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Archive for December, 2009

Food memories

I am not sure why, but recently I have been craving stuffed cabbage.  It’s one of the dishes my mother used to make and I remember it as hearty and filling and flavorful; a wonderful one-dish Sunday supper.

If I cooked with meat it would be easier to recreate my mother’s recipe (which used ground beef and rice in the stuffing), but since I don’t I had to find a meatless alternative.   The recipe I finally settled on used Middle Eastern spices instead of the Eastern European flavors that I remember growing up.

Like my mother’s version, this recipe begins with rice; in this case, flavored with turmeric.

Instead of meat, I used lentils,

cooked on top of the stove and then mixed with the turmeric-scented rice, sauteed onions and garlic, toasted almonds and golden raisins.

I carefully unfurled the cabbage leaves and stuffed them with the rice and lentil mixture

(a little surprised that the recipe did not suggest that I steam the cabbage first) and laid the rolls gently in a baking dish.  I drizzled them with the simple, cinnamon-spiked tomato sauce and baked the casserole for about 40 minutes.

The result?  A hearty, spicy and filling winter meal.

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Learning to knit

Last week one of the commenters on my blog asked me about when and how I learned to knit and I decided to respond here.  It’s not a long story but it comes with pictures.

My mother was not a knitter.  Maybe in reaction to her own mother, who was a high school art and home ec. teacher, she didn’t sew or knit, though she had an eye for design and color that I envied.

One of my prized possessions, however, is this pair of socks, knitted by my mother for my father.

My mother’s sense of humor is clearly evident in the bell she sewed on the pointed toe of one of the pair; the socks’ lack of symmetry (and lack of similarity to the shape of a human foot) meant they were never worn and probably accounts for the fact that I still have them more than 50 years after they were made.

All of this means that I did not learn to knit from my mother.  Instead, I was taught by a dear friend when I was first in graduate school in Ann Arbor, MI in 1983, otherwise learning to be a geologist.  Knitting was something that I could do when I wasn’t studying that felt productive and didn’t make me feel guilty for avoiding school work.

Since that time, knitting has come and gone in my life.  Sometimes I knit every day, other times I don’t knit for months on end.  A return to graduate school (this time to earn a PhD in education) resulted in another period of intense knitting. This sweater was knitted during my first month in Madison, WI as I waited for classes to begin.

Living in Maine brought on another knitting phase.  I made a lot of things during that time, including this hat (knitted from a pattern designed by the wonderful knitters at the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, VT)

and this scarf that I dreamed up all on my own.

While in Maine I also took up sculptural knitting, enrolling in no fewer than three classes on the subject and creating all kinds of things including fruit

and eggs.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been knitting a lot since moving to Portland.  One of my favorite recent projects is a collaboration with the grandson of a good friend.  Last spring I received the following detailed drawing in the mail

and made this hat based on his specifications (this picture is of the prototype — I made another, larger, one that I sent to the designer).

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Holiday thoughts

I have mixed feelings about the end of year holiday season.  I love the expressions of thanks and gratitude that people are encouraged to make, the way people think about how to make others happy, the gatherings of family and friends, the food, the festive decorations.

I particularly look forward to spending time with my family:  cooking and eating together, sipping wine and talking late into the night, running through my brother’s neighborhood in the cold mornings listening to old favorites on my iPod, reading to my nephew before bed, starting a new knitting project with my niece.

Yet, this time of year I am also constantly reminded of how fortunate I am.   On these short, cold days I shiver uncomfortably when I see homeless people bundled in sleeping bags under a bridge as I drive past in my heated car.  I remember some of my former middle and high school students who, over winter vacation, had one less warm meal to look forward to every day.  I think about the story I heard on the radio about people begging online for gifts of clothing or toys for their children this year.

In the short term, I try to do things that will make a small difference with donations of time or money to the Oregon Food Bank, the School BackPack Program or other worthy charities and services for people in need.

I also focus on my work preparing teachers and others who will work with young people in schools because I believe that is another way to promote change and make the world better for more people over the long term.

Of course people are not only in need over the holidays and the changes we need to make as a society won’t happen if people don’t think about them year round.  Maybe if we start now, during a time of year when we are encouraged to think about others, we will continue during the rest of the year, when our daily busy-ness makes it more of a challenge.

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