Friday, October 11, 2013

With whom would you dine?

:: Language Warning ::

Bet you didn't think a language warning would be followed by a cooking picture, huh? 

Last night, while cooking this, I was chopping carrots and thinking about that question people sometimes ask - if you could have dinner with any of people, who would it be? My answers always vary. Some days it's Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and Ghandi or Socrates and Plato.  Other days it's George Carlin, Robin Williams, Groucho Marx, Louie CK, and Patton Oswalt.  

But last night as I was chopping carrots, I started thinking about cooking.  About what a lovely and intimate affair it is to stand next to someone and cook with them - how food is a language through which we love and the creation of food is an act of love.

And then I thought: if I could cook with anyone, who would it be?

Of course there are the chefs - Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey.  Great, yes, that would be lovely.  And there is family - I would make fried chicken with my mother and ham and bean soup with my father and just abot anything with my stepfather who taught me to cook. Then there are the heroes and role models- would Einstein cook?  What would I say to him?  If Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson were in my kitchen would we cook at all?

Then again, there are the comedians.  I love to laugh.  I love to laugh almost as much as I love to eat.  If I had to cook with anyone, I'm pretty sure I know who I'd invite.

I'd invite Harto  because she's amazing and I already watch My Drunk Kitchen when I cook, so it wouldn't be much different except there would be pure awesomeness in my presence.  And I'd probably have to invite Jenna Marbles because I watched her bake a cake with Harto once and I might have dropped my knife and screamed, "THANKS, OBAMA".  I'd probably ask Louis CK and Patton Oswalt to come early for dinner so they could stand in the doorway and just be themselves while I got sloppy drunk and made food for all of us to eat to soak up some of the bourbon in our bellies.

I'm not sure what that says about me.  Here you thought you were going to get something awesome and philosophical and deep because some I started out talking about cooking "Herbs de Provence Roasted Chicken with Fennel Lentils" and doesn't that sound fancy?   Now's probably a good time for me to admit that I got the recipe off of  This reminds me of two other people I'd invite.  The maker of that website and Thug Kitchen because I feel like they both might get along well with everyone else and I always love some people who can eat like they give a fuck.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How do we define courage?

My students are writing Definitional Argument essays.  Last week in class, we talked about creating categories using criteria - about how to define words by coming up with ideas that help mold and create those definitions. 

One pesky word students got stuck on during our in-class work was courage. What is courageous?  They were given four scenarios:  A stranger runs into a burning building to save a child, a parent runs into a burning building despite knowledge that they couldn't reach their child and the fireman could, a fireman runs into a burning building for that child, and a boy runs into a burning building for letters from the woman he loves. 

Which of these actions were courageous?  They argued back and forth.  One student quoted Mark Twain: Courage is resistance of fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.  

During our discussion we went a bit off track - we talked about Miley Cyrus and her VMA performance and Wrecking Ball video. Perhaps she thinks she's being courageous in a way - she thinks she's fighting norms and creating a new space for herself and we talked about that a little, though they all so thoroughly disagreed with the idea of her being courageous that we swiftly came back to discussing our criteria of courage.  

They thought that courage was when a person exhibited a mastery of fear while doing something that was honorable that was not their job (or that they were not receiving monetary reward for). 

The latter was a point of contention in class, as we argued about the courage in the fireman scenario.  Was he courageous, I asked? Some said yes. Some said no.  Some said "He's doing his job."  "A soldier is doing his job, is he courageous?"  "The first responders in 9/11 were doing their job - were they courageous?"

It was a fascinating discussion.

I wonder what they would think of this interview - of Malala Yousafzai.  Is she courageous?  I think yes.  

And more than that - in the wake of my discussion with my students and seeing this video the other night, I ask myself:  What criteria have I put forth for my children to teach them about what it means to be courageous?  About what it means to be kind or good.  How do I show them - through my actions and words - how do I illustrate for them the definitions of these difficult words?  

How do I work to raise a child who carries kindness and courage of this young woman? 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

So, that happened.

My first car was a Mustang. It was a 1980 powder blue hatchback with far too many cylinders for a 16 year old girl, as evidenced by the rainy day when I delicately parked it in the ditch after fishtailing on slick asphalt because when you gunned it in that thing, it really moved.

I loved my first car.  I wanted a Mustang. I got a Mustang. I ruined a Mustang.

I moved on to other cars after that - a Geo Metro with half the engine my Mustang had, a Mazda 626 that couldn't keep a transmission, and a Nissan Sentra, shiny and red, with some weird overdrive issue.  Then there was the Altima and the Eclipse - the cars we vowed to drive into the ground.  The sedans we've been holding onto as if they were our last shred of dignity.  Because they are our last connection to that pre-child life where our cars were pretty and sleek, where they didn't stink of chinese food and feet, where we could comfortably reach into the back floorboards without wondering what fresh hell we might find, or at least know if we found it that *we* put it there.

But now we've snipped that final small thread between musician and performance poet us and middle-aged suburban parent us.  We bought this behemoth.  We tell ourselves we're still cool and we call it War Machine because "Predawn grey mica" is exactly the same color as Iron Man's partner.

And exactly as every other minivan sellout has told me I would, I love it.

It's big.  The kids are no longer playing the game I call "elbows and eyeballs".  I don't have to listen to one person tell me they're getting kicked into the face.  When belted in, they are all contained in a space much farther away from me and from each other than they used to have and every bit of it was worth it. Did I mention it's big?

And it's fancy.  My last car was 15 years old, which means that the features and benefits consisted of a CD player and a trunk that pops open from the inside.  This one has special keys and satellite navigation and weather and special radio stuff and things.  And approximately 27 cupholders.  And a seat warmer.

If I think too much about the bill, I get a little fluttery in my "I work for peanuts" soul, but man, this thing is beautiful. Just once I'd like to go back in time and talk to performing poet me.  "Performance poet me," I'd say.  "Twelve years from now you will have three children and a minivan and Martha Stewart will have served time in prison.  Suck it up and deal."

I'd never believe me.
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