Friday, October 24, 2014

Thoughts in poetry

I write bad poetry. Sometimes, one approaches adequate, but mostly they're doggerel. And, some of the poetry I like to read isn't the most lofty, or esoteric. But it will always be something that touches my heart. I've had a book with this little poem for about 40 years, and it came to mind this week, especially when I look in the mirror.

I shall be older than this one day.

I shall think myself young when I remember.

Nothing can stop the slow change of masks my face must wear, one following one.

These gloves my hands have put on, the pleated skin, patterned by the pale tracings of my days…

These are not MY hands! And yet, these gloves do not come off!

I shall wear older ones tomorrow, til glove after glove, and mask after mask, I am buried beneath the baggage of Old Women.

Oh, then shall I drop them off,

Unbutton the sagging, misshapen apparel of age, and run, young and naked into eternity.

~ Joan Walsh Anglund

Woman in charge.

Review: The Woman Who Would be King, by Kara Cooney, PhD

I have a life-long fascination with Egyptian history. I tried learning to write in hieroglyphs during middle school, and read the stories of the gods and pharaohs. Hatshepsut was always intriguing, and the fact that there were attempts to completely erase any knowledge of her existence from history attests to the strong patriarchal dominance of Egypt at that time.
Although the author is a highly trained Egyptologist, she truly had to use her imagination to try and portray what may have convinced Hatshepsut to declare herself a pharaoh, and to openly rule in a time when women were relegated to the background. She has studied the source materials, yet speculates frequently. Her scholarship is obvious from the notes and bibliographic material in the back.
I would have preferred an actual novel based on her work. In fact, I would recommend to the author that she use this non-fiction work, and all the research she did to write a novelized version. It would be fascinating.
If she uses this depth of detail in the classes she teaches, her students are probably as fascinated as she is.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More fun

I've been an avid reader and an avid cook all my life. Recently, I got to combine both, thanks to "Blogging for Books" They sent me a copy of a tamale cookbook to review, and it was great fun.
Review: Tamales, by Alice Guadalupe Tapp

Tamales were a big part of Christmas celebrations when I was a child. I never made them, but our next door neighbor cooked for a week. We were always lucky that she would bring us a platter of them for Christmas Eve after midnight mass dinner. I watched her make them a few times, but it was mysterious.

As I got older, I was just afraid to try. They were complicated and time consuming. So, I just bought tamales whenever I found someone who made them. This book gives some shortcuts that will help a home-style cook like me to make tamales at home. Purists might complain about using canned or pre-prepared ingredients. Okay, I’m not one of them. I have no desire to make mole from scratch (25 or more ingredients sometimes!) It’s time consuming to roast your own fresh chilies. So, if you have objections, go ahead and find a recipe to do it yourself. I like shortcuts.

This book is for the home tamale maker. It covers the basics, from selecting the wrapper and the masa, to describing the different styles of filling the tamale before it’s cooked. I found the explanations clear and easy to follow. I wish some of the pictures had been captioned, especially the page with different masa shown.

The chapter on “Tontos”, inside-out tamales, where you put the filling and sauce over the cooked masa dough was interesting to me. It’s an approach I’d never heard of. You can keep a supply of the tontos in the freezer and add what would normally be fillings as toppings later.

There is one chapter which was interesting to read, but probably not something I’ll be able to try in my small town; “Nose to Tail Tamales”. It calls for ingredients that are kind of exotic here, including blood, lambs’ heads and beef cheeks. I’m lucky if I can find lamb chops here! But the wild boar tamales looked fabulous! I’m also unlikely to find fresh or prepared masa in my area.

My family is already hoping that we will try some of the dessert tamales, especially the fig-filled ones. I’m looking forward to being a tamalera in the near future.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.

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