Monday nights at Liam Flynn'e Irish Pub feature Gypsy Jazz with some of the most talented musicians in the Baltimore area! Nancy and I hosted an event through the Renaissance Institute for the Winter in the City and over 20 people joined us for an evening of fabulous food and great music. My friend Michael even traveled up from Harrisburg, PA for the festivities. If you are in the Baltimore area, or even i you aren't, consider Monday nights at Liam Flynn's. There is no cover charge, but please be generous when they pass the hat. The musicians share their talent all evening with passion and enthusiasm and they equal or surpass a lot of the paid shows that I've seen!
Music at Liam Flynn's - today's treasure.
Mabon, the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, is a time to give thanks for the many blessings of harvest. We often think of drying herbs, canning, preserving, making wines and robs, freezing and storing root vegetables in root cellars. One method of harvesting you may not have thought of is to make ink! Poke berries are ripe and ready now!
There is a jar in my 'fridge labeled POISON because the juice is a luscious magenta color, clove scented to preserve it, and it could be very tempting! This is the ink that was rumored to have been used to write the Declaration of Independence. Further research indicates that it was used for the draft, but the actual document was written with iron gall ink made from ferrous sulfate and ink extracted from the oak galls.
In the spring, the immature leaves of the poke plant, said to be similar to turnip, collard or mustard greens, are cooked with bay leaves, Cajun spices, and a ham bone. Unlike the other greens, poke is considered to be poisonous until 'thoroughly cooked", a process that requires boiling it for at least five minutes for three times and throwing out the water to replace it with new, uncontaminated water each time. After the final boiling, the instructions are to wring as much water out of the plant as humanly possible. Because the plant is poisonous, so you have to cook it. A lot.
I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and knew people of considerable age (note - I was 12 at the time - anyone over 40 was of 'considerable age' in my perception) who ate poke annually, praising it for it's role in reducing or eliminating joint inflammation, arthritis, and numerous types of cancer.
Personally, I'm reluctant to cook plants that have been declared poisonous. I can go to the grocery store or farmer's market and buy plants that are safe . . . and edible.
NOTE: As I was "poking" - pun intended - fun at poke during one of my “Enhancing Your Life with Herbs” classes, one of my participants mentioned that she grew up eating poke and they simply gathered and cooked the young plants in early spring. She convinced me to give it a try, but Gil, another participant, asked that I wait until my class was over! Loved that class!!!
There are other ways to use poke. If anyone has put a hex on you, use hydrangea and poke to remove it. Call me. I'm not getting into all of that here.
And you could always write a song about poke, as Tony Joe White did in 1969. He wrote Polk Salad Annie. He did a fabulous job and I adore his version, but I'm featuring Elvis because his use of crib notes is truly hilarious, and after all, he is the KING! So I apologize to you Tony. After all, Elvis is King! Enjoy!
Last night Nancy and I braved the frigid night air to attend the Gypsy Jazz session at Liam Flynn's Ale House on 22 W. North Street in Baltimore. It was well worth the effort! The food was phenomenal. Sadly, I got the smaller serving of smoked salmon main. Next time, and there will be a next time very soon, I'll request the super size! The salmon was fabulous and the Waldorf Salad, surprisingly made from kale, was scrumptious. The sauce served with the salmon had me levitating! I have no idea what was going on back in the kitchen, but someone was working magic. And it is rare when I go to a pup and actually feel that I've had something healthy instead of the usual 'everything tastes like everything else" fried and over salted fare. The meal alone would have had me complacent for the rest of the evening, but things were about to get better. A lot better!
When I read the blurb describing the event, there was an invitation for other musicians to join the two guitarists leading the group, so i imagined it might be an open mic type event. Granted, I've been to numerous open mic nights featuring superlative talent, but always mixed with a few musicians. like myself, who are not ready to take the stage.
Everyone who joined the group - there were five by the end of the evening - was a virtuoso. Keep in mind there was no cover charge though they did pass the hat. I do hope everyone was generous! The tab at the end of evening was surprising low - all the more reason to give generously to the musicians.
Note: Nancy and I had been warned about the area which continues to have a reputation in spite of what I have been assured is no longer founded. Everyone was friendly and approachable, We met Jason, a charming young man, along the way to was heading to Flynn's as well. At the end of the evening he offered to walk us back to the car. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Baltimore?
Thank you to Gregory Thompkins, our 'History of Jazz in Baltimore' instructor, for the invitation to attend a night of musical memories i will long remember. The evening showcased world class musicians supporting and playing with students carrying on the legacy of Baltimore's extraordinary legacy of musical talent!
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!