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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trying to figure out searchable online databases in the service of YIddish

Sometimes when you really want something to exist you have to stop waiting for somebody else to create it. Ever since 2006 when I started translating Yiddish literature into English I have been wishing there were a centralized list someplace of what's been translated already, by whom, when, and what might be in the works. Because there are so very very many Yiddish works that have never been translated. It seems like a shame there might be two (or more) people working on the same piece because they don't know somebody else has started the same work.

I don't even know how to find a lot of the work that's been translated already. Much of it is out of print, much of it was translated pre-internet and is not listed online.

Then there's the organization problem. It turns out many of the works that have been translated are short stories or poems and they have been collected into anthologies. Without getting my hands on an anthology I don't know what's in it. Even when I do, that's not information that can elegantly be put into a static table. There should be a second-level table that keys into the book title and offers you all the works within the anthology.

I started poking around looking for a way to set this up and it just made me crosseyed. Meanwhile, just to get started, I put up a static table-based list of works I found on my first pass across the plain:

I got started on this while thinking about how an old friend of mine, who's been writing academic books and articles for decades and publishing them in a disparate bunch of baskets, could most easily pull her far-flung works together and give them a hub / home on the web.

Ideas welcome!

Grandma Peppler's coconut custard pie

This was one of the first recipes I got from my grandmother when I was in high school and so inexperienced that I didn't realize (and she hadn't thought to tell me) that you have to cook a cornstarch mixture in order for it to jell up. I put it all together, uncooked, and refrigerated it in hopes of a miracle that never occurred.

Grandma Peppler's coconut custard pie
1/3 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup for meringue
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/3 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
3 eggs, separated
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flaked, sweetened coconut
baked pie crust

1. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a non-stick saucepan till there are no lumps. Add a tablespoon of the milk and mix it in as well as possible, then add milk just a tiny bit at a time till you have a stiff lumpless gook. Then turn on the heat and add the rest of the milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until it thickens.

2. Add the butter and melt it. Then add 1-1/2 cups coconut, give the pot a few good stirs, and turn off the heat.

3. Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a smallish bowl and whip them smooth with the vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites stiff, gradually adding 1/4 cup of sugar as you go.

5. Drop a few dollops of the hot custard mixture into the egg yolks and whip them together (this is called tempering) - then add the egg yolk mixture back into the custard mixture and cook a little longer (so the egg yolks cook a bit).

6. My grandma would fold all the egg whites into the custard, but I've taken to folding only half the beaten meringue into the custard. Then I dump the custard-mixed-with-meringue into the cooled (well, supposedly, but actually I never wait and dump it into the baked pie crust when it's still hot) pie crust and spread it evenly.

7. Spread the remaining 1/2 of the meringue on top and cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-14 minutes until the meringue is a bit browned. Please do not eat this pie hot. If you put it in the freezer to hasten the cooling, don't forget you put it in there.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Come make music with us at the second annual Pick n Bow Folk Music Retreat!

Last year was Danny Gotham's first PicknBow Folk Music retreat - he, Bob Vasile and I were the instructors over a three-day weekend and it was loads of fun. There were student concerts and jam sessions, we had the time to give people special attention when they needed it. In this picture taken by a staff photographer from the News and Observer, I'm helping a beginning fiddler who was skeptical about his progresss...

My favorite part was when a little bunch of singers or pickers would go off in a corner and come up with something wonderful on their own! Bob made a giant vat of chile on Saturday, people brought food and we feasted.

This year the weekend will be July 13-15, 2012, again at the Murphey School at the end of Murphy School Road (isn't it weird that there are two different spellings?) convenient to Chapel Hill, Durham, and Hillsborough - airconditioned and plenty of parking. Julie Elkins (bluegrass banjo and guitar) and Ari Eisinger (country blues and ragtime guitar) will be joining the staff.

If you're interested have a look at the PicknBow Folk Music Retreat Weekend page on the Pratie Heads website or call Danny at 919.967.4934.