March 2008


This Monday update involves new ingredients and new recipes.

Thai cucumber soup. I found a use for some of last week’s vegetable stock while thumbing through a soup cookbook I bought for my parents over a decade ago on a trip to London. My mom is shedding belongings in anticipation of someday moving somewhere smaller, so I nabbed this cookbook. This simple, fast, delicious soup used cilantro, lime leaves, and lemon grass to enrich the vegetable stock. Then added julienne cucumber and some chopped scallion and herbs as garnish. The soup served as an appetizer for:

Thai-style beef salad. When he arrived home, theCultFigure said, “It smells like Thai food in here!” No doubt it was the fish sauce in the marinade/dressing for this flank steak-based salad. It was great paired with the above soup, and conveniently used the other half of the cucumber that went in the soup. I love it when things work out like that!

Barley risotto. We rarely ever eat any refined grains anymore (um except when we order Indian food – yummy basmati rice!!), so I was excited to try barley-based risotto. It was a big hit. Hey, when you’re using parmesan cheese and homemade chicken stock in something, it’s going to taste good. I’ve previously substituted pearled barley successfully for white rice in a rice salad recipe so I figured this would work and it did.

Sauerkraut pierogies. Pierogies aren’t new to me, but I tried a new recipe and method for making the dough. Usually I just slap water and flour together on the counter until it forms a ball, and roll it out. But lots of recipes call for egg in the dough to give it structure. Yep, it works. My mom handed down her old food processor (in addition to her soup cookbook) so I made the dough in there. And learned a valuable lesson: don’t use the cutting blade, use the plastic dough blade. Whoops. The first batch of dough was tough and grouchy. The second batch was tender and stretchy. Yes!!

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It’s the story of a British graduate student, Ariel, who’s working on her Ph.D; her thesis is about thought experiments like Flatland, or Schrodinger’s cat. This isn’t a perfect description, but it’s like philosophy of science crossed with post-modern literature.

It seems to be part of a specific sub-sub-genre of ‘books about books’ – one of the titles Ariel might research for her thesis is a very rare and supposedly cursed book called -yep- The End of Mr. Y. Last summer I read The Shadow of the Wind, another book-about-a-book.

Anyway, Ariel finds the book by chance and it propels her on a strange journey into the union of all human and animal consciousness, which puts her in danger from some exceedingly shady characters. Along the way she muses at length (sometimes to my exhaustion) about the meaning of consciousness, whether machines will someday become conscious, whether language is self-replicating, and the implications of quantum science for humanity. 

Still, it’s engaging and interesting. My only quibble with the writing style (aside from the asides about quantum blah blah) is the occasional use of jarringly modern metaphors. Maybe in 20 years they’ll seem run of the mill. But to me, sentences like this one felt goofy:

But this road sweeps through the landscape like the broad stroke of an eraser tool on a computer, as if the pixel size has been set too high and too much has been rubbed out.

Bottom line: recommended, kind of, I guess…

Next up: Middlesex

tbirds WOOO! The T-birds, after going down 2 games to none, have won 3 straight. Game 5 on Thursday night was an exciting game in which they did just about everything right. On one of Kelowna’s power plays, Jan Eberle was a one-man penalty kill, seeming to defend against three guys at once, in their own end! It was just that kind of night.

Let’s hope they win Saturday in Kelowna and close this thing out! GO T-BIRDS!

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ACTFor the past couple of years, my mother-in-law has given us an ACT Theatre subscription for Christmas (woo-woo!). This season opens with two productions by the Ilkhom company from Uzbekistan. What a rare opportunity! Tragically, the company’s founder was murdered last fall in Tashkent, where the theater is based.

I immensely enjoyed White White Black Stork, a hauntingly sad story of two Muslim teenagers forced into an arranged marriage that neither one desires (he’s a dreamer and poet who may be gay, she’s got a crush on a cloth salesman). Strong themes permeate the play: parental expectations can crush the delicate maturing of youth, the clash between Shar’ia and Russian law, and what avenues of agency are open to women.

The sophisticated production uses an inventive and minimalist set. It’s the perfect backdrop to the emotional performances of its actors. The costuming of the youths was particularly apt: they all wore oversized plain canvas shirts and pants that hid the shapes of their bodies. I thought it was a great metaphor for children-as-blank-slates, onto whom their parents project whatever they want, regardless of their children’s actual personalities or their wishes for themselves.

Supertitles are projected above the set. My husband found that it took away from his immersion in the story, having to check the translations all the time. I agree to some extent, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the production to anyone. It’s a short run that ends April 6th, to be followed by another Ilkhom production that lasts just from April 9-13. We’ll be at that one too.

I made whole-wheat oat muffins in the morning and forgot to put them away before running errands, forgetting that one of our kitties is a bit of a muffin thief. Guess what I came home to?

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Add my wee voice to the chorus that’s calling for an end to touch icing in the NHL. In Saturday’s edition of Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry discussed Kurtis Foster’s broken leg that resulted from a race for the puck, combined with a shove from Torrey Mitchell.

I don’t know that I agree with Grapes that it was a “vicious hit” but there’s no doubt in my mind that in general, racing for the puck like this puts players in danger. There’s no-touch icing in juniors, and I don’t miss it one bit. It’s unclear why the NHL keeps the touch icing. Scott Morrison claims:

NHL general managers have routinely discussed the matter at their annual meetings and every year they emerge with the same answer – they believe that the action resulting from races for an icing call, if not the injuries, are part of the game. They also believe that there is a degree of excitement to the pursuit of the puck, that if an opposing player gets there first it can lead to an offensive play, and that there is the potential for fewer whistles in a game.

Well on the one hand, contact sports are inherently dangerous. I don’t think it would be possible to eliminate 100% of the injuries in the game. But haven’t there been enough serious injuries from these “exciting” races for the puck, which routinely involve players charging over half the length of the playing surface, towards a wall, at full speed? 

I signed up for a Digg account the other day, to see what it is. They gave me a baker’s dozen choices for describing my gender, plus “none of the above”. Hee!

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