Playing Hooky by the Rules: Photographic Evidence

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The rules of hooky are simple: avoid all tasks on the to-do list. Enjoy day. Repeat as needed.

So yesterday I ditched everything I should have been doing, and went for Ethiopian food at Chicago’s Ethiopian Diamond restaurant. The pics right there are from their website, which isn’t totally functioning, so I’m not linking, but it gives you an idea of what the food is like.

I was so excited to dig in, I completely forgot to take a picture for everyone. We didn’t do dessert — I actually came home with a to-go box that must have weighed six pounds (it doesn’t anymore!) — but you can see how the food comes on one giant patter, resting on a base of Ethiopian bread, which is called injera.

The injera is soft and spongy, and is tangily-sour. It’s adds a layer of flavor as you use it as a utensil to grab the fragrant stewy food.

My favorites are the vegetarian dishes, though I’m not a vegetarian. But the meats are also wonderful. While the end results can appear similar, every dish has a distinct flavor, but the spices never overwhelm the ingredients. Some can be very spicy, so watch it if you’re not into heat!

After lunch I headed over to the Lincoln Park Zoo, where I broke out my trusty camera. I have mixed feelings about zoos, as I understand their purpose in terms of conservation, but some of the animals just seem so depressed.

Lincoln Park Zoo is just north of downtown Chicago, and it’s free. It opened in 1868, and some of the structures still have that look of animal jails, with the tiny exhibition spaces. But with extensive remodeling in recent years, animals are getting bigger and more natural habitats.

It’s still a zoo, though.

Sometime between 1897-1924. I think that bear is considering whether it can clear that jump.

We focused (ha!) mostly on birds this trip, and they, at least, seemed pretty contented with their lots in life. There was one open room of tropical birds, and they seemed to enjoy the interaction with visitors.

In fact, I’d swear they took turns making sure they had their pictures taken.

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A family! Not sure what they are…

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Wasn’t sorry there was a fence between me and this vulture.

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This little green guy looked like a cartoon character.

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Check out those skinny, skinny , skinny legs and that skinny, skinny beak!

 

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Just love this guy’s swagger.

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This bird had the most amazing scarlet under its wings.

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I’m convinced the snowy owl was the inspiration for the dragon’s face in The Never Ending Story.

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These flamingos made me giggle. There’s such humor in the angle of their beaks.

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In contrast to this ostrich, who had had. E. Nough.

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This bird was such a friendly cutie, it let an 18-month old get super close before finally flying away.

We’ll save the other animals for another day. I hope you enjoyed your vicarious zoo visit!
Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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M is for Maybe (Not)

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Ambivalence, for me, seems to be the theme of the week, and today is no exception. I’m a little bit maybe, and perhaps a little more maybe not.

But today’s theme started over lunch yesterday. Not in the mood for anything much, really, I decided to take a frozen microwave pizza out of the freezer. Frozen microwave pizza has its moments, right? And this one looked very promising, with roasted veggies. Now that’s a pizza. If the picture on the box had anything to say about it, my lunch was going to be great. Maybe.

I suspect you can see where this is going.

So I tore open the little teary thing on the side, sliding out the pizza and the special tray it came with. And the contrast between the image on the box — an image so lush and promising — and the frozen pizza that came out of it was so great, I had to take a picture to share. Ready? Here it is:20150414_120802

Once cooked, I have to say it didn’t improve all that much, and frankly, it tasted about the way it looked. The little central smattering of veggies that was there, including the very generous single artichoke heart, shrank to a fraction of it’s original size, leaving vast swathes of dimpled, slightly cheesy, not terribly tomatoey crust. But the microwave tray definitely worked. That crust was crispy. As in cured cement crispy.

Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t horrible. It tasted OK if not exciting or particularly good. Would I buy it again, though? Maybe.

Maybe not.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Heston Blumenthal and the Nature of Art

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A friend sent me some YouTube clips of British chef Heston Blumenthal, and I can’t get the man out of my head. The first was of Blumenthal making look-alike tableware out of food, and the second, his tricking the guests with it. Here’s that second video:

Time could disappear and stomachs can churn as you go through the videos, one clip at a time, watching this man and his unique relationship with food. Not so much with the dessert, I’d be with him for the dessert; I mean things like the dormouse lollipops covered in white chocolate. No, really.

But it brings up the question that arises time and time again: what makes art?

No matter what you think of Heston Blumenthal as a preparer of food for consumption, he is, without question, an artist. He transforms his diners’ ideas of what constitutes food. He pushes the boundaries of what food can look like, how it can behave, what the experience of eating it can be.

Even from a distance of thousands of miles, without a hint of a taste or smell, he’s created an experience for me, the viewer, in watching his diners confront and interpret his food. Above all else, I think Blumenthal is a performance artist, using a process to provoke the emotions of his audience, which isn’t limited to those people eating his creations.

Is his style all flash and mirrors? Perhaps, but if it is, both the flash and mirror are completely edible.

Have a minute? Watch this video.

Rather read? Check out  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) .

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Cultural Explosion Commences C

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I’m a sociologist at heart, it’s what I studied in college, and it’s never left me. I am a student of people, and today, C is for “culture.” But I discovered something, looking for my morning book: there are too many amazing-looking books on culture to pick only two for the day. So I’m going a little crazy–also a C word–and posting a bunch, sans descriptions, covers and titles only. And you’ll see what I mean.


The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style

 

 


Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

 


Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

 

 


American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

 

 

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Another Easy Yummy Recipe

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So I have a very, very persuasive sweet tooth. I could probably live on candy if it wasn’t likely to give me scurvy. Or rickets. Can a grown person get rickets? I have no idea.

Anyway, sometimes I try to go with slightly better sweet things, because I don’t think there’s any point in trying to cut them out completely. It seems wrong somehow.

Here’s one of my go-to favorites: I cut up a ripe banana, spray a baking sheet (I actually spray foil on a baking sheet because I like to have as little clean up as possible), and put the slices in a hot oven (450). I let them cook until I can smell them and the start to brown on the bottom. Once they hit that point, I change the oven to broil, so the heat comes from the top. This way you can brown both sides without turning them. Yes, you might have noticed, I’m a lazy cook.

Meanwhile, I melt a few squares of chocolate in the microwave. Go slowly, and try stirring it before giving it more time, because it burns. In my microwave, 30 seconds did it, but it doesn’t look melted until you stir it.

Then comes the vanilla Greek yogurt. I love that stuff. You can use plain, too. Or the kind with fruit. Lots of fruit is always good.

Stir the yogurt and chocolate, letting some chunks form, because they are awesome. Add the banana and voila!

Not an Actual a Vegetarian

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You might get the idea from my food posts that I’m a vegetarian. I’m not. I’ve tried it in the past, and it simply doesn’t work for me.

I like the term “flexitarian.” From the first moment I heard it, it seemed to fit. I don’t tend to cook meat at home, but I’ll eat it when I’m out, most kinds of meat, except for pork.

Never pork.

When I found out that pigs were smarter than dogs, it was over for me. It’s always been a tight balance, being carnivorous and accounting for how that’s accomplished, and that bit of knowledge took me over the line as far as they were concerned.

A recent study suggests that chickens are much smarter than we think, as well. I may be doomed.

Fish, though, have never been an issue. It might be that I prefer fish to meat, and thus my convictions mold to fit my tastes. Or maybe it’s that they don’t seem to have much in the way of brain power, just vacuousness, almost like swimming vegetables.

Who knows.

I’m Giddy over My Fridge, and I Don’t Care Who Knows It

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For the first time in my life, I was excited to put my groceries away. If you saw Friday’s bit, you know that my former fridge is no more: the fridge is dead, long live the new fridge.

And it’s a beaut. I came home with a heavy cart loaded with fresh foods, and the fridge swallowed the groceries all in one dainty bite. I haven’t yet stocked the freezer with my beloved frozen veggies, and probably won’t today, given that the sky seems to have forgotten how do do anything but snow, but there’s all this blank space, ready to host bag upon bag in a way I can find them.

No struggling with drawers happier closed than open. No vying for shelf space. Knowing that if I put something in the door, it was likely to stay there without secretly planning its thrill-seeking jump to the floor. Or my foot.

The produce bins took all the fruit and vegetables I bought and then seemed to ask if maybe I didn’t have more. And when I took my Greek vanilla yogurt out of the fridge to make my breakfast of yogurt, berries and nuts, no part of my brain wondered if it would exact revenge.

Thank you, presidents, for having a day that naturally lends itself to sales. My new refrigerator and I will be very happy together.