Wednesday, February 24, 2010

...without man, it sank back into the realm of the unimagined and unconceived and hence into meaninglessness...

"...if, in his house in the mountains, he was being observed less and less, so rarely that, when he pointed his mirror telescope at people who he presumed were observing him from the cliff, they turned out to be observing not him but something else through their field glasses, chamois or mountain climbers or whatnot, this state of not being observed would begin to torment him after a while, much more than the knowledge of being observed had bothered him earlier, so that he would virtually yearn for those rocks to be thrown at his house, because not being watched would make him feel not worth noticing, not being worth noticing would make him feel disrespected, being disrespected would make him feel insignificant, being insignificant would make him feel meaningless, and, he imagined, the end result might be a hopeless depression, in fact he might even give up his unsuccessful academic career as meaningless, and would have to conclude that other people suffered as much from not being observed as he did, that they, too, felt meaningless unless they were being observed, and that this was the reason why they all observed and took snapshots and movies of each other, for fear of experiencing the meaninglessness of their existence in the face of a dispersing universe with billions of Milky Ways like our own, settled with countless of life-bearing but hopelessly remote and therefore isolated planets like out own, a cosmos filled with incessant pulsations of exploding and collapsing suns, leaving no one, except man himself, to pay any attention to man and thereby lend him meaning..."

-from The Assignment, or, On The Observing of the Observer of the Observers, Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt (Agee translation)

D├╝rrenmatt surprised me, when I opened the book and the chapter long sentences left me breathlessly trying to keep up with a hyperactive train of thought that continued until it found its destination: the sub-text. (I would try to pull off un-punctuation here, but I just haven't got it in me right now. A few long sentences will have to suffice.) I think that kind of free-form, rolling structure left the book much more open to exploring the ideas behind the text because the characters were not immersed in keeping track of "he said, she said" and all sorts of awkward exposition. The point of the book is definitely not the plot. I've been considering the difference between "literature" and popular novels lately, and it seems like "literature" is more often about the ideas behind the story, while popular works are more plot-centric. These of course follow Freytag's dramatic arc of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution (also see Aristotle's Poetics for a good lesson in why your writing isn't up to snuff). The Assignment does follow the same arc, but manages to sound like voices in your head rather than words on a page, thus, at least for me, expressing itself without needing analysis.

And if any of my writing about books seems a bit odd, it's because I've been voraciously reading Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. By book four I've grown to accept the fact that popping in and out of chalk pavement pictures books and working alongside fictional characters like Emperor Zhark and Hamlet is just as normal as time travel. Highly recommended, although I haven't finished books four and five just yet.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Seitan Recipe

I posted this elsewhere a while ago, but when it was difficult to find again today, I thought heck, I'll repost it here. Plus I'm making it right now, first time in the new kitchen. Eventually (soon, I hope, cause I'm hungry) it will become salad rolls.

This entire recipe is easy to change around, but here’s a starting point:
-4 cups UNBLEACHED (or whole wheat) flour (use more on your second or third try if you want, but probably not more than 6 cups)
-enough water to make your pile of flour (which didn’t need to be accurately measured at all) into a solid ball of flour dough. The ball is very important, so make sure it’s all stuck together and not too wet or dry at this stage.
-Once you’ve got a ball, fill a mixing bowl with water and begin to gently knead the ball under it, keeping it together as best you can. It does get a little too soggy sometimes and tries to come apart, but if you just keep going patiently and keep the bits together you’ll be fine. The water should be changed fairly frequently, once it becomes opaquely white. The white is the starch coming off of the gluten, which is what we want. Gluten=protein=yay.
-So you knead for about 45 min until your ball becomes a bit more solid and rubbery. The water should be a bit less opaque when you refill it now. Ideally you might want it to be clear, or quite close to that. Definitely don’t stop until it’s close or you’ll get sponge instead of seitan. I like to put a cutting board in the bottom of the sink and knead under a light flow of water for a while, sometimes picking up the ball and rubbing it or spreading it under the water to get those pesky lumps and starch out.
-Now that you have a squeaky lump of what looks like beige brains...
-Get a large frying pan with a lid, about 2” deep. Make up your simmering sauce to cook the seitan in. I think it can also be baked and other things, but I like doing this for some all-purpose seitan. Using a 2 cup measure, mix about 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/8 cup olive oil, 3 tbl (ish, really, I just dump some on) sage, some thyme, maybe a couple drops garlic oil, salt, pepper... sautee some onions first and use those, too. Again, this is pretty arbitrary and variable, so maybe start with something simple (soysauce/oliveoil/sage) and then experiment later. Pour this into the pan and fill up with some water, about an inch deep. Bring to boil.
-Cut your lump of “brains” into half inch strips. Squeeze each of these carefully over the sink to get out the last bits of water, and lay them into the hot simmering sauce (turn down to simmer now). Put on the lid and let them sit for about 10 minutes.
-At this point the seitan lumps should have puffed up and look like poofy beige blobs. They can be coloured with this sauce, too, so more soy sauce makes darker seitan, etc. After 20 mins turn the blobs over, simmer another 20. Remove from heat and lay your blobs on a cutting board to cool. The sauce can be saved for another (slightly weaker) batch later.
-The seitan can be cut up again from here and used in stir fry, spring rolls, on salads, in tomato sauce.. whatever you like. I think it lasts about a week, but it’s usually gone so fast I haven’t tested that.