Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread needs a starter, just to get the process underway. Takes a little time, but worth planning ahead.

The Starter:
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-2 cups warm water

Mix the flour and yeast in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the water and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 2 to 4 days. If after a couple of days the mixture looks dubious (orange coloured), toss it. Otherwise proceed making the dough.

The Dough:
Very easy. I use 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour together with a half cup of bread flour in a large bowl. Add two teaspoons fine salt and mix well. Put 1/2 cup of the starter into a cup of warm water and mix thoroughly before adding to the flour and salt mixture. Again mix thoroughly to form a gooey mess. A rubber scraper is a great way to incorporate all the mixture. Cover the bowl and let it stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours.

Remove your dough and place on a floured surface. With floured hands form the gooey mess into a ball, flour the top and cover with a non-terry cloth. Let the dough proof for two hours. Score the top just before baking.

Place your Dutch oven, with cover on, in your oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven hits 450, remove the Dutch oven, and place your bread dough. Cover the Dutch oven and put in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for another 15 minutes. Your sourdough loaf will be done. Let it cool on a rack, and be tempted not to slice for at least 30 minutes. Great for sandwiches, toast and French toast.

A note about the starter: you can keep the starter in the fridge in a sealed jar for days into weeks. Simply replenish with water and flour. In this case I added a half cup of flour and 1/2 cup water, and stirred the starter vigorously.

The Result:

The Negroni

For some time now, and more often during the Covid-19 crisis, I have posted a number of recipes – soups, dinner entrees, bread – all of which have been tackled in our kitchen. It did occur to me however, that in these trying times, when many of us are seeking solace, why have I ignored the obvious? Cocktails! Easy enough to grab a beer, or to make a gin and tonic as we get into summer, but let’s think about branching out. Why not a Negroni?

I reached out to friend Mike. I know Mike as a pretty impressive golfer, a landscape design professional, and at about 5 p.m., a brilliant mixologist. (In an aside, it was one of Mike’s friends, knowing his penchant for mixing exotic cocktails, who referred to Mike as a “cocktologist.” I will stick with mixologist.)

Here is Mike’s recipe for the Negroni, and to which I have provided some minor comment. Be careful, as these go down smoothly.

– 1 oz. London dry gin (Mike typically uses Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire; and says he wouldn’t use a strong botanical gin)
– 1 oz. Campari
– 1 oz. sweet vermouth (Mike uses Martini Rosso or Cinzano Rosso)
– 1 large ice cub (2″ x 2″)
– 1 large navel orange

To quote Mike: “Some folks like to shake the first 3 ingredients, but I’m more a fan of stirring this drink. In a rock’s glass, drop in a solid dry 2″x2″ cube (Mike likes the single large ice cube, thinking that multiple smaller cubes dilute the flavours.) Add the gin, vermouth, and Campari in equal parts. Stir the ingredients – I use a stainless steel twisted spoon – until the alcohol is chilled (about 10 seconds should do). Using a paring knife or a small, sharp peeler, peel back a 2″ x 1/2″ piece of orange peel, making sure to minimize the white pith and expose the underside pores. Rub the peel (pores down) around the glass, then twist it face down over the drink to express the oils over the ice. This will give it that awesome citrus aroma when you inhale as you take the first sip. Drop the peel in the drink and serve.” It may seem like a lot of trouble, but based on a recent Negroni serving by Mike, it was well worth his effort. And he more than proved himself a dedicated mixologist.

I might add that two inch ice cube trays are widely available from $10 and up.


Michael Enright, pictured above, has celebrated nearly 50 years of broadcast journalism. He has been with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for many of those years, starting in 1975, hosting among other programs, “This Country in the Morning,” “As It Happens,” and now, “The Sunday Edition.” Michael is known for his calming voice, his preparation in advance of guests who present a fascinating array of topics, his colourful bow-ties, and for his wicked sense of humour. Years ago, on the first of April, he interviewed a “fake” Jimmy Carter, telling his interviewee that he was a “washed-up peanut farmer.” A lot of people were taken in, including Canada’s most prominent newspaper, The Globe and Mail, which took Mr. Enright to task on its front page, only to express its embarrassment the following day.

Michael has also been described as a man “in search of the perfect martini.” (If you are reading this Michael – Bombay Sapphire gin, a splash of dry vermouth, a splash of olive juice, two olives, and a small splash of single malt whisky in a martini glass with a little bit of ice.)

I try to listen to “The Sunday Edition” whenever possible, and I am usually transfixed by what I hear. The April 26, 2020 broadcast featured Mr. Enright’s interview with Arthur B. McDonald. Dr. McDonald is a renowned astrophysicist, born and educated in Nova Scotia and with a PhD from CalTech. He is the recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics, shared with Takaaki Kajita, “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass.”

Thank God this blog post is about ventilators, as my knowledge of neutrinos, and astrophysics generally, would fit on the thin side of a dime.

That is Dr. McDonald above. He turns 77 this year, and while he sits as professor emeritus at Queen’s University, he is still tightly wound into the scientific community. As so often happens with “The Sunday Edition,” an Enright interview can take a surprising turn. “Why would a Nobel prize-winning astrophysicist, take a profound interest in ventilators?” (This story has appeared elsewhere in the media recently, but this live interview was special.)

Dr. McDonald, as easy-going, unassuming, and relaxed as the preceding image might indicate, was quick to pass credit along to his astrophysicist colleagues, especially those in Italy, who with the devastation caused by Covid-19, saw a need to invent and rapidly move into production a much simpler version of existing hospital ventilators, such as the one pictured below.

An Italian team of researchers, led by Dr. Cristiano Galbiati, an astrophysicist at Princeton University, quickly designed a ventilator that could be put into mass production using off-the-shelf parts, few mechanical parts, and with controls and monitoring accessed through WiFi.

Dr. McDonald and his colleagues in Canada have produced a prototype using the Italian template, He added that Canadian teams are working in close contact with each other, and with other groups around the world, to bring their ventilator into production. Their version is modelled after the Manley ventilator, with “20 or 30 working parts” (compared with 1,000 active parts of ventilators now in use). Dr. McDonald described the new ventilator as “about the size of a toaster oven,” and that, “by early May, between 800 and 1,000 machines a week will be made in Canada.” Regulatory approval should be quick in coming.

Anyone would be free to copy the device, according to Dr. McDonald, as the specifications are “open source.” It is a humanitarian undertaking with no emphasis on profit.

This was truly a remarkable interview, with a remarkably modest person who has proven that much good originates in Nova Scotia. One last comment about Arthur B. McDonald: he says his wife reminds him, “you aren’t a real doctor, you know.”

Peter Beard

I remembered Peter Beard as a world famous photographer, who in 1981, had married the supermodel Cheryl Tiegs. Their marriage lasted a few years, although they seemed quite happy here, presumably at the outset.

Peter Beard was born into wealth. His mother was from railroad money, his father from tobacco, and Peter was raised in New York City, Long Island, and Alabama. He graduated from Yale, and soon after graduation he migrated to Kenya, where he documented, photographically, the demise of African wildlife – especially elephants – which he published in his illustrated book, “The End of the Game.” He took to Africa with a passion, purchasing property in Kenya that served as his artistic base for four decades.

Peter Beard lived life at both ends. In 1996 he was charged and and gored by an elephant and survived. His photographic art was well-known and well-regarded, with his photographs selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. His private life? Perhaps not so private after all.

Beard befriended and occasionally collaborated with many artists, including Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon, Truman Capote, Richard Lindner, the Rolling Stones, Salvador Dalí and Karen Blixen. In fact, in Kenya he was a neighbour of Karen Blixen (also known as Isak Dinesen, and of “Out of Africa” fame). Blixen/Dinesen and Meryl Streep (as she portrayed Blixen in the film “Out of Africa”) in the following images.

And once out of Africa, Peter was well known in various NYC night spots, with various women, none of them his wife. He was a bon vivant, or more accurately perhaps, as a “bad” vivant. Whatever.

“There was the time in 2013, The New York Post reported, citing court documents, that Mr. Beard, then 75, returned home about 6 a.m. to the Midtown Manhattan apartment he shared with his wife, Nejma Beard, who was also his agent, after a night’s revels. Ms. Beard did not take kindly to his return — not because of the hour, but because he happened to have two Russian prostitutes in tow. In response, she dialled 911, declared that her husband was attempting suicide and had him committed for a time to a local hospital.”

Vanity Fair, in 2007, had this to say about Peter Beard: “Whether he’s at a New York nightclub or deep in the African wilderness, world-famous photographer and artist Peter Beard is surrounded by drugs, debts, and beautiful women.” Apart from his three wives he was linked romantically with Lee Radziwill, Candice Bergen and others.

Peter, early on, and in later years. Always a good-looking dude.
At the end of March this year, Peter went missing from his Long Island home. There was concern as he was suffering from dementia. Almost three weeks later his body was discovered not far from his home. A sad ending.

Below: Peter’s photograph of orphaned cheetah cubs. Seemed like a good idea to include it here as there is a sadness that Peter captured.

Mickey Rooney

During the Covid-19 hiatus my days have been filled with long-neglected activities; books that I had set aside, re-runs of classic NFL games, re-runs of grand slam golf tournaments, Netflix, the exploration of new recipes, going through my collection of DVD concerts and movies, and exploring the world of youtube.

I was directed by a friend to a youtube production of “Uptown Funk,” the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson hit that was turned into a “mash-up” with classic musical movies. To see what I mean, go to “Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk,” on youtube. There are a few mash-up variations of movie musicals, but you cannot beat this one. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Cagney (not just a gangster figure, but a great dancer – just look at him negotiating the stairs in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”), and more; and not the least Mickey Rooney, who, among his many talents, was a great dancer. Just watch “Babe in Arms.” Mickey is one of my Hollywood favourites.

Mickey Rooney was born Ninian Joseph Yule, Jr. in 1920 and lived for 93 years. I wondered why anyone would name his son, “Ninian,” and quickly realized (duh) … his father, Ninian senior.

He got his start in vaudeville, moved into silent movies, and from there his career took off. He did a series of “Mickey McGuire” shorts (which precipitated a name change), and at age 17 he morphed into the “Andy Hardy” series, a total of 16 movies. Three of those featured Judy Garland, and they then paired in musicals including “Babes in Arms,” which showed his versatility. His relationship with Judy Garland was nicely captured in these words, following her passing: “We weren’t like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special. It was a forever love. Judy, as we speak, has not passed away. She’s always with me in every heartbeat of my body.” You could feel the love in every scene they shared.

Still a teenager, Mickey again showed his versatility in “Boy’s Town,” a dramatic turn that earned him a special Juvenile Academy Award in 1939. He was in fact, for three years beginning in 1939, Hollywood’s biggest box office draw (move over Clark Gable and others).

Mickey was off to war in 1944, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in entertaining troops in the war zone. But, returning to Hollywood, he found that his star had faded. Few major parts were available to him until 1979, when he appeared in “The Black Stallion,” for which he received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. Before I leave his film career behind, I should mention that Mickey appeared in more than 300 films. And of his acting talents this was said; by Sir Laurence Olivier, “the greatest actor of them all;” by Marlon Brando, “the best actor in films.” Neither of those gentlemen was a slouch.

With his appeal in Hollywood dimmed, Mickey headed for the stage, starring in “Sugar Babies,” and to television, winning an Emmy and Golden Globe for “Bill.”

At 5 feet 2 inches tall, not that size matters, as evidenced by the small hands of a certain politician, Mickey was a chick magnet (sorry ladies). Mickey was married to Ava Gardner for a whole year, and then had a succession of marriages – seven more, some of relatively short duration – that produced 11 children. Mickey and Ava below. Somehow, you might guess that wouldn’t work.

But you could not help but like the guy.
Mickey Rooney died in 2014. His estate left barely $18,000, Mickey having plowed through millions of dollars. Maybe there is something to be said for timing, or good planning. Live until your money runs out. Although the kids might not be too happy.

Here is Mickey reviving his honorary Academy Award from Bob Hope in 1983.

Well deserved.

Sweet and Spicy Turmeric Chicken

Turmeric powder, as most of us recognize turmeric, derives from the root of a plant – Circuma longa – a member of the ginger family. Turmeric has long been used as a spice in Asian cooking. Circumin, a constituent, and turmeric itself, have been studied in treating various diseases, and as anti-inflammatories, but there is little clinical evidence to support their use as medicines. But a little turmeric goes a long way in the kitchen.

The following is easy to put together and the result is delicious.

Start by mixing 3 tablespoons of honey in 1/3 cup warm water. Mix in a teaspoon of cracked pepper and set aside.

Take a pound of chicken breasts and cut into one inch chunks. Place in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder. Toss to make sure the chicken is covered well.

Pour two tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven and heat to medium/high on your stove-top. Add the chicken/turmeric mixture and cook thoroughly. I put the cover on the Dutch oven, removing it frequently to stir. As the chicken browns and softens, add one-half cabbage that has been sliced and chopped. Continue cooking to caramelize the cabbage.

At this point, reduce to medium heat and add your honey mixture, stirring well. The sauce will thicken. Stir in a tablespoon of soy sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a shallow bowl, with a salad on the side.  Enough for two.  Easy-peasy.

Skillet Pasta

This recipe was adapted from one that appeared in the NY Times. It is easy and will serve four people, with leftovers. Ideal with a salad and some focaccia or ciabatta bread.

Start by heating 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add 3 good-sized onions (I use a combination of white and red onions) finely sliced, and sauté until slightly browned. With the heat still on medium, add 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Stir well for a minute or two and then transfer to a bowl.

In the same skillet, pour in a little more olive oil, and add 3 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic, another teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of cracked pepper. Open a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes and pour the juice into the skillet. Stir well before adding the diced tomatoes.

Separately, in a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, brown 1/2 pound of lean ground beef. Add a little salt and some cracked pepper. Once done, add the beef to the tomato mix and simmer for 20 minutes (the beef is optional.)

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and add a couple of cups of penne or rotini. Cook to a point just shy of al dente, about 9 minutes. Add the pasta to the tomato/beef mix in the skillet, mix well with a half cup of red wine, and then top with the browned onions, a cup and a half of shredded cheddar and a half cup of grated parmesan cheese. Bake for at least 20 minutes. Add a little greenery (parsley or basil leaves) for effect when done.


The next time you are ordering sushi, think twice about choosing octopus. Not because an octopus might look unappetizing, but because an octopus is truly a remarkable creature, and like pretty much everything else that lives in our oceans, octopuses are at risk. I always thought that the octopus looks somewhat like an internal organ, or at best, an alien, as this one might lead you to think.

I was drawn to the topic by a segment that was broadcast recently on “CBS Sunday Morning.” Octopuses (not octopi) are brainy, very adaptable to their surroundings, and pound for pound, among the most powerful creatures on earth.

Here are some facts about octopuses: First, they are smart. Maybe not as smart as the photo below suggests, but smart enough to solve problems. They have a relatively large brain, disproportionate to body size.

Octopuses have arms, rather than tentacles. And they are able to regenerate an arm that has been severed.

There are more than 300 species of octopus, which is a cephalopod related to squid and cuttlefish. Octopuses range in size from just centimetres across to the impressive size of the giant Pacific octopus, which averages 16 feet in length and weighs in at 110 pounds, according to National Geographic. The largest known specimen of a giant Pacific octopus measured 30 feet in length and weighed 600 pounds. It was found washed ashore on the coast of British Columbia, Canada. The life span of octopuses are 3 to 5 years, so to get to that size they need to grow quickly. For the average octopus that means a lot of crab. It seems that crab is a favourite in the octopus diet, and while it spells problems for the crab world, it creates a real problem for crab fishermen. Crabs are easily attracted to crab traps, but not quite smart enough to escape the traps. Octopuses, on the other hand, get in and out of the traps quite easily, but not before cracking the crabs with their hard beaks, leaving nothing behind but crab carapaces. Because it lacks a skeleton, the octopus can get through the smallest of openings, with the size determining factor being its walnut-sized beak.

The photo above is from “down under.” An octopus is about to enter crab heaven.

One of the leading authorities on octopuses is Dr. Jennifer Mather, a comparative psychologist at the University of Lethbridge (Lethbridge, Alberta, ironically, is about 450 miles, as the crow flies, from the Pacific Ocean. Dr. Mather grew up in Victoria, BC, where she developed her interest in marine life.) Dr. Mather has been studying octopuses for 35 years, and says that … “What’s interesting about the octopus is about one third of the neurons (nerve cells) are in the brain. They have a huge neural representation in the arms, and there’s a ganglion controlling every sucker, so there’s quite a bit of local control. As humans, we’re very proud of having a pincer grasp—the thumb and forefinger—and we say that’s responsible for our ability to manipulate the environment so well. The octopus can fold the two sides of its sucker together to form a pincer grasp and it can do that with every single one. It has a hundred pincer grasps.”

Dr. Mather believes octopuses are intelligent, have personalities and like to play. They may also be impish, based on what Dr. Mather had to say in an article in “Scientific American” that read: “There’s a famous story from the Brighton Aquarium in England 100 years ago that an octopus there got out of its tank at night when no one was watching, went to the tank next door and ate one of the lumpfish and went back to his own tank and was sitting there the next morning. The aquarium lost several lumpfish before they figured out who was responsible.”

That’s Dr. Mather below. Seems nice. Love the colour of her hair.

“The Women You Should Know” website published a feature on Dr. Mather, in which the following was said about the octopus: “It has multiple hearts, like Doctor Who, sophisticated camouflage capacities like the Predator, jet propulsion like Iron Man, the ability to regrow limbs like Madame Rouge, copper-based blood like Mr. Spock, adaptable hunting strategies like Kraven, the ability to shoot acid like Alien, inject paralyzing venom like Viper, and throw out a senses-numbing ink cloud like a deadly ninja. And all of those attributes are housed in an eight-armed structure with independently articulated suckers that have both fine motor grasping capability (enough to untie surgical stitching) and sufficient power to pull apart a clam.” The next super-hero?

The Spanish Flu

A recent article authored by Douglas Jordan and published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided some sobering news, quoted here: “The 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic, sometimes referred to as the “Spanish flu,” killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 people in the United States. An unusual characteristic of this virus was the high death rate it caused among healthy adults 15 to 34 years of age. The pandemic lowered the average life expectancy in the United States by more than 12 years. A comparable death rate has not been observed during any of the known flu seasons or pandemics that have occurred either prior to or following the 1918 pandemic.” The virus infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide, then a full third of the global population.

The article continued: “The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.” That the virus was so widespread and so lethal is not surprising. Men were at war or returning from war; there were no vaccines, nor were there antibiotics to manage the secondary bacterial infections; nor were there mechanical medical supports such as ventilators. Management of the infection consisted primarily of isolation, quarantine, the use of disinfectants and good personal hygiene.

But let’s shift for a few minutes to a gentleman named Johan Hultin. Dr. Hultin was born in 1924 in Sweden, later migrating to the U.S. where he obtained a Master’s degree and graduated medical school at the University of Iowa. Dr. Hultin, is now a retired pathologist, and during his medical career was described as the “Indiana Jones of the science set.”

As a graduate student in 1951, Dr. Hultin ventured north to Alaska, with a plan to find in the permafrost, ice-bound corpses that would yield tissue – tissue that could help scientists reconstruct the genetic underpinnings of the Spanish flu virus. In 1918, the village of Brevig Mission, Alaska, had 80 residents. Over a period of 5 days, 72 had died of the virus. Very carefully, conscious that the virus might be unleashed, Dr. Hultin was able to recover lung tissue from four Inupiaq Eskimos, having received permission for his “archeological dig.” That’s Dr. Hultin (left) and his colleagues above. Alas, the venture was for nought, as the virus would not replicate. Brevig Mission, by the way, is not far from Nome.

Dr. Hultin lived with his disappointment for almost 5 decades (although keeping quite busy: more on that later). In 1997 he learned of some research being conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger, a molecular pathologist with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. He was attempting to create a genetic map of the virus from small specimens that had been stored in wax in 1918. Asking Dr. Taubenberger if he would like some tissue if Hultin “could dig it up,” the response was “yes,” and Dr. Hultin was off to Brevig Mission again, on his own, at age 72, on a venture that ultimately cost $3,200 – which he covered. Dr. Hultin below, circa 1997.

In the same time frame, a much more elaborate expedition, headed by Dr. Kirsty Duncan, and including leading scientists from England, the U.S. and Canada, headed to Longyearbyen, a small Norwegian settlement on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the archipelago of Svalbard. They were in search of tissue from 7 miners who had perished from the Spanish flu in 1918. Unfortunately, the bodies were buried in ground subject to alternate freezing and melting; leaving no hope in finding the virus, which dies quickly when exposed to temperature changes.

Kirsty Duncan, pictured below, received her Ph.D. in geography (which presumably might have helped her locate Longyearbyen). She did say that she undertook a “crash course” in virology to prepare for the expedition. Dr. Duncan currently sits as a Liberal member of parliament in Canada.

Back to Dr. Hultin. He was able to provide Dr. Taubenberger with lung tissue from the remains of a woman he named “Lucy.” With fragments of RNA from Lucy, together with those from American army soldiers whose specimens had been stored in 1918, Dr. Taubenberger and his colleague, Dr. Ann Reid, analyzed the genome of the Spanish flu, discovering that most of the genes were very similar to a bird flu virus.

With solid evidence that the Spanish flu had avian origins, it had yet to be determined where the outbreak began. One theory is that the flu had it beginnings in an army camp in Kansas. The camp was one supplying soldiers for the American Expeditionary Force. A second theory involved another military camp, one housing some 100,000 British soldiers in France. In late 1917 hundreds of the soldiers in that camp fell ill, with more than 150 deaths. To this day however, there is no solid evidence as to the geographic source of the outbreak.

There were three waves of the Spanish flu. The first in early 1918 seemed much like the flu we experience today, with fever, chills, fatigue, and relatively quick recovery. The second wave, beginning in the autumn of 1918, produced much more severe symptoms – cyanosis, lungs filled with pus, and a high fatality rate. A third wave came with the end of The Great War. Celebrations threw cautions aside, and although not as deadly as the second wave, still millions were infected.

The Spanish flu had pretty much its course by the middle of 1919. Immunity had built up among those in the surviving population, and then of course, there were already millions who had perished.

You might ask, “How would the Spanish flu be managed today?” Seasonal flu vaccines might provide some immunity, as these vaccines target H1N1 viruses. similar to the Spanish flu. Furthermore, at least one anti-viral agent, oseltamivir, has been shown to be effective against H1N1 viruses. And of course, we now have available a raft of antibiotics to take on the bacterial lung infections that often follow a viral infection.

Dr. Johan Hultin, turning 95 in 2020, has packed much into his life. His interest in auto safety resulted in an auto safety award, and in 1968 he was commissioned to establish an automobile safety engineering unit at Stanford University Research Institute.

He was known as an accomplished mountain climber. In 1982 at age 57, he became the oldest person to scale Mustagh Ata, a 25,000 foot peak in China. At age 60, his final ascent took him to Pakistan and to the summit of Karakoram, which had never before been climbed successfully.
And lastly, Dr. Hultin long has warned of contagions being used to further bio-terrorism. It is not difficult to imagine a rogue state or terrorist organization producing a virus such as Covid-19 (or worse) to wage war that could decimate populations, cultures and economies.

With that bit of good news, there remains the question: “Why was this called the Spanish flu?” Spain was neutral during The Great War, and as a result there were few restrictions on media; whereas strict censorship was standard operating procedure among the allied and axis powers. In mid-1918 influenza hit Spain particularly hard (with King Alfonso XIII gravely ill), and as the news came out, the rest of the world labelled the viral infection the “Spanish flu.”
The Spanish, however, called it the “French flu,” believing that migrant workers crossing from France into Spain brought the disease with them. But “Spanish flu” stuck. Alfonso XIII below, looking debonair, and yes, he did recover from the flu.


If you want bread that is a little more substantial than focaccia, then try ciabatta. Ciabatta was created in a collaboration between Francesco Favaron, a Verona baker, and Arnaldo Cavallari, the owner of a large flour mill in Polesine, in northeastern Italy, in 1982. These gentlemen felt it necessary to create a sandwich bread alternative to French baguettes, which had become a threat to the baking business in Italy.

That is Signor Cavallari, above; a man who seems to enjoy his work.

My version of ciabatta is of the no-knead variety. A short-cut that probably would not meet the approval of Signor Cavallari. As with other no-knead bread recipes, a little planning is required. The bread dough has to rise about 18 hours, so for a Saturday dinner party, the process has to start mid-day Friday.

Take 3 and 1/2 cups white bread flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour and mix in a large bowl with 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast and 2 teaspoons of salt. Then add a tablespoon of oregano, half a tablespoon each of basil and thyme. Mix all the ingredients well before adding 2 cups of barely warm water. Mix the mess with a fork. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and the lid of the bowl (if the bowl comes with a lid.) Keep at room temperature for 18 hours.

Spray a cutting board with water and then cover the surface with plastic wrap, then sprinkle the plastic wrap with flour. Pour the dough onto the wrap and press it to form a rough rectangle. Separately, lightly oil a sheet pan, and cover the surface with corn meal. Take the dough and flip it over onto the sheet pan, and then sprinkle the dough with more flour. Cover with a non-terry towel and let it rise for at least 2 hours.

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Put the sheet pan in the oven (after taking the towel off – ha!) for 25 minutes. Pull the bread from the oven and lightly cover the surface with olive oil and a little salt. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool and cut into it. Great as is, with butter or tapenade; or for sandwiches; and as toast the next day … Buon Appetito!