As I just said, I’ve spent a few hours reconsidering and reorganizing my links section here, which meant looking — I mean, REALLY looking — at my bookmarks. I don’t want the links sidebar to become Godzilla, but that meant leaving out some neat bookmarks. Hence:
Today’s Spotlight is a beautiful little Google map of Brooklyn Catholic Churches.
This was created by Google user patatie in 2009, and lists a couple of dozen Brooklyn R.C. parishes, along with the dates they were established. I am not entirely sure that it is comprehensive, but it is a nice, quick glance at parishes in Brooklyn, and will certainly give you a good idea of just how localized Catholic identity can get in this neck of the woods.
I have a number of these little tools and snippets hanging around my bookmarks, and I’ll continue to highlight some of the more interesting ones.
What I really should be doing is some actual washing of woodwork, but it is much easier to clean up the blog.
I’ve been wanting to revamp my links section for a while, ever since I changed into my new shiny theme. The link area was getting unwieldy and uncategorized, and therefore not particularly useful.
So I got into organizational mode (yes, stop the presses) and cleaned it up, with a greater emphasis on resources I’ve found handy over the last few years. If you’ve read me at all, you know I come of a 50-50 Irish/German mix. This is now duly categorized, along with my main U.S. areas of New Jersey and New York.
The Family History section, I admit, is a bit of a mixed bag. That’s because I think that when we write up our research, at least some of us will want to include touches that personalize our ancestors — what they ate, how they amused themselves, how they got to work every day. So sure, I’ll put in links about old movie theaters or vintage cookbooks, et cetera, along with some of the national sites for established genealogical organizations. I suppose this category could split again into “Genealogy Organizations” and “Cultural Stuff” and “Writing Stuff”, but one has to call a halt somewhere.
A couple of links were broken — ugh, sorry about that. I hate broken links. I think that’s all cleaned up now, but if you find something that doesn’t work, let me know.
On my last morning in California, I was walking around Altadena in the company of my sister-in-law and her adorable little terrier mix Jack, admiring the flora and getting it all wrong. She and Jack were being lovely and patient about it.
“No, actually that’s lantana,” my sister-in-law said. (Well, it did look like this variety of cosmos, a little bit. And a few yards later, someone was actually growing some. So there.)
“Ooooh, what’s that? It looks like wisteria.”
“No, that’s jacaranda.”
At least I knew a boat when I saw one.
Funny thing about Southern California, though: For all the hard-to-identify plants and ruthlessly speedy drivers, it has a way of making you feel at home very quickly. As my oldest kid said once on a previous visit, staring up at the starry night sky over the mountains: “I think I see what this California thing is all about.”
As I mentioned, I had never been to the Southern California Genealogical Society’s remarkable Jamboree before this year. Yet it felt like I’d been there a dozen times before — everyone running around organizing things was just so nice. I will admit that I winced upon being issued a “First Timer” ribbon for my conference badge — what is this, Pledge Week? — but nobody made me do pushups or carry their backpacks or anything like that. They just kept things running smoothly and, despite what must have been a fiendish amount of work, smiled and laughed more than any East Coaster ignorant of local plant life had a right to expect.
So, despite my newbie status, I could relax and wander the exhibit hall …
… and parachute in on any number of interesting presentations. Beyond the extremely worthwhile talks on methodology and sources, Jamboree offered some interesting glimpses of genealogy-related products and services. (Conferences in general are a relatively painless way to sample these, I must say.) A recurring theme in lectures and casual conversation was linking up genealogy to a generation raised on Twitter and Tumblr. I found some generalizations on this topic to be, well, generalizations. For instance, there seems to be a well-entrenched idea floating around out there that kids don’t read and write anymore, whereas to judge from my daughters’ experiences with Tumblr and online fiction-writing forums, the new age is giving them opportunities to express themselves in this department that I would have killed for, back in the day.
Then again, maybe that idea is floating around out there, too. I heard Tammy Hepps (above) of Treelines demonstrate a system of sharing family stories and pictures that seemed to be pulling in a lot of what I’ve noticed in the way my kids read and write and share online — visual interest and flexibility in how much and what you write being biggies. I have not yet actually tried Treelines myself, but I’m going to give it a whirl and report back.
Back on the learning and development front, I found Dr. James Ryan’s lectures on Irish sources very valuable. Saturday, he talked about land records in illuminating detail; Sunday, he frequently had us in stitches during his talk on “Strange And Unusual Sources for Irish Family History” (trust me, it can get strange, strange, strange). And Paula Stuart-Warren’s Sunday session on developing step-by-step research plans included hands-on, audience-participation examples that proved to me, once again, that I must never assume I am incapable of being surprised on the genealogy front. Also, it gave me lots to do on the flight back East as I scribbled notes for all the tweaks I am now making on what I once thought were comprehensive research plans.
Thanks for the memories, SCGS, and congratulations on your 50th-anniversary year. Hopefully I won’t be a stranger anymore. And I promise to take a better picture of the Hollywood sign next time. Honest.
This NewsClip has nothing to do with my ancestors; it just happened to be at the top of a page that did. But the headline was an eyecatcher:
BELIEVE MICE CAUSED $3,000 WHITESTONE FIRE
[Aside: Don't you love that old-school use of a verb with an implied subject? I used to be a copyeditor. I notice this stuff.]
Anyway: I laughed out loud. Fortunately I had already swallowed my mouthful of coffee.
“What is it?”asked Mr. Archaeologist from behind his smartphone. I read him the headline.
“Oh, they mean the mice chewed through a wire and caused an electrical fire. Happens all the time.” Mr. Archaeologist is a casualty actuary. He makes it his business to know how disasters happen, whether caused by mice or men.
But he was wrong this time!
Fire which gutted the kitchen of John W. Clancy, Twelfth avenue and 150th street, Whitestone, while Mrs. Clancy and her three children were asleep upstairs, was caused by mice igniting matches.
You don’t believe me? Check this out. (And no, it was not even April Fools’ Day.)
Whitestone mice. They’re tough.
There are only so many times you can drive down Ventura Highway singing “Ventura Highway … in the sunnnnnshinneeee” before it gets old. I’d say about 1.5 times would do it.
A conference like the SCGS Jamboree, on the other hand, does not get old, ever. I am having a great time here in lovely Burbank. I have always been curious about the Jamboree, and ever since I actually looked at Burbank on a map and saw how ridiculously easy it would be to go to Jamboree once I had shamelessly invited myself over to my brother’s house down the road a piece, I realized I should have gone years ago.
But better late than never. I have some pictures and things to put up eventually, but for now, some of my favorite moments so far from this fine genealogy convocation:
• From Friday: John Colletta’s consistently eye-opening overview of NARA holdings, and his wry observation about the drawbacks of parachuting into records from online indexes without considering their context: “Like a GPS, it will take you to a specific location, and you’ll have no idea where you are.”
• Also Friday: Thomas McEntee’s talk on preserving family stories, which convinced me that short clips and my iPhone may well be my best friends in this department.
• Craig Scott’s War of 1812 primer Saturday morning, which convinced me that I really have no excuse to put off a closer look at the 1812 veteran for whom my younger daughter is named. (FYI: his first name was Meredith, back when Americans still used that name for boys.)
• And Joe Mozingo’s funny and often touching talk about unraveling the mystery of his surname, and what it told him about history, race and identity in America.
• Oh, and the SCGS app! How could I forget that? Me and the app, we are Like. This.
It’s the end of Day Two on a three-day event, which is when I always sort of hit a wall at about this point at a conference — so much to absorb, and what new knowledge to apply first? Oh, well — letting things percolate is always a virtue. As long as I remember to get going on the projects, too.
… Scientists have apparently isolated the exact identity of the strain of pathogen that caused the devastating potato crop failures that triggered Ireland’s Great Hunger of 1848-1852.
The story makes interesting reading, make no mistake about it. But honestly? As one of the millions who can trace ancestry to famine-era emigrants, I find it somewhat sad and unsettling, as well. After so much time, to know so specifically the tiny biological entity that caused so much misery … I don’t know why, but it’s almost like stumbling over a grave one didn’t know was there.
But it’s good to have the mystery cleared up, even if it does send a shiver down the spine. And it’s also good to know that scientists think this discovery will help them to better understand the growth and development of new, emerging pathogens.
When mothers are remembered, talk always turns to food. And usually it’s the special foods: the celebration cakes, the holiday dishes, the things eaten only if you were sick in bed.
But as a lot of mothers will tell you, the foods we think about most are the ones that help us week in and week out, year after year of figuring out what’s for dinner.
Today, therefore, I will write about Eileen’s mother’s clam sauce.
Eileen and I roomed together at Indiana University in Bloomington and have been friends ever since. Eileen visited survived my huge family back East, and her parents welcomed me warmly in Louisville. (Once they even booked me an emergency weekend appointment with their dentist when I developed a root-busting toothache, midterm.)
One visit, Eileen’s mom fed me a great clam sauce on top of spaghetti. It was the first dish I experienced where I realized I had to have the recipe. Mrs. McChesney, as I recall, was happy to share but modest about it. It really was a very simple thing, this sauce, she said.
She was right. It’s not a classic pasta alla vongole. It does not require a trip to the fishmongers, although it would not object to one. It’s a weekday sauce assembled quickly from ingredients pulled off the pantry shelves. It is incredibly adaptable. Above all, it is reliable and tastes good.
On Mother’s Day it’s fitting to give this sauce its due in gratitude for the hundreds of weeknight dinners it has rescued. It stands by you on days when plans fall through – when you forget that the crock-pot needed to be set up, or you just can’t face peeling and chopping what you need for that clever new stir-fry (cook time: 15 minutes; prep time: 1 hour 45).
I made it when I was single and learning to live by myself in my first apartment. Because it was a sure thing in an exciting but confusing time.
I made it for dinner when I was first married, and I made it when my kids were at their finickiest. Because it’s a great blend of comforting and flavorful and you know what, it’s easy for toddlers to pick those icky clams out all by themselves. (Builds character and fine-motor skills.)
I make it when we all struggle in after a day full of work crises and team carpools. Because the ingredients are nearly always in the house. (And anyway, we have memorized where they are in the Shop-Rite on the way home.)
I make it on rainy days at the Jersey Shore, when it’s impossible to fire up the grill. Because while grilled fresh seafood is hands-down my favorite fish dinner down the shore, Eileen’s mom’s sauce with seafood from the local markets eases the sting of missing a day at the beach.
I am starting to teach it to my kids, although they tend to wander off shortly after I throw the chopped garlic into the pan. But I think that eventually they will consider this a fine first-apartment dish, just as I did.
Several years ago I mentioned to my dear friend Eileen what a mainstay her mother’s clam sauce has been all this time, and she was glad to know that the recipe was chugging on at our house.
So thank you, Mrs. McChesney. I wish you were still around to make this for me one more time.
Linguine With Clam Sauce (4-6 servings)
Adapted from a recipe of Betty McChesney
- ¼ cup butter (or a combination of 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil)
- 1 – 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 (7-oz.) cans minced clams
- 1½ cups bottled clam juice (approximately)
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1½ teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1½ pounds linguine, cooked al dente and drained, reserving 1 cup cooking water
- Grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Blend in the flour. Whisk until mixture thickens.
Drain the clams, pouring the juice from the clams into a measuring cup. Add bottled clam juice as necessary until there are 2 cups of liquid. Reserve chopped clams.
Slowly add clam juice to the flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly. Add parsley, oregano, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to a sauce consistency – it should easily coat the back of a spoon. (If your sauce is getting too thick and gloppy, you can thin it with a few tablespoons of pasta water from cooking your linguine.)
About five minutes before the sauce is done, add the reserved chopped clams and continue cooking until they are heated through.
Toss the sauce over the hot cooked pasta and serve at once, topped with grated cheese if desired.
There is nothing much you can do to this recipe that will harm it, short of lighting it on fire. My family loves garlic, so I have often used twice the 1-2 cloves. I have also thrown in chopped shallots or spring onions. A while back I began using a half-and half mix of olive oil and butter, with no ill effects.
I have been known to forget the thyme but nobody complains. You could also add other herbs like a bit of chopped fresh basil or chives in addition to the oregano and thyme.
You obviously can use lots of different pasta shapes with this – we like rotini and bowties as well as spaghetti or linguine.
Most important, the sauce base works with lots of fish. I have added shrimp and scallops (fresh or thawed from frozen). Once we had a huge Alaskan king crab leg left over from a seafood restaurant meal, and I threw the shredded meat into the sauce along with the clams. Big hit.
Once you get the hang of the butter + flour + liquid dance, you could really go wild and use chicken broth as your liquid and some chopped cooked chicken instead of clams. Add a bit of dried tarragon instead of oregano. Put it over steamed brown rice instead of pasta, very nice.
You get the picture. You can endlessly substitute depending upon your larder or leftovers, and this recipe will just keep loving you back.
Happy Mother’s Day.