The Bleader | Blog + Reader, the Chicago Reader's blog

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stalking the wild cicada—and cooking him

Posted By on 05.29.07 at 08:37 AM


Seeing as how I've become the go-to guy for cicada cookery--here are some tips. (And if you can't get enough of deep-fried bugs, I'll be on Chicago Tonight  on May 29, 7 PM on WTTW.)

Before you cook any food–particularly something you’ve never cooked before–you want to assess the food’s physical characteristics: how much fat it has, how much lean meat, the presence of bones, etc.

A cicada is mostly protein with a fair amount of shell and very little fat. Now, fat is a carrier of flavor--that’s why we like our meat marbled--so to up the flavor quotient in cicada, I prefer to fry it and perhaps serve with some cheese.

Before you do anything, though, you want to select the right bug. I try to snag the little guys coming right out of the ground.  The youngest of any breed is usually the most tender (think veal, suckling pig, etc.), and the younger cicadas have a softer exoskeleton. Once the cicada hits a tree, it begins to transform into a larger, winged creature; to eat these, you have to clip the wings and they look a lot less appealing (though I realize to many this is a fine distinction).

Once home, parboil the bug: I put a cup or so of cicadas in rapidly boiling water for about a minute then scoop then out and drop into an ice water bath. The shell reddens slightly, just as would be the case with the cicada’s crustacean brethren (they’re all arthropods, so if you’re allergic to shellfish, do not eat cicadas).

Now, with frying, you can bread them or fry them commando style by just dropping the bug into hot fat. My wife, Carolyn, does a fine tempura cicada. We drop the cicadas into tempura batter (just rice flour, egg, and water) and fry the creatures. Carolyn rolls them with a little steamed carrot, chive, umeboshi paste, wasabi, and soy (the critters need a little salt). In nori rolls, the bugs look great, and they appeal to people because the nori roll is a familiar preparation and the insect is hidden inside.

My friend Catherine Lambrecht developed two very good preparations.  One is a variation of the children’s favorite, “ants on a log," with a dollop of chevre (fresh goat cheese) on an endive. On top, a cicada is mounted…but not mounted in the way it had hoped to be when it emerged from the earth after 17 years (Ho! Try the veal!).  The cheese provides the fatty base for the leaner cicada.

I've found that the cicada has notes of peanut butter. Consequently, we thought it’d be great with jelly. So we got a piece of celery, added some blueberry preserves from Genesis Growers, a local artisanal farmer, and added the bug.  (PS to locavores: cicada cookery is the ultimate in eating locally.) It tasted like a crunchy PB&J, with the celery providing a moist element that makes the whole thing go down easy.

And that can be a challenge.  

(Photos courtesy Catherine Lambrecht.)

Tags: , ,

Jerry Falwell didn't get enough coverage

Posted By on 05.29.07 at 05:33 AM


The indefatigable Martin Marty reports that of the 14,720 lines written in his column "Sightings" since 1999, only 7 were devoted to the late fundamentalist politico Rev. Jerry Falwell. "Accuse us not of overdoing comment on [the religious] Right," Marty wrote last week. "We resolved early on not to over-comment on over-done subjects that need no one to do any 'sighting.'"

I won't. I accuse him of not commenting enough on Falwell and his ilk. Who better than a popular mainstream Christian writer and professor to explain how Falwell's beliefs and actions contradicted many Christian tenets? Who better than one of the pre-eminent church historians of our time to explain how thoroughly Falwell's attempt to join church and state runs contrary to the insights of his own Baptist denomination (which for centuries understood that the wall between church and state was there to protect the church)? And who better to do these two jobs over and over again, as needed?

I don't make this accusation lightly. I like Marty, profiled him 21 years ago, worked with him briefly on a book-reading committee. Plus the Reader has long prided itself on a similar editorial philosophy of not overdoing already overexposed subjects.

But we've been known to repeat ourselves when the cause was serious enough. Given the damage that political fundamentalism has done to American life, culture, morality, and, yes, religion, Falwell needed to be tracked and exposed at every turn. The fact that he and Marty pray to the same god makes the task more imperative, if anything. (The bloggers at Talk to Action have seen this and are acting on it.)

Marty and his colleagues and successors are better placed than any humanist or atheist to expose the fallacies and evils perpetrated by Falwell and his colleagues and successors. But do the moderates care enough to truth-squad these renegades?

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, May 28, 2007

Footnotes to Out 1

Posted By on 05.28.07 at 07:39 PM


If I'd had my druthers, I would have seen Jacques Rivette's masterpiece Out 1 for the third time this past weekend, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. It's still one of my all-time favorites, offering far more pleasure, enlightenment, and sheer stimulation over its dozen and a half hours than any dozen routine commercial releases (which would cumulatively last twice as long, and most of which I wouldn't dream of seeing if my job didn't require it). Thanks to work, I had to content myself with about three of the eight episodes, #3, #7, and #8. Still, it was  gratifying to see this much of it with such an appreciative and good-sized audience (about 140) who laughed in all the right places and seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. (The experience was enhanced by a superb job of "soft subtitling" supervised by Sally Shafto, director of the last Big Muddy Film Festival.) 

I realize this is the third post about Rivette in the past couple weeks (see Pat Graham's Celine & Julie: The Typeface and One Sings, the Other Doesn't), but he's the kind of filmmaker who fosters obsessiveness of various kinds. And I'd like to take this opportunity to correct a slight overstatement in my long review of the film in the Reader. Alluding to a slim paperback I once edited, Rivette: Texts and Interviews, published in England 30 years ago and long out of print (a used library copy is currently selling on Amazon for $137.90), I stated that the contents are now available at a new and excellent web site devoted to Rivette. On reflection that's almost but not quite true: still missing is the last major piece of critical and theoretical writing by Rivette, a fascinating 1969 item called "Montage" that he coauthored with two Cahiers du Cinema colleagues, Jean Narboni and Sylvie Pierre.

The piece is especially relevant to Rivette's four-hour Out 1: Spectre, which screens at the Film Center on June 9. But Daniel Stuyck, who helps run the Rivette site, assures me that the text will be added in June as part of the site's periodic expansion. Meanwhile, if you'd like a small taste of this brilliant, somewhat difficult piece, check out a brief extract, about Jean-Marie Straub, in Kinoslang, an invaluable blog by Los Angeles writer Andy Rector (who flew to Chicago for the Out 1 screening).

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, May 25, 2007

Celine & Julie: the typeface

Posted By on 05.25.07 at 06:02 PM


Sometimes it helps not to know anything . . .

Coming to Celine and Julie Go Boating at the Film Center two weeks ago with "fresh eyes," so to speak (see post and comments for May 15), I wondered what I could possibly find there that hadn't already been analyzed to death—written about, pontificated on, etc. Obviously not a lot, since if someone like yours truly can come up with an idea, then somebody else already has.

So surprise, surprise, from the very first frame: that art nouveau lettering in the titles and credits. Where's it coming from, what's it all about? Nothing I'd read gave even the slightest clue. Lots of literary speculations on antecedents and influences (Henry James, Lewis Carroll, etc). But right up front there's an actual visual motif—it's a MOOOVIE, after all—and nobody's ever bothered to notice, as far as I can check on the Internet. (Though if we're back to rummaging through paper-based archives, musty old libraries of forgotten information, then all bets are off.)

But that art nouveau thing: it saturates the film, or at least the "contemporary" half of it—which is arguably less contemporary than the chamber drama it surrounds, the Jamesian story within a story (30s period in my view, from the deco stylizations, though per Jonathan Rosenbaum, with corroboration from Rivette himself, it actually references 50s Hollywood). It almost seems an homage, if not to Parisian nouveau exactly, then to the Montmartrean belle epoque, which in practice amounts to the same thing: curvilinear fonts and letterings, period streetscapes captured in the verite tracks and pans (including an incredible "ghost" house where the 30s/50s tale unwinds: all that variegated brick, like something out of Raimondo D'Aronco), ornamental graphics in a kid's picture book. Everything is of a piece, inflected by default-styling nouveau. What's odd to me, though, is Rivette's choice of typeface for the intertitles et al: apparently Boecklin standard, a Swiss-German font rather than a specifically French one. You have to wonder why an ostensible period homagist didn't opt for, let's say, Metropolitain, typographic brainchild of axiomatic French nouveau designer Hector Guimard, whose architectural masterwork was—well, of course!—the Paris Metro.

On the other hand, it's possible Rivette didn't consider any of these things—possible but not very likely, since the styling's too consistent to be accidental or haphazard. Or try out this idea (per Jonathan R. again): that the lettering, like C&J's subtitle "Phantom Ladies Over Paris," is essentially an homage to Feuillade—specifically to Les Vampires. Not a bad argument, and it might even have convinced me—if not for the evidence of the serial's own credits! The Gaumont production rubric above the title: it's closer to Benguiat gothic, a deco-style font, than Boecklin standard . . . which, to beat a dead horse, was already a decade out of fashion when Les Vampires was made.

None of which necessarily proves anything—or if it does, then only that, as putative Feuillade homagist, Rivette could be both sloppy and inattentive in his choice of period lettering. Can't have any of that now, can we? But I think there's a better alternative . . .

One final question: does anyone know the fate of the mystery mansion, playfully identified as "7 bis, Rue du Nadir aux Pommes"? Haven't been able to track it down myself, and the address seems mainly a referential jeu d'esprit. Preserved? Restored? Demolished? Or has it simply vanished like a ghost?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Around the web: the Obamas' guide to Hyde Park, Chicagoist's guide to diving in Lake Michigan, and more.

Posted By on 05.25.07 at 06:00 PM

* Gapers Block has a mom's account of the new Chicago Public School organic lunches, the subject of this week's cover story.

* Chicagoist has a nice roundup of Lake Michigan SCUBA diving advice.

* The Sun-Times has a (disappointingly short) guide to Hyde Park courtesy of the Obamas, although it's tough to recommend much in the way of food and shopping in the neighborhood. Having seen the senator in Calypso, I can confirm they're telling the truth about that, and I second their choice. Calypso rules. Go there instead of the overrated Dixie Kitchen. Pizza Capri is fine if you're there, but not worth the trip. 57th Street Books has the best mid-list selection I've ever seen at an indie bookstore, but the hard-core will find the cavernous Seminary Co-op more their style. The author of the piece recommends Mellow Yellow; please disregard his advice. For cheap eats you're better off at the Indian/soul food joint Rajun Cajun.

* Cicada mash-up!

* Chicago Public Radio's new radio station is now online, five days a week, about three hours a day (but not Memorial Day), although the posted schedule doesn't actually seem to be representative of actual on-air hours. I'll have more on this after a few days of listening, since it only streams live; they don't have any podcasts or archived shows. The user-submitted audio so far consists of 30 seconds of rain and a cover of Zappa's Peaches in Regalia by Sexual Pantalones.

The Dirty Ducks

Posted By on 05.25.07 at 03:26 PM

All spring, I’ve been telling anyone who cares (which is hardly anyone) that the Anaheim Ducks will win the Stanley Cup. It pains me to be right, since the Ducks just eliminated the Detroit Red Wings, and I’m such a huge Detroit fan I even bleed red. Here’s the irony in the Ducks’ success: the team started its life in 1993 as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, a Disney-owned tie-in to the youth hockey flick. Disney was going to promote hockey as a wholesome evening out for American families: less fighting, and shootouts to break those unsatisfying ties. The second part came true, but not the first.

Two years ago Disney sold the team to Henry Samueli, an Internet tycoon. Samueli packed the lineup with goons and bruisers, including six-foot-six Chris Pronger, a nominee for this year’s Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. The Ducks are now the dirtiest team in the NHL: during the season, they led the league in fighting penalties. Head goon George Parros (pictured), a Princeton econ graduate, is a throwback to 1970s enforcers like Tiger Williams, Clark Gillies, and Dave Schultz. His drooping moustache and flowing black mullet suit that era of helmetless hockey just as well.

“They’re kind of the like the Philadelphia Flyers when they were called the Broad Street Bullies,” a Canadian friend of mine said this week. “The Flyers used to spend 15 minutes of each game playing hockey and the other 45 minutes battering their opponents. But nowadays, you can’t just punch your way to the Stanley Cup.” Sure enough, the Ducks aren’t just muscle. Beyond Pronger, their skill players include Scott Niedermayer -- another Norris Trophy nominee, and a Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils -- and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, one of the leading goalies of this year’s playoffs. You won’t see a lot of Parros in the finals -- come playoff time, teams can’t afford five-minute fighting penalties -- but you’ll see plenty of physical play from Niedermayer and Pronger, who was suspended during the Detroit series for checking Tomas Holmstrom into unconsciousness.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators are looking to win the first Stanley Cup for Canada since 1993. Something of a surprise contender -- they were seeded fifth in the Eastern Conference -- they have the better forward line and some decent defensemen themselves. On Monday at 8 PM, when the best-of-seven faceoff begins, may the tougher team--not the dirtier one--win. 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Chameleon rapper

Posted By on 05.25.07 at 01:27 PM


Thanks to his sturdy bilingual flow, Miami rapper Pitbull has managed to build a career as a valuable utility man, adequately hopping from cameo to cameo on reggateon, dancehall, crunk, and R & B records. Unfortunately he tends to disappear on his own records, enlisting so many collaborators they tend to affect the quality of the music more than he does. On last year’s El Mariel (TVT)—a reference to the 1980 boatlift—the Cuban-American is joined by the Neptunes, Vybz Kartel, Fat Joe, Trick Daddy, and Bun B, among others. Stylistically all the bases are covered, and the subject matter ranges from anti-Castro rants to party jams to lothario boasts. But in the end it sounds more like a mixtape than the work of a single artist. Tomorrow night, May 26, Pitbull headlines a Latino-focused bill at the Aragon, a situation he should have no problem adapting to.

Tags: , , ,

Finally, Crust

Posted By on 05.25.07 at 12:28 PM

After 18 months and many revised schedules, Michael Altenberg's all-organic pizzeria Crust opened today yesterday. So you can probably get a table at Coalfire now.

Addendum: Who knows if there's actually some causal relationship here, but Reader contributor Anne Spiselman confirms this hypothesis. "I went to Coalfire last night (May 24), and it was almost empty. We were there from 7 to about 8 PM, and only a handful of tables were occupied. Then, remembering that Crust was opening the same day, we drove by and it was packed inside and in the sidewalk cafe."

Tags: ,

"Nyello -- can I help you?"

Posted By on 05.25.07 at 11:47 AM

The Sun-Times has made a stunning change in its procedures. Call the newspaper now -- at least between 8:30 and 5:30 weekdays -- and someone will answer. Yes, an actual operator asking "May I help you?" or "How may I direct your call?" Realizing there’s actually a live person at the other end of the line, you might be too tongue-tied to respond, but you’ll get used to it. Your ancestors did. Back in the heyday of daily newspapers -- when people read them and valued them and actually felt emotional connections to them -- every paper employed operators. People assumed that when they called their newspaper someone would pick up and say hello.

The new Sun-Times slogan is “Let’s get into it,” and the paper may have recognized that a shoulder-to-shoulder, us-against-the-world alliance with its readers wouldn’t mean much if those readers couldn’t raise anyone by phone. Many of them couldn’t. “We were losing a lot of calls,” says a new operator -- actually an IT manager working a one-hour shift on the switchboard. The Sun-Times recently brought on a "director of new initiatives," Jeff Chardell, and this is his idea, which isn't so much an initiative as a return to basics. Another of the new operators tells me that pretty much all of the 20 or so employees who volunteered for these shifts are women.

Is the competition following suit? “Thank you for calling the Chicago Tribune,” says a hearty male voice-in-a-can. “Please listen closely to the following options . . . ”

Tags: , ,

The protectionists never sleep

Posted By on 05.25.07 at 07:14 AM


Good news you may not have heard:

"In the last quarter-century far more people have been pulled out of poverty than ever before in the history of the world. Largely that's because of the economic success of Asia, and it should give pause to critics of globalization," writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Review of Books. "In fact, it's precisely because of globalization that hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, and Malaysians are moving into the middle class. ... the part of the world that has most withstood the forces of globalization (or simply been ignored) is Africa, where the number of poor people doubled."

Meanwhile, William Greider in the Nation has dug up another critique of globalization. This one admits that trade is win-win as long as it's between poor nations (with cheap labor) and rich ones, but it's not so great for the rich ones once the poor nations succeed in upgrading their situation. (The original arguer's easy-to-Google name is Ralph Gomory; the book is Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests.) Solution: cap imports and tax outsourcing heavily. This sounded dubious to me, and Julian Sanchez at Notes from the Lounge saved me the trouble of identifying the fishy smell on my own:

"It's the old Marxist-Leninist horror story about how capitalism and international trade supposedly worked already, giving workers just enough to subsist upon and continue producing, but never enough to permit them to get in the game themselves as competitors. So, to recap, now that we know capitalism doesn't actually function in the way described in Marx's dire predictions, The Nation demands a national industrial policy to make it work that way."

Tags: , , , , , ,

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Cedric the Entertainer Chicago Theatre
March 24
Performing Arts
The Brink! Links Hall at Constellation
March 22

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories