Tag Archive: food

Welcome 2014!

I hope everyone had a fabulous Holiday Season and I wish you a Happy New Years! Things have been pretty crazy the past couple of weeks at my house as my grandfather was visiting my parents for Christmas, so my hubby, my son and I were spending a lot of time driving back and forth to their house to visit. I’ve not seen him since last September (the last time he visited), so I was glad to do more than talk on the phone with him. He lives in Alabama and we don’t have any time off to come visit, but I want my son to know his great-grandfather, especially as he never got the opportunity to meet my grandmother. Liam said his first “I love you” to my grandfather as we were driving home the last time we saw him, the day after Christmas. It was so cute! Too bad my grandfather didn’t get to hear it. We had a very low-key New Year’s Eve, in fact I’m a little surprised we managed to stay up till midnight as my hubby was feeling poorly that night. When I was pregnant with my son a few years ago, we only stayed up till 10pm before falling asleep.

I have been enjoying my biggest Christmas gift, a new Kindle Fire HD, which is way lighter and faster than my 2nd generation Kindle (which died on me back in Oct). I am voraciously reading the third book in the Game of Thrones series, A Storm of Swords. I have found that I tend to read a little bit faster on the Kindle than a real copy, not sure why. This book is even longer than the second one, and is completely different from the 3rd season of the show (though there are some similar parts as well).

I definitely some things I would like to change/improve over the next year, which I guess you can call my resolutions. For one, I’ve decided to try eat healthier, i.e. eating at least one and hopefully two vegetarian meals a day, with emphasis on more whole grains and way less sugar. I’m sorry, but I can’t give up my iced slightly-sweet tea (guess that’s the Southerner in me), but will try some unsweetened hot teas to balance it out. I want to blog more and maybe even write some more poetry. I would like to read more, though that’s more of a long-term goal. I did pretty good last year with 308 books, though in 2012, I read the most in a long time (424). Below is a graph of my books read in 2013. It got a bit cut off, but the mythology section is “mythology and folk-tales” and the one across from it is fantasy and sci-fi. The “other” section is pretty much adult-age books and cookbooks, and the bottom left section is “birth-to-5-years”.

2013 reading chart

I need to get better about actually having some me-time, which would fit in with the more-reading goal as it is usually what I don’t have time for. This would probably also lessen my stress-levels, another thing I’ve been meaning to work on this year. I don’t deal with stress very well, despite my best efforts otherwise. I know part of that me-time I need to spend exercising. I’ve never been very good or put much of an effort into it, but as part of the healthier eating ticket, I’ve noticed my body not working the way it should and part of that is because of my lack of exercise. So I plan on using my walking shoes for their intended purpose. I will probably have to start doing it after work, as I have absolutely no desire to get up at 5:30am to start walking, plus if I take our dog, it will be less annoying to get barked at after work versus before most people are actually up.

Biting through the Skin

Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Biting through the Skin


I loved this book!* I could not stop reading it, and couldn’t wait to see what happened next in her story. It is a cross-genre memoir that is part biography, part travel journal, with equal measures of culinary and cultural background and recipes. The book tells the author’s story with an emphasis on how she relates the food, cooked first by her mother and later by herself, and her Bengali Indian background into life in a small Kansas town. As a first-generation immigrant, it is interesting to see the world through her eyes, as she struggles to discover the part of herself embedded deep within her culture, though she had a tendency to hide it away from mainstream Americans for fear of being labeled “different”. I liked how she talks about the recipes her mother got from her family in Bengal when she first got married, and how these were the same recipes that the author used when she joined the Peace Corps and was living in Northern Africa with her new husband. I also enjoyed the link she made between food and language, and how much the two are linked. It made me want to do an anthropological study on the topic. Then there are the recipes, which are at the end of each chapter and explain the author’s story almost better than anything else. Can’t wait to try the Carrot Halwa, Ginger Mashed Potatoes with Savory Filling, Minced Meat Curry, and Yogurt Fish. This book reminded me of another excellent culinary memoir entitled Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen.

There were a lot of excellent quotes in it, especially the ones relating to food, such as “Food was my tether to heritage; it revealed my world and transformed me into someone willing to share that story with others,” and “Food holds memory. It holds story. It can represent who we are.” For another more-detailed review on the book, check out this blog post . For the blog of the author, which includes her wonderful writing, recipes and a list of her publications, check that site out.

*I received this book as an Advanced Reader’s Copy from Netgalley. It did not affect how I viewed and reviewed the book.

National Moscato Day

Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante

It turns out that today is National Moscato Day, which was created last year by American wine makers the Gallo Family Vineyards, according to the blog The Daily Grid ” to encourage people to taste the fruity wine and open the conversation about Moscato.” According to this article from About.com, the wine itself is made from the Moscato grape, the Muscat Blanc, which is native to the Piedmont area in the Northwest of Italy. It’s full title is Moscato D’Asti. It is primarily considered a dessert wine, though it is also served with hard cheese or antipasti courses as well.

“Moscato is known for its surprising perfume-like fragrance, light-body, semi-sparkling, spritzy character (frizzante), lower alcohol content (typically to the tune of the around 5-8% abv) and its dazzling fruit-forward palate profile with a welcoming sweet factor. The wine’s color steers towards straw yellow with occasional tinges of gold. While the Moscato sold at the lower price points typically exhibit a fruity focus with a decent dose of sweet in the mix, the higher quality Moscato steers quite clear of sugar-soaked fruit and brings a vivid spotlight to ripe stonefruit, with apricots, peaches and an intoxicating florality eager to steal the show.”

The above kind (Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante) just happens to be my favorite, and I started drinking it before it got all fashionable over here in the States. Apparently it has replaced Cristal as the drink of choice for rappers. My parents would pop a bottle every New Year’s Eve, as a much tastier (in my opinion) and cheaper alternative to champagne, and I got my first official taste of it when I was 12. I really fell in love with it while doing my study aboard to Italy, as it was right before they switched to the Euro, so things were still really cheap. You could get a bottle of it for about $5 so needless to say, it was my drink of choice. It normally runs about $15-20 here, so my hubby and I tend to save it for special occasions. However, you can find a decent bottle of Moscato in the States for about $5-10, so on the rare occasion that we drink wine, we tend to go for the American versions of it.

Fruitful poetry

Library Boromir

As explained in my previous post, April 14 – 20 is National Library Week. I found the above image and thought it was cute, and wanted to share.

I apologize in advance for not making more of an effort poetry-wise, but I’ve been feeling rather blah the last couple of days and had absolutely no inspiration. So today’s poetry is about fruit, either about the fruit itself or using it as a metaphor. I do not know the first two poets, but I really enjoyed Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market and would like to know more of her work (as she has such beautiful language).

Basket of Figs

by Ellen Bass
Bring me your pain, love. Spread 
it out like fine rugs, silk sashes, 
warm eggs, cinnamon
and cloves in burlap sacks. Show me

the detail, the intricate embroidery 
on the collar, tiny shell buttons, 
the hem stitched the way you were taught,
pricking just a thread, almost invisible.

Unclasp it like jewels, the gold 
still hot from your body. Empty 
your basket of figs. Spill your wine.

That hard nugget of pain, I would suck it, 
cradling it on my tongue like the slick 
seed of pomegranate. I would lift it

tenderly, as a great animal might 
carry a small one in the private 
cave of the mouth.


The Pomegranate

by Eavan Boland
The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere.  And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted.  Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
                    It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate!  How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and 
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry.  I could warn her.  There is still a chance.
The rain is cold.  The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world.  But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.  
She will enter it.  As I have.
She will wake up.  She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips.  I will say nothing.


An Apple Gathering

by Christina Rossetti
I plucked pink blossoms from mine apple-tree
    And wore them all that evening in my hair:
Then in due season when I went to see
        I found no apples there.

With dangling basket all along the grass
    As I had come I went the selfsame track:
My neighbours mocked me while they saw me pass
        So empty-handed back.

Lilian and Lilias smiled in trudging by,
    Their heaped-up basket teased me like a jeer;
Sweet-voiced they sang beneath the sunset sky,
        Their mother's home was near.

Plump Gertrude passed me with her basket full,
    A stronger hand than hers helped it along;
A voice talked with her through the shadows cool
        More sweet to me than song.

Ah Willie, Willie, was my love less worth
    Than apples with their green leaves piled above?
I counted rosiest apples on the earth
        Of far less worth than love.

So once it was with me you stooped to talk
    Laughing and listening in this very lane:
To think that by this way we used to walk
        We shall not walk again!

I let me neighbours pass me, ones and twos
    And groups; the latest said the night grew chill,
And hastened: but I loitered, while the dews
        Fell fast I loitered still.


Goblin Market

Sorry about not posting sooner. The carpel tunnel in my hands/arms/elbows has been really bad the last week or two and I’ve just not felt like typing anything because of that. Today was a good day. My hubby and I managed to submit my taxes very early this year and got our refund back today. So I have paid my last auto loan payment and now officially own my car! I went with my mom and son to our local Children’s Museum and had a blast. We had never gone to this one, but my son had a lot of fun and did a lot of running around. Then we went out to an early Birthday lunch (mine is tomorrow), and my son managed to eat most of my mother’s grilled fish. I had a Portobello Mushroom pizza with caramelized onions and garlic, fresh basil, mozzarella and feta, and Greek olives. It was scrumptious!

Yesterday I read the Christina Rossetti poem Goblin Market, originally published in 1862, and a commentary by Joyce Carol Oates. Here is the poem in case you want a copy. I enjoyed Ms Oates’ commentary on it, as I had never read anything on it and it was a very fascinating poem with lots of subtext.  It was also a nice edition because of the William Morris background designs and Christina’s brother’s paintings. I did find it interesting that the paintings they used were all of Jane Burden Morris, William Morris’s wife and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s mistress and muse, especially given the sexual innuendo in the poem itself. The poem is about two virginal unmarried girls, named Laura and Lizzie, who can hear goblin merchants hawking fruit near their backyard. The fruit is seen as a deadly temptation, and eventually Laura succumbs and sells a lock of her hair to taste the forbidden fruit. She begins to waste away after eating the fruit and desiring more but unable to attain any, and she literally turns old and gray in the process. Her sister Lizzie braves the goblins to save her sister.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s illustration for the original 1862 edition of Goblin Market

DG Rossetti Book Illustration for Goblin Market

I will say, that for a Victorian woman who never married, Christina Rossetti had a very vivid imagination, especially for a woman. Not to be derogatory, but women at that time were seen as not being interested in sex at all, and sex was definitely a taboo subject for pretty much anyone to talk about in public. For Rossetti to combine both a religious moralistic tone while having all of these sensual descriptions of fruit, goblins, and even sisters sharing the same bed is surprising to say the least (though not entirely surprisingly as I still think to this day, especially after reading a book about Victorians and sex, that they were the most secretly sexual society despite outward appearances). The first thing I would like to discuss about the poem is the religious connotations. You can immediately see the comparison between Laura and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I particularly liked the quote from this article on the poetry analysis: “Rossetti shows how the strength and fortitude of one woman against the temptations of sexual evil is enough to free someone she loves from the punishment of damnation.” Laura falls from grace after eating the fruit, or rather falls from the love of God. Lizzie, the more pure of the sisters is literally beaten up by the goblins as they try to shove the ripe fruit into her mouth. The only thing that can save Laura from her grief, old age and eventually death is, according to this article, “the antidote [which] is appropriately similar, though purged or purified (because it is her sister, and because the juice is the product of her triumph over temptation).  Like dissolves like.  The vaccine that saves is the deadly disease in a harmless form.” Lizzie’s sacrifice of giving up her body to the juices of the fruit, so that her sister can reverse the effects could be compared to the way Christ gave his body to save humanity.

Arthur Rackham’s White and Golden Lizzie Stood for the 1933 edition of Goblin Market

Arthur Rackham - White and Golden Lizzie Stood, Goblin Market

The sexuality in the poem is out in the open, as well as implied. As the author of this post points out: “She describes sensual parts of the body such as lips, breasts and cheeks. She also utilizes verbs such as to hug, kiss, squeeze and suck. Sexual connotations heighten the relationship between the male goblins and female maidens. Laura’s ecstatic experience with the goblin’s fruit is an indescribable high that is almost orgasmic. The goblins’ over-invasive and aggressive advances towards Lizzie could represent sexual invasion such as rape.” The description of the goblin men in the second stanza, for example: “We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits: Who knows upon what soil they fed their hungry thirsty roots?” and that’s not even counting the descriptions of the fruit. We have “Plump unpeck’d cherries…Wild free-born cranberries…Pomegranates full and fine…Bright-fire-like barberries, Figs to fill your mouth.” And this is not even counting the overtly sexual scene of Lizzie rescuing Laura from her decline by telling her to ” Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you…Eat me, drink me, love me” and also of Laura gorging on the fruit in the beginning of the poem:

Then suck’d their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flow’d that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck’d until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away

Young virginal women can be easily corrupted. After Laura devours the goblin fruit, she is seen as having lost her virginity (through the cutting of her golden locks) and is now a fallen woman. It is only through her sister’s intervention that she is able to later marry, bear children and tell this story to them.

A final look at this poem gives us some interesting conclusions. As the writer of this journal blog says,

“The Goblins represent everything that is taboo for young Victorian women, and Lizzie represents everything that a good young Victorian woman should be: pure, strong, sacrificing, innocent, beautiful, responsible.What is most interesting to me, is that Laura is redeemed. Most fallen women DIE. Especially in Victorian lit. Once you tarnish your purity, you are doomed. Excuse me, that should be with a capital: Doomed. But here we have a sister’s love (the non-masculine, purest kind of love) as *stronger* than the evil temptations of Satan/goblin men. It’s a sister-bond, a woman to woman relationship that saves the day, not a man, a husband, brother, knight-in-shining armor. This love is strong enough to forgive, to redeem without God’s permission – and that’s what makes this poem just a little bit subversive.”

In case you are interested, this is another interpretation of the poem and its meanings. On a totally unrelated note, I like that one of the goblins in the poem looks like a wombat, i.e. “One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry.” This may not seem that unusual but after reading a book on the Pre-Raphaelites, I found out that Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was so obsessed with wombats that he kept a few of them as pets. I would give this book 4 stars.

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