Sunday, December 31, 2006


"I bet you're going to write about this in your blog."
How to respond to this? On the one hand, it's a challenge. On the other, there's a temptation to rebel, to say, "No way! I'm not blogging about this!"

On with the show. It's hard to resist a challenge. I made syllabub for Christmas dessert. There was a recipe in the paper and it sounded just festive enough for Christmas dinner. I've known the word for years but had never been able to peg it to a real meaning. Syllabub? Priscillabub? The word is of unknown origin, though we had quite the discussion of Dr. Johnson's affinity for syllabub.

Here's what it is: whipped cream with liquor. Sometimes it's a drink, sometimes a dessert eaten with a spoon. I tried for the latter, though the bottom of the bowl was pretty soupy. I found other recipes which include gelatin, eggs, and a variety of liquors. I used kirschwasser, augmented by rum.

The result? Tasty. It was also nice in dollops on my mother's fruit cake bonbons. All the same, it doesn't displace a good fruit pie in my book.

I had no pie on this trip to Maine to visit my parents, but I had a delicious blueberry crisp. Almost as good as pie. I wonder how it would have been with a spoonful of syllabub on top.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Nasruddin Hodja

I finally did it. I gave an entire evening of stories of the Turkish trickster, Nasruddin Hodja (well, I did include a couple of other stories that weren't strictly Hodja tales, but they could have been). Over the years I've collected lots of these stories, some of which I've translated from Bulgarian, Russian, French and a few other languages. I began the quest when I discovered stories in which the Turkish trickster runs into the Bulgarian trickster, Clever Peter (Khitur Petur). Because the Ottoman Empire ruled in Bulgaria for 500 years, the Bulgarian trickster always wins out in those encounters.

The stories of Nasruddin Hodja traveled all over the Ottoman empire. They melded with other stories, with other cultures. There are collections from Central Europe and North Africa, in Bulgaria and in Iran. He's a cultural hero in Turkey, where he actually lived (1208-1284) in Aksehir. His stories are used as Sufi teaching tales and serve as the basis for many expressions in the Turkish language.

The Hodja--the word means teacher or master--is a classic wise fool. In one well-known story, he goes to a party wearing tattered clothes and is seated well away from the action, given no attention and little food. He goes home, changes into his best clothes and returns to the party. He is then seated next to the host and given the choicest food from the platters. He takes this food and applies it to his robe, saying, "eat, eat." When the host asks why, he says, "When I came here earlier, the only difference was what I was wearing. Clearly the honor given is due to my clothes, not to me. "

The Hodja is an expert at delivering this kind of critique to those who act badly in one way or another. At the same time, he also is a perfect fool. In another story, he has a terrible time counting the donkeys he's taking to market. When he's riding on one, he only counts four, and when he gets off that one, he counts five. In the version I tell, he runs into Clever Peter, who says, "Hodja, I count six, but one has only two legs."

Hodja stories are generally short, more of an anecdote than a story. In the performance on Tuesday, I told about 15 of them. I was worried about the pacing of the show, with all these choppy bits mushed together. Many of the stories seem to beg for a drumroll at the end, like a late-night talk show joke.

I'm still thinking about this, wondering if it worked. The audience at this bookstore performance was small, only nine listeners (not including the owner, out of sight at the cash register). My next idea is to do it again but with more publicity. This show was part of a folk series and I didn't advertise what I was planning to do, other than a brief mention in my newsletter of upcoming events. Next time maybe I'll let the folks at the Islamic center on campus know, as well the Slavic department. It would be really interesting to have a time at the end for other people to tell their Hodja stories.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Driving, driving, driving...

I've been in the car a lot lately. In the shower this morning I figured out that I've driven about 35 hours in the last week.

It began last Tuesday when I drove in to Wonderscope Children's Museum in Shawnee, KS. It's not that far, but as long as I'm counting, I'll add it in. By the way, I've been loving these regular gigs at Wonderscope. I'm there on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, at 9:30 a.m. Most of my audiences have been tinies, so we've done a lot of fingerplays, songs and puppets.

On Wednesday, I didn't drive much, due to freezing rain. Good day to stay inside by the woodstove. I have a garage so I didn't have to chip the ice off my car on Thursday (before this house, I never had a garage). After the rain we had snow, and the streets here were slick. Thursday morning, I drove carefully out to the interstate under gray skies. The storm hadn't hit the whole state--by the time I was an hour from home, the roads were completely clear and there was no longer snow in the fields. I continued on to Quinter, about four hours from home, where the sky was clear and the sun was shining.

In Quinter, I performed at the newly-renovated Jay Johnson Public Library. Beautiful and welcoming! If you're ever going past, do stop (Sharon, the librarian, mentioned that lots of folks driving through stop to use the library). It was part of their Holiday Celebration. I always think I don't have Christmas stories, but it turns out I do, just a few of them. The audience was a mix of kids and adults. Even the older kids joined in on the little-kid stories. Very fun. That baby puppet was once again a hit.

When I was done, I got back in the car and drove home. The predicted snow here didn't happen, though thirty miles to the east they got eight inches.

The next day, after erranding around for a while, my sister and I took off for Iowa and Wisconsin. No, not a work trip for once! We stopped to visit my nephew at college in Iowa (very fun to see him!), and then the next day continued on to Madison, WI for a sister retreat. All four of us were there for a couple of days. Ostensibly we were there for a workshop on Yamuna Body Rolling, but really we just wanted to hang around with each other. We talked, ate, read, shopped, and of course went to the workshop, which was wonderful (I wonder if anybody else is still sore). I love spending time with my family!

It was a short visit. On Monday, we drove back home. I've got to go to the grocery store today, but I'm avoiding getting in the car until I really have to.