Monday, August 31, 2009

Maquereaux aux Petits Pois

Russell Gordon's magnificent painting of fish inspired me to cook the following recipe from Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Food published in 1950:

3 or 4 Mackerel fillets cut into serving size chunks
1 Chopped Onion
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Tomato Puree
2 Minced Cloves Garlic
1 Bay Leaf
A Mix of Chopped Fennel Tops,Thyme& Parsley
Pinch of Saffron
2 lbs. Peas (Frozen or Fresh)
2.5 cups Boiling Water
Salt & Pepper
Fat slices of Artisan bread

Saute onion in olive oil until golden, add tomato puree, stir, toss in garlic and herbs. Pour in boiling water, salt, pepper, saffron & peas if they are fresh. Allow to simmer until peas are cooked (if required) or simply until the flavors meld if using frozen peas (about 5 minutes). Add the mackerel and if using the frozen peas. Simmer until fish is firm & white. Place bread slice in the bottom of shallow soup bowls. Ladle fish, peas & broth. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Gift of Low Tide

Katie Cundiff has been painting Sarasota and her surrounding landscape for 30 years. She epitomizes the best in plein aire landscape painters and has become an icon in the Sarasota Art Scene. Katie often paints from her kayak (scares the begeesus out of me) in gator infested waters or wiley salt marshes. She ventures solo to remote locales (we still have them here) and encounters manatees nursing their pups, rays of all description, old fishermen, giant turtles. We have had many years of vanishing wilderness here, caused by rampant careless development in a state with no income tax and a government tied economically to the development madness. The greed and self interest by all involved in the bubble had little regard for the reason people came in the first place: Sarasota is truly a Paradise with great natural beauty, abundant wild life both on land and at sea, clean air, sunshine, the ability to have a safe active lifestyle. The kool-aid we all drank was that the development provided prosperity and economic possiblities for all. Of course we all know that was nonsense. If you take a drive around the neighborhood, you see stretches of failed developments, stripped of their natural beauty, devasted by the bulldozers. The good news is Florida vegetation grows really quickly and already the traces of the mess are beginning to be vine covered. Florida also had negative population growth for the first time since the 30's. Instead of adding 1,100 people a day, the population actually declined by 1%. Our gallery depends on a robust economy. Katie, in order to sell her work and keep painting, depends on a robust economy. But the beauty Katie depicts is destoyed by the endless tracts of housing erected without regard or respect for the natural order of the lanscape or needs of the population of Florida. Typical development in Florida rips out all the trees, destroys the natural flow of water, installs great swaths of "nice grass" which require huge amounts of herbicide and pesticide in order to survive. Although the economic costs to many (including our family) have been mind numbingly hard there is a real opportunity to look at what has occurred, what drove the bus off the cliff and become more responsible stewards of our resources, both natural and economic. Low tides clean out, give pause, allow us to look at what lies beneath. As we begin our economic recovery, we should perhaps take time to insist on responsible growth, protect the pristine beauty which is our divine resource. Personally I want Katie to be able to paint for many more decades. I want her to have a wild Florida to capture and a stable economy with a responsible government without economic ties to special interest groups that destoyed our local economy and its natural resources. Katie's painting captures that moment of reflection: the boat is stranded, the sea floor exposed, the figure searching for options...and of course the tide about to return, start the process over again.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Russell Gordon's Message in a bottle stopped me dead in my tracks this morning when I arrived at the gallery. I had spent the entire flight back from Portsmouth reading Mark Helprin's new book, Digital Barbarians, which deals with copyright law and the hijacking of reason via rampant viral misrepresentation of facts and disregard for the rule of law. In Helprin's book, he talks about cherishing paper and pen & the tactile luxury of slower non-digital communication. I had viewed Russell Gordon's painting via electronic jpeg in very fine resolution on a good monitor. Nothing prepared me for how exquisite the original work is; the poetic symbolism of the paper rolled in the bottle, glowing back at me. I smiled as I realized the meaning behind the centuries old masterful technique employed by Russell, and how much joy it brought me. Then as I wandered about the gallery, I understood the meaning behind many of the works, the message in the bottle as it were, layers and layers of knowledge giving us the whole body of their learning through today's modern masters' employment of the techniques and understanding gleaned from thousands of years of art. I found it so ironic that the medium I share this with you is digital, the way I learned about Russell Gordon is digital, but the sheer joy of experiencing the painting in person, live, looking at all the layers of glaze refracting light and luminosity is the polar opposite of virtual. It is so real it makes you ache and lingers in your mind's eye for days. Come in and visit us soon if you can, enjoy these master works for your self. We are fortunate enough to have four of his wonderful paintings and a fifth on the way.