Archive for April 27, 2011

Reading My Father

Do not miss a marvelous new memoir by Alexandra Styron entitled Reading My Father. She is the youngest daughter of William Styron and is a novelist in her own right. William Styron was a towering figure in the pantheon of the modern American novel. He was the author of The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie’s Choice and Darkness Visible. In spite of his great success, he suffered from clinical depression which prompted him to write Darkness Visible. His daughter’s memoir tells how he was obsessed with writing a novel about World War Two (titled The Way of the Warrior) but was unable to bring it to fruition and finish it.

Prince William’s Cake

The tradition of a groom’s wedding cake –in addition to the regular wedding cake–originates with the Victorians, is apparently still popular in the American South and is a feature of William and Kate’s royal wedding. Chef Darren McGrady (Diana’s personal chef) published the recipe of William’s choice of cake in his book Eating Royally:
Chocolate Biscuit Cake
Makes 1 cake – 10 portions
Her Majesty the Queen’s favorite afternoon tea cake by far. This cake is probably the only one that is sent into the Royal dining room again and again until it has all gone.
4 ounces dark chocolate.(for the cake)
4 ounces granulated sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter (softened)
1 egg
8 ounces Rich tea biscuits
½ teaspoon butter for greasing
8 ounces dark chocolate (for coating)
1 ounce chocolate (for decoration)
1. Lightly grease a 6 inch by 2 ½ inch cake ring and place on a tray on a sheet of parchment paper.
2. Break each of the biscuits into almond size pieces by hand and set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture starts to lighten.
4. Melt the 4 ounces of chocolate and add to the butter mixture whilst constantly stirring.
5. Beat in the egg to the mixture.
6. Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.
7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake ring. Try to fill all of the gaps on the bottom of the ring because this will be the top when it is un-molded.
8. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
9. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it stand while you melt the 8 ounces of chocolate.
10. Slide the ring off the cake and turn it upside down onto a cake wire.
11. Pour the melted chocolate over the cake and smooth the top and sides using a palette knife.
12. Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature.
13. Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where the chocolate has stuck it to the cake wire and lift it onto a tea plate.
14. Melt the remaining 1 ounce of chocolate and use to decorate the top of the cake.

Widener Library

The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library is the premier library of Harvard University. Harry Elkins Widener was a graduate of the class of 1907 at Harvard. He was a bibliophile whose collection included manuscripts and signed first editions of Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson and the first four folios of Shakespeare. He planned to donate his personal collection to Harvard University. But he (and his father & mother) were passengers on the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic when it struck the iceberg on April 14, 1912 (making today the ninety-ninth anniversary of the sinking). Both father and son perished. His mother survived and as a memorial to her son donated the funds for the Widener Library and its fantastic collections.

The Mighty Ducks

In a storm south of the Aleutian Islands a cargo ship lost a container causing nearly 29,000 bath toys including 7,500 yellow rubber duckies to spill into the ocean. Author Donovan Hohn came across this story and embarked on a journey to determine where these brave little bath toys landed. His book about this adventure, Moby Duck, takes us to Chinese factories where the ducks are made, to the infamous Garbage Patch–a floating island of plastic trash north of Hawaii estimated to be at least the size of Texas and the coast of Maine where there were sightings.
Keep in mind the author was an English teacher whose fondness for Mellville’s Moby Dick is tied into this quest. A crew member on one of the ships would greet the author with “Hast seen the white whale?.” The author’s reply–”Hast seen the yellow duck?.”