Wordsmithing

Wordsmithing

According to the Global Language Monitor, the English language has over a million words. The million mark was hit in June 2009. With so many words and so many choices, why do some people use the same ones over and over and incorrectly at that?


I was waiting my turn at a coffee shop and heard the customer ahead of me place his order.  The exchange of words was fine up to a point. It ended with the man behind the counter saying to the customer, “You can pick up your coffee at the cashier.”

The customer’s response: “Awesome.”

No, the Grand Canyon is awesome. Notre Dame and the pyramids at Giza are awesome but not coffee. Awesome is breathtaking, astonishing, even fearsome, and as much as I love coffee, getting a container of it isn’t any of those things.


Out of those million English words, I always thought there were enough verbs, but I must have been wrong because people are creating new ones. Since we’ve been speaking Middle English, the word for ‘to transfer possession of’ has been give but lately the noun gift is being used in its place. Give, giving and gave has become gift, gifting and gifted. It seems to work but doesn’t that make a ‘gifted child’ someone’s son or daughter they no longer want and pass on to a friend at Christmas?


There’s another verb that although also around for a long time, has taken on a different and contemporary definition.  It’s rocking, and is being used in place of wearing, as in ‘wearing clothing.’ But you have to be careful about which types of clothing you apply it to.  It goes perfectly with Air Jordan Super Flys and skinny brim hipster hats, but no one will ever rock Birkenstocks and babushkas.


Here’s a verb that’s changed by, I’d say, about ninety-percent. Decimate is currently being used to mean ‘to destroy a large part’ but it originally meant ‘to reduce by ten percent,’ and only ten percent. Its root is the Latin decem or ten. When a Roman legion’s mutiny was put down, they were decimated. The soldiers were lined up, and every tenth one was beaten to death by nine others, a very precise and deadly way of reducing by ten-percent.


A sector that’s often guilty of not so much misusing words, but using them pretentiously, is the corporate world. Limits become parameters, detailed becomes nuanced and accountability is now transparency. There’s also a belief in that culture that the more syllables a word has, the more important the speaker must be.  Functionality is three syllables better than function, and they’ll never use use when they can use utilize. An exception to that corporate multi-syllable rule is shop. Calling a corporate center or office a shop gives it something it doesn’t have. A shop implies physical creativity as might be found in an atelier or studio. Edison had a shop at Menlo Park. Spreadsheets and Gantt charts just don’t come up to that level.


There are some other words that are fine when used alone but not when combined with certain other words. One is hone. Its misuse is so common that it’s almost become accepted. Hone is defined as ‘to sharpen or make perfect,’ like when someone ‘hones their skills.’ Lately, it’s being used incorrectly in place of the verb home, as in, ‘to move toward a goal’ or ‘to guide to a target’ like a homing device on a missile or even a homing pigeon. You can hone something but you can’t ‘hone in.’ There’s only a one letter variation between ‘home in’ and’ hone in’ but what a difference that makes to anyone who knows the difference. Another common but incorrect combination is ‘most unique.’ Unique already says it all, and it can’t be topped and made more superlative. Saying ‘most unique’ is as pointless as saying ‘most best’ or ‘most favorite.’ The adjective is just not necessary.


I’ll finish with a commonly used pronoun that signifies ‘no matter what’ but has recently taken on a very powerful new meaning. The word is whatever. If you want to end a discussion by implying that the discussion is beneath you and the person you’re speaking with is inconsequential and thereby dismissed, simply say, “Whatever!” and walk away.  It’ll do it every time.


Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

Poached Shrimp Scampi

Poached Shrimp Scampi
I have some problems with Shrimp Scampi. First, there’s the name. Is scampi a method of preparation or the name of what you’re eating? Is a scampi a shrimp or is it a langoustine, crayfish, a prawn or maybe even a Norwegian lobster? If it is a shrimp then when you say the name of the dish, Shrimp Scampi, you’re really saying “Shrimp Shrimp.”
I’ll let that go and deal with my real problem with this dish. It’s too garlicky and oily and not shrimpy and saucy enough. I’ve adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and with less oil, the addition of stock, poaching instead of frying and sliced instead of chopped garlic, it’s a lot better.

Poached Shrimp Scampi

Poached Shrimp Scampi

Start by heating 2 tbsps. olive oil in a pan. Add the shells and stir until they begin to color – about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for another 5 minutes. Strain out the shells and save the stock.Poached Shrimp Scampi
Wipe out the pan and add the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic, black and red pepper. Simmer the garlic slowly and on a low flame for a few minutes, then add the reserved stock. Add the shrimp, cover and simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat.Poached Shrimp Scampi
While it’s simmering, mix the lemon juice with the corn starch. Remove the shrimp from the pan. Add the lemon-corn starch mix and 4 tbsps. butter. Whisk until it’s smooth. If it’s too thick add a little water and continue to whisk.
Check for seasoning. Return the shrimp to the pan, add the parsley, stir and simmer for 5 minutes and serve.Poached Shrimp Scampi

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Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey
There’s Scotch, Irish and Canadian whiskey and in America we have Rye and Bourbon. Here are three more cocktail ideas.

 Derby
There are at least three different cocktails called the “Derby.” This is the one associated with the race held at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel. Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Whiskey Crusta
A New Orleans classic, invented in 1850.Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Shake with ice, strain into a sugar rimmed cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel. The glass should be prepared in advance so the sugar can harden.Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Scofflaw
This rye whiskey drink was invented in Paris while America suffered through Prohibition.

Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

It was invented in Paris so, of course they used French vermouth. Try it with Italian vermouth – much better.Some More Cocktails Made With American Whiskey


Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

Some Cocktails Made With American Whiskey

Some Cocktails Made With American Whiskey
There’s Scotch, Irish and Canadian whiskey and in America we have Rye and Bourbon. Here are three classic cocktails made with American whiskey.

Vieux Carré
This one was invented at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, and is named for the “The French Quarter” – le Vieux Carré (“Old Square”).

Mix all the ingredients in a rocks glass with ice.


Bourbon Smash
Not unlike a Mint Julep but with a bit of lemon added to offset the sweetness.
 Muddle the lemon and 3 sprigs of mint in a shaker. Add the bourbon, simple syrup, ice and shake. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig.

 Sazerac
My wife Bridget and I went to four bars in the New Orleans’ French Quarter to try Sazeracs and take away the best recipe. This was our favorite but after four Sazeracs I could only remember the recipe and not the name of the bar where I got it – maybe the Hotel Monteleone? Put ½ shot of Anisette in a small rocks glass. Coat the sides of the glass with it and then add some ice. In another small rocks glass add: a few dashes of Peychauds Bitters and 1 tsp of simple syrup. Mix, add ice and stir. Add a shot of rye and stir. Empty ice and excess Anisette from 1st rocks glass and strain mix of Peychauds, syrup and rye into it. Float a few dashes of Angostura on top.

*Simple syrup – Heat one cup of sugar in one cup of water. Stir until it’s clear and liquid.


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Robert Iulo at Yelp

Rhythm and Power

Rhythm and Power

Salsa in New York – now until November 26, 2017Rhythm and Power

ILLUMINATING SALSA AS A SOCIAL MOVEMENT FROM THE 1960s TO TODAY

The story of New York salsa—an up-tempo performance of percussive Latin music and Afro-Caribbean-infused dance—is one of cultural fusion, artistry, and skilled marketing. Rhythm & Power: Salsa in New York illuminates salsa as a social movement from the 1960s to the present, exploring how immigrant and migrant communities in New York City — most notably from Cuba and Puerto Rico — nurtured and developed salsa, growing it from a local movement playing out in the city’s streets and clubs into a global phenomenon. The exhibition also looks at the role of record companies and stores in supporting and promoting the movement, and salsa’s often-overlooked ties to activism in the city. Rhythm & Power features dance costumes and musical instruments from some of salsa’s leading figures, as well as audio and video that bring the sounds and movement of salsa to life.

Rhythm and Power

I donated some of my photos from the early days of Salsa in New York for use in the exhibit and on promotional literature.
Rhythm and Power
Eddie Palmieri and Patato at the Beacon Theater, NYC – 1977

Jamming on Bethesda Terrace

Rhythm and Power

Go to the Museum’s website for full program details.


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Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

Roast Chicken and Tomatoes

Roast Chicken and Tomatoes
A fairly simple recipe with just a few ingredients but when it’s done it has complex flavors. And it looks like you put a lot more effort into it than you actually did.

Roast Chicken and Tomatoes

Roast Chicken and Tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 450° with the rack toward the top. Finely chop 1 garlic clove and place it in a bowl with salt, black pepper and red pepper, oregano and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Thoroughly coat the room temperature chicken with this mixture.

Depending on their size, cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters. Cut the remaining garlic in half lengthwise. Add salt, black pepper and ¼ cup of olive oil and toss until coated. Arrange in an even layer in a pan.Roast Chicken and Tomatoes

Cut each breast in half and place the chicken pieces on top of the tomato garlic layer. Roast until done –  about 40 to 50 minutes – then 5 minutes under the broiler.  Let chicken rest for 10 minutes and serve.Roast Chicken and Tomatoes


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Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

A Buttered Roll

 Buttered Roll
A Buttered Roll
I didn’t realize it until I read it in the New York Times this morning that one of my standard breakfasts is something typically New York. You can get a buttered roll and coffee at any street cart or deli and what more would you need to start your day? A buttered roll isn’t sticky like a Danish or greasy like an egg sandwich and it doesn’t make crumbs like a muffin. So, it’s the perfect breakfast.
Here it is in the Times

 

Buttered RollButtered Roll


Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

The Ham Sandwich

The Ham Sandwich

Rushing home to get on my computer for a one pm meeting, I still had time to stop at the deli and get something to go. I’d mute my mic while I ate and no one would ever know the difference. Glad there was no line when I arrived, I was upset to see Ali the Master Sandwich Maker wasn’t behind the counter. He took pride in his work, as any craftsman should. But he wasn’t there. Instead, a pretty young woman new to the deli stood in his place. Pretty or not, could she fill Ali’s shoes and live up to his excellent sandwich making skills?

“Hi, where’s Ali?”

She smiled but didn’t answer. Maybe she didn’t hear me.

I let it go and said, “Ham and Swiss cheese on a roll with mustard and lettuce, please.”

She held up two rolls, one on each side of her cheerful face, sesame on the left and poppy on the right. Now that was something Ali never did. He’d just pick up any old roll and that’s what I got. I pointed to the poppy and started to think that maybe his replacement wasn’t going to be too bad after all.

I got home and to my desk just in time, about two minutes to one. The meeting started and I muted so they couldn’t hear the crinkling of wax paper as I unwrapped my ham and Swiss. It was a good thing they couldn’t hear me because I said something unprintable when I saw orange American cheese instead of the Swiss I had asked for – very disappointing. As I explained some figures on a spread sheet to my associates, I quietly began to peel off the offending American cheese when I almost cursed again – mayo instead of mustard.

That was two strikes against the new sandwich maker. As quickly as I could, I ran to the fridge and grabbed the Gulden’s, reached in a drawer for a knife to spread it and got back to my meeting before anyone missed me. Most of the mayo was on the lettuce so I removed it and scrapped the rest of it off the bread. My desk began to look like a compost heap.

I thought I was finally ready to eat but no, I couldn’t. She might have been pretty, but she didn’t understand the underlying structure of a well-made sandwich. One has to be built, with each item carefully placed to evenly cover the bread to the right thickness, as Ali did. She cut a few slices of ham, folded them over and just laid them there leaving one side higher than the other. And she left bare spots, where a bite would result in a mouthful of bread and nothing else. I had to relocate each slice and by the time I corrected her amateurish mistakes, my keyboard was smeared with mayo and mustard.

American instead of Swiss and mayo instead of mustard.

Could she have sabotaged my sandwich on purpose? She seemed so sweet I couldn’t accept that. The only other explanation was that she didn’t understand English, and not just that, she must have come from a culture that didn’t understand sandwiches. When I made my order, she got “ham” and “cheese” but all the rest seemed to have been guess work on her part.

I half-heartedly ate my sandwich and continued with the meeting but I was distracted. I thought about the time Judge Sol Wachtler was in the news a few years back. Dissatisfied with the way the New York grand jury system worked, he felt it should be done away with. He said prosecutors had so much influence they could always get an indictment. They could even get the jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” If ever a ham sandwich deserved to be indicted, it was the one I had just eaten.


Another meeting, another sandwich – just right this time.


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Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma
This is a Sicilian recipe that my Aunt Lena, who married a Sicilian, used to make. She called it simply “rigatoni with eggplant.” I didn’t learn that it was formally known as “Pasta alla Norma” until I was an adult. It was named for the heroine in Bellini’s Norma.

* Ricotta salata comes in 2 types – fresh for eating and dry for grating. If you can’t get it, use parmigiana.

Slice the eggplant into about 1/2-inch rounds (don’t peel it). Salt and drain it. Cook it over medium-high heat in a pot, in olive oil adding more oil as needed. Do it in batches so it doesn’t crowd. Cook it until it’s browned and soft. Don’t worry about a few burnt edges – that adds flavor. Move it to a plate and don’t drain it or put it on paper towels.

Meanwhile, put up a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
Using the same pot the eggplant was cooked in, add some oil and on medium heat fry garlic with salt, black pepper and red pepper. After a few minutes when the garlic begins to color, add the tomatoes. Cook for about 20-25 minutes on medium. Taste for seasoning.
Cook the pasta until almost done. Cut the eggplant into approximately 1-inch pieces (they’ll be irregularly shaped and that’s OK) and add to the tomato sauce.

Gently stir it in. Drain the almost cooked pasta (saving a cup of pasta water in case the sauce is too dry) and toss it with the sauce. Again, gently, so the eggplant doesn’t break up too much. Serve with freshly grated  ricotta salada.


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