March 24th, 2010 § § permalink
March 24 is Ada Lovelace Day, one of my favorite holidays. It’s a day celebrating the achievements of women in science and technology, and people are asked to blog about their tech heroines. There are any number of people I could talk about, but I have decided to do something a little different. I’m not going to talk about the Open Source community, or the Dreamwidth developer community, or even the Organization for Transformative Works, close as they all are to my heart (I’m on the Board of Directors of OTW, full disclosure, and I love the org to death). I’m going to talk about Carol Blymire of the blog Alinea at Home.
I don’t know Carol. I’m not even sure I’ve ever commented on her blog. But I admire her a lot.
She is cooking her way through a pretty complex cookbook. She is using tools that are out-of-the-ordinary (dude, I don’t have a dehydrator in my kitchen. I definitely didn’t know that there was a special kind of ziplock bag for sous-vide cooking) and tools that are in every kitchen (a wee little blender!). She is learning things along the way. She is funny and profane and honest and doesn’t give a damn about the nonsense best summed up by the 2007 New York Times article “Kitchen Chemistry is Chic, but Is It a Woman’s Place?” That’s the article which contains the assertion you could “[r]ound up all the women entranced by high-tech cuisine in America, and they could easily fit into a Jacuzzi. Some of the most experienced female chefs are persuaded that the new cuisine will never attract many women. It’s just too … male. ”
I can hear the woman behind Alinea At Home rolling her eyes.
Food is awesome, playing with food is awesome, and playing with food because you have cool tools is just as awesome as the low-tech method; it always makes me smile when a new Alinea At Home post shows up in my RSS reader because I know that Carol’s sense of fun and play will come through, even if the attempt at a recipe didn’t work out as well as she would have liked. She’s always curious, and that is why I want to point to her as my tech heroine for Ada Lovelace Day this year.
October 18th, 2009 § § permalink
So, some of you might have heard that I have some news: I’m joining the Board of Directors for the Organization for Transformative Works in January. This is tremendously exciting, because it allows me to work toward a world which celebrates something I hold very dear — the non-zero-sum economy.
There’s a lot of discussion going on of late about food scarcity, the encroaching famines and water deprivations of the 21st century, and I don’t deny that these are serious and important problems. I do, however, deny that food and cooking are a zero-sum game; that making a pound of bread means that there is one less potential pound of bread to be made. Every time I make bread, I learn more about how to do it, and how to make it better — and I can teach someone else to do it with more authority, more understanding of the possible variants. And if I make food for you, and you look up from your plate to say, “This is amazing, can I have the recipe?” my writing out the recipe doesn’t mean that I can’t make it again.
photograph by deb roby
More than that, your rendition of that recipe will not — cannot — be exactly like mine; your eggplant may be more bitter, your flour may be white whole wheat where mine was all-purpose, you may have run out of oregano while I use it with a generous hand. You may want to emphasize the crispness of the batter when you make zucchini fritters and I was showing off the deep emerald and lemony skin of the fresh squash I bought that morning. And that is as it should be!
That is what is supposed to happen. This is the great joy of cooking, that the universe of gastronomy constantly expands, that we learn from each other and learn to see things anew and afresh, experiment and adapt. And that is what fannish behavior is all about — pushing the limits of a known universe, saying what if, asking questions, combining ideas in new ways and approaching the same materials from different angles.
There is also a fascinating parallel to be drawn between amateurism in cooking and in art — not everyone wants to be Alain Ducasse or John Grisham. Some of us just want to bake cornbread on a Saturday morning and eat it with honey, or explore the questions that Star Trek didn’t get to. There’s room for both of us in this world.
OTW is currently running its biannual donations drive, so they — we — can continue doing the work which is so valuable: preserving that economy of gifts and excess, making sure that the history of the community is not erased, ensuring that amateur (a word, I remind you, that comes from the Latin for love) fair use is not chased out of the world in favor of corporate interests. It would mean a lot to me if you would visit the OTW site and think about supporting the organization; it is a federally registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit, so (a) your donation would be tax-deductible in the United States to the fullest extent of the law (international donors should consult a local tax authority) and (b) we are dependent on support from generous donors.
October 12th, 2009 § Comments Off § permalink
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to discover that there are feminists talking about food. I need to post about the political ramifications of cooking one of these days, but for now, I will signal-boost the following:
photograph by janetmck
- Feminist adventures in food preservation, at Feministing. “Food has historically been a woman’s domain—at least the preparation of it. Part of the feminist revolution was challenging the inequitable division of household labor—including food preparation. Convenience foods, prepared dinners, are all linked to the new reality of multiple working parents. But they aren’t only a result of this—let’s not blame feminists for TV dinners just yet.”
- “Obesity,” health, and the pro-food movement, at Feministe. “There are several reasons why I care so much that the pro-food movement seems to be buying the mainstream line about fat. 1) I don’t think the anti-fat bias here is intentional; it seems just to be an oversight, a skipping of the necessary step of skepticism. Which shouldn’t be that hard: this is a skeptical bunch who jump to debunk, say, Big Ag’s claims that genetically modified foods are good for humanity and Big Food’s use of terms like ‘natural.’”
- The Feminist Food Studies Bookshelf, at The F-Word. “Only in the past 10 years has there emerged a critical look at the centrality of women’s relationship to food practices and the meanings embedded in them. Here’s a few of those works.”
- On fullness, at Shapely Prose. “Now, as it happens I do not react to either muffins or steak in quite the way Jerome describes, nor do I have any wish to be a tender father. But of course those specifics aren’t the point. The point is that this sort of normal, attentive, joyful, purposeful eating is a real and tragic casualty of our cultural quest for thinness. It’s terrible the way mini-mania erodes the self-esteem of all sizes of women, but it’s also terrible that it makes us unable to enjoy food qua food.”
July 19th, 2009 § Comments Off § permalink
That was a weirdly joyless expedition to the farmer’s market. I got baby portabellas and milk and green beans and the first of the 2009 crop of Vista Bella apples and chèvre and a mushroom quiche. It took me fifteen minutes (I put up a load of laundry on my way out, and when I came back, it still wasn’t done). Maybe it was me and my stress over the next few days and weeks (so many hard deadlines), maybe it was everyone wanting to murder the piles of zucchini, maybe it was just one of those days, but that wasn’t actually fun. I don’t feel happy, the way I usually do, the glee and anticipation from all the new food and the connection with smart, interesting, engaged people isn’t brightening the edges of my vision.
I’m going to knock off some of the deadlines I’ve got coming up, and then I’ll eat some quiche, and maybe the world will look better in an hour or so.
And hey, signal-boost: Milk Thistle Farm is looking for private investors so they can build an on-site bottling plant. Milk Thistle is a bunch of fantastic people, with amazing milk (every now and then I run out before the market and buy a little thing at the supermarket and I swear it tastes like water after the real stuff), and I am pretty confident that they know what they’re talking about. I have not, however, dug into the .pdf they provide for potential investors and cannot vouch for their plans or logic. If there is interest, I can take an hour or so and run the numbers and talk about what I think of their proposal; let me know.