Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beer Bread

There will be a longer post later this week, I promise. I had a good time back home for Thanksgiving, but I've been really busy with schoolwork and haven't been in so much of a writing mood. But I'll write tomorrow.

Anyway, my friend wanted one of my more popular recipes. This is for a beer bread that's served me quite well. I warn you that the measures are quite approximate since I just throw stuff in; so it's all guesswork. It's fun to make though - beer is a great ingredient. Also, you get to do this:

Yes, I am melting butter in beer. Butterbeer! This is for a double batch.

JK's Beer Bread

1 can beer
1 stick butter
~1.5-2c. rye flour
~3/4-1c. white flour (can be replaced with potato flour, or more rye)
~3/4-1c. sugar
3 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

1. Melt the butter into the beer. Do this in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Once the butter is blended into the beer - it should be a yellowish-brown color - take the liquid mixture off the flame and let it cool.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter-beer and 1/3 of the flours and sugar.
4. Mix in the eggs and milk.
5. Add the remaining dry ingredients - the rest of the flours and sugar and baking powder - and combine. You should add the caraway seeds here if you want them mixed in.
6. At this point, you should have a reasonably thick cake-like batter; if you're willing to taste it, it should be somewhat sweet, but with the taste of beer still apparent. If your batter is not thick enough, add flours and sugar in the following ratio: 2 parts rye flour, 1 part non-rye flour, 1 part sugar. If it's too thick, add a bit of milk or another egg.
7. Pour the mixture into a greased cake pan. This recipe works best with a 8"x8" pan, but a 9"x13" pan also serves quite well.
8. Bake at 350F for about 40-50 minutes or until a knife comes out with only a few tiny crumbs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Plans

Short post.

1. 2000 page views! Yay!

2. I'll be back in New York during Thanksgiving - my flight leaves Chicago at 6am on Thursday, and I'll get back here early-ish Sunday morning. I'll write more after I get back. In the meantime, Happy Holidays, and enjoy the pumpkin.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the future

אל-תתהלל, ליום מחר: כי לא-תדע, מה-ילד יום
Boast not to yourself of tomorrow; for you have not knowledge of what that day brings.
-Proverbs 27:1

I've been thinking about this verse a lot lately. I started a paper with it, and it hasn't gotten out of my head. I don't take a literal view of the Bible, or G-d: the former to me, is extremely metaphorical and non-literal, and my view of G-d is complicated and definitely non-traditional.

But this verse rings true for me. And it's sitting in my head like a cat does - lazily, and not for a short time - and making me think.

Ergo, I ask: Do students at the University of Chicago do this too much? Do we boast to ourselves of a glorious, guaranteed future?

I don't, but I get really into my work and think of it as a possibility. But I'm wondering if a lot of people do.

I've been here at UChicago for over a year now. I'm a second-year, and now I get to watch a batch of first-years come in. I know people who know exactly what they want to do - and who know exactly how they'll achieve it. And that they'll achieve it.

Or they believe it.

I used to think that I'd definitely be an international maritime lawyer. I'm researching demography PhD programs now.

But there are people here who believe in a future that has been written for them.

A few people - only one at UChicago, though - think it's G-d-given.

Liturgically, I have issues with this - I don't believe in an anthropomorphic G-d, rather a force-like G-d (think Star Wars), but more importantly, G-d just lets a lot of shit happen. And even if He did write the future, He wouldn't necessarily write it your way. You can't own G-d.

More people have never really thought about other scenarios.

Look, you never know what shit could happen. I didn't ask for a friendly spider to bite me in China. My friend just got out of the ER with a concussion.

And you may not be sure what your passion really is. My friend Allie has done a lot of looking around, so she actually knows what she wants to do. My friend Alex has done that. My friend Aaron. But that took trial and error. And I've had other friends who have blasted in as a biology geek and come out as linguists!

And do you know what life in your chosen field is like? I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but I really don't want to go through the lawyer's life. I always find it worrisome when people want to go into something...and don't know what they're getting into.

How do you know that that future is written for you?

That's my thought for today. I probably sound pretentious and snobby and such, but I can't get that verse out of my head.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Banana Rye Muffins

This post will be brief. I had a really terrible day yesterday - a relative died, and a friend was involved in a serious accident. However, I promised someone that I'd post this recipe, so here it is.

I'm working on a longish post right now. It should be ready sometime next week.


I made these muffins earlier this week for a social group that I attend. I didn't think much of them - they tasted good - but they got pretty quickly devoured by my friends, one of whom ate a few of them. So I'm posting this, because anyone who appreciates bananas and rye as much as I do should make this.

Banana Rye Muffins

3-4 bananas, smashed
~1.5 cups rye flour
1 cup sugar
3-4 eggs
1/4-1/2 cup of milk
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a muffin tin. (For bread, switch the muffin tin for a loaf pan).

Mix the bananas, flour, sugar, milk and eggs. You should get a thick batter. If your batter is still thin, add more rye flour and sugar in the same proportion, or in a proportion with a heavier emphasis on the rye flour.

Pour into the muffin tins. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes should be dandy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Walking to Services

It's Sunday morning and I've watched, from my window, some of my dorm-mates head out to go to church. The Lutherans, the Mormons, the Catholics. There's a certain purpose in their step.


I looked at them for a moment. Then I realized I do it too.


I make that walk once a week usually, on Friday nights. My black kippah is in my pocket, I'm carrying a tray of fresh baking for my compatriots. I'm humming a tune, probably one that we'll sing during the service. I like to think that my shoes are going


I'm generally pretty happy. I like going to services. I like praying, I like my prayer group, I like my Jewish friends. Each step increases the anticipation. Sometimes I worry about not getting the quorum required to recite certain prayers. But mostly, I'm content.

The walk makes me feel at home. Some say that no Jew lives in a city until he's got a synagogue/minyan there that he goes to regularly. I've got that. This is my city, and this is what I do on Fridays. This is my city, and this is my place of worship.The walk, with its regularity and it's homey feel, is part of my experience here in Chicago. In addition, it makes me feel even more Chicagoan - this is a city long defined by its houses of worship, and now I'm part of that proud tradition.


Sometimes I go to Saturday morning services. This is mostly back in New York.

I'm not shomer shabbat. I'll take buses and go out on the Sabbath. I try not to do much schoolwork, and I refuse to take paid work, and I try to make it a "day of rest and reflection." But I'm not "shomer shabbat."

On that note, I won't listen to Jewish liturgical tracks on my computer, or go by vehicle to synagogue on Shabbat. That just feels perverse. My mother, though avoiding her cell phone and computer, drives to synagogue. Admittedly, that's better for her than the long walk. But I usually walk.

When I'm here in Chicago, it's a short, mile-long walk up a street to a small Conservative synagogue. It's a typical Hyde Park walk, but I feel at home when I make it too - maybe not as much as Friday night, but it's still carrying that feeling of this is my city, this is my place of worship.

Back home, it's usually to a synagogue my mom goes to two miles away. The walk there is through a park and leafy neighborhoods. It's really beautiful in the fall - there's a patch of yellow, a patch of red, and a multicolored area around the town's water tower. My feet say both




The anticipation builds even more for Saturday morning services. They're a longer affair, but they're beautiful. There's also always a sermon to look forward to, and the hymns! And then, hopefully, a bar/bat mitzvah to congratulate and beaming grandparents...

I love these walks.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Coffee shops

If it's quiet I can't do my homework.

I get creeped out.

I can't concentrate.

So I work in coffee shops.

There's a branch of a national chain on the UChicago campus, but we call it the C-Shop. They sell crappy bagels and crappy coffee, but the crappy coffee is good crappy coffee. It's the kind of crappy coffee that wakes you up and makes you feel awesome.

I like to work in there.

It's noisy, but not too noisy. It feels warm, and alive. The chairs are nice and hard, the plugs are plentiful, the lighting is good, I can pour way too much coffee down my throat. Sometimes other people join me at my table. The windows look out to a beautiful courtyard.

I don't know why I study in this shop - there are other shops I could go to, other noisy locations. I go to another coffee shop now and again. But when I walk into the C-Shop, I get productive. I've pulled eight-hour hauls in the C-Shop during finals week, and one terrifying Sunday afternoon last year, I spent ten hours in there in the course of a day. I get nods of recognition from the staff.

But it feels like home now. When I need to study, I go there, or my dorm's lounge at night. Can I say it's part of my experience here?