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My mother, aware of my interest in world food, and Indian food in particular, sent me a link to the food blog of one of her coworkers and his wife. (It's very hardcore. The food looks amazing, but I doubt that I will be making many dishes from it. And this is supposed to be the easy version.)

However, today, faced with two tomatoes, one of which was half-ripe and 1/3-rotting, and the other of which was ripe but half-rotting, three kinds of lentils on the counter, and an absolute dearth of vegetables in the house besides carrots (and the aforementioned tomatoes), I decided to take a stab at Tomato Rasam. I haven't a clue if it turned out how it was supposed to, but mom and I thought it was pretty tasty, especially for something that uses up tomatoes that aren't hardly fit to eat.

I served it over brown rice and (green) lentils, which I tried throwing in the pot together with some water and cooking for 40 minutes, a technique that was pleasingly effective, and that I will use again. I don't have hing or coriander leaves/cilantro, so I skipped them, and substituted bay leaves for curry leaves, and onions for shallots, and a large splash of lime juice for tamarind water, and a dash of cayenne for fresh chilies, and various other ground spices for whole ones (not to mention chopping finely rather than crushing, since I wasn't really sure what crushing entailed, and if it required a mortar and pestle, it wasn't happening), but I think it came out pretty well. We had fried green tomatoes on the side, which went very nicely.

It was tasty, fairly easy, a bit-but-not-too-much spicy (mom had yogurt on the side and seemed okay with that), required few exotic ingredients (after you substitute a bunch of stuff, anyway), vegetarian, reasonably balanced, and took an hour from beginning to table. I will definitely make it again, although not necessarily frequently.

(Two weeks ago I made chana masala, a chickpea dish, from Smitten kitchen's recipe, and that was good, too.)
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We live in an age where seedless watermelon comes with disclaimers. ("May contain the occasional seed.")


Or perhaps I'm starting too far in, and should first highlight that we live in an age with seedless watermelons.
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I hate phones.

This is WHY I hate phones. Well, not this specific issue. I've never had this specific issue before.

I've never needed a way to say, "I feel that what you just said is very ignorant and hurtful, and I would appreciate if you would give me a few minutes to recover my composure so that I can talk to you without wanting to cry."

I was always a heavy child. There are pictures of me as a three-year-old that would probably be described as "sturdy." From what I recall of my pediatrician's charts, I've been above the 80th or 90th percentile, weight-wise, my whole life. I've always been on the tall side, too, but not as much as I've been on the heavy side. I reached my full height -- I don't know, seventh grade, maybe. I have weighed what I do, give or take twenty pounds (mostly give), for at least the past ten years.

I have played field hockey and struggled with my weight. I've played lacrosse badly and struggled with my weight. I have walked over a mile to and from school and struggled with my weight. I've been a fencer and struggled with my weight. I have played sports for multiple hours a day, three or four or five days a week, and eaten pretty well, and still weighed exactly what I do now.


My research about Zambia has led me to conclude that the Zambian diet is largely starch-based. And I know, from 23 years of living in my body (plus the reasoned opinion of some medical professionals), that it is not good for me to eat mostly starches. And since the program coordinator had not yet responded to my email of a week and a half ago, I called her this afternoon.

I was not looking for her to snap her fingers and guarantee that everything would be fine. But I felt (still feel) that "It is a concern to me that there be vegetables in my diet in addition to starch" is a reasonable thing to ask for. I know that most of Zambia lives at the subsistence level, if that, but I think that it's reasonable to request that the diet I need to be healthy be at least considered while looking for my housing placement.

And if I can't be accommodated, then I will deal, and work extra-hard once I'm back in the States where I can control my food intake.

Her immediate response included, "You're looking at the effects of diet on a sedentary first-world lifestyle; I've never known a fat Zambian."

My lifestyle is pretty sedentary right now. But it hasn't always been. And weight has always been a struggle. I will also point out that I'm currently at a healthier place, weight-wise, than I've been in the past five years.

She also told me, in a kindly and gentle sort of way, that people in Zambia eat to survive and there isn't the same range of available food that there is here. I wasn't asking for an American grocery store! If there is one leafy green weed available in Zambia, I will eat the same leafy green weed every day and get very tired of it, but it will be a vegetable in my diet.

She would try to help, but she "wanted me to be more specific."

She told me that my cross-cultural experience in Spain was giving me an unrealistic view of the availability of food. (I was making this phone call partly because of the paucity of vegetables in the Spanish diet, which had been a problem for me.)

I was trying (and failing) not to cry since probably the first minute of the phone conversation, and it just went on and on and on and she kept talking and I couldn't get out of it. This was not the easiest phone call to make in the first place -- the email was hard to write; it's not something I'm all that comfortable discussing with strangers, and especially something I'm not particularly comfortable bringing attention to to ask for accommodation for. And she was implying in her nice motherly tone that I'm a spoiled, privileged kid who doesn't know how good she has it and only has trouble with her weight because of her lifestyle, and look at her quaint first-world problems.

I'm going to go knit for two hours.
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Watch out: I have a screwdriver and I know how to use it!

----


When I upload pictures from my camera, I'll tell you about the circus tent fabric cover for a trapeze rig that covered my living room with 132 yards of fabric yesterday.
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My mother can be fairly compulsive at times. One of the things that she is compulsive about is the kitchen cupboards. They don't need to be neat, the organization doesn't always entirely make sense -- but if there is food that's been in there for a long time that we're not using, it bothers her. So every so often we acquire a list on the fridge, next to the shopping lists, of Food To Use Up. Right now cocoa powder is on that list. She got unsweetened cocoa powder for some cooking project ages ago, and it's been there for over a year now, not going anywhere fast. So when she declared that we should start thinking of ways to use it, I said, "Weren't you talking about some tomato sauce they made it Guatemala with chocolate in it?"

And so I present my recipe for molé poblano:
Also millet muffins, which are very good, too. )
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I've been quiet for a while, I'll admit. I suppose I've mostly been feeling that nothing terribly interesting is going on, so I don't really have much of anything to say. It is properly Autumn, even moving to Winter, and while I love the colors, this season I've been feeling sort of lethargic and haven't gotten outside to enjoy them as much as I usually do. I think it has to do with not having either a person to go walking with or an established pattern of going walking. And while the nearby woods are lovely, they can be a wee bit sketchy to walk in alone. Tegan and I have arranged to go wander around one of the nearby parks on Monday, though, which should be nice.

I seem to be rambling a lot . . . )

In other news, I have 17,704 words worth of NaNo right now. Not all good words, mind you, but this is, after all, nano, and I think they're a great deal better than the stuff I was producing (at a much slower rate) two years ago.
It is November 6th!
When did I become the kind of person who is 1/3 done with her nano on day six? (Admittedly, it's the easiest third, since the plot was mostly already figured out, but hey, I now have an idea for what happens in the second two thirds, which I did not have 36 hours ago, and maybe when I'm feeling ambitious I'll write myself an outline or something, and figure out exactly what sorts of dangerous and semi-dangerous items the Agency keeps in its Peculiarity Vault.)
. . . this business of being unemployed is peculiar.

Although I do have a job interview for this coming week, which is an exciting thing.
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I was NOT riding with said terrifying driver. I was minding my own business, driving home from contra dancing, enjoying the echoes of contra dancing music, and this fellow shows up behind me. Well, first he showed up beside me and blared obnoxious and offensive music for the duration of a red light, and then he didn't take the chance to get in front of me when the road merged, even though I gave him one, and then he proceeded to race through lights after me. I was going through on questionable yellow lights (they were pretty questionable. It's fast for a residential-ish road, and while usual Philadelphia protocol is 'yellow means go faster,' I would have been the second car through that yellow light); I'm pretty sure those lights were red by the time he got there. During the third block of this, I decided that I didn't want to drive the whole way back to East Mt. Airy racing through yellow lights b/c I was scared of being driven over by a giant SUV, so I slowed down enough that the light was definitely yellow before I got to it and I had time to stop in a reasonable manner. And the guy behind me swerved left into oncoming traffic to race through the light (without slowing down hardly at all), which was red before he even got to the intersection and sped off, leaving me sitting there shaking.

And then a rat ran across the road in front of me. In the normal course of things, a wild rat might elicit some surprise, perhaps even a small noise, but I had just used up my supply of surprise for the night, so I just thought very calmly, A rat just ran across the road in front of me. You'd better be glad, little buddy, that you weren't in that road half a second earlier.

So. Terrifying drivers are terrifying.

----------

I have made more mozzarella. I think it just needed more salt (although using 2% instead of 1% probably helped, too), because this stuff is excellent. I used 2/5 of it in [livejournal.com profile] transversely's avocado, tomato, basil and mozzarella salad, which I think is my new favorite food.

Also on the topic of cheese, this week's Purple Passion goat cheese, while not purple, is very yummy.
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It's not one of the stories I tell, generally. However, the other week I mentioned it to my mother, who found it hilarious and then made me tell it in Adult Sunday School the next week. And I thought that it is, perhaps, a story worth telling. One of the untold Small Miriam Stories )



In other things going on in my life more recently:
- I made mozzarella and it was a success, but not as amazingly wonderful as I had hoped. I will try again with more salt and fattier milk.
- Contra dancing is excellent, but terrifying drivers are terrifying.
- I am at Smith for the next few days. If you are here and would like to see me, call my cell phone or ask in Seelye B5.
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I'm very fond of the spinach dish served in Indian restaurants as saag, or sometimes sag. I like it with meat, I like it with chickpeas, I like it with paneer (a soft white cheese). I've been trying to reproduce it for over a year, generally with limited success. A couple of weeks ago, while babysitting my cousins, I came across the cookbook From Mom with Love: The Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining. And since I'm always looking for new saag recipes, I investigated, and found that it did indeed contain a recipe for saag paneer.

So, last week, armed with the recipe and bunch of our Henry Got Crops kale, I tried the new recipe. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the local food coop sells the spice mix garam masala, so I did not need to make it myself in dad's coffee grinder from bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and other hard spices. I made paneer with the guidance of this blog and a brief discussion with [livejournal.com profile] rumorofrain (my one comment on that page is that the first time I tried it I didn't realize that the milk needs to really get to a full, roiling boil, not just a halfhearted sort-of boil. Also, having actual cheesecloth really helps). My first attempt was quite satisfactory; the flavor was pretty close, and it both looked and smelled like the dish I was trying to reproduce, which is closer than I had gotten with anything else. It did, however, still taste rather strongly of kale, so on Friday I tried again with the second half of my homemade paneer and this week's CSA rainbow chard. And it was very good. My mother agreed. My one regret is that the chard was so pretty, it was rather a shame to blend it all. Today I tried feeding a lamb version made with beet greens to my famously vegetable-averse brother. And he liked it. He told me so. Furthermore, he ate three servings.

I think that this recipe has Arrived. So I will share it with all of you under the cut. )
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A question - is anyone still going to be here by Friday dinnertime, or will it be me all on my lonesome for 23 hours because my Friday class is slightly too late for me to catch the Friday train?

. . . at least it's not "Fried Calamari, Secret Sauce," like they're having in King-Scales.
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Last night I dreamed . . . what did I dream?
I dreamed that I was at my home church. It was today, and there was some sort of singing thing going on, a rehersal, probably for Music Sunday tomorrow. (I'm missing Music Sunday. :( ) Emily was there (because she likes music? I don't know. It wouldn't be entirely improbable if we weren't both ~250 miles away), as was Maria, who was participating. I don't know how that came about. Maybe her grandma persuaded her over and she decided that joining in the singing was the only was to get over to me so that she could give me the down-low on everything that had been happening. (I haven't seen Maria in ages. I wonder if she did actually go to college last semester. She said she was going to . . . but then, she's always been good at talk.) After the singing was over, I was going to drive Emily home, and we walked out to mom's car, which was on the street my dad lives on (which is a mile or so from the church, but in the dream that portion of my dad's street happened to be right next to the church). Rita (Maria's grandmother) walked past, and I offered her a ride home, which she accepted, and gave me one of her hugs. (hmm . . . maybe we weren't actually at church, just with church people, because Rita lives right next to the church and wouldn't need a ride. Now that I think about it, the place we were to sing didn't really look like the church; I don't know what it looked like (and I'll point out that while I tend to agree with the "the church is the people" theology, I'm using church to refer to the building because it's clearer that way.)) Anyway, Emily was already in the front seat, which was on the side of the traffic (I think that it was a British car, actually; the steering wheel was on the wrong side), so I opened the door for Rita to get in the back.
And I was just going to ask Emily which house she was going to when I woke up.

Yesterday I had several dreams. Let's see if I can remember any of them.
There was the one about the mouse. For background, you should know that Morris has been having a mouse problem for a while now, and that traps have been laid. Friday evening, Emily and I came into the kitchen and discovered that the havaheart trap had been sprung, and there was a live mouse in it. Neither of us are stand-on-a-chair squeamish about mice, but picking up the trap and taking it somewhere suitable far away (particularly since neither of us really knew how to operate that sort of trap, or how far away was far enough) seemed to us to be a very big step. I knocked on the door of the girl whose name was on the trap, but she wasn't in. Neither was our HR. I left a note on her whiteboard, but I wasn't sure that either of them were here this weekend. Clearly this preyed on my mind a bit, because I dreamed that I was taking the mouse across the river and some suitable distance away. I ran into [livejournal.com profile] operafloozy, [livejournal.com profile] tigerlofu and [livejournal.com profile] daybreak_a and enlisted them as moral support. That's about all there was to this dream.
For those of you who are concerned, at the point where I had decided that I really ought to do something about the mouse if no one else had done anything, I went downstairs and the trap had disappeared.
I feel like there were at least two other dreams that night, but I can't remember them.

It's raining today. Emily is going to an all-day shape note sing in Sunderland. While I wouldn't mind doing some singing today, the bus schedule to get over there is more than a bit ridiculous, and between that and the weather, I'm perfectly happy to stay inside today (although I suppose that if I'm going to the library, I'll have to go outside at some point. Hopefully it won't be raining quite so hard at that point.

I'm currently making creamed eggs, one of my mom's fancy breakfasts. Someone left me 11 eggs last weekend (and her oatmeal and recipe, by the way. Would she like those back at some point?).
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I had a quite decent Thanksgiving - or rather, Thanksgivings, because I had one on Thursday with my dad's family and one on Friday with my mom's family. My relatives are still conservative, but everyone toed the line and no awkward subjects came up, so that was okay. My youngest cousin is still as cute as anything - he was very proud to tell us all that he is four and a half. On mom's side, we were joined by two graduate students from China who nobody actually knew but who didn't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving. That was a little awkward at first, but then my aunt brought out an atlas so that they could show us (that is, my cousin) where in China they grew up. Then, of course, my cousin had to pull out the globe and show them where they grew up, what the continents are, where Philadelphia is, where all the various bodies of water are (he really likes reading the names of oceans), and so on. He was not without encouragement, I will admit. So that broke the ice (as I overheard my grandmother say to my aunt, he's the perfect little ambassador). The meal was less formal than it sometimes is (the table wasn't big enough for everyone, so we ate on our laps in the living room), and that helped too. And of course the food was excellent. The food at the other grandma's wasn't bad either - certainly better than the cafeteria food here - and for once, the stuffing didn't bear a huge resemblance to croutons.

It was a little strange being home, but VERY good to see friends. It was also a little strange to get back here, but Tonje and I have been discussing how Ziskind is a soap opera - we may actually film some - and that got things back to being just as crazy as usual.

M.

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