flavor — good for tea (hot or iced) and mixed drinks that have orange things in them. It will keep well on the shelf, but if you are not big on sweetener, you can store it in the fridge and it will last even longer!

Making Juice When The Dang Orange is Already Peeled

It’s not my favorite thing in the world. Here are some tips:

-Wear some protective goggles. Squirting is inevitable. I got orange juice all over my forehead, actually. My bangs are..sticky.

-Go section by section.

-Use your paring knife to cut through the section’s membrane before sticking it on the little juicer thing. This will greatly reduce the squirt risk.

Of course, you COULD just, you know, juice it first and then use the peels. If you do that, just be careful not to fuck up the peels.

OK that ends this one. Until next time…
.Sarah Blake, R.G.S.

(posted by Lily)

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