Saturday, March 30, 2013

Painted cakes

I recently had a birthday. The best part of a birthday in our family is that my sister, Tshomin bakes a cake and then she or her artist boyfriend ( MadHatter) paints the cake. Yes you read that right, they paint the cake! They use an ordinary paint brush and food coloring to produce the most personalized and beautiful cakes. 

For example below is the birthday cheese cake Tshomin made for me last week, decorated with a lady bird and a plastic  panda -- both family nicknames for me. 

The inspiration for making these painted cakes comes from Cake and Empire a blog by a grad school friend of mine who is a talented cake maker as well as an archaeologist. The blog is a wonderful archive of some of the most creative and ambitious cakes she  has made. Amazingly enough her cakes almost always taste as good as they look! 

 Above is my all time favorite painted cake  baked by Tshomin and painted by MadHatter right before I left for my dissertation fieldwork. It depicts me as the Fool in my deck of tarot cards. So let me tell you about the Fool card . The Fool is off on a journey, she has her little pack on her back and she has her head up to the sun in anticipation of adventure. There is a naivete and vulnerable openness that is going to allow her to learn from her experiences. See how she is so busy looking up towards the open sky that she doesn't see the cliff? That both a caution ( watch where you are going fool!) but also an encouragement to take that leap into the unknown. Its hard to imagine a more apt card for the start of fieldwork--- this leap into the unknown, the decision to make yourself vulnerable in order to learn.  A sweet reminder to stay open to all the possibilities (and exciting risks)  that the fieldwork offered.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reading Note: More excuses to drink coffee

Since I have started my new job, my coffee consumption has steadily risen. Luckily both NPR and Lifehacker had recent blog posts about why coffee is good for you.  The NPR article is all about how caffeine might improve our memory, apparently it works for bees! ( Cue jokes about a "caffeine buzz"!) The Lifehacker article offers a far more extensive list of ways in which a coffee habit could do you good, including: making you smarter, lowering your risk of diabetes, Alzheimer and Parkinson's  and burning fat.     

Of course I wish I was drinking my coffee somewhere pretty with a little atmosphere instead of  hunched over a computer screen.   This really wonderful photo essay of Swiss coffee houses takes me back to a time when I lived in Switzerland and drank less coffee but savored every cup that I did drink. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

How does our garden grow?

Thimphu town is full of pink, pink blossoms that is. Our apple trees and basically all the many, many other apple tress in Thimphu are in bloom. Here is what our garden looks like right now. Its nice to be home for a full year so that I can watch these trees go from winter bare branches to pink blossoms and in the fall hopefully all these tress will be heavy with apples.

 In these pictures you also get a sense of what else is growing in the family garden. We have already started to plant chili and asparagus for the year. And of course, as you can see my parent like to mix their veggies and flowers.  

As far as I know daffodils are not edible but I couldn't help wanting to share a picture of them too. 

Reading notes: Food as a luxury

Jezebel profiled a really provocative fashion spread the re-imagined exotic food items as luxury objects. In each photograph the food is sort of positioned and photographed the way a luxury accessory like a handbag would be in a fashion magazine.  If it wasn't so pretty it would almost feel like satire. The photographer Elle Muliarchyk grew up a world traveler, sampling exotic food from all over the world, however later as a teen model she experienced a very different relationship with  food. The photo spread plays so cleverly with these ideas of food as  luxury, desire but also restriction ( just like an expensive handbag!). What I loved the most was that Muliarchyk worked with a chef who was willing to make sure all the food in the photos was later incorporated into dishes served at his restaurant. Sensitive to the reality that in some cases food is a luxury, she wanted to make sure none of it was wasted.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Reading Notes: I was wrong about porridge.

Years ago a friend and I had a  brief but memorable argument about porridge. I had  used porridge as a way to describe someone who we both thought was sort of dull and predictable. She loved porridge and couldn't believe I was using it as a synonym for boring. This article by NPR's Kitchen Window program tips the argument well in favor of my friend. Not only does it work to eloquently redefine my understanding of what constitutes porridge but it offer some seriously tempting porridge recipes including a tropical amaranth porridge with coconut milk, mango and ginger that sounds amazing. Here is the wonderfully evocative first paragraph that I hope will make you want to read the rest of the article.
"Porridge doesn't get a lot of love and respect. It's the fairy tale stuff of Goldilocks, or the pauper gruel of Oliver Twist. But really, porridge can be a beautiful thing, especially during the cold slog of winter. It's a comforting way to start the morning, a nice warm hug of a breakfast. And, dare I say, it actually can be kind of exciting."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Reading Notes: Pressure Cookers again

You probably think I am obsessed with them, but the blog Lifehacker recently had a great post on how to choose a pressure cooker. We don't have a ton of different choices here in Bhutan beyond the sizes of pressure cooker ( I didn't even know it was possible to get an electric pressure cooker!) but I can imagine becoming pretty overwhelmed if I was faced with more options. Either way there is some great advice here for anyone tempted to invest in one!

A non-food related note: Dear regular readers, I just started a new job so I am finding it hard to make time to sort through photos and notes to come up with original posts. But once things settle I have some fun things in the pipe line. Promise!