Monday, September 27, 2010

The Season's a-Changin'

The season is a-changin' and I must be hankering to put on some fat because all I can think of to write about is food. And so here goes:

I made chopped bread a few weeks back for the first time in a decade or two. (Yessiree, I was baking as a toddler, that's right, uh-huh, yeah sure, you betcha!) At the time I would get the frozen bread dough from the store because my bread-making skills were somewhat hit or miss. Now perhaps I have more patience to let the yeasty beasts do their thing but still I have a breadmaker to make the dough for me. How much easier can it get? But still there is ample opportunity to screw things with a dash of impatience.

Essentially, chopped bread is a wad of bread dough that has been flattened out, filled with whatever goodies strike your fancy, rolled up, chopped up, and piled up on a tray, left to rise for an hour or so and then baked. My last two renditions have been pizza-ish in goodies because of a certain Kid's response to my decision to make pizza for dinner. "Fine!" I said, "It's not pizza, it's chopped bread." And I proceeded to take the pizza toppings and wrapped them up in the pizza dough, chopped it up and the end result disappeared so thoroughly, I was taken aback. Resident Spouse provided the prized food rating of "Tasty!"

The Healthy Portion of Patience part of the recipe comes in during the final rising of the melange. If you cut this short, you get a doughy heavy mass, but a well-risen blob of bits and pieces becomes light and airy, even when using 1/2 whole wheat flour, like I usually do, and even when using potentially heavy ingredients like meat and cheese. The coup de grace can come in the form of providing a dipping sauce of marinara or whatever goes with the fixin's in which to plop tasty bits of pulled apart bread with goodies.

I have to admit that I am limited by being tied to the breadmaker - it's hard to double the recipe for guests without the dough heaving out of the machine - but I'm thinking it might be fun to have multiple machines going at once and making a couple different varieties. And then there's the sweet versions...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Pie's the Thing, aka, All the World's a Pie

Yes, we've been on a modest budget over the last year or so, but one splurge we make is becoming an annual event when we travel over the mountains to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. We try to keep expenses down by camping and we buy, not exactly nosebleed seats because those don't exist in the Ashland theaters, but we definitely aren't in the front row. The trip also serves as a mini-family reunion with various members of Resident Spouse's family converging on Ashland at the same time.

But for us,as much a part of the Shakespeare Festival is the trip from Bend with the highlight being a stop at Farewell Bend campground and dinner and breakfast at Beckie's in Union Creek. Beckie's is named, not for the proprietress, but the former proprietor, Ed Becklehymer. It was his nickname that graced the cafe, and his wife, named Cecil, oddly enough, didn't take the name until after Ed died. Today, under newer ownership, the cafe retains the perfect name and boasts some of the best food along the road. The good food aside, which is well worth a stop on your way, the main draw for this Resident Family are the pies. I admit, I have allowed Resident Kid to eat pie for dinner. After all, I can't very well say that Kid can't have pie for dinner when I am. What kind of example would that set? Occasionally a bit of parental angst will strike and I'll dictate that Kid needs to split a plate of conventional dinner with me. The portions are big enough that sometimes even splitting a meal threatens to take up the space you intended for pie. But even in the event that the unthinkable happens, there is always the fallback plan. Take your pie to go. Strawberry pie is stupendous for breakfast.

Did I mention pie? Boysenberry, marionberry, berry berry, cherry, apple, pecan, pumpkin, peach, strawberry, I did say cherry, didn't I? Though the strawberry is threatening to become a new favorite, but only seasonally. Then there are the cream pies, coconut, chocolate, banana... Other seasonals are mincemeat and huckleberry. Resident Kid discovered coconut cream pie during this last trip to Ashland, that might be a new favorite there. I might have to YouTube a few vids of Gilligan's Island to show Kid my context for coconut cream pie.

Anyway, I highly recommend Beckie's. Stop by and eat yourself silly. And, if you forget to bring a sweater because you didn't think it would be so freakin' cold (the damp and the altitude makes a difference, then walk across the (two-lane) highway and buy yourself a nice Union Creek sweatshirt at the store.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Speaking in old tongues

I have long been a fan of those pop, or maybe not so pop, culture entertainments of the audio-visual kind. I enjoy the print versions, too, in a nod to a sibling that invests a great deal of personal and professional energy in the science-fiction literature scene. But I think my brain has been moving picture oriented since birth because I am constantly thinking how I would produce a live action version of what I am reading. In fact, that is often how I write, by using that little video camera in my mind to figure out how action unfolds.

I am also very fond of escapism, which has also been lifelong, but the preference has intensified over the last decade or so while I held a series of mentally and emotionally challenging jobs. Recently, I have been struck by the nature of language use in movies and TV. Being a lifelong Star Trek fan, and yes, I am of that generation that uses the term, "Trekkie," I followed the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise and all the movies. And Star Wars was of course on my radar beginning with a vivid memory of opening night of the first movie in Kansas City where a giant furry thing was handing out "May the Force be with you" buttons.

Star Wars unabashedly used Kikuyu (I think that was the language and have no clue how it is spelled...), a language from Kenya. While it produced some sniggers, it made sense to me not to spend time and energy in a new production to make up a language from scratch.

Then, in the Star Trek movies in the 1980s and Star Trek: The Next Generation, a whole new language came to light and developed a life of its own, Klingon. And the real die-hard Trekkers (as they prefer to be called) of this era would learn Klingon and challenge each other to duels at conventions. This was a created language with the creator, Marc Orkrand, drawing inspiration from Native American, Chinese, and south asian languages.

Fast forward to today and there is Avatar. The Na'vi language has garnered its share of fandom with people learning what they can of the language, even to the extent of e-mailing the language's creator, Paul Frommer, entirely in Na'vi. Another famous example of created languages was birthed in the Tolkien books of Middle Earth and which came to life for me in the movies.

It is a great and interesting achievement to so capture the imagination of people that they would adopt a new language and learn it as inside and out as you possibly can a language of perhaps a 1,000 words. But at the same time there are so many indigenous languages in the world, and so many of them in danger of becoming extinct. Would it be so unimaginative to use the time and energy that it takes to to create a language to catalog and record these dying languages and perhaps create a new population of speakers? What a way to raise consciousness about people on our own world that often live lives that are completely alien to so many of the new generations.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Different kinds of energy

Resident Kid recently took a short summer class from a local martial arts studio (Sorter Bushido Kai Karate) called "Hollywood Stuntman Training." Perhaps the course name created a bias because the class was predominantly boys. But it was fun to watch, not because the stunts were spectacular or even that apparent from where the parents could watch, but because of the different interaction styles amongst all the kids.

I walked in at the end of one of the classes to see bodies crawling up walls and ropes and appearing generally scattered, and then I heard the instructor telling the kids that they needed to focus on the task at hand and that if they were not involved in a stunt that they had to sit quietly and not make noise or motion that would distract from the scene that was being recorded.

Perhaps the kids, or perhaps the parents, assumed that they would be running, jumping, hitting, climbing, name it...for the entire class. But that neglects the "Hollywood" part of the class title, which implies movie making. Hollywood stunt performers do not spend their days running, jumping, hitting, climbing, name it...all day long. There are huge periods of time when they have to be quiet and wait for their turn to perform.

Resident Spouse commented the other day how the kids in a summer program at work had the attention span and retention of gnats. Resident Kid's dental hygienist had similar comments about issues she had with kids being able to sit still and cooperate. Twitter is the greatest because the messages are so short. Are we training ourselves to create attention deficits?

Hmmm. It occurs to me that I may be writing to an ever limiting audience because nobody wants to take the time to read more than one paragraph. Makes a person want to hide in a hole and read War and Peace.