The table is set, the buffet dishes are in place, the napkins are neatly folded, the kitties are on their best behavior. It’s time for the Manitou Winds Virtual Potluck!
The silverware and napkins are over there by the plates. You might as well dig in. I think I hear our next guest arriving…
It’s Anne Bara, our clarinetist. In addition to her music stand and the requisite reams of sheet music, Anne often brings two clarinets with her — one is her Bb clarinet and the other is an A clarinet (used for all those pieces with sharps in the key signature). They look almost identical except the A clarinet is slightly longer. Do they sound alike? That’s a constant source of debate and discussion!
Yes! It’s cold out there!! “I grew up in South Dakota,” Anne says, “so a winter without snow and storms and ice would just seem wrong! I will say I miss the sun we always had in South Dakota. Even when there was a wind chill well below zero for days in a row, there was always sun — certainly can’t say that here!”
In spite of the cloudy days a Northern Michigan winter most reliably brings, Anne doesn’t mind winter at all. “My children love to play in the snow,” she says. “This winter I’ve been outside way more than I ever have in previous years. I love to snowshoe and ice skate, too, but those are both pretty impossible to do with a 2- and 4-year-old!” In fact, just bundling up all those hands, feet, and faces to brace against the wind is likely a feat of planning unto itself!
Anne was the last official member to join Manitou Winds, coming aboard a few months after we initially began. It was tough to find a clarinetist who was not only up to the challenge but also willing to devote the necessary rehearsal time to learning what’s often very demanding music.
Chamber music places unique demands on clarinetists. A typical clarinet part in a wind quintet contains music that runs the gamut from “backup singer” to “complete diva” — leaving no room for timidity or fumbling fingers. The performer must have a comfortable grasp on the full range of the instrument and be able to change moods and character at a moment’s notice in order to hold up their part of the overall piece.
“My favorite thing about being a part of a chamber group is just being able to play really awesome music and getting to see friends on a regular basis. We then get to perform together this music we’ve worked so hard to perfect,” she says. “My least favorite part? When I screw up during rehearsal or when I know I haven’t had time to prepare like I ought to — I can’t hide!” Nerve-wracking as those wrong notes or missed entries can be for any musician, they’re usually a welcome source of comedic relief during rehearsals! You’re never allowed to take yourself too seriously for very long.
Anne and her husband, Tom, (both musicians and educators) have lived in the Traverse City area since 2002. The area is rife with scenic beauty, cozy lakeside towns, and unique artsy finds of all sorts. What would the Bara’s do if they were given a week-long “staycation” where errands and chores were forbidden? “I would spend lots of time hiking with my family,” says Anne, “That’s one thing we all enjoy — although the youngest prefers to be carried in a backpack! I’d also love to tour the wineries again — it’s been years since we’ve done that and there are so many new ones now. We’d definitely go to the farmer’s markets and cook elaborate feasts at home.”
Anne and her family tend to eat more meals at home than at restaurants. Their favorite go-to recipes this time of year are chicken paprikash, lentils & rice, chickpeas with spinach & tomatoes, or a big pot of chili. She enjoys cooking and spending time in the kitchen, attributing most of that fascination to a summer off from college she spent in New York City living with her aunt.
“She taught me all about fresh mozzarella and parmesan (I’d only ever had the kind you shake onto pizza at Pizza Hut!),” says Anne. “She taught me about farmer’s markets where we bought countless vegetables I’d never had or even heard of before. She taught me how to make bread — I kept a sourdough starter in my fridge for years after that.”
Anne still enjoys those gourmet pursuits but finds it more challenging with the sometimes finicky palates of her two young children as her critics. “Our kids are mostly tolerant — even if they don’t always eat a lot of the food we make,” says Anne. “My son, particularly, likes to help me cook and bake — even though it does mean an extra hour or two to complete a project!”
Other than cooking, Anne loves spending time in the garden — an activity that the kids are getting more involved with each passing year in the digging, weeding, and watering. “I used to spend the whole summer outside taking care of our flower gardens. Fortunately, I have all perennials, so the gardens still look good even though I’ve taken about four years off.”
For today’s potluck, Anne’s brought a sure-fire party favorite that marries her love of the kitchen with her love of the garden.
Yields about 2 cups
Anne says this is her favorite recipe to take to parties. It’s quick and easy to put together and adds a welcome reminder of summer during these cloudy wintry days.
2 medium-size Haas avocados
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 small tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño pepper (leave seeds in for a zesty dip!)
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Halve the avocados lengthwise. Remove and reserve the pits. Scoop the flesh into a medium bowl. Add the lime juice and salt; mash with a fork or potato masher, mixing well.
Add the green onions, tomato, garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro; mix well. Serve immediately or press the avocado pits halfway into the dip and cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent browning. Will keep nicely for 2 days. Serve with tortilla chips, salsa, and cheese.
Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series: