15 September 2008

La Traviata

The Moglie and I got season tickets for the WNO this year and on Saturday night went for the very first opening night of the season, La Traviata. Now, if you read the review in the Washington Post you may be less inclined to get tickets; however, the performance was far better than what the Post allowed.

In my less than humble opinion the soprano, tenor, and baritone were all marvelous. Not only could they all sing and sing well (poo to you Post), they could actually act! I've seen other WNO operas in which the acting and the singing have not been good (*cough cough* La Boheme except Vittorio *cough cough*)so I say kudos to these people. I am not, despite my own acclamations, a learned judge of opera or vocal talent...but having grown up with a classically trained opera signing mother who listened to this very opera so often when we were kids that I'll bet my siblings and I can recite it...I do ok with the judging. And generally I am not kind.

I've also heard some accusations (not just from the Post) that the WNO is playing things "safe" by doing traditional settings for La Traviata. So? I mean seriously, so? Is it really now necessary to take every bit of classical something and modernize it? Does that honestly help us better relate to the story? Is a director therefore uncreative if he chooses to do something traditionally? Personally for me no. Rather I often find the modernizations,"creativity", and "innovations" distracting. But that is just my personal taste. La Traviata is an archetypal story that works in any era and any setting so if you're setting it for the critics then I guess make them aliens and set the opera on Mars. Heck, they made a movie out of in the 30's with Greta Garbo so aliens might work just fine. However, maybe being traditional is the new creative. The WNO isn't the only theatre going back to tradition this season and I for one am looking forward to it.

In any case, the WNO has set up a fantastic season this year and I think they opened it brilliantly on Saturday. For me this production of La Traviata is not only possibly the best opera I have ever seen, but also meant the most to me. Go see it. You will enjoy it.

p.s. Despite the movement to get people to go to the theatre and not be afraid of it by encouraging audience members to remember that at one time it was pop culture and dress how they like and wear jeans etc..Don't. I will hunt you down if I find out you've gone to the opera in jeans.

10 September 2008

Cast Iron Skillets: a hint from Heloise

I love my cast iron skillets. I got mine from my Mammaw, and she used to used to do all sorts of culinary feats-- frying eggs, baking the best biscuits, ginger cakes, and cornbread, too! I try to let the pan inspire me, but only recently have I managed to bake a pan of cornbread that even halfway resembles hers. And biscuits? Fuhgeddaboudtit! It just doesn't work for me. Anyhow, for anyone out there who has even a mild curiosity about using cast iron, I highly recommend it. See below today's Hints from Heloise. She's always got great tips and tricks, and recipes that people use for years. This is what she had to say, and I must agree...I couldn't have said it better myself!

If yours is an old skillet, wash (no metal brushes or scrubbers, and just a drop of soap) and dry. Rub the inside, outside and lid (if it has one) with a very light coat of shortening, lard or light cooking oil. Aerosol spray should probably not be used due to the additives, which can cause the pan to become sticky.

If the skillet is new and has a protective coating on it, use a steel-wool scouring pad, soap and the hottest water possible to scrub it off, but only the first time.
Place the clean, oiled skillet in the oven upside down on an aluminum-covered baking sheet to catch oil drips. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Carefully use a dry cloth or paper towel to keep the surface evenly coated with oil. After baking, let the skillet cool in the oven.

When cleaning a cast-iron skillet, be sure it is cool before doing so, and use a nonmetallic scrubber. Many people use salt as a scrubber or use mild dish soap (only before seasoning, not after every use, most professionals agree), rinse well and dry. Do not soak, let water sit in it or put iron cookware in the dishwasher.

If food is sticking, it is not seasoned correctly. If the food turns black, it's time to re-season.
Store skillets stacked with a paper towel or paper plate between each one to absorb moisture, and leave the lid off. Keep your skillets clean and seasoned, and they will last for generations to come!

PS: Cornbread baked in a cast-iron skillet is simply the best!