October 2006


Holiday Road
I’ve never been a fan of gross-out food for Halloween, mostly because it’s entirely too evocative for me to stomach.  Everyone has their limits, I guess, but mine down’t include faux fingers or insects.  If you want to eat allegedly taboo things or the like, go get some haggis (more on this in the still-being-written post).

Also, in the last few years I’ve been less and less into candy, as a rule.  Whether this is grownup tastes or my teeth getting more sensitive, I don’t know.  Which brings up the fact that I am possibly the only woman I know who likes fruit candy better than chocolate.  No, I’m serious.  I have a mild allergy to cocoa butter when consumed; like citrus for some people, it makes my mouth and throat itch.  Dark chocolates hurt less than milk and far less than white, which is why I suspect my problem is with cocoa butter instead of cocoa itself.

Since I’ve always equated discomfort with the taste of chocolate, my taste preferences swing towards fruit flavours.  (Except faux grape or banana, the latter I dislike anyway…the British do blackcurrant instead of grape and it is brilliant.)  And there is no way you can convince me otherwise.  Of course, the lack of endorphins from chocolate might be why I’m such a cynic…

Separatist Lives
Those of you who are just here for the food can stop reading now, as I’m about to ramble a bit about feminist SF.  Sorry.

Is it just me, or did Pamela Sargent and Sherri S. Tepper write the same book, two years apart?  I read Sargent’s 1986 The Shore of Women recently, and was stunned by the massive plot resemblance in Tepper’s 1988 book The Gate to Women’s Country, though Sargent’s book depicts a less tolerant and more brutal society on both the part of women and men.  I guess that since the two haven’t fought a duel about it (whether with sabres or lawsuits) that the differences are enough, but still.   How many books about women’s separatist societies still dependent on men for one reason or another do we need?  The point is proven, in these books, in Unquenchable Fire, in The Handmaid’s Tale, in Califia’s Daughters: we have to work together to find real equity or someone gets shafted.

Which is true, and we need to be reminded of it, but not in yet another novel. 

I guess it was the 80s, which seemed pretty bloody bleak in terms of feminism (all of the above except the last come out of that decade).  But there’s information, there’s speculation, and then there’s beating the proverbial dead horse (which Tepper tends to do anyway), even though all of the books I mention are readable and enjoyable.  I’d like to see feminist separatism in SF if it’s done in a new way, to prove a different point, because this one’s met its audience.  Which is, of course, probably why there’s not been as many books on the topic written lately, even though technology and science have brought us new things.

All right, so I charge you…or maybe myself…write me a cyberpunk separatist novel.  Or a fantasy.  Something different, something also that proves a different point.  ‘Cause we sure need feminism, and we sure need women in sci-fi.  I’ll be waiting.   

While I’ve been working on a post about the food I ate in the UK (to be followed by An American’s Guide to Expat Eating), it’s ending up longer than I thought.  So, for your hors d’oeurve blog-reading consumption, I offer a little something to tide you over until you’re done.

For the last week, I’ve been temping my little heart out at the corporate office of a national company, and since I needed to mentally compose something to occupy myself along with insurance packages, this post analyses food in the workplace.  (Note to any prospective employer: this is not to say that I don’t focus at work.  More that I need to multitask to be able to function better.) 

Here at Public Company, the breakrooms are quite well-equipped.  There’s a main one and several smaller ones, each with two industrial size coffee makers and three to four giant carafes, one for decaf.  There is almost always coffee made, and a selection of accrouments to go with–cream in three flavours (plain, French vanilla*, and hazelnut), sugar both artificial and real.  And, if you don’t drink coffee, there’s also black tea; ice water; green tea in regular, decaf, and lemon flavour; and hot chocolate in regular and no added sugar varieties.

While I’ve always been the ‘if you don’t drink it caffeinated don’t drink it at all’ people when it comes to coffee (unless one has a health problem), I find myself hitting the decaf anyhow, like a hypocrite, or, at the least, the hot chocolate.  Because if I drank four cups of regular coffee in eight hours, I’d be a torqued, gibbering mess of an addict, and useless for the rest of the day.  No good.

Anyway, one particularly interesting thing about Company is that they have a popcorn machine and free popcorn for the employees.  Not crap popcorn either.  If I have a downfall from working here and gain ten pounds, I will blame it on the free theater style popcorn and Company for not promoting Healthy Living.  I think that since I didn’t get enough while in the UK, my body’s still making up for it.  Matt and I went to the cinema at least three times and I went once with a friend, and every time I got popcorn, I missed the fake butter flavour.  For serious.

There are vending machines here in the office, also not promoting Healthy Living, and then a cafe elsewhere in the building.  I am going to try their food today and report, but I can tell you now that they do a mean latte, always my benchmark.

EDIT: They do a mean fried chicken in the Southern style sense (i.e. not breaded and slightly spicy) at the cafe, as well as some great seasoned fries, decent cod, and nice ‘Mexican rice’.  However, my siblings in temping arms were not as impressed with the burger and the portobello sandwich (the latter skimpy on the shroom).

*According to Wikipedia, French vanilla only comes from some vague taste memory of how the French made vanilla custard.  It now, apparently, exists only  in its faux self.  Rather Baudrillardian.

A brief post on the nature of pecan pie, for Colleen, who asked for a recipe.  My mother prefers the version in her 70s Betty Crocker, but I made an adapted version of the one in the newest Joy of Cooking, and it turned out just fine. This makes a pie with more solid, caramel-like filling, which is my preference. If you like lighter for some reason, then change the sugar to white and the corn syrup to light.

Rhi’s Pecan Pie a la Becker

1 standard pie crust, baked–just until it firms, otherwise burnt crust later on.
2 cups pecans, or really, just use one whole smaller bag.
3 eggs.
1 cup brown sugar.
1 cup corn syrup.
5 Tbsp. melted butter.
1 tsp. vanilla.
1/2 tsp. salt.

Heat your oven to 375 F, and toast the pecans for about 6-10 minutes on a baking sheet.  This is more dishes, but whatever.  While you’re doing that, whisk together everything but the nuts and the crust (duh.)  Heat the pie crust to just warm and add the toasted nuts to the batter mix, then pour that into the crust.  Bake all of it together for 45 minutes, until the edges are set and the center is like jelly, then let it cool outside the oven until room temperature.  Turn off your oven.  Store the cool pie in your fridge, and serve it at room temperature with whipped cream.

This pie makes 8 servings, and for once that’s actually a reliable guide.  It’s sweet enough to take the enamel off your teeth, and really, one can only stand so much.