Summer Road Trip Series with Chuck D’Imperio

One of the most fun chapters in my new book A Taste of upstate New York concerned thebagel fest  Upstate food festivals.  Boy, we have a lot of them and I gave as many as I could their very own chapter.  Take tiny Phelps, NY for example.  They used to be known as “The Cauliflower Capital of America” for all the sauerkraut they produced in the many big manufacturing plants in their area.  They are long gone now, but Phelps still celebrates with an annual “Sauerkraut Festival” that is charming and fun.  They even crown a King Kraut and a Kween Kraut.  And don’t forget the annual Bagel Festival in Monticello. Do yophelps-sauerkraut-festival-grounds-08__552xXXXu know that the NYS legislature declared Monticello as the official state “Bagel Capital?”  One of the great events at this festival is trying to create the world’s largest bagel chain.  They string a rope up all along Main Street, get hundreds of volunteers together and then thread real bagels along it to try and hit the record.  These are just two of the wonderful food festivals in my new book from Syracuse University Press.

Summer Road Trip Series with Chuck D’Imperio

One hot spot for great food discoveries is the Utica/Rome metropolitan area in Central New York.  I could have given this area their very own chapter in my book A Taste of Upstate New York.  A couple of specialties did make their way into the book, however.  utica
Pusties at the Florentine Pastry Shop are little homemade pies (or tarts) just right for the lunch box or for snacking.  They sell tens of dozens every day, and they come in several flavors (my favorite is the lemon).  They have been making them here at Florentine for nearly a century and they still use the same equipment as they did when they opened their doors in 1928.  They are located at 667 Bleecker Street.  Simply put, you will be hard pressed to find a better Italian pastry shop anywhere.  Head a few miles out of Utica and you are in the heart of Rome.  Here you will find Teddy’s, purveyor of the best plate of chicken riggies I have ever had.  In fact, Teddy’s has won the trophy at the annual Riggiefest so many times, the trophy has been retired and you can see it on the mantel at this restaurant located at 851 Black River Boulevard.  There are many other food delights in this Twin City locale, from Utica Greens to tomato pie to Utica hats and more.  Here’s an idea….try them all!

It’s the Wimbledon Final!

July 11th is one of the biggest days in the sport of tennis, the ladies final at Wimbledon. Arguably the most famous tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon not only provides the highest level of tennis in the world but also 138 years of history. In honor of this long history, we explore how race has shaped the sport through Blacks at the Net by Sundiata Djata.blacks-net-volume-2-190

While much has been written about black triumphs in boxing, baseball, and other sports, little has been said of similar accomplishments in tennis. In this final volume of his ambitious and thorough examination of black achievement in international tennis, Djata comprehensively fills that gap. Exploring the discrimination that kept blacks out of pro tennis for decades, he examines the role that this traditionally white sport played in the black community and provides keen insights into the politics of professional sports and the challenges faced by today’s black players.

Author Spotlight: Thom Rooke

Recently we spoke with the author of Gene Basset’s Vietnam Sketchbook: A Cartoonist’s Wartime Perspective, Thom Rooke.

What was the most enjoyable part of working on this project?thom rooke
I hadn’t paid attention / thought about the Vietnam War in decades.  Maybe I never had?  It was fun going back and reading up on the war.  It was also nice to work with Gene – he’s full of great stories (and not just about the war.)
How did your collaboration with cartoonist Gene Basset begin?
Gene was a patient of mine.  Along with our wives and my kids, we began doing things socially.  Things grew from there.  Note – the part about “learning to drink martinis” is true – Ann and Gene tried to teach me to drink them.  I got sick on both occasions and gave up.
We see this book is dedicated to Paul Revere, why?
I knew Paul well.  He was a conscientious objector during the war, but made sure that he “gave back” afterward.  He worked closely with a lot of Vietnam veterans / groups (including the “Ride to the Wall” organization.  Paul died this year, and it seemed fitting to dedicate the book to him.
Through these sketches, how is the Vietnam War portrayed differently? What do you find especially unique about these drawings?
The “unique” thing is the lack of combat.  With the exception of one or two scenes, there’s no fighting.  Gene was sent to sketch a war; it seems he sketched everything else.
What would you like readers to gain from Basset’s sketches?
There’s more to war than combat.
 vietnam sketchbook
Have your views on the Vietnam War changed since working with Basset?
I’m not sure.  Like everyone else, I couldn’t make sense of this war when we were fighting it.  I couldn’t make sense of it when we stopped.  I really can’t make sense of it now.
Has analyzing grief through the Vietnam War changed your perceptions on grief as a whole?
It’s reinforced my belief that “bad things happen to everyone” and that most of us find a way to get through / over them.
Working directly with Basset, were your perceptions of his art challenged in ways you had not considered?
I had not realized how quickly he drew.  I always assumed his sketches were careful, thought out works.  They’re not.  These are impressions (does that make him an “Impressionist?”
Which one of Basset’s illustrations do you like most?
There are 2 favorites.  The one titled “You #@$% — Next time don’t forget the beer,” which shows a soldier shaking his fist at a departing plane, is one I had originally hoped to put on the cover of the book.  I’m not alone in also liking “ELEPHANT GRASS, PUNGI STICKS, MINES AND VIET CONG” which shows soldiers disappearing into the tall grass.  Powerful image!

Summer Road Trip Series with Chuck D’Imperio

I had the very lucky opportunity to spend the last year and a half driving around Upstate New York seeking out the food treasures in that region.  You can read the full story of my journey in my new book A TASTE OF UPSTATE NEW YORK.  All summer I will be “taste teasing” you with a few tidbits from the book.  Today, lets find out about potato chips!
 taste of upstate
Potato chips were invented by an Indian chef in a ritzy hotel in Saratoga Springs back in 1853.  The chef, George Crum, was trying mightily to satisfy a particularly finicky (and well-heeled) patron at the exclusive Moon’s Lake House inn.  Many say that the customer was none other than millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt himself.  With each unsatisfactorily sliced order of fried potatoes that got sent back to the kitchen, Chef Crum retaliated by slicing them even thinner than before.  Eventually, as a last ditch effort, Crum shaved the potato paper thin, dropped them in a fryer salted them and sent them out.  Lo and behold Vanderbilt (or whomever the mystery diner was) was delighted with them and a snack legend was born.
There are still places in Saratoga Springs where you can get potato chips that are made just like Chef Crum made them.  
Saratoga….home of the oldest sporting venue in America (Saratoga Race Course), the Museum of Dance and (drum roll, please) the mighty potato chip!
Be sure to check back soon because Chuck will be posting new information about all the hidden food treasures of upstate New York! Also, if you just can’t get enough of A Taste of Upstate New York, check out its Facebook page!

Happy Jackie Robinson Day!

April 15th is recognized as a special day in Major League Baseball and American history. On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson crossed Baseball’s color barrier by becoming the first African-American to join a major league baseball team, the (then) Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, the industry celebrates Robinson on his debut day by hosting commemorative games across the nation known as Civil Rights Games and resurrecting his retired 42 jersey (only during Civil Rights Games are professional athletes allowed to wear his number).

Beyond Home Plate Jackie Robinson on Life after BaseballAlso in remembrance of this hero, activist, and great talent to baseball, we at SU Press take this day to share our titles that revere all of Robinson’s accomplishments. Among them is Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life after Baseball edited by Michael J. Long. This documentary is an eye-opening read that explores aspects of Robinson’s pre and post career that leave reviewers proclaiming what they “thought was impossible”: “a new way to think about Jackie Robinson” (Los Angeles Times). On April 15th especially, Beyond Home Plate holds an even more meaningful place in our hearts; for we can see the depths of Robinson’s contribution to racial equality on and off the field.

Similar books from us include Black Baseball Entrepreneurs: The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues and Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1890-1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary, both by Michael E. Lomax.

We encourage everyone to get to know one of our nation’s most influential athletes and activists not only on this day, but throughout the year. These books are a great way to start!

Enjoy and happy (belated) Jackie Robinson Day!
-SU Press

National Poetry Month is Here

April is an exciting time in the literary world. In these 30 days, poetry is given center stage in the hearts and minds of poets and readers across the globe. We, at SU Press also bring poetry to the forefront by featuring inspirational selections from our favorite collections. In 2015, we celebrate National Poetry Month by highlighting the work of 2011 Nobel Prize winner Tomas Tranströmer. His Inspired Notes captures facets of life that are mysterious yet familiar, possessing the same timelessness that has allowed his work to be nominated for this prestigious award for 18 consecutive years. Tranströmer , in his subtle intensity, transforms the common meanderings of life into complex experiences that beg our attention and awareness.Inspired Notes

A Woman’s Portrait, 19th Century

The voice is smothered in her clothing. Her eyes

Follow the gladiator. Then she herself

Stands on the arena. Is she free? A gilt frame

Constricts the picture.

Medieval Motif

Beneath our enchanting play of features waits

Always and ever the skull, the pokerface.

While the sun rolls slowly on across the sky.

The chess game proceeds.

A hairdresser’s clippers sound from the thicket.

And slowly the sun rolls on across the sky.

The game of chess comes to a halt, it’s drawn. In

The rainbow’s silence.

Collected PoemsDuring this month, we would also like to acknowledge the work of early 20th century, Irish poet Francis Harvey. Collected Poems is a beautifully written anthology, showcasing the best of the poet’s scenic lyricism. Much like the work of Tranströmer, we gain new insights of the simplicities of life, seeing within and outside Harvey’s personal and environmental experiences. Needless to say, the read is worthwhile.


Consider the unblinking perfection

Of this utterly pitiless eye.

An eye being an eye to the heart of stone.

Consider an eye that has never shed a tear

For being what it is and for what others are.

Consider a piece of matter ground out of a glacier.Consider the eye of this falcon and the world as it is

And the eye of God flinching at the peephole of a star.

Enjoy, Happy Poetry Month!


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