Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Angelfood Cake with Rose Glaze

Growing up in Wisconsin, it was customary for schoolchildren to bring treats to class on their birthdays. I always assumed this was true for everyone, after all, it happened on all the tv shows on Nick at Night, too. After living on the coasts, however, I've learned that in fact this was one of those holdovers from a more innocent age that middle America was able to keep while big-city coastal folks gave into fear mongering about razor blades and allergies. I get the sense even middle America has sadly gone that way now, too. But not me. I still take treats for my birthday. Granted it's to work rather than school, and as my coworkers are adults who are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves whether my food will purposely or inadvertently kill them.

This year for my birthday, I decided to try one of my old favorites from growing up, with a new twist of my own. Mommy used to make me the most wonderful confetti angel-food cakes. Spongy and spring-like, I remember how the mix from the box would foam as she put the beaters into the bowl. This came right before my favorite part, licking the beaters.

My top criteria for any recipe is not needing to run to the store. Luckily, I seemed to have all the ingredients I needed. The recipe called for egg whites not by egg, but by cup. After I separated enough egg whites, I saw why. 8 eggs. Eight!

Egg yolks ready for the fridge. There were a lot of custards in my future

I usually do all my mixing by hand with my sturdy nsima stick from Ba Joyce's grandfather, but it was clear I was not going to successfully beat egg whites with a thick slap of wood. I tried using my egg whisk, but that was also insufficient. So, I pulled out my pretty pink handmixer from Mommy and went to town on those egg whites.---But not too much to town because that would cause them to collapse.---I think I did ok; the cake came out fluffy. I didn't have a tube pan, so I used my bundt pan. Getting the cake out was a little difficult, but not too bad. So by this point, so far so good. I have a warm and fairly whole fluffy angel food cake. Then I got a little too creative.

Foamed egg whites

I decided to try not just a rose glaze, but also a rose butter cream frosting. I found basic recipes for glaze and butter cream frosting and added rose water and red food coloring to both. The butter cream frosting would not cream. I don't know if it was the store-brand butter or adding the rose water to early or something else, but it would not cream. The butter stayed globbed up, globs of butter rolled in sugar, which is still yummy.---My specialty is tasty mush disasters.---I sliced the cake in half horizontally and spread a layer of the sweet gobby goo, putting the top of the cake back on to create a gigantic sugary sandwich. "Angel food cake with rose butter filling." It's all about the presentation, right, verbal included?

And then I kept going. The rose glaze turned out like it ought to have. Win! Except I did something a tad foolish. I put the cake on my cake carrying platter and drizzled the cake with the glaze. Sounds perfectly fine and dandy, except this was the night before I was taking the cake to work. The glaze had .all. .night. to soak into the cake, and boy did it ever. The next morning, when I opened my cake carrier to set up a little come-and-get-it-station in our break room, whole sections of the cake were bright pink and the bottom of the cake was rimmed in pink syrup. Mmmmm.

Birthday cake! Angel food cake with rose butter filling and a rose glaze (the night before all the glaze soaked in).

Actually, it was quite delicious, just best in small portions. All the better for work, more to go around!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Suzy Homemaker Signing On

The world sucks right now.  Or rather, aspects of the world that suck are suddenly on our own doorsteps instead of far-off places where we can pretend they either aren’t real or don’t affect of, neither of which is really true.  So here we are, with one crises after another clamoring for our attention everywhere we turn.  Every social media site, every newspaper, and---it seems like---every conversation.  People have been pining for ‘the good ol’ days’ and hate and war are certainly parts of the those ‘good’ ol’ days.

I prefer the other parts, propriety, dignity, homemade meals and hand-stitched clothes.  Things that were old fashioned even when I was growing up but very much a part of my childhood.  In adulthood they are the things to which I cling for comfort.  And, on here at least, will be the sand for my ostrich-head.  Out there, outside the walls, beyond the swaying crinkled sheer curtain, there is no place for ostriches.  Out there requires strength.  Here there will be only beauty.  ---and a few of my definitely not beautiful but-oh-so-tasty piles of delicious mush dinners.

Monday, April 24, 2017

I’m not an Academic, I only Play one on the Weekends

Some things I just can’t process.  I may think I need to step back, or re-experience it, or talk it out.  But in the end, some things I just cannot process.  This conference was one of those things.

I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the past ten years. ---This is what law school does, prepares you to sit in overly air-conditioned rooms, staring at poorly designed slides on giant screens, collecting all sorts of branded bits and bobbles.  It’s practically baked into the profession by regulatory authorities that require you to stay re-educated by trading several hours of your time each year for bad wi-fi and stale bagels.---But this conference was different for me.  This was the first time I was attending an “academic” conference.  No continuing legal education credit on offer here.  No mix of practitioners in with the academics.  This was a wholly different animal; and to make matters worse, it was multi-disciplinary.

There were a lot of big words I couldn’t follow.  Words I knew the meanings of on their own; were they to be on a vocabulary quiz, I could match the definitions to them.  But strung together in long sentences with little words in between, I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything.  But even the bits I could understand left me feeling like the sentence ended with a semi-colon.  A complete thought, yes.  But, so?

The conference was called Race+IP.  People talked about race.  People talked about IP.  Some people even talked about both.  Some things seemed obvious, some over-simplified, some as though they were searching for racism, and others as though they were racializing a much broader oppression.  A lot of things seemed like there was no there there.  And I was lost.

‘The music industry is terrible to black folks.’  The examples given: that Pharrell lost to the Marvin Gaye estate, that Lil Wayne was owed $10 million by Cash Money, that Clyde Stubblefield’s creative products were owned by James Brown.  Somehow irrelevant that all the advantage-takers in those scenarios are also black.  And brushed away as a side note that the the music industry is terrible to anyone not already in power, that it entrenches the existing power structure and fights long and hard to further entrench, re-entrench, forever entrench that structure.  It is true that the power structure includes few blacks.  But racializing the inequities of the system leaves out all the others who cannot benefit, all the others who may want to fight.  Shrinking the size of an army does not help win the war.

Then there was this session about how Cadillac is a black brand.  (I did not know this, but it might explain why at least once a month a 50-year black man asks if Chester is for sale.)  GM was apparently upset about the association between the Caddy and black entertainers in the 50s and 60s.  Really, brand owners were racist?  How shocking.  This is nothing new, nor anything old.   But what does this have to do with IP, other than that brands are IP?  I didn’t get it.  I must have zoned out and missed something.

Add on top of the confusion a bad head cold, an atmosphere of self-aggrandizement with West coast-style Liberal assumptions, and horrible weather, and well, this wasn’t the best first-time experience of this sort of thing.  Perhaps I’ll leave these conferences to the real academics.  I think I prefer being a lawyer.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Africa

WP_20170414_115Africa is raw.  Tangible, raw life.  Every box, every line we draw in the West is washed away in a cloud of red dust.  Africa is freedom.  Freedom of the truest sort where life is burrowed so deeply into the very essence of the world that one becomes the expanse of the deep blue sky, breathes the heavy deep rustling of the large mango tree leaves, is powered by the strength of the ancient volcanic rocks that dot the landscape like hoards of mythical sleeping beasts, and wears that deep red dirt that creeps into every nook and cranny of every being and everything.  Distinctions between seeming opposites, such as indoor and outdoor, disappear altogether.  Everything comes from the earth in ways in which one cannot help but be acutely aware.  Water pulled from the earth, dinner roaming the earth, the sun being the best and most reliable light of all.  The earth is yours and you are the earth’s.  And everyone moves together in it, all a part of it.  What appears to be narrow two-lane roads become four or five or six lanes as pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, three-wheel scooters, cars and lumbering lorries surge together, sweeping between and past and among each other.  People cut through when they have a chance and make way when others need room in a gracefully understanding manner one would never see in places where people feel entitled to whatever bit of road they’re on as though it belongs to them and only them simple because they are there.  Life has not had the living sanitized out of it.  Numbness cannot survive.  Alertness, awareness, oneness with everything around you is a must.  But such exertion is not exhausting; it is invigorating.  It is living.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Don't Do Drugs


“Don’t do drugs.” A high-schooler behind me said it to her friend when the commotion started.  “Don’t do drugs.”  A mom said it to her young child as they climbed off the bus with the first exodus of people.  “Don’t do drugs.”  A man said it to whoever happened to be within ear shot as we all moved down the sidewalk to board the approaching bus.  “Don’t do drugs.”  I think I heard that phrase uttered more tonight than in the entire 1980s combined.

I was sitting on the bus minding my own business, reading about verb usage in United Nations Conferences of the Parties decisions as I am apt to do these days during my commute, when a voice yelled out, “Don’t touch me!”

Not the most unusual thing for a rather crowded bus at rush hour.  My passing thought was probably something along the lines of “it’s good she’s standing up for herself.”  But the yelling continued.  “Stop touching me!  Don’t touch me!”  Over and over.  By this point, everyone on the bus was looking, and it was clear no one was touching her.  The woman was sitting in the sideways seats at the front of the bus yelling into the bus in general.

But that changed.  She turned to the man on the seat adjacent to hers and started yelling directly at him.  "Don't touch me!"  He tried calmly saying he wasn’t touching her, a few times.  She kept yelling and started getting up in his face.  Then he got agitated.  “Stop touching me!”  “Stop spitting on me!”  “Don’t touch me!”  “I’m not touching you; don’t spit on me.”

And then the threats.  From her, all from her.  She’d spewed a few into the air before, before she turned on this man, but now they were clearly all directed at him.  They  both stood up.  I don’t know who stood up first, but she started swinging.  He put his hands up, trying to block her punches.  Some guys from the back of the bus yelled, “Don’t hit that woman."  "You can’t hit no woman.”  The man was trying to duck, but there was nowhere to go on the crowded bus.  The bus driver tried to get them both of the bus.  The man backed out, the lady still swinging at him, while he voiced the inequity of his having to leave the bus.

The woman sat down briefly.  Then she jumped up and raged down the aisle towards a young lady who was standing near the back door, looking at her phone, not paying no mind to any of the ruckus.  The lady saw the woman coming and froze in shock.  A man in a construction safety vest jumped up immediately in between the two, blocking the woman’s arms from coming down on the surprised lady.

The man in the safety vest backed the woman up a bit, but she started to send jabs into his gut and swing for his shoulders.  A third gentleman jumped up and tried to pin the woman’s flailing arms.  She fell to the bus floor, both guys going down with her.  They wrestled her off the bus as passengers off-loaded themselves by the back door.

Soon, half the bus was empty, the bus driver was outside with the woman, the two men who’d gotten her off the bus and the man she’d first attacked.  The other passengers mulled around on the sidewalk at the back of the bus, waiting for the next bus.

Those of us on the bus waited a bit.  The driver came back on, but he didn’t sit down.  He pulled a bright green safety vest out from behind his chair, put it on and calmly stepped back off the bus.  The woman was still yelling outside.  Someone hollered that another bus had arrived.  The rest of us streamed off the bus to trade our immobilized one for one that might actually get us to our destinations.
And then we saw why the driver hadn’t come back in, why he got his safety vest, why we weren’t going anywhere.  The woman had thrown herself under the front of the bus, directly in front of the right tire.  She was lying there, in the road, a limb flung on the muddy curb, yelling about how WMATA (the transit agency) better give her something.  The bus driver just stood nearby, nonchalant, waiting patiently.

The rest of us moseyed on down to the arriving bus.  “She spit on me and my daughter,” the man who was first attacked.  “I’m just trying to get to work,” the guy who helped get her off the bus.  “How she gonna hold everyone up like that?” a lady dragging a stroller up the steps of the bus.  “Don’t do drugs,” somebody, to someone, to everyone.
Just another commute home in DC.