On The Job – Nancy Birn Struckman

Professional editor

Nancy Birn Struckman is a professional editor based in Hollis. Her business, Editing for Style (345-3348, nancy@editingforstyle.com, editingforstyle.com), provides editing and proofreading services for graduate students, business professionals and writers.

Explain your job and what it entails. 

I edit books, blogs and newsletters, dissertations, manuals and websites. For dissertations, I do line- and/or format editing pre- or post-defense, so the dissertations can be published. For the other types of writing, I edit for grammar and spelling, consistency page-to-page and continuity.

How long have you had this job?

I started the business 10 years ago, but I have been doing this type of work for years.

What led you to this career field and your current job? 

I started editing dissertations while working for a university in central New York, worked as a managing editor for a small local newspaper, and love editing other people’s work. Starting my own business gave me flexibility.

What kind of education or training did you need?

I have a B.A. in English and a really good eye for spelling and grammar and consistent writing. Many of the academic editors I know have master’s [degrees] or Ph.D.s, but they’re not necessary for the work I do.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire? 

A T-shirt and jeans.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?

Graduate students and other customers usually have tight deadlines so I have to turn over their work quickly. Another challenge is getting the word out. People have to trust me and my expertise to know I will take care of their editing needs.

What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?

That I would be lucky enough to end up doing what I love.

What do you wish other people knew about your job? 

I believe in retaining my customers’ voices. I really do edit for style, adding or subtracting verbiage so their writing is clearer and more concise. For fiction, especially fantasy, I make “family trees”: a page of relationships, physical characteristics, and for the consistent spelling of brand new words from the author.

What was the first job you ever had?

In high school in Queens,besides babysitting, I worked in a jeans store during the disco era, selling jeans to people who spoke many different languages, only a few that I could speak or understand.

What is the best piece of work-related advice you have ever received? 

Be confident in your abilities and don’t believe in impostor syndrome.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Favorite movie: Young Frankenstein
Favorite music: Anything but heavy metal.
Favorite food: Sushi and ravioli, definitely not at the same meal.
Favorite thing about NH: The interesting people and the many outdoor activities available close by

Featured photo: Nancy Birn Struckman. Courtesy photo.

Treasure Hunt 23/03/23

Hi, Donna,

I have attached pictures of two tables I acquired from my parents. I believe my mother (born 1931) received them from her parents (born 1904 and 1906). Anything you might be able to tell me about them would be great. The round table has inlaid pearl.

Thank you very much.


Dear Sandi,

Let’s do one table for now. It’s a sweet Victorian-style table. The inlaid pearl and wood design is not so uncommon in that style table.

Your dates could be right or it could be from a little earlier, the mid to late 1800’s Victorian period.

It looks to have been very well taken care of. It also appears to have been refinished. I have no problem with that. When furniture is from the early 1800’s or late 1700’s then always leave it in the original condition.

The value of your table should be in the $300+ range, but it’s tough to call it in the market today. The style is not so popular in today’s design themes.

Nice table, Sandi, and I hope you’re still using it in your own home.

Kiddie Pool 23/03/23

Family fun for the weekend


• The Broadway classic Singin’ in the Rainis being performed by the Palace Youth Theatre Company at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St., Manchester) on Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. The show follows silent film actors as they learn to adapt as “talkie” movies become increasingly popular. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for kids ages 6 to 12. Visit palacetheatre.org

• Have a magical night at the Hatbox Theatre (270 Loudon Road., Concord) Discovering Magic with Andrew Pinard on Sunday, March 26, at 2 p.m. The family-friendly magic show by Pinard will feature everything from sleight-of-hand tricks to lessons in history and science while the master magician beguiles his audience. Tickets are $22 for adults, $19 for students, seniors and members, $16 for senior members. Visit hatboxnh.com.

• Be our guest as the Bedford Youth Performing Company presents Beauty and the Beast at Derryfield School Theatre (2108 River Road, Manchester) on Friday, March 24, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 25, at 1 and 7 p.m. Join Belle as she learns that there is more to people, or Beasts, than meets the eye. Tickets cost $17.50 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors. Visit bypc.org for more information or to purchase tickets.

• A teen version of the cult classic movie turned off-Broadway show Heathers the Musical is being performed at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St., Manchester) by the Palace Teen Company on Wednesday, March 29, and Thursday, March 30, at 7 p.m. The show follows Veronica as she tries to find her way through school and deal with her new mean-girls friend group, the Heathers. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for kids ages 6 to 12. The Palace website notes that the show contains mature content including mentions/depictions of suicide, school violence, and the use of a prop gun. Visit palacetheatre.org.

More maple

• Charmingfare Farm (774 High St., Candia) is celebrating Maple Month with its Maple Express event on Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26, with entry times starting at 10 a.m. featuring a ride to the sugar shack, where you can watch the syrup making process, get a look at tree tapping, meet farm animals and taste syrup on silver dollar pancakes, according to the website. Admission costs $22 per person and can be purchased in advance at visitthefarm.com.

• Ben’s Sugar Shack has two weekends left in their educational maple tours at the Temple Sugar House (83 Webster Hwy., Temple). Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26, are the last days to try out the location’s maple doughnuts and maple ice cream. Tours run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekend. Visit bensmaplesyrup.com for more information.

Spring celebrations

• Celebrate the Irish in you at the Manchester St. Patrick’s Parade on Sunday, March 26, at noon. The parade will start at the corner of Elm and Salmon streets and end at the grandstand on Central Street. The parade will have pipe-and-drum bands, Irish step dancers, school marching bands, police motorcycles and more. Visit saintpatsnh.com for more information.

• Join the Greater Merrimack and Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce for the Southern NH KidsFest on Saturday, March 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Westwood Park Branch of the YMCA of Greater Nashua (90 Northwest Boulevard, Nashua). In addition to kids’ games, activities and live music, parents and caregivers can learn more about year-round classes, summer camps, and businesses that cater to kids. Visit gmsvcc.org.

Pruning fruit trees

Use good tools and don’t overdo it

Ask a farmer, “When should I prune my apple trees?” and you will most likely hear, “March.” That’s an old tradition, but not because it is the only time to prune. You can prune any time. But March is a month on a farm when not so much is happening outdoors and farmers have time to prune their apples. Me? I often prune in the fall, or later in the spring when the ground dries out and it warms up. I say, “Prune when you have the time and inclination.”

Pruning serves a number of functions. First, for many of us, it helps to create a work of living sculpture. Next, pruning opens up a tree and lets sunshine hit every leaf so that it can produce food for the roots and fruits. A well-pruned tree will be healthier and produce tastier fruit. My pruning mentor told me decades ago that a bird should be able to fly through a well-pruned apple tree without getting hurt.

When pruning a fruit tree it’s important to know which branches will be blossoming and producing fruit. Look for fruit spurs on apples and pears. These are roughly 3- to 6-inch-long protuberances with buds on them. As you prune you will have to make choices about which of two branches to cut. Look for those fruit spurs, and be guided by them.

In general when making cuts on an older, neglected tree, it’s better to remove a few larger branches than to make many smaller cuts.

It’s important to know where to make your cuts. If you cut off a branch flush with the trunk you will create a bigger wound than if you cut it off a little farther out from the trunk. Notice that most branches swell a bit at their base. That swollen, wrinkled area is called the branch collar, and it is where healing takes place. Cut just beyond the collar. But if you cut too far out on the branch, you leave a stub which will not heal quickly — it will have to rot back to the collar before it can scab over.

Start by removing any dead or damaged branches. Cut them back to the trunk, or to a larger branch where they originate. Heavy wet snow and high winds this winter have created lots of broken branches. Clean them up. Knowing if a small branch is alive is easy: scrape it with your thumbnail. If it shows green, it is alive. Bigger dead branches will have flaky, discolored bark and will not be flexible if bent.

Remove any branches that are rubbing other branches. Keep the best-looking branch and remove the other. Remove any branch that is headed into the center of the tree instead of growing toward the outside.

Or perhaps you’d like to begin with the easiest branches to remove, the water sprouts. These are vertical shoots coming up from a more-or-less horizontal branch. They are very numerous in some trees, not so much in others.

Water sprouts are generally a tree’s response to a need for more food for the roots. Trees that haven’t been pruned in years have many of these as there are many leaves shaded out and not producing much food for the roots. Or after a heavy pruning, a tree may produce lots of water sprouts to replace food-producing branches that have been removed.

If water sprouts are not removed when they are the thickness of a pencil or a hot dog, they will become as thick as your arm or leg and be difficult to remove. Clean those up every year.

You can change the angle of growth of a branch that is only an inch or less thick. Once winter is over, attach string or rope to a branch and tie it to a peg in the ground or to a weight to bend it down. A half-gallon milk jug works well. Just add water until you have the correct angle on the branch. Forty-five to 60 degrees off vertical is fine. You can remove the weights in June. Branches that are 45 degrees from the horizontal produce more fruit than more vertical branches.

If you have to remove a bigger branch, do it in two steps. First make a cut 2 or 3 feet out from the trunk to reduce the weight of the branch. Then make a second cut just outside the branch collar. Use one hand on the saw, one hand supporting the weight of the branch. That will prevent tearing the bark on the trunk if it falls before you finish the cut.

When pruning, don’t overdo it. Trees need their leaves to feed the roots and fruit. In any given year don’t take more than 25 percent of the leaves (woody stems don’t count when calculating how much you have taken off). In winter you just have to estimate how much live wood you can take off.

A few words on tools: The basics are a good pair of hand pruners, kept sharp. A good pair of geared loppers for medium-sized branches. A good hand saw with a tri-cut blade for branches bigger than an inch or so. Don’t buy the cheapest you can find. Buy the most expensive you can afford. My new curved Stihl hand saw went through a 3-inch apple branch like a hot knife through butter. With the leather sheath, it cost about $65 and is worth every penny.

Featured photo: Fruit spur on an apple tree will produce fruit and leaves. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

More space for more comics

Double Midnight Comics settling in at new spot

After 20 years in their old space, brothers and co-owners Chris and Scott Proulx and their business partner Brett Parker decided to move their Manchester comic book shop Double Midnight Comics to The Factory on Willow.

“It’s a community that we have, in the comic and game world,” said Scott Proulx. “It’s just amazing. For the most part we all get along and share common interests and a [its] place we all escape to together.”

The new location is 5,100 square feet, 1,200 more than the store’s original location on Maple Street. Proulx said the move has provided extra space for comic storage, shopping and in-store entertainment.

Proulx said the team wants to add miniatures for tabletop role-playing games and add more resources for the people who run those games.

A change that customers can already see is that the size of the back catalog has grown tremendously, Proulx said.

“It’s been really nice to build things out on our own and not be limited,” Proulx said. “It allows us to have a dedicated shipping and storage area, instead of packing things in different parts of the store. It effectively allows us to do more.”

The space isn’t just bringing new merchandise into the store; it’s also bringing more activities and gatherings for gamers, people looking for anime watch buddies, and more.

The new location boasts a large meeting room that, with dividers, can become two separate spaces. This means that nights for tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons can happen at the same time as anime screenings.

Proulx said the room will be invaluable when Free Comic Book Day comes around in May.

A huge draw for the store, Proulx said, was the fact that The Factory on Willow seemed excited to make Free Comic Book Day into something bigger than their previous space had. In addition to free books, the store is marketing this year’s event as a free mini ComicCon.

“In 48 hours we were completely booked by artists,” Proulx said. “We’re going to have 35 artists, some food trucks, outdoor activities, free comics and a lot of other things.”

The Factory on Willow is an apartment building with an artist in residence and art showcases, and soon will have a brewery opening up. Because of the community of artists at The Factory, Proulx said he is excited to see how people respond to the area.

Because of the Air BnB in The Factory, Proulx said they can have a room reserved for special guests, and he hopes to be able to have meet-and-greets with writers and artists and others from the communities the store caters to. Proulx said that it feels like the store is being included in a society of like-minded businesses at The Factory.

“The biggest thing is being part of a community,” Proulx said. “We have all these businesses who get together once a month and have a roundtable to talk about how we’re doing…. It’s a breath of fresh air.”

Double Midnight Comics
Where: 252 Willow St. in Manchester (Double Midnight also has a shop in Concord at 341 Loudon Road)
Visit: dmcomics.com
FCBD: Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 6, with a free comic con in the Factory’s event space from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See the website for updates.

Featured photo: Double Midnight Comics at The Factory on Willow. Courtesy photos.

The Art Roundup 23/03/23

The latest from NH’s theater, arts and literary communities

One-man show: Etz Hayim Synagogue (1½ Hood Road in Derry; 432-0004, etzhayim.org) will present the one-man comedy My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy on Saturday, March 25. Showtime is at 7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m. The opening act will be Off Our Rockers, a group of Londonderry seniors, according to a press release. Tickets cost $35; snacks and beverages will be available for purchase. See etzhayim.org/my-son-the-waiter.

Youth audition alert: The Palace Youth Theatre (palacetheatre.org/pyt) is holding auditions for performers in grades 2 through 12 for its upcoming production of PUFFS (For Young Wizards)!, on Monday, March 27, at 5 and 6 p.m., according to an email. Auditioners will stay for the full one-hour time slot at Forever Emma Studios (516 Pine St. in Manchester) and be given sides to read and play some improv games, the email said. Rehearsals for the production will be Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and the performances will take place Tuesday, May 9, and Wednesday, May 10, at the Rex Theatre in Manchester. Email MeganAlves@palacetheatre.org with performer’s name, age and preferred audition time, the Palace email said.

‘It’s De-Lovely’
The Majestic Academy of Dramatic Arts will present Anything Goes: Youth Edition featuring children and teen performers this weekend at the Derry Opera House (29 West Broadway in Derry). See the show Friday, March 24, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, March 25, at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 26, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $13 for 65+ and $10 for 17 and under. Call 669-7469 or go to majestictheatre.net for tickets, which will also be available at the door.

At the Players’ Ring: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee continues its three-weekend run at the Players’ Ring (105 Marcy St. in Portsmouth; playersring.org, 436-8123) with shows through Sunday, March 26, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets to this musical comedy cost $30, $27 for students and 65+ and $17 for children under 12.

Fancy Nancy onstage: Southern NH Youth Ballet will present Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet in two performances at the Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester; palacetheatre.org, 668-5588) on Sunday, April 2, at 1 and 4 p.m. There will be a fancy tea and meet-and-greet with Fancy Nancy and her friends 45 minutes prior to each show for an additional $20 per person, according to a press release. The company will also perform The Ugly Duckling at the shows, the release said. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for children ages 12 and under.

Community bands: The Windham Community Bands will present a concert on Saturday, April 1, from 5 to 10 p.m. featuring the Windham Swing Band and the Windham Concert Band performing “a variety of Earth-themed music to reflect this year’s theme, ‘The Blue Marble,’” according to a press release. The concert will take place at Castleton Banquet & Conference Center (58 Enterprise Drive in Windham) and dinner is included with admission. Tickets cost $55 per person or $500 for a table of 10, the release said, and the evening will include a cash bar, raffle baskets and dancing. Call 425-3284 or email info@windhamcommunitybands.org for more information.

Poetry contest
The Derry Public Library’s (64 E. Broadway in Derry; 432-6140, derry.org) 6th annual MacGregor Poetry Contest, open to poets ages 15 and up, is accepting entries through Saturday, April 1. The winning poem will receive a $100 prize (with prizes for second and third place as well), according to an email from the library. The MacGregor Jr. Contest, open to poets 14 and under, will also award prizes — a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card for first place, and a prize for second place. Submit up to two poems, no more than two pages each, with name, address and contact information included (but not on the poem), to macgregorpoetrycontest@derrypl.org or to Derry Public Library Poetry Contest, 64 E. Broadway, Derry, NH 03038. Contact derrylib@derrypl.org or 432-6140 for more information.

Virtual author talk: Richard Mirabella will present his novel Brother & Sister Enter the Forest during a virtual presentation via Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord on Tuesday, April 4, at 7 p.m. Register via gibsonsbookstore.com; registration is free though ticket packages with the book are also available.

Book talk: Author Timothy Egan will discuss his new book A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them at the Music Hall Lounge (131 Congress St. in Portsmouth; themusichall.org) on Tuesday, April 18, at 7 p.m. Egan’s previous books include The Worst Hard Time and The Immortal Irishman. Tickets cost $47 and include a signed hardcover book, a reserved seat, a beverage and admission to the book-signing meet-and-greet, according to a press release.

Lift her voice

ART NABE showcases women in music

By Mya Blanchard

ART NABE, a Manchester organization dedicated to amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities, is hosting the inaugural Celebrate HER, a gala-like event with live performances to show appreciation for female musicians based in New England.

The event will be held inside Southern New Hampshire University’s Robert Frost Hall on Saturday, April 1, and will also be livestreamed via Zoom — attendees will be able to mingle, enjoy light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres and, of course, listen to music.

“A person attending … would be supporting the music scene of New Hampshire, but more so, local artists,” event director and local artist MHB, who also goes by just M, said. “They would be able to experience live music from so many different genres [such as] afrobeat, hip-hop, rap [and] R&B.”

The concept of ART NABE, M said, was born in the fall of 2021. Raised in the Granite State, M returned home from school in Philadelphia to work in the art industry and soon realized that there wasn’t a place for artists to come together, nor a space to display their work.

“Our team really just thought it would be a good idea to expand on this idea of creating a space for all these artists to display their talents and their small businesses,” M said. “Our mission is really to highlight … underrepresented groups … that are either creative or entrepreneurs in the entertainment arts and culture space.”

ART NABE highlights these groups by hosting pop-up events related to art, music and food, like the local arts market they hosted last summer. This event included live music, in addition to vendors who were selling their products and artists displaying their work.

While discussing what to do for their next event, they ultimately decided they wanted to center it around women in music.

Sydney Choate, who is also frequently referred to by her stage name, Sydney the Singer, is among the event’s featured artists. Originally from Richmond, Maine, Choate grew up in a musical family with a mother who sings, a stepfather who plays the drums and the guitar, and a grandfather who is a songwriter as well as a guitarist.

“I was raised on really, really soulful voices and I think that definitely molded who I am as a musician,” said Choate, who credits artists like Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé, Toni Braxton and JoJo as some of her biggest influences.

Growing up listening to these artists, Choate knew from a young age that she wanted to be a singer.

“You’ll see my journals [when I was] like 5 years old talking about how I wanted to be a musician and sing on stage, sing my own original music and have my name in lights, and I think it’s the only picture I ever had for myself since I was very little,” Choate said.

Choate, who was involved in ART NABE’s art market last summer, was eager to be a part of this year’s event.

“Why I want to do this show in particular is because advocating for women [and] empowering women is very much part of who I am … so I couldn’t think of an event that resonated with me more,” she said.

As is in line with ART NABE’s goal, Celebrate HER will continue to help the voices of these women in the community be heard.

“I hope that more of the artists get exposure in the local community so that they have future opportunities that aren’t just … in line with ART NABE,” M said. “We’re hoping that it will just open the doors for opportunities for everyone that’s involved in the event.”

Celebrate HER
When: Saturday, April 1, 7 to 10 p.m.
Where: Robert Frost Hall, at Southern New Hampshire University, 2500 N. River Road, Manchester
Cost: Tickets are $25 for the showcase, or $5 to attend virtually via Zoom.
Visit: bit.ly/celebrateher2023, or see “ART NABE” on Facebook

Featured photo: Sidney the Singer. Courtesy photo.

PB & J

An adventure with the classic combination of peanut butter and jelly

Typically I would try to start an article on peanut butter and jelly with some sort of hook, like a story about how a Japanese princess drove off 15 ninjas with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or how a 5-year-old boy foiled a mugging by dropping a jar of peanut butter on a thief in an alley from the 30th-floor window of his apartment. I could tell you a personal story about the philosophical breakthrough I made while eating a spoonful of peanut butter at dawn in an Indian ashram on my 40th birthday.

The thing about those stories, aside from the fact that none of them is remotely true, is that they are unnecessary.

It has to do with the time of year.

Go into any supermarket this week, past the displays of shamrocks and Easter candy, and what do you see? End-cap displays of chicken-noodle soup. Mint Milanos. Extra-large containers of taco chip party mix.

In other words, comfort food.

It is theoretically almost spring. But we all know that even when it comes it won’t be a real, tra-la-la, skipping through the meadow, strewing flower petals type of spring.

It will be mud. Followed by slush. Followed by more mud.

If you are a person who shaves or wears makeup, you’ve seen the haunted look in your eyes in the mirror lately. Do you know what you need?

That comfort food.

And, grilled cheese sandwiches aside, what is the quintessential comfort food?

Peanut butter and jelly.

So let’s peanut butter it up, Skippy.

PB&J Bundt cake

“Cake Gunk” – equal amounts of vegetable shortening, flour and vegetable oil

  • ⅓ cup (75 grams) finely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup (114 grams) sour cream
  • 1¼ cup (213 grams) brown sugar
  • ½ cup (135 grams) peanut butter
  • 1¾ cup (210 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon (3.3 grams) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.7 grams) baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅓ cup (76 grams) half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla – I’ll be honest here; I never measure vanilla. I add a big glug or a small glug. This recipe calls for a small glug.
  • ¾ cup (255 grams) strawberry jam
  • 17 or 18 (60 grams) maraschino cherries, stems removed

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

PB&J Bundt cake. Photo by John Fladd.

Prepare a Bundt pan – brush the inside surface thoroughly with Cake Gunk (see above), then dust with crushed peanuts. (“But what if I’m allergic to peanuts? Is there something else I can use?” Um, theoretically, graham cracker crumbs, but have you read the title of this article?)

Measure or weigh out the sour cream, brown sugar and peanut butter in the bowl of your stand mixer, or the bowl that you’re going to finish the cake batter in. Now leave it alone until you are ready for it.

Combine all your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. If you worry about such things, go ahead and sift them together; otherwise just stir them together with a spoon.

Beat the sour cream, sugar and peanut butter together into a fine goop. (This is a technical term. If you were using butter or shortening, this would fluff up impressively. But you are looking Betty Crocker in the eyes, knocking back a shot of whiskey and using sour cream. This Bundt cake is not for cowards. In the end you’ll be happy about using the sour cream, but for now you will have to accept that your sugar-fat mixture is not fluffy. It is goopy.)

When your goop is as light and fluffy as it is going to get, continue beating, adding the eggs, one at a time, followed by a small glug of vanilla.

At this point your mixture is pretty soupy. You’ll be happy to know that it’s time to add the dry ingredients, alternating with the half-and-half.

So what’s the big deal about alternating ingredients? It’s not like the cake is going to care, is it?

Actually, it will, but only if it’s got a dark sense of humor. If you dump too much of the flour mixture in all at once, you’ll get a face full of flour, which, theoretically, your cake batter will find hilarious. If you pour too much half-and-half in too quickly, some of it will splash out onto your counter and you will start worrying about whether you’ve thrown off the proportions of your recipe, and again the cake batter — understandably, given that you are about to bake and devour it — will feel smug about.

Scrape the sides of your bowl down to make sure that everything has gotten mixed together, then pour a little more than half of your batter into your Bundt pan.

Bonk the Bundt pan firmly on the counter twice. This is to make sure that there are no air pockets. If you want to, you could wait until you’ve added all the ingredients. In this particular recipe, it might also drive your jam and cherries downward, to what will be the top of the cake, and make visible jam inclusions. In any other cake this would be a bug. In this cake it would be a feature.

Gently spoon the jam in a ring around the Bundt pan, on top of the batter you just poured in. Place the cherries in a ring on top of the jam.

Pour the rest of the batter into your pan, making sure to cover the jam and cherries. Don’t worry about being particularly neat; the batter will level itself out.

Bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour. If you are worried about whether it is completely baked, stab it with a probe thermometer. If it reads over 200 degrees F, you’re fine. Don’t worry about it being overbaked; that’s what the sour cream is there for. It has your back.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 to 20 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. I find that I rise up onto my toes as I make the flip, then come down hard on my heels. I don’t know if that does anything productive, but I like to think that it lets the finished cake know that I mean business, and that I haven’t forgotten the whole flour-in-the-face thing.

This is a moist, not-too-sweet snack cake, ideal for sharing with a special friend over coffee. The peanut butter is there, in the background, but isn’t in your face. The jam brings even more moisture and the sweet fruitiness the body of the cake needs. The cherries provide a juicy pop, once per slice.

Could you serve this as an actual dessert?

Absolutely. It’d hit the plate with lightly sweetened sour cream in place of whipped cream.

Peanut butter soufflé

  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon (120 grams) brown sugar
  • ¼ cup minus 1 teaspoon (55 grams) peanut butter
  • Small glug of vanilla – about 1 teaspoon
  • Pinch of salt

A lot of people are intimidated by soufflés — making them, eating them, or even talking about them. They seem extra-fancy and a little fussy. And sometimes they are. There is a place for extra fancy and fussy. But do you know what is the least fussy, least fancy food in the world? Peanut butter. Let’s do this.

Peanut butter soufflé. Photo by John Fladd.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Separate your eggs. Do this over the bowl to your stand mixer or the bowl you will be beating the egg whites in. Put the yolks in a separate bowl. Everyone has their own method for separating eggs. My preference is to break the shell on a flat surface, like a countertop. (This pretty much eliminates small pieces of shell in the bowl that I have to fish out.) I crack the egg open and pour it into my open hand. I keep my fingers just far apart enough that the egg white will eventually release its hold on the yolk and slip through them into the bowl. Remember to wash your hands before and after doing this.

Add the brown sugar and peanut butter to the egg yolks. Mix it well with a spoon. The mixture will be really stiff, so it will be more a matter of mashing than mixing.

Add the salt and vanilla to the egg whites, then whisk them to medium peaks. Have you ever seen a cooking show or competition where a baker beats their egg whites, then holds the bowl over their (or a competitor’s) head to show that they are stiff enough? This is what bakers call stiff peaks. That’s a little stiffer than we want for this recipe. We want them to be the consistency where the TV baker starts giggling and it is just enough to make the egg whites slowly glop onto somebody’s head.

With a silicone spatula, scoop out about a third of your egg whites and mix them into the peanut butter mixture. This is what professionals call loosening up a stiff base. Go ahead and mix everything together. As the mixture becomes more liquidy and stir-able, the doubt you’ve been feeling about your ability to pull this whole soufflé off will ease up by about 15 percent.

This next step is the closest thing to tricky. Use the spatula to scoop out about half the remaining egg whites and put them in the peanut butter bowl. Run the edge of the spatula through the middle of the mess, then sweep it around the edge of the bowl. A tiny bit of the whites will mix together with the base. This is called folding in the egg whites. Even though you can’t see it easily with the naked eye, beaten egg whites are made up of a gazillion tiny bubbles, held together by the sticky proteins in the egg white itself. Remember when your hands felt sticky and gross after separating the eggs? That stickiness is what’s holding those tiny bubbles together. Those bubbles are what’s going to lighten your soufflé and give it lift. By folding the egg whites into the mixture, instead of just stirring it, you are preserving as many of the bubbles as possible. Keep folding until the whites are mostly incorporated with the base.

At this point, your peanut butter mixture should be looking a lot lighter. Your soufflé stress will also lighten up — probably another 15 percent. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the mixture.

Gently spoon the mixture into two large ramekins and put them into your preheated oven.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Your oven and mine are probably different by a few degrees, so you might have to make this recipe a couple of times before you perfect the timing. The good news is that even sub-optimal soufflés are awfully good.

Pull the puffed-up soufflés from the oven and serve immediately. The now-baked bubble matrix is proud and puffy, but it will collapse within the next 10 minutes. Serve with a fruit compote; my suggestion is rhubarb (see below).

When most people think of soufflés, they tend to think of delicate, lighter-than-air dishes that require a lot of concentration to eat. These peanut butter soufflés have a little of that, especially when they first come out of the oven, but they also have a substantial, gooey quality that make them extremely comforting. A fruit compote will help give a contrast to the rich, peanut-butteriness of the soufflé itself.

Why are all the ingredients listed in cups and grams?
Cups: Everyone has measuring cups. There will probably not be any math involved. You don’t sound like a nerd.
Grams: You can measure more precisely. Flour, for instance, can take up many different volumes, depending on whether it is fluffed up, packed down, or if Mercury is in retrograde. After you add each ingredient to a bowl, you can use the tare button to zero your reading out and be ready for your next ingredient.

Fruit compote

This is the easiest thing you will cook this week. It has a “Toast” level of simplicity.

Combine equal amounts, by weight, of frozen fruit and sugar in a small saucepan. This works for almost any type of fruit, but for this particular application I like to use chopped rhubarb; it has a sour acidity to it that contrasts nicely with the gooey peanut butter.

The important thing here is to use frozen fruit. If you have fresh fruit that you want to use, chop it to a size you like, then freeze it. The freezing, while bad for the texture of whole fruit, is perfect for making jams, syrups and compotes. As the liquid inside the cells of the fruit freezes, it forms large sharp ice crystals that pierce cell walls and help the fruit give off more juice.

Cook the fruit-sugar mixture over medium heat. As the fruit thaws, the sugar will help draw out liquid. By the time it comes to a boil, the sugar has dissolved thoroughly. Stir occasionally as it cooks; you might want to help the process along with a potato masher. This is also a good way of separating out cherry pits, if that’s an issue.

When the mixture has come to a boil, remove it from the heat and let it cool. Taste it and maybe add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to brighten it up, if it needs it. You can use this compote as is, or strain it to make syrup (see pancakes, below). The remaining pulp is excellent on English muffins, or a peanut butter soufflé, if you don’t want it so runny.

Keep in mind that raspberries and blackberries are very much more seedy than you think. You will almost certainly want to strain them and make syrup.

A peanut butter and jelly cocktail

You did a really good job with that soufflé. You deserve a reward.

  • 2 ounces Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
  • 3 ounces Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine
  • 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 or 6 ice cubes
Peanut butter and jelly cocktail. Photo by John Fladd.

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake until thoroughly chilled.

Pour, unstrained into a rocks glass. Drink, with a child-like song in your heart.

If you had to guess beforehand, you’d probably think that the Manischewitz would be a little too sweet and that the whiskey would give this drink some backbone. In fact, though the wine is nice and grape-y, the sweetness comes from the Skrewball. In fact, it might even be a little cloying, if not for the lemon juice, which steps in at just the right moment and says, “I got this, Boss.”

This is shockingly good. One of these might turn your day around. Two of them might encourage you to try a new recipe — maybe pancakes (see below). Three of them might bring on some ill-advised, late-night texts. Or a nap.

Peanut butter pancakes with blackberry syrup

Peanut butter pancakes with blackberry syrup. Photo by John Fladd.

So, to make these pancakes the way I really want to, we’d have to run a brunch bar in Las Vegas.

That sounds good to me; it might be our ticket out of here. Tell me more.

Well, OK. It would be really nice to have sourdough pancakes.

Ooh, I’m in. Let’s do that.

Yeah, unfortunately, the batter needs to proof for 12 hours or so. That wouldn’t be a problem in our Vegas Brunch Bar — I’m thinking we should call it Midnight at Schmitty’s — but real people almost never realize they want pancakes until about five minutes before they eat them.

I see your point. Until we get the Vegas place going, I’m going to stick with a boxed mix I like. And who’s Schmitty?

I know a guy, who knows a guy.


That’s Shmitty.

Oh, OK. What about the peanut butter?

Yeah, that’s another thing that will work better in Vegas. I spread some peanut butter on a silicone sheet and froze it, then chopped it up to sprinkle on the wet side of the pancake as it cooked in the pan.

That sounds like a really good idea.

Well, it does, but a home freezer doesn’t really get the peanut butter cold enough. It freezes solid, but because of the high oil content, it melts after the first pancake. We’d have to use liquid nitrogen. That would get it cold enough that a line cook wearing snowmobile gloves and a face shield could drop it on the counter and shatter it into peanut butter shards that she could put back into a bowl of liquid nitrogen until she’s ready for them. It would make a great show.

Aaaand, most of us don’t actually have access to liquid nitrogen, so—

Uh-huh. At home, we’re stuck with using tiny jam spoons to drop dollops of the peanut butter onto the wet side of the pancake.

Does it work?

Really, really well. And then there’s the syrup.

What about it?

We could make it for customers on demand. We could have a buffet of frozen fruit for them to choose from, and they could fill up a bowl with it and we’d make it right in front of them.

And if a customer wanted something special, what could we make?

Twenty-five dollars per pancake.

Peanut butter banana cocktails

The best bananas aren’t pretty.

It’s that simple; people want pretty, yellow bananas, maybe a little bit green at the tips. The ones that don’t have a huge amount of flavor and might even be acidic enough to hurt the roof of your mouth. Ones, in short, that don’t taste very much like bananas.

Photo by John Fladd.

This is what a delicious banana looks like.

No. Not the yellow ones on the bottom shelf.

No. Not the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, though we will get to the peanut butter, soon enough.

The brown bananas with blotches of yellow, sitting in front of the cash register at a convenience store. The ones that look like they have seen too much and lost the will to live. They are the ones that will actually taste like bananas.

And what will you do with one?

Banana rum

  • 1 very ripe convenience-store banana. You want the sketchiest-looking one in the gas station. Pick it up, cradle it in your hands, and murmur to it, “Shhhh. It’s OK. You’re safe now.” This is patently untrue, but lulling your banana into a false sense of security will make this whole process easier.
  • 2 cups white rum

Peel the banana, then muddle it thoroughly in the bottom of a large, wide-mouthed jar.

Add the rum, seal the jar, then shake vigorously.

Put the jar somewhere cool and dark. (I like to put it in the laundry room.) Shake it twice a day for a week.

After a week, strain, filter and bottle it.

This will give you a lovely, slightly cloudy rum that tastes of bananas but is not terribly sweet.

Peanut butter rum

This will use a bartender’s trick called “fat washing.” This exploits a chemical loophole: Any flavor that bonds to an oil will also bond to alcohol. So if you expose something flavorful and fatty — bacon grease, browned butter or, in this case, peanut butter — to a high-proof alcohol, given enough time, the booze will strip away some of the flavor and give it a new home.

Empty a jar of peanut butter into a non-reactive container with a lot of surface area. A glass casserole dish would be ideal for this. Spread the peanut butter over the entire bottom surface of the container with a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon.

Fill the empty peanut butter jar with medium-quality white rum. You don’t want the very cheapest stuff, but the flavor of the peanut butter will cover up any delicate flavor notes, so probably not the most interesting stuff you have either. A bottle of Bacardi or Captain Morgan will do very nicely.

Put the cap back on the peanut butter jar, and shake it to wash out any peanut butter you might have missed, then pour it into your container, to completely cover the peanut butter.

Put some sort of cover over the container — parchment paper, followed by a layer of aluminum foil, perhaps. Put it somewhere out of the way, where nobody will bump into it for a few days.

After four days, carefully pour the rum off into a new container. Filter, and bottle it. It is now delicious.

Two delicious cocktails you can make with these rums

An Elvis martini

Combine 2 ounces each of banana and peanut butter rums in a mixing glass with ice.

Stir gently, then pour into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a strip of bacon.

Even better: a peanut butter banana daiquiri

Peanut butter banana daiquiri. Photo by John Fladd.

In a cocktail shaker with ice, add 1 ounce Banana Rum, 1 ounce Peanut Butter Rum, 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice, and ¾ ounce simple syrup.

Shake thoroughly, then strain into a coupé glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Just as with the banana you used to infuse your rum, you will want to use a lime that has seen a few too many things, one that, if it were starring in a fruit-based buddy cop movie, would say, “I’m getting too old for this.” It might be a little dried up. It might even have started to turn yellow. You want an experienced lime for this.

Your resulting cocktail will be stunningly delicious. You will be able to taste each element — the peanut butter, the banana, Grampa Lime, and the hint of sweetness that you’ve used to make everything mesh.

The world’s best breakfast sandwich

Thanks for meeting with us, Otto. We’re very excited about this project.

The world’s best breakfast sandwich. Photo by John Fladd.

“My pleasure. I’ve always wanted to direct an adaptation of a Shakespeare play. Romeo and Juliet will be a good challenge for me.”

Outstanding! We’re all on the same page. We’ve made a few notes for you on the casting.

“Oh, I’ve got a casting director in mind. I’ve always worked with her and she’s always done really solid work for me.”

Oh, no doubt. We love her. She’s like family.

“And yet, you still have some casting notes for me.”

Excellent! I’m glad we’re all in agreement here. The first part we’ve cast for you — we’re really excited about this — is a bit of a coup. We’ve gotten Helen Mirren to play Juliet.

“Dame Helen Mirren?”

Like I said, we’re really excited about this. Juliet is supposed to be beautiful and Helen Mirren is one of the most beautiful women in the world.

“Yes. Yes, she is. She is also 77 years old. Juliet is supposed to be 14.”

Mirren’s a pro; don’t worry about it. You’re really going to like this next one. We’ve found your Mercutio!

“And who do you see playing him?”

A CGI Scooby Doo!


He’s incredibly popular. This will bring in a whole new generation of Shakespeare fans! We can’t kill him off, of course, but he’ll totally refresh the whole duel scene!

“Ruh-roh, Romeo’?”

See? This practically writes itself!

Details matter, people.


Assemble in the following order:

  • 1 slice of white toast. You’re going to be tempted to use better bread — something with seeds, or fiber, or flavor. Save them for a more conventional sandwich. This one calls for toasted white sandwich bread.
  • Natural peanut butter — the kind that separates if you don’t refrigerate it. Use the KISS principle here: Keep It Simple, Sandwich.
  • Pickled jalapeños. Not fresh chilies. Not hot sauce. Pickled. Jalapeños.
  • A scrambled egg. I make mine in the microwave. Beat an egg in a small bowl with a tablespoon or so of milk or cream, then cook it for 67 seconds. Will it be the fluffiest, most delicate scrambled egg you’ve ever had? Probably not, but it’s the right egg for this sandwich.
  • Fresh ground black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Believe it or not, this is an excellent sandwich. The spicy acidity of the pickled jalapeños cuts the richness of the peanut butter. The egg gives it dignity and gravitas. Delicious bread would be a distraction, but the crunch of the toast pulls everything together.

“OK, but I can put cheese on it, right?”


“It doesn’t really need jalapeños, does it?”

Yes, it does.

“No offense, but I don’t think I’m going to make this; it sounds too weird.”

Don’t worry about it. This sandwich will be there when you need it. Someday, you will be clawing your way back from a broken romance, or a late night out, or three hours of your life in a meeting that you will never get back, and this sandwich will be there for you.

Peanut butter and jelly sorbet

In our increasingly strident and partisan world, it’s easy to feel alone and bitter. It sometimes feels like we have nothing in common. Black is white. Up is down. Tangerine is a color. Madness!

Is there a common thread to humanity where we can find common ground?

Ice cream.

If someone says that they don’t like ice cream, do not trust them. I’m not saying that they are absolutely, 100 percent, reptilian aliens in a skin suit, but you should really not take the chance.

This is technically a sorbet, meaning that it is made without dairy, so we can’t call it ice cream, but it’s frozen and smooth and peanut buttery. It is a riff on a recipe from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.


  • ¾ cup (180 grams) smooth peanut butter
  • ¾ cup, heaping (180 grams) brown sugar
  • 2⅔ cup (660 grams) unsweetened almond milk. I like the vanilla-flavored kind. (Dairy purists can use half-and-half.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • A small glug (see above) of vanilla
  • Jelly or jam for ribbon
Peanut butter and jelly sorbet. Photo by John Fladd.

Add peanut butter, brown sugar, almond milk, salt and vanilla to a blender. Blend everything until it is completely mixed and takes up slightly more room in the blender jar.

Chill the mixture for several hours.

Freeze and churn in your ice cream machine, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Or according to what the spirit of Mr. Peanut told you in the dream you had after eating all that questionable cheese from the back of the cheese drawer.)

As you spoon the sorbet into whatever dish you will be freezing it in, alternate between gobs of sorbet and spoonfuls of jelly. I have found that jellies with bright, acidic flavors work best; seedless raspberry is good. I haven’t tried lime marmalade yet, but I have high hopes for it.

Harden in your freezer for several hours.

This sorbet is exactly what it purports to be. It is cold and intensely flavored with peanut butter. The jelly ribbon gives contrast in taste and texture. It is refreshing, both physically and emotionally.

This Week 23/03/23

Big Events March 23, 2023 and beyond

Thursday, March 23

Join Owen Lowery at tonight’s Art After Work at 5 p.m. as he recounts his time as the Currier Museum’s (150 Ash St., Manchester) Artist in Residence. Lowery, who is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will discuss the projects he has worked on with the Manchester community. See currier.org.

Thursday, March 23

The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road, Londonderry) is having a humanities series presentation by Mary S. Build, seaplane pilot and memoirist, today at 7 p.m. Build will discuss how she found freedom in flying and will be signing copies of her book, Finding Myself in Aviation. Admission is $10 and registration can be completed at aviationmuseumofnh.org.

Friday, March 24

The Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St., Manchester) is hosting Queen cover band Killer Queen: The Music of Queen tonight and Saturday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m. The group celebrates the hits of the classic British rock band and its front man, Freddie Mercury. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at palacetheatre.org.

Friday, March 24

Catch Will Noonan, Lauren Severse and John Baglio at the Tupelo Night of Comedy tonight at 8 p.m. at the Tupelo Music Hall (10 A St. in Derry; tupelomusichall.com). Tickets cost $22. Find more place to get some laughs this weekend in our Comedy This Week listings on page 31.

Saturday, March 25

The Bank of New Hampshire Stage (16 S. Main St., Concord) is welcoming Souled Out Show Band tonight at 8 p.m. The veteran band has been spinning pop songs into soulful renditions for the last two decades. Tickets cost $24 and can be purchased at ccanh.com.

Sunday, March 26

Come to Balin Books (375 Amherst St., Nashua) for a book signing event with Nathan Guardian for his debut novel Wicked Womentoday at 2 p.m. The book tells the story of three young women and how they’re brought into the dark world of charming and mysterious Bonnie Buckingham and New England witches. For more information, call 673-1734.

Monday, March 27

Today is the first day of the Spring Cleaning Sale at Studio 550 Art Center (550 Elm St., Manchester). Items for sale will include projects worked on by studio members, a clay fund for kids, and pottery for a purpose, whose proceeds will benefit the International Institute of New England. Most items will cost less than $25 and the sale will be during studio hours, noon to 8 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday. Visit 550arts.com for more information.

Save the Date! Friday, March 31
See Scotland-born fiddler Louise Bichanperform her project “Out of My Own Light” at the Word Barn (66 Newfields Road, Exeter) today at 7 p.m. The show tells the story of Bichan’s grandmother and her traveling from islands in Scotland to Canada to visit relatives and make a tough decision. The show is told through traditional-style Scottish music Bichan composed. Tickets start at $15 and can be bought at thewordbarn.com.

Featured photo. Spring Cleaning Sale at Studio 550 Art Center. Courtesy photo.

Quality of Life 23/03/23

Double the St. Pat’s fun

There is still more St. Patrick’s Day fun to be had as the City of Manchester celebrates the holiday this weekend with its St. Patrick’s Parade and Shamrock Shuffle. The parade will be held on Sunday, March 26, kicking off at noon from the intersection of Salmon and Elm streets in the Queen City and continuing south on Elm Street. Admission is free, and shuttle services will run from 10 a.m. to noon from the corner of Central and Chestnut streets to the parade’s assembly area. Visit saintpatsnh.com. Immediately before the parade is the Citizens Bank Shamrock Shuffle, a road race organized by Millennium Running that starts (at 11 a.m.) and finishes in front of Veterans Memorial Park (723 Elm St.). Visit millenniumrunning.com.

QOL score: +1

Comment: According to the Manchester St. Patrick’s Parade Facebook page, Elm Street is primed for the occasion with the two painted shamrocks on the pavement in front of City Hall and in front of Veterans Park having been given a fresh coat of paint with the help of Mayor Joyce Craig and the 2023 Grand Marshal Dick Phelan.

Increased hate group activity

Data recently released by the Anti-Defamation League revealed that activity by organized hate groups is on the rise and at an all-time high in New England. According to NHPR, the number of reports of white supremacist groups displaying or handing out propaganda in New Hampshire is now more than four times what it was in 2021.

QOL score: -2

Comment: The Anti-Defamation League’s report follows data released by the FBI earlier this year which revealed a significant increase in the number of hate crimes committed in New Hampshire, according to NHPR. New Hampshire law enforcement documented 34 reported hate crimes in 2021, up from 19 in 2020. Hate crimes are defined by the FBI as violent criminal acts against a person or property motivated by bias against a race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

B.A.s for KFC-ers

Employees of New Hampshire’s 14 KFC restaurants can attend Western Governors University with 100 percent tuition coverage as part of a new partnership between KFC Foundation and the accredited online university. According to a press release, the opportunity is non-competitive, and every eligible employee who applies and enrolls will receive the tuition coverage. “Every year we look for new ways to support and enhance the lives of KFC restaurant employees,” Emma Horn, Executive Director of the KFC Foundation, said in the release.

QOL score: +1

Comment: WGU offers more than 60 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and certification programs across Business, Information Technology, Education and Healthcare, according to the release.

QOL score: 61

Net change: 0

QOL this week: 61

What’s affecting your Quality of Life here in New Hampshire? Let us know at news@hippopress.com.

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