Friday, February 27, 2015
The author had an influential position in the Venezuelan government prior to Hugo Chavez, and it is hard to imagine that what happened in his country didn't influence his world view. The book first describes what power is, and how it has coercive components are well as ways to incentivize compliance. He describes the rise of power, and what has happened in later later half of the 20th century into the 21st century to erode the power base of both companies and governments. He is not predicting the end of control in traditional establishments such church and state, but rather that they have less influence than in the past. The author attributes this to the emergence of social media and the ability of people who want change to connect with each other in a way that is unprecedented combined with the increasing globalization of the world economy. Dominance is no longer possible, and there are two things to take away from this. The first is that voting and staying engaged is very important, more so than at any other time in history, and acknowledging and accepting that no government will be the dominant force it might once have been. A quick and interesting read.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
I would recommend trying several options amongst diners in order to sample the cuisine.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Now Maggie is no paragon of mental health either--she is pictured in the bathroom about to take a handful of pills when she gets the call that Milo needs her. They come by their dysphoria honestly. Their father committed suicide when they were 14 and their mother is the epitome of self-centeredness. Not up to the task of shepherding her children through adolescence, much less trauma. The movies is about the complicated path back to friendship that the twins manage to eventually negotiate. Nicely done, if sad.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
One of the things I would recommend doing in Oaxaca is to take a cooking class. I took one with Susana Trilling at Seasons of My Heart last time, and this time my spouse and I took one with Pilar Cabrera. Both of the classes were excellent and both of them take the class to the market to get to know the food you are going to cook and the people who grow it.
Pilar's class meets at her restaurant in el centro de Oaxaca called Las Ollas, and from there proceeds to the market, and then to her house for the food preparation and the meal.
We made a quesadilla appetizer filled with squash blossoms, thinly sliced red onions, fresh epazote, and fresh Oaxacan cheese (which is wild to find in the market because it is all rolled up in a ball that resembles a ball of yarn, and the cheese is unwound from the ball to cook with it). The end result was outstanding, but the truth is that we have squash blossoms a tiny fraction of the year and reproducing this at home is going to be an uncommon event. The best part was that while we bought the fresh masa from the market, we learned the consistency with which to make the masa in order to have the tortillas come out right and we cooked them. When we got home we found out two things--our local Mexican groceria has fresh masa, and we are not too bad at making it ourselves from masa harina. We bought both a ceramic and a metal comal (the surface on which you cook the tortillas) so we have the ability to make them the traditional way.
The Sopa de Lima was the second course. Limas are not widely available in Iowa (they are somewhere between a lime and an orange), but it may be possible to substitute. The soup is delicious and light. We also had cochinita pibil, a marinated pork dish that is cooked in banana leaves and also quite delicious. The entire experience was fun, enough hands on to learn something, and to top it off, there was a mescal tasting to round out the afternoon. Since we have been home we have used the skills that we learned in this class, which is a testament to the quality of the teacher.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Shredded pork or beef that is spiced
The garnacha base is made with fresh masa, which can be bought at a Latin grocery store or made with masa harina. If you make it, be sure to let it sit for a while so the corn flour can fully rehydrate and you can get the texture of the dough right. It should not crack when you knead it and if it does crack, you can add a bit more water. Rick Bayless' version starts with fresh masa, but he adds shortening or lard and a bit of sugar. The disks are flattened like tortillas, but left about twice as thick and instead of cooking them on a griddle or a comal, you fry them in oil until they are browned and crisp on the outside. They will still be a bit moist on the inside. Once they are done, you top them with the meat, a bit of salsa, and then queso freco sprinkled on top. Serve it with a freshly pickled cabbage as an appetizer. Phenomenal!
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Adele (Winslet) is a fragile woman with phobic traits who lives almost entirely within the four walls of her house. She ventures out with her son Henry to shop when it is absolutely necessary and it is only with great effort and anxiety that she manages that. We find out that she has had numerous miscarriages and the sadness of that endless loss broke up her marriage, but she strikes me as someone who was anxious even before that. It is on one of her grocery trips that she and Henry are more or less abducted by Frank, an escaped prisoner convicted of murdering his wife. His plan is to hole up with them until he can catch a train out of town. Unfortunately for him it is Labor Day weekend and so he is stuck there for days rather than hours, and over that time Adele becomes quite fond of him. He cooks, he cleans, he fixes things. He teaches Henry to play baseball and make pie. He is tightly wound and violence simmers beneath his surface, but he has something in him that makes Adele brave, braver than she has been in years. All does not go well in the short run, but the long run is another story altogether.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme plus thyme leaves for garnish
- 1 tablespoon butter
Heat oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place chicken in Dutch oven and cook until brown on both sides, 12-15 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Place leeks and onion in same pot and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, wine, Dijon mustard, and minced thyme and bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pot. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Transfer chicken to plates. Bring liquid in pot to a boil; cook until sauce is thickened and glossy, about 15 minutes. Whisk in butter and season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with thyme leaves.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The reason to watch this film, which is well under an hour in length, is not so much for the story line but for the lush scenery that is the hallmark of Japanese animation. The people's faces are so undetailed as to be anonymous but the landscape and the rain are just spectacular, the best I have ever seen.