Archive for September, 2012


Thinking back to a past Vermont Quarterly “Best of UVM” piece from a number of years ago, I’ve been trying to keep my eyes open to new “bests” in the eye of this beholder. First floor of the Davis Center, placed in a notch as students enter the lofty atrium space from the south, is this 2006 work of graphite on paper by artist Ethan Murrow, a past resident of Burlington. I love the large scale in a humble medium, the composition with all of that sky, the quirky title—”The burning hulk of jetpack didn’t keep Huffaker from posing for the cameras”—and Huffaker’s lean to the side. It’s my personal favorite in the Davis Center, a building that is rich in art. The work is on loan from Liza Cowan. So, thanks Liza.

And if that name Murrow has a familiar ring, it’s because Ethan is grandson of fabled broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow.

Read more about Ethan Murrow. 


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These are busy days for Melissa d’Arabian ’90. In addition to her work hosting Food Network’s “Ten Dollar Dinners” and Cooking Channel’s “Drop 5 lbs with Good Housekeeping,” she’s been on the road promoting her new book, Ten Dollar Dinners, which quickly made the New York Times bestseller list. Melissa, who Vermont Quarterly readers last checked in on when she won season five of “The Next Food Network Star,” took the time to share some college-student specific kitchen advice via an email interview.

Melissa lives with her husband and their four daughters in San Diego.
VQ: From the perspective of a student on a tight budget, what are a few key tips for saving money when shopping for food?
Melissa: Start in the produce aisle and buy what is cheapest there.  Unlike most places in life, in the produce aisle, cheap = best quality in the produce aisle, because what’s cheapest is also what is in season.  And what’s in season is what tastes the best.
Shift your thinking from “cost per bite” to “cost per nutrient.”  Ramen noodles have long been a staple of college dorm cooking, and I’m not denying their late night post-party appeal.  But perhaps consider buying a box of whole grain pasta (the kind with flaxseed and legumes added).  You’ll pay an extra buck over a box of the cheapest pastas, but you’ll be getting fiber, protein, omega 3’s for what works out to be pennies a serving more.

VQ: Can you help student cooks venture beyond ramen noodles? Give us your pep talk for someone who thinks they might not have the time, skill, or money to make something that is nutritious and actually tastes good?

Melissa: Glad to see some things haven’t changed.  I answered that question above before reading this one.

A great dorm tip beyond the hotpot: think raw!  Buy a vegetable peeler to keep in your dorm room, and make a gazillion veggie carpaccios.  Keep a few zucchinis, carrots, squash and make thin ribbons out of the vegetable. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper and let the acid soften the veggies.  Top onto whole wheat crackers, and sprinkle with some parm cheese if you are feeling fancy (and have a little dorm fridge).  This little treat will satisfy those late night salty-cheesy-nacho type cravings.  Or get Nectar’s fries.  Sometimes that’s also just the right thing to do.

VQ: Students in their first apartments don’t generally have state-of-the-art kitchens. What do you see as the essential tools, utensils to have on hand?

Melissa: You must have two good knives: a larger “chef’s knife” that can slice chicken, chop, etc.  and one small paring knife that you can use for smaller tasks, like coring an apple.
VQ: What’s one recipe in “Ten Dollar Dinners” that you’d advise even the most novice cook to give a try?

Melissa: My four-step chicken.  You can make it with almost anything, and all you need is a frying pan.  And, if you find a chicken dish out at a restaurant that you love, you can ask the waiter what the main ingredients are, come home and make your own version using the four-step chicken approach.  Fun fact: I made four-step chicken for my husband for our first home-cooked dinner date.  So who knows what magic can happen.

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Let’s be honest, this is not a handsome specimen of an Eastern Mountain Lion, not a Catamount to strike fear in any opponent. Perhaps one of the last of its kind in Vermont, this stuffed beast resides with other birds and mammals in glass cases outside of Benedict Auditorium, between Marsh Life Sciences and the Hills Building. Crows and seagulls, bears (black and polar), various ducks, a lonely musk ox, a pelican, and many other species are part of the Zadock Thompson Natural History Collection, just part of which is on public view.

I’ve long loved this particular catamount in the way that one loves something that is homely and forgotten. I’d stopped through this morning to pay my respects and take a picture or two of the collection for some undefined future use. As I snapped a shot, biology professor Joe Schall walked by and started filling me in on the collection.

The sad catamount, who appears to have been stuffed by old Uncle Jedediah in the back shed (“clearly an amateur job,” Schall says), could yield DNA that would help unravel whether a future catamount find is related to the original stock or an import. There’s more to love about this old animal than the glassy eyes and scraggly teeth it seems.

Schall points out the passenger pigeon mounted at the cat’s feet, another remnant of better times for a species. He notes that there is a Carolina parakeet in the collection, but its wing is broken off—hence, no display. Perhaps the best looking animal in the hall is a huge polar bear which, save for a couple of loons “floating” at its feet, has a case to itself. Schall says the bear had been poached in Canada and was confiscated years ago by the Feds at the border crossing into Vermont. Looking for a good home, they gave it to the university on indefinite loan. (I’m thinking the federal deficit situation will have to get some worse before the government comes back to reclaim a contraband polar bear.)

Mounted high on a wall is the head of a musk ox, another non-native species. Schall spins out the animal’s history. A farmer in Huntington tried to raise a herd of these animals, an experiment that failed. The particular animal now on display outside of Benedict was the last of the lot and made itself famous by rampaging around Huntington one Fourth of July.

Eventually, Professor Schall headed to his office and I went to consider some angles to photograph the crow. It’s one of the dangers of a university, you never know when or where you might learn something.

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When artist Gerrit Gollner’s exhibit “voiceovers” opens Friday at the JDK Gallery on Maple Street during opening night of the 2012 South End Art Hop, she’s hoping a couple of old friends, Chip LaCasse and Fred Fayette, will be among the many familiar faces from her 1990s years in Burlington. LaCasse headed UVM’s ski program and Fayette worked with the Nordic squad when Gollner came to UVM on scholarship for the Catamount ski team.

Her athlete’s grit helped Gerrit soldier on when a bike accident and hand injury hobbled her during crunchtime of a South End Art Hop project.

Life takes its turns. For Gerrit, a major one came as the grind of training and racing at an elite national team level led to burnout on the sport. She took a break, left school, gave up her scholarship, worked, and traveled. Along the way, she realized that art was the path she wanted to pursue and would return to UVM where professors like Ed Owre and Bill Davison helped her find her way.

Though she still loves to ski, Gollner says that the martial art of wu dang pai is the main way she stays active these days. That physical work is essential to her creative work. Exercising, Gollner says, “makes me feel more complete. This (her painting) is all mental concentration; so, I need to let it out on the physical side, too. When I have too much energy, I need to get out and run around. Some people don’t think those two mix, but it’s not true. If you’re doing athletics on a hig level you have to be extremely intuitive. Many artists are also athletes.”

A couple of blog posts back, I mentioned an on-the-run interview with Professor Bernd Heinrich. I recall he said something very similar to Gerrit in that to do the long hours of desk and lab time required as a writer and researcher, he had to drain off a certain amount of energy first. For Bernd, that meant very long runs. For Gerrit, it means a round of martial arts.

Read about Gerrit’s latest work. 



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