Monthly Archives: July 2016

Cooking with the Canadians

In the heat of the summer, you just sometimes want to kick back and watch some television.  If, like us, you only have broadcast tv, you sometimes find yourself looking for interesting fare on the “channels between the channels” – those weird channels that have popped up since broadcast tv went to whatever the heck format it is in now.  ION life is one of those channels.  Despite the annoying and frequent commercials for products only available on tv and attorneys who will help you get money for various medical malpractices, this channel can be fun and instructional.

I have been sampling a couple of their cooking shows the past few weeks.  These (and most of the other programming) seems to be Canadian-based, but that’s okay.  I like Canada – it seems like a good place to  consider retreating to in case He Who Cannot Be Named gets elected president, except in the winter maybe when somewhere in the Caribbean might be preferred.

img_sub_chef-at-large First up, Chef at Large with Michael Smith.  Before I read the description of the show on the ION Life web site, I thought it was called “at large” because this guy seems to be at least seven feet tall.  He towers over all of the other people he encounters on the show by at least a foot or two.  But, no, it is called “at large” because he goes on the road and features interesting cooking destinations like trains and rafting trips.  Considering his size, this makes for some interesting logistics as well as interesting cooking contexts.

Next up, Loving Spoonfuls with David Gale.  During each episode, this guy visits a different ethnic grandma in her kitchen and they cook some delightful dish packed with butter, deep fried, or oimg_sub_loving-spoonfulstherwise totally bad for you just as authentic ethnic food usually is.  First, they go grocery shopping.  Then they start cooking.  If the recipe calls for booze, Mr. Gale always needs to sample some of the rum or vodka liberally.  Some singing and dancing usually occurs as well.  The grandmas seem to love him, although I have to say I think he is slightly creepy.  He does manage to sneak in a pretty good oral history interview during the cooking, though, which along with the recipes makes this a folklorist-approved show.

I cannot recommend other shows on this channel that I have not watched yet, but if you get ION Life, check out our neighbors to the north as they cook, kibitz, and pronounce things ending in “-out” as “-oat.”

Counting on My Interns

The intense ten days of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival are over, and our Txiki-Txoko Kids’ Corner is just a memory now.  20160629_120345The tent might even be gone by now, and the only remains will soon be a very large circle of dead grass and a few crayon and colored paper bits ground into the hard-baked soil.  But my 2016 summer interns and I will remember the moments of joy, frustration, laughter, disappointment, and exhaustion that made it an area where we hope kids had fun and learned something about cultural traditions.

Our favorite times might have been the visits of the Basque and California participants who demonstrated their skills, danced, composed, sang, and taught the kids in a way only those with a deep knowledge of a culture can.  But, we also did our share of teaching and passing on what we had learned about Basque culture.

20160710_165541 (1)One of these activities
was Basque Number Bingo, which I generated from an online template that allows you to turn just about any string of related words or images into a bingo game for kids.
(Don’t you just love the internet?  It was called Bingo Baker in case you want to try it!)  All the interns had to learn to count to sixteen (there were four rows of four on the bingo cards) in order to be on the ready to conduct Basque Number Bingo with random kids if/when the occasion arose.  (Usually this meant that some participant who was scheduled to come to us had cancelled for some reason and we had a big hole in our schedule and we had a bunch of kids to amuse with activities of our own devising.)  The numbers were ingrained into our memories and probably will be forever – bat, bi, hiru, lau, bost, sei, zazpi, zortzi, bederatzi, hamar…

Thus the metaphor of the title – I felt as though I could always count on my interns throughout the whole event.  Anne and Sara to keep the schedule updated and to help decide what to fill in with if we had a sudden hole.  Leah to conduct “salt experiments.”  Tyler at the ready to keep track of the myriad day camps in the colored t-shirts and pinafores.  Lila to politely ask parents to fill out the family survey.  Hannah to draw us a new interactive mural for the back wall.  Aliyah to keep the interactive triptych stocked with post-its and markers.  Our repeat volunteer/adopted intern Sam to do everything asked of her.  And a hundred other things they did from rearranging the chairs and tables for new activities to teaching whale origami, to soothing some little kid who banged a knee while playing “Duck, Duck Lamia” or “San Fermin Day sponge tag.”


I have had many great groups of interns over the years – you know who you are, and thanks to those of you who came to visit during this year’s Festival – but each year’s bunch are special.  I may have been working on the Festival for an amazing 30 years (gulp!) but this will probably be the only year they participate before they go on to other exciting endeavors, and they will hopefully always remember it as a hectic, sweaty, but rewarding experience like no other.  Thanks for the memories, gals!