Cooking School / 料理教室

We've been watching Food Network's Worst Cooks in America on Netflix, and I'm starting to think that I should take my lack of cooking skills more seriously. With all the cookbooks in my house, I must be able to find explanations of basic cooking skills—cutting, boiling, baking, braising.

But what is so appealing about Worst Cooks is the presence of Chefs Anne and Bobby (at least in the seasons we've been watching)—entertaining people who are also really great chefs. The show gives me hope that, even for someone like me, a teacher may actually do the trick of teaching me to cook properly.


AAA #2: More Thoughts for the Application Stage of the Academic Job Search

It's...been over two months since I last wrote a post?! Well, I suppose I can pretend like I'd been actually "working" that whole time...

As we get closer to the early-ish deadlines for humanities jobs, I realized that I hadn't written about two specific documents that are (often) a part of the application packet submitted for job calls: the cover letter and the teaching statement.

These are, as always, my personal opinions—so do disregard what seems inappropriate for you or the jobs for which you are applying. I'll have more thoughts later about phone interviews and campus visits—which you will be offered if you do your due diligence, present yourself as fitting the position, and also have a heavy sprinkle of luck!


Drinking Coffee

At the 2007 CCCC I went to the exhibitors' hall on the last day and scored myself some free books. One of them was a short story collection by ZZ Packer titled Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, which I finished reading...finally, just a few days ago.

The collection is wonderful, and I hope you get to read it one day if you haven't already. Please don't think that it'll take you nine years to finish it—once I got started, I was done with it in just a few days.

The titular story is about a woman who enters an Ivy League school as a freshman and learns—and is made to reaffirm—all the injustices tied to being black, female, and queer (though she doesn't identify herself in all of those categories).


AAA #1: 7 Considerations for the Application Stage of the Academic Job Search

This past year I had the chance to serve on a search committee for a tenure-track position in my department. I learned so much in the process, that I wanted to write a few posts about the experience before I forgot about it.

Thus the start of a new series, American Academia Awesomeness—because, you know, at some point I have to leave my Grad School stage behind.

Whatever I write, as always, is my personal opinion—from my perspective, my department, my college, my university. But if any of this is helpful for people, that would be great.

This post is about the application stage in the academic job search process. I'll write posts about other stages later.

Here are my personal thoughts about how people submit applications to academic job searches—as well as what might go in the content.


I threw out food the other day.

Which never happens, seriously.

When I was growing up, my mother—like many others who manage the household food budget—was careful not to let food spoil. Certainly not produce, but of course not dishes that had been prepared. There is good luck in leftovers, as they say, so we had a lot of meals where we pulled out all the nearly-dead-but-still-living things in the fridge and made stir-fry or soup or whathaveyou with them for dinner.

The "not throwing food away" mentality extended to "food" we got when we went out as well—you know, ketchup and soy sauce packets from fast food places, little pots of wasabi if we bought California rolls at the grocery store. I mean, we can't very well throw them away, can we?! This of course explains why I think that mold can just be "cut away" and the salvaged item eaten in a jiffy on the day it's discovered—and also the reason why I had the toughest time throwing away packets of colored sugar pellets that came in boxes of gluten-free baking mixes I'd been using since last February.

What do you even call those? (OK, the box says they're called "sanding sugar".) I mean...I think they're sweet? Maybe they're made of "sugar"? I'm not sure. But the important point was that it was "food", not unlike sugar, so of course I should be able to find a way to use them, no? Like maybe use them to top off a cup of Greek yogurt in order to turn a perfectly healthy snack into some artificial grossness, or use them to sweeten herbal tea, so that something that was supposed to help me unwind would now end up giving me some grave illness. I don't know.

But I've been watching all these food documentaries lately, and I've noticed the weather warming up—so I thought to myself: Self, you need to stop eating crap; you need to get that Summer Body that all the online listicles keep talking about! (Because apparently a Summer Body is supposed to appear around Summer Solstice and then gradually dissolve into ugly holiday sweaters.)

So I finally went and threw away all the packets of "sanding sugar" I'd collected over time and welcomed the warming weather with open arms. (I'm pretty certain my mother would wonder why the hell I didn't throw those packets away months ago.) But that of course meant baking another batch of gluten-free cookies, to celebrate! And if you know anything about me, you know that I am so cooking/baking-challenged that I need a mix even to bake cookies. But the adjustments I made to the required ingredients were so genius that I have to record them here:

What Was Formerly Known as "Snowman Buttons" (but this product was discontinued a while ago and it's kind of a mystery why I still have it)

1 box of Glutino cookie baking mix
7–8 tbsp of olive oil
1 overripe banana
1–2 tbsp soy milk
Lots of nutmeg

Mix and bake at 350ºF for 10 minutes and then take out of the oven 2 minutes later. This will solve all the problems of crumbly dryness that I had been bringing upon these poor guys for the last, well, year.

Apparently I'd purchased 48 boxes of these damn mixes at a deep discount of about $2.25 per box—when the retail price is $5.50. Hooray! Now if only I'd found a way to use those sanding sugars... Well, at least now I'm a step closer to getting that Summer Body in time for Thanksgiving.


On (Not) Driving (in (Southern) California)

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and I spent it in 4.5 hours of meetings.

Don't get me wrong, I rather enjoyed the two meetings. Plus the department bought us lunch because it was the last meeting of the academic year! Yay.

But on days like those I'm glad for my 20-minute daily walk to campus, guaranteeing that I get at least a little bit of vitamin D and some alone time to sort through things on my mind. (I do get another 20 minutes on my way home, but the vitamin D isn't guaranteed at that point.)

When I was in grad school my walk to campus was 30 minutes, which may have been, as one prof suggested, my own way of staying sane. In Nagoya my walk was 45 minutes, which was a bit long, but an awesome excuse to walk through various neighborhoods and stop at various convenience stores for pastries, fried chicken, etc. (Otherwise it was the subway in Nagoya, which meant, still, a lot of reading and thinking.)

I don't drive. I don't own a car. I do have a license—and in my glory days I would drive from Mountain View to the East Bay, or, once or twice, drive between Riverside and San Diego. (I mention this to prove to people that I'm not totally incompetent behind the wheel.)

But I do dislike driving, and I am also deathly afraid of it—not only because my dad got hit by a car around the time I was practicing with a permit (which must've forever done something to my relationship with cars and driving) but also because more recently I ran into something I shouldn't have run into while I had a friend in the car—so, I'm not incompetent, but I do make some very consequential mistakes at times.

More recently, though, I've been appreciating the other reasons (or effects) of not driving. The health benefit of vitamin D and mild exercise of walking is one. The solo thinking time, without having earbuds stuck in my ears, is another. Not owning a car and thus not paying for insurance, gas, or maintenance is certainly nice. Not contributing to air pollution isn't so bad, either.

I also know exactly how long it takes for me to get from Point A to Point B if I'm traveling by foot. I also get to see various parts of the city if I'm walking or taking other forms of public transit. Waiting for the bus or sitting on the train might feel like time wasted, but I'm usually reading or grading or thinking, which makes it rather pleasant. (And if I'm at the station before my train arrives, I can get me a quick Smirnoff Ice (or two) without endangering anyone's life.)

Arranging my day around bus and train schedules can be a pain, but it also forces me to plan out my day and get things done—or not. And if I don't get them done, then I learn what I'm capable of accomplishing in a given amount of time, which helps me work more efficiently the next time around.

Of course, there are plenty of downsides to not driving—like missing an awesome potluck party because it was kind of last minute and also a 35-minute walk away (rather short, actually, but not when I'm carrying a freshly-made green bean casserole).

(But then I admit that not having a car gets me out of having to go to a lot of things I don't want to go to...not that I have trouble saying no to people. But still.)

If I didn't walk to work every day, I would never have discovered the morning glories growing right outside my apartment complex. In the most unlikely place. Just one small batch of it, but still glorious and beautiful. And nowadays, if I really needed to get somewhere and I just couldn't walk or bus it, I can just call Lyft and it'll solve all my problems.


Why the Golden Poppy Is Not Enough

Sometimes I just don't know what is wrong with me.

Today on my way home I walked into a girl that was walking toward me from the opposite direction. Like, walked right into, not like, "Oh, I ran into so-and-so today." Why would I do such a thing? Because I was walking, dammit, and in a bad mood to boot—and this girl was walking with two of her friends, and the three of them were walking side by side, taking up the entire width of a narrow-to-normal sidewalk under a freeway, and what would she have me do, step off into the road and get hit by oncoming traffic? I don't think so.

So I walked right into her and didn't even say sorry.

Ha! I am such a jerk.

Actually that's only part of the story. I had one of those experiences today that, even as I was living through the moment I was thinking to myself, "Self, what is the matter with you? Why can't you just play nice and go along with the flow? Why must you be a naysayer and make other people feel uncomfortable? You're just ruffling feathers without accomplishing anything productive."

But did I listen to myself? Noooooooo.

I was talking with some people and we were trying to decide on something, something so simple that had really already been decided and that people mostly felt happy with. And I just... couldn't feel happy about it the way they did. So being my stubborn self, I flipped the table over and stormed out of the room, though not without pulling a total Half Baked "I'm out!" declaration.

OK, not really.

But really. Some character in Captain America: Civil War quoted someone who said something like, "Compromise on the things you can, and don't compromise on the things you can't". Or, as Song Liling says—"We must conserve our strengths for the battles we can win."

But what do I do when I can't tell one from the other? What if god never granted me the wisdom, always, to tell the difference? How do I know which battles to fight and which battles simply to lie down and die?