One Book, Three Covers

The publishing world is a complicated beast.

While researching books in International markets, I came across an interesting discovery: one book, three different covers. Why? A myriad of reasons, but I'm guessing it's a combination of marketing, rights and distribution.

While I can't recommend Cleaving, Julie Powell's follow up to her best seller Julie and Julia, I'm fascinated by their promotional efforts. (Reviews for the book have been lackluster; I abandoned Cleaving after the third chapter...)

But the covers are intriguing. Let's compare. From a marketing standpoint, I'm fairly certain that U.K. cover would never fly in America. (The pig trotter between her legs looks rather phallic, eh?)

Personally, I like the cover on the Canadian edition best. You?

American edition

Canadian edition / American edition (paperback)

U.K. edition

Diver Down: Fantasies, Demystified

The core of my family was reared on the banks of the Great Lakes—massive freshwater lakes that straddle Canada and the U.S. They settled into a comfortable routine: eat, sleep, work, and fish. While fishing was never a career choice, my father would happily spend his days out on the water. “A bad day fishing,” he used to say, “is better than any day at the office.”

Obsessions run in the family.

Though I spent most of my time land-locked in the Midwest, I’ve had a life-long fascination with the ocean. Contrary to family traditions, my interest has always been beneath the waterline. Summers spent on Lake Michigan, I’d stand on the deck and wonder, “What’s down there?”

Back in Peoria, ten minutes outside the city...we were sounded by cornfields. Scuba diving in the Prairieland? Yes. You can dive in abandoned strip mines, long forgotten and stocked with catfish. Did you know catfish, like koi, grow to the limits of their surroundings? Giant catfish and artificial reefs comprised of abandoned school busses? Not the diving of my fantasies.

A move to Seattle in 1995 opened new possibilities. Ocean diving was 20 minutes away, and I launched into diving with a passion. Here, water temperatures hover at 48 degrees year-round and protecting yourself from hypothermia, requires a tremendous amount of gear. Armed with a new credit card, I loaded up: $1,200 dry suit, $400 dive light (it’s dark down there!), tanks--$300 each, custom-designed mask with prescription lenses $500, and on it went.

I dove after work and nearly every weekend. Vacations were spent exploring Canada’s Inside Passsage—Jacques Cousteau’s #2 favorite place in the world to dive. Giant octopus, colorful squid, docile ratfish (part of the shark family) were spotted regularly.

Traveling in other countries, diving was always a major factor. Belize, Thailand, Mexico, Cuba, Canada. If there was water, I went diving.

But it was never quite the same.

The beautiful colors you see in documentaries? Those are achieved by massive lights, with filters that put the color spectrum back in. (Think of the color spectrum, the deeper you go, the more colors get lost. At a normal depth of 30 feet, even the most colorful creatures appear in tones of grey.)In the Northwest, overcast days and dark waters require artificial light—even for day dives. Here, vivid colors were a part of my normal dive experience. Transfixed, I could easily spend an entire dive watching an octopus change colors and textures. It was a major highlight of the dive.

In Thailand, I tried diving with supplemental lights. While the colors were lost due to depth, the water was so clear, the bright natural light made mine useless. Back on the boat, the dive master shrugged and said, “You’re a night diver.”

You want bold colors in the tropics? Night diving is the best approach. Voila! Problem solved.

Last week I watched IMAX's "Under the Sea" documentary. Transfixed by the lush colors and spell-binding cinematography, my tropical dive fantasies swelled into overdrive! Dumbfounded, I kept asking…how did they do that?

The director’s notes provide incredible insight:

Locations: North America, New Guinea, South Australia, Great Barrier Reef, and Indonesia

A minimum of 3 weeks diving at each location.

The team traveld with over 8,000 pounds of gear.

Camera + lights + underwater housing unit = 1,300 pounds (They use an above-board crane to raise and lower it into the water.)

For every shoot, there are 7 divers in the water. “We need all those people to move the camera.”

Off the tripod, the 1,300 pound camera is neutrally buoyant, but it’s unwieldy in current. “You don’t want to be between the camera and a rock.”

Shot with high-resolution film, the camera has a 3 minute run time. To load more film, the entire unit has to go back to the boat.

Why are my dive experiences different than documentaries? I get it now.

Little Things That Make Me Happy

Reminiscent of Oprah's gratitude journal, Melissa kicked off an interesting discussion, "What makes you happy?" I had been in a funk, but that simple nudge got me thinking.

What make me happy?

- My pink silicone spatula with the silver sparkles, affectionately dubbed "The Magic Wand." Years ago, I gave one to Dana. She's now at cooking at Alinea, but I like to think some of her magic is still with me.

- Sweets: Soul Food Desserts and Memories. One of my favorite cookbooks. Sweets captures the link between one family, and the indelible memories surrounding their family recipes. Peppered with old family photos and grandma's down home wisdom, this book is a gem. And yes, Aint Tee's Luscious Lemon Ice Cream makes me very happy!

- Podcasts. These days I'm cooking more at home, and my laptop follows me in the kitchen. While I chop, whip, and sautee, I catch up on my favorite podcasts. In an effort to stretch my listening time, more than once...I found myself deep cleaning the kitchen! My regular rotation includes: Splendid Table, Cutting the Curd, BBC's World Book Club, Saltcast: The Backstory of Documentary Radio, Fresh Air, TimesTalks and KCRW's Good Food.

- The heady aroma of Market Spice Tea. With orange, cinnamon, clove and a kiss of sweetness, armed with a cup of Market Spice Tea, I almost look forward to our drizzly northwest winters.

- Dishtowels from Anthropologie. Colorful, with a touch of whimsy, these towels make my very happy. Granted, at $24 retail, they're budget busters, but troll the sale tables. Every now and then, I get lucky.

- Letters. Real letters. Stamps and all. I started collecting old school post cards and sending one to my parents every week. The hunt for great post cards--and the history lesson that inevitably follows--is an added bonus. Worlds Fair, advertising for "modern travel by air," and WWII memorabilia are my current favorites.

- Coffee from my Italian stovetop espresso maker. I used one years ago, and I'm not sure why I ever gave it up. Over the holidays, I picked up a Bialetti Moka maker. long last, coffee is a deeply satisfying experience at home! (Word of warning: God love the Italians, they don't mess with a good thing. It's the same 1933 design, but know this: if you want to maintain the shiny silver finish, handwash yours. Mine took a trip through the dishwasher and it's now ugly as hell. It still makes great coffee, but the luster is gone.)

- Cheers to eureka moments in the kitchen! 1. The secret to moist and flavorful bran muffins? Raisin puree. 2. Bacon? Move over. In soups and stews, smoked ham hocks deliver that lusty flavor I crave. (Who knew?) 3. Four words: Momofuku's roasted brussels spouts. I swear, I'll never be the same again! With a bit of rice and grilled steak tips, I ate them every day for a week. (Recipe here.)

- Love notes, in the form of recipes. My beau and I have been doing the long distance thing for far longer than either of us expected. Phone calls and frequent visits help, but every now and then, he shoots me a recipe. And they come, unannounced, in the middle of his letters: Torta di Pesche with crushed Amareti, Risotto Con Salsiccia, or Salsiccia e Pepperoni Al Tegame -- "a nice side dish for your event." I can't quite explain it, but there's something surprisingly intimate about his recipes.

- Thrift store treasures. Frown on thrift stores if you must, but over the past month, I've picked up a cast iron braising pot, a new lamp and chair for my desk, and the stovetop espresso maker...all for less than $5. I also snagged an original watercolor and an original oil painting, $10 each. Bargains always makes me happy!

And you? What makes you happy?

Feasting at the Bing National Tailgate Championships

After living here for 15 years, a few quintessential Seattle experiences are missing from my repertoire. I've never been on the Underground Tour; sadly, I've never taken the Clipper to Victoria, B.C.; and despite a major remodel and a noteworthy chef, I've never dined at the Space Needle restaurant.

Rounding out the list of things I haven't done...I've never been to a Seahawks football game. Technically, I still haven't. But last month, I got a taste of the pre-game festivities and I now I know...I've been missing out!

Just before Christmas, I was invited to the Bing National Tailgate Championship tour. Regional tailgate teams compete for an opportunity to attend the national championships, held in Dallas/Ft. Worth in February. Joe Cahn, the Commissioner of Tailgating, led the festivities and rallied a team of judges including local chef Ethan Stowell (Tavolata, How to Cook a Wolf, Anchovy & Olive, and Staple & Fancy) and celebrity judges, former Seahawks defensive end Jacob Green, and rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot.

When the invite came in, I thought, "Tailgating in Seattle? Am I missing something?" I had no idea tailgating was a significant part of our culture. And I learned later, it's not. But based on this event, you'd never know. Pregame festivities were a sight to behold!

Which way to the Tailgate Championships? Quick! Follow these guys.

Hey, good lookin'! Where's the party?

This is our destination: Qwest Field. Notice our rare day of sunshine? It's also worth a town that averages 155 days of winter rain, the football stadium has an open roof, while the baseball stadium's roof is retractable, weather pending.

By 11 AM, this guy was working up a sweat. What's the deal?

His 11 hour ride is dedicated to military families. (7 hours to go.)

A highlight of the pre-game festivities? The Blue Thunder marching band.

Blue Thunder drum corps

Here's looking at you!

Ah...the fans. Love this guy!

I found the tailgate festivities, and managed to squeeze into the press corps. See the camera guys?

Joe Cahn, the Commissioner of Tailgating, "What 'cha cooking today?" Several teams went all out, "We caught or shot everything we're eating today."

(L-R) Former Seahawks defensive end, Jacob Green and Chef Ethan Stowell.

Smoked salmon platter. Nice touch with the football helmets, eh?

What 'cha got there???

Burgers, fries and yes...jello shooters!

Hey sailor!

Jocob, weighing in on the competition.

Pork and salmon burgers, with a tall & frosty beer.

Go 'Hawks!

Racing to the judges' table.

Smoked salmon with capers and dill.

The Seahawks cheerleaders stop by for a visit.

Good times, people. Good times!

Brent, The Luge Master

"Wanna shot?" Take a block of ice, and carve trails into it. Pour a shot at the top...and as it travels down the luge, it chills. Genius, no?

Yeah, it's like that.

My turn!

I made it on the Pour House RV. Special delivery: baby back ribs.

Kissed with smoke and hot off the grill. "You want some?"

Christmas tree, decked out in Seahawks gear. Love this ornament.

Got tickets?

End of the line for me. I wished the Pour House team good luck, and headed for home. (The winners were announced at half time.)

And the Bing National Tailgate Championship regional winners? Congrats to Hawk One!

Moment of triumph here:

Return of the Swizzle Stick

I stumbled on a box of swizzle sticks in an antique store, and couldn't resist. I bought the whole case! One part whimsy, one part advertising, swizzle sticks are an important piece of culinary history.

For the uninitiated, swizzle sticks are the ultimate travel souvenir. Riffling through my box, there are swizzle sticks from Maine to Hawaii. According to this LA Times article, the hit TV show Mad Men is sparking a return of these pop icons. Cheers to that!

And now, for a bit of swizzle stick history:

It was a practical invention, born out of necessity. How do you fish an olive out of your glass, without sticking your fingers in? Enter...the swizzle stick!

In 1934, Jay Sindler designed a spear to wrangle the olive, and added a paddle at top for advertising. You see, "after the repeal of prohibition, drinking establishments wanted their names and addresses out in public. Swizzle sticks conveyed the information and were cheaper than a book of printed matches and cheaper still than the vanishing ashtrays that also boasted printed logos. Sindler was granted his patent on Feb. 19, 1935."

Genius, no?

Seventy-five years later, Sindler's company, Spir-it Inc., is still in business. I'm a fan of their custom molded designs and would kill for this Chinese dragon swizzle stick (apparently it's discontinued):