Sunday, December 27, 2009

In which Prof. Koshary says something besides complaints

I must admit, I feel pretty good this morning.  After giving myself the day off on Christmas to do the traditional thing -- go out for dim sum, and then watch movies at home all day -- I got back to work yesterday, and cranked out four pages of new material.  Everyone who has ever stared at a blank word processor page and wondered how to get started knows how awesome it feels to put down multiple pages in a single writing session.  As so often happens with me, I managed it partly by bribing myself: I was feeling a little stir-crazy at home, so I went to a coffeehouse and spent nearly ten dollars on fancy-pants mochas.  In terms of my budget, my uncertain income, and my hypertension, such an expenditure makes no sense.  But in terms of writing four pages in three hours, I'd say the expense justifies itself.

Associated points to note, in tangential connection with the movies I rented and things I have cooked lately:
  1. I have to note my disappointment with the script and directorial sensibility in Almodóvar's Todo sobre mi madre.  Maybe I haven't watched enough Douglas Sirk movies, but I couldn't appreciate the loving parody sort of thing that Almodóvar seems to be going for.  I know this will sound like heresy to people, but the more I thought about it, the more the plot seemed just as contrived, ridiculous, and secondary to the movie's conception as in Kill Bill.  (I rented all of these films in one batch.)  A bunch of affecting and lovable characters is no better to my mind than a bunch of vicious, badass characters, if there's really no reason to watch them do stuff for two hours.  Oh, and Don Pedro?  That ending was bullshit.
  2. I'm having lots of fun but only modest success so far in preparing recipes from an awesome cookbook I got recently: Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food.  I strongly suspect that stainless steel cookware is not ideal for many of these recipes, especially since they're so often home-cooking recipes confided to Roden.  If my kitchen were a little bit a whole lot bigger, I might consider investing in a piece or two of cast iron, which I suspect is a lot more common in Middle Eastern kitchens than stainless steel.  On the other hand, authenticity may not always be a virtue for me: I'm damn near convinced that I cannot use olive oil as a cooking fat, due to its smoking point.  Am I doing something wrong?  I have to heat my stainless steel pan for a bit, since it's on the heavy side, then put in whatever cooking fat, and then add the food.  This almost inevitably yields burned food, sometimes so badly burned that it sticks to the pan and breaks a tiny piece of my heart as I scrub it off into the garbage disposal.  I've just about completely switched to canola oil for a cooking fat in recipes made in a frying pan or skillet, but since traditional Middle Eastern cuisine only knows olive oil and clarified butter as cooking fats, I have to think that I'm doing something wrong.
  3. Apropos of point #2, I have cooked sub-par breakfast dishes so many days in a row that I may have to flee to a diner for breakfast today.  I'm going to try to parlay the outing into another motivational bribe meal for writing purposes.


  1. I love a bribe meal to get work done. I finished my dissertation by eating 2 breakfast tacos and a cafe au lait for pretty much every single day for two months. Now that I don't live in Texas, I don't have anything quite so motivating.

  2. For cooking with olive oil: put the oil in the pan before you turn on the heat, and to heat up the pan, put the heat on a lower heat (med-low probably, but you'll need to experiment with your stove) and let the oil heat up with the pan. Then, adjust the temperature for whatever you're cooking once you get it in the pan. This should produce better results.