Monday, February 10, 2014

Nobody Ever Complains About the Chocolate Covered Toffee (Recipe Included)

One thing I bring quite often to parties is chocolate covered toffee. I've been making it since sometime in the '90s. The recipe is from an inherited 1951 copy of The Joy of Cooking with a broken binding (you will find the latest printings no longer have instructions on how to skin a squirrel, which I have gladly never had need to use).

The toffee is quick and easy to make, I usually have all ingredients on hand, and it will be eaten quickly. This is all that's left of the batch I made yesterday for a gathering:

1 cup sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), cut into 4 to 8 chunks
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced almonds, divided in half
6 oz chocolate: chips, chopped or melted

Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper, silicone pad, plastic-coated freezer paper (which I use), or grease it if you have no other option.

In a saucepan put the sugar, butter, water and salt. Under high heat, cook without stirring until it reaches 285° F. Take off heat, and immediately stir in ½ cup almonds.

Pour from saucepan (carefully!) onto prepared cookie sheet, and with a spatula spread it until it's about ¼" thick.

Sprinkle chocolate chips or chopped chocolate on top of toffee. Wait about a minute to allow chocolate to melt on the hot toffee, then spread (if you don't have chocolate chips, and you want to avoid chopping bars or chunks of chocolate, just melt in the microwave and spread on top).

Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup almonds on top and use a spatula to press into the still melted chocolate.

When cold and hard, break into pieces. If you need it to harden quickly (which I usually find I do since I wait too long make it before leaving for a party), let cool about 10 to 15 minutes, then place the cookie sheet in the freezer another 10 to 15 minutes.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More of Finding my Father in a 1957 Mexican Movie

After my previous posting about a photograph my father, Leonard Rudoff, took of a movie being made in Acapulco and realizing that he was in the movie itself, I decided to buy a DVD of the movie, "El bolero de Raquel" ($6.99 on Amazon) to see if I could get higher resolution view of him than in the YouTube video.

What I didn't realize until I saw the movie on DVD was that in the one minute scene at the pool, he's in three different shots in three different places (so much for continuity).

First, so he can be recognized, from his slide collection here are excerpts from a couple photos of him about the same time in Mexico, one with him swimming in the same pool at Hotel Caleta:

From the DVD, here he is in the background in the movie, first as Cantinflas as the boy are having the drinks poolside:

Then as the headwaiter and Cantinflas argue:

Not high resolution, but clearly him.

And here's a clearer view of him with a camera on the diving board as the waiter is pushed into the pool:

And I might as well show the full photos from above with my father. This is with his brother Alex in their stylish 1950's wear:

 And at the the pool at Hotel Caletas:

I have no idea who the woman is, but there are enough photos of unknown women in his slides that I will likely have a later post entitled, "Who Are These Women That Accompanied My Father and Uncle to Mexico in the 1950's?"

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Your Own Words May Unexpectedly Surprise You

Nine years ago, I took a playwriting class called "Unreal Theatre" at Seattle's Richard Hugo House. In that class, I adapted a short story I had written, "The Circumstances Around Steve Wickland not Receiving The Silver Star", into a play.

After the class ended, the instructor, Bret Fetzer, asked if he could produce a single performance of it a late-night cabaret put on by Annex Theatre. Here's a video of the 10 minute production:

Previously in this blog, I wrote of the unexpected emotional resonance that my college band's song had on someone.

But that can happen to the author as well. The last day of the class, four actors came to do readings of the students' plays (not the actors in the above video). These were cold readings; they had not seen the plays before. I provided four copies on my script with lines highlighted for the actors.

As the story unfolded for the actors, they were able to become the characters as they read their dialog for the first time. It's an impressive skill. But what amazed me was that they took my words and brought out an emotional depth to the story whose existence I was completely unaware of, and they did it on the fly.

The actors took my words and made them their own, resulting in an enhancement of my work.

I imagine authors whose work is published as an audio book discover this as well.

I would say this is an extension of my words in my previously mentioned post:

How a piece of art is interpreted is completely out of the hands of the creators. Things can have meaning beyond their creators' intentions.

A play is, of course different from prose. A reader's interpretation of prose is internal, while plays are meant to be interpreted publicly by actors and directors, and the writer may have little say in that interpretation (I was happy enough that Bret wanted to direct my play that I told him to do it anyway he wanted).

(This can go wrong, as shown by any number of bad film adaptations of novels.)

The point of this post is that if you ever hear your work read out loud, don't be surprised if an aspect of your work is revealed that you didn't expect to be there.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

I Find My Father in a Scene From a 1957 Mexican Movie as a Waiter Falls into a Swimming Pool

A few years ago I had the thousands of my family's slides scanned. There were family vacations, and also a number of slides of visits my father made to Mexico in the 1950s, before he was married (he died in 1994). 

This was one of the more interesting ones:

This is clearly a photograph of a movie being made at a hotel, and my father managed to capture the exact moment when an actor playing a waiter is falling into the swimming pool:

My brother Matt had the photo up a Flickr page, and a couple of years ago received a message from a Michel:

It is a filming of the Mexican movie "El bolero de Raquel" where there appears recognized actor Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" ... That's a nice memories of that beautiful Acapulco, very different from that of today.

My father also took a photo of Cantinflas:

"El bolero de Raquel" was released in 1957 and can be found on YouTube. Here is the scene that includes the waiter's fall into the pool (1:43 into this video):

Michel identified the location as Hotel Caleta in Acapulco. The hotel and pool are still there:

If you look at my father's photo, you can see a diving board in the foreground, which means my father was either by or on the diving board.

Watching the scene from the movie, the diving board is in the background:

It's very low resolution, but there is someone on that diving board, and from his reverse angle photograph, that must be my father.

Update: I bought a DVD of the movie, and with its higher resolution discovered that he was in three separate shots in the one minute scene at the pool. See new blog post. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Father's WWII Photos Were in an Box in My Garage for Five Years and Why You Should Talk to Your Parents About Their History Before It's Too Late

I moved to Seattle from Southern California (Redondo Beach) in 1989. My father, Leonard Rudoff, and stepmother followed in 1990, moving to Bainbridge Island (a 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle).

My father died in 1994, and in 2000 my step-mother moved from their house to an apartment. I ended up with numerous boxes labeled, "photos" that I stored in my garage, unopened. Every so often over the years, I opened one, finding photos of my immediate family and cousins, some of the photos going back to the late 1800s and early 1900s (more on those in a later post). There were also the two handguns (again, for another post). But the best find were my father's photos from his time in the US Coast Guard from the waning days of WWII in 1945 until 1946.

In April 1945, at age 17, he forged his parents' signature (as he was under 18) and joined the Coast Guard. He served on the USS General H. F. Hodges, a troop transport that traveled around the world from May 1945 to March 1946.

You can see evidence of his travels in the picture to the left with the turbaned Sikh behind him (taken in Calcutta/Kolkata).

There were over 200 photos, all black and white, and in the small format of 2" x 3". They were not in the greatest condition, curled and stuck together, but I was able to separate them and send them off to be scanned. My father had talked about his time in the Coast Guard, but, my brothers and I had no idea that these photos existed.

Here's the USS General H. F. Hodges in the Suez Canal:

Which brings me to say - talk to your parents (and other relatives) about their history, the interesting things in their life, or even the banal things - how school was, who were their friends, etc. My father came down with lung cancer in 1992, was treated, but it had metastasized, and he died in 1994. Before he died I realized that I never asked him many things about his life, and he was too far gone to ask.

Which means these photos leave me with more questions than answers. The questions that are (mostly) answered are where the photos were taken. The questions that aren't answered are about life on the ship, who his friends were (the sailors that appear repeatedly in the photos must be his friends), their stories, what was it like being away from home for the first time in his life at 17 at sea, in Italy, India, Egypt, New York.

Here he is, on the left:
"Dec. 1945 Port Said, Egypt USS GEN H.F. HODGES Leonard Rudoff, Jerry Howe, T.J. Kushmeider, Frank Rizor, hanging around the fantail"