Luisa Weiss, J99, grew up shuttling between her father’s home in Boston and her Italian mother’s home in Berlin. Food was an emotional touchstone in her nomadic existence. Dissatisfied with her adult life in New York, she returned to Berlin, where true love—and the dishes of her childhood—awaited. Her memoir serves up surprising recipes for delicious food and a life of honesty and passion.
“Traditional German food is heavy, rib-sticking stuff. It’s not particularly glamorous or beautiful to look at, but it does the job. Germany is dark and cold, and the food goes along with that. But I feel very attached to the German culture—I grew up there and married a German—so I feel like I need to defend the food.
There are wonderful things happening in Germany with fresh, seasonal ingredients, like the white asparagus that fill the greenmarkets for just six weeks a year, or the beautiful chanterelle mushrooms. I never really ate much sauerbraten when I was growing up in Berlin, so I wanted to showcase the food that was synonymous with Germany for me—dishes like quarkauflauf (a soufflé made with quark, a fresh, sour cheese), really good, super vinegary potato salad, and elderflower syrup.
When I’m homesick for the U.S., I cook stuff that I ate with my Dad growing up, like baked beans from a can, or his tomato sauce recipe. To me, Asian food is also American food, so that’s another thing I’ll make. If I can’t make it at home, I’ll go to a Chinese restaurant and order roast pork.
Italians are surprisingly utilitarian about their food. They have the good fortune that their cuisine is universally beloved, but they’re not that romantic about it. Italians also have all these rules about their food—no cheese with seafood, no meat sauce with gnocchi, et cetera—whereas the Germans are less rigid.
One of my favorite recipes in the book is the beef ragu that I got from my family friend Gabriella. It’s such a good, basic recipe, and it’s a real workhorse in my kitchen. For people who want an introduction to German cooking, the potato salad recipe is incredible. My husband and I developed it together, and it’s totally addictive—light and sour and amazing. We can eat the whole bowl.
I think everybody on the planet has an emotional attachment to food. Whether you’re sitting next to someone on a plane or the subway, or you’re waiting for the bus, if you bring up food, people just start to talk. Everybody remembers their grandmother’s soup, or whatever food it was that they ate growing up. I think it’s wonderful to hear about people’s lives through the food they ate, whether they cook or not.”
The Immanence of God in the Tropics (Leapfrog Press)
George Rosen, former lecturer in English, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, and it shows. The characters in his compelling short story collection find themselves in exotic locales, often exhilaratingly out of their depth. A Victorian missionary en route to Africa discovers a more personal God under the dizzying oceanic sun, while an American studying Spanish in Mexico finds that the most impenetrable language is love. Even the stories set in Rosen’s native New England thrust their protagonists into foreign territory: in “On the Flats,” a father’s sense of community is challenged by his daughter’s encounter with the town lunatic, and four friends in “The Sauna After Ted’s Funeral” contemplate death as one of them recalls a long-ago flood in Mexico.
13 Ways to Steal a Bicycle: Theft Law in the Information Age (Harvard)
What is theft? Sure, robbing the cash register at the 7-Eleven qualifies, but is it theft when a doctor uses a patient’s tissue without permission to harvest a valuable cell line? How about when an Internet activist receives copies of tens of thousands of government documents and publishes them on his website? Unfortunately, at a time when intangibles are increasingly counted as property, and when the means of stealing grow ever more variegated, theft law remains frustratingly monochrome. Tackling both philosophy and practice, Stuart P. Green, A83, Distinguished Professor of Law and Justice at Harvard, critiques the law’s failure to account for moral distinctions between types of theft, and calls for reforms that reflect modern complexities.
Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic (Duke)
Discussions of health crises in Africa usually center on issues such as HIV/AIDS or malnutrition, but epidemiologists have identified a growing scourge: cancer. In this moving ethnography of Botswana’s only dedicated oncology ward, Julie Livingston, J89, follows the patients and families who suffer and the doctors who must improvise treatments with malfunctioning machines, scarce bed space, and inconsistent access to medication. She reveals that cancer, typically viewed as a solitary ordeal, can be a profoundly social experience, highlighting the kind of person-to-person care often lost amid the technology and bureaucracy in Europe and America.
Lefty: An American Odyssey (Ballantine Books)
There are forty-one former New York Yankees notables honored at Cooperstown in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is safe to say that none of them spans the generations of pinstripe immortals so perfectly as Vernon “Lefty” Gomez, whose pitching arm and extraordinary personality symbolized New York glamour in the 1930s. This loving biography by his daughter, Vernona Gomez, J62, with help from Lefty’s grandson, John Banas, A85, and Lawrence Goldstone, puts Gomez at the center of an intimate baseball story that includes Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio, right up to the Yankees of Mantle, Berra, and Ford. Gomez was also a Broadway personality, whose marriage to the musical-comedy star June O’Dea brought this articulate and witty ballplayer into the circle of Gershwin, Hemingway, Jack Dempsey, and George M. Cohan.
His daughter Vernona listened well. The result is a marvelous memoir that takes the reader from a small-town California homestead to the bright lights of Broadway. The narrative goes international as well: Lefty, June, the Gehrigs, and the Ruths all traveled to Japan in 1934 as official Major League ambassadors of baseball, to play with an American professional team. One of those players secretly took photos of the Tokyo waterfront, and General Jimmy Doolittle later used them, along with Gomez’s own film, when American planes bombed Japan in 1942. This is a baseball book, and much more.
OTHER BOOKS OF NOTE
In Fly Fishing: The Sacred Art (Skylight Paths), Rabbi ERIC EISENKRAMER, A97, and the Reverend Michael Attas cast their lines for spiritual insights. Contest for California (Arthur H. Clark), by STEVEN G. HYSLOP, G73, G80, traces California’s history from its founding in 1769 to its annexation by the United States in 1848. Nip meltdowns in the bud with The Grump Meter: A Family Tool for Anger Control, developed by JANET KAUFMAN, J86, Lynn Kaufman, and their family. The working mother in And I Thought About You (Mascot Books), a children’s book by ROSEANNE L. KURSTEDT, J89, assures her young son that he’s always on her mind. SIMEON LOCKE, M52, looks at why and how we sleep and dream in Seven Kine, Fatfleshed (XLibris). A down-on-his-luck sportswriter outs a charming gay baseball prodigy in Fontana (Bold Strokes Books), by JOSHUA MARTINO, A02. In Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan (Tom Doherty Associates), ROBIN MAXWELL, BSOT70, retells the Tarzan story from the perspective of Jane, a Cambridge University scientist on a fossil-hunting expedition in West Africa. FAITH McCLURE, J89, advises parents who seek an elite education for their kids in McClure’s Private School Application Workbook (and in this issue’s “Take It from Me,” on page 72). The poems in Something Small to Carry Home (Quattro Books), by ISA MILMAN, BSOT71, pay homage to milestones, memory, and grief (a sample appears on page 12 of this issue). DEBORAH PIERCE, J71, an architect, shows baby boomers how to create the perfect nest for their golden years in The Accessible Home (Taunton Press). RONALD PIES, clinical professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, presents The Heart Broken Open, twelve poems that explore aging, illness, and the healing powers of the heart. In the children’s book Bus Driver (Holiday House), by NANCY POYDAR, J64, a little boy repeatedly loses his favorite toy before finding the perfect home for it. Would-be artists will find encouragement and inspiration in The Drawing Mind (Trumpeter), by DEBORAH PUTNOI, J89, BFA89 (who shares tips in “Take It from Me,” page 73). An antique evening dress transports a thirteen-year-old to Marie Antoinette’s court in The Time Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette (Little, Brown), the second young-adult novel by BIANCA TURETSKY, J01.
Eric Brace, A81, founder of Red Beet Records, coproduced Patty Griffin’s beautiful version of “I Love,” the title track from the album I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow, which was recently nominated for an Americana Music Association Award. The awards celebrate the best in American roots music. Brace and his coproducer, Peter Cooper, recorded the album just south of Nashville at Fox Hollow Farm, the home of Tom T. Hall, the country singer and songwriter known for such hits as “Harper Valley PTA,” “I Like Beer,” and “Little Bitty.” In addition to Patty Griffin, the album, which was nominated for a Grammy Award, features contributions by more than a dozen other artists, including Brace and Cooper. In the Americana Awards ceremony in September, “I Love” was edged out by Jason Isbell’s “Alabama Pines” for Song of the Year.
Roberta Piket, J88, has released her ninth CD, Solo, a selection of jazz standards performed on solo piano. Her previous recordings have showcased piano trios, electric instruments, and strings and woodwinds. In performing classics like “I See Your Face Before Me,” “In the Days of Our Love,” and Thelonious Monk’s “Variations on a Dream,” Piket embraced the daunting musical challenge of being out there on her own. “This CD wasn’t so much about stepping out of my comfort zone,” she blogged. “It was about stepping back into my comfort zone and finding out if I still have something new to say.”
The Museum of Fine Arts in Nagoya, Japan, featured A Stroll in the Sky, a large-scale mixed-media piece by Kushala Vora, BFA15, and Eileen Wang, BFA15, in the exhibition The Masters of Japanese Art. Their collaboration was inspired by another image at Nagoya, Dragon Amidst the Clouds.
Vora and Wang hewed to the traditional notion that one can never see the head and the tail of the dragon at the same time. “In order to maintain the fluidity of the atmosphere and incorporate the disjointedness of the dragon, our composition is made out of a series of triangles,” Vora explains on her blog. The pair updated this staple of Asian art by combining watercolor with embroidery, ink, and pastel. “To modernize the whole piece, we introduced pastel for two reasons: one to bring out the vibrancy of the dragon amidst the chaotic and dark atmosphere. Second, to embrace a mood of festiveness in looking forward to the year of the dragon,” writes Vora.