Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guest Blogger

Today I have asked a special guest, my husband James, to blog about food in Brazil, in response to Simon Majumdar's chapter on Brazil. James has traveled to Brazil a number of times and has much to add to my two shorter posts about eating there. James has two blogs of his own: one on Environmental Geography and another on EarthView, a gigantic educational globe. He can also be found on the web at

James Hayes-Bohanan

As with Weiner’s Geography of Bliss, Pam is reading Majumdar’s entire Eat My Globe book to me, a couple chapters at a time. As we read the chapter “Brazil: There must be some kind of way out of here,” she recalled not only her own experiences in Brazil but also some of the stories I have shared about Brazilian food, particularly barbeque. She has kindly invited me to guest-blog on the subject. Once I got started, the food memories flowed. I hope I don’t overstay my welcome as I reminisce.

I should begin by saying – as I used to say often – that I do not go to Brazil for the food. My first visit was for three months in 1996, when I went to study deforestation and save the world. I went to Rondônia, which I specifically chose because it was one of the harshest places I could find. (Read all about my stay at Rondônia Web.) While there, I fell in love not with the charred remains of rain forest or the smoke or the mud, and certainly not with the food, but with Brazilians. This was Majumar’s critical mistake, and the reason he ended his chapter – and his visit – with an uncharitable finger gesture toward his airplane window. Although the book is about traveling for food, in most other chapters he mentions a personal connection. Had he found a Brazilian as his guide, he might still have found the food wanting, but he would have enjoyed his dining experiences far more.

Before I comment on churrasco (barbeque), I want to share some other food memories. Early in my 1996 stay, I lived with a wonderful bachelor (a term I usually consider antiquated, but it fits my friend Walter) who literally had only beer and ketchup in his fridge most of the time, and often the beer was gone. So we had regular places to eat nearby for almost all of our meals. One was a lonche-por-kilo place – a very Spartan buffet of beef, beans, rice, steamed manioc, and manioc flour. Filling and inexpensive, the food was greatly improved by the manioc flour, and even more when I realized that hot pepper sauce could be requested. It was primarily because of this place that I ate no beef for two years after journey ended. It was good beef. Very good. But there had been far too much of it. Had I gone to this place on my own, I might not even have entered the first time. But with Walter providing entre into this community, I enjoyed many hours of food and conversation there.

Sometimes, I would take a meal at a fancier lonche-por-kilo place in the center of the city, where the beef, rice, beans, and manioc were accompanied by other selections, including potatoes and some actual vegetables and fruit. By the time of our family visit in 2000, several more of these relatively up-scale places had sprouted up, and these are what made an impression on Pam. Because I do not eat much in the heat, I remember that the “por kilo” bill for our three-year-old girl was sometimes more than mine!

Back in 1996, though, if I wanted something different, I would most often go to the bakery on another nearby corner. It was newer and brightly lit, with glass and tile where the other loncheria had wood and brick. It had just a few small tables, as it was more of a convenience store than a restaurant, but it was possible to have a small meal there. I have a few indelible memories of the place. First, it had tiny, waxy napkins that simply pushed a mess around, so that I needed a dozen of them to eat a small pizza. Second, the pizza – at this shop and some others in Porto Velho in those days – was like pizza of my previous experience in only one substantial way: it was round. Cheese was not really melted, and tomato sauce could only be added in the form of ketchup. The pizza was “baked” at about 190 degrees, and topping choices included kielbasa, green olives (with pits), corn, and peas. Mayonnaise was offered and I was surprised to find myself actually using it, just to get some moisture into the dish. The third memory concerns another professor I knew, who apparently confused the shop with a saloon, and would drink himself silly there some afternoons, which would be like getting hammered in your local 7-11.

Now to the stories that I think Pam really had in mind. In Porto Velho I have a friend, Gilmar, who I considered my “translator” even though he spoke no English. Early on, he took a keen interest in helping to learn as much as I could about Brazil and the language. He could always tell when I understood the other people around me, and conversely he knew right away if I had misunderstood something. He would then insist on explaining it to me – always in Portuguese – perhaps by speaking more slowly and soberly than the original speaker, or perhaps by providing some key bit of background information, or perhaps by going into a 15-minute alternate explanation of everything that had been said. He was tireless, even if I was exhausted, and of course this was the very best way to learn the language and culture. In those days, it was not common to have a car in Porto Velho, but Gilmar had one, so he arranged a series of excursions that contributed greatly to my understanding of the place.

The first of these was a “picnic.” He had a friend with some land outside the city, he said, and we would go out there for a Saturday afternoon meal outdoors. When we arrived at the place, I noticed that a fire had been started. Then I noticed the size of the logs – a dozen or so, well over 2 meters. Then I noticed the second fire, a short distance from the first and just as big. To achieve the perfect churrasco, this weekend rancher hung huge portions of meat – the entire rib sections of a cow – between the two fires, where they would roast ever-so-slowly, until the meat fell off the bones. At the end, he carved the meat on an enormous wooden spool that had been used to bring electric wire to the house (for watching soccer during weekend visits, among other loftier purposes). Eventually, 40-50 people were in attendance, with a long table laden with many other foods. Some folks brought hammocks to hang in trees beside the little house, and we stayed for hours, until the approach of sunset prompted most everyone to jump into cars and head back to the city, rather than getting caught on the difficult roads in the dark.

From this outing, I learned many things that I never forgot. First, “picnic” is a relative term, and in the sense of “a small meal eaten outdoors,” it probably does not exist in Brazil. If people are gathering to eat, it will be a big deal. Second, beef and wood were (and still are) entirely too cheap in the Amazon. I had chosen Rondônia in order to understand the dynamics of rapid forest clearing, and undervalued resources were an important part of the story. Third, it was on this day that I learned the importance of fatigue in learning language. I thought I was going for a brief outing with a few people, one of whom was my English-speaking roommate. The reality is that we gathered as a large group around a feast for many hours – continuing the festivities at a house back in the city well into the night. As I continued the meal – and the conversation – well past the point of exhaustion, I really began to feel immersed in the language.

I never attended a churrasco on quite that scale again, but I came close in a way, years later in Santa Catarina, in the far south of Brazil. I was visiting colleagues and students at the Universidad do Estado de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis. On an unusually cool evening, we gathered at the beautiful home of my friend and fellow geography professor Mariane. When we arrived at her house several of her students – who acted more like nephews than students, really – set about creating a churrasco at the edge of her garage. They gathered bricks and constructed a sort of combination grill and oven, eventually preparing five different kinds of meat to perfection. For a group of scarcely a dozen souls, it was quite a feast, and just the thing for the chill that was in the air.

In the course of seven visits, I think I have found the kind of experiences with food and people that Majumdar has found in many parts of the world, but somehow missed in Brazil. If he should ever wish to try again, I know a few good places to eat, but more importantly, I know a great number of good people to eat with!

Friday, August 28, 2009

What's the matter with kids today?

Rebekah Nathan begins her story by explaining how, as a professor, students had "become increasingly confusing" to her. I am sure she must know about The Beloit Mindset list which comes out each August from Beloit College in Wisconsin to help professors understand each new class as it enters. Teachers and professors find that the generation gap gets bigger every year for us because students are always the same age, but we continue to grow older. The Mindset List helps us to have some idea where our students are coming from. I find that I am so out of touch that I learned from this year's mindset list that condoms were advertised on television (#25) . I haven't seen commercial television in so long I was not even a little bit aware of this "given" for the class of 2013.

Nathan is actually a psuedonym for Cathy Small, and Anthropology Professor at Northern Arizona University who was "outed" just before the book was released. She had hoped to remain anonymous, but that actually seemed like a pretty tall order for someone who was studying the students at the University in which she herself taught. She did go to some trouble to keep her identity a secret. She never names the school, or where it is located; and takes classes only with professors she's never heard of. There's no picture or biography of her on the inside flap of the book jacket. Something I have noticed is almost always present on any of the other (hardcover) books I read

The copy of My Freshman Year I received from Interlibrary Loan came from the Wellfleet Public Library in good ol' Cape Cod.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

September's theme "Back to School"

As a college librarian my job ebbs and flows with the rhytm of the academic year. This parallels my home life as well. My husband is a professor and my daughter is in middle school, so things slow down at my house in the summer, just as they do at work. We take some time off from our jobs, and Paloma heads to summer camp. We take a leisuely vacation, return and then hang around the house for a few days. Things are starting to gear up again though as August comes to a close. Classes start here at Bridgewater State College next week, and school begins the following week for my daughter. Things will begin to move at a faster pace both at home and at work, and mornings will become a scramble as we attempt to get three people out of the house by 7:30. While there is always some groaning about the start of a new school year, there is excitement as well. Seeing old friends and learning new things have a certain thrill to them.

The two "Back to School" books I chose to read this month are My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan; and Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose. I have received a copy of My Freshman Year, but have not started to read it. I plan to start blogging about it next week. In the meantime I will suggest to readers the following book with a similar theme: David Owen's High School:Undercover with the Class of '80. As an adult, Owen created a transcript and "transferred" to a high school in New York with his editor masquerading as his mother. He attended classes, joined clubs, made friends, and took his wife to a high school dance, much to her chagrin. No one at the school ever discovered that he was incognito. I remember that he said he doubted any of this classmates would ever find out about the deception since none of them ever read a book that wasn't assigned. This is an old book to be sure, but a good one. I must have read it 25 years ago. Since I was a member of the class of '82 much of it rang true for me. My guess is that much of what he says still holds true. Perhaps I'll revisit it myself.

I close with the immortal words of Patty Simcox in Grease "Don't you just love the first day of school?" See you in September.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quail eggs, too

I forgot to mention and important part of my Brazilian diet - hard-boiled quail eggs. These treats were hardly bigger than a marble and were sold in cartons of 30. Young men on bikes would sell them on the streets, and they were also sold in bars. Peel the shell, add a little salt and pop in your mouth. A nutritious and yummy snack.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This is me in Brazil in 2000 drinking ice cold coconut milk straight from the source. This is one of the things that impresses Majumdar about Brazil - one of the few things. The coconuts are sold by street vendors and opened with machete's. Majumdar does not find much to like about Brazilian food, or Brazil. He does have some bad experiences there, but as James pointed out he does not meet any Brazilian's while there. Brazilian's are fabulous hosts, and are friends to all. I will admit that the food is not always special. James says that the national spices are salt and sugar. There are some good tastes there. Zuco's (blended juice drinks) made with acai, passion fruit, mangos and other tropical fruits are refreshing and tasty. "Lonche por kilo" is not mentioned in Majumdar's book. This is more an experience than a taste. Lonche por kilo restaurants are buffet-style and are paid by the kilo. They all seem to feature the same kinds of food, including potato salad with peas, and beef. My website tells more about our trip to Brazil. In the meantime, if you are in southeastern Massachusetts and are interested in having a very authentic "lonche por kilo" try the Brazil Grill in Brockton, across the street from Massasoit Community College.

Day of the Dead

One thing Majumdar's travelogue has that Mayes', Weiner's, and Gilbert's don't is a trip to Latin America. I love Latin America. I spent 7 weeks in Mexico (in addition to countless shorter trips when we lived near the border); 4 weeks each in Venezuela and Brazil and 10 days each in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Majumdar is in Mexico for los dias de los muertos (days of the dead). This is a celebration of death, that coincides with our Halloween. Both are based on the pagan holiday of Samhain, when the Celts believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was thinnest, which allowed for spirits to visit our world. The holiday in Mexico is a strange combination of pagan, Catholic, and Aztec beliefs. Picnicking on graves is one of the rituals of this holiday, along with eating sugar skulls (pan de muertos).

My daughter and I tried Frida Kahlo's Pan de Muerto recipe last year from Barbara Kingsolver's "year of" book - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Although tasty, our skulls weren't quite as artistic as I suspect Frida's turned out to be. Ours looked more like white blobs.

Another food Majumdar enjoys while in Mexico are Chilaquiles. I had learned about these for the first time a few years ago when one of the textbooks I was using for my Spanish class included a picture of them, and a definition - chilaquiles is an aztec word meaning "old worn hat". It is made from old tortilla chips, salsa, and cheese. Majumdar's chilaquiles also have eggs. We have recently discovered a yummy recipe in the New York Times that includes chicken.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I almost forgot...

To mention that Julie & Julia included a bit about library funding cuts. During McCarthyism the French Embassy's library budget was slashed by 90% according to one scene in the film.

Another movie pick of the month

I don't get any reception on my television set, so the only thing I watch on it are movies on DVD and video. I actually watch a lot of movies, but rarely in the theater. I like to wait a few months when they are available for rent for a mere fraction of the cost of going to the theater, and I don't have to listen to other people talking. But since the film Julie & Julia is based on Julie Powell's "year of" book I spent the money and went to see it with my husband and daughter. (This brought the total number of films I've seen in the theater this year to a stunning four - Twilight, Food, Inc., Harry Potter were the other three).

I thoroughly enjoyed this funny film. Meryl Streep as Julia Child was fabulous. The movie tells the stories of both Julia Child and her life in France and Julie Powell as she works her way through all 500+ recipes in Child's cookbook in one year. It is refreshing to see a movie that tells the story of not one, but two, good marriages. Ironically, the movie was written by Nora Ephron whose movie Heartburn, told the story of her own bad marriage. Heartburn was particularly memorable for how much I disliked it. I have seen some of Ephron's other efforts, and most I could take or leave. She really hit the mark with J&J though. I put it right up there with When Harry Met Sally...

One part of the movie that both James and I were intrigued by was Powell's description of aspic which she was "sorry" to have come to in the cookbook. Aspic is made from calf's foot jelly, which Powell boiled down herself. Majumdar talks of a similar gelatinous ingrediant used in pork pie, which he says is made from pigs "trotters" - those Brits! Anyway, I have only this to say about the whole thing - yick.

One scene in the movie has Powell and her husband visiting an exhibit of Child's kitchen that the Smithsonian put on display on August 19, 2002. To read more about this kitchen, custom built for 6'2" Child, see this entry from Mass Moments.

Julia Child's birthday was earlier this month on August 15. I had really intended to see the movie then, but it didn't work out.

Julie Powell's book is on my list for November, when my theme will be food.

To hear Nora Ephron talk about her movie on NPR click here.

For the love of libraries

National Public Radio broadcast this story yesterday about a Colorado town that was not afraid to go into debt to the tune of $1.75 million to pay for a new library. The town, Walsenburg, is neither big, nor rich, but folks there understand the importance of the library in their lives.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One more book

I read one other book this month. My cousin called just before we left for our visit to let me know that she, and two other cousins would be participating in a book discussion that week, and I could join them if I wanted to read the book (We are all Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg). This novel was based on the real life experience of one of Berg's fans who was born while her mother, who contracted polio while pregnant, was in an iron lung. The book is rather short, less than 200 pages, so I was able to read it during the car trip out to Wisconsin. I picked it up at the Barnes & Noble in Albany, NY. I was able to log on to the B&N website and select the store where I wanted to pick up the book while I was on the road. This is a nice, convenient feature which I truly appreciated. I also wish I could have done something just as easy and patronized an independent store, too. This wish was driven home when I arrived in Appleton to find that their huge independent bookstore, Conkey's, was going out of business after 113 years. Downtown Appleton is a great place with some great local restaurants, stores, museums, and the public library.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Dog Year

My second book for the dog days of August was A Dog Year by Jon Katz, to whom I give the award for most ironic name so far. A Dog Year came by way of the Maynard, Massachusetts Public Library. It has a note that says there will be a $2 per day overdue fine - seems a bit Draconian.

At first I thought this might actually be a 7-year (dog year) memoir, but it is, indeed, only one (people) year. The year encompasses the death of 2 very mellow dogs and the arrival of 2 extremely hyper dogs, some of whom overlapped. Katz really loves all his dogs and this book made me remember all of the dogs I've had over my life. So herewith, I reminice about my canines.

My first dog was a basenji named Mtoto, a Swahili word for baby. My mother picked it because basenji's are from Egypt. He had a beautiful, shiny black coat with a white triangle on his neck, white feet and a white tip on his tail. He also had a brown spot above each eye. He was gentle, but typical of basenji's, chewed everything in sight. My mother tells the story of some new furniture that he chewed so badly we were still making payments on it even after it was sent to the dump. We got him a mate who we called Bibi, Swahili for young female, who wasn't as friendly, but just as much of a chewer. She had a lovely red coat.They were especially fond of underwear. They had two litters of six puppies each together. Mtoto's death was my first experience with grief. I was nine years old, he was eight. We had him put to sleep after an unsuccessful battle with cancer. Bibi died when she was 12.

Pablo was a beagle mix my husband and I adopted from a "free to good home" ad on an index card tacked to a bulletin board at a pet shop. We'd been thinking of getting a dog and I especially thought a beagle would be a good size for our small apartment and small yard. I was wrong. Beagles have A LOT of energy and need much exercise. We eventually found an exercise schedule that worked for us all, but he was one crazy dog. Everyone loved him, too. We moved several times while we had him and everywhere we went people wanted to pet him and he schmoozed like a pro. People we were sure we had never met would come over and say "Hi, Pablo" when we were out. He was lovable, friendly and quite a traveler. After fighting Valley Fever and, epilepsy he finally succumbed to diabetes just before he turned nine.

Our current dog, Clover, was a rescue dog from Puerto Rico. She was about a year old when we got her. We have the folks at Save a Sato to thank for rescuing her and sending her to the Northeast animal shelter in Salem, Massachusetts. She is not nearly as friendly as Pablo was, but is fiercely loyal. She is a great watch dog. A true mutt of undetermined heritage she looks like a lot of other Latin American street dogs, medium in size with short brown fur. We got her 9 years ago for my daughter's third birthday, but it is clear to anyone who sees our family together that she likes me best. She follows me around the house all the time and sits outside the bathroom when I am in there. She is not active like the basenji's or the beagle and simply wants to take her daily walk every day and have a "flip chip" (rawhide chew) in the evening. Although she does not have the friend network that Pablo did she does have a few people she greets on her walk. Our friend Kitty is often found at the window of My Sister and I restaurant when we go by, and the gentleman who runs the Lucky Star gas station in town sometimes gives her a biscuit. She always quickens her pace when we get close to this establishment. Her favorite thing is waiting for me to come home during my lunch hour in the winter time, so she can have her "porch time." Our south-facing front porch can reach up to 80 degrees on a sunny day in the winter. She goes out there to warm herself.

My dog memories would not be complete without mention of two others, who were not exactly my dogs, but dogs I was in charge of for long enough periods of time that they had significant influence in my life. The first is Chippy, a mutt who belonged to my Uncle David. Our family watched Chippy for several months while Dave established himself in a new home. He was a very friendly dog, and according the Dave, "the best dog ever." I'm not sure how they came together, perhaps Chippy was a stray, or maybe a friend gave him to Dave. I remember my sister and I driving to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to reunite them. There was definite excitement on both the part of Chippy and Dave. The other dog is Barbara who belonged to two professor's at Miami of Ohio when we were students there. The professors spent the better part of a year in Europe during the end of our three-year sentence in Ohio and asked us to live in their gorgeous farm house and watch their dog and cat (who was called Donna). We had Barbara at the same time we had Pablo who was about a year old at the time. She really put up with a lot. She was a simple yellow mutt from the pound who was gentle, kind and gave Pablo a bit of mothering. We had to leave Barbara and Donna when we moved to Arizona. Their owners picked them up at the kennel where we had dropped them off the week before. It was heartbreaking watching Barbara try to come after us when we left her. I saw her one more time about 6 or 7 years later when we were passing through Ohio. She was very old, and if she remembered us, she didn't show it. She died shortly after. I never did see Chippy again, although I did just visit Uncle Dave. He is living with his son and son's girlfriend and they have two chihauhas, Bear and Scrappy. Bear bears an uncanny likeness to Mtoto. He is like Mtoto in miniature, right down to the white triangle on his neck. It was spooky.


Regular readers of my blog know that this blog is not only about books, but libraries as well. I occasionally write for the Internet Review of Books and this months issue has a great memoir, From Dewey to Digital by Eric Petersen about the importance of libraries.

Every month American Libraries and Library Journal report on more libraries losing funding, even as more people report using them. I was recently in our local, horribly underfunded, public library and heard a patron complaining about the fact that it was open so few hours. The point is well taken, but Bridgewater residents did this to themselves when they refused to raise taxes.

Glad to be home again

We had a great time on our vacation in Appleton, Wisconsin, visiting relatives and then in Muncie, Indiana to see some friends. It is a three day drive each way to get to Appleton, so we passed the time listening to some audiobooks. Growing up my sister and I never missed the Brady Bunch on Friday night at 8:00, so I was very interested to listen to Maureen McCormick's (Marcia) memoir Here's the Story. Brady Bunch fans will also be interested in Barry William's book, I was a Teenage Greg. Williams book is really focused on the Brady Bunch years, whereas McCormick's tells her whole story - and what a story it is- very unBradylike.

Additionally, we listed to Don't Know Much about Geography by Kenneth C. Davis, which was quite enlightening, although, according to my Geographer husband does contain a few mistakes, but mostly is very accurate, although it was published in 1992. We were loaned a variety of audio books from my friend Elizabeth who has quite a collection. From her picks we listened to The Cat who Came in from the Cold by Deric Longden and The Cat who went to Paris by Peter Gethers. Neither of these is related to the Lilian Jackson Braun mystery series. In fact, both are memoirs, which kind of fit in well with my dog memoir theme for the month.

We also listened to Garrison Keillor's book Liberty about Lake Wobegon's fourth of July celebration. He sure can spin a yarn. This one has a bit of ribaldry as well. It is laugh-out-loud funny, and at 7 1/4 hours, a perfect story for a road trip. Also, courtesy of Elizabeth, we had a CD of jokes called Pretty Good Jokes from Keillor's radio show Prarie Home Companion.

I'd forgotten how much friendlier folks in other parts of the country are. I guess I'm used to the New England standoffishness, but it was very pleasant traveling to other places and talking to people who appeared to be genuinely pleased to meet me.

Friday, August 7, 2009


A Bad Dog's Diary was easy and fun to read. The plot was based around Blake's attempts to take over as much of the dog park from his nemesis, Blade, with the help of his doggie friends. Meanwhile he also romances two cute bitches, thwarts his owner's attempts to train him and makes a lot of messes. In the end everyone, except Blade, wins. I'm off on vacation so I'll probably be posting about the next book rather sporadically.

A Year of Working - 50 Jobs in 50 States

This week Daniel Seddiqui is working in Brockton, Massachusetts, as a baseball scout for the Brockton Rox just north of where I live. Seddiqui is wrapping up his "year of" project which involves working in all 50 states for one week each. He had most of his year planned before he embarked on his journey. He was not looking to work just any old job he could find. He was looking for work that was "relevant to each state’s culture and economy" according to the Brockton Enterprise article about him published yesterday. He has a few more states to visit and then, of course, will write his book. I hope to be one of the first to read it!

Find out more about Seddiqui on NPR, or check out his blog Living the Map

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Movie pick of the month

Year of the Dog starring Molly Shannon and written and directed by Mike White tells the story of Peggy, whose life changes in ways she never imagined after her beagle, Pencil, dies. This idependent film was hardly blockbuster. I'd never even heard of it until my daughter picked it up for a dollar when our local video store was liquidating. For those who like a less-than-typical Hollywood ending this is a great film. If you are looking for the same old "boy meets girl" dreck though, you won't find it here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ethical eating

The delegates at the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist Association in 2008 chose "Ethical Eating" as its Study/Action issue for congreations. My church, First Parish Bridgewater held an informal Sunday service to discuss this topic last week. Ethical Eating constitutes a very long continuum that encompasses veganism, vegetarianism, to eating only free-range meat. Questions about how much to eat; buying local and/or organic and/or fairly traded produce as well a variety of other issues were all discussed on Sunday at the meeting of about 25 congregants. Each person will ultimately decide for him or herself what is ethical.

Majumdar's trip to China helped him to establish where he draws the line on ethical eating. Seahorses and rats are okay; lizards are not. Neither are dogs that have been beaten before being slaughtered. Apparently there is a belief that the adrenaline charge improves the flavor.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Alpha Dog

Blake the dog claims to be the alpha male in his household, which consists only of himself and his "Owner". The Owner spends a lot of his time learning to act like the alpha male, but does not do well.

In my own household my husband, James, likes to say about himself "I am fourth". This little joke refers to his name (James Kezar IV) but mostly to the fact that he knows his place in the household line up. He wisely understands that I am first. My daughter is second and the (female) dog, Clover, is third. I don't understand what the problem is though - there is no question that he is the alpha male. He also clearly rates above the rabbit and our two fish.

Cooking good food

In Majumdar's quest to eat everthing everywhere he eats at a lot of restaurants. He also spends time finding out how food is made - visiting wineries, butchers, and other places where food is processed. And he knows how to cook, enjoys it, and even takes a cooking lesson from a Japanese housewife. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food argues that we don't cook much anymore, even as we watch more and more cooking shows. Cooking from scratch with raw ingredients is becoming a lost art as we allow corporations to prepare our food for us.

Michael Pollan's interview on Fresh Air can be heard here.
His New York Times magazine cover piece is here.
To find out more about corporations owning your food watch the movie Food, Inc.

August's theme

Ahh... August - the Sunday of summer. June is the jump start to the summer, not quite in full swing some parties are planned, but the real reverie is in July when the Independence day holiday kick starts the party season and more vacations are planned. In August, things wind down, the days are already getting shorter and preparations start for going back to school, but there is still time for some reflection and a few more festivities.

The dog days of summer are so named for Sirius - the dog star. "Dog days" is also August's theme. I will begin by reading The Bad Dog's Diary - A Year in the Life of Blake: Lover...Fighter...Dog by Martin Howard. The copy I am reading comes to me by way of the Middleborough, Massachusetts Public Library. This book is a definitive "year of" book beginning on January 1 and ending on December 31. It is written from the dog's perspective. It is classified as fiction, but the inside flap indicates that the author's own two dogs "provided the inspiration behind almost all of the events in this book..."

I saved this quote about "dog days" from A.J. Jacob's book The Know It All for posting when I got to this point in my blog:

“One of my proudest quiz moments was knowing the origin of the phrase “dog days of summer.” (It derives from the ancient belief that the Dog Star, Sirius, gives off the heat of a second sun, so when it’s rising it causes the weather to be particularly hot.)”