Monday, March 31, 2014

Can A Woman? Yes She Can!

Can a woman be a doctor?
Yes she can, yes she can!
Can a woman drive a tractor?
Yes she can, yes she can!

Over the weekend I went Girl Scout camping with my mother. She still co-leads the Brownie troop I joined when I was 7 years old. Once a year they take the girls out to a lodge for campfires, nature walks, and activities. The girls do most of the cooking, and all of the dishes. My favorite part was always the singing on hikes, around the campfire, and before bed.

This time we went with a Junior troop, many of whom had bridged up from the Brownie troop. Luckily the rain held off long enough the first night to make s'mores around the fire. I had packed some song sheets and led them in pieces like "The Littlest Worm" and "The Little Green Frog" (who went mmm-at! mmm-at! mmm!). From the deepest recesses of my brain I even recalled the lyrics to "Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts"...I must have sung it often enough to lodge it firmly there.

The next day, we did badge work for "Fair Play" and "First Aid." My mom and another leader told the girls about Title IX, and they played some games with bean bags and balloons. One leader, K. is an EMT, so she and I each ran sessions about treating minor injuries, and I let them try out my stethoscope, reflex hammer, and tuning forks. For dinner the girls prepared Trefoil-crusted chicken tenders.

That night, we had a Scout's Own ceremony. It had been raining all day, so we sat in a circle inside to share our experiences from the weekend. This group was so rowdy that I had been surprised to discover that they preferred doing crafts to singing or playing games. Then we exchanged hand-made Secret Sister gifts. I got a yarn pom-pom in the shape of a flower from one of the other adults, and I gave G. a "Girl Scout Mom" certificate and a fantastical creature made out of pipe cleaners, pompoms, and googly eyes. Finally, we sang "Can a Woman?", which should be the unofficial anthem of Girl Scouts if it isn't already. To my utter delight, the girls liked it so much that they immediately demanded to sing it again.
Can a woman fight a fire?
Can a woman change a tire?
Can a woman lead a choir?
Yes she can, yes she can!
It had been such a long day that during bedtime snack I started counting down the minutes until I could put on my pajamas and slide into my sleeping bag. I was too tired even to read. About 10 o'clock one of the leaders got a phone call that G. and her daughter S. had gotten stuck in the mud, and could we help?* K. and I suited up and headed out in her jeep without a second thought--but we neglected to bring flashlights. What kind of Girl Scouts are we, anyway??

We left her car on the black top and trudged down a grassy slope toward the headlights. Instead of following the "exit" sign, G. had listened to her GPS, slid off the road, and ended up in the middle of field, since the only way she had been able to get any traction was in reverse. We pushed from the back, but the mud was too slippery. In the absence of kitty litter, we raided a nearby fire pit for ashes. Nope. We went back for branches to lay in the mud to stand on. No dice. We even pushed from the front with sheets under the tires to see if the car could back up onto firmer ground, but the soil was totally waterlogged.

Meanwhile, poor S. was beside herself. After a long, over-stimulating day, it was dark, cold, raining, and past her bedtime. Watching her mother struggle with her relatively new car had pushed her to the breaking point. When it became clear that a tow truck was needed, I offered to take S. back to the lodge in K.'s jeep. On the way up the slope by the light of her flashlight (what a good scout!), I explained that she was experiencing Girl Scouting at its finest: we were helping each other and solving problems. This was first aid for the car: like tending a fresh wound or broken ankle, we had done what we could, and now it was time for the professionals. When I got back to the lodge, one of the leaders pointed out that I had soot all over my forehead (from wiping the hair out of my eyes.) She said it looked like I had been out doing "war games."

Around midnight, a tow truck was finally on its way. But by the time G. and K. got from the lodge to the field, the truck was already stuck in the mud, right next to G.'s car. The driver (and the buddy along for the ride) had ignored K.'s warnings to stay on the black top. The truck had 4-wheel drive, but it wasn't a heavy one, just a converted light truck. And they driven right onto the field. She could hardly believe the sheer stupidity of it. They didn't take any of her other suggestions, either, and she decided not to belabor the fact that from her EMT experience she might actually know what she was talking about. Between them and several belts around nearby trees, they managed to unstick both vehicles by about 3:30 am.

G. and S. spent the night on the couches and left first thing in the morning. Once everyone was up, we got the girls all packed and the lodge all cleaned. K., the other leader, and I wanted to see the aftermath of the previous night's debacle, which the camp handyman had described in dire terms. 

Foreground: tow truck tracks. Middle ground: tow truck and car tracks.
If you can see the large log back where the grass meets the tree line,
that's how far away the car was. Background: Susquehanna River.

But just as we got ready to set out--K.'s jeep wouldn't start. After jumping it, again, we drove over to the scene of the slime. It was still raining. K. left the engine running as we inspected the sets of tracks from the black top. The ruts were not as bad as we had feared. Fixing them would be a good Eagle Scout project. The tow truck guy had left one of his belts around a tree.

In the car on the way back to town, K. and I traded ghost tales, medic stories, shared our gardening plans, and talked about our new nieces. Girl Scouts are sisters indeed!
Just you wait until we're older
Then you'll see! Then you'll see!
We'll be women in tomorrow's
History, history!
Home that afternoon, my mother and I faced the prospect of no internet (which also means no home phone). Although I've set up home internet before, technology really isn't her thing. When my youngest brother moved in temporarily, he had shifted the home office from the basement to an upstairs bedroom. My father moved the home office back downstairs while we were camping and before he left for Texas--and now the internet inexplicably wouldn't go. After fiddling around with the computer, modem, and router, we called India. The IT person was marginally helpful...and didn't call back when we tried to test the phone jack. The brother needed to shower before coming over to try to fix it. So we trooped upstairs to scope out the situation. My mother noticed a few doohickeys hadn't made the transfer, and I pointed out that one of the jacks had a phone # written on it. Back downstairs, I doubted the usefulness of the splitters--and it turned out the other jack there also had a phone # on it. Whoop! Cable unplugged from one jack and plugged into the other: internet.

"Can a woman?" crowed my mother. "I think that's the trifecta!" Yes, a woman can get a car out of the mud (more or less), jump a dead car battery, and set up an internet connection.

The IT guy called back 4 hours later, since he had to close the ticket to end his shift. My mother told him we had taken care of it.

As we grow up through the years
We'll sing out loud and clear
Can we start the process here?
Yes, we can, yes we can!

* - Names have been changed to protect the embarrassed.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tastes of Baltimore I

Entrance to
The Brewer's Art

One of my favorite things about living in Baltimore used to be searching out the perfect restaurant for a special event. Of course, you can never go home again. Canton's Pearl (The Pearl in Canton?), where we celebrated my parent's 25th wedding anniversary with a surprise party has closed. El Loco Hombre [sic] is still going strong but goes by the name Alonso's now. Under new ownership, The Chameleon has become Maggi's Farm, the Dragon BBQ place is now Big Bad Wolf BBQ, and the Greek place whose name I can't remember has a new name I can't remember. Nevertheless, over Spring Break I got to enjoy some excellent food in Charm City in one familiar place and three new ones. This is the first installment; the second is here.

Artisanal Beer and Gourmet Food~
One night we went out to celebrate successfully defending my dissertation and my father's raise. We decided on The Brewer's Art, a hopping place just outside downtown. Not only do they brew some of their own Belgian-style beers, but they offer food so fancy that we didn't know what all of the words on the menu meant. My parents each had a micro-brew with their duck "ham," while I tried a South African white wine with a duo of appetizers, the celery soup and the fried oysters. (The wine actually paired better with the oysters than the soup.) As for decor, you can see that the dark-wood paneling imparts a refined ambiance.

Charm City + (Ice) Creamery = The Charmery
The blue plastic spoons turn
purple in the cold ice cream.
The next night--after Thursday night dinner at church--I went out with a friend from high school for ice cream at The Charmery. Opened less than a year ago in the gentrifying neighborhood of Hampden, this little shop makes and sells its own cold treats. Regular flavors like Old Bay Caramel, Berger Cookies & Cream, and Maryland Mud (dark chocolate with Oreos and chocolate chips) are supplemented by short-term flavors like Duckpin Ale Chocolate, Fresh Mint with a Figgy Lime Swirl, and Chinese Food & a Movie (buttered popcorn with chocolate-covered fortune cookies). I was in the mood for chocolate, but the Dark Knight (red velvet with fudge) didn't look fudgy enough for me, so I ordered a scoop of Old Bay Caramel with a baby scoop of MD Mud, while LE chose the Nutty Buddy (with bits of waffle cone) and a baby scoop of Tiramisu (lady's fingers included). The Old Bay got spicy after a while, so I was glad to be able to cut it with the triple chocolate. It was nice to see a locally-owned business doing so well, even on an unseasonably cold night.

There's neat artwork on the walls, including a glass sculpture,
old pharmacy sign, and surrealist paintings by Matt Muirhead.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hard and Fast

Editor's Note: This is a blog about food, so in a post-modern sense, I ought to be able to write about the absence of food too, right?

Yesterday I fasted for Lent. Usually when I choose to fast I make it from bedtime one day until dinner the next day, but the group I was fasting with chose sun-up to sun-down. That meant breakfast was allowed, so although it is Spring Break, I set an alarm to make sure I got out of bed with enough time to eat before meteorological sun rise. The orange juice, egg-and-toast taco, and yogurt with fruit and muesli were delicious.

And then I didn't eat for 13 hours. The group had decreed a food fast to allow for liquids to stay hydrated. Figuring nourishing liquids like juice and milk were off limits, I stuck to three cups of tea and a stick of gum spaced across the day.

The point of fasting during Lent--as during Ramadan--is to imitate the Prophet in the desert. Some believe denying "the flesh" can elevate them to a higher spiritual plane, but I fast for more mundane reasons. First, it's an exercise in self-control. Despite what my stomach was grumbling a few hours before sunset, I will not (and did not) die of hunger.

Second, it allows me to experience my physicality in different ways. During previous fasts I found that I miss the feeling of food in my mouth. (If I ever eat when I'm bored, it must be because my brain and my tongue are ganging up on me.) This time, rather than rush to still my hunger pains, I reveled at the thought of how good it was going to feel when I quelled them in several hours. [Edit: That was all very well and good in the middle of the day, but by the end I was actually bored with being hungry!]

Third, fasting reminds me how lucky I am to have constant access to good food: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from my well-stocked pantry to my refrigerator to grocery stores and restaurants in easy walking and driving distance. While I appreciate that privilege, this one-day exercise did not give me insight into the everyday reality of hunger for millions of people here and abroad.

I would have broken fast half an hour earlier than I did (and with better food!), but I was helping with the Brownie Girl Scouts when the sun officially went down, so I settled for a packaged of creme cookies and an apple. Once home I had left-over Pechakucha and Old Bay-seasoned, home-made popcorn for dinner.

Perhaps my productivity was down on account of a little headache and light-headedness, but I certainly had no end of formatting and emailing and other mindless tasks to do as I prepare to deposit my dissertation. The group will fast again on Maundy Thursday, although I have to decide whether to participate, since I am supposed to be giving a big symposium paper that day. Maybe the adrenalin rush will carry me through? Maybe it won't be that hard to fast.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Egg and Toast Taco

Need an idea for a quick breakfast? Try an egg and toast "taco": toast a slice of bread. Meanwhile, lightly scramble one egg +/- salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and a splash of milk. I spiced things up with some mild mint and jalapeno jelly. Fold in half in a napkin and rush out the door to conquer the world--or whatever you had planned for today!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

From Soup to Nuts

Early in my dissertation I discuss the ubiquity of feeding beef broth to patients, and I close with some remarks on nutrition and food policy under the National Socialists. In an irreverent universe, I would entitle the book manuscript
"From Soup to Nuts: Nutrition and the Telescopic Body in Germany, 1890-1935."
But that probably won't fly at an academic press, so I'll stick with the original title, "The Politics of the Table." For your amusement, here is the table of contents in the format of an elaborate, 11-course banquet menu:

Oysters on the Half Shell

Introduction: Bodies that Eat (and Drink)

Nutrition in the Laboratory, 1890-1930

Light Meat
Feeding the Sick: Nutrition and Authority in the Clinic and the Sick Room

Cold Entrée
Under the Hygiene Eye: Nutrition at the German Hygiene Museum

Hot Entrée
How to Cook Your Vegetables, or
Ragnar Berg’s Controversy with the German Canning Industry

The Blockade and Rationing in Saxony

The Politics of the Family Table during World War I

Special Rations: How the War Came to Sick Rooms in Dresden

“I am not a taste barbarian”: Taste and Bodily Sensations during World War I

Fruit and Cheese
Nutritional Knowledge and Power in the Third Reich

Monday, March 17, 2014

Frau Doktor, PhD

It is with great joy that I announce that I have successfully defended my dissertation! You can now call me Frau Doktor. Here are some pictures from the big event:

The proud committee. We've come a long way together since I entered graduate school a decade ago. These professors have been the most important in my history education. They have also become friends.

The tradition is to go out drinking after one's defense, but I've never been much of a drinker--and besides, I wouldn't set foot in a bar on St. Patrick's Day. We had frozen custard cake and sundaes from the favorite local shop. I had hoped to "hold court" on their picnic tables outside, but the weather was not cooperating, so we moved the party to the med school.

The guests were so sweet: they sang "For she's a jolly good doctor" to me!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bread Pudding: Savory or Sweet?

Dear Husband and I recently had a good friend over for dinner. (He had lent me a laser printer to print the dissertation for my defense committee, thereby saving me $150 in printing costs, plus paper.) I knew he likes bread pudding for dessert, and it turns out there are many good savory recipes, too. I needed to use up some cooked ham, so I chose this recipe. Halved, it fits nicely into a glass pie plate. Serves 4. Goes well with green salad, broccoli, or maybe asparagus with lemon butter (ask me how I know!). The base is so simple (bread, eggs, milk) that I will probably experiment with other ingredient combinations in the future.

  • 2  large egg whites (use the yolks for scrambled eggs or egg-fried rice)
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 2 cups whole-grain bread cut into cubes
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers (as long as the jar hasn't gone bad in the fridge)
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese (we tried mozzarella and Gruyère)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a pie plate.
  2. To prepare custard: Whisk egg whites, eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add mustard, pepper and rosemary: whisk to combine.
  3. Toss bread, spinach, roasted red peppers and ham in a large bowl. Add the custard and toss well to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and push down to compact. Cover with foil.
  4. Bake until the custard has set, ~ 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and continue baking until the pudding is puffed and golden on top, ~ 15 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving. (Times are approximate since I can't remember how long it took, even though I've made it twice. You can smell when it's done: it's delicious!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Dissertator

Now that this period in my life is almost over, I finally feel like I can joke about it...

We are pleased to introduce the third in our line of student action figures: The Dissertator! Our busy bee wears jeans and a t-shirt so she won't look out of place in the library, at a coffee shop, or at home on the couch. She comes with one stack of library books and one stack of manila folders containing photocopies from the archives. There is even a sheet of stickers so you can choose her laptop screen: MS Word? Facebook? YouTube? For only $15 extra, we'll include one of three distractions: a cat, a basket of laundry, or a pile of Netflix DVDs. Let us choose for you please.

You may also like our other student action figures: Biker Graduate Student, Conference Goer, or their companion, Card-Carrying Union Member. New this summer: Medical Student!