A sweet recipe and a savory one to help make some of that summer squash magically disappear

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Rich, moist and not overly sweet, zucchini bread is satisfying any time of day. In the batter, you’ll easily be able to see the zucchini slivers, but the vegetable is less noticeable after the loaf is baked.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Do you dread that mid-August knock at the front door, where you discover your smiling neighbor standing on your landing … and his/her basket brimming over with summer squash?

You return the smile, chat briefly, politely accept the vegetables, and conjure up the most sincere “thank you” that you can manage.

Or did you get a little carried away at your local grocery or farmers’ market, seduced by the season-low prices on the sunshine-yellow crookneck squash and the greener-than-grass zucchini?

Now what’s to be done with the overflow from your neighbor’s garden or your unbridled shopping? (Truth be told, summer squash is available nearly year-round, but this is prime season for reaping the surplus from home gardens.)

Even with their high water content, crookneck squash and zucchini (or courgette, for our international readers) will keep five to seven days in the refrigerator before becoming mushy and unusable.

The crookneck squash, if its graduated neck has an exaggerated curve leading to its bulbous body, reminds me of a wingless swan or duck. Can’t you picture the light-green stem end as a beak? Or a group of small squash huddled together as a flock?

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A quick side dish of crookneck squash, kidney beans and other vegetables is loaded with nutrition.

You can thinly slice or dice the veggies and toss them raw into a fresh salad. Or pop them into the microwave or steamer for a quick side dish that can be dressed up in myriad ways. All methods preserve the nutritional benefits from these veggies rich in vitamins A and C and niacin.

But, with just a bit more time and effort, you can make many much more memorable recipes and get to work on reducing the amount of summer squash that’s taken over your kitchen.

This recipe for zucchini bread is among my all-time favorites. I’ve made it many times over the years and have never been disappointed. Its moist, ultra-dense crumb will have you licking your fingers and eyeing a second piece.

Its dominant spices — cloves and cinnamon — always make me think of fall, and drier, crisper days ahead. 

As the loaf bakes, the batter darkens considerably from a light tan flecked with grated zucchini to a deep hickory, which nearly obscures the veggie slivers. 

And though it’s recommended that you don’t eat batter when it contains raw eggs, you’ll be tempted to try at least a little taste.  

This is not a sandwich bread. But it is versatile enough to be eaten at any time of the day: At breakfast with tea or coffee, as a lunch top-off, a late-day snack (ditto the tea) or dessert. (Did I hear someone say topped with ice cream?)  

The crookneck squash side dish prep is faster than making the zucchini bread. To stretch it as a main course, serve it over pasta or rice.

And when next your neighbor comes knocking, he/she will probably be trying to foist an overload of tomatoes on you. Fortunately, they pair well with summer squash too.

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If freezing the zucchini bread, wrap first in plastic and then in aluminum foil.

Zucchini Bread

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: About 1 hour, 45 minutes

Makes: 1 loaf and 6 large muffins

Butter or margarine for greasing the loaf pan

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (use a neutral oil like canola)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups grated unpeeled raw zucchini (about 1 large or 2 medium)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup shelled pecans, chopped (or walnuts) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8 1/4-by-4 1/4-inch pan and line six muffin cups with paper liners. (Use a 9-inch-by-5-inch pan if you aren’t making the muffins.)

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until light and thick. Fold grated zucchini into oil mixture.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Stir into zucchini mixture until just blended. (Do these steps by hand; a stand mixer or hand mixer is not necessary.)

Fold in the pecans until just combined.

Pour batter into loaf pan and muffin cup liners until all are about three-quarters full. (You may want to place the loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet in case the batter bubbles over as it bakes.)

Bake on the oven’s middle rack. The muffins will be ready in 25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. The loaf should bake for 1 hour, 10 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Again, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Cool slightly. Run a blunt knife around the inner edge of the loaf pan, and flip it out; be careful, the loaf will be hot! 

Let loaf cool completely on a rack, right-side up. Likewise, remove the muffins from the tin and let cool.

The flavors in the zucchini bread deepen when left to meld overnight. But if you can’t wait, the loaf is delicious as is. 

The loaf will store wonderfully in the freezer for up to two months. When completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic. Then enclose the loaf in aluminum foil. 

Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin (Workman Publishing, 1982)

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As an entree, serve the squash and vegetable combination over pasta or rice.

Squash and Red Kidney Beans

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4 as a side dish

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup onion, diced (I prefer mild Vidalia sweet onions)

1 cup red bell pepper, diced (or use yellow, orange or green)

2 cups yellow squash, sliced 1/4-inch thin, then quartered

1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, washed and drained

1 (10-ounce) can Rotel original diced tomatoes and green chilies (or use mild or hot, depending on your palate)

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional, or more to taste)

3 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried (optional)

3/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and bell pepper and sauté until they soften, about 3-5 minutes. 

Add squash and beans and cook about 5 minutes, until squash softens. Stir in Rotel tomatoes and cook 1 minute. Mix in dried red pepper flakes, if using. Stir in basil, if using, and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. 

Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine, June 2018

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The B-29 Enola Gay, its crew, and the atomic bomb that was detonated 73 years ago today over Hiroshima, Japan

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The building in the center has become known as the “Atomic Bomb Dome.” Before the detonation of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The people inside died instantly and the interior was destroyed by fire. I took this photo in 1986. Since then, some work has been done to preserve the building and its steel skeletal dome. 

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photo; others credited. All rights reserved.

For a discussion of the second atomic bomb, dropped over Nagasaki, Japan, see my post from August 9, 2016; and for a lighter take on Nagasaki’s attractions, see August 15, 2016.

“Results clear-cut. Successful in all aspects.Visible effects greater than Alamogordo. Conditions normal in airplane following delivery. Proceeding to base.” — Coded message sent by Captain William “Deak” Parsons, who armed the atomic bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” in flight, as the B-29 Enola Gay headed to its target: Hiroshima, Japan. The post-bombing message was sent to Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, Deputy Commanding General of the Manhattan Project, who was on Tinian Island, from where the Enola Gay had taken off about six hours earlier.

The four-engine B-29 Superfortress that dropped the world’s first atomic bomb used in warfare on August 6, 1945, was itself almost defenseless.

Superfortresses coming off production lines in four American cities had as standard equipment five remote-controlled gun turrets, quite an innovation at the time, and armor plating. Another technological advancement during World War II was that the B-29 was the first American plane equipped with two pressurized compartments, fore and aft, for its crew. 

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Colonel Paul Tibbets was moments from his 2:45 a.m. takeoff on the historic flight to Hiroshima, Japan, when this photograph was taken on Tinian Island. U.S. Air Force photo

But to make the Enola Gay, named for the mother of pilot Paul Tibbets, as light as possible to accommodate the weight of the 9,700-pound, uranium-enriched bomb, it had only two tail guns and no armor.

“It was souped up and stripped down,” Art Hamilt, a guide and former naval aviator, told a small group of visitors in 2009, standing near the B-29 in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly Virginia, near Dulles International Airport. 

Specifically, about 7,200 pounds of armaments were removed, which Colonel Tibbets, commander of the 509th Composite Group, said would lessen the strain on the four-bladed- propeller-driven, 2,200 horsepower Curtiss-Wright engines. 

Today, the polished aluminum, 99-foot-long Enola Gay, with a wingspan of 141.3 feet, is as shiny as the day it came off the Glenn L. Martin Company’s production line in Omaha, Nebraska. It stands 27.8 feet tall, and has a Plexiglas nose and cockpit windows. Its restoration took nearly 20 years. 

The route that the Enola Gay flew from Tinian Island, in the Marianas chain in the Pacific, to Hiroshima, in the southwest part of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, was more than 1,500 miles. U.S. Navy Seabees had constructed six runways, each measuring almost two miles in length, making Tinian the largest air base in the world.

On a clear, sunny morning, unsuspecting residents of Hiroshima were going about their usual routines: Children beginning their school day, merchants opening their shops, housewives walking to market, farmers tending their fields, and men and women settling in at their jobs.

Some male students were heading to work at the munitions factory, its presence being among the reasons why Hiroshima was the target. Until this point in the war, the city of about 300,000 had been largely unaffected by conventional bombing.  

(Six other B-29s were included in the Enola Gay mission, with their assignments spanning  weather reconnaissance, photography, observation and scientific readings. Over Nagasaki three days later, Bockscar was the strike plane, with five others handling the supporting duties. The Enola Gay was responsible for weather recon on August 9; Tibbets was not on that flight.)

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The mushroom cloud rises above Hiroshima, almost immediately after the blast. U.S. Army photo. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/2017659326/.

About 70,000 died instantly in Hiroshima, with many thousands more succumbing in the ensuing days, months and years, victims of radiation poisoning, little known or understood at the time, and other related after-effects. More than 60,000 buildings at ground zero were obliterated, with heavy damage extending over a three-mile radius.

(I visited Hiroshima and Peace Memorial Park in 1986. Since then, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has been updated and greatly expanded. A cenotaph, listing the name of every victim [more than 290,000 now], and other monuments, all near ground zero, commemorate the event and its aftermath. The city is modern and thriving, with the skeleton of one iconic building preserved — it’s become known as the Atomic Bomb Dome — from 1945. Every year, Hiroshima and Nagasaki hold special ceremonies on the anniversaries of their atomic destruction.) 

Development of the B-29 began in early 1940 when the Army Air Force set new parameters for a long-range, high-altitude bomber that would surpass the B-17. The AAF specified that the B-29 prototype should be able to carry a maximum bomb load of 20,000 pounds (9090 kilograms) at a speed of 400 miles per hour (644 kph) over a distance of at least 5,000 miles (8,050 kilometers). (These specs would change in later versions.)

Boeing’s design beat out Lockheed, Consolidated and Douglas, and the company produced two prototypes, the first of which set off from Boeing Field in Seattle on a test flight on September 21, 1942. 

Modifications and improvements continued as four plants turned out a total of 3,970 B-29s before ending production in 1946. Boeing contributed 2,766 from facilities in Renton, Washington, and Wichita, Kansas, where Tibbets flew some of the test flights; Bell built 668 in Marietta, Georgia; and Martin Company’s output was 536 bombers.  

Tibbets, who enlisted in the Army in 1937 and earned his pilot rating in 1938, had flown 43 combat missions over Europe and Africa. Since September 1944, he had known that he would be the pilot on the historic day, and was allowed to select his 11-man crew. 

They were Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot; Major Thomas Ferebee, bombardier; Captain Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, navigator; technical sergeant Wyatt Duzenbury, flight engineer; first lieutenant Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures; technical sergeant George “Bob” Caron, tail gunner; Sergeant Joseph Stiborik, radar operator; Sergeant Robert Shumard, assistant flight engineer; private first class Richard Nelson, VHF radio operator; Captain William “Deak” Parsons, weaponeer and mission commander; and second lieutenant Morris Jeppson, assistant weaponeer, who inserted the final plugs before detonation.

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Widespread devastation in Hiroshima after the bombing of August 6, 1945. U.S. Army photo. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/2004669950/.

At 8:15 a.m., Ferebee released the bomb over Hiroshima at about 31,000 feet. It fell six miles over 43 seconds, and then Little Boy exploded about 1,950 feet above the city. Beser, the radar man, was also aboard Bockscar, which dropped the plutonium-enriched bomb “Fat Man” over Nagasaki, making him the only individual to fly on both strike planes.

After the war, the Enola Gay took part in an atomic testing program at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, but did not drop any nuclear bombs. It was in storage in Arizona for a few years before being transferred to Smithsonian stewardship in 1949. 

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 Enola Gay crew members Tom Ferebee, Theodore Van Kirk, Richard Nelson, George Caron, pilot Paul Tibbets and Jacob Beser signed this photo. Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum

Its next stop was Texas, before being flown in late 1953 to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where it sat outside, rusting, deteriorating and occasionally being vandalized, until August 1960.

At that point, it was disassembled and moved indoors to a facility in Suitland, Maryland.

Restoration began in December 1984, with specialists predicting a seven- to nine-year timeline for completion. The task, requiring nearly 300,000 work hours, far surpassed that estimate, and took nearly two decades, becoming the largest restoration project in the Air and Space Museum’s history.

The Smithsonian’s website has 46 excellent photos that showcase the restored bomber, including interior and exterior shots.

The Enola Gay is one of the star attractions at this Smithsonian branch, which opened in 2003, where more than 160 aircraft and more than 150 space artifacts are displayed in two huge hangars, many suspended from the ceiling.

Among the largest are the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest jet; the space shuttle Discovery, which joined the collect in 2012 after 39 missions, replacing the Enterprise, which never flew; and a supersonic Concorde, the first production SST delivered to Air France, which donated it to the museum after its last flight on June 12, 2003. (Only 20 of the needle-nosed aircraft were built.)

In addition, there are more than 1,500 smaller items, such as a full-scale replicas of the Mars Pathfinder lander and Sojourner Rover. 

The Udvar-Hazy Center is named for its major donor, the chairman and CEO of an international aviation firm. It draws about 1 million visitors a year, a fifth of the number who tour the better-known Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Bockscar, which was piloted by Major Charles Sweeney, is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio.

The Great Artiste was an observation aircraft on both missions. It was lost in a crash in Labrador in 1949. Its replacement resides outdoors, just inside the entrance gate at Whiteman Air Force Base, home of the 509th Bomb Group, in Knob Noster, Missouri.

In many interviews given over the years, Tibbets (1915-2007) said he believed unleashing the atomic bomb was the right decision. Thirty years old at the time, he said he was “a military man following orders.” U.S. President Harry S Truman gave the command to use the atom bombs.

Tibbets thought that employing such a powerful weapon would help end the war, and in the grand scheme of things, reduce the number of dead and wounded. After the war, he said he received countless letters, especially from American servicemen who were readying for an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands, conveying the message that the bomb probably saved their lives.

Quick reference: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Virginia. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, closed December 25. Free. Driving directions are on the website, $15 parking before 4 p.m. If you take the Metro, ride the silver line from the L’Enfant Plaza stop to Wiehle-Reston East station. Then transfer to Fairfax Connector Bus no. 983, to the Udvar-Hazy stop. It takes about 90 minutes. These directions are also on the website. https://airandspace.si.edu/node/73200

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force: 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Free. www.nationalmuseum.af.mil

For fascinating, silent-film footage taken on Tinian Island of Little Boy and Fat Man being readied and loaded by hydraulic lift into the bomb bays of their respective B-29s, and the rising mushroom cloud after the Nagasaki bombing, see the Atomic Heritage website at www.atomicheritage.org/location/tinian-island. It runs about 23 minutes. This site also links to Voices of the Manhattan Project, featuring interview videos and transcripts from individuals instrumental to the development and deployment of the atomic bombs.

 

 

In Helsinki, Finland: Wide range of architectural styles enhances beauty of northern European capital

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Kamppi Chapel of Silence is near a busy shopping area in Helsinki. A space for quiet contemplation, it opened in 2012, the same year the city was designated World Design Capital.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved. 

For previous Finland-related posts, see May 26, 2017 about a visit to a Sámi reindeer farm in Inari; February 19, 2017 about dinner and a relaxed home visit with a couple in a Helsinki suburb; and November 30, 2016 about the city of Rovaniemi, a year-round wonderland north of the Arctic Circle. 

If the phrase “Scandinavian design” makes you think only of sleek lines and minimalist architecture, then let me introduce you to Helsinki, Finland, one of the loveliest of the northern European capitals.

About 1.15 million people live in the greater metropolitan area of Finland’s most populous city, named World Design Capital 2012. That’s nearly a fifth of the country’s total population. Though Finland achieved independence in 1917, remnants and reminders of its former rulers over the centuries — Sweden and Russia — remain. To this day, nearly every street with a Finnish nameplate also has one in Swedish directly underneath.

Helsinki is well-served with interesting museums, quirky parks, nonstop shopping options and efficient public transportation. You need at least three to four days to touch on the highlights, and longer to get a real sense of the city.

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Uspenski Cathedral was originally a Russian Orthodox Church. The Finnish Orthodox community worships in this building now.

On the western end of Katajanokka island near the bustling, harbor-front Market Square, the red-brick Uspenski Cathedral, with its ornate onion domes, wouldn’t look out of place in St. Petersburg or Moscow. Opened as a Russian Orthodox church in 1868, it now serves the Finnish Orthodox community. 

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The neoclassical Tuomiokirkko is older than its skyline partner, the Uspenski Cathedral. The Lutheran Cathedral’s steps are a popular meeting place.

The Uspenski vies for skyline bragging rights with the brilliantly white, neoclassical Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral) that anchors Senate Square. It was completed a mere 16 years before the Uspenski. A closer look on foot reveals the cathedral’s imposing staircase, a popular meeting place, especially during the summer. Both churches are open to visitors.

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The entrance to the Temppeliaukio Kirkko belies that much of the church is underground.

Among the most visited sites is Temppeliaukio Kirkko, nicknamed the “rock church” because it was hewn from natural granite. Its copper-topped dome is better appreciated from the back side — not the church’s entrance — because more of it can be seen.

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Built right into the surrounding rock, the sanctuary is nevertheless flooded with daylight.

Inside, walking down the sloping aisles into the sanctuary, you can better appreciate how architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen approached the challenge of building into solid rock. Its spacious interior, drawing light from windows angled from the dome, boasts a large organ on the left and cushioned seating, and all around the rough finish of the rock. Since its completion in 1969, it has also proved to be a popular venue for concerts. If you’d like to have some time for undisturbed contemplation, try to arrive early before tour groups pour out of the cavalcade of buses.

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From the rear, the church gives little indication of the splendid interior. Nestled into the rock, it looks almost as if a UFO has landed.

One of the newest structures, likely to become another icon, is the Kamppi Chapel of Silence, set to the side of busy Narinkkatori square near the entrance to the Kamppi shopping area.

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While the exterior wood is spruce, the interior of the Kamppi Chapel of Silence is constructed from alder wood. The pews are made from ash.

Its exterior is constructed of wax-coated horizontal strips of spruce, forming a graduated oval-esque shape. Depending on the time of day, the play of sunlight makes it seem that geometric patterns are embedded in the wood. 

The chapel opened in June 2012. As early as 2010, it had won awards for its architects Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen of K2S Architects.

Inside, ample natural light flows in from a thin skylight. There are no windows in the gently curving walls formed from cut-to-shape narrow alder wood planks. The stark pews are crafted from ash and face a small altar topped with a silver cross and baptismal bowl. 

Visitors are invited to sit quietly, feeling insulated from the outside world, and isolated, too, but in a peaceful way. And yes, minimalist would fit the description here.

A few streets over from both these sights is one of the main thoroughfares, Mannerheimintie. A lengthy walk north will take you past Parliament House, the Finnish National Opera House, the National Museum of Finland, Finlandia (a performance venue) and up to Olympic Stadium, home to the 1952 Summer Games. 

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Distance runner Paavo Nurmi is a national hero in Finland. He competed in three Olympic Games, winning nine gold medals and three silver. His statue is near Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium, site of the 1952 Summer Games.

A statue of  legendary distance runner Paavo Nurmi (1897-1973) stands on a tree-line street named for him that leads to the stadium entrance. 

On the 2013 spring day I visited the stadium, a colorful and noisy track meet was under way between Finnish and Swedish students. For about 30 minutes, I sat in the stands watching relays (and students in color-coordinated outfits cheering on their friends), before heading to the Sports Museum of Finland (closed as of this writing for renovation, as is the stadium). Here you can watch film clips of outstanding moments in Finnish sports history, such as Olympic champions Nurmi and Lasse Viren in some of their greatest races. 

Other parts of the museum house a collection of memorabilia, including NHL sweaters worn by native son Jari Kurri (who was on five Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Edmonton Oilers), ski-jumper Matti Nykanen’s Olympic and world championship medals and a basketball shoe that once belonged to Hannö Möttöla, who played two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and to date is the only Finnish player to make it to the NBA.

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Visitors to the memorial dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius can stand inside the welded silver pipes and hear sound echoing off the metal.

About a 15-minute walk west of the stadium is the outdoor monument and park dedicated to composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Silver pipes of different lengths have been welded together, leaving an open interior space. Aside from the photographic potential, visitors can interact with the Eila Hiltunen-designed elevated memorial, experimenting with the sound echoing from the pipes.  

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King’s Gate is the original entrance to Suomenlinna Fortress. It dates to 1753-54 when Sweden ruled what is now Finland. The entrance is about a mile away from the quay where the ferry from Market Square drops passengers.

On a fine-weather day, take the 15-minute ferry from the east side of Market Square (opposite the Presidential Palace) to Suomenlinna sea fortress, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. Known originally as Sveaborg, the fortress was constructed in the mid-1700s when Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden. By 1809, the fortress had surrendered to the invading Russians, who were responsible for the addition of cannons. For the next 108 years, the fortress housed a Russian garrison, until Finland became a republic in 1917.

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The tomb of Augustin Ehrensvärd (1710-1772) is the centerpiece of the Great Courtyard at Suomenlinna. Ehrensvärd was a Swedish military officer, later field marshal and count, and the designer of Suomenlinna. The commandant’s house and the main guard house surround the courtyard.

Many visitors bring a picnic and make a day of it, spending hours sitting on the beach or wandering the landscape. (Don’t worry if you didn’t bring food; there are plenty of cafes and restaurants and shops.) But you’ll need a ticket if you wish to go into any of the five museums or the restored 1930s Finnish submarine. Though the fortress itself is open year-round, some of the museums are only open during the summer.

 

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More than 80 wooden buildings of various shapes, sizes and uses have been relocated from around Finland to Seurasaari, an open-air museum.

Another outdoor destination, also on an island but reachable by tram or bus, is Seurasaari, an open-air museum that houses a collection of more than 80 traditional wooden buildings relocated from provinces around the country. Not every building is open every day, but the ones that are will likely have people in period dress, perhaps sewing or doing a craft, who can answer questions. 

Good thing, too. At the Kurssi farmstead, I noted what seemed to be a rack, with wooden spikes sticking out of two parallel bars, suspended near the ceiling. Fortunately, a young woman was able to tell me that in an earlier time, the family that lived in this structure baked a circular bread only twice a year. This rack’s function would have been to store  the bread, keeping it safe from low-lurking critters. 

Again, anyone can access the island, bring a picnic or go swimming, but to enter any of the structures, you will have to buy a ticket. Seurasaari is open only during the summer and for special functions around the holidays. 

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With high exterior walls and a sturdy red-brick facade, it’s not hard to imagine that the Katajanokka Hotel once served as a jail.

There’s even a bit of American-style architecture in Helsinki. The mostly red-brick Hotel Katajanokka was formerly the city jail, parts of which date to 1837. It’s original look was based on a Philadelphia model: central open-iron staircases flanked by a series of cells. (Think of any number of black-and-white movies set in prisons and you’ll have the idea.)

As a jail, it had 164 cells; as a hotel, it has 106 spacious, modern rooms. A solitary cell has been preserved in the lower level to give visitors a look at how bleak and uncomfortable a stay here would have been. The jail was at times a place to await trial and a home for political prisoners. After World War II, it housed a number of Finnish politicians convicted of war crimes.

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Guest rooms are stylish and have all the modern conveniences, but the iron staircases are a holdover from the hotel’s earlier incarnation. My room was on the first floor.

The facility was closed in 2002, having been deemed outdated as a correctional institution. Protected as a historical monument, it gained new life as part of the Best Western chain, which opened it as a hotel in 2007. It’s now privately owned. 

The hotel is off the beaten track for most tourist spots. Fortunately, the No. 4 tram stops just outside the sturdy walls and will quickly whisk you to the center of town. If you’re taking a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia, or out to Suomenlinna, the hotel is well-situated, being close to the ferry connections. 

The harbor at Market Square, where vendors set up tents and booths on many days, is also within walking distance. You can get a taste of reindeer meatballs and other specialties here, and a large variety of Finnish handicrafts are for sale, from birchwood coasters to hand-knitted sweaters.

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Katajanokka Island’s buildings have some of the prettiest flourishes in Helsinki.

The buildings on the eastern end of Katajanokka island also have some interesting art nouveau design features. The style is known as Jugend in Finland, and the mostly residential, multistory structures feature a jumble of turrets, castellated roofs and mysterious carvings.

Many visitors arrive in Helsinki en route to somewhere else — often via a cruise ship. That’s a real shame because this interesting and lively city deserves more than a cursory look.

Quick reference: Hotel Katajanokka: Merikasarminkatu 1a, Helsinki; hotelkatajanokka.fi

Kamppi Chapel of Silence: Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. Free. Simonkatu 7, Helsinki; http://www.archdaily.com/252040/kamppi-chapel-k2s-architects

Seurasaari Open Air Museum: Seurasaari island, open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, June 1-August 31; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, September 1-15. Prices vary. kansallismuseo.fi

Sports Museum of Finland: A large-scale renovation is underway at the Olympic Stadium, and some of the collection has been temporarily dispersed to other museums. The renovation is expected to be completed in 2019. www.urheilumuseo.fi

Suomenlinna sea fortress: Times vary for the museums, also for the cafes and shops. But generally, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. should cover most of what you want to see. Website also has information about catching the ferry. www.suomenlinna.fi

Uspenski Cathedral: Kanavakatu 1, Helsinki; open 9:30-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, noon-3 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays and during services. hos.fi (in Finnish and Russian only).

Temppeliaukio Kirkko: Lutherinkatu 3, Helsinki. Hours vary, tours available. http://www.helsinginseurakunnat.fi/en/index/temppeliaukionkirkko.html.stx

Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral): Unioninkatu 29, Helsinki. www.helsinginseurakunnat.fi/helsingintuomiokirkko.html.stx

A version of this post appeared in the spring 2014 edition of Scandinavian Press magazine.

On Okinawa’s Oroku peninsula: At the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, site of mass suicide during World War II

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In the Commanding Officer’s Room at the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Admiral Minoru Ota wrote his message praising Okinawans’ forbearance when their island was invaded by the Japanese, and later the Allies in World War II. He composed the poem on the left wall that reads: “Born as a man, nothing fulfills me more than to die under the banner of the Emperor.”

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

This is the ninth in a series about my March 2018 trip to Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan, and Guam. See my April 1 discussion of Navy man George Tweed’s ability to elude capture by Japanese soldiers for more than two years on Guam in World War II; April 8 about Okinawan food specialties, and visits to a market and area known for its pottery; April 15 about the sinking of Japan’s Tsushima Maru and the deaths hundreds of schoolchildren during WWII; April 29 about photographing newlyweds after their Shinto ceremony; May 14 about the WWII destruction of Shurijo Castle; May 21 about making soba noodles from scratch at cooking class in Naha; June 16 about Peace Memorial Park, a former WWII battlefield and now a sprawling complex that commemorates the Battle of Okinawa; and June 27 about the sister cities of Naha, Okinawa and Fuzhou, China and their shared bond celebrated at Fukushuen Garden.

A gruesome sight met members of an American Marine unit when they entered a tunnel complex on the three-mile-wide Oroku peninsula, several miles southwest of Naha, the prefectural capital, in June 1945. 

About 175 bodies, casualties of a mass suicide likely caused by exploding grenades, were sprawled in part of a cramped space that had served as the headquarters of the Japanese navy, late in the Battle of Okinawa, the last major Pacific campaign of World War II. 

It took a further two days for the Americans to find the bodies of Admiral Minoru Ota and five of his senior officers, near the center of the complex.

There was nothing hurried or left to chance as the officers chose to end their lives. Each was in a clean, pressed uniform, and reclining on a sloped bedlike platform, with their hands behind their heads, according to “Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb” by George Feifer. 

Feifer writes that at their sides were their sword and a naval dress saber. The fatal stroke for each of the six was a slit across his neck. The Center of Military History, United States Army supports this reporting.

Information in the booklet I got at the site contradicts the manner of suicide. It says a bullet to the head caused the officers’ deaths, and that six died in addition to Ota, 54, a graduate of Japan’s Naval Academy. 

The booklet also says that the officers’ and several thousand of the sailors’ remains were removed from the tunnels shortly after the end of the war. At the visitors’ center, the exhibit says the first attempt to recover the bodies, including Ota’s, occurred in 1953.

Other sources claim conversely that the Marines sealed the tunnels, and in 1950 the remains were removed and laid to rest.

Whatever the real circumstances — and I don’t mean to sound flip — a lot of Japanese military men died here in the waning days of Operation Iceberg, as Americans code-named the 82-day campaign. 

The Allied invasion of Okinawa, which began April 1, 1945, is often referred to as the “Typhoon of Steel,” comprising more than 1,500 naval vessels amassed offshore and around 540,000 military personnel (and many tons of weapons, tanks and equipment) available to bring about the defeat of Imperial forces by June 21-22.

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Gouges reveal where pickaxes struck the walls as the 226th Construction Corps dug the tunnels in 1944.

The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters have been open to the public since 1970. The tunnels were excavated by members of the 226th Construction Corps (Yamane unit) using pickaxes and hoes, from August through December 1944.

Gouges deep in the walls are evident to this day. One black-and-white illustration in the tunnels shows the men hauling out dirt and debris in a large rope basket, suspended on a wooden shoulder pole between teams of two.

The overall length of the concrete-reinforced tunnels covered about 450 meters (about 1,485 feet), but only about 300 meters (about 900 feet) are accessible to the public. 

The Oroku peninsula, site of Naha’s present-day international airport, also had other tunnels and caves, occupied by Japanese naval troops numbering about 9,000-10,000.

The battle on Oroku was relatively brief: the 6th Marine Division landed on June 4. By June 13, Ota and many others had committed suicide, and more than half of the Japanese naval troops were dead.  

After descending 105 steps over 20 meters (about 66 feet) from the visitors’ center to the main corridor, the route mimics the shape of a shark’s fin. All the chambers —  operations room, staff room, code room, medical room, generator room, commanding officer’s room, and petty officers’ room — are labeled, but most are empty. The commanding officer’s room has a table and chairs, and it was here that Ota wrote his message praising the Okinawan people (see below). 

Also on the wall is a short poem he crafted. It translates to: “Born as a man, nothing fulfills me more than to die under the banner of the Emperor.”

There was a kitchen, but no running water (Feifer disputes this), which had to be brought in from a nearby village well, the pamphlet says. The tunnels also lacked toilet facilities, the thinking being that the men would be able to go outside during breaks in the fighting to relieve themselves. 

Before the invasion, troops lived in school facilities, other large structures or private homes, and the tunnels acted as air raid shelters.

As the fighting intensified, and the men could not leave the tunnels, conditions deteriorated quickly.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the caves and tunnels beneath two rebuilt sights that I visited on Okinawa are not open to the public: At Shurijo Castle, part of the famed Shuri Line, and what is now Peace Memorial Park, a complex of monuments, open green space and a museum dedicated to the Battle of Okinawa at the far southeastern tip of the island.

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After the war, a community was re-established around the naval headquarters. This view is toward Naha, to the north, the largest city in the prefecture. The East China Sea is in the distance. 

The site for naval HQ, at 74 meters (about 244 feet) above sea level, was chosen because of its commanding view back toward Naha and over the East China Sea. In ancient times, under the reign of the Ryukyu dynasty, beacon fires were set in the nearby hills to alert Shurijo Castle that trade ships had returned from China and other overseas destinations. 

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The text of Admiral Ota’s message to the vice admiral is on the black slab at left. The white plaque at right set into a rock remembers the Japanese forces who died at the headquarters and surrounding tunnels and caves. See the full text below.

Several monuments are adjacent to the visitors’ center building. One is a lone white pillar and another contains a black granite slab, upon which is the text (in Japanese) of a message that Ota sent to a vice admiral on June 6, acknowledging the terrible price Okinawans had paid since Japanese military arrived on the island at the beginning of 1944.

The civilian death toll may have been as high as 150,000.

Titled “This is how the Okinawan people have fought the war,” Ota wrote: “Since the enemy attacks began, our Army and Navy have been fighting defensive battles and have not been able to attend to the people of this prefecture. Consequently, due to our negligence, these innocent people have lost their homes and property to enemy assaults. Every man has been conscribed [he possibly meant conscripted] to defend while women, children and the elderly are forced into hiding in small underground shelters that are not tactically significant and are exposed to shelling, air raids, and [illegible] wind and rain. Moreover, girls have devoted themselves to nursing and cooking as well as volunteering to carry ammunition and join in attacking the enemy.

“… The Okinawan people have been asked to volunteer their labor and conserve all their resources (mostly without complaint). In their heart they wish only to serve as loyal Japanese. … There are no trees, no grass; everything is burnt to the ground. The food supply will be gone by the end of June. This is how the Okinawan people have fought the war.

“And for this reason, I appeal to you to give the Okinawan people special consideration from this day forward.” 

Ota knew how dire the Japanese military situation was overall, so his message seems more a testament meant for posterity rather than an expectation of future rewards for the Okinawans’ endurance.

Across from the black granite, a white tablet recessed into a rock has this inscription, in English and Japanese, and this punctutation:

“Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters

This monument is dedicated to the memory of Vice Admiral Minoru Ota Commanding Officer of the Japanese Navy and his 4,000 men who committed suicide in the underground headquarters on June 13, 1945 after having shared in a hard-fought battle during World War II. A poem carved in the wall of this trench by Admiral Ota as his farewell word is still legible. Commanding officer’s room, center of operations and the staff room remain in this underground headquarters, which are reminiscent of bygone days.”

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The visitors’ center houses a small exhibit and the entrance to the former naval headquarters.

The small museum exhibit in the visitors’ center features photos of Ota and other officers, personal effects, letters in Japanese, examples of uniforms and crude handmade weapons, and a reprint of a New York Times front page from June 7 1945, with this headline, in all caps: “All of Naha Airfield Now Ours; Foe Driven to Last High Ground; Soviet to Occupy Half of Reich.”

The memorials and tunnel complex are today part of a 6.7 hectare park (about 16 acres), with a playground, a green wooded zone and a flat circular area used for festivals and special events.

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This family tomb is built in the shape of a turtle’s shell, a traditional Okinawan style. The dome of the shell sits over the center entrance. With their homes destroyed, some civilians took refuge inside the tombs. Soldiers from both sides used the tombs as temporary forts during the fighting.

Near the tunnel exit are a series of concrete family tombs, in the traditional shape of a turtle’s shell, built into the hillside. During the war, frightened civilians sometimes took refuge at these sacred sites. 

Additionally, Allied soldiers mistaking them for caves used the tombs as temporary forts. Likewise, Japanese soldiers set up artillery and machine guns, often pulling the weapons into the tombs if under attack. Both sides desecrated the tombs, again victimizing the Okinawan people.

Once in the tunnels, visitors cannot reverse their path back to the entrance stairs. So make sure you’ve looked at everything in the museum before heading underground.

Quick reference: Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, year-round. Admission: Adults (high school students and older), 440 yen (about $3.95), children (elementary and junior high students), 220 yen (about $1.98). 236 Aza Tomishiro, Tomishiro-city, Okinawa, Japan. http://kaigungou.ocvb.or.jp/english/about/ (Not all of the information is factually correct.) From the Naha bus terminal, take bus number 33, 46 or 101. It’s only about a 15-minute trip; 270 yen (about $2.43). The bus stops in the middle of Tomishiro-city. The underground HQ is about a 10-minute walk. For an in-depth look at the Battle of Okinawa: https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/okinawa/index.htm

A chicken recipe good enough to join the regular rotation

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A marinade of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh lemon juice helps to start the cooking process in this colorful and flavorful chicken dish.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to prepare boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I have my favorites, and my “go-tos,” of course. But the old reliables get a bit boring after a while. 

So any recipe that offers a different taken on chicken is always welcome. If I can get it on the table in under an hour, all the better.

And if the recipe is elegant enough for guests, that’s the cooking trifecta.

The recipe below, variations of which appear in several of my cookbooks — and this is my further take on it — combines many of my favorite ingredients.  

The lemon juice in the marinade behaves like citrus juice does when preparing ceviche. It starts to “cook” the meat before it goes in the oven to bake. It also tenderizes and adds flavor. And this being chicken, of course it needs to be baked through. 

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As the chicken breasts are marinating, prepare the topping of diced tomatoes, green olives, onions and red bell pepper. 

The original recipe called for pitted green olives. I substituted pimento-stuffed olives because I like the way the color complements the red bell pepper and the tomatoes. You could also use black olives.

Serve over rice, pasta or with mashed potatoes. Offer crusty Italian or French bread too, to soak up every bit of the delicious juice.

This is so easy and flavorful that you might be adding it to your regular rotation too. 

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The finished dish, ready for serving.

Chicken Breasts With Green Olives, Tomatoes and Red Bell Pepper

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: 50-60 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced (divided)

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juice 

18 pimento-stuffed green olives, halved at the middle widthwise (use more if you really like olives)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped (optional), divided

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

In a glass 9-by-13-inch baking dish or a comparable size ceramic-coated gratin dish, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil with 1 clove garlic and lemon juice. Stir lightly to combine. 

Prick the chicken breasts with a fork all over on both sides. This will help the chicken to absorb the olive oil-lemon juice marinade. Arrange in a single layer in the dish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Cover with plastic wrap and let chicken sit for 10 minutes. Uncover, and turn over each chicken breast. Season the second side with salt and pepper. Re-cover with plastic for 10 minutes. Return breasts to original side for another 10 minutes.

If leaving chicken at room temperature for 30 minutes makes you nervous, especially in the very warm summer months, put the chicken in the refrigerator while doing these steps. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 clove garlic, onion and red bell pepper and sauté until vegetables begin to soften but not brown. 

Add tomatoes and their juices, olives and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken. Stir in half the parsley, all of the thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread the tomato-red bell pepper mixture over the chicken. Place dish on the middle rack in the oven and bake about 20 minutes. You may need to cook for 10 minutes or more if the breasts are thick. 

If the vegetables have slipped off the top of the chicken, reposition. Use the liquid and baste the chicken all over. 

Sprinkle with remaining parsley, and serve.

Adapted from a recipe in “The New York Times Passover Cookbook: More Than 200 Recipes From Top Chefs and Writers” Edited by Linda Amster (William Morrow and Company, 1999)

The pursuit of Liberty, the latest fawn to visit my backyard, and the young bucks of the herd

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This is Liberty, born this week in my backyard, as were three fawns in June 2017.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

By the time July rolled around this year, I had given up the idea that I would be lucky enough to have a fawn (or two or three) born in my backyard woods.

Last year, the singleton I named Friday was born on June 9, and the twins Sunday and Sammy were born 16 days later. (See posts of June 10, 2017 and July 1, 2017.)

When I got back from my daily walk in the early afternoon Friday (July 6), I saw a doe standing on the grass at the back lefthand corner of my house, not a spot I usually see the whitetail deer as they roam around the neighborhood. 

I went inside and visited the various windows that give me the best view of my backyard woods. 

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While Liberty was looking in my direction, her mother had jumped the fence into my neighbors’ grassy backyard.

And then I saw the fawn. It was alone in the lefthand corner of my property (as you face the house), among the tall weeds, almost to the back fence, where I first found the newborn Friday last year. This sighting in the “nursery” was a full month later than 2017. 

I grabbed my camera, went outside and walked around the right side of my house, turning the corner to the back as slowly and as quietly as I could, trying not to snap twigs or rustle the fallen leaves. 

By this time, the doe had jumped the wooden fence to my neighbors’ grassy yard. Don’t poo-poo this observation. Last month I saw a doe in action, doing this exact leap, from nearly a standing start. 

A quick spring, legs tucked close to the body and gracefully up and over the spiky railing.

As I focused and zoomed in on the fawn, it looked like the cute creature’s fur was a mixture of wet and fluffy, usually a sign of a newborn that has been licked clean by its mother. And it was smaller than another fawn I’d seen last week with its mother wandering around the cul-de-sac across from my house. 

Surely the one I saw Friday had to be a different animal.

I named the fawn Liberty, in honor of our just-celebrated Independence Day.

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It wasn’t until I loaded this frame onto my laptop that I noticed I had captured Liberty sticking out a tiny tip of tongue.

Obviously, a fawn’s cognitive abilities aren’t fully developed at a day or two old, but Liberty had figured out that Mom was not readily accessible. I watched the miniature mammal ram its wee head into the fence, as if it could slip between the slats or somehow dislodge the impediment.

This morning I saw a doe sitting in my backyard in almost the exact same spot as Friday afternoon’s visitor. But I didn’t see the fawn. 

Knowing that deer, like birds, often return to where they’ve previously nested, I thought it likely that little Liberty was lurking somewhere.

Again, when I got back from my walk, I checked the yard. The doe was standing, nibbling the weeds, and with her was her offspring. Liberty, testing its spindly legs, was having a jolly time darting around the backyard, venturing as far as the pine-tree-laden woods that adjoin my property, but dashing back to within Mom’s eyesight every few seconds. 

Liberty is the fifth fawn I’ve seen this summer. 

Sadly, the first one died. It was discovered late one June afternoon, nestled among the pine needles on a lawn of a house at the front of my subdivision. 

Some well-intentioned neighbors picked it up and carried it to a more secluded spot. In the early evening, they drove to my house to get my input on this action. I’m not an expert, but word had gotten around the neighborhood about the three fawns born here last year.

Picking up a fawn and moving it is never a good idea. The mom, who generally goes off to eat and drink after giving birth, knows where she’s left her newborn. Odds are very good she’ll return to be reunited with her baby, feed it and protect it.

I could see this baby was breathing and twitching its ears to chase away insects. It was curled up and well-hidden, facing a wooden fence, resting on pine needles and sheltered by tall cypress trees.

It was getting dark, and I knew that standing in the street talking to my neighbors would preclude the mother from coming back. So we dispersed.

Prolonged, very heavy rain moved in overnight. Though it was quite warm, this turn of events was likely to hamper the fawn’s survival, especially if the mother had not returned to nurse it.

On my walk the next morning, a neighbor who lives directly across from where the fawn was, reported that she’d see a doe circling the street for about 15 minutes. 

Unfortunately, by this time, the fawn had died. Flies were buzzing its body and its lifeless eyes were open.

Later, the man whose property where the fawn died, buried it.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I see groups of deer nearly every day. My record is 22 at once, probably two or three families having a get-together. 

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This fawn is 10 days to two weeks older than Liberty. One of the young bucks was nuzzling it while the deer where grazing in the cul–de-sac.

I never tire of gazing at these big-eyed gentle creatures, though I know I’m in the minority here, with many neighbors complaining about the deer eating flowers, leaves and the bushes in their yards. 

Nearly every day, they run from the cul-de-sac by my house, trampling the lawn at the corner house — there are two visible trails through the grass — across the street, and into the backyards of the houses on the next street over. Or they do this route in reverse. 

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Judging by size, these three bucks are probably about the same age, though their antlers are growing at different rates.

Aside from hoping to see the fawns, I like to observe the progress of the young bucks’ antlers.

This summer, I’ve seen five bucks so far, all probably only a year or two old. One’s antlers are growing straight up. Another buck’s fast-growing headgear has begun developing its points. Velvety fuzz is notable on them all. 

Occasionally, they lower their heads and gently butt each another, as if playing. Come mating time in the fall, this activity won’t be so friendly.

And every so often, I see one of the boys doing his own curious examination of the newest addition to the family.

Sister cities of Naha, Okinawa and Fuzhou, China celebrate their bond with a walled Chinese garden

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A pavilion, waterfall and Soaring Rainbow Bridge overlooking Ou Ye Pond are at the heart of the Colors of Autumn and Winter section of Fukushuen Garden in Naha, Okinawa. The stacked stones upon which the pavilion sits are meant to evoke Mount Ye, in Fuzhou, China, sister city of Naha.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

This is the eighth in a series about my March 2018 trip to Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan, and Guam. See my April 1 discussion of Navy man George Tweed’s eluding capture by Japanese soldiers for more than two years on Guam in World War II; April 8 about Okinawan food specialties, and visits to a market and area known for its pottery; April 15 about the sinking of Japan’s Tsushima Maru and the deaths hundreds of schoolchildren during WWII; April 29 about photographing newlyweds after their Shinto ceremony; May 14 about the WWII destruction of Shurijo Castle; May 21 about making soba noodles from scratch at cooking class in Naha; and June 16 about Peace Memorial Park, a former WWII battlefield and now a sprawling complex that commemorates the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

In the northwestern part of Naha, near one of the larger parks in the city, is an oasis of calm and beauty featuring many of the characteristics one would expect to see in a classical walled garden in China.

Towering pagodas, a tumbling waterfall, turtle- and koi-stocked pond, keyhole gates, pavilions, covered walkways, gentle bridges, stone figures, unusual rock formations and a variety of floras can all be found at Fukushuen Garden, completed in 1992 to mark the 10th anniversary of Naha’s sister-city relationship with Fuzhou, China, and the 70th anniversary of modern Naha City (2018 population about 320,000).

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The White Pagoda, in the Colors of Summer section, is made from granite. The Bird Pagoda is similar in size and shape, though the space between levels seems smaller.

Much of the stone and wood used in construction was brought from Fuzhou, capital of coastal Fujian province, in the southeastern part of China. Italian traveler extraordinaire Marco Polo was said to have stopped briefly in Fuzhou in the late 13th century. 

The province, known historically as a smelting center, is far closer to the island of Taiwan to the east and Hong Kong than it is to Beijing, China’s capital. Later, it became an import city for the exportation of tea.

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The carved dragon pillars are at the entrance to Dong Ye Hall, also in the Colors of Summer section. In Chinese lore, dragons offer protection and good luck.

In Naha, about 600 years ago, this section of the city was known as Kumé, a bustling center of Chinese trade and culture influenced by immigrants from Fujian province, and so it was logical to locate the garden here. 

Centuries before Okinawa became part of Japan, it was the seat of the independent kingdom of Ryukyu, which traded with China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other countries in southeast Asia.

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The round shape of the Pavilion of Spring, signifies harmony. The hanging red lanterns are another symbol of luck. The pavilion overlooks Peach Blossom Stream, representing the Min River in Fuzhou. From the Lingbo Corridor and viewing platform (right), visitors can feed the carp and turtles.

The garden celebrates the four seasons, with landscaping reflecting the different times of the year. Artisans from Fuzhou came to work alongside Okinawan gardeners to ensure the finished site, which covers about 8,500 square meters (about 2 acres), was faithful to a Chinese garden, in particular, one in Fuzhou, today a city of about 8 million people. 

Xi Jingping, China’s president, was governor of Fujian province when it was emerging as a center for new technology.

It was a sunny, pleasant Sunday afternoon when I visited, having first stopped at Naminoue Shrine and the Tsushima Maru museum (see earlier posts) before I walked several blocks to the garden. 

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On the shady stone path, heading for a keyhole gate.

The grounds were nearly deserted, odd for such a lovely day. Later in my stroll, I came across four women dressed in colorful, rented kimonos, taking pictures, but one always acting as the photographer.  

I motioned that I would be happy to take a photo of the quartet together. (Making this sort of offer is always a good way to strike up a conversation.) As it turned out, all were from Shanghai, and visiting Okinawa for just a few days. 

They were in their late 20s and early 30s. One was a dance teacher and spoke good English, so we chatted for about 15 minutes. Then, more picture-taking, and we went our separate ways.

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Li Bao (701-762) was a famed Tang Dynasty poet, still revered today. 

Admiring the loveliness of Fukushuen Garden for about an hour or so will not only insulate you from the contemporary city outside its encompassing wall, but will transport you effortlessly to an era long ago and far away. 

Quick reference: Fukushuen Garden, 2-29-19 Kumé, Naha, Okinawa. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Closed Wednesdays. Admission: Adults, 200 yen (about $1.82), children middle school or younger, 100 yen (about $.91). Small machines sell food to feed the fish and turtles. The closest monorail stop is Prefectural Office station. Walk northwest from the station, for about 10 minutes.

At Okinawa’s Peace Memorial Park: Once a World War II battlefield, now a somber place for remembrance

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Every person known to have died during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 has his or her name inscribed at the Cornerstone of Peace at Peace Memorial Park. The names are in the deceased’s native language. A total of 118 black granite stones list about 250,000 names.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

This is the seventh in a series about my March 2018 trip to Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan, and Guam. See my April 1 discussion of Navy man George Tweed’s eluding capture by Japanese soldiers for more than two years on Guam in World War II; April 8 about Okinawan food specialties, and visits to a market and area known for its pottery; April 15 about the sinking of Japan’s Tsushima Maru and the deaths hundreds of schoolchildren during WWII; April 29 about photographing newlyweds after their Shinto ceremony; May 14 about the WWII destruction of Shurijo Castle; and May 21 about making soba noodles from scratch at cooking class in Naha.

On the southern tip of the island of Okinawa, formidable jagged cliffs rise several hundred feet, picturesque and imposing in equal measure. 

Nearby, pine tree branches reach up and outward forming living sculptures, and scrub sprouts from cracks in the rocks, once again providing cover for wildlife.

Endlessly, the tide breaks toward the shore and recedes, revealing a swath of deserted beach. A few small boats bob in the distance as fisherman throw their nets, anticipating the day’s catch. Birds ride the currents, soaring and swooping as they look for their next meal.

The peace and quiet that pervade the landscape adjacent to this scene today belies what happened here, as the Japanese military, its back literally against the Pacific Ocean, played out the dwindling days of its last major stand of World War II.  

The former battlefield is now a somber memorial, sprawling over more than 116 acres. The exquisitely manicured terrain includes the Cornerstone of Peace, comprised of folding-screen-like columns of black granite arranged in semicircle rows that list every name of every person (in their native language), military and civilian, foreign and domestic, totaling about 250,000, believed to have died on Okinawa. 

The 118 “waves” of the Cornerstone of Peace were unveiled in the summer of 1995, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 82-day battle. 

Two information kiosks nearby aid visitors intent on locating specific names, which are arranged by Okinawa prefecture (largest section), other Japanese prefectures and foreign countries (smallest section). 

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The Flame of Peace at Peace Plaza, marking Okinawa’s location, overlooks the Pacific Ocean. On a rainy Friday, I couldn’t see the flame itself at all.

The rows’ southern end borders Peace Plaza, overlooking the sea, at the center of which is the Flame of Peace, a pointed cone surrounded by a flat black and light blue stone disk. Three flames meld here, brought from Aka Island, west of Okinawa, the first place that American forces landed in the Kerama island chain, and one each from the atomic-bomb devastated cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I spent the better part of a warm rainy Friday at Peace Memorial Park, walking slowly along the stone paths between Japanese prefectural monuments constructed in myriad shapes and sizes and from a variety of materials, and visiting the concise exhibits at the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. 

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The tower in the distance at left is Okinawa Peace Hall, containing a seated Buddha-like figure made from 3.5 tons of Chinese lacquer. The red-roofed building on the right is Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. In front of the museum are the folding-screen-like walls of the Cornerstone of Peace.

I saw few other visitors, leaving me alone with my thoughts to contemplate what had happened here and on Okinawa in general. 

My uncle, my father’s twin brother, fought on Okinawa, with C Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division (part of the greater 10th Army). Though I asked him many times, he never, ever related to me his experience here, or at Leyte in the Philippines, where he earned a Bronze Star.

When the Japanese staged a strategic retreat from the Shuri Line in late May 1945, they had only one direction they could to go: south. 

The Allies controlled everything north of the Shuri Line, about two thirds of 60-mile-long Okinawa, which the Allies invaded on April 1 after a week of offshore bombardment from a fearsome U.S. Navy armada, the size of which — more than 1,450 vessels — dwarfed every other Pacific campaign. 

With the fall of Naha, the prefecture capital, and Shurijo Castle itself — headquarters of the Japanese 32nd Army — the Axis power regrouped in another series of caves and underground tunnels around an agricultural village known as Mabuni. 

The tunnels and caves were not as well-fortified, -provisioned or -equipped as those around Shurijo Castle, the preparation of which had taken almost a year. 

Shortages of food, armaments and ammunition were increasingly severe, and every inch of space was crammed with filthy bodies, giving rise to the spread of disease.

What the Japanese soldiers found most intolerable was the lack of fresh water. And the vaunted Japanese morale was sinking fast, too. 

Snipers were still picking off Allied soldiers, but the Japanese, confronted by superior manpower and firepower, very soon had a decision to make: Surrender — anathema to their military code — or suicide.

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Below and behind this cliff is the gated entrance to the cave that served as the final headquarters for the Japanese 32nd Army and its commander, General Mitsuru Ushijima. The cave is not open to the public.

When the Battle of Okinawa was finally over on June 22, more than 100,000 Japanese troops were dead, including General Mitsuru Ushijima, commander of the 32nd Army. (There is some controversy as to whether he committed seppuku — ritual suicide — or died from gunshots to the head. “Eyewitness” testimony attesting to the former turned out to be unreliable, but a bullet to the temple would have been against Ushijima’s samurai-like code). A sign points to his headquarters but the cave entrance is gated and not open to the public.

About 11,000 Japanese did, in fact, surrender. 

The Allies lost about 12,000 men, with 36,000 wounded and more than 26,000 other casualties, including battle fatigue. Among the dead were General Simon Bolivar Buckner, commander of the 10th Army, killed on June 18 by flying pieces of exploding rock and metal caused by an artillery shell. 

However, it was the beleaguered, starving civilians, many hiding in caves, who paid the highest price. Estimates put their dead at 100,000 to 150,000. No definitive number can ever be determined because nearly all village records were destroyed as a byproduct of the fighting. Some were killed by Japanese soldiers, even those conscripts who had fought alongside Imperial forces.

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The National War Dead Peace Mausoleum contains ashes from about 180,000 people. It is among the most frequently visited of all the memorials.

In addition, the landscape was in ruins on an island whose beauty had often been compared to Hawaii and other pacific spots: unspoiled beaches, an abundance of tropical fruit and flowers and a friendly population.

Compounding the problems, Japanese propaganda spread the falsehood that American soldiers would rape and kill Okinawan women. Many threw themselves off 200-foot-high cliffs, some holding their infants and children, believing this drastic action was their only option.

In the museum’s Room of War Testimony, visitors can read transcripts or watch video about how Okinawan civilians tried to survive. Some tell of the brutality inflicted by Japanese forces, who occupied the island in early 1944. The military took their food stores, killed indiscriminately and gave orders to many islanders to commit suicide.

Another section re-creates a dimly lighted cave where civilians huddled, sharing the few provisions they had, often guarded by a Japanese soldier. Nearby are examples of tattered clothing and implements such as a ceramic canteen, illustrations of their meager  supplies.

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One of 32 memorials on Mabuni Hill sponsored by a Japanese prefecture, in tribute to its war dead.

Also of interest is the post-war Keystone of the Pacific exhibit. The reconstruction frenzy under way in Tokyo, which had been extensively bombed with conventional weapons, did not extend to the same degree in Okinawa. 

American occupation forces turned their attention to Cold War defenses — and later the Vietnam War — more interested in strengthening military bases than helping the Okinawan people, who were struggling to rebuild and get their lives back on track. 

Understandably over the decades, the Okinawans’ increasing desire for American troops to leave and the island to be returned to Japanese sovereignty served only to heighten tensions. Demonstrations and political pressure finally paid off in 1972 eliminating U.S. control, but about 28,000 American military remain on the island today.

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A closer look at the seven-sided Okinawa Peace Hall, opened in 1978. At the top of the stairs to the left is a bronze sculpture “Boy,” added in 1982 to remember the children who died. The smaller white tower at right is the Bell of Peace, rung on special occasions.

Also on the park’s grounds is Okinawa Peace Hall, known for its seated Buddha-like figure made from 3.5 tons of Chinese lacquer, a tree sap widely used in Asian arts and crafts. It took artist Shinzan Yamada, who lost two sons in the the Battle of Okinawa, 18 years to complete the nearly 40-foot-tall praying statue. Also inside the building are books with the names of everyone listed on the Cornerstone of Peace.

Two recreation fields, a picnic area and a playground are on the northern edge of the property, particularly popular on holidays and special occasions.

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Another of the Japanese prefectural memorials on Mabuni Hill.

It’s highly likely that the Okinawan families and others who come for a relaxing outing also at some point visit the Cornerstone of Peace to pay tribute to the memory of their loved ones, lost in the waning days of World War II.

Getting to Peace Memorial Park by bus

Naha, my base for six days in Okinawa, is less than 15 miles from Mabuni, reachable by car in about 30 minutes. My preference is to take public transportation — always an adventure — so my travel time was considerably longer.

My first task in Naha was to find where to wait for bus number 89. Construction was ongoing on a new modern terminal — the whole structure was covered by scaffolding and tarps — so much of the “normal”  operation was literally being run from street level. 

There was a lot of signage, and I luckily picked the right side of the street on which to wait. I had expected to pay the driver when I got boarded — the brochure I had indicated the fare — but I quickly found out the correct procedure: Take a slip of paper showing the zone number where you got on, and watch the overhead monitors on the lefthand side by the front window to learn the destination price. (A machine gives change, but try not to have too large a yen bill to pay.)

Bus 89 is a local and leaves three times an hour for Itoman City. It wends its way through Naha making frequent stops, so the leg to Itoman City took about 45 minutes and cost 580 yen (about $5.25). No matter; I got a look at a part of the city I hadn’t seen.

The “terminal” in Itoman City was a nondescript one-story building with absolutely nothing to indicate this is where buses arrive and depart from.

Inside, two men sat at desks piled high with stacks of papers. Hmmm. Where was I supposed to wait for the hourly bus number 82? Pointing at my destination’s brochure, they understood my pantomimed question.

Outside, they pointed to the opposite side of the building. Two shaky wooden benches with flaking blue paint backed up to an exterior wall also in need of maintenance. Fortunately, the “waiting room” had a roof because it was raining harder than it had been while I was on the bus. Not surprisingly, several vending machines were nearby, because, well, wherever you are in Japan, you’re never very far from a vending machine.

The second bus cost 470 yen ($4.25) and took about 40 minutes, and dropped me on the outskirts of Peace Memorial Park.

And yes, I did the trip in reverse to get back to Naha. 

Quick reference: There is no charge to tour the grounds, Cornerstone of Peace and the monuments of Peace Memorial Park. For Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed December 29-January 3. Admission: Adults, 300 yen (about $2.71); children, 150 yen (about $1.36). Audio guide is included. No photographs are allowed inside the museum. Okinawa Peace Hall: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Adults, 450 yen (about $4.07); junior and high school students, 350 yen (about $3.16); elementary school and under, free. 614-1 Mabuni, Itoman City, Okinawa. http://www.peace-museum.pref.okinawa.jp

 

Pulling back the curtain on life in late 20th-century North Korea as revealed by six individuals who fled to the south

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text. All rights reserved.

“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick (Spiegel & Grau, 2009, $26)

With the meeting of representatives from North Korea and United States tentatively scheduled in Singapore on June 12, I thought I’d revisit an excellent book I reviewed in January 2010 for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It was written before Kim Jong Un came to power in 2011, upon the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. While there have been increasing overtures to the West, much remains the same: A repressive regime, made all the more dangerous by its flouting of an active nuclear program.

Western media access to the Hermit Kingdom has for decades been severely limited, so it’s long been difficult to get a true picture of what life is like throughout the Communist country.

When journalists do get visas, ever-present government minders generally force them to stick to rigid itineraries and visitors often don’t get beyond the showcase sights of the capital, Pyongyang.

NK book coverSo one approach to finding out exactly what life is like in the north is to talk to defectors, which is the avenue that Barbara Demick took in her richly detailed “Nothing to Envy.”

Over a period of seven years, Demick, then a Los Angeles Times reported based in Seoul, South Korea, talked to about 100 people who had fled for their lives.

For her book, she concentrated on a half-dozen, all of whom hailed from or had ties to Chongjin, a port city on the Sea of Japan known for its iron-producing factories, in the far northeastern part of the country. Chongjin is the third-largest city in North Korea, then with a population of about 500,000. It’s much closer to Vladivostok, Russia, than it is to Pyongyang, about 250 miles away.

Through hours of interviews, Demick skillfully draws out the heartbreak and loss of six individuals (she’s changed some names to protect family still in North Korea): Mrs. Song, a factory worker, mother of four and a true believer in “dear father Kim Il Sung”; her oldest daughter, Oak-hee, a rebel and nonconformist; Dr. Kim, a bright, perfectionist daughter of a construction worker; Jun-sang, a university student in Pyongyang and son of Japanese-born Koreans who carries the burden of his family’s hopes; Mi-ran, Jun-sang’s first love, who despite her “tainted blood” (her family’s roots are in the south) becomes a teacher; and orphaned Kim Hyuck, a prison and labor camp survivor who lives by his wits.

The title comes from a song — which deifies the late leader Kim Il Sung — that all schoolchildren learn:

“Our father, we have nothing to envy in the world,

Our house is within the embrace of the Workers’ Party

We are all brothers and sisters.

Even if a sea of fire comes toward us, sweet children do not need to be afraid,

Our father is here.

We have nothing to envy in this world.” 

Not quite.

By the 1990s, the country was almost totally isolated, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea lost not only its ideological big brother but also a monetary lifeline. The economic collapse that was lurking before Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994 exerted an intractable grip thereafter.

Chongjin’s factories closed, rations were slashed and famine became widespread. By some estimates, between 600,000 and 2 million died in North Korea during the decade — possibly as much as 10 percent of the population.

As the government failed to feed the people, an entrepreneurial spirit boomed in the form of farmers’ markets and fledgling businesses, which were, by the way, all illegal.

Mrs. Song, who dutifully dusted the pictures in her home of Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il, showed particular resilience, especially her cookie-baking enterprise.

For some, the desperate situation and disillusionment served as motivation to escape. Plus, word was beginning to filter into North Korea about the positive impact of economic changes in China.

Chongjin residents began to realize that a vastly different world existed not too far from their doorsteps. When they learned of exit routes, Mi-ran and several family members were among the first to leave by making their way northwest across the country, finally negotiating the Tumen River and into China. Making their way into South Korea was equally fraught with danger and uncertainty.

Once free of the mind-numbing propaganda and the personality cult of the Kims, it wasn’t all happily ever after for Demick’s six. Largely unprepared for the modern world and the plethora of daily choices and decisions presented by a free society — culture shock writ large — all were faced with anxiety-inducing challenges.

Or as Demick writes: “The qualities most prized in South Korea — height, fair skin, affluence, prestigious degrees, designer clothes, English-language fluency — are precisely those that the newly arrived defector lacks, which accounts for the low self-esteem typically found among North Koreans in the South.”

For example, Dr. Kim, who in her old life had been expected to forage in the woods for herbs and roots to make traditional remedies, had a particular frustrating time. Her medical schooling and practice for eight years weren’t recognized by South Korean officials. So at age 40, she started over, embarking on a four-year medical program.

Similarly, Kim Hyuck, the former prisoner and longtime lone wolf, found himself unable to make small talk, which severely hampered his chances at building friendships.

“He was quick to anger,” Demick writes. “He bristled at authority. He couldn’t sit still. His stature, too, put him at a disadvantage in a height-obsessed society. His legs were underdeveloped and his head too large for his body — his physique typical of people who have been deprived of food during their formative years.”

But as the days and months in South Korea turned to years, the job-hopping Kim Hyuck, then 26, at last began to find his place when he was able to help a new defector avoid the pitfalls he’d encountered. When Demick last saw him, he’d enrolled in college.

Demick, now New York correspondent for the L.A. Times and contributor to The New Yorker magazine, is lending her expertise to her newspaper’s coverage of North Korea as it readies for the summit.

Perhaps in the future she’ll be able to reconnect with the individuals in her book, and update the success or failure of their leaps to freedom.

Six people, six journeys. Their stories are still unfolding.

See my April 3, 2017 post for details about my trip to the DMZ between North and South Korea. 

 

 

Bean and bell pepper salad is a winner for a potluck — or any time

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For a texture- and nutrition-rich bean salad, start with these ingredients (clockwise from top): yellow bell pepper, celery, red bell pepper, marinated artichoke hearts, red onion, black beans and red kidney beans.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

For office potlucks, I used to make scratch cakes or cookies, or the occasional savory bread pudding, which were always warmly received.

But one pre-potluck night, after getting home much too late from work, I didn’t have the energy or patience to embark on one of my go-to recipes for the next day’s event.

I thought I’d try a bean salad, which I’d never made before, but also didn’t seem like it would require too much time or effort, just some nontaxing chopping.

Colorful, crunchy and packed with flavor, it was a winner. Eager requests for the recipe followed.

And so did expectations.

For every future potluck, I did not hear the polite inquiry, “What are you bringing?”

The question was much more direct, friendly and hopeful, of course, but with the undertone of almost a command: “Are you bringing the beans?”

They were that popular with the office crowd. So I complied, time after time.

Try this bean salad, and you’ll see why. It’s a nice balance of a bit of sweetness from the kidney beans, a bit of acidic bite from the vinegar and a whole lot to chew on.

It’s good all-year round but particularly handy now that we’re moving into picnic and outdoor grilling season because it contains no mayonnaise. I still wouldn’t leave it sitting out for hours, but it certainly won’t go off as quickly as summertime favorites potato salad or coleslaw.

I like a mix of red kidney beans and black beans, but feel free to use cannellini, navy beans or anything else that you like. Can volume varies from 14 to 16 ounces, so don’t worry if what you buy differs slightly from the recipe. It’ll work.

If you don’t like bell peppers, eliminate them and increase the amount of celery to 2 cups.

Red onion can be pretty powerful, so you might prefer using milder sweet Vidalia onions.

I find the marinated artichoke hearts too large straight out of the jar, so I cut them into smaller pieces. That way, a bit of fleshy artichoke is included in nearly every bite.

Once all the ingredients are mixed, taste and adjust the seasonings. More salt and pepper, or a touch further of granulated sugar might be needed.

I make this as a side dish, but to stretch it even further, serve over white rice.

Or to feed a larger crowd, double it.

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After combining all ingredients, taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.

Two Bean, Bell Pepper and Artichoke Heart Salad

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Serves: 6 to 8 as a side dish (makes about 6 cups)

1 (15-ounce) can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (12-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, but reserve the liquid

1 cup diced celery (about 4 ribs)

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper

1 cup diced red onion

3 to 4 tablespoons marinated artichoke oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Prep the beans, artichoke hearts and vegetables and set aside.

In a large glass mixing bowl, add marinated oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, pepper and salt. Stir until well-combined. Add beans, artichoke hearts, celery, bell peppers and red onion. Mix until all the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing.

Cover and chill several hours or overnight. If pressed for time, serve immediately.