Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Sunday Dinner’ evokes sweet memories and tradition

"Sunday Dinner,” a “Savor the South” cookbook written by Bridgette A. Lacy, was recently published by The University of North Carolina Press. (Lisa Tutman-Oglesby)

Bridgette A. Lacy remembers the fine Sunday dinners cooked by her grandfather at his home in Lynchburg, Va., where he grew cantaloupes so sweet, she said, “they tasted like he had poured sugar in the ground.”

She called him “Papa,” and he was the best cook she had ever known.

He called her “his sugar girl.”

To have a seat at his Sunday dinner table was an experience to behold.

Each Sunday, when Lacy was growing up, her family − including her cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles and parents − would gather at her grandparents’ table, where they were served meals cooked by her grandparents. Those dinners included fried chicken, potato salad, yeast rolls, freshly snapped string beans, delicate coconut pies and a dessert her grandfather called “Nilla Wafer Brown Pound Cake.”

Lacy, a food writer based in North Carolina, has just published “Sunday Dinner,” a beautiful collection of essays and Southern recipes that will make your mouth water with each turn of the page. Lacy captures the essence of what those Sunday dinners meant for generations of people in the South.

“Sunday dinner,” Lacy writes, “was not just a meal on the plate; it was a palette of rich colors and textures. In my family, Sunday dinner meant that the table was set with ironed linen. The good china and the silver sat alongside the gold- and silver-aluminum tumblers that kept the sweet tea nice and cold. The fried chicken and butter beans were seasoned to perfection.”

Careful attention was paid to each detail in her grandparents’ kitchen, where food was cooked from scratch, spices were savored, freshly picked greens were simmered, canned goods were clearly labeled, utensils organized at the ready, blackberries turned into sweet cobblers, children were raised to behave, and dinners were mixed with soul.

“Sunday dinner was the artistic expression of my grandfather’s love for his family,” she writes, “and it was a masterpiece.”

Lacy’s description of her “Papa’s” meal preparation evokes the best kind of food writing and reminds this reader of the kitchen magic evoked in the novel “Like Water for Chocolate.”

Read more here: Click link.

Piercing the Arctic's Icy Unknown U.S. Cutter Explores Northwest Passage, Polar Melting

Piercing the Arctic's Icy Unknown U.S. Cutter Explores Northwest Passage, Polar Melting

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Foreign Service

ABOARD THE U.S. COAST GUARD CUTTER HEALY -- The ship slams against the wicked ice of the Northwest Passage. From inside the vessel's belly, the ice seems to be fighting back, roaring, screaming, pounding against the steel hull. The ship is stopped cold in the frozen tracks of the passage. It pauses, backs up in black water, then rams the great white frozen ridges again.

The weakened ice finally bends and gives way.

The Healy, the newest icebreaker in the U.S. Coast Guard, moves slowly forward, as if putting a foot through the throat of the Arctic. But to either side of the ship, the ice is untouched, six feet thick, looking like a frozen extension of land.

Explorers have battled the passage's ice for hundreds of years, trying to find a northern shortcut to riches in Asia. The battle was fierce. Often it was the ice that killed, luring in ships and their woolen-covered crews, then without warning closing quickly behind them, trapping, deep-freezing and burying them.

Today, the once-unbreakable slabs of ice are melting, dripping more quickly than ever before. The passage may yet become navigable, opening a new trading route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But that accessibility may mean ecological disaster.

The world, it seems, is melting from the top.

The Healy has made it this far at a good pace in part because the polar cap is shrinking, thinning. Some scientists say it may disappear entirely, little by little each summer, in just 50 years. The coverage of Arctic Sea ice has shrunk by about 6 percent since 1978. The average thickness of the ice has gone from 10.2 feet in the 1950s to 5.9 feet this year, a loss of 42 percent, according to the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Norway.

While it is clear the ice is melting, scientists disagree as to why and what it means. The effect could be benign, or it could be the start of catastrophic climate change that would kill polar bears, whales, plankton and other life in the north and flood coastal cities in the south. It is here at the top of the world, where the environment is the most pure, most delicate, most serene, that scientists can draw conclusions.

"Clearly, the temperatures are getting warmer. Is this part of the natural process or is this due to things people have done, burning too much carbon dioxide?" asks Capt. Jeffrey M. Garrett, commanding officer of the Healy.

His ship's 26,000-nautical mile voyage began in January in the warm waters of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, where the ship was built. The Healy sailed to waters off northern Canada, crossed the Atlantic to call in Ireland and Greenland, then headed for the passage en route to Seattle.

The purpose was to let the Healy, a 420-foot, diesel-propelled floating science lab, test its icebreaking powers and begin scientific studies. On the voyage so far, scientists have used Doppler radar to make images of the ocean floor, finding previously unknown structures and contours. They have taken samples of water at different depths and readings on ice conditions.

"The effects will be seen in the polar regions first," Garrett says. "The ice is not as thick nor is it as extensive."

Still, as he talks, the Healy shakes and rolls as the ice continues to resist its advance.

It is July 21, and the ship is moving through Barrow Strait. It is making better speed here because the ice has diminished, floating in chunks. The water is a great dark abyss that looks inviting, even though it would kill any crew member who fell overboard in less than three minutes.

The ship combines its mass, 16,500 tons, the design of the hull and its diesel power to ride up on ice sheets that get in its way, then break them with its weight.

Capt. Garrett stands starboard in Coast Guard blue. He is trying to determine the lay of the ice, the thickness of its ridges. Looking for the path of least resistance. The midnight sun won't go away. It could be midnight; it could be 10 in the morning. Time doesn't matter here.

With so much ice and water, it is difficult to imagine that this is a desert in terms of precipitation. In the 24-hour daylight of summer, temperatures rise to 50 degrees. In the endless dark of winter, they drop to 60 degrees below zero, freezing any flesh left exposed. The wind is persistent. Magnetic compasses are not reliable so close to the North Pole. Here, one must rely on the human mind.

"For those of us who sail icebreakers and go to the polar regions," Garrett says, "the Northwest Passage has long had an almost mystical appeal. Many in the crew had read up on the centuries of exploration and searches for the passage, much of which ended in tragedy."

On his mind, he says, is the voyage led by Sir John Franklin in 1845. No one in that 129-man expedition returned. One theory is that they were poisoned by the lead that sealed the cans of beef they ate.

It was not until 1903 that explorers succeeded in completing the voyage the Healy is attempting. They were led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and took three years. In 1940, the St. Roch, a schooner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also succeeded. It took two years. By 1967, only seven ships had traveled the passage end to end.

Sarah Corteville, a 22-year-old ensign whose dream it was to travel the passage, is in her cabin listening to the words of Canadian songwriter Stan Rogers. From her computer in the cramped quarters comes the eerie song:

Ah, for just one time

I would take the Northwest Passage

To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea.

Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage

And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

Earlier in the voyage, the song came spilling out of the public address system, scratchy and hesitant. But Sarah listened and, with a gifted ear, began singing it. "The Northwest passage, it's a romantic thing," she says. "So few people get to go through it. And this song was so cool."

Outside her porthole, the endless white dazzles.

It is late on July 21, and the Healy has entered Peel Sound. It is forcing itself through a five-foot-thick wall of ice. The deck of the ship sways. The stomach grows uneasy unless one has sea legs and Dramamine pills from the ship's medic. The ship shakes. It backs up and rams again. The questions arise only for a second: Will the ship make it? What is the way out?

As always, it does make it. The ocean and ice ahead look like a blue Slurpee from 7-Eleven. Snow piles up like whipped cream. The ship cuts the ice more easily now. The ice swirls and turns over. Behind the ship is a trail of crushed chunks.

With the naked eye, Dan Crosbie, an ice service specialist with the Canadian government's department of environment, sees a difference in the ice. "The melt is occurring earlier," Crosbie says. "What we used to face were drastic conditions. The ice itself is not as thick as normal."

He is one of three Canadians on board the Healy; the mission was an icebreaker of sorts between the United States and Canada.

For decades the waters of the Arctic have been the source of conflict between the two countries. Canada has asserted sovereignty over the passage, claiming it has a right to draw straight baselines around the perimeter of the archipelago, limit the territory of the sea and control who can and cannot go through.

The United States, contending that the passage is international water, presses for freedom of navigation. The last time it sent an icebreaker here, in 1985, it did not ask Canada for permission. But in 1988, the countries agreed that all navigation by U.S. icebreakers in waters claimed by Canada would be undertaken with consent from the Canadian government.

"As far as Canada is concerned, all Arctic islands [and waters] are national territory and fall under our jurisdiction," says Rene Turenne, captain of a Canadian coast guard icebreaker, who is along for the ride, both for his expertise and as a diplomatic courtesy to Canada.

He notes that not a few people in Canada believe that the passage should be closed to navigation. "It's a fragile environment. Unless you have serious reasons, you shouldn't disturb the ice. . . . Some environmentalists think just the noise the ship makes transmits through the waters for hundreds of miles, possibly 1,000 miles away, disrupting the migration of the bullhead whale. There is some speculation the whales can hear each other across the Arctic Ocean, but no whale has mentioned that."

He smiles.

Other environmentalists argue that simply breaking the ice causes damage, leaving behind more jumble. The breaking of ice may speed the melting of ice. A seal might be crushed.

Anything done by people has an impact on the Arctic, they say. One can map the evolution of poisons in the ecosystem: coal, oil, the toxin DDT, nuclear debris. The evolution of industry in the past 100 years can be tasted in the ice.

The Arctic is fragile. It doesn't have the biological activity to break down waste. "The biological systems here are more vulnerable because there is no one else here to share the pain," Turenne says. "There is no safe place. The Arctic knows no refuge from anyone."

It is Saturday, July 22. In Victoria Strait, the ice looks deceptively like solid land. Ahead, it specifically resembles a ridge. The Healy cuts cleanly through. Pieces of ice circle and swirl, turning over in the blue Kool-Aid water of the ship's wake.

From the second deck, the smell of steamed, frozen crab legs and lamb chops seeping from dinner in the mess hall mixes with the chill and stillness of the air.

Most of the crew has been on board six months, a long time from home. The time on board is marked by reveille, work, meals, movies, e-mail and sleep through daylight that never ends. Morale is high. The more progress the ship makes against the ice, the higher the hope that home will come sooner.

Frank Perniola, 38, a senior chief machinery technician, looks over the rails from two stories above the ice.

"It's clean," Perniola says of the vast expanse. He reflects on how few people have been here before. There is no visible evidence of pollution. He wonders what harm people will bring if the passage becomes more viable. "What more can we screw up? Some places were just meant to be left alone."

The sea is back to ice and water now. It looks like Aqua Velva. The ship is moving through Peel Sound.

It is 2300 hours, but the sun still shines. On the bridge, chief warrant officer Timothy Malcolm is on watch while most of the crew sleeps, the light slipping through their portholes, the ship rocking them in their bunks.

Faintly at first, there is a signal, a long jagged mark of neon green that blinks on the radar screen. It beeps again, this time more persistently. What could it be? The cutter is alone in the passage, except for the seals, the polar bears, the narwhals, the birds, the water and the ice. No other ships for hundreds of miles.

"Something is giving us this radar return. We are getting radar reflection," says Malcolm. "Why there would be one here I have no idea."

The ship is going 7.2 knots. Here, the water looks shallow.

The signal beeps again. Malcolm checks the binoculars. He sees nothing but great slabs of ice and cupcakes of snow. The cutter moves closer, closer. The signal continues its persistent call, clear as day.

When a crew has been too many days at sea, sometimes the horizon appears elevated. The light bends. Mariners call it a fata morgana, "a complex mirage, characterized by marked distortion, generally in the vertical. It may cause objects to appear towering, magnified and at times even multiplied," says the Glossary of Marine Navigation.

Malcolm changes course 3 degrees. Finally, the ship passes the location of the faint signal.


Perhaps it was a metal antenna left on an ice floe by someone. By whom? And why hasn't it fallen deep into the black water?

The signal disappears. "That was weird," Malcolm says.

Was it a whale with a tag?

"I don't think it would stay there in the same place," Malcolm says. "It must have been the ice giving that signal. But I've never seen ice give a signal."

The maritime log calls it a phantom signal, something that shows up on radar but doesn't have an actual presence.

A signal in the passage. A phantom echo.

At Love's Table, Plenty for Everyone


By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer

The last time money came up missing from Love's Family Restaurant, owner Samuel T. Love Sr. knew it was his head waiter who had helped himself.

So "Papa Love," as his family and regular customers call him, put on his coat and walked up the street to find out just how far Jerry Rufus had gone.

He went first to the drugstore, and then to the supermarket, where he questioned a clerk. The clerk nodded. Yes, he had seen Rufus. The waiter hadn't bothered to take off his white shirt and red apron before exchanging a roll of quarters for bills. He had taken the money and run -- to get his next dosage of heroin.

That wasn't the first time Rufus had stolen from the Love family, which owns the restaurant that serves helpings of love, greens and chitterlings on H Street NE.

All kinds of people from the Northeast Washington neighborhood walk into the restaurant with the maroon tablecloths, plastic plates and waiters who have been down on their luck. People come for food when they are hungry, money when they are behind on the rent and a bathroom when they are homeless.

Nobody is turned away. And nobody remembers the last time someone came to the family for help and one of the Loves said no, even to Rufus, who has known them 15 years and done them wrong plenty of times.

"The man has lifted me up so many times," said Rufus, 50, a recovering heroin addict, who met the Loves at church before he "backslid."

"I've stolen from him," he said of Samuel Love Sr. "I stole his car. I took money from the till. I'm not talking about one or two dollars. I'm talking hundreds, like it was my money. I've done everything to that man but verbally disrespect him. Me, I have no business being here."

The Loves have sent Rufus to drug treatment centers and given him shelter when he was homeless.

Samuel Love Sr., 73, said a lot of people wonder how he can keep forgiving this man after all he's done. "I say God gives us a chance. Just like we mess up, he forgives us and gives us a chance to come back," Love Sr. said. "I feel like if I can't trust somebody, I'm not following God's rules."

Said Irene Love, 65, "I always say, Never look down on someone unless you're picking them up.' "

The Loves -- Irene and Samuel Sr. and their children, Samuel Jr. and Althea Love-Salvatierra -- said they believe that the restaurant, whose customers say serves some of the best soul food in town, is more than a business. It is a haven for people in need, the kind of place that government officials hope will fill holes in the social service safety net. They've given away more food and money than they can count. There is nothing in the books that can measure how much, and they are not looking for a profit.

They advertise as a restaurant that serves soul food in a Christian atmosphere.

"We break even, but it's all right," Love-Salvatierra said. "This restaurant to me is not just a restaurant; it's a ministry. We believe God blessed us with this place, so we've got to do what he blessed us to do."

Sometimes people promise to pay later. Some return to pay a little on their bills; others don't. But the Loves carry no grudges and keep giving. The Loves, who are not affiliated with any organized feeding program or homeless shelter, said they believe they are offering a service to people and the city.

"You don't know what a person might do if they get too hungry," Irene Love said. "They might hit somebody in the head. Maybe giving someone a sandwich could stop someone from snatching a purse or doing something to someone to get a sandwich."

On a recent chilly night, a man pushed open the door to the restaurant at 514 H St. NE. It was near closing time, and Irene Love was near the cash register. The man, scratching and dirty, asked for a dollar. One of the waiters reached in his pocket and gave the man a bill. Before the man turned to leave and without hesitation, Irene Love yelled to the cook to fix the man a sandwich.

Irene Love is from Virginia, her husband from North Carolina. They ran a family restaurant in New York before moving to Washington. Irene Love's face has soft, brown folds, a countenance that soothes customers with an expression that says everything will be okay. She rarely raises her voice.

Samuel Love Sr. also is quiet. He speaks in measured tones and talks often about the ways of a religious man.

The menu includes hamburger steak, pig's feet, fish, barbecued ribs, cabbage, greens, fish and grits and scrapple -- all prepared from recipes Irene Love keeps in her head. Regular customers include cabdrivers, government workers and others, who say the food is good and the Loves are like family.

The restaurant employs 15 people, including some who were recently released from jail and mothers seeking to end dependence on government assistance. "People use this as a steppingstone," Love-Salvatierra said. "Mom teaches them how to cook and teaches them on the grill."

Love-Salvatierra said the business breaks even most times. But the family's generosity sometimes makes them late paying utility bills. "We may have to pay another deposit, but somebody's kids aren't on the street," she said.

On a recent afternoon, Gospel music poured from a small box radio on the window sill behind the cash register. Irene Love was sitting in her favorite chair across the small table from Papa Love. For 16 years, from 7 a.m., when the restaurant opens, to 7 p.m., when it closes, the Loves have watched a stream of people flow through their door.

A transvestite named Jacquelyn walked in. His tight denim skirt was dirty. He swept long, brown curls from his wig out of his face. His eyes were lined with thick, black mascara. He took a seat near the corner and promptly was served his favorite dish of pork chops. It didn't matter that Jacquelyn rarely pays on time.

"I like to come in out of the madness, come to a real setting," Jacquelyn said. "The people here are down to earth. There is no pretense. They make you feel like it's family."

None of the customers looked twice when Jacquelyn came in. He returned later to change clothes after doing his laundry.

Mae Bridges, 61, a waitress who wears white shoes and a net over her red hair, said the Loves are the best employers she's ever worked for. But the retired cook for the National Institutes of Health said the Love family also is too trusting. "A lot of people come in and keep begging and begging, and they keep giving and giving," Bridges said. "They never say no. You should see the stack of tickets of people who won't pay.

"You never see them angry and harsh," she said. "If something goes wrong, they put it in God's hands and pray. If I come in here with a headache, they say, Don't claim it. It's the devil. Pray.' "

Bridges keeps track of how much customers owe the Loves. She opened the book on who has an outstanding balance: Kevin owes 75 cents; Jacky owes $2.75; Charles, a regular, owes $6.75; Walter, $8.70; and Wolfe, $3.30.

The Loves said their goodwill comes back in the form of an informal neighborhood watch that focuses on their restaurant.

"You see good things happen here," Rufus said. "They won't touch this shop."