January 29, 2009

anti-feminist round-up

1. Dick Armey explains: the only reason to listen to a woman is so she'll have sex with you.

(via Bitch, Ph.D.)

2. Also: gross. And not that free from the scrutiny of feminists. You're on the internet, for crying out loud.

3. Question of the day: if ultra-right-wing Christian teen-agers think saddlebacking doesn't ruin their purity, what about fisting? Or dildos?

January 27, 2009

I mean

yes, Beyonce's "Single Ladies" "celebrates the oppressive power dynamic that exists between men and women, while simultaneously trying to imply that women can utilize the subordinate position in a heterosexual romantic relationship to empower themselves." That is undeniably true.

Also true: the video is based on Bob Fosse choreography, which is kind of amazing. And it's a great fucking dance song, especially if you happen to encounter it at a queer dance party. Nothing quite like dancing to oppressive heteronormativity in a bubble tea restaurant/bar crammed with dykes. Actually, there's another opportunity to do that this weekend, for those who live around here.

January 18, 2009

still cooking

Still not writing. Instead, experimenting with desserts. It's "would you still love me?" week at my house for baking. What if I add too much of something? Or don't have a particular ingredient at all? Will I still be a worthwhile person and will the recipe work out and how is this related to me getting into grad school? So far all the desserts have turned out fine, and no one has disowned me for fucking them up. Maybe I'll get into grad school after all.

Two weeks ago I made the Cook's Illustrated coconut cream pie with bananas and caramel on the bottom. The recipe has a lot of moving parts, which kept hitting me over the head like the workshop tools in the Pirates of the Caribbean fight scene. I bought the crust, because last time I made a graham cracker crust it was more like graham cracker crumbs weakly coating the outside of some custard. The store-bought one held together much better. But no sooner had I heated the milk, the coconut milk, and the unsweetened coconut than I realized I didn't have enough eggs. To the co-op! Which was out of eggs! Fortunately a friend was working there: he offered me as many eggs as I needed from his own refrigerator if I'd go to his house and bring his dog back over. Great. I got to pretend I have a dog for 15 minutes while I picked up my two eggs. When I got home, I realized that I actually needed three eggs. I had to wait til the next day to make the custard, but ultimately triumphed.

The pie was awesome. The custard is good enough to be a stand-alone recipe. To convert it to banana-caramel, per the suggestion of the original recipe, I just made caramel sauce (half of the recipe lower down in this post), poured the caramel into the crust, sprinkled in some toasted coconut, sliced up a banana and arranged it on the caramel, and then added the custard. I did not top the custard with a full layer of whipped cream, because I've done that before and it dilutes the coconut flavor. Instead, just a dab of whipped cream on top. If I'd had it, I would have added black rum to the whipped cream, though vanilla is also very good with coconut.

Last night: Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread, from Smitten Kitchen, which I discovered earlier this week and love. Also delicious. I added an extra half tablespoon of ginger, a little more of the other spices, and an extra teaspoon of baking powder. That last entirely by accident. The cake completely collapsed in the middle, but its deliciousness remained, especially eaten with caramel sauce and maple-bourbon whipped cream. Use plenty of bourbon.

Speaking of caramel sauce, I don't understand why people don't make it more often. It's easy, and forgiving. This time I accidentally put the cream in before the butter, and for a while I thought I was going to end up with a floating layer of butter on top of my caramel. Fortunately, it mixed in eventually.

Caramel Sauce
1 c. sugar
5 Tbsp water
1/4 c. butter
1 c. whipping cream
salt to taste

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir. Heat gently until bubbling slightly, then turn the heat up to medium high. Let boil without stirring (original recipe says to use a wet pastry brush to get crystals off the sides - do this if you want, but all that happens if you don't is that it burns a little on the side and you need to give it more soaking and scrubbing.)

Eventually the sugar starts to caramelize. Swirl and stir it - the edges will be darker, and you want to see the combined color. When it's the color you want (I like burny dark caramel, but you can experiment) turn the heat off. Whisk in the butter, then the cream. The caramel will bubble up furiously and maybe crack a little, and the sugar will tend to form a sticky tangle. Stir over low heat until everything is smooth. Add salt and taste. You can also add vanilla or other flavorings here, though I've been wondering what would happen if I mixed the sugar with Earl Grey instead of water.

Just made chocolate-chip coconut meringues, because we had left-over egg whites, and tried science to discover the relative merits of greased-and-floured versus plain baking surfaces when you don't have parchment paper. Or cookie sheets, but all our alternatives are Pyrex. No science there. Surprise! If you grease and flour the pan, the meringues stick less.

The recipe is for Almond Rochers. We didn't have almonds, but there was a penciled note suggesting coconut and chocolate chips instead. We didn't have enough chocolate chips, so I just added some extra coconut (left over from the cream pie). They turned out beautifully: the recipe (which I'm not posting right now; maybe tomorrow) has you warm the egg whites and sugar before you beat them, and the residual heat melts the chocolate just a little, so that it's streaky instead of chunky. They make interesting stripey organic forms, kind of like less regular, flat-bottomed pollen particles. Yummy yummy allergens.

January 16, 2009

promises, promises

I'm supposed to be writing about why David Brooks is wrong about education, and how Value at Risk relates to No Child Left Behind.

But I just started a new (yet remarkably non-stressful) job, and I've been traveling, and it's winter, and the Gardener is sick, so what I actually want to write about is food.

I found out last week that the awesome, famous, surprisingly unpretentious1 beer bar in my city - which I knew to buy local when possible and to buy wind power offsets - also serves at least some meat that I'm happy to eat. I found this out by calling and asking in the middle of the afternoon, and the reaction of the person I talked to was, "Are you writing an article or something?" No, no, I just want to know for myself. What about the steak frites? The burgers? What about chicken dishes? "Is this for an article or what?" Oy. No, I am just that interested.

Also, are you sick? Is someone in your household sick? Do you need something tasty and nourishing to eat that doesn't take long to make? Consider miso-tofu-rice-greens Feel Better Soup.

Feel Better Soup for 2

  • 1 cup rice (white, brown, short-grain, long-grain, whatever)
  • a little tamari
  • a chunk of wakame/nori/other dried seaweed (optional)
  • hot pepper flakes
  • 2 cups leafy greens (chard, kale, spinach, etc), washed and cut into wide ribbons with most of the stalks removed
  • half a block of tofu, cut into small cubes
  • miso paste - I get fancy South River three-year aged barley miso, which it will not surprise you to learn I like better than Miso Master; but Miso Master (or whatever) would be fine
  • 2-3 scallions, washed and thinly sliced
  • toasted sesame oil
Cook the rice like you normally cook rice.

Bring 2.5 - 3 cups of water to a boil. Drop it to a simmer and add a slug of tamari and some hot pepper flakes for flavor. Add the greens and the tofu, and simmer until the greens are cooked but not soggy, 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in miso to taste - miso doesn't do well being boiled. Serve it up.

To serve: put a big scoop of rice in the bottom of your bowl. Ladle the soup on top. Garnish with scallions, and add a generous slug of toasted sesame oil in the middle, where it will look cool. Eat.

Note that you still have half a block of tofu left, and probably some scallions as well, so you can make this the next night too.

1. It's pre-foodie-revolution in a way that makes it feel like the staff are stoked that you're interested, rather than judging you for not knowing enough already.

January 6, 2009


Just go read the Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson op-ed in the NY Times. It's Wendell Berry! Also they talk about pasturing, which is really awesome, and about perennialization of grain crops - definitely awesome.

Soil that is used and abused in this way is as nonrenewable as (and far more valuable than) oil. Unlike oil, it has no technological substitute — and no powerful friends in the halls of government.

Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland. This irremediable loss, never enough noticed, has been made worse by the huge monocultures and continuous soil-exposure of the agriculture we now practice.


January 2, 2009

every possible kind of incompetence

The Bush administration: refusing to regulate workplace safety in order to more aggressively regulate allowable species of service animals.

I almost want to leave it at that, but there are a few things in the articles that are too good to pass up. From the OSHA article, which you should read only if you still have the capacity to be shocked by Bush administration venality:1

In 2006, Henshaw was replaced by Edwin G. Foulke Jr., a South Carolina lawyer and former Bush fundraiser who spent years defending companies cited by OSHA for safety and health violations.

Foulke quickly acquired a reputation inside the Labor Department as a man who literally fell asleep on the job: Eyewitnesses said they saw him suddenly doze off at staff meetings, during teleconferences, in one-on-one briefings, at retreats involving senior deputies, on the dais at a conference in Europe, at an award ceremony for a corporation and during an interview with a candidate for deputy regional administrator.

His top aides said they rustled papers, wore attention-getting garb, pounded the table for emphasis or gently kicked his leg, all to keep him awake. But, if these tactics failed, sometimes they just continued talking as if he were awake.
Foulke's explanation excuse? "He was often tired and sometimes listened with his eyes closed." I am an expert on this particular tactic. It is entirely a deception.

The guide animal article profiles a seeing-eye pony, a parrot that accidentally got trained to shout, "Calm down, Jim!" when its owner is about to start a psychotic fit (incidentally, this works very well), and a monkey that staves off panic attacks. I didn't know about the psychiatric care animals, which seem very practical, although I used to work with 'therapy' dogs at a wilderness program. The range of species, and the specific considerations involved, are fascinating; Rebecca Skloot, who wrote the article, also has video and more photographs of the animals in question at her personal blog. Most interesting single tidbit: guide horses can have working lives up to 30 years.

1. I continue to be surprised, once in a while. I think it's less that I don't believe they would, than a sort of astonishment that somehow this administration has managed to think of everything. It's like the Eddie Izzard bit about killing extraordinary numbers of people: you screwed that up too? Really? It's impressively thorough.