Since you are probably not all that interested in the details of my blogging identity crisis, I will be brief about it. After going to a conference in Vancouver I became energized to pursue scholarly pursuits, even during the times of day (early evening) when I had previously been most eager to blog. Then a couple of weeks later I got the flu and was out of commission for four or five days. Around the same time my camera went on the blink. The broken part is the LCD display. It still takes pictures but it's essentially impossible to adjust the settings or to frame shots using the display, which is one of the best things about a digital camera. After getting over the flu my blogging time got swallowed up by television. I seem to be watching more now than I did a few months ago: The Sopranos, Big Love, Thief, Grey's Anatomy, Everwood (hey, Gregory Smith/Efram is interviewed in this week's TV Guide podcast
), New Adventures of Old Christine, Sons and Daughters, Idol, The Muppet Show season one on DVD. In general, my enthusiasms wax and wane and cooking has been a waning enthusiasm. Various other things have been filling its place, temporarily I'm pretty sure. I still cook all the time but I've been finding excuses to make easy, quick things from the repertoire rather than explore and experiment as I sometimes do.
I have always been a bit unsure about what kind of blog this should be, whether it should be only food or a mishmash of whatever I feel like writing about. For a while there it was only food, but right now I'm leaning toward mishmash. Not being completely clear about my vision for Haverchuk brought on a kind of paralysis, I suppose. As well, there was a time a few months ago when blogging consumed more of my moment-by-moment thinking than it should have and it was a bit of a relief to be free of that feeling. But I also have missed the experience of sharing with all of you and have been eager to resume it. I also miss the kind of writing I do here, which takes a different voice from other writing that I do.
What follows are some blips on my radar screen. More, I hope, to come soon.
-I've been reading The Da Vinci Code. I almost never read books like it so I can't say if what I find annoying and fascinating is typical of popular pageturners or specific to it. Annoying: flat characters (esp. the hero, Robert Langdon); overly obvious italicized passages in which characters' thoughts are verbalized (e.g., There must be something here!
); didactic passages explaining arcane tidbits about Church history, goddess worship, the Knights Templar, etc., written in a dull encyclopedia style. Fascinating: a clever plot structure of constant twists, surprises, and reversals; a far-fetched but intriguing premise about Jesus and Mary Magdalene having been married; the use of settings like the Louvre and well-known artworks like The Last Supper (the cliche is to say that these things are like characters). The book ostensibly has a feminist message (to explain it would spoil much of the fun of reading) but at the same time it has only one female character and she is always figured as receiving men's knowledge, most often depending on their skill and action for her survival. I fault it for this but it hasn't gotten too much in the way of my pleasure. Things that some might find corny, like basing a plot around a quest for the holy grail, seem to me to be just the way you tell this kind of story. The book seems to deserve its success and I'm looking forward to the movie, though I don't know if Audrey Tautou is right for Sophie. I don't have anyone better in mind, though. Would she have to be French?
-American Idol is compelling in spite of its horrible music. Every week someone insists, "This is a singing competition." Perhaps, but it's also a personality competition. What seems most engaging about the show is the way it encourages us to judge not just the contestants, but also the audience's judgment of them. I cannot stand Kellie Pickler, the vapid southern girl who thought Simon said "mink" when he called her a "saucy minx" and who didn't know that the L is silent in "salmon." But I keep thinking about how appealing she must be to so many viewers, who week after week call to vote for her. Who are they? What is it they like about her? What is wrong with them? I predict she will go far, though she has much less talent than some of her competitors. Talent is only part of the mix. Also: Is it a coincidence that the bottom three on country music week were two black girls and a Jewish boy who thinks he's Stevie Wonder? Next week is the songs of Queen. I anticipate considerable misery.
-Jonathan Safran Foer exposes kosher slaughter
as inhumane. I admire artists who take on causes for being socially engaged, but they also have a hard time convincing me that they're worth listening to on matters outside their expertise. That said, who is opposed to the humane treatment of animals?
-Little Sister on the Katie Couric story: "It's like the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn!" Poor Little Sister.
-I haven't cooked any terribly delicious food lately. The closest I came was last week with some mussels. Mussels are affordable ($3.50/lb at the Milwaukee Public Market), tasty, and extremely easy to cook. Heat up some olive oil in a pot, add garlic and crushed chiles and stir just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the mussels and a cup of dry white wine with a nice acidic bite (I used a cheap, cheap Sauv Blanc) and cover the pot, keeping the heat high enough for the wine to bubble away. When the mussels have opened up (after perhaps two minutes), the dish is done. Garnish with lots of fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread or toast for mopping up the oil-garlic-wine-mussel juices. Apparently not that long ago, mussels were caught wild and dirty and came with beards attached. Now they are farmed and come to market very clean.
My other achievement was a variation on this turkey pot pie
. In place of mushrooms, okra. Okra, turkey, cornbread, good.
rags on RayRay:
Rachael, Rachael, Rachael...I'm not gonna give you grief for sauteeing hot dogs, but don't you know that cooking with a delicate and aromatic oil essentially destroys all the properties that make it extra virgin in the first place? Lemme explain. Those flowery, peppery, grassy qualities that makes EVOO so distinctive instantly go up in smoke when you subject the oil to heat. Try this one time, heat a couple tablespoons of your EVOO in a pan, and then carefully drain some into a soup spoon. Blow on it until it cools. Now taste it. Compare it to a taste of EVOO just out of the bottle. Ugh, huh? A perfectly good waste of a perfectly good oil isn't it? Best to keep some organic canola oil in your cupboard for all those browning/sauteeing tasks and to reserve the EVOO for drizzling. Geez, how many time have I used EVOO in this paragraph? I'm starting to sound just like you...
This is patronizing, snarky, and at least partly wrong. First, many cooks cook with extra virgin olive oil, not just Rachael. Why not pick on Batali? He insists on deep frying
in EVOO. Even if it tastes better raw, it isn't bad cooked. When you cook with it you don't sip it off a spoon, obviously. Second, canola oil tastes like crap. Really. Corn oil and peanut oil are both much tastier, and vegetable oil ain't bad. Schmaltz, butter, and lard are all in a different league. Canola oil is the triumph of fat=bad propaganda over good cooking. Forget about it.
Meanwhile, Giada is #11 on the Amazon bestsellers
list. (Two of the top five are books about dogs!) I assume that the Giada crowd is a less classy version of the Nigella crowd, but that's just a guess. Some people really like Nigella's writing (?!?!) and cooking. Anyone out there willing to speak up in support of Giada's?
-Keifer Sutherland: yesterday cocaine, today cooking
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