Sunday, November 23, 2008

Things I have now cooked

Ok, so I made the pizza. Look! Pizza!

It wasn't entirely successful. The crust is a little raw, and it didn't really rise very much. The dough wasn't really a success from the very beginning: the consistency was all wrong, and I had to add about a cup of flour more than the recipe called for. Even after that, my dough was still pretty gloppy. I might experiment with different crust recipes. But mostly the pizza is pretty good, and it really wasn't that difficult to make. I think I will pursue some further adventures in pizza-making, probably with different topping combinations. I'm thinking next time I might do my classic roasted root veggies with rosemary. It's usually a side dish, but I think it would work as a pizza topping. I'm also thinking about trying to recreate the delicious pear and pinenut pizza that they used to have at Pizza Capri.

I was going to complain about how my tiny kitchen was really not up to the pizza-making task, but then I saw this thingie about Mark Bittman's crappy kitchen. Now, from that photo, it appears that Mark Bittman's kitchen is not quite as crappy as mine. We have similar layouts, but his microwave is mounted on the wall, while mine rests on the counter, meaning that my only available counter space is the bit in front of the microwave. Also, he appears to have a dishwasher, and I doubt there is a wall right in back of him, exactly where the photo ends, the way there is in my kitchen. My kitchen is officially 5X17 feet, and that's before the appliances go in. I doubt that his kitchen is a grand total of five feet wide. But the fact remains that Mark Bittman is a nationally renowned food writer, unlike me, and his kitchen is almost as bad as mine. He has the same problem that I do with his stove being too small to allow him to use all four burners at the same time. So there will be no more excuses from me.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Things I Must Cook Immediately

I actually can't cook this immediately, because pizza dough needs to rise for a while, but I must make this pizza as soon as possible. I'm going to make the dough right now and then pop over to the produce store for the other ingredients.

In other news, I got cool new Ravelry-esque buttons for the bottom of my blog posts! Now you can tell me if you think I'm interesting, funny or boring. I tried to add a "self-indulgent" one, too, but there wasn't enough space.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Things I Have Learned from my Briscoe Mittens

So in this episode of "Emily blathers self-indulgently in her blog," we return to our regularly scheduled knitting program. Today I am busy lamenting the fact that I like about a zillion patterns in the new Twist Collective, which requires you to purchase each pattern separately, whereas I'm not crazy about anything in the forthcoming Interweave Knits, which only requires you to shell out once for the whole magazine full of patterns. I am really fond of Twist Collective's Postwar Mittens and Vivian Cardigan, but I'm not sure that I can justify spending $6-7 on a pattern at this stage of my life. I might throw caution to the wind and go ahead and buy the mitten pattern, even though I should be saving that money for things like rent.

It has come to my attention, by the way, that my mitten-knitting fixation is actually part of a larger mitten trend. I'm not sure how I became trendy without realizing it. I think that this is an extension of the sock knitting trend: people are getting a little bored of socks, and mittens are a similarly small project. Personally, I never really got into socks, and I vastly prefer knitting mittens. Mostly, I love stranded colorwork, and I'm not up to doing stranded socks. Stranded knitting has no give at all, so stranded socks would have to fit perfectly in order not to fall down or be too tight. I knit for fun, not to torture myself, so that's not going to happen.

So anyway, my Briscoe Mittens are progressing. Here's where they are right now.


Looking at those pretty, pretty Postwar mittens has reminded me why people generally knit things from actual commercial patterns, rather than making patterns up themselves. Let's just say that my improvised stranded pattern cannot hold a candle to such loveliness. However, knitting these mittens has been educational. Here are some things I've learned from my Briscoe Mittens.

1. If I'm going to knit two-color mittens, I should pick one dark color and one light one. I decided that I would do two contrasting, but equally dark colors, so I've got a medium green and a medium orange. This is driving me nuts. I don't feel like there's enough contrast, and I think the pattern gets lost. I can do monochromatic mittens, like these still-unfinished purple ones:

(Those were the first mittens I ever tried to knit, before I knew anything about mitten construction. I think they've been abandoned. Maybe I'll frog the yarn and knit a real pair of mittens.) Or I can do ones that have a bright or dark color and use white or cream for the contrast color. No more of this orange and green silliness. If I'm going to spend twenty hours producing a pretty pattern, I want people to be able to see it.

2. Stranded knitting is a lot more fun when you have a straight-forward repeating geometrical pattern. My mitten has two parts: a nice, geometrical palm and a fancy, evil Star of David on the back. The palm is really fun and easy: each row has a standard repeat. For instance, my next row will be knit three stitches orange, knit three stitches green, repeat all the way across the row. Easy! The Star of David motif isn't standardized or easy in any way. The only way to know what to do is to look at the chart for each stitch as you're knitting. This is getting really tiresome. In the future, I will not try to draw fancy yarn pictures with my stranded knitting and will instead stick with repeating and geometrical.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I apologize for this non-knitting post. I don't want to post this over on the Veterans' Day threads on Ravelry, because it would be drama-inducing. But I also want to say it somewhere.

Today is November 11, which is celebrated as Veteran's Day in the U.S. and as Remembrance Day in the countries of the British Commonwealth. It's a day that is set aside to remember those who served in the armed services, and in Commonwealth countries, it's a day to remember members of the military who died in wars. But it means something else to me.

Today is the 90th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Three days after that document was signed, my grandmother turned nine years old. In the United States, Britain, and the Commonwealth countries, there was a hard and fast division between the front, where soldiers fought, suffered and died in appalling numbers, and the "home front," where civilians lived their lives more or less as normal. In Vienna, where my grandmother lived, that division did not exist. A central part of the Allied strategy was the "hunger blockade" which the Allies imposed on the civilian population of the Central Powers. The idea was to cut off food supplies to citizens of Germany and Austria, starving the countries' civilian populations and forcing their governments to surrender. This strategy was successful: it's one of the reasons that Germany and Austria lost the war. And it visited tremendous suffering on ordinary Austrian and German people. American visitors like Jane Addams and Mary Heaton Vorst talk about arriving in Vienna immediately after the armistice and encountering crowds of skeletal children, victims of the hunger blockade. My eight-year-old grandmother was one of those children. She never served in the military, but she suffered in the war nonetheless, and she lived with the results of childhood starvation for the rest of her life.

There are veterens in my family. There are people in my family who have served honorably in wars. My grandfather flew the extraordinarily dangerous supply route over "the Hump" during World War II. But mostly, my family has experienced war as civilians, and because until recently my relatives were Eastern and Central European Jews, that means that members of my family have suffered and died in wars as civilians. There are no days set aside to remember refugees and displaced people. There are no days set aside to honor the suffering of children who were victimized by hunger blockades. My great-great-grandmother was shot by the Nazis, so she gets remembered during Yom HaShoah, but there's no day to remember her children, who successfully fled the Nazis and made their way to Leningrad just in time to starve and freeze in the siege.

So on November 11, I remember everyone who has suffered and sacrificed and died in wars: soldiers and civilians alike. I honor their courage. I marvel at the ability of those who survived to create lives for themselves and their families, despite all they'd endured. And I hope we'll find a way someday to make all this suffering and sacrificing unnecessary.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Briscoe Mittens

After a brief, post-Firefly-swap, election-related knitting hiatus, I have something new on the needles. I've improvised a mitten pattern. (I'm not quite ready to call myself a designer, so I'm going to say "improvised," rather than "designed.") They're orange and green mittens with a Star of David motif, so I've named them Briscoe Mittens, after Robert Briscoe, an Irish Jew who fought in the Irish war of independence, served as a member of the Irish parliament for forty years, and was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin. I realize this is a really obscure reference. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit of a geek.

It turns out, upon googling, that Robert Briscoe's son, Ben Briscoe, is still very much around, and apparently he's got an email account. I have a fantasy that he's going to contact me and tell me that his father hated knitting and that I should name my mittens after someone else. In that case, I'll call them Leopold Bloom Mittens, but I like Briscoe Mittens better, just because I'll take an obscure reference over a mainstream one any day.

Anyway, it's too early for good pictures, but here's the back so far:

And here's the palm:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hey, Meira, this link is just for you!

I give you Young Adult Authors for Obama.

For some reason, I would have pegged Cecily von Ziegesar as a Republican.