Sunday, October 09, 2005

Simple Pleasures

This is the first instalment in what is likely to be an ongoing but irregular series of posts about things that I like. There will be a lot of talk about television and food.

Mysterious Ball

The latest in the wooden puzzle series spilled its guts—which was the aim of the Mysterious Ball—after only forty minutes of concerted interrogation. I think what I like about my ability to solve these puzzles is that it reveals I’m quite good at spatial visualisation, for which I’ve always thought I had no aptitude. When it comes to determining how to get from A to B or recalling how to return to A from B, I’ve never really applied myself, relying on car drivers and public transport providers—although now that I think about it, walking everywhere does require some navigational skill in order to find the best shortcut (On the other hand, I have been known to forget which direction I’m going when I get to the end of supermarket aisles). The other thought that occurs to me here is with regard to Scrabble. I have a theory that it isn’t simply a matter of having an affinity for words that makes a winning Scrabble player—as so many who decline to play Scrabble with English postgraduates are convinced. It’s also about being able to visualise where the pieces you have on your letter holder will go on the board. At least that’s always been my reasoning for the closely pitted contests I’ve had with my brother-in-law, who, as well as being a fitter and turner by trade, has been known on several occasions to get the 50 point bonus. I think there’s something to it.

Spider Solitaire

In particular, I like the sound of the cards being dealt. I turn the computer speakers on especially to hear it while I play. Flick, flick, flick, flick, flick. Play it again, Sam! So I do until I go cross-eyed, determined to win so that the computer will exclaim its congratulations in a blaze of animated fireworks. All achievements should be rewarded in such a manner.


Or, more specifically, being teased by students. This week we looked at star images, how they’re created and how they articulate, and circulate through, various discourses. One of the things I do is get the students to tell me everything they know about someone they’ve identified as a star, as distinct to a celebrity. After they noted that one only has to be a human being with functioning eye sight—perhaps not even that, I’m not sure the extent to which gossip magazines are adapted for the visually impaired—to know about Brad Pitt at the moment, I got to writing on the white board as much as I could capture of what they were telling me. One of the observations about Brad was that he was noted for being fashionable, with an ever-changing hair style. The exact words were ‘funky dude’. I wrote ‘funky/fashionable’. They insisted I add ‘dude’, so I did.

I’ve debated with myself over the years whether to write on the board at university level; it feels so high-school-ish, and I’m not a school teacher. I got some feedback in a teaching evaluation once that suggested I should write on the board, rather than sit down and just discuss things verbally. My first reaction was along the lines of ‘this is not the performing arts; learn to listen and take your own notes’. To some extent I still agree with this, but as a device to use during a brain storming session, so students don’t forget the examples that have been raised, scribbling on the board adds a visual element to reinforce what they’re hearing. It’s all about colour and movement. That doesn’t mean I’ll start wearing a yellow skivvy, but I might be tempted to yell ‘Wake up, Jeff’.

Carrot Salad

Yes. Just look at its carroty goodness. You know you’ll feel virtuous after a serve of this. When I first made it, I didn’t quite have all the ingredients. So I took the advice once given to me by the proprietor of an Indian grocers, which was cook with what you have. It’s been invaluable advice in helping me loosen up in the kitchen. I’ve always been a stickler for following recipes, and despite assurances from my chef brother that technique also makes a good cook, I’ve always felt that I lack imagination in preparing food. Anyway, on the maiden attempt at this salad, I didn’t have enough carrots, so I supplemented what I did have with finely sliced red capsicum. The recipe also called for an orange in the dressing. I used to eat a lot of oranges but, recently, I’d be surprised if I’ve eaten one in three months. Suffice to say, I didn’t have an orange either. I had plenty of lemons though, so I used those and then added some palm sugar to sweeten the taste. I also added some orange essential oil to take the place of the orange rind that was required. You may be able to tell from the picture that there are sesame seeds in the salad. When I was figuring out what to replace the absent ingredients with, I was trying to determine whether I would replace them with Asian ingredients or Middle Eastern ingredients. At first I went for Asian, because of the coriander and sesame already in the salad, which is when I decided upon the palm sugar. But then I noticed that the dressing asked for some more sesame seeds to be toasted and pounded in a mortar and pestle. While sesame seeds are an Asian ingredient, when you start to pound them to tahini, then you are definitely entering into a Middle Eastern use of them. Just thinking now, I guess the grated carrot and orange juice was probably another big give away that the recipe was heading West. I do think that you could create a more Asian inspired dressing for this salad, using lime and fish sauce, that would go equally well with the carrots and coriander.

No comments: