Monday, April 11, 2016

Living and Thinking and Carrying On

Things I've been thinking about, lately:

1) Decentreing whiteness (and heternormativity) and how so many (white, heteronormative) people get so bent out of shape as soon as they're not the focus of like, everything.  It's like, seriously?  Have some chill for once in your damned lives.  The number of assumptions that get made on a daily basis by white people about what the cultural touchstones should be has been really chafing me lately.

2) Further to the above, I've been thinking about how annoying white moms are on the internet.  I mean, as was rightly pointed out to me, "that's on you." Haha!  That's true, I don't have to go looking for anxious, spun up, privileged intensive mothers who are going to make my blood boil with their neuroses and anxieties and constant need for validation from randoms.  But sometimes...I come across it and it makes me SO ANGRY that capable women are choosing to be oppressed and neurotic about the dumbest s**t, that I just can't even.

I got into it with this woman on my twins forum who was basically ready to fire her nanny because of some small infraction (the woman's son wouldn't let the nanny leave because he wanted to hold the nanny's umbrella and so the nanny told him to go take a bite of an apple and then she would let him hold the umbrella and when he went to eat the apple, she snuck out - this of course led to a chorus of [all white] women freaking out about how "deceptive" a practice this is, etc.,) and then of course the conversation spiraled into these wackadoos and their wackadoo expectations for the less privileged (almost universally), women of colour (ditto) who look after their children for not very much money at all.  These employers expect gold-plated service but certainly don't pay the amount that you would assume if you expect your caregiver to basically have a Phd in child psychology, or be an exact proxy for the parent.  There's a different between a caregiver and a parent.  There are huge structural differences between the (often vulnerable) people we pay to look aft our children and us.  It sucks, and you know what, lady?  Some people have real problems.  Why don't you go to Emergency a few more times because your kid has a "strange rash."

Further to the above, someone posted this thing on Facebook that was women's stories of being "assaulted" in child birth by medical practitioners who performed c-sections "without consent" and where women were "shackled" to fetal monitors and "strapped" to hospital beds and "forcibly" coerced into one "medicalized" procedure or another.  My immediate reaction was, that this whole thing of women thinking they know better than medical professionals about what's safe and natural for their children is what lead to the anti-vaccine movement?  I ended up running it by my midwife friend who had some smart points - namely, there's a difference between trauma and assault.  Lots of births can be traumatic - she said that she even found my birth, with the twins, traumatic, but that there is a fundamental difference between trauma and assault.  Like, having to have your baby's collarbone broken so that they can fit through your pelvic opening is super traumatic.  Labour and delivery is such an intimate experience that it's kind of already poised for trauma - you're dealing with life and death!  I think it's wonderful that evidenced-based decision making and women becoming their own health advocates is more and more of a thing, however, we need to strike that balance and dichotomizing the issue so that you have midwives on one hand and evil, military-industrial complex OBs on the other doesn't really sense.  As I was looking into this, I saw that some people use the term "birth rape" which is hugely problematic.

3) I have so many thoughts on the Ghomeshi trial, which is obviously a flashpoint for feminists.  I think ultimately, I feel like I can support and believe women who have been the victims of sexual assault and at the same time, feel like he is absolutely guilty in the court of real life, but that also, the judge's verdict does not constitute a miscarriage of justice.  I don't know how the courts will reconcile the fluidity of consent with the necessary standard of guilt required by the law, I don't know that the courts are the place to do this, even as they are so much a necessary piece of the larger framework.

Right now, I have a kid who likes to strum his junk like a guitar and thinks it's hilarious to do so in mixed company.  I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that and how to manage that, in a way that preserves his innocence and still doesn't allow the calcification of misogyny.

Image result for chester brown the playboy cover

I recently read Chester Brown's The Playboy, which is a comic that was originally published in 1990 and was reissued.  It details Brown's (author of Louis Riel, among other comics) anxiety and guilt around masturbation and purchasing Playboy magazine.  The Dotytron and I both read it, and even though we both agreed that Chester Brown, as a person, is kind of gross, the Dotytron thought that Brown does a good job of honestly representing the shame spiral that happens for adolescent boys faced with the driving compulsions of their desire.  Like, apparently it feels like your brain kind of shuts off and your primordial lizard brain takes over when you're masturbating and then when it's done and you've had an orgasm, then shame comes flooding in.  Shame at what?  He (the Dotytron) posits that the shame is rooted in how quickly the lizard brain takes over and how subsumed the person is to it - like your desire to masturbate is so all-consuming that you're embarrassed and how you let it control your life.

This spurred a conversation about how to negotiate this, as the parents to three boys.  Is the shame and guilt necessary?  Does it have to be that way?  My favorite podcast, Pop Rocket recently had a sex-themed episode and two of the hosts, who are around my age talked about going into bookstores or the library and taking out the sex manuals and moving to a different part of the store/library and furtively thumbing through the pages.  HOW INNOCENT IS THAT?!?  Like, now, you can see the most depraved, disgusting, dehumanizing stuff with the right search string (or even a very wrong search string!).  How do you mitigate THAT? How do you make sure that your kid is processing and on some level, critically engaging with the stuff that shapes their sexuality?

Hell if I know.

Snapchat is kind of the best.

Last weekend was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.  But it was the kind of soul-affirming weekend that grizzled parents need sometime to remind us that we are multi-dimensional people with brilliant, smart, funny, dear friends.

Auntie Em got the twins these jackets recently and they are THE BEST.  Look at these guys!  It's almost like they get along!

I made a new friend!  At JJ and S's house, we were invited to brunch along with their colleagues, whom we had never met before.  At first, the Dotytron and I were like, "no new friends" and were kind of being sour pusses about it, but it turns out these people are AWESOME.  They live in our 'hood, they are both professors at U of T, they are funny, and the woman was automatic kindred spirit.  We are both obsessed with American Crime Story and Togetherness and she is just lovely and smart and their daughter is adorable.  This is a woman who described author Junot Diaz as: "His 'decolonial' love' shtick is kind of catnip for woke WOC" - a million heart eyes emojis.

 Corned beef hash is pretty much the best dish post-late-night dancing dish in the world.

That night I went to Pusha T with my buddy Merrick and it was everything this ol' gal needed.  Pusha T was incendiary.  The crowd was a beautiful multi-ethnic mix of hip hop heads and I got to dance my butt off and it was amazing.

Came home and Record Club was in full swing, which meant that I got to swan in, high off an amazing hip hop show and try to weasel my way in as the only woman in Record Club with my thoughtful insights into Kamasi Washington's album, The Epic.  Late night, and the next day the Dotytron was pretty ruined, so I made myself some corned beef hash and eggs, and then the Dotytron rallied enough so that we could take the kids to an east side indoor play space, which we love, because it's big and clean and the Dotytron and I can go head-to-head on the pop-a-shot game:

Twin A is terrible at this.

Our general modus operandi when doing stuff with the kids is to act like giant idiots and have all the fun while our kids tool around untended.  Half the time we take the kids to a playground, the Dotytron and I are challenging each other to weird parkour or rock climbing stunts while our kids give us the side-eye and other kids stand staring at us, mouth agape, because we generally cavort like fools.  Being able to be a ding dong around kids is very important.  Never lose your silly.

 Then on Sunday, our supper club of mostly high school friends met at Magic Noodle on Harbord. They do Northern Chinese hand-cut noodles in broth and some small shareable plates.  I got the brisket soup which was delicious, and the noodles were fantastic (nicely chewy), but the small plates were hit or miss.  In the top right of the picture above you can see there's a chicken dish which had this weird, mala-style Sichuan peppercorn based sauce that just tasted weird and funky.  We got this potato salad which was good, and lamb skewers (also good).  I don't know if I'd go again, especially given we're on such a ramen kick lately.  

 Quincess wearing his goggles.

Speaking of ramen, we took it easy this weekend and visited my grandma in Markham, followed by Sansotei with my mum.  This crew.

Sansotei why are you so damned delicious???

Some of what I'm doing on Snapchat - a van full of Peppas on the way to the pool.

My classic bin of beans made its first appearance for the twins this weekend.  It kept them quietly occupied and giggling for about 30 minutes?  Which is next level.  But then they started dumping beans everywhere which was annoying and inevitable.

Twin A double-fisting this disgusting breakfast concoction I force them to eat: steel cut oats, mixed with full fat cottage cheese, apple sauce, vitamin D droplets and hemp/flax oil.  It's so gross!  

Twin B singing the Totoro main theme in Japanese.

Twin A has a huge sweet tooth and loves all things cake, cookies, ice cream, chocolate, etc.  When we had Momma D and Ehmdo over for dinner last night, we took a break after finishing dinner to tidy up the kitchen, pack away leftovers, and open presents before the cake portion.  I popped my head out of the kitchen and saw that Twin A was still sitting in his high chair, so I asked Ehmdo to take him out.  She said that she had tried to do that, but he refused.  As it turns out, he was doggedly sitting in the chair because he was waiting for the dessert portion of the meal.  He sat there for 30 minutes, craning his neck to see the action in the living room, and refused to let us even turn his chair to face the living room.  Such a crafty little sugar butt:

Wanting to be involved, but wanting more, for cake.

For the birthday dinner I roasted two chickens, made gravy, roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and roasted brussels sprouts.  It was an all-oven meal:

I also made this cake, which is known as "The World's Best Cake."  It's Norwegian in origin and features two duplicate layers of butter cake, with a layer of almond-flecked soft and marshmallowy meringue adhered to the cake, and the two layers held together with whipped cream.  I think next time I might add some sliced strawberries to the middle layer, but otherwise, it might not be quite the "world's best" cake, but it's pretty damned delicious.  I've posted the recipe below.

Other things I've eaten/made lately:

I made Smitten Kitchen's spaghetti pie (which is based on cacio e pepe) and I thought it was kind of meh.  I used good fontina and the cheese flavour was kind of pungent but the overall dish was bland and the baked spaghetti texture just wasn't a good fit.  We had this with a classic chocolate cake (I used this Food52 recipe), which turned out good, but not as fudgy as my go-to devil's food cake recipe and the frosting was only so-so.  Still on the hunt for the perfect quick and easy chocolate frosting (not buttercream).  This cake was adapted from the classic Hershey's chocolate cake recipe and I honestly think the Hershey's is better.  Can't improve on that.

Breakfast burritos: scrambled eggs with spinach, piled in a large flour tortilla that's been spread with refried beans (I made mine but easily could be canned), with some grated cheddar.  Rolled up burrito style and then pressed on a panini press and served with tomatillo salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

Ribollita - basically a version of minestrone with kale, and lots of vegetables and plump canellini beans.  Topped with a very necessary dollop if Italian style salsa verde (parsley, mint, garlic, capers, etc.) and big slices of my sourdough bread with grated parm, toasted for dunking.

Yellow dhal with coconut and muttar paneer and brown basmati rice.

Leftover Micelli Monday taco meat became a giant taco salad - a whole heap of greens, diced tomatoes, sliced black olives, tossed together and topped with the taco meat, optional beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and crunched up tortilla chips for extra texture.  

The Big Yam is obsessed (OBSESSED) with pulses of all shapes and sizes.  Good thing this year is the year of the pulse, according to the WHO.  This is an oldie, bacon-braised lentils, atop a bed of baby spinach, and breaded, fried pucks of goat's cheese to be smeared on crusty bread.  It's a go-to meatless meal.

My St. Paddy's day meal.  Once I started baking corned beef, I've never gone back.  I smear it with a paste of brown sugar and grainy mustard and then bake it in a foil packet until tender. With champ and roasted brussels sprouts and maple carrots.

This was the birthday bundt cake that I made for my mom that she didn't care for.  The recipe (from Baked Occasions) had me right up until I was supposed to mix a portion of the batter with cocoa powder and chocolate and use that to make the dark tunnel.  I dunno, I think I just like a classic, pound-cakey kind of bundt cake.  The chocolate-coconut tunnel was kind of dry and crumbly and tasted neither chocolately or coconutty.  I wouldn't make this again.


The World's Best Cake
Serves 10-12, technique adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine

10½ tablespoons (1 stick plus 21⁄2 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 2⁄ 3 cups granulated sugar, separated
1 1⁄ 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs, separated
1⁄ 3 cup whole milk
1⁄4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle position. Line 2 8" round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the pans and the paper.  The original recipe recommended using metal pans over glass. I had metal pans so that's what I used so I can't comment on the glass.
  2. Beat the butter and 2⁄ 3 cup of the sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well on low speed.
  4. Mix in the egg yolks and milk.
  5. Scrape the batter into the baking pan (the batter will be thick - I used an offset spatula to spread it).
  6. In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites and the remaining 1 cup sugar to soft peaks. Spread on top of the cake layer. Sprinkle with the almond slices.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown and puffed. Cool on a wire rack in the pan. Gently unmold one of the cake layers and place cake-side-down on a serving platter.
  8. When the cake is cool, put the cream in a medium bowl and add some vanilla extract (I used 1/2 tsp. of vanilla bean paste). Beat to medium-firm peaks with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes.
  9. Cover the cake on the platter with the cream. Gently unmold the other cake from the baking pan.  Place the other half, meringue side up, on top.
  10. Let the cake sit for 1 hour in the fridge before serving.


Sarah said...

Hey Karl,
I was very happy to find your blog while looking for opinions on the MPPAL - thanks for the candid insights! I'm a working mom with a two year old and I'm wondering if at this point you believe it was worthwhile for you? Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated! Thanks!

karl lagerfeld, esquire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
karl lagerfeld, esquire said...

Hi Sarah,

I'd say it's not worth it at all! I work for the government already and it's a matter of once you're in, your skills and experience will help move you up the ladder, not so much the degree. Even if you were to get the degree, then I think the MPA from U of T or Queen's is more handy and hands-on. The MPPAL tries to do too many things and ends up being very diffused and I didn't learn anything applicable, but the U of T program is well-regarded and has an internship program. It seems like York doesn't have the same relationships with the public sector to land people placements. Hope this helps!