Monday, March 25, 2013

On poultry

I was hanging out with a few friends recently, and asked if they had any suggestions for blog posts.

"Blog about the chicken!" they said.

Since I am always compliant *cough, cough,* I am blogging about the chicken.

So here's the thing I was trying to persuade them of: you should not buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Bleh.  No flavor, rubbery texture, and expensive.  Instead, you should buy the smallest whole chicken you can find and make The Chicken To End All Chickens.

You need a chicken and kosher salt; if you want to walk on the wild side, you can use a little black pepper.  I dry the chicken thoroughly, sprinkle the salt on it, put it in a cast-iron skillet, throw it in a 450-degree oven and forget about it for an hour.  That's it.  I can get nearly a week's meals out of the leftovers (sandwiches and homemade soup), and it is just so much more flavorful and so much more cost-effective than the plastic chicken breasts.  If you don't want the whole chicken, get the bone-in, skin-on split breasts, and do the exact same thing: skin-side up in the cast-iron skillet, sprinkled with salt, 450 for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On a lighter note

Some day, when I come home from the library, I'm afraid The Archbishop and I are going to have to have this conversation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Steubenville

I don't know if things are worse now than they were, say, ten years ago, or if it's just that I'm paying more attention now, but I can't believe some of the rhetoric around rape and sexual violence these days.  It makes me inarticulate with rage.  So I'll pass along a few of the more thoughtful responses I've read and call it a day.

"The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story."  Read it all.

And the always-inflammatory but totally-on-the-money Gawker take on CNN's coverage here:

"For readers interested in learning more about how not to be labeled as registered sex offenders, a good first step is not to rape unconscious women, no matter how good your grades are. Regardless of the strength of your GPA (weighted or unweighted), if you commit rape, there is a possibility you may someday be convicted of a sex crime. This is because of your decision to commit a sex crime instead of going for a walk, or reading a book by Cormac McCarthy. Your ability to perform calculus or play football is generally not taken into consideration in a court of law. Should you prefer to be known as 'Good student and excellent football player [blank]' rather than 'Convicted sex offender [blank],' try stressing the studying and tackling and giving the sex crimes a miss altogether."

Or there's a Catholic perspective on rape culture more braodly here:

"Our culture surrounding sex is violent, exploitative and destructive to the dignity of women. Rape is Rape.....The Didache speaks of the way of death and John Paul II the culture of death, and for me, one clear example of this is the pervasive acceptance of sexual violence against women and girls. When we participate in and allow the persistence of the culture of rape exposed by this case through our complicity (and the complicity of so many others beginning that night but continuing through the trial is striking) we are facilitating the culture of death, we are following the way of death."
Lord, have mercy. 

Rainer Maria Rilke

I've been on a wee bit of a Rilke-kick this past week, mostly because (i) I realized I finally knew enough German to read him in the original (well....mostly. As for my ongoing hopes of reading Goethe, Thomas Mann and the first Harry Potter in German, don't ask); and (ii) I was recently visiting my sister-in-law, who often speaks with admiration about RMR, especially Letters to a Young Poet, and I decided it was high time I investigated her claims. (For the record, sis-in-law is usually spot-on in these matter. I heart sis-in-law. Are you reading this, sis-in-law?).

The Rilkefest has thus far been a twofold daily celebration for me: at night before sleep I curl up in bed with a hot water baby (uh, I mean bottle) under a thick duvet and read a few of his poems in both languages,  sometimes alternating languages with lines, sometimes by stanza, and sometimes whole poems first in one language then the other.  I have found in so doing that (unsurprisingly) the German radiates in a wholly different way than the English ever could (e.g., consider this stanza from "The Three Kings":

Drei Könige von Unterwegs
und der Stern Überall
die zogen alle (überlegs!)
so rechts ein Rex und links ein Rex
zu einem stillen Stall

You needn't understand the German-- just reading it aloud is a wondrous experiment).
I have also found in alternating languages that (surprisingly) I prefer a few of his lines in their English incarnation.  This has left me feeling weirdly conflicted: is it still Rilke that I am loving? Or the translator, who has become in the act of translating herself a poet? I digress...)

The other daily Rilke-infusion (and indeed the reason for the present post) occurs during my morning commute where I have been devouring Letters.  Today I read a particular passage relevant to the blog which caused me to pause and think. (Indeed, sis-in-law was correct. I find myself stopping to ponder nearly every sentence in this dear little collection. I find that, to borrow RMR's own phrase, "es fluten Wassertiefen im Aquamarin").

Rilke writes in his letter to Kappus on 14 May 1904*:
"Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully and more confidently, must surely have become fundamentally riper people, more human people, than easygoing man, who is not pulled down below the surface of life by the weight of any fruit of his body, and who, presumptuous and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves.  This humanity of woman, borne its full time in suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she will have stripped off the conventions of mere femininity in the mutations of her outward status... [S]ome day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being."   
Your reactions?


* pp.40-45 of M. D. Herter Norton translation, 2004 edition.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The béguinage goes to Sephora

Several years ago, E and I were in a show.  There we were in the dressing room, before the performance, getting gussied up, laughing, carrying on, pooling our limited makeup supplies so we could each slather on the requisite amount of stuff to appear under bright lights.

And a Diva-In-Training, nearly a decade younger than the average age in the béguinage, joined our conversation, remarking that when she was a girl, her mother had insisted that if she was going to wear makeup, she was going to learn to put it on properly.  So the mother had taken the early-teen Diva-In-Training to some place where she learned all about the stuff.

This did not happen in my house.  It did not happen in E's house either.

(And, for the record, I am EXTREMELY glad it did not.  Thanks, Mom!  Thanks for valuing my brain and teaching -- and living -- that the worth of a woman is about far, far more than her appearance.)

But this meant that I was in my very late twenties before I had ever learned the first thing about makeup.

So the lack of knowledge and lack of confidence make me nervous.  But I am slowly learning that I can  decide to be confident.  I am as beautiful as any of the women in that store... or at least my money works as well as theirs does.  Buying eyeliner is not an act of betrayal of the feminist sisterhood.  And it really is ok to ask for help.  I tell my students that one of the most important lessons they can learn in college is how to ask the relevant people for help.  In Sephora, the relevant person is the woman with the nametag and apron full of makeup brushes.