14 September 2010

Fractured and out of focus...

So, this is how I have been feeling often of late - fractured and out of focus... Unsurprisingly, I have turned to a list to try and bring myself back together...

Things occupying my mind, in no particular order, frequently simultaneously...
  • Food - how to write about it, what to read next, a cogent theory of food (I can't settle on just one), what is the most healthy, the most affordable, why can't those be the same thing, and, of course, what will I be eating next.
  • Teaching - I am always surprised, even having done it before and knowing what I need to do, how much time is spent thinking about the class I am teaching.
  • Publishing - In following the online popular romance community, I've spent a lot more time thinking about publishing. Now that I work at an independent bookstore, I am thinking about it even more - and it is creating a bit of cognitive dissonance, because the bookseller and the reader are having to coexist inside my head.
  • Writing - I am not doing enough - academic, personal, or food. I am just not. And I want to.
  • Romance - the PCA Romance Area CFP went out and I am torn - I want to do something with food (maybe w/ the Louisa Edwards chef books), but I don't want to move away from Nora Roberts - there is still so much to be explored in her work.
  • Reading - working in a bookstore has not helped to diminish my TBR list. My theory habit also frequently leads to new texts. And then there's food writing, and cookbooks. There are simply not enough hours in the day. And that doesn't even touch on all the active communities online that I (want to) follow.
  • Employment - really more accurately my tenuous state of employment, and the high potential for future unemployment. A worry that I know is shared by many.
  • Family - how much I rely on certain members of my family, and how distant I feel from others.
  • Organization - how to keep all these pockets of my life together, and to keep me sane while I am tugged in so many different directions...
I think I'll go have a cuppa tea, and not think about anything for a while.

06 September 2010

A beautiful goodbye... for now...

As I mentioned before, Little Miss Picky Pants has gotten a teaching job on the Eastern Shore and had to move. This is a great loss for the DC area schools (and me!), but a wonderful gain for her new students (and her). The short notice and frantic preparation for this job and move necessitated helping her move part of her things to her new home. This move was rewarded with some fabulous beach time...

Pier for fishing... which I don't, generally... but makes for good photography...

Self-portrait, with jellyfish...

Sand art...

Glistening water... I love the word glistening...

Black and white...

A flying ray... this picture was hard to get, by the way...

Jellyfish are my favorite... ever...

And family...

Love ya, G., and miss ya...

04 September 2010

Peach Jamming...

My favorite part of Peach Jamming is quite possibly the flummery that you skim off as it boils... sweet and light and foamy, it is like a jam mousse, a cloud of happiness in my mouth. I like to mix it with yogurt for a tasty treat... but sometimes I just eat it by the spoonful... yummery!

The perfume of the boiling peachy goodness is fabulous, permeating the house and making mouths water...

...Okay, so, this is my real favorite... watching jam-spread toast disappear into my roommate's mouth... satisfaction!

And excited to have much more peachiness to bring the summer with me throughout the rest of the year... or at least as long as the jam lasts...

26 August 2010

"The nectarine, and curious peach, Into my hands themselves do reach..."

Marvell was onto something... or maybe just on something, but that is a different post. This one is about this year's first installment of peachy goodness...

(Thanks to the PoetAbroad for this great pic of the slicing step!)

I was worried that this crust wouldn't really work- it was softer than I expected, even having been in the fridge for 40 minutes. However, it crisps up nicely as it bakes and the polenta offers a lovely contrast to the softness of the peaches...

And I didn't use much sweetener, just a little drizzle of honey to highlight the peachy goodness...

Peach Galette

for the crust:
1/3 c all-purpose flour
2 T polenta
1 T vanilla sugar
1/8 t cinnamon
1/4 c cold butter
1 T vegetable shortening
1-3 T ice water - enough to bind

for the filling:
1-2 large peaches, thinly sliced
1-2 T yogurt
light sprinkle of powdered ginger
drizzle of honey

Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Add the fat in small chunks. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until everything is very cold. Pulse together until it has the consistency of sand. Add water a little at a time and pulse just until it comes together. Turn out onto plastic wrap, form into a disc, wrap, and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Remove from fridge. Roll out into a vaguely round shape about 1/8th of an inch thick between two sheets of plastic wrap. Turn out onto a baking sheet.

Spread the yogurt on the rolled-out crust. Sprinkle a little bit of ginger over the yogurt. Layer on the peaches. Drizzle with honey. Push up the edge of the crust to form a juiciness barrier.

Bake at 375º for 30-35 minutes, until the crust is golden and crispy...

Why is it I can never seem to get a picture before we eat... Serves six, or three greedy people... not that I'll say which it was in this case...

25 August 2010

Farmer's Market Bounty...

Orange roma's, green beans, red heirloom tomatoes, green bell peppers, blackberries, basil, canary melon, and ...

I am so excited for peach jam...

19 August 2010

The Wheel of Fortune turns on and on...

So, as it does, life has changed yet again. Little Miss Picky Pants has gotten a teaching job and will be moving this weekend - only 4 hours away, but still. And a dear, dear friend has moved in this week, as well. So with all the shifting, we've decided to rename our domicile - we are now Flock Hall East: The DC Branch.

These changes come in the midst of my own turmoil, not knowing what I want to do with my future, and what I can afford to do. I have recently gotten two jobs, a lovely part-time job at Hooray for Books, a children's bookstore in Old Town Alexandria; and I will also be teaching a writing course, and as I haven't started yet I don't know if it is lovely or not. There is still so much I don't know about what my immediate future holds, but some things are settling into place.

And family dinner remains at the center of whatever my future might hold, so all will be well...

06 August 2010

A taste of summertime...

This summer has been a crazy trip, what with existential crises, life decisions, and some awesome re-connections with friends new and old. We have managed to get some tastiness in among all that turmoil, though...

Little Miss Picky Pants is the baking sister in our house - which makes sense when you think about it. I am convinced that her super-power is organization, and that along with her picky nature makes for a great baker. These are her shortcakes(ok, she used Nigella Lawson's recipe, but she made them). Not that we don't all love to bake, but G. just has a precision that M. and I don't, and so everything she makes is just a little bit better.

Notice the focus here. These shortcakes were amazing! The were definitely great with the strawberries, and what could be more summertime? But I actually preferred them plain with a cup of tea. They somehow managed to be both light and airy and substantial at the same time. These will definitely be revisited, especially if I can convince G. to do them for us again.

I love small-batch canning. We got some damsons (ok, I insisted) at the farmers' market and neither M. nor G. liked them- weird, right? Especially, since they like plums and I don't really. So, rather than eat them all myself, I thought they'd like them better in jam. See what a giving sister I am? Never mind that I haven't made jam all summer, and I want to. So I was off, with my favorite all purpose jam recipe (though I did have to do some math, because I didn't have a whole kilo of plums). While they were macerating, Miss Picky Pants dipped a finger in and tasted it (ok, I know you figured it out - I dipped and made her). "It tastes weird - like cough syrup." Great! I thought, she was going to hate it even as jam. But I persevered - who cares if we have yet another jar of jam/preserves/spreadable fruit substance that only I liked.

I've never worked with damsons before - honestly, they have never stayed around long enough for me to do anything with them. So I was pleasantly surprised as I started to boil the fruit - look at that color! I knew the color, I'd seen it before, but watching it slowly appear and deepen was magical. At that point I didn't care if no one liked how it tasted, it was gorgeous!

Luckily, it also tastes gorgeous. Even Little Miss Picky Pants says so.

11 July 2010

Waffles are tasty...

(I would have put a picture here, but we ate them all up)

Waffles are a favorite around our house, so for our rainy day breakfast they seemed like a natural choice. Though to be honest, it would have been the choice even if it had been sunny... Really, we like waffles. So I regularly get new cookbooks from the library, and a while ago I grabbed Vegan Brunch by Isa Candra Moskowitz. I really like her style and recipes, and I really like brunch so it seemed a perfect match. And it is, if for no other reason than this recipe. I made some changes (in parenthesis) and I will continue to play with it - I want to try adjusting it for an egg or two and see if that accentuates or detracts from the wonderful malty goodness. I also think that these would be easy to do in the blender, which would make the waffle production that much easier. But I couldn't wait to share the recipe, because these are seriously the perfect breakfast food... possibly lunch or dinner, too. Even Little Miss Picky Pants was pleased.

Old-fashioned Chelsea Waffles
From Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

2 c almond milk (1/2 soy & ½ organic dairy)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp canola oil (vegetable oil)
3 Tbsp barley malt syrup, at room temp (last time, brown rice syrup)
1 ¾ c all-purpose flour
¼ c cornmeal
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp corn starch

Preheat waffle iron.
In large mixing bowl mix together milk, vinegar, oil, and syrup until syrup is completely dissolved.
In separate bowl mix together dry ingredients. Add into milk mixture and mix until smooth. Spray waffle Iron and cook waffles according to manufacture’s directions.

She words the instructions just a little differently, but these worked for me.

24 June 2010

Reading notes...

Some things I've discovered from my reading thus far...
  • Marie de France's Lais are all about failing
  • Chretien de Troyes didn't have a high opinion of women
  • I feel sorry for Grendel, but not his mother
  • I (still) think Gawain was an idiot
  • Medieval drama is fascinating and bizarre
  • Piers Plowman is no more comprehensible the second time through
  • I need to be quicker with my theory reading, but I don't want to miss anything important
  • I can't always tell what theory is important
I keep returning to this Einstein quote, "The supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience." This is the balance of experience and theory I am looking for... and the balance that I am not sure how to find...

The majority of questions I have so far are not about what I've been reading, but about myself and my own life... Perhaps that is the point of great literature, but it is very disquieting...

05 June 2010

So... Meat...

I have been thinking a lot about meat lately. Partly because of my recent attempt at fitness, but also because I just finished reading The Butcher and the Vegetarian by Tara Austen Weaver. She very brilliantly grapples with the problems inherent in eating meat - health, economics, environmental, ethical. I have been reading her blog, Tea & Cookies for years, it was one of the first food blogs I stumbled upon, and honestly one of the few I where still read every post. So I knew going into the book that I would probably love whatever she wrote. And I did. And like many of her blog posts, it made me think. It made me consider my own food choices, especially my meat choices. Which I guess makes sense as it is a book about meat choices.

I am not going to give a synopsis of the book - it is wonderful, and everyone should read it and love it as much as I did. I am fully aware that tastes vary, but really - love it! But what I want to talk about here is the reflections on my own meat consumption that reading this lovely book has brought on.

I need to eat less meat... This particular reflection was one that was brought on not just by the book, but also by my recent attention to calorie consumption. I know that I eat more than the recommended amount - even the excessive, big-business influenced USDA recommendation. Not everyday, sure, but enough that it is a problem if being more fit is a goal I am working towards. But it's hard, because I like meat - bacon is tasty, turkey makes great sandwiches, and lamb vindaloo may be one of my favorite foods ever.

I need to only eat meat that I know where and how it was raised. The animals that is providing my food should only have one bad day, the day they die. Factory farms, feedlots, CAFOs - these are not humane - for the animals or for the humans who share the world with them. They are not sustainable - animal issues aside, and there are many, they consume unsustainable amounts of fossil fuels, water, and grain. Resources that would be better utilized elsewhere. And they produce more unregulated and untreated waste than entire cities. Entire cities. It is mind-bogglingly disgusting. Really, go read about it and you will have a much harder time with your Sunday bacon from the supermarket.

Eating meat I know was raised ethically and sustainably means eating meat from locally raised animals. This might seem like I will be paying more for less, but really I am paying more for more. One of the benefits of eating local, sustainable meat is the meat itself. I will be getting what I pay for. It is healthier - less bad fat, no harmful hormones or antibiotics, higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. And it tastes better. Even if it is just the taste of satisfaction in knowing that I am not contributing to the problem.

This also means that when I eat out I am pretty much a vegetarian from now on. Except for seafood. Thanks to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, sustainable seafood is easy to keep track of through their Seafood Watch program. The expense is a problem with meat. But cheap meat really isn't. The cost to the environment, to the animals, and to my conscience is far greater than the cost of my grocery bill.

Now you might ask, why not just give up meat altogether if this is how you feel? I thought about that. One of the reasons is I like it. Maybe that is a selfish reason, and if there was not a sustainable, ethical option available, the selfishness of that reason might not be enough prevent me from giving up the pleasure of eating meat. But it is available, so that is not a dilemma I face. I would like to think that I would make a choice for the greater good if it were the case. The second reason is that I believe in a society that is based on enterprise to the extent that ours is, the best way to vote is with your wallet. And my vote would have to be for sustainable agriculture. Not buying any meat is voting against factory farms and giant agribusiness, it's true, but it is not voting for sustainable agriculture. I feel like this choice is saying I am willing to pay for a better way of doing things, not just I am not willing to pay for your way of doing things.

Here are some websites if you are interested in making a similar choice - or just being more aware about where your food comes from...


02 June 2010

Summer fitness update...

I have been exercising more, and it feels great. My sister and I are getting up at 5 every morning and doing the Couch to 5K running program (I don't hate running as much as I thought I would, though it is still early in the program), alternated with kettlebells and hula-hooping. I am buying (actually, waiting for it to be delivered) an interval timer, so I can expand my kettlebell workouts to make them, hopefully, even more effective. I really need to build my strength back up though, as I still can't do some of the exercises I was doing in Laramie.

(these are way heavier than the kettlebells I use - I'm a bit of a wimp still)

I've also started to pay more attention to what I eat. Actually, that is not entirely true. As a devotee to the church of the kitchen I have always payed fairly close attention to what I ate - how it tasted, how I could improve that taste, more recently where it came from, what is in it, how humane it is, how safe it is - all important thoughts in my mind when it comes to food. But now I have started paying attention to how many calories are in the food that I eat; and I have to say I am shocked! I had no idea how much adding a spoonful of sugar to my morning tea added to my daily calorie intake. I've found that I eat a lot of calories... and some times they are the calories that make things taste good- my primary food concern before this summer. So now I am struggling to balance an acceptable calorie intake, with an acceptable flavor quotient, and all this is complicated by the exercise... I am hungry all the time! I was warned this would happen, I knew in my head this would happen, but actually experiencing it is a little bit crazy. I really don't like it. At all.

Still, I am glad I am paying attention to another aspect of what I eat - awareness is never wasted. Perhaps I can turn this hunger into a meditation on lack, on loss, and on what it really means to be fulfilled.

27 May 2010

Summer Reading List...

So, I have a lot of reading to do this summer - 50 texts in about 12 weeks. And I have to be able to speak cogently about these texts by August...

Critical works

Bynum, Caroline Walker. Holy Feast, Holy Fast. Berkley: Univ. of California Press, 1987

Cohen, Jeffrey. Hybridity, Identity, and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: On Difficult Middles. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006

Dinshaw, Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern. Duram, NC: Duke UP, 1999.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Renaissance Self-Fashioning: from More to Shakespeare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. and “The Mousetrap”. Practicing New Historicism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Joy, Eileen, Seaman, Myra J., Bell, Kimberly, and Mary K. Ramsey (eds.). Cultural Studies of the Modern Middle Ages. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007

Korda, Natasha. Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Prperty in Early Modern England. Philadelphia, PA: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Mulder-Bakker, Anneke B. Women and Experience in Later Medieval Writing: Reading the Book of Life. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

Schoenfeldt, Michael Carl. Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England: Phisiology and inwardness in Spenser, Shakespeare, Herbert, and Milton. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1999.

Steel, Karl. “How to Make a Human,” Exemplaria (20, 1), 2008, 3–27.

Wall, Wendy. Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2002.

Theoretical Works

Bahktin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. (1968) Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1984.

Baudrillard, Jean. The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. (1970) London: Sage Publications, 2003.

Certeau, Michel de. Practice of Everyday Life. Berkley: Univ. of California Press, 1984.

Deluze, Gilles and Guittari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Foucault, Michel. Care of the Self. New York: Random House, 1984.

Norbert, Ellias. The Civilizing Process: Sociogenic and Psychogenic Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1982.

Reynolds, Philip Lydon. Food and the Body: Some Peculiar Questions in High Medieval Theology. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1999.

Serres, Michel. The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies. New York: Continuum, 2009.

Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1973.

Zizek, Slavoj. On Belief. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Literary Works

Alighieri, Dante. Divine Comedy. Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2006

Beowulf. trans. Seamus Heaney. New York, Norton & Co., 2000.

Castiglione, Baldassarre. The Book of the Courtier. Ithica: Cornell University Press, 2006.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Chretien de Troyes, “Perceval,” “Yvain,” and “Lancelot.” The Complete Romances of Chretien de Troyes. trans. David Staines. Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1990.

Christine de Pisan, Book of the City of Ladies and Treasure of the City of Ladies.

Codex Ashmole 61: A compilation of Popular Middle English Verse. ed. George Shuffelton. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2008.

Dekker, Thomas. The Gulls Hornbook. New York, Nabu Press, 2010.

Donne, John. The Complete English Poems. New York: Penguin Classics,1971.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain. trans. Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1966.

Harriot, Thomas. A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. New York: Dover Publications, 1973.

Johnson, Ben. “Bartholomew Fair”. The Achemist and Other Plays. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009.

Kempe, Marjory. The Boke of Marjory Kempe. New York: Norton & Co., 2000.

Langland, John. The Vision of Piers Plowman. New York: Everyman Paperbacks, 1995.

Lanyer, Aemilia. “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum,” The Nortaon Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1. eds. Stephen Greenblatt, M. H. Abrams, Alfred David, and Barbara K. Lewalski. New York: Norton & Co., 2006.

Mandeville, John. Travels of Sir John Mandeville. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.

“Mankind.” Early English Drama: An Anthology. ed. John C. Coldewey. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993.

Marie de France, Lais. trans. Hanning and Ferrante. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1978.

Marvell, Andrew. “The Mower Poems.” The Complete Poems. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.

Montaigne, Michel de. “On Cannibals,” “On Friendship,” The Complete Essays. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.

More, Thomas. Utopia. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.

Rabelais, Francois. Gargantua and Pantagruel. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006

“Second Sheppards’ Play.” Early English Drama: An Anthology. ed. John C. Coldewey. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993.

Shakespeare, “Antony & Cleopatra.” The Norton Shakespeare. eds. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, and Katharine Eisaman Maus. New York: Norton & Co., 2008.

Silence. trans. Sarah Roche-Mahdi. Eat Lancing: Michigan State UP, 1992.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. trans. Simon Armitage. New York, Norton & Co., 2008.

Skelton, John. “The Tunning of Elinour Rumming”. Selected Poems. New Yourk: Routledge, 2003.

Spencer, Edmund. “Book 2.” The Faerie Queen. New York: Penguin Classics,1979.

Sydney, Phillip. “Defense of Posey,” “Astrophil and Stella.” Selected Poetry and Prose. Madison, WI: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1983.

19 May 2010

Summer Plans...

So, existential crises aside, there are things that must be done this summer...

First, fitness... Since moving to the DC area, I have lost weight - a good thing. However, I have also started to jiggle more in places that I didn't before. This may be a lack of exercise in my life - even if that is not why, I am feeling a lack of exercise in my life. So...
I am starting, slowly, to work with kettlebells again. And to hula-hoop again. And to go on more walks. I am also contemplating Couch 2 5K, but I am still not convinced that running isn't for suckers, so I am not yet committed to that particular method of fitness.
My new early morning habit is useful in this effort, as I am awake, but my brain hasn't engaged yet - and I don't really need my brain to exercise, at least not all of it.
Also, I think that exercise is helping to settle my stomach, so in addition to eliminating some of those annoying jiggles, it is helping my digestive fitness, as well.
Speaking of digestive fitness, I am also going to have to adjust my diet somewhat - and more consistently than has been required by my ulcer flare up - more veggies, less dairy, more whole grains, less processed food... I think you can see what I mean.

Second, Qualifying Exam... In August I have to take an oral exam which will determine whether I get to continue in the PhD program, so I will be reading and studying - another reason to exercise, to limber up my brain for all the new theory I am going to have to cram in it. I'll post the reading list later this week for those interested. I am the only one taking the test this fall who has a Medieval/Early Modern concentration, which means I have no study buddies for this particular academic milestone. On one hand that is fine - I'm smart, I generally get things pretty quickly, I have a high level of reading comprehension, and I read comparatively quickly. However, I am also very deadline driven, and lack a general motivation, and this is not the kind of project you can cram for at the end and be fine. I think I am going to have to schedule, and follow that schedule, and that is so not my natural mindset, so having study partners would help give me a sense of motivation, or at least more of one. And I need to figure out a useful method for taking notes on these texts, because they will be the foundation of my teaching career and I will need to be able to easily reference them in the future.

Third, local opportunities... I have lived in the DC area for almost a full year now, and there are still so many local activities, most of them free, that I have not taken advantage of yet. I want to get my Library of Congress readers card, spend some time in the many museums, visit the aquarium - probably more than once, learn more about early American history - I am pretty up on Western Am. history, but not so much on the stuff before the Gold Rush. There are so many opportunities available here and I feel like I am not giving them their due.

And also, I need to get a job.

So, I guess I have a busy summer ahead of me...

09 April 2010

Alignment crisis...

I know I have been remiss in my blog updates this spring... or lack thereof. I have been existing in a weird space of cognative dissonance where I am trying to make various interests and requirements match up in my head... I think that I am starting to get to a head-space that allows me to articulate these various struggles and elements - if not one that has aligned them...

I have been struggling first with what I want to do, with my life - no small question, no easy answer. Tangled up in this question is how grad school/a PhD might help, or hinder, me in doing whatever it is I am not sure I want to do. And two military aphorisms keep running through my head: Plans rarely survive the first engagement with the enemy; and it is unwise to switch drivers mid-charge - and who knows why terms of battle are the key to these thoughts. I don't really have a martial personality. And what do they mean to my situation - should I not plan at all? Clearly, the question of changing course midstream is not as occluded - and really I don't want to change course. I want to continue in academia. I like literature. I like talking about literature. I like teaching literature. And I love my program. But I need a job - a now job, and an after graduation job. And I don't want a job that interfers with my studies now, but if I don't get a job I may not be able to continue with my studies...

My plans - or really more hopes, at this stage - for scholarship are also somewhat dissonant. I love the work I am doing in the Medieval and Early Modern, and I also love the work I am doing in Popular Romance Studies. These are rather disparate tracks. bringing them together has been, and continues to be, a struggle. Add in my passionate interest in food, and you have a whole other level of complication... for both of the other aspects. Food is a wonderful vehicle for analysis, but not necessarily a unifying factor - in fact it is frequently splintering. Can I use it to look at the same things in the two different Studies? Am I just going to have to live in this bi-polar professional space? On a practical level, how marketable is any of it?

I feel like I am being tugged in all these different directions. So, I guess if anyone out there has suggestions on what to do with all this noise I wold appreciate hearing them.

19 March 2010

A List of Project Proportions...

So, I really have been doing stuff, and here is a list to prove it... ok, actually it's a list of projects that are in progress, not actual completed work...
  • Classes: Past Intimacies - the senses in Early Modern literature and world. I have to come up with a paper proposal and I still don't know what I want to write about - there are too many interesting options. Independent Study - Food in Medieval literature. Also need a paper topic for this one, but the reading has been super interesting and narrowing it has been a problem here, too. My mind is going in too many directions.
  • My paper for the PCA conference on how food and religion shape the romantic relationships in Nora Roberts Three Sisters' Island Trilogy.
  • Researching Medieval stones and lapidaries.
  • TA-ing for "Shakespeare in the City" - I taught "Taming of the Shrew." I still have a bunch of papers to finish commenting on.
  • Putting together a reading list for my qualifying exam that is comprehensive of period (Medieval/Early Modern), genre (poetry, prose & drama), and methodology (theory & criticism) in 50 texts and accompanying rational for said list.
  • Keeping up with an endlessly growing To Be Read pile/list of both scholarly works and genre fiction. The commute has helped me keep up with the genre fiction end of things, because I don't generally take notes on them, so I can read them on the train without getting motion sick. Trying to write is guaranteed to nauseate.
All of this has been impeded by a semester fraught with illness and snow. I feel like I am in constant catch-up mode. So for those who wondered, that is why I haven't been posting... this time...

07 February 2010

A Mary Oliver Moment for February


That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it -
books, bricks, grief -
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

~Mary Oliver, Thirst

25 January 2010

In which failure becomes perfection...

...or at least better.

The other day at the supermarket I saw, and immediately purchased, some Devon cream. While Little Miss Picky-pants wrongly believes that it is gross, I love it - on scones, on toast, on pancakes, on French toast, and sometimes, when no one is looking, even on a spoon. This purchase got me thinking about scones, and other tea-time accoutrement. And I started to wish for some lime curd to go on my scones.

It should be noted that I have not yet made scones, I am hoping to convince one of my sisters to do my dirty (or floury?) work for me.

While ruminating on the yummy goodness of citrusy, custardy, fruit curd, I remembered that I had some Ruby Red Grapefruit syrup in my cupboard. It was supposed to be jelly, but never set up. Yes, sometimes my kitchen projects don't work like they are supposed to - G. is still happy to tell everyone about my high school kitchen learning curve.

So I have this grapefruit syrup languishing for want of use. But I have never made a fruit curd, or really much of anything that requires tempering of eggs. And none of the recipes start with failed jelly. I am not afraid, though ...much.

Off to the internet for research. I first checked Tea & Cookies, my favorite-est food blog, because she has written about both Lemon Curd and Raspberry Curd. Ok, now I have two different methods for curd-ing. Next on to Saveur, which sends me to theKitchn. It now appears that everyone does curd a little differently.

Ok, well I will just dive in then. Heat the syrup and the butter. Beat the eggs. Slowly, oh so slowly, add about half a cup of the heated citrus to the eggs, and whisk all the while. Slowly, again so slowly, whisk the eggs back into the pan. Hold your breath. And whisk. Switch hands and whisk some more. Look closely. Is that egg white? Oh well, it is going to be strained out anyway. Whisk some more. Has it been twenty minutes yet? Strain. Pour into sterilized jar.

Now I can lick the bowl. Hmm, better taste it again... I think I could taste it better if I had a spoon. I guess it is ok. Hey, look! I made grapefruit curd!

Now, if I can just convince G. to make those scones... while I clean out that bowl... with my fingers... so yummy!!

Update: G. rocks!!!

23 January 2010

Cooking our way through...

My sisters and I were talking and we think that we have way too many cookbooks - good, interesting cookbooks - that we hardly ever use. So we have decided that we will cook our way through one this winter. We are not going the Julie & Julia route, with a time limit and every recipe in the book - we (ok, I) don't ascribe to a need for that much structure. We were somewhat limited in our selection as well, because G. is a vegetarian, so we had to pick one of our vegetarian or vegan cookbooks - this limited us to about twelve out of over a hundred.

We decided on this one. We liked the layout, the ingredients weren't over-the-top expensive or hard to find, and we wanted to go with one that we didn't already use a lot, so no Moosewood or Vegan With A Vengeance. The whole point - or at least one of the points - of this project is that we need to make better use of what we have. So starting tomorrow we are going to pick at least one recipe from the book for every supper during the week and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. This means more planning of meals, which is something that we have been trying to do more of anyway - and I am a particular fan of, as there is nothing I hate more than "I don't know," when I ask what to make for dinner. We will not be super religious about following the recipes - M. is allergic to anything remotely resembling a nut and G. maintains her title of Little Miss Picky-pants with fervor - but the effort here is to appreciate and make use of what we have, so this is a start anyway.

21 January 2010

If I were a fruit...

...I would be a blood orange.

I know I have said it before, though maybe not here in this public forum, but it remains true - I would be a blood orange. I love January - not for my birthday, though I do like presents; not for the various winter sports, though I am a fan of the warm beverages that follow them; not for the return to school, though I am usually ready for the mental re-stimulation the beginning of a new semester brings. I love January because it is citrus season, and that means blood oranges. Sweet, tangy, rich, lovely blood oranges.

Like so may things I love they are a mutant. Their beauty comes from abnormality - a pigment not found in other citrus.

A deep staining red.



Beauty on the tongue.


10 January 2010

Holiday Recap... There was cake!

For the holidays, my sisters and I had incompatible schedules, so my Dad, Grandma, and youngest sister came from Wyoming to visits us. For me the holidays are about family, those you are born into and those you make. This holiday I had a wonderful time with the family I was born into, and terribly missed much of the family I have made – scattered as we are from DC to China, Wyoming to Arizona, and many zip codes in between. The visit from the Wyomingites kicked off with a birthday party for my youngest sister, C., the day that they got here (the day after her birthday).The hit of the party was this cake:

Grand-Maman’s Chocolate Cake
adapted from Chocolate by Nick Malgieri

3 large eggs
¾ c. sugar
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
4 ½ oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ c. all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, until very light and increased in volume. This works better if your eggs are at room temperature before you start – the light and fluffy will not happen as quickly if they are too cold. Whip in the butter and beat until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.

The chocolate is where I diverged from the recipe – I melted my butter in with the chocolate to make it melt more smoothly, and then added them both in together and beat the batter until smooth. I don’t know how much of a difference this makes, but the cake was a ginormous hit, so I would say it didn’t hurt it any.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the flour by hand. This is to maintain the light fluffiness achieved by all that whipping. Scrape into an 8 inch round cake pan that has been buttered and floured (I cheat and use the spray that has flour in it – it has worked so far, and I actually think it is better – I don’t miss spots as easily) and smooth the top. Bake in a 350º oven for about 30 minutes. It should still be moist in the center, so a toothpick test might not come out clean, but it should be well risen and firm.

Cool in the pan for about 5 min, then turn out onto a wire rack. I liked the crackly looking top, so I flipped mine back over, instead of cooling it inverted, but if you want a smoother presentation, cool it top down and make sure that the pan side is facing up when you transfer it to a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

I served mine with French Vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. And it was super tasty. In fact, my dad, who doesn’t like cake, ate all the leftovers during their visit. Which is a testament to how awesome it was, not to how uncakelike it was, in case you were wondering.

We continued to do touristy things and family things and the sisters, all 4 of us, made a lovely Christmas dinner of turkey and the trimmings. I have to say, working in the kitchen with my lovely sisters really made my Christmas.