Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Russian Dining in Birch Bay, WA

I have been fortunate to make the acquaintance of the Kiras, Birch Bay residents who retired here after decades of owning and operating restaurants in California and Washington state.
Before coming to the United States in 1978, they were residents of the Soviet Union, living in Odessa for many years. Mr. Kira trained as a chef as the Ukraine Institute of Cooking Arts. Mrs. Kira was raised in Romania, and draws on her childhood memories to inspire her cooking.

The Kiras have published a Russian cook book with hundreds of recipes they used when operating their restaurants. The recipes keep the distinct Russian taste, but are designed to be simple and quick to cook, and to be healthy. The book is printed on high quality paper and is illustrated with many vivid high quality photographs.

The recipes are simple enough that even I can make the dishes. During the Christmas holidays, I made Kira's famous honey nut wish cake, and it turned out perfect -- almost (see picture below). Mr. Kira tells me that I should have saved a few nuts to put on top of the cake.  I can highly recommend this cake.

Honey Nut Wish Cake
I also made a cucumber salad using the recipe in the book and a more complicated vinaigrette salad, which has beets, potatoes, carrots, green pepper, onions, pickles, and a couple of other healthy ingredients.  Truthfully, I had to call my friend Natalia -- who also grew up in the Soviet Union -- for some advice on how to cut up beets, but in the end had an enormous, tasty salad.

Ever so often, I visit the Kiras and am rewarded with a memorable meal. The latest was last Wednesday.  The meal started with a hot  chicken soup with rice. The main menu included the food shown in the picture below.

Russian Lunch on Jan. 19, 2012

Starting from the left, bottom corner, is a fresh, toasted slice of french bread topped with butter and caviar. Next to it, not shown, is another toasted slice of french bread with a homemade cheese spread with a nice garlic and strong goat cheese taste. The dish just above the caviar sandwich is holodets -- a dish that I usually cannot bear to look at, much less force into my piehole. This dish consists of some meat -- often an unthinkable internal organ or sad looking fish -- in a  unappetizing congealed opaque gelatin. For a picture of what holodets (served in Ukraine) is made out of, look at this website: http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/9136/proper-cow-bones-to-prepare-holodets

Many is the time that I tried to force a smile as I dutifully and manfully shoveled a small morsel of holodets into my mouth, managed to swallow it, and complemented the person who had cooked the unspeakable dish. Russians love it, and are surprised when Americans turn white after thinking about eating the first bite.

Fortunately, eating Mrs. Kira's holodets did not require any forced smiles and false praise. It contained  chicken -- shredded white meat -- lodged in a tasty and light jelly-like substance. It was actually edible and not too damn bad.

In the center of main plate is a luscious Chicken Kiev. Mrs. Kira does not believe in stuffing the chicken with some high calorie cheese or the like. Instead, she uses some nice fresh butter. She topped this dish with some sauteed mushrooms. To the left of the Chicken Kiev are two types of piroskys. One is filled with creamed potato stuffing, the other with ground pea stuffing. On the other side of the Chicken Kiev, are some nice roasted potatoes with a light coating of paprika.

Also in the picture is a mixed salad with several types of veggies to round out the meal.

The Kira's recipe for Chicken Kiev is as follows (this is from their cookbook):

The desert for the meal -- not shown -- was a delicious chocolate pie made with a thin crust and sweetened with honey.  It can be eaten with either the red wine or hot tea.

For those who want to make a simple, tasty cake that is not too sweet, here is the recipe for the honey nut cake pictured above (the one even I can make):

If you have an interest in making Russian dishes, you can buy the Kira's book on Amazon.  It is available at this link:  http://www.amazon.com/Unique-Traditional-Russian-Cooking-Michael/dp/B0066QI996/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1327209884&sr=8-3
The book is being sold by Birch Bay Books which is a subsidiary of Eclectic (At Best).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Books of Mrs. Pauline Steele

A few months ago, I posted a blog about Mrs. Pauline Steele, who was my favorite teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She later became a counselor at Woodland Junior High School. In addition to her work in education, Mr. Steele was also a Assembly of God Church minister. My posting about her is located at this link:

In this post, I wanted to add a bit more about her writing. The best I can tell, Mrs. Steele published three books, two non-fiction and one fiction.  Also, she wrote poetry that was recited on some occasions at events in Northwest Arkansas. Her poetry was mentioned by Fred Starr in one of his columns. I have not found any of poetry that she published.   

Her two non-fiction books were

Hill Country Sayin's and Ozark Folklore, Hutcheson Press, 1976, and  
Hill Country Sayin's and Ozark Folklore, Book 2, self-published, 1977.

Both are paperbacks in a large pamphlet form. They include definitions of some common words and phrases used in the Ozarks, plus some rarer words and sayings, including these:

Strealy Eyed Gravy
Coxey's Army

The book includes several recipes (e.g. vinegar pie), folk beliefs and folklore (for example, when to take a bath), and brief stories about her brothers, parents, and her life growing up in West Folk. Though parts of these two books do not tell readers anything they don't already know, the other parts are juicy bits of information about life in the Ozarks.  

Mrs. Steele's fiction book is titled The Branded Oak: A Tale of the Ozarks. The cover states that the author is "Paul Steele." The book was published by the Hutcheson Press (in West Fork, Arkansas). No publication date is given, but it  probably was published in the early 1970s.

On the back page, the author "Paul Steele" is revealed as Pauline Steele, and this short biography is provided:
Pauline Steele (Branded Oak author "Paul Steele"), native born Ozarkian and proud of it, received her education at the University of Arkansas. She is a B.S.E. English major, has an M.S. Childhood Development, has done graduate work in counseling, and is a former counselor in Woodland Junior High School, Fayetteville, Ark. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society.

Pauline has followed two successful careers simultaneously, being an ordained minister and public school teacher. Her work is the religious field has complimented [sic] her understanding of the teaching field.

She like children, books, dogs, and people talking.

Being the only girl in a family of five children and as the youngest, she has soaked up her surroundings and has always had an ardent wish to write about them. May that inward current of creativity that has dogged her tracks through her busy life have time to express itself in more studies like The Branded Oak.

This small book, about 24 pages in pamphlet form, has a nicely illustrated cover. I purchased it from the University of Arkansas bookstore sometime in the late 1970s, I believe. I can find no other copies for sale. It is in special collections of the University of Arkansas library.

The story centers on the interest of two young boys -- probably about twelve years old -- who think something is fishy about two women who bought "the Old Hughes Place" -- rumored to be haunted -- near their farms. The two boys -- Chip and his best friend Kenneth Kee -- live on farms near each other, just a short distance from Beaver Lake. They observe some strange things about the behavior of these two weird-acting women, Sadie and Sally. Among other things, these women do not want to join in community activities and they don't go to the local church. Also, they spend too much of their time on a boat on Beaver Lake. In addition, they walk and act funny.

The uplifting story includes a fun loving grandpa, understanding parents, and a school that Chip enjoys. In the end, despite the fact that the grownups don't seem too concerned about Sadie and Sally, Chip and Kenneth end up -- at their peril -- proving they were right to be suspicious of them. Perhaps giving away some of the plot, I will say that some drug running on Beaver Lake was involved, as was some cross dressing.

One element of the plot involves the University of Arkansas playing the University of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, which occurred in 1969. So, the story must have been written sometime after the end of 1969, when the game took place.

The story was clearly written for an early teenage audience by a person who had been both a school teacher and minister. It is a quick, fun visit to an upbeat world in the Ozarks.

As with her work as an educator and minister, we have to admire the warmth, intelligence, and kindness that can be found in her books and to appreciate her accomplishments.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

July 15-17, 1927: Days of Horror in Vienna, Austria

I have been doing some research on the riots and police violence that occurred in Vienna on July 15, 1927 and continued in smaller measure on the following two days. A summary of this event, its importance, and how it was reported in the United States are in a paper that I posted the following web site: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76183201/Austria-s-Days-of-Horror-The-July-15-1927-Riots
In this post, I summarize this event and add some information about the people -- civilians and police -- who were victims of the violence.

Summary of the "Days of Horror"

In brief, the "Schreckenstage" ("days of horror" or "days of terror"), as they were called by newspapers at the time, were pivotal for the future of Austria. They were a major setback for the Social Democratic Party, which had done well in the April 1927 national elections, narrowly losing to the Christian Socialist Party and its allies. Worse, they enabled the fascist Heimwehr to attract new members and increase its threat to Austria's democracy.
Policeman on horseback;
Note some men are carrying large sticks

The riots began as a massive protest against a court decision that had freed three men who had, admittedly, shot and killed two people (an invalid war veteran and his eight-year-old nephew) in a peaceful Social Democratic march in the city of Schattendorf. The court decision was rendered during the evening of July 14, 1927. From most contemporaneous accounts, the protest on July 15th arose spontaneously, catching both the police and Social Democratic leaders by surprise.

Huge crowds of workers and other supporters of the Social Democrats assembled on the Vienna Ring near the University, City Hall, and the Parliament Building. Reportedly, the workers planned to march from the working districts of the city to the parliament and ministry of justice (located across a plaza from the parliament building), then return to their work places and homes. The crowd numbered, at its peak, about 200,000 people or more.

Policeman on front steps of the Palace of Justice
At about 10:00 a.m., the flow of the crowd was blocked at the plaza in front of the Palace of Justice building. This building was guarded by a small number of lightly armed security forces. For some reason, a small Calvary unit rode into the large crowd on horses, with sabers drawn, apparently to try to drive it back toward the Ring. Shortly after that, police security officers fired their pistols into the crowd from the steps of the Palace of Justice.

Enraged, some members of the crowd armed themselves with bricks, tools, boards, and other materials they obtained from a nearby building site. They successfully stormed the Palace of Justice, forcing the police to retreat to higher floors of the building. Shortly thereafter, the building was set on fire. When the fire department came to fight the fire, its trucks were stopped by the crowd which refused them access to the burning building.
The Fire at the Ministry of Justice Begins
The violence escalated in the afternoon when large numbers of police officers came to the Palace of Justice area, and other parts of town, armed with heavy rifles, and began to shoot at groups of people on the street.

The leaders of the Social Democratic Party, belatedly, sent members of its militia, the Republican Guard, to the streets to help calm the crowd. It exhorted Party members to return home. Also, it called a national strike of transportation and communication workers to protest the shooting. At the same time, it refused to provide protesting workers with weapons from its huge arsenal, which included rifles and machine guns.

The clashes between protesters and police continued into the night of Friday, July 15th. By July 16th, the violence had greatly declined, though skirmishes continued. On July 17th, encountering strong resistence in the country's provinces to its strike, and hearing of plans by the Heimwehr to assemble an army to march into Vienna, the Social Democrats called off the strike.

During the three days, about 85 marchers and bystanders were killed, as were four police officers. About 600 police officers were wounded, 120 of them badly. Between 300 and 500 civilians wounded. Over 1,500 people were arrested.

Spinning the Schreckenstage

Three narratives of the Schreckenstage can be seen in the newspapers published at the time. Austrian newspapers published in July 1927 can be found at this website:  http://anno.onb.ac.at/  The abbreviated narratives are these:

The Social Democrats described the events as the indiscriminate, unnecessary use of deadly force by the police against peaceful protesters at the instigation of the Chancellor and the head of the Vienna Police. Lamentably, some workers, enraged by the violence used against them, retaliated by burning the Ministry of Justice.
The Christian Socialist Paper says the Revolt was Fended Off

According to the ruling parties, the Christian Socialists and their allies, the event was caused by a mob, some of whom were armed, that attacked the Palace of Justice. Police officers fired at members of the crowd threatening the Palace of Justice after they were fired upon. The mob violence was due largely to agitation by communists and other provocateurs. The government responded with the force needed to restore order.

Finally, the Heimwehr and other right-wing groups painted the event as a planned revolution to overthrow the Austrian regime and create a Bolshevist government. This revolution was conceived and supported by Moscow and communists from other countries. The coup was narrowly averted by the actions of the police assisted by the Heimwehr.

Surprisingly, this third narrative dominated the story of the Schrecktenstage as reported in the United States, as can be seen in the headlines such as these:

(Navaree Atkinson, New York Times, July 16, 1937)

(Associated Press dispatch, The Times Record, Zaneville, OH, July 16, 1927)

(San Antonio Express, July 16, 1927)

San Antonio Express, July 16, 1927
In retrospect, it seems clear that "communists" played a very minor role in the Schreckenstage. No evidence supports the assertions that they (domestic or foreign) planned, led, or influenced the riot in any significant way. While individuals who identified themselves as communists may have urged others to violence, or engaged in it themselves, it is unproven that they made a deliberate effort to try to overthrow the government.

In fact, communists were not popular in Austria, even in "Red Vienna." In the elections held in April 1927, the Communist Party received only 70,000 votes out of over 3.6 million cast (less than two percent) in Austria. In Vienna, the Party got only 10,000 votes. They had no seats in the Austrian Parliament. As one Social Democrat, a foreman at a Vienna soap factory, told a New York Times Reporter, "It is nonsense to say communists were instigators. There are not enough communists in Vienna to instigate a dogfight, much less a revolution."

Burying the Dead

The July 15th and 16th events deeply shocked Austrians, including Viennese, and they had no taste for a continuation of the violence. The journalists who rushed to Vienna to write the latest story of a revolution, arriving on July 17th or later, were surprised and disappointed to find that life had quickly returned to normal and they had little about which to write. 

While the different sides identified villains they blamed for the violence, they did not direct anger at those most directly involved in the rioting and shooting. For example, the Social Democrats blamed the Chancellor and head of the Vienna police, but suggested that the individual police officers who did the shooting were simply doing the bidding of their bloody leaders. The Christian Socialists blamed communists (mainly foreign communists) and Social Democratic leaders for the violence, but did not direct their propaganda against the workers who took part in the march or those who were killed.

With a general cease fire, and a large amount of tolerance, the national government allowed the Social Democrats and the city government of Vienna, dominated by Socialists, to bury the dead civilians -- most shot by the Vienna police -- in an elaborate ceremony on July 20th. While it limited the number of people who could attend the burial -- keeping thousands at a distance, the national government also the limited the visibility of police and soldiers in the city. Crowd control for the Socialist funeral was left largely to the Republican Guard.

At this funeral, fifty-seven civilians were buried together in a mass grave at the Central Cemetery of Vienna. According to a New York Times story, "They were the victims whom the municipal authorities had offered to inter in common graves and whose relatives had accepted the offer."

T. R. Ybarra of the New York Times provided this vivid account of the funeral:
[Fifty-seven coffins coffins containing the bodies were placed in two rows before the big stone monuments flanking the main entrance to the central cemetery]
Behind the double row of coffins...were standard-bearers representing various Socialistic organizations, each carrying a red banner draped in black with black crepe.
Behind these the wall of the cemetery rose up hung with great sheets of black cloth and before which were funeral lamps emitting smoking yellow flames.
Punctually at 2 o'clock the funeral strains of a military band caused hundreds who gathered in silence before the cemetery gateway to whip off their hats and bow their heads. Then came speeches by Acting Burgomaster Speiser, and several Socialist leaders, one of whom, Herr Bernstein, flew from Berlin in an airplane as the representative of the German Socialist Party.
It was an impressive picture of grief upon which the spectators gazed  -- rows of gold and gray coffins heaped with wreaths, the bright scarlet of the banners, smoke flames from the funeral lamps, sobbing mothers, wives, and sisters of the dead. An especially vivid note was provided by one standard bearer, a young girl with a mass of tousled yellow hair, carrying a flaming scarlet standard and standing out in vivid contrast to the somber gray of the coffins and the mass of black draping the cemetery walls....

After the singing of the dirge by the choir, the relatives of the victims moved sorrowfully toward the coffins and took up positions beside their dead. 
The black-garbed bearers lifted the coffins and carried them one by one between long lines of Socialist guards toward the grave. Behind each coffin a group of each victim's relatives -- weeping women and men, trying hard to keep control of themselves -- fell into the mournful line of march. Many were clad in the deepest black, but some were too poor for such extra outlay and wore workaday garments...
For fully two hours the long succession of coffins, each its its little sobbing group behind, moved slowly toward the place assigned for the burial while the line of Socialist guards stood at rigid silence and wailing notes of a funeral march pierced the air....
The first person borne in the funeral procession today was that of a little child killed by a bullet while it was carried on the arm of its father during Friday's bloody rioting. Next followed the body of a 15-year-old girl, who was shot while watching the street fighting from the roof of her house.
(T.R. Ybarra, Vienna Riot Dead Buried in One Grave, New York Times, July 21, 1927, p. 1.)
Luegar Memorial Church

A day after the Socialist Party funeral, on Thursday, July 21, 1927, the four police officers killed in the rioting were buried with full honors in a state funeral attended by the President and Chancellor of Austria, by the heads of Austrian Ministries, and by "representatives of all professions and elements of society. This elaborate funeral was also held in the Luegar Memorial Churcha located in  Vienna's Central Cemetery. Social Democrats made no attempt to disrupt it.

Video of the July 21, 1921 funeral for the police officers 
killed on July 15 & 16, 1927:

The Victims of the Schreckenstage

A postcard was published with the names and pictures of 54 of the civilians killed on July 15 and July 16, 1927 during the clashes in Vienna. 

The scan is of the postcard that I obtained in Vienna in April 2011, but copies of the postcard have been posted to other websites. One of them included the names listed on the card.  The names are as follows:

1.   Amon, Albert
2.   Bucowic, Johann
3.   Bauer, Konrad
4.   Bastier, Alois / died on 15.07.1927, age 29
5.   Bauer, Leopold
6.   Bauer, Konrad 
7.   Bayerl, Rudolf / died on 15.07.1927, age 21
8.   Belak, Karl 
9.   Bendik, Mathias / died on 15.07.1927, age 57
10.   Bezpalec, Josef
11.   Bolzer, Anna / died on 15.07.1927, age 32
12.   Brix, Franz 
13.   Caudr, Anton / died on 18.07.1927, age 24
14.   Ehgartner, Franz / died on 15.07.1927, age 40
15.   Eiwin, Alfred 
16.   Emann, Albert / died on 16.07.1927, age 29
17.   Faustenhamer, Karl / died on 15.07.1927, age 28
18.   Franze, Karl / died on15.07.1927, age 16
19.   Friedl, Franz / died on 15.07.1927, age 19
20.   Grill, Franz / died on 19.07.1927, age 27
21.   Hornacek, Johann
22.   Horwath, Stefan 
23.   Hubeny, Heinrich / died on 15.07.1927, age 27
24.   Hubmann, Leopold / died on 16.07.1927, age 28
25.   Jahn, Ferdinand / died on 15.07.1927, age 16
26.   Kainz, Alexander 
27.   Keglowitz, Josef 
28.   Ketzler, Karl / died on 15.07.1927, age 19
29.   König, Johann / died on 15.07.1927, age 47
30.   Korejcik, Anton
31.   Korejcik, Franz
32.   Kotalik, Franz / died on 15.07.1927, age 23
33.   Kotouc, Karl / died on 16.07.1927, age 29
34.   Kottal, Andreas / died on 15.07.1927, age 57
35.   Kronfuß, R. 
36.   Kutalek, Johann
37.   Lembeck, Johann
38.   Modricky, Franz
39.   Morawetz, Karl / died on 15.07.1927, age 61
40.   Platzer, Daniel / died on 15.07.1927, age 37
41.   Posch, Karl / died on 15.07.1927, age 33
42.   Prammer, Johann
43.   Preiskar, Bruno / died on 15.07.1927, age 21
44.   Reichel, Rudolf / died on 15.07.1927, age 26
45.   Schmid, Leopold / died on 15.07.1927, age 25
46.   Schott, Rudolf / died on15.07.1927, age 49
47.   Schweitzer, August / died on 15.07.1927, age 40
48.   Spousta, Richard / died on 15.07.1927, age 23
49.   Stanek, Adele / died on 15.07.1927, age 15
50.   Staufer, Karl / died on 15.07.1927, age 25
51.   Vukovics, Julius / died on 15.07.1927, age 46
52.   Wiehart, Josef
53.   Zeiner, Franz / died on 15.07.1927, age 51
54.   Zielek, Karl

This list is from:  http://gfraster.at/index.php/blogs/9-familie-fischer/8-opfer-der-schreckenstage-15-und-16-juli-1927-wie

The four policemen killed during this event were:

Sub-District Inspector of the Safety Watch: Josef Böck
Officer of the Safety Watch: Michael Schinnerl
District Inspector of the Train Police: Heinrich Gruem
Criminal Investigator: Ferdinand Strigl

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January 1, 2012: Occupying Birch Bay, WA

Near Noon, Jan 1, 2012, Birch Bay, Washington
Several hundred men, women, and children stripped to their essentials today and ran into Birch Bay to occupy it.  Most occupied the Bay for five to ten seconds, others endured the frigid water for a minute or more.

Waiting to Occupy Birch Bay
The Polar Bear plunge into Birch Bay took place at noon. Before then, several hundred people gathered along the shore by Birch Bay Drive. It was a cold day, so much of the crowd (the sympathizers and enablers) shivered in coats, hats, and gloves. The others (the plungers) wore shorts, bikinis, swim suits, towels etc. The scene was much like the parking lot of a Walmart on any cold winter's day, substituting lots of water for lots of asphalt.

The most excited protesters were teenagers, plus a few kids who didn't know why they were there. Fortunately, much of the crowd had ample under-skin protection against the cold, so they did not suffer too much during their occupation of Birch Bay.

The crowds and excitement built until noon when a loud toot from a fire truck signaled it was time for the occupation to begin. I took a couple of pictures of a few occupiers entering the water, but after that I had to deal with a protest of my own. My camera, protesting that I had not recharged the battery for a long time, quit working.  Thus, I failed to get pictures of bright red bodies and shivering bikini-clad teenagers sprinting from the water to the shore as if Jaws himself were after them.

It was clear from the groans, grimaces, uncontrolled shaking, and bawling kids that everyone enjoyed the occupation of Birch Bay and thought that they had successfully made their point.

Noon, January 12, 2012, Birch Bay, WA is Occupied

The annual Polar Bear plunge was sponsored by the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, which is always trying to think up ways to get people to enjoy the pleasures the Pacific.