Archive for September, 2006

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apple of my eye

September 25, 2006

After a busy week, I decided that what I needed most was to bake away my troubles. I don’t know if it quite worked but it was a relaxing few hours. I went to the Union Square greenmarket on Friday afternoon and picked up a very large amount of apples, all kinds of apples, picked in the few days before Friday, all beautiful, shiny, and $1/pound! I was in heaven. I bought a bunch for baking (tart ones are best) and a bunch for munching on (this time I bought Macouns and Empires). For baking, I bought a mix of Cortlands and Jonathans. I baked an apple crisp, the recipe for which I will not post because you can find a recipe for apple crisp everywhere you look. My apple crisp had a topping made of brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, and Willow Run soy margarine. Next time, I think I will try adding pecans and/or walnuts to add some extra crunch.

I also made an apple-pecan quickbread, which was much more exciting (and tastier, in my opinion) than the crisp. It makes an excellent breakfast treat for lazy weekends (or for a quick breakfast on your way to synagogue, as the case may be). The recipe is from epicurious (originally from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook) and can be found here or below. As instructed by my fellow epicurious readers, I added some cinnamon and nutmeg for some extra flavor (I also put in a pinch of ginger). I shredded the apples instead of chopping them, which gave the bread a smoother texture. I also substituted apple cider for the OJ, though I assume either of those or apple juice would suffice. Next time, I will probably add more apples than what the recipe called for, and maybe try adding some raisins. Also, it could’ve used more pecans than it called for. Here’s the original recipe – my additions/substitutions are in parenthesis.

Apple-Pecan Quick Bread (from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup orange juice (apple cider)
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped golden Delicious apples (Cortlands)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
(1 tsp. cinnamon)
(1/4 tsp. nutmeg)
(1/4 tsp. ginger)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt (and the spices), making a well in the center. Set aside. Stir in the liquid ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Gently stir in the apples and the pecans. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of loaf comes out with moist crumbs attached. Do not overbake.

Makes 1 loaf.

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Imagine – The Bush Remix

September 21, 2006

So as most of my friends know, I tend to get frustrated with all non-intellectual forms of expression. I have a really hard time with poetry. But I guess the amazing thing about that kind of expression is that it can bring out emotions without requiring dissection. This video was sent to me by disfunkchanel. And thank you. No more words.

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witnesses to rape

September 21, 2006

(potentially triggering)
Last June, a 21 year-old woman was raped on a G train platform in Queens. The story was especially frightening because she was not alone – the attack occured in clear view of the station attendant. Following MTA security regulations, the attendant stayed inside his booth and pressed his alarm button.

Fast forward to now…the woman is suing NYC Transit for “fail[ing] to meet the standard of care owed . . . to their passengers.” According to the Gothamist article, the woman has forgiven her attacker, as he was “sick,” but not the station attendant.

The rule about the attendant not leaving his/her booth was instated for the safety of the attendant. The logic, as I understand it, is that if a crime is being committed against one person in view of the attendant, better that he/she stays put and safe (and presses the alarm button, theoretically calling for NYPD help), rather than putting two people at risk. What I don’t understand is why the transit authority can’t allow the booth attendants some amount of discretion with this rule depending on circumstances – time of day, location, presence of others around, etc. I also wonder whether I feel so strongly about this because the both the attacker and the station attendant were men and the attacked person was a woman. It seems to me that the attendant was using this rule as an excuse not to intervene/try to help, rather than because he actually felt that he was in danger. A train conductor had also seen the attack, apparently, and pressed his own security button, but “couldn’t stop in time to help her.”

I’m sorry, that’s a lot of bullshit. A woman is being raped. Hello? Stop your Fing train! Trains pause all the time – people get sick, train traffic, signal trouble. Come on. I think the G train passengers riding at 3 am might’ve had a little patience. Not to mention that if the train had stopped, someone else (a passenger) might have seen the attack and actually been able to stop it. I hope that something good can come of this, not just that the woman will get something from the MTA, but that perhaps they will rethink their security regulations and factor in a little nuance.

Thanks to Gothamist for the story (my trusty source for all NYC news)

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salty miscellany: women’s health, blogs, food

September 18, 2006

I don’t want to lose readers, and I know I haven’t posted in a week (I haven’t posted anything substantive in longer than that!). Life happens sometimes. So here’s a list, for those who likes lists:

1) I have added Our Bodies Our Blog, “our daily dose of women’s health news and analysis” to my rss reader. It’s only one or two entries per day so it’s definitely manageable. Especially with your new rss reader.

2) Speaking of rss readers, get one now if you still don’t have one. No, it’s not just another annoying thing to worry about. It puts all your news and your blogs into one place so you don’t have to go running around checking websites all the time. It does all the checking for you. There are web-based ones and there are ones that you can download. Google has one, Yahoo has one, and I have Sharpreader (which is downloadable software and looks just like Outlook, a plus for those who need to look like they are working all the time).

3) I’m working on a post about improving cafeteria food in public schools. More to come tonight or tomorrow.

4) Get thee to your local Greenmarket, ASAP. Apples are in town! The early varieties are, at least. Yesterday I bought some lovely Ginger Golds and Macouns at the Tompkins Square Park Greenmarket. A fabulous PDF of the NYC Greenmarket schedules (and a map) is available here. An informative site about NY state apple varieties is available here. Next weekend is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, famous for long synagogue hours and apple-centered desserts. Baking will commence Thursday night. Keep your eyes (and palates) peeled.

5) Finally, some exciting news. Saltyfemme is apparently famous enough to have a guest blogger. Look out for disfunkchanel, my favorite sassy and queer artist/poet extraordinaire. She doesn’t like lists but she likes me. She’s definitely a salty one.

P.S. photo credit to this guy on flickr. Thanks for the lovely apple photos from Union Square.

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chewy snaps (more oxymorons to come!)

September 11, 2006

I was so flattered when I received a request from my cousin, a fantastic baker in his own right, to post on my blog the recipe of the Ginger Snap cookies I baked for this weekend. So here it is. These are *such* easy cookies and are beautiful and very elegant. I made the dough early in the week and refrigerated it until Friday morning, when I formed and baked the cookies. The trick to the chewy deliciousness of these cookies is to bake them for 10 minutes ONLY – don’t leave them in longer, even if they seem like they’re not done yet. Once they cool, they’ll harden just enough. Also, do not leave out the salt in this recipe – it gives them a really good balance for some reason. The original recipe is from the food network and can be found here or below. My cousin tells me that they sell special fat sugar at Williams-Sonoma (or any of those specialty stores) that would go really well as the outside coating of these cookies.

Ginger Snaps
(Recipe Courtesy of Cathy Lowe)

3/4 cup butter, unsalted and softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in molasses and egg. Add 1 cup of flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and ground cloves and stir to combine. Add remaining flour 1 cup at a time. Chill dough in freezer for 15 minutes (Saltyfemme adds: you can also refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, depending on your time constraints). Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

(The photo above was stolen from Dylan’s fabulous blog, though the cookies pictured were indeed baked by yours truly. I made those cookies a few months ago for a dinner that he attended. And I didn’t take pictures of the cookies this weekend. But they’re the same.)

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what do you mean they weren’t drag queens?

September 7, 2006

Whoa, wasn’t there a NYTimes article about transpeople like last week or something? I wonder what’s happening here. Maybe the fundamentalists are on to something…the queers seem to be taking over the world.

Today’s article, entitled “A Safe House for the Girl Within,” is about a 1950’s retreat center in the Catskills for transwomen and cross-dressing men (and the like?). The article, which is accompanied by some fantastic photos, wavers between earnestly trying to understand its subject and simultaneously emphasizing the freak factor. The article describes a guy who found a box of photos at a flea market in Manhattan from “Casa Susanna,” as the house was called:

…here was a group of men dressed as women, beautiful and homely, posing with gravity, happiness and in some cases outright joy. They were playing cards, eating dinner, having a laugh. They didn’t look campy, like drag queens vamping it up as Diana Ross or Cher; they looked like small-town parishioners, like the lady next door, or your aunt in Connecticut.

If we can put aside the author’s use of the word homely to describe the women, something interesting is happening here. It seems that the assumption of transwomen, or cross-dressing men, or whatever they are (they’re all lumped in the same category right? Right?), is that they are basically all drag queens: over-the-top makeup, ridiculous heels, huge wigs. A caricature of femininity, in a sense. Which drag queens are, and they’re fabulous for it. But the author seems to be conflating drag queens with transwomen and is so confused as to why the women in these photos don’t seem to be performing at all. Why is it so perplexing to see transwomen acting and dressing like regular women? Continuing the shock:

What still moves Murray Moss, the impresario behind Moss the store, about the images in the book is their ordinariness. “You think of man dressed as woman and you think extremes: it’s kabuki, Elizabethan theater, Lady Macbeth,” he said. “It’s also sexual. But these aren’t sexual photos. The idea that they formed a secret society just to be … ordinary. It’s like a mirror held up to convention. It’s not what you would expect. It’s also not pathetic. Everybody looks so happy.”

A few things to unpack: automatically sexualizing men who dress like women is interesting in the sense that women, any women, can’t walk three feet in public without being sexualized. Women’s bodies are sexualized all over the place. What isn’t acknowledged here, at least in this space, is that the reason that these women and women had to escape to a retreat house to be so very normal was because they lived in a culture where their own sense of normal didn’t really jive with everyone else’s. It wasn’t because they were flamboyant drag queens, who, of course, are justifiably shunned by our culture. (hope you’re picking up on my sarcasm here).

Everyone thinks of these people as these really tragic figures, especially in the 1950’s. It’s amazing that these photos were found, if only to shatter the myth that not only are transpeople (especially transpeople during a particularly transphobic age) not tragic figures, they found strength in forming their own communities instead of living life in isolation.

Also unclear is how many of the visitors to Casa Susanna identified/identify as transwomen and how many as heterosexual cross-dressing men or anything else, but I think I have to settle with the notion that we can’t necessarily fit 1950’s people into categories of 2006. They were clearly very complicated identities (and continue to be):

[Virginia] Prince became known as the founder of the transgender movement, and wrote copiously on the subject for science and sex research journals and conferences, irritating more than a few Casa Susanna graduates, who weren’t comfortable with the politicizing of their issues, or the strict categories she created. Born male (and still biologically male), she has been living as a woman for the past 40 years. At 94, she’s no longer allowed to drive, but she leads the Lollies (“little old ladies like me,” she said the other day) at her California retirement home in a study group (they’re covering astronomy this month) and drives a red scooter.

“I invented gender,” she said proudly. “Though if the ladies here find out I’m a biological man I’m a dead duck.”

Let’s make sure that all the good NYTimes readers know that Ms. Prince is still biologically male! Obsession with people’s genitals never ceases to amaze me. Anyway, the author is so preoccupied with the fact that these women are normal! She’s an old lady who drives a scooter! Amazing! Just the same point over and over.

Mediocre article full of stereotypes and misconceptions about a really interesting subject, both in terms of who made up this community and also what role photographs can play in telling a story of people who existed on the margins.

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(Re)claiming Queer/Domestic/Feminist Judaism

September 5, 2006

A more personal post, containing no links to any articles, save for one to one of my own past posts. We’ll see where this goes.

Yes, it’s tired, we’ve heard it all before. We have to *own* our Judaism, we don’t need to recite the annoying “Religion is *so* last year!” mantra that we all learned in queer school. Religion is cool again, right? Or maybe I live in a bubble.

I’m feeling it a lot lately, which is strange because I’ve been feeling distant from “official” Jewish practice for about the last six months. I’ve stopped going to shul (synagogue), which I used to do occasionally. I stopped putting out the effort to make Shabbat for myself. Part of that comes from feeling a lack of natural community and feeling too burdened by the idea of creating that community, which I’m picky about – I like queers, particularly sassy queers, and I like my Shabbat to be certain way. But I’d prefer to steer clear of identity politics in this post, which usually bore and irritate me to tears. So let’s see where I can move with this.

My brother is getting married in six days. Gay married. And I have all kinds of mixed feelings about the whole thing, as any good queer would, but through the process, I’ve realized recently how much subtle Judaism I have reclaimed without even knowing it. I took up knitting and crocheting about a year and a half ago, and in addition to churning out lots and lots of scarves my first year as a knitter and crocheter, I’ve made countless numbers of kippot (yarmulkes) for various friends and relatives, a few sets of besamim bags for havdalah (bags filled with spices for the ritual that ends Shabbat) in rainbow colors, a mezuzah (doorpost decoration? Hard to explain. Interested parties can read here.) for my new apartment, and a tallit (prayer shawl) for my mother, by far my most ambitious project, which took me several months of intensive work. These gifts have been the ones in which I take the most pride. Scarves are scarves – they keep the wearer warm, of course. But there’s nothing like knowing that a gift that you create will be used during times of heightened spirituality and emotions. And keeping a baby extra gay and extra Jewish (see photo!)

For this wedding, I crocheted two kippot, one for my brother and one for his partner. I also remembered the tallit, which I knitted over a year ago but never did all the non-knitted finishing on it that needed to be done. Last week, I took it to a tailor to have a lining sewn in and bought special string so that the tzitzit (fringes) can be tied to each corner when it returns, all in time for the aufruf (Shabbat service before the wedding).

I’d like to begin knitting and crocheting such objects on commission, specifically for the queers looking for new and public ways to celebrate/accompany/parade their queer religious practice. I happen to like knitting rainbows (ok, this is only part of it) and I also like being part of queer egalitarian religious life, even, and maybe even more so, when I’m feeling distant from all of it. And I’d love to do it barter-style, in exchange for learning new skills or receiving others’ lovely crafts. Pictures of all of my projects to come next week, including the most recent round of kippot and the finished tallit – all projects will be shown with their owners, of course, including the baby rainbow kippah. If any of my dear readers happen to have a gift I gave them at some point, I would so appreciate a digital photo.

I was going to wait to post this until I had more photos, but I figure I’ll have some intense wedding stuff I’m assuming I’ll want to share next week. So photos to come, intensity to come. Weddings are pretty insane. Stay tuned.

*edited much, much later*
The finished kippot, at the wedding: (not a great photo, but they came out really beautiful – it’s blue/orange yarn).