The Flappable Knife

Friday, February 27, 2009

I call it this because whenever I try to use it only takes about thirty seconds for me to get so pissed off that I throw the damn thing into the sink and hunt down anything else with a sharp edge to it.

But- ah, allow me to start over...

When my roommate moved in she brought with her the saddest little set of knives in a humble butcher block. These knives are what I would call sad. They can cut, indeed, but the blade is flimsy. I can easily bend it into a curve. The image might be hard to tell, the curvature makes it look like a boning knife, but indeed, that is the large carving knife.

So slim, cheap, and made with such poor steel its blood greased, slippery possibilities are terrifying. I can only imagine trying to chop up a butternut with this thing. Even dicing an onion is an issue as the blade whips back and forth, causing only the most rational fear in my fingers and raising the hackles on my neck. The metal is, I believe, just glued to the hilt or wrapped in the plastic that makes the handle. There is no tang, no weight, no anything to remotely qualify this as safe.

Quality it is not, but I guess you get what you pay for...Caveat emptor, people.

Financial Bitch Slaps and My Eating Habits

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sadly taxes and the late refund of state taxes, unexpected car repair, having to fund buying a new computer, and stupid Wachovia taking forever to cash a financial aid payment I made have left me a little high and dry financially. It's a bit upsetting to say the least. It's one of those times when every possible economic bitch slap strikes you all at once stinging your cheeks and leaving them glowing red.

March is going to be what I call Budget Eating Month. I call it this because budget sounds much more Family Fun magazine than using the word poverty. Rather than be upset about it (okay, I'm a little upset) I am going to try and make something of it. I'm going to see how well I can eat through fervent cooking and purchasing ingredients on a strict budget. Normally I live this way anyways, but I'm not adverse to grabbing lunch out once or twice a week or opening a bottle of wine. The occassional dinner out with a friend will slide more over to cooking with a friend. It's time to really bleed the pennies a bit.

Luckily, the pantry is well stocked to begin with. It makes starting this just a tad bit easier. Plenty of grains, pasta, canned goods. I lived on far less than I do now back in college. However, back then I wasn't as knowledgeable a cook. So now I figure is a time of testing, to see what I can really do when constrained.

Soups. Pastas. Potatoes. Onions. Ramen. Simple dishes. There will be a bit more foraging. I know where stray fruit trees, arugula patches, and rogue rhubarb are in the area and I plan to hit those up. A return to radishes, a staple in the dorms but something I haven't eaten in some time will come back. It's times like these I enjoy the fact I have taught myself Ethiopian, Thai, Arab and Chinese food, its simple flavors, ingredient lists, and preparations are perfect for cuisines that, for the many people in these countries, is based on economic hardship.

I've already made enough lentil soup to give me lunch for four days this week. More war cake to snack on if need be. Provisions set aside for baked potatoes, curries, soups, and so on. Indeed, I may delve back into ramen. Back in college we would toss out the flavor packet (most of the time) and then add chicken, radishes, radish greens, green onions and mushrooms. Or serve it with cilantro, lime, and bean sprouts with coconut milk as broth. Grilled cheese sammiches! Eggs every which way. Quinoa with butter and tossed fresh veggies with chili oil. Simple delicious dishes that cost little to make and sustain the body.

Oh, it can be done. Furthermore, as I have been researching wartime food, it give me a chance to really utilize what I learn. I hope to keep you all updated, so stay tuned!

War Cake - A Recipe and a Small Disquisition on What We Decide "Cake" to Signify

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wars usually bring about times of scarcity. We read in textbooks about soup lines, people bartering for eggs, victory gardens, and developing new tricks and recipes to make what you have work out. Sure, you can sling together an amazing recipe on Iron Chef or at home when you have the world's kitchen at your fingertips, but can you bake a cake when you have no butter, refined sugar, or eggs?

Now war cake is not a cake in the traditional manner. Rather it was what cake was when you were in times of need. One need not go without on a special occasion, but one had to make due. Tastes and concepts of what food was had to change during WW2. The name cake was kept because the end product was still something sweet, something special. Indeed the word has become a signifier to us - its a word we associate with joy, indulgence, celebration, something beyond the material mound of sugar and whipped egg whites and colored frosting. War cake requires you to alter your understanding of cake.

War cake is more like a very large, round cookie. A huge, super-thick cookie. It's harder than biscotti on the outside, but sweet, dense, and chewy on the inside. It has a taste that's very similar to gingerbread but with out the heated bite of molasses. Studded with sugar plumped raisins it's actually quite a treat. Those who tried it loved it and the recipe is extremely simple. Given the jawbreaker-like crust can be a workout for those good chewing teeth, but a dunk in some black coffee or tea easily loosens it up. However, it actually gets softer as time goes by as the raisins release their moisture into the bread. My roommate and I have taken to cutting off pieces on the go in the mornings for breakfast and it's now a regular staple here. A not too sweet nibble that's great on the go, and easy to make when I'm tired.

The recipe is strikingly easy, and you have to put some faith in it as the method is very unique and developed based out of poverty. The original recipe I dug up had few instructions, after some trial and error I've put together something that I believe is true to what real 1940's war cake was.

War Cake
I hope that you'll all give it a quick try and attempt to stay true to this recipe your first go. The first bite is eye opening and will certainly inspire reflection and thought about the history of cooking. If you don't have shortening ready on-hand, then butter can be used in its place. (Butter was near impossible to get in 1944.) This cake is very moist from the melted sugar and raisins and will keep for a week.

1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of hot water
1 tablespoon of shortening
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
11/2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of raisins

Bring brown sugar, water, shortening, salt, raisins, and spices to a boil for five minutes. Allow to cool.

Dissolve the baking soda in a teaspoon of water. When the sugar mixture is cold, mix in flour and baking soda.

Mix together, using a spoon and then your hands as it gets thicker. Form into two discs about 5 inches in diameter. You may need to use your hands a bit but don't add a lot of extra flour.

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45 minutes at 325F.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

A little warning: This is a graphic post.

I'm not quite sure how I came about researching this topic. I just kind stumbled onto it by accident like the Tasseography or Makrud lime post. Somehow when reading about colonialism and Edward Said's theories I wandered into thinking about cannibalism, which prompted a Google search, which piqued my curiosity about what people taste like (pork seems to be the popular answer among serial killers and computers), which led to finding far too many YouTube videos and thus led me to do a long research for the next few days in my spare time when not researching for my school project.

I decided that, heck, this is a food blog. Might as well look at all aspects of food, right? Good enough of a forum as any to talk about these things.

I've taken a few steps too far ahead of you though, so allow me to start again. Placentophagy is the act of mammals eating the placenta after giving birth.

I think most people reading this blog are intelligent people, but still a quick refresher for sake of the argument is in order. The placenta is an ephemeral, highly vascularized organ that attaches developing fetal tissue to the uterine wall. It transfers nutrients to the developing fetus and infant and removes waste to the maternal kidneys. Furthermore it protects itself from the mother's own immune system by producing certain chemicals and hormones that trick the mother's body into a copasetic state. When the mother gives birth the placenta is delivered as well.

In the animal kingdom placentophagy somewhat practical and common, even among herbivores. The animals usually need to eat it for nutrition in order to produce milk for their young. Furthermore, the placenta contains naturally occurring sedatives that reduce the pain that occurs after childbirth. Since a rat or moose can't get a prescription for some codeine, it makes sense they would resort to eating the placenta.

A small number of humans do practice placentophagy. The idea is that it helps prevent postpartum depression. However, its use in Chinese medicines has long been practiced and is still used today.

Technically, this act does file under anthropophagy or cannibalism. It is the consumption of human flesh. Now for the most part cannibalism is practiced in small, scattered groups around the world and the occasional serial killer. These groups of people (minus the killer who is just crazy) practice it in war and in funeral rites as a form of respect.

Yet here seems to be a wave of people trying it out now. The thing is, they aren't doing it from a medical or curative standpoint. Rather, the mother is perfectly jubilant and fine. No, she, and possibly her husband/partner/friends/family wish to partake in her homegrown meal for a specifically radical gourmet purpose. I mean, truffles are hard to come by, but a placenta? Well, there's quite a bit of work involved to get one of those to eat.

Apparently a small movement of people in developed cities and suburbs in Europe and America giving it a try. Don't believe me? YouTube has plenty of videos and you can find a few blog posts of it.

So how do you prepare it? Well, to get one you have to know someone who is pregnant. The hospital is upposed to give you the option of taking the placenta home. I mean, it is YOURS after all. Some cultures bury them, other people (read: hippes) make prints with the placenta and frame them, which actually seems more creepy to me. However, a variety of recipes appear online, from lasagna to cocktails.

Slow food? Organic? Technically this is Slow Food extreme. Nine months to be exact. It's definitely local. You know what went into growing it. If the grower/farmer/source/mom ate a healthy diet of veggies and produce, then it should be healthy to eat. If she only ate McDonalds will it be greasy? If she had a steady diet of pistachios, apples and cream will the placenta have those subtle flavors in the background like a piece of pork can when fed a delicious diet during its life? How many placentas have a slight undertaste of whatever craving the mother has had ("Do I taste pickles and strawberry ice cream in this?"). No animals were harmed or killed so, technically, vegans and vegetarians can eat it.

Personally, I think it's odd... Thing is, very few cultures practice placentophagy. Those that do have utilized it as a part of their traditions for centuries; it's an ingrained part of their way of life. If you aren't a part of that culture, raised in their ideology wherein the practice is a vital signifier for your spiritual, societal, and familial self then you are simply emulating a practice which, across cultures, is unneccessary. If you decide to cook and eat a placenta for the purpose of blatant voyeurism or thrill-seeking the way one drinks snake blood in Thailand then I think you're skirting the realm of taboo.

I'll be honest. The idea grosses me out. Still, who am I to say? If mom and pop really wanna try it, then go crazy. Disease wise there is zero risk in the mother eating it. If the mother has HIV or another blood disease however, she shouldn't serve it to guests.

Some may argue that my opinion doesn't stand to reason. Going out and trying new things! Anthony Bourdain does it! I saw him eat a yak testicle on TV! Well that was a yak testicle. Not a human organ that was attached to your wife/partner and child (I use these terms because you can't buy them at Whole Foods or Kaiser Medical so I assume you have to know who grew it pretty intimately). In essence you are eating a piece of the mother and child. I'm sure there is some new age stuff out there that makes this all holy and whatnot, but I dunno.

Isn't it like mother's milk? Yes, I suppose. In a way. But you have to drink that as all mammals do. And then we stop. Not all animals eat the placenta, and if they do it's because the mother needs the strength and proteins to make milk. People can make a salad with some eggs and pasta.

In my mind, part of me can see reasons why it could make sense to eat it if you wanted. However, I can find no reason why you must, have to, or should. I can think of more reasons you shouldn't. Mainly that yes, you are breaking with societal norms and while I'm all about fighting the machine, sometimes I'm just fine letting it run its rules.

My conclusion is this then: there is no reason, aside from breaking popular social taboo, not to eat it. However, there is no medical proof due to a lack of study on the subject that it can do anything amazing for you either. Given, technically, it is an extremely nutritious piece of tissue and muscle, though it is chalked full of hormones (I guess we'll always complain about hormones in our food). Plus, you can get this nutrition anywhere else just as easy, if not easier. Therefore there is no reason to eat it.

So it comes down to personal opinion.

Ah, but would I? I suppose you are wondering my own position. My answer? Depends. If I were to turn this post into a real research article for publication for my MA or future PhD, then yes. If for just kicks and thrill-seeking? No.

Still, for those of you asking yourselves this question, why is your answer your answer? If you reply, "Because eating a human organ is wrong" then tell me why it is. Then ask yourself what formed the rules and ideas that formed my opinion that this is wrong? You could go down this trail of questioning for hours, but I just want to encourage you all to put some real thought into it. Of course, a simple "It looks way too gross," is perfectly acceptable too. We'll call it a quick practice in sociology and ideas.

Comments on this post are encouraged, so please state or work out your thoughts, or debate there. =)

Yay for Irony. Another Coffee Shop Story.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

From the Archives as I am working on school crap and a big mega post that requires some time and research. Be patient.

So as Rob has so eloquently put it, I am a magnet for stupid people. I may find myself to be surrounded by only normal people, yet in a trice The Stupids will always hunt me down somehow. But this time... this time it was just fantastic.

So in the same coffee shop, I'm waiting in line behind Coffee Nut berating New Coffee Girl (Starbucks is a rotating door of employees it seems).

"Can you be sure to actually steam the milk this time? Last time is was ice cold!" he screamed, taking a moment away from his current cell phone conversation. He was irate with a red face, not from the cold outside, but likely from stress which will no doubt end his overly important life prematurely.

"Sorry, I only heat it to what I'm supposed to legally heat it too," which is between 150-160 F if you were curious. Yep, you never forget working in a cafe. I also know how to make a heart and a Christmas tree with the milk. Great resume' builder that.

"Yeah well, heat it more. Last time it was fucking cold." Swearing is always a great way to garner good will from those preparing your food; remember, you don't see the way them cookies are baking before you eat 'em.

"Yes, sir," the poor New Coffee Girl conceeded, as it is in her job description to do so. "The Customer Is Always Right" is at times the biggest crock of shit ever. Yet, over a cup of coffee for someone you'll possibly never see again, riding these customers out is just the lightest path to tread.

He waved away her subservience and went back to his cell conversation. Apparently his manners also extended to cutting her off, and getting back to his cell as he had probably cut them off to yell at poor New Coffee Girl.

Now having worked at a coffee shop this little legal temperature is a bunch of hooey. Really, that temp does kill EVERYTHING that might be in your milk. But assuming the milk is fresh, it shouldn't be a problem anyways. And even if the milk was bad, steaming it to 150-160 F is just going to making steaming hot bad milk. At that tongue searing temperature, you are actually destroying the flavor.

I watched as she steamed the milk, a process which should normally take about 15 seconds for a large latte. She had the steaming wand buried at the bottom for a good minute it seemed. This amount of time should bring the milk to a balmy 190 F.

Excellent. Now class, who wants to guess what happens next?

"Here you are sir. As hot as I could get it."

"As hot as you can humanly make it on that machine, right?"

"Yes, the temperature is very hot. You may actually want to wait a min-"

Coffee Nut then immediately took a drink, only to yelp as his tongue turned to a scalding strip of boiled flesh. And as he pulled it away, the coffee spilled out of the cup and onto his hand. Another inaudible yelp, I think he said "ow" but who knows with his mouth now useless, and the drink, cup-and-all, splattered on the floor.

"Are you okay!?" asked the coffee girl.


Yay for irony.

On Dining Out on V-Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

Even when I was in a relationship I was never a big Valentine's Day person. I mean, I would get my loved one a card or some nice chocolate, but I did my best to show I cared throughout the year and not just on February 14th. Furthermore, we never went out to a restaurant because, honestly, the menus usually suck.

V-Day menus usually have to cater to certain ideal menus of romance such as fondue and oysters and so on. It's cookie cutter and usually not something the kitchen staff are practiced at since it's a one time thing. Furthermore, the restaurants are trying to pump you out as fast as possible. Take into consideration that each waiter has more tables than usual due to every single station being a two-top, well, it's just not fun for anyone.

My roommate suggested we do anti-V-Day and go out to a restaurant the day before. I advised her no, we should not. Why?

Cheaters. You see, any restaurant owner, waiter, and chef can tell you that the day before V-Day is as busy as V-Day itself. This is due to everyone taking out their mistresses, hidden boyfriends, secret same-sex partners, dates they don't want to be seen with, on the sly hookups with dinner perks, and so on. It's a night on the down-low with a side of strange romance. Love is in the air. Or something like that.

A friend of mine in college once told me of a lady who came in the day before V-Day with what he thought was her husband. A night in early to avoid the rush and say their "I love you"'s. All very sweet. The next night in, V-Day proper, she arrived with her lesbian partner. The one she apparently was also celebrating a 5 year anniversary with. Her partner even called ahead and asked my waiter friend to hide plane tickets for a romantic vacation to Europe in the skeaze's napkin.

This, folks, is a prime example of what we call a No Good Douchebag.

This was just one instance. Apparently many people come to the exact same place, two days in a row, and bring in their secret sex partners and their out in the open partners. Now, this seems stupid to me. Sooner or later, won't their be a hostess with a big mouth and a heartbroken past who'll say something? A waiter who was once betrayed? Given, it might not be their business, but really cheaters... REALLY? How smart is this?

Of course, then you get those tables where people can't just wait to get home to get it on. No, they have to do it at the table. You know, those couples intent on finding out what the deep reaches of their date's esophagus tastes like. Or the couple where there's just a queer and animalistic stare that could start a fireplace seething between the two and you realize someones arm is moving just a bit to dexterously beneath the table, shielded by the table cloth. Yeah, so much fun to be seated next to that. I'm sorry but I can't help but stare. It's like free soft-core HBO porn, but more awkward and 10-1 you had to pay for the wine rather than drink whatever plonk you have at home.

Then the table of people arguing. The last V-Day. Habitual tradition of dinner out even though the breakup is around the corner. Either through angry silence, harsh whispers that aren't all that quiet, or down and out arguments it's just not a fun space to be next to. Still, dinner and a show!

The last few examples of course, apply to V-Day Proper as well. If you go out be prepared for the freaks. They're out there.

Anywhose, my advice? Show real romance and cook at home. Save the dinners out for some spontaneous Tuesday night for your loved one. It'll be more romantic, more exciting, and probably get you laid afterwards.

Cookbook Review - A Platter of Figs by David Tanis

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

David Tanis, a chef who made his years at the famed Chez Panisse, recently came out with a new cookbook, A Platter of Figs. A cookbook which dutifully presents the idea that food should be harvested and cooked in season and should always be the best ingredients you can find.

Indeed, the book is about slow food, but isn't. Rather than wax poetry about such and such a dish, he goes on to say that you use what's seasonal and fresh simply because it is. There is no rural pontificating or drawn out melodrama of the fig but rather a straightforward discussion conveying the idea and concept of the platter of figs for his book:

The platter of figs perfectly illustrates the idea of eating with the seasons. Fresh figs are available for only a few weeks of summer. The first figs are in June, but June figs usually pale in comparison to the late-summer crop, which benefits from warm August days. As with good tomatoes, you wait all year for the best figs to arrive. The reward is heavy, juicy fruit with oozing centers - sweet figs to swoon for. Above all, the platter of figs is a metaphor for the food I like. Fresh ripe figs are voluptuous and generous, luxurious and fleeting. And beautiful. - DT (introduction)

The menu based compositional approach to his organization is innovative and, at first, jarring. Breaking away from more conventional means of organizing a cookbook (such as salads, soups, poultry, dessert, etc.) he has divided the book by seasons. The recipes are then organized into four sets of six menus, each menu consisting of 3-4 recipes (although some recipes are actually three or four based on components) and each with a theme and following the bounty of the season. For example in Summer you will find a menu called "yellow hunger" which consists of recipes for shaved summer squash and squash blossoms, grilled halibut with Indian spice and yellow tomatoes, and peaches in wine. It's intriguing to be sure, and one must approach the book with a new mindset in order to better navigate the book. It's only true pitfall I find is that one must refer to the index more often than usual than with a more conventionally ordered cookbook.

The foreword by Alice Waters sets forth a tone that envelopes and invites you into Tanis' kitchen, where he then whisks you up and explains in tranquil and familiar terms his personal history and development of his style of cooking based in simplicity of season.

A key idea behind this book is encapsulated in that term: Simplicity. Given, these are not 30 minute meals; some of these dishes will require you to spend time in the kitchen. Nor does simplicity mean that each recipes is perfectly suited to a beginner. The simplicity lies in the use of ingredients, flavors, and preparation. You will find no foams, no strange ingredients requiring a search that would beguile even Indiana Jones (although a trip to the Asian grocer or butcher may be required for squid ink and rabbits), no sous-vide or anti-griddle preparations. Some do seem a bit daunting but as with all cookbooks a certain level of trust on the part of the reader is required.

Going with the book I decided to make a go at a few of the Winter menu recipes; I mixed and matched a bit based on my budget and sloth to test some dishes and put his thesis to practice. The green chile stew is bold and spicy, and as Tanis suggests, is perfect for fighting off the cold. Its heat, easy preparation, and simple use of ingredients make it versatile. The roasted apples with cognac and sugar made good use of ancient liquor that had last seen daylight in 2004 - simple with the sugar in the apples caramelizing and bandying back and forth playfully with the cognac. The watercress, beet, and egg salad was a bit encumbered for a salad but it was a playful dish of contrasts (I did substitute watercress for arugula I found on the campus grounds, free food is better). It stood up to David's idea that salads aren't something to just be tossed together by a recent CIA grad but rather have to be carefully developed with each flavor taken into consideration like any other dish.

A Platter of Figs is by and far one of the best cookbooks available right now. Reading it, it shines as an obvious choice for the Gourmet Cookbook Club. If anything the cookbook serves as a sort of tutorial. Even if you don't prepare any of the recipes, a casual reading will instill the idea of simplicity in season which you will almost immediately apply to your own outlook and approach to food and it's preparation. To those who already adopt this mantra and wave off that this is simply preaching to the choir, well sometimes the choir needs to be reminded why they're singing.

50 Things About Me

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So it seems the popular meme buzzing about is this list of stuff you all don't know about me. I decided why not? Generally my personal life stays off the blog. Sure I may talk about this event or that conversation, but I don't go into details except for the rare occasion. Anywhose, enjoy. I don't plan to tag others because I don't wanna pressure them and I'm too damn lazy to link to people. =P

1. I have traveled to Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, St. Kitts, St. Barts, Nevis, Monocco, Austria, Slovania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and 47 of the 50 states (No Alaska, Michigan, or Maine.).

2. I have an intense aversion to cough/cold/flu medicines. I would rather throw up all night then take a pill or swallow some syrup. In fact, I almost literally vomit if I even look at the stuff on the shelf in the store.

3. When I was 11 I woke up and told my parents that I thought my appendix exploded overnight. They rolled their eyes at me. Two hours later I was prepped for surgery. Listen to your children.

4. I am an Eagle Scout (Troop 603) and worked as a Boy Scout camp counselor at Lost Valley.

5. I always lick the salt off crackers before I eat them.

6. I can bend my fingers all the way back till my nails touch my wrist.

7. I am a horrible, inattentive driver. Yet, my only accident was on a rainy steep hill when my car hydroplaned into a fence post a snipped off my front bumper. *knock on wood*

8. I can play the flute, piccolo, and bass flute. I played for about 11 years until I graduated High School.

9. I know every single line from the film The Wizard of Oz. My family can sadly attest to this.

10. After countless tries I have decided I am not a big fan of Italian or Vietnamese food (maybe I just haven't found the good place to go yet?). I am, however, a devoted acolyte to Thai, Lebanese, Turkish, and Chinese food. I also dig French food, but never cook it.

11. I am an awful liar.

12. I hate people who are conceited and self-centered.

13. I can be very conceited and self-centered (I was raised in Orange County, what can I say?).

14. I can't stand the word "serendipity."

15. I seriously believe that if you believe in Astrology or Zodiac Signs as any sort of indicator of your life, then you're an idiot.

16. I want to write a book someday and get it published, either on an academic or popular literature level. I don't care which.

17. I want to be a college professor.

18. I love using web speak such as headdesk, tl;dr, sage, LOL, and ZOMG when chatting or writing. I don't tell the other English graduate students this.

19. I didn't realize how like my parents I was until Rob pointed it out to me at Christmas one year.

20. I think my grandmothers were some of the most awesome people ever.

21. I always keep a box of Duncan Hines brownie mix in the pantry for days I am feeling to lazy to do any real baking.

22. I worry about everything. I'm AnxietyMan, able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound.

23. I hate how the news focuses on pointless heartfelt stories or traffic but have the total inability to report the shit that's actually going on in the world that matters.

24. I love BBC news.

25. I lower my opinion of people when they tell me they read tabloids or follow celebrity gossip.

26. I get pissed when people are upset that teachers are failing our children, yet won't elect to raise taxes to fund schools or hire more teachers so they aren't trying to teach 35 students at a time.

27. I used to have pink and blue hair, seven piercings, wore a dog collar, and danced on tables in a bar when I was 19.

28. I have destroyed almost all the evidence that #27 ever happened.

29. I read X-Men and Avengers comic books but never buy them.

30. I only have two or three straight male friends, for the most part I'm afraid I won't know how to realate to them.

31. I get along with straight men extremely well.

32. I wish I had learned to play the violin.

33. Sadly, I used to be good at sign language, but it's not like riding a bicycle.

34. I named Cid after a character from a video game. The Cid in the video game is highly intelligent. My Cid falls off the counter and the back of the couch and runs into walls.

35. I fret about my relationships with my friends at times. I'm afraid I may lose them.

36. Mace was originally going to be named Kimhari.

37. I don't care about truffles. I think they're overrated.

38. I think caviar, champagne, and really good foie gras, however, live up to the hype.

39. I can't start my day without reading my online comics and drinking a cup of tea, otherwise I will be slightly cranky until lunch.

40. I really, really hate reading friends' poetry.

41. I want to meet Ruth Reichl.

42. I got to have sex with my high school crush on a Christmas break from college a few years back. My fantasy was better than he was. So disappointing.

43. I get a secret high when someone I meet tells me they read the blog.

44. I love cheesey horror flicks. Snakes on a Plane rocks it.

45. I hope my dad knows I appreciate how he made breakfast and packed a lunch for me everyday.

46. I hope my mom knows I appreciate how she cooked dinner for us every night.

47. I regret picking on my little brother as much as I did when we were kids.

48. I think I daydream far more than a normal person does.

49. I think everyone in my classes is smarter than I am.

50. I fucking love Taco Bell tacos. I could eat those every day.

Tasseography - Divining Tea Leaves

Sunday, February 8, 2009

From the Archives, because taxes and a paper have sucked up any semblance of free time I might possibly have.
Tasseography (aka: tasseomancy), or the art of divination by reading tea leaves. We've all heard of it, seen it in Harry Potter, and have some semblance of what it consists of. The wet tea leaves at the bottom of white cup form shapes and through a use of symbology and universal patterns interpret one's fortune and future.*

Now, for me, I'm not one who believes in divination, tea reading or otherwise, to predict and guide my future. I also do not practice it in any way, this post was just a way of satisfying my curiosity about something new. However, I am a believer in the use of such practices in meditation. Such as laying down tarot as a way to help you clearly think through life issues the way one person might write extensive pro-con lists to make a decision or free write in a journal to deal with a problem. Tea leaf reading may be used the same way; some may even see it as a way of exploring the subconscious the way a Rorschach (Ink Blot) test does. In essence, tasseomancy is simply a mode of self reflection or for some, entertainment.

The basic practices for tasseography are simple.

Tea: The teas used are simple loose leaf black or green teas, whole leaf, torn, diced, but rarely powdered as the powder may be drank by accident. The tea has to be able to form symbols or shapes. Earl Grey, Ti Kuan Yin, peppermint tea, etc. are all fine choices.

Teacup: A plain white tea cup is usually the preferred cup as it gives the clearest picture. However, other cups with symbols, zodiac signs (Greek and Chinese), elemental patterns are popular and allow for further customized and specific interpretations of the leaves.

How to read: Pour a cup of loose leaf tea and allow the tea to steep for about three minutes. Drink the tea, leaving only a very small amount, just enough to hold onto the tea leaves. Swirl the cup in your hand clockwise in your left hand three times. Allow the tea to settle on it's own. Turn the cup over and allow the liquid to drain off, allowing the leaves to stick to the cup.

Interpreting the leaves: There isn't a solid way to go about it. Each person can interpret the shapes differently, and assume the images formed mean different things. What may look like a heart to one may seem an antelope to another. Readings are personal and subjective, allow your first thoughts and intuition to guide you, and ignore your conscious mind's second guessing. Click here to see a sample reading.Even if tasseography isn't your thing, as a foodie, it's interesting to see how food is used for mystical, self reflective, entertainment, or even psychological purposes. Food isn't necessarily always about eating and recipes, but how it affects our lives as a whole. Looking at other interpretations and ideas about food and in a larger sense culture, religion, and society is an important aspect to appreciating food and drink, and in this case, tea.

Links & Resources:
Divination by Tea Leaves
Tasseography - Wikipedia

*In some cultures however, tea isn't even used. In Middle Eastern countries, wet coffee grounds are turned out onto a white plate and read the same way. However, the black grounds are considered "bad" omens, and the white shapes of the plate created by the surrounding grounds are the "good shapes" and prosperous signs.

Chocolate Truffles

Friday, February 6, 2009

You can find my recipe over here. Now go, be fruitful, make truffles for your mate as foreplay. You have to thank Elise for that totally shibby photo - seriously, it rocks.

Traveling Tajine Project Update #2 + Other Notes

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ann over at Sacatomato made another go with the tajine before having to pass it on over to Jackie over at Cherry Soup. A delicious lamb tajine with cilantro, saffron, pearl onions and other goodness it's a great recipe to try out or adapt for a more conventional casserole type meal. Be sure to check it out!

In addition to that, a few other various updates. School is back in full swing and I am beginning work on my graduate thesis soon. It's still being tinkered with but I am starting to focus my other projects and papers into this central 80-100 page report I am starting to research. Expect me to come to you all for help and assistance in a few weeks. I think this blog will act as an amazing forum for insights, ideas, and resources for research and rhetoric that I might not have come upon on my own. All and all, expect some more academic crap up on this here blog. 

Also, I found a kumquat tree on campus. Now I think I found a loquat tree. Not sure yet as it's not fruiting (have to wait for summer), but time will tell. Thanks for pointing it out Helen!

Snapshots at the Market

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Taken using Elise's camera which she had let me borrow. This was at the Farmer's Market under the freeway in Sacramento back in November. Just a simple something to share.

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