Saturday, November 23, 2013

DTB Review: Open Cockpit

Product Details

  • File Size: 7363 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grub Street Publishing (October 25, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (Kindle edition.)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G6SBIN8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • ISBN-10: 1908117257 (Hardcover)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908117250
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars (11 customer reviews) 
  • Price: hardcover $16.63 plus shipping (what I paid); Kindle $10.09
1. Short review:  (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  Easy-to-read narrative by a flyer in the Great War.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? 80% walk-in-the-park; 20% roller-coaster.

2.2. What I did not like: The photos. There are six pages of black-and-white photos in the book plus the back of the dust cover and the cover photo (see above). They are not integrated into the text. They are just there. The cover photo is of a Nieuport two-seater of 46 Squadron -- AGL's squadron -- jinking to avoid flak, but when 46 Squadron flew Nieuports,  AGL had not joined the squadron.
     The non-scalable font. I have gotten used to e-books. I like to choose the size of the font I read. Not having that ability is an annoyance.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: I don't know. Air combat history buffs -- like me -- prefer hard history like AGL's No Parachute. The general audience does not read air combat history. Open Cockpit lies in no-man's land between the hard air combat history buffs and the general audience.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. No worries.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Had I read only Open Cockpit, I would not buy another book by AGL. Based on No Parachute,  I may order Fly Past.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     There is no plot. Instead, there are unconnected chapters. Why AGL bothered to number the chapters I don't know. For examples, Fourteen, Ground Strafer (an account of AGL's ground attacks in a Sopwith Camel); Fifteen, The Red Baron (AGL flew combat against Rittmeister Manfred von Richtofen himself in June 1917 in a Sopwith Pup); Sixteen, Evening Patrol (AGL recounts leading a late patrol of himself, another experienced pilot, and three air-combat virgins). Why are these chapters together? I don't know. 
     The upside is that you can read the book a chapter at a time, as I did, without losing the thread. There isn't any thread.
 2.7. Other:
     A couple of items: 1) Manfred von Richtofen and 2) The Great War.
     The first book I read on air combat in The Great War was Quentin Reynolds, They Fought for the Sky.

     QR painted MvR as the villain of air combat in the Great War. In QR's book, MvR came across as a cold killer.
     That informed my view of MvR for years. But as I read more, including MvR's own Der rote Kampfflieger, I saw a different picture. There are many photos of MvR still extant. When he was photographed with his squadron mates, he smiled. Invariably. And his men smiled. Evidently, he liked them and they liked him. And MvR sat and slumped and relaxed. When he was photographed with his superiors, MvR stood to attention without a smile. Evidently, he was not comfortable with high-ranking officers. There is one photo of him smiling with a general. He was arm-in-arm with a squadron mate and appeared to be singing the praises of his mate to the general.
     That MvR was a calculating killer is born out in his own words. He was calculating. All combat pilots are calculating. Those that live, anyway. MvR took the most favorable attack because he wanted to live. The one combat in which he violated all his own rules cost him his life.
     It is a matter of record that MvR showed courtesy and chivalry to captured British airmen, going so far as to entertain them in his own mess.
     AGL called MvR a fair and worthy foe. That he was.

     In the last chapter, AGL called attention to the impact of the Great War. In one battle -- the Battle of the Somme -- "more British lives were lost than in the whole of the Second World War." During the Battle of Verdun, the French lost ten times as many men as the United States lost in all of the Vietnam War.
     These numbers are the reason I think the Great War is headline news in the military history of the 20th century and all else is below the fold.
     The price given above is what I paid. YMMV.

2.8. Links: 
No Parachute
Fly Past 

2.9. Buy the book: Open Cockpit

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Keith's Too Easy Sweet Potato Mash

     Gotta brine and roast that turkey. Gotta bake cornbread a day before to make the dressing and bake a single cup of dressing without sage for Uncle Ollie 'cause he doesn't like sage. Gotta shred cabbage and carrot and -- oh, why not? -- daikon for an autumn coleslaw 'cause the green salad last year just did not do the job against that mountain of meat and gravy. Gotta make Mashed Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives again 'cause they went like a house afire last year. Gotta cook carrots and string beans and umpteen other side dishes.
     Gotta drive to the next county to find a mom-and-pop bakery to buy cherry and apple pies 'cause Aunt Agnes recognized last year's offerings. "In my day we didn't serve up store-bought pies to family. We made 'em from scratch." Yeah, well, scratch me up some room in an oven that's filled with a twenty-five pound bird and two baking pans of dressing, you old bitty.
     Gotta clean the house in what few spare moments you can find so that it looks more like something out of Southern Living and less like something out of Field & Stream. Yeah, good luck with that.

     Need an easy-to-do side dish for Thanksgiving? I give you --

Keith's Too Easy Sweet Potato Mash (TA-DA!)

sweet potatoes (How many? As many as you want.)
1 quart plain yogurt

Microwave the sweet potatoes until they are soft. Don't even have to peel 'em. Cook 'em in their jackets. Let 'em cool for 10 minutes after pulling 'em out of the microwave. Scoop the insides into a bowl or pan or something (it's Thanksgiving and every pot, pan, and cup is in use). Add an equal amount of plain yogurt. Plain. Not the parfait with the fruit on the bottom or that blended mess. Plain. Mash the mixture with a potato masher. Me? I use a potato ricer. Hint: twist as you mash.

Add salt and pepper to taste, but go easy on the salt. One pinch, maybe two if you do a big batch, goes a long way. You should not taste the salt. It acts as an  aromatic to enhance the flavors already there. Fresh cracked pepper works surprisingly well with the sweet potatoes and yogurt.

I have not tried it, but I think a jalapeƱo, seeded and minced fine, would add a pleasant kick to KTESPM.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Keith's Too Easy Cream of Broccoli Soup

Thanksgiving is coming for Americans.* In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to share with you my recipe for cream of broccoli soup. 

I shall return to Arthur Gould Lee's No Parachute next time.

Keith's Too Easy Cream of Broccoli Soup

(This recipe requires a large, heat-proof blender.  Mine is a Braun and the container is pyrex. This recipe does not scale; that is, you cannot double the recipe.  You must make multiple batches.)

1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 t  salt
1    small carrot, sliced (or 1/2 large carrot, sliced)
1    rib celery, sliced
1 T olive oil

1   clove garlic, mashed
1   jalapeno pepper**

In a 3-quart pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add the onion, salt, carrot, and celery.  (For more flavor, caramelize the onion before you add the carrot and celery.)  Last, add the garlic (mashed on the cutting board with the flat of your chef's knife) and the jalapeno.  You don't want the garlic to burn (trust me; you really don't want the garlic to burn), so cook it for not more than 1 minute.  Then add

2 C water
1    crown broccoli, quartered

I trim, peel, and slice the broccoli stem and add it, too.

Cook covered on low heat.  How long?  Oh, an hour, maybe two.  Who cares.  You cannot overcook this.  As long as there is water in the pot, everything will be fine.  When you can poke a blunt chopstick into any piece of vegetable, the veggies are ready for the next step.

Spoon the veggies and liquid into a large blender.  Grind some fresh black pepper into the blender.  Put the cover on the blender and cover the top of the blender with a tea towel.  Start the blender at low speed and, step by step, increase the speed to its highest setting.  While the blender is running at its highest speed, pour in

1/2 C cream.

You will be tempted to substitute milk or some other dairy product or (gag) soy milk.  Don't.  The cream will capture air and add volume and lightness to the soup.

Serves four . . . or me.  (I like this soup a lot.)

* Canadians, you've had your Thanksgiving already, but you can still enjoy this soup.

** If heat is not your thing, you can leave out the jalapeno.  Or you can seed the jalapeno and caramelize the hulls for a surprising smoky flavor. (I find the jalapeno does not add much heat, but it acts as an aromatic to carry flavors to the palate.)