Michigan football started spring practice this week and there was some great video of Coach Harbaugh working with the quarterbacks. I wanted to spend this week focusing on a player most haven’t heard of despite the fact that he was one of Michigan’s first, and greatest, quarterbacks. Benny Friedman didn’t just play football at Michigan from 1924-26, he revolutionized the way the game was played. In the 1920s football largely resembled rugby; passing was still rare and discouraged. The ball was rounder and hard to throw and you could even be penalized for consecutive incomplete passes (I highly recommend Radiolab’s story on football’s early days). So when Friedman started to pass with great frequency and accuracy, it drew a lot of attention. Coach Fielding Yost said Friedman was “the best quarterback I ever coached” and along with wide receiver Bennie Oosterbaan he made up the ‘Benny to Bennie’ connection that was nearly unstoppable in the mid 1920s at Michigan.
In researching this post I came across this practice footage from 1926 at Ferry Field (the Big House would open the next year). It is really amazing film and I especially love the slow motion ‘Bennie to Benny’ pass at the end. Friedman was an All-American his last two years at Michigan and voted as the 1926 Big Ten MVP. In a 1925 game against Indiana Friedman threw for 5 touchdowns, kicked the extra points, and also made two field goals. Friedman had a similarly large impact on the way football was played in the NFL. He was so sought after by the New York Giants ownership that when his current team, the Detroit Wolverines, wouldn’t give him up, the Giants owner simply purchased the Wolverines to ensure Friedman was his quarterback. Friedman could throw anything with a perfect spiral, including this semolina sandwich loaf.
When my wife and I got to Paris last summer the first thing we each ate was a piping hot bowl of French onion soup. It was surprisingly cool afternoon and we had been walking around for a few hours and sufficiently worked up an appetite. We stopped at a cafe across the street from the Sorbonne (ever the campus tour guide, I wanted to see the campus) and warmed up with delicious soup.
I think I had it twice more over our two and a half week trip. It’s not hard to see why I and so many others love this dish. Onions? Check. Bread? Check. Melty cheese? Check. What more could you want? Compared to the insane cold of last winter the past few months have been relatively mild. But in winter one must make soup, so that’s what I did a few weeks ago.
Today is the 200th post for Bakers and Best (thanks again Kati for the idea) and I wasn’t quite sure how to celebrate. For my 100th post I baked a cake but this time I decided to go the ‘act like you’ve been here before’ route and not make a big show of it (except, you know, for these last two sentences). Brian Cook of MGoBlog published a long piece on former AD Dave Brandon on Wednesday at the same time I was considering who to photoshop this week. That made me want to give some space to the man who set the standard for modern college athletic directors, Don Canham.
As a Michigan student in the late 30s and early 40s Canham made a name for himself on the track and field team, winning a NCAA title in 1940. After four years in the Air Force he would return to Ann Arbor and in 1948 became head coach of the track and field team. He had great success there but is most known for his twenty year tenure as athletic director at Michigan. In his second year he hired Bo Schembechler as the football coach and it would be the only time he’d have to hire one.
Canham revolutionized the way college football was marketed in that he was one of the first to market it at all. Under his leadership Michigan would start the attendance streak of 100,000 that continues today. A great deal of the pageantry fans have loved about Michigan games for decades resulted from Canham’s ideas. He also realized that just about anything could have a block M stuck on it and be sold. But while Canham was focused on making Michigan sports a profitable enterprise he understood the value of good PR, and that the end goal was not necessarily to squeeze every possible dollar from your customer. Canham, who passed away in 2005, often had people waiting outside his office each day hoping to get freshly baked simit.
About two years ago for dinner my wife made banh mi (pronounced like bon in bonfire) bowls from Budget Bytes and it became an instant favorite for us. The bowls are a bread-less version of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. There is no denying the exceptionally complicated and often dark history (and present) of colonialism but it has given us the blending of various culinary traditions. These sandwiches resulted from French colonial influence in Vietnam, featuring a Vietnamese variation on a baguette with traditional ingredients including daikon radish, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, and jalapeños. It is worth noting that banh mi is actually a term in Vietnamese can technically describe any sort of bread. Most often it describes the baguettes associated with this sandwich which is how the term has gradually been appropriated to mean the sandwich itself.
I’m fairly certain the first time I had a banh mi sandwich was at Ginger Deli in Ann Arbor. It was incredible. The spicy mayo gets soaked up by the spongy baguette while the heat of the jalapeños alternates with the coolness of the carrots, daikon, and cucumber. When I say I can’t get enough of these sandwiches I am not exaggerating. Two weeks ago I had one for dinner each night of the week and last week I had one for lunch every day. By the time you read this I may be going through the early stages of banh mi withdrawal.
Today marks (almost) one year since I started these Photoshop Phriday posts! Though I had been sharing pictures at the end of other posts for some time it wasn’t until Valentine’s Day last year that I shared the first full post about Charles Woodson (how romantic!). This marks the 44th of these posts and somehow I’ve made it this far without highlighting Anthony Thomas (though I made note of him when talking about Chris Perry). Anthony, or A-Train, was a force to be reckoned with in Michigan’s backfield from 1997-2000. When he was selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft he held the Michigan records for rushing yards and touchdowns (both have since been broken).
His career at Michigan got off to a great start when in 1997 Michigan won the national title and he was selected as the Big 10 Freshman of the Year. Having not grown up watching Michigan football, I like that these posts give me an opportunity to go back and watch games from the recent and not-so-recent past. In this case I watched the 2000 Michigan vs. Michigan State game, where Thomas rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Those two TDs would be the only scores in a 14-0 Michigan win. Dragging a Michigan State defender on his back across the goal line, Thomas completed this great 31 yard TD run. This game also had an incredible goal line stand by the Michigan defense which culminated in a fumble recovery. What gave Thomas the energy he needed to bulldoze Spartan defenders? Delicious banana bread of course (Photo credit to Danny Moloshok)!
This month’s #BreadBakers event was hosted by Heather of Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks, who chose bagels as our theme. I’ve made bagels several times before and tried a few styles (traditional New York bagels, thinner crispy ones) so I wanted to use this as an opportunity to try something different. If you’re interested you can read my previous bagel posts where I made Peter Reinhart’s bagels and pumpkin bagels.
Simit are sort of a Turkish variation of a bagel that is braided and covered in sesame seeds. After I took the baguette class at Zingerman’s I made baguettes non-stop for weeks,and I have a feeling these are going to be the same way. This recipe made 10 and after shipping 5 off to a friend the remaining 5 didn’t last very long. This is also an exceptionally simple and relatively quick recipe if you are looking for something to try without having to dedicate an entire day.
Most times that I’m in the car I like listening to NPR. I’ll usually avoid going shopping from 11-1 on Sunday (I can’t stand the sound of Garrison Keillor’s voice) but I like when I time it so that I can listen to The Splendid Table. A few months ago on the show there was an interview with two women who had just published a new Cuban cook book, The Cuban Table.
They spent a portion of the interview talking about the dish ropa vieja and by the time it was over I knew I had to try and make it myself. It translates to mean ‘old clothes’ which I’ll admit doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. The story goes that a poor man with nothing to cook for his family began to cook old clothes in a pot and his love for his family turned it into a tasty meal. Fortunately for all of us, there is a version that doesn’t involve stinky laundry.