Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Zucchini Cake (just another day in Russia)

After visiting a monastery yesterday, we went to a friend's house for lunch. This is Baba Zeena's backyard. It is FULL of gorgeous flowers and probably the best produce in the world.
3-year-old, not at all overwhelmed
Sunflowers, compost bin, rusty barrel

Cabbage patch with melons hanging in the background
Zucchini the size of the Russian spouse's forearm
What does one do with such bounty? Baba Zeena fries the zucchini in lots of butter and oil, and it's delicious. I decided to shred the zucchini and bake it into a cake. I ran into some obstacles: among other things, I had to convert the gas oven settings to find approximately 350 degrees farenheit, and I could only find one measuring implement in my MIL's apartment: a 500 ml cup. The cinnamon smells different here, and the baking vanilla is in powder form.
The oven: note the Turkish coffee pot

It turns out that "3" is about 325 and "4" is about 350
But I was determined to surprise my MIL who was very skeptical about the American custom of baking with zucchini. I used Smitten Kitten's recipe for zucchini bread.

random image of child with bucket of purple gooseberries
Fortunately MIL remembered where she had stashed the cake tin she apparently never uses and dug it out for me. Here are some of the ingredients, including eggs fresh from the village, the powdered vanilla, and the weird cinnamon.
Even if one had not been baking under the influence of wine, the cake batter might have seemed too green, yes?
The cake baked a little longer than I expected (unfamiliar oven, unfamiliar ingredients), but it came out of the spring form pan perfectly. The crust (now on the bottom) is lovely and crusty, and the cake inside is moist enough. Overall, I am pretty satisfied with my attempts to bake here.

Breakfast: zucchini cake with plum

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What I'm reading in Russia

I started with Darkness at Noon, published in 1941, set in the 1930s during Stalin's purges. It's beautifully written and thought provoking. Because of my lack of knowledge about Russian history, it was difficult initially to orient myself to the plot-tangle. Rubashov is an old Bolshevik, one of the original revolutionaries and a hero of the civil war. Now in his 50s, he's been imprisoned for colluding against No. 1 (Stalin). The novel structure is organized around three "hearings" during which Rubashov is slowly manipulated (maybe?) into agreeing to confess in a public trial to plotting an attempt on No. 1's life. During each section (Hearing 1, Hearing 2), Rubashov philosophizes and reminisces, and it's during the reminiscences that the reader learns how deeply committed Rubashov was to the international communist party, and the emergence of his misgivings about the work he does for the Stalinist party. One cannot feel deep connection to this hero/anti-hero, and it's difficult to sustain sympathy for Rubashov as an individual; however, it's easy to learn sympathy for the culture that produced him and the ideology that entrapped him.

I started reading this on my Kindle, after seeing my 15 year old friend Sasha reading it on her tablet. She's a huge Tolstoy fan, and I figured, if she can do it, I can too! Plus we're going to St. Petersburg together next week, and I thought it would be fun to read it along with her while seeing some of the sights Tolstoy includes in the story.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Teaching the God of Small Things

character map
While snapping this picture on her gifted-and-talented phone, my student accidentally cut off Margaret Kochamma (and dead Joe) on the far left side of this whiteboard picture, and I wonder if that signifies something about the students' current inability to process post-colonial conditions of shattered intimacies, but here you have it: the character map we developed after reading the first three chapters of the novel for today's class. In my South Asian Literature course I allotted only four class sessions in which to discuss this fractured, poetic 320-page postcolonial novel. Today, in a brief lecture I provided what I thought might be necessary background information about the colonization of places along the Malabar coast, the state of Kerala and its Communism, land reforms, Syrian Christianity, the caste system (although they've already studied Cracking India and Untouchable, so they're pretty well-up on that), in addition to biographical information about Arundhati Roy. I am probably the last person to find out that the novel is loosely based on Roy's life, and that of her mother Mary Roy.

We began to have a rich discussion of the significance of the History House and the allusions to Heart of Darkness in chapter 2--one student pointed out that the 7-year-old perspective dominating the narration conflates Chacko's philosophizing about History as a big ghosty house they inhabit with an actual house that holds a haunting history of its own--the British guy that went mad, like Kurtz. Students appeared surprised when I explained that Kari Saipu, or the "Black Sahib," seems to have had pedophilic tendencies, and that this has implications for how postcolonial Indian history is imagined in this book (Kari Saipu makes me think, in fact, very much of early scenes of Hari Kunzru's Impressionist as well as what happens to Estha later, and then of the Kite Runner which we'll be watching rather than reading. Why all the pedophilia, Edward Said?). I suppose I'll keep blogging about this, since it's one place to keep my thoughts linear in a case where the novel is anything but.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bolly Log

I've been watching Bollywood movies on Netflix for the past couple of weeks. I cannot get through a single movie in a night, but that's neither here nor there. I've got a lot to catch up on; it's been a while. Here's what I logged this winter break (and still counting):

  • Chennai Express: 2013 with Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone (both from Om Shanti Om which I loved). Very silly. Stereotypes of South Indians abound. Also a long and bloody fight scene.
  • Dostana: 2008  Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham pretend to be gay to rent an apartment. Lots of John Abraham's awesome physique. Bad music. I was going to be offended about the gay stereotypes but the KISS and then the ambiguous ending made up for that.
  • I, Me, aur Main: Briefly, I got on a John Abraham kick. Wouldn't you?

  • Dil To Pagal Hai: 1997 with Shah Rukh Khan in his bad hair days. I think I should probably have seen this sooner. I already knew all the songs (which I love--old school playback singers). But Netflix had this on a timer, and the timer went off before I could finish the story!
  • Lakshya: Totally my favorite film so far, a war drama based on the 1999 Kargil conflict (when Pakistan-backed armed forces infringed on the Line of Control in the Indian-controlled state of Jammu-Kashmir). Why did I love this? Soldier Hrithik Roshan of the two thumbs can dance and he shows it off in Main Aisa Kyon Huun. Also features Amitabh Bachchan and Om Puri in Experienced Soldier roles.
  • Bunty aur Babli: Rani Mukerji and the Bachchans. I love the Bachchans. A few things I appreciate about this movie: the subversively DIY Hindu-ish wedding ceremony with innovative vows and explicit references to consummation. Rani's and Abhishek's constant costume changes. Amitabh in a Guy Noir role. The (to me, at least) amusing fantasy that a woman can give birth to a newborn the size of a healthy 3-month old in ten minutes, flee the police mob, and jump on a train. This review finds it an adorable Bonnie-and-Clyde send-up featuring "girl power" messages. Well, kind of.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes

Once again, I will not be supporting the GoldieBlox company, in spite of its stated goal to "break down gender stereotypes." In what one online friend referred to as a "jerkmove," GoldieBlox is threatening to sue the Beastie Boys to preempt a copyright infringement case over the use of the rap group's "Girls" song in a commercial. The Beastie Boys have published an open letter in the NYT.

I am so annoyed by this pseudo-feminist company that I can't even repost the original GoldieBlox commercial, even though it offers what I find to be a clever parody of the Beastie Boys song because I think the toy is a stupid gimmick. It features a conventionally pretty, able-bodied girl with long blonde hair. Sometimes she has an African American sidekick who is also as pretty as a Barbie. The toy does nothing to "break down gender stereotypes" other than give these characters pastel colored tools.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Just a quick little OMG

I did my first tweet ever for #AcWriMo.

My kid is breaking the first of her 2-year molars (bottom left, and she's 2 1/2). We were thinking she was just "being TWO" but no, she's just "being TWO in pain." There is a difference. I have to believe that.

Working on Marie Corelli always makes me happy. Because you're reading along and then you come to something like this:
... never in all the passing pageant and phantasmagoria of history did a greater generation of civilised hypocrites cumber the face of the globe than cumber it to-day,—never was the earth so oppressed with the weight of polite lying,—never were there such crowds of civil masqueraders, cultured tricksters, and social humbugs, who, though admirable as tricksters and humbugs, are wholly contemptible as men and women. Truth is at a discount,—and if one should utter it, the reproachful faces of one's so-called “friends” show how shocked they are at meeting with anything honest. We are drifting our days away in a condition of false luxury,—of over-ripe civilisation,—which has bred in us that apathetic inertia which is always a premonitory symptom of fatal disease.  (Modern Marriage Market)
I think she just nailed what folks now refer to as "first world problems." More wine please now.

Teaching Barthes, Foucault, and Gubar this week in my Lit Theory class.
Full of misery about 2/3 of my Composition class.
Waiting for good news from two major submissions last summer. Was supposed to hear "in October." And now it's November 2. Does anyone else watch the calendar like I do, in regards to these sorts of things?? Yes. They do.

Is it possible that there is too much Halloween candy in the house?
And there's this:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good Morning Goon

This morning, I'm in the kitchen putting lunches together for me and the kid, and I hear her yell from her crib, "MAMA! I WANT A BOOK!" Of all the books on the floor of her room, this is the one she wanted:

I love this kid. 28 months old, and already a dedicated reader with a taste for parody.