Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Sushi

For lunch, we couldn't go out for sushi since we still had a lot of turkey and other leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. So I made Thanksgiving sushi, as illustrated above. Then we got in the car and drove from Lafayette to Ann Arbor where we are safely home. We have no leftovers here so maybe we'll have fish sushi or some other not so Thanksgiving-y dinner.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fresh Eggs

The whitish green eggs are from a hen named Jello and the brown eggs are from a hen named Marguerite. Jello and Marguerite and another hen all live in the back yard of our neighbors, who gave us these wonderful eggs. We brought them along for our Thanksgiving visit to Lafayette.

When I cracked them open, I could see how fresh they looked:

I made them into a tortilla espanola, that is, a potato omelet.

We have eaten it all! We are thankful to our neighbors for the lovely eggs.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Turkey, cranberry sauce, plum chutney, and several vegetables

Ready to eat...

Apple pie, chocolate pie, cranberry bread

Our turkey centerpiece

Vector Field with Garlic

Thanksgiving Underway

By the time we arrived here in West Lafayette, the turkey was in the oven and almost everything ready to cook for Thanksgiving dinner, which will be later this afternoon. Also, Elaine had lunch all ready for us. What luxury!

After lunch, she recruited Len and Larry to make some roast vegetables on the grill outside. It's over 60 degrees -- perfect for a bit of outdoor cooking:

Delia was doing a little cooking in a frisbee before actually playing frisbee or jumping rope with Joel:

Vegetables cooking

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More Thanksgiving Math

From the incomparable mathemusician Vi Hart, here is another video. She now has 4 Thanksgiving videos, and a Halloween video with a sierpinski gasket made from 6 bags of (triangular) candy corn.


Thanksgiving Mathematics

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The End of the Twinkie

I had my last Twinkie a couple of years ago for Twinkie Day -- April of 2010. The funny thing, I wrote then, is that I remember thinking they were new when I first ate them as an elementary school child. That was long after 1930 when they were invented. Actually, I liked them. So after twinkieless years, I bought a package of 10 individually wrapped Twinkies. Despite the mile-long list of industrial ingredients, it tasted pretty good (the second helping, not so much).

And now there will be no more Twinkies. The newspapers are full of reports on the final dissolution of Hostess Brands -- the Washington Post even wrote an obituary: "A eulogy for the humble Hostess Twinkie." People are stocking up on them, though the recipe and process may be sold as part of the defunct corporation's assets, and thus the Twinkie may rise again.

I read a book about Twinkies once. Here's a selection from my report, also from 2010:

Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats

"Twinkies' buttery flavor provides the richness we expect from cake and likely also helps to mask their oiliness. Since due to cost and rancidity issues there's no room in a packaged cake like Twinkies for fresh butter, artificial butter is the answer. ... The most surprising thing about it is that it really stinks." In fact, we learn, many flavor chemicals smell "positively awful." Even natural flavors like vanilla have so many different flavor elements that some of them have unappealing notes, at least to some people.

"Memory is also important to taste.... When we eat a favorite snack cake, we expect it to taste exactly as we remember from last time, or from childhood." And we expect it to feel the same. In Twinkie Deconstructed, author Steve Ettlinger provides an ingredient-by-ingredient analysis of just how Twinkies are put together: the flavors of sugar, vanilla, and butter; the texture of filling and cake; and the way the cake stays dry and the filling stays creamy. I sort of reacted to this when I took a bite of the Twinkie, but I could also detect some of the chemical notes in its composition.

In all Ettlinger counted 39 ingredients listed on the package of Twinkies a few years ago. He points out that the recipe subtly changes over time -- my Twinkie box was indeed just a bit different, but of course sugary-buttery cake and creamy vanilla filling predominate. Two of the three main flavors, vanilla and butter, are present only in artificial form, and another expected component, eggs, is mainly there as artificial stabilizers, with maybe 1/500 of a real egg in each Twinkie.

I decided to buy a copy of Twinkie Deconstructed when I celebrated Twinkie Day as I described above. I found the book quite fascinating. I liked the description of each ingredient's function in creating taste or texture in the baking process, the history of the product or the story of its invention, and the descriptions of how each one is made.

In his quest to deconstruct the Twinkie, the author visited the manufacturing plants where most of them are milled, refined, mined (yes, chemical leavening comes from mines), assembled or derived (mostly from petroleum), and often secretly manufactured (as in the case of vitamins). His sense of panic when deep down in a soda mine was especially memorable. His text lists of other processed foods that use each of the components, especially the artificial ones. Even flour, the least processed ingredient, is a pretty highly processed substance. Did you know that some of the fat in Twinkies is from beef? Me neither. Wow!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Calder's Fork

In the Los Angeles Times Today: "Alexander Calder's fanciful kitchen utensils" -- he'd make them for his wife when she needed something. I'm a big fan of his fanciful wire and metal objects, such as portraits and his circus. I wonder if I can find the book, Calder at Home, that these images are from.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Franz Werfel: The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

“The most horrible thing that had been done was not that a whole people had been exterminated, but that a whole people, God’s children, had been dehumanized.” – The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, 2012 edition, p. 727)

I found The Forty Days of Musa Dagh – which I had never before read in any form -- amazing in a number of ways. I devoured the dense, nearly 900 page novel in just a few days, unable to put it down. I read the newly-published translation of Franz Werfel’s 1933 masterpiece, which includes about 25% more narrative than the previous English version.

I should write a long review, including some research into Werfel himself, but right now I only want to cover a few generalities about the wonderful quality of the book.

First, I admired Werfel’s research into the 1915 massacre of Armenians by the Turks. I think the history of these events was already being suppressed by the late 1920s when Werfel began writing. His description of the ragged, starving, perishing Armenian masses of men, women, and children from the village of Zeitun was vivid. His descriptions of the Turkish authorities and their rationale for the genocide (not yet given a name) were overwhelming.

The day-by-day description of the people of seven Armenian villages near the Syrian coast who hid in the woods on the mountain Musa Dagh and resisted the deportation to nowhere being inflicted by the Turks is powerfully drawn. Each episode is based on true stories, particularly the survival of a few thousand villagers on Musa Dagh and their rescue by French troop ships.

Werfel maintained a remarkable balance between descriptions of collective suffering and of individual agony, so that the reader’s consciousness is drawn in both directions. He occasionally mentions acts of mercy by non-Armenians, but clearly shows that the moral bankruptcy of the Turkish leaders (quite a few directly taken from history) corrupted the common people, who are mostly depicted as looting and then resettling the villages whose inhabitants have been forced out. Also corrupted: the military, civil, and police authorities who directly deprived the Armenians of life and property.

On the political side, I kept thinking: how could Werfel write a Holocaust analogy before the Holocaust began? But I know the tragic answer: he was trying to warn of the terrible future that somehow he saw so clearly. Although he clearly admires the German Pastor Johannes Lepsius, another of the historical characters depicted in the book, he had no illusions about the meaning of the events to the mainstream German observers. While Lepsius begs everyone who will listen to act to save the Armenians, almost no one will listen to him; what aid he musters is too little too late. My very sad reaction to Werfel’s attempted warning was that the main learners who took a lesson from the massacre of the Armenians were the Nazis, not the humanitarians and not any future victims.

On the novelistic side, I was also impressed by the author’s choice of central characters, the French-educated Gabriel Bagradian. While the history is powerful, I thin Werfel keeps the reader’s attention through the depiction of Bagradian, his family, his determination to save his fellow Armenians, and his close relationships. Bagradian’s conflicts between his self-interest and his loyalty to his people, his developing identity from identification with France and Europe to embracing of an Armenian identity, his developing leadership in military and political affairs, and his tragic ending create a perfect story against which Werfel presents the historical themes.