Monday, July 25, 2005

not dead yet

I always love that guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (it IS that one, isn't it?) who claims he's not dead yet, and the other guy says, you will be soon. Anyway, I'm still here, but it's been crazy busy and my laptop is dead or dying and I'm using a shared computer in a different time zone and, yeah. well. I'm not blogging much. Sorry.

I do still have some things to say, but for the moment all I can remember is my favorite British road signs, so I will leave you with them.

1. "No Hard Shoulder." I hated those eighties shoulderpads, too, but why ban them on the motorway?

2. "Soft Verge." I love this even though I'm pretty sure there's nothing at all weird about it.

3. "Humped Zebra Crossing." I remember cracking up about "zebra crossings" the first time I was in England, over 30 years ago now, but "humped" ones are even better. I keep imagining a cross between a camel and a zebra.

4. "Diverted Traffic." No doubt laughing about the humped zebra crossings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

desert island kitchen

Sometimes I've played a game with my sister, and maybe with others as well, where you list what you would need on a desert island. Mostly we focus on what one spice it would be, if you could have only one. When I've traveled to strange kitchens (beach rentals, mostly) I've always brought a good supply of cooking stuff: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, cinnamon, cumin, garlic...the list goes on.

OK, we're not on a desert island here. But we've also been reluctant to buy up various spices and condiments (especially) since our time here is short and we don't want to be wasteful. This has meant that I've made spaghetti with no spices (thank you, Ragu!), stir fry with sauce from a jar, and tuna casserole with neither a whisk nor a cheese grater, though I still managed to make white sauce and melt cheese into it.

I did buy garlic. And salt. And parmesan cheese (OK, "Italian style cheese"--remember, no cheese grater!). So we've had garlic bread, and been able to doctor up the Ragu.

But what I'm realizing is how ridiculous my desert island choices always were. It was usually basil or cinnamon. I haven't baked here, or even felt like it (again, that has partly to do with the difficulty of buying small enough quantities--and the fact that there are no measuring utensils in my kitchen!). And I'm doing fine without most of the things I think I need desperately at home. In fact, the kids are probably happier that their food isn't all that spiced! (I do get a number of my meals in the college, so I'm not totally bereft of edible food...though college food has its ups and downs, too--perhaps more on that in another post.)

I still may buy basil before we leave. But first I'll have to learn to pronounce it "correctly"--one of our first days here I ordered a basil, mozarella, and tomato sandwich in a cafe, and the proprietor (Indian or Pakistani, in a French-named cafe, for what it's worth) thought I ordered bacon, not basil. "It's ba-a-zill" he corrected me. (No problem with my tomayto instead of tomahto, however...) Ah, English!

Friday, July 08, 2005

here we are

I'd been planning a post about cooking in someone else's kitchen, but it seems a bit callous to go on with that when we're 100 miles from London. But really what I have to say about that is that it's very interesting teaching in Oxford right now. We've been talking in lectures and classes about (among many other things) the Battle of Britain, and most of the news kept reminding us of that as well: Londoners, the British in general, we are reminded, know how to cope, will not be shaken, will not be terrorized.

I know that Giuliani had that sort of rhetoric after 9/11, and I know as well that the loss of the WTC was in both symbolic and real terms very different from these smaller attacks, but I'm just struck by how quickly things are getting back to normal here, and how easy it is (really) to feel relatively unscathed, 100 miles away. In 2001, 100 miles from the Pentagon and another few hundred from NYC felt way too close, and no one's life (that I knew) went on as normal for many weeks. Again, I know the comparison is inexact, and I don't want to read too much into it. But the fact is I spent yesterday afternoon walking around Oxford as if nothing had happened. And at the moment that seems really wrong, but there it is.

Friday, July 01, 2005

really remote blogging

In England for the summer, not sure how often I'll be posting or reading other blogs, but I'll try to drop in every now and then.

Technology update: it is indeed possible to live without a phone for a week. Not so the internet.