jookitcz: (typewrote)
Vanilla soymilk is delicious.  I go through a carton of it every couple of days.  It's like... drinking a fairytale cloud of nutrition.  That's the nice thing about living on my own, I think--going to the grocery store and buying foodstuffs that I would never even see at home.  It's very exciting.  I can try things like soy and eggplant and organic vegetables, weird cheeses, or Rice-a-Roni.  I'm also learning the appeal of finding something to eat that costs less than a dollar.  When me and my brother were little and Dad was ordered to cook dinner, he had a single gourmet fallback: Hamburger, Rice, and Corn.  That was the name of the dish.  The recipe, if I can remember, was something like a pound of hamburger, a pot of rice, a can of corn, and canned tomatoes.  We hated it.  Now I'm considering emailing him for the recipe.

I wonder if sparrows watch us and think that our shoes are hooves.  They could get very confused about the nature of humanity, especially after we slay and consume their avian compatriots.

Baking Day

Jan. 6th, 2008 08:38 pm
jookitcz: (Default)
I've seen people bake cookies with store bought cookie-dough, but it's never really registered as what it's called.  Store-bought dough is for eating immediately, in my mind (although you shouldn't.)  And store-bought cookies are filed away in my head under the 'cracker' label.  They're just sweet crackers.  "Cookies" require 'cooking,' and also a mess on a grand degree, music, a system of filling trays and whisking them into and out of the oven and the three-step cooling-storing system.  There should be at least three recipes, but more are better.  And there should always be some cutting back on sugar, adding more flour (because they always look so drippy), and generous over-dosings of cinnamon and allspice.

I love allspice.  I don't know if I've told anybody.  But sometimes if I'm going into the spice cabinet for something else, I'll pull out the allspice and take a whiff just because.  It smells like love. 

So today I pulled out the yellow apron and the blue headkerchief and baked my little heart out.  Chocolate chip cookies first, because those are the only ones Keegan eats.  The rest of the family has given up on tasting them any other time than the day of baking, the poor, ephemeral things.  Then oatmeal cookies, because Dad eats them for breakfast, even though they're always the last ones left in their tupperware.  Then there's some room for experimenting.  Today I also made apple cookies with extra apple (and extra allspice, shh), which are delicious and fluffy and soft, because they are made with milk.  Then I tried two new recipes. 

The first was something called a Lemon Crack.  Possibly named because Jean Pare was on crack, because there is no way that recipe made four dozen cookies.  It was the only one I didn't double.  It's something like a sugar cookie with lemon peel and lemon juice.  Lemon zest is amazing to me, and if I could, I would put it in everything, so the recipe was automatically appealing.  Unfortunately, my mom does not have a zester.  Fine, whatever, I'll grate the lemon rind on the cheese grater.   The result was... frustrating.  I got maybe a teaspoon of zest, when I was aiming for two tablespoons.  But I threw in some dried cranberries and extra lemon juice, and they were still lemony.  Next time, though, I will have zestier cookies.

Then the last, Orange Bran cookies.  Basic cookie dough, plus orange zest, orange juice, and 'bran flake' cereal.  We didn't have that, but we did have a couple cups of stale raisin bran, which performed proudly in its stead.  So the cookies also had a few raisins in them, because I was too lazy to pick them out.  We also didn't have any oranges, but we did have a couple of tiny, soft tangerines in the bottom of the fridge.  And this time, instead of grating them, I spent half an hour delicately peeling the zest off the fruit with a paring knife, and then chopping it up.  Verdict?  Dad came in from working outside, gave one a suspicious glare, stuffed it in his mouth, and asked, "What the hell is this?"

"A new cookie?"

Pause.  "It's good."

And they are pretty, in my opinion.  They're pale with dark brown bran flecks, which adds a different visual element to our cookie boxes.  Which is important.  All in all, I think I made about 30 dozen. 

And that's all I have to say about cookies today.
jookitcz: (Default)
This is going to be a lonely, painful week, I think, because nothing is more isolating than having many personal tasks with which to contend.  No one else cares about them, you see, and since that's all that you can think about, it's impossible to have a satisfying conversation.  I am not prepared for my calculus test, because I have too much trouble still solving for maximums and minimums of solids.  I am not prepared for my finance test, because I've been skipping classes, not doing the problems, and all encounters with the theory cause me intense artistic misery.  I am not prepared for my Management test.  I think I'll get a B.  And my managerial economics class?  I feel like I'm going into it with my eyes closed.  Maybe I'll be able to find my way through by touch, you know?  I only feel optimistic about it because I'm not even prepared enough to know to stress out about it.

The Mock Trial invitational was frustrating.  I thought that my competitive doppleganger had left for an alternate reality after high school, but put her in front of a judge, and she starts to struggle to break back through to this one.  And I don't like being competitive.  I find it to be an unpleasant feeling, and it distorts proper perspective.  Being competitive is fine if you are fighting for something that is both in your power and worthwhile, but if you've done all that you can do--that's enough.  If it isn't worthwhile, re-prioritize.

Duke's campus is gorgeous, though.  All these sprawling, Gothic stone buildings.  I would have appreciated the beauty of the landscaping more, probably, if I had not been wearing heels.  My legs still hurt today, not in a exercise-sore way, but in a strained-muscle way.  I need to find, at some point, dress shoes that don't destroy the structural integrity of my body.

I am glad, though, to be back to my own food.  The south has a very disturbing approach to vegetables.
jookitcz: (sexy hat)
Today was the first day I ever drank milk directly from the carton.  You see, I'm not really a 'break the rules' kind of girl.  I understand the rules.  I know the reasons behind the rules.  After all, if everyone drank milk directly from the carton instead of first pouring it into an extrinsic vessel, there would be bacteria transferred to the fertile mouth of the carton.  The carton would be left out of the fridge too long, contributing to spoilage.  And we would all take a step backwards from that ideal point of evolution where no one minds the burden of cleaning an extra piece of glassware, because we are all self-actualized and find joy in even the most mundane of activities.

But sometimes, you have to look past the rules.  You have to realize that if you are the only person drinking from that carton, and that you really like milk, that it won't last long enough to spoil... well, the only harm that's left is utterly abstract.  And if you have, for example, a box of delicious cinnamon Life cereal that was on sale at the grocery store which tastes amazing with a little milk, yet gets soggy if you fill a bowl with both cereal and milk and let them mix over the course of breakfast--

No, I think I was justified.
jookitcz: (Default)
I've never understood tea.  As a bookish girl, I realize that I should love it.  Cultured people love tea.  An affection for tea speaks of an appreciation for life's subtleties and for quiet, which are two things of which I actually am rather fond.  And I definitely like the concept of tea, but the reality is that I just can't get really into it. Tea is mulch soaked in hot water.  That's all.  Plant flavored water.  Whoo.  I've heard of people craving a cup of tea, but can't actually imagine such a craving.  Every now and then, I feel as though I should make myself a cup of tea, to keep up my refined self-image.  Tea parties are bizarre entities.  I've never encountered a drink less inclined towards partying than tea.  It's water.  Further, in my brain's scenarios of tea parties, this tea is always served beside scones.  Not to get off track or anything, but I have a parallel beef with scones.  {Poor word choice, guys: I realize that beef isn't served with scones}  But just like tea is pretty much water, scones are really just bread.  For these two 'contributions' to the culinary world, the British lose a lot of my respect.

So imagine my further confusion when I hear about the "art" of making a "good" cup of tea.  It probably swings back around to the appreciating subtleties thing, but honestly, I think that it's just a way of glorifying the beverage.  You run hot or boiling water through a teabag, let it steep long enough but not too long, and remove the tea bag.  It's not rocket surgery.

Espresso, now.  That's tricky stuff.  You need a mechanism to force the water through the coffee.  You need to find the ideal fineness of grind for the coffee beans.  If you are an adept, or extraordinarily dedicated, you grind the beans immediately before making the cup of espresso.  Tamping.  Theoretically, tamping the grounds with thirty pounds of pressure is ideal, which is great to know.  But how do you know how much pressure that actually is?  Proportions are key--water to coffee particularly, but an artist is going to want to have exactly 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 microfoam, and 1/3 espresso in their Platonic cafe latte.  You need to be able to steam milk, of course, unless you are going for an Americano or just plain hardcore espresso--I endorse neither of these things. 

It's trickier than you would think, steaming milk.  My particular plague is the nozzle getting plugged, and having to just force steam against it until it fixes itself--which is a little bit dangerous.  But while I can foam milk adequately, the goal of the steaming process is to produce not just little bubbles, but a substance called 'microfoam,' which actually hardly looks like foam at all, just thickened milk.  But it is foam.  I'm not certain it humanly possible or just a espresso MacGuffin, but there it is.

A good shot of espresso should have reddish foam on top of it.  It should not taste burnt, nor watery.  In the last three weeks, since embarking on my espresso-making adventure, I have pulled exactly one good shot of espresso.  It's a tough business.  And it's definitely more of an art than just tossing some flora into hot water.
jookitcz: (Default)
I'm considering inventing a new kind of vegetarianism, for myself.  I'm calling it, "Band-aid Vegetarianism."  Why?  I like vegetables okay, but I rarely think to myself, "Man, I could really go for some broccoli right now."  Actually, I do, but it's more along the lines of snap peas and artichokes for me.  And while I have a moral problem with the animals' quality of life in factory farms, I'm okay with raising animals to kill and eat in general.  I wouldn't want to do the killing myself, no, but if I had to kill to eat, I'm sure I would learn to be fine with it.  Occasionally.  I might hunt down all the vulnerable potato plants in the area first.

But not all meat is raised on traditional farms.  There are, it seems, "farms" that conform to this particular business model.  The article discusses a pork factory company in the southeastern United States that produces so much and such volatile waste that people fall in pools of chemical pig manure and dieThat's beside the enormous environmental damage.  In my mind, this is obviously an immoral use of land and animal, and causes more harm than fair. 

Smithfield estimates that its total sales will reach $11.4 billion this year. So prodigious is its fecal waste, however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city governments do -- even if it came marginally close to that standard -- it would lose money. So many of its contractors allow great volumes of waste to run out of their slope-floored barns and sit blithely in the open, untreated, where the elements break it down and gravity pulls it into groundwater and river systems. Although the company proclaims a culture of environmental responsibility, ostentatious pollution is a linchpin of Smithfield's business model.

A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure.
It's an interesting article if you're feeling morbid.  Unconscionable to even dream of supporting of this monstrosity by chance, and beside the issue, livestock is a pretty inefficient way of feeding the human body.  The animals we eat need resources to support them, plus the food that the animals eat requires resources of its own.  And we sit on top of this ginormous inefficiency pyramid!  Well, if I want people to take me seriously, I mean, as an economics major, I can't let myself be tarred by that kind of inefficient... thing.   And  as for my Environmental Studies concentration, well, that goes without saying.  Vegetarianism of some kind might very well be crucial to my sense of proper scholarship.    I'm going to ignore the business minor for now. 

The problem is, I rather like meat.  In my mind, chicken is a kind of palette for gastronomic creativity, and red meat is just delicious.  But what if I just ate them for special occasions, or when I'm at home?  Thus, band-aid vegetarianism.

Lucky for my conscience, I hate pork.  Joseph Luter III, chairman of Smithfield, mentions, "Most vegetarians I know are neurotic."  I wonder if maybe it is impossible for anyone with a heightened social conscience to look at the world and not be a little neurotic?
jookitcz: (Default)
Memo:  Mixing an avocado in the blender is not recommended.  Drink eggnog instead.
jookitcz: (Default)
Chocolate is immediate and undemanding. That is why people like it. It glues them to reality. It trumps all the nice things in this function. Kisses? Inferior to chocolate kisses. The brain does not always participate willingly, the mind has a tendency to wander, it is avoiding, I believe, complications. Complications are wearying and unhealthy, and so a sense of mental self-preservation makes them distasteful. Complications lead to second-guessing, lead to moral decisions with only vague guidelines to steady them. Complications lead to confusion, and confusion is almost always abstract: by nature, confusion detracts from reality. Confusion is looking at reality and saying, "I am not sure what you are." That's abstract. It makes reality hang its head, "Oh. Sorry." And it goes to bother someone else, not you. You are left writhing in uncertainty with no guide at all.

This is why females are notoriously drawn to chocolate. Men don't need it, generally, they don't crave it. I suspect they have a stronger sense of reality, or how does one explain that level-headed, rational stereotype? Even when men are unreasonable, it tends to go to aggression, which is simply a retreat to a simpler schema, a simpler hierarchy of reality--the hierarchy of dominance. It is an attempt to make reality clearer, not the self-doubt and mood-swinging perception changes of their poor female counterparts.

Women seek chocolate because chocolate is a simple substance. Taste, because of its intensity and infrequency, feels closer to the brain than any other sense. Sight and sound are ambient; we do not even realize they are resonanting from our own organs. Smell is weak, and touch is so often uncomfortable that I think we habitually ignore it a little. Taste, however, is surprising and direct. We rarely taste only a little. And chocolate takes full advantage. Chocolate wraps around the tongue unrelentingly, with homogenous texture and flavor. Here is sugar, here is fat, here are mood-enhancing chemicals wrapped in a primally nourishing package. To the human body, which hasn't evolved with its decadent American society, survival is not yet vitamins. Survival is still sugar and fat. And in chocolate, they taste unadulterated.

We appreciate complexity in food. We enjoy the varied textures in a salad, or the varied spices of a pasta sauce, or even the careful chemistry of those unholy expensive gourmet chocolate truffles. We appreciate these, like we appreciate art, but we rarely crave them. They do not come to mind as soothing to a troubled brain, or comforting to a heart immired in complexities of its own abstract derivations. We crave the simplicity, the intensity, and the immediacy of plain chocolate.

Chocolate is the flour that my grandma would add to gravy to thicken it, if we replace gravy with our perception of reality. And that's a rather bad metaphor, crossing taste buds. Chocolate is the mix added to water to create cement. It binds (not gastronomically!). It reminds. It reattaches a person to the physical reality that has been eluding them. I personally can almost never stand eating chocolate without something to distract me, a book or a movie or a friend's conversation. It gives me a headache to do nothing but taste it, like it's too jealous to allow for sharing the senses even so much to allow for breathing.

But does it ever taste good.

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July 2010

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