Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

What Is With Diana Athill?

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A search term that led someone to my blog yesterday.

What is with diana athill? did she have any friendships with women

I’m sorry, I just thought it was funny that someone seemed so passionately aggravated by the 94-year-old British editor and memoirist’s lack of female friends.

What is with it? I don’t know; I’ve read two of her books, Stet and Instead of a Letter, and haven’t noticed it (more pronouncedly, she had very few friends in general, just acquaintances and love affairs). I do think Athill had/has ADHD, and women with ADHD have more male friends, in my limited anecdotal experience. But maybe it’s just because Diana Athill is a badass who was too busy editing books (by Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and V.S. Naipaul, to name a few) and having love affairs. Geez.

(thank’s for asking, I guess)

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Written by Elizabeth

February 22, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Mashed Sweet Potato and Turnips with Thyme Butter

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I wasn’t sure what to do with the big bunch of turnips I’d gotten from the local CSA pickup this week, because turnips are one of those vegetables a bit outside my culinary comfort zone. But it turns out turnips mash up almost as nicely as potatoes. I riffed on this recipe from Eating Well, with sweet potatoes and turnips mashed together and flavored with thyme butter (the EW recipe calls for more sweet potatoes than turnips, but I made mine more turnip heavy and that worked out just fine). The result was creamy and light, with a traditional mashed potato consistency but way more flavor and less fat and calories. I did use butter, but you could substitute vegan margarine to keep things dairy-free.

Turnips, by the way, are quite good for you—and less loaded with carbohydrates than some other root vegetables (one 3.5 ounce serving of turnips has about 30 calories and 6 grams carbs). They’re also a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. And as members of the cruciferous vegetable family (like broccoli and Brussels sprouts), turnips are high in phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Mashed Sweet Potato and Turnips with Thyme Butter
(serves 4 as a side dish)    

Ingredients: 

• 3 cups turnip (about 4-5 medium turnips), peeled and diced
•  2 cups sweet potato (about 1 large potato), peeled and diced
• 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
• salt + pepper

Preparation: 

• In medium saucepan, add turnip, sweet potato and garlic. Cover with water, and bring to a boil.

• Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer 12-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Drain, then return vegetables to pan and cover.

• In small skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. As it melts, add in fresh thyme and simmer for a 1-2 minutes.

• Pour thyme butter over vegetables and mix together.

• Smash with a potato masher. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

February 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm

truth in feminism.

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I only first read this morning about this battle re: Hugo Schwyzer & feminism. It’s the kind of thing that stirs me out of blogging apathy—though it helps that all I want to do this week is drink red wine, make vegan desserts and read & write about feminism, anyway; happy February!because it strikes at the root of what bothers me about web feminism à la mode. I’ll ramble on about that in a moment. But in short, I think the anti-Schwyzer sentiment is both ridiculous and sadly typical of the feminist blogosphere.

I don’t know a ton about Hugo. I’m dimly aware of having read him on various lady-feminist blogs. For a while I regularly read The Good Men Project, a site focused on exploring what it means to be a good man now, absent cultural scripts and yada yada yada. I liked the Good Men Project. It published good sex writing (male and female). Sometimes Amanda Marcotte (whom I also like) wrote there. It was heavy with personal-experience driven writing by Schwyzer and others on sex, marriage, masculinity, relationships, fatherhood, feminism.

An instructor in history and gender studies at Pasadena City College, Schwyzer is explicitly feminist. He writes in the language of contemporary feminism (i.e. “I haven’t been always been able to see how my writing reflects my privilege as a cisgender white male…“) and blogged at Jezebel, FeministeHealthy Is The New Skinny, the Good Men Project and elsewhere about gender issues, body image, rape prevention, why men like to cum on women’s faces and the “myth of male weakness.” He recently withdrew from The Good Men Project after founder Tom Matlack published a piece arguing men and women were fundamentally different, writing that it was no longer “ethically possible to remain silent” while the Good Men Project “took an increasingly anti-feminist stance.”

Schwyzer also wrote often about his past, as an alcoholic and druggie in the 90s (born in 1967, Schwyzer hugs the line between Gen X and boomer). He wrote about failed marriages, mental breakdowns, his Christian faith and having “consensual relationships with adult female students” in his early years teaching. It was that last part which provoked the ire of Feministe commenters and other feminist bloggers. Then someone pointed out a year-old post of Hugo’s in which he wrote about attempting to kill himself and his then-girlfriend by turning on the gas in their apartment. He was an alcoholic and addict. This preceded a stay in a mental hospital. But people called Schwyzer a sexual predator who should be excluded from the discourse on feminism (sample comment: Why is a confessed attempted murderer allowed to comment about feminism?). They made it about the role of men in feminism, a role which the feminist blogosphere is still all kinds of conflicted about.

This tendency of many feminist bloggers to be so self-consciously non-offensive gets tedious, though this just makes them boring. It’s the tendency of large segments of the feminist web to cluster and ostracize dissenters from feminism’s PC master narrative that makes them damaging, to the quote/unquote feminist project, anyway. A feminism that doesn’t allow for paradoxes and contradictions in the ideals versus lived experiences of its’ proponents is not terribly useful. And any modern conception of feminism needs not just to include men in the conversation but see men as integral to feminist issues. The movement’s history of sisterhood served it’s purpose, but for Gen Y women and men accustomed to the idea of gender equity, doesn’t we’re-all-in-this-together make more sense?

How to be an adult in an age of anomie is a question central to men, women, feminists and fundamentalists in America. And it’s a big project. I don’t know how many Gen X/Y articles I’ve read about marriage ages, fertility, dating, relationships, careers, unemployment, sex, technology, health that conclude we are all screwed. We’re all going to live into our 90s and our parents and grandparents are going into retirement broke and getting fat and getting dementia and it not only looks sad but how are you going to take care of them? How is anybody going to take care of them? That’s all we hear about is old age programs bankrupting the world. And home health care is one of the fastest growing U.S. industries, but it’s largest companies don’t even want to pay their (mostly female) employees the minimum wage. And a lot of people in the entertainment industry still think violence against women is pretty swell. Birth control is still something people are legitimately against. Women writers still can’t write about sex like Henry Miller. And for some reason people persist in publishing articles about who should pay the check on first dates. Plus, you know: The rest of the world.

I mean, I say, the more men the merrier! Let’s all talk about birth control and blow jobs and the difference between domestic violence and rape fantasies. Gender issues, marriage equality and the contradictions inherent in trying to be good men and good women in a culture with completely schizophrenic ideas about femininity and masculinity. These are problems for all us.

And there should be room in feminism for all of us to talk about them. For Schwyzer to be honest about his path to where he is now without facing this kind of hysterical backlash. For all of us “imperfect feminists” to be honest about where we fail to live up to ideals (and where ideals fail to live up to their usefulness in our lives). Freddie deBoer (who, um, full disclosure: is my boyfriend) has written about how feminism is general but relationships are specific. So are individual paths to feminist beliefs. You can comfortably call yourself a feminist even if you subscribe to less than total egalitarianism in your own relationship or sex life. You can be a feminist even if you were once so fucked up that you tried to kill yourself and your partner. You can have an imperfectly feminist past and be a feminist now. The underlying assumption between people should be respect, non-violence and equity, but people can negotiate different degrees of these amongst themselves. Besides which: The outside world, again. Sometimes it influences us. Sometimes we learn from it. Sometimes we are always getting better.

see, I like baking too. I know sites like Feministe and Feministing serve an important purpose in feminism’s mission. I never considered myself a feminist until I started reading them (along with Pandagon, Shakesville, Ilika Damen, others) back when I was 22. This year over Christmas break I ended up in a late-night bar crawl conversation with a 22-year-old female cousin who is dying to have babies and stay home with them. Until she recently began reading feminist blogs (the only one I remember her mentioning is The Feminist Breeder), she told me, she thought feminists wanted to take things like that from her. Now she’s all OMG I’m a feminist, duh. I’m a feminist and I like babies and crafts and women being treated like human beings. Awesome.

So that’s what these types of intro/activist feminist blogs do: They introduce young women and men to the idea that feminism doesn’t suck. That there are still lots of gender issues to consider and problems to solve. That feminism is relevant.

But as a feminist writer, Schwyzer has always been more essayist than activist. Both of his recent controversial posts were confession—not celebration—of past wrongs. This is what good memoirists and essayists do: They tell the truth about themselves, even when it makes them look bad. It’s in admitting to inconsistencies in their own ideals v. behavior that they have the best chance of finding something universal. Think “Mad Men.” Think Didion. It’s the space between the zeitgeist and convention that’s the most interesting.

For the feminist blogosphere to so consistently stifle voices from that space … I mean, it impedes on feminist discourse, sure. But it also tells writers that it’s not okay to be both honest and feminist. That part of being a publicly-feminist writer means a certain amount of activism, a certain amount of party-line PR. It’s a lot like how conservatism encourages its journalists and bloggers and TV reporters to be partisans first. It’s bad for the truth.

Written by Elizabeth

February 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

People Who Are Turning 30 In 2012

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1. Me

2. Kate Middleton

3. Kirsten Dunst

4. Most of my friends

5. Seth Rogan

6. Elizabeth Moss

7. The Situation 

8. A guy who looks like this

9. 1/2 of the young cast of Now and Then [apparently the girl who played the chubby one died of a drug overdose in 2007.]

10. Lil Wayne

Written by Elizabeth

January 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Culture, Gen Y

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Traveling Light

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About two years ago, I took Amtrak from New York City to Pittsburgh (Cleveland was the ultimate destination, but we ran into a blizzard) with a dozen other Brooklyn kids to film a semi-improvised, open-ended ‘train film.’ A friend, Gina Telaroli, conceived of and directed the project, which came to be titled Traveling Light.

Anyway, the finished product—Gina calls it “a video essay celebrating cinema on the railroad tracks”—got some nice words from folks writing year-end film reviews. On film site Notebook, David Phelps calls Traveling Light “a type of found object” and writes:

 … what starts off as plain-air documentary comes quietly to seem like a closed movie set in which the inhabitants are subjected to shifting red flares and matted Midwest, magic lantern backdrops. Instead of pinning down space, the long takes can defy it—the constants, determining the movie’s own space and screen, are unseen windows—in the train’s endless trackback.

And on Moving Image Source, critic B. Kite says:

I think they put cameras in everything now. And that gives a lot of the newer durational work a kind of floating anxiety, a need to justify its existence, which usually finds expression in either a sense of intense strain (grandiose images composed unto death) or, at the opposite extreme, those soggy, shapeless lumps of space-time I’ve come to call “video bloat.” So how unexpected and cool to come across Gina Telaroli’s Traveling Light, a feature that demonstrates neither the hyper-consciousness of the first camp nor the apparent unconsciousness of the latter but instead maintains a remarkably composed comfort in its rhythms and objects of attention. A train trip from New York to Pittsburgh under brown mid-winter skies, past tract houses, snow scabs, and those deeply unmysterious piles of concrete somethings that always seem to crop up in the blank, functional spaces of America. It’s hard to say whether the hanging melancholy is a state of mind or just an expression of the weather, but it rests at the center of the film and exerts a steady sweet-sad pull until the trip finally comes to terminus in one of the loveliest shots I’ve seen in digital.

So, yay. Gina shoots lovely things, and deserves the attention. Besides which, I have her to thank for finally getting to visit Pittsburgh. In 5 feet of snow. With no means of escape. For two days. Oh, and inspiring the amazing Whirlwind Cross-Country Amtrak Adventure! that consumed the first few months of my 2011 …

Photo: Ian Westcott

Written by Elizabeth

January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Catalogued: Books Read >> 2011

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• in no particular order •

Helen deWitt: Lightening Rods
Tyler Cowen: The Great Stagnation & Create Your Own Economy
Evelyn Waugh: Vile Bodies & Decline and Fall
Marya Hornbacher: Madness
Nick Zimmer, Zachary Lipez and Stacy Wakefield: Please Take Me Off the Guest List
F.A. Hayek: Constitution of Liberty (well, mostly…)
Bill Clegg: Portrait Of An Addict As A Young Man
Diana Athill: Instead of a Letter
Sharon Solwitz: Bloody Mary
Kay Redfield Jameson: An Unquiet Mind
Siri Hustvedt: The Summer Without Men
Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters to a Young Poet
Peter Kramer: Listening to Prozac
John Tierney & Roy Baumeister: Willpower
Douglas Kendrick: Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life
Ratey & Hallowell: Delivered From Distraction
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Collected Poems
Porter Shreve: The Obituary Writer
Amy Sohn: Prospect Park West
Aleister Crowley: Diary of a Drug Fiend
Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories
Anne Lamont: Bird by Bird
Anton Chekhov: My Life
Arin Greenwood: Tropical Depression
Portia de Rossi: Unbearable Lightness
The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick
Sam MacDonald: The Urban Hermit
Kathleen Gerson: The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America  

Written by Elizabeth

January 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Posted in Culture, Lit

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Recipe: Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

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As the weather gets chillier, I can’t stop thinking about soup (is that weird?). Soup is just about the only thing I want to eat right now—and by soup, I mean homemade soup, because I’d like to avoid the sodium, BPA and blandness of Campbell’s and its ilk, thank you very much. I’d also, however, like to avoid spending copious time in the kitchen. The following recipe for creamy tomato basil soup, adapted from a recipe by nutritionist Lauren Talbot, uses vegetable broth and and your favorite brand of tomato pasta sauce as its base, cutting down on both time and the total number of ingredients you need to add.

As with most soups, the longer you simmer it, the more flavorful it will get—but if you don’t have a lot of time to prepare dinner, don’t fear: Total prep and cooking time for the soup can amount to as little as 30 minutes.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup


Ingredients: 

• 1 jar tomato pasta sauce (I used organic tomato basil sauce from the brand Naturally Preferred, but you can use whatever you like best or have on hand)
• 3-4 cups vegetable broth
• 1/4 to 1/2-cup fresh basil
• 1 carton/cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 1/4- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 1 cup organic 2% milk
• 2 tablespoons oregano
• about 2 tablespoons ground black pepper

Preparation: 

• Heat jar of tomato sauce in large pot. Once it’s bubbling, add vegetable broth and basil, and turn heat to medium while you chop and gather other ingredients.
• Add chopped tomatoes, parmesan cheese, milk, oregano and pepper.
• Let everything simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Enjoy as a main course, or as a side dish/hors d’oeuvre.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

December 19, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Posted in Food, My Life

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Recipe: Vegan, Whole-Grain, Cinnamon-Raisin Bread Pudding

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Bread pudding is a traditional holiday dessert—and one traditionally made with eggs, beef fat and lots of sugar. This vegan bread pudding remains true to the original with baked bread, raisins and lots of spices, but it’s absent any eggs, dairy or other animal products. Using unsweetened almond milk (only 40 calories per cup), a minimal amount of sugar and Ezekiel’s sprouted whole grain cinnamon raisin bread as the base keeps things low-calorie and cuts down on the number of individual ingredients needed (the bread already contains organic raisins and cinnamon). And once you mix the ingredients together, you’re only looking at 30 minutes baking time—making this a perfectly easy (and delicious) vegan holiday desert.

 

Vegan Whole-Grain Cinnamon-Raisin Bread Pudding

Ingredients: 

• 4 cups day-old bread (like I mentioned, I used Ezekiel sprouted grain cinnamon raisin bread; if you’re using plain bread, you may want to add 1 cup raisins and an extra teaspoon ground cinnamon)

• 3 cups unsweetened almond milk

• 1/2 cup organic sugar

• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon nutmeg

• 1 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1/2 cup raw, chopped walnuts

 

Preparation: 

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

• Put bread in 8″ – 9″ square baking pan.

• In bowl, stir remaining ingredients—almond milk, sugar, vanilla, walnuts, spices—together.

• Pour mixture over bread in pan. Stir to mix.

• Bake 30 minutes.

 

Serve warm bread pudding alongside chilled apple-sauce for an overall apple-pie-like effect. Yum.

If baked earlier and refrigerated, reheat whole thing in oven for 8-10 minutes before serving. Individual servings can be reheated on the stove.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

December 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Recipe: Quick Holiday Freezer Pickles

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This is a quick and easy freezer pickle recipe from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich. My sister gave me this book—which contains 250 different pickling recipes—for Christmas last year, after I failed miserably at a Thanksgiving pickled-onion attempt. It’s taken me a whole year to try again, but I’m happy to report that last week’s freezer-pickling efforts went much better (like, these are not just edible but really good—crunchy, semi-sweet and a little bit spicy, too). And while most of the recipes in the book require a few weeks fermenting time, freezer dill slices can be made one day and served the next.

Freezer Dill Slices from The Joy Of Pickling
Makes about 4 pints 

Ingredients: 
2 1/2 pounds pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons pickling salt  [You can use kosher salt or sea salt instead; I did] 
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup minced fresh dill
1 teaspoon whole dill seeds
1 cup chopped sweet ripe pepper, such as bell or pimiento, preferably red
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

Preparation:
1. In a large bowl, toss the cucumber slices with the salt. Let the cucumbers stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, and then drain them.

2. In another bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture over the cucumbers and stir well. Refrigerate the mixture for 8 to 10 hours.

3. Pack the cucumber slices and liquid in freezer bags or rigid containers and freeze the containers.

4. Thaw the pickle for about 8 hours in the refrigerator before serving it.

Although these pickles are packed in vinegar, their main preserving agent is freezing, Ziedrich points out. “For some reason, cucumber and other vegetable slices packed in vinegar and sugar before freezing don’t turn to mush, but stay crisp. This is a very effective way to preserve not just vegetables but also herbal flavors that weaken or die in canning and drying.”

Because food expands when it freezes, allow about 1/2-inch headspace in whatever you use to freeze pickles in. Frozen pickles can keep for about a year; they’ll keep in the refrigerator for several days.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

December 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Food, My Life

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Indiana

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Written by Elizabeth

December 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Photos

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Recipe: Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

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This healthy, spicy vegan gingerbread cookie recipe is a mis-mash of several others—Martha Stewart’s chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies, Post Punk Kitchen’s vegan gingerbread cut-outs—with a few of my own twists. I’m not a terribly patient or detail-oriented baker, so my cookies (below) don’t look the best. But they were easy to make, and ended up being crowd-pleasers at a holiday party I had this past weekend—especially once I added a little (non-vegan) icing whipped up from cranberries, butterscotch chips and greek yogurt.

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies 

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp fresh, finely-grated ginger
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil
2 ‘eggs’ worth of flax goo*
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup organic sucanat or brown sugar
1 tbsp raw cacao powder

* Flax goo as egg replacer: Mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp boiling water for each egg. Let mixture sit for about 10 minutes before adding to other ingredients.

Preparation:

• In medium bowl, combine flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, chili powder, baking soda and cacao powder.

• In another bowl, mix together fresh ginger, coconut oil, flax goo and sugar. Add vanilla extract and almond milk. Combine wet ingredients with dry and stir together.

• Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic or cover with foil/parchment paper, and chill for 20 minutes to one hour (tightly wrapped, it can be chilled for a few days).

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

• Spread cookies—in whatever shapes you choose; I just went for boring circles—on lightly oiled baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes.

The cookies ultimately tasted good but looked dull, and since I was making them for a holiday party, I decided to dress them up with a little cranberry-butterscotch icing. Here’s the hastily improvised—and non-vegan—icing I made to top my gingerbread cookies.

Cranberry-Butterscotch Icing 

• 3 tbsp greek yogurt
• 3 tbsp butterscotch chips
• 1 tbsp shredded coconut
• 12-15 fresh cranberries

Combine ingredients in food processor until smooth.

Spread icing on cookies, then let harden in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

December 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Recipe: Roasted Chestnuts

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Don’t worry—while chestnuts roasting on an open fire might be romantic, your oven will do the job just fine. I first oven-roasted chestnuts two Novembers ago, to bring as a side dish for a Thanksgiving potluck. They were so delicious—rich, nutty, savory—I wondered why I’d never considered the nuts before. Though chestnuts are hard-shelled when raw, they take on a soft, potato-like texture when roasted that makes them ideal mashing, using in stuffing, or turning into breads, soups and deserts. But the plain roasted nuts make a good snack or side all by themselves, too.

Chestnut nutrition: Though chestnuts are high in starch, they’re less fat- and calorie-heavy than many other nuts, such as walnuts or almonds. They’re the only nut that contains vitamin C, and also a good source of fiber, protein, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, B-complex vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin) and minerals (such as iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium). For more on chestnuts’ nutrition profile, see here.

To roast chestnuts: Start with one pound of fresh, unpeeled chestnuts.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Using a small, sharp knife, cut an X across the curved side of each chestnut. The X should be span the entire side of the nut—this keeps the nuts from exploding while cooking, and makes it easier to peel them later. [I cannot stress enough how important this is: If you don’t make the slits big enough, or don’t allow the nuts to roast long enough to get soft, peeling them later will be painful and difficult; but if you make big enough incisions and roast long enough, you shouldn’t have problems.]

3. Spread chestnuts X-side up on a large baking sheet. Cook for 30-40 minutes.

4. Let chestnuts cool slightly—they’re best served hot, but you want them to cool enough so you can handle them. Once cooled, peel back the outer skin of the nut and enjoy!

Photo: BBC

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

December 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Recipe: Pomegranate And Persimmon Vegan Fruitcake

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Nobody likes a fruitcake, right? That’s a trope so old that I’ve never even been quite sure what a fruitcake actually is—just that it’s something nobody wants to get come the holiday season. But Wikipedia informs me that while fruitcake typically refers to a sweet cake baked with dried or candied fruits and nuts, any cake with fruit as an ingredient “can also be colloquially called a fruitcake.” Which inspired me to try coming up with a healthy, vegan fruitcake, using the pomegranate and persimmon I had in my fridge.

Turns out (yes, this is more Wikipedia reading, here), the earliest fruitcake recipes, from ancient Rome, list pomegranate seeds as an ingredient (along with pine nuts, raisins and barley mash). Fruitcakes from the Middle Ages used honey. Candied fruitcakes became popular starting in the 16th century, because they were cheap and sugary. In the Bahamas, fruitcakes are soaked in rum. In the UK, traditional Christmas fruitcake is covered in Marzipan and an egg-white dressing (seriously, British food is the worst). Mail-order fruitcakes started shipping in America in 1913. In Germany, Christmas fruitcakes are made with yeast, raisins and almonds; in Canada, fruitcakes are dark, moist, undecorated and shaped like a loaf of bread.

The point being: You can make something not-terrible and call it a fruitcake. Or, I did, and am going to, anyway. So here’s my vegan, whole-wheat pomegranate and persimmon fruitcake recipe. Happy holidays. It makes about two loaves, so you may want to half it (or triple it—vegan fruitcake for everyone!).

Vegan Pomegranate and Persimmon Fruitcake
Makes: 2 loaves 

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts or almonds
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp nutmeg
1 cup sucanat or brown sugar
2 tbsp sea salt
1 pack (7 oz) Red Star Quick Rise Yeast
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp molasses
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1-2 cups persimmon, chopped

Preparation: 

• In large bowl, sift together flour, flaxseed, nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, salt and yeast.

• In a separate bowl, mix together milk, water, olive oil and molasses.

• Add pomegranate seeds and persimmon to dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Stir everything together.

• Pour in lightly-oiled or sprayed 8-inch bread loaf pan, about 3/4 full.

• Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

November 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Recipe: Ginger Molasses Cookies

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Looking for a holiday cookie recipe without all the eggs, butter, milk or excessive sugar? Look no further. These vegan ginger molasses cookies have been a holiday favorite of mine for a few years now. They’re not terribly sweet, but with such a strong spice flavor—ginger and cloves and cinnamon, oh my!—no one should mind. And gingerbread fans in particular will enjoy these cookies.

I’m fully aware that they’re not much to look at, but they’re tasty and relatively nutritious (thanks, flax seed and whole wheat flour), which trumps presentation in my (cook)book. If you want to pretty them up a little, try pressing the top of the cookie in turbinado sugar before baking.

Ingredients:
• 2 cups whole wheat or buckwheat flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
• ¼ cup molasses
• ½ cup raw coconut oil
• 1 cup raw turbinado sugar or dried cane sugar (sucanat)
• 2 tablespoons apple sauce
• 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons ground clove
• 1 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation:
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees

• Make ‘flax goo’ by combining ¼ cup boiling water with 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed. Let mixture sit for about 10 minutes before adding to other ingredients.

• Stir together: Flour, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, ginger powder and salt

• In another bowl, combine: Coconut oil, sugar and fresh ginger. Mix until soft. Then blend in flax goo, molasses and applesauce.

• Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients a little at a time. Stir together completely, and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

• Form cookie dough into 1-inch balls. [Optional: Dip top in turbinado sugar.] Place on oiled cookie sheet, a few inches apart.

• Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

November 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Coco Rosie // ‘Fairy Paradise’

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This video—made by Lab Magazine, a British arts/film/fashion rag I’ve recently (as in, 10 minutes ago) discovered—makes me miss making music videos. And listening to Coco Rosie.

Beautiful people, beautiful shots, beautiful song …

Written by Elizabeth

November 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Music

Curio: 10/18/2012 (Rambling Media Criticism + Amateur Porn Edition)

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Last week at Blisstree, I posted about how birth control is once again making headlines for making women choose the “wrong” men—which is one of those strange media narrative perversions that happens so often and goes so unremarked on in general that it makes me hate being a journalist [the number of things in the media climate that make me hate being a journalist grow and grow …].

Scientific American blogger Scicurious, a biomedical researcher, is also sketched out by the way media, in general, cover studies relating to birth control: “There seems almost to be glee in the way people spread it.” Though the post seems to mis-peg Jezebel blogger Margaret Hartmann as totally earnest), what Scicurious gets at (and I also find most unfortunate) is that this type of melodramatic coverage is either taken as right on face, or taken as so absurd that the research it’s based on is also taken as absurd. Any valid, potentially interesting parts of the research get obscured. While I’m more inclined to think of this as an institutionally-encouraged problem, rather than rampant stupidity or laziness on the part of individual journalists, I’m not sure—nor of the extent to which this kind of coverage is exasperated by the nature of web media. IN other words, I get terribly existentialist about blogging. (Also: How is there any meaningful difference between blogging and daily web news journalism?)

[Why are we such a mess, that’s what I’m trying to say here, folks. In so much of what I write about, I’m tempted to conclude: We are all Doomed. Other commentary often fails me, but We are all Doomed applies so nicely to so much of the health, food and political news I read.)

Well anyway: Here’s a really terribly funny and also ENTIRELY ABSURD television news segment and accompanying article about a couple who turn to amateur web porn to provide for their young daughter. This is what the cognitive dissonance required to cover this couple’s porn as somehow titillating and deviant while simultaneously trying to frame them as average, upright American parents ends up looking like, I guess:

Hair pulling, biting and ordering each other around are just some of the strangest things the couple said people have asked them to do during their live sessions. It’s all filmed in their bedroom while their daughter sleeps in a different part of the house.

Written by Elizabeth

October 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Scattered Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Media Problem’

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Here is what I’ve been reading about Occupy Wall Street. Here are my few observations:

1. There is no meaningful sartorial difference these days between “hippies” and “hipsters.” Just so we’re all clear on that.

2. Most of the people quoted are ridiculous. It almost seems the media coverage is tailor-made to make us hate them, but unfortunately I think the most plausible answer—rather than widespread media conspiracy—is that this is how the majority of these people really are and sound. To speak like a cowboy or a politician for a moment: Let’s call a spade a spade, okay?

2.5 What is funny is that, were this a conservative protest, all parties involved—its participants, its mercenaries, its political cheerleaders—would have the Lamestream Liberal Media to blame, to explain away how uninformed its participants come across. Mainstream liberals can’t really avail themselves of that excuse.

2.51 They could, of course, make a point about how most media is owned by corporations who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo, or the natural biases of reporters and bloggers at traditional (and by that, I mean anything outside the super-lefty indie press) media outlets, even those like Mother Jones and NPR. I find these arguments unconvincing, but they could be made …

2.52 In fact, I feel like a lot of people in the press are going out of their way to *try* and find some coherence, some meaning in all of this.

2.54  It is of course impossible for me or you (providing you are not there) to know whether media outlets really are cherry-picking quotes and protestors to paint a certain narrative picture. If anything, I find it likely that reporters’ natural biases run more against anyone appearing to be a dreaded Hipster (hippie) than anyone appearing to have a legitimate complaint with United States power structures. If there’s one thing we all hate more than Wall Street bankers, or at least that The Media hates more, it’s hipsters. The second more likely bias would be the Bias of the Narrative (in general), I think.

2.55 Luckily, there is a lot of ‘citizen media’ available these days. A cursory glance of said citizen media does not reveal a significantly different narrative than that being reported by corporate reporters.

3. Panning the inane or misguided complaints of uninformed protestors is not the same as rejecting the very premise that there are legitimate complaints to be made about some of the issues they’re allegedly protesting. It is not to say there are no smart, informed people there. It is not to say that even the not-smart, not-informed people there don’t possibly have legitimate reasons for anger. For the record.

4. As much as my 12-year-old heart desired to go back in time and be an establishment-protesting hippie with flowers in my hair, I would have sucked at it. I could have worn those flowers damn well, though.

5. The Occupy Wall Street protestors do not sound any more misguided, insipid, etc., than your average Tea Partier. Their contempts and complaints and scapegoats are vastly different, sure, but no more or less reactionary or vacuous, and certainly no more or less coherent. But—and I am really taking a page from my boyfriend’s blog here on this one, but one of his favorite complaints rings quite true to me here—whereas many not-insipid liberals have criticized these Occupy Wall Street protestors, have in fact publicly cringed at their Greatest Hits of Liberal Demands, their incoherant babbling, their hypocrisy — whoa to the few not-insipid conservatives who did the same with tea partiers! No matter how vacous, rascist, whatever tea partiers sounded, a lot of mainstream conservatives lept to their defense. Maybe not to defend every indinvidual thing they said—some of it needed to be cleaned up a little bit for media consumption, some swept under the proverbial rug. But still, conservative leaders were enthusiastic about framing this as part of a larger story about citizens fed up, citizen uprising, etc. Liberals are not clamoring to do the same with the Occupy Wall Street kids. You can say one is the more desirable position for party mainstreams to take—I could make a case for either position, which means I will not make a case for either. But I think the difference is marked.

Written by Elizabeth

September 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

The Price Of Fast Food

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I’ve got some thoughts up at Blisstree on Mark Bittman’s Sunday New York Times piece“Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?“:

 … articles like Bittman’s always rub me the wrong way, and I’ve been trying to pinpoint why. His gratuitous mention of “Brooklyn hipsters and Berkley locavores” bugs me—I know it’s an attempt to distance himself and his arguments from these people, but I think it only serves to reinforce the connection. More bothersome to me is his equation of fast-food consumption mainly with low-income folks. In my experience, eating crap is one thing that crosses class, geographic and educational-attainment lines. Middle-class suburban families live on fast-food. PhD students eat fast food. Young professionals eat fast food. And, yes, even New York hipsters eat it, too. Fast food is not a low-income problem, it is an American problem.

And, ultimately, I don’t think folks like Bittman go far enough in condemning it. Oh, sure, they’re fast to lay the blame on fast food companies and marketers. But progressives like Bittman don’t want to be accused of being elitist (or get lumped in with the mockable Brookyn hipsters and Berkley locavores), so they’re careful to couch any arguments about personal choice in sociological ephemera and resist saying anything too radical. Conservatives, meanwhile, are too reactionary, and too in bed with the idea that criticizing fast food is somehow an affront to business and a slide into ‘nanny statism’ to apply the same sort of harsh tactics to our table choices as they do to our bedroom behavior.

And yet, honestly, maybe what the fast food debate needs is some good, old-fashioned stigma and shaming, a la smoking over the past 50 years. We can talk all we want about so-called food deserts, ‘evil’ fast food marketing, the addictive properties of fatty food, etc., but none of these are really doing anything to stop individual consumption of fast food. We need to make eating fast food ‘bad’ in the same way we’ve ostracized tobacco users. People should feel bad about eating fast food regularly. People should know that in doing so, they are inviting myriad health problems on themselves. We coddle the fast food industry, and its devotees, because it’s so politically/socially volatile not to—and I think this is the root of the problem.

And here are Phoebe Maltz-Bevy’s thoughts, which at first blush I guess seem kind of antithetical to mine, but really aren’t, I don’t think:

Speaking of the Bittman article, yes, yes, socioeconomic factors, YPIS, another article telling the poor that they can totally live off lentils, etc. The class-warfare counterarguments write themselves, and are only partly fair. Fair, insofar as lentils get old quick, but plenty of people could cook but don’t. I mean, all of this Think of the People Who Can’t Afford a Saucepan is a bit much, because obviously people who can afford a saucepan and then some are also not cooking. (But to the commenter who points out that gender enters into this, why yes it does.)

But even if you’re not especially lacking in time, money, and (ahem!) grocery access, even if you like to cook, cooking remains a chore. Until food writers wrap their heads around the idea that cooking also means grocery shopping, that grocery shopping takes time, that even ostensibly cheap-to-prepare meals often meaning you buy $8 worth of some massive amount of an ingredient you only end up using twice, that planning meals for the week is either a major task of its own or you end up wasting a great deal of food (leftovers being tough if what’s left are perishable ingredients and not a prepared meal), that all of this food needs to be not only prepared but cleaned up from, that hands and surfaces need raw eggs and meat washed off them, in short, until they realized that no meal takes ‘only 30 minutes’ except possibly the meals they think take only 5, how is anyone ever going to be convinced?

Written by Elizabeth

September 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

Catalogued: The Summer Without Men >> Siri Hustvedt

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 Hustvedt, Siri. 
 The Summer Without Men / by Siri 
     Hustvedt. - New York: Picador, 2011

1. “In Athens, they formalized ostracism to rid themselves of those suspected of having accumulated too much power, from ostrakon, the word for ‘shard.’ They wrote down the names of the threats on broken pieces of crockery. Word Shards. The Pathan tribes in Pakistan exile renegade members, sending them into a dusty nowhere. The Apache ignore widows. They fear the paroxysms of giref and pretend those who suffer from them do not exist. Chimpanzees, lions, wolves all have forms of ostracism, forcing out one of their own, either too weak or too obstreperous to be tolerated by the group. Scientists describe this as an “innate and adapteive” method of social control. … The Amish call it Meidung. When a member breaks a law, he or she is shunned. All interactions cease, and the one they have turned against falls into destitution or worse.”

2. “It is impossible to divine a story while you are living it; it is shapeless; an inchoate procession of words and things, and let us be frank: We never recover what was. Most of it vanishes. … Time is not outside us, but inside. Only we live with past, present and future, and the present is too brief to experience anyway. It is retained afterward and then it is either codified or it slips into amnesia. Consciousness is the product of delay.”

3. “In his journals, Kierkegaard writes that dread is an attraction, and he is right. Dread is a lure, and I could feel it’s tug, but why? What had I actually seen or heard that created this mild but definite pull in me? Perception is never passive. We are not only receivers of the world; we also actively produce it. There is a hallucinatory quality to all perception, and illusions are easy to create.”

4. “The whole story is in my head, isn’t it? I am not so philosophically naive as to believe that one can establish some empirical reality of THE STORY.”

5. “We must all allow ourselves the fantasy of projection from time to time, a chance to clothe ourselves in the imaginary gowns and tails of what has never been and never will be. This gives some polish to our tarnished lives, and sometimes we may choose one dream over another, and in the choosing find some respite from ordinary sadness. After all, we, none of us, can ever untangle the knot of fictions that make up that wobbly thing we call a self.”

Written by Elizabeth

September 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Friday Flashback: Happy Bullets // ‘The Vice & Virtue Ministry’

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I really loved this song two years ago*:

* I didn’t say flash-very-far-back …

Written by Elizabeth

September 9, 2011 at 7:38 am