Imagine a house party or even a business meeting where the five participants shout at each other non-stop for an hour. If you are like me, you’d just want to leave, and I nearly did. And several people in the lobby I talked to agreed with me.
That is the first act of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins play Appropriate, that opened Saturday night at the Westport Country Playhouse, directed by Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy. In MacArthur award winning Jacobs-Jenkins play, three siblings, 2 of their spouses and three children return to their late father’s home in rural Alabama, to clean out the house and arrange for an estate sale of the contents and the sale of the decaying house.
Toni (Betsy Aidem) is the eldest sibling, in her later 40s or early 50s and is consistently abrasive and angry to everyone: it is very difficult to identify with her. She is also the estate’s executor. Bo, (Beauregard) the middle sibling (David Aaron Baker, above and left) is just slightly younger than Toni, and is arrogant, angry and hopeful that the sale of the estate will produce some income for him, as he has spent a lot on his father in recent years, and, we learn is likely to be losing his job. His wife, Rachael (Diane Davis, above) is only slightly more pleasant and quite sure her late father-in-law was anti-Semitic as he was overheard calling her Bo’s “Jew-wife.” It doesn’t take long before Toni and Rachael are at it hammer and tongs.
Franz (formerly named Frank) is the youngest sibling (Shawn Fagan) and the black sheep of the family, having struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as well as what we learn was probably pedophilia.
He seems more reasonable than his older siblings but is not easy to like. His girlfriend River (Anna Crivelli) is a clichéd young (about 23) Portland hippie who works as a vegan chef, and while she is considerably less visible, her calm, likeable hippie style is a marked contrast to the rest of the battling clan. Incidentally, she was also the fight director. And oh, yes, there is a fight.
We are told that this is a play about family secrets that gradually reveal themselves, and once you learn that the deceased father was once a powerful lawyer before he settled into rural Arkansas, the “surprise” about his racist past is quite predictable. His character is quite thinly drawn, we only learn a few dribbled out facts about him as the play proceeds, but we see where this is going. To a large degree, they are all present hoping to get some money out of the estate.
Three young actors are utterly charming in their smaller roles: Rhys (Nick Selting) as an older teenager, and Cassidy (Allison Winn) as a younger teenager. Oddly, even though the script always refers to her as “Cassidy,” the program lists her as “Cassie.” Finally, Ainsley (Christian Michael Camporin) zooms around as a hyper maybe 8-year old, in Act I and in Act III is part of the Big Reveal.
The set, by Andrew Boyce, has been lovingly executed by the skilled Westport Playhouse staff, led by David Dreyfoos, and represents the shabby living room, windows, semi-spiral stairs and parts of two other rooms in exceptional detail. One thing you can almost always count on is the fact that there will be some sort of inlaid flooring on the stage that is appropriate for the décor. The lighting by Matthew Richards is important, as there are night scenes without lights as well as lightning and outdoor glow coming through the windows. And the sound cues of cicadas chirping between scenes are excellent.
Playwright Jacobs-Jenkins has said that he wanted to create a southern family drama in the tradition of Streetcar Named Desire and August, Osage County, but while his characters are annoyingly well-drawn, the writing lacks the lyricism of Tennessee Williams or Tracy Letts. Jacobs-Jenkins, who is African American, noted that most of these great family dramas do not include any people of color, and that was a driving factor in his creating this play. However, the entire cast is white, although reference is made to the slave graveyard on the estate, and to past lynchings.
But having praised all these capable players, the result is 2 hours of people screaming at each other almost non-stop. This, we must assume, is the choice of director David Kennedy, and this makes for a really uncomfortable evening. While the publicity suggests that this is a comedy: it really is not. I counted just four laughs in the entire one hour first act, and only a few more in the other two.
The acts are pretentiously named “The Book of Revelations,” “Walpurgisnacht,” and “The Book of Genesis,” but the reasons for these names are not all that apparent. The first act runs about an hour, and after a 15-minute intermission, the second two acts are played without pause, ending about 10:40. The playwright suggests that the mysterious title might be read as the verb “appropriATE,” rather than the adjective “apPROpriate.” I still don’t get it. The script lists 6 dictionary definitions of the word, and the playwright suggests that he has incorporated all of them.
“Appropriate” runs through September 2. Performances are Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 2 and 8pm, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are available at the theater’s website: westportplayhouse.org.
The delicate flavor of scallops is a marvelous treat whenever they are in season. Sea scallops are the bigger scallops; the little ones are called bay scallops and are best used in dishes like Coquille St Jacques.
This recipe is so easy, you should start the rice you serve it with first, in a pan, an Instant Pot or a rice cooker. Then preheat the oven. We got our idea from one by Christine Laliberte.
About 1 lb sea scallops (around 16)
5 Tb melted butter
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 scallions, chopped in short lengths, green part included
Salt and pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs
4 Tb olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
Lemon wedges or sliced for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450° F.
Place the scallops, melted butter and chopped scallions in a bowl
Add the garlic, using a garlic press or just mince it.
Add salt and pepper.
In another bowl, add the breadcrumbs and mix in the olive oil.
Place scallop mixture in a casserole and cover with the breadcrumbs.
Bake in a preheated oven for 11 minutes or more, until brown.
Sprinkle parsley over the browned breadcrumbs and serve with rice.
Now is the time of year to make our favorite fresh tomato sandwich: open faced with tomatoes, bacon and cheese. But you don’t have to wait for the big main crop tomatoes to ripen (our first one will come in tomorrow). Instead, you will find that smaller tomatoes have a richer flavor.
Our smaller tomatoes this year include Fourth of July, which always comes in first (July 17 this year), Garden Gem (from Prof Harry Klee’s breeding lab in Florida), Indigo Rose, Mountain Magic, Garden Treasure and one early plum variety: Gladiator.
The main trick to making these sandwiches is to put the bacon over the tomatoes, but under the cheese, so it doesn’t burn when put under the broiler.
Why not make a breakfast sandwich using pancakes instead of a roll? Then it is all hot and delicious, right off the grill. All you need is bacon, eggs, sausage, cheese, butter and buttermilk pancake batter.
We never actually have used a pancake mix, because this old family recipe is so quick:
2 cups flour
1 Tb sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Buttermilk (a bit more than 2 cups)
Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, break in the 2 eggs and add the buttermilk to make a thickish batter.
2 Tb softened butter
1 Tb maple syrup
4 strips bacon
2 sausage patties
2 slices cheese
Butter as needed
Mix the maple syrup with the butter, adding more syrup if needed to get a buttery/mapley tasting spread.
Place the strips of bacon and the sausage patties on a 350° F griddle, and allow to cook slowly.
When the bacon and sausages are cooked, put them aside and keep warm.
Melt 1-2 Tb butter on the griddle and drop 4 ¼ cup measures of patter onto the griddle.
When one side of the pancakes are almost done (judging by bubbles forming on top) break the eggs onto the griddle and allow them to cook slowly.
Flip the pancakes and let them cook.
Place a sausage patty and cheese slice on two of the pancakes.
When the eggs appear nearly done, flip them for 10 seconds to cook the tops, and then place them face up on top of the cheese.
Add two half-slices of bacon over each egg.
Butter the bottom side of the remaining two pancakes with the maple butter, and top the sandwich with the butter side inside.
Serve right away. You can eat them with or without syrup, and with a knife and fork or in hand like a sandwich. Delicious and satisfying, and while rich, it is way less food than a classic “big breakfast.” So there!
The trick to doing the eggs right, is to cook them until they are fairly opaque and then flip them only briefly, so that the yolks stay runny.
We had some delicious clam chowder at one of our favorite restaurants this weekend. Even the oyster crackers were good: until I noticed the label. There was the stupid Non-GMO Project Verified logo with the even less credible butterfly alongside. Look Westminster Bakers, you make a great product, so why sully it with scare tactic marketing?
The funny thing is that Westminster must have just recently added this scary butterfly logo to their packages, because a search for their crackers brings up a lot of pictures without the anti-GMO label. You only find it on their actual company site.
So what does that mean for oyster crackers that only contain 7 ingredients: unbleached wheat flour, water, canola oil, cane sugar, salt, yeast and baking soda? Let’s stipulate upfront that “GMO” is a breeding process for making plants with particular traits. “GMO” is not an ingredient.
The plants: corn, soy, sugar beets, some squash, papaya, alfalfa, and sorghum have traits that allow farmers to grow them more economically and with fewer pesticides. Non-browning apples and potatoes have also been developed. Every major scientific organization worldwide has concluded that these genetic modifications pose no harm. These organizations include the National Academy of Sciences, the AAAS, the World Health Organization, the European Food Safety Association and hundreds of others.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients in these excellent crackers:
Wheat – there is no GMO wheat on the market.
Salt – Nope
Water – Nope
Baking soda – Nope
Yeast – Nope (there are some genetically modified brewers yeasts, but none used by bakers)
Sugar comes from either sugar cane or sugar beets. Much of the sugar beet crops grown in the northern US are bred to resist herbicides like glyphosate, to reduce the need for plowing and weeding. Further this also reduced the amount of herbicide actually used to less than a soda can full per acre.
non GMO sugar
GMO sugar ———– Non-GMO sugar
But sugar is a simply crystalline compound that is easily purified. Above are drawings of conventional sugar and genetically modified sugar. Can’t tell the difference? That’s because there isn’t any. Sugar doesn’t contain any proteins or any DNA to modify: it is just a simple organic compound that can be extracted from cane or beets. Whether the plant was bred to resist one or more herbicides doesn’t matter: the sugar is exactly the same. The idea that there is such a thing as “GMO sugar” is silly. Either way, it is just sugar. The label “GMO sugar” is what we call an anti-marketing label. It is used to scare you away, when there is just nothing there to be scared of. Fear-based marketing is fundamentally dishonest; this is a prime example of anti-GMO hooey!
Canola oil is another funny story. Rapeseed was grown for many years for its oil, used mostly for lubrication. This was particularly valuable in the UK during World War II. However, rapeseed oil had a bitter taste from a series of mustardy compounds called glucosinolates, which may be tasty in brassicas, but not desirable in cooking oils. In the 1970s, Downey and Steffanson of the Saskatoon Research Laboratory laboriously separated the oil part of rapeseeds from the embryo section, and analyzed the oils by gas chromatography, selecting the seeds with the lowest glucosinolate and erucic acid concentration. They planted and crossed these seeds to produce a new plant that produced Canada Oil, or canola for short.
Soon herbicide resistant versions of canola plants were developed by mutation breeding and natural selection. This was very important, because you didn’t want to include the old rapeseed plants in your oil and if they could be killed while keeping the canola plants unharmed it would make growing canola much more economical.
Later glyphosate and glufosinate resistant plants were developed by the usual biotech means, and were made available. The funny part is that canola plants are absolutely promiscuous, and the pollen can blow for miles. This means that there is a good chance that every canola plant in North America may be resistant to these herbicides and thus, by the lights of the idiotic Non GMO Project, a “GMO plant.” So basically all canola oil in North America is GM. And who cares? There is no protein, no DNA in canola oil so it doesn’t matter.
It’s just another anti-marketing label.
Now, there is some canola oil available in the Netherlands that is carefully produced to assure its “non-GMO-ness,” but who cares? Does Westminster buy this? Who knows? Or cares?
Westminster Bakery is almost 200 years old and is justifiably proud of their history and traditions. They claim to be using “the same basic, wholesome ingredients” as their Master Baker devised 200 years ago. Call this marketing hyperbole, though, since canola oil is only about 43 years old.
George Brant’s 2012 play Grounded opened last Saturday at the Westport Country Playhouse. This riveting one-woman monologue stars Elizabeth Stahlmann as The Pilot. Brant’s play premiered in Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013, where it received the Smith Prize for Political Theater and was named a Top 10 London Play by both the Guardian and the London Evening Standard. While this is a strongly written play about a difficult subject, it does not really seem to have any political content that would really make it “political theater.”
It then had a rolling world premiere by SF Playhouse (California), Borderlands Theatre (Arizona), and Unicorn Theatre (Missouri) as part of the National New Play Network’s Continued Life Program.
It has apparently had over 100 productions around the world since then, including a 3 week Off-Broadway run in 2014 with Hanna Cabell and a 6 week Off Broadway run in 2015 with Anne Hathaway. Hathaway claims to have plans to make a movie version eventually.
The play runs about 90 minutes in this version and is played without intermission or blackouts. Brant’s script has few stage directions (or punctuation) except for a few sound cues, leaving much to the imagination of the actress, the director and the set designer.
This Westport Playhouse production was directed by Liz Diamond, a Resident Director at Yale Rep and Chair of Directing at the Yale School of Drama, where Stahlmann also once studied. Perhaps not coincidentally, the complex projections were by Yana Birykova, who also has worked extensively with the Yale Rep.
The play is about a young hot-shot combat pilot (unnamed), arrogant and overconfident as pilots can be, who on leave meets a young man at a pilot’s bar who is not a pilot and is not put off by her job. She spends three days of her leave with him, and when back at her overseas military base suddenly discovers she is pregnant. The Army does not permit pilots who are pregnant to fly fighter jets because the G-forces could be too much for the developing baby, and she is reassigned to a desk job. She has kept in contact with her boyfriend by Skype, and he is overjoyed at the news of her pregnancy, and apparently agrees to marry her. It is not clear why such a dedicated gung-ho pilot wouldn’t consider abortion in this situation, but this is never even mentioned.
We next hear that she is being transferred to Las Vegas to become a drone pilot, or as she contemptuously refers to it, the “chair corps.” She claims that no one ever comes back from the chair corps to piloting and wants to resist, but this is her assignment. So she and her (unnamed) husband and her new baby Samantha move to Las Vegas, where she begins training and soon becomes a drone pilot.
Drone piloting is a very stressful job, as reported in this Times article, and can lead to combat stress disorders, since you actually watch the carnage you create rather than quickly flying away as combat pilots can do. You also add to this the stress of switching gears to family life every night as well. To a large degree the rest of the play is about the effect of this assignment on The Pilot and her eventual Icarus-like ascent and descent.
The set, by Ricardo Hernandez, who also designed the Off-Broadway production, is stunningly ugly, made up of a single platform, barely bigger than a standard 4 x 8 platform, perhaps 5 x 10, covered with dappled aluminum, and containing a single chair which Stahlmann sits on, perches on and leans against. Behind her, ribbed aluminum strips rather like an aluminum awning cover the entire proscenium of the playhouse, perhaps 35 x 16. Eventually, colored lighting changes the mood and turns blue as she describes the joy of piloting her combat jet into the sky. But once she begins drone training, Birykova’s projections simulate the video screens she watches from her drone, with 18 identical rectangular images of several sizes covering the entire wall. Later, a single full screen image shows the target she is following.
Every actress will interpret Brant’s script differently, bringing her own take on who the overconfident young Pilot really is and how she feels, because Brant gives the actress so much leeway. Stahlmann’s interpretation is powerful, but not all that sympathetic, making it hard to connect with her experiences. However, one can still admire the enormous energy she gives in every performance.
Grounded continues at the Westport Country Playhouse through July 29, with performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 2 and 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are available at the theater’s website or by calling 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529.
Every year brings changes in the Nantucket restaurant scene: chefs leave or move to new restaurants, business are sold and reopened, and the intense competition for continuing excellence continues. Realistically, the main tourist season is little more than two months long, and they have just a little time to get established, get their kitchen routine going, build a reputation and attract customers. This is going to be the big challenge this year as two “bigfoot” restaurants have changed hands.
Company of the Cauldron
Chef Joseph Keller who worked with his brother Thomas at the French Laundry and at Per Se has purchased The Company of the Cauldron from long-time owners All and Andrea Kovalencik. Keller also was the chef at the Woodbox on Nantucket some 18 years ago and developed a beloved popover recipe which is now featured at TCotC. Keller was able to keep much the same staff and promises to maintain the same style of a single prix fixe meal. Right now, their website is under construction, but you can see their weekly menu summarized on their Facebook page.
Keller has maintained the single menu per night for a fixed price that had been the policy of the previous owners (their kitchen is probably smaller than yours), but that fixed price has gone up significantly. Lobster Monday is now $115, Tuesday Surf and Turn $98. Every Wednesday is now his ever-popular fried chicken $83, Thursday Grilled Hangar Steak $89, Friday Pan Roasted Swordfish $92, and Saturday Grilled Tri tip $98. Every dinner comes with a salad course, popovers and a dessert course. You can make a reservation by Email or telephone, but you have to give a credit card number to confirm, and they require a deposit of $25 for 5 or under, and $100 for 6 or more.
We look forward to trying them out when we arrive.
However to illustrate this year’s price inflation, last year’s menu featured 4 course meals for $75 with Lobster Mondays being $98, rather than 3 courses, (plus a popover).
The Club Car
The Club Car, right on the way to Straight Wharf has been a popular dining destination since Joe Pantorno and Chef Michael Shannon opened it in 1977. It was a white tablecloth restaurant with tuxedoed waiters and well-regarded food and service. After Shannon retired, sous-chef Tom Proch took over, continuing treasured dishes like Shannon’s Shrimp Scampi and Beef Wellington, but in recent years, especially after Proch retired, the restaurant’s service had become tired and the food repetitive, but much less impressive, while maintaining their high prices, where a number of entrees were over $40.
So it is with some excitement that we learned that Pantorno sold the Club Car to a new team: head chef Mayumi Hattori (formerly the chef at Straight Wharf) Ty Costa, director of operations, and general manager Tanya McDonough. In addition, the interior had been completely redesigned by Tharon Anderson with a lighter and brighter and less formal look (and apparently no white tablecloths).
Hattori, who is of Japanese and Spanish descent, wanted to include some of her home cooking and has overhauled the menu, doing away with the formal dining experience, and replaced it with 6 tapas ($5-$10), 4 toasts ($8-$15), 12 small vegetable plates ($14-$19), 7 Land and Sea plates ($19-$31) and for people who want a traditional main course, there is limited availability of 3 larger plates: roast chicken $39, lamb shank ($40) and whole lubina for a jaw dropping $50. Lubina is just a word for sea bass. So any question that the Club Car is less expensive is easily dispelled.
In an interview in the Inky, Hattori indicated that she wanted to focus on small plates where vegetables are the star. She is also featuring 4 “toasts,” sweet pea, mushroom, beets and jamon Iberico. They do not plan to offer bread. Since the intention of the small plates approach is to get the table to order a number of dishes, this could run up quite a bill, although the food is most likely to be delicious, based on Hattori’s work at Straight Wharf. And of course, by not serving free bread, she hopes to sell more appetizers and toasts.
The pricey Club Car was always the home of the silver-haired yachting set often in formal nautical garb, and switching their menu to small plates with a vegetarian emphasis is intended to attract a younger crowd. This may or may not work, considering the prices, but these are experienced restaurant people and they can make changes quickly if this doesn’t pan out.
The Charlie Noble
That restaurant at 15 South Water Street that keeps opening and closing, once the beloved Atlantic Café, then the Seadog Brewpub and then Nix’s (which closed suddenly last August), is reopening as The Charlie Noble. It’s run by Fred Bisaillon and Denise Corson, who also run the B-ACK Yard BBQ. The name “Charlie Noble” is nautical slang for the smokestack over the ship’s galley. The owners intend this to be a family restaurant much like the Atlantic Café, and open year round.
Their menu includes similar dishes to the previous occupants, with appetizers including crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail, lobster quesadilla, wings, and crab cakes, and, of course clam chowder. The main courses feature seafood such as lobster and seafood stew ($32), fish and chips ($24), blackened salmon ($23), and golden shrimp plate ($28). They also offer prime beef short rib ($33), Mushroom Kale Bolognese ($24), and a12 oz NY Strip ($36).
They also offer a bucket of 8 pieces of Fried Chicken for $46, (maybe you can share with the next table) and a Seafood Tower for $65, for a hungry table, with crab legs, fried clams, shrimp, cod and fried clams along with corn. No word on what smaller families can pry out of them. Of course even if a couple ordered this chicken and ate only half, this would only be a quarter of the cost of two orders of fried chicken at Company of the Cauldron. And you could take the rest home!
And of course, their sandwich menu includes Lobster Roll, Big Pig ($18) American Burger ($15), Codfish sandwich ($16), Surf and Turf Burger, and the “Fat Chad,” with triple patties, bacon, cheddar and pulled pork for $22, and a Deep Fried Chicken Sandwich for ($17).
Oh, and they have 5 yummy sounding desserts. Looks like a great, relaxing place for dinner with your family and friends!
Greydon House Restaurant
Greydon House (17 Broad St) had a long, slow opening, with hotel rooms available late last summer, but the restaurant, helmed by Michelin starred chef Marcus Ware didn’t open until late in the fall. While people have praised the elegance and décor of the hotel and its $750-$1100 rooms, the menu itself is about all we know about what is probably a really fine restaurant. Ware was the executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s restaurant in Chicago, and more recently at the Michelin starred Aureole restaurant in New York.
The menu features appetizers from $14 to $26 and oysters for $3.50 each. Some of these appetizers include Spring Salad, Grilled Asparagus, Potato Gnocchi, Crispy Calamari and Fusilli with Veal Bolgnese. The entrees range from $29 (chicken) to Halibut ($44), and also include Scallops ($42), Monkfish ($36), Pork Chop ($42) and Black Angus Steak ($36). In other words, at first glance, quite a conventional but somewhat expensive menu. We will be interested in seeing how Ware carries this out.
Afterhouse Raw and Wine Bar
Afterhouse is the project of Galley chef Scott Osif, with David Sylvia and Kevin Anderson, all of whom worked together at the Galley. Located at 18 Broad St, it takes over the space occupied by the Meursault Wine Bar, and in keeping with its informality, it has no web presence. The restaurant features crab salad, oysters, fish eggs, tinned fishes and a leg of Bellota ham, they serve on toast. Along with their beers and wines, this makes up an interesting seafood restaurant in a space without a stove. They are open from 2:30 pm to 12:30 am, so line cooks coming off shift. According to an interview in the Inky, the afterhouse is a room on a whale ship next to the galley, where a sailor could relax and get out of the elements. We expect a number of people will want to relax here.
Sandbar at the Jetties
Sandbar at the Jetties now has an extensive menu for lunch and dinner. The menu includes burgers and dogs, a raw bar, salads, chicken, steak and lobster. They also have an extensive drinks menu. Just the thing for beach refreshment.
Keepers is a new mid-island family restaurant at 5 Amelia Drive, and run by Sabrina Dawson and Gaven Norton. The menu prices are very reasonable, and include appetizers like Shrimp Skewers, Seared Salmon Tacos and Crispy Arancini. Entrees include Meatloaf, Pork Tenderloin, Chicken under a Brick and Flat Iron Steak, and four salad items.
This easy recipe makes a cool lime custard in ten minutes work plus 4 hours chilling time, and is just made from limes, sugar and cream. No eggs, no flour. So why does it thicken? It’s the lime juice that coagulates the milk proteins. This recipe was suggested by one in Bon Appetit. Possets go way back to the 16th century and are mentioned in Shakespeare as well as by other writers of the time. In British Food History, Neil Cooks Grigson writes that most mentions of possets in the 18th and 19th century were to a warm drink made with curdled milk, sugar and alcohol, but there is one 1769 article that pretty much describes what 20th and 21st century cooks are making. You can make possets using any acidic fruit juice: orange and lemon possets are also common. In each case, the acid of the fruit coagulates the cream, but because of its high fat content, it makes a smooth custardy texture.
2 limes, peeled into strips
Juice of the same 2 limes
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt
½ cup cream
1 Tb sugar
4 mint leaves
Put the cream, sugar and salt in saucepan and add the strips of lime peel. Boil gently for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken the cream.
Strain the cream and return it to the saucepan. Add the lime juice and stir.
Allow the cream to cool a bit and begin to thicken and pour into four ramekins.
Chill for 4 or more hours.
Peel the peach by submerging it in boiling water for a minute and cooling it in cold water. Pull off the peel, using a vegetable peeler if it is stubborn.
Cut the peach into slices, place into a bowl and sugar them with about 1 Tb sugar.
When ready to serve, add the sugar to the ½ cup of cream and whip it. Place a peach slice on each ramekin, add a dollop of cream, and decorate with a mint leaf.
Joe Buffington Quigley was born in Kitanning, Pennsylvania in 1869, and became one of the early Alaskan pioneers. He told Ranger Grant Pearson  that he had entered Alaska by crossing the pass from Dawson on his 22nd birthday (May 9, 1891), and was later one of the first white men to cross the Chilkoot Pass.
Joe Quigley was my grandmother’s father’s brother, and thus, my great (2) uncle Our family is proud that Joe and Fanny are part of our history.
Joe had been mining in the north for nearly 10 years along the Forty Mile River before the Klondike stampede. He returned to Dawson, and found the claims mostly taken. Instead, he prospected along the Copper River and joined the rush to Tanana and prospected near Fairbanks.
He then moved on to prospecting at Kantishna, inside today’s Denali Park, near Mount McKinley in 1905. Perhaps it was on a return to Fairbanks to file a claim that he became seriously ill with typhoid and was nursed back to health by Fanny MacKenzie who had been working as a cook and housekeeper In Fairbanks.
Francis Sedlacek (always called Fannie) was born in Wahoo, Nebraska in 1870 to Bohemian immigrants Vencil and Josephine Sedlacek .They had 3 daughters and a baby boy when Josephine died. Vencil quickly remarried Mary Tomes and they had 2 more children. Farming did not go well for Vencil because of the variable weather, and he lost his farm and began renting land. The family was very poor and lived in a dugout, more primitive than the sod hut Laura Ingalls described.
When they were old enough, Fannie and her older sister were sent to “work out,” to bring in some more income. It was at this point that Fannie at age 16 left home and began working along the construction of the Burlington Railroad, probably as a waitress or cook’s helper.
Since she was working for the food catering company, there are no records of exactly where she actually worked from 1886 to 1898, although for the most part it was following the railroad west. When she left home, she had had barely 2 years of schooling and was not only illiterate, but spoke only Czech, so letters and postcards to her sisters came much later.
Fannie became an official prospector when she was issued a Free Miner’s Certificate in 1899 for Hunker Creek near Dawson. She was also working at a nearby roadhouse, probably as a cook. She followed some of the smaller gold rushes out of the area and soon realized she would do better selling meals. She set up a tent and a portable stove, hung out a “Meals for Sale” sign, and sold meals to the miners for a dollar, realizing that miners had no time to make meals after long days looking for gold.
Surprisingly, after the claims petered out, she returned to Dawson (Yukon territory) and married the handsome Canadian, Angus McKenzie in October, 1900. They set up a roadhouse near Hunker Creek providing meals, liquor and possibly some lodging. This marriage was punctuated with liquor soaked fights, one of which landed the two of them in court in December of 1901. By the end of 1902, Fannie had had enough, and walked out on McKenzie in January of 1903, and walked 700 miles to Rampart, Alaska in the dead of winter, and eventually down to Chena and Fairbanks.
Fannie spent nearly 3 years in and around Fairbanks, probably working as a cook or housekeeper, but she staked her first claim in March, 1904 on Alder Creek. We assume this is where she first met Joe.
Fannie and Joe
Fannie moved to Glacier City in the Kantishna area in 1905, with her Meals for Sale tent , but by 1906 had moved in with Joe Quigley in Glacier Creek. She filed 26 claims in the area as “F McKenzie” or “Mrs McKenzie.” There is no evidence that she ever divorced Angus nor that he had died: there does not seem to be any death record for him. While he was in the Fairbanks area soon after Fannie was, he seems to have disappeared. She did operate a roadhouse called “Mother McKenzie’s Cabin” in 1913 and registered her claims under the name of McKenzie. She and Joe were formally married in 1918.
Soon after their marriage, they moved to a ridge in Kantishna that is still called Quigley Ridge. They constructed 4 cabins, one for themselves, one for guests, and one for storage. The last one may have been for their dogs, who provided their only transportation.
Fannie dug a large garden and raised vegetables despite Alaska’s having only 10 frost-free weeks a year. The summer days were very long, however. Pictures seem to show raised beds and a sort of a canvas cover to lengthen the season. She raised “all kinds of berries,” lettuce, cauliflower, celery, rhubarb, onions potatoes, cucumbers and even some tomatoes. She became an excellent hunter and trapper, providing all their meat and enough to serve fine dinners to guests.
She picked gallons of wild blueberries and cranberries as well. Most fascinating was that an abandoned miner’s tunnel behind their cabins was under the permafrost and she used it as a refrigerator and freezer. Park Ranger Grant Pearson  described her larder as containing “sides of caribou, moose, bear, skinned and cleaned rabbits, porcupines, ptarmigan, and shelves of dozens of pies, cakes, bread, rolls and doughnuts, all frozen hard as rocks.” He said she had a 5 year jump on Clarence Birdseye, who was supposed to have discovered quick freezing. She also had a closed room with a series of doors that kept it at about 40 degrees where she kept all her vegetables. She was noted for her pies and the flakey piecrusts that she made from lard rendered from bear fat. They only imported sugar and flour and some eggs. Everything else they ate came from Fannie (and Joe’s) hunting and their garden.
One of the great stories Fanny told was the time she spotted a moose, but was pretty far from her cabin . It would be dark soon, and if she shot the moose and went home, animals would have gotten it by morning. She didn’t have any sleeping gear with her, so she shot the moose, gutted it, and climbed inside to spend the night. In the morning, the blood had frozen and she said she “had a heck of a time” chipping her way out. But she did get that moose home. This is one of those almost “tall tales” you hear from hunters, and historian Jane Haigh  is skeptical of it. But with the added detail of being frozen inside the moose, it seems pretty likely to be true. This story was used by Edna Ferber, in her book Ice Palace. This story was also confirmed by my grandmother who had heard it through the family.
Joe’s mining moved to Quigley Ridge and while they continued to find small amounts of gold to pay their yearly expenses, he also discovered a vein of galena (silver and lead) and quartz. Over the years he studied mineralogy during the winter. He set up an assaying outfit and was able to assay the ore he and his friends had dug. We also know that he and Fannie visited Quigley relatives in Oakmont, PA in 1922, as shown in the photo at the bottom of this article.
In 1930, Joe was seriously injured in a mining tunnel collapse. He was working so far from their cabin that Fannie brought him supplies every few days. He had crawled to the front of the tunnel and Fannie helped him to his tent, built a fire in the stove and fed him soup. Fannie discovered he had broken his hip and a shoulder, and she went for help.
Meanwhile, the stove in Joe’s tent exploded. Fanny had accidentally used wood shavings instead of wood chips in her hurry, and Joe watched the fire approach his bed. Fortunately, there were two trails of shavings and they met and burned themselves out. He never told Fanny.
A neighbor, Johnny Busia, hiked 40 miles to a telephone so he could summon a plane and a doctor. The plane arrived on June 1 and took Joe to the Fairbanks hospital, where he remained until September 24. When he returned he was partially disabled. He couldn’t raise his arms over his head and one leg was longer than the other: he couldn’t do much mining. This is when he began development work, seeking to find mining companies to sell their mines to.
Joe finally succeeded (“struck it medium rich”) selling his Red Top Mine near Eureka in 1937, for $100,000 plus royalties. The mine provided gold and silver ore and quartz. The mining company began bringing in equipment and it was running from 1939-1942.
Joe and Fannie spent less and less time together during this development period, and in April 1937, they decided to split the proceeds and divorce. (There is no record of this divorce that I can find, even in the newspapers.)
When Joe left Alaska, It has been said that he moved to Seattle and married a nurse named Julia  who had cared for him in Fairbanks. But all evidence seems to show that this is a myth. I can find no record of his marriage, nor do either of them appear in the 1940 census. Nor is there any article in the gossipy Alaskan press announcing the marriage. Further, no articles about Joe after that date mention a wife. Haigh’s book  attributes this marriage story to Grant Pearson, who had become Park Superintendent, but neither of his articles in Alaskan Sportsman nor his book mentions a wife [2, 3, 4].
In fact, it appears that Joe did not remarry, but first travelled south to Hot Springs, Arkansas  and spent some of the 1937-38 winter using the warm waters to help heal his mining injuries. After some travel, he returned to Fairbanks, but left for Seattle for the winter on September 20, 1938.
He returned to Fairbanks in 1939 by steamship on April 15 to celebrate his 70th birthday on May 8 , and gave a presentation on all the old miners he had run into in his travels. Joe had not been sitting still, but had driven 17,000 miles all over the US in 1937-8, spending time in Florida, California and Mexico City.
In the winter of 1938-9, he drove another 14,000 miles, visiting Chicago, Detroit, the East Coast, Key West, Nevada and Arizona.
While in Alaska in 1939, he took up some prospecting, leaving in September , and returning in June, 1940, when he discussed  all the mining opportunities he’d seen in Oregon. He returned in June of 1941 . The reporter noted that he had almost entirely recovered from his injury, and looked better than he had in years. Joe left Fairbanks for Seattle on Aug 12, 1941  and is not mentioned further in the papers.
In Grant Pearson’s article, he mentions visiting Joe in Fairbanks in 1945  and while Grant asked if he planned to return to Alaska, his eyes lit up, but said he didn’t plan to do so. Joe was mentioned in the 1952 paper  as one of seven remaining members of the Pioneers of Alaska, who had arrived before 1899.
Joe died in Seattle in 1958 at the age of 89. As far as I know, none of his eastern family knew he was living there. The obituary in the Seattle Times mentions two relatives: Vernon Quigley of Portland and Mrs Joseph Morgan of Long Beach, CA.
Fannie remained in her beloved Kantishna, with a view of Mt McKinley, but the mining company built her a new frame house near the Moose Creek airstrip, so she wouldn’t be disturbed by the mining activity. This allowed her to get to Fairbanks more easily using the mining company’s flights. In 1938, we read that she spent the winter in the Pioneer Hotel in Fairbanks. The newspaper [ 11] indicates that a pilot had ferried supplies to Kantishna for her, and that she would return to her home in about a week.
In August of 1944, neighbor Johnny Busia noticed that there was no smoke coming from Fannie’s house. She had died that night. The newspaper described her at her funeral as “the droll, spunky and tenacious little pioneer, so well known and loved throughout Alaska.” 
Joe and Fanny were well known because they entertained guests regularly, including Jack London and other writers. Joe was best known for his mining and mineralogy expertise as well as his personal kindness, and Fanny for her hunting and wilderness cooking skills. Together they made the area around Denali Park and Mt McKinley so attractive to visitors that it became a significant tourist attraction. Joe was also an excellent photographer, developing and printing his own photos, and many of his photos can be found in the Fannie Quigley Collection  at the University of Alaska.
Here is a really easy chicken stew made with peanut butter and peanuts. You might find this strange and you won’t believe that some people actually do some of these diets in the eastern countries thinking it is an american tradition. If you have a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, the cooking time is only 30 minutes. It’s probably 60-90 minutes in a covered pot. The original recipe on the Simply Recipes site serves 6-8. We cut that in half and easily had enough for 4. And in an Instant Pot, it is very little work.
1 to 1.5 lb chicken thighs
3 Tb olive
1 large onion, sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced. (you needn’t peel it as it almost dissolves anyway.)
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks
½ small can (7 oz) crushed tomatoes
12 oz chicken stock (add more if not using pressure cooker)
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup roasted peanuts
5 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cayenne
Salt and black pepper
¼ cup cilantro (omit if you don’t like it)
Brown the chicken pieces in olive oil in the Instant Pot, set to sauté. You can remove the skin or not, as you wish. It will come off later when you cut up the cooked chicken. Do this in a couple of batches if need be. Remove and drain.
Sauté the onions until they soften, and add the ginger and garlic. After 1-2 minute, add the sweet potatoes and mix together.
Add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, coriander and cayenne. Stir to combine, and add the chicken back into the pot. Add salt as needed.
Cook the stew under pressure (manual setting) for 30 minutes.
Release the pressure (quick release is fine), cut the chicken off the bones and discard the skins. Return the chicken to the pot.
Add as much black pepper as you’d like to make it peppery. Stir in the cilantro if you must.