Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cooking Shows

I have spent many hours watching cooking shows. I like them for the ideas they give me to vary my go to meals. I like them because I like food. My favorite cooking shows are those with a competition built in. Iron Chef is one of my favorites. I'm fascinated by the ways that these chefs take unique ingredients and build on average a 4 course meal around that ingredient. I like trying to guess which chef will win based off of the judges comments and my own perception of what their meals might taste like. I really enjoy chocolatier and cake making competitions. In these there is usually a theme. The contestants design and makes practice pieces and then the big day comes. The contestants have their space and you get to watch the edited process from the beginning. After many hours they transfer their chocolaty sculptures or elaborate cakes to the judging table.
This afternoon I stumbled onto an old black and white cooking show called The French Chef. The featured recipe was french onion soup. I only caught the last couple of minutes. The cook placed french bread slices on top of the soup and spread thinly grated cheese over the top and into the oven it went. In the way of cooking shows she pulled a nearly finished french onion soup from a second oven. In a measuring cup she measured loosely a variety of ingredients and mixed them with some of the broth from the soup. Her final instructions were "give it a shimmie." as she shimmied the soup to mix the added ingredients into the soup. At the table she pointed out a good meal to go with the soup and the appropriate way to serve it. Signing off she said, "Now you know the proper way to brown onions without burning them. This is Julia Child until next time..." I must say that Meryl Streep did an excellent job imitating Julia Child's voice in Julie and Julia.

On a different channel I found America's Test Kitchen. They demonstrated how to make Chinese style BBQ short ribs. The sauce involved hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, sugar, lots of fresh ginger, and garlic. This sauce was poured over the ribs and then the whole package was put into the oven for slow cook. Then the ribs with the basting sauce were placed on a hot grill with earl gray tea bags in tinfoil placed over the coals to add a nice smokey flavor. After removing the ribs from the grill and plating them, they ate them. Oohing and aahing they exclaim the quality of flavor and the tenderness of the meet. Finally they direct you to where you can find the recipe so you too can make delectable ribs.
As much as I enjoy cooking shows, the part I dislike is watching the cooks, audience, and judges eat all that fabulous looking food. I don't want to make these. I want to eat them the way the professionals make them. It is a problem watching people on TV eating delectable foods and exclaiming over them and all I can do is watch from the sterile medium of my television, no taste and no smell. If I knew how I would find a way to get myself onto those shows regularly so I could eat and even better if I could get paid to eat. The only way to make it better would be to be on a TV show that incorporates travel and food. But I digress. I like cooking shows. If you want to give your brain a break sit back and watch Paula Deen work her magic with butter and other fabulous ingredients.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We're here for RSL!

Last night I went with a couple of friends to the Real (rey-al) Salt Lake soccer game. While finding our seats the fans shouted their approval for RSL (Real Salt Lake). Then the cheer rang out across the loud speakers, picked up by thousands of voices. "If you believe then stand up on your feet and shout it loud Real. Here at the RioT the battle hymns begun, we’re here for RSL." RioT stands for Rio Tinto Stadium. As the cheer dies down the players enter the field with the fans calling out the last name of each player.
Our opponents for the night were the Tauro FC from Panama City, Panama.This was an important game for us in the CONCACAF Championship League. We had to beat the Tauros in order to advance to the next round. The first half was pretty uneventful. I have only been to one other soccer game several months ago and I usually find it boring to watch games on TV, so I have minimal knowledge of what to look for in a game. I spent the first period chatting with the people around me and asking uneducated questions about the game.
During half time we walked around and talked to some other friends that were at the game. Our seats were on the North side of the stadium behind one of the goals. No sooner than we sat down than we scored our first goal. We jumped to our feet yelling and belting out the cheer, "Here at the RioT the battle hymns begun." The fans  were hyped and the players played with new enthusiasm. Several minutes later we scored our second goal. The stands went wild. Everybody jumping, shouting, and singing. after the second goal was scored there were considerably more fouls called and one of our players received a red card. The family sitting behind us loudly expressed their opinions about the refs calls that went against us. The game ended, a shut out.
Happy fans poured out of the stands and filed up the street to their vehicles. No I feel slightly more educated about soccer and will definitely be back to cheer Real Salt Lake onto more victories

Picture courtesy of

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Master Craftsman/Craftswoman

Medieval guilds had a system to provide inexpensive labor for craftsman and trade skills for apprentices. Boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 15 often were apprenticed to a craftsman or craftswoman to learn a trade. In exchange for room and board an apprentice would work for a craftsman for seven years and learn the skills of the trade. When an apprentice completed their training they progressed to journeyman. A journeyman was paid a daily wage and could hire other people. A journeyman worked to improve his or her skills until he or she created a masterpiece. A masterpiece had to be accepted by the masters in the guild as a piece that exhibited the skill of a master craftsman. Once approved a journeyman became a master craftsman.
This system has evolved to our current education system. To receive a masters degree most programs require the student to write an original thesis which then has to be approved by a panel.

I love to crochet. Several years ago a friend taught me how to crochet. I made lots of basic projects including many hats for children in Swaziland. As my skill increased I took on increasingly more difficult projects. I made an afghan that has cables and many baby items. I made hand puppets for my sister without using a pattern. My most recent accomplishment is a lacy purple cardigan. My knitting and crochet peers have lauded my achievement. I think I did a good job, but I can see too many problems with it. I was careless with my yarn purchase because I didn't pay enough attention to the dye lot, therefore it has a two tone quality. I also made several errors that are obvious enough to me, that makes this project not quite to the level of a master craftswoman. However, I feel like I'm fairly close to reaching a master level. I really enjoy striving to improve my skill. Someday I will reach the skill level of a master crocheter.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fitzwilliam Darcy

"It is a truth universally acknowledge, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Among opening lines, Pride and Prejudice has one of the best. It promises a frolicsome tale with romance and wealthy men. The novel lives up to its beginning and leaves women longing for a Fitzwilliam Darcy all their own. Pride and Prejudice captured the reader and sketches such vivid and lovable characters that the reader is unwilling to let them go at the end of the novel. What kind of marriage do Lizzy and Darcy have? What about their kids? What happens to poor unfortunate Lydia, pedantic Mary, and dependent Kitty? How does Lady Catherine respond to her nephew's unfortunate alliance? Does Colonel Fitzwilliam, the second son of an earl, find himself a suitably wealthy wife? These questions beg for more time with these fascinating characters. Readers want a sequel.
Many authors attempt to write the sequel to Pride and Prejudice with varying degrees of success. Some authors try to imitate Jane Austen's vocabulary and writing style to bring back to life their favorite characters. These are noble efforts, but because it isn't a language style that comes easily to us it tends to feel artificial and at times difficult to understand the story line. Other authors have a different conception of the characters than I do. It is distressing to read about Lizzy or Jane saying or doing things that don't fit in with my conceptualization of them. The ones I like the best focus on story and character above language. They have some catch phrases thrown in and avoid slang, but are easy to read. The characters live up to most of their promise and the end has me sighing after a Darcy of my very own, just like Pride and Prejudice
There are common themes in many of the "sequels." Lizzy and Darcy remain wildly in love and have passionate fights. Jane has a brood of children in quick succession, where as Lizzy takes a while to get pregnant and has a difficult pregnancy. Lydia, Mr. Collins, and Charlotte rarely redeem themselves and are often portrayed as being foolish. Lady Catherine De Bourgh usually retains her bitter feelings towards Lizzy and makes her life as difficult as possible. However, in one version I read recently, Lady Catherine improved upon closer acquaintance. Much like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice she proves to be fiercely loyal to her family and her family in turns is accepting and exasperated by her quirks.
As good as some of the "sequels" are they just don't quite deserve to be sitting next to Pride and Prejudice in my book case and leaves me wishing that Jane Austen was the sort to have written sequels. Maybe that is part of what makes the book so enthralling: it contains a fairy tale ending, each person can come up with their own ideas of what happens next, and Darcy remains shrouded in mystery. Maybe if we had lived in that time we too could have a Darcy of our own.