Monday, June 24, 2013

The Green Pan

In about 1995, during my university years, I bought a huge Texas frying pan. (I don't remember whether it was called a "Texas" frying pan in Montreal, but that's what they call it in Yankee country.) It was made out of thin steel with a coating of teflon. Great for cooking up big batches of stir fry to feed hordes of college students. My most enduring memory of using the pan was to make stir fry for a floor event in our residence hall. I discovered at the grocery store that in Montreal they sell horse meat and that it's considerably cheaper than beef. So I made stir fry with horse meat. Everyone loved the dish--and had frequent seconds--until they discovered in conversation what kind of protein was in it. Then a few backed off.

After fourteen years, three or four moves, and too much use of metal spatulas, the pan was pretty beat up. The teflon came off the bottom in occasional flakes, which I've heard is not healthy. At the end of last year, it was time for Old Texas Faithful to go.
 In Walmart and other purveyors of fine goods, I had passed a new invention: ceramic-coated frying pans. I was intrigued, but had not yet made the decision to buy. My brother Chris, who has become a Foodie of Wisdom and Simplicity, heard about my investigations and bought us a Green Pan for Christmas.
 We have used it for six months now, and it is serving us very well. The ceramic coating works as well as teflon for a non-stick surface, and we're no longer consuming tiny black chips of mysterious bonded chemicals as additional spices. Thanks, Chris!
~ emrys

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Carrying My Lovely

The morning before I left for my last business trip to Louisville, My Lovely Daughter took me out to the front lawn to pick dandelions. She handed me the bouquet of yellow and told me they were for me to take on my trip. So I wrapped the steps in a wet rag, stuck them in a ziploc bag, and hoped that security wouldn't confiscate them. I took pictures and sent them at each stage, so My Lovely would know she had gone with me. Here they are in the Syracuse airport, waiting to go through security:
 Here they are in DC, waiting for a connecting flight:
 Here they are in Louisville, Kentucky, arrived safely (though a little wilted from a day's travel, like me) in the hotel:
Here are the tired blossoms the next day, on the edge of the Ohio River:
And I thought a fitting send-off would be dispersal into the great Ohio River--who knows how far they've traveled toward the Mississippi delta since I let them go?

~ emrys

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thinking Cosmically

When I was in high school, one of my favorite series of books was Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (a trilogy of four books). It has been at least ten years--maybe fifteen--since I read one of his works. No matter how long the span, however, Adams' words stick in the recesses of my consciousness like mental LDL. So I knew after seeing "DON'T PANIC" on this window in the DC airport that I was in for a treat of reminiscence:
[For those with less-than-optimal resolution, it reads, "It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words "DON'T PANIC" in large, friendly letters on the cover."]

I am thrilled that someone in the Dulles administration is well-read enough to see the value in printing a Hitchhiker quote for travellers to enjoy. It's especially fitting for someone returning from a glorious Colorado vacation to the duties of pastoral ministry. We need more DON'T PANICs in large friendly letters in our lives.

~ emrys

Cutting for Stone

Physicians who are worth their salt recognize that the practice of medicine is an art rather than a science. The complexity of the human person overflows categories defined by anatomy and physiology; to treat a patient is to treat body, mind, and soul. Neglecting one results in misdiagnosis of the other two.

Authors worth their salt recognize that the individual is a microcosm of the world, and the world reflects the struggle of the individual. To tell the struggles of a single person is to tug on the vast web of relationships that make up families, cultures, and societies. We can tell when a story does not tell the truth about a person, because it does not ring bells across the tangled skein of the cosmos.

Abraham Verghese's 2009 bestselling book, Cutting for Stone, reveals its writer to be a physician and author worth his salt. The premise of the novel--conjoined twins whose struggles of discovery span from Ethiopia to the Bronx--might be enough to attract any avid reader. But the real wonders of Verghese's work lie below the surface of nation and history. Verghese describes human relationships with the skill of a practiced surgeon: far from repeating rote anatomy, he handles human complexity as a veteran familiar with both disease and healing. He lays open before us the conjoined twins of physical pain and heartbreak, of sutures and reconciliation. Within the matrix of brotherhood and family, Verghese deposits wonderful descriptions of the surgeon's art. Though brutally clinical at times, the florid poetry of these descriptions will entrance even the most medically-averse reader.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Cutting for Stone, to me who is on the cusp of a journey to East Africa, is the interweaving of Ethiopian culture and history with the tale of Marion Stone's family. Verghese brings out such fascinating detail about life in twentieth-century Addis Ababa, then sets it alongside a picture of an immigrant physician's life in New York City. This comparative taste of world cultures only sharpens my desire to taste injera for myself in the heady richness of Ethiopia's capital city.

Whether you are an aficionado of medicine, a connoisseur of foreign culture, or a gourmet of the complexities of the flesh, you will be rewarded for picking up Cutting for Stone. I do warn you, however, you may not be able to put it down.

~ emrys