Posts Tagged ‘women’s work


my vicarious blow for workers rights


Guillermina Castellano passed her citizenship test today! She’s a major activist for domestic workers’ rights here in San Francisco, and she wanted citizenship partly to feel more secure in her activism. I’d been tutoring and advising her (along the lines of “Tell yourself, ‘I’m already a citizen,'” and “Remember to breathe”) off and on for the last couple of months.

Since the 1930s, when Congress passed laws protecting workers’ right to organize, setting the federal minimum wage, making rules about overtime pay and maximum hours, and establishing other rights we now consider basic (or take for granted), domestic workers and farm laborers have been left out. These workers were majority black at the time (and these have remained jobs for minorities ever since), and the Southern Democratic caucus insisted on their exclusion in exchange for their support of the legislation. While the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and the Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice are fighting to secure these rights for the people who grow your food, Guille and her camaradas in the National Domestic Workers Alliance are working to do the same for the people who cook it for you (or for your neighbors).

My contribution isn’t much, but I’m going to go enjoy the chocolate that Guille gave me as a thank-you gift.


dolce far niente cuisine

J-P and I have a division of labor in the kitchen. Meat, fish, and Italian: his. Beans, tortillas, and baking: mine. He’s more stew, I’m more soup. He fries more confidently than I do; I bring home more new recipes. If we’re looking to do something exciting with leftovers and odd vegetables, he’s our man. But if, like tonight, we’re both too tired to decide what to cook, I’m often the one who’s able to see a low-effort way out. (One that doesn’t involve the telephone.)

Tonight was one of those nights. We had the last bits of a bunch of mint, the tail end of a cucumber, half a purple onion, one piece of fried chicken from the Front Porch, and the ever-present parsley. Bulgur is easy. Tabbouleh with chicken was calling. There were also a few pieces of undercooked fried okra from the Front Porch in the fridge. While I chopped veggies and herbs and soaked bulgur, J-P refried the okra in the olive oil laced with chorizo fat that was left over from our last fried chickpeas meal.

Dinner was ready in less than half an hour, and it hardly felt like we did anything to make it happen. Success.


begin a revolution in your kitchen

The pressure cooker came in Tuesday, and I planned to use it Wednesday to make watercress soup–after work! But faced with the prospect of biking in fierce winds to buy potatoes (which would further weigh us down for the climb home), J-P and I wimped out.

Of course, I still made the spring rolls I had planned as an accompaniment to the canceled soup. The cooked shrimp weren’t going to last forever. And so I learned two lessons. 1. Composition always takes more time than cooking. The soup would have been quicker work than the spring rolls. 2. Spring rolls are best left to experts. Mine were untidily rolled, and the ones I left for yesterday’s lunch dried out, despite my putting them in plastic wrap.

So I’ve resolved to inaugurate the pressure cooker as soon as possible. Anyone want to suggest a candidate for first recipe? We’re going to the farmers market Saturday morning…

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the accompanying literature. (I mentioned that I’d bought an Indian-made model, right?) “Begin a revolution in your kitchen,” the manual says, and promises to save me “time, energy, and retention of flavor and nutritive values,” with “advanced features” that offer “extra safety” and “reduced drudgery.”

The instruction manual also warns me not to cook “applesauce, cranberries, pearl barley, Oatmeal or other cereals, split peas, noodles, macaroni, rhubarb, or spaghetti” under pressure, as they “can foam, froth and sputter and clog the pressure release device.” However, the separate recipe book blithely lists cooking times for split peas and pearl barley, so I suspect we’re going to be just fine.

What I’m pondering now is Cooks Illustrated’s revelation, in its current article on taste-testing canned diced tomatoes, that some of those are peeled by being exposed to steam, then to a drop in pressure–thus blowing the peels off. I want to try it, but I suspect the pressure cooker’s drop in pressure won’t be abrupt enough…


Japanese egg molds

Liza and I spent her birthday wandering around Japantown, and I bought some cute little egg molds. You know, the plastic contraptions that Japanese mothers, under intense social pressure to produce incredibly cute and perfect lunches for their school-age children, use to form hard-cooked eggs into various shapes. Like this fish:

Yesterday, I learned several important lessons about eggs, egg molds, and myself.

  1. It really is true that hard-cooked eggs peel more easily if the eggs were a little less than fresh. The ones I used could have sat in the fridge a few days longer.
  2. It is also really true that hard-cooked eggs peel more easily if they’ve had time to cool. The egg molds demand that the peeled eggs be warm.
  3. I could never hack it as a Japanese mother. I peeled those recalcitrant suckers, all right, but it wasn’t pretty. Not even cute. Both eggs ended up with pitted whites. Some flakes of shell might have made it into the molds, to be brushed off later.
  4. Don’t assume that the biggest, roundest, prettiest eggs in the carton will make the biggest, roundest, prettiest molded eggs. They won’t. They’ll ooze out the sides of the mold. That won’t be pretty, either.


mis migas: autenticas o no?

Late night –> slow morning –> lazy breakfast.

Are these migas? All the elements are there: stale tortilla chips (the eponymous migas, or crumbs), eggs, cheese, salsa picante. Does it matter that the salsa is the liquid variety (Tapatio, specifically), rather than pico-like? How much does that change the identity of the dish? If I’d had a jar of Mrs. Renfro’s or Green Mountain Gringo in the fridge and had used that instead, would my breakfast have been more authentic? What if I had ginned up my own salsa? It’s what I would have done if there’d been onions and canned tomatoes in the pantry. (I really need to get to the grocery store.) And would my salsa have been even more authentic if I’d had fresh tomatoes instead of canned?

In The Farmstead Egg Cookbook, Boston suburbanite Terry Golson presents her recipe for huevos rancheros with an apology: “I don’t claim that these are totally authentic huevos rancheros, but they are delicious and very easy to make.” She fries an egg, puts it on top of a fried corn tortilla, and tops that with salsa from a jar and some queso fresco (more authentic than my cheddar). Clearly it’s the ease of the dish that worries her, but I also remember reading about someone of a similar background to Golson’s seeing a Mexican woman cooking a sauce from scratch for a breakfast dish and being slightly appalled at the effort required. (It’s not that hard, really, if you have the ingredients on hand.) It seemed primitive and patriarchal, and not something that a busy, modern woman could take home to the US.

How should we judge the authenticity of Mexican or Tex-Mex egg breakfasts, parvenus to the public faces of both cuisines? In Que vivan los tamales, Jeffrey Pilcher reports Marilyn Tausend’s finding that “The habit of eating eggs for breakfast, when transferred [through mid-century tourism] from the United States to Mexico, stimulated creative experimentation rather than slavish imitation. In searching for national counterparts to Eggs Benedict, Mexican chefs served huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) fried with tomato-and-chile sauce, huevos albañiles (bricklayers’ eggs) scrambled with a similar sauce, and huevos motuleños (from Motul, Yucatán) fried with beans, ham, and peas. Soon, no hotel with pretensions to luxury could neglect its own ‘traditional’ egg dish on the breakfast menu.”

The taint of Americanism seems to be one of the factors that earns Tex-Mex scorn from Diana Kennedy and her followers. Does the fact that these egg dishes are a product of U.S. tourism make them any less authentically Mexican? They did originate in Mexico, after all. You can’t get much more “authentic” or “interior” than the Yucatán. Does the fact that they are innovations, rather than traditional dishes, make them less authentic?

Whatever the answers, my lazy migas were very tasty.

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