Category Archives: friends and family

cornmeal waffles

by Larry Dunn, July 18, 2020

Until recently, we’ve never been particularly avid fans of waffles. Sure, we had our moments in the late 60s at the old Star Waffle Shop on Cass Avenue in Detroit, only a couple of blocks from our apartment, or the Apartfug, as we called it (fodder for its own post at some point). We’d wander in there in the middle of the night, they were open 24/7/365, all toked up on weed or flying high on LSD, and we’d order the namesake waffle, with a scoop of ice cream, and either maple syrup or hot fudge. A tantalizing sensation when your taste buds are in a heightened sate.

My mother made waffles several times a year when we were growing up, and they we’re tasty enough. But Arlene and I never invested in a waffle iron over all these years; waffles just didn’t seem worth the trouble, when we could more easily make pancakes, if we were in that sort of mood for breakfast or brunch. And we have a great, and easy to make, whole wheat (or multi-grain) pancake recipe. Arlene has regularly ordered “chicken & waffles” in restaurants over the years. But if those waffles are ever any good, it’s a bonus. For her, it’s always about the fried chicken.

Cornmeal Waffles, ceramic bowl by Brian Dunn (photo: Larry Dunn)

Our waffle consciousness changed last fall during a brief R&R side trip to the Catskills when we were in NYC for some music events. We’d first been in the region the prior summer, when we met our Florida family there for a week’s vacation. We were charmed by the area, and shocked that it could seem so remote, only two hours from NYC. On the summer visit we’d tried to grab a meal at Phoenicia Diner, which all the people and all the guides say is a must, only to find it mobbed every time we drove by. But on a late Monday morning in October, we had no trouble getting seated immediately. “Chicken and Waffles” on the menu caught my eye, thinking I’d recommend it to Arlene. But I decided to order for myself, when I learned the waffles were made with cornmeal. That seemed worth trying, and my hunch paid off. Crispy, even, crunchy, exterior, but still light and fluffy inside, and the cornmeal added aroma and a flavor punch far beyond what any standard whitebread waffles can deliver. I was hooked, and left there determined to find or devise a recipe to make them at home.

I spent the rest of the fall and early winter researching recipes . . . oh, yes, that, and having major surgery on my cervical spine and then a long slow recovery. I devised a recipe and aimed to try it during our annual winter sojourn to visit our Florida family in Sarasota. They have the waffle iron; no sense in our buying one until we knew we had a winning recipe. We made them for the whole crowd one Sunday in February, with sliced fresh local strawberries and maple syrup. They were a big hit.

Cornmeal Waffle with fresh local organic blueberries (photo: Larry Dunn)

A new waffle iron was waiting for us when we returned home to Oberlin and we’ve been making cornmeal waffles every few weeks ever since. They are especially welcome at this time of year when we have so much local fresh fruit in Ohio, as we go through a sequence of strawberries, cherries, blueberries, apricots (if we’re lucky), peaches, plums, and apples. Each waffle batch leaves us with eight or ten squares we can put in the freezer, and they taste almost as good warmed up in the toaster as they do fresh off the griddle. As soon as the freezer supply is gone, we make some more. If you’d like a PDF of the recipe, press the “Download” button below.

There’s a bit of a serendipitous postscript on my search for a cornmeal waffle recipes last fall. At the time I could find no recipes from the Phoenicia Diner, nor even any claiming to be like theirs. But as I was starting this post, I stumbled upon the fact that the Phoenicia Diner released a cookbook, just as the pandemic shutdowns were starting. I have verified that the waffle recipe is in the table of contents, though you cannot see the recipe itself. In the TOC listing, it makes no mention of them being “cornmeal waffles.” It would be hilarious if that was all a figment of my imagination! But our cornmeal waffles are a treat, no matter where I got the inspiration, and I’m guessing that cornmeal is in their recipe. The waiter must have told me about it. I’m going to get the book and find out.

Notes for Restricted Diets. Some of the Florida family have dietary concerns with milk products and with gluten. So, when we made these waffles down there, we replaced the buttermilk with almond milk, soured with one tablespoon of vinegar, and used a “vegan butter” product instead of actual butter. We swapped in whole-grain oat flour for the whole wheat pastry flour. Getting the consistency right took a bit of fiddling. But in the end the results were deemed outstanding by all our eaters. I believe you could take the recipe the rest of the way to full vegan, by substituting silky tofu for the egg yolks and whipped aquafaba (garbanzo bean liquor) for the whipped egg whites. If you try that, please let us know how they turn out.

All gone (photo: Larry Dunn)

sip1: ins and outs

by Larry Dunn, July 15, 2020

Last week I attended the first session of an eight-week online class called Synth in Place (SIP). Our friend and sometimes collaborator Kirk Pearson is teaching the class, which is presented by Kirk’s own Dogbotic sound lab in collaboration with Thingamajigs, a genre-crossing arts organization that fosters music created with made and found materials and alternate tuning systems. I’m unsure what I may do in the future with the knowledge I gain in this class, but, at the very least, it seems like a fun way to chew up some pandemic quarantine hours.

There are nine brave souls in our section of the class (Kirk is juggling several similar sized sections, some with teenagers, and others with older folks like us). In our group, we range in age from 20s to 70s and bring an interesting mix of backgrounds − several composers and performers, an electrical engineer and circuit board designer, a graphic artist and animator. We are also quite geographically spread out, one of the benefits of online classes, with folks in London, New York, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, California, Oberlin, and places in between. Two of the attendees are people I know, and who also know Kirk (much longer than I have), which Kirk said was unique to this section. Jim Pugliese is a composer, percussionist, and educator, who recently retired from teaching at the LaGuardia high school for music and the arts in New York City. Nick Dunston is a composer and bassist, who has know Kirk since they were both at LaGuardia, which is where they met Jim. Small world.

Fully kitted out for Synth in Place (photo: Larry Dunn)

The objective of the course is to learn the basics of making electronic music by tinkering with the various component parts and sub-assemblies that can be created and manipulated to make sounds come out of a speaker. A few weeks back, Kirk sent us all a box full of components and connectors, packaged in envelopes with delightful Dogbotic graphics, designed by Maisy Byerly. He also sent us a list our own tools and supplies we will need − soldering iron and solder, batteries, tape, wire cutters and strippers, etc. After we gain some facility with all these pieces and parts, we will start plotting how to choose specific components and put them together into a working synthesizer.

Maisy Byerly’s illustrations are a delight (photo Larry Dunn)

Our first experiment in electronic sound-making involved connecting a box grater to a 9-volt battery and a small speaker, and then playing the grater with a spoon. Kitchen tool music is right in my zone!

Simple electrified box grater instrument (photo: Larry Dunn)

Next we riffed on the old saying about having, or not having, two nickles to rub together. Due to rampant inflation in the intervening years, we used quarters, which we electrified, again with the nine volt battery, and also connected to the speaker. Paper clips in the speaker cone add a nice buzz.

Rubbing two electric quarters together; don’t forger the paper clips (photo: Larry Dunn)

For our final exercise in this session, we experimented with piezoelectric microphones, which pick up sound and vibrations from things they are attached to (or are resting upon them). We made some cool sounds with a metal ruler held over the microphone and extended off the table for twanging purposes. We also did some drumming directly on the microphone surface with the quarters. In both of these cases, we connected the microphone via alligator clips and a mini-plug patch cord to a powered speaker.

Fun times with a piezoelectric microphone (photo: Larry Dunn)

The most profound lesson of the day was Kirk’s assertion that making DIY electronic music is an inherently political act. The electronic instruments we are creating make sound by manipulating electric voltage patterns. And these are sounds that no acoustic instrument can make. Thus making DIY electronic music is a rejection of the known universe and the creation of your own.

Stay tuned, to learn about the new worlds my Synth in Place colleagues and I create.

Synth in Place, presented by Dogbotic and Thingamajigs (illustration by Maisy Byerly)

a wedding blessing

by Arlene and Larry Dunn, February 28, 2016

In December of 2004 our niece Jodi and her husband-to-be Gary took a creative approach to the Jewish wedding custom of the seven blessings. They asked us, and six other couples who were important to them, to create and present our own unique blessing on a specific topic. They topic they assigned to us was “patience.”

After mulling over a few approaches, we settled on writing and reciting four haiku. It was a wonderful way for us to invest emotionally in their wedding ceremony and to give them a bit of advice in the form of this blessing. Each of the four haiku are anchored in something elemental to our lives at our beloved former home, Acorn Ridge Gardens in northwest Indiana.

After the wedding, our friend Peg Herbst had the inspired idea to memorialize these haiku in a set of painted ceramic plates. To be fair, she not only inspired the idea, but also designed the illustrative drawings and led the painting project. Here they are are.

Love blooms its brightest / Like agaves prize patience / Of the hummingbirds
Oh how love will thrive / When tended as a garden / Plow sow reap repeat
Dance through the garden / Each to your own heart’s rhythm / Love waits at the well
Lives join together / The wedding plants an oak tree / Love gathers acorns

We gave these plates to Jodi and Gary for their first anniversary. But they were in the process of moving from Chicago to New York at the time, and they asked us to hold onto them for awhile. Since then they have graced our walls, first in our guest cottage at Acorn Ridge, and now at our new home in Oberlin. Gary and Jodi later moved to Jerusalem, and just now, back to the New York area. They will find a place to hang the plates when they settle into a new home, in Montclair, New Jersey. We’ll surely have mixed emotions when we pack them up and send them to their forever home.