Friday, July 12, 2019

TGIF

There were two articles printed this past Monday that I found engrossing. 



Monday, July 1, 2019

Crybaby

I am not usually a crier. I'm keenly experience emotions, so I should be crier, except my mother had that European shame of overt displays of feeling (she would have been a crier too, if not for that programming). Even when she died, I did not weep excessively. 

Then, when I became pregnant with Ben, oh boy. I was bawling constantly. It took me until Ma's first yartzheit, when I was with child, to cry. I cried when there was the slightest hint of tension. I cried in the shower, just for the heck of it.

Then, when he was born—hooooooeeeeee. I cried some more. I was happy, ecstatic, but still very, very weepy. My sister reassured Han that this was normal. 

It's the hormones, yes. But I wasn't irrational. I wasn't hysterical. I just needed a box of tissues. 

Randi Hutter Epstein in "Stop Calling Women Hormonal" explains the purpose of hormones, and that blaming them is not really fair to women or to the hormones. 

I recall an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" when Ray is about to enter the house but sees through the window Debra crying on the couch. He believes she's miserable, but she calmly explains that sometimes she just needs a good cry. 
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Then there was another episode when he believes she has PMS, and she attacks him "like a monkey tearing into a cupcake" for blaming the hormones. When Marie walks in on their argument, she actually slaps her beloved son in defense of her not-so-beloved daughter-in-law.  

So, yeah, just because I'm crying doesn't mean I don't have a point.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Not-As-Horrible Frosting

I had been searching for years. I tried, multiple times, but my attempts were fruitless. I occasionally gave up hope. But now, I have found what I sought for so long. 

I shall start from the beginning. 

Many of us have family recipes that defines their clan. For us, there's paprikash, bundtcake, and Shabbos cake. 

Shabbos cake was my mother's chocolate cake, baked in a massive pan. It would be layered into two rows, slathered on top and in between with pareve whip. It was named "Shabbos cake" since it only emerged from the garage deep freeze for Shabbos. 

It was a happy childhood indeed. 

Then stupid education got in the way. We learned pareve whip is made from trans-fat, the worst of the worst. Since the human body doesn't recognize it, it can't metabolize it, and simply parks it in your thighs and arteries where it remains. It has actually now been banned in new food products.

Good-bye, pareve whip. 

But I needed a replacement, which proved to be nigh on impossible. I tried cashew cream, but the frosting was dingy in color, heavy in texture. Coconut cream seemed the best option, but it tastes like coconut. I hate coconut, and so do many of my family members. Aquafaba wasn't stable enough for my needs; it sort of self-destructs in storage. 

There was one option that I stubbornly refused to attempt because of a rather silly reason: it required a candy thermometer. I didn't want to buy a gadget to take up space for one recipe. Seemed wasteful. 

Until my nocturnal surfing while feeding the baby got the better of me. I bought the dinky thermometer. 

And the results are TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!
I used my first attempt to frost a brownie my sister gave me. Quite delicious. Sadly, she can't find the recipe she used.
I used this recipe for marshmallow frosting, and I was finally able to recreate the Shabbos cake of my youth (my sister made the cake for a family birthday party, I made the frosting).
Yes, I know it's not so pretty, but that's because I need practice. No fault of the frosting.

While the recipe calls for corn syrup, one can use agave instead (I did). Additionally, it is of upmost importance that the egg whites are room temperature. I made one batch will cold whites and the frosting was a failure. After separating the next batch of whites, I waited a half hour and the frosting was magnificent.

Since someone in the audience will jump down my throat, I am not claiming that frosting with copious amounts of sugar is healthy. However, it is certainly better than trans-fat. It's all about compromise.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Shidduch Lit VII

Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything:
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This book takes place in the 1950s, as young women flock to Manhattan for secretarial positions. There is a scene where a group of single women attend the wedding of a co-worker. Our heroine is Caroline; the co-worker is Mary Agnes.
 
"You'll find somebody," Mary Agnes said. "Don't you worry." 

"I'm not worried, Mother," Caroline said. 

"That's a good attitude," said Mary Agnes, licking the salt off her fingers. "I admire you for it. Most girls our age are scared to death if there's nobody on the horizon, and that's silly. Because if you look at the girls five years older than we are, why, I don't know one who isn't married." 

"I do." 

"Are they terribly ugly?"

"Quite the contrary. I've met some at parties who are very pretty and smart, too, with good jobs." 

Mary Agnes' eyes widened as if she were about to expound some great and mysterious bit of philosophy. "Well, she said, perhaps there's something psychologically wrong with them." 

Caroline clamped her lips together to keep from laughing and jiggled her empty glass so Mary Agnes could see it. "I've got to get a refill," she gasped, and fled to the desk that was serving as a bar. The whole conversation had been so ludicrous, really, with Mary Agnes smug now that she had landed her man and she herself the adventurous but rather pathetic figure of the attractive unattached girl. It made her want to laugh when she thought of Mary Agnes' comments, and yet, unaccountably, they hurt a little too. Because as always she could see and hear everything on two levels, the one that told her how silly it was and the one that allowed her to become affected and upset. She was only twenty-two, she had been out of college only two years, and she knew she was going to get married someday . . .Caroline knew she had lied to Mary Agnes because one always lied to such people if one intended to survive. But she couldn't lie to herself. She was worried about getting married. She knew it was ridiculous, but she was worried. She wondered whether every girl felt the same way she did, or whether it was a personal foolishness. 


Sound familiar? It did to me. Plenty of my posts dealt with this same dual feelings that the people who made ridiculous comments were ridiculous, of course I'll meet my one-and-only someday—but what if I don't?

Then this passage, as Caroline contemplates her dating life: 

She was realizing already as she came to the end of her second year in New York that thoughtfulness like this was hard to find. There were men . . . all good looks and charm . . . There were dozens of utterly mismatched blind dates that she had been inflicted with in the past two years, a sentence of hard labor starting with the words (usually uttered by some nice older woman who hardly knew her or the boy) "I know a nice young man for you to meet." These amateur matchmakers seemed to think the mere fact that Caroline wore a skirt and the man wore pants was enough to make them want to hurl themselves into each other's arms. And there was the majority, the so-so dates, the young men who didn't particularly care about her or she about them, but who continued to call her once in a while for dinner or drinks because they too were marking time. 

There is nothing knew under the sun. Nor is our situation specific to us frummies. We are simply in a time warp when it comes to our romantic experiences. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Shabbos Lashes

Three day yuntif. For a makeup lover like myself, cue the đŸ˜± emoji. I love yuntif! But keeping on mascara for three days is quite daunting.

In my younger, pre-baby days, keeping makeup on for so long was a challenge I was amenable to tackle. But I
now cherish sleep to the point that I just want to bury my face into a pillow and pass out after a 2 am feeding.

I still, however, want to go out in public with my dignity intact.

A few years back I heard of magnetized false lashes. The lashes attach with magnets, so they can be applied and removed and reapplied on Shabbos. As I  am armed with Shabbos makeup, mascara is the only chink in my armor.

So this past Shabbos I gave it a trial run. I purchased a set by Lash’d Up on Amazon called "I Woke Up This Way," and after a few tries, managed to somewhat successfully apply them. They aren’t too dramatic - my mascara is usually more over the top - and with Shabbos eyeliner I was able to make it look more blended with the lash line.

http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0005/4450/5914/products/iwokeupthisway_model_f0e6b7fc-3de6-4cdc-beb4-facf80e59953_1200x1200.jpg?v=1539980874Because they are magnetized, you can’t use metal tweezers to get them on. I think I will look for plastic ones to assist.

So after a bleary night with baby, I was able to take my eyes from bare to smoky on Shabbos, with lashes!

The Messiah cometh!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Missed Me?

She humbly inquired.

Well, I did have a pretty good reason. Approximately 7 lbs. of it. 

I'm a mommy now.  

The blessed little fellow, to be referred to as Ben, has cut into my extracurricular activities a bit. But I still intend to blog. 

Sand People couldn't keep me away. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Art vs. Supper

Today's culture puts little value on home life. Domesticity can be dully repetitive (as my Babi would joke, "You want supper again? I fed you yesterday!"), and for some, a barrier to more "lofty" achievements.
 
In my case, home life was always more appealing than anything else, work or vacation included (vacation, to me, is as much work as work). I've feel fulfilled when chasing after kinfauna. I find the noise of something substantial clattering up the vacuum hose oddly satisfying. And, weirdly, I don't mind doing dishes.
 
Yet these necessary and endless tasks can get "in the way" of "art," according to the standard narrative. As Bookends asked, "Are Domestic Responsibilities at Odds With Becoming a Great Artist?" The question was answered by Siddhartha Deb, a single father, and Dana Stevens, a mommy.
 
Deb argues that standard employment is not considered a barrier to art, only dish washing, because the latter is uncompensated and so, therefore, "unproductive."
Yet the reality is that art and domestic work are both likely to go uncompensated or poorly compensated, and under such circumstances, both have to be approached with love and rigor to be done well. In that sense, great art and domestic responsibilities are as like each other as my elaborate meal plans are like the chapter outlines of my maximalist novel.

Stevens provides examples of recognized authors who did not have children, and even gave credit to their art for that fact; however, she also lists those who did have children and succeeded. She also points out that many abandoned their families in the pursuit of "art" and did not become well-known.
. . . with time, my romantic vision of the uncluttered life of the pure artist has gotten agreeably cluttered by life itself.

She simply concludes that an artist must be more driven, that's all, in order to create, and that shows their devotion. No worries.
 
Yiyun Li reviewed Deborah Levy's book "The Cost of Living," as Levy describes her writing while also extremely busy with everyday life. The stereotypical artist escapes from the responsibilities of the mundane life, but does that make their work any better without those "distractions"? Levy's books were critically recognized, even with the millstones of everyday hanging about her neck.
 
For my own preferences, I prefer reading stories of "real life," of characters navigating the everyday, the mundane, and trying to figure out the best choices to make. In general, facing reality head-on instead of avoiding the inevitable is my jam. I don't find artists who abandon their families to float without care at all appealing; that art, in my opinion, is worthless.
 
It can be done.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

What's Love Got to Do With Cooking

The title of this article when it was printed in NY Times Magazines was "Cooking Like a Cynic.
With some frequency these days, you’ll hear talk of cooking “with love” — that supposed secret ingredient, the intangible something extra that makes a chef’s food so good. I am sure that is accurate for some, but I imagine that what is identified as love is probably thoroughness and follow-through and taking the time that work-done-properly takes.  
Whenever I hear of "cooking with love," I think of two sitcom situations: 

The first was from "Everybody Loves Raymond," when Marie acquiesces and teaches Debra her precious meatball recipe. However, there is a "weird taste" that Debra can't account for, no matter how she tries. Marie had begun the lesson by invoking the "love," and Deb concludes that she must not have it. 

She then discovers that the herb jar that Marie gave her was sabotaged. "Love" had nothing to do with it. 

The second is from "The Big Bang Theory," the first episode that the excellent Laurie Metcalf guest-stars as Sheldon's mother, Mary Cooper. Penny gushes about her apple cobbler, to which Mary responds, coyly: "You know what the secret ingredient is?" 

Penny, simpering: Love? 

Mary: Lard. 
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I think these two examples prove—along with the article—that good cooking has nothing to do with love. It's about being invested enough in the process to learn techniques, follow recipes properly, and occasionally follow one's gut in terms of improvement.  

Some people have no interest; their prerogative. Some people rush, make errors, and wonder why their results are politely ignored; again, also their prerogative. 

Ma would say that she did not like to cook. However, what she did enjoy was nourishing her family with healthy recipes that they would scarf down even though they had all the fat removed. Nothing gave her greater joy than an empty pot: That meant that whatever she had made was a hit. 

I wonder now if I like to cook. I can get excited at the prospect of trying something new, researching recipes, getting it right. There is something rewarding about taking the separate, the raw, and compiling them into a blended, magical creation. Perhaps I do like to cook; the process itself as well as how the results are received (which is not always well. But then I try again).

Monday, February 25, 2019

When They Don't Want You

I would think that by now, I would have cheerfully forgotten about those miserable dating days. But no, they haunt me still, that decade +. 

While the majority of my dates were obviously "he is not for me," there were occasionally fellows that ignited my interest simply because they were so much better than what I had gone out with before. In those situations, I believed myself smitten, even though after one meeting I could already tick off a number of "um" qualities.  

When they said no (after one or two dates), I would be so devastated, and think about them constantly until the next "better" option came along. Who would also decline, and then be the object of my affection for a while further. 

Then Han blew them all out of the water, and I realized how wrong I had been. 

I thought of this while reading "Lessons from a 12-Hour Goodbye" by Miriam Johnson. She was attached to him, but he did not return her ardor. She pleaded their case for 12 hours, but for naught. 

It reminded me of "He's Just Not That Into You"; if a guy really likes you, he'll do anything to keep you. He can't be talked or coaxed into having feelings that he doesn't share with you. 

Johnson was initially hopeful he'd return, but when he didn't, she realized how little we really know others. Not only that, she had hidden parts of herself from him. 

When we are on the search for a life partner, and then feel as though we are close, so close, it's hard to accept defeat. But sometimes those experiences have different meanings then we think. 

Johnson tells her therapist that it's been a year and she still thinks about him; she wants to know how to let him go. 
. . . she told me a story about a man she loved in her early 20s, nearly 50 years ago, whom she still thinks about to this day. Then she said: “You’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about getting over and letting go.”
I looked down at my hands and considered how this could possibly be about anything else.
“It’s about honoring what happened,” she said. “You met a person who awoke something in you. A fire ignited. The work is to be grateful. Grateful every day that someone crossed your path and left a mark on you.”
To be frank, it's kind of difficult to find gratitude in heartbreak. I would wonder what I was supposed to learn after trying so hard, willing to be vulnerable, only to have my efforts spurned. Maybe it's gratitude? Or maybe it's pain that one was meant to experience.