Archive for the 'thoughts' Category

fried and frittered for chanukah

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

image

It’s that time of year, when Jews light candles and give presents and fry foods and generally remind ourselves that, hey, even though we don’t celebrate that *other* big holiday, we still party and overeat for eight days and nights sometime in December. And now it seems even the Chanukah sweater is ubiquitous. I predict Chanukah socks for hanging from the mantelpiece this time next year.

I haven’t had a chance to cook potato pancakes yet, although I did pan fry some frozen Trader Joe’s latkes (shhhh! I was running late after work and had no time to prepare dinner the night before, much like the Israelites escaping Egypt who had insufficient time for their dough to rise, resulting in masochistic crackers that, oh, right, wrong holiday). But the crisper is stocked with parsnips in case I get a chance to make parsnip latkes sometime this week.

Here’s a list of fried food recipes for Chanukah, or any other occasion:

Happy holiday commemorating the defeat of the hellenized Seleucids, who were neither Greek nor Assyrian!

 

 

on david lynch

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

When I was a teenager, I loved Twin Peaks. I found it very funny, and enjoyed its peculiarity. (I was better able to appreciate its layered, intuitive complexity having watched it again as an adult.) When I watched David Lynch films in college, I was frustrated by what I felt to be an incoherent narrative. I changed my mind one day when a switch was flipped in my mind–you don’t watch a Lynchian film with your conscious brain. You watch it with your subconscious brain. You don’t so much watch (read: analyze) his films as much as you feel them, absorb them, let the waves of images crash upon your senses one after the other. Experiencing his films in this way results in a coherent experience–one that may be difficult to articulate, as it is composed of intricate layers of imagery and symbolism–but a sort of non-linear, illogical coherence nonetheless. I think of it as dream logic. If you watch his films as though they were dreams, they make perfect, remarkable, beautiful sense. And therein lies their meaning. Forcing David Lynch to discuss the “meaning” of his films before an audience is absurd. If the meaning could be articulated in simple language, why bother making the film? In fact, the meaning lies in the experience of watching the film. It’s the interaction between the viewer’s consciousness and the film itself. It’s showing, not telling. So, snarky writer for the Paris Review–stop getting your panties in a twist because David Lynch won’t tell you what his films are about. That’s not his job. Just watch the damn movies yourself.

on making baby food

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Evan and his duck á l'orange.

This isn’t a mommy blog. Really, it’s not. And I don’t intend to make it one. But this is the place where I write what I write, and what I write is often a reflection of what I’m doing and thinking about. Having had a baby nearly seven months ago, it’s inevitable that baby-related posts would show up here.

I’ve been experimenting with making my own baby food for the little guy’s consumption, and I thought I’d set down some basic principles about how to do it. It’s really not that daunting, as I’ve discovered, particularly if you let go of a few outdated ideas about what babies “should” eat.

  • Would you eat it? The most important factor to consider. Taste it. Does it need salt? Pepper? A bit of cumin? Don’t be afraid to add a little spice. There’s really no reason for babies to eat bland food. Indeed, societies in which people eat spicy food don’t tend to shy away from feeding their infants the same foods they eat in pulverized form.
  • What food groups do you want to include in a given dish? Carbohydrate? Protein? Fat? A combination? The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care claims that the enzymes required to properly digest grains are not present in infants until around one year of age, so I am putting off grains until my guy is a year old. Babies aged nine months and older may be at risk for anemia, so including liver and egg yolks in their food might be a good idea. I have been combining all carbohydrates with fat or protein so as to avoid any spikes in blood sugar. It is my belief that fats used by traditional cultures are the best ones to eat, so I use coconut oil, butter, ghee, schmaltz, and olive oil in my baby food.
  • Equipment and utensils. You don’t need any special equipment to make your own baby food. I’ve been using a good coffee grinder that I bought at a yard sale and some four ounce mason jars to store the food I make. Make sure to use a separate bowl for feeding, so as to keep the rest of the food in the jar clean of bacteria and baby saliva. I use a small sterling silver espresso spoon or a small bamboo spoon for feeding. The silver is mildly anti-bacterial, and therefore, not simply cosmetic, or, er, a symbol of being spoiled rotten. I use small, sturdy cube-shaped porcelain bowls to feed Evan, and will eventually graduate to a sturdy bamboo bowl when he starts eating solid foods in larger amounts. Silicone bibs are very convenient, as they are easily washed in the sink after meal time.
  • Make a little at a time. You don’t know what your little one will like until you try, and even if he likes it, a jarful can easily last a few meals and keep for a few days. I always taste the food first before feeding Evan, to make sure it’s still fresh.
  • Use the ingredients from your own meal. Watermelon is in season at the moment, such that when I make watermelon feta cheese salad, Evan gets chilled watermelon soup. There’s no need to prepare a special tiny pureed meal if you don’t have the time.
  • Be adventurous. The cheese shop I go to was sampling some soft goat cheese recently. I took a disposable spoon and gave Evan a little taste. He made the most amusing face, an expression of surprise, curiosity, maybe a hint of disgust. I think the tangy, goaty flavor threw him for a loop. That’s OK. The taste was completely new to him, and he was discovering the flavors and texture of the cheese. When he finished his taste, I offered him a small taste of a slightly less pungent soft cheese. Guess what? He was curious about it and opened his mouth immediately when I showed him the spoon. Your infant may surprise you if you offer him something new and unexpected.
  • Allergens and unsafe foods. Initially, I was very cautious about the foods I fed Evan. I began with one food at a time, mixed with a fat or some yogurt. I would switch to a different food after 3 or 4 days to be sure he had no reaction. This is a prudent course of action at first, I think. But there is a whole world of foods to savor, and he didn’t appear to be allergic to anything, so I began combining more than two foods, and adding in spices in moderation. I am, however, avoiding all nuts and any foods that cannot be sufficiently pulverized so as not to be a choking hazard. I am also going on the recommendation to avoid honey (even though traditional cultures feed it to babies, or so says my local Yemeni apiarist) and raw milk. I do suggest doing your own research in this area and drawing your own conclusions. The research on food allergies and first foods is still very open-ended.
  • Keep at it. Your baby may not like the first bite or two of something new, but she may take to it with gusto a few tentative bites in. If she doesn’t like something you’ve made, take it in stride. She is developing her palate, and is becoming discerning, which is fun to observe.
  • Offer a choice. Sometimes a baby just wants the comfort of his bottle, rather than a strange new mashed food on a spoon. My friend Quan taught me a trick: when your baby seems a bit fussy about his solid food, offer him a choice. Put his bottle on one side and his bowl of solid food on the other. Then ask him which he’d prefer. He will examine each option and grab at the one he wants. It’s perfectly OK to switch to his bottle if he wants it.
  • The joy of eating. It is indescribably satisfying to watch your infant discover the joy of eating. Savor and encourage it. I like Evan to tell me when he wants more and when he is done. This allows him to discover his palate, his sense of hunger, and satiety. When he wants more, he bangs on the tray of his high chair. When he is done, he purses his lips and turns his head away. He can always eat more later, or the next day, if he wants. And I can finish his food if he can’t.
  • Have fun. I like to eat my meal along with Evan if I can, so that he learns to have routine meal times, and enjoy the conviviality of shared meals. I love seeing him smile in delight when he eats.

P.S. I find it necessary to mention that the above post is simply a reflection of my experience, research, trial and error. I am not a health professional of any sort, and wouldn’t dream of dispensing advice in such a capacity. Infants, like adults, are individuals, and what works for one may not work for another. YMMV.

recriminations

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Faint stirrings, a whimper, a frown that seems to melt your entire face like wax dripping down a candle, a frown that threatens to morph into a full-blown yowl. You turn restlessly to and fro, and I try to determine whether you’re about to cry in your sleep, pass tremendous gas, or howl to be fed. I hold my breath and watch you for clues. You start and stop, sputter like an antique automobile. Your movements begin to get more frantic, and I realize I have thirty seconds to run to the toilet if I absolutely must, and perhaps put on a pair of wireless headphones so that I can watch a movie during the hour it will take to feed you as you drift in and out of sleep, spit up, push away the bottle, then thrash your arms trying frantically to grasp it, eat, fart, pee, and finally raise your arms above your head as if in complete surrender to soundest sleep.

I know I am a horrible mother for entertaining myself while I feed you. Every minute spent with you should be valuable, and by squandering it on distractions I feel that I am shortchanging you. I am selfish.

I sit back down and pick you up, laying you down on your nursing pillow. (Well, feeding pillow. Nursing is a skill I haven’t quite mastered yet.) I can hear your cries and whimpers through the headphones, and I tell you reassuringly that it’s all right, that I’m going to tuck your burp cloth into the collar of your sleeper, and feed you a bottle of milk. (In the interest of brevity, and the hope that you’ll learn to associate the word with relief and the cessation of your plaintive cries, I refer to all bottle contents as “milk”, whether it is expressed breast milk or the organic formula I prepare for you by mixing filtered water with odd-smelling, yellowish powder.) The feel of the cloth around your neck is your Pavlovian bell–you stop crying and emit small, high-pitched grunting sounds as you root excitedly for the breast that won’t feed you. (In these moments, you sound a bit like a dolphin.) I pray the distraction of the burp cloth gives me sufficient reprieve to reach over, get your bottle (please, please, please let it be at least half full), remove the cap, position you accordingly, and offer you the silicone nipple in such a way that you latch properly and drink your meal without spitting up half of it down the burp cloth, your chin, neck, onesie. I have learned that frantic sucking while tossing your head right and left and making a sort of frustrated “mmf mmf mmf!” sound means that the nipple is screwed too tightly on your bottle and has consequently collapsed in your mouth, or that you are farting and/or pooping prodigiously and are uncomfortable eating at the same time. (When you’re done eating, I shall tell you that you are Captain Stinkypants, and that you require a diaper change–which you hate, but for which, I know, you are grateful when it’s all over.) I adjust your bottle, and wait for the sound of the gas passing, for which I praise you. “Good baby fart!” I say. (May all your achievements feel this satisfying.) If you make snorting piglet sounds, it means your head is tilted at the wrong angle, or your nose is stuffed. I use the horrible blue squeeze tube thing to vacuum the snot from your nostrils, which you hate (I’m so very sorry!).

You take the false nipple rather deftly and begin to eat. Having satisfied the urgency for sustenance, your eyes wander as you quietly suck your meal. You glance sideways, directly into my eyes. It’s more of a curious stare, the unwavering kind that is the hallmark of absolute guilelessness. Your brow is raised and furrowed. I hold your gaze and wonder what you’re thinking. “You’re the lady who feeds me,” I imagine you saying, “the one with the leaky protrusions.” Your almond-shaped eyes are wide, the dark grayish corneas with their pupils fixed on me. “I’m counting on you. Please don’t fuck this up.”

I can’t take it. It’s too much. I lean down and kiss your forehead, deeply inhale the scent of your hair. I look back at you and smile almost guiltily, tell you you’re a good baby (is there any other kind?).

You stare back as you knock back the “milk” with a faint “kuh, kuh, kuh” sound.

You’ve sussed me out. I’m not a real mother, I just play one on TV.

enfant terrible

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

birthrebirthrebirthrebirthrebirth

I’d like to give birth to myself.
Vomit out a tiny little replica of me.
A small, helpless thing that adores me.
A thing I will raise to be myself.
As it grows, I will teach it all the things it should think.
Which god to pray to.
Which politician to vote for.
What it should do with its life,
How it should earn a living.
Whom it should love.
The things that matter.
It will be all the things I always wanted to be.
It will do all the things I always wanted to do.
It will make me proud to be me.
Because it will be me.
When it misses the mark, I will swallow it whole.
Like a pool of water absorbs a single drop.
I will heave out fresh stock
And start again.

the righteous shopper

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

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juif

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Tonight, I encountered a young homeless man in the tunnels of the Metro. He was sitting cross-legged on the ground, a newspaper in front of him on top of which sat what I immediately recognized as a small velvet tefillin bag and a Hebrew holy book. To his left, I noticed a small hand-drawn Israeli flag.

Having a religious background, I was curious as to why he placed these sacred items on the floor, as in Jewish tradition, this is considered a sign of disrespect. I made the usual pleasantries and tried to ask him, in my broken French.

“Excusez moi, monsieur, mais pourquoi est-ce que vous mettez ces choses la a la terre?”

“Vous êtes Israélienne? Vous êtes juive?”
(“Are you Israeli? Are you Jewish?”)

“Oui.”

“Il n’y a pas des tefillin ici, juste les boîtes.”
(“There are no scrolls in there, just the boxes.”) ”

“Mais cette livre, c’est le Tanya. Moi, je ne suis pas traditionnelle, mais dans la tradition si on mette ces choses sur la terre, c’est pas une marque du respect.”
(“But this book is the Tanya [a book of hassidic philosophy]. I am not traditional, but according to tradition, placing such things on the ground is not a sign of respect.”)

“Parce qu’il y a le nom de Hashem?”
(“Because it contains the name of Hashem [God]?”)

“Oui.”

“Moi, je suis homeless. J’habite ici. J’ai pas un maison. Vous comprenez?”
(“I am homeless. I live here. I don’t have a house. Do you understand?”)

“Oui.”

“Je suis fier d’être juif, et je suis fâché. I am angry. Pas de personnes a m’aider! Ils prennent les photo avec le mobile! En Paris, si vous n’avez pas un maison, c’est comme ‘ptui!’ Et c’est dangereux d’être un juif ici.”
(“I am proud to be a Jew, and I am angry. No one has helped me! They take photos of me with their mobile! In Paris, if you have no home, it’s like you are ‘ptooi’ [he cocked his head to the left and made a spitting noise]. And it is dangerous to be a Jew here.”)

He drew his finger across his neck in a sign of mock decapitation.

“I think I am very brave,” he said, eyes blazing with fierce indignation and pride.

“I think you are too.”

“Je refuse de mourir anonyme au rue. Donc je mettes ces choses la. J’ai pas un maison, pas de SDF, j’ai pas du tout, et c’est pas juste!”
(“I refuse to die anonymous in the street. That’s why I place these things here. I have no home, no SDF [government assistance?] and it isn’t right!”)

“I think you are correct,” I answered quietly. “Vous avez de la raison. Je suis désolé pour vous.”
(What I meant to say is “I am so sorry.”)

He looked down and his fierce eyes teared up. I fumbled in my pocket to try and find a Euro coin or two. Naturally, I had spent my last couple of Euro coins on a bottle of water, and was left with a few 20, 10 and 5 cent coins. I reached into my bag and found a ten Euro bill and handed it to him.

“S’il vous plaît,” I said. “Please.”

He glanced down and shook his head.

He was crying now.

“S’il vous plaît, vous êtes juif, je suis juive, nous sommes des personnes. Comment dit-on en français? Si je peux vous aider, ça serait un honneur pour moi.”
(“Please. You’re a Jew, I’m a Jew, we’re both people [I meant to say ‘human beings’.] How does one say this in French? If I can help you, it will be an honor for me.”)

I crouched down and held out the ten Euro note to him. He shook his head.

He looked at me unabashed and said “Juste un Euro, si vous avez.”
(“Only one Euro if you have it.”)

I reached into my pocket, pulled out all the change I had and held it out to him. He began to pick out the smallest coins. I shook my head and turned the contents of my palm into his hand.

“Merci beaucoup,” he said.

“Je m’appelle Shelly,” I said, and held out my hand to shake his.

“Je suis Yonah,” he answered, and shook my hand.

“Un nom spécial,” I said, remembering the existential angst of the biblical character.

“Yonah, ani me’akhelet lekha rak tov, I wish you only well, juste le meilleur.”

“Merci,” he said. “Shavua tov. A good week.”

As I walked towards my train line, I heard Yonah begin to sing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold“) in his broken Hebrew. I climbed down the stairs towards ligne 4, and his voice carried over into the tunnel.

“Veshel nekhoshet veshel ohr,” and of copper and light, he sang in a loud, desperate cry. I boarded the train looking down at the ground. A lump formed in my throat.

regrets

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

A corpse in a copse decomposing
Stares blankly at canopied sky.
A corpse in a copse decomposing
Has worms crawling into its thigh.

A corpse in a copse decomposing
Has no need for cunning or fear.
A corpse in a copse decomposing
Wonders “God, why the hell am I here?”

lyrics to a song unwritten

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

death metal song

Imperfect. Flawed.
Shoot me in the head.
Demented. Slack-jawed.
Shoot me in the head.
Lopsided. Deranged.
Shoot me in the head.

All wrong. Sub-par.
Shoot me in the head.
Seen better by far.
Shoot me in the head.
Redo it. Start clean.
Shoot me in the head.

Rank garbage. Vile shit.
Shoot me in the head.
Get packing, fuckwit.
Shoot me in the head.

Shoot me in the head.
Shoot me in the head.
Shoot you in the head.
Shoot you in the head.

Shoot you
Shoot you
Shoot you
Shoot you all in the head.

bacon is my spiritual path

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Dear Pork, who art in heaven,
Briny be thy Ham.
Thy porchetta come.
Thy chops be done
On grills with a side of pappardelle.
Give us this day our daily prosciutto,
And forgive us our tofu,
As we forgive those who don’t dig on swine,
And feed us not overcooked, tasteless flesh,
But deliver us from factory farm agribusiness.

Awomen.

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