This time we tried a few new things, but made a point of revisiting some favorites.
Greenhouse Guru Mini San Marzano Tomatoes. Almost everything at the Festival is overpriced, but this is the only one I'd call an out-and-out ripoff. I was hoping for something fresh and tasty, you know, like a real tomato. This was a small bag of the kind of tomatoes I can get any day (for a much better price) at Publix. On top of that, they had been refrigerated.
Chocolate Studio Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Torte. It was every bit as good as it sounds.
Canada "Le Cellier" Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce. One of my favorites. You have to special order if you want it to be cooked rare, but it's worth it. PLUS, I had gone ahead to grab a table, and when Porter found me he was bringing not only the filet but a small cup of hideously expensive but delicious apple ice wine. He was spoiling me....
France Boeuf Bourguignon: Cabernet Sauvignon-braised short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes, AND Soupe à l'oignon au Gruyère et Cognac. Old favorites that are too good not to indulge in both.
Belgium Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream. Another well-worthwhile repeat.
Craft Beers Piggy Wings: Fried Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds. This must be what you get when pigs fly. The pork was small, fatty, and bony (like a true wing), but the barbecue sauce was good.
China Sichuan Spicy Chicken. Everything at the Chinese kiosk sounded delicious, but I remembered how good the chicken was. If we return before the Festival is over, maybe we'll try something different.
We also visited the Ghirardelli booth twice this time. It's a little disappointing that the sample chocolate square is always milk chocolate caramel instead of a chance to taste more of their many, different, delicious varieties, but it's hard to complain about chocolate caramel.
For all the times we've visited EPCOT, we'd never done the Soarin' Around the World ride, so we remedied that deficiency. In contrast to most of the new rides at the theme parks around here—and despite the dire "lawyer warnings"—Soarin' does not bounce you around and slam you into the sides of the car. It only lifts you a bit into the air; the awesome effects are all from the movie that nearly surrounds you. Nor did it make us queasy at all, though it was nearly impossible to avoid flinching at some of the apparent close calls as we soared around the world, from the Matterhorn to Sydney Harbour to the mighty Iguazú Falls. You can see the ride, sans special effects (which included scents), here.
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be inside the EPCOT fireworks show?
Soarin' was the highlight of the non-food part of our visit. The other rides, Spaceship Earth (no longer sponsored by AT&T) and Journey into Imagination with Figment (no longer sponsored by Kodak), are but pale shadows of their former selves. I've included the YouTube videos for those of you who grew up with the better shows, so you can see what you're (not) missing.
Spaceship Earth is especially disappointing, as the poetry has completely gone out of it. The attraction opened two years before we came to Central Florida, and we've seen many revisions through the years. Walter Cronkite knew how to tell a story; this is probably the version our kids remember best.
But my absolutely favorite was the one before Cronkite's. I can find no video online (this was in the early 80's, after all), but you can see some pictures and most of the text at Walt Dated World. I've extracted the text below so you can compare the language with the prosaic (boring) lecture-style of today.
Narrator: Where have we come from, where are we going? The answers begin in our past. In the dust from which we were formed, answers recorded on the walls of time. So let us journey into that past, to seek those walls, to know ourselves and to probe the destiny of our Spaceship Earth.
Narrator: Now, suns reverse, moons re-phase, let us return to ancient caves where first we learn to share our thoughts-and to survive.
Narrator: Where are we now? It is the waiting dawn where vast things stir and breathe. And with our first words and first steps, we draw together to conquer the mammoth beast. It is the dawn of a new beginning, the dawn of recorded time.
Narrator: On cave walls we inscribe our greatest triumphs, a growing record of our deeds, to share with others so they too may greet tomorrow's sun.
Narrator: Ages pass and more walls rise in the valley of the Nile. Man-made walls of hieroglyphics. Then with new symbols, we unlock our thoughts from chiseled walls and send them forth on papyrus scrolls.
Narrator: On fine Phoenician ships, we take our scrolls to sea. Real scrolls simplified by an alphabet, eagerly shared at distant ports of call.
Narrator: Deep in the shadows of Mount Olympus, our alphabet takes route, flowering with new expression. Hail the proud Greeks: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides. The theater is born.
Narrator: North, south, east, and west, all roads lead from Rome, a mighty network reaching across the land, welding far-flung garrisons into a growing empire.
Narrator: Glorious Rome, until consumed by the flames of excess. Imperial Rome, lost in the ashes of darkness.
Narrator: Far from the dying embers, Islamic wise men preserve ancient wisdom and weave a rich network of new knowledge linking east and west.
Narrator: In western abbeys, monks toil endlessly transcribing ancient wisdom into hand-penned books of revelation.
Narrator: At last! A new dawn emerges. The dawn of the Renaissance-and a wondrous machine performs as a thousand scribes. Now for all: the printed word.
Narrator: Our books fuel the fires of the Renaissance. It is a time to discover anew the worlds of poetry and philosophy, science and music. As our minds soar, our hands find new expression in the flourishing world of art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.
Narrator: The Renaissance: a beacon through the mists of time, guiding us to a new era. A time of invention and exploding communication.
Narrator: With each day come more paths, more ideas, more dreams, and we build new machines: computer machines that think, that store, sift, sort, and count, that help us chart our course through an age of boundless information.
Narrator: With these machines comes a wondrous new network of communications, a vibrant maze of billions of electronic pathways stretching to the very edge of space.
Narrator: Poised on the threshold of infinity, we see our world as it truly is: small, silent, fragile, alive, a drifting island in the midnight sky. It is our spaceship. Our Spaceship Earth.
Narrator: Now our Future World draws near -and we face the challenge of tomorrow. We must return and take command of our Spaceship Earth. To become captains of our own destiny. To reach out and fulfill our dreams.
Woman: GPC report. Odyssey is complete with position home.
Man: Can you switch to manual payload?
Woman: No problem. Manuel payload is activated. Signal from command execution.
Man: Roger. Are you getting video?
Woman: Affirmative. Delta camera is on and tracking.
Narrator: Our journey has been long. From primal caves we have ventured forth traveling the endless corridors of time seeking answers to our tomorrow. With growing knowledge and growing communication, we have changed our lives, changed our world.
Narrator: From the reaches of space to the depths of the sea, we have spun a vast electronic network linking ourselves as fellow passengers together, on Spaceship Earth.
(Ride vehicles pass by several TV screens.)
Narrator: Today our search for understanding is unbounded by space and time. Vast stores of information, knowledge from everywhere, standing ready at our beck and call to reach us in an instant. With our great network, we harness our knowledge, give it shape and form to serve us, to help create and communicate a better awareness of ourselves, and our world.
Narrator: Ours is the age of knowledge, the age of choice and opportunity.
Narrator: Tomorrow's world approaches, so let us listen and learn, let us explore and question and understand. Let us go forth and discover the wisdom to guide great Spaceship Earth through the uncharted seas of the future. Let us dare to fulfill our destiny.
As a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I receive—among other benefits like admission to their fantastic library in Boston—their American Ancestors magazine. The Fall 2016 issue has an article by Bryan Sykes (author of The Seven Daughters of Eve and other books of genetic genealogy) entitled, "Deep Ancestry and the Golden Thread." The fascinating essay is actually about matrilineal genealogy, but it was the introduction that made me shake my head.
We all take the link for granted these days, but we few scientists working on the Y-chromosome in the mid-1990s...had dismissed any correlation between surnames and Y-chromosomes as highly unlikely. As geneticists, we were familiar with the high rate of non-paternity, which would have disrupted the surname/Y-chromosome association over time. [Upon investigation, however] the strength of the correlation was high enough to make it a useful tool for genealogists and showed, incidentally, that the historical rate of non-paternity in England was far lower, at around 1.3% per generation, than it is assumed to be today.
That was a surprise? Really? The mindset of the "sexual revolution" is now so entrenched and ingrained that intelligent, educated scientists are shocked to learn that most children in the past did know who their daddy was, and shared his name?
I must be missing something.
My grandfather grew orchids. Or at least he tried to. Living as he did in Rochester, New York, his orchid garden was a light box in the basement. If he managed to make them bloom, I know it wasn't nearly as often as he would have liked.
When my father inherited the orchids and their setup, he didn't give them quite the attention that his father had, so it was not surprising that he had less success. He, too, lived in a climate unfriendly to orchids.
I lived for several years in the vicinity of the incredible Longwood Gardens, so it's not surprising that I've seen more than my share of orchids in bloom. I can't say that I understand the fascination they have for many people—Like Nero Wolfe. Their blooms are often bizarre, even macabre, in my eyes. But many are beautiful, and I confess to a special fondness for the vanilla orchid.
And for the blc copper queen.
It was blooming when Porter brought this plant home some four years ago. Despite a great deal of neglect, it steadfastly refused to die. There are advantages to living in a semi-tropical climate. But the orchid never bloomed again.
Until early this month, I noticed this:
Buds! And buds they stayed, growing ever so slowly.
Hurricane Matthew came, and we brought the plant into the garage for safekeeping. Both buds were as tightly closed as ever.
The next morning, the first blossom was in full, glorious flower.
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
This one, apparently, liked the ignominy of dangling from a bicycle hung from the ceiling in a corner of our garage. But we brought it in and gave it a place of honor in the house for several days, before returning it to the free air and sunshine of our back porch. By then, the second bloom was also in its glory.
As gardeners, we don't get any credit for these beautiful blooms, but I like to think my grandfather would have been pleased.
They [meet together] to sing out their thoughts. They would hurt them if they didn't. They're so strong and burn so. With only one throat each they can't make music enough to let it out in private; but what one hasn't another has, and so they gather to help each other's love and thanks out by singing, because everyone then feels that what they all sing he sings and everyone sings, with one mighty voice, and on the great torrent of that voice their big thoughts float out of every heart like great ships out of the harbour to cross the eternal seas.
— George MacDonald
One of my favorite books is George MacDonald's Lilith. The Johannesen edition we have also includes what they call Lilith A, a transcription of MacDonald's unpublished first draft. It has been amazing to read them back to back, to see both what an imaginative and technically able writer he was, and how the story was fleshed out into something magnificent through the rewriting and editing process.
Here is how the above paragraph looks in the published version:
They need help from each other to get their thinking done, and their feelings hatched, so they talk and sing together; and then, they say, the big thought floats out of their hearts like a great ship out of the river at high water.
The final version is more succinct, but I love the original because it speaks more specifically to what it's like to sing in choir.
One of the perks of having an annual Disney pass is the ability to make the spontaneously suggestion, "Do you want to go to EPCOT for lunch?"
Continuing from our list of food experiences,
New Zealand Steamed Green-Lipped Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs, and Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Dumpling. I passed on the mussels, but Porter said they were delicious. The venison was as well, though he said it was not as good as the venison he had in New Zealand itself, being less flavorful. Most of the food at Disney is made more bland than it should be.
Australia Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas. Good, with more spice than I've come to expect from Disney, probably too much for our friends who like their food mild.
China Sichuan Spicy Chicken. Delicious! Definitely too spicy for our friends who prefer their food mild.
South Korea Korean-style BBQ Beef with Steamed Rice and Cucumber Kimchi. Good, but nothing special, and far too mild. I would have said the salad was cucumber slices with a dash of vinegar—hardly kimchi.
Japan The shaved ice is becoming a tradition. Because we've had the tangerine flavor twice, we tried cherry this time. Good, but tangerine is still the best. Of cousre we had the sweet milk sauce; I need to figure out how to make that at home.
Belgium Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream. Delicious! Surprisingly, the concoction was not too sweet, which made it delightful.
Morocco Kefta Pocket: Seasoned Ground Beef in a Pita Pocket. Very good.
France Boeuf Bourguignon: Cabernet Sauvignon-braised short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes. Porter voted this even better than Canada's Filet Mignon (see previous post). Good as it was, I disagreed, and had planned to reassure myself on that point, but...
Canada Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll. By the time we had eaten our way to Canada, I was too full to appreciate the filet, so we chose the bacon-y cheddar soup instead. It was very good, but next time I'm saving room for the beef.
As we made our way to the park's exit, we stopped by the Festival Center's Ghirardelli booth to top off our meal with some complimentary chocolate.
Here's another upside to our hurricane adventure: We had mail delivery on Columbus Day!
I'm guessing they're making up for having been closed last Friday. Whatever the reason, I'm happy! It's been a long stretch without appreciable mail, since what came on Saturday clearly reflected that not much had gone through the system Thursday and Friday.
Our power was restored around one in the morning. As the bright light over our bed came on, I mentally chided myself for not being sure it was turned off at the swtich. But actually Porter had turned it on before coming to bed himself. This was so he would be awakened as soon as we had power, and could switch the refrigerator and freezer cords from the generator to the house power.
Generator note 1: We used just under five gallons of gasoline, running the generator on an approximate schedule of one hour out of every four or five, primarily for keeping the refrigerator and freezer (and those of our neighbors) cool.
Generator note 2: This is not a good way to recharge the UPS that powers our computer, house phone, and Internet connection. That takes about 18 hours to recharge.
The house is light again now, with the plywood removed from our windows, and Porter is out dealing with cleanup. A much, much better cleanup scenario than we had anticipated!
For those of you who were wondering, we now have a lovely new faucet for our kitchen sink. Porter had just completed the job, though not yet the cleanup, when power went out.
And the neighbors were happy with the cookies, even if they weren't my best. :)
We're fine; the lack of updates is due to the lack of power. We're running the generator for about an hour out of every four or five, to keep the refrigerator and freezer cold, and to charge our cell phones, but it takes a lot more to charge the UPS for the computers and home phone.
So far every hurricane has resulted in a three-day power outage. We're hoping for something less this time, but Duke Energy isn't saying.
More tomorrow, one way or another.
Gratitude. Waking up at 5 a.m., which should have brought us the worst of the storm, and hearing: nothing.
After a while I heard some rain, but no wind.
The next thing I heard was our emergency radio blasting out a flood warning. Flooding is a serious worry for many here, but we live at the top of a hill.
What a difference a few miles makes.
Thank you all for your many, eastward-blowing prayers! The very slight eastward shift of Matthew has made a huge difference to Florida. The coast is still experiencing strong gusts, but the news anchors are struggling to find stories: a sign fallen here, a boat with broken windows there. Downed power lines, and many people without power.
With this blessing comes a cautionary tale: an equally small shift westward would have been a different story altogether. Preparation is always essential. We should be grateful for miracles, but not presume upon them.
It's far from over. Matthew's eye is still south of us. They still expect serious impact on the coast and in flood zones. Winds have been picking up a bit for us, and branches sitll play occasional drum solos on our roof. For now, we have power, but we don't take that for granted: in the past, power outages have come significantly after the storm has passed and we've started to feel safe.
But this update is far from the one I was expecting to make this morning. We are thankful.
This should be my last update for the day; I hope to be heading to bed soon.
Porter took the wiser course tonight, reading his book and keeping an eye on the TV reports. I decided to cook.
First I made a big batch of meatballs, which will be good thaw-and-eat food.
Then I decided it would be nice to have cookies to take to our neighbors. We do that at Christmas, but half the people aren't home. Now they have to be—we'll be under curfew until Saturday morning. :)
I've been working on developing and perfecting a particular cookie recipe, so I've been making cookies at least once a week for a couple of months. I should have been able to make these in my sleep. But the dough seemed weird, much too dry. I wondered, being much distracted, did I accidentally add an extra cup of flour? I increased the liquid to compensate, but was increasingly puzzled. It wasn't until I'd already baked the first batch that I discovered that I'd left out the butter, which was sitting in the microwave where I'd left it to melt. I slopped some into the remaining dough (cookies can be forgiving), and hoped for the best. It's so far from what it was intended to be that I'm embarrassed to give them out, but they're actually not bad and I'm not going to ruin a neighborly moment just because the cookies aren't my best. But the whole affair shows my mind wasn't totally on what I was doing. And I'll even spare you the other things that went wrong, including spilling melted butter all over and losing my grip on the cookie sheet, sending the cookies sliding onto the oven floor. The worse of it was that both the meatballs and the cookies require an unusual number of utensils that require washing by hand, and it's really hard to wash big items in the bathroom sink (my temporary kitchen, if you recall from my last post). But it all worked out, even if it left me thinking maybe taking the night off would have been the better course.
Cooking done, I finished the cleaning, took a shower, did a wash, and went throughout the house taking photos—documentation that is good to do for many reasons, bu t especially when a hurricane is coming.
Oh, and here's another thing happening in our temporary kitchen. The first casualty of the hurricane, though I can't imagine why it happened, and Matthew isn't even officially here yet. We're getting a lot of rain, and the bathroom skylight is leaking. Nothing a bucket can't take care of at the moment, however.
The air had been oppressively still all day, but the wind is definitely picking up, creating a percussion section out of our roof and walls. Hopefully my first post of the morning will not be very exciting.
Good night, all!
Thanks to the kindness of the small-engine repair hobbyist, plus $50, the generator is working! We've finished bringing in moveable objects, and battening down whatever else we could. The garage door is secured with a 2x4 on the inside and one of our cars against on the outside. Yes, this does put the car at (additional) risk, but also leaves one car easily accessible should we need to get somewhere. The most critical windows are all boarded up, leaving a few small, otherwise-protected windows to let in some light and keep us from feeling entirely caged.
Porter and our neighbor finished that job in the rain. It's been raining off and on all day, and the finished just before the heavens really opened. Nothing like what's coming, of course.
My backups are progressing, and most of my housecleaning is set, though I can't do the kitchen until Porter finishes installing the new faucet. In the meantime, I've commandeered the bathroom as an auxiliary kitchen. I grew up camping, so it's nothing odd.
My office still could use work, about a month's worth. How much I get done will depend on how long we have power. And, of course, assuming no tree falls into it....
I'm doing some cooking, too, putting together foods that can be frozen, thawed, and eaten without further cooking. That will be good even if we get through Matthew unscathed.
They say it's shaping up to be the worst storm in recorded history for the coastal counties, and pretty significant here, too. I know it's the business of the news media to ramp up the hype and make us all afraid, but despite having endured years of such frenzied reporting, I think they may have something this time.
I know the Native Americans in Florida were much better at reading the signs of the air and the sky and the animals, because if it weren't for the news, I'd have no idea what was lurking to our south.
Further updates as I have news to report and ability to do so.
Dusting off the "Hurricanes and Such" category....
It has been 12 years since a hurricane has bothered our part of Florida, so I can't say we aren't past due. My brother, who is in the catastrophe business, assures me that it's the lulls, not the hurricanes, that are unusual here.
Perhaps we have been lulled to sleep, but this time our hurricane preparations have been more relaxed. Part of that is experience: we already have the plywood for boarding up our windows, and so did not have to join the crowds at Home Depot. We already have food, and water, and ice—though making more ice is always a good thing. Mostly at the moment I'm trying to get and keep current with housekeeping—laundry, dishes, general cleaning, computer backups—because if we lose power, as we did for every hurricane that has affected us thus far, it's good to have things in order. And a good supply of clean clothes.
Porter has been busy working on the one thing our experience has not helped us with. A number of years ago we bought a generator from a friend, to have for occasions like this. It was unused, new-in-box, and we never really thought about it until Porter decided it would be a good idea to make sure all was in order before we needed it.
As it turns out, if you're going to store a generator, new or used, you're supposed to start it on a regular basis, say once every month or two. It's been years.... Needless to say, it didn't start. Porter and our neighbor worked on it for a long time, then decided to call in someone who does small engine repair for a hobby. That's where the generator is now, waiting for him to have a chance to look at it. In any case, we've learned something for next time.
My plan is to try to keep this site updated as our primary means of general-purpose communication, since many of our friends and family are not on Facebook.
Thank you for your prayers!
We're not finished, I hope, with our visits to EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival, but someone asked which were our favorites, so I'll make my answer into a review, albeit one that will need updating.
This annual event at EPCOT is not for the epicure who can find cheaper and more authentic ethnic food nearby. This is Disney, after all, and thus the food is more Americanized that we would like. But for us—living here and having annual passes—it's a delightful way to enjoy many little tastes of different foods. Not having to pay for admission and parking makes us feel more free to spend what amounts to a lot of money for the quantity of food consumed.
Our procedure for getting the most out of our tasting experience is to order one item at a time from each kiosk, and share it. The portions are very small, so we can eat from many countries before running out of appetite. At those prices ($4-$8 per taste) there's no temptation to eat when we can't truly appreciate the food.
So far there has been nothing we didn't like, though some dishes were more impressive than others. In the list below, assume we liked it unless I note otherwise. If it was really special, I'll note that, too.
Ireland Irish Cheese Selection Plate: Irish Cheddar, Dubliner, and Irish Porter.
Belgium Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes.
Japan Tangerine shaved ice with sweet milk topping. It's basically a glorified snow cone, but delicious and just right for a hot day. The "sweet milk" topping costs an extra dollar, but is the reason we bought this in the first place, having fallen in love with sweet milk ice cream on our visit to the real Japan.
Hawai'i Spicy Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Nori Rice. It left me craving one of those big chunks of raw tuna they celebrate with in Japan.
Canada "Le Cellier" Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce. The beef was delicious and tender, though hardly the "rare" we were told it would be. The wild mushrooms and the truffle butter were fantastic.
France Soupe à l'oignon au Gruyère et Cognac. Awesome. We're coming back for this a second time, though all of the offerings at France look delicious and will need to be sampled.
Brazil Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread). Okay, but not worth buying again. The bread was good, but the cheese bland.
Belgium Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream. Delicious! Surprisingly, the concoction was not too sweet, which made it delightful.
Morocco Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions, and Tzatziki Sauce. It seems disingenuous to call these "fries." "Fried hummus" would have been more accurate. But they were good. Morocco is always one of our favorite places to eat at EPCOT.
Japan Reprise of the tangerine shaved ice with sweet milk sauce. The days are still hot in Florida. There are other flavors, but the tangerine is so good....
We travelled counterclockwise around World Showcase, but stopped eating mid-way around. We'll have to go the other way next time, and catch the many countries we had to walk reluctantly past.
We did, however, stop at the Festival Center on our way out of the park, for the free samples of Ghirardelli chocolate.
Now I'm hungry just writing about it.