Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lecturing in Malaysia at the Garden International School 2009 -2010

Talking with the students for an hour after the lecture was over.

It has been my pleasure to now have spoken several times at the Garden International School in KL Malaysia. The students are delightful and interested in everything. It has been a great joy to be there. The faculty there has enjoyed it as well and has written about in this wonderful note. They are wonderful there, I admire the teachers there so much. It is a great school!

I am here at the school after the lecture I did in 2009 called "America between the wars" A lecture that took into account the actions and activities of the USA during the period between the world wars. It was delight to have given that one and the one I more recently gave in March 2010. What I have enjoyed here was the fact that the kids would stay for an hour after the lecture and just ask question after question. It was great to hear their young minds soaking up the information. It was great fun for me and them. This picture was taken about an hour after the lecture and there were still this many kids there asking questions. I hope to speak there in again in 2011.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Spending a day in 2000 with the great Eddie Bracken 1915-2002...What a wonderful man he was.

Listening to Nat M. Wills on a cylinder
In his den with many of his posters of his movies and other programs he had done.
Eddie Bracken signed this picture for me in 2000 when I met him at his home in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. I had contacted him to make some recordings and he was very interested and happy to get involved. We spend several hours talking and listening to him reminisce about his past and the memories of his friends.

He told me that Bob Hope's brother was to be the best man at his wedding. However, when the day of the wedding came he was too drunk to make it! So much for a best man. Bracken was a performer from the time he was a child. He performed in early silents, and he said he made 2 Our Gang films.
He was also a well known star in radio...He was the voice of Henry Aldridge....In the days of radio that show started.............HENRY!!!!!! Henry Aldridge!....and he would answer "Coming mother" in a cracked voice as he said. It was a great success and he said he was known all over for his voice. He said that even one of his big fans was none other than Al Jolson.

His many stories I have to write down as they were wonderful.

He did many movies, Hail the In the 1940s, director Preston Sturges cast Bracken in two of his best-loved films, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, opposite Betty Hutton, and Hail the Conquering Hero. Based on the popularity of these films, Eddie Bracken was a household name during World War II.

He won an award from the Armed Services in WW2..As the best entertainer...He said that Bob Hope hated him for that! But it is true Eddie Bracken received the award...I saw it..It was massive!!!

His last movie of note wasHome Alone 2: Lost in New York..

When I saw him and listened to his many stories he signed this picture for me, It is from the movie Summer Stock. In this picture he appears with Judy Garland. He signed it...To Jack, Thanks for your visit....Eddie Bracken.

It was a great visit and I was saddened to hear of his passing two years later after a bad fall down his stairs.
As with many others who have passed through my life, I have learned a little from each....Bracken taught me much, and now when I see the Duncan Toy man in Home Alone 2, I always think of a great man and friend..

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why does food today taste different than that in the old days?

I have often pondered this question. Food and many dishes did taste different years ago. There are many reasons for this, first off refrigeration, Pasteurization, low fat, high sugar, additives, and cooking styles. One of the great crimes committed against us historically in the taste of foods, is what we put into it now.

I always laugh when I look at an old recipe in a new cooking book. It states right off we have replaced some ingredients with a more healthy option. Right there we have destroyed the taste of what once was.

It is like taking an old car and saying we have replaced its motor and replaced it with a new fuel efficient one that makes it run better..Then I do not know what that original car was like? That is historic robbery. I want to feel how it was, sense how it was, experience how it was.
Driving in a 2010 car gives me no idea of what driving a Model T Ford was like. I have driven a Model T Ford, so believe me it is nothing like a new car.

In that thought too, in the age before Pasteurization foods tasted different. Fats added flavor, cooking long had its joys too. Now everything is so slimmed down so we think and we are healthier, are we?

The use of Lard is wonderful, it adds so much flavor to foods. I look through cook books today and no one uses it for historic dishes...Why not? I am not advocating using lard every day, but I am willing to say is healthier than a good deal of the over processed junk we eat today is. The foods of the past will never taste as they did as we have a mania to not use the ingredients that were used in the past. So if you wish to experience the taste of the past, ask the preparer to use the ingredients that were used then. You find a pleasant surprise, it tastes better than its redesigned modern equivalent.

There are many restaurants that cater to the tastes of the past, and I have not seen any of them that use all original ingredients. So we are fooling ourselves as to what the past tasted like. Bacon fat, lard, butter, and much more were used as part of the meal. It is nothing like low fat oils. Lard will make a meal, and you will once again be surprised at how good it tastes.
That is what the past tasted like. Sadly we do not eat today, cause it is not looked at as healthy. Yet we as millions go into many dreadful fast food joints and think nothing of it. Am I missing something?

To close I am reminded of an encounter between Walter Lord and Rene Harris in the last years of her life. She was a major producer on Broadway and a survivor of the Titanic. Lord was working on a book on the disaster. She was living at this time in a small room and her days of glory were long over.
He decided to bring a tin of Caviar for her. She took one taste as said "You call that Caviar?" He wrote in his notes that probably Caviar tasted different before pasteurization, and that the Caviar of 1912 was a very different dish than what we know today.