So fancy.

I can't stop thinking about this pic of Mr. M. Cepress. So fancy.


Fried Eggs

Tonight I fried poached eggs and served them on a bed of creamed spinach. Battering poached eggs stressed me out-- they're so delicate-- but the process isn't as impossible as it might sound. I broke one yolk (as I was lifting the egg out of boiling water) and even that one turned out nicely!

Rest in Peace

Van Smith


George W. S. Trow


My Life in Lilliput

On any given day, numerous things come out of Kenneth's mouth that thrill me and reconfirm my delight in our togetherness. A most recent example of this: his off-the-cuff use of the term Lilliputian.

One side of the dining room table:

The opposite side of the same table:


The latter picture-- the evidence not of laundering but of frenzied dressing-- resulted from my newest acquisition:

Unlike other Bratz Boyz, this Cameron looked very young and boyish in his original outfit. He's a "High School Style: Cool 101" doll after all, but with his page-boy cut he looked more like 9 or 10. I immediately changed him into a more mature look in an effort to maintain my presentation of the BB's as dolls of gays in their early 20's.

I put High-School-Style Cameron's cute shoes and socks on London-Punkz Eitan:

The shorts are also from the new doll. I like them, but I'm not sure they're working here. In case you can't tell, Eitan is on his way to Baker Beach; he has a beach towel poking out of his bag.


Six Songs I Love Right Now

(a quick list is better than nothin, eh?)

1. Nelly Furtado "Maneater"
2. Jay-Z "Show Me What You Got"
3. Weird Al Yankovic "White and Nerdy"*
4. Tom Petty "Mary Jane's Last Dance"
5. Zom Zoms "Yellow Rainbow"
6. Blue October "Hate Me"

* I really want(ed) Kenneth and I to do a collaborative blog about this song (and the accompanying video). Whether I can make it happen remains to be seen.


Happy Halloween: Beautiful Winter Squash and an Excerpt from an Early Gothic Novel

"She was enchanted with the new world now exhibited to her, and she was not cool enough to distinguish the vivid glow of imagination from the colours of real bliss. The pleasure she now felt she believed would always be renewed, and in equal degree, by the objects which first excited it. The weakness of humanity is never willingly perceived by young minds. It is painful to know, that we are operated upon by objects whose impressions are variable as they are indefinable--and that what yesterday affected us strongly, is to-day but imperfectly felt, and to-morrow perhaps shall be disregarded. When at length this unwelcome truth is received into the mind, we at first reject with disgust every appearance of good, we disdain to partake of a happiness which we cannot always command, and we not unfrequently sink into a temporary despair. Wisdom or accident, at length, recal [sic] us from our error, and offers to us some object capable of producing a pleasing, yet lasting effect, which effect, therefore, we call happiness. Happiness has this essential difference from what is commonly called pleasure, that virtue forms its basis, and virtue being the offspring of reason, may be expected to produce uniformity of effect."

-Ann Radcliffe, A Sicilian Romance


Sorry for the lull. I've been dreadfully busy of late.


"They tippled like Fishes, and prattled like Parrots, / And Gobbled down Cakes, as a Sow would do Carrots. -Ned Ward, "A Walk to Islington"

Kenneth buys me the sweetest, most beautiful, and most strangely erotic cakes for my birthday celebrations. This year's cake nods to the similarity between two creams-- shaving cream and buttercream.

I helped choose this design, but in the past Kenneth surprised me. In 2001, he won my heart with this one.


"...with the Modesty of a Learner, not the Forwardness of a Teacher. You'll pardon me for it, but I once, to try her only, desired her Opinion...

...on a Point which was controverted between Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square, To which she answered with much Sweetness, 'You will pardon me, good Mr. Allworthy, I am sure you cannot in Earnest think me capable of deciding any Point in which two such Gentlemen disagree.'"

facebook.com is now a networking site like friendster.com and myspace.com; until very recently, the community was limited to people with .edu addresses-- high school and college students, staff, and faculty. The last couple of semesters, I've read my students' facebook profiles so that I can ask them impertinent questions during the class meeting we use for introductions: "On your facebook profile, you write, 'You know how at parties.. there are the "drunk drunk" people, and the "sober sober" people... well I was one of the "drunk-sober" people.' What does it mean that you're a 'drunk-sober' person?" I swear there's a pedagogical function to this, but I'll sidestep that digression. Another bonus of facebook.com and its popularity is that I can easily capture pictures of almost all my students and use the images to learn their names very quickly. When I printed out their pics in September, I promised Bradford I would post the image so that my friends and readers could take a gander at my students and get a sense of who I'm teaching. That was before I had a sense of what a super group I have this semester. You'll have to click on the image to really see them.

Here they are identified by their research topics. They're still in the earliest stages of the project, so don't balk if some topics sound dangerously broad. I can't wait to see their work: I mean, a paper about the cowboy hat!? about fingernails!? What could be better? Seriously!

Dispatch from Wausau: the Watermelon Radish

My brilliant friend kittyklive and I made a trip the the farmer's market last Saturday during her brief visit to Madison. I sent her back up north to Wausau with a couple of farm-fresh treats. She just reported back on the pleasures of her watermelon radish:
"I ate this with no seasoning or dressing at all--just straight up, crisp, slightly sweet and beety gorgeous magenta goodness. What bliss! I might have found my spirit vegetable." She explained that we see her dining in hat and zippered jacket because she's keeping her thermostat low, despite the snow falling outside.


Too busy to cook?

Fall picnic during our recent trip to see Julius Caesar at APT.

Dessert at APT: delightfully fudgy brownies

Salt and Pepper shrimp is old news. Here, I'm proud of the arroz a la Mexicana.


We found that Krispy Kreme doughnuts don't work in this recipe; they produce a very greasy pancake.**

Yesterday morning, inspired by stories of his step-grandfather's breakfast preparations, Kenneth fried a Krispy Kreme doughnut in butter for breakfast. I wasn't fast enough to snap a picture.

**from "Doughnut Pancakes with Strawberry-Coffee Sauce," Gourmet (October 2006): 87. [Soon to be available on epicurious.com, I'm sure.]

Post-traumatic Disorder

Yesterday, I was called "twat" and "dick" by a hostel guest whose stay I terminated. I intended this post to be a sympathy gatherer: the event was rather traumatic. However, noting the juxtaposition of these terms on the page-- their concomitance generally representing felicitous circumstances-- I can't help but scratch my head and chuckle.


Head Line

Cleaning up the clutter in my dining-room office as I attempt to re-purpose the space back into a dining room, I uncovered this scrap of newspaper, cut out from the front page in early summer. This post is dedicated, with love, to Bradford.


Read in Newly Printed Matter While Kicking Back at Home

"At the gym or kicking back at home, nothing says relax like the soft touch of velour."


Ongoing Exploration of Mexican Cooking

Diana Kennedy introduced me to the world of amazingly flavorful tomato broths. For the above dish, Albóndigas de Camarones (shrimp balls or shrimp dumplings), tomatoes with garlic and onion are sautéed to a paste and then water and aromatics (peppercorns and whole coriander) are added and simmered. The dumplings are raw shrimp whirled together with a moistened ancho chile, and freshly ground cinnamon, peppercorns, and coriander. They're cooked in the broth. The recipe calls for potatoes, nopales, and chayote. In the past I skipped the nopales and used zucchini in lieu of chayote. Weirdly, I wasn't able to find zucchini at the co-op the other day, so I sub-substituted broccoli, which worked well.

I also made mushroom tacos (tacos de hongos). So simple, delicious, and filling. The taco on the left contains avocado because I ran out of mushroom filling yet wanted to keep practicing my frying technique. Kennedy demonstrates how to roll tacos for frying, but currently we don't keep the necessary toothpicks on hand. I've also yet to make my own tortillas (anyone want to buy me a tortilla press?) so I must manage with locally-made store-bought fare.


"One Spoonful more of Greens, my Dear,/ Eat freely, Love, and never fear..."

-Ned Ward, Dialogue V, Between a melancholy fanciful Gentleman and his merry bantering wife, from Nuptial Dialogues and Debates (1723)

Mixed microgreens: a whole garden in miniature on one plate and in one bite. They're a little too intense for Kenneth and a little too expensive for my budget. But, I needed a treat a couple of nights ago when I was dining at home alone. So the little plastic box of microgreens went into the grocery basket and home with me.

Every time I ate them I took a picture. They're so exuberant.

They were best in a lunch salad, topped with heirloom tomatoes, left-over salt and pepper shrimp, and a simple vinaigrette.

Kenneth may not like microgreens, but he looooves salt and pepper shrimp. He calls it (to my giddy delight) "America's new favorite."


Today's Timecard

  • 7:10 am Making Mango-Peach-Lime Smoothie
  • 7:30 am Preparing for class on Fishman's "Becoming Literate: Some Lessons from the Amish" and Danet's "'Feeling Spiffy': The Changing Language of Public Email"
  • 8:50 am Teaching class
  • 10:50 am Completing responses to papers and emails to students
  • 12:10 pm Organizing new office in Madison Hostel
  • 1:30 pm Eating sandwich of almond butter and elderberry jam
  • 3:15 pm Moving furniture, books, shelf, etc. from home and into new office (3rd fl.)
  • 4:15 pm Scrubbing musty carpet and chair previously stored in home basement
  • 5:00 pm Manning the front desk at Madison Hostel
  • 6:50 pm Eating split pea pasta salad and tabouleh, both from Willy St. Co-op
  • 7:30 pm Eating raw carrot
  • 10:30 pm Locking up the hostel
  • 11:00 pm Watching Seinfeld and eating Fig Newmans
  • 11:50 pm Sudoku-ing in bed


Cleaning a rusty cast-iron skillet in Coca-cola

I remember Joe Brainard...

Fuckin' Joe Brainard:

Most artists are very straight, straight in their seriousness and in what they are trying to do. I think I’m a lot more sensual, a lot more ga-ga than that….

ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga: so hot in so many ways.


Recent Focaccia

Gentle, expectant readers, lest you think I've fallen off the planet... here's the focaccia I prepared for a Labor Day cookout.

This one-- topped with black pepper, strawberries soaked in balsamic vinegar, and (after I snapped the pic) basil chiffonade-- is the most exciting to look at. I need to tweak the recipe (and use better, sweeter strawberries).

The more traditional ones-- potato with rosemary AND gorgonzola with walnut & onion-- were by far the most successful and tastiest.


Just when you think you've got a hold...

Ugh, I'm so sick of seeing Laura Bennett at the top of my blog. BUT, I'm in the throes of preparing for the composition class I'll teach this semester. So, until I get a holt of my class, my life, my blog, and so forth, look at this. I could watch it for hours...


It's Like He's A Real Boy!

Apparently Heidi Klum's comments on the villain of Project Runway Season Three refer to Keith Michael, the fellow who was kicked off the show for harboring pattern books in his bedroom. I suppose that makes sense, apart from the fact that I all but forgot Keith following his sudden departure. The show's treatment of his villainy was so curt and cursory-- I don't get why Heidi's excitement sounds so promotional.

Misunderstanding Ms. Klum's intention, I tried to put my finger on this season's villain: isn't Nina always a villain? Must be the Antarctic mother of 5 or 6, Laura Bennett?

Wasn't Wendy Pepper a villain, so is this villain thing (Heidi: "
You always hope for something like that.") all that new?

Before the above link sorted everything out for me, I firmly concluded that Jeffrey Sebelia must be the villain: everybody hates him, his dark attitude, his rude treatment of Angela's mother, etc., etc.

Maybe I just have a soft spot for recovering addicts. Or maybe I'm just too West Coast-y. I'm rather fond of Jeffrey. I find him interesting to look at-- his is a type rarely glimpsed on the little box. I love(d) looking at Jeffrey and Alison Kelly together. Such a great contrast, that pair: pale, gritty, weathered street layers next to a fantastic, soft, luminous, Lolitalike one-piece.

She's only been gone a week, but I really miss Alison. Oh to have seen her mother (or sister) on the most recent episode!! (I've begun to theorize that she was removed from the competition because her family members weren't available for the mother/sister challenge... or she was discovered in a magical cabbage patch and has no family...)

As you ponder Jeffrey's behavior last week, keep in mind that he gets stuck with Angela's mom: no one else wants her. Also note that she targets his fabric, something that Jeffrey can't revise at that point in the challenge. The feedback we see her give Time is purely unhelpful, and Jeffrey reacts to this in particular.

Of course she cries: how easy is that? It's a pity that she doesn't start to cry the minute she is paired with Jeffrey... I was impressed by his positive attitude in that moment; he says something like "We'll have fun, I promise." Of course said fun never manifests itself, but I suspect that Darlene is (quietly, passive-aggressively) too me-me-me to enable said fun. Why would a woman like Darlene go to Jeffrey for a garment? Purely on a lark. Her behavior is strictly larkless.

Long live Jeffrey Sebelia, who I do not expect to make the top three but whose t-shirt is the only one I've considered ordering.


And Liberty plucks Justice by the Nose

Kenneth's co-workers mocked him early Friday evening as he left the office to fetch me for Measure for Measure at APT. American Players Theatre is a fabulous outdoor, primarily Shakespeare theater in Spring Green, about an hour west of Madison. And, during the gray, soggy drive to the event, we thought his co-workers might be right: it was no night for a show at APT. However, we've gone to rained out shows in the past and had a great time. A change of scenery, an air uncertainty (maybe we'll see a play tonight, or maybe we'll head home early for heaven-knows-what), the people watching, all of this can make for a fun outing.

Upon arrival, we discovered that the weather wasn't so bad. A dark haze hung over the grounds of APT throughout the evening, but the misty drizzle quickly gave way to warm humid air. It was a perfect evening for outdoor theater.

We wiped off a table and had a picnic among clusters of other playgoers.

I made a tomato basil gratin (with garlicky ricotta cheese) and mayo-free tuna sandwiches. The oil-packed tuna, olives, celery, onions, etc. are tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. The trick to the dish: a layer of cannellini bean spread goes on the bread first and holds the tuna salad in place. The recipe called for watercress, but I substituted spicy radish microgreens because, well, I couldn't get watercress. That's orchid melon (a watermelon with pretty orange flesh) in the plastic bowl.

For dessert, I made a plum tart topped with marzipan crumble. I supplemented the plums with a handful of Bayfield blueberries. I'm in love with the crumble. It's not super-cheap but it's so easy and delicious: just whirl together golden brown sugar, almond paste, sliced almonds, flour, and butter. I can't stop eating it...

The crust is a little dark on the outside. I'm figuring out a couple of new things: a black tart pan (darker pans cause things to bake faster) and the new pizza stone in my oven (which must shift the ways and wheres heat accumulates).

The production took a broadly comic approach to Measure for Measure. I enjoyed it and learned a great deal about the play from APT's interpretation. However, I remain convinced that Shakespeare's play makes the most sense (or perhaps only makes sense) when understood as a meditation on the relationship between theater and politics. The sometimes sprightly and often seemingly sympathetic portrayal of the Duke veiled his manipulative character and his concomitant drive to re-tool his reputation-- to improve the morality of the city without being held responsible for upholding rigid laws. At the play's end, evildoers are punished by marriage rather than hanging not because Shakespeare adheres to some corny comic convention but because this outcome (mandated by the Duke) makes the Duke appear a benevolent ruler. The Duke scripts and directs the play's conclusion: it's one of my favorite metatheatrical moments.

Director Kenneth Albers implores the audience to "embrace [MfM's] unusual circumstances and gleefully follow the Duke's 'Master of Ceremonies' as he leads us through the various 'acts' of this unique and often chaotic theatrical 'circus.'" This is a cop out: a preemptive against any assertion that his production seems jumbled (as it does). If one wants to consider the play as scathing comedy, why not push Angelo's violent treatment of Isabella to heights of dark comedy heretofore unimagined? Why not twist Isabella into a more complicated figure (humorously icy? or flatly self-righteous? or dully innocent?)? If, as Albers commands, one gleefully follows the Duke's "Master of Ceremonies," one leaves the theater with a confusing aftertaste of unexplained sadism. The costume and design, as always, were delightful.

Kenneth's co-workers may have mocked him, but that didn't mar our Friday evening plans. AND, I may be a persnickety scholar or whatever... but that didn't keep me from enjoying another great evening of picnicking and theater in Spring Green.


"And plums, to tempt you, turn their glossy side." -Dryden

Pretty Plums from yesterday's market. Also, note that I posted out of order (see "Holy Shit: Readers Beware!!" below, if you haven't) so that the post's image would be out of my view.

Bayfield, Madeline Island, Etc.

After living in northern California for half a decade, I came to accept its varied yet ubiquitous natural beauty as standard. Consequently, I'm hard to impress. I pondered this fact worriedly while enroute to Bayfield, WI. I'm delighted to report that the place took my breath away.

Likely, you've already seen this:

What this picture doesn't reveal is that this beautiful river flows into Lake Superior, which surrounds the rocky coast of Madeline Island (the largest island, just out from Bayfield).

And just down from this: a thin but extensive beach lining the cove-like bay on the east side of the island. When was the last time you visited a beach littered with pinecones and, of course, bounded by sand grasses that lead up to beautiful pine forest???

The pride of Wisconsin looks out onto the Great Lake dissolving into the horizon.

The mainland also offers lovely beaches. Here's a taste of the crystal clear water lapping up against the shore and then a wee Erk wading way out into the lake. At the beginning of the film, you can make out Madeline Island in the distance. I include the video because the sound of the gentle waves is essential to the place's relaxing magnificence.

Holy Shit: Readers Beware!!

I recently blogged with enthusiasm about squash blossom quesadillas. My first batch was a revealation: delicate, delicious, and easy to prepare. Last night, following up Mike's interest in the flowers, I snapped an image of my preparations.

This time around, a revolt-ution. The cooked blossoms were quite bitter, but Kenneth and I-- foolishly-- worked our way through the quesadillas. Early this morning, we both developed horrendous, gut-wrenching diarrhea. I promise to follow up on this in an effort to provide sound info on eating squash blossoms. Diana Kennedy can't be all wrong as my initial venture was so successful; however, there's something she's not telling me. I can't do the research now: ugh, simply posting the picture makes my stomach lurch for the first time in hours.

I didn't want some gentle reader to remember my excitement about the quesadillas and end up in the same dreadful situation...........

There now: the last 3 hours I spent reading blogs has resulted in something.

"Seriously, quotes from Mommie Dearest are the wire hangers of gay culture." -fourfour


Nor, creeping through the woods, the gelid race / Of berries. Oft in humble station dwells / Unboastful worth, above fastidious pomp.

-James Thomson*, Summer

I thought blackberries were, by definition, tart. While on vacation in Bayfield, WI, I ate the sweetest blackberries I've ever encountered: piled plain in bowls at Egg Toss Bakery Cafe, mixed with blueberries, etc. in a berry pie at Maggie's, and (also at Maggie's) fashioned into blackberry shortcake.

Early in the summer, Kenneth asked if anyone ever made blueberry or blackberry shortcake. I answered, "Sure..." with a very California-inflected opinion that a cook can retool any old recipe. And without any notion that I would ever retool strawberry shortcake. Maggie's answered Kenny's question with more delicious gusto than I could imagine. On our way out of town, we stopped by a berry farm which to our surprise was run by the priest who preached at Bayfield's Christ Episcopal the previous Sunday. His comments on sustainable farming suddenly had a whole new context. Last night, I sustained the pleasures of Bayfield just a little longer with my own humble version of blackberry shortcake.

Oh that I could somehow let every reader sample just one of these berries: they are so so sweet and delicate.

*Thomson is one of my favorite poets. Initially, I found him to be impenetrable and boring, but now his verses makes me weep...


Simple Summer Dinner

A new favorite: Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Romanesco Broccoli with Mushroom Wine Sauce. If you aren't familiar with Romanesco Broccoli, check out this great pic by another blogger.
...but I was warn'd by my Experience to eat sparingly of them, remembring, that when I was ashore in Barbary, the eating of Grapes kill'd several of our English Men who were Slaves there, by throwing them into Fluxes and Fevers. -Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Sure, champagne grapes are elegant in all their tiny glory, but I find them to be difficult to eat. I cherish any number of other difficult foods-- artichokes, for instance. However, lacking the patience to nibble my way through a bunch of champagne grapes, I frequently find myself harvesting batches of the juicy wee grapes into the blender and whirling them into a fruity beverage. The results always delight me, though I feel like I'm commiting a sacrilege of some sort.