Point Hope: Point Hope, Alaska
Solar winds disrupting Earth’s magnetic field cause the Aurora Borealis. They are often most spectacular on finger-numbingly cold nights in the depths of winter.
Point Hope is an Inupiaq Eskimo village of about 750 inhabitants located 200 miles above the Arctic Circle on Alaska’s North Slope. Originally known as Tikigaq (index finger for the slender peninsula that once extended into the Chukchi Sea before erosion took it away), the area is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in North America. Subsistence hunting for caribou and Bowhead Whales continues to be an important part of the culture. With no roads existing beyond the village, the local airport (lit up in the above photo) is an important lifeline to and from the outside world.
…the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead,
…the stars leaping in the frost dance,
…the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow…
Jack London – from The Call of the Wild, 1903
– Jack London (1876-1916) was one of the first authors to become wealthy writing fiction. Mostly self-educated, after stints as a hobo, a sailor, and 30 days in the Erie County Penitentiary in the state of New York for vagrancy, he made his way to California where he attended high school and began writing in earnest.
At First Sight: Sandhill Cranes, Northern British Columbia
Sandhill Cranes choose partners based on graceful mating dances and remain together for life.
…and our graves will be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
In a laundromat
If you will bring the soap
I will bring the bleach.
Richard Brautigan (from Romeo and Juliet, 1970)
– Raised in abject poverty, Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) was struggling to gain a foothold in San Francisco’s literary scene when, in 1967, he published Trout Fishing in America. The counter-culture novel catapulted him to international fame. A year later he solidified his reputation with In Watermelon Sugar.
Winter Hunt: Saker Falcon, Kustai National Park, Mongolia
Prized by falconers for their beauty and power, Saker Falcons are endangered due to black market trading and habitat loss. They are the national bird of Mongolia.
(From) The Winter’s Tale
Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a:
A merry heart goes all day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a.
William Shakespeare – lines from The Winter’s Tale, 1623
In otherwise good health, Shakespeare (1564-1616) died 3 days shy of 52. Many of his plays were published posthumously. According to one source, Shakespeare’s death followed a night of heavy drinking with Ben Johnson and Michael Drayton. An apocryphal tale or not, all of his plays contain references to drink.
Framed in Light: Umiaks and Northern Lights, Point Hope, Alaska
…in silence where all things
and all beings reach back into time before iron and oil.
dg nanouk okpik – Tulunigraq: Something like a Raven, 2012
Whaling crews of the Inupiat Eskimo village of Point Hope still hunt on the Chukchi Sea from traditional umiaks – small whaling skiffs with wooden frames and bearded seal skin hulls.
dg nanouk okpik is an Inupiaq-Inuit poet from Alaska’s North Slope. Nanouk is Polar Bear and Okpik is Cloudberry in the Inupiaq language. Her book Corpse Whale was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2012.
Thin Air: Common Redpoll, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Redpolls breed in Arctic regions around the world, descending into lower latitudes in winter. A bird of the North, they generally are uncommon south of Canada.
For John Clare
The whole scene is fixed your mind,
the music all present,
as though you could see
each note as well as hear it.
John Ashbery, lines from For John Clare, published in 1969
John Ashbery’s (1927-) poetry has earned nearly every major award including the Pulitzer. The subject of this poem, John Clare (1793-1864), emerged from difficult early years to write beautiful poetry about the natural world before later being institutionalized for insanity.
Stalked a group of stag red deer
up a draw to the top of a rise
where the sun broke fiery and cold
lighting feather grass and ice needles
suspended in the negative something air.
Along the ridge, winter-hard antlers
lit with sunlight
scattered into the dawn.
– Hustai National Park, Mongolia, 2014
Bacon? Smoked salmon? Leaks? Mushrooms? Smoked cheese? Pick your ingredients and bake them into this deliciously fluffy frittata.
We love our weekends – time to cook a special breakfast or brunch and linger over it with a second cup of coffee and a good book of poetry. Adaptable to a wide range of ingredients, frittatas are among our favorite weekend breakfasts.
One key to turning out a great frittata is to use the right pan. We’ve been using Swiss Diamond nonstick cookware for years and are big fans. Sunny-side up, scrambled, or easy over, eggs slow-cooked over low heat in these pans are a revelation. And although the word frittata has its etymological roots in the Italian friggere, which means “fried,” we usually bake ours. Sautéing vegetables before they go into the egg mixture brings out their sweetness, drives off excess moisture and allows for a richer balance of flavors. And the key to a super fluffy frittata? Separate out the yolks and whip the whites into fluffy peaks, then fold them into whatever mixture of egg yolks, cheese, meat and vegetables you’ve prepared. Here’s how we made ours this morning.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 8″ nonstick, oven-safe frying pan with lid. Swiss Diamond pans have heavy bottoms and non-stick cooking surfaces that are perfect for this, and they’re oven safe.
- 2 strips thick bacon
- 1/3 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped coarse
- 1/3 cup onion, chopped coarse
- 1/3 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped coarse
- 1 clove garlic, chopped coarse
- 1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing vegetables)
- 2 tbsp white wine, sherry or mirin
- 1 tablespoon olive (for frittata pan)
- 1 cup shredded cheese such as smoked gouda
- 4 eggs
- smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chili pepper, separated into equal portions. We used Penzeys Southwest Seasoning which is a blend of sweet ancho, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, chipotle pepper and cilantro.
- Caviar (optional)
- Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C)
- Cut bacon into small pieces. In a medium-sized pan, fry over medium heat till edges are crisp. Drain on paper towels.
- Wipe excess bacon grease from pan. Add butter and olive oil. Heat over medium till just sizzling. Add onions and sauté for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add white wine, bell peppers, sea salt, black pepper and ground pepper, stirring occasionally. If necessary, turn heat up slightly to drive off excess liquid. Cook till onions turn translucent. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly (so that when added to the egg yolks, they don’t cook them).
- Separate egg yolks and whites into two sufficiently large bowls.
- Use a blender or whisk attachment to whip egg whites to fluffy peaks. Set aside.
- To the egg yolks, add vegetables, bacon, shredded cheese, remaining ground pepper, and additional salt and black pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.
- Gently fold egg whites into egg yolk mixture.
- Add olive oil to 8″ frying pan. Pour mixture into pan. Cover with lid and place into preheated oven. Check in 15 minutes. Expect total cooking time to be about 25 minutes.
- Garnish with caviar and serve hot.
We enjoyed our frittata with sautéed mushroom caps, summer squash, big mugs of coffee and Czeslaw Misosz’s poetry anthology, A Book of Luminous Things.