Sunday, September 28, 2008

small fires and other stories

Small fires: A hint to cooks. When The Joy of Cooking suggests that you put your spaghetti squash into the microwave after poking holes in it with a skewer or knife to avoid explosion? They don't mention the stem. The kind authors assume that any normal cook would remember to cut the woody stem off before turning on the microwave.

I did not. I went to the bathroom (across the hall) and lucky that I needed to do a #1 and not a #2 (snort! A little grade school humor?!) because a minute later, I had to stop the microwave and put out the stem, which was on fire. Completely charred, in fact. The squash, of course, was not even remotely cooked, so I did the intelligent thing. I got out a pan, put some water in it, cut off the fire damage, and baked the squash in the oven until it was done. (350F, 30 minutes, it was a small squash.) By then, I'd eaten something else for lunch. The dogs like squash and may get this one; it tastes fine but I've lost enthusiasm. The stinky smoke smell has almost dissipated and the microwave is undamaged.

I did manage to avoid fires for the three days while we had a houseguest. I even made beef brisket, eggplant salad, a Middle Eastern cucumber, tomato, olive salad, a few challahs, and an apple chocolate chip cake for Friday night dinner. At least I had good timing and all the guests ate without burning incidents. I also managed to replicate my rye and nine grain breads again, and well, that nut is cracked. I know how to make rye bread now. Enough of cooking! On to story #2.

Knitting: Some things can only be done by trial and error. You may wonder how knitwear designers grade multiple sizes of garments. Sometimes, it can all be done by magic, mirrors and (ahem) Excel spreadsheets. Only one sweater needs to be knitted, and all the sizes work. However, not everything is always that neat. A year ago, I designed a mitten. I saved the design and recently decided to rework it for my next book. I settled down to write the pattern for kids and women. Alas, the spreadsheet approach, while very elegant looking--a perfect example of an "A" math paper, did not look like my model, which I liked. I rewrote things and tried again with one size mitten. I knit just the tops, since I knew that was where this design element was important. And? EHHHHH! Buzzer noise! Foiled Again! On the third go-round, I sat with the model, knitted directly from the model, using my knitting fingers to read and copy things instead of my brain. I took notes. Finally, it looked right. After a while, I stopped ripping out the swatch knitting and just made funny little mitten tops. My office was littered with them. By Friday afternoon, I was overjoyed to rush to the post office with my new, re-written too many times to count draft and the yarn for the samples. My kind test knitter (Hi MOM!) will actually make the mitten samples this time.

Adventure in Kentucky: Story #3. We live in a refugee resettlement area. That means that this area of Kentucky is slowly being diversified by wonderful people from all over the world. Once a year, they are welcomed to show off their cultures, identities and customs. We have an international festival. I caught this performance on Saturday. I believe the performers were Bosnian. Check out the (originally Middle Eastern) Oud and the Fez. We all enjoyed some ethnic food. The house guest had a cevapi (Bosnian sausage on a stick) and a pina colada. The professor ate a gyro and I partook of coconut bubble tea and a Vietnamese spring roll.

The good part? All the fun and open celebration of everyone's culture... The bad part? This is really the only time all year when people feel free to share this here...diversity is not all that accepted or mainstream in Kentucky, although of course, many other parts of the US are more diverse. Even so, I was surprised when a vaguely familiar older lady approached the professor and me, said WE (meaning Jews) must really feel at home at and enjoy the international festival. I explained that we did enjoy it,just as she did, but that of course, we were as American as she was. Her intent was clear. We were "other"-- that, as Jews, we were of course, "internationals." I had to say that I was as American as she is; I hate that bait. I walked away, and the professor was more kind when she asked what we were doing to celebrate "our special time of year." (more on that in a bit.)

So, although I love this attempt at broadening folks' horizons and diversity education, I'm often left with a bitter taste in my mouth about this event. I'm not heartened by this group who is very active in town. They have taken over the "Israel" booth, perhaps because actual Jews might prefer not to run a booth at an all day event on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath.) Their leader goes around mispronouncing Hebrew, trying to proselytize the few Jews in town and trying to explain their sect as Judaism. It causes a lot of confusion to people who've never met a Jew or even a non-Christian before. It makes me feel even less at home in my skin here to have so many people trying to convert me.

Whoa, I didn't mean to end the stories in quite this way. Let's turn this around. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins on Monday night. We're celebrating the beginning of 5769. Each year we focus on what we've done wrong, what we could do better, and what resolutions we can make for the future. We pray in synagogue...and for us, that means driving more than 70 miles each way to Nashville to be part of a Jewish community. My hope for 5769? That a year from now, if all goes well, I will be living in Winnipeg, a city where I can easily walk or drive just a few minutes to be at services. Oh, to be part of a religious community with multiple congregations and rabbis...not to mention the diversity that makes it ok to be different in many ways, including being "from somewhere else" all year round instead of just during the one day international festival.

After Rosh Hashanah, we are off to spend a few days with family at the farm in upstate New York. I cannot wait to pick some apples, take some long walks, and have a few long conversations at the dinner table. I think I need a little vacation! To all who celebrate, L'Shanah Tovah! (Happy New Year!) And, to my Muslim friends, Ramadan Mubarak!

Any fires at your house? (I hope not.) Tinking your knitting? Celebrating diversity? Or...maybe just eating some good apples...? Let me know in the comments!


Anonymous moiraeknittoo said...

I have this massive craving now for Moroccan food with a side of Greek and maybe some Thai satay. :D And I wish I understood why people are so dead set on pointing out the things that make us all different, rather than enjoying that which binds us together. And I've never, ever, understood the point of proselytizing. I do hope that you'll find yourself in a more supportive and comfortable environment soon! I'm off to work on a hand covering of some sort, and to ponder making my first sweater for myself!

September 28, 2008 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Well, I'm glad the fire was contained ;-)

I burned the bottom of my cast iron skillet last night, in an attempt to make an apple pan dowdy. Now I understand the meaning of the name behind the does make a dowdy (not neat or becoming in appearance) pan. At least there was not a fire. Just burnt apples..and I lost my enthusiam also....

September 28, 2008 at 6:37 PM  
Anonymous AlisonH said...

My microwave still carries the discoloration from when I thought I'd be able to hear when the popcorn stopped popping. Oops.

September 29, 2008 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger foodperson said...

If you'd have asked, I'm sure I'd have said that, yes, I've left the stem on when 'waving squash, although I almost never have spaghetti squash. (Much prefer other winter squashes.) Glad no harm was done, in any event!

September 29, 2008 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger weebug said...

i think the worst incident i have caused in the past couple of years is when i thought i would microwave some sock yarn to flash kill some moths and completely forgot about the acrylic in it. p-ew!

happy new year my friend.

September 30, 2008 at 12:25 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

Hey, I've been knitting mittens too - and tinking them. But that's mostly because I'm watching my way through the first season of Heroes at the same time. Not exactly conducive to high concentration.

If it wasn't that I'd already done the first, and the second is kinda supposed to match, I'd leave all the 'design features' in ;-)

No fires here, but I have been grilling eggplants for salad again - yum!

September 30, 2008 at 3:37 AM  
Blogger Geek Knitter said...

You quoted me the other day... it made me blush! :)

Fires? Not recently... I did start a small and easily contained grease fire in the oven one Thanksgiving. My husband and I have agreed never to speak of it again.

The apples at my local farm are amazing, I'm eating 2-3 of them a day.

Happy New Year to you!

September 30, 2008 at 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

I caught the edge of a cotton dish drying cloth of fire on my gas stove a few days ago. Luckily, it was only a bit singed on the edges.

Your "special time of the year?" Puke, to use another second grade word.

October 4, 2008 at 9:27 PM  

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