Cookery: College Student Curry and Semi-Mujadara

Ah, curry… one of my ultimate comfort foods. When I tell people about curry, I usually get a blank stare like that of a deer facing down a semi. “Curry?” they usually say, scratching their heads. “What is this… ‘curry’ that you speak of?”

Well, I will tell you. Curry is a magical pixie dust from a far, far away land (typically the Middle East). Next to lavender, it is the closest thing to happiness I have eaten. It tastes like a baby unicorn swaddled in a rainbow and dipped in epic… in short, curry is amazing. And it isn’t cute. This stuff packs a punch, so use with caution.

Bowl Me Up, Buttercup!

Caution: In excessive amounts, curry may cause loss of taste; burning sensation in the eyes, face, and tonsils; digestive problems; intestinal discomfort; and death. Well, alright... not the last one.

Okay, that was a little dramatic. What do you expect from an author/poet?

Contrary to my initial assumption, curry itself is not a spice but a blend of spices–cumin, tumeric, and corriander to be precise. It also comes in different colors… come on! Who doesn’t like colors? I don’t see salt parading around in colors! Know why? Because salt only wishes it were half the spice that curry is!

Well, I got one blank stare too many. As a proponent of curry, I have made (one of) my mission(s) in life to educate the clueless public about its epictude. I finally broke down and made my celiac friend Morgan some curry… and what better to serve this with than a batch of semi-mujadara (Note: Mujadara is a rice/lentil pilaf with caramelized onions, but I omit the onions in this recipe because I add them to the curry sauce instead.). I modified the recipe a little from my original to make it gluten free, but it actually turned out better than the last one. Also, let it be noted that this recipe is for a double-batch (so I can disillusion twice the number of people… or just eat a double portion myself. ^^). Health benefits aside, this stuff is also cheap as hell to make, which is a good thing for undergraduates and graduates alike who are on an extremely tight budget (that is about to get tighter… thank you, Mr. President. >_>).

Ingredients

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2/3 cup milk (I use 2%… if you were looking for authenticity, then coconut milk would be good).
  • 2 1/3 cups chicken stock (homemade and gluten free)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 3-4 tbsp curry powder
  • A small drizzle of honey, probably about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp.
  • 2 cups frozen veggies (I use corn and green beans because I’m an American, but any frozen veggies will do)
  • 1/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A dash of black pepper

Instructions

  1. Brown chicken in olive oil in a sauce pan. After chicken is finished cooking, add milk, chicken stock, curry powder, and honey. Bring to boil.
  2. Mix corn starch with an equal amount of cold water. Combine with curry sauce and chicken mixture. Simmer for an obscene amount of time (i.e. until the thicken is so tender, it feels like biting into a soft, happy pillow of awesome. For me, this is usually at least an hour).
  3. Chop onion, carrots, and celery.
  4. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add bay leaves, rice, black pepper, and lemon juice. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add lentils.
  5. Just after adding the lentils, add the carrots, celery, and onions to the curry mixture (they take longer to cook than the frozen veggies do).
  6. When rice and lentil mixture has about 15 minutes left to cook, add frozen veggies to curry mixture. Continue simmering until the rice mixture is finished cooking.

When the curry is done, it will look something like this:

Curry Completion!

If only I could upload smells to the blog...

Similarly, the semi-mujadara looks a little something like this:

Semi-Mujadara

That there is one giant pan of healthy.

For absent friends, a curry care package can easily be made.

Curry Care Package

Good for disillusioning friends who have to stain decks on curry night.

Of course, I make no claim to authenticity with this recipe. In fact, this is so American, I hesitate to call it curry. However, the very nature of the recipe sustains my purpose for it: something cost-effective, delicious, and something that the general public would consume.

Supporting Anecdote: Once upon a time, my dad got adventurous in the kitchen and made authentic Indian curry. Although my dad only used half of the curry powder recommended, he still thought it was too spicy, and my mother wouldn’t even touch it. I wound up consuming the whole batch bowl by bowl, mixing it with the mujadara to cut the spiciness back.

Moral: If you are interested in eating authentic curry, I suggest using this recipe as a baseline and gradually increasing the amount of curry powder used in the cooking process before diving right into the real McCoy.

Enjoy the recipe, everyone! I hope your first curry experience keeps you coming back for more!

~Foreverpaper

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Cookery: Chipotle Shredded Chicken

Caution: The following cookery contains a whole can of chipotles in adobo sauce… and a lot of dithering foppery. (I used a slightly less formal tone in this one… just trying it out. It sort of reads like a recipe/narrative. If anyone wants just the recipe, I’ll be more than happy to do an abridged non-narrative version for you. Just send me a message and let me know).

Whenever someone comes to my shanty to visit, my immediate conundrum is what to feed them with. Melissa (a high school/undergraduate college friend of mine) is my most frequent inmate, and since she and I have relatively similar tastes in food, I usually just throw something that will feed us for an epically long time together, usually supplemented with veggies and Mount Pleasant’s finest fare that under $10 can buy. This generally involves stewing a chicken and making some kind of epic soup, but this time, we decided to go way south of the border.

One of our favorite haunts in our hometown (though not frequented) was the semi-Mexican chain Chipotle. As my current locale is not fortunate enough to have one, we have discussed trying to duplicate their Burrito Bowl idea. At long last, we did get around to it, and we’re both pretty sure we just beat the tar out of Chipotle.

This recipe is a two-part process that involves stewing and shredding a chicken and then adding a bunch of epic happy magical stuff to the pan. I’m going to start with the stewing of the chicken, since I know some people may be unfamiliar with the process.

  • 1 pack chicken parts
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots (or a handful of baby ones)
  • ½ Vidalia onion
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt

Stew the above ingredients for four hours in a covered pan. Salivate and sweet in the process because it is SO DAMN HOT AND HUMID outside, but at least it smells really good in here. Realize that this was a bad idea. Have second thoughts. Press onward because the shit is already cooking. Power read to distract yourself, or die of a heatstroke on the bed upstairs.

Remove chicken and let cool BEFORE GOING TO THE USED BOOKSTORE. If you forget, burn the shit out of your hands later. Set stock (the byproduct of the above ingredients; I got about a quart) aside, skimming as it cools.

Skin and debone the chicken. Be thorough. Very thorough.

Shred chicken with two forks. Find multiple missed bones and bone fragments. Swear. Transfer chicken to pan, removing extra fat and gristle during one last scour. Return chicken to bowl (at this point, you’re probably saying, “YOU ASSHOLE. WHY DID YOU MAKE ME DO THAT?” More surface area = more discovery of missed bones = less you/your guests unpleasantly finding them with your/their teeth).

Congratulations. You just stewed a chicken, and hells, yeah! You have extra stock for something else tasty! I’m sure that will be good in any number of delectable things… couscous, curry sauce… the sky’s the limit, really. It’s chicken stock. Use your imagination.

Okay, moving on to the actual recipe:

  • ½ Vidalia onion, diced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Shredded chicken from above
  • 1 cup of stock, also from above
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 can chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 3-4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro

Forget the limes during your produce bonanza. Remember them before leaving the produce section. Get stuck behind the dumb-ass broad who practically bought a lime grove. Seriously, who frelling needs to pick 20 limes individually when there are nice little 2-pound bags right next door for cheaper?! Realize you are left with the scraps. Grab one. Watch as Hobnoxie McLimer comes back for a 2-lb bag. Realize that society is overbrimming with stupidity.

Cook onions and garlic in oil until translucent. While those are cooking, realize your chipotles in adobo are chock full of hot in the form of over 9,000 seeds. Seed them to the best of your ability, knowing that it is impossible to remove every single hot pocket but trying anyway because of your damn perfectionism. Add stock and spices to the pan and mix.

Add chicken, salsa, and full can of chipotles (trust me; the chicken flavor mellows them out quite a bit). Mix well. Heave a sigh of relief because the stuff does not incinerate your tonsils. Before serving, add lime juice and cilantro. Serve in a way that suits your fancy. My sous chef and I made rice bowls with pico de gallo, green onions, a bit of cheese, and lime-cilantro brown rice.

If you prefer it more spicy, then leaving the chipotle seeds in will help. It would also be plausible to add some cayenne pepper.

~Foreverpaper

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Bookery: A Brief Review of “Lizzie Leigh”

The brevity of this review is based on the length of the work itself, often termed a short story, but I think it is more or less a novella due to its division into chapters.

“Lizzie Leigh,” like Mary Barton, involves a fallen woman who is, believe it or not, the title character. Like Esther (the fallen woman of Mary Barton), Lizzie is marginalized for most of her narrative and is referred to only in name. She makes her first appearance in the present in Chapter III, at which point she is referred to simply as “the shadow” and “the mother.” In Chapter IV, she experiences a slight gain in her social standing. In terms of the narrative, she enjoys being addressed in the exposition by her name while she is present rather than as a non-entity. She is “redeemed” by the tragic death of her child and allowed to live. Yes, that’s right… I said live. She neither dies nor marries but occupies a small secluded cottage praying for forgiveness and emerges when tragedy strikes others. (Dare I say she is a bit like the patron saint of sorrow?) So, I suppose she is also a little bit like Helen Huntingdon sans the death of the child and the reentry into society as a happily married woman, but I have already discussed her in a previous post.

This is a VAST improvement from the utterly tragic ending of Mary Barton, also discussed in a previous post. Lizzie demonstrates her duality in possessing two names (she is called “Bessy” by her coworkers). Otherwise, she is relatively singular. Still, the possession of an alias creates a double of sorts, and I think she will make it into the thesis.

Now, to begin an arduous journey through the 704-page beast that is Wives and Daughters. I noted on GoodReads.com that the novel’s average rating is somewhere around 4.10, so I’m hoping that the page length is worth it. Aside from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Bible, it will be the longest book I have ever read (all my non-English major friends mocked me for it… I am ashamed…)

~Foreverpaper

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Filed under Books, British, Gaskell, Literature, Progress, Thesis, Victorian

Bookery: A Quick Skim of Mary Barton (and a touch of Bronte)

Ladies and gentlemen, I have done the impossible: I have read, or rather skimmed, a 500-page-book in two days, but before I get into that, I have completed The Tenent of Wildfell Hall and must say that the conclusion is significantly different from other “Fallen women” novels in that Helen is redeemed into society’s fold. Somehow, I think this has more to do with the fact that the blame was clearly placed on Huntingdon than the fact that she willingly revealed her duality to Gilbert, who unveiled it to society and decided to marry her, thereby becoming the heroic ideal husband and reinforcing the princess-in-the-tower mentality that only men can rescue a girl trapped in a run-down tower (or manor, in this case) who has estranged herself from her husband for the sake of maintaining the morality of her infant son. Okay, the whole “princess-in-the-tower” thing does not involve all of that, but seriously… it kind of reminds me of Snow White/Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty sans the absolute purity, the harem of tiny men, the glass slipper, and the giant witch/dragon (COOL).

And now, cue rant mode… despite the fact that I have a separate blog for that.

The ending of Mary Barton pissed the living hell out of me, and here is why: the entire novel, like many Victorian novels, involves the precarious morality of the title character who is influenced by her Aunt Esther’s ideas of becoming a lady of society. It is later revealed that Esther was the mistress of an officer, bore a child who fell ill, and, in a failed attempt to save the child’s life, becomes a prostitute. As if all of this were not enough, Esther returns to be assaulted verbally and physically by John Barton (Mary’s father) due to his blame of her for the death of other Mary Barton (John’s wife). She surfaces at several other points, mainly in relation to Mary’s morality and why she has the immoral thought to (God forbid!) raise her position in society (except that the guy she had eyes for was a complete douche who never really wanted to marry her and who thought they “could be happy enough without marriage” (169). Esther returns at several other points in the narrative, first to see Jem and notify him of the danger Mary is in, then to visit Mary herself, but not as a prostitute. No, in order to go before Mary, she must provide a moral facade, and she chooses to be “Mrs. Fergusson” of “Angel Street,” the innocent wife of a mechanic (299).

Now, relying on Jem for help was one thing since Jem had prior to professed his love for Mary, and disguising herself was pretty inventive, too (it also fits in well with my whole duality thing). What I absolutely cannot stand is the way Gaskell builds up the conclusion for Esther’s salvation (Mary and Jem, now married, and Jem, having unveiled Esther’s true profession, resolve to take Esther in and remind her of her morality) only to literally throw the whole thing in the gutter and leave it there to die. After searching for Esther, they find her by chance (three cheers for coincidence!) as she wanders to the place of her better days to die. They take her upstairs, chuck her on the bed, and wait for the inevitable end, and when it comes, I could not BELIEVE that it was not nearly as moving as John Barton’s. I mean, come on… he shot a rich guy! …granted that guy was a total jack-ass and an unidentified threat to his daughter’s morality, but that’s beside the point! To make matters even worse, they bury Esther with John in the same grave and inscribe it not with the names of the deceased but a very fitting Bible verse.

Ultimately, the conclusion says that the good will be rewarded, the bad will be punished, and the fallen woman can never ever be redeemed in the eyes of society even if there are people willing to do it. She can’t even have her own grave that tells of her redeeming points, something like, “Here lies Esther ‘Butterfly’ Barton-Fergusson, Devoted Mother, Mistress, and Wife… Sort of.” (I know that would never happen in the Victorian period… trust me.) It also equates the crimes of murder and prostitution in a sense, but to me, John is elevated above Esther in that he is provided with the forgiveness of the victim’s father in his dying moments and is even held by the mourning father as he passes from one world to the next. Esther cries herself to death, and after the funeral, everyone lives happily ever after… in Canada. The end.

The feminist in me is very frustrated. I’m almost afraid to read “Lizzie Leigh,” but the show (and the thesis) must go on!

~Foreverpaper

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Finishing Villette, and Progress on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

*Warning: This post contains spoilers for Villette. Read at your own risk.

Honestly, I couldn’t write a blog post after I finished Villette. I’m pretty sure I strongly dislike the ending. Not to spoil it for anyone but the ending is mildly indeterminate, and other signs in the book lead me to believe that it is not the classic “Happily ever after” I have come to expect from British Victorian literature. It makes me mildly sad. Still, I don’t regret reading it, what with the delightful interplay of ice and fire. At the same time, the message that the end of the book sends is that two people with differing faiths cannot be allowed to unite, which was quite a letdown. Then again, the conclusion reflects the stringency of British Victorian morals and their strict adherence to all actions that would stabilize society. If a British Protestant went to a French metropolis and married a Catholic, then that would not be doing anything for the aforementioned social structure.

The ending also makes me question how this conclusion would have been different if the one who uprooted and sought a profession in France had been a man. The gender stratification is relatively clear in that men at Madame Beck’s academy receive the title with more clout (Professor), whereas women are confined to the role of “Teacher” (maybe I am taking this anachronistically, for I am making the assumption that today’s connotations align with those of the 1800s, but I can’t see how there could be a drastic difference). Therefore, I wonder if the conclusion would be different if it were a British man uprooting to France, or even a French man uprooting to Britain.

No sooner was Villette finished (the 9th of May, 11:22 pm, to be precise) did I move on to the next novel on my list: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, which really does (as my thesis adviser said it would) resemble Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret. The main character (Helen) reminds me of Lucy, but she also reminds me a bit of Gaskell’s Ruth in that she tries to endure the injustices a man of society has wrought upon her. At the same time, the structure reminds me a bit of Wuthering Heights in that Anne Bronte uses a frame narrative structure that begins with a male protagonist, but unlike Lockwood, Gilbert is actually involved with the plot and receives the honor of narrating the first 90 or so pages before the narrative shift occurs, then to Helen’s diary. Like Ruth and Lady Audley’s Secret, this novel demonstrates the plight of women and the manner in which they are trapped by men and by society despite their efforts to move past transgression. In all three novels, tactics for discarding the past self involve adopting new names and moving to new geographical locations, which thereby creates a sort of dual self, but society seldom allows these women to enjoy their limited freedoms as the “secret self” of the past is always unveiled and any chance at integration destroyed beyond repair. In the novels I have already finished (more spoilers), both female protagonists are silenced by death. I wonder if it will also be the case in this novel.

Interestingly enough, a child is also involved in the three aforementioned novels, and in all three cases, this child is a son. In Ruth and Wildfell Hall, it seems like the presence of a son serves as an opportunity for redemption, and both suffer from the stained reputation of their mothers. In Lady Audley’s Secret, the child seems to be nothing more than an extraneous device that serves as a sign of past impurity, which is not surprising due to the matrimonial nature of her escape from her past life.

That is all I have for now. If my adviser verifies my selection, then I will be spared 1500 pages of reading.

Onward with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall!

~foreverpaper

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Cookery: FREEDOM!!!!! Stir Fry

Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby announce, with great pleasure, the end of my second semester of grad school. *wild applause* And what better way to celebrate this glorious completion than with a big fat bowl of Chinese food? *silence, crickets chirp* What? You were expecting alcohol? Since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, I definitely don’t need any of that. (See accompanying rant.)

Rather than waste $7 on a quart of something, I decided to try my hand at one of my dad’s many culinary fortes. Having never done this before, I peaked at a couple of recipes and came up with this lovely stir fry, which combines toasted almonds with chicken, veggies, and a honey-orange glaze that is more than likely better (and healthier) than take-out.

Ingredients

1 lb. chicken breasts, cubed

1 cup whole almonds

2 ½ cups sliced veggies (I used 1 cup carrots, 1 cup pea pods, and 1 can water chestnuts)

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

1 cup chopped scallions

2 cups rice, cooked

¼ cup honey

¼ cup orange juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tbsp. cold water

1 tbsp. corn starch

The Main Ingredients

Make Way, Make Way for the Players!

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Toast almonds over high heat for about 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Brown chicken breasts in a pan for 15 minutes. Set aside. Chop when cool.
  4. In same pan, combine ginger and veggies (sans green onions) and stir fry for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Whisk soy sauce, orange juice, and honey together. Add to vegetables.
  6. Once sauce comes to a boil, add chicken and half of the almonds. Heat for about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Mix cold water and corn starch. Add to sauce. Bring to boil.
  8. Serve stir fry over rice. Top with additional almonds and chopped scallions. If you have the dexterity, eat with chopsticks. =)
Stir Fry Goodness

The finished product: Delicious and Nutricious!

Of course, as with anything I cook, I think of some alterations as I go. First off, if you want it spicy, you can add some red pepper flakes to the sauce. Also, if someone is allergic to almonds, it is entirely possible to omit them… I just happen to like toasted almonds a lot, and the extras also go great on salads. ^^ The orange juice could easily be substituted for lemon juice or omitted entirely, in which case I would simply increase the amount of soy sauce used.

Happy cooking, all!

~Foreverpaper

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Bookery: Further Progress on Villette

Having gotten to the 253rd page of Villette, I feel an additional progress report is necessary. There is still heavy interplay between the duality of hot (M. Paul) and cold (Lucy Snowe, who at times herself experiences warmth and thereby embodies a quasi-dual self), and the plot, like many Victorian novels, relies heavily on coincidence. I will make it a point not to spoil this particular device, but suffice to say that characters thought absent for many pages may return in a different guise than initially introduced. Rather than making the plot contrived, I feel it only augments my gradually growing appreciation for this work, as does the constant utilization of secrecy by both the narrator and by other characters, which contributes to the overall suspense generated by the novel. Such is the case particularly with Ginevra, whom I suspect of some transgressive behavior and have resolved to keep an eye on as I continue progressing through the novel.

Located between the two extremes is Dr. John, who possesses neither fire nor ice but simply “warmth.” He appears to be more temperate and is constantly cheery. With each passing page, I grow to envy his optimism due to circumstances in my own life that will likely wind up in a rant on my other blog. In the words of Dr. John,

“Happiness is the cure–a cheerful mind the preventative. Cultivate both” (Bronte 250).

In giving Lucy the agency to correct her own health, as indicated by the word “cultivate,” Dr. John in some sense deviates from the traditional Victorian view of women, or my recollection of it, in that he asserts his belief that Lucy can indeed control herself and passions (and she does in most instances). The quote also unveils the book’s psychological nature, as Lucy attains a sort of “brain fever” and constantly provides readers with glimpses of her psychology. Phrenology also functions to enhance this in that it provides an outlet for the speculation of another character’s temperament. Unfortunately, that little relates to the great Victorian Female Dual Self project as it now stands.

It goes without saying that the amount of French passages in the novel is still appalling, but one adjusts to them with the correct amount of patience. Nonetheless, I find myself longing to return to Villette despite the linguistic barriers that exist between us.

~Foreverpaper

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Filed under Books, British, Bronte, Literature, Progress, Thesis, Victorian, Villette