Sunday, July 27, 2014

Here I stand.

I think I’ve made some people uncomfortable, or at least a little disoriented, with my recent Facebook posts and thoughts around the current actions of Hamas.  For that, I am profoundly pleased.
Many of you know I’m a pretty big Pico Iyer fan.  Years and years ago (back when offices were as close as “the nearest fax machine or modem”) I read his piece about Living in the Transit Lounge and it has been a touchstone for me at various points since then.  Each time I have returned to it I have learned something new.  His writings, along with those of David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken have helped me place myself in a seemingly placeless existence.  As a Third Culture Kid I also saw through their writings that my particular generation of transit loungers were probably the last because, as “prototypes of the 21st century citizen” we were simply slightly ahead of schedule on a path that the planetary population was traveling together.  A path toward a global mindset.

Today, 14 years into the 21st century I am only beginning to realize how accurate they were in their thinking and writings. 

Iyer described those of us who grew up living among worlds like this:
“I am simply a fairly typical produce of a movable sensibility, living and working in a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel. I am a multinational soul on a multicultural globe where more and more countries are as polyglot and restless as airports. Taking planes seems as natural to me as picking up the phone, or going to school; I fold up myself and carry it round with me as if I were an overnight case.”
Several researchers and thinkers have written about the benefits of such an existence and the perspective it delivers.  And I agree with all of them.  But few have written as eloquently as Iyer when it comes to the flip side of the coin, the dangerous other edge of a very sharp sword.
“For us in the Transit Lounge, disorientation is as alien as affiliation. We become professional observers, able to see the merits and deficiencies of anywhere, to balance our parents' viewpoints with their enemies' position. Yes, we say, of course it's terrible, but look at the situation from Saddam's point of view. I understand how you feel, but the Chinese had their own cultural reasons for Tiananmen Square. Fervour comes to seem to us the most foreign place of all.”
“Seasoned experts at dispassion, we are less good at involvement, or suspensions of disbelief; at, in fact, the abolition of distance. We are masters of the aerial perspective, but touching down becomes more difficult. Unable to get stirred by the raising of a flag, we are sometimes unable to see how anyone could be stirred.” 
“We become, in fact, strangers to belief itself, unable to comprehend many of the rages and dogmas that animate (and unite) people. Conflict itself seems inexplicable to us sometimes, simply because partisanship is; we have the agnostic's inability to retrace the steps of faith.”
“We end up, then, a little like non-aligned nations, confirming our reservations at every step. We tell ourselves, self-servingly, that nationalism breeds monsters and choose to ignore the fact that internationalism breeds them too. Ours is the culpability not of the assassin, but of the bystander who takes a snapshot of the murder. Or, when the revolution catches fire, hops on the next plane out.”
I think many people who are connected to me on FB know me better from a time when I lived life from an the safety of an aerial perspective, never touching down long enough to align myself with much of anything and certainly not for much time.  Like a traveler killing time in the transit lounge, I cherry picked my way through duty free shops of ideas and beliefs, never paying the taxes on anything.  Some may even think that my evolution into a placed person with convictions and passion is a step backwards and shake their heads over my loss of perspective or simply be disoriented because I’m not hopping the next plane out.  I can only offer this by way of explanation for the passions and convictions of my placed self … “home isn’t just the place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand.”

Recommended reading / viewing:
Growing Up Among Worlds – book, Pollock and Van Reken
Where is Home? – TED talk, Iyer

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fusion at Work

What we have here is a Greek and Japanese spin on your classic bagel and lox.
No, you can't order this beauty anywhere around Tulsa but you can create it for yourself.
I grabbed an everything bagel with tzatiki cream cheese from Old School Bagel Cafe and had half of it for breakfast.  Old School is the only source for honest to goodness, dense and chewy, New York style bagels in this town.  Period.
The other half I sat aside as I ran through a morning gamut of meetings.  Mid-morning inspiration for lunch hit when a coworker said she was getting sushi from Yokozuna.  
Come lunchtime it was one order of salmon poki + half an everything bagel with tzatziki schmear = the finest fusion dining at your desk!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Foodie Find: Honest Mint Limeade

I have found my go to drink for the summer!

This is cooling minty goodness married to zingy lime freshness with just enough (fair trade organic) cane sugar added to prevent the unpleasant puckers.

And yes, you're right.  It would love vodka but it's just tangy enough to be delightfully grown-up tasting without it.

Go out and get you some!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Birthdays are for cake.

We have two birthdays in the house this month.  Last Sunday I realized that one had come and gone, the other was less than a week away and I had done nothing.  Clearly it was time for a spontaneous, late Sunday afternoon birthday cake guilt attack.  After all, with flour, butter, sugar, eggs and milk in the house, how hard could it be?
Apparently very hard.
Undaunted, I ploughed through countless promising Pinterest leads, discarding those calling for sour cream or buttermilk or cream cheese, until I finally came across a simple butter cake recipe.  Honestly, there should have been angels singing on high and beams of heavenly light.  Instead, the dryer beeped and I put my cake quest on hold to fold clothes.  Oh, okay... to empty the dryer.  Who are we kidding here?  The guys should just be glad I don't keep all the money and Legos I find.  Especially the Legos.
Best Butter Cake required no tampering except for the part where, at the last minute, I decided to make it a Best Butter Almond Cake by adding 1tsp of almond flavoring to my very generous interpretation of 2 tsp vanilla.  REAL vanilla, please. 
This recipe creates one of those amazing cloud-like batters that is so delicious you find yourself licking the bowl and muttering salmonella-shmalmonella!  (This is where my lawyer husband has an anxiety attack and asks me to consider that last line.)
Moving on.  Light.  Fluffy.  Lickable.

Since this is a birthday cake guilt attack, I decided on three layers.
About the time that I decided that the Best Butter Cake should be a Best Butter Almond Cake, I also decided that the buttercream frosting should be made with blackberry jam.  Fruit and Nuts are one of my husband's favorite flavor combinations.  Also describes our family pretty well.
I dug up a classic buttercream frosting recipe and simply skipped the liquid and added about a third of a cup of home made blackberry jam instead.
Mmmm.... home made blackberry jam.
Then ... to assemble the cake.  I used to be very intimidated by layer cakes and my outcomes didn't help much.  They tended to slide, each layer in a different direction and I'd end up in a losing battle with the leaning tower of frosting.  For years I solved this by simply not making layer cakes at all. But that didn't last forever.  There's something about a culinary challenge getting the better of me that just couldn't be left alone.
So, I watched cake shows and read cake cookbooks and cake baker blogs and I learned a thing or two.  Or more.  Turns out, there's a lot to making a layer cake that is structurally sound, pretty AND yummy. 
Now I'm going to make a comment that may come as a surprise, at least to people who know me.  I like cake mixes.  There's nothing wrong with making a cake from a cake mix.  Unless you want to build a tall layer cake.  Then the very thing I love - the tender, moist cake - is the first design flaw.  To make a layer cake, you need a firmer cake, one that doesn't flop around when you try to build with it.  The Better Butter (Almond) Cake worked very well.
Second, even if you're working with a firm cake, there's much to be said for freezing the cake layers and working with them cold.  It keeps your butter cream from getting runny, for one thing. 
Third, frosting should be spreadable but not warm.  In fact, nothing should be at all warm.  That was definitely one of the flaws of my earlier cake efforts.  I would usually be in a rush, having scheduled insufficient time, and decide the cake was "cool enough."  The cake can't be "cool enough."  The cake needs to be cold. 
Those are three rules I learned about the materials.  Then came the whole business of actually getting your cake to look and taste as if it had distinct layers, even after it's assembled, frosted, cut and served.  Once I graduated from sliding messes, I spent some time with cakes that were very pretty on the outside, and yummy to eat, but there was that moment of disappointment when I cut the first slice and it looked distinctly un-layer-y on the inside.
And I read more, and watched more, and talked to people who actually knew how to create structurally sound, pretty, yummy, layer-y cakes.  And I practiced and practiced and today, I'm taking my cake building skills public. 
Are you ready? 
Let's build a cake.
Step One:  Starting with the first layer, use a highly flavored glaze, jam, or syrup to coat the top of the cake.  This provides an extra punch of flavor and a barrier between cake and frosting that contributes to that desired layer-y-ness.  In the case of this cake, I used ... of course ... home made blackberry jam. 
Step Two:  Add a layer of frosting.  This is another place where I get all dorky about my tools.  You really just can't do better than an off set spatula for spreading frosting.  Something like this.
Step Three:  Repeat the cake jam frosting pattern until you run out of layers or courage.  This is where things used to start going terribly wrong for me.  Instead of a nice even tower of deliciousness, I would have three layers headed three different directions with all manner of skewers and what have you sticking out in a vain attempt to keep to impending collapse at bay.  But working with cold cake, chilly buttercream and the right techniques - viola! - we have a thing of beauty and strength.
Step Four:  Frost the entire cake with a thin layer to seal in cake crumbs.  This doesn't have to be pretty so much as it has to be uniform.
Step Five:  Finish frosting the cake with as much or as little frosting as you have and/or like.  Make it as fancy or as plain as you want.  I usually start by piling the remaining frosting on the top and then spreading it out, down and around.  I'm not a cake decorator so my results are not visually fancy.  Maybe that will be the next chapter in my cake journey.
And will you look at that?  It's pretty, it's yummy, it didn't fall apart and it's ...
Happy Birthday, Cake!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Foodie Find: Alexia Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries

Oh.  Yes.
Last week my local Sprouts had Alexia brand frozen potato products on sale.  Well.  Select variaties.  And you know what that means... all the stuff you like is regular price while the fat free low salt wasabi seaweed lemon pepper fish flakes are "selected."
It wasn't quite that bad but most of the select variaties were of the sweet potato persuasion.  Despite the fad for sweet potato everything,  I confess that most of it leaves me just meh.  At best.
Then I saw these...
Hey.  Spicy.  Chipotle seasoned.  On sale.  Apparently that was the trifecta that convinced me to bring them home and fry them up to serve with burgers for dinner.

People... we have some serious not meh going on here.  I do strongly recommend deep frying.  Check out the rules for doing it right on a (much) earlier post.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

First Fruits

Our little urban garden has mixed feelings about all the rain we've been getting.  The tomatoes are getting whiny but the green peppers are happy.

The first fruit (veggie) of the season is going in tonight's dinner!