Someone on Metafilter wanted to know if anyone had a recipe for a good whole grain cereal to make with a grain grinder. I didn't want to fork over $5 to help them out, so I'll post this and hope they happen across it. As I've mentioned in the past, I have a Family Grain Mill. After a few months of using it I've decided it's an OK mill, but awfully slow because it takes two passes to make acceptable flour, and it seems a bit flimsy to me. I doubt it's going to outlive me like a Country Living mill will.
Anyway, I've been refining my cereal recipe for the past couple months, and the best recipe so far is 2 parts oat groats, 2 parts wheat, 2 parts yellow corn (maize), 2 parts rice (I'm using Jasmine, but a cheaper long grain rice would probably be just as good), 1 part rye, and one part amaranth (quinoa would also work). Everything except the amaranth is run through the grinder to produce a fairly fine meal. I set my mill on 2, but you will need to experiment with your mill and your preferences. After grinding, add the amaranth and mix. The amaranth (or quinoa) is added to complete the set of amino acids, especially lysine, which is in a low concentration in the other grains. The rye is probably not necessary, but the other ingredients add good flavors and textures that I think are important.
To make my morning breakfast I mix 1/3 cup of grains with 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it sit overnight. In the morning I add a bit of butter and heat it back up again. On our new stove I have to be pretty careful to quickly lower the heat so I don't cook it to the bottom of the pot in the morning. Once it's hot, pour on a bit of milk and some bananas, sugar, maple syrup or honey and eat. I've also made it from start to finish in the morning, but it's a lot harder to cook it long enough without it burning onto the bottom of the pot. The overnight method is very easy, quick, and it always works.
When you make food yourself like this, it's hard to tell what nutrients will be in it because the nutrition data in the USDA database are for uncooked grains, and they don't provide guidelines for what might be lost by cooking the grains. For what it's worth, my daily breakfast (1/3 cup of grain, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 tsp of sugar and 1 tsp of butter) adds up to:
|2,000 calorie diet
There's also a surprising amount of the basic nutrients, but I don't have time to list them all. And without knowing how they're affected by cooking, I'm not sure how helpful it'd really be anyway.
Spring in Fairbanks is often a long, muddy season but this year we got less than a third of the snowfall we normally get and early spring was remarkably cold. So on April first, when the temperatures suddenly rose above freezing, it was like the springtime switch had been thrown, toggling us from winter to summer. Ten days later and the roads are dry and clear, the dog yard is more than half melted out, most of the snow on the roof has turned to water and run down the gutters, and even our driveway isn't too bad.
That also means that it's summertime for the dogs, so they've got to find other ways to occupy themselves since they're not training or racing three or four times a week. As you can see on the right, Kiva and Buddy* have already started their grueling schedule of non-stop sleeping, broken by occasional bursts of activity around dinnertime, and periodically racing around the dog yard after Piper when she plays keep-away with a stick.
As for us, it's time to start replenishing the firewood supply with five or six trips to the woodcutting area, making repairs to the exterior of our house, and getting our garden going. This year's garden will hopefully contain lots of cabbage, beets, potatoes, and maybe some leaf lettuce and broccoli.
*The orange spot on Buddy is a bit of paint from one of the races.
Last weekend we decided to upgrade the coil elements on the stove that came with our house (the ugly yellow thing in the photo). We went to the Borg, looked at the replacement options and decided we'd better make sure we knew what sort of elements we had before buying anything. We tried to look up our stove at GE's website, but our model number didn't show up. I took apart one of the burners to see what the element looked like (pre-1992, hinged) and we went back, this time to Lowe's (they're across the street from one another, if you can believe it). Nothing matched. So we drove across the street to Home Depot. Nothing matched. Tired of trying to figure it out, and in keeping with the 21st century culture of consumerism, we gave up and decided to buy a new range.
It's one of those fancy electrics with the ceramic-glass top and large elements that can be set to more than one size to fit the cookware you're using. The one we chose has two single-size 7 inch burners in the back, one large 12 / 9 inch burner in the front, and next to it, a 10 / 6 inch burner. Lots of variety, and more importantly, two large burners up front. With our previous stove, it was impossible to cook an omelette and bacon at the same time, and even on the largest burner on the old stove (8 inch), I had to move the bacon around continually to keep it in the hot zone at the middle of my twelve inch cast iron pan.
This weekend was my first attempt at cooking bacon and eggs at the same time. I cooked bacon on the large burner in my large pan, and the burner heated the entire surface of the pan to the same temperature. No more hot spot in the middle, and the improved output and coverage resulted in perfect bacon. Without all the movement and cold spots, it cooked in half the time as on our old stove. The lower image on the right shows the bacon cooking evenly, and an IR temperature reading from the edge of the pan. Best of all, I cooked an omelette on the other front burner in my smaller ten inch cast iron pan.
I haven't baked bread in it yet, so I don't know how the oven will compare to our old one, but I can't imagine it could be worse. The smaller elements that sit inside the larger coils on the two front burners are a little weaker than I'd like, and as a result, it takes longer to boil water in our kettle than on the old stove. And the elements aren't variable; they're either on or off, so they're always clicking on and off at lower temperature settings, which is a little strange. But all in all, I'm really liking it. Someday we'll get a dual fuel, gas cooktop and electric oven, but for now, I'm happy with what we've got.
In Alaska, winter seems to turn to spring very quickly. That's especially true this year because we've had more than six weeks of well below normal temperatures. Suddenly this weekend, it's above freezing, the snow on the roof is starting to melt into the gutters, and the deck is dry for the first time since the baseball season ended last October.
Right on the heels of the warm spell is the start of the baseball season. We've been so busy this winter with dog mushing that I haven't actually missed baseball that much, but listening to tonight's game between the Mets and Cardinals at New Busch Stadium brought the game, it's intricacies, and the excitement back. The game wasn't a nail biter, with the Mets scoring two unanswered runs in both the third and fourth innings, but there was plenty of defensive excitement to go around. Some spectacular double plays, a perfect strike from center field to nail David Eckstein at home plate, and a great pitching performance from Tom Glavine was a great way to start off the 2007 season.
Tomorrow the A's start their season in Seattle without Barry Zito, but hopefully with an improved offense and some better luck keeping players healthy. A full season of Rich Harden and former Alaska Goldpanner Bobby Crosby should go a long way to another AL West title.
- Jim Crace. 1999. Being Dead.
- Dave Eggers. 2006. What Is the What.
- Kazuo Ishiguro. 2005. Never Let Me Go.
- Cormac McCarthy. 2006. The Road.
- Tom McCarthy. 2005. Remainder.
- Scarlett Thomas. 2006. The End of Mr. Y.
- Dave Eggers. 2002. You Shall Know Our Velocity.
- A. L. Kennedy. 2005. Paradise.
- David Mitchell. 2004. Cloud Atlas: A Novel.
- Zadie Smith. 2000. White Teeth: A Novel.
- Cormac McCarthy. 2006. The Road.
- Dave Eggers. 2006. What Is the What.
- Scarlett Thomas. 2006. The End of Mr. Y.
- Tom McCarthy. 2005. Remainder.
I haven’t decided if I really like the Hornby format or not. I like that it provides a nice monthly summary of what books I’ve read and picked up, but a month is a pretty long time to remember enough about a book for me to adequately say what I think about it. The books I didn’t like so much sort of fade by the time the end of the month rolls around.
I had a hard time getting into this one, mostly because the first (and last) story in the book wasn’t very compelling for me. The concept of the book as a set of mirrored and weakly connected stories through time (the pattern is abcdefedcba) was kinda cool, and Michell does a great job at switching genre from one story to the next. The problem with the book, however, is that once you’ve seen the structure and appreciated the skill involved, how does it really add to the novel as a whole? I didn’t find much in the way of an overall theme that connected the stories together, so it was easiest to just read the book as a set of six short stories, split in half. As such, I really enjoyed the middle three, and especially liked the replicant’s story (e) and the language she used (AdV for TV, Corpocracy for the government). Hopefully not as prophetic as it seems at this moment.
I’m really not sure what all the excitement was surrounding this book. The characters behaved in really strange ways, many of them weren’t fleshed out at all (Archie, Clara, Irie, specifically), and I thought Smith could have done a lot more with the "experiment" of sending Millit back to India while Magid stayed at home. Maybe the point was that it doesn’t matter? I did enjoy the Iqbal’s and their relationship seemed the most formed, realistic, and humorous.
Now that Oprah has selected it for her Book Club I probably don’t need to go on and on about this one, since everyone and their brother will be reading it now. But in case a nod from Oprah is a negative for you, let me say that this is a stunning work of prophetic fiction. I was amazed at how clearly I could picture (and still can several weeks later) the places and action from the book. It’s not the world we live in now, but it’s uncomfortably close. You won’t soon forget it.
Like this reviewer from the California Literary Review, I read it in one sitting. I didn’t fix myself a stiff drink afterwards, but I understand the sentiment expressed in the review:
I read this book in one take late at night and immediately headed downstairs to kick up the fire and drink some bourbon. I was cold, chilled emotionally, stunned, awe-struck by McCarthy’s words. I mentioned The Road to a singer/songwriter friend and all he could say was “That one put me off my feed for a few days.”
“Put me off my feed” is such a great expression.
If The Road is an all too likely post-apocalyptic nightmare, What Is the What is the all too real nightmare of so many places in the world right now. The surprising thing about this book for me was that despite all the horrors Valentino lives through and recounts during the book (boys getting eaten by lions and crocodiles, villages burned and pillaged, slavery, starvation, years and years of boredom waiting to leave the refugee camps, etc.), the book isn’t at all depressing. The voice Eggers gives Valentino (presumably his real voice) is so matter of fact, and at the same time somehow optimistic and funny that the book was a genuine pleasure to read.
A quote from page 200 of the hardcover:
It was a broken world, I knew then, that would allow a boy such as me to bury a boy such as William K. [Note: They’re seven years old when William dies of starvation on the way to Ethiopia]
One other note: the hardcover is published by McSweeney’s, and is a real hardcover with sewn sections and everything. The last hardcover book I bought that wasn’t just a paperback with hard covers pasted on, was the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of The Brothers Karamazov, published by the now defunct North Point Press (oh yeah, and the books by Edward Tufte, published by Graphics Press). I plan on buying more McSweeney’s books, if for no other reason than to support the idea that a $20 - $30 hardcover really should be a well-produced, durable book, rather than a cheap paperback styled to look like a hardcover. Like Against the Day, they’re not doing numbers right, and the looped characters (lower case d, q and p especially) look a little funny, but other than that, it’s a really nicely produced book.
I had high hopes for this one, and I really enjoyed it for awhile. But some of the exposition was too drawn out, almost like Thomas was trying to teach us something by leading the character to a conclusion through a dialog with another character that already had the idea. As the book progressed, I also grew more and more tired with the fantastical aspects of the book. One very interesting idea I’d never though about was that if the uncertainty principle governed the first particle of the universe before the big bang either God observed it, causing it’s state to be known and triggering the big bang; or there was no observer, the particle’s state at the time was governed by a probability function, and the big bang happened at any and all of the infinite states the particle could have been in, resulting in a multiverse. So: God or multiverse? My vote is for the multiverse, including the World Without Shrimp.
I also got a nasty stomach flu right in the middle, so some of my bad feelings might be because my reading was forcibly interrupted for several days in the middle of the book.
It is a book of ideas, though, and this means that I will probably enjoy her other books. I’ve got PopCo in my queue, and I expect I’ll like that one more because it appears to dispense with the fantastical.
Also: terrible typography. The body font was horrible. What’s next, Comic Sans or some Brushscript font? Give me Minion, Garamond, Sabon, Caslon or something actually designed for easy, comfortable reading. Not something designed for decorating someone’s Christmas newsletter or part of a ransom note.
A lot to like, especially the idea that re-creating events in every detail could make living the event more real than the first time around because you can consider the events more carefully as they’re happening again. Sort of like forcing the eternal recurrence without dying. Unfortunately the main character is a sociopath, and as the book progressed, he became harder and harder to understand or figure out what the hell he was thinking. Maybe he thinks he’s become the Nietzschen Übermensch, but as interesting a concept as that is, I wouldn’t want to meet him, and reading a book from inside his head wasn’t very enjoyable.