Thursday, November 29, 2007


I just spent 24 minutes chopping 1.5 cups of walnuts and pecans. They are for the Mexican wedding cakes, or polvorones, that I'm making as thanks to a collection of friends and colleagues who are writing letters of recommendation for me.

I bake a lot. I treat it like research. I take pictures of the food I make. I keep a journal and photo diary of what I made, so I can remember what worked and what didn't.

I bake a lot: so much, that one might be suprised that I don't have a food processor. What is 24 minutes of chopping with a 5" Wustof Classic serrated knife versus 20 seconds of pulsing?

The cookies don't taste better. These mexican wedding cakes would probably offer a more "melt-in-your-mouth" experience if it weren't for the random chinks walnut my knife didn't cleanly slice.

And certainly, it's not because I'm stingy with my equipment. Sure, I have a second-hand coffee table bought from a garage sale for $10. The bookshelf was $30. The oddball collection of chairs littering my house are from City Liquidators; they amount to less than $5 a chair. I even have a second-hand dog. But my 8 year old Chantal stockpot was $125. The matching saucepan was $80. And my good friends give me great kitchen gifts. I have a lovely heavy duty wooden spatula from Moira, a beautiful Chef's knife from the boyfriend, a Le Creuset dutch oven that my friend R. claims was "really on sale," and my mother has given me every one of my mixing bowls.

What then?

I'll tell you.


Ritual for me. Much of my "old life" has been deferred or abandoned since coming to graduate school: making pop-up Christmas cards, hiking, inhaling art, gardening, feeling confident. Spending 24 minutes chopping nuts is a small bit of leisurely time that I get to reclaim. It is a quiet rebellion taking place in my yellow kitchen with the ugly floor.

And ritual for them. This small army of people has dedicated a lot of time telling a group of strangers nice things about me. Their time must be repaid with my time: 24 minutes of chopping nuts.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nerves could be contagious

Thursday. 6:00 am. Four hours to the prelim, and I'm hunched over the toilet, throwing up the entire contents of my stomach. Funny thing about throwing up: it's an oral diary of the last few meals. The baked potato for dinner. The orange juice for breakfast.

I stumble back to bed after tossing my favorite pants in the dryer. The boyfriend says, "Are you okay?" Not really. I don't think I can do this today. But I can't stand the idea of postponing it either.

I say, "I think I have food poisoning or something." He says, "Maybe it's just nerves."

I've never had a problem with nerves, but I conceded. I slept right up to 9:30 am, and the boyfriend drove me to school and dropped me off at the front door.

I don't remember much about the prelim. I spoke for 40 minutes. My advisor spoke for 15. One committee member asked two questions. Another made a comment. Another said nothing at all.

I passed.

The boyfriend was in the audience, along with two of my research group members. The boyfriend says he couldn't tell at all during the prelim that I was sick; my acting performance made it hard for him to understand why I napped lethargically the rest of the day. Between naps, I took trips to the bathroom, surfed the internet, concluded I had stomach flu, and worked on my research proposal due that night for a post-doc position.

He went to the store and bought me juice. He took care of the dog. He remade the bed while I half-slept in it.

Saturday. 6:00 am. The boyfriend is hunched over the toilet. Poor guy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

P & P

I had a pelvis exam today. My preliminary exam is tomorrow. It seemed appropriate for me to schedule them in the same week. Really, a preliminary exam is like a pelvis exam. It's something I dread, it's an uncomfortable process, but I'll most likely pass.

I wonder how far I can take this metaphor? How similar are gonorrhea and proposed work?

Stay tuned.