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Pete Seeger's music was the first I ever knew

American songwriter and folk hero Pete Seeger has died.

One of the first songs I remember hearing and learning as a child was Froggie Went A-Courting. It was a family song, sung a bedtimes, upon dad's knee or on walks. ...and he did ride, muummm hummm

Later, in 2006, Bruce Springsteeen —my favorite muscian, bar none —recorded Froggie as part of his Seeger Sessions album honoring Pete.

Pretty hard to deny, Pete Seeger was a musical legend, a rare breed and an unyeilding force on music across many generations.

sometimes you can go home again

string around my finger

2000

Untitled

2013

I took the first picture on September 10, 2000, the night before I flew home from my first extended stay in Paris.

In 2008 I wrote about the picture and its signifiance to me:

I took the train back into Paris for one last meal and stroll around some favorite spots. To this day, I cannot recall where, let alone what I ate (for those who know me that may come a shocker). But, I do recall taking this picture as vividly as if I were there now. I took a walk that I came to know like my own street in Richmond; through the Latin quarter, around St. Germain (my adopted arrondissement) and across the Pont Neuf to the Ile-de-la-cite. When I paused and rested my camera on the stone railing I made a promise that if I ever forgot that moment, that feeling then I would board a plane to Paris right away.

Two weeks ago, June 2013, I had the chance to take the same picture.

I don’t know if Thomas Wolfe was right when he wrote you can’t home again. But going back to Paris always seems like a good idea to me.

I think I like the first picture better.

stuff that matters - cast iron

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickdawson/5909000576/in/photostream What is it they say about stuff? You don't own it, it owns you. I get that. Did I mention we hired an organizational specialist recently? But sometimes there are things which do matter in our lives. Quality things. Important things. Sentimental things.

I'm a big fan of quality in stuff. Sure, who buys junk, right? Maybe I'm a little more obsessive than most. When I get into something, I tend to research the heck out of it. I keep buying the same make and model of car because I did my research and really like how well it is made. I wear one brand of dress shirt because after 10 years the first one I bought still looks crisp and presentable. I'm a Mac because they tend to break less than other computers I've owned.

Quality doesn't have to mean expensive. In fact, some of the best made things may be the least expensive. Take cooking, you can spend $300 on a single pan (don't ask me how I know). Lately, I've been cooking on cast iron... like a lot. Cast iron is cheap, you can get a great Lodge brand pan at your local hardware or Amazon for $20. Its thick, heavy and feels substantial. You know the handle isn't going to melt in the oven or break off. When properly seasoned, they are better than any nonstick pan for eggs. You can crank the heat all the way up on cast iron pan and never worry about it warping or discoloring. You can smash garlic or pepper corns with the bottom, turn it upside down to heat up tortillas, take it camping and stick it in the fire... see what I mean? These things rock!

By the way, I'm not alone in my adoration of cast iron cookware. Cast iron, like bacon, has become the topic of twitter exchanges in some circles.

I have memories of staying with my mother's parents in the summers as a kid for a week or two each year. My grandmother got up every morning at 4:30 AM. She made breakfast, worked a crossword... well, I'm not entirely sure what all she did. I don't think I've ever been up at 4:30.

By the time I was a kid, biscuits came in vacuum tubes and pancakes in boxes. I think my grandmother probably used those store bought items. I've often lamented the current state of packaged foods as an interesting mix of marketing, generational apathy (get off my lawn!) and connivence. If there was a time when my grandmother got up at 4:30 AM to make biscuits, I'm pretty sure it wasn't because she enjoyed being up that early. Making biscuits is hard work and takes time. When someone came along and put them in that fun , explosive tube, well, game over, sign us up, no more kneading dough! Still, doing things the right way matters. You can't really make southern biscuits without cast iron and you can't really fry a catfish in anything else.

A few months ago my grandfather passed away. He had not been well and I'm truly sure he is in a better place. My grandmother had passed a few years before. When it was time to clean out their home I was asked if there was anything I wanted. "Find me the cast iron pan please."

"Nothing else?"

"Nope, just the pan."

Truthfully, I don't know if my grandmother ever made biscuits in this pan or if grandaddy ever fried a fish in it. It may not be that old, although the markings suggest it is. It was pretty banged up and in need of some care. I ran it through the self clean cycle of my oven and have begun the process of "re-seasoning" it. Its not my only cast iron pan - I have lots. But I find myself using it more than the others. Maybe its the size, maybe its the memories; it just feels right.

...

Oh, and so this properly qualifies as a food post for me...

The other  night I made the most amazing lamb's liver in the pan. I find lamb's liver is pretty mild and doesn't need a soaking. Sprinkle with sel gris, and dust really well with flour. It helps to really push the flour in like in this pork chop recipe. Let it rest for 10 minutes while you render some pancetta and melt the onions in the pan. Remove the pancetta and onions. Crank the heat to high. Use the pancetta grease in the pan and lay the liver in. When you see crimson pools of blood just starting on the uncooked side, give it a flip. You want liver to be rare; anything else is chalky and tough. When you see crimson on the cooked side, take it out of the pan.

I reduced the heat, splashed in some port and sherry vinegar, added the pancetta, onions and some home cured sauerkraut and warmed it through.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickdawson/5909001444/