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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Holding a Baby

Guest Blogger Dept.: We re-welcome Heywood Broun to the blog, whose essay collection Seeing Things at Night (1921) offers a wide range of his occasional pieces, of which this is one of the better-known and remarkably-relevant.


Heywood Broun
WHEN ADAM DELVED AND EVE SPAN, the fiction that man is incapable of housework was first established. It would be interesting to figure out just how many foot-pounds of energy men have saved themselves, since the creation of the world, by keeping up the pretense that a special knack is required for washing dishes and for dusting, and that the knack is wholly feminine. The pretense of incapacity is impudent in its audacity, and yet it works.

Men build bridges and throw railroads across deserts, and yet they contend successfully that the job of sewing on a button is beyond them. Accordingly, they don't have to sew buttons.

It might be said, of course, that the safety of suspension bridges is so much more important than that of suspenders that the division of labor is only fair, but there are many of us who have never thrown a railroad in our lives, and yet swagger in all the glory of masculine achievement without undertaking any of the drudgery of odd jobs.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Intermezzo Soprano

From the Vault Dept.: Among the current offerings at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, NY, is Richard Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos,” which I look forward to seeing this weekend. Meanwhile, let’s remember a visit to Strauss that the company made in 1990, long before its current artistic staff was in place, unlike my abhorrence of bad stage business, which remains my constant companion.


RICHARD STRAUSS’S “INTERMEZZO,” first performed in 1924, is a long, languorous soap opera of a piece that is almost entirely based on autobiographical elements.

Richard Strauss
It is not often performed, so the Glimmerglass Opera production that opened Saturday offers a rare chance to see this unusually-constructed, gorgeous-sounding work.

For soprano Lauren Flanigan, making her first appearance with the company, it is an unqualified triumph. She sings the role of Christine Storch, the central character of the piece (based on Strauss’ ill-tempered wife, Pauline) and from first to last displays an extraordinary voice and acting ability to match.

She obviously understands the subtleties of the score and brings out a satisfying, multidimensional aspect to her character. And she saved enough energy for a powerful finish.

This opera is taxing. Vocally, the leads have the challenges of a Wagner opera. Musically, the orchestra has to crank out a score that is horribly difficult. Conductor Stewart Robertson did a fantastic job shaping the piece, pulling off the kind of task for which there should be the musical equivalent of an Academy Award.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Smooth Sailing

From the Dais Dept.: A look back in time at an Albany appearance by novelist John Barth, who was here in late 1988 to read from the then-forthcoming The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (my review of which is here).


IT MAKES SENSE for a writer who follows Homeric tradition to be a good storyteller, and novelist John Barth brings the same eloquence to his speech as he does to the words he puts on paper.

John Barth
This was ably demonstrated by his appearance last Thursday (Sept. 29) at Page Hall under the aegis of the New York State Writers Institute. He read from a novel-in-progress titled “The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor,” explaining that, as the book was in its second trimester of gestation, he could safely read from it without fear of spontaneous abortion.

Barth has made a considerable reputation for himself based upon a very diverse body of novels that stretch from the ‘50s to the present. Common to it all is a conscious awareness of the techniques of telling stories. The three novellas comprising “Chimera” featured classic tales retold with the author himself swept through some of the scenes (he appears, for example, to Scheherezade with some tale-telling tips).

“Letters,” published as the 1970s ended, was an epistolary summation of Barth’s work featuring an exchange of letters among characters in each of his previous books, as well as with the author himself.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

The New Economics of Dining

Clever Dick Dept.: The five years since I wrote this piece haven’t changed my economic picture, and I’ll bet yours also isn’t too different now.


SOME OF THE QUICK-FOOD JOINTS figured this out a while ago: Subway has been offering $5 sandwiches for over a year, around the time Boston Market also came up with $5 entrées. Joining the fray in May is T.G.I. Friday’s, which just dropped the price of several of its offerings to five bucks.

If places like that are feeling the pinch, what about white-linen and casual dining restaurants? A number of new deals have been appearing on menus throughout the area, recognizing that one of the first things to go when you’re closing household budget gaps is dining out. Restaurant meals can’t help but be exponentially more expensive than the dinners you cook at home.

Yet there’s evidence – it’s anecdotal, so don’t put my feet to the fire – that folks tend not to cut back on dining out as much as they might during lean times. I suspect that the comfort offered by a good restaurant meal becomes even more attractive as everything else in your life goes south.

Is it possible to continue to enjoy your favorite eateries even as paychecks shrink and disappear? I believe so – but, then again, I’m paid to believe so.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life Is a ... Carousel

The State of the Stage Dept.: The Glimmerglass Festival includes a classic American musical as part of its season each summer, and this year’s offering is Carousel. I find the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein easily resistible, but, as my review below points out, this production was compelling.


ON THE HEELS OF OKLAHOMA, their first collaboration, came Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, based on a depressing but popular play by Ferenc Molnár. Liliom presented a charming but hotheaded protagonist who gets a chance to redeem himself in the afterlife—and blows it. Molnár doggedly refused to release the rights for a musical version (even Puccini was turned down!) until Oklahoma convinced him that he’d found the right creative team, and he also was persuaded to go along with Hammerstein’s more upbeat ending.

Ryan McKinney in Carousel
But it remains the story of a man who hits his wife and a wife who makes excuses for it. It’s probably a credit to our improved sensitivity that justification for such an act now sounds embarrassingly fatuous; unfortunately, it inhibits us from appreciating that the 1909 play and 1945 musical are part of an era in which such abuse was considered acceptable and the moral condemnation these shows encouraged was therefore remarkable.

Although I remain unconvinced by the musical’s attempt at moral redemption for carousel barker Billy Bigelow, there’s no question that he participates in one of the greatest moments in musical theater, the extended act one sequence in which he and mill worker Julie Jordan sing the timeless “If I Loved You” and realize their love for each other without actually finding the words to say it. You may know the song (you’d better know it), but if you’ve not seen it in the context of this show, you’re in for a big and probably tear-stained surprise.

And, in the Glimmerglass Festival presentation, you get a full-sized orchestra playing the original orchestration, singers trained not only to sing but also to sing in English and a production that is uniquely microphone-free.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Otherwise it would have been $12.50 for the ceramic variety.

23 July 2014 | Lettering and photo
by B. A. Nilsson

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sausage, Eggs, and Butter

From the Cookbook Shelf Dept.: A look at three recent titles that suggest we still have a journey to get back to the truly beneficial basics.


SAUSAGE, EGGS, AND BUTTER: Add some toast and you’ve got breakfast taken care of, but, as three recent books suggest, they offer concepts that go far beyond the morning meal. Back to Butter is a passionate plea for a return to the sense that’s in precedence. Specifically, noting that a healthy avoidance of processed food doesn’t include eschewing all fats. Inspired by the books of Weston A. Price (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration) and Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions), the authors (a daughter-mother team) run a farm and a blog ( that espouse a traditional foods approach, harkening to a time when we grew and raised what we ate. It’s not a cure-all diet; as they state early in the book, it’s intended “to keep an already healthy body strong.”

After the chapter-one examination of fats and oils—a reasoned analysis of what’s in butter, lard, tallow and a variety of oils (goodbye, margarine!)—you’ll probably be ready to welcome even bacon back into your diet. But the source is the key. The butter comes from grass-fed cows; the bacon from humanely raised pigs. And if you’re not growing the fruits and vegetables the recipes require, you’re looking for farmer’s-market sources.

Among the 75 get-you-started recipes are preparations of basics like mayonnaise and mustard, sides like red rice salad with cumin dressing and such main courses as mushroom marinara over roasted spaghetti squash and a low-heat, 12-hour roasted turkey recipe that coats the bird with bacon fat.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Live Louis

JAZZ IS RESTLESS MUSIC. Louis Armstrong’s mid-’20s recordings gave the music an identity that tore it away from the tea-dance stylings of the likes of George Olsen, and set the stage for swing, a development of the big band sound that Armstrong enjoyed. But World War Two thinned the band ranks and saw the rise of the small-group sound of be-bop. Artie Shaw got it, Benny Goodman didn’t, and Louis didn’t want it. He soldiered on with his big pre-war ensemble.

Mosaic’s new nine-CD collection of Armstrong’s All Stars sessions opens with the concert on May 17, 1947, that changed everything. The story of its inception is recounted in Ricky Riccardi’s excellent program notes, a story wisely left in press agent Ernie Anderson’s own words – for it was Anderson who bribed Armstrong’s intractable manager Joe Glaser into allowing his client to perform in a small-group setting that fateful day.

Because from then on it was pretty much small groups all the way, with some actual stars easing in and out of the All Stars aggregation. This CD set covers 11 years of All Stars concerts, finishing with Armstrong’s previously unreleased 1958 Newport set (complete with some of the most wonderful profanity to find its way on a recording).

Although it’s a label-imposed phenomenon, this probably is a reasonable ending point; Louis’s subsequent recordings were given by the avaricious Glaser to such labels as Verve, Roulette, Audio Fidelity, and MGM. Although the unlikely 1963 hit “Hello, Dolly” put Louis back on the map, his studio recordings suffered from tasteless attempts to recreate that.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Art of the Pantry

From the Food Shelf Dept.: Restaurant reviews are finite things as places change or close or simply change their menus and prices. Which won’t stop me from reprinting them here, but this time I’m exhuming a helpful piece about the staples to keep on hand.


WE’LL BUY A LEG OF LAMB for Easter dinner. We’ll craft a dessert from fresh strawberries as the new Florida crops keep heading north. But those are dishes made with a menu in mind. It’s when dinnertime sneaks up on you unannounced that you need to be ready with a staple-stocked pantry, which, for the purpose of this piece, I’m expanding beyond merely dry storage.

Along with my own fussy requirements, I consulted the lists in my favorite all-around cookbook, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (Macmillan), as well as the unobtrusively healthy A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan).

“Flour, cornmeal, and the like,” writes Bittman, and Schneider expands upon that, specifying unbleached all-purpose flour and stone-ground cornmeal for polenta. I would add that it doesn’t hurt to have whole wheat and cake flour as well, and with the last-named on hand, Schneider’s recommendation of a bar of semi-sweet chocolate and some Dutch-process cocoa powder might find their way into a worthy dessert.

Auxiliary to that are baking soda, non-aluminum baking powder, honey (support your local apiarist) and sugar: white, dark brown, confectioner’s and molasses. If you do a lot of baking, or even for pancakes and waffles, put some vanilla beans in an air-tight container with a heap of sugar and you won’t need vanilla extract.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Prades and Prejudice

From the CD Shelf Dept.: Music and Arts has since issued a follow-up volume to this terrific collection of vintage Casals Fesitval recordings. The review below originally ran on the now-defunct website


THEY’RE HISTORIC, AND WITHOUT A TRACE of the historically informed. A cornucopia of Romantic-era chamber classics featuring many of the 20th-century’s greatest musicians in combinations made impossible at the time of recording by record company contact exclusivity.

Best of all, they’re live. They date from an era when a more consistent degree of risk-taking was common in the concert hall, producing an excitement lost in the re-takes of the recording studio. An excitement that’s also all the rarer in today’s play-it-safe musical world.

Casals and company can’t be accused of playing it safe in the performances on this 13-disc set, performances culled from Prades Festival concerts between 1953 and 1960. Although about half of the material has appeared on earlier CD and LP issues, the rest is previously unreleased – and none of it, as far as I’ve been able to determine, duplicates any of the material released on LP by Columbia in the 1960s, despite an overlap of repertory and artists.

Founded in 1950, the annual summer festival (in what was then Casals’ home town) was conceived to honor the 200th anniversary of Bach’s death, although it really was the successful effort by several of Casals’ musical associates to coax him out of a long musical exile. Casals not only agreed to participate but also opened six of the programs with a Bach Cello Suite.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Survivals of Sex Slavery

Guest Blogger Dept.: This excerpt is drawn from the preface, characteristically lengthy, that George Bernard Shaw wrote for his 1908 play Getting Married. The play was a satirical look at the marriage laws then in effect, with particular attention to the difficulty of divorce, a difficulty Shaw considered to be yet another exploitation of the working class. It’s probably worth nothing that the playwright himself was married for 45 years, to a woman who wished for no children and therefore never had sex with her husband.


George Bernard Shaw
IF WE ADOPT the common romantic assumption that the object of marriage is bliss, then the very strongest reason for dissolving a marriage is that it shall be disagreeable to one or other or both of the parties. If we accept the view that the object of marriage is to provide for the production and rearing of children, then childlessness should be a conclusive reason for dissolution. As neither of these causes entitles married persons to divorce it is at once clear that our marriage law is not founded on either assumption.

What it is really founded on is the morality of the tenth commandment, which English women will one day succeed in obliterating from the walls of our churches by refusing to enter any building where they are publicly classed with a man’s house, his ox, and his ass, as his purchased chattels. In this morality female adultery is malversation by the woman and theft by the man, whilst male adultery with an unmarried woman is not an offence at all. But though this is not only the theory of our marriage laws, but the practical morality of many of us, it is no longer an avowed morality, nor does its persistence depend on marriage; for the abolition of marriage would, other things remaining unchanged, leave women more effectually enslaved than they now are.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jazz Bard

What's On Stage? Dept.: No self-respecting theater company sets Shakespeare's work anywhere near the time and place in and at which it was intended—but Shakespeare & Co.'s Midsummer Night's Dream does surprisingly well in its unlikely locale, as my review extols.


IT’S PARTY TIME in New Orleans–but wasn’t it always during that city’s fabled era as the wellspring of jazz? As a motley set of white-clad instrumentalists strikes up a rousing “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” on banjoleles and washboard, Johnny Lee Davenport and Jonathan Epstein trade off verses, soon engaging the entire onstage cast. Behind them are French Quarter lamps and filigree. But once the dialogue starts, we’re in the place of Shakespeare, and the many mentions of Athens probably don’t refer to the tiny northern-Louisiana town.

Photo by Kevin Sprague
For once again we’re witnessing the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta; once again a quartet of headstrong lovers will find unexpected magic in a drowsy glen; once again a troupe of villagers will put on a laughably terrible show within this show. It’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Shakespeare & Company favorite, as reimagined by artistic director Tony Simotes.

And if he needed the New Orleans conceit to sneak music into the piece, more power to him. The music was fun, and the ramshackle script had no trouble accommodating it.
Using Peter Brook’s idea of doubling the royalty in forest and town, Rocco Sisto played both Theseus and fairy king Oberon, with Merritt Jansen as Hippolyta and Titania.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Old School Hotel Restaurant

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: This week’s review is a revisit (after two decades) to Saltsman’s Hotel in Ephratah, NY. (You can read about my earlier visits here.)


SO LITTLE OF OUR AREA’S rich history peeks through everyday life that we feel more divorced than ever from precedent and tradition, which makes it all the more startling to find a place like Saltsman’s Hotel, which operates in its own time and space.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
The building dates from 1813, an era when you might have to make the long trip from Little Falls to Amsterdam and would need a place to stop for the night. Saltsman’s endured even after the motorcar took over the landscape, and a register page from 1925 lists most of the room occupants as hailing from Gloversville, Johnstown, Little Falls and Canajoharie—but there are entries from New York City, Chicago and Madison, Wis.

Nobody now is sure when those rooms stopped being available. When Jim and Tammie Subik bought the place in 1979, it was reckoned that the last guests were accommodated in the ’40s. But they have held fast to the tradition of food service that five generations of the Saltsman family maintained, even to the extent of using some of the old recipes.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014

Back in Time

From the Hotel Vault Dept.: This week’s Metroland features my review of Saltsman’s Hotel, a restaurant in Ephratah, NY. I’ll post it here this weekend; meanwhile, here are accounts of my two earlier visits.


YOU WON'T FIND OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS at Saltsman's – rooms haven’t been available since the 1940s – but the menu still boasts many of the recipes used by the Saltsman family. Several generations of them owned and ran the hotel, which was built in 1813 and has been in continuous operation; Jim Subik bought the place in 1979 and maintains the old-fashioned traditions.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
One of which is an anticipated advertisement that appears at this time each spring. In the Gloversville paper it appears as a single, capitalized word – MILKWEED – surrounded by a shaded box. That means it’s the season for picking the baby milkweed plants which then become a featured vegetable at the hotel.

Let’s get the milkweed over with first thing. No, you’re not dealing with the pods readily associated with the plant – only small, leafy shoots have developed at this point. It has an asparagus-like aroma and a flavor reminiscent of spinach. At least when the kitchen at Saltsman’s gets through with it.

Attentive preparation is required to rid the stalks and leaves of bitterness, and the result is an impressive side dish, held plateside by your server as you dig in for whatever quantity you’re prepared to handle.

There was a little hesitance at my table, but portion sizes also are a factor. A first-time visitor will be surprised by that and a number of Saltsman’s characteristics. Here’s how a dinner visit works:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Road Show

More Out of the Hat Dept.: Before it settled into its current incarnation as “Road Show,” Stephen Sondheim’s most recent musical (we’re still waiting for the David Ives collaboration) was titled “Wise Guys” and then “Bounce,” but it celebrated the Mizner brothers, Wilson and Addison, an idea the composer-lyrist had in mind for decades. It just had a successful run in Chicago – where “Bounce” debuted over a decade ago, and which produced an album that I reviewed in 2004.


STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S MOST BROADWAY-SOUNDING SHOW in 40 years won’t be coming to Broadway any time soon. After many years of workshop productions, Bounce premiered in Chicago last summer and then moved to Washington, D.C., where reviews were tentative enough to pull the plug.

But it was recorded there, giving us a 74-minute trip through a score that has all the hallmarks of latter-day Sondheim wrapped in a peppy, upbeat score that harkens back to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Wilson and Addison Mizner were entrepreneurs whose ventures – especially Wilson’s – soon turned into cons, culminating in their participation in the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Originally conceived as a sort of vaudeville show, Bounce (book by John Weidman) gives an episodic look at the brothers’ exploits and their tumultuous relationship.

Some vaudeville flavor remains, especially in the title song (reminiscent of “Everybody’s Got the Right” from Assassins, a song sung at a carnival), but behind it is a carefully crafted score that re-works and develops musical elements to go with an evolution of lyrical ideas, tracing the concept of finding and seizing opportunities in life.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

To Be or Not to Be

Guest Blogger Dept.: As a child, I discovered a volume among my parents’ collection titled The Family Album of Favorite Poems, most of which was incredibly boring – it ran to nearly 600 pages, with room for such turgid classics as “The Old Oaken Bucket” and “Dover Beach.” But a section of comic verse opened me to the possibilities of wordplay and rhyme. I memorized many of them, and have posted many of them here, including verse by Guy Wetmore Carryl, Harry Graham, and others. But here’s an anonymous one that remains charming in its straightforward silliness.


I SOMETIMES THINK I’d rather crow
And be a rooster than to roost
And be a crow. But I dunno.

A rooster he can roost also,
Which don’t seem fair when crows
     can’t crow.
Which may help some. Still I dunno.

Crows should be glad of one thing,
Nobody thinks of eating crow,
While roosters they are good enough
For anyone unless they’re tough.

There are lots of tough old roosters,
And anyway a crow can’t crow,
So maybe roosters stand more show.
It looks that way. But I dunno.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014


Lily Whiteman (right) playing rhythm lute, with Fiona Thistle at the just-ended lute camp -- a gathering put together by the Lute Society of America at Case Western University. This is from the Participant's Concert on June 27, 2014. Lily and Fiona were the youngest of the attendees.

Monday, July 07, 2014

A Good Taste

Back in the Sack Dept.: Nearly thirty years ago, an Albany hotel created a winetasting event that set a standard for that kind of event, and it persisted there for over a dozen years, much to the credit of then-innkeeper Gary Smith. After Gary left, it stuttered on for a while longer before evaporating. Here’s a preview piece I wrote for the 1991 edition.


“IT'S THE ONLY WINE EVENT in the country that I attend.” That’s winemaker Hermann J. Wiemer speaking, who offers as testimony to the event that he hasn’t missed it during its five years. “I’m pleased with the way New York is represented, and I know a lot of California participants feel the same way.”

Hermann J. Wiemer
The Desmond Americana hosts the mid-winter festival that brings winemakers from around the country for a long weekend of seminars, tastings, displays and food. This year it takes place Feb. 7-9 and boasts an unprecedented 90 wineries in attendance.

“In almost every case, that means a winemaker will be there,” says Remo Pizzichemi, “to talk about the product in a way nobody else can.” As food and beverage director for the hotel, Remo has the massive job of coordinating the event on both sides of the kitchen door. Along with his passion for wine is an eye for detail that strives to make every aspect of the event run smoothly. He is especially proud of the showing of New York’s winemakers, a dozen of which will be attending.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Forking Around

What’s for Lunch? Dept.: This week’s restaurant review drives past the tony joints that dot the Church Street area of Lenox, Mass., to settle in for lunch at Spoon.


“WE DON’T FORK AROUND,” reads the cutline for one of the graphics for Spoon, a charming little breakfast-lunch place in a neighborhood known for ambitious eateries. Thus it’s easily overlooked—but not when you’re lunching with a quinoa fanatic.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
My daughter discovered Spoon through a smartphone search as we finished an assignment that put us in Lenox. It was a beautiful Berkshires day; as we eased along Church Street, we remembered how foolish it can be seeking a parking space here at this time of year. At which point we found one.

Spoon opened three years ago, the dream of siblings Danielle and Jason Dragonetti, who not only mastered the art of nose-balancing a spoon while children but went on to collect enough photographs of others performing this stunt to decorate a wall of their restaurant. Danielle has been working in restaurants since she was 14; Jason bounced between computers and food service, settling on the latter and graduating from Johnson and Wales.

The space underwent four months of renovation, in keeping with the new owners’ mission of keeping everything about their restaurant organic, humane and, when possible, recycled. Thus, counters and tabletops come from old doors and other repurposed slabs; the floor is made of mulberry leaves.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Do You Like Whisky?

Working in Coffeeshops, Dating Dept.: Perhaps it’s the warm weather, but my coffeeshop visits have placed me in frequent proximity with folks in search of romance. Recently it was a fellow studying his screen, fussing over a message for a good hour or so. All I could see of it was the line “I’ve never been as fascinated by anyone’s profile as I am by yours,” or words to that effect, which immediately had me longing to warn the poor woman.

Today it’s an adjacent couple going through a first-date Q&A, and I’m startled to note that it’s almost a one-way deal. That is, she asks many questions but answers few – and he’s only to happy to prattle on.

But I was impressed to hear him cut, I suppose, to the chase by soon asking her, “Do you like whisky?”

“Actually,” she answered, “I like scotch.”

“Oh!” he said. “That’s even better,” leaving me to wonder what, exactly, they believe whisky to be.

“I like scotch,” she repeated. “But I like gin better.”

“Gin. Yeah. It’s, like ... on a day like this, sitting outside under an umbrella ... I could drink beer all day.”

To which she asked, “What beer do you like best?”

He paused. “I’m, like – I feel under all this pressure to name some really cool beer. And I don’t want to ... this time of year, you know, you can drink seven, eight, nine of them.”

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

I’m Gonna Be ’Round My Vegetables

From the Back of the Fridge Dept.: Here’s a snapshot of the Albany-area restaurant scene – and my typically underenlightened attitude – from 1996, when I looked at the options for vegetarian dining. Eighteen years later, I would defy you to find an eatery where you can’t score decent meat-free fare.


ACCORDING TO A 1995 Food and Drug Administration report, people are increasingly turning to vegetarian diets--or at least to regular vegetarian meals--for a variety of reasons. Whether for religious, political or health reasons, it’s become a full- or part-time option for as many as 20 percent of the dining-out population.

Leaving only the challenge of finding good vegetarian fare.

I’ve flirted with vegetarianism (and comely vegetarians) often enough to understand that the attitude varies from restaurant to restaurant. Obviously, some ethnic restaurants are made to order for vegetarian fare. Asian menus accommodate meatless eating nicely, as do the many Indian restaurants springing up in the area.

And there are the Italian restaurants. “Our menu is just a list of suggestions,” says Carmine Sprio, whose new restaurant, Carmine’s, is wowing them at the Blockbuster Video plaza, 818 Central Ave., Albany. “Anything that’s on the menu can be changed. And we’re happy to hear any ideas you have.”

Italian restaurants traditionally are good vegetarian havens, what with the easy availability of pasta and meatless marinara sauce. The challenge can be to get beyond that, and Sprio and his chefs are happy to oblige.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Two Worlds of Medicine

From the E.R. Dept.: The health center described below has changed its name – it’s now the Stram Center for Integrative Medicine – and has opened a branch in Bennington. But here’s a piece I wrote nine years ago that still serves, I hope, as a good introduction.


RONALD STRAM IS A HEALER who is also a doctor. That’s an odd phenomenon to note, but it signifies the gulf between conventional medicine and the less traditional – or at least less familiar – approaches now being offered, approaches still scorned by skeptics and denied insurance coverage.

Dr. Ronald Stram
Two years ago, Dr. Stram opened Delmar’s Center for Integrative Health and Healing with a number of associates offering treatments including acupuncture, naturopathy, Chinese herbal medicine, Reiki and much more. At the same time, he is a board-certified physician with 13 years of experience in this area. Currently, he is Director of Emergency Medicine at Albany Memorial Hospital, a career that predated his interest in integrative medicine. How does he reconcile what seem to be two vastly different worlds?

“The promise is the same.” Stram is a pleasant, soft-spoken man more inclined to ask questions than to answer them. “We’re here to take care of patients. At the Center, I’m able to offer a wide array complementary services, and I believe some of them even should be offered in conventional medicine.

“As it is, I’ve tried to bring some of what we do at the Center to my work at Albany Memorial. There we’ve gone from a department where people were forced to feel that it was a privilege to be taken care of to a place where we believe it’s a privilege to take care of people. Our patient satisfaction rate there was at 50 percent when I started; it’s been 95 percent for the past year and a half.”