Saturday, October 17, 2009


This is jook, pronounced similar to "choke" but not quite. This was the Chinese comfort food of my childhood; it is made with rice and broth, topped with sesame oil, chopped green onions, and shiitake mushrooms. Sometimes my mom would put cooked chicken in it, or dried fish, or preserved crunchy turnip bits. I had never made it myself before but I made some tonight and it turned out pretty much as I remembered it from my childhood. I don't know why I've never made it before; it was so easy.

Basic jook recipe:

1 cup short-grain rice
10 cups stock of your choice (I used 8 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water)

Combine in a big pot; bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Top with a splash of sesame oil, chopped green onions, and reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms, diced with tough stems removed.

Some people add soy sauce, but I recommend you taste it first, because I found it salty enough as it was. Other people like to add chilli sauce.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

lentil soup with roasted kale

I highly recommend this roasted kale recipe. The temperature here dropped very quickly and very harshly this past weekend, so I harvested the last surviving remnants of the kale from the garden--it was the perfect way to use it rather than let it go to waste. It made a crispy, tasty topping for lentil soup.

Friday, September 25, 2009

creamy zucchini-mushroom soup

Makes two large servings; easily doubled.

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups zucchini, diced with skins on
1 cup button mushrooms, diced
2 cups broth of your choice (vegetable, chicken)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
pinch each of ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and sugar
pinch of ground chipotle pepper
salt to taste
grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Heat olive oil in pot. Saute garlic until translucent. Add zucchini, mushrooms and spices and sugar, and saute for about 4-5 minutes. Add broth and milk, and adjust salt to taste (you may not need it depending on broth).

Bring to a simmer, cook 10 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Puree with (immersion) blender. Top with grated Parmesan or Asiago and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

zucchini boats

Tonight I made these zucchini boats [found via Tastespotting] for dinner, and to my delight they not only resembled the photo in the recipe, but also tasted good.

Of course, me being me, I made quite a few substitutions. I substituted Yves' Ground Round for the turkey sausage (and reduced the amount of salt accordingly) and used one tbsp Calvados instead of the two tbsp of dry white wine the recipe called for. I also added a tablespoon of hot sauce instead of using ground pepper.

I give this recipe a thumbs up. It was easy, inexpensive, and tasty.

I ended up with a lot of filling left over, so I baked the leftovers in ramekins and will bring some to work for lunch and dinner tomorrow (it's my long teaching day).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

amusing seagull

Your typical pushy Vancouver seagull.

Monday, August 10, 2009


butterfly near our hotel in the West End

view from bridge over the Main River

maple leaf outside the Museum of Applied Art

Saturday, August 08, 2009


gauge from antique printing press in the Museum of Typecasting, Typesetting, and Printing

metal type at the printing museum

"Waldspirale" (Forest Spiral), an apartment building by the architect Hundertwasser

ducks at Waldspirale

Thursday, August 06, 2009


houses along the canal

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg

view of Strasbourg from cathedral roof

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


plaque commemorating the spot where (legend has it) Petrarch first saw his muse, Laura

Pont Saint-BĂ©nezet (le Pont d'Avignon)

Sur le pont d'Avignon, well, this guy dances, anyhow.

posters for Avignon's theatre festival

Super hero seeks people of all ages to save.
Motivated, serious, and dynamic, you can count on me in all circumstances (unless I'm very scared).
Available starting at 11:30 pm at the Theatre des Beliers.
04 90 82 21 07
Serious enquiries only.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Pont du Gard (ancient Roman aqueduct, approximately 2000 years old)

800-year-old olive tree near Pont du Gard; tree was a gift from Spain

gecko on a tomb in Les Alyscamps (ancient Roman necropolis along the road outside Arles)

2000 year old bridge near Roussillon; this bridge was still in use until the new replacement was built only a few years ago

sunflower field near Gorde


the roof of La Pedrera (Casa Mila), an apartment building by the architect Gaudi; the towers are said to have inspired the design for the Storm Troopers from Star Wars

window detail, Casa Batllo, another building by Gaudi

statue of Jesus on Sagrat Cor Cathedral, Mount Tibidabo

Monday, June 08, 2009

Then We Came to the End

I'm halfway through Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End and so far I am really enjoying it. I think it's the only book I've ever read that employed the plural first person ("we"), and while it takes a little getting used to, it works quite well with the subject matter (office life). There is one section that is in the third person, and although this could have been clunky, I found it entirely appropriate.

It's hard to explain what the novel is about; mostly it's about the intricacies of office relationships--friendships, rivalries, romances, personal traumas. On the surface it can read as quite fluffy and inconsequential, but the author does actually address surprisingly big issues like mortality, loneliness, what makes for a meaningful life, bullying and groupthink.

I'd recommend it for anyone looking for a pretty easy summer read that is just unusual enough not to feel like brain candy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

marking; procrastinating; The Book of Negroes; The Torso

I am supposed to be marking; therefore, of course, I am finding many other urgent and compelling things to do. In addition to marking the occasional essay, I have spent a lot of time cleaning up my desk, knitting things for my nephew to be, and researching swine flu so that I can ramp up my anxiety levels to super-high.

I finished reading this year's Canada Reads pick, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Well, actually, I listened to the unabridged audiobook which was broadcast on CBC and then archived on the Between the Covers podcast. Very gripping stuff--the story pulls you along but it is also well-researched and contains a lot of historical detail. I sort of wish I had read the book, but the audiobook was very well narrated and above all, convenient while I was travelling; I went to Vancouver for professional development last week and then the morning after I returned I had to do a 4.5 hour drive out to a community program. I was grateful to be able to listen to 10 chapters on the way there and back, which kept me from falling into a coma and driving into the ditch.

I read a piece by the author about how he had to change the title for the US publication of the book. Instead of The Book of Negroes (which is also the name of a real, historical document), it's called Someone Knows My Name. SO generic. Hill says, "At first, I was irritated, but gradually I've come to make my peace with the new title," but honestly, could the publisher not have picked a better alternative?

I'm not sure what my book group is reading next, but this was a good pick. We did a quick tally of the books we've read since December and realized that they've all been downers. I like dramatic stuff as much as anyone, but since September we've read about
  • war, torture, poverty and exile from Ethiopia
  • poverty, abuse, and murder in the Maritimes
  • war, poverty, Nazis and collaborators during WWII in France
  • war, poverty, starvation and Nazis during the siege of Leningrad
  • kidnapping, slavery, rape, and murder in Africa and the US colonies.

I suggested we read Angela's Ashes for a little levity.

Our librarian friend is going to make an executive decision and choose a book for us from the book club sets at the public library. I'll be interested to see what she chooses.

At the moment, I'm reading The Torso by Helene Tursten--it's the second in her Detective Inspector Irene Huss series. It's translated from the Swedish, and it loses nothing in translation but is a nice shift for me from the British mysteries I normally read. I find that a well-written mystery provides a lot of opportunity for meaningful social and cultural commentary. I realize I'm not really getting away from the heavy, depressing stuff here--and it's fairly gruesome, I mean just look at the title--but it's well-written and I don't have to think too hard. That suits me fine because I need to conserve my mental energy for reading student essays.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

he was born with the gift of a golden voice

Dad and I went to see Leonard Cohen while I was in Vancouver. (Thanks to filmguy for the tickets--he couldn't go, but don't feel too bad for him because he got to see Leonard in Rome!). Leonard and his musicians played and sang for 3 hours and they were every bit as good at the end as at the start. I'll be happy if I'm able to sustain any sort of activity for three hours at the age of 74, never mind playing a sold-out concert.

The last time Leonard Cohen came to Vancouver was 1993, and although he played at the Orpheum I didn't go because I had a night class. Ah youth. What was I thinking? I suppose it's telling that I don't even remember what class was so important for me to attend that I missed out on hearing LC sing. I'm glad I didn't miss out this time though.

And yes, he did sing "Chelsea Hotel No. 2."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

they thought God had left the museum for good

I'm reading The Madonnas of Leningrad right now; it's about a woman's memories of hiding from the Nazis in the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad.

When we were at the Krakow film festival, there was a Russian filmmaker who had spliced together footage from the recently released archival reels of the siege. It was all images, little if any dialogue. It was really arresting, just one stark black and white image of suffering after another.

Last night I was reading a passage in the book where the main character and her colleagues (she's a docent at the Hermitage) are working around the clock to pack up all the artwork so it can be shipped out to safety, when I suddenly remembered the lyrics to an old Tragically Hip song, "Scared":

you're in Russia
and more than a million works of art
are whisked out to the woods
when the Nazis
find the whole place dark
they'd think God's
left the museum for good

I've listened to that song many times before, but I never realized what those lines were about until I read that passage.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Grey Gardens

I'm really looking forward to the new Grey Gardens movie:

When I first saw the original Grey Gardens I was concerned that the Maysles brothers had exploited these two women by documenting their eccentricities and sad state for everyone to see. About halfway through the film I realized that Big and Little Edie actually had a lot more agency than I had originally thought, and that what was going on here was much more complex than a callous filmmaker exposing two dotty old ladies. Even though they're undeniably strange, the Edies are unwaveringly true to themselves in Grey Gardens, dramatic and wounded and defensive and joyful.

I've seen some of the stills of Little Edie in the beautiful prime of her life, and I've read about her childhood and youth, but I am really looking forward to seeing them played out in this film. In the trailer, Jessica Lange seems to be doing a fine job of Big Edie, but I think this movie will turn out to belong to Drew Barrymore. I bet Little Edie would have been delighted.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

reading The Flying Troutmans

I was the world's worst guardian of children. I was like the neighbourhood cat lady, but with kids. They were filthy, broken, and eating themselves, and soon they would feed on my old corpse.

From Miriam Toews' The Flying Troutmans