Beaten Biscuits: The Sound of the South

 

Wikimedia image of beaten biscuits

Are they a holdover of slave days, something that no one in their right mind would voluntarily make? Are they a delicacy well worth every stroke of beating that goes into them? Dedicated cooks take the time and hard work to make the beaten biscuits of the Old South because there is nothing else like them. Firm, crispy, described as a cross between hardtack and a flaky, layered cracker, some insist that they are the only proper thing to serve with ham and gravy.

People who eat wheat have sought ways to get airy light breads since the first day they ate a flatbread puffed up from the steam released in cooking. Using yeast gave them wheat breads that expanded well beyond any other mechanism they had discovered. But yeast can be unreliable, or unavailable because the starter died. Cooks began to use pearlash (potassium carbonate, made from burnt wood) to leaven cakes in the late 1700s, and baking powder really took hold in the mid-1800s.

In the southern United States, another way was to get a lighter bread was to beat it. Beating the dough, rather than kneading it, brings air in while destroying most of the gluten strands. “By working them [the gluten strands] over and over and severing the stands constantly and then emulsifying them with a fat to keep them shortened, you can achieve a tender product without the aid of chemical liveners . . . In a beaten biscuit [often called Maryland Biscuits] the lightening of the dough was a result of the emulsification of the fat into the flour by beating it repeatedly over time.” Sufficient battering of the dough made it smooth and elastic, with pockets of trapped air. This technique seems to have been rarely if ever used outside the southeast United States, where it is first mentioned in Colonial recipes (e.g., Martha Washington).

Although the invention of chemical leaveners at the end of the 18th century changed by biscuit landscape by the mid-to-late 1800s, people in the south still make beaten biscuits. A writer for the Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project recorded one recipe: “[T]ake:–1 ½ pints of flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon lard. Add salt to flour and blend thoroughly with lard. Three gills of milk and water—half and half—to be added slowly with a stingy hand, for the dough must be very stiff. Knead for 5 minutes and beat with a hatchet for 30 minutes. Form into small biscuit and prick on top with a fork. Bake in moderate oven for 20 minutes.”

Cover of a Texas cookbook prepared for the America Eats! project, with a recipe for beaten biscuits

The sound of people beating biscuits was one of their distinctive features, particularly before breakfast. “One man recalls the sound of the cook beating biscuits with the nose of a hammer, out on a tree stump behind the kitchen. The flat of an axe, the heel of a sad iron, the heel of your hand.” Other recipes advised an iron mallet, a rolling pin, a club, and “iron (never use wood).”

One reason for beaten biscuits staying in the South might be that only low-gluten wheat grew well in that climate. Although gluten is essential to beaten biscuits, using low-gluten flour makes it easier to achieve the desired light texture, without the gluten strands forming so tightly that they make the biscuits tough. White Lily is the best known of the flours milled from soft white winter wheats; Martha White and Gladiola are others (some cooks substitute all-purpose flour, with more resting time before beginning to work it).

Mary Randolph has the first recorded recipe for beaten biscuits in her 1824 book, Virginia Housewife. She calls them “Apoquinminc Cakes.” Another source refers to them by this name, and says that the local Indians taught settlers that technique for make bread that would travel well. No other sources that suggest that Southeast U.S. tribes (Algonquins and others) used that method of making bread from corn or acorns, their main bread ingredients. It is not a European technique either, leaving the question of who developed the technique unanswered.

Their history is inextricably associated with class, and with hard labor. Many people who ate them regularly had slaves or servants to prepare them. In one situation, social workers enforced their use by people in Appalachia who needed food relief. Because corn grew in home gardens in Appalachia at the turn of the century, people often ate cornbread rather than wheat breads for which they would have had to buy flour. “‘Cornbread was easy and quick. . . . You could literally cook it on a hoe outdoors.’” Government workers believed (on the basis of some evidence) that relying on corn led to pellagra and other diseases. They encouraged women to make beaten biscuits, which they viewed as nutritious, rather than any other form of wheat bread, sentencing them to hours of more hard labor every day.

Could African slaves have brought the technique? Or sailors? Some sources describe beaten biscuits as a direct descendant of hardtack. However, hardtack was made without oils of any sort, so that it would last longer, and no one ever described it as tasty.

One other mention of beating a flour dough appears in a recipe from Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery that describes a “sugar biscuit” or cookie made with a similar technique. It calls for the cook to “mix it [flour, butter, sugar, pearlash (for leavening), brandy, caraway seeds, and water] thoroughly, till it becomes a lump of dough. Flour your paste-board and lay the dough on it. Knead it very well. Divide it into eight or ten pieces, and knead each piece separately. Then put them all together, and knead them very well in one lump. Cut the dough in half, and roll it out into sheets, about half an inch thick. Beat the sheets of dough very hard, on both sides, with the rolling-pin.”

Mechanization came to the beaten biscuit around 1870, with the creation of the biscuit-break. “The biscuit break was a machine that rolled the dough through hand cranked rollers much like a pasta machine. The use of a meat grinder is sometimes mentioned in recipes as a way of shortening the beating process of this dish as well.” Recipes for beaten biscuits today substitute food processors for the axe handles.

Baking powder biscuits (Wikimedia image)

 

More important, baking powder allowed everyone to make lighter biscuits. Even though they have a much different texture than beaten biscuits, they quickly became popular. Today beaten biscuits are a culinary curiosity found mostly in specialized cookbooks.

Addendum: a compendium of biscuits

Beaten biscuits: Firm, crispy layers, requiring a half hour or more of labor to prepare, and 20 to 30 minutes to cook. Several sources describe these as the grandchildren of  “ship’s biscuits,” or hard tack. [Hard tack was never made with oil or shortening because those would have gone rancid and hard tack was designed to last for years. It  derived its rock-hard texture from multiple bakings.]

Flaky buttermilk biscuits: Layers of chilled dough and chilled butter, folded and rolled multiple times, like a puff pastry. These are leavened with baking powder and buttermilk. These are more labor-intensive than dropped or rolled biscuits, but considerably less demanding than beaten biscuits.

Drop biscuits: Cousin to a scone (scones typically have more sugar, and an egg), drop biscuits use the pie crust technique of cutting cold butter or shortening into dry ingredients, mixing quickly with milk or water, kneading lightly, and shaping. They are the opposite of the beaten biscuits or flaky buttermilk biscuits – minimal handling is ideal.

Cream biscuit: A drop biscuit relying on heavy cream instead of butter to provide the fat that is one of the defining characteristic of biscuits. As simple as it gets without a boxed mix.

Angel biscuits: A biscuit that uses both yeast and baking powder for leavening. Also called “Bride’s Biscuits,” because the double leavening gave a new cook some insurance that her biscuits would pass muster (Bill Neal, Biscuits, Spoonbread, & Sweet Potato Pie, p. 50).

Box biscuits, store-bought biscuits: Today, biscuits come in dried mixes (just add water or milk), and in tubes of pre-made refrigerated dough (also known as canned biscuits), as well as frozen. The invention of baking powder changed the biscuit scene forever. Boxed mixes incorporating shortening that wouldn’t go rancid changed it even further. Pillsbury’s pre-made biscuit dough in a can made biscuits virtually instant except for the baking. No one has yet figured out how to make a tasty biscuit that can live on a shelf in plastic wrap, but the day is likely coming.

Sources:

Jed Portman, “The Art of the Beaten Biscuit,” Garden and Gun, April 29, 2015, gardenandgun.com/recipe/the-art-of-the-beaten-biscuit/

“History of the Beaten Biscuits” Mid Atlantic Cooking, August 16, 2012, midatlanticcooking.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/beaten-biscuits/ (accessed on December 6, 2018)

Linda Civitello, “Chapter 2: The Liberation of Cake,” Baking Powder Wars, University of Illinois Press, 2017.

Joyce White, “Maryland Beaten Biscuits,” A Taste of History with Joyce White,  March 25, 2015.
atasteofhistorywithjoycewhite.blogspot.com/2015/03/maryland-beaten-biscuits.html

“Beaten Biscuits,” Cooks Info, cooksinfo.com/beaten-biscuits (accessed December 8, 2018)

Dave Tabler, “Cornbread or beaten biscuits? Breaking the food code,” Appalachian History, November 17, 2016, appalachianhistory.net/2016/11/cornbread-or-beaten-biscuits-breaking-the-food-code.html

Bill Neal, Biscuits, Spoonbread, & Sweet Potato Pie, UNC Press, 1990.

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Wheatavore: A Wheat Compendium

A Wheat Compendium

The history of grains sums up the recent history of the world – for the past 10,000 years at least. Religions and wars (they seem to go together), diet and death, the minutiae of daily existence for most people have been and still are bound together by the getting and sharing of grains. Of these, wheat alone runs the gamut of uses, from wallpaper paste to the body of God.
 Wheat is woven into most of the world’s cultures in temperate zones at every turn. It was one of the five sacred grains in China, represented throughout the ancient tombs of the Egyptians, and found all along the Silk Road. It pervaded the lives and religions of the Greeks and Romans, the Arabs and Huns.Those who have the misfortune to be allergic to the gluten in wheat know how pervasive wheat is because they confront it daily hidden in food, drink cosmetics and household products.
Wheatavore is a blog about all things wheaten, from fashion to farms to futures, folklore to literature, and recipes to religions.  Molecular biology, microbiomes, geography, the adaptation of humans to wheat and wheat to humans will have a place alongside recipes for breads, pastas, pies and pastries.
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Hello readers of roadtripteri

This is the author of this blog, Teri White Carns. I also have Chicken Lady at Locust Lane (which years ago I set up as my basic WordPress blog),  roadtripteri, and Wheatavore blogs.  I’m going to be  adding a couple of hundred posts (from my Wheatavore blog on Google’s Blogger) to the WordPress blogs (roadtripteri and Chicken Lady) over the next few weeks. Despite reading a 600-page book on WordPress and combing websites for advice, I have not entirely figured out how to keep from spamming you with so many new posts about travels and wheat. If you are getting all of this new content, I’ll do my best to discontinue you if you like, at least for the time being. You should be able to unsubscribe on your own. But if you like travel notes, food history, and interesting stories about wheat and bread, stick around! Thanks — Teri

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Anchorage, late March 2014

 

A single green fly

makes love to dandelion

sun, small universe.

 

Mt.Susitna (Sleeping Lady) at sunset, March 23, 2014 (about 9:00 p.m.).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday Vignettes in Midtown Anchorage

 

       Gray May Saturday morning —  it’s perfect for walking to the Spenard Farmers Market. Along the way we bought a small loaf of blueberry quick bread ($1) from a fellow raising money for the Three Barons’ Renaissance Fair. They also had a car wash, in the Veterans Lodge parking lot, but not a lot of business.

At Pack Rat Antiques in the old McKay Hardware building, I restricted myself to buying a little guinea hen figure for Micki and candy cigarettes for Jim. The young woman who rang up the purchases said that a new Italian restaurant had opened at Metro mall; Originale. We said we’d check it out.

Antonio, the Greek baker, said that he would have a booth at the market, so we headed straight for the baklava.

Jim buying baklava from Antonio’s booth.

New this year was the Mobile Mending Co. booth that had two sewing machines set up, an ironing board and iron, and an array of threads. The owner said that she would mend anything on the spot — but had two hours of work already lined up.

Mobile Mending Co. booth at Spenard Farmers’ Market. She had more business than she could handle.

The farmers were selling plants, mainly, although some of the other Saturday markets feature greens from this year (often greenhouse grown) and potatoes and root vegetables stored from last year.

An array of plants at the Spenard Farmers’ Market.

Well-hatted woman at Spenard Farmers’ Market

Walking back, we encountered a Native guy who was sitting back by the trees at the corner of Denali and Benson with his cardboard sign. He asked us for a cigarette, and when we said sorry, we didn’t have any, he didn’t ask for money. We thought we looked more like people who would have money but not cigarettes; he took us for fellow travelers, perhaps, who would be a better touch for smokes than dollars.

At Originale, I scoped out the menu on the chalkboard and asked about vegetarian options. The young woman pointed to the column labeled “Vegetarian” and said, “That’s it. Tomato and cheese, and tuna.” “Oh,” I said, “Tuna’s not really vegetarian, is it?” “Hmph. Depends. For some people it is.” The store has neat shelves of chocolates, pasta, sauces, white anchovies, peppers, and more, all imported from Italy. The hours are 10-6, M-F; 10-5 on Saturday and closed on Sunday – pretty much corresponding to the Metro Bookstore hours through which one must go to get to the restaurant. Note – is this the new thing in Anchorage? Title Wave has replaced the bagel place with Yak and Yeti; Metro Books has replaced their organic food café with an upscale Italian place.

Our route home took us past a welcome sight — the first forget-me-nots of the spring.

First forget-me-nots, Anchorage.

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The Carns family goes to London — September 25, 2014

 

The computer is misbehaving badly. So I’ll do my best to get this on its way, and mainly with photos.
We spent Thursday morning, September 25,  in Seattle with Jim’s dentist brother, and then getting Deke’s pies for lunch, a quick stop at Elliott Bay bookstore.

Jim & Tom Carns.

England.

Our flat, on left.

A flower on a fence.

This morning’s coffee at Streatham Common train station.

Statue in Trafalgar Square.

Dragon on pillar in middle of street to mark spot of former Temple Bar.

Serving paella at Covent Garden.

Street Entertainer at Covent Garden.

??

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seattle, Dante’s Inferno Ballet, Back to Anchorage 2014

 

View of Seattle skyline from Regina and Deke’s apartment; the orange things that look like a cluster of salmon eggs in the bottom left corner are buoys. The Space Needle, and the construction cranes for South Lake Union buildings are at the south end of Lake Union.
Jim and Teri headed for Seattle on February 13 to spend much of the next eleven days working on a friend’s ballet of “Dante’s Inferno.” She drafted Jim to be a demon (non-dancing); Anthea was already working as the webmaster and production assistant. I tried and tried to make one email with the whole trip in it, but it got stuffed way too full. So here’s an account of some of our non-ballet doings, and next up will be a review of rehearsals and the ballet.
Valentine’s Day in Seattle

The weather was quite acceptable, for Seattle in February, and we had much of the day to wander around the city seeing our favorite spots. Everywhere, people were carrying bouquets of flowers. On the University of Washington campus, this guy had the flower and was writing the note to go with it. Note the sandals with bare feet — an indication of the pleasant weather (but also a puddle beneath the bench — it wasn’t entirely dry).

The shelves at Bartell’s Drug on University Avenue (UW campus) were stripped nearly bare by 4:30 in the afternoon.
There were plenty of flowers at Pike Street Market, along the streets, growing in planters. Going from Anchorage in the winter to Seattle has something of the quality of Dorothy finding herself in Technicolor Oz.
Regina and I spent some of the evening (Jim and Anthea were at rehearsal) singing sea shanties on a fine wooden boat at Lake Union with a group of Seattleites who assemble monthly. Sea shanties were work songs originally, designed to provide rhythms for hauling ropes, swabbing decks, and other repetitive tasks. “Wae, Hae, blow the man down,” a popular shanty, was sung by Popeye (in a 1937 cartoon), Chip and Dale (in a Donald Duck cartoon, 1957), Pirates of the Carribbean (Disney), and is the basis for the SpongeBob SquarePants theme. The Seattle shanty singers mix familiar staples that everyone belts out lustily, many more esoteric tunes, and two or three original compositions (sometimes from Regina).
Saturday, Tacoma in the rain
On Saturday, February 15, we went to Tacoma for a memorial service for one the Carns neighbors from Longview days. It was a chance to remember a very fine engineer (Bill Hoss), to see family and friends, and to experience Northwest liquid gold — rain. Six deer clustered near the front door at the home where the memorial service was held, feeding on the grass and bushes. They were sure of their exalted position, and entirely uninterested in all of the people coming and going.
Hellebores were blooming throughout the Northwest, despite unseasonable cold and several inches of snow during the days just before we arrived.
We were back in Bellevue for a several hour rehearsal on Saturday evening.
A ballerina’s foot at rest.
Masks, most created and made by Glenna Burmer of Burmer Music, LLC. The green one is my favorite. [Photo by permission.]
Sunday, February 16
We started the day as many good Seattleites do, with breakfast out. Here are Regina and Deke at the Portage Bay Cafe, which is very up to date — the Porcetta and eggs special featured locally-foraged nettles, fennel pollen and seed, and free-range eggs, pork, and potatoes (the free-range potatoes are hard to come by, but are especially tender).
Jim and Anthea, fortifying themselves for the ballet rehearsal ahead on Sunday.
Jim, demonized, at Sunday rehearsal.
Monday, February 17
We did laundry at the Lost Sock Laundromat (it would be hard to lose a sock there because very helpful people were keeping a close eye out for people like me who couldn’t figure out the coin slots quickly enough to suit them). On Capitol Hill we walked past a yard entirely covered in carefully cultivated moss. For afternoon entertainment, Jim and Anthea spent several hours at rehearsal in Bellevue, and I set out to take the measure of the Bellevue Square shopping mall.
Emerald green moss, an entire yard full.
The Microsoft store was a popular spot on the first floor of the Bellevue Square Mall; the Apple store was equally popular on the floor above.
These shoes caught my eye; there were many people taking a break from the bustle of the mall, but few with such splendid feet.
Bellevue skyline at early sunset.
Tuesday, February 18, Portland
The dancers and demons got a day off, and Jim and I seized the chance to go to Portland. The weather seized the chance to dump another couple of inches of rain on the Pacific Northwest. The main attractions in Portland were Powell’s Bookstore and friends; we didn’t take as many photos.
The view, during most of the 3 1/2 hour drive to Portland.
I-5 is a major truck road, running from Canada to Mexico, with logging trucks common in the Northwest stretches.  We often had trucks ahead, trucks behind, and trucks passing on the left. For those of you who regularly drive the freeways, this is unexceptional, but it is always a surprise for those of us from the far north whose main roads are all two lanes.
Wednesday, February 19
By Wednesday, the skies turned blue again for the drive back to Seattle. This shows the skyline from near Boeing Field, going north. On the far left, bottom corner are the red cranes at the docks, then the arcs of the sports stadium, then the skyline. The Space Needle is just to the right of the stadium girders, and the Smith Tower (once Seattle’s tallest building) is the pyramid-topped skinny white building to the lower right.
SuperBowl may have been a couple of weeks in the past, but SeaHawks pride was still evident everywhere.
The 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington from Seattle to Bellevue; we saw quite a lot of it. An eagle lived at the west end, and usually sitting on a light post or flying across the road when we saw it.
Thursday, February 20
Thursday marked a full day of rehearsals for Jim and Anthea (who was the webmaster,  production assistant and assistant stage manager for the ballet). I spent my time walking around downtown Bellevue. It’s a city of tall glass buildings and straight lines, softened by clouds, and sometimes trees.
Buildings reflected in buildings.
Warmups in the theater. Ron Tice (choreographer) to the left on stage, and marvelous Gordon the stage manager to the right. The dancers seemed to be rarely at rest — they were always warming up, dancing, or moving just a bit, even while waiting, like birch leaves.
Cyclamens (shooting stars), with daffodils and primroses in a planter at the Bravern Shopping Center/residences near the theater.
Part of a Chihuly chandelier in the Lincoln Place complex in downtown Bellevue.
Not all of the Bellevue dancers were rehearsing for the ballet. These girls were in the Bellevue Square Microsoft store, dancing along with the Disney princesses on the TV screen. The older girls were excellent, the little one, getting a good start.
Friday, February 21
Friday was opening night for the ballet. We had time in the morning to stop by Regina’s for espresso, get to Capitol Hill to spend a little while at Elliott Bay Bookstore, and eat an early lunch at our favorite Tutta Bella pizza place near the University.
Artsy selfie, me outside a weathered thrift shop window on Capitol Hill, mirror inside.
 
Saturday, February 22
Two shows on Saturday, leaving us the morning to get to Uwajimaya in the International District for Japanese cards and books. A few Seattle days were sunny. More, like Saturday, were rainy or foggy or both.
The photos of the Space Needle always show it unobstructed by wires, signs, stoplights, and the like. This is its more typical environment, a bit hazy in the fog.
Downtown Seattle, fog in the distance.

 
Sunday, February 23
 
Regina and Deke and a couple of their friends wanted to try out the amphibious Duck ride, one of the ultimate tourist experiences in Seattle. I agreed to go along; Anthea and Jim preferred to husband their resources for the ballet. Although the trip had its embarrassingly tourist-y moments, we got new views of the city from Lake Union, and a chance to banter with the driver. Plus, we learned lots of useful things. Such as, Elvis made a movie in Seattle in 1962 at the time of the World’s Fair. He brought his Cadillac and had it washed daily at the Pink Elephant Car Wash (a going concern still today); he put some of the staff in his movie. The Beatles stayed in the Edgewater Hotel (at Pier 67 on Elliott Bay) in 1964, smuggled in by an ambulance. They fished from the windows in Room 272 (the hotel is built at the water’s edge on the Seattle docks) as did Led Zeppelin who the driver said left a shark in the bathtub, causing the hotel to forbid further fishing from the windows. [The hotel website says that the Rolling Stones, KISS, and Frank Zappa also stayed there.]
 
The hour and a half was bitter cold. The Duck is designed for warm, dry weather; we had neither, although the rain wasn’t really trying hard. Matt, the driver, clearly knew what he was in for — note the hat. He is trying to encourage us to clap our hands and sing. We are not cooperating. He was knowledgeable and entertaining.

Cormorants and very expensive houseboats (there’s no other kind) on Lake Union.

Looking east on Lake Union, yachts and more houseboats on a gray day.

A flowering tree, at the end of the Duck ride. Not all in Seattle was glum and gray.

 
Monday, February 24
 
For our last Seattle day, done with dance, we stocked up on chocolate at Trader Joe’s, and spent a couple of hours at the new Museum of History and industry on Lake Union. Jeff Bezos of Amazon paid for much of the first floor which emphasized technology; a variety of donors contributed to the second floor. 
 
An early version of the logging truck that we saw on the road to Portland.

 
We shared the museum with a dozen groups of kids on field trips.

 
A lot of Alaska history was in the museum too, from salmon to gold. Sometimes Alaskans have the feeling that the rest of the country still feels this way about the state.

 
February 25 — Return to Anchorage
 
Here’s how we know that we’re home.

 
Mt. Redoubt, the active volcano, showing over the airport runways near sunset.

 

 

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From Antioch to Anchorage — June 20 – 25, 2015

It’s been several days since there was time to sort through pictures and impressions from the hours and places that we’ve been. This is a summary of the riches.

Leaving Antioch, June 20, 2015

Even in the drought, dew still forms on the grass in LA — morning shadows and sunshine on the way up the hill to Antioch.

At the end-of-residency lunch, Steve Heller (chair of the MFA program) speaks to students and faculty. The relaxed atmosphere is typical of Antioch, and one of its many appeals. Other faculty include (left to right) Bernadette Murphy, (unidentified woman in gold shirt), Erin Aubrey Kaplan, Jennifer Factor, and Peter Selgin.

My “buddy,” Constanze Frei, a gifted person and fascinating writer who has been a treasure of information and support during these first weeks as a student.

A cardboard cutout of a he-man at the LAX airport bookstore, juxtaposed with rows of women’s magazines.

Unexpected at LAX — a tin bucket filled with sunflowers; and

a guitarist serenading passers-by.

The airplane’s windshield gets cleaned just like yours does.

Fathers’ Day in Seattle, June 21, 2015

Here’s one of the great things about Seattle — on the street where Anthea lives, a palm tree, and

fireweed, both in front of the same house.

We spent the day, at Jim’s request, mostly seeking out ice cream and hanging out at the Ballard Locks. We started however, with a stop at the Pike Street Market, for fruit at Sosio’s, and pastries at Le Panier..

The first gelato haven provided a variety of fruit and chocolate flavors (sorry — I didn’t write down the name, but can find it out if needed)..

After that, Jim headed off on his own, and Anthea and I helped Regina choose a hat. In Finland, all people who earn a PhD are given a tophat and a sword. We went to Bernie Utz’s on Union Street to try on tophats.

Regina contemplates the foldable, $450 tailors’ silk tophat. The very excellent salesman said that it was a high-maintenance item — can only hold it by the brim (otherwise it accumulates fingerprints), and it doesn’t do well in rain — not a good hat for Seattle, or for a glaciologist.

We ended up with this one – more of a fedora, made of fur felt, with interchangeable hat bands and feather decor, and wearable almost everywhere. The “sword” will be a glaciologist’s knife (haven’t seen it yet, so don’t know what distinguishes it from all other knives).

Did not get the name of the second gelato place either, but did get delicious gelato.

At the Ballard Locks, we got the end of a Fathers’ Day Pipe Band concert (they are marching out),

seals swimming in the locks (some were dark; this one was spotted),

a parrot to sit on Anthea’s arm (part of the Fathers’ Day festivities for some reason),

and plenty of ships and boats to watch as they waited for the water to sink or rise and get them through the locks. Regina and Deke have done this a few times on the UW sailboats that they rent. Regina explained that the boats tie up to each other so that they go through the locks together — safer for all. The water is nearly out, as you can see by the light area at the top, and the green algae on the lower part of the wall. We finished out the day with an early dinner at Tutta Bella pizza in Wallingford, but no-one was able to eat more than one scoop of gelato by that time so we had to skip the tiramisu. Next time.

Monday, June 22 — Thursday, June 25 — Anchorage

Monday we walked along Ship Creek — saw this week’s cruise ship, a barge, and a cargo plane going in to land at the Air Force base.

People have been catching king salmon for the past couple of weeks. This guy said it was his first ever.

Upstream near the dam and fish ladder, a rope across the creek marks the limit for fishing. It has acquired quite a few lures and lines this summer.

It’s cottonwood season, when the fluff that gives the trees their name

falls and gathers in clumps among the weeds at edges of sidewalks and streets.

For the first few days, the air was hazy from the wildfires burning all around Anchorage, in the Mat-Su Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula.

Whiffs of smoke alternated with wild roses.

Yesterday (June 24) we walked around Lake Spenard. Our favorite sight — mother duck with seventeen ducklings (or thereabouts). We think that they couldn’t all be hers — either she’s babysitting, or has adopted several other families.

Elodea, a water weed used in home aquariums has gotten into the lake. It’s dangerous for the planes, as well as fast-growing and likely to choke out much of the native life. We saw a research boat on the lake, as well as this craft, which appeared to be breaking up mats of other water weeds.

The smoke persisted yesterday — you can barely make out Mt. Susitna below the plane taking off from Anchorage International.

An odd wetlands area along the bike trail was occupied by a mother mallard and two half-grown ducks.

Many of the small cabins around the lake that hold equipment and supplies for the float/ski planes are neatly kept, with green lawns and flowers.

Today (June 25), we went back along Ship Creek. The military forces have been carrying out exercises for the past few days, with many more jets flying than usual.

and a Navy ship in the port, along with a more ordinary barge.

People are still catching fish — we watched this guy pull his in, and haul it up to show it off to his friends.

The air is much clearer today, at least to the east (notice, no snow on those peaks),

and the flowers are vivid.

Post script: One of my favorite quotes for the week came from Anthea — “If you have a chair in your bedroom, put something on it before you go to sleep. Otherwise, you may wake up and find something in it that you didn’t expect.” It’s a 31-word horror story, guaranteed to persuade you to put something on your chair.

FRIDAY, JUNE 19, 2015

South Pasadena Market, June 18, 2015

Selling flowers at the South Pasadena Farmers Market.

After six straight days of intense attention to studies, it was time for a short break. Jim and I drove to Santa Monica for an interlude at the National Council of Jewish Women Thrift  Shop there, an all-time favorite. The staff people are a delight, they have great stuff, and lots of it. Then a quick lunch at home (aka hotel), a class on using Word to format papers for Antioch, and we were off to South Pasadena to meet a nephew and his wife for dinner at the Farmers Market.

Hazy San Bernadino Mountains on the way to South Pasadena. There are forest fires burning here, as there are in Alaska north and south of Anchorage, but today’s haze was probably due to the atmosphere and not smoke.

An important feature of travel in LA today, especially on the west side of the city (our side), was that President Obama was visiting. That meant that numerous roads and freeway sections were either closed, or limited in access. We took the coward’s way out, and headed to South Pasadena without taking any freeways. That worked fine, and we kept assuring ourselves that it was just as fast as the freeways would have been. Except that we got lost in South Pasadena and took as extra 45 minutes to go about five miles. That’s life in LA.  Yes, we had maps and smartphones, but there were two intersections of Meridian Street and Mission, both close to train tracks, and both near Fremont.

But — life is good. We parked directly in front of Buster’s Cafe on Mission Street, across from the Market, and had one of the best-ever chocolate milk shakes with espresso.

People on the lawn across from the South Pasadena Historical Museum on Meridian Avenue.

Wares at the Market — broccoli and cauliflower,

Uncle Irving’s breads (one of several bakeries),

fresh figs (you know I bought a box of those, and we shared them for dinner),

apricots, oranges, apples, berries, cherries, greens, veggies, mushrooms . . .

We stopped in at the Museum, and took a look at the photos and artifacts from the ostrich farming days early in South Pasadena’s history.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm (apparently the only one) had many thousands of ostriches, whose feathers were plucked by the millions in the 1890s for hats, boas, and other feather decorations. The eggs were used to make curios, but the birds themselves weren’t eaten.

The volunteer who showed us around claimed that this boa was a hundred years old.

Near the museum was a stone structure with a memorial plaque.

Long lines for dinners — tamales, sushi, crepes, corn on the cob (Joe, a true Iowan, started with that for an appetizer), and more. We bought food from the various vendors,

and found a shady spot on the lawn in front of the South Pasadena Public Library for a picnic dinner.

A market basket with flowers, carrots, and more. After dinner we split up, Joe and Jen to shop, and us to begin the long journey back to Culver City.

We stopped briefly to listen to a band that had settled in — small boy on the drums, an accordion, a keyboard, and a bass fiddle. Behind the band is a twelve-foot (?) high metal sculpture of a striding man.

On the way west, the sky settled into sunset and then dusk, with a crescent moon.

Market flowers –  blooming leeks, and marigolds.

South Pasadena Market, Thursday, June 18, 2015

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The Carns family goes to London — September 2014

        Here is the first installment of this year’s travelogue — Jim, Anthea, and Teri are off to London for a couple of weeks, with a quick stop in Seattle to start the trip. These were originally sent out as emails, and I am re-publishing them on my blog,  roadtripteri.
        We left a chilly, truly autumn Anchorage on the redeye flight out of Anchorage September 24, and landed in Seattle about 5:00 a.m. First stop – Travelodge by University Center where they very kindly let us in early to get some sleep.
        We met Regina and Anthea for a pizza lunch, then spent a little time at the Pike Street Market and the University Book Store before picking them up again, along with Deke, for dinner with West Seattle friends.
        It was the first day of school at University of Washington, which has something in the neighborhood of 40,000 students —  not the best day to visit the bookstore, but we found a few quiet corners.  Pike Street Market on the other hand, was relatively calm. There were the usual clusters of tourists with cameras at the original Starbucks and the fish-throwing stall, a few musicians, and more fresh flowers and food than it’s really possible to comprehend.
        On Thursday we have dentist appointments with Jim’s brother, then a lunch date for savory pies from Deke’s truck, 314Pie. And then the airport, to catch our (non-stop — all of these travels arrangements are very sane, for a change, not my usual style) flight to London.
        We arrive at Heathrow about noon on Friday, and take a cab to our flat on Streatham Common, south of the Thames. Most of Friday will be spent settling in; the real adventures start on Saturday.
      What we left in Anchorage — clouds in the east, reflected in the back window of a California car.
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Lots of gold in the trees, but still bare Chugach mountains.
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What greeted us in Seattle — rain, on the roof outside our hotel window in the morning.
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A room at the University Travelodge — exceedingly brown. Clean, but brown.
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By the time we arrived at Trader Joe’s around 11:00 a.m.to stock up on chocolate for the trip, the rain had stopped. It’s definitely autumn here at Trader Joe’s, even if  the rest of the city hasn’t caught up.
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Picking up Anthea.
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In the afternoon, Pike Street Market. Flower sellers.
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Everyone takes photos at Pike Street, not just me.
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Salesman offering a taste of today’s special apples at Sosio’s, our favorite produce stand. I left with fresh figs and a Romanesco cauliflower for Regina.
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Ristras — strings of fresh peppers and flowers.
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A pigeon joins the crowd in the market.
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A musician at the corner of the Market by the brass pig — this is the most prized performer’s spot, along with the sidewalk in front of the original Starbucks.
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Exotic seafood on ice.
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The Seattle Eye, with a ferry and cranes to the left.
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A ferry behind one of the Pike Street Market signs.
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A serene Asian statue used to display a Southwest silver and turquoise necklace, with buses reflected in the window.
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Jim, Regina, and Deke.
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On the West Seattle Bridge in the evening, with cranes for loading ships.
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Flowers for sale at the Market.
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Next up, another Seattle day, and then London.

 

 

 

 

 

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Homer Alaska delights, July 13, 2014

 

 Wild roses, Homer. [Photo, TWCarns]

 Swift at its nest in the vent on a building [Photo, TWCarns]

 Evening rainbow caught in the mountains across Kachemak Bay from Land’s End [Photo, TWCarns]

 Cow parsnip head going to seed [Photo, TWCarns]

Sandhill crane and half-grown chick at Beluga Slough (there were two adults and two young ones, but couldn’t get them all in the same picture) [Photo, TWCarns]

 Bluebells at Beluga Slough [Photo, TWCarns]

 Raven on driftwood at Bishop’s Beach [Photo, TWCarns]

 Homer Spit from Bishop’s Beach [Photo, TWCarns]

Homer peony (these are becoming big business in the area because the growing conditions turn out to be ideal). [Photo, TWCarns]

Luke, Kathy, Lauren at Land’s End beach. [Photo, TWCarns]

  Orange lilies in a garden. [Photo, TWCarns]

 

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