Tuesday, February 18, 2014

BREAD


BREAD

Sometimes I struggle for a blog idea. Today's idea came when I walked out of the study into the kitchen to find Michael making bread. He makes fabulous breads. It gave me an idea, why not do a blog on breads.

Thinking about the variety of breads and doing a bit of research, I found what seemed like endless types of breads, and I would like to share a few with you.

Being Italian, one of my favorite types of bread is Ciabatta, which means slipper. The loaves are shaped to resemble a lady's slipper. It is crusty and with wonderful airy interior.

Focaccia, another Italian fare was in all likelihoods enjoyed by my dad. Prior to Dad's enlistment in the army, he had never heard of pizza. Focaccia was usually a round dimpled bread often topped with herbs and sometimes tomato slices. The bread was made using a high gluten flour. This was my dad's version of Pizza.

Pizza; might as well cover this delicacy that so many of us enjoy. The pizza was originated in Naples, Italy. It was a flat round bread topped generally with tomato sauce and cheese. Today's pizzas seem to have an endless array of toppings.

Matzo is known by many, and is the bread generally served during the Passover celebration. It is an unleavened bread made simply from flour and cold water. This is a bread of memory and tradition recalling the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.

Still another favorite is Naan or Nan bread. There are several variations of this bread. I am partial to the Nan that utilizes milk. This makes a softer dough. This foodstuff is eaten in south and central Asia, as well as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I would love to make this bread, but it is traditionally done in a tandoor oven. This type of oven is a cylindrical shape vessel usually heated by charcoal or wood fire. Temperatures of this oven style reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit and the bread is definitely something to savor.

Lagana is a Greek provision reserved for “Clean Monday”, the first Monday of lent. This azymes style bread (Jewish matzah-unleavened bread) became one of the factors in the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Catholic church.

The South Africans have a bread known as Potbrood, made by the Boer people. Boer means farmer in both the Dutch and Afrikkan languages. This style is made in a cast-iron pot, something we would today identify as a Dutch Oven. The pot is placed in a pit surrounded by hot coals.

Still another choice is Borodinsky a Russian sourdough rye bread; often with molasses added for sweetness. A legend behind this morsel goes back to the Napolonic Wars. Nuns developed the recipe to produce a dark bread served for solemn occasions. However, the first mention of this bread did not surface until the 1920s. Definitely, beyond the Napolonic War days.

Hush Puppies is a favorite in the American south. A cornbread batter, it can be baked or fried. I have only seen it fried. It seems to be an accompaniment for seafood.

In Sardinia Italy, we find the Pane carasau, an ancient flatbread. This flat crispy bread was a common part of the shepherd's meals of past times. When in a dry environment it can last up to a year. Thus, making it suitable for the long period of times that shepherds would work the flocks.

Biscuits are a worldwide bread form with variations of this baked good. In Europe, these are enjoyed as a crispy dry substance, while in North America, light and fluffy version are preferred. These breads can be done in a drop method or a rolled and cut form. Other versions are made to be savory or sweet and can even be made as chocolate treats.

The Irish as well as the Scots and Serbians have Soda Bread. This stable is made using bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk to create tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide to give the bread texture.

How many more breads can I list? Well, how much time do you have? The list seems to be endless.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

HAPPINESS

Wealth and happiness have related to one another since the time of Plato. In his work “The Republic” written thousands of years ago, he attempts to parallel happiness to an untopianism society where the relationship of wealth and happiness related to the society ideals.
 
In Aristotelian, fundamental thinking is that happiness is not separate from a good life and virtue. It seems as though individual happiness and a good human foundation is the principal in Aristotelian thinking and they can be achieved only through a righteous life.
 
After considering both views, Aristotle’s ideas appear to be more organized compared to Plato and he explains the relationship in a better sense.
 
The Declaration of Independence deems us the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Maybe happiness is partially a journey and not just a destination?
 
I see happiness as a self-filling philosophy. Each morning we have the opportunity to make the decision to be happy. Granted we may have problems, health problems, family problems and the list continues in every realm. However, the decision to be happy is ours. No one can take that from us. We are in control of our own happiness.
 
It was never my belief that finances dictate happiness. My father was a perfect example of this idea. He had plenty of reason to be disheartened but never was in his life. His motto was “Laughter is the best medicine.” Given the opportunity to visit his home you would have found numerous VCR recordings of every funny movie he could find. He loved comedians from the 50s and 60s. Dad found his happiness in laughter.
I have tried to live by dad’s example. Over 18 years ago, we relocated to a new state. We did not where we would find the grocery stores, or even a church. At one point, I remember my mother asking if I was unhappy. The question perplexed me; I never thought to be unhappy.
 
Happiness has eluded so many for so long, isn’t it time we decided to be happy? Tomorrow morning as you wake, put a smile on your face. Do your very best to be happy. In a world controlled by technology, and jobs and the like, isn’t it nice to know you can control your own happiness. We may need to work on it, but we can do it. We can choose to be happy.
 
A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs: 17:22

By Jan O’Kane
https://janokane.blogspot.com

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Augie


I would like to post to my blog the story of Augie.  Although posted a few years ago, to me it is a story worth telling again.


 

 Augie's World War II Experience


 


Preparing a 19 year old for war takes more than boot camp and a backpack filled with K-rations, chocolate bars, and some cigarettes.  In the case of this one young American, Augie, he took the responsibilities with a kind heart, but how do you prepare someone to make the ultimate sacrifice or take a human life.

 The story opens in Nice, France.  It happened as Augie’s platoon was combing the hillsides for enemy soldiers, and they did encounter the enemy.  The German soldiers were captured and made to empty their pockets.  Augie noticed one soldier was just as young as he was and just as scared.  Always the gentle of heart, he put two fingers to his lips and made the international sign for a cigarette and the young soldier nodded yes.  As the young American tendered one of his Lucky Strikes to the captured soldier, German soldiers came over the hill and observing the scene before them, they opened fire.  Augie took a bullet and shrapnel in the leg and thigh.  He was on the ground unable to get up as the enemy overran Augie’s unit.  The enemy then marched the now captured US soldiers around a brick wall of a ruined structure and proceeding with the policy of “no prisoners”.  They returned to the one wounded American, as another enemy soldier put a gun to Augie's head, the young German Augie had tried to help protested and stopped the execution.  He gave the injured American some cigarettes, some water, and a bit of food as he and his troops left.

 Stranded on a battlefield alone Augie wondering, praying, slipping in and out of consciousness, Augie struggled to eat what the little food available and dress his wound with sulfur powder from his pack.  At one point, he woke to find a bull snorting over him.  After three days lying in a ditch, helpless, he heard voices.  They were speaking English so it was a good chance they were Americans, or at least allies.  He waited until they were closer and when he saw their American GI uniforms, he called for help.  By the grace of God, Augie was safe.

Days later Augie found himself on a medical ship for transport back to the United States.  He wanted to know where they were going but it was against the rules to reveal the destination.  That however did not stop him from asking.  As it happened the custodian in the ward had a favorite song.  As he mopped the floor and changed the beds, he constantly sang “Georgia on my mind”.  When the ship landed Augie realized the song was more than a favorite; it was a message for him.  They were now in Georgia.
 As he lay in the hospital bed Augie recalled his drill sergeant's advice, never to write home and tell their families you are sick. His logic was by the time the family got the letter you would be fine resulting in your family worrying.
Augie followed the advice he received in boot camp, and after three months, he believed it was safe to call home.  His sister Lizzie answered the phone he said, “Hi Liz” only to have her drop the phone and run off screaming.  His father Giuseppe picked up the phone to address the caller.  Augie said, “It’s me Pops” to which his father thought it was not funny for someone to call and claim to be his son.  So his response was “You son of a Batch”.  He could not pronounce a particular swear word; it always came out as “batch”.  Finally, his sister Anne got on the phone and found out that it was indeed Augie calling.  She told him to call back after she calmed the family.  Augie was unaware that the family had received a letter from the State of West Virginia Department of Assistance revealing that the office had “learned with regret that their son had given his life in the service of his country.”

Augie called the family again, and soon found the reason for the odd reaction he was unaware of the notification to his family.  Joy soon overtook the family they thanked God for Augie's safe return.  With their youngest child in a hospital in Georgia, Giuseppe and Angela made one of the few trips outside their adopted hometown of Triadelphia WV, to be with their son, the unit’s sole survivor.
 As Augie lay in a ward of wounded vets, he heard the door burst open a familiar voice came booming through the ward.  “Where isa my son?”  His father’s first reaction was to flip back the blankets and say, “You gotta you legs?”  Now assured that his son was safe and intact he wondered off in the ward to entertain the remaining injured troops.

Augie eventually returned to Triadelphia, greeted by family and friends.  Without the compassion, he displayed on the battlefield, I would not be here to tell you the story of my dad, Augie Montalbano. 
He was one of the truly wonderful men of his generation.

Happy Veterans Day!
With Love,
Jan Montalbano O'Kane












Friday, October 11, 2013

Grandma's Education

I believe I have had a blog before about my grandmother, how her sisters kidnapped her and ran her from one state to another.  She eventually married an older man, Nick Stan from Romania, but their marriage did not last.

Grandma married again to a man many times her junior.  Grandpa Will along with my two uncles, Uncle George and Uncle John, served in World War II.  I know my uncles were both in the Navy.  I am not certain about Grandpa Will; I suspect Army because I know he stormed the beaches in the Pacific.

Grandma never went to school long enough to learn to read or write.  However, the war made it imperative for her to write to her sons and husband.  She needed to learn what many of us take for granted and I seriously doubt there were avenues in her day for a woman in her mid-20s to learn how to read or write.

Grandma was smart just not educated.  I often wonder if she had gotten an education just what she would have been able to do in her life.  However, the circumstances of her life did not give her that opportunity.

Oh, did I mention my grandmother was a religious person?  She loved Jesus and knew the Bible stories by heart.  Grandma wanted an underwater baptism the same as Jesus.  She became a Baptist in order to experience submersion under water. 

I could tell you more and more about her because I heard her stories many times as a child.  However, it is not the reason I wanted to do this story.

As I said, she needed to communicate with her family serving in the war.  It was difficult to find a way for her, but she did not give up.  She was determined.

If you named one of the stories of Jesus, she could repeat it to you word by word, and this gave her an idea.  She would take her Bible and sit down, and recall a story to study.  Taking each word of the story, she would do her best to write out the word and learn the meaning by its use in the sentence.  She did this repeatedly until she could write out the entire story.  This helped her to learn how not only to write, but also to read.

Using this knowledge, she was able to stay in touch with her family.  She wrote to Grandpa Will, Uncle George, and Uncle John on a regular basis.  Without her connection to her family, she would have been scared and distraught. 

The point to this story is to understand that no matter how bleak our situation may be, if we are determined, we can learn.  If an uneducated woman with very little to her name can educate herself out of love for her family, then what type of excuse can we give for not achieving our goals.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Books by their covers

Many of you know that in addition to my blog, I also write other materials.  I interview various individuals for www.faithfilledfamily.com an on-line publication and am nearing the end of my first novel, with a few more waiting in the wings.
Today in this blog, I want to share with you some of my experiences of being a reader rather than a writer.
In grade school, I read every Nancy Drew mystery in the school library, and then moved on to the Hardy Boys.  During one summer I was so desperate for reading material, I read the encyclopedia.  Great way to learn, but no plot line to followJ.
Now older, I am still drawn to mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories.  I find myself glued to these types of books.  Like many, I read for entertainment and escape from my somewhat mundane life.  However, I have a list of authors whose work I gobble up faster than a Thanksgiving turkey.  Jack DuBrul and his character, Mercer, satisfy my love for geology and adventure.  Clive Cussler’s work also fulfills the adventurous side of me.  Maybe I should mention I hate to travel, so in truth, there is no adventurous side of me in real life.  When I look at my library, I see additional collections of Jonathan Kellerman, James Rollins, Kathy Reichs, Robin Cook, and Tess Gerritsen.
Keep in mind that I grew up in the small coal mining town of Triadelphia WV, and next door to our house was one of the state police barracks.  These guys instilled in me an extreme respect for the police and the law.  Enter Tess Gerristsen with Rizzoli and Isles, and Jonathan Kellerman with Milo the cop and his friend Alex Delaware.  Iris Johansen and the Eve Duncan forensic thrillers is another favorite.  Crime or police stories have been among my favorite genre.
Okay, so you get my drift.  I have a steady diet of materials that I read.  Here comes my point, I recently discovered the work of Traci Hall, and it has been a thrilling discovery.  Her stories would not normally be a part of my typical reading diet.  I did however, read her book “Blood of Ra”, and enjoyed it so much that I followed up with her series “The Queen’s Guard”.  “The Queen’s Guard” has romance with a good dose of intrigue.
I have also found “All Gods of Eisernon” by Simon Lang.  Again, I was surprised to find myself enjoying this work as well.  I would call this book “otherworldly”.
To my amazement, I enjoy these books as much as my mysteries, thrillers, and adventure books.  So I guess the old adage is true…”Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and we should consider…“don’t judge a book by its title, genre or cover”.
May all your readings be filled with the magic of your yearnings.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Snakes!

Do you have a fear of snakes?  Some people, like me, are fascinated, while others can’t deal with even seeing a snake on TV.  My dad was one who could not deal with the sight of a snake.  So much so that when he was visiting his son, he asked him to remove a large stuffed toy snake from the back of the couch.  Yes, dad was terrified of snakes.

He wasn’t always in such a state.  He told us, as a young boy, he found a dead snake on the railroad tracks.  Being an ornery young boy, he took the snake and cut it up into pieces then offered to collect coal for one of the ladies in the town.  Back in the day, when times were very hard many people, would walk the railroad tracks and collect coal that fell from the coal cars as they traveled through the town.  Since our town was a coal mining town, there were many trains and it wasn’t unusual for people to use this method to collect heating and cooking fuel for their homes. 

Oh!  Back to the story.  I tend to get distracted easily.  The lady was glad to have help collecting coal.  However, coal wasn’t the only thing dad put in the bucket.  He hid the snake in the container under the coal.  This of course, caused the woman to go screaming into the house when she found the snake while transferring the coal to the coal box.  I guess even dads can be boys with a mischievous streak.

I think dad’s opinion about snakes came several years later when he and a friend were walking on the tracks, something he never allowed us to do as kids, and they came upon a snake.  This one was alive and active.  Dad’s friend pushed him and he fell, like Indian Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, face to face with the serpent.  I believe that was when things changed for him.  Funny, Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of his favorite movies, but he could not watch the scenes with the snakes.

Let’s fast forward 35 years or more down the road.  My dad had moved into a house his brother owned.  The house was a simple house that met his needs.  Dad believed in living modestly.  After settling in place, he decided to clear away some of the items that had collected on the front porch.  One such item was a roll of carpet that was pulled out before dad moved into the house.

Dad struggled to get the roll of carpet upright so he could walk it off the porch.  His intention was to take it down to the curb for trash collection.  Holding the carpet roll up, he once again came face to face with a live snake that crawled out if the end of the roll.  Apparently, the snake thought the carpet roll was a nice place to take up home.

I never knew how the carpet ever got to the curb, because the last time dad saw the floor covering it was rolling down the hill and, dad was dashing back into the house.  Definitely, he was one of those people who could not handle seeing a serpent.  He laughed when he told us the story, but I’m sure he did not laugh the day it happened. 


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How did you learn to daydream?



I must apologize for being so amiss with my blog. 

I remember years ago, near Christmas the Sears catalog arrived in the mail.  This was an exciting time for us, well for me.  I know some of you are saying you never saw a Sears catalog.  Nonetheless, it did exist, with a special “wish list” catalog for the holidays.

Now our youthful years did not have an overabundance of things.  My dad had a saying he was famous for in our house.  “Do you want it, or do you need it?”  I am not saying we went without, but we had few extras.

I had a friend I would visit, who had a record player and 45 RPM records.  She had so many clothes she could not fit them in her closet.  Now those were definitely extras.

Okay, I have sidetracked myself again so back to the catalog.  Mom would give us a sheet of paper, and tell us to record the page number, the item description, and the item number.  She showed us where to find the item numbers.

Oh, I can remember trying to be so exacting so Mom and Dad would have no question as to the things I wanted.  There were so many things to choose.  I looked at clothes, toys, even a pet.  Yes, back then Sears sold pets in their catalogs.

The excitement was almost overwhelming.  I was going to get all those great things I picked out of the catalog. 

Mom would collect our sheets then say, “Wasn't that fun?”  What?  I am thinking, no kitchen set up, no record player, no puppy, no baby doll?  Keep in mind I was about six at the time.  I realized I wasn't going to get all the things I picked out.  My disappointment was as overwhelming as was my earlier excitement. 

Today, I do know now that Mom and Dad would look over each of our lists and they would buy a few of the smaller items for the holiday gift giving.  Not to mention, the process kept us busy and out of her hair for some time.

As a child, I thought it was such a cruel thing to do to us.  We were all excited and then we were crestfallen.  Okay, I will agree in my childish way it was exciting.  I had a brief time of imagining all the places I would put the record player, and the kitchen and dolls would go to the basement where a playroom was set up for us, but now I had to let it go.  An early lesson of you can't have everything you want.

Here I am all these years later still finding myself daydreaming.  In my reveries, I am able to think about what kind of house I would want to live in, what kind of modern gadgets I would put to use in my daily life.  Then it dawns on me, Mom taught us to dream and dream big.  She also taught us that not all of our daydreams came true.  Nonetheless, I hear her saying; “Wasn't that fun?”

Yes Mom, and to this day at the age of 61 I still find myself daydreaming.  It is a fun thing to do, and for a writer a valuable tool. 

There was no way Mom would have known she was also stirring the beginnings of a writer. 

Thanks Mom!