• VicSlider1
  • VicSlider4
  • VicSlider5
  • VicSlider2
  • VicSlider3

Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

The ‘Po

ShitRiverOlongapo1972-112814

(The bridge to Olongapo City from the Naval Reservation at Subic Bay in the 1970s. The kids standing atop one another in the banka boats in the Hit River are begging for alms. In the distance is the billboard for the stereo equipment we all had to have, and the famed Marmont Hotel).

I had the leftover turkey from the generous Thanksgiving portion served up at Willow last night for breakfast. The relish plate with Poliface Farms deviled eggs and cheese crackers and celery sticks was a tasty start, and the prix compIet menu that followed- Caesar salad, turkey with all the trimmings followed up with pumpkin and pecan pie and coffee- a delight.

It was a thoroughly satisfying holiday experience, and the place was jammed with happy diners. I ate at the bar, at my usual stool, and felt at home. I guess I should- the restaurant has served as my living room since I started working in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington.

Since that is coming to an end, I need to think about other things. I have lived in Big Pink longer than I have lived anywhere else in my life, and it will be quite an adjustment when I am done here, which I do not think will be long.

The onset of this early winter has directed my thoughts south, to dodge the chill. I have been thinking again about the Keys, and the Gulf Coast as a place of refuge for the coldest months, but that in turn left me drifting in a reverie about tropical places.

Olongapo City in the Philippine Islands is still there, and I get reports about what has happened to the base we used to visit. There is talk about the Fleet going back as a counterweight to an increasingly aggressive China.

Even if we do return, it won’t be the same. I read in the paper that liberty hours are being restricted in Japan, where we still have a major presence. That may be related to something horrible that happened in Olongapo last month.

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, embarked in US Peleliu (LHA-5) is accused of murdering a transgendered woman at a hotel out in the Ville, and the events since have been ugly.

I suppose it always was, but the old Olongapo lives on in dreams. Fevered dreams, since the lens of my mind was distorted by alcohol and desire, and lubricated by sweat.

I wrote about that a little while ago, and I have to say the grimy reality of those days still leaves me feeling ambiguous

It is quite over, and has been for years, since Mount Pinatubo blew its stack and gave everyone the excuse to end the acrimony.

The Base is still there, or at least the bones of it. The aircraft on poles that decorated squadron installations have been taken down. The Club is there, though it is a hotel, and the furnishings to the legendary bar are in Pensacola, FL; the PX remains, though it is now a duty-free store. The Arthur Radford Field is still there, though it is now a FedEx hub. The tough little Negritos are still teaching at the Jungle Evasion and Survival School, though it is now a zoo of sorts.

Of course, it always was.

During the Vietnam conflict, the nightclub district of the Po was able to handle the disparate and simultaneous recreational needs of three aircraft carrier battle groups, and it could again, if the Filipinos feel threatened by what the Chinese are up to, dredge up sand to create airstrips in the middle of the great commercial sea routes through what the RP government is now calling the “West Philippine Sea,” rather than what we called the South China Sea.

Words have power, I think. Back in my day, the city had adapted to taking care of one aircraft carrier strike group at a time. Midway (CV-41) was a frequent visitor, the local lady home-ported in Yokosuka to the north and her swift gray acolytes. Periodically the West Coast Show-Boat groups of Ranger, Connie and Coral Sea would cycle through.

It was an earthy carnival that waited at the end of the river of dollars that kept the Naval Reservation and its sprawling components of the Subic Bay and the Naval Air Station at Cubi Point afloat.

I cannot do it justice in the space and time permitted. The first few minutes of the film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” were filmed right there with the backdrop as it existed in those days, and the monkeys really did race out from the trees next to the golf course to steal balls, and Romi really did pour Cubi Specials at the BOQ bar along side a .25-cent Cubi Dog, and outside the gate the scrawny little brown kids, some with blue eyes, begged for alms.

Rattan furniture and intricate carved wood. Cheap t-shirts with crude silk-screened messages. Young women from the provinces, old beyond their years.

There was exploitation and the enormous cruelty of crushing poverty, and there was love and laughter and theft and confusion. Ducklings fed to alligators; dogs stolen and eaten; serial polygamous American-Filipino families created by regular deployments.

Sigh.

It was a complex place, and sickly sweet, like a fried plantain doused with syrup left to congeal in the relentless moist heat.

It did not take long for the place to cloy. A four-day port-visit was normally about all I could handle.

That was not the case for the troops. Olongapo was designed for the enlisted sailor. The price was right for kids making nothing much, but who may have had a couple paychecks in the front pocket of their dungarees, and they could live like princes for a few days. You could live quite comfortably on a retired Chief’s pay, if you cared to do it, and that is what many 7th Fleet sailors did.

Shoadow warriors-112814

A dear friend wrote me about her days as a young Navy wife in the Philippines just after the Korean War. I edited a book for a group of the squadron wives, who told their stories to Pauly Varney- she called it “Living With the Shadow Warriors,” and it is a fun read. It is the first (and so far, only) production of Socotra House Publications, and an exercise in trying to figure out how to start doing what the name of the company suggests. It worked, and it is a fun read:

http://www.amazon.com/Living-Shadow-Warriors-Stories-Ferret/dp/1936866005

My pal’s husband was assigned to a squadron based at NAS Sangley Point, one of the dozens of installations around Manila Bay. Part of the deal of independence struck between President Roxas and the Three Generals- Macarthur, Electric and Motors- was a century-long lease for twenty-three military bases to house the American infrastructure in the Far East.

That was consolidated into two vast reservations north of the capital; the naval complex at Subic and the Army Air Corps at Clark Air Base.

A few special sites, including the spooks at San Miguel and the resort at Camp John Hay were retained as well, but Manila was essentially cleansed of the Colonial presence, even as two low-rent and thoroughly secular Disneylands were created elsewhere.

Bobbie K. Hubbard retired right there in Subic, right in the heart of Disneyland. He may have been fighting liver cancer this past year.

As my old boss Vinnie observed, “He was one helluva Intelligence Specialist, and was the very best leading chief on Midway,” and for my money, he was the best shipmate and mentor a young officer could have.

That is, if he was not cursing you or banging you against a locker for doing something stupid.

Hubs settled right into the landscape in retirement, his belly vast and his face inscrutable.

After the treaty for the Subic Bay Naval Station ran out in 1992, the son of the previous mayor (and mayor at the time), Richard Gordon, succeeded in getting the land turned into the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Shortly thereafter, most of the places that catered to the service members closed down, causing a severe impact on the local economy. It wasn’t as severe as the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, which left 14 inches of wet ash on the city.

It was nothing like what happened to Clark. Of course, that is where Hubs is plated now, forever in the rich loamy soil of the Clark Cemetery. There are some places in a foreign field that will always be America. It will be interesting to see of there will be another generation of sailors who know the place as a sort of home.
3-112814

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

 

Thanks During Wartime

Abraham_Lincoln-112714
(Lincoln in February 1865, about two months before his death. Picture by Alexander Gardner, Library of Congress).

The historians tell us that Gettysburg, the epic battle in the summer of 1863, was the high water-mark of the Confederacy’s revolt against the central government of the United States. It would be convenient if those that lived the experience knew that the waters of rebellion were rushing out and the war would end in two years.

Nothing like that was possible at the time, and Lincoln himself would be taken under fire by Rebel sharpshooters at Fort Stevens in the northern District of Columbia the next year. While the siege of Vicksburg in the west had succeeded in breaking Rebel lines of communication, and the Confederates had been expelled from Pennsylvania, the outcome was very much in doubt.

In hindsight, we can wrap it up as the inevitability of history- that slavery had to be ended, democracy preserved and the rebellion crushed.

Gettysburg was a victory that ended the disastrous string of military misadventures that had demonstrated the inability of Federal forces to overcome the élan of the Confederate forces, largely fighting on their own soil. As winter was coming on in the second year of the conflict, the President was concerned with the state of the national mood.

The great struggle required commitment, blood and sacrifice. Before Gettysburg, in March of that decisive year, Lincoln sought to reassure the North that all would be well, if the people shared a or a national day of “Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.”

There had been humiliation in spades in the first two years of the war. In his proclamation, he said:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.

“We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

“Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

That summer, Robert E. Lee left his winter camp at Culpeper and moved toward Maryland and Pennsylvania. By Fall things seemed to be moving in a different direction, and U.S. Grant was preparing to take over the winter camp Lee had left in the Spring. As he noted in his address at the cemetery in Gettysburg, the “great task” and “unfinished work” would need to start with reuniting a nation.

As we look around there is still unfinished work from that awful struggle, still wounds that have not been fully bond up. But things had improved considerably since the Spring, and the President issued a proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. His words still ring today:

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God . . . .

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.”

There is still strife aplenty in this world, and challenges even Mr. Lincoln might have considered grave. But at this moment in time, we have a bounty not seen before in human history. We are blessed to live in the greatest Republic the world has known, an experiment in human rights and democracy that has shown the best that people can be when they stand together.

Now, it is off to Willow to celebrate the day- and remember where it came from and why it is so important. Happy thanksgiving, and bless us all.

thanksgiv-day-112714

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

 

Roma

Pantheon-112514

I am not exactly between worlds this morning. I know exactly where I am, though I wish I were elsewhere. It was unseasonably cold last week in Washington- January cold- then unseasonably warm, and the radio is babbling that there is snow coming for Thanksgiving. I am pretty sure that the Keys or the Gulf Coast are calling out.

The Polar Vortex or the Saskatchewan Express or whatever it is they are calling it this time around is bringing the white stuff in this direction.

I got up around three, and would have turned over and tried to get back to sleep but it occurred to me that they had announced the findings of the Grand Jury in Ferguson. I got up and turned on the television and poured a drink, both somewhat unusual at that hour, but somehow it seemed appropriate.

I watched with amazement at the streaming video of trouble in the darkness- fires and police cars, people in the streets. Reports of gunfire. I was split between the color images of a dark night and the memory of black and white pictures on an analogue television of a black and white issue in 1967. The place was Detroit.

Are we there again?

I am a man of low, if practical, standards. I decided to take a mental vacation and return to Europe, where life seemed to have a steadier and more sedate pace, and not a looted strip mall to be seen.

I have arrived in Rome by air and train. The ride in from Leonardo da Vinci International passes the classic fascist architecture of the Esposizione Universale Roma district. Say what you like about the Italian fascists, they had a flair for style, and the buildings are still distinctive.

I like arriving by train, from the south or northwest as the ruins of the aqueducts that served the capital of World Empire with fresh water all converging on the Eternal City.

I was sitting on the plaza in front of my favorite building in the world, Rome’s magnificent Pantheon. Largest free-standing dome in the world when constructed, and it still might be, for all I know.

In the days of the late unpleasantness in the Balkans, and in the days before that when I was briefly a Med sailor, I had several opportunities to pass through the City.

Of all the vistas I found on my strolls across the old and new landscape, Pantheon was the one I liked best. There was nothing better than a cold beer after a long trek and an overload of culture. White tablecloth, a brussietta, perhaps, at a table in the Piazza della Rotunda. An obelisk that once belonged to Great Ramses of Egypt framed the view, with the columns of the Pantheon wrapped around by the hill of rubble that was the old city.

Pantheon-panini-112514
(The interior of the Pantheon in the 18th century, painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini).

The facade of the home of all the gods was perfectly intact long past the time of the Caesars and the Visigoths and the rest of the historic parade of pygmies who claimed the dusty mantle of the giants who transformed the Eternal City from wood to marble.

I cracked the tattered guidebook that I carried in the back pocket of my jeans and leaf through it as the muscles of my legs un-knotted.

“Commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, restored by Domitian, and subsequently rebuilt by Hadrian (who added the dome) before being turned into a church in the early 7th century by Pope Boniface IV. The building’s sole source of light is the opening at the dome’s apex (the oculus); according to popular legend, this formed the base for the bronze pine-cone that is now in the Vatican’s ‘Pigna’ courtyard, where it is used as a fountain.”

There are a couple Italians buried within, I have discovered, following the rays of light from the Ocula, lesser luminaries of later times. The painter Raphael and the first King Vittorio Emanuele can be seen on the perimeter walls.

Michelangelo once proclaimed that the Pantheon was designed by angels, not by men.

The bronze ornaments and fittings to the old pagan temple almost made it down to our time. The fittings to the doors were stripped from the ancient temple to be cast as cannons to protect the Castle San Angelo, perched atop the foundations of Hadrian’s Tomb.

What did the average Roman say with a shrug? “The Pantheon. Survived the barbarians, but not the Barberini.”

The relics of antiquity are all around. The Pantheon itself sits surrounded by a slope bounded with retaining walls. It was curious, I thought, until I realized that what rose around the temple was the rubble of the great insulae, the apartment buildings of the Romans.

OstianInsula-112514
(Insulae still standing in the old port of Ostia).

Ruins are seen areas cleared below the modern street level, and I saw a lot of them, including the more famous ruins of the Coliseum and the Hippodrome on the plain below the Emperor’s palace.

Best Embassy? It has to be the Embassy of the United States, ensconced in the former villa of Il Duce’s mother in law.

Best lunch in the world? At a long table with white tablecloth at the villa of the US Naval Attaché. The rich smell of the flowers climbing the old stone walls. A view of the Seven Hills as the antipasti was brought out to feed our Staff Delegation: small bites of tasty morsels, accompanied by bottle after bottle of crisp Pinot Grigio.

GourmetAntipasto-112514

A wealth of tastes at the long table: marinated artichoke hearts, sliced tomatoes marinated in Italian dressing, thinly sliced Genoa salami and Cacio de Roma cheese, shaved prosciutto with fresh cantaloupe, sardines and sweet onions, olives, capers sweet pickles on toasted focaccia bread with sardines and sweet onions.

Then digging into the main meal. The pasta had been made by the Captain himself, and with a delicate marinara sauce was delightful.

Best Hotel? For me, it was the Grand Flora, a sort of personal “Dolce Vita” right on top of the noble Via Veneto and next door to the Villa Borghese gardens for morning walks after café au lait and a crust of bread.

2000 year old Roman walls. The hotel is a gracious edifice with the stylish decor that captures the grandeur of Neoclassicism, but it also dark history. The building had been occupied by the Gestapo when the Germans took over management of Il Duce’s government. There are stories about what happened in the basement.

But for me, the little nap after the greatest lunch with the shutters ajar and the warm rich light slanting over the ancient city…ahhh. The nap was in preparation for an evening stroll down the Via Veneto to Harry’s Bar. With each turn a new vista.

Best accidental icon? Looking up from the street to realize with a start I am seeing the window from which Mussolini dispensed his bombast to adoring crowds of Romans.

Coolest religious experience? Wandering into Saint Peters Square to realize that this agnostic had just been blessed by Pope John Paul II himself. Clearly nothing untoward was going to happen on that trip.

Drinks at Harry’s, and then pasta with black truffles.

Rome. Eternal.

Harry-112514

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

The Big Ass Chair

The_Big_Chair-112414

OK- this is going to be an interesting couple years. Apparently the Iranians skated away form the negotiating table, The President canned the Secretary of Defense, and the Ferguson Grand Jury is supposed to report out.

I became a grandfather over the weekend. Guess what my favorite issue as we confront a Holiday week. I could go all proud Grandpa on you, but I am going to just say that I am thrilled and leave the publicity to the kids, of whom I am equally proud.

I didn’t know anything about the first three issues when I should have been writing the morning piece, but it has been Marion Barry all day. Suburban people viewed him with incredulity as he approached a variety of cliffs and jumped off them, only to re-invent himself on the backs of an electorate that adored him and could have cared less what the Post and the sniffy suburbanites- or the FBI after they busted him for smoking crack in the Vista Hotel.

barry-112414

Running around town this afternoon I heard some of the tributes. I am not going to speak ill of the dead- and it is clear that he did do amazing things for the people he represented. At one point it was all the people of the District as Mayor-for-Life, all four terms separated by a jail term. At the end, it was the people of Ward Eight who elected him again and again to the City Council as their protector and guardian.

I always enjoyed the Mayor, even if consider the way he operated to be a good reason why Home Rule should never have happened. But there was more to the story, something that surprised and humbled me.

Apparently the big Thanksgiving Day Turkey Give-away that Councilman Barry uused to conduct will continue. Hizzoner was accustomed to giving out $40,000 worth of free birds to his needy constituents. People would line up for blocks to get to the Union Temple Baptist Church, right past The Big Chair on the corner of Martin Luther King and V Street.

Yep. The Big Chair. I had no idea. Zip.

That is a little embarrassing for a guy whose avocation is posing as a Washington insider, and who has lived and worked here since 1986- nearly thirty years. In that time I have visited the sites of 29 of the original 30 District Boundary Stones, spaced exactly one mile apart all around the diamond of the original District. I have worked downtown and on Capitol Hill, navigated the subterranean depths of the Congressional private trolley system, found unmarked graves of Nazi Saboteurs and mass graves of Confederate soldiers. I know how this town works, or at least claim to, and have been dining out on that for years.

I have been generally been on the lookout for anything cool in this strange place. But I had never heard of The Big Chair. You can’t accuse me of not going to Anacostia. My biggest customer when I was working was over at Joint Base Bolling-Anacostia. To get to the Navy folks out in Suitland, MD, we would take Pennsylvania Ave all the way to the Disctri line, or hurtle out the Suitland Parkway to visit the Silver Hill Smithsonian Air-and Space restoration center.

I have been near the site of The Big Chair dozens of times but never even heard of its existence. It is located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Ave. and V. Street S.E.

It is said that the residents of the Northern Virginia suburbs reflexively recoil in fear at the sound of infamous “Anacostia,” known only for its extreme poverty, prowess in homicide statistics, and the ever present danger of accidentally crossing that river and falling into a panic attack, hopelessly lost among its labyrinthine streets.

It happened to me one time, trying to deliver an important package to JBAB. I got forced off the highway and onto the local Anacostia exit, and the panic attack about missing the deadline for delivery and wasting the work of a dozen people for several weeks while lost near the Frederick Douglas House….well, I was happy indeed to have made it.

This is all more than a little melodramatic and misinformed than I had intended. I decided to go look at it this afternoon and check that box, once and for all.

It was once the biggest chair in the world, standing 19 1/2 feet high. Originally constructed of real mahogany, it is a detail-to-detail replica of a Duncan Phyfe-style dining room chair. The current incarnation (it was refurbished in aluminum in 2006) is painted brown with a brown-and-white striped “cushion.” People in a position to know claim that even in the light-weight metal, it weighs between two and two and a quarter tons.

We had the Big Ass Stove in Detroit on Woodward Avenue back in the day located outside the State Fair Grounds. There is a long tradition of outsized objects being used for advertising purposes. The Big Chair was commissioned by the Curtis Brothers Furniture Company and built in 1959 by the Virginia-based firm Bassett Furniture. It was intended to be a clever way to bring customers to their family showroom conveniently located right behind the chair.

The piece was dedicated on July 11, 1959, and a plaque was placed with it, stating:

“THE WORLD’S LARGEST CHAIR
PRESENTED TO
CURTIS BROS.
FOR THEIR OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP
AND SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC/BY THE
BASSETT FURNITURE INDUSTRIES.
THE CHAIR MADE OF SOUND HONDURAS MAHOGANY
IS 19 1/2 FEET TALL AND WEIGHS 4000 POUNDS
DEDICATED JULY 11, 1959
DESIGNED
LEO M. HIRAMETT
BUILT BY J. E. BASSETT, JR.”

By 2005, the wooden legs were rotting out, but The Chair had become a touchstone to the old Uniontown neighborhood and they replaced it with the aluminum one with a new plaque.

Rededication Sign-112414

When I swung by there in the Bluesmobile (you don’t think I am taking the Panzer to Anacostia, do you?) there was nothing in particular happening, but I do have to say, it is one big freaking chair.

In fact, it is more than a little bit like the man who used to give out the turkeys around the corner.

Purely larger than life.

And as I mentioned before, it is difficult to imagine Washington without him.

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

Griswolding

112314-1

Two significant issues occurred on the road south, well three if you count a stop at the marvelous Main Street Pub in Clifton, VA, a most triumphant oasis on the way to the farm. Well, four if you include the death of mayor-for-Life Marion Barry. I can’t actually conceptualize his not being around. Washington, DC, IS largely a representation of Marion Barry, with all its wonders and warts.

And it is five things, really, if I include the other news, but I had to get on with things.

I had an appointment with Andrew, the proprietor of Croftburn Farms Market to pick up some one-inch pork loin chops, so I could honor a pledge to my correspondent in Utah about not publishing a fool-proof recipe she has treasured for years. She was quite stern:

“Don’t publish until you have actually tried it.”

I honor my commitments unless I can get out of them and agreed. But of course, that involved the extended stop to chat with Andrew about the chops and what was coming for the winter months, and the stop at the Minuteman Antiques Mall to see if the Griswold #7 was still being offered for sale.

The farm is a sort of catch-all for junk and second-string cookware. It came with an electric stove, something I loath, but I have not got around to conceptualizing going propane, which would be good for a while in case the Chinese destroy our power grid with some Trojan Horse mal-ware. I imagine I could cook on the wood stove, but the world to come is going to have some intrinsic inconvenience we will just have to work with.

What I have been cooking with down on the farm is a battered non-stick twelve-inch fry pan. It isn’t non-stick any more, but it works for most things, and I have not replaced it with cast iron because I have gas up north and that is where I like to play with the Lodge #5 (most applications) and slow cook in the Griswold #12 and the Lodge Dutch Oven.

The Minuteman Mall is a strange and wonderful place. It is a steel frame warehouse- the kind that comes in industrial and church versions- and is compartmented into several dozen little cubbies loaded with junk and treasure. The way it works is that individual vendors stock their cubbies with all sorts of junk, and a central desk does check-out and tallies the sales to credit against vendor accounts. The skillet was $40 and the cornbread pan was $42, but both came with a ten percent discount for no discernible reason.

I have been thinking of renting my own cubby to start thinning out the contents of the barn and the garage at the farm, but that will be a project for next Spring.

Bronco and his lovely bride Lynn had prowled the place last weekend on their extended antiquing tour, and identified a Griswold skillet, a #7, and recommended it. The cubbies are identified by a unique three-letter code, but I couldn’t remember what it was and had to conduct a square search of the place. I found three skillets in the last place I looked, and one of them was a lovely 8 ¼ inch Griswold- late production model, sometime after 1920 and before 1950, from the look of the logo on the back.

112314-2

On the wall was one of those bizarre corn-bread bakers with the corncob depressions, and I decided I needed that, too. I checked out with The Ladies at the front desk and drove on to the farm as the sun lowered in the November sky. It took a while to get the fire lit and the temperature rising in the Great Room.

Once the chaos of arrival was sorted out, I fired up the computer and looked for the recipe from Utah, which actually came from the Washington Post a dozen years ago: http://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/recipes/1144-pork-chops/8750/

You can go with the various sauces- I opted for the Bourbon and Mustard just because. This is a fabulous recipe because it is scalable- works for feeding a group or just a single chop, sauce or no sauce.

I fulfilled my promise, after I re-seasoned the skillet and the cornbread mold, though I did not want to make the mess it would take to do the cornbread- though I thought a green chili cornbread might be just the ticket. Here it is- and it works. Oh, and the Griswold chunked out it’s first dinner in a long, long time, and it performed like a champ:
112314-3

1+1+4+4 Pork Chops (Because it takes 10 minutes to make them)
pork chop112314

1-inch-thick chops are crucial to this technique, which first sears the pork on both sides to seal in the juices, then cooks the pork, covered, over low heat to coax it to doneness without allowing any of the precious moisture to evaporate as steam. Do not use a thicker chop or it will become tough due to the additional cooking time required. But don’t even think about using thinner ones, either.

SERVINGS: 4
INGREDIENTS
4 boneless pork loin chops, 1-inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (I prefer Kosher salt)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional — I never use the oil)

DIRECTIONS
Pat the chops dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a nonstick skillet (I use cast iron) over high heat. If desired, add the oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chops and sear, without turning, for 1 minute. Use tongs to turn the chops and sear on the other side for 1 minute. Turn the chops again, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the chops a final time, cover again and cook for 4 minutes.

Transfer the chops to a cutting board, cover loosely to keep warm and let rest for 5 minutes. If making a sauce, reserve the drippings in the skillet.

Thinly slice the chops, transfer to individual plates and fan them out. Serve immediately with a sauce.

Here is the quick recipe for the sauce:

Bourbon and Mustard Sauce

SERVINGS: 4
INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup bourbon (may substitute other whiskey but why?)
1/4 cup Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra. Recipes Copyright Washington Post 2002
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

 

Courier Duty

security-drivers-handcuffed-briefcase-112214

It was not the last time I was in Paris, but it was certainly the most expansive I can imagine. I got a note from Point Loma about his memories of the City of Light, and in recognition of a profound bit of news that came by phone this morning- very good news, BTW- I am going to let him do the heavy lifting this morning. I would tell you the news, but the news is embargoed until released by those concerned in the event. Here at The Daily, we may move from the City of Light to the Eternal City next, but in the meantime, here is Paris just a few years later:

“What a great travelogue series, Vic. To do it with the Lutt-man must have made it even more interesting.

Paris for me, after my indoctrination as a sailor on liberty in 1983, became an addiction when I accepted orders to EUCOM headquarters in Stuttgart the next year. Given the proximity, I made several trips there early on, and had exhausted the tourist things to do in the first half of my tour. I walked all over that town, maybe ten miles over the course of a weekend visit. I was no longer a tourist, maybe not a local, but something else.

It was about that time, in 1986, when the French got involved in a proxy ground war in Africa in one of their former colonies. They were contesting control of it with the Libyans, led by the former brother leader of the revolution, Muammar Gaddafi. They needed intelligence, the kind that only we could provide.

Since we were the Intelligence Collections Division of the European Command Headquarters (J2-C), we got the job. It involved taking stuff over to the French, and providing it to them via the US Embassy and the attaché’s office.

In the beginning it was a somewhat haphazard operation, and my fellow members of the J-2C were drafted into supplying the courier bodies. They bitched about that duty taking them away from their jobs and making them late for dinner. Since I was the only single guy in the division at the time and sensing an opportunity, I volunteered to take this one on.

What were the other guys bitching about? I soon arranged it so that the courier deliveries were scheduled for Fridays, when I could put on one of my suits from Harilelas in Hong Kong and make the trip over myself; which meant that I could spend weekends in Paris on liberty as long as I got back sometime on Monday to assume the collections watch duty in the afternoon.

C-12_huron-112214

Suitably attired in Hong Kong mufti, I would mount my airborne steed (a C-12 twin turbo-prop or C-21 jet) and launch out of Stuttgart on the mission. Most people know that there are two big airports in Paris – Orly (where Lindbergh landed) and Charles de Gaul, which is akin to Dulles outside of DC proper.

However, there is a third close-in airport reserved for French official and VIP flights called Villacoublay. That is where we landed. Imagine a beautiful Friday afternoon, banking into Paris wearing your best bespoke clothing on a jet on a serious mission, with nothing but fun to come afterwards. Met by the armored embassy car, I was whisked downtown to la Place de la Concorde and the US Embassy at #2 Rue Gabriel. Once I cleared the Marine guard shack, I was ushered into the attaché spaces and able to open the briefcase that was wired to my wrist, and hand over the information that the Army Attaché- the ARMA- had to take over to the French military intelligence service later that day.

After a couple of trips doing this, the embassy admin ladies knew me (I always brought them German chocolates) and when I called over, they would set me up with hotel rooms on the Left or Right Banks at embassy rates, bien sur. Once the business end was done, then I settled in for some serious liberty in the City of Light.

My modus operandi was to go check into the hotel, and then head to Happy Hour at some classic place like the bar at the Ritz at la Place Vendome, or Harry’s New York at 5 Rue Danou for the obligatory scotch or two. Suitably prepared, I would decamp back to the hotel and change into more suitable Eurotrash clothing – jeans, a turtleneck, and leather jacket. Then, I would head to one of the other usual places. By that I mean the one of the tourist bars made famous by Hemingway like La Closerie de Lilas or Aux Deux Magots.

Lesdeuxmagots-112214

In those clubs I would invariably meet American, Brit or Aussie gals who were visiting and lost in the big city. You could tell who they were since they invariably had their Fodor’s guides on the table, and were puzzling over maps of the Metro. Since I spoke fairly fluent French and had some favorite bistros- “Little places I know you might like,” in my back pocket, I would offer to help guide their way around Paris for the weekend while I was there.

In addition to having some female companionship, it was great fun to show them unique aspects of a city that I had come to think of as my own. I made the courier trip over there about a dozen times over a two-year time frame before I left for Spain. On Sunday or Monday evenings – in case of a long weekend – I would take the overnight sleeper train back to Stuttgart. Like I said, I was an addict to that place.

One of my former roomies in Stuttgart is now married to a French gal and works at the embassy in Paris. I visited him a couple of years ago off of a TDY trip to Germany. He met his wife at a Halloween party in Paris in 1988 the year that we drove over from Stuttgart.

Rolling into the city, we were playing the Door’s hypnotic ‘LA Woman,’ half drunk (yeah, we were drinking beer the whole way over) and singing along with Jim at the top of our lungs. After a very surreal Halloween party, on All-Saints day, we went out to Pere Lachaise to make the pilgrimage to visit “Jeem.”

It was a great fall day, cool and clear, with the leaves changing, blazing in their glory. There were signs pointing the way to go see “Jeem” so we had no problem finding his grave. Once we got there, and as you so aptly described, there were some stoners doing their thing, and a lot of graffiti defacing the surrounding tombs around his.

The best best line I saw read: “Jim, you are in deep shit now.”
jim-and-father-112214

Jim Morrison’s dad was a naval officer and retired as a two-star admiral in the mid-70s. He was a naval aviator and in the early 60s, the skipper of the USS Bonhomme Richard (CV-31), the famous ‘Bonnie Dick.” Later, he was Admiral on the same ship. He was the battle group commander during the Tonkin Gulf incident off Vietnam in late 1964. My uncle, a Skyraider pilot like your dad, was the Air Boss on the Bonnie Dick when George Morrison was the CO.

He said that it was no wonder that Jim Morrison turned out to be so rebellious since his dad was a tightly wound, Type-A overbearing-asshole. His favorite thing to do in port was to get the crew up on the flight deck in the morning and lead PT, where he proceeded to prove that he could do more push-ups and sit-ups than anyone else onboard. Interestingly enough, he was the keynote speaker at the de-commissioning ceremony of the Bonnie Dick on July 3rd, 1971, the very same day that his oldest son died in Paris under ‘mysterious circumstances.’

So, it was great to go back but it was not the same Paris that I remembered. That Paris moved pretty much in tune with the US and UK college school years – it was slow in the winter and spring and got real busy after Memorial Day, died out in August, and after Labor Day, was pretty much dead until the holidays and thereafter until Spring.

I was there in September and the Chinese and Japanese tourists by the bus and plane loads pretty much ensure that the tourist season now continues year-round – there were lines everywhere and it was hard to get a seat in any decent bistro. I felt sorry for the Parisians because it now seems like they never get their city to themselves to enjoy anymore.

At that time 30 years ago, EUCOM was considered a backwater and career-killer but what the fuck did I care? At least for me, it was the best second-tour Junior Officer assignment you could ever imagine. I got to do everything, go everywhere and then ski thirty days every year. In addition to the other fun stuff involved with my job, I turned what everyone had thought was a piece-of-shit courier chore into something else indeed.

Sometimes, you’ve got to create it when given the opportunity, and there were plenty of people lining up to take my place when I left.

Is there any wonder why I extended my two-year tour to four? I just hope that your JG and other up and coming JOs are equally as entrepreneurial and lucky at finding something as exciting for their next shore assignments.

Copyright 2014 Vic and Point Loma
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

Doors

2309-112114

My last priority for the City of Lights was the pilgrimage to the Tomb. No, not Napoleon’s. Been there, done that. This is something important.

There are some weird scenes in the goldmine that I shared with the Lutt-creature. I have to work on my feelings about this. It required a trip to the 20th Arrondissement and a visit to the Père Lachaise Cimitere. It is easy to get there by Metro by taking the number two or number three trains since there are two stations immediately near the entrances on Boulevard de Ménilmontant. Some folks prefer the Gambetta station on Line Three, since that permits you to enter the burial ground near the tomb of Oscar Wilde and then walk downhill to visit the rest of the cemetery.

Père Lachaise Cemetery was opened on 21 May 1804. Napoleon, who by then was ruling as absolute king, issued an Executive Proclamation stating that “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion,” and supported the right to internment for all, regardless of whether they were legally in France or not. Wait, I might be mixing that up with something else.

At the time of its opening there was no Metro and the cemetery was considered to be like Dulles International: too far from the city, and there was not much demand. The owners of the burial ground thus came up with a marketing strategy and with great media coverage and hoopla arranged the disinterment and transfer of the remains of Jean de la Fontaine and the playwright Moliere for grand state funerals.

moliere_pere_lachaise-112114

It was a lovely day to visit- cool but sunny- and taking the gave some above-ground stretches to see some of Gay Paree’s less famous districts, increasingly being populated by North African immigrants. I debarked at Gambetta and saw an old woman in an apron near the entrance with a folding tale.

I tried in my broken French to ask where Jim was. “Pardon, Madame, Ou est la Tombe de le Jim Morrison?”

To which the old lady responded by holding out her hand and asking for dix francs pour le plan du cimitere. In addition to Oscar Wilde, who was exiled from England for gross indecency, I noted the location of the tomb of Félix Faure, who shares a funerary tale similar to the late Nelson Rockefeller, the last known Republican Governor of New York.

felixfaure-112114

Félix was president of France from 1895 until dying in office in 1899. His presidency is famous for the Franco-Russian alliance and the despicable affaire Dreyfus. It was not the anti-Semitic scandal for which he is known today.

He died after suffering an apoplectic episode whilst in bed with his mistress, Marguerite Steinheil. Rumors swirled that he had passed on while receiving oral sex from her. While the actual event is unknown, as is that of Governor Rockefeller’s last moment on intimacy with a female aid, it has become an famous example of Executive Privilege.

His tomb shows him on his back, draped presumably in the flag of France, though of course it could be his sheets. Contemporary politician George Clemenceau gave Faure the epitaph ‘Il voulait être Céwar, il ne fut sue Pompée,’ which can be translated either as ‘He wanted to be Caesar, he ended being Pompey’ or ‘He wanted to be Caesar, he ended being pumped.’

We could have found the grave we were actually looking for just by following the day-glo spray paint on the side of the headstones of famous non-rockers. The casual sacrilege to the momunments of the other dead was jarring.

At the grave there was an interesting scene. There was a small crowd of young people hanging out, not saying much, just being there. The faint smell of marijuana was in the air.

There was one hippy; or at least whatever it is that long-haired kids are these days. The tomb was a simple granite block with the name “JIM MORRISON” carved on the front. There were scraps of paper with poems piled on the stone, and flowers, of course.

Not his full name and no dates and no quote. That was quite nicely taken care of by the graffiti artists on every available piece of rock in the immediate line of sight. I am torn by my feelings about our strange times in that decade and the symbol of this man lying beneath us.

His music had moved my feet and stirred my soul. He was a dark genius with the voice of a gruff and caustic angel.

I remember the day the reports came of his death in 1971. Janice had died, Jimi was gone and these things seemed to happen in threes, like Jack, Bobby and Martin. Jim was entitled to burial at Pere Lachaise because he had passed, like Marat, in the bathtub inside the city limits. He was initially buried in an unmarked grave. When the cemetery management placed a simple marker on the site it was stolen. The same thing happened to a bust of Morrison placed on a simple gravestone.

Jim grave-112114

Despite gazing at the stone for some time, it appeared that no stunning revelation will come; it was just a time of Strange Days. “So long, Lizard King,” and we walked away.

They tell me that much later, in 2008, the cemetery had hired a guard to ensure that visitors to Morrison’s grave did no more damage to it or other tombs. Now a simple block of stone bears the message, in Greek, ‘According to his own daimon.’

That day, the sun shone bright on the acres of intricately cut grey stone and the neatly-aligned streets of the city of the dead. We got back on the Metro and headed back to the old city, looking for some place to get a drink. I was pretty confident we were going to find one.

Vive la France!

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

City of Lights

Louvre-112014
(The Louvre at night with the I.M. Pei pyramid in front.)

There is so much really crazy stuff going on that I have been driven quite to distraction. I am not going to get bogged down on that this morning. Oh, hell, it is close enough not to even be morning anymore, and I have been pecking on the keyboard since before six this morning.

As you know, I have found it therapeutic to delve back into tales from other decades and continents. It has been therapeutic, but of course I have not been able to ignore the antics of this great Republic. I am not going to start commenting on it how- there is enough back and forth between my Trotskyite and Troglodyte circles, and will leave it alone, except for one observation: We are in Terra Incognita now, an unknown land.

I will be watching with great interest and more than a little concern. It was easier to simply actually be in an unknown land far away.

It was more fun visiting the City of Lights for the first time. It was two days after Christmas, 1989. The boat was parked in Marseilles for a month, maintaining a very low profile as the Russian Empire was starting to unravel.

I was up at five at the Hotel Morny, and went out for a jog in preparation with a monumental trek across the world’s greatest city. After a shower and a croissant with chicory coffee, I hook up with the Lutt-Creature and walk down past the Opera. Along the way, I buy a Sorbonne University sweatshirt from a street vendor with the emblematic Gauloise unfiltered cigarette clenched in his teeth. Although they don’t have much of a football program, I understand it is a pretty good school.

Gaulois-112014

We continue south through the Place de Concorde; then turn right along the Champs Elysee. The streets are thronged with people. We stop by Le Drugstore and window shop. The sidewalk cafes are elegant. We are walking behind an attractive couple when I see her impulsively give him a kiss.

There is something in the air in this town. We drop by the Embassy to see if my pal Evan the Naval Attaché Robinson is in; the place has the suitable gravity of the Official Office of the United States of American. We are told that he is on leave until 03 January, so I jot a note conveying my complements, while marveling at the security arrangements. We walk on toward the Arc de Triumph.

The place is jammed, but we follow the tunnel under the traffic circle and up the stairs. The line to climb up to the roof is far too long, so we elect to walk under the Arc itself. Like everything is this city, it is far more than the postcards. The name of every engagement that Napoleon fought, every armee he led, is carved in the white marble that soars above us.

interior-arc-de-triomphe-paris-112014

In the middle of the paving under the interior dome lies the eternal flame to the Unknown of the Great War. Around it are plaques dedicated to the soldiers of the Indo-Chine, to the establishment of the Republic, and to the veterans of Algeria.

I am tremendously moved and I did not think I would be. I translate for Lutt-mann and we leave in a state of wonder at it all.

Next stop the Tour Eiffel. We walk around the ringed streets that surround the Arc. We need to use a WC, so we stop at a likely place. It turns out to be a place called the Pub Winston Churchill. It is rich wood and dark tapestry carpets. Gleaming brass. Heavy glass. Oozing atmosphere.

churchill-112014

This is the real thing. Travelling downstairs to the ‘loo we find another level to the restaurant; this one is small tables and nestled booths. We take seats as we cycle through the comfort stop and prepare to order a beer to make us walk better. Upon further perusal, we discover it is 35 francs per ($5.75) we think better of the matter and stroll on through the city, crossing the Seine toward the Tour.

This so far exceeds my expectations that I am struck nearly dumb.

paris-eiffel-tower-112014

This is the apex of a civilization. The latticework structure is ultimate in wrought iron construction, Eiffel must have stood his world on its collective ears. To those men all things must have seemed possible. The Suez canal, the planned French sea-level passage across Panama that failed, steel rails and steam engines to change the face of the globe…..

The Tower is set perfectly as the crowning accomplishment to a long mall. Graceful apartment buildings flank the mall and we walk aimless along them, finally checking the map and plotting a course that will take us to the Rue St Germain and on toward the Ile de Cite and the Cathedral de Notre Dame. Past the broad vista of Les Invalides, past the strange warren of Ministries on the Rue Babylon and finally through the rive gauche student district and back across the Seine to the Cathedral.

The view is extraordinary. We check the block in the greatest of the medieval churches and stop for a lager and a white wine in the shade of the two towers. “Look out for Pick pockets,” read the signs. Magnificent!

Paris-Notre_Dame-112014

After, we walk along the church to view the symphony of the flying buttresses that support the stained glass windows of the Nave. Then across the rest of the river and onto the Boulevard de Rivoli near the Hotel de Cite.

We wander through les Halles and eventually back to Rue Liege and the Hotel Morny, stopping for refresments that turned the afternoon into an enormous pub crawl. We split up to rest, and I bought a bottle of Boujolais nouveau and bread and frommage and feast in the room. This is the life!

The usual suspects hook up and escape to the nighttime streets and head north and then east toward Montmarte, then south to the Place Pigalle and Moulin Rouge. We are literally slaying the tourist attractions. But still, every street has something new. They were right when they said that Paris required a minimum four days to see…..or a lifetime.

moulin-rouge-by-night-par-112014

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

Dreamscape, Part 348

dream2-111714

I really dream well at the farm. It must be the fresh air, the exercise and the deep silence of the night here. I was going to get up and write about Paris, since I love that town, and the 1989 visit to the City of Lights was well-nuanced and spectacular. It had everything, literally.

Instead, the events of the days cascaded into a dream so real that the faces of the participants are with me still with the first cup of coffee. I can analyze the sources of at least some of the imagery and context of the dreamscape. ISIS had beheaded another American, this one an idealistic former Army Ranger who had returned to the area of conflict not to fight, but to assist those dislocated by the Syrian civil war.

The story evolved during my drive to the farm in the real world, and intelligence sources confirmed the actual imagery displayed on the propaganda video of the murder. The second case of Ebola in America was not going well. Dr. Martin Salia’s condition was worsening as the epidemic continues to rage in West Africa.

Hostage Peter Kassig is just the latest martyr to religious fanaticism. I tried to put that out of my mind through the day, and the epidemic, but it all came back in the second sleep of the night in the quiet of the farmhouse.

It had been a productive day. Driving down was a breeze, since I left before I-66 ground to a halt outside the Beltway. I got settled in to the house, worried about cast iron skillets, before stopping at Mattski and Natasha’s place next door to see if they needed anything from my afternoon trip to town. They were sitting in chairs drawn up to a glowing fire. Jack the German Shepherd puppy was sprawled on the floor. His fur was soft as down, and his needle milk-teeth teased at my skin and sweater. Not to be outdone, Biscuit the Wonder Spaniel attempted to crawl into my lap and lubricate my face with kisses.

Natasha was knitting a complex pattern sweater for Mattski.

It was so domestic and so seasonal against the gray chill outside that I decided to build my own fire and hunker down once I completed a trip to Croftburn Farms to discuss a requirement with Andrew, the proprietor. Filled up the Panzer at the Martin’s supermarket complex, and procured some dry and wet supplies.

I made a light dinner and built a big fire and the Deadskins and the Eagles were humiliated on the flat screen. I dozed off after the games were done, got up at midnight and went to bed. Sometime in the larger small hours, I turned in the bed and realized I was someplace sunlight and real.

I was unhappy in my job. Pal Holly V was running a small woman-owned business, in partnership with a dynamic father-son entrepreneur team, very prep in apprearance. They looked like Agency people. I agreed to try to support a contract overseas with Holly’s company and deployed to Liberia. Boko Haram was the ISIS stand-in during the next series of vivid events, and Ebola was abroad in the land.

The father-son team running the contract and there were tensions flaring under the stress. My old pal Sunny was with me in the headlong passage across the stricken capital. Columns of government troops were flowing through the streets, we stayed on the side streets to minimize our visibility, since Westerners were being waylaid and killed.

Boko was said to be massing outside the city. Ten days, some said, until the militant Islamists will sweep over the city, killing and pillaging as they came.

My bag and my pistol disappeared as I was waiting for further transportation. I sighed at that, thinking about the implications of the loss of the weapon and my passport. Desperation began to rise. There was a boat slip with two berths where a few hardy yachts provided a shuttle service down the coast to what the Navy had established a Fleet Landing. I missed one, then another as I talked to someone about my bag. I wanted my gun.

I scratched at a carbuncle on my leg, and was alarmed when a green jelly-like substance oozed out. Was I infected? I had to get out. I had to get away from the twin threats of marauding religious zealots and deadly infection. Two of the Four Horsemen were bearing down on the city, and in fact, one of them was already there.

Would the boats return? Was there a schedule, however haphazard? If I could make the Landing, I hoped my status as a retiree might be able to get a lift out to Carl Vinson, who people said was orbiting off the coast. Would they take a possibly infected American away with them, or hoist the plague flag from the mainmast?

I was dropped by the boat near the Fleet Landing along with a woman whose face has now faded with the slowly rising light. A thin angry man engaged me, poking me with his index finger, haranguing me like the real world Haitian attaché who accosted me on a similar pier in a real land that was also dreamlike. People with red brassards indicting their infected states stood mutely by a fountain.

I had to get out, and I did by opening my eyes in the darkness, breath racing. The images of the troops falling back against an implacable cruel foe stayed with me, and the sense that something was spreading and I couldn’t do a damned thing about it.

My pulse came back to normal. It was safe at the farm. I did not hear about the Doctor’s death until I got to the computer.

dream one-111714

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303

Grubering the Skillets

1-111614

I am not going to gruber you this morning about cast iron. I am sure you have heard the new verb “gruber,” (as in: “to mendacious lie about major policy issues affecting all Americans because you have contempt for their intelligence,” and “an erroneous and inflated assumption of superiority and enlightenment totally in conflict with simple facts.”)

Rather, I will just lay out some key observations. I am not going to take action to ensure all Americans have cast iron, even if it is the right thing to do.

I got a case of serious skillet envy for the Black Dog Salvage concern out in Strasburg, VA, where my squadron buddy Bronco spotted the most amazing nested skillets ever at the Black Dog Salvage concern.

Strasburg is where the cursed I-66 interstate is born, and from which it sweeps majestically into the log-jam of the DC sprawl.

My pal Bronco and his lovely wife Lynn were out there prowling antique stores. I share the affliction- like I need any more junk. My garage at the farm already looks like a much more chaotic mini-version of the Strasburg Antique Mall.

SAM--111614
Bronco knows my weakness for cast iron cookware, and he was tweaking me with phone-cam pictures about some of the treasures he observed.

A couple key points. I was going to do an exploration of some of the myths surrounding cast iron a while ago, but I will summarize a much longer appreciation of some common myths:

1. 1. These are not fragile things. You can use them as hammers if necessary.
2. 2. Cast iron is great about retaining heat- but it can have hot spots. Know your burner. It is your friend as much as the skillet.
3. 3. Don’t worry about chipping the seasoned finish. The residue is chemically annealed to the surface. If you scratch it, just re-season with a couple tablespoons of fresh extra virgin olive oil- or your favorite with a high burning point.
4. 4. Some claim that you should keep soap away from them. Point 2 above refers.
5. 5. I ignore that recommendation and re-season with each use with a small amount oil to dry the skillet and keep the seasoning fresh.
6. 6. Older cast iron is better because the casting techniques were more precise, but the new stuff from Lodge is just fine.

There. I feel better.

FullSizeRender-111614

Skillets from different time periods can command significantly higher prices than modern ones. See point 6 above. These are collectible items so there are some runs of certain markings: the gold standard is the products of the Griswold company with the “slant logo” or “spider web” are more valuable due to their relative scarcity. If you want a good cooking Griswold buy a flat example that has “Erie, Pa.” stamped anywhere on the bottom and you cooking with gas.

FullSizeRender-2-111614
(Heaven in Booth 21 at the SAM. Dutch ovens, skillets of all sizes, those cool cornbread muffin bakers and hard to find lids, a feature I find absolutely essential for slow cooking).

Note that some vintage cast-iron pieces (including some, but not all, Griswolds) have raised “heat rings” on the bottom. I’ve found that a certain size of heat ring just isn’t compatible with the burner grates on my gas stove, which are configured sort of like a ship’s wheel. When the pot is centered on the burner, the heat ring is balanced on the outermost points of the spokes, so the pot easily slips off the grate and sits at an angle.

That was the problem with a Griswold #12 that a friend had- I don’t know if the chicken fryer-model with the small handle opposite the big one all had them. I dunno. I will check the ones at the Strasburg Antique Mall when I get out there.

4th iron-111614
(Bronco claims to even have found some examples of the elusive and coveted Griswold Model #3 & #5).

Ann is the weekend Concierge at Big Pink. I stopped to check the mail yesterday and she smiled as she produced two slick magazines filled with hundreds of recipes for cast iron cooking. She is going to pass them along when she is done reviewing them. That, and a great recipe for one-inch pork chops that has been embargoed by the correspondent until I actually take it for a test-drive. I am going to swing by Croftburn Farms and pick some up and do and try it for dinner.

And maybe wander through the Minuteman Antiques Mall and see if there is a Griswold #12 hanging out there.

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com
Twitter: @jayare303