Saturday, April 30, 2011

Swedish recipes I will not make. Ever.

I recently began a quest to find more Swedish recipes for Midsommar, which lead me to the book The Best of Swedish Cooking and Baking, by Marianne Grönwall van der Tuuk, published 1961. 

This book is a doozy.  Fake colorized photographs show tables in their resplendent aspic-laden glory.  At the end of the day, old does not mean traditional, and traditional does not mean good.  Some foods I will not be making:

--Bird's Nest: picture a sleeping mask shape of chopped potatoes and pickled beets with two raw eggs for eyes.  "The first person to help himself to the dish stirs all the ingredients together until well blended."

--any of the zillions of herring and anchovy dishes: pickled, with caviar, stuffed in eggs, marinated, au gratin...too many bones, too salty. 

--creamed sweetbreads

--veal kidney sauté

--aspics.  With fish.  With beef.  With chicken.  With everything.

--"Good luncheon salad" --includes a catsup-capers-mayonaise garnish.

--Sadwichtårta, a sandwich that looks like a cake, except it uses de-crusted bread, salmon cream, and sardines as the pretty garnish on top of the torte.

--Jellied veal (jellied with 1 1/2 pounds of pigs knuckles)

--Molded cucumber salad ("A colorful salad, just as good as it looks") -- 1 cup cucumber::1 cup sour cream.  How are these people so healthy?!

--Sour Smelts

--Swedish Beefsteak with Onions ("A rich flavorful dish with a special "man" appeal.")

--Fried calf's liver with cream sauce ("A favorite dish among many people")

--Fried sweetbreads with mushrooms and bacon ("If you like sweetbreads, and most people do, try this recipe.")

--Orange fluff (includes food coloring)

--Merignue pyramid with chocolate sauce.  I have no idea what this is.

--Bacon sauce; also contains catsup.

But I will be making some of the cookies and baked goods, that's for sure.  After seeing the dreadful emphasis on fish and gelatin, I'm glad that I didn't have to visit Sweden in the 1960s.  My poor father, he only ate meatballs and fika in Sweden.  I can do better than that, but please hold the aspic.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wills and Kate

 from the Boston Globe

Look at those smiles.  I guess I am wistfully into the pageantry and beauty of a day like this, the hopes and smiles of a prince and princess...but then I get jolted back into the world of nuclear meltdowns, a financial crisis, and incredibly pervasive unemployment.  I can't decide whether I want royals to fade further into the background, a relic of an age long-gone, certainly never something I will never have the opportunity to enjoy.  Do I still want to be that princess?  Despite my blushes at the thought of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden when I was 12, it is not a life I want, really.  Smiles, waves, nothing more than how does she dress, what did she wear, what a pretty smile...that would drive me mad.   Call me Paige, but I have other things to do.  Yet, I will always miss the hats. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

MIT 150

pictures from here; see article and full video of convocation here

I was able to I am hard-pressed to understand why in the world the powers that be decreed that three hours was necessary for a soundcheck, but it was wonderful to be involved with the whole shebang.

PS - for some more about MIT and the 150 anniversary, check out the Boston Globe's coverage here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bioengineering--time for limits?

(if the video isn't showing up in google reader, just click through to the post and it should show up)

This TED talk is by Paul Root Wolpe, and addresses the need to limit biological engineering in science.  Given that's my field, I thought this would be a talk that touched on a myriad of issues with a focus on genetic engineering, but instead, it seemed to be a talk that pandered to pedestrian fears---pets have been marketed that glow in the dark--it's only a short time before we can make humans that can glow in the dark!  While a striking example of the possibilities of bioengineering, it focuses only on the macro, the thing that any person could look at and feel like science has gone too far. 

Mr. Wolpe first speaks about the transition of evolution from passive to the evolution of humans as affected by our own changes to the environment.  A good example of this was the domestication of cattle for milk by Northern Europeans.  The great majority of Northern Europeans evolved to be lactose tolerant yet groups without the same cultural history are lactose intolerant (see here).  If you don't drink milk throughout your life, a gene that allows for the digestion of lactose after infancy isn't a gene that makes you "fit" in an evolutionary sense.  So, more traditional hunter-gatherer populations do not have the same genes that populations with domesticated cows posses.  

The newest form of evolution, Mr. Wolpe says, is evolution directed by science.  And that is something we should apparently be quite scared of...the montages of cloned animals, transgenic animals, all of the unnatural things science has begun to research flow across the screen.  All that is missing is the scary apprehensive soundtrack. 

Unfortunately, the use of such imagery is neither helpful nor the whole story.  First, if you want to be spur discussion about the negative outcomes and scenarios caused by genetic engineering, cloning animals aren't the thing you should be scared about (biological weaponry, anyone?)

But in general, the biggest problem I see is in this talk is the lack of explanation behind bioengineering-related experiments.  Did the speaker mention why we're trying to make animals glow in the dark?  Or what that does for science?  No.  Maybe there are some fringe scientists out there that just want to make the next glow-in-the-dark animal, but fundamentally, the capability of making something glow for a reason allows experimentalists to study a great variety of problems: where do certain RNA travel in a cell?  When an animal has cancer, does a certain drug help shrink the tumor?  And in our lab, every single one of us has used "glow-in-the-dark" technology to test our tools so we can improve and refine the properties that make them helpful in studying malaria and other diseases.

Instead, you say "It'll be a short time before we can make people glow in the dark.", I wouldn't be so sure about that.  The amount of institute review required for any human study is great, and what you are suggesting is creation of a transgenic human, which isn't going to pass.  This is not the 1999 episode of Batman Beyond focused on splicers---teenagers who inject animal DNA to "be cool."

At the same time, should there be control of genetically modified pets?  Yes.  Should we carefully consider using genes in agriculture and meat farming?  Absolutely.  But genetic modification has not been happening only in the past five years...all one need do is look at a pug to know that we have been  playing God for thousands of years.

from here

Yes, it is true that we use animals and genetically engineer them to try and produce drugs.  But if you don't provide the other side of the story, it seems like a terrible idea, and obviously the wrong choice.  But saying that some drugs are extremely difficult to produce industrially, and we don't have the technology to simply synthesize them, you change the tenor of the argument.  People are going wild that cows are producing human breast milk.  Or, yes, we are hooking up monkey brains to computers in order to see what their brain is doing to respond to movement, and then having those signals control a prosthetic arm.  While a scary thought, this is important technology designed to advance the field of human prosthesis, plain and simple.

Of course there are going to be limits.  Even though some think the future involves engineering a tree to grow into the shape of a bookshelf, right now, science has a responsibility to continue on this path.

Frankly, it disappoints me that this talk did not address the possible successes of bioengineering, as well as some of the other things we should be worried about.  Just because a virus is not as pretty or as understandable as a transgenic goat that produces spider silk proteins does not mean that viruses are not entities able to be biologically engineered.  The lab I presented as a teaching assistant used mutated viruses as the electrode material in a battery.  It's an incredible technology.  But any technology can be used ill, and that's the whole point.  Look at technology as neutral, and then see the possibilities, both good and bad.  Then and only then should you argue about ethics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Always Come Home Back to You; Atmosphere (acoustic).  My first foray in guitar will be to learn this refrain.

Home is a funny thing.  It's where you grow up, it's where your friends are, it's where you are, it's where you schools have been, it's where you think you would love to be.  But we are greater than the sum of these seemingly disconnect places, and the way to get through the wistful feelings for somewhere else is to live life fully where you are.  My home in Boston has no puppy to greet me when I arrive home, but it does have a twenty minute walk across the river to see the symphony.  I revel in the distinctness of my different homes, for they give me such a wonderful variety, so many stories.  Sure, I miss home in Minnesota.  I miss my friends in Illinois.  I miss a life I've never actually had growing up wild with smultron juice staining my chin in Sweden, exploring Viking ruins and learning to scarf down peas with a knife.  But the one thing I've learned is that missing things that are not there is mostly futile.  Love the place you live and travel often seems to be the best remedy.

(inspired by Kate Miss's thoughts on home)

Monday, April 18, 2011

random photo from the archives

Dave Dave and I, New Year's Eve, heading into 2007. 
(photo credit Loocis Scott)

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I was planning to do a natural dyes (cabbage, tumeric, onions) but I ended up being short on time for the boiling step, so I went for food coloring.  20 drops + 1 teaspoon vinegar + 1/2 cup boiling water---easy peasy.  And while plastic cups may seem like a good idea, they knock over so easily.  Just use heavy glass tumblers or mugs.  The dye will come out, I promise. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

spontaneous all-nighter

Sunrise over Boston this morning, 5:55 am.

Taking the first steps back towards the UK.

On the last day of a friend's trip to the states from England, we decided stay up all night until her flight left early this morning.  Impulsive and spontaneous, (read: completely unlike me) it was a wonderful all-nighter.

We started the evening with a beautiful chacuterie spread, including mango butter and goat cheese, quite possibly the best combination out there.  But, as time went on and I needed to bake brownies and make mousse for my study break today, we regressed to eating brownie batter with a spoon and cheetos.  No better way to end a trip to the US, obviously.  We ended up watching six episodes of Merlin as well as adoring a certain British gentleman in the final Vicar of Dibley.  I also learned the following vocabulary words:  bop, shandy, lemonade, class, prat, and about 75 more that I have unfortunately already forgotten.  I have also been suitably warned against Eton boys.

Minnesota in the movies

I've been missing Minnesota quite a lot lately, and upon watching Drop Dead Gorgeous (Go Muskies, Woo!)  I'm thinking it's time for a Minnesota series on Netflix. 

Mighty Ducks

Grumpy Old Men


Drop Dead Gorgeous

North Country

Prairie Home Companion

Little Big League

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Daffodils!  I will enjoy them from here, for this spring I have finally remembered that they make me sneeze more than Flecka.  (*Flecka was the family dalmatian when I was young, and she never sneezed just once.  I think her record low was four?  Usually she got up to eight or nine in a row.)

I'm loving the pussy willows and pansies.  I'm not entirely sure what the bulbs are, though.  

There are twenty of these bags in the Penthouse, delivered today.  I feel like a kid in a candy shop.
Taken at 7:15 pm this evening.  Another reason to love spring --- you leave work and it's still somewhat light out!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

missing my sisters.

I watched Practical Magic this weekend...and now I'm hankering for midnight margaritas---or the 1305 Roosevelt family's version: lots of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in the middle of winter.  With schnapps-spiked cocomotion, of course.

(and wow, I didn't realize what an all-star cast that movie had.  Multiple Oscars and Emmys between the four main characters--and one hot doctor from ER playing a zombie, of course.  And this was before zombies were cool).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 2011

Boston woke up to a lovely April Fool's Day snowfall.  What a way to welcome spring. 


Beautiful atomium rings from Ulalá (via)

 Excellent posters showing that history is sometimes more entertaining than the present!  (from Jenny Burrows, via)

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Gorgeous timelapse of the aurora, from Norwegian photographer Terje Sorgjerd (via)

On the docket

--Taxes are done, so one wonderful thing to look forward to is not worrying about taxes. 

--Patriot's Day gardening up in the Penthouse.  Seeds have arrived, the google doc is up, and it is maybe thinking about getting warmer. 

--Cake Concert!  Even better, I'll be in the second row, thanks to the generosity of a close friend of mine.  Should be a blast.

--MIT 150 Convocation.  It's MIT's 150th Anniversary, and next Sunday will be spent rehearsing, playing, listening to speeches, all that.  The MIT Symphony Orchestra and all of the other student performing groups leave at 8 am on Sunday for Hynes Convention Center (the actual convocation doesn't start until 2 pm, though).  I feel bad for the students for whom this is their earliest wakeup call for the entire year. 

--Spring salads.  I made a thinly sliced radish salad with salsa and avocado yesterday, and wow.  I never thought I really liked radishes.  In fact, I love them.