Monday, March 29, 2010

C is for Celluloid

Celluloid was developed in England in the 1850's and trademarked in 1868 by John Wesley Hyatt of the American Celluloid and Chemical Manufacturing Company. As an early form of plastic, Celluloid was made by combining nitrocellulose with camphor. Presenting itself as a lovely creamy yellow color, it was a good replacement for ivory and bone used in dresser sets and jewelry of the Art Nouveau period (early 1900's). Although it is durable, Celluloid tends to be more brittle than plastic, and vulnerable to moisture and extremes in temperature. Authentic Celluloid emits a slight camphor or vinegar smell when run under water. Pieces are abundant and make for a sweet affordable vintage display.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cooking with Color: Green, White and Orange

"We may live without poetry, music and art; We may live without conscience and live without heart; We may live without friends; We may live without books; But civilized man cannot live without cooks." Owen Meredith, 19th C English Statesman & Poet

To commemorate St. Patrick (d. 17 March, 493), I present this celebratory meal, replete with those marvelous three colors from the flag of Ireland - Green representing Catholics, Orange representing Protestants, and White for PEACE between them. HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!!!

Orange-Glazed Salmon with Rosemary
White Cheddar Grits - or - Farina
Roasted Asparagus with Olive Oil

Salmon: Lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil. Saute 1 minced shallot for 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 C white wine, 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary and cook for 30 seconds or so. Add 3/4 C orange juice (or 2 oranges, juiced) mixed with 1 tbl maple syrup and boil for 1 minute. Pour into a pyrex cup and set aside.
Lightly re-coat skillet with olive oil. Salt and pepper 4 - 6 oz salmon fillets (with skin on) and saute for 2 minutes per side. Pour reserved juice over salmon and cook for 2 minutes longer. Cover to keep warm.
WARNING: You may never prepare salmon any other way again!

Grits: Boil 4 C of water in a medium saucepan. Slowly add 1 C regular* grits (hominy corn) - or - 3/4 C farina (ground wheat germ) whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat, partially cover, stir occasionally and cook for 25 minutes. Stir in 1 C (4 oz) shredded white cheddar cheese, 1 tsp coarse sea salt, and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.
* not instant

Asparagus: Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly salt, pepper and olive oil one bunch of asparagus, lined single file on a tin foiled baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes and sprinkle with parmesan cheese before arranging on top of grits.

Erin Go Bragh!

Monday, March 8, 2010

B is for Bakelite

Bakelite is an early form of plastic invented and manufactured by U.S. Chemist Leo Bakeland from 1907 through 1927. It consists of a phenolic resin made from carbolic acid and formaldehyde and as such it replaced the highly flammable Celluloid product which was popular at the time. The raw materials for Bakelite were ordered in blocks or cylinders and were individually crafted! From the late 1920's until the early 1940's everything from cutlery and serving handles to pins, rings, bangles, and buttons were crafted in Bakelite. As an opaque, plastic-like material, Bakelite was produced in a myriad of colors, with the most common being white, red, green and brown. The cool part is that with age and oxidation a patina develops resulting in a completely different hue from the original color. White turns to butterscotch or yellow, pink to orange, and light blue to dark green. An amber color occasionally found is called 'apple juice'. Here are some tips for identifying and testing authentic Bakelite versus plastic:
  1. A 'clink' sound when two bracelets tap together
  2. A dense weight to the piece
  3. Formaldehyde scent when rubbed
  4. Scratches and chips are common
  5. Formula 409 or Scrubbing Bubbles applied to a cloth and rubbed on Bakelite will turn cloth yellow
The labor intensive process of making Bakelite led to its downfall and after WWII mass production of plastics became the economical and modern way. As such, Bakelite presents itself as something very cool and artistic to live with. Prices fluctuate widely depending on the rarity of a particular object produced. I recently came across a Bakelite Orange Random Dot Bangle bracelet listing for $5,800.00! Happy Hunting! - and a grateful Thank you to Patty Hughes for sharing her lovely collection.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy in like a Lion March everyone! We may all benefit by beginning this month with some reflection, courtesy of William Arthur Ward, American writer, 1921-1994.

Before you speak,
Before you write,
Before you spend,
Before you invest,
Before you criticize,
Before you pray,
Before you retire,
Before you die,

Buy yourselves bunches of daffodils. They are March's symbol for re-birth and they certainly cheer up a dreary day!

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