Archive for October, 2011

dessert deception

October 28, 2011

All this time, I’ve been blinded by the apparent sophistication of the “galette” and its “free-form” figure. But now I see what you really are. You, my delectable discovery, are the lazy cook’s pie. No pan, no sauteeing, no shaping, no fluting—just a slipshod mess of delicious. Fruit (pear and cranberry, above) + sugar + rolled crust + egg wash, bake and devour. Which we did, rather quickly, and lacking any semblance of dignity. What a charming piece of pastry.


when home tugs in competing directions

October 26, 2011

The other Home beckons, as it does when I return to visit the place I grew up calling home (granted, in a fancy new house, though thankfully at least on the same street). Most conniving of that which beckons me is this darling critter I have the pleasure of calling my niece.

Maybe it’s her avant-garde artistry.

Or her impeccable sense of fashion.

Or perhaps the face she makes when doing her very best sea lion impression.

Whatever the reason, it’s a strong summons that’s hard to resist.

Edward Sharpe sweetly reminds us that “home is wherever I’m with you.” But what if there are several yous and you’re all in different places? Muddies the sentiment up a bit. Although it’s rather nice, having more than one feeling of home, whether in people or places. For me at least, better being tugged in many directions than none at all.

kitchen confidence

October 19, 2011

The kitchen is no longer all mine. The fella has graciously been getting braver with cooking, acknowledging “If I have a recipe, it’s easy!” He’s made several delectable meals, the large casserole format being his favorite for the copious leftovers available for subsequent lunches and dinners. (Why such logic has escaped me to this point I cannot begin to explain.) Spinach lasagna, noodle kugel, and most recently this orzo with caramelized fall vegetables are among his consistent successes.

one of the aforementioned successes

The other night as I walked in announcing his choice of the farmers market veggies I’d just picked up (broccoli or green beans), I could smell the chicken thighs he’d already begun cooking. When I asked what recipe he found, he stated in proud nonchalance, “Oh, I’m just winging it.”

Thirty minutes later, we eagerly dove into our dinner of baked chicken thighs and a green beans and charred onion salad (a Mario Batali number I’d found in this Food Day booklet) I prepared just in time. The chicken was perfectly moist, and I commended B’s work. Then we saw red.

Figuring the chicken needed a few more minutes, we popped it back in the oven to no avail. We ended up eating around the red—bloody?—parts, laughing that we’d know the next day if it was indeed undercooked. A quick search the next day brought me to this report, which basically attributes this phenomenon to the still-porous bones of younger-than-ever chickens at harvest. Despite its appearance, the report notes, “the meat is not harmed when this happens.” Hm.

My brief research only reinforced an agreement we ended up coming to that night: eating less meat. Considering he seems to have had no issue with taking up my meat diet of poultry and seafood only (excluding restaurants and takeout), I shouldn’t have been surprised when he conceded to eat more vegetarian meals so we could afford better meat (eaten less frequently). In fact, I only just realized the notably meat-absent entrees he tends toward when wearing the apron.

This will be good for both of us. It’s unintuitive, but having less of one food expands the culinary horizon rather than limiting it: we’ll play around more with protein-rich (and nutrient-rich) grains and legumes, and we’ll probably even save some money while doing so. I’ve already gotten him to stop saying he doesn’t like lentils—by making him actually try them.

And though the kitchen is no longer my private playground, I think I’m perfectly pleased with the company.

occupy their conscience

October 16, 2011

Yesterday I visited the now-famous Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street protest that began over a month ago and now has gone global, with some 82 countries demonstrating in solidarity.

Coverage of the ongoing activity has generally skewed toward coverage of the violent incidents and clashes between police and protestors. The image in my head was of tension and fear and aggression, mostly from—well, that depends on what news station you watch or papers and blogs you read. I wanted to visit, to see for myself what was in the air at this effort. I was, to say the least, caught off-guard.

The signs that have been captured and shared a dozen times over (the clever ones in greater rotation) are there. Participants venting frustrations over a plethora of problems are there, holding their ground. The sleeping bags, mats, and tarps piled high (in the daytime anyway) are there. Cops are there, in inexplicable droves (though most were standing around, chatting amongst themselves).

But what stood out above all that the media has chosen to capture over the past 4 weeks was the overwhelming feeling of calm and tranquility. Protestors were singing. They were dancing. Painting. Discussing. Sharing. This isn’t a gathering. It’s a microcosm of the peaceful, functioning community they’re asking for.

I was startled especially by just how many children are running, exploring, and playing in the occupied park. It’s not by any means reminiscent of a war zone—rather, it’s impressively clean and remarkably organized. The media station sits at one end. The line for food is orderly and its patrons patient. A cleaning station contains an assortment of brooms, mops and dust pans. A sign-making station is cluttered with paints, brushes, posterboard and cardboard to design messages.

All this came to be without a clear leader. Without manipulation. Without monetary incentive. Because at the end of the day, this fight isn’t about money. It’s about fostering a community of good, compassionate, altruistic people. Looking out for your neighbor as much as yourself. And if a few thousand strangers can build a functioning society in less than a month, I relish the thought of what’s possible if their voices and beliefs truly are heard.

“The people have an obligation to revolt when their government fails.”—John Locke

the dying art of the photo album

October 14, 2011

I miss the photo album. I don’t count the jazzed-up, bound and glossy masterpiece coffee table books that make up the contemporary view of a photo album or book. I mean photos printed from film negatives glued or taped on to sheets of spiral- or otherwise delicately bound cardstock, whose dense pages grow thick and frail and sit stacked among more of the ilk, depicting no particular event but rather everyday life, people, and that which matters on such an inherent level as to warrant a photograph in spite of the cost of the camera, film, and processing. That treasure chest I found in my family’s villa contained just such captivating relics.

… a quiet chore …

… familiar yet faraway faces …

… a parent ages away from being so (wasn’t my dad precious?) …

… a war happening in their very backyard …

… an era of style that my grandmother so elegantly exemplified …

… and even earlier relations posing from a distant past.

Here’s a goal to strive for in the coming months: an old-fashioned photo album—not of events, but just faces. Faces I find important enough to include in this book of that which matters to me. Maybe even go so far as to print a collection in black-and-white (or might that be too Hipstamatic?). Either way, I might have to make this happen.

1936 vintage

October 12, 2011

During our recent frolic through Central Europe, the Hungarian leg of the tour allowed us pleasures available only to those who have the good fortune of knowing a local. I was fortunate enough to one-up even that: family. My living relatives span many generations, and many homes—the majority of which remain in Budapest, where I was born. One of said homes is a family inheritance, built in 1936 and having survived all that followed in subsequent years. It’s filled with antiques and treasures that breathe their age: the villa has that fragrance of equal parts must and freshness, because life has never left this summer house for long. This is where we stayed for five delightful days.

The entrance…

… the foyer, containing a trunk with buried treasure …

… the living room, with much of the furniture and decor untouched for decades (besides a good dusting) …

… a lamp draped in upholstery (I love it) …

… the kitchen (facing the front yard) …

… the upstairs nook leading to a few rooms …

… and the patio, which has hosted many a family reunion, and faces a downward sloping backyard and a stunning view.

Funny how a place you visit only once every few years can feel so very inviting.

charm! wit! touché!

October 10, 2011

I often find myself loath to start and end professional emails with those seemingly obligatory pleasantries, yet appreciative when I’m in receipt of such courteous effort—so I accept it as a necessary evil. My dad, a medical-university professor, has found a clever way around this necessity, evidently finding the effort as tedious as I have. He shared with me this delightful exchange between himself and a colleague, who offered a most uniform retort:

On 26 Sep 2011, at 2:24 PM, K wrote:

Hi D,

[Some pleasantries here, preferably with humor.]

Unless instructed otherwise by you, your PHRM 601 quiz question with the “Mark all” instruction will be scored 1 point if all 4 answers are selected, anything else will be 0.

[More pleasantries]

Sent: Monday, September 26, 2011 4:13 PM

Hi K,

[Witty pleasantries that relate to, but extend, the pleasantries already set forth in your pleasantries.]

This is correct.

[Pleasantries having no humor of any kind.]

Only razor-sharp wit can make such mundane tasks an absolute delight. Can we all follow suit?

love is a banana on your purse

October 5, 2011

…left by your fella in the morning. No, this isn’t innuendo, it’s a guy whose mother pleaded with him to eat a banana every day growing up (still does when we visit!). Can’t escape our youth. But at least it can present itself in a most endearing fashion.


October 3, 2011

Pardon me, I’ve been away from my desk.

Though my body returned a few weeks ago, my mind is still floating somewhere along the Danube.

More to come as I settle back into settling back.