Reveries of Disillusioned Enchantment

Figuring Out A Whole New Life

After a whirlwind 8 years of living, learning and exploring in New York City, Prague, Paris, Moldova and India and countless travels around the world; I'm back home in Georgia figuring out what to do next.

I will …

  • start writing more
  • stop making excuses
  • go after my goals
  • be the person I know I can be

Wish me luck. 

My little guy, Abraham Lincoln (see beard)

Meet Abraham, my smiling buddy who we rescued a couple of months ago from a shelter here in Georgia. 

We’re thinking he’s a mix of Russell Terrier and Dachshund.  Although looking at the recent pictures of the new terrier breed allowed at the Westminster dog show, I’m going with the former.

This is the first sentence in the Wikipedia entry for “Russell Terrier”.

The Russell Terrier is a predominantly white working terrier with an insatiable instinct to hunt formidable quarry underground. ”
 
The man does seem interested in shit that is buried beneath your average surface. Almost an insatiable interest…

Britain considers running negative ads against itself

From the Foreign Policy blog: 

 

Next year, curbs on Romanian and Bulgarian citizens living and working in Britain will expire. In order to prevent an influx of immigrants from those countries, the Guardian reports that the British government is reportedly considering a plan to trash their own country’s image: 

The plan, which would focus on the downsides of British life, is one of a range of potential measures to stem immigration to Britain next year when curbs imposed on both country’s citizens living and working in the UK will expire.

A report over the weekend quoted one minister saying that such a negative advert would “correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold”.

There was no word on how any advert might look or whether it would use the strategy of making Britain look as horrible as possible or try to encourage would-be migrants to wake up to the joys of their own countries whether Romania’s Carpathian mountains or Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts. With governments around the world spending millions on hiring London-based consultants to undertake “reputation laundering” there would be a peculiar irony if Britain chose to trash its own image perhaps by highlighting winter flooding of homes or the carnage of a Saturday night A&E ward.

Downing Street has not confirmed or denied the plans. If the new proposed immigration dealdoesn’t work out, perhaps the U.S. government could follow with ads throughout Latin America focused on economic inequality, obesity, and gun crime. It’s the next frontier of nation branding!

I feel like the Britains feel the same way about Romanians as Romanians feel about Moldovans. It’s an interesting world we live in. 

A Shortage of Cancer Drugs in Romania

From Eastern Approaches:

THOUSANDS of cancer patients in Romania struggle everyday to find the drugs their life depends on. The country has been facing a severe cancer-drug shortage over the last two years as more than 20 types of medicine, especially the cheap ones, are very difficult or impossible to obtain. 

 Last week the government revealed its budget for 2013, which didn’t include any particular provision to solve the cancer-drug shortage.

If this is what is happening in Romania, an EU country with loads more funding and resources than non-EU Eastern European countries, I can only imagine how dire the situation is in Moldova. 

This sounds familiar. 

 While doctors and hospitals managers are overwhelmed with this situation, cancer patients are struggling to purchase the drugs on their own though they are entitled to free medication according to the law. Some Romanians who are frequently traveling to Western Europe buy these drugs and send them home to their sick friends or relatives. There is even a website called “Missing Drugs” where patients can fill in a form with the drugs they need and volunteers in Europe try to find the medicines and send it to them.

“I have been desperately looking for Bleomycin in every single deposit and pharmacy in Bucharest, but I couldn’t find it”, says Marius, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer last summer. “If you go into a hospital and ask for a cytostatic, they say there isn’t any left but if you give a bribe to the right person, the cytostatic appears out of the blue. This is why some people die and some don’t in Romania.  It’s all about the money.”

The Pirate Party according to Wikipedia

How did I not know this existed? So much for my NYU degree in political science. 

From the source of EVERYTHING:

Pirate Party is a label adopted by political parties in different countries. Pirate parties support civil rightsdirect democracy and participation, reform of copyright and patent law, free sharing of knowledge (Open content), information privacytransparency, and freedom of information. They advocate network neutrality and universal, unrestricted access to the Internet as indispensable conditions to some of this.[citation needed]

Soda vs Coffee

image 

I’m liking this new trend. Down with soda!

From the Atlantic

Ten years ago, Americans drank enough soda every year to fill a small aquarium. Fifty-three gallons of the stuff per person. That’s half a liter of Diet Coke on an average day. Compare that to our other favorite liquid-caffeine companion. For every cup of coffee we consumed in 2003, we drank two cups of soft drink. For $1 we spent on joe, we spent $4 on soda.

Now look where we are: Soda is in a free fall, with domestic revenue down 40%. Coffee culture is ascendant, up 50% in ten years. In another decade, the United States could easily spend more on coffee than soda — something utterly unthinkable at the turn of the century (industry data via IBISWorld)

The Life and Death of the American Arcade

I wish I was better at video games.

1 year ago

Against Tumblr

1 year ago
Sweet Potato and Black Bean burgers. A gluten free and vegan alternative to the burger. They were quite good although I used WAY too much ginger. Will have to make it again. My sister just made her second one. Success!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean burgers. A gluten free and vegan alternative to the burger. They were quite good although I used WAY too much ginger. Will have to make it again. My sister just made her second one. Success!

newsweek:

Filing this under Things We’re Desperately Looking Forward To.

newsweek:

Filing this under Things We’re Desperately Looking Forward To.

Following The Faithless

Adam Roberts argues that atheists have something to teach the followers of Jesus:

God is happy with his other creations living their lives without activelybelieving in him (which is to say: we can assume that the whale’s leaping up and splashing into the ocean, or the raven’s flight, or the burrowing of termites is, from God’s perspective, worship; and that the whale, raven and termite embody this worship without the least self-consciousness). On those terms, it’s hard to see what He gets from human belief in Him — from human reduction of Him to human proportions, human appropriation of Him to human projects and battles, human second-guessing and misrepresentation.

He goes on:

What should believers do if they discover that their belief is getting in the way of their proper connection to God? Would they be prepared to sacrifice their faith for their faith? For the true believer, God is always a mysterious supplement, present in life but never completely known, always in essence just beyond the ability of the mind to grasp. But for a true atheist, this is even more profoundly true: the atheist embraces the mysterious Otherness of God much more wholeheartedly than the believer does. To the point, indeed, of Othering God from existence itself.

1 year ago

“Butsu Hall with Buddha”, by Yuji Honbori. (all images courtesy the artist)

“Butsu Hall with Buddha”, by Yuji Honbori. (all images courtesy the artist)

The joys of being unemployed. Beer and gin rummy on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. 

p.s. that’s a Gluten Free 3R Raspberry Ale. Not bad. A little on the fruity side and not enough on the hoppy side but it’ll do. 

The joys of being unemployed. Beer and gin rummy on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. 

p.s. that’s a Gluten Free 3R Raspberry Ale. Not bad. A little on the fruity side and not enough on the hoppy side but it’ll do. 

Those sweet eyes. 

Those sweet eyes. 

Removing ‘Sacrifice’ From ‘Gluten-Free’

From the New York Times

Dennis Yermoshin for The New York Times

WHEATLESS Hazelnut cheesecake with salted caramel glaze.

I WAS gluten-free before it was cool to be. In 2000, a doctor told me I was allergic to wheat, barley and rye, and said that avoiding gluten was the only way to end my stomach pains and chronic lethargy. So I had to give up tagliatelle, Belgian-style ale, granola and — I feared — cooking for friends.

Back then, I had been the rare 20-something New Yorker who loved to bake for roommates and give dinner parties for 12 people crowded around a long table. I didn’t want to stop entertaining. So I started defanging potential critics by announcing a dish was gluten-free, thereby lowering expectations. For dessert, I’d say cheerily, I used rice flour for the peanut-butter brownies (code for: sorry, they are a bit gritty.) Sometimes I settled for second-rate: zucchini fritters that tasted of the chickpeas in the gluten-free blend that I substituted for wheat flour.

That was then. These days, gluten-free entertaining doesn’t have to be a drag, as long as you’re willing to spend some time in the kitchen. Armed with superior ingredients like Schär bread crumbs and finely ground flours, it’s easier to pull off a feast that won’t disappoint the wheat-eaters at your table. And inspiration for gluten-free gluttons like me isn’t hard to find anymore, thanks to all the inventive cookbooks and instructive blogs with gorgeous recipes tempting enough to draw a crowd.

To prove that gluten-free was no longer synonymous with subpar, I set a challenge for myself: I would present a dinner party and not disclose the secret until the end. Goodbye, crutch.

The no-more-excuses crowd is growing. The rallying cry for the blog Autumn Makes and Does is, “No substitutions or good-enoughs here, just damn fine food that happens to be gluten-free.” Carol Kicinski, founder of Simply Gluten Free Magazine, which had its debut this month, said her bar was no longer set at whether it was good enough for gluten-free. “It’s just ‘Is it good?’ ” she said. In the past, Mrs. Kicinski, who has been gluten-free for 20 years, admitted to making pies and dinner rolls with wheat because she didn’t want to risk seeing disappointment at her dinners. “Whenever I had guests, I would feel insecure,” she said.

So could I pull off a feast so good, my guests wouldn’t be able to tell it was gluten-free?

I spent the summer inviting unsuspecting guinea pigs to see which dishes furrowed their brows and which succeeded as culinary Trojan horses. I hunted down cookbooks from chefs who were cheerfully (not militantly) gluten-free, like Aran Goyoaga, whose hearty, inventive fare is so marvelously presented and festive that few would guess it’s free of the elastic protein that helps make bread springy.

In fact, Ms. Goyoaga didn’t even want to put “gluten-free” on the cover of her cookbook,“Small Plates & Sweet Treats,” published last month. But her editor convinced her that the time was right. “A lot of people are looking for a cooking style that happens to be gluten-free that can be beautiful,” Ms. Goyoaga said. “You don’t have to feel deprived.”

Certainly there’s a big audience. People who have celiac disease have to avoid gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley that can damage their small intestines. But going gluten-free has become faddish, too, winning over athletes, celebrities and fashionistas, some of whom think it’s healthier or a way to lose weight.

For my party, I wanted an entree that guests wouldn’t expect could be wheatless. No shock in roasted chicken with balsamic glaze, after all. I had settled on Ms. Goyoaga’s ricotta gnocchi with an improbably bright watercress pesto, until I made her quinoa spaghetti with garlicky squid and niçoise olives. During one of my test-runs leading up to the big night, my friend Kate, as she tucked into this intricate dish sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs, swore in appreciation. Her boyfriend Nick said simply, “mmmmm.”

As for the guest list, I invited a couple, Alex and Amy, fund-raisers who have spent time in Italy, making them a discerning audience for pasta. My husband and sister were both in the know. But Victoria, a furniture designer, wasn’t aware that the evening would be gluten-free; neither were a couple I hadn’t seen in months: Mike, a teacher, and Dune, a reporter.

For appetizers, I served a surprise (a savory shortbread) and then a must-have morsel (mushrooms stuffed with spicy sausage and cheese).

Mike and Dune arrived first. After she was served a whiskey sour, Dune bit into a shortbread with a fig center and exclaimed, “What is this stuff?”

The jig was up, I figured. Deep breath. “Oh it’s blue cheese,” I said. I didn’t add that cheese from Point Reyes Farmstead is gluten-free. Instead of using wheat flour, I had substituted a cup of Gluten Free Mama’s almond blend, which I buy online (8 pounds, $30.58). I had long assumed that wheat flour was king. But some dishes are better with alternatives. I used almond flour, for example, for my crab cakes, which didn’t weigh down the lump meat.

Dennis Yermoshin for The New York Times

I hoped the biggest surprise would be the quinoa spaghetti. Though I made everything else from scratch, the pasta came from a box. There is plenty of gluten-free spaghetti on the market whose texture is up to snuff. I went with Andean Dream, which is slightly earthy but delicious al dente.

I thought the entree passed with flying colors. Victoria liked the spicy kick. Dune wanted more toasted bread crumbs, Alex wanted less. But then Alex announced: “Something’s different here. What is that?”

I played dumb. “It’s spaghetti,” I said nonchalantly, and we moved on. The truth had to wait until after the cheesecake with hazelnut crust, drizzled with caramel. I had done a test run, eating a slice just as it cooled (light, airy) and then after a night of refrigeration (rich and moist) to see which way wowed. The recipe called for Cup4Cup, a gluten-free blend that was developed at the French Laundry in 2010 and now is sold online and at Williams-Sonoma (3 pounds, $19.95).

The blend was created by Lena Kwak, the president of Cup4Cup, who wanted a flour mix with a neutral taste that could pass for wheat, so she didn’t use bean flours. Instead, Ms. Kwak wanted people to be able to eat the same gluten-free dish and, as the slogan goes, “never know it.” “Food is such a social thing, breaking bread, sharing off a plate,” she said. It’s lonely if “your options none of your family members want to share.”

I decided to serve cheesecake I had made the morning of the party, because the lightness offset the hefty nutty crust. Also, my sister, usually a woman of restraint, once ate a quarter of the just-cooled version.

Thumbs up all around for the dessert: praise for the crust (“so good”) and for the surprisingly airy cake (“you expect it to be dense”).

Fortified with blueberry liqueur, I braced myself for criticism as I took guests aside to disclose that the meal had been gluten-free.

First, Alex and Amy. “The only tell was the pasta,” he said solemnly, then he added with borderline glee. “There was something different!” Sigh.

Amy said the pasta stuck out because “it was trying too hard.” The first course “didn’t have that doughiness that befalls all crab cakes,” she said. “They were moist on the inside, and crispy on the outside.”

Dune, Mike and Victoria were more surprised. Victoria liked the blue-cheese savories, but suggested making each cookie smaller — not because it crumbles, but because it overpowers the fig’s sweetness. Dune said everything delighted, but the pasta’s “consistency was off.” Read: mushy. Victoria, who sometimes eats gluten-free for long stretches, offered a defense on my behalf: “It’s not really subpar quality. This pasta just has a different consistency.”

Part of me lamented that I had not made the pasta, using the recipe from “Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef” by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern. Next time, I might serve RP’s fresh gluten-free linguine, which is available online and at some Whole Foods stores.

But Mike made me want to run a victory lap. “You made a complex pasta that had like seven ingredients,” he said. “If it was a simple pasta dish with only salt, I might have been able to tell, but I had no idea.”

Since the dinner, I’ve been savoring his parting words: “I couldn’t tell it was gluten-free.