Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More than the sum

You all know I love evening crew practice. (Mostly.) It's the most sane thing in the world, somehow: cool air, black water, the thunk-THUNK of oars feathering and squaring, the rush of bubbles under the hull of the boat. But sometimes, I'll admit, the best part of practice is coming home from practice.

Last night I started to make Julia Child's Potage Parmentier (potato-leek soup), but ran out of time before a date with Persepolis at the Parkway, and ended up shoving the whole pot into the fridge for finishing today. After practice tonight, I pulled it back out and put it on to simmer while I ran through the shower.

Now, Potage Parmentier comes to me from Julia via Julie and Julia, my personal favorite snarky food memoir. Here's what Julie (in my mind, she's just Julie now, as Julia was just Julia to her) has to say about it:

"Once the leeks and potatoes have simmered for an hour or so, you mash them up with a fork or a food mill or a potato ricer. All of these options are far more of a pain in the neck than the Cuisinart...but Julia Child allows as how a Cuisinart will turn soup into 'something un-French and monotonous.' Any suggestion that uses the construction 'un-French' is up for debate, but if you make Potage Parmentier, you will see her point. If you use the ricer, the soup will have bits--green bits and white bits and yellow bits--instead of being utterly smooth. After you've mushed it up, just stir in a couple of hefty chunks of butter, and you're done. JC says sprinkle with parsley but you don't have to. It looks pretty enough as it is, and it smells glorious, which is funny when you think about it. There's not a thing in it but leeks, potatoes, butter, water, pepper, and salt."

My thoughts exactly. I don't understand exactly how boiling potatoes and leeks to death makes them look, smell, and taste so fantastic, but it does. I thought maybe the butter was to blame, since it's, uh, butter, but the truth is that the whole thing smells pretty amazing even before the butter goes in. Apparently I've been underestimating the flavor concentration of two major vegetables. I'm sorry, leeks and potatoes. I should never have doubted you.

And so after an hour of sprints up and down the center of the lake, of wrestling a seventy-foot boat down a bi-level dock and back up again, of dodging seven-seat's backsplash, of my not-quite-not-sick lungs rattling like a consumptive's, I was nothing but pleased to come home to a little bit of slightly green, slightly chunky, very leek-y and very potato-y soup. There's not much better.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Super Benriner!

Today I became the proud owner of a mandoline--the kitchen gadget, not the bluegrass instrument. A coworker offered me hers, since she never uses it, and so I arrived at work this morning to find this on my chair:

I...don't really know what's going on in this picture. Is that woman flashing a gang sign at me? But she looks so nice! And she assures me that dried cut radishes also OK, and that sharpness of the cutter makes my cooking chore enjoyable. So I guess I trust her? I don't know. (Also, it's been a big week for me and kitchen gadgets. I bought a blender/food-processor last weekend, and OH, THE SOUP I HAVE MADE. And hummus. Did you know you can substitute peanut butter for tahini in hummus? And it's not peanuty at all. What a relief.)

In other news, I'm sick. Ugh.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

12 of 12: February

Another month, another 12. I say this like I don't forget half the time, but I remembered this month, which is totally something.

7:02 - Up.

7:13 - A moment with some apple-cinnamon oatmeal and Psalms 31 and 32.

7:57 - Well, Grand Lake Theater, I might stop photographing you if you'd stop being so entertainingly nutty (though not necessarily wrong).

9:59 - Meet BookMaster, Publishing Software Extraordinaire circa 1992. Also my company's tech-help program and my fake pet alligator, brought to me from Baton Rouge by a coworker.

12:31 - Lunch! Veggie and havarti on whole wheat and weird instant miso-noodle soup.

3:15 - Edit-entry-induced haze calls for a trip to local cookie den coffee shop.

5:17 - Off to meet a friend for a walk at the lake. We may be the seventh most violent city in the nation, but we do a fine sunset, no?

7:25 - I'd like to shake the hand of the person who invented Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough. Here we have garlic, spinach, and black pepper pizza with black cherry tomatoes(!), which is heavenly, if you didn't know.

7:30 - If you have to take a copyediting test in your spare time and you find the whole thing strangely might be an editorial nerd. Or, I suppose, a redneck.

7:46 - What a great news day!

7:52 - Mmmmm, pizza and fake news.

8:37 - Normally I'd want a prettier copy of East of Eden, but somehow I ended up with the old 1955 movie tie-in version, and the cover illustration of James Dean staring pensively at the grass will never not be funny to me. They say this Steinbeck fellow can write, though. (Kidding. I adore Steinbeck.)

Next month: March!

Pencils up!

Writers' strike over! Back to work! New TV for everyone!


(Also, I am apparently delirious with strike-ending happiness, as my brain keeps trying to sing: Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my TV to me, to me! Camp songs? Now? Really?)

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Stopping by woods on a snowy afternoon.


**As I rolled down the car window to take this picture, I wondered whether I was about to become the subject of one of those "people who do obviously dumb things in the presence of wild animals" stories. Thankfully, this was one very nonchalant coyote. All fingers and toes remain intact.

For more--if you're really into granite, trees, water reflection shots, and my friends ensconced in GoreTex, for example--check out my Yosemite flickr set.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Completing the arrow

Mr. Maharry, my twelfth-grade American Political Process teacher, would be so proud of me today. He may have looked like an insect and voted Libertarian, but something he said must have stuck: I considered the issues, did my research, made an informed decision, and marked my choices down in black ball-point pen. I voted.

See, though, I love voting. I love elections. I get that they're absurdly long, that they tend to bring out the worst in people, that they're riddled with injustices large and small even after centuries of practice. But I don't think I'll ever get tired of going to a place in my community, standing in line with the neighbors, and making my voice heard. It's the same feeling I get from going to the public library--I am community-minded! Hear me roar!--only about ten billion times stronger. I am nation-minded! Listen to what I say!

That said, my voting record is terrible. In nine years of voting, I don't recall voting for a single winning candidate in a major election. It all comes down to the wave of idealism that washes over me when I find myself at the voting booth: I'm there, and I'm excited, and once I start thinking about my duty as a citizen of the United States, it's all over. I've voted with my conscience, and I wouldn't have it any other way, unless my conscience saw fit to endorse a winning candidate every now and again., maybe. I wouldn't mind. I'm just always surprised to find that, as far as I can tell, I can't have it both ways: a conscientious victory. And yet: every time.

I did see something great this morning, though. The intersection at the Grand Lake Theater (natch) was packed with campaign volunteers of various left-leaning stripes, mostly divided by corners: Clinton folks in one place, Obama folks in another (Oakland is a Republican-free zone, apparently, which is a post for another day). But as I looked, I saw a few people who'd snuck from one camp to another: a few Clinton signs waving among the sea of Obama, a couple of Obama supporters sprinkled into the Clinton crowd. They were all getting along, smiling and chatting as they incited much honking and hollering and waving, possibly disagreeing on the details, but having a good time nonetheless. It was a cheerful way to start Super Tuesday.

So, happy voting day, Mr. Maharry. As someone I know used to say, "I hope your candidate wins!"

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Wind-Up What?

I just finished the book I've reading since the dawn of time Christmas, and I have to say: bzuh? I threatened to give up over and over, and every time I'd decide to go just a little longer and a little longer--I didn't not enjoy it, and I had this idea that everything would click into place in the end. Fast-forward 600 pages, Not really. You see, there's this guy in Tokyo, and he's unemployed, and his wife's cat runs away, and then his wife runs away, and he meets some people and he sits in the bottom of a dry well for awhile, and then his brother-in-law meets a distressing but much-deserved end (I won't say how). There are psychic sisters named after Mediterranean islands, and a mother-and-son team named after spices, and a man whose job it is to skin people alive. I can tell you that much. And that's about it. Something about emptiness, because of the dry well? Or maybe we're talking about gender roles, because everyone in this book is either female or might as well be? The New York Times Book Review blurb on the back cover says it's an attempt to cram all of modern Japan into a single work of literature, and maybe that's the problem--maybe the flood of cultural references is just over my head. I don't know.

Again, I didn't not like it. The writing was pleasant enough; the characters were fun (Malta and Creta Kano! Yay!); the climax was gripping. I'm just at a bit of a loss. What just happened?