Category Archives: Divers Items

The Splendid Table comes to Greensboro, not for the hummus

The Splendid Table” is readily recognized as a radio program/podcast/website/blog focused on food. To see “Greensboro” identified as a subject of a recent installment was a minor jolt.

My knee jerked: “Please, not another paean to North Carolina barbecue.”

Maybe, hummus?  MidLaw was the first to posit the theory that hummus originated in Greensboro.

As it turns out, The Splendid Table’s focus is neither barbecue nor hummus. It is “the Greensboro Four” who historically sat in for lunch at Woolworth’s in the 1960’s. In a brief interview, Joseph McNeil gives a dignified and generous account of the sit-ins (it’s impossible not to like the guy), reprising the now iconic, unidentified white lady who encouraged the students, and crediting the solidarity of the UNC-G (then, Women’s College) students who came out to support the Four. But he trashed the food.

The Splendid Table picked up the interview from New York’s Other People’s Food. The theme is “the universality of food to find common ground amid racial and cultural differences.”

MidLaw is able to attest: “universality” and not “quality” is the right theme for downtown food in Greensboro at the time. In the 1970’s, when MidLaw set up shop at Brooks Pierce in downtown Greensboro, Woolworth’s was one of a limited few venues for lunch downtown.

Joseph McNeil does not recount being served in 1960, but he does recall returning to Woolworth’s in the 1970’s after the lunch counter was integrated. He says the coffee was bad and the apple pie was bland (“it sucked,” he says).

There weren’t many choices for lunch in downtown Greensboro back then. The big department stores were departing for the shopping centers, taking with them their cafeterias and dining rooms. What was left were lunch rooms in office towers and a small handful of stand-alone restaurants. MidLaw recalls Mathews Grill, a meat-and-two-vegetables place whose proprietor was busy parleying restaurant proceeds into real estate; The Lotus, a mid-century Chinese restaurant that was far from home; Randy’s Sandwich Shop, which served the standard sandwiches of the day; the Southeastern Soda Shop; and a delicatessen whose name I can’t recall that famously served “Kosher Dogs” (hot dogs smothered in sauerkraut). And Woolworth’s. Mr. McNeil’s word captures everything except the kosher dogs: “bland.”

Woolworth’s led the way. The meats at Woolworth’s were such that the smartest order was a Vegetable Plate. The vegetables came largely from cans and frozen packets. Macaroni and cheese was prepared in large sheets and cut into squares with a knife to make a serving. Greens from a can. The squash casserole was redeemed, if at all, by cheese melted in the juices of the squash and onions. Salt was the key ingredient.

Except those who were members of the Greensboro City Club, lunch most often required flight to the shopping centers, where the great American culinary innovation of the day awaited: the all-you-can-eat salad bar.

So, Joseph McNeil’s commentary on mid-1970’s downtown Greensboro food is about right.

Today though is different. Today, there are a couple of places downtown who might actually earn a place on The Splendid Table.

Here again, McNeil gets it right. He says “we’re going to make progress sometimes in spite of ourselves.”

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Hummus Alert — Time Sensitive — Tomato-hummus perihelion at peak this weekend

This seasonal notice should, ideally, have been posted earlier. Regrettably, it was not.

Of course, the foundational post was here all along as loyal followers know. You might have protected yourself.

There is still time. This weekend marks the peak of the tomato-hummus perihelion. Act now. Here is what you do.

Although a preference for Edgecombe tomatoes has been identified in the past, those sourced at the Greensboro Farmers Market have been determined to be equivalent in quality and most dimensions of flavor. MidLaw acknowledges that vine-ripened tomatoes from other North Carolina sources may also meet immediate needs.

WARNING! This alert is subject to unpredictable forces in the tomato markets, including spikes in demand and supply imbalances.

Caveat emptor.

                                  

Cahiers de Hoummous: I am a moveable feast

I learned recently that there are more organisms — each one a separate little fellow — in the last two inches of my colon than all the human beings who have ever existed.

They work together, these fellows, for good. Shaping up digestion, toning up the immune system, and, apparently, limiting weight gain.

When things go wrong, you will regret it, but when they are treated right, the little fellows go about their business without complaint, promoting harmony, efficacy, and a sense of well-being.

Sauerkraut and yogurt are particularly popular with them, but they like most kinds of healthy organic foods. Vegetables mostly. They like diversity.

Not surprisingly, chickpeas are popular. So is hummus.

Knowing that they are down there – all 70 trillion* of them – going about their business and mine – bumping, jostling, collaborating, getting along – pleases me.

I am a moveable feast, a peaceable kingdom.

*  Figures are approximate and may vary by tens of trillions in either direction.

Guilford College President uniquely prepared to prepare students uniquely — intelligence that is not artificial

Jane Fernandes’ Blog

Gradually, articles written about her, her own writing, and her speeches and oral presentations are showing us more of Jane Fernandes’ personal story.

The President of Guilford College has been deaf from birth. So was her mother. Over time, we have learned that

  • When Jane was a small child, her mother would give her a few coins or a small bill and send her to the store, charging her to buy some item, pay for it, and return with the correct change — without the store keeper realizing that Jane could not hear.
  • Jane attended public schools and after school, her mother would ask “What questions did you ask at school today?” (“My mother knew that if I asked my own questions and found the answers to them, I would have powerful preparation for life.”)
  • Throughout her school days, Jane’s mother caused her to take piano lessons. When Jane complained, her mother sent her to a concert. (“I sat very close to the stage and watched Van Cliburn. As he played, I saw his soul. I saw what chords meant.”)
  • In college, Jane majored in French and spent a year in France.
  • At Guilford College, Jane celebrates the Eastern Music Festival, which is held on Guilford’s campus.

There’s more to tell, but you tell me:

  • Is that a practical liberal arts education or what?
  • Can you imagine a better preparation for a 21st Century educator?
  • Can you imagine a better orientation for a leader in a learning community at this moment?
  • What core capabilities do you want today’s emerging adults to have for what’s coming?

And how about that mother?

A second comment on The Bright Hour

While Nina Riggs’ The Bright Hour is “a memoir of living and dying” which recounts Nina Riggs’ experience of cancer and approaching death, it is profoundly and meaningfully humorous.

I find the writing and the insights to have particular relevance for professionals. Although the book is not explicitly didactic, it is so for a moment. Nina writes:

We contain things and give shape to things in order to be less afraid of them. … The crafted idea does this. It’s why I write. The metaphor does this. … I can hear Montaigne hollering: break it open, look inside, feel it, write it down.

Much to find in this book.

Go get this book – Nina Riggs, The Bright Hour – from Greensboro but far beyond

Nina Riggs’ The Bright Hour, justly, has gathered national appreciation (acclaim, really).  Reviewers say her “memoir of living and dying” is a “stunning” expression of the human spirit. Across the country, readers are recognizing and celebrating it, and rightly.

Nina was a Greensboro poet and the wife of former Brooks Pierce lawyer, our friend John Duberstein. Her story and stunning book have created a quiet sense of wonder and more than a little pride here.

I see The Bright Hour as a liberal education – in itself – and, at the same time, a vibrant affirmation of the value of a liberal education. To make of cancer and a final illness what Nina has done and how …

Nina Riggs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Michel de Montaigne. How she walked with them, in her Greensboro life and how the three of them made meaning together (and with others) as Nina’s life came to an end are a profound validation of a liberal education and a compelling, ennobling demonstration of what it is, and how, to be human.

Go buy and read this book.

On the 4th of July: correcting the mistakes of the founding fathers

It’s a troubling issue of long standing: Self-evident as they may be, are our rights “unalienable” or are they “inalienable”?

Turns out, both words mean the same thing. But, you must admit, “inalienable” has a certain elegance about it, and“unalienable” seems sort of clunky. Still, the Declaration of Independence indubitably says “unalienable”.

Thomas Jefferson’s first draft had said “inalienable” and then it got changed to “unalienable” later, possibly by John Adams although he had also written “inalienable” in an intermediate draft. (Perhaps the celebrated ill will between Jefferson and Adams had its beginnings here?) The document notwithstanding, somebody carved “inalienable” on the Jefferson Memorial.

Anyway, “inalienable” sounds better, right? (Trust me, I’m a lawyer.)

So, I am suggesting that we should go back to the surviving originals of the Declaration of Independence and change the “u” that’s on them to an “i”. It’ll just be the one letter.

Now — I am not insensitive to concerns about damaging very old and authentic artifacts. So, I am also suggesting that the persons who do the work should be very well trained. No white out, please.

The Bell Witch from Upper Town Creek (Edgecombe County)

The ghost in “America’s greatest ghost story” is an Edgecombe County native.

She left home and made a big mark in Tennessee. Recently, she inspired the celebrated movie, The Blair Witch Project.

She is often identified as Kate Batts (note the Edgecombe name) but better known as “the Bell Witch” after the Edgecombe expatriate family whom she haunted. The Bells left Upper Town Creek in 1803 and moved to Robertson County in Tennessee, where they and others from Edgecombe County settled.

Probably, no American ghost story is more extensively documented than the Bell Witch story. It is the subject of books, articles, documentaries, movies, and now Internet blogs and posts.

In short, the witch haunted Edgecombe native John Bell and his family and others in Tennessee over as long as two centuries. Early on, she mostly tormented her victims but sometimes she was kind, singing hymns and serving fruit to the ones she liked. Ultimately, she poisoned and killed John Bell and then she disrupted his funeral by singing drinking songs while the mourners tried to sing church music. Following Bell’s death though, and continuing well into the 20th century, she seems to have mellowed, merely visiting and hanging out from time to time with residents and others in the region .

In her first appearance, the witch confronted John Bell in a Tennessee cornfield. Famously, on that occasion, she manifested as a dog with the head of a rabbit. (This account, of course, is very consistent with Edgecombe County history. Not a single sighting of a dog with a rabbit’s head has been reported in Edgecombe County since the Bells left in 1803.)

Later, the witch appeared in other forms and often she spoke or acted without taking visible form. On that first appearance, Bell ran her off by firing his gun at her. Later, she was more persistent.

Different accounts explain where she came from.

One holds that John Bell had an affair with an Edgecombe County neighbor, Kate Batts, and then broke it off. This provoked Kate to threaten to tell the neighborhood how he had mistreated her. In response, Bell locked her in his smokehouse and left her there, tied up, until she died. Bell then left North Carolina for Tennessee with his family and Kate’s spirit followed. She haunted him to his death.

A second account is that Bell’s Edgecombe farm overseer, John Black, took up with Bell’s daughter, much to Bell’s disapproval. Ultimately Bell killed Black. By this account, the overseer’s spirit pursued the Bells from Town Creek to Tennessee. The ghost was identified in Tennessee with the corporeal Kate Batts who was among others from Edgecombe County who had moved to Tennessee and settled in the same area as the Bells. She had disputes with them out there.

Either way, it started with sex in Edgecombe County. So many things do.

The Bell Witch haunting is a long and continuing Tennessee tale and it has won a place in Tennessee history. But the ghost came from Edgecombe County and for those who have grown up in Edgecombe and later left home, the notion that Edgecombe ghosts may follow you wherever you go comes as no surprise.

Nor does the idea that sex and sorrow leads to no good end.

 

Cahiers de Hoummous: Lessons of public affairs for making your own hummus

Make and consume hummus (as usual).
Make contemporaneous memorandum.
Read Marcel Proust, À la Recherche du Temps Perdue.
Read Michel de Montaigne, Of Sadness.

Read Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Revise memorandum.
Repeat if desired.

I do not know which to prefer, the hummus, or just after.

 

 

Cahiers de Hoummous: Hummus Day’s a-comin’

We are once more in the annual run down to International Hummus Day.

The approach of the day has brought forward more of the encyclopedic hummus social media posts (well, collections of hummus links really) that we have become accustomed to.

BuzzFeed:  Signs you’re in a relationship with hummus

Huffington Post: Health benefits of hummus

Following these links requires assiduity – real assiduity, the kind that drives the truly committed to peel the skins off chickpeas pea by pea.

In this cascade of points and authorities has come yet another nuance in hummus technique. Now comes the suggestion that, after soaking your dried chickpeas overnight, and, just before you commit them to the cauldron for their hour-long boil-and-simmer, you might sautè them with the baking soda for three or four minutes in olive oil.

Observing this mounting enthusiasm, growing volume of commentary, and advancing granularity of detail, MidLaw is called to counsel:

First, temper obsession with dignity. As it is, you will be smearing a mess of semi-fluid, oil-drenched bean paste onto a shred of pita bread, then seeking to get it into your mouth without dripping anything on anything. Bear in mind that you are an exemplar of the species that produced the Code of Hammurabi, the Magna Carta and the State Toast of North Carolina.

Second, never in the pursuit of hummus, exalt occult technique over the immediacy of the moment. What is the MidLaw Way if not to stop, breathe, then consume radically?  And always, to ROLL YOUR OWN.