All In The Family

About a month ago, some good friends in Beverley, Yorkshire, alerted me to a monograph which identified an ancestor of mine as the subject to a painting by a favourite artist of mine, Joseph Wright of Derby. The full title of the painting is A Philosopher lecturing upon the Orrery and it dates from about 1766.

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Nicholas McGegan
Springtime in Germany

Last May and June, I made two trips to Germany and had the most wonderful time. Not only did I enjoy myself musically, but I got to enjoy their delicious seasonal food and drink as well. These days, when one can buy anything all year around, even if it has flown across the globe, it is terrific to know that everyone in Europe looks forward to and relishes the local delights that each season has to offer. Springtime in Germany is particularly rich in vernal specialties, and I was lucky to be able to enjoy many of them on my jaunt.

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Nicholas McGegan
A Little Jaunt around Northern England: Part 2

After a night in York we headed out for some more sightseeing. Our first port of call was the charming village of Coxwold about twenty miles north of the city. In the mid-18th century it was the home of the extraordinary and eccentric writer Laurence Sterne, who is most famous for Tristram Shandy, most of which he wrote there. The vicarage, which he renamed Shandy Hall, is still in private hands and is usually closed to the public but I was lucky to have visited in 2015. 

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Nicholas McGegan
A Little Jaunt Around Northern England, Part 1

Earlier this month David and I went for a week to northern England to visit friends, see the sights, and to be present at the opening of an art exhibit of works done by one of my ancestors. We drove down from Scotland, sometimes in driving rain, to travel to Hartington on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. On the way south, we passed through Cumbria which is famous for two wonderful treats, Cumberland Rum Nicky and Westmorland Pepper Cake.

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Nicholas McGegan
Fond Memories Preserved by Recipes

Over the past two years, two great friends who were also terrific cooks have passed away. Both were splendid European ladies who never met, but they were both survivors of bleak times in their home countries who found love and happiness in the United States. As it happens, both shared their recipes for almond cakes with us and so I’m delighted to post them here as a tribute to them.

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Nicholas McGegan
Summertime in the domain of the Esterházy’s

Hungary in the summer is particularly delightful, especially when one is also lucky enough to be making music. In the second half of June, I was fortunate to spend a week recording Haydn Symphonies with the wonderful Capella Savaria and staying in the Eszterháza Castle, which really is Haydn Central! Even better, we did the recording in the newly restored Marionette Theatre. It is an amazing experience to think that Haydn worked there and actually composed the symphonies just down the road. The inspiration behind the restoration of the theatre is the present head of the family, Prince Anton (Antál) Esterházy. Here is a jolly photo of him, Monica Huggett, and me taken after a concert in Sept. 2016. It is hard to believe that he is 80.

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Nicholas McGegan
Délices de Versailles

April was a Rameau month for me. A whole troupe of singers, dancers, actors and orchestral musicians from here and France came to Berkeley. We put on a production of Le Temple de la Gloire, an amazing opera with music by Rameau with a libretto by no less than Voltaire. The story about who is a real hero and real ruler has a nice modern ring to it, don’t you think!

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Nicholas McGegan
All I want for Christmas is…….

OK. I’ll admit it, I am not very fond of the modern Christmas. I simply can’t get into the spirit of Santa, Rudolf, dinky elves, even the whole story of the shepherds, angels, and nasty King Herod, behind which there is hardly a scintilla of truth. Also, the ‘Festive Season’ seems to start earlier each year turning Shopping Malls into Jingle Hells well before Thanksgiving.

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Nicholas McGegan
Viennese Delights

A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of revisiting Vienna. I had been there often in the 1970’s when I was playing in a piano trio in Austria run by my great friends the Gameriths. Since I was last in that magical city, so much has changed. It seems that the whole city has been given a facelift and now looks bright and very spick & span. The best things however seem unchanged, especially away from the slightly kitchy tourist traps. One of my favourite places has always been Hawelka’s, a superb coffee house.

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Nicholas McGegan
Conductor Nicholas McGegan seeks adventure through music — and food

“Being serenaded while you have a picnic is a tradition that goes back centuries. Classical music adds to the atmosphere and to the sense of occasion. It’s great for younger audiences who don’t want to sit bolt upright in a chair and be totally silent, like, “You will listen to this and have a miserable time. Put them outside on a blanket, give them an ice cream, and listen to the music.”

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Nicholas McGegan
In Praise of Picnics

I love picnics and not just because I really like the name. For a Brit, the chance of eating outdoors without getting rained on is of course a risk but one always worth taking. The food tastes different, the atmosphere is more relaxed and one has the joy of going somewhere beautiful to spend time with friends; a solitary picnic isn’t much fun. Nowadays, a picnic can fill me with nostalgia: afternoons while at university when a group of us would take a punt up the Cam instead of studying for our exams. We chaps wore boaters and stripy college jackets and the girls were in their flimsiest Laura Ashley. The wine was kept cool by sticking the bottles in the river but I suspect that the food was not very original because none us had kitchens. But it was obviously good enough for us to be attacked by hungry swans once, who must have found our sandwiches more interesting than their usual damp fare. One of them actually snatched something right out of my hand only inches from my mouth. I have been wary of them ever since and am glad that once I helped to eat one.

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Nicholas McGegan
Celtic Spuds

Ireland and Scotland both produce some of my favourite mashed potato recipes. Having spent last week in Dublin and since I am writing this in Glasgow, it seemed a nice idea to share some of them. All of them are solid fare and have oodles of butter and even cream. One can always reduce the quantities of either in the interests of gastronomic virtue, I suppose!

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Nicholas McGegan
Éljen a Magyar! – Roving and Recipes from Hungary

I have just a spent a delightful week in Szombathely (Hungary) recording Schubert with Capella Savaria. We were working in a beautiful 19th century synagogue which is now a concert hall and on the other side of the street are the ruins of a Roman Temple to Isis. The city is really historic. Two famous people were born there: one real and the other fictitious. St Martin of Tours was born there in the fourth century while, in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Leopold Bloom comes from Szombathely; indeed there is a house in the town square that was owned by a family called Blum in the 19th century but that is pure coincidence. There is a whimsical statue of Joyce on the outside wall.

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Nicholas McGegan
Kay Baumhefner’s Persimmon Pudding

Don and Kay Baumhefner are among our very best friends. He is a wine maker and she is a chef, one time restaurateur and writer. They live in Petaluma in a charming house with an enormous kitchen. We all have birthdays in the same part of the year so we have a great excuse to celebrate together, usually at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. In 2000, at a party at César’s, Kay produced this amazing persimmon pudding which has been a favourite ever since. It is now a regular part of any winter feasting and is always very popular with everyone.

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Nicholas McGegan
Bakewell Pudding

One of the things that I treasure is a manuscript recipe book which was begun in 1851 by Miss Louisa Jane Harrison (1829-1902) of Hundow near Kendal in Westmorland UK. She married Thomas Collier and they became my great-grandparents. The book is very neat and orderly and luckily her handwriting is clear. From the recipes it would seem that she had a sweet tooth for there are so many for cakes and puddings.

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Nicholas McGegan
Kit Leland’s California Style Bouillabaisse

Kit Leland and her husband Hayne live just down the hill from us. As you can see from the photo, they have a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge from their deck. Kit served on the Board of Philharmonia Orchestra and often organized our annual Gala; something she did superbly. Over the years they have become terrific friends. They host wonderful dinners and over cocktails we get to admire the view. One evening she made this lovely California version of Bouillabaisse which we adore.

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Nicholas McGegan