Potato Rosti Stack

4 Jun

So the first order of business is that I clearly can’t keep up this regular-posting differently-themed-days thing. I never have the right thing to talk about on the day I have time to write. So I sadly bid farewell to yet another attempt to have an organised online life; oh, well.

Luckily I have something AMAZING to make up for it.

Potato Rosti Stacked with Halloumi and Grilled Tomato on a Bed of Spinach

A few weeks ago I had breakfast at Baobab. It was truly delicious, beautifully prepared … and not very large for its price tag. I was still kinda hungry after it, not going to lie. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and decided I absolutely had to make it, myself, in abundant, satisfying quantities. So I did. And unlike most home recreations, I thought this was actually kinda better than the version I had there. It’s been awhile so I don’t know how exact the duplicate is (I don’t think they used carrot and I think they had a pesto of some kind as well as the balsamic vinegar) but this owes a lot to the Baobab Potato Rosti Stack.

Makes six rosti; serves two or three people depending.
Gluten free, vegetarian. Not too spendy except for the halloumi.

4 smallish potatoes
1 large carrot
1 egg
3 large cloves garlic
A handful of parsley
Salt and pepper
Canola oil

Around 300g halloumi
2 fresh, ripe but still firm tomatoes
Fresh spinach
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to the maximum temperature.

2. Wash the potatoes and carrot. Peel them if you want (I didn’t).

3. Grate both coarsely, and rinse thoroughly under cold water (a colander is good and easier to clean than a sieve; you could also use a vege steamer). Let drain as long as you have patience for.

4. Crush the garlic and finely chop with the parsley. Squeeze the liquid out of potato and carrot by twisting portions up in a teatowel. Get it as dry as possible – you want them to not be sticking together much, and to come apart from each other easily in the bowl.

5. Lightly beat the egg, and toss with the carrot, potato, garlic, and parsley. Season to taste.

6. In a frying pan, heat enough canola oil (or other cheapo vegetable oil) to cover the pan about 1 centimetre (a bit over half an inch) deep.

7. Heap large spoonfuls of the vege mix into the oil, and pat and squish (with a spoon or other utensil!) into rough patty shapes. Fry for around five minutes until they’re a golden brown on the bottoms, flip and repeat on the other side. Drain briefly on a paper towel. You might have some integrity issues (i.e. they might fall apart under pressure, e.g. when they’re being moved around). Don’t worry about it. It’s possible this could be avoided by using a little flour or extra egg in the mix, but I wanted to stay gluten-free. Plus also I don’t really like a floury rosti; it really affects the taste and texture.

8. Grease a baking tray or cover it with baking paper. Place the rosti on the tray, and top them with a slice of halloumi – at least half a centimetre thick; they don’t need to be too much thicker than that although they can be if you like – and a thick slice of tomato (like 2 cm/an inch thick; each tomato should become around four slices).

9. Turn the oven to grill (broil) and grill them directly under the element for 7-10 minutes, until the halloumi looks a little wobbly and the tomato looks heated through.

10. Meanwhile, beat a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and possibly salt and pepper if you like. Wash and dry the spinach.

11. Place the spinach on a plate. Top with the rosti stack and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

12. Eat up!

I don’t have pictures because my camera battery died and my charger is at my parents’ house. Sorry. But really, the photos would not have done this justice. (They present very prettily though; the spinach with the crispy golden potato, the pale halloumi and the red tomato look fantastic together.) Also, this is really best served very hot; if it were me and I was feeding this to other people and wanted to do stuff ahead, I’d fry the rosti but not grill them until everyone was there. Even then though, I wouldn’t leave it too long.


Tuesday Poem: mehitabel s morals, by Don Marquis

10 May

mehitabel s morals

boss i got
a message from
mehitabel the cat
the other day
brought me by
a cockroach
she asks for our help
it seems she is being
held at ellis
island while an
investigation is made
of her morals
she left the country
and now it looks as
if she might not
be able to get
back in again
she cannot see
why they are
her morals she says
wotthehellbill she says
i never claimed
i had any morals
she has always regarded
morals as an unnecessary
complication in life
her theory is
that they take up room that might
better be devoted to
something more interesting
live while you are alive
she says and postpone
morality to the hereafter
everything in its place
is my rule she says
but i am liberal she
says i do not give
a damn how moral other
people are i never try
to interfere with them
in fact i prefer them
moral they furnish
a background for my
vivacity in the meantime
it looks as if she
would have to swim
if she gets ashore and
the water is cold


— Don Marquis

So if you don’t know Archy and Mehitabel you must must must run out and buy them – they are usually available second hand – or at least skim through them in the library. Archy is a vers libre poet whose soul gets transmigrated into the body of a cockroach and he types his missives out at night in a newspaper office. His most regular companion is Mehitabel the cat, who swears she used to be Cleopatra, and in any case has had an interesting cat life. The poems are silly and wonderful and wise and ridiculous. They were written as newspaper columns and are sometimes very long and sometimes quite short. And you really must read them. And that’s all I got.

The Sunday Read: Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine

8 May

Cover is white, with three overlapping rectangles - pink labelled X, blue labelled Y, and yellow unlabelled - and the subtitle "How our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference"

Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference has been on my to-read list for awhile, and I’m thrilled I finally got around to it. Delusions of Gender might fairly be described as a response to a trend in both popular and academic science of ascribing sociological differences in women’s and men’s lives to a physical difference. We’re all probably familiar with recent books and studies that ascribe these differences to neurological differences in men and women; but in a brilliant if slightly puckish stroke, Fine compares the language of these books and studies to the language of popular and academic science in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and finds them remarkably similar. The intent of the book, Fine suggests in her Author’s Note, is not to say anything new about gender: rather, it’s to question scientists who appear to be saying the same things about gender that they have been saying for the past 150 years. Basically, she says, we are constantly turning to biology to confirm our hope that men and women really are different; and the brain is so poorly understood that it has become the latest screen onto which we project these suspicions.

The book is divided into three parts: “‘Half-Changed World’, Half-Changed Minds”, “Neurosexism”, and “Recycling Gender”. The first third is a funny, scathing assessment of the role societal conditioning plays in the formation of gender, reviewing stereotype threat (where minority groups do badly because it’s expected that they will), gender priming (which brings gender to the foreground so women in fields women aren’t supposed to be good at are constantly aware of their gender and under stereotype threat), and other ways in which cultural and social expectations affect and predict performance. Some of this stuff is fairly familiar to anyone interested in sexism, gender, and sociology: get two mixed groups to take a test. Before they take the test, tell one group that men traditionally do better in these kinds of tests; tell another group that women traditionally do better. (This process ranges from the blunt to the extremely subtle). Or alternatively, get one group to identify their gender before the test; get another group to do so after the test. You will get the results that you asked for: men do better where they’re told that men do better, and vice versa. Women asked to identify their gender before a maths test do worse than otherwise similar women asked to identify their gender after taking the test. And so on. Fine lays it out extremely thoroughly, and it’s likely to be useful next time you find yourself in a fight with a gender essentialist, but this material wasn’t new to me, at least.

On the other hand, some of the material – mostly that which spends time breaking down popular science on men’s and women’s roles – is brand new and galvanising. For example, in “Gender Equality Begins (and Ends) at Home”, Fine examines work on the “second shift” – homework, housework, and childcare performed by working women and men. The second shift notoriously affects women much more than it does men: in (opposite-sex parented) families where both parents work, women do about twice the amount of unpaid work as men do. People generally understand this as being produced by unequal power generated by who brings the most about of money to the table. And it’s true that as a woman’s salary approaches her partner, the second shift becomes less unequally distributed. But when a woman’s salary exceeds her partner’s, she starts doing more of the second shift. In fact the more she earns, the more housework she does – even when her partner is unemployed. This is bad enough by itself, but Fine is in brilliant form when she skewers popular science that attempts to justify this. One book, for example, suggest that women derive a physical benefit (oxytocin production) from housework: so it’s actually more healthy for a woman to work all day, and then come home and do the dishes and the laundry. On the other hand, producing oxytocin is bad for men, and if they do too much housework they become dangerously testosterone-low. “One can only hope that Mrs. Gray finds it gratifyingly oxytocin-producing to have to remind her husband where the plates are kept,” remarks Fine.

The second part of the book, “Neurosexism,” I found the most dense. Reviewing a (large: one-third of the book’s thickness is footnotes) number of neurological studies which purport to demonstrate essential gender differences, Fine spends a lot of time breaking down the studies’ methodology as well as their conclusions, wondering on the one hand whether the notable Baron-Cohen/Connellan baby study (in which girl babies were found to be more interested in faces, and boy babies in mobiles) might have been affected by the scientists knowing the gender of the babies as they were testing, and on the other hand whether studies on the lateralisation of the brain (which purport to explain why men are worse at multi-tasking than women) really explain anything: “I find these intuitive leaps from brain structure to psychological function unconvincing … As an example of just how wrong our intuitions can be in these matters, despite the popular assumption that a more lateralized brain will be worse at multitasking, neurobiologist Lesley Rogers and her colleagues found precisely the opposite to be the case in chicks.” This section, though dense, is also occasionally screamingly funny, such as in the summary of this paper (the neurological responses of a “post-mortem” Atlantic Salmon).

The final section on the book is the one I most want everyone to read. Called “Recycled Gender,” it covers gendered and supposedly non-gendered childrearing, along with implicit associations and what we (say we) think versus what we do. Essentially, this chapter discusses how easy it is for children to begin to understand what it means to have gender and what their gender is and how it should be performed. I didn’t find it as funny as the earlier sections mostly because I found it depressing: we just keep passing everything on to our kids, basically, and more or less involuntarily.

Anyway. Delusions of Gender is a thorough, well-researched book that manages to be an easy read without being slick or suspicious. It’s funny and scathing, but also it’s honest – something that deserves some emphasis. It’s very easy for people who write about gender differences to describe themselves as fearless anti-PC warriors who are Just Telling the Truth About Men and Women: but as Fine points out, these ideas have always been popular and the eagerness with which they are grasped by parents, educators, employers, and scientists does not exactly point to a generalised disfavour. Fine has a fantastic post on this which is really worth reading, and keeping in mind as you read this book – which absolutely everyone must do.

Further reading:
Interview with Fine at Neuroanthropology
Review at Neuroskeptic
Interview with Fine at Salon

Thursday Poem: anyone lived in a pretty how town, by e.e. cummings

31 Mar
steps written on in bright coloured chalk: "down they forgot as up they grew"

click through for source

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake up and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon (and only the snow can begin to explain how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

— e. e. cummings

I know it’s not Tuesday, but I’ve had this in drafts for ages, so! I got this out of my ancient Penguin Anthology of American Verse, which has some pretty odd choices and omissions but is, I usually find, a good place to start for any American poet which is the point I guess. I doubt my version is still available, it will presumably have been updated more recently than 1986.

Despite it being autumn and getting colder, we’ve had some incredible Wellington days, clear and bright and wonderful. In that kind of weather I can never resist this brilliant cummings poem:

i thank You God for most this amazing‘ day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes

– which to my mind is one of those poems that you just can’t stop reading, you have to keep going all the way to the last couplet: “(now the ears of my ears awake and/now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”  I read through all of his poems I own and then I browse about on the internet and felt guilty. I felt guilty because it’s quite difficult to get an accurate copy of most of his poems (for example, you get a hell of a lot *more* google results for “I thank you God for this most amazing” than you do for “i thank You God for most this amazing”) and I don’t think he’d be thrilled about that, I don’t think anyone should be; and of course I felt guilty about the dissemination of poetry such that – unlike novels where you at least have to jump through a bunch of hoops and be really *aware* that you’re doing something wrong and illegal to pirate – you can pretty much read the bulk of most well-known poets’ work for free, online, 100% of the time, no guilt attached.

I think this post sat in drafts for so long because I’m conflicted about that last paragraph. Well, not conflicted: I think it’s pretty much true. Which is not so bad for Shakespeare or even old e.e. because after all they’re not going to get royalties anyway. Jenny Bornholdt? Well, she’s a New Zealand poet so her work is a lot less available online, but you can get quite a lot, like the poem I meant to post this week, The Boyfriends. (“The boyfriends all love you but they don’t really know how…”) On the other hand, a lot of places where people post poetry also include tremendous amounts of discussion. I went out and bought a book by Philip Larkin after people at Great Poets posted some of his work. That community keeps poetry alive and widely-read; so do lots of others. So I don’t really know how to finish this off, except maybe: this is a good poem! And I like it! And that’s all.

The Sunday Read: In Memory of Diana Wynne Jones

27 Mar

I woke this morning to many people having Twittered in the night that Diana Wynne Jones had lost her battle with cancer. I really can’t tell you how sad I am without resorting to familiar phrases like I-didn’t-kn0w-her-but-her-work-touched-my-life and so-influential and it always seems a little gauche to mourn someone you never met … but DWJ was brilliant and I loved her work. Mostly for young adults, it is not as well-known as it ought to be. It ranges from the hilariously snide (The Tough Guide to Fantasyland) to the devastatingly beautiful (Fire and Hemlock) to the extraordinarily unusual epic (the Dalemark quartet) to the series she was increasingly best-known for, a clever but not difficult series that the Harry Potter generation glommed onto pretty quickly, Chrestomanci.

Her work is so diverse and so good that I’m not sure I can say anything careful and reasoned about it. All I have is a  big jumble of memories: The moment when Christopher realises what the strange, fishy packages were. The moment when he faces Tacroy and watches Tacroy lie for him. Strong, subtle, serious moments in a book that does not come across as subtle or serious. Maree and Nick doing the witchy dance on the bridge. Maree and the Thornlady, the hard thing inside her that tells her she isn’t worth it. I so strongly identify with Maree that I probably oughtn’t be able to talk about it in public. What Grundo was doing to Roddy. What Gwendolyn was doing to Cat. What Gammer made her sons do. The flower woman in the hut. Someone in this class is a witch. Sophie and the active voice, what Diane Duane calls the enactive rescension, when saying things makes them so. Howl and his sulks. The bossy princesses. Here Now. Olga’s jinx. Curses made out of orange peel and looking out for Felim. The moment when Elda is carrying Corkoran and realises he is afraid of her. If you took university and plunked it down in the middle of epic fantasy and sent off an impoverished prince and a wealthy but mysterious young woman and a manumitted dwarf and a mixed-race princess with a travelling jinx and another prince being chased by assassins AND A GRIFFIN and then you tried to teach them all how to do magic. Jamie, wandering. What happens when an extremely large man sits down at your kitchen table and refuses to move. What has your family got to do with who you are. What if you were meant to be somebody else. Nice is not good. Kit, falling into the lake. Wandering in a forest forgetting who you are. Mitt, waiting. Watching your father die and nobody seem to care. When you and your siblings don’t look like the people around you and what happens when your village gets a little too close to a warzone and your parents don’t come home. Watching the people you love getting older and older while you stay the same. What happens when the adults around you don’t care about you. Playing with matches. But you wouldn’t believe how lonely you get.

People much smarter than me will be making much more organised, thoughtful, and probably interesting posts. I’ll try to link to them as they come up, so maybe if you haven’t read her before those posts will be more of interest to you. Here’s a start:

John Scalzi on Dogsbody.
The Rejectionist, quoting DWJ herself.
Diane Duane on The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.
Debbie Gascoyne on The Ogre Downstairs (and others).
Pandarus on her childhood experiences reading DWJ.

At the end of the day though, I’m just so sad about this. But the loss is much greater for those who know her: for I will be able to revisit her work in the days and years to come. I’m very grateful.

Slacker Saturday: Best Rice Pudding

19 Mar

I think Saturday is going to shortly become my recipe-posting day, meaning I have to come up with a food-related word beginning with S (Salty Saturday? Salivating Saturday? erm, that one’s a bit yuck). Luckily this one fits perfectly under Slacker Saturday because I have no pictures and this recipe is all about never having to leave the house.

It’s actually a beautiful day here in Wellington, and rice pudding is winter food; snuggly food; I-just-got-off-an-airplane-having-been-on-it-for-like-36-hours-and-I-have-a-horrible-cold-and-it’s-the-middle-of-winter food, that last set of circumstances being those under which I first jiggled this rice pudding recipe together. I wanted something I wouldn’t have to leave the house to make; something, frankly, I’d have to leave my *bed* as little as possible to make, so it had to be a boiled pudding rather than a baked one; something soothing and not overly-flavoured, without being dull. Not all that necessary on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in early autumn. But I’ve been craving this recipe all week, since the day I got caught in a rainstorm and showed up at work sodden, and today I finally had time to make it.

Best Rice Pudding
Or my favourite, anyway.

3/4 of a cup rice
1 1/2 cups water
pinch of salt
1 cup cream
3 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon quill
Zest of half an orange
1/2 cup of sugar

A note on substitutions
I am ALL about substitutions in this recipe, because the “don’t leave your house” principle requires a flexible attitude. Here are some comments and subs for these ingredients:
Rice: I use arborio rice, if I have it. But you can make rice pudding with about any kind of rice. I’ve even seen recipes calling for basmati rice.
Cream: If you don’t have cream, this recipe tastes perfectly grand using four cups of whole milk, although it will be a little thinner until it’s cooled a little. However, it still tastes really rich.
Orange zest:  Easiest way to get this is to use a potato peeler, by the way. You could certainly substitute lemon zest here, probably also tangerine or hell, mandarin. I don’t know what effect using lime zest would have, but I sort of want to.
Vanilla bean: Vanilla beans are very dear, especially if you buy them from the supermarket – this is because it takes like eleven years to produce one. There’s no reason not to substitute a teaspoon of vanilla essence here. If you do decide to go with beans, you can avoid leaving your house (and save a ton of money) by buying them off TradeMe – I had a very good experience with willyow last time (oh gosh, browsing their listings, they sell dutch cocoa powder too – sighhhhh!) US readers can get them even more cheaply – frankly obscenely cheaply – on eBay.
Cinnamon stick: Cinnamon sticks are more affordable but if you don’t have them in your pantry – a teaspoon of ground cinnamon will do.
Sugar: Hey, brown sugar would probably be really tasty in this. Honey or maple syrup, too.

1.  In a large-ish pot, bring the rice, salt, and water to boil. Turn it right down, bung the lid on, and let simmer until the water has almost all absorbed.

2. Zest the orange. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds (ESSENTIAL for the I-am-a-food-snob-see-these-vanilla-seeds look), adding all to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Let cook, stirring every ten minutes for the first twenty minutes and every five minutes thereafter, for forty minutes to an hour – until the pudding reaches the appropriate consistency (the time it takes to do this will depend on how fatty your milk is and, obviously, how you like your rice pudding).

3. Remove the zest and throw it away. Wash and dry the vanilla bean and cinnamon quill – you can use these again. A nice thing to do with the bean is grind it up and let sit in a jar with some sugar for a couple days to make vanilla sugar.

4. Pour or ladle into a bowl depending on how classy you’re feeling. Eat watching television.

Wednesday Week: International Women’s Day

9 Mar

Yesterday was International (Working) Women’s Day in New Zealand, and I managed to do absolutely nothing except be a working woman. (For, lo, I have acquired a job. I don’t seriously believe that anyone who reads this doesn’t keep up with my life in some other way, but there you go.)  However, luckily, today is IWD in most of the rest of the (English-speaking) world, so I can cleverly look like I was waiting for my links day AND for the day in which I’d be able to link you to lots and lots of posts, so that I can get away with the frankly pretty lame excuse that man, I’m so tired.

But it really doesn’t matter, because there’s so much amazing stuff for you to read. Here are some people whose posts moved me in the last 48 hours:

The Wellington Young Feminists’ Collective did a bunch of posts from their members, wild Gen Yers just like me, on what feminism means to them. Read ’em. Coley; Matthew; Cait; Rachael; Stephanie; Caitlin.


The tweets of John Darnielle on IWD, as capped by Autostraddle (click through yo, they're great).


On Feminism and Fireworks at Shakesville

The Yarn Harlot: I am a feminist, because I know what the word means.

There are more out there. You pretty much can’t turn around on the internet today without reading something about women that will make you laugh or cry or be proud and ashamed to be a person in the world. You probably don’t have time to read everything, but maybe you could read just one thing, or two? Yeah.

And here’s a golden oldie that I was thinking about the other day.

Image of a young girl with text "Mommy, when I grow up, I want to smash the white, racist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit paradigm too!"