Stone’s Throw from Campus

Copyright 2011 Ben S. Pollock

Catherine Wallack, a University of Arkansas interior design professor, deserves praise for curating a comprehensive exhibit of furniture produced by the Fulbright family’s wood business and designed by Edward Durell Stone. Wallack is credited with putting together the show, but University Relations leaves unsaid who’s responsible for honoring him after years of convenient memory loss.

The record snow storms kept me from seeing the exhibit until last weekend. It closes today. I would’ve walked uphill on roads of ice if if the mess had continued, rather than risk missing it.

Expected was the cool 1950s furniture — chair, footstool, sofa, chaise longue, bench, coffee table, screen. The pieces properly fit in the era of Eames and Le Corbusier. The seating and screen were woven by the area’s Gibson family of split-white oak weavers. Terry Gibson gave a demonstration at the gallery Feb. 8, just as the last snowstorm began. (Conflicts prevented me from seeing it and the Jan. 27 lecture by Hicks Stone, a son of Durell Stone.)

The local pieces are clear and sunny, not the black leather and the stained, molded plywood of the contemporaries. Eames pieces are comfortable and durable, and Le Corbusier’s certainly are sturdy if not always ergonomic. Durell Stone’s chaise would be great in my house, but I’m not sure about his others. We were not allowed to sit much less touch the pieces. My practical knowledge comes from the wood-wove rocker that my sister lent over two decades ago. I’ve had the seat replaced once, and in the last year the new one is showing stress, but maybe that’s what cushions or blankets are for, to mask breaks and prevent splinters to the thighs.

The Edward Durell Stone pieces were manufactured by Fulbright Industries, the family business of late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright (1905-1995), run in its last decades by his progressive mother, Roberta Fulbright, Bill always being in public service, including UA chancellor. Sen. Fulbright and Stone were contemporaries growing up in Fayetteville. Stone studied at UA then moved on to Harvard and MIT.

The wall cards and a couple of farm relics proved the origin of Stone’s plan. The felloe is a short length of curved wood that put together with other fellies becomes the outer rim of a wagon wheel. Side by side, fellies top the Durell Stone footstool. The primitive plow handle forms the legs and bottom supports of the chair, sofa and chaise. if Le Corbusier was inspired by the Industrial Revolution, Durell Stone paid homage to the hardscrabble family farm.

Privy to Bauhaus

It’s this last bit of art history for which Wallack should be commended in directing our attention. She could’ve stayed with a Bauhaus narrative and kept us Arkies proud of yet another native son. Meanwhile, there’s the Fine Arts building itself, and the unlamented, razed Carlson Terrace apartments. Continue reading

Mom’s Chili, If She Was Vegan

Here is Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce, circa 1970s (my sister kept the index card): Brown 1 pound ground beef, drain. Add 1 Tablespoon salt, half an onion chopped, half a stick of butter, 1 (large) can tomatoes cut up, and 1 large can (2 small cans) tomato paste. Cook covered in 275-degree oven 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

No oregano? Not even McCormick Italian Seasoning blend? Look at the salt! Why add any butter? (Mom would’ve used margarine and butter interchangeably.)

Our mothers, if they weren’t foodies, stuck to the basic American cookbook of their generation. Less spicy than now, never mind whether kids prefer milder foods.

I was looking for Mom’s Chili, though positive I didn’t have that card. It was the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, and no vegetarian chili recipe ever has come close. Mom’s spaghetti (not pasta) meat sauce provided the clue:

Simplicity. Veggie chili always is a stew.

This is a loose recipe, but gosh it worked. Adapt to your pantry and taste. The bulgar wheat is to give the appearance of ground beef but not needed.

Note: I cooked the beans with a pressure cooker, no presoaking, for speed but also for tasty, thick bean broth. Two or three cans of beans would work, as would soaking then cooking dry beans on the stovetop, or any other method.

Adding a small sheet of kombu (dried seaweed) or a teaspoon of ground ginger to beans before they cook is optional, said to reduce gas later.

  • 2 cups dry red beans (I used adzuki), sorted to discard foreign matter then rinsed
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (half a large or 1 whole medium)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes with green chilies (such as Rotel)
  • 1/2 cup bulgar wheat (optional)
  • 3-4 teaspoons low-salt vegetable broth powder
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Salt, pepper and maybe chili powder to taste

Combine cleaned beans (no soaking), water and oil in cooker, Bring to pressure and cook 15 minutes, release pressure gradually, about 30 minutes.

Add to the cooker all the remaining ingredients except the “salt, pepper and maybe chili powder.” Bring to boil then reduce to simmer, cooking 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Eat a spoonful to test, adding to taste a little salt and pepper or perhaps chili powder or similar seasoning. [I added salt and pepper but found the spices from the can of tomato-chilies enough.] Serve immediately, but waiting at least one hour, reheating and retesting for salt and spices, is recommended.

Chili thickens as it cools. So when reheating, add 4-8 ounces water, or tomato or V-8 juice, for desired consistency.

Top with the usual chili fixin’s. Makes 6-8 servings.

NOTE: Black beans work well, too; they require 22 minutes under pressure then gradual pressure release.

Stances with Wolves

The following is my president’s column for the February 2011 edition of the monthly newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Columnists get labeled as opinionated. This was brought home again after the Tucson shooting. Americans saw on the air and online — come on, paper? — as many pundits as politicians (and rarely people with facts, like FBI spokesmen).

The funny thing is, few NSNC members are op-eddies. The society often honors political commentators, and their sessions are popular at our conferences, but rather few of us run on op-ed pages. We’re feature and metro, humor and kitchen-table writers. We have different ways of shouting to the world, “Look at me!”

Sheila Moss, the NSNC Web editor, in late January posted on Facebook a link to her 17-column series on Egypt from when she traveled there a year ago. She wrote of her collection, “It was not political nor intended to be. Yet, the basic elements of what the protestors want were apparent and are even more so in retrospect. I hope for the safety of the friendly Egyptian people who made us feel so welcome.”

She’s not presuming more than she thinks she knows. She was in the nation long enough to speak at least as knowledgeably as a number of op-eddies in the U.S. have been since the protests began in earnest in Cairo and Suez.

What I’d claim is we all do have opinions, personally and over the keyboard. Sometimes we are called to choose to defend them. We often defer, as bombast is not a home skill. But sometimes it’s best to cowboy up and hop on your camel. Continue reading