Thursday, March 01, 2007

weekly book review

i finally slogged my way through "canadians at table: a culinary history of canada". sounds right up my alley, right? WRONG! the writing was terrible, dull, starchy, and uninspired to say the least. there was no over-arching connection, thematic lineage, thesis, or anything to link the sections together. it's like reading a grade 8 history textbook cover to cover, on the subject of food. chapters would frequently include long lists of the contents of "canadians" larders (and make no mistake, the so-called canadians at the table, despite passing references to chinese and acadian immigrants, were mostly of the british ilk). so it would be stuff like, "blah blah blah, pemmican, juniper berries, codfish, cold weather vegetables, bannock, blah blah blah" to make matters worse, the author, who is a noted food historian, would frequently inject long passages of direct quotes from ye olde tyme englishman, describing memorable meals: "we feaste on 20 fleetes of oysters fine, yards and yards of meade and grog, fine wines, a whole roasted oxe" etc. (that was me taking liberties in recall, but you get the point, and while you're reading it, hear it read in the poncey-ist of english accents, a shade removed from chaucer, if you will). here is an example of the author's literary prowess: "here too, the gourmand can sample a new pastry confection called a Beavertail, deep-fried and dusted with sugar, or spread with a favourite preserve" !!!!! how can you possibly make a BEAVERTAIL sound BORING?!? i don't use the words "crime against humanity" lightly, but this writing style, pilfered from the canadian touristry board, is that and more.

i also finished this book, "sorting things out: classification and its consequences" for my surveillance and identity class. it accomplishes the rare feat of being both fascinating and tremendously boring at the same time. the idea of the book is interesting (it's an examination of the profuse and diffuse nature of classification systems, a theoretical situation of what it means to classify, and how classification systems are sites of negotiation and struggle between the bodies they attempt to pin down, and the reified system itself). however, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. there are a lot of long examples, that are kind of left hanging there, and aren't neatly brought in to support or contrast against the thesis. so you suffer through pages and pages, wondering what the point is, and then the point ends up being a thin, poorly worded thread, that just barely links you back to the opening statements. you would think that the use of bolded and italicized headings would help, right? WRONG! the sub-headings give NO INDICATION of the contents of the following paragraphs, and not only that, seem to indicate that the next idea will be something completely different from what it is. very odd.
so in short, i have mixed feelings.

today is my very very long day. i'm packing dinner to eat at school. i am having the rest of the black bean chili, which i'm going to liven up upon its (regrettable) encounter with the school microwave, with some diced avocado i've mixed with lime juice and julienned red onion. i'm also packing one of my sunflower, pumpkin seed, almond, raisin and maple granola bars, an apple, and 3 clementines.

we've made a clementine breakthrough, and my hypothesis is correct. MOROCCAN clementines are the only ones worth buying. they're juicy, plump, sweet, and have the distinctive feature i remember from my youth: that is, that the peels come off easily and smoothly (like a tangerine peel)...almost like there's a space between the peel and the fruit itself. unlike the BAD BAD ISRAELI clementines, which have a thin, leathery peel that sticks to the fruit, tend to be seedy, and are unpleasantly dessicated and sour, in addition to being on the small side. i'm going to add a further level to my hypothesis, and posit that israeli clementines are at their peak during the holiday season, which means that they flood the market at the time traditionally associated with clementine eating. i suggest you withhold that impulse, and wait a month or two, when you can get the moroccan ones.


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