Friday, September 14, 2012

Ten Achievements This Summer: What I Did In DC

Ten of the many things I achieved this summer!

1. Get published. Sort of. My job largely consisted of research for a publication to be released at a conference in October! I am cited as one of the researchers and helped in the editing process and with graphs. 15,000 people now will view my work...nerve-wracking!

2. Create 10-15 recipes. Some are on this blog!

3. Basic reading German. Projekt Deutsch went slower than planned. German is HARD. But I can now slowly read newspaper articles!

4. Discovered the depth of my migration passion. I read a lot of papers and books about migrations in my spare time, and got a lot of immigration info into the publication at work.

5. Learn Hosea. Technically I finish tonight or tomorrow, but Hosea is an amazing - and dense - book.

6. Visit one new state, and go fishing for the first time. West Virginia! Y'all should go to Harper's Ferry.

7. Read a novel in Norwegian. The book, called King Solomon's Sword, or Kong Salomos Sverd - ostensibly about Israel - was way too dramatic and flashy for my taste, with one too many quixotic chases and a sketchy plot. It also took me three and a half weeks to read. But I finished it!

8. Renew the understanding of my religious faith. See the kippah post.

9. Eat phenomenal Ethiopian, Salvadoran, and Malaysian food. El Rinconcito in Logan Circle serves scrumptious pupusas. Meskerem in Adams-Morgan serves great alecha and wat. Malaysia Kopitiam in Dupont Circle has a world-rumbling laksa.

10. Meet a crew of memorable characters. Y'all are awesome.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Shorter Name, Please: Black Bean Peanut Chili Soup with Rice Flour Dumplings and Tomato

Making dinner on my own is actually really nice.

Firstly, I can eat whatever I want. So I make lots of spicy food.

Secondly, cooking is a great way for me to destress from work, or cool down from a workout.

Thirdly, I can experiment. The result: this soup.

I had a lot of peanut butter and a can of black beans, as well as a random tomato. I also had a craving for dumplings of some form - matzoh balls or rice flour dumplings based on what my Caribbean friends call "Saturday dumplings."

The result was this soup. It was very tasty and filling - and very hearty! I will make variations of it this winter.

But can you think of a shorter name, please?

The finished product! My dumplings are rather large; I like to chop them up in the soup.
Black Bean Peanut Chili Soup with Rice Flour Dumplings and Tomato

1 medium onion or ½ large onion, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 cups black beans (canned and drained – about 1 can – or soaked from dried)

1 large or 2 medium tomato(es), diced

3-4 cups water

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp hot chili sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

Cilantro to taste

Canola oil


1 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Powdered ginger to taste

Pepper to taste

2 eggs

2 tsp water

(Optional: dried seasonings to taste)

1. Start with prepping the dumpling dough. Mix the dry ingredients together until combined.

2. Add the eggs and water to the flour mixture, and combine until you have a sticky dough. Set aside and let stand.

3. In a pot or large saucepan, sauté the onions and garlic until soft in oil.

4. Add the beans and tomatoes and sauté quickly for one minute.

5. Pour in the water and stir. Add the peanut butter, chili sauce, soy sauce, and cilantro and stir in. Bring to a boil.

6. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

7. In the meantime, shape your dumplings into little ball shapes with your hands. I imagine you can make 20 small ones, or 10 large ones. I prefer large dumplings to provide a cooler bite in comparison to the peppery soup. Also, you can chop them up with your spoon in the soup (like matzoh balls).

8. Drop the dumplings into the simmering soup and cook until the dumplings are all floating on the surface.

9. Boil for another minute. Remove from heat and serve. Serves about 2-4 people.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

And I'm back: Uncovered head edition: On the Request of Alexis and Robbie

I also have a recipe one coming up soon.

In the final analysis, it is between you and G-d; it was never between you and them anyway.”
-Mother Teresa

Sorry about the lack of posts recently.

Anyway, some of you know that I stopped wearing the kippah after four months.

Don't worry, I'm still religious. A few of you wanted me to write up an explanation, so I did.

These things don't apply for everyone - many people find a lot of happiness and meaning in wearing such visible religious symbols - not just the kippah, but also the turban, the hijab, the enormous cross, and so on. This is just my experience.

Kippah wearing is not required by Jewish law (although my approach to halachah is decidedly unorthodox), but is seen as a sign of yirat shamayim - fear of the heavens, a sign of modesty, and now, a sign of pride.

 I think, like a lot of things, that my cessation might be hard for people to understand. Just as it is hard for people to understand that people need/want different religious practices at different times – I had wanted to wear the kippah from November onwards (and even while dating a non-Jew contemplated doing it), and decided quite suddenly in April to do it.

So why did I stop?

1. I felt like it distanced me from G-d. I spent so much time worrying about the kippah - and when to not wear it (unsafe, horrifically rainy weather, non-hechshered restaurants). I worried "am I tzniut enough?" "What do people think?" As a result, my own religious beliefs - and spiritual well-being - suffered, and I felt so beholden to other people that I felt as if my link to G-d - and respect for Him - was in decline because I was so beholden to other people's thoughts.

After I stopped, I found a really good blog post by a rabbi who detailed the same problem he had, but he's in a situation where he can't take it off

2. I felt targeted. I already had a rule of unsafe areas, hypothetical abroad, and non-kosher restaurants (I eat dairy and fish out) as being kippah-free zones. But I still felt targeted. Work was a safe space, but the streets weren't always. I got a fair number of comments over the four months from passerby. It got to the point where I felt as if everyone was watching, and I began to worry about things happening.

My worst experiences were actually with fellow Jews. I've gotten sexually harassed twice, harassed by extremists twice (once for buying a hechshered thing at a Starbucks) harassed for other reasons thrice, and a lot of "hey ehrlich friend"-type comments.

One of the awkward things is that the kippah in the US has become a symbol of Modern Orthodoxy - and I'm not Orthodox. So with Jews, some of it was confusion as well.

3. There’s also the fact that it makes me draw even more attention to myself when I have to explain religious things. That was not challenging and did not factor into the decision, but I think it will be a relief to not have to do that.

Things that did not factor in: family and friends' disapproval; dislike of kippot (I love them!); other kippah-symbolism problems (re: brands of Zionism); difficulty of maintenance on a day-to-day basis.