Monthly Archives: May 2010

Garbanzo journalism

Posted on

Last week I tried to make falafel in my slow cooker. The recipe was easy, except for part where I had to mash the garbanzo beans. I didn’t have a good utensil for mashing, so I had to churn away at them with a fork. This got boring after about 8 seconds. Suffice it to say that at least some of the beans were mashed.

The other problem was that I didn’t put in enough bread crumbs. My falafel balls, barely cohesive when they entered the slow cooker, lost all sense of form as they baked.

“Oh,” I said, upon opening the lid three hours later. “I’ve invented hummus.”

Since it is a tasty and healthy food, I figured I would try again today, only this time I intended to be very, very clever. I already had to use the blender to mix all the other ingredients—cilantro and cumin and lemon juice, some other stuff—so I reasoned I could blend the garbanzo beans at the same time, saving myself a step and mashing the beans with more efficiency than the fork method.

This turned out to be very poor reasoning. The blades blended the beans at the bottom just fine, but none of the ingredients in the upper seven-eighths of the blender made it down to the chopping action. No matter how high the setting or how much I pleaded, the blades just hummed in the hummus.

Forty-five minutes, one mixer, one chopstick, one immersion blender, and countless swear words later, I finally fixed my blender blunder. Into the stoneware went the painstakingly prepared mush—this time with extra bread crumbs!—and late in the afternoon I was able to feast on what was pretty recognizably falafel. They still didn’t have the integrity I wanted (though really, I have very high standards when it comes to integrity) but maybe that’s the price you pay when you buy the wholesome all-natural breadcrumbs. Though I seem to recall paying a price for them in the form of extra money, as compared to the cheaper, unhealthy, but probably more cohesive breadcrumbs. Sigh.

Dunno how long the local paper will keep this link active, but here’s the latest story about the explosion:
http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-nws-williamsburg-blast-arrest-20100524,0,1200454.story

Astute readers will notice that I totally scooped the paper on this one. I reported exactly the same thing, only a month and a half earlier and with way more of the human interest angle. The only thing I didn’t include was the list of charges. I think my favorite charge is the one about inhaling noxious chemical substances. Um. It’s not like he was trying to sniff paint thinner to get high. He was trying to kill himself. Give the guy a break.

In related news: I’ve been going to jail every Tuesday evening. Coupla weeks back I had to share the visiting room with another two people visiting an inmate. There’s enough privacy that our respective conversations didn’t encroach upon each other, but while I was waiting for Bobby to arrive, I was forced into the position of unwilling eavesdropper. I had no desire at all to overhear their discussion, but since I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, I couldn’t help but glom on to an interesting tidbit: the end is nigh.

“Don’t worry about the charges,” the lady said. “The world’s going to end soon. All the signs are there.”

Remember, you heard it here first. Don’t wait for the other media to pick up the stories. By the time they get around to reporting the end of the world it’ll be too late.

Anyway, since the world’s about to end, and also because I don’t actually have anything to write about at the moment, I’m going to go find some books I’ve been meaning to read before I die. Armageddonouttahere.

The yeast also rises

Posted on

A few weeks back I successfully made a baked brie. It was probably the easiest thing I’d ever prepared. You take a tube of Pillsbury dough, open it without punching out your eye, smoosh the dough flat, put the brie on top, fold the dough till you’ve got a brie cocoon, and then put it in the slow cooker on high for two or three hours.

It was delicious. I’d like to pretend it was willpower that stopped me from eating the whole thing then and there, but honestly it was because I burned my mouth and decided on the spot to explore the virtues of cold leftover brie. Cold leftover brie, I determined the next day, is very virtuous. Scalding hot or cold, it is a tasty and simple dish, one that I made again a few days later in Durham. (More on that later.)

But then I read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules and got to feeling all guilty about the processed crap I regularly ingest, so figured I’d try making my own dough from scratch next time around. More time-consuming, and perhaps more expensive, but I’d be able to walk about being all smug about the superior quality of my diet.

I made the dough. I followed the directions as best I could, but I wasn’t sure if I got the temperatures right. The recipe explained that the milk and the water should both be 110 degrees, so I warmed them till they reached, in my estimation, the heat of a very hot day.

Then result was not inedible, I’ll give myself that much.

Since the dough did not actually rise, I suppose I probably killed off the wee yeasties, which naturally I felt terrible about. For penance I made myself eat the bread, which would be more properly be described as lembas.

I’ll be trying again soon. The intelligent thing would be to get a thermometer, but I couldn’t find one in the grocery store. Or rather, I found a meat thermometer, but I wasn’t sure if it would work well for liquids. In a fit of inspiration I tried the drug store, which had thermometers aplenty, but none of them went much above 105 degrees, presumably because at that point death in humans is imminent.

My other food adventure recently involved the consumption of “a type of edible offal from the stomachs  of various farm animals”, more commonly known as tripe, though I don’t think I would have been so quick to order it from the menu at the Vietnamese place if I’d understood what tripe actually is. Truly I thought I’d been served the wrong dish, when I spied the squid-looking mass in my pho.

I was at the Vietnamese place to catch up with a fellow library school student who’d recently moved to the area. Though he graduated with his MLS at the same time I did, five years ago, he’s already served as a library director, which is frankly obnoxious. This did not however prevent me from asking him to look over my resume. I’ve applied for two jobs in far-flung places, and I’m waiting to see what comes of them, but I’ve decided to make an already-difficult job search exponentially more difficult by limiting any future job applications to North Carolina.

I was already aware that I missed NC. I can’t quite call it my home state, since I didn’t move there till I was seven, but it feels like home—and when I visited this past weekend, I was reminded of how very much I enoyed living there. I went down there to attend the college graduation of the daughter of a woman I’d volunteered with back when I lived in Chapel Hill, and along the way I looked up some friends in the Durham area.

I had a lovely time. It wasn’t just that I was happy over the weekend; it’s that I remembered how much happier I was during the time I lived in NC—first in Weaverville, then Greensboro, then Chapel Hill. Some of that happiness was due to being in school, that fleeting phase of life during which optimism about the future clouds your thinking. But some of that happiness came from the state itself. North Carolina is a good match for me. It does not have the cold weather I prefer, and about two-thirds of the state is bereft of mountains, but even in the warmer flat parts I feel more at home than I ever have since moving away.

So I’m still going to see what, if anything, comes of my job applications elsewhere, but I am not exactly holding my breath; I seem to recall applying for nearly forty jobs before I got a bite, when I first started looking after library school, and this time around the economy stinks. I appreciate that we’re slowly starting to recover, but since libraries are usually funded my state governments, it takes a long while for job opportunities to recover. At least I’m a much better candidate now than I was five years ago. I might have a chance at distinguishing myself from the other graduates of the three-countem-three library schools in the state.

And now I’m going to continue reading Horns. I lost interest after a few chapters of Joe Hill’s debut Heart-Shaped Box, but the reviews of this second novel were so good that I decided to give it a try. He’s still not his dad (though gosh if he doesn’t look like him), but the first third has been really good. If I show up to work all bleary-eyed on Monday it’s because I stayed up too late reading.

Do not pass go

Posted on

I just got out of jail. Waltzed right on through the exit, no one tried to stop me. Getting out was easy. Getting in was the hard part. Two-point-two-five million Americans inmates have managed to get behind bars, but I had trouble just finding the place.

Or rather, I found the place okay. The jail is conveniently located on the same damn road I live on. Even someone with the directional integrity of a turnip, i.e. me, can manage to drive her vehicle on a straight road, like so:

  • Turn key in ignition
  • Stop at red lights
  • Don’t stop at green lights
  • Turn left at the sign that says “Jail”

… and for added bonus points, park car by the sign that says “Visitor Parking.” And for super extra bonus points, remove key from ignition.

All this I managed admirably, despite the raging case of nerves I’d felt all evening. I haven’t had a case of butterflies like that in ages. Public speaking, job interviews, tuba auditions—all that stuff is a piece of cake compared to deliberately going to jail. I did toy with the idea of drinking a beer beforehand, but decided it was in my best interests to be completely sober when entering a penal institution.

Anyway, following that inspired final step (“Remove key from ignition”), I walked up to a door and was about to enter when I remembered that I was wearing earrings. About three millliseconds after that, I remembered I was wearing my nipple ring.

Having my nipple ring trigger the metal detector was not high on my list of Exciting New Experiences To Try Someday. My list of Exciting New Experiences To Try Someday had not heretofore included “discreetly removing my nipple ring in the privacy–and I use that word loosely– of my car in a jail parking lot” but it beat the alternative. I will however mention my immense relief that no officer of the law moseyed by during that time.

The jail, at least the part I saw of it, was okay. It was not, as I had been warned, stinky. The nice officer at the visitors’ desk looked at my ID and then gave me directions to the visiting room.

I got lost.

This is a jail we’re talking about, here, consisting exclusively of long, well-lighted hallways and 90-degree angles. Jails are designed for the express purpose of ensuring that no one gets lost. I would therefore like to offer my services to architects around the world. They can perform usability tests on me: if their blueprints are simple enough that I can navigate the design, then they may be confident that theirs is a truly functional plan. My fees would be reasonable.

Ruing the prohibition against foodstuffs, and therefore breadcrumbs, I eventually managed to make my way back to the nice officer. To her credit she did not roll her eyes. Instead she called someone else for alternate directions, which turned out to be exactly the same (“Go down this hall, then turn right”) but my sophomore effort did succeed, largely because I got a glimpse of Bobby the second time through. His hair was longer, and he’d put on ten pounds, and he was wearing this really unflattering orange jumpsuit, but it was him, all right.

For a guy who 1.) tried to kill himself a month ago by 2.) exploding himself, which led to 3.) accidentally setting the apartment building on fire, causing 4.1.) human damage and 4.2) property damage, resulting in 5.) his being held indefinitely on for indeterminate probation violation, Bobby’s doing okay. Physically he’s fine, and his conversation did not strike me as that of a man who’s plotting to commit suicide. He was glad to see me, and we made jokes, and even talked about what he might do in the future. When I mentioned that his actions had led me to fantasize about jumping careers into law enforcement, he said that he was fantasizing about becoming a lawyer.

“Do it,” I said. “If it turns out that you’re stuck here for years and years, why not?”

“I don’t think they’d let me practice in here.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s true that you’d have to—”

[wait for it, this is great…]

[wait for it…]

“—pass the bar.”

Of immediate concern is his reading material. I did of course inquire as to his provisions with regard to the basic necessities of life, viz., books and pen and paper. He’s got the ink and the paper, but the books are a problem. He’s stuck with a James Patterson (“That violates the eighth amendment!” I shrieked) but his alternative was a romance novel, which, as he delicately explained, was not something he cared to be seen reading in a men’s correctional facility.

Remind me to donate a shitload of books to the prison.

Bobby hasn’t been charged yet. Possible charges range from the deeply discomfiting (attempted murder) to the frankly ridiculous (terrorism), but I told him not to despair. I did not offer legal counsel—though really, I’ve read a ton of police procedurals and I’ve got a legal thriller checked out from the library right now, I’m sure I’m qualified—but I told him to hang in there.

I imagine Bobby feels better after the visit. I know I do. I am proud to announce that I did not cry at all during the thirty minutes, and all this evening I’ve been walking around with the feeling that I did something good—and not just something good, but something that no one else was in a position to offer.

It’s very easy to do something and then go find a way to justify it. I gather that good Christian living involves reading the Bible and then acting accordingly, in that specific order, but I had already made my decision to visit Bobby in jail when I received a message from commenter Brian. Probably it’s premature to nominate me for sainthood, but still, this was a nice bit of Scripture to read:

From Matthew 25:
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for … I was in prison and you visited me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, … when was it that we saw you … in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

So here’s the burning question I present to you: are saints allowed to have nipple rings? Discuss.