November 6, 2014

Taj Mahal in Wisconsin.

Isn't this a beautiful building?

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No, it's not the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal was in Wisconsin last night, playing a solo concert in the Stoughton Opera House. The place was almost full, with people who were very warmly appreciative and as far as I could tell 100% white and old. Taj — who is 72 and whose real name is Henry Saint Clair Fredericks — had us all smiling and laughing and spent a good deal of time trying to teach us the proper way to sign the lines:
I had the blues so bad one time it put my face in a permanent frown
You know I'm feelin' so much better I could cakewalk into town
We were feeling so much better we could raindrive back to Madison.

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But we were already feeling good, already happy. Arriving early, we'd walked on Main Street in Stoughton. We'd stopped to read the names on a Civil War Memorial plaque, and up came a very friendly woman who struck up a conversation. We said we'd been looking at whether all of the names were Norwegian, Stoughton being strongly associated with Norwegians, and she told us her name was completely German, but when she was growing up, Germans were not popular, and she did what she could to blend in with the Norwegians, and these days she makes lefse, the Norwegian pastry, in a "health food" form. Sweeties Lefse. Here, I found a video of her demonstrating her lefse technique:



Meade and I walked further on down the road to the Yahara River Grocery Coop and bought some Sweeties Lefse, which we stowed in the car and which I couldn't help thinking about during the concert, as many of Taj's songs are about food, beginning with the first song, "Fishin' Blues." "Put him in the pot, baby put him in the pan/Mama cook him till he nice an' brown/Get yourself a batch o' buttermilk, whole cakes mama/An' you put that sucker on the table and eat it on down." Whole cakes, eh? Anything like lefse?

When we got home it would be lefse I'd be putting on the pan. It was the very pan where we cooked pancakes when I was a little girl. In Delaware, we called that pan the "spider."

60 comments:

chillblaine said...

I LOVE the photo of the wet streets reflecting the primary colors, refracted through the windshield. When I first got a digital camera, I couldn't wait for a rainy night to capture this.

TosaGuy said...

Lefsa was at all of our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. A useful device for eating butter and sugar at the same time.

Mark said...

Lutefisk and lefse, ya ya ya,
Stoughton Vikings, rah rah rah!

Meade said...

"and as far as I could tell 100% white and old."

Take a closer look. I'm old but not even 1% white.

Meade said...

There is just no percentage in remembering the past
It's time you learned to live again and love at last
Come with me leave your yesterday your, yesterday behind
And take a giant step outside your [race-centered] mind.

chillblaine said...

I was drawn to this type of image by the dreamy, hypnotic opening scene in the movie "Taxi Driver."

EDH said...

Candy is dandy and liquor is quicker
You can drink all the liquor down at Costa Rica
Ain't nobody's business but my own

Mr. D said...

Taj is great.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Uh, hoecakes. Wiki Johnnycake

Tank said...

Most blues concerts have nearly 100% white audiences, country concerts too.

Hagar said...

Lefse is food, not pastry.
Goes well with fenalår and mysost.

virgil xenophon said...

First Album of Taj's I ever owned was "Take A Giant Step." Love the guy...but Lutfisk? GAAK!!!

Hagar said...

1920's Hollywood?

sparrow said...

I love Taj Mahal - sounds like great show

Ann Althouse said...

"Uh, hoecakes."

1. Never use "uh" to begin a comment. It's trite AND rude, so it makes you the stupid one. It's not a good way to try to say that you believe the person you are attempting to engage in conversation is being stupid. It's bad for at least 4 reasons. Count them. There are 4 I've just explained.

2. I am copying and pasting lyrics and they are written like that. If you research the question, you'll see a lot of discussion about whether "whole cakes" and "hoe cakes" are the same thing and which is the better way to write it.

Taj had us singing the line "Oh, Mary/Oh, Martha," and the audience was singing "Marcie" for "Martha." He had to stop and explain that it's "Martha," but in the South, that's pronounce "Marthee." It's like we were correcting a nonexistent lisp to make it what seemed to us to be a more conventional name.

Ann Althouse said...

There's the Biblical story of Mary and Martha. It's funny to think there's a story about Mary and Marcie… this Marcie character back there in Biblical times.

Bob said...

"Hish! hish! God goes 'mong the worlds blackberrying. Cook! ho, cook! and cook us! Jenny! hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, Jenny, Jenny! and get your hoe-cake done!"

Chuck said...

I saw Taj Mahal in a small ballroom in the Michigan Union thirty + years ago, and it was a fantastic experience. He plays so perfectly and so impeccably in tune. He is such a great and underappreciated artist. There is a certain tone with Taj Mahal's guitars that, while (mostly) electified acoustic or semi-hollowbody, seem to come only from his fingers.

Thanks for posting this one.

Meade said...

"Mary and Marcie"

May-air-ree and Mar-Ah-ah-Ah-ahr-THeee

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I inherited a set of copper-bottomed Revereware sauce pans from my mom, the same set she used all through my childhood. I feel a strong connection with her whenever I use them. They're great pans. I expect my grandchildren will use them some day.

Ann Althouse said...

The prefix "pan-" means "whole" as in pan-American.

Now, I'm not saying that the word "pancake" isn't based on the cake being made on a pan, but I'm just saying… if you think about it, "pancake" means "whole cake."

Hagar said...

Flatbrød and lefse are very different things, and what shows in that video does not look right for either.
Lefse should be smaller across and thicker, and is delicious hot off the stove.
Flatbrød is bigger across and very thin and dry. They made stacks of Flatbrød in the fall and stored them to eat during the winter.

Chuck said...

Use the Althouse Amazon portal and pick up this CD which is as good as it gets from Taj Mahal; a wonderful collection of some of the best stuff he does in all of his live shows:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-Thing-Taj-Mahal/dp/B00004XSUY/ref=pd_sim_m_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=17F57QJ5E8AB09PXQGQ8

new york said...

Chuck, I saw the same concert. I was in ann arbor 81 - 84 so it must have been then

Mark said...

My favorite venue in Dane County. Have heard a few performers encore without microphones as sound is so good there it works fully acoustic.

Not surprised he put on a great show. So talented.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...It's not a good way to try to say that you believe the person you are attempting to engage in conversation is being stupid

It's a good thing that's not at all what I was saying. I realize you cut and pasted the lyrics and I wasn't calling anyone stupid.

I don't know if the "pan" in pancakes is from the Greek or Latin root, but it makes a difference; panis is Latin for bread or loaf while pan is from the Greek for all. If you think the root is from the Latin loaf-shaped cakes and/or cakes made froma cereal grain (like breads are) makes more sense. The OED could probably settle the question.

Hagar said...

pan - most likely a common Indo-European root.
Latin patina = dish.

MadisonMan said...

The Stoughton Historical Society is also in a very beautiful building -- the old church built with Cream City Brick.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Count them. There are 4 I've just explained

1. Trite
2. Rude
3. Makes you the stupid one because it's trite and rude (presumably the conclusion "you are the stupid one" follows from "you said something both trite and rude"
4. It's not a good way to try and say...

3. is a little weak since it's not so much a reason of its own as it is a conclusion asserted to follow from 1 and 2. Similarly I don't know if asserting a thing is trite (or rude) is the same as "explaining" why it's bad, but it's probably close enough. I counted, though, as instructed.

Francisco D said...

My Norwegian grandmother made lefsa with an old fashioned cooking iron. I have had lefsa several times since she passed in the 1970's - not even close!

Anonymous said...

Saw Taj and Asleep at the Wheel jam in Berkeley in 79? Have seen Taj a couple more times since then. (ASATW a few times as well.) Only song I didn't like was his treatment of 'Six Days On the Road", even though Jesse Ed Davis was his guitar player then. No one ever did that better than Dave Dudley.

Class is getting unruly. If Prof. Althouse assigns extra homework I'm blaming Hoodlum and Meade for being disruptive.

averagejoe said...

Bet your life your sweet wife can catch more fish than you!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to try lutefisk.

Peter

Bob Ellison said...

"pan" comes, of course, from the Indo-European root "hoofa", a derivative of the earlier root "mobilofaso".

The meaning has changed over the millenia. Sometimes it meant "all over the place", and sometimes it meant "a thing you cook stuff with".

garage mahal said...

One Mahal gives you a heads-up about another Mahal playing, and no hat tip?

Todd said...

My wife is from Georgia and she has a cast iron skillet that she inherited about 15 years ago when her 96 year old aunt passed away. Some of the best hoecakes I have ever had have come out of that pan, along with cornbread.

OK, now I have gone and made myself hungry...

Meade said...

We already had tour tickets when you made your heads up comment, Mr. Mahal, but thanks. Were you there? Your brother Taj played real good.

Just an old country lawyer said...

1. Hoe cakes are like pancakes, cooked in a cast iron skillet, with a base of cornmeal instead of wheat flour. I will be happy to share my recipe if you like, or cook you up a batch.
2. I am a native Georgian, with friends and relations all across the south, and I have never heard Martha pronounced any way other than Martha. Not to say that there might not be a nickname or child's pronunciation like "Marthee," but it certainly isn't common.
3. Lyrics that you cut and paste off an internet site are not any more likely to be correct than anything else you find on the internet. I was searching for the lyrics of Louis Armstrong's signature, "It's a wonderful world," And found one version where the line "the dark sacred night" was rendered "the dogs say goodnight."

Larry Nelson said...

Taj Mahal is great. "Giant Step" and his cover of "Corrina" are classics.
Recently I heard a live and solo version of Giant Step on NPR. Love that song.

Original Mike said...

""the dark sacred night"

I've always loved that line, because that's how I view the night.

DanTheMan said...

>> Never use "uh" to begin a comment. It's trite AND rude,

I'm always amused what AA gets worked up about.

Crack openly calls for the murder of police officers; silence from our hostess.

Fritz said...

"3. Lyrics that you cut and paste off an internet site are not any more likely to be correct than anything else you find on the internet. . ."

Amen. Probably less likely.

Love Taj Mahal, too.

tastid212 said...

What's up with the 6th Circuit?

Ann Althouse said...

"his cover of "Corrina" are classics.
Recently I heard a live and solo version of Giant Step on NPR. Love that song."

Giant Step was the encore.

Corrina was the song stuck in my head the morning after. Meade was thinking that cakewalk song, whuch was the song he said we would be thinking.

Anonymous said...

I can't be the only one who sees the Astral Spider in the 'rain' picture. The sighting of Astral Spiders has particular resonance with the Voices you pretend you do not hear. I have seen the Astral Spiders now on several occasions, and they have often heralded a New Understanding of the Paths of the Universe. I cannot express how grateful I am to them for helping me make sense of the Voices. Sometimes it can be years before I truly understand what the Voices say, but the words will stay in my head, waiting for the right time to blossom into Meaning. They are usually a greenish-yellow, but I have seen them be blue before, I do not yet understand the significance of the differing colors, but I am positive there is a Meaning, I just have to listen. I wonder if animals see them, too, and how they perceive the Astral Spiders. I think that cats see them frequently, they probably see the ones that even I cannot see, sometimes they are probably right in front of me and I am walking through them, that would explain some of the feelings I have that I cannot explain. Maybe when I walk through them their voices pass into my head, there is probably a special frequency that enables me to hear them, but only in my head, the frequency cannot be heard outside of my head. When I am in their presence it is like small stutters of electricity travel through my body, sometimes my fingers go numb and I can only feel by listening, I can listen to the sounds the universe makes when it touches against the tangible. That's it: tangible. The voices I hear are tangible, I cannot almost touch them, they are spherical in shape and I think they spin but only on the inside where it matters. I can't be the only one who sees the Astral Spider in the 'rain' picture.

Danno said...

I'd stay away from the lefse, Ann. As it is popular with the Scandinavians up here in Minnesota, it might be the cause of the dumbing-down of the electorate. As I said, Minnesota is an island of stupid in a sea of red.

Just an old country lawyer said...

By the way, how bad does a comment have to be to merit removal by our hostess?

James Pawlak said...

No.

james conrad said...

Is a big Taj fan, my fav "You Don't Miss Your Water Til Your Well Runs Dry", killer song.

tim in vermont said...

Most blues concerts have nearly 100% white audiences, country concerts too.

I guess that explains why bluegrass audiences are white too.

rykscoogan said...

Oh, thank you, Ann. You brought back so many good memories with your Taj Mahal post. Saw him years ago and still find myself humming "Ain't Gwine Whistle Dixie" from time to time. He's also one of the few songwriters who wrote my name, "Janice" in a song, though pronounced in the french way. Nothing like a little nostalgia to start my day. Glad to hear that he's still "Take(ing) a Giant Step" "Farther on Down the Road."

Meade said...

"By the way, how bad does a comment have to be to merit removal by our hostess?"

Pretty bad.

surfed said...

Just drove through Statesboro, Ga on my way up through Gone With the Wind Georgia. Allman Brothers and Taj on the stereo... Classic tunes, classic drive and classic ante-bellum homes. The secret is to find where Sherman's columns weren't. Interesting fact - Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi.

Meade said...

"Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi."

With a 2012 GDP that equaled Belgium's.

ganderson said...

A very friendly woman- in Wisconsin? Shocking! As a side note the evidence of the New England origins of the early white settlers of Wisconsin is everywhere- Stoughton, WI/ Stoughton/MA- and the center of WI cranberry production is Marshfield, just as Marshfield is in the center of cranberry production in Massachusetts! Both states have also elected sensible governors (although the moonbats still rule here. And Taj himself grew up in Springfield, MA, and went to UMASS.

Meade said...

"And Taj himself grew up in Springfield, MA, and went to UMASS."

...where he majored in... AGRICULTURE!

ganderson said...

Mass Aggie, Baby- who got absolutely DESTROYED by the Badgers in football last year- I know, I was there. Got some good meals out of the trip[, however!

Jon Burack said...

I live now in Michigan, but I have a home in Stoughton that I rent out and will be back to in the summer. Stoughton is great. The Opera House is amazing. Saw Iris DeMent there with the woman who was to be, and now is, my wife - a solid German lass herself in all the right ways.

Stoughton is not, however, entirely separated from the Madison scene. During that concert, someone shouted out, "Iris, can we get a foreign policy statement from you." She looked surprised and flustered for a second, said "I don't believe I've ever been asked that at a concert before," and went right on into her next wonderful gospel tune.

Rusty said...

"Spider"

AKA "iron spider"

That's southern.

surfed said...

@Meade - My dig others son lives and works in Belgium. We spend time in Brussels. I like Georgia better. It's prettier and the people are nicer.