25 September 2006

In which we speak of food

Greetings, True Believers.

In my spare time, I have been applying myself to the art of baking bread. That's not exactly accurate...I've been assembling ingredients and letting the bread machine do all the work. I am taking the credit, though, so that must count for something...

I started with a really great cardamom-sultana bread, which made excellent breakfast toast but was not as good for sandwiches. I moved through a nice hearty rye, then a buttermilk wheat that was perfect (great crumb, great crust, nice density). Then, I experienced my first failure. I am comforted by the fact that is was a failure of ambition, however: I am trying to make my first sourdough from my own, first sourdough starter. I followed the directions exactly, but when I opened the space age hatch on my space age baking box, I beheld a fallen loaf.

I may have erred in my alteration of the recipe--I was aiming for a more tart loaf. I may have added slightly too much yeast. Or, the least encouraging possibility: I might have a not good starter. It looked good to me and it smelled exemplary, but what do I really know about it. A new friend of mine here who bakes sourdough says that my starter looks a little thin. Very well; I shall add more flour and have another go. I may fail again before I really succeed, but the last failure was edible. That's the finest kind of failure.

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Dinner on Friday: miso glazed eggplant with garlic kale and vegetable-mushroom fried rice. I rule.

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I am very, very jealous of Don and Kash, who left Chicago for southern California, which means that they have farmers' markets all year long. Boston has its share of markets; I could hit one almost every day of the week, if I could navigate my way to each one. They stop in mid-October, however, and that's coming up a little faster than I like to consider. Last Friday at the Copley Square market, we got Brussels (Brussel? brussel?) sprouts (yes, I love them), a melon that turned out to be mediocre, some small squash, basil for pesto, golden cauliflower, a pound of honey, the aforementioned eggplant, and a pint of raspberries that didn't last us more than 10 minutes. Num. The previous week it was kale, turnip, beets, carrots, and grape tomatoes that, again, didn't last me more than 10 minutes. Love those. But in a few weeks, no more markets.

In Chicago, we belonged to a produce co-op that, through a series of arrangements with like-minded farms, was able to deliver all winter. The co-ops I've investigated here don't do that, and we're far too late to join one for this winter anyway. We co-oped in Chi for three years; I don't really remember how to buy (non-organic, non-local, non-seasonal, less high quality) produce at a grocery store, nor do we live near a good market with a good produce section. Whenever I'm at the store I can't stop thinking about how expensive it all is, and for an inferior product. The way I eat changed so much with the discovery of the co-op and the neighbourhood produce market; now I have to change back. No small feat.

What it underscores for me is that the way I'd come to consume food--the way I collected and prepared the nutrients I need daily--is really different from both the way I'd consumed most of my life, prior, and also the way that I'm going to be consuming for the near future, until I get myself together and make the effort (for it does take more effort to eat like I eat) to consume that way again.

So here's to making the effort to eat more true-ly. It's going to be more difficult for a while, and then it'll get easier again.

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14 September 2006

La pluie

Oh look, it's raining outside. You know what's really wonderful? Being inside, listening to the rain, drinking spicy red tea with cardamom and clove, and being dry. All at the same time.

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Insert completely non-novel rant about the DMV here.

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As it turned out, one of our old and more long-lost friends lives not just in Bostonland, but in our little true suburb. He and three friends brought some a la carte, and some laundry, over last night. We discovered that the glowing-fire-shaped lamp in the specious fake fireplace actually does work; it is the outlet in the "fireplace" that is busted. We lit the thing up on the coffee table, and man, was it ever atmospheric.

Best of luck now to Flora, who heads to Ethiopia in a few days to volunteer at an orphanage.

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11 September 2006


I wasn't sure if I wanted to add to the din--if not the discussion--of today's anniversary. I don't have much to say and I've been on self-imposed personal media blackout for most of the day: no TV, no blogs, no papers, no NPR.

On September 11, 2001, my best friend and I had been living in Chicago for about three weeks. I was looking for work. She had a job but was off that day. We rose late and turned on the NPR, and the first thing we heard was "...White House is surrounded by troops, but we don't know where the President is. Again, both the President and Vice President are unaccounted for..." and I thought someone got him; someone got the bastard. The coverage was unclear; we had no TV to check against. Radio off, breakfast on. When our friend called us to come over and watch the big screen at his apartment, things became grave. Everyone left work and we all gathered round and watched 5 or 6 hours of the world changing.

My mom and dad were both turned loose from work about that time as well. They went to my grandmother's house and watched together. After several hours, my 87-year old Okie grandmother mused that this seemed like an opportunity for an awful lot of skulduggery. And she was right. We've been witness in the last half decade to heretofore mind-blowing amounts of skulduggery, and I think it's wrong to simply commemorate our national loss without acknowledging that. Today is a fine day to think about the true tragedy, the real attack and affront to our security and our way of life. But I don't think it is fair to all of our memories to omit discussions of what lead up to the attacks and what resulted from them--everything that resulted from them. Dangerous amounts of history are being at best glossed over and at worst rewritten by people who would reduce the events of September 11, 2001 to a single point of feeling, a "9-11 (tm)" to hit on when a certain feeling is required of the audience or electorate.

So let us remember those who needlessly died, but let's not give up the memories of our anger or the feelings of outrage towards our government that some of us felt. I'm not interested in keeping my angry mouth shut today because of some imposed sanctity. Today's anniversary is a terrible one, but it should not be given over to mourning only. We need to commemorate the feelings that will allow us to move productively forward, or else we'll all be left staring at our clasped hands as politicians and pundits lay benedictions on us, telling us how to feel on this most life-changing day. I don't feel like they should have this near-holiday for themselves; it belongs also to the angry and the unsatisfied, who have also watched the world change and don't at all care for those who are orchestrating the changes.

So much has changed; the world has changed and I have changed, and America has changed. To paraphrase, let's mourn the dead, but let's fight like hell for the living.

It's not a novel opinion or position, but ain't that the beauty of teh intarweb: I can needlessly add to the blah blah blah and still feel like I spoke my mind.

04 September 2006


Most common phrase for Boston living: "Cool and cloudy tomorrow with a 70% chance of rain."

Today we had a break from cool and cloudy with rain: bright sun and a fresh breeze off the ocean. I think ah, the lake effect, but I am of course completely wrong. We spent about four hours walking the freedom trail, from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill monument, an impressive obelisk that predates the Washington Monument by about 40 years. A nice walk, especially when one veers off the path into the neighbourhoods along the way. We walked a prodigious amount, circling back to a T stop not very far from the end of the line on which we live. Boston is much smaller than Chicago, such that you can walk farther in less time, but the neighbourhoods and 'burbs (so far as I have observed) are not as multi-use or purposed as Chicago neighbourhoods. One has to walk farther to get to groceries, farther to the post office or library, farther to the coffee shop. I'm sure the fact that we live in an honest-to-gawd suburb contributes to my impression that this place is not made for people to walk from here to there; it's a car part of the city-place.

Tomorrow's agenda: bank, DMV. School starts for half of us; I hope to hear back from offices that will be returning to work after the long weekend. High hopes.

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Our owner-occupied two-flat (plus basement apt.) has, in place of a back yard, a sizable in-ground pool, outfitted with a potbellied woodburning stove and a wood-fired clam boil pot (one can only assume). Tenants are not granted the use of this facility; it is for the owners, their kids, and their grandkids. They were out in it today, and I watched as I did a mountain of dishes in my unlikely big kitchen, looking out the jealously window over the sudsy, hot, stainless double basin sink.

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Requiem eternam, Steve Irwin. Crikey, all y'all: he died doing what he loved. Though for the life of me, as an ertswhile field biologist myself, I cannot figure out why he felt he should wear shorts out into the bush. Every self respecting ecologist knows that long pants are de rigeur, not just because shorts look stupid; long pants are the first line of defense from plants and animals that want to eat, scab, scratch, poison, or kill you. All the same, he enthusiastically worked with reptiles and other animals that might not be so cuddly but are still vital and deserving of preservation.

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02 September 2006


I've begun to get my feet beneath me. In no small part, this is because we've unpacked and organized our kitchen and can cook again. A big step. It's an odd kitchen, but ain't no kitchen don't benefit from the smells of a roasted tomato risotto with fresh green beans. The bikes are still parked in the dining room and with no bookshelves yet purchased, the books are still neatly housed in a handful of boxes from my old place of employment. They're like an ort of my old life lodged in the craw of my new.

I've been told that the weather right now in the Bostonland area is a little unseasonably cool. To me, it feels like we drove out of a beautiful late summer, with its cooler nights and bright hot sun, and into a pleasant autumn. Unfortunately, most days here have been overcast; grey skies do no cities any favours, and the sunny days we have had have definitely made my new place seem more acceptable. Rain expected tomorrow and Monday. The bikes may stay in the dining room a few more days.

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Now seems like the right time to rattle off a few of the reasons that my first few days in our new home were challenging to my wherewithal. So to say.

* There are no overhead lights in the "living room," "foyer," or bedroom
* Carpet (this is an apartment dealbreaker, for me)
* There is no "study," as advertised. There is the abovementioned "foyer" (or is it a study? With no overhead light and the front door right there, it's tough to picture it as a private office for my gradschoolin' honey) and a (copiously lit from above) "fat hallway," which is too small and too trafficked to be a quiet space (the bedroom, bathroom, "foyer," and dining room all have doors from the fat hallway)
* Electric range
* Specious fake fireplace that divides the dining and front rooms--and the log shaped lamp that occupies it doesn't even work
* Wallpaper
* Wainscoting

These are the things I didn't know about. I was already feeling apprehensive about the lack of a dishwasher, though welcoming the in-unit washer and dryer.

The lesson in all of this is that renting from a distance is hard, and that you should never send someone in whom you don't have full faith to report back on the state of the place. Our representative erred on or omitted several important points. Better luck next year; time to shut my mouth.

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I'd like to offer a special welcome to my friend Jesse, who is blogging his just-begun life as a student in Cairo and whose blog is linked over on the right, there. One of my oldest friends, some of my fondest memories. Big love to him, and I can't wait to hear how it's all going.

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