Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A series of unaswered questions

So, I don't suppose anyone would be any too surprised that at nearly 27 years old I still don't have a bloody clue what I'm doing in life. Three months ago I had a full-time career, husband, house, and baby on the way. That looks stable, right? Then again, this is me we're talking about - me, the fearless and unyielding questioner of all things. I just can't leave well enough alone.

I don't know if I will be offered my job for the fall or not. I almost hope not. If the job isn't available, there's no decision to make. If they do call me, I don't know if I will go. We can't afford for me to stay home. We can't afford daycare. Either way, finances are in complete shambles. The question is if I want to parent my own child or let someone else do it so that I can be about my business. From that angle, it's a pretty obvious decision - or is it? The wealthy have been passing their children off on others, typically less prosperous and less educated others, since the dawn of civilization, and the majority of those kids turn out just fine. I'm sure this was somewhat a matter of convenience, but I think also the fact remains that these people often had things to do sans les enfants. Daycare is not a new concept. So, I justify this to myself. Then, I tilt my head a little and end up asking this:

Do I spend my most productive years raising my child and giving him the very best of me and let the rest be wasted on things like wiping noses and singing ABC's, or do I spend it nurturing hundreds of kids by day and playing catch up with my son in whatever groggy, frustrated minutes I have when I get home? What's my most important responsibility -to give 100% to my own child, or to do the greatest good I can in the world? What are my talents and skills worth? What is "fair" or "reasonable?"

Of course, it can't just end there. I still want to know if this job is what I really should be doing with myself. I love helping kids, and I'm certain that my place in life is with the disenfranchised and unwanted. The thing is, it's really killing me a little at a time. I'm so task-oriented that until this week I didn't even realize that I stopped dreaming altogether. I'm not creative. I don't have energy for it. I don't have time. There are too many pressing tasks, too many social questions, too many needy hands held out, and someone is CONSTANTLY in my face. That was one of the greatest surprises to me about teaching; I really don't have 3 seconds to think of anything because the line of questions and stories and and and and .... I'm not kidding when I say that my life has become nothing more than a series of problems to solve. I have a perfectly good analytical brain, but I'm not sure if I'm comfortable being nothing more than that.

So I ask myself if I want to go back to school and become a professor. Then I can engage with students on a higher level of thinking and maybe even do some thinking myself. It sounds pretty good to me - until I remember that I don't read books anymore. I don't write stories. Even when I have time, that stuff is work. It's hard work, and it's frustrating. Maybe I don't do it because I need deadlines to be productive. Maybe it's because I can't stand working in isolation. Maybe I only want to go back to college to recover the careless parts of me, or the safety. If I screw up at school, 150 children pay for my mistakes. My life is different now, and there really isn't any going back. I'm afraid of making mistakes. I'm afraid that I'll get a PhD and won't be able to find gainful employment. What if I hate it? I'm afraid that I'll get a PhD, and then all I'll want to do is go back to the classroom with quirky teenagers who don't have a clue.What if I've deteriorated to the point that no one will have me? I'm not as dedicated as I used to be. What if I don't want it enough? What about my son?

Luckily, I have a wonderful and supportive husband who wants me to do what's best for me. Now, if I only knew what that was. I have no answers to these questions. I don't even know how to approach them. I suppose I'd better figure it out in something of a hurry, however, as time isn't standing still.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's for dinner

I've always thought of Indian food as healthy. I don't know where this perception came from; perhaps it was the pictures of thin, bony bodies stooping in fields for rice, or the Mahatma, or maybe even the association between Indian and vegetarian. Either way, the truth is that lots of Indian food is cooked with copious amounts of oil, and plenty of it has meat, which is usually chicken or lamb, or sometimes fish in coastal areas.

Since I've made a point of cooking some kind of curry every week this summer, I've decided to test some of these recipes with decreased amounts of oil and see how they turn out. I'll keep you posted.

Also, as a note to my dad, notice that none of these recipes call for "curry powder." The shit from the store is nasty, and in real Indian dishes it just means garam masala, NOT the shit from the store.

Here's tonight's menu:

Tomato Salad ("recipe" follows)

Brown Basmati Rice

Palak Paneer (recipe follows - from the book 50 Great Curries of India)

Green Chicken Korma (recipe follows. Also, if you do it right, it does turn out really pretty and very green. I got it from the same book)

If you're going to be brave and try any of this, here are two important tips:

1. DO NOT try to use random chili peppers from the grocery store in Indian food. Go to a specialty market and get the ones they use in India. I don't know their genus and species, but they are about half the size of my little finger, cost next to nothing, and keep in the fridge for a long time. As a further aside, readers would never know this, but I had to work hard to edit the redneck out of that last sentence. It's good to laugh at yourself.

2. It's very important to use the spices as they are called for. You can't interchange powdered and whole spices. Don't try using dried cilantro or cilantro paste. Finally, be careful about timing. If it says to add one thing and then thirty seconds later to add another, the recipe writer is serious about that. 30 seconds does matter.

Without Further Ado -

For Tomato Salad: Slice some tomatoes thinly. For Joel and I, probably 3-4 is a good number, depending on the size. It's ok to use the crappy little Roma tomatoes from the store, but the big juicy summer ones fresh from the vine (whatever kind you grow) are better, naturally. After that, tear up a few mint leaves and carefully stir them in. Use as much or as little as you like. Then, use a metal ladle that you don't care about to heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil over the stove and toss in around 2-3 teaspoons of black mustard seeds. They will pop and splutter for a bit. When they stop, pour the oil and seeds over the tomatoes. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare whatever else you're having.

Palak Paneer:

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
oz  spinach

/2t ginger

T  (I'm going to try it with 1T)  canola oil



clove  garlic

/2t cumin seeds

Step 0 - You can make your own cheese by boiling milk, adding lemon or vinegar, letting it clump up, and then straining. I don't think the taste is worth the effort. I just buy Paneer cheese from the Indian shop on McCarty.

Step 1 - Cook spinach, chilis, ginger, a pinch of salt, and like 2 tsp or so of water in an open pot. Open pot and salt help the color to stay vibrant. Then, puree it all in a blender.

[Step 2 - ???

Step 3 - Profit

Wait, no, that's for something else.]

Actual Step 2 - Heat oil in a skillet. Add fenugreek seeds and fry for 30 seconds. Then add onions and fry until lightly golden. Next, add garlic and cumin. 30 seconds later, add tomatoes. Let this fry for about 5 minutes.

Step 3 - When the juice from the tomatoes has evaporated, add cheese and the spinach mixture. Let that heat through and it's good to go.

For Green Chicken Korma

c  cashew

T  (or maybe 4?) canola oil


c  mint

stick  cinnamon

T  ginger

cloves  garlic

t  ginger

oz  spinach


t  sugar

t  mace

Step 1 - Soak cashews in 1c water for 15+ minutes

Step 2 - Pour 4T of oil in a skillet or wok. Fry the onions until you're certain they will burn in .5 microseconds. Don't chicken out. This adds color and depth to the dish, as well as serving as the primary thickening agent.The recipe says 20-30 minutes and that they should be crispy but not burned.

Step 3 - Put the onions, cashews, cilantro, mint, chilis, and 1/4 cup of water in the blender and puree.

Step 4 - In the same pan, heat remaining 2T of oil over low heat. Add bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. Then raise heat to medium and add chicken. Let that cook for 5 minutes in the spiced oil or until the chicken is seared. Then add cumin and coriander powders and saute for 2 minutes or so, stirring to keep the chicken from sticking. Then add the green puree and saute for a further 2 minutes.

Step 5 - Add salt, sugar, lime, and 1c of water. Let this boil until the chicken is done and the sauce is as thick as you may want. Add cream.

Step 6 - Just before serving, heat around 1tsp of oil and add a single blade of mace to it. After 20 seconds, remove the mace and stir the oil into the pot. Then, serve it up.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What's more vain than blogging?

In my mind, blogging is a supremely vain venture. I don't know who, if anyone, is going to read and connect with my disjointed thought process. My excuse is that some of my friends are doing it. A couple of them I might follow off a bridge if it was for a good reason.

I'm rather eclectic with my tastes, so I don't suspect that this will become a meaningful experiment for anyone but me. I'm a geek from way back who still enjoys 8-bit games. I play a Druid healer, preferably an elf, in any game that lets me, whether it's WoW, D&D, Magic, or whatever. I'm a wife and almost a mom (5 more weeks from today until my due date). I'm a serious foodie, and I spend most of my spare cash on things like saffron and green cardamom.  I'm also a champion of the disenfranchised and a zealot for equal rights. I have a love-hate relationship with great books and writing, and I am absolutely a whiny ass about that. Reading and writing are a lot harder than you think. That is, unless you're a reader of great books or have been trained in creative writing. Shouldn't more education make things easier? Even I don't believe that anymore. It makes them better, but not easier at all. That's a rant for another day.

If you find something you can take from my lexical soup, feel free to do so. Pass it on. If not, perhaps I will stoke my own ego and entertain myself. Namaste.