15 September 2008
this is your nation on white privilege, tim wise
For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.
White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.
White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.
i guess i like it when someone takes all my disjointed frustrations and incredulity, and gives them a good shake, and they all fall into the little notches of a framework i've fallen away from because i've gotten too bogged down in the smallness of my life and of manufactured discourse. the pieces were all there in my head but i let self-absorbed political narrative, and annoyance with it, crowd out the capacity to take a step back and see what's really going on.
however: i am still frustrated that palin's children, her oldest daughter especially, have been so aggressively made into ciphers for everything about her.
11 September 2008
(pasting half of it)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. government employees received improper gifts from energy industry representatives, and engaged with them in illegal drug use and inappropriate sexual relations, according to a report issued Wednesday.
A report says government officials accepted gifts from oil and gas company employees.
The report was issued by the Interior Department's inspector general after a $5.3 million investigation "uncovered recreational marijuana and cocaine use" by "a handful" of Interior Department staff, and found two federal employees "engaged in brief sexual relationships with representatives from companies doing business" with the department.
Two Interior Department employees "received combined gifts and gratuities on at least 135 occasions from four major oil and gas companies with whom they were doing business -- a textbook example of improperly receiving gifts from prohibited sources," Inspector General Earl Devaney says in a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne accompanying the report.
10 September 2008
you're an adult at twenty-one
pt's husband was killed in a car wreck, their child now lives w/ a disability b/c of wreck. Fixed income. --sb, 9/10
or in other words...
-Janet L., 44, Palo Alto, CA
i hesitated to link to the website, actually, because it is counter to all the things i was trying to say in my last post about how i swear i'm not gonna rant about palin. but this contributor summed it up well. it's still about the platform.
08 September 2008
summer of 68- forty years thence
stuff i have been meaning to post for months now. excerpts pasted to persuade you to click through. enjoy:
Dr. Bernard Lafayette: I got a call from Martin Luther King. This was in '67. He said, 'I need you to come down to Atlanta and to move here and work full time. This may be my last campaign and we're going for broke.' And when I got to Atlanta, he appointed me the national coordinator for the Poor People's Campaign. Now the idea originally came from Marion Wright Edelman.
Marion Wright Edelman: I was Marion Wright back in 1968. I had been working with Robert Kennedy on poverty in Mississippi, and he told me to tell Dr. King to bring the poor to Washington. To make them visible.
Lafayette: And the idea was that we would bring those people in front of the folk who make decisions and build this tent city and camp out until you get what you want. The two of us, we're talking, so I said to MLK, 'Well, you say this is a PPC. Well, black people aren't the only ones poor -- are you talking about getting Hispanics involved?' He said 'Yes!' 'What about Native Americans?' 'Yes!' So I was getting to the final question, and that was the poor whites from Appalachia... He said, 'Are they poor?' He said if they were poor then this was their campaign.
MLK Memorial Statue dispute
forty years after the poor people's campaign, king's assassination, and the riots that left swaths of many american cities, including the neighborhood next door to mine, burned out and barren, this country is still fucking up our responsibility to authentically remember a man who looked at the state of things and was not satisfied -- let alone our responsibility to authentically confront injustice.
let's stop talking about sarah palin and how sexily horrifying she is
let's get back to talking about why mccain sucks, and how his vp pick's horrifying-ness is basically a symptom of his own horrifying-ness
because it's really annoying to read about convention bounces and obama "becoming the underdog" because everyone wants to talk about sarah palin and somehow in contrast mccain seems well-intentioned and not batshit crazy.
04 September 2008
the following was written by lynn paltrow, who heads the national advocates for pregnant women. i have wanted to work with them since the day i heard about them -- last january, when they were organizing a conference in atlanta drawing together abortion clinic staff, midwives, obstetricians, and advocacy groups like the center for american progress... alas, apparently they operate on a shoestring and hire only lawyers. anyway, here you go:
An Open Letter to Gov. Sarah Palin on Women's Rights
Dear Governor Sarah Palin:
Many Americans agree with your position regarding abortion -- they do this as a matter of faith, ethics, personal experience and sometimes politics. I am just wondering though, if you have thought about what would happen if you succeeded in getting your position -- that fetuses have a right to life -- established as the law of the land? Did you know that it not only threatens the lives, health and freedom of women who might want or need someday to end their pregnancies, it would also give the government the power to control the lives of women -- like you who -- go to term?
Your last pregnancy, the one that has become the topic of widespread discussion and speculation provides an important opportunity to demonstrate how this could be true.
According to press reports your water broke while you were giving a keynote speech in Texas at the Republican Governors' Energy Conference. You did not immediately go to the hospital -- instead you gave your speech and then waited at least 11 hours to get to a hospital. You evaluated the risks, made a choice, and were able to carry on your life without state interference. Texas Governor Rick Perry worried about your pregnancy but didn't stop you from speaking or take you into custody to protect the rights of the fetus.
After Ayesha Madyun's water broke, she went to the hospital where she hoped and planned to have a vaginal birth. When she didn't give birth in a time-frame comfortable to her doctors, they argued that she should have a C-section. The doctors asserted that the fetus faced a 50-75 percent chance of infection if not delivered surgically. (Risks of infection are believed by some health care providers to increase with each hour after a woman's water has broken and she hasn't delivered).
The court, believing like you that fetuses have a right to life, said, "[a]ll that stood between the Madyun fetus and its independent existence, separate from its mother, was put simply, a doctor's scalpel." With that, the court granted the order and the scalpel sliced through Ms. Madyun's flesh, the muscles of her abdominal wall, and her uterus. The core principle justifying an end to legal abortion in the U.S. provided the same grounds used to deprive this pregnant and laboring woman of her rights to due process, bodily integrity, and physical liberty. When the procedure was done, there was no evidence of infection.
According to the press reports, instead of going straight to a hospital you chose to get on a long airplane flight back to Alaska.
When Pamela Rae Stewart, allegedly, didn't get to the hospital quickly enough on the day of her delivery, she was arrested in California on the theory that she had violated the rights of her fetus.
When Laura Pemberton chose to give birth at home in Florida, a Sheriff came to her house. Doctors believed that she was posing a risk to the life of her unborn child by having a vaginal birth after having had a previous c-section and were in the process of getting a court order to force her to have a c-section. The sheriff took her into custody during active labor, strapped her legs together and forced her to go to a hospital where an emergency hearing was taking place to determine the rights of her fetus. She was "allowed" to represent herself. A lawyer was appointed for the fetus. This woman, who vehemently opposes abortion, nevertheless believed in her right to evaluate medical risks and benefits to herself and her unborn child. She was forced to have the unnecessary surgery and when she later sued for violations of her civil rights, was told fetal rights outweighed hers.
You chose to continue working throughout your pregnancy -- even during your labor. Until 1991 women who worked in high paying blue color jobs that provided health benefits were being fired based on "fetal rights" policies that claimed if the woman became pregnant she would expose the unborn child to workplace health risks. Eventually, the Supreme Court said employers covered by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (the PDA) could not do this. But, millions of American women work part time or for small employers who are not covered by the PDA. If your political position on abortion is accepted -- all of these women could be forced to give up their jobs because an employer, family member, or state agent believed it necessary to ensure the health and rights of their unborn child.
Governor Palin, you have led an extraordinary life, balancing work and family, public service and private family obligations. We hope you know though that your freedom relies on exactly the same legal principals that guarantee that American women can choose to have an abortion when they need and want one.
Sixty one percent of women who have abortions are already mothers. Eighty-four percent will be mothers by the time they are in their forties. As a proud mother of five beautiful children, we hope you will recognize that the issue isn't abortion -- it is ensuring the lives, dignity and freedom of all pregnant women and their families.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
15 August 2008
someday i'll write about both of these things for real
08 August 2008
back to the database
23 July 2008
14 July 2008
monday morning depressing cases
clinic writes: patient's teen daughter is pregnant and she is divorcing her husband, will help her daughter raise the baby, cannot afford her own pregnancy due to becoming divorced soon.
7/15 RA called to check on appointment process, found out that pt is going to "keep the baby. We couldn't afford [the procedure], so we feel it's god's doing."
03 July 2008
Marilyn Frye, "White Woman Feminist", 1992. it's quite brief and you may as well read the whole thing.
Once I became aware of the privilege afforded to me by white racial classification, the question that came immediately to mind was, How ought I to act with respect to white privilege? This section is presented as a philosophical narrative on this question and summarizes how I've gradually come to understand privilege as a resource rather than as a dilemma.
My initial, admittedly unreflective response to white privilege was to explore ways of dissociating myself from whiteness and thus from the privileges that acompany it. If privilege is generated by injustice, I reasoned, I should consciously seek out ways of divesting myself of white privilege. After all, I didn't ask for these privileges; I was just born into a social/political system structured to benefit persons who appear to be white people. If these privileges are made possible by oppression, then I don't want them; I want to divest myself of them. But suppose divesting is impossible. Well, maybe there are responsible ways of using white privilege that do not perpetuate the institutionalized racism I want to demolish. Or, maybe all white privilege is by defition so toxic that it poisons everything with which it comes into contact. Or, perhaps there are varieties of white privilege I can use safely.
Alison Bailey, "Despising an Identity They Taught Me to Claim*" in Whiteness: Feminist Philosophical Reflections (ed. Chris Cuomo and Kim Hall), 1999.that collection also has a couple of other things i really want to post and think about, essays that complicate the idea of race with the possibility of "being" a race you don't "look like" and vice-versa. what is misrepresentation? what is authentic? for that matter, what is authenticity? there don't seem to be any stable answers. i'll try and get those posted later, but i want to share such a big chunk of them that it's no longer really excerpts and more like outright stealing.
(*this is a play on a 1980 title by Michelle Cliff, Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Claim. I have not read that one.)
They were doing men’s work in the field while raising two families—theirs and their masters. This may not be the ideal definition of feminism, but black women were doing more work than white men and white women combined, and they were doing it while being black.
Carol Chehade, Big Little White Lies: Our Attempt to White-Out America, 2001.
[After 9/11,] many in my Arab American community are surprised when we are treated un-White. We figured that if we played by the racial rules of this country, we would be bypassed in receiving some of the bigotry that Blacks routinely receive.
I am less disappointed in how my ethnic group has been signaled out [sic] and more disappointed in how we have been pathetically courting the very White privilege that has the power to decide which group will be signaled out. We need to be completely honest as Arab Americans and ask ourselves whether or not we have been models of anti-racism.
Our temporary exile from Whiteness should serve as a wake-up call as to whether we want to be re-instated into a racial hierarchy that wields so much unearned power.
Carol Chehade, Arabs and the Racial Lessons of 9/11, 2002.
(but she also says some things like "If Black Africans instead Arabs had brought terrorism to our shores, there would have been a race war in this country." this i find hard to wrap my head around. but you know what? so much has changed since 2000 that i can't really remember what it was like for anti-arab sentiment not to be a major and expected current. maybe she's right.)
(and on a bitchier, syntactical note, she also says: "If we are to be positive additions to the United States, then we have to strengthen what makes us weak, and one of the biggest things that weaken us as a nation is racism." it is too snarky of me to say something like really? we have to strengthen racism?, but i just did.)anyway, just stuff i found interesting. the first reading led me to the second, and that latter stuff is certainly food for thought in my endless attempt to work out where i stand when it comes to race. for example, i find it interesting that someone close to me who is very, let's say, US-oriented for lack of a better phrase likes to tell me don't kid yourself, you're not white, and on the other hand someone close to me who shares my perspective on most cross-cultural and third-world issues likes to say, don't kid yourself, you are white.
02 July 2008
entering notes while on the phone
ETA: at 7pm, pt's fifth phone call- "i am so thankful for you all. i don't know you, but i love you." i didn't write that in my database notes, but it will be nice to remember it later.
i have had one long-ass day.
ETAx2 (1:40am): one really long-ass day.
01 July 2008
morning case review
sigh. what kind of world is this.
30 June 2008
reviewing my cases
27 June 2008
your daily dose of substituting the public for the private
The government has ruled that a pregnant 11-year-old who was raped by a relative can have an abortion in Romania. Twenty Christian Orthodox church groups have threatened to press charges if the government allows the girl, who is 21 weeks pregnant, to have an abortion in the country, where abortions are illegal beyond 14 weeks of pregnancy unless the woman’s life is endangered. But Theodora Bertzi, a Labor Ministry official and a member of the committee that ruled on the case, said the government had to respect the rights of the child, who told doctors that she had been raped by her 19-year-old uncle. He has disappeared. The position of the church groups was in contrast to the official stand of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which said the decision should be left to the family.
26 June 2008
sauteed til translucent
white pepper, ground mustard, smoked chipotle tabasco, etc
2 large carrots diced + half an aging apple chopped + stem parts of bok choi + 2 cubes of vegetable bouillon + a gallon of water + two bay leaves
brought to a boil, simmered for an hour
pulsed briefly with a hand blender
2 potatoes cubed + two handfuls of bok choi leaves and mustard greens torn into bites
simmered another 20 minutes
+ salt to taste and optional slip of olive oil
vegetable soup, tasty hot or chilled; or, wednesday dinner and thursday breakfast and thursday lunch!
two kinds of blue cheese on a cheeseboard
shallots, peeled and roasted with balsamic vinegar
rye and caraway crispbreads
light and beautiful dinner that looks and tastes like i planned it ahead of time; or, a way to use up kitchen remnants in 30 minutes on a hot thursday night.
24 June 2008
data entry at work, the lighter side
23 June 2008
filling out my call log
19 June 2008
data entry at work, pt 2
18 June 2008
data entry at work
07 June 2008
SARASOTA — An anti-abortion group [the American Life League] has broken up a deal between Planned Parenthood and Habitat for Humanity by blasting out 10,000 e-mails to Habitat supporters.
Planned Parenthood is building a 23,000-square-foot regional headquarters on Central Avenue, and planned to sell Habitat the land next door for a token $10 to build three below-market-cost houses. The deal benefited Planned Parenthood because the city required the clinic to put up buildings as a buffer between its parking lot and Cohen Way.
"We could have put up any building we wanted," said Barbara Zdravecky, president of Planned Parenthood. "We wanted to donate the land so Habitat could build more attainable housing."
But after Habitat donors learned about it and complained, Habitat International told the local board to drop it. The local Habitat board dropped the deal Tuesday night, less than a month before it was set for a final vote by the city.Tony Souza, director of Habitat for Humanity Sarasota, said it was the pressure from donors -- and not a philosophical stance -- that caused Habitat to back out of the project. "It was a lot of pressure on Habitat International," Souza said. "When donors start pulling out, money talks."
there's a couple more paragraphs after this, but that is the basic plot.
26 May 2008
just a plug for my favorite site of late
*like this. this post is pretty much 100% how i felt about myself, sexually speaking, for several years (before my libido plateaued, so i'm gonna say 2002-2005 maybe?), but at the time i never heard anyone talk this way and felt alone and weird. i guess it didn't help to go through a couple relationships where my sex drive or my sexuality was implicitly fingered as a cause of the relationships' fatal problems. even in college i felt kind of weird, since most of my friends were virginy (for lack of a better word) and even the virtual communities of learnlink weren't all one might imagine. until senior year the only forum that came close was JUGs, and that was kind of conservative comparatively; i sometimes got the feeling that i was either the horniest or the most oversharing participant on there, even though all my experiences were pretty vanilla at that point. then senior year there was GINAs, and i was blown away that there were women who wanted and had more sex than i did, not to mention kinkier. but by then i had already sort of leveled out in terms of activity and also in terms of insecurity, and isolation, and thirst for knowledge about other people's experiences.
the amazing thing? they make posts like that all the time. what i at first thought i'd stumbled upon just the once, as a singular anchor of comfort in a crazy cruel misogynist madonna/whore internet, turned out to be their normal, workaday output.
i think at one point that may have been my dream job, but let's face it, my sex life is way too boring now. ha. that's probably a good thing, considering.
eta: plus, diablo cody (screenwriter of juno) is a reader and commenter. that's kinda cool, right?
24 May 2008
more from the abortion files
on friday when she calls me she is crying and panicked. the dude, her friend, is being weird. he told her to stop calling him, that if she kept pushing him he wouldn't give her any money at all, that if she called him at work again he would break her legs. he has never spoken to her like this before. she tells me he's patching things up with his ex-wife, who would leave again with the kids if she knew about his relationship with C. apparently C tried some ill-advised blackmail: "i don't know why you're making this so difficult, all i have to do is make one phone call [to tell all to his ex-wife]". he responded with "you try that and we'll see what happens to you". she says that if it weren't for having to depend on him right now, she would call the police, and she doesn't want to speak to him ever again when this is over. but she needs him to drive her the 25 miles to the clinic. at the end of their argument, she says, he suddenly became cooperative, saying "ok, i'll drive you there, sure". she is worried he's going to leave the clinic while she's there and never come back. i'm worried she's not even going to make it to the clinic. is he going to show up and beat her? try to drive her off a bridge? she mentions maybe he's thinking of pushing her out of the car to cause an inexpensive miscarriage.
i'm about to ask C if she can tell someone of her fears, maybe the neighbor she's mentioned, when she says that she has already made plans to tell the neighbor where she's going and with whom, and then to drop it into conversation with the dude that someone will be checking for her return. we come up with more plans: of the two hundred dollars she has told him he must come up with, she's going to reserve fifty for a cab ride home in case he doesn't show up. i will send the clinic a pledge covering the rest. and she's going to call me when she gets to the clinic, whether from her doomed cell phone or the clinic's front desk. both nervous but not sure what more we can do, we hang up.
i go out for a very late lunch and come back to find a message from her: "what if he wants to come in and pay the $200 himself, then how will i be able to pocket the cab fare?". good question. i call the clinic, explain the situation, ask if they can set aside the fifty from their payment if the dude does come in to pay. they are surprisingly quick to understand, don't act like i'm asking something weird of them: sure, we can put fifty in the safe with her name on it, she can come back and ask for it if he splits; i'll make a note of it in her chart right now. so i call her back, she doesn't pick up, i leave two messages because i'm nervous. thank god i'm working this saturday, i can be at my phone during her appointment.
so today is saturday, her appointment is at noon. she calls me in the morning and i tell her the clinic is cooperating. she says she'll call me when she gets there, as per the plan. then she doesn't. it's noon, one o'clock, three o'clock, five o'clock. no C. it's past time to go home. the building is closed monday, it's national don't go to work day. i'll call the clinic tuesday and see what they can tell me then. maybe she's fine. i turn off the lights and leave.
a car is idling in the parking lane in front of our building's entrance, a woman with short hair is holding a camera in the rolled-down window, she sees me see her and looks. looks at me some more when i look at her some more. i'm confused, worried, but there are a dozen floors to our building and my employer is on just one of them. she could be taking pictures for anything. our front desk "security" is crap though. i tell myself not to borrow trouble.
Would recommend Hotline: yes -
Other comments: last august my boyfriend killed himself and i lost my job and my apartment, and spent months and months in depression. i only just started working again about a month ago and it feels great to be doing something with myself, but i found out i was pregnant from the only messy one night stand i've had in all that time and i didn't know who to turn to or what to do about paying for an abortion. having the baby was never even an option, i can't even take care of myself! you people seriously saved my life. i owe you everything.
wondering if i should delete this entry or somehow make it private. leaning slightly toward yes right now but i wish i weren't, because i also would like to share patients' words more. but they're not mine to share, are they? i'll give it more thought soon.
catch-up: talking shop
since january i've been working at a national pro-choice organization. it's a professional organization for providers, a policy and lobbying group, a coordinator of research and medical education, and a resource for women seeking information about abortion, sexual health, and a good variety of related things.
the latter function is under the scope of an assistance hotline, where i work as a case manager. my department recently received a significant gift of money, all earmarked for helping women pay for abortion care. this is why i was hired. it used to be that one case manager was sufficient for the tasks of (a) usually telling people "no, funding isn't really what we do", (b) determining who was most needy of a "yes", and (c) administering the very small amount of money we had. but the hotline has become a real funding resource since then, and as of next week we will have a total of five case managers to manage the demand (i was the third).
it's great to be able to say "yes" so often. it makes me wonder about all the women who called for prices when i worked at the clinic; how many of them simply gave up? when people inquired about financial help, we had to begin with the shitty stuff -- "have you asked your church group for help? can you go see a loan shark? do you have anything you can pawn?", knowing that some women might already be selling their food stamps or selling sex -- and then tack on, "and if you get pretty close to your goal, there are organizations that may then be able to give $50 or $75, but they can only do that a couple times a month, so call back and talk to our manager and maybe she can talk to them for you". now that shitty stuff is the last resort, for after we've promised as much money as we're allowed to. it's still not a perfect system, but i'll certainly take that over "no, we can't do payment plans. but we do accept credit cards...".
in fact, we say "yes" so often to so many women that we've delegated a lot of that to the hotline operators, so that case managers can spend more time on people who need more support than just the money. in a way that makes it harder, of course; you feel like you fail more often, because there are still people that, no matter how hard you try for them, don't make it to their bus ride across the country or have too complicated a medical history to be seen by anyone at this stage in the pregnancy, etc. i had to give up on a woman with paranoid-schizophrenia and a pregnancy that may or may not have been the product of incestuous assault because she would only contact me, via payphone, every two weeks, was unwilling to fax the clinic the police report or the medical report that would have established legal grounds for the procedure (or even her previous sonogram so they could tell her the length of pregnancy and the cost and set her an appointment), and had been sent home from a previous appointment elsewhere after having a freakout and making a nurse there feel unsafe. one of my colleagues had been working with her as early as january, and by the time she was too far along to have an abortion she still hadn't gotten it together.
of course these are the people that you want to work hardest for, because they're having the most trouble getting what they need. but there's a certain point where i can't do more -- can't go to her state and get her out of her father's house and drive her to colorado and escort her through the weeklong appointment -- and even if i could, maybe i shouldn't. the hardest thing for me has been sussing out whether a woman really wants to go ahead with an abortion and is just encountering obstacle after obstacle, or is inwardly ambivalent and hoping that one of those obstacles might stop the events in motion. it happens. i've done that myself, about mundane things like going to a movie i didn't really want to see, or accepting a job i didn't really want to do: "i'm so disappointed, i was all set to do it but then i got sick / had a plumbing emergency / had conflicting family plans", whatever. it's important that women still be able to own their decision, such as it is -- if you can help it, you should avoid being in a position to blame something important, like having or not having a child, on things beyond your control -- and i am struggling to find the best way to support that. once someone apologized to me when she said she wouldn't need financial assistance anymore because she had decided to carry to term. i don't want you to be sorry. i just want you to to be able to do what's best for you, and you know best what that is.
i'm glad that i am still working with a client population, even if it's only over the phone; i know i quit my job at the clinic saying i wanted to do lobbying or communications or something of the sort, but this job offer came right at the time where i was starting to question that, and i think it's mostly been a good thing. i'm still thinking i'd like to do policy research sometime soon, but it makes me sad to think about sitting alone in an office not actually talking to the people i'm hoping to be useful to. how can you know you're on the right track if you don't listen to your clients? but anyway, there are so many things i want to do sometime soon that i don't know which one will be soonest. go to school so i can just get a masters' out of the way, travel, live in my hometown for a spell, change jobs four hundred times, write some kind of food book? sure.
anyway, so that's what i do, sort of. i'll try to update more soon.
catch-up: foodblog, sort of
i like how quickly i can put together a baked good nowadays, at least after i've made it a couple times. it's nice to have a feel for something, to remember what a particular batter is supposed to feel like, or whether it's supposed to be dull or shiny on the whisk, flat or bubbly in the pan, how high it should rise in the oven.
more cooking notes. dinner last night was a baffling series of disasters. baffling because each component seemed like it would be simple and quick, and instead was difficult and time-consuming and a wreck. the brussels sprouts that should have "caramelized" turned a really beautiful green and them promptly burned. the tilapia kept falling apart when i turned it, and patches of it were still floury when i plated them. and the part of dinner that i was most looking forward to -- a beurre blanc, a sauce made of white wine and lemon and butter that is smooth and amazingly flavorful -- came out the absolute worst: the reduced wine and lemon juice seized up into browned clumps, probably bound to burned milk solids from the butter, and sank to the bottom of a bowlful of clear yellow oil. basically i had clarified butter dotted with flavor-chunks. fuck.
i think what happened was that the cold butter should have gone into the sauce to melt but never have gotten actually hot. the recipe's technique was to lower the heat to low before the whisking-in of cubed butter, but i probably should have removed it from the heat entirely. see, i did exactly as the recipe said, but the recipe probably didn't know that i use a shitty electric stove, which heats up and cools down a burner WAY slower than a gas flame would. so now i know. but i'm two sticks of butter (i know!) poorer for it.
all that said, i think the meal had a lot of potential and might come out perfectly if i tried again. by the last fillet i certainly had the hang of the pan-frying technique, and the brussels sprouts might just need a little tinkering -- non-virgin olive oil, or a tiny bit of sugar in the pan, to get the right kind of browning -- and maybe the only problem with the sauce was the heat issue. so i feel bad for wasting people's evening, but not too bad about the disappointment in and of itself.
the one thing i can recommend without all the caveats would be what i did with the fettuccine (or was it linguine? doesn't matter), which was simple and subtle and flavorful: bit of extra-virgin olive oil, splash of cream, grated lemon zest, ground black pepper. the end. anyone can do it, everyone should.
that's more than enough from me in one night. someone please remind me to start using my camera again. off to crash, goodnight.
catch-up: foodblog 4?
anyway, between the weather and it generally being a very monday-ish monday (which seemed to be going around today in a big way -- i had office space quoted to me a couple times, even), i didn't really feel like cooking but i also wanted to eat something comforting and warm. and ended up throwing together a surprisingly good soup out of not much. i'd like to claim i'm brilliant but actually the following is just a slapdash version of this recipe. thanks, clever vegan lady, for giving me something tasty to unceremoniously deveganize. i'm sorry.
yellow split pea soup
nonstick spray (i.e. pam or something)
1 medium/large onion, chopped
2 tbsp light olive oil (i.e. not virgin or extra-virgin, those burn too fast)
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
chunk of ginger (about a 1-inch cube), minced
2 cloves garlic or more, minced or smashed
2 tsp garam masala
a bag of yellow split peas (about 3 cups dry), rinsed -- and checked for pebbles!
chicken stock (and/or water)
a bay leaf
1 can sweet potatoes, drained
2 handfuls of mustard greens, torn up
salt, black pepper
spray the bottom of a big pot with the nonstick stuff. this sounded totally weird to me too, but trust me. it actually kept the onion from frying/burning much better than regular oil does.
on med-low heat, sautee the chopped onion until it gets soft and translucent, around 5 minutes. according to the clever vegan lady, you should then scoot the onions to one side of the pot -- i did that and then also scooted the pot halfway off the heat -- so that you can drop in the mustard seed and a little oil. the seeds should pop, with a jump and a noise, but they don't always -- they didn't tonight -- so if they pop or if they start getting dark, you can move on to the next step.
add in the garlic and ginger, stir, add more oil if needed, stir, add the coriander and garam masala, stir, add the spit pleas and stir again.
pour in lots of chicken stock (or water), enough to cover the peas by at least a half-inch. stir, add the bay leaf, cover and raise the heat to bring to a boil. then turn it back down to simmer the soup with the lid askew for about an hour, or until the peas are as soft as you want them. make sure to check on the water/stock level now and then, and add more if the soup is starting to dry out or look burny.
toss in the mustard greens and the sweet potatoes. replace the lid and cook on low heat until the greens are at your preferred texture -- for me, 5 minutes got them soft but not soggy. salt and pepper to taste. (salt is really critical to the soup not tasting like bland mush punctuated by sweet mushy chunks.)
i ate mine over some fridgified rice that wasn't going to be good for much else. it was quite satisfying. i like how (relatively) quickly split peas cook.
the original recipe called for kale, which i like but didn't have, and real (i.e. fresh) sweet potato, which gets cubed at the very beginning and tossed in to boil with the split peas, and "mild curry powder", which may or may not be what i used (?), and cumin, which i accidentally replaced with coriander before realizing it. yes, i'm sure cumin made more sense in the curry-powder context of the recipe. but it still came out tasty my way. i hope someone else tries this and tells me how it came out / what other changes you made / etc.
i'll try and write less-mundane things sometime soon. there's just been so much going on in my head lately, it's hard to talk about any of it. with anyone i mean. so don't take it personal, internet.
catch-up: banal misogyny is everywhere
i mostly just wanted to point out the poor sad sexy depressive crying on the curb that they chose to illustrate the headline -- "sex: cure for the blues?" -- which incidentally is not what's in the actual text of the article (as happens all too often in all manner of reporting on studies and experiments -- thanks, lazy editors!). apparently sex is no cure at all for the blues, since "depressed women have more sex" but evidently remain in the "depressed" category of the sample population.
(nitpick the third: do "couples" only count if they're hetero, or do you think the social scientists in question remembered the lesbos? i am just curious, cause the article doesn't make any mention one way or another.)
(i am not even gonna go into the bs "women are probably having sex to get that closeness and security" interpretation, because after all this is just a stupid "life&style" article from australia, and australians as we all know are smelly.)
catch-up: newsy news
HOUSTON (AP) -- Police in Houston say a 14-year-old girl who delivered a stillborn fetus in an airliner restroom on her way back from a middle-school field trip will not be charged with any wrongdoing.
Homicide investigators say they interviewed both the girl and a 14-year-old boy believed to be the father.
Police say that prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against the girl. The fetus was found in a waste can on a Continental Airlines flight that landed at Houston after a flight from New York.
Authorities say the girl told police she didn't know she was pregnant. Preliminary autopsy results indicated the fetus was stillborn and not viable.
The girl's name has not been released.
headdesk or cry? so hard to choose.
catch-up: quotey quote
Behold the neat trick. First, you make women act like simpletons, broodmares, janitors, mannequins, and sex slaves before you grant them social approval. You call this behavior “femininity” and explain that it is their essential nature, and that any deviation from the program will be punished. Then you infantilize and ridicule the ones who get it right, and vilify and abuse the ones who get it wrong (you can also vilify and abuse the ones who get it right, because, let’s be honest; the world is your oyster).
...but then, twisty faster never minces words. anyway, the rest of the post is about "pink" marketing, etc -- though if you've read "the beauty myth" it's basically the same idea, particularly the second half. then again i guess it's even more directly "the second sex", in case that snippet didn't make it obvious.
ok well. i was gonna write a real post -- about "cops"! -- but i slept poorly this weekend and want to make it up to myself before i wreck my week.
05 March 2008
a missed anniversary
the last time i removed hair from my legs.
i cut out the transaction confirmation number, and i was about to cut out the dollar amount too, when it occurred to me to go ahead and leave it there, because it's one of the reasons i decided i wasn't going to be doing the salon regime anymore. to be fair, ninety dollars covered more than just a lower-leg wax (i never did see a reason to bother with the fine hairs on my thighs) -- i also got a brazilian wax that day, if i recall correctly -- but still. ninety dollars every however-many weeks (supposedly six, i tended to stretch it out to tennish), for the privilege of an hour or so of ripping out something that was just gonna come back and wasn't really all that noxious to begin with, seems both too embarrassing to reveal and yet precisely also legitimate grounds for grievance that do a lot to explain why i stopped.
sure, i could have continued shaving, but (a) lazy and (b) grows back spiky and (c) have to do it all the damn time. the leg wax had actually been an attempt to establish a compromise between the constant maintenance of shaving vs not doing anything at all. but in the end not doing anything at all won out. over time i noticed something neat, which was that for the first six months it grew and then sort of plateaued at what i considered a perfectly decent level of fuzziness -- and then grew again and became the full-on hairiness that i'd initially dreaded. the other thing that surprised me is that the only really dark-and-hairy part of my legs is my shins, specifically the insides; all the rest is pretty unremarkable.
is it worth noting that i in fact continued to get brazilian waxes (this means my vulva, everybody) all the way up til i moved cities, and even once this past november on a trip? or that, after a long winter hibernation in pants and stockings, my hairy legs once again make me a bit self-conscious and i'm wondering whether i should wax them just once more so that they'll be no worse than downy until summer ends? or that i still take twenty seconds to shave my armpits every couple of days and don't foresee quitting? so it's not like i've really sorted all this out (and by "this" i mean "stuff that falls under the broad category of body hair, other appearance issues, &c").
to be honest, my motivations for depilating the armpits (they get way less sweaty and smelly) and the pubes (i orgasm more easily without a soft carpet impeding friction) still seem reasonable enough to me. but i think the insecurity about my hairy legs is just something i'm going to have to get over. it's been over a year, after all, and i weathered last summer just fine overall, even with the swimming at the lake and the constant wearing of skirts. maybe it helped that i spent most days in an explicitly-feminist environment that also had a lax dress code: it's stupid, but now that i can't wear sweatpants or sneakers or even jeans to work, i wonder a lot more about whether my body hair might make me seem unkempt somehow. and that shocks me a little; i think that's a stereotype that i hadn't even realized i'd have to de-internalize (ugh, what a word).
i don't know, i guess these are just some random thoughts on the subject, on the occasion of sifting through old bank records and realizing i'd missed the first anniversary of my last "lawn-mowing" (as my sister calls it) ever. i could say some pissier or more obvious or more political things about it, but right now i'd rather have a conversation.
22 January 2008
more mlk day fun
A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.
Her face and arms began to swell and Whitey's on the moon.
I can't pay no doctor bills but Whitey's on the moon.
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still while Whitey's on the moon.
The man just upped my rent last night cause Whitey's on the moon.
No hot water, no toilets, no lights but Whitey's on the moon.
I wonder why he's uppin' me. Cause Whitey's on the moon?
I was already givin' him fifty a week but now Whitey's on the moon.
Taxes takin' my whole damn check,
The junkies makin' me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin' up,
And as if all that shit wasn't enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.
Her face and arms began to swell but Whitey's on the moon.
Was all that money I made last year for Whitey on the moon?
How come there ain't no money here? Hmm! Whitey's on the moon.
Ya know, I just about had my fill of Whitey on the moon.
I think I'll send these doctor bills
to Whitey on the moon.
epilogue 2: twelve myths about direct action
what was that dream about?
these leaders would have us forget that king's legitimacy came from the grassroots, not the government -- some in hopes of absorbing that legitimacy for themselves (cf., in chronological order: romney, mitt; obama, barack; and clinton, hillary); some trying to erase the real, revolutionary liberation he spoke of, to reduce the risk that the oppressed masses might try to envision it and get ideas in their heads; and some to paint him as a polite friend to the status quo, praising his strategy of nonviolence and implicitly, by contrast, condemning the "bad" black leaders like malcolm x or huey newton. at least this year that asshat dinesh d'souza (i link reluctantly) was more honest, admitting he preferred booker t. washington to w.e.b. dubois -- the same exhausting narrative, from a hundred years earlier.
but these people all are simultaneously missing king's point and making it for him. he spent a lot of energy calling out unfulfilled promises and empty talk. i think that's worth remembering when people want to tell us about so-called colorblindness (or its more contemporary versions, "we're all just people"/"i'm a humanist"/etc and disparagement of "identity politics"), assert that "equality" has long been achieved, or promise that the Man will make things better as long as you are patient, play nice, and don't "alienate" any "potential allies". so here's some of the rest of that speech, for starters:
America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
"i have a dream", 28 august 1963
and here's some from another:
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never."
and here's some more -- you start to notice he says a lot of things that today's agenda-setters don't like to bring up:
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."beyond vietnam", 4 april 1967
In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear.
Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.
Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America "you are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name."
We must develop a program that will drive the nation to a guaranteed annual income. Early in this century this proposal would have been greeted with ridicule and denunciation, as destructive of initiative and responsibility. At that time economic status was considered the measure of the individual's ability and talents. ... Now we realize that dislocations in the market operations of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will.
The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts among husbands, wives and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on the scale of dollars is eliminated.
Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God's children on their own two feet right here on earth.
And one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them -- make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"
"where do we go from here", 16 august 1967
general thanks for bearing with me, and sorry if i repeated stuff you already know. i just think this stuff is worth keeping around and reading from time to time, lest the de-fangers and co-opters start to regain ground.
21 January 2008
foodblog: almost-flourless chocolate cake
gateau fondant au chocolat, or almost-flourless chocolate cake
7 oz good dark chocolate (i used 3 oz 100% and 4 oz 60% of ghirardelli baking chocolate; it isn't valrhona, but it's not hershey's either)
7 oz. good butter (this means european/high-fat, and unsalted; i used plugra, others in this category are lurpak or i guess president)
1+1/3 cup white sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon flour (can substitute good cocoa powder to make it gluten-free and to add depth to the chocolate flavor)
this is seriously the most complicated part of this recipe, i.e. everything else is a snap. you need an 8-inch round cake pan (usually this kind of pan has a straight vertical edge, not sloped like a pie crust) and parchment paper. the parchment will keep the cake from sticking to the bottom of the pan and allow it to slide out in one piece.
preheat the oven to 375 F. butter the pan. trace a pan-sized circle in the parchment with a knife, and put this circle of parchment in the bottom of the pan. then butter that paper circle, too.
cut the butter into cubes and chop the chocolate small. melt them together in a bowl -- you can be fancy and do it in a double boiler on low heat, or not and do it in the microwave. either way, just make sure to stir frequently and don't burn it. add in the sugar, then the eggs one by one, then the flour, stirring well after each addition.
pour into the pan, bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or just a little less. take it out when the cake is barely jiggly, if at all, when you give it a shake. sit the whole thing on a rack and cool 10 minutes.
this is the second-most complicated part. put a large piece of foil across the top of the pan; then put an upside-down plate on top of that. hold pan and plate snugly together and flip the whole thing, so that the cake plops (gently) out of the pan and is sitting upside-down on the now foil-lined plate. peel off the parchment paper if it's stuck; then take a second plate and do the flipping thing over again, except this time without the foil and be careful not to smush the cake between the two plates (can use a finger between them to make some space).
orangette says to wait til it's cool or preferably til the next day, since age actually improves it; she even made them for her own wedding reception a week in advance, keeping them wrapped in the freezer til the day. anyway i and others have been nibbling at this since it came out of the oven until almost a week later, and it's been great at every stage.
it's good alone with a glass of milk, or with a dollop of heavy cream that's been whipped up with a small amount of sugar. barely sweet, mind. and though you can use a plain old fork for the entire recipe, don't bother trying it for the whipped cream. a whisk might work if you have patience, but since i expect my accompaniments to come together as easily as my main dish did, i would only bother if i had an electric beater.
a) sunday i made a cake. it was easy as pie (haw), tasted difficult, and ages wonderfully. recipe to follow. i also went to the italian store and bought myself some prosciutto, sopressata, pate de campagne, and truffle mousse.
b) monday we made a charcuterie plate out of the stuff from the italian store with capers, cornichons and toasts. that was nice. also i mail-ordered myself a pair of flannel-lined pants. i've wanted some for years but they were always too expensive, and i figured i didn't live in a cold enough climate that i couldn't just tough it out for a few freezing days instead. but i caught them on sale, very sale, and i am after all in the frozen tundra of just-north-of-virginia now; so i got them and they came right away and i am feeling very self-congratulatory. the high today was 25 degrees, and i didn't need to wear three layers of pants like i used to do.
c) tuesday i had an interview downtown and it went shockingly well. details in a future post wherein i muse about service, work and stuff like that. also jennie was in town overnight for a conference and we met up for a quick dinner and drink, which was a great surprise.
d) wednesday we took advantage of "restaurant week": josh and melissa and sarah and i got a last-minute reservation at ardeo, a vaguely contempo-mediterranean, semi-fancy restaurant. the idea was 3 courses for $30. i had a deceptively boring-named "beet salad" (tiny cubes of golden beet, tiny cubes of a golden gelee of something citrusy, halved tiny tomatoes, and micro-mache i think, with balsamic vinaigrette), a veal meatloaf with wild mushroom gravy, potato puree, and wild broccoli (i'm sorry to say that i broke from my don't-buy-veal habit in order to try 'wild broccoli', but happy to report that wild broccoli is kind of awesome), and an underwhelming dessert of raspberry sorbet that tasted lipglossy but was cradled in a very competent brandy basket and (surprisingly, unseasonably) fresh blackberries and strawberries. everyone else's food was very good too, maybe better than mine -- the fish especially, it was so impossibly tender it almost didn't seem like fish but rather some kind of fish-tasting velvety substance, like the concept of microsuede.
d2) also wednesday sarah mail-ordered me a selection of goat cheeses and a bamboo cheese board. a beautiful gift. so far we've tried the classic chevre buche (mild and creamy and addictive), the chocolate mini buche (cocoa through and through, but not sweet; simultaneously intriguing and offputting, so only small bits at a time), the blueberry mini buche (only on the outside; very nice, though i think the concept works better with cranberries), and a firmer, stinkier round whose name i forget (nothing compared to a camembert, but still, very pungent for a goat cheese, and i've been averse to pungent cheese lately, mostly because of the way it lingers on the palate). three more to go, all harder types.
e) thursday josh was going to be away all day so he booked me a really long massage at the four fucking seasons. unfortunately it snowed all day and the place was in georgetown (i.e. poor public transit access) so i ended up calling a cab. didn't cost as much as i'd worried. the massage itself was amazing and left me soft and pliant, this sounds weird but i felt like i had ocean-fresh calamari between my shoulderblades instead of the guardedly tough flesh i usually keep there. the massage therapist was great too, so kind and knowledgeable, i wished we could be personal friends so he could give me massages and advice and goodbye hugs all the time. afterward i septn about 45 minutes in and out of the steam room, which was filled with eucalyptus or something, almost too much of it, and wished it didn't feel rude to go completely naked. i drank cucumber water. josh picked me up and we ate sushi that was both fresh and cheap, a rare find.
f) friday i found a new coffee shop with jim. it's small and maybe not so good for being talkative, but comfy and warm and they make the only good "chai" i've had in months, and by chai i mean the tea-spice-latte concept, which i would like if people didn't try to sneak lethal doses of sugar into it. but this one is only slightly sweet.
g) laura has been visiting us this weekend. tacos, bookstores, empanadas, a disappointing hookah bar, blueberry pancakes, the smithsonian - natural history, a lot of driving, more cheese, and getting updated on office news. each of these is a sub-topic in its own right. it's been so good to catch up / hang out with her. also, which would you give up if you had to choose between cheese or oral sex?
g2) new books: "the color of violence", eds. incite! women of color against violence; and "media control", noam chomsky. stuff that got added to my list for later getting: angela davis, more patricia hill collins, arundhati roy's nonfiction (yes! she is twice-famous now), the revolution will not be funded (also by incite!, has been on my list but they were sold out of it this time, have been thinking about it so much lately), a people's history of the u.s. THE MAP BOOK (yes of howard zinn fame - also has been on the list but rather costly), and stuff by tim wise if i can find it. the bookstore is busboys and poets (named for langston hughes, who was both), it's a pretty good place. i think this forthcoming post i mentioned will also bring up my reading list. maybe.
i'm forgetting things too, i think. the bad part of this week: worried i'd be late to get laura from the airport, i rushed onto the first southbound train that came by, which turned out to be green line and not yellow, and didn't realize the problem until well past the last chance to switch over -- not until after i'd crossed the anacostia, even. shit, embarrassing. had to go back north, switch over, then go south again. also: saw an irritating poster in the (wrong) train car that i was in. also: despite bundling up, my gloved fingers felt ready to fall off in today's windy cold. face too. but not my legs! so basically, not much to complain about.
Labels: me me me
14 January 2008
"martyr to the coalition", thinking about nonprofit work
I feel as if I’m gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you’re really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing...
That is the nature of coalition...It is not to feed you; you have to feed it. And it’s a monster. It never gets enough. It always wants more. So you better be sure you got your home someplace for you to go to so that you will not become a martyr to the coalition...None of this matters at all very much if you die tomorrow—that won’t even be cute. It only matters if you make a commitment to be around for another fifty more years.
-civil rights activist/historian/musician/etc bernice johnson reagon, via brownfemipower
trying very hard to sort out what i'm doing, where i'm going, my relation to the work i say i want to do.
had a long conversation with a bitchy patrick to complicate things. might post parts of it later, or actually try to write stuff if i'm not a lazy ass. but i'm tired and depressed again, so not just now.
12 January 2008
a faffing-on-his-blog poem by tao lin (author of a book called "Eeeee Eee Eeee" and a book of poetry and some other things):
i started reading eeeee eee eeee in bed and i read 70 pages and felt appreciation for myselfsadly and wonderfully, i can't rid my mind's eye of those images.
some parts i thought were really funny
i felt 'impressed'
i have read those 70 pages like 400 times or something if you include reading them while editing them
reading my own thoughts
the brain processing thoughts the same brain thought
i feel like a snail trying to masturbate but unable to touch itself
like it's moving muscles inside of itself to somehow masturbate
like a pile of hummus trying to masturbate
10 January 2008
so i know it was a month ago, but it's like i blacked out that week and keep finding more things i gotta catch up on. so, does anybody else think that's a fucked up thing to admit -- that you're not sure how long your apartheid setup will last, and you're worried you might have to concede equal voting rights? doesn't that tell you something about the nature of your endeavor?
why haven't i slept, man. i can't, too much to read. this is gonna be a weird week.
ps memo to self, edit your blogroll tomorrow. you've been reading too many good blogs to lose track of them again.
05 January 2008
24 hours of excess, and finally foodblog 3: cider-braised pork and leeks, or "new year's braise"
we spent a good few hours at the bar post-midnight. the drinks were high-end and free, and they definitely caught up to me after i'd finished downing them. eventually we tried to go home but this involved a long wait in the cold, waving at cabs as they zipped past us. so we ducked in next door at a 24 hour wings-n-other-food place and got our new year's black eyed peas. then started walking home, and a few blocks in finally caught a cab. before bed we stayed up a while with jake's new lady-friend. i like her a lot, and she likes cheese a lot which makes me like her even more -- but she tried to share her fancy cheeses with us and i had to give mine back. i felt like a fraud but it just wasn't settling right after the booze. funny that the peas went down fine, though.
so yes, all in all a decent evening, complete with a pre-midnight voicemail from a friend in india, which was really nice. but i'm finally getting to the important part of this post: new year's day dinner. after christmas jake showed up with two pieces of cast iron cookware, a dutch oven and a skillet. you need two hands to pick these things up. we were both excited. so on the 30th we decided to try out his dutch oven with a technique neither of us is that familiar with: braising.
braising involves simmering something in a small amount of liquid until it's tender and fragrant. you can do it with lots of things, including fish or vegetables, on the stove or in the oven or both. dutch ovens are heavy, relatively wide pots, good for braising large pieces of meat because they hold in heat evenly and have fitted lids that prevent the steam from escaping and drying out the meat, while cast iron is good for oven use because no amount of kitchen-level heat is going to damage that shit. and a fatty, tough piece of meat is best: hours of low heat melt the fat into the meat and will break down the connective tissues. jake likes pork, and i like leeks, and we thought apple cider would go well with pork; and that's how you start building a recipe. so we decided on pork shoulder, which was cheap, too -- we went to the store on the 31st and got 8 pounds for 8 dollars, albeit bone-in. anyway, it turned out delicious and very pat-on-the-back-worthy. in case anyone's interested, here's my free-form "recipe" for how we made it:
prep: buy a large cut of pork, like pork shoulder or butt -- ours was 8 pounds of shoulder with a big bone in the middle. discard the gross packaging, rinse that pig in cold water, put it on a cutting board or big tray, pat it dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. note how one side of your pork shoulder is covered in skin and you can make out the pig's wrinkled armpit; contemplate tickling it. say a prayer for the late julia child, who on pbs once heaved a whole pig upside-down onto her counter and declared "i believe we ought to know where our food comes from". ahem. also turn two carrots into small dice, two leeks into half-rounds (rinse well after chopping!), 3 cloves of garlic into a rough mince, and one stalk from a fennel bulb into small bits too. set all these veggies aside.
macabre: with a sharp knife and a fair bit of pressure, score the skin and fat in a cross-hatch pattern. then cut slits in the muscle, slice 2-4 more cloves of garlic, and push a piece of garlic into each slit.
brown: now over medium-high heat, warm up a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil, like canola or safflower, in the dutch oven -- don't use olive oil, it'll burn, even our "extra light" olive oil specially for cooking made a lot of smoke. ease the meat into the pot and brown it for about 15 minutes, turning it every few minutes so each side gets a turn in contact with the bottom of the pot. then move the meat to a plate.
sautee: turn the burner down to medium-low. toss in the aromatics -- the carrot and fennel and leeks and garlic -- that you chopped up earlier. stir and cook down for maybe 10 minutes; everything should get soft and/or translucent, golden is ok, but avoid crispy.
liquids: pour a couple bottles of hard cider (we used woodchuck "dark & dry", it was fine, i bet granny smith would've been good too) over the softened veggies -- it'll sizzle for a minute -- then raise the heat to bring everything to a boil. once that happens you can turn it back down to a simmer until you have half the liquid you started out with. then add some chicken stock (ours was homemade and frozen by yours truly several months ago) and two bay leaves. bay leaves add a nice warm flavor AND reduce the scummy stuff that floats up when you cook meat in liquid. season to taste -- we favored fresh-ground white pepper and i'm not sure what else.
oven: when the broth tastes right, put the pork back into the pot. the liquid only needs to go halfway up the meat, so if you have too much, remove some and save it for later. move the whole thing to the oven with the lid on. cook for an hour at 350. then take the lid off, baste the meat by spooning the juices over the top, and put the lid back on. turn the heat down to 275 and leave it to cook another 2-3 hours. over this time the meat will get soft and falling-apart.
more veggies: 30 minutes before you're ready to pull it out of the oven, slice the bulb of the fennel into big pieces, brown them a little in butter on medium-low, and throw them into the pot with 6 whole peeled carrots. now prepare 2-3 whole leeks: cut off all but two inches of the green leaves, slice down the middle til you're an inch from the base, fan out the layers and rinse all the grit out from between them, then push it all back together and slice off the bottom quarter-inch, including the root. throw those in with maybe 15 minutes to go (we put ours in at the same time as the carrots and fennel and they got mushy).
finish line: check to make sure everything is tender enough, and if so pull it out and turn off the oven. have your awesome roommate roast potatoes with herbs, sautee brussels sprouts with shallots and bacon, and pot together a bbq-style sauce out of pureed cooking juices and molasses and brown sugar. put out the two potholders he sets on fire. sit down to dinner with several friends. be proud of yourself.