Friday, January 31, 2014

food and culture and authenticity or don't come near my guacamole with that creme fraiche

quite random food photo that doesn't really have anything to do with the post. other than being food.
just when you thought we'd abandoned our MIT food & culture course, we're back with another installment. this is the beauty of the availability of these online materials - you can do it in whatever time frame suits your mood/schedule. we've made it to section 7, "good food is culturally authentic" and i thought i'd share a few thoughts on that before i actually delve into the readings.

but first, i have to back up for a second. recently someone shared some links to some interesting articles in a comment on a rather old post here on mpc on how racism was becoming more and more overt in denmark. one of them was a rather scholarly piece on racism in denmark, which makes the distinction between old-fashioned skin color racism and cultural racism - which is more solidly based in religion and the nation-state than in skin color. and i can't help but think of this cultural racism in connection with food (tho' the article does not). it strikes me that we have a much easier time taking on another culture in food terms than we do in religious terms or other everyday lifestyle terms. we are open to eating all kinds of foods - chinese, italian, lebanese, turkish - in ways that we aren't all that open to accepting chinese, italian, lebanese or turkish culture. send us your food, but stay away from us, will you?

i actually often think about authenticity when i'm cooking. if i'm making an "ethnic" danish meal - like frikadeller (meatballs) or flæskesteg (a pork roast with the cracklins on top), can it ever be authentic? or if i make an "ethnic" american dish like turkey with stuffing in denmark, with the ingredients i have at hand, is it authentic? and why can't danish mexican restaurants make guacamole that doesn't include creme fraiche? it's just wrong! we have many notions of what constitutes authentic, but where do they come from?

i recently defended my position on no-creme-fraiche-in-the-guacamole by saying that real guacamole, which i learned to make when i lived in arizona, where there is a high percentage of people of mexican descent, does not contain dairy products. i had been properly tutored in the making of the real thing in a place with credibility and was thereby an authority and it was therefore perfectly ok for me to be disdainful of some kind of green milky chip dip masquerading as guacamole. denmark is simply too far from mexico to produce proper guacamole. but what if guacamole in denmark contains creme fraiche? my cultural snobbery does not allow for variations on what is authentic, at least where guacamole is concerned. i would actually argue that they shouldn't be allowed to call it guacamole, but that they would have to call it something else, as their version adulterates the very notion of guacamole.

you can see these are strongly held feelings. triggered by food. we are firmly entrenched in our notions of food culture. food is near and dear to us and it has a right and wrong. and while we are willing to try new things, we still have firm categories of authentic and inauthentic in place and they can be quite immovable and ingrained.

photo from facebook
i wouldn't normally use someone else's photo, but this was too awesome to pass up.

there is a similar strong culture around the danish open-faced sandwich (smørrebrød). danes will put a veritable feast of delicious things to put on bread before foreigners and invite them to partake, telling you that there are no rules. but should you decide to eat sausage or pate before fish or put the shrimp on rye bread instead of light bread, you will quickly be made aware you have made a cultural faux pas. and heaven forbid that you should put a slice of cheese with your ham. that simply isn't done. so despite their statement at the beginning that you can do what you like, in actuality, if you want to be authentic and true to the norms of the culture, you cannot. you must eat the delicious shrimp and egg and herring and sausages and cheese in the right order or risk committing crimes against danishness itself.

i'm not sure i'm any closer to knowing what's authentic. i have learned how to make both frikadeller and flæskesteg and i can even get the cracklins crispy every time (husband recently remarked that i was thoroughly integrated now because of that) and i know in which order you should eat the smørrebrød. but whether they are truly authentic or whether they have quite a lot of me and my baggage (if you will) in them, i'm not sure. maybe i'll go read those articles now and come back with an answer.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

buttercup and me (throwback thursday)

throwback thursday #tbt is all the rage on instagram and facebook, so i had to get into the act. this photo is from a horse show somewhere in south dakota (i don't really recognize the place - it could be wagner or it might be platte) in june 1974. i didn't remember this pony's name, but my sister reminded me she was called buttercup. another facebook friend reminded me that she had an unexpected foal named peanut who became that friend's pony. weird how i have no recollection of that, tho' i do remember this halter class (and being very confused about where to stand).

there are a number of things i love about this photo - my little black and red pants. my boots that appear to be way too big. our light green station wagon and flying L horse trailer in the far background. that dark green horse trailer was the very height of horse trailer luxury in 1974. and i love the way the photo was printed with a bonus little version of the photo for your wallet.

in next week's #tbt, i will show you the result of the halter class i was waiting to go into.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

getting creative with springbok

a couple of weeks ago at the fabulous leather store, i bought a dyed purple springbok hide with the intention of making a purse similar to one i bought in cape town ages ago. it took awhile to screw up the courage to cut into it, but yesterday, i took the plunge.

i let the natural shape of the leather determine the size of my purse, so it's rather long and skinny and i suppose i'll easily lose things down in the bottom of it, but i'm so happy with how it came out, that i don't really care. i lined it with super soft kid leather, also in deep purple and it has a pocket for my phone (i haven't found a good way to photograph that, so i can't show you). i used the same soft leather for the strap and because it came out a little long and i didn't have a buckle to make it adjustable, i just tied a knot in it.

so as not to let the scraps go to waste, i sewed up a very simple little wallet as well. again, using the natural nap of the fur on the hide. i love how it turned out too.

i have boots that match this, but i need to get the zipper repaired and haven't gotten around to that. i'll have to do so now.

the leathers i'm working with are so soft that i can use my ordinary sewing machine and a sturdy, thick needle made for top-stitching. a denim needle works too. it does make me think that i eventually need a real leather sewing machine, tho', as then i could get even more adventurous.

i had a few other scraps from a previous project and i made another little wallet in another version, for business cards. i wish i'd had enough left for a case for my iPad mini, but alas, the scraps are too narrow for that. maybe next, i'll make a little keychain of some of the other scraps. amazing how your mind starts coming up with more and more ideas once you just get started (i should really try to remember that).

the madness continues - new minifigures from the lego movie

one of our local grocery stores has the latest series of minifigures from the lego movie. and tho' it's less than a week until i start at lego, i couldn't resist. but take a look - could you have resisted?

wild west wyldestyle

scribble-faced bad cop (i love his scribble face)
he's got a bad cop face with sunglasses on the other side.

abraham lincoln

taco tuesday guy

emmet - he's the hero of the movie (as i understand it)

wiley fusebot. he's got an awesome daniel boone hat with a racoon tail.

mrs. scratchen-post - check out the cat hair on her clothes!

panda guy (i really wanted him).

where's my pants guy (i understand he has a reality program in the movie).

marsha queen of the mermaids.
love her blue hair and silver lipstick.

and i couldn't resist a shot of marsha from the back.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

icons of soviet design

whatever else you say about the soviet union, they did come up with some design classics. these coin-operated fizzy water machines were still in use and to be found on the streets and in train stations when i studied in russia in 1994. the glasses, which you can see below, were always a bit suspect and the water had a strange smell and taste, but it was still a classic and you had to try it at least once. once you had survived it the first time, you felt pretty invincible and oddly unafraid to try it again.

these glasses were ubiquitous in homes and restaurants and on trains throughout russia. you were likely to be served hot tea in one, but they also held cold drinks and, of course, vodka. it has a good heaviness to it and i imagine they wear like iron. they were produced by the millions from 1943 onward.

and its design pedigree isn't too shabby either - sculptor vera mukhina (she did that monument to the new soviet man - the worker and the peasant girl) designed it and it's said her design was influenced by kazimir malevich (he of the black square painting fame). i wish i'd slipped a few into my bag, but alas, i don't have any of them. they're still manufactured to this day and ikea has even copied it!

when i studied in kazan in 1994, the tramvai still looked like this, tho' i never saw one so empty as the one in this photo. they were always stuffed with people. i remember once we were so stuffed in that my feet lifted off the ground and i was just held up by the bodies around me. that was a weird feeling.

this is such a clever little tool. a little coil, perfect for warming up a mug of water for a single cup of tea or coffee. i wish i had one right now. much more economical than warming up an entire kettle.

ahh, the original lomo cameras - leningrad optics and mechanics amalgamation. when i studied in kazan in 1994, there was a store my friends and i referred to as "watch world" - they had watches and cameras. i wasn't into cameras at that time and thought these were just plastic junk, but oh, how i wish i had one (or five) now.

now they're all trendy, and back in production, thanks to the lomographic society. but alas, they're no longer cheap as chips.

the bear chocolate. i don't recall it as anything special, and if i'm honest, i think it tasted kinda gross, but even when i was in russia for the first time in 1994, it was ubiquitous. and the little wrapper with its portrait of a mama bear and her three cubs is a design classic.

speaking of watch world - here are models of raketa watches. i did buy quite a few of them when i was there. they were wonderful little mechanical workhorses, the kind you wind and there was quite a selection of leather bands, and they cost nothing. i still have at least one of them and tho' i seldom wear a watch these days (i use my phone instead), after reading this little book, i may have to dig it out and use it for old times' sake.

since i was out in the backwater of kazan, i don't know whether my raketa watches were produced by actual people or on the assembly line (they began fully automated production in 1980) (who knows how old the stock was in watch world), but they are definitely classic designs.

i learned all of this and took a little walk down memory lane reading made in russia: unsung icons of soviet design. i guess i've got russia on the brain, what with the upcoming winter olympics in sochi.

Monday, January 27, 2014

raising sabin: a year in the life

i'm always grateful for my daily photo project as i go to put these birthday posts together. i'm also often surprised just how much we did in the course of a year. 12 was a good year for sabin. she had painting lessons and...

and we enjoyed an early spring outing to esbjerg and the beach. she rolled joyfully down the hill in front of the imposing "men of the sea" sculpture in esbjerg.

may found us in berlin, going to a concert with hot boyband one direction. i have to admit it was a pretty fun trip and the concert was even pretty good. it was very well-produced and those boys really are sweet to the thousands of screaming girls who are their fans.

inspired by berlin and weheartit (pinterest for the younger set), we came home from berlin and sabin got a pink & purple dip-dye. it looked awesome.

she spent quite a lot of time enjoying our kittens (as well as her laptop). being online is important when you're 12 (and possibly also when you're quite a lot older than that).

but we did escape the internet with the occasional trip to the beach. since we had an actual summer, it was even good to be at the beach.

and speaking of our wonderful summer, it was perfect for outdoor projects, like dyeing a pair of vans in rainbow-colors.

we even set up easels and painted in the backyard one beautiful summer afternoon. and i can tell you that trampoline in the background saw a whole lot of use.

another trip to the beach on a gorgeous august day. it was the first time (ever, in my opinion) that the water was warm enough to really go swimming and we played in the waves for hours.

school started - the 7th grade already - and with that came the first gala party. the classes had two weeks where they worked on films and then they held a film festival and awards ceremony, for which they got all dressed up.

we had to have a jump shot as well. it is pretty joyful being 12. these are the two best friends and it has felt like they pretty much live at our house as well. but they're fun, so that's just fine.

we had a gorgeous autumn and suddenly (or so it seemed to me) sabin started looking more grown-up and less like a little girl.

she went to st. petersburg with a youth organization and she even survived the trip, tho' i had my doubts in the weeks leading up to the trip.

we held our 6th annual halloween party and it was a big success.

2013 was the year of the selfie and sabin and her friends were no exceptions - she often got out my big camera and the tripod and took loads of photos of herself and her friends. we even got her her own camera for christmas so she could take it along wherever she goes.

she also got to go on two ski trips with friends, but somehow i don't have any photos from those in my iPhoto library (they must be in her own), so she also went to sweden and austria over the past year (we do rather judge how our year went by the trips we took) as well as learning to ski.

and because this post didn't post as scheduled on the 25th, i could add a photo from lalandia, where we went with sabin and her big sister and a couple of friends to celebrate her 13th birthday on saturday. afterwards, we came home and ate dessert for dinner - three kinds, to be exact. but it was what the birthday girl wanted.

it will be fun to see what 13 brings, but i still think 8 was great. time really does fly, so you have to make sure you enjoy it (and take loads of photos).

Friday, January 24, 2014

there's going to be a lot of changes around here

it's been awhile since i went to a regular office job on a daily basis. the last time was the misery that was siemens wind power. i believe they will eternally take the prize for the world's worst workplace (and that includes those clothing factories in bangladesh that burn up whole rooms of employees on a regular basis - those must be better - and that's not even hyperbole). if there's just less crying in meetings, my new job will be much better. but already, i digress. 

as i impatiently wait for the next ten days to pass, i have been pondering how it will change things around here that i'll no longer be making my own schedule. of course, i have been working over the past few years, but it's different when your schedule is largely your own to plan. if i wanted to do all of my work between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., that was cool. if i did my work while wearing the same sweatpants and t-shirt three days in a row, that was also cool. now, people will be expecting me to appear, fully clothed and coiffed and not wearing the same thing for days on end, in an office during normal business hours. on a daily basis! and although i have no idea what i'm going to wear, i am really looking forward to it.

but it will change a lot of things. like when the horses get put out and put back in for that matter. it will also mean that i won't be here to play cat flap to the cats all day long, letting them in and out at their whims. they're going to have to decide at the beginning of the day whether they're in or out and they're going to have to stick with that. and sabin will need to use her new bicycle rather than having me chauffeur her from school to starbucks and back at her whim. (there will generally be a lot less whimming around here.)

as for the interwebs, i hope i'll spend less time on facebook and generally messing around online. i will still use pinterest to relax and as my sunday morning ritual. i expect to have more to blog about, rather than less and to expand my daily photo horizons beyond my own back yard. i'm looking forward to that. i will undoubtedly need this space more than ever to process what i'm thinking about all of the new input. 

so although things will change, i'm so much looking forward to those changes. i can't wait to be with people every day! new people, learning new things! getting new stimulus and input and having access to different sorts of creativity and creative types. i know it's going to give me so much energy and open up so many new synapses in my brain. it's very hard waiting for it to begin.

i'd like to say i've been using my time wisely, tidying up, getting caught up on laundry, making fabulous meals, sewing up a storm and creating all kinds of things. and to an extent, i have, but not nearly enough. i know i'll look back and think, "oh, i should really have written that novel while i had the time."

but there's some kind of paralysis that happens when you're waiting. you sort of shut down somehow and go into a kind of hibernation, preserving your strength until you need it. i hope i can come out of hibernation in the next week. i have a few things to finish up and a few things to get ready and i would like to make something with all of those beautiful supplies while i have the time.

* * *

must get some tiny people.
and photograph them.
like these.
only in my own way.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

not what i had in mind...

now that we finally got some snow, i put out some bird seed yesterday for the little birds that have been singing in such a springlike manner around here. but it seems that the cats had some other activities in mind.

funnily enough, i haven't seen a single bird visit this feeder. unless you count the chickens at the foot of it, eating up the grains the cats are knocking down.

the cats even seem to have developed some kind of guard duty plan, taking turns. i don't think they're having much success tho'. the birds are far too smart for that. as kim suggested elsewhere, we may have learned what they mean by the expression "sitting in the catbird seat."