Saturday, October 29, 2005

On Writing: Another Pigpen Penthouse Photo

A few days ago, in response to email requests from readers of my recent New York Times story, I posted some photos of the Pigpen Penthouse. I promise, won't keep posting pictures, but Gary McIntire just sent me this one of the morning view from the Penthouse, and it's so amazing, I had to post it (click the image for a larger view):

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On Writing: Bear Stew at the Pigpen Penthouse

Today, the New York Times Dining Section published a story I wrote about The Pigpen Penthouse. I absolutely loved writing this piece -- it felt like such a celebration of life and eating, and the communities we develop around food. Several readers have emailed asking where they can find more information about the Pigpen Penthouse, including photos, and asking how in the world I stumbled on this place (which is a very good question). So I decided to post that information here, along with photos, which aren't available online anywhere (click on these photos for a larger image, which is the only way to really do them justice). The photo to the left shows the hog barn with the octagonal penthouse on top. It also shows the wooden deck Gary built on top of the barn (he nearly killed himself making it -- he fell 35 feet from the roof and fractured his back).

In the future, the Pigpen's owner, Gary McIntire, plans to rent the place out for parties, weddings, retreats. I can't imagine a better place for that (I imagine he'll set up a website for the place when the time comes). When I was at the Pigpen recently talking to Jeff Potts, the man who made the bear stew I wrote about (and ate) in my story, he said, "Go up on that deck, open your eyes wide, and you can see forever." He's absolutely right. This photo (right) is the hot tub on the deck, and the view beyond.

I first found Gary while doing research for my NY Times Magazine article on Baristas, a pub and cafe in a nearby West Virginia town. I spent a wonderful day at the Pigpen talking to Gary about local food, The Pigpen, and what he hoped to do with it. He only made a one-sentence appearance in the Baristas story, but at that point, I knew I'd write a whole story about him someday (I often stumble on my best stories while doing research for other pieces). In the following months, my boyfriend David and I visited the Penthouse as guest chefs ... We made beet soup using fresh beets from the garden; I made my infamous Caesar salad (with real anchovies and coddled egg, none of that creamy Caesar stuff). David made his unbelievable grilled pizza, and we ate at this table (above) on the deck, with the most incredible wine, and view. It simply doesn't get much better than that.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fish Medicine Audio Slide Show Now Live

As I mentioned a while ago, I just finished a mini-documentary on the world of fish medicine for PBS's Nova ScienceNOW series. I also did an in-depth photo and audio slide show for the ScienceNOW website, which explores the most common pet-fish ailments, and the ways fish owners diagnose and treat them (MRIs, CT scans, fish surgery, chemotherapy, you name it -- all for pet fish). This piece is a follow up to Fixing Nemo, a story I did about fish surgery and fish medicine for the New York Times Magazine

The audio show is now live, so take a look. [Update: The entire show is now available online. You can visit the Nova ScienceNOW website to watch the show online, listen to the audio slideshow, and read an extensive Q & A with Dr. Greg Lewbart on fish medicine.]

The full show, which airs on Tuesday October 18th at 8pm (EST) on PBS, is a follow up on my New York Times Magazine article, Fixing Nemo, which ran last year. It covers current developments in the field, and it's filled with incredible footage of goldfish laser surgery, fish owners explaining the intense bonds they develop with their fish, and more. So mark your calendars, and tune in!

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Of Note: Python Explodes After Eating Alligator

Really, the headline on this one says it all. Rangers just reported that a 13-foot python ate a 6-foot alligator, and the result wasn't pretty. The snake tried to swallow the gater whole -- then the snake exploded.

Apparently, clashes between pythons and alligators are becoming increasingly common in the Everglades, where people have developed the annoying habit of dumping their pet pythons when they get too big to keep around the house (say, six feet long, or more). This has the makings of a tremendous problem: They're encroaching on an $8 billion dollar Everglades restoration project by eating the native otters, the endangered birds ... and now the alligators? Encounters like this simply aren't natural -- these snakes are a native species of Asia. They're not supposed to be fighting Florida alligators. But this is the fourth battle of its kind.

Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor, is quoted by VZW News (which isn't online or I'd link to it) saying that in this case, the alligator and python "were probably evenly matched in size ... if the python got a good grip on the alligator before the alligator got a good grip on him, he could win." But, he says, after being swallowed whole, the alligator apparently clawed at the pythons stomach from the inside, causing the snake to explode. The remains found by the rangers were a mess: The alligator's hind end protruding from the snake's midsection; the snake's stomach still wrapped around the alligator's head, shoulders and front legs ...

This is an unfortunate blow for the folks in the Everglades restoration project -- they've been hoping the alligators might control the rapidly growing Burmese python population. "This indicates to me it's going to be an even draw," Mazzotti said. "Sometimes alligators are going to win and sometimes the pythons will win." Then, in one of the most striking understatements of the day, the BBC quotes Mazzotti saying "Clearly, if they can kill an alligator they can kill other species ... it means nothing in the Everglades is safe from pythons ..."

See, now that's just one more reason I live in New York City: No pythons, no alligators, and no quicksand ...

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