Wednesday, May 31, 2023

In Our Kitchen in May

The kitchen used to be "my" kitchen, but in the last few months, Len has taken over all the innovative cooking, so it's now our kitchen, not just mine. This is a wonderful change and I'm delighted with his commitment to using new recipes, especially recipes from a number of Asian cuisines. I've mentioned the cookbook authors Fuchsia Dunlop and Andrea Nguyen, whose books he has been going through, and I've mentioned the number of interesting condiments we have obtained for the variety of recipes he has tried.

I’m sharing this with Sherry and the other participants in the blog event titled In My Kitchen. It’s great to see what new gadgets, condiments, packaged food, cookbooks, and recipes everyone has tried each month. Other than trying new recipes, there's nothing new in our kitchen, as we haven't bought any new gadgets or cookbooks. Next month may be different!

Asian Recipes: All New to Us

Szechuan Smoked Tofu, among the many recipes Len tried.
He made the smoked tofu using liquid smoke. 

Grilled salmon with crispy skin, flavored with lemongrass.

Mushroom curry from the special mushrooms at Argus Farm Stop.

Spring rolls in rice paper wrappers and stir-fry snow peas.

Black Pepper Tofu with eggs and a side of bok-choi, recipes by Andrea Nguyen.


A few other meals

Roast cauliflower with parmesan and a big salad for a vegetarian dinner.
Cauliflower recipe from the New York Times.

Israeli Mezze: grape leaves, eggplant salad, olives, spiced chickpeas, and other vegetables and fruits.

Another dish made from the special mushrooms at Argus: a mushroom stir-fry.

Len baked some rye rolls for a Memorial Day Picnic. 
He’s been baking bread for several years, and this is a recipe from a Zingerman’s class he took.

Can Our Food Choices Make A Difference?

Much of the world is experiencing a huge drought, while a few regions have too much rain or very unpredictable rain. Food production suffers globally as a result of the changes. These food shortages affect our prices in the supermarket, but for people in the third world, a result is frequently famine and desperation, with many refugee situations caused by the impact of food scarcity. The consequences are many and of great concern, as I’m sure you know.

One undisputed cause of climate change is human-created Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While there’s little an individual can do about climate change, at least I think we can be mindful of choices we make, and one choice we make all the time is our selection of food. Here’s a graph of how various food choices impact the atmosphere. How much difference can an individual’s actions make? I don’t know, but I think we can contemplate what our little bit might mean.

Click on the graph to see it full size in your browser.

NOTE: Even if you compare the carbon production per calorie of nutrition in these foods, beef and lamb are still much more polluting than vegetables or grains.

For more discussion of global food issues, see In My Kitchen Part 2.

Blog post and photos © 2023 mae sander

Monday, May 29, 2023

Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan

"Geumbok let out a long stream of smoke and continued. 'People say that money is the root of all evil. But that’s not true. Poverty is the root of all evil.'” (Myeong-Kwan, Cheon. Whale, p. 242). 

Whale by Cheon Myeong-kwan was short-listed for the Booker Prize, so I decided to read it. What a strange book! It reads like a fable, but with far more characters and events than most fables that I know, and with a great deal of political content, like the quote above. I didn't find many reviews, but one of them called it magical-realism comparable to Borges. Maybe so. But also a lot of social commentary.

As I read Whale, I kept thinking that it must be an allegory for 20th century Korean history, but I don't know any Korean  history so I couldn't follow what it was about. I felt lost by the parallels I thought I should find, for example in the characters' love of American movies, especially westerns with John Wayne. But there were other things that made the novel readable anyway. The author constantly telegraphs the coming events and disasters that the characters will be suffering, which is also a bit challenging to read.

Whale is full of vivid characters. In some ways, it's too vivid, and there are too many characters. It's bewildering at times, though eventually I think I grasped who they were and how they related to one another. Very poetic passages describe the inner life of characters -- for example, man who loses his vision because of cataracts:

"Though he couldn’t see, memories would often unspool panoramically before him, without any order. It was like looking through a photo album that had recorded his life, from his earliest memory to just before he lost his eyesight. He saw beautiful and peaceful scenes from his childhood, terrible suffering from the battlefield, unfamiliar, foreign sights from when he worked at a brickyard in China, the faces of his family that broke his heart every time, himself making love with Geumbok under the willow tree, the lonely long winters when he stayed at Nambaran all alone—all the joys and sorrows of his life" (Whale, p. 233). 

Whale seems to cover social history, but I was never sure because I'm unfamiliar with the history of Korea. Here's an example:one of the central characters, Geumbok, first tries coffee, which seems to her to be a type of tea. This encounter led her to love to drink coffee, and eventually to make a lot of money running a café. 

"One day, the man with the scar took Geumbok to a café next to the theater. He ordered tea that was arrowroot-black. She took a sip and spat it out immediately; it was too bitter. 

"'What is this?' 

""This is coffee. If it’s too bitter you can put some sugar in it. Like this.' 

"He smiled. It wasn’t too bad once she sweetened it. It was fairly delicious, actually, and after a few sips she fell in love with the taste of coffee. The bitterness that spread on the tip of her tongue and dissipated as it left behind a clean, lingering flavor, the scent that seemed to contain an elegant secret in its sourness—she was reminded of the smell of the wind that blew from the south long ago as she sat on the hill in her hometown.

"From then on she went frequently to the café for coffee. She wondered what it was made of to give the drink such a mysterious taste, and soon learned it came from beans that looked like grains of barley but were as large as peas." (Whale, pp. 85-86).

Whale is also a very brutal book, full of extreme cruelty and torture, especially during the long time when an important character named Chunhui (Geumbok's daughter) is in prison. Giving too much detail (as far as I'm concerned), the author depicts the unspeakable actions of a vicious prison guard and some of the other prisoners. Chunhui is mute, and unable to understand what is happening to her. Several brutal murders and other types of abuse are also part of the plot. This cruelty may be an essential element of the allegory except that I don't know what the allegory is about.

Despite all my doubts and confusions, I got to like the narrative of this novel, and eventually felt that the very strange characters (ALL of them strange) were reasonably relatable. There's Chunhui, a huge woman who can't speak a human language but can communicate with an elephant named Jumbo? OK. There are a couple of entrepreneurs who become rich and meet their fates in very odd ways? OK. There are a pair of twins who exchange identities so much that they don't know which one is the elder and which one is the younger? OK. And more, of course.

The author also has a particular quirk, which I got used to, and eventually liked: he summarizes a situation by saying "this was the law of..." For example: "Taciturn John Wayne calmly killed the Indians one by one, who collapsed like deer. This was the law of Westerns." (Whale, pp. 87-88).

It takes a long time for the essential nature of this novel to emerge, but ultimately, I felt like it was worth the effort it took me to read it.

Review © 2023 mae sander
Shared with Elizabeth's weekly celebration of things to drink

Sunday, May 28, 2023

“Forever in Our Hearts”

The graduation ceremony last weekend, when my granddaughter graduated from the University of Virginia, included many memories of the three victims of a mass shooting on campus last November. Devin Chandler, D'Sean Perry, and Lavel Davis Jr., were members of the UVA football team. Their tragic deaths are remembered in many ways by the students, faculty, and administrators of the university, including Jim Ryan, University President, who spoke of the event in his speech at graduation, as did the other speaker, Carla Williams, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics.

One memorial to the victims is a collection of graffiti on the bridge shown in these photos: prior to the shooting, students repeatedly replaced the graffiti (as is a tradition on many campuses). Now, after the event, during which the entire campus was locked down and in fear of the at-large shooter, the graffiti reads “Forever in our hearts.” Many small tributes are written all around these words.

“A class that has endured a global pandemic, a mass shooting on Grounds and hate crimes in their final year.”

The team numbers of the three players who were murdered.

Blog post and photos © 2023 mae sander
Shared with Sami's weekly celebration of street art.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

On TV: The Chelsea Flower Show

The annual Chelsea Flower Show takes place at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, 
which is a retirement home for British Army veterans. 
My friend Sheila has often told me about it in other years. 
We have been watching the BBC coverage of the show, which takes place all this week.

Over 170,000 visitors tour more than 30 gardens and over 100 displays. (From the Guardian.)

If you enjoy gardens and gardening, this series is fun to watch!
Several announcers interviewed a number of participants about their displays.
The Royal Horticultural Society has sponsored the show since its beginnings in 1913.

May, 2022: Queen Elizabeth toured the Chelsea Flower Show,
as she had done throughout her reign.
The BBC special showed photos of her visits through the years.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Tina Turner

Would it surprise you to learn that I've been a fan of Tina Turner?

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Salads and Recipes

While staying in Fairfax I made this salad: cannellini beans, prosciutto, figs, and basil.
The recipe was from the Guardian food page, published the day I made it.

Picture of the original salad by food writer Nigel Slater in the Guardian.

A Salad Dinner

The white bean salad was one of several salads and salad-side-dishes. Others included: avocado with clementines,
olives, ready-made potato salads, roasted artichoke hearts, hard-boiled eggs, mixed green salad, and snowflake rolls.

While in Fairfax, I always enjoy a trip to Wegman's Market, where I bought 
all the ingredients and the ready-made potato salads.

Blog post © 2023 mae sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Where we ate this weekend

The Bad Luck Bar and Sake Brewery, Charlottesville, VA

Many Japanese restaurants have white cats with one paw raised to bring good luck
The Bad Luck Bar has black cats: a great place for a post-graduation dinner.
Coincidence: I just read about the cats and sake last week.

A glass of premium sake.

At Graduation Parties

Friday afternoon: a party at Miriam’s friends’ special rooms on the lawn at UVa.
We went to several other parties, but didn’t take photos.
In the background you can see the vast number of chairs set up for the weekend’s graduation ceremonies.

Carter Mountain, Charlottesville

Apple pie, donuts, cider, and strawberry lemonade with a view.

Sunday Brunch at Guajiros Miami Eatery, Charlottesville

Avocado toast with cream cheese, cucumbers, pickled onions, and an egg.
Delicious! Also very good orange juice and coffee.


Sunday Afternoon: Driving through Shenandoah, National Park

I didn’t take a photo this year when we stopped for blackberry cobbler 
in Shenandoah National Park, but here’s the photo from 2019.
(This year it came in a cardboard dish, not a nice little oven dish.)

Dinner: Takeout in Fairfax

“Sassy Shrimp”

Blog post and photos © 2023 mae sander

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Graduation at UVa


The procession of around 2000 graduates takes around half an hour.
The graduation exercises include many traditions. The procession is
called “walking the lawn” because it takes place at the historic lawn in the center of campus.

The graduates carry a variety of balloons, mostly huge, so the procession shimmers and bounces.

Here’s Miriam, walking with her close friends.

Robed academics.

The speaker at the podium behind all the graduates and their balloons.

Photos © 2023 mae sander.