Saturday, December 21, 2013

Connecticut Coyote Encounter

Well, we were snowshoeing in West Rock State Park yesterday, and came upon this bone in the middle of the trail. What is not apparent from the picture is that it had literally just been dropped there. It was a warm day and the snow was melting, but it hadn't melted around this spine/hip/leg at all yet. There were fresh paw prints heading off the trail, across a stream, and up the other side. Coyote paw prints.

They had heard us coming and ran off, leaving this old carcass they were carrying on the trail. I'm not sure what it is - very narrow pelvis. The coyotes left a bit of scat further down the trail - they were obviously using it as an easy way to get from place to place. This is clearly not dog scat - unless someone is feeding their dog animals with hair.

At any rate, we moved off a bit and ate our lunch, and then snowshoed back to the car. We didn't get a glimpse of our furry friends, but they were there, probably waiting to come back and get the bones, possibly in the patch of reeds close by, possibly in a stand of pines on the other side. But they had just been there, a few minutes before we got there. I have actually seen coyotes before, of course, but this was a fun little mystery, here in the forests of Connecticut.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Authorless" Stories are a Goal to Strive For

Good stories have a quality of authorlessness. The better they are, the more authorless they seem. They give the sense of being out there, like facts.

                                                                       - Janet Malcolm, Two Lives

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Had a delicious meal of roasted quail the other day, bought from the local international market and roasted in our oven. At least I think they were quail. People notoriously substitute pigeon for quail at restaurants, markets, and grocery stores. Not street pigeons (probably) but farmed pigeons. So, were these pigeons or quails? Who cares, they were delicious.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Thai Salad Principle

I was reading a cook book called Pok Pok the other week at my brother-in-law's house. And I really liked the idea of Thai salad, which was essentially a cold stir fry. But I didn't have the book myself, and I was too lazy to turn the internet on to get 'authentic' recipes. This became a good moment to apply what I am now going to call the Thai Salad Principle. And that is, once you know the basic formula, you can simply experiment and taste. You know, like real chefs do.

So, in the case of this, we have several methods to adhere to. Cut everything (veggies, pickled veggies (I used gingered carrots in the bottom one and homemade pickled cukes in the top), fruit (I used Asian pear in the top), maybe meat (the first one above has strong dry sausage)) into small, bite sized pieces to be eaten with sticky rice or if you don't want carbs then with a spoon. A variety of textures is key. Then, "bind" everything together with a paste made with fish (or soy) sauce, lime juice, and heat (I used a chili-basil paste for these, along with coconut milk powder to soak up the liquid). Sweet, sour, spicy, salty, bitter, and savory. It's all there, and no cooking required. Delicious, quick, and almost healthy.

The point is, recipes are for suckers. If you want to be a good cook (or a good anything) you must learn the principle of the thing, and then apply it with your own creative power. Great chefs (or writers or scientists or...) do not become so by following rote formulas.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Becoming Tom Thumb Taking Connecticut By Storm

Today Connecticut, tomorrow the world. Becoming Tom Thumb is mentioned in the latest issue of Connecticut Magazine. It was also mentioned on the buzz site Flavorwire.

Come see me and get your own signed copy at the Barnum Museum on Sunday, December 15, at 2 pm!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Old Saybrook Historical Society

Gave a presentation on Tom Thumb for the Old Saybrook Historical Society at the Acton Library, and had a lot of fun. I met a man (above) who graduated in the first class of the University of Bridgeport. He actually went to the Junior College of Connecticut, and it changed to UB during his senior year. Amazing guy, and still sharp as a tack.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

General Tom Thumb in the UB Art Gallery

It was my pleasure to present the findings of my new book, Becoming Tom Thumb, at the University of Bridgeport art gallery last week.

The bookstore sold a bunch of books! I think they were happy. In attendance was a former ringmaster of the Barnum Festival, and he gifted me a few great souvenirs. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Johnny Ad's Drive In

Stopped by Johnny Ad's Drive In in Old Saybrook for dinner the other night. The lobster bisque was so rich and buttery - maybe too rich!

The lobster roll, on the other hand, was not as buttery as some, so you could really taste the lobster.

The waffle fries were absolutely delicious - some of the best we've had. The cheese sauce they serve on the side is unnecessary.

The codfish tacos were also good. P.S. We took some of this home - it was a lot to eat! There is no skimping on the portions.

Will they make it into the next edition of Insiders' Guide? They are certainly a great candidate!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Presenting Tom Thumb

Had a great time presenting my new book at Trumbull Library and at Evergreen Woods last week. This week it is the art gallery of the ABC building at the University of Bridgeport on Wednesday at 4:30 and Old Saybrook Historical Society (at Acton Library) on Thursday at 7. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Newport Tower

Also known as the Touro Tower, the Stone Tower, etc. It is one of the great mysteries of early America. It was possibly built by Benedict Arnold the first, governor of Rhode Island, in the 1670s. However, it could be much older. It bears similarity to various Norse round towers and churches, and could have once sported a conical roof and a 'skirt' area. It has astronomical oddities that would make it unlikely to be a simple windmill, and a "Norman estate" is mentioned in Verrazano's observations of the area, long before Arnold and his ilk.

We had a chance to check it out recently, and it is definitely odd. If it was 17th century architecture it was nearly unique. The large stones near the base of the pillars are bizarre and not exactly smart, unless they were originally underground, or if there were flying buttress-like attachments to the rest holding it up.

In some ways it is slipshod and uneven, and in others so precise and astronomically centered, that it is hard NOT to be suspicious that Viking mariners built it long before the arrival of the pilgrims. I am no expert, but I understand why this strange building is at the heart of so many bizarre theories.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Skipper's, Niantic

Amy and I stopped in at Skipper's Seafood in Niantic on our way to the fabled Book Barn last weekend.

It bugs me that I never stopped in there before in all my trips to the book barn, because it serves a solid meal of New England seafood. The clam fritters (above) were particularly yummy.

Better yet, the prices were quite reasonable. The hot lobster roll was only 13.99, which is about right for one served in a hot dog roll. I've seen them at 17.99, and if it is served in a large sub roll that is fine, but for this amount of lobster that price is correct. Thanks, Skipper's!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tom Thumb at the Middleborough Historical Association

Over the weekend I gave the first lecture for Becoming Tom Thumb at the Middleborough Historical Association. They are the proud curators of the Tom Thumb Museum, which has one of the largest collections of objects related to Charles Stratton and Lavinia Warren in the world. It was my privilege to fill in some of the gaps in their story.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Hammonassett in Autumn

Great to be back at Connecticut's best beach during October. It was a great anniversary!

And don't create orphans.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Acorn Squash stuffed with Quinoa

My lovely wife's latest creation, courtesy of a recipe in New Haven Living magazine. Delicious.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Foxglove and Madison Cheese

If you're in the mood for a delicious grilled cheese head to Madison Cheese - where they can make one from any of their dozens of delicious cheeses. Of course, you can also stop in for the cheese itself, or other wonderful gourmet foods. Amy and I found their grilleds amazing. The tomato soup was pretty good, too!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Saving a Tree

Today my friend Ryan, his son Hawk, and I used a rope to pull down a tree that had fallen into another, saving the live beech tree in my yard.

Then we sawed the tree into three portions and carried them up to the house for later chainsawing.
Hawk is a little young (5) to be able to help more than a little. But it was good to show him this sort of work. Now that his family has moved back from New Zealand I hope we can teach him more forest work. It connects us to the land and to our home. Which are the same.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Trailer for Garbanzo Literary Journal

I have a story in this upcoming issue of the already legendary literary journal, Garbanzo. Get there.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Tried Roia the other day in New Haven. It moved into the old bank at the Taft Hotel/Apartments, a space previously occupied by Hot Tomatoes, etc.

The food was scrumptious, and the atmosphere in there is really stellar (if dark for taking photos).

Amy and I would like a few more "interesting" or unique dishes on the menu, but the ones they have are delicious.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Becoming Tom Thumb Arrives

My first copy of Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P.T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity arrived yesterday. As you can tell, I was a little excited.

It won't officially be out for a couple weeks yet - but you can pre-order it for more than a $10 discount on Pick up a copy today!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Apples and Bacon

In our Native American cookbook, one of the best dishes I've come across is apples and bacon. First, fry the bacon, take it out, and drain it. Then fry the apples in the bacon fat. Then, combine them for a delicious breakfast.

The irony is, of course, that both ingredients were brought by Europeans.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Splitting Wood with a Wedge

Used a maul and my grandfather's wedge yesterday for the first time. We had a bunch of beech tree sections that are just a little too big for the wood stove, and I finally got around to trying out the splitter. It worked great.

Of course, it took me a while to get used to the motion, swinging down from the top only to save energy, while sliding my right hand down the shaft and bending my legs down to prevent backswing and hit the wedge from a nearly horizontal position. (I'm too tall to get it to work as well as some could.)

But I got used to it, and began hitting the wedge correctly more often (not every time!) and hearing that wonderful bell-like sound when the maul and the wedge connect perfectly. Many times the wedge ended up driven into the ground, as in the photo above.

I even tried it with some non-round pieces of wood and it worked fairly well there, too. It was a good day. The transformation of knowledge into practice is always satisfying.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cafe Romeo

Biked into New Haven and had lunch at Café Romeo on Orange Street. Delicious selection of lunch foods, coffee, and good service. We'll be back!