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April 30, 2005

I only have pink eyes for you . . .

The last few days have involved a lot of hacking up gopher-sized gobs of goo, which can be morbidly fun, because then you get to check in the tissue to see what color it is and gauge the infection. (Chartreuse . . . I’m really sick!) I still had things that needed to be done, like laundry. Being sick, I forgot to check my pants when I put them in the wash. When I took them out of the dryer, out tumbled three tissues, a fine-line marker and a plastic shopping bag along with my laundry, miraculously unharmed.

I also had a trip to Philadelphia pre-arranged to see Pennsylvania Ballet that I couldn’t get out of, so here I am. The hotel room at the Hyatt is about the color of my snot but brighter and definitely more pleasant. My snot also doesn’t have a lovely view of the skyline. I packed herbal tea with me and made it in the little in-room coffee pot, so it tastes like lemon-coffee tea. Used along with the nighttime cough syrup that I also packed, I feel much better this morning.

For those of you following along on my Priceline bidding, I won the Hyatt on a $60 bid right around the time I wrote the series. The hotel’s own website showed the hotel as sold out. The vacation packages only showed 3* inventory. I had bid up to $55 for 3* hotels the day before, no dice. But for a lark and because there were so many re-bids, I tried a 4* bid at $60.

Accepted, first bid at the sold-out Hyatt.

Next time I want to figure out what to bid I’m using a dartboard.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2005

The Good News - The Bad News

The Good News -

The Royal Ballet announces a 2005-6 season that is as balanced and thoughtful as any that's come down the pike in a while. It doesn't matter that I don't like every ballet that Monica Mason has chosen; I can see that she's made her choices from her own taste rather than the absence thereof. It isn't just a matter of taste; with revivals of de Valois' The Rake's Progress, Andrée Howard's La Fête Étrange as well as MacMillan's My Brother, My Sisters she's working to reclaim the identity of the company. It looks like this season's thoughtful programming for the Ashton Centennial was not an accident. I hope she keeps it up, and I think she's justified her contract renewal to 2010.

The Bad News -

How does the National Ballet of Canada show their love for 22 year veteran principal Martine Lamy in her final performances with the company? By making her second cast, of course. That ain't no way to treat a lady.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

Latest Dance Article

At Danceview Times: Classical Music and Dance from Cambodia

The Nrityagram ensemble took classical Indian dance and presented it as a theatrical experience. The dancers and musicians from the Royal University of Fine Arts in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh presented their dance and music as an ethnological experience.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 2:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What says the Gentile Child? Or: Attack of the Killer Seder

As I was coming back to my apartment after the Great Matzo Ball Debacle at Cousin Janet’s, I ran into one of my neighbors. Nancy had an awful, splitting headache to which I lightly remarked that so did 1/3 of Manhattan, and indigestion, to boot.

Suddenly, she stopped me and said, “then I can ask you this about that . . . meal.” I had assumed up until this point that Nancy was also Jewish, which was evidently incorrect. “Do people always stick their fingers in their wine glass and throw wine on their plate?” She asked this the same way I might ask if one really ate dog brains with a grapefruit spoon. I assured her that, yes, it was traditional and out spilled the litany of horror.

Evidently Nancy had never been to an actual seder before. They ate parsley (I mean, who uses it as anything other than a garnish?), but first they did something to it, dipped it in something or other. Then there was this awful looking stuff they put on a cracker.

“But that’s charoses, Nancy. It’s just apples and walnuts; it tastes good.”

“But they ate it with this purple stuff and I thought that was disgusting. And there was no bread. And then they read for hours from this book, and they wanted me to read as well! I said I did not have my reading glasses.”

I didn’t laugh once, much as I wanted to. As my stepmother (who, bless her heart, has participated with good will in many a Seder even though she’s Catholic and also doesn’t like the traditional food) says, “Nothing is obvious to the uninformed.” And in this case, the uninitiated. It would have been more charitable if someone had given her a quick rundown on what would happen before inviting her. Poor woman, she must have felt like Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. All you want is a plain bowl of soup and they’re serving you monkey, or worse, matzo balls.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 2:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2005

Why MY Matzo balls sucked

I have to make another batch to test my hypothesis but I think that when I multiplied up the recipe I didn't increase all ingredients in proportion, adding 2 less eggs and too little water. I had an easily manageable dough-like paste - which I am betting is why the balls came out so dense. I think if I had used enough liquid - eggs, water and broth - to make a loose mixture that started around the consistency of cooked oatmeal and firmed up just enough with resting and chilling to be handleable I would have had a lighter matzo ball.

I'm taking some comfort in the fact that my friend Mark in San Francisco, who is an expert matzo ball maker as well, told me today his knaidlach were also "like rocks". Maybe there was a dense vibe blanketing the planet.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 10:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2005

Pride goeth before a ball

Well, given that I had to boast about my matzo ball recipe before I had finished making them, you knew that the Hubris Gods would have to take notice, didn't you?

Of course you did. But you just let me go on and on . . .

I blame society.

It's the first time I've ever made them for a seder - my cousin Janet's. I had to quadruple my usual recipe, which is probably where the trouble started. Are they light and fluffy? Of course not. Let's just say they're al dente.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 12:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why your matzo balls suck

You didn’t use chicken fat. Cholesterol, schmolesterol. Chicken fat is an essential flavoring here. It makes the recipe.

You made them too large. Surely the proverbial joke about cannonballs should have warned you. Large matzo balls are harder to cook all the way through.

You didn’t cook them long enough. Light, fluffy matzo balls with a cooked, not raw, center take time. About 40 minutes.

You didn’t keep the pot tightly covered. Steam helps to cook those babies through. Keep a lid on it.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 12:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

The Best Matzo Ball Soup

Yeah, I really think it is.

This recipe is based on the standard box o' matzo meal recipe with onion and ginger additions suggested by Bernard Clayton in his Complete Book of Soups and Stews. I decided to use fresh instead of dried ginger.

The best utensil for grating the nutmeg, onion and ginger is a Japanese ginger grater. If you grate the ingredients in the order listed (driest to wettest) it will be the most efficient - each cleans the previous ingredients’ residue out of the grater.

I won’t give a recipe for chicken broth here, but this soup requires two quarts of homemade chicken broth. The chicken fat used in the matzo balls is also a byproduct of broth making.

Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl; lightly beat them. No, I don't separate my eggs and beat the egg whites. I like a slightly firmer matzo ball. Slightly firmer. Not a cannonball.

Stir in melted fat and broth.

Mix all matzo ball ingredients together, adding enough water to make a stiff loose paste. [update 4/24/05: see above – I think too little water was the problem with the batch I made] Let stand or chill for at least twenty minutes to stiffen.

Bring a large pot (with a tight fitting lid) of salted water to the boil.

Form the stiff paste into balls about an inch and a half in diameter or the size of a large walnut.

Drop into the boiling water, which should be at a gentle, not a hard boil. Cover tightly and let the matzo balls cook in their own steam for about 40 minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, in another large pot bring the chicken broth to the boil with the other broth ingredients and cook at a gentle boil until vegetables are tender.

When matzo balls are cooked, remove with slotted spoon and transfer to broth. Simmer together at least 15 minutes before serving.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

Latest Dance Articles

From the last issue of Danceview Times - James Kudelka's The Contract, performed at BAM by the National Ballet of Canada.

There’s more than enough material here for two separate ballets and neither idea is particularly illuminated by the other.

From the current issue - The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble

It took less than a minute after the curtain rose for the audience to know that the performance of the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble was a great one. The rest was simply delightful confirmation.

I also saw Neil Greenberg's Partial View and Dance Theater Workshop last Saturday, but I am so backlogged on dance writing that I'm going to refer you to another (marvelous) dance writer, Nancy Dalva, for her report.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Deeply, Fabulously, Wrong.

Abstinence Only

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2005


I'm sure heterosexuals find it as important as homosexuals to recognize the secret signs that tip one off to a fellow heterosexual. As a public service here are just a few.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 8:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Place Like Home - Addendum (Nuts and Bolts)

My Travel Agent: Mayra [at] argentinatravelservices.com


Things I'm glad I packed

Things I wished I had packed

Things I didn't need

Things that are different that you don't think about

Advice I am glad I had

Final bits of advice.