Sunday, November 22, 2009

American Thanksgiving and Receptionista Montreal's Birthday Turkey

So on the basis of my Thanksgiving turkey from earlier this fall, I have been commissioned to roast one for my friend Receptionista Montréal, whose birthday roughly coincides with American thanksgiving(her family are from L'etats Unis). She has been having big feasts for years, with sometimes upwards of a hundred people. This year is relatively small at 40 persons.

I bought two fresh birds from Boucherie Notre-Dame. I ordered them Wednesday and it was fresh from the butcher's cold room this morning.This is more expensive, but eliminates the need to thaw. I delivered one to Receptionista and the other to my fridge. I will be interested in comparing the two, as she is much more experienced at this than I am.

Stuffing: 425 grams of plain bread crumbs, a small onion, a few cloves of garlic, 1 and 1/2 chorizo sausage, cranberries, savoury, nutmeg, cup of vermouth and 2 cups of water and the zest of a lemon.
Cook sausages and set aside. Saute chopped onion until translucent, add garlic, nutmeg and savoury. Add vermouth and water and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat, add lemon and breadcrumbs. Transfer to a non-reactive(glass or ceramic) bowl. Let everything chill in fridge over night( putting hot stuffing directly in the bird will promote food poisoning). Mix in sausage and cranberries and stuff bird.

Gravy: I sauted the giblets and neck in olive oil and lots of garlic. I added savoury to the pan, then a little black pepper and fleur de sel (sea salt). I then added a cup of red wine and a cup of cold water and boiled it slowly to a reduction. I combined this reduction with pan drippings to make the gravy.

Start: 11:40- 67C/375 F- Bird goes in, loosely tented with foil, in a commercial foil tin supported on a cookie sheet. At 20lbs, the bird is too big for my big roasting pan.

First basting check: 12:40pm(T+60mins) Looking good, but not much in the way of fluids yet. I bast the bird with olive oil, return the tented foil and pack the bird back inside the oven. I lowered the temperature to 325F. A quick synthesis of internet sites indicates 375 is too hot. I lower the temperature to 67C/325F.

Second basting check:13:18 (T+1:39) lots of fluids, so I bast with them. There is a debate as to the need or efficacy of basting. Next time, I may start the bird tented, then cover in pot, to retain juices without basting, then open and bast for the last 45 mins to get the nice dark golden finish.

Third basting:13:50(T+2:12) More fluid, and the odour of roasting bird is present. I try to get fluids into the stuffing, to add to flavour and to get a hot center, cooking the bird well from the inside, as well as adding to juiciness.

Fourth Basting:14:17(T+2:39) added some Fleur de Sel and black pepper. I am afraid the bird may be roasting too fast. My original estimate called for 6.7 hours at 20 mins per pound. However, other charts indicate a 4 1/2 hour time. I might lower the temperature if this seems likely. If i finish at 17:00, I can let the bird rest in the car while I head over to the venue Receptionista rented.

Fifth Basting:14:48(T+3:10) A quick review of the National Turkey Federation website suggests it will take 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours to cook a 20 to 24 pound stuffed turkey. So estimate 5 hours, plus 30 minutes rest in covered pan. I lowered the temperature to a hair above 300F. The bird can rest in the car on the way to its destiny.

Sixth Basting: 15:20(T+3:41) Still juicy, and I have photos to document this phase of the cooking.

Seventh Basting: 15:47(T+ 4:08H) Bird progressing nicely. It smells like a roast turkey- I hope it will be done at 17:15- ready to be served at 18:00.

Eight Basting:16:18(T+4:39) Continuing at 300F. I debated adding some brown sugar to the pan drippings, to aid in caramelising the exterior of the bird. It is browning-up nicely, however, so I'll leave it as-is.

Ninth Basting: 16:41 (T+ 5:02) Juices from the meatiest part of the leg are running clear- this bird is a go! I popped it in for one more cycle whilst I reduce some of the juices I extracted from the pan, combined with the giblet/red wine concoction I did earlier. I'll add a little thickener, then pack kid and turkey into the car and over to Il Motore.

Last post: 17:00 (T+ 5:21 ) I started the gravy, intending to add the remaining pan drippings so as not to waste them, or invite spillage on the trip over.

In the photo: Just out of the oven...

It was cooked just right- the thighs were just cooked, the breast juicy and tender. The exterior was a golden brown. Receptionista fielded a lot of compliments because it was assumed she did both birds. I am a little proud my turkey compared favourably to her wonderful turkey.

And Lake of Stew showed up and played, lured to the party by Bob, Receptionista's beloved hubby.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Torture:When we get credible, substantiated evidence, we act.

says Minister John Baird. This ignores Richard Colvins' testimony that the Canadian government permitted policies that allowed it to feign ignorance that this was going on. Despite Mr. Colvin's obvious competence and the confidance the government has shown( He was second in command of the embassy in Afghanistan and most recently Charge D'affaires for Intelligence in the Washington embassy) Minister Peter McKay questions his sincerity and competence.

This is a far cry from the spirit of government's Accountability act, which was supposed to protect and promote whistle blowers. Of course, this government fired the bureaucrat who originally shut down Chalk River as unsafe(Chalk River was reopened then shut down again, this time for a couple of years worth of repairs).

The ability of this government to spin is based on the principle that you only have to fool 38% of the people at elections to win. The dearth of effective policies coupled with a depraved emphasis on PR suggests it will take a truly horrendous show of misfeance or malfeance to get these charlatans out of office.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Study notes; Eames chairs and grad work

I posted recently, as a FaceBook status, that the experience of grad school is made smoother by having a certificate in office techniques and technology (I haven't got one). Being able to type, manage paper files, and keep the IT stuff working smoothly is a boon to what amounts to maintaining a private research office.

The other important elements were a taste for reading(5 hours a day is a minimum), a good laptop(with good back up system so an HD crash doesn't eat your work) and an Eames Lounge chair, like the picture here. A classic of modern design, this lounge chair was designed by Charles and Ray Eames. Mine isn't as good a replica, because it doesn't have the cast aluminum feet of the image, but it has the comfort. I can read and type in comfort. Two hours last night were great, reading, sipping a beer and thinking about my work.

My copy was a kind gift, and needs reupholstering, but it is so comfortable. I have wanted one since I was eight years old. I saw a picture back then in a book on home decoration, and fell in love with it. It is one of the few times I have been so impressed with an object.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To seek higher education

After being in and out of school, since I was 5 years old, and working as a teacher in some capacity or other for most of the last decade, I assert;

Education will benefit you; A particular college diploma, not so much. What's the difference?
If you are willing to work and really want to know, if you are truly curious about what you are studying and like spending time with other people who 'geek on' your area of study, you will benefit from the opportunities. If you have those qualities, your success will reflect on your efforts, regardless of your educational credentials.

"Most college courses teach few useful job skills; their main function is to signal to employers that students are smart, hard-working, and conformist. The upshot: Going to college is a lot like standing up at a concert to see better. Selfishly speaking, it works, but from a social point of view, we shouldn't encourage it."
-Bryan Caplan, associate professor of economics at George Mason University
When BA's were rare, and demanding, they signaled a useful set of liberal arts skills; reading, writing, critical thinking. They also typically involved a high degree of collegiality- team building- as well as intellectual discipline and motivation. However, the calibre of students is declining because those qualities are assumed, institutionally, and not intrinsically developed. However, anyone who reads a large number of student essays knows those qualities are lacking in about half of the students.
"Research shows that there generally is a negative relationship between state support for higher education and economic growth. Sending marginal students to four-year degree programs, only to drop out, is a waste of human and financial resources, and lowers the quality of life for those involved".
- Richard K. Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and professor of economics at Ohio University

Skilled trades pay as well or better than all but a few jobs supplied by a BA education. A BA is, after all, really preparation for grad school. It was supposed to mark a stage in education, that would lead to the holder to write books that would be read by high school graduates, so they could learn something without having to devote the time to research. Of course those were the days when public high schools imposed discipline, and their graduates could perform higher maths, read Latin, speak intelligently about history and geography in both their own language and another modern language. The article that got me blogging this morning, "Are Too Many Students Going To College?" seems to overemphasise the necessity of a college education and assume that high school would achieve little.
"Rather than proclaiming College for All, we should be stressing High School Completion for All, emphasizing that such completion requires either college readiness or readiness for sustained employment—or for the combination of the two that has become so common."
- W. Norton Grubb, professor of policy, organization, measurement, and evaluation at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Education

I am happy to have sacrificed the money, time and energy I have into my education. Probably in the same way as in Buddhist countries, people leave their jobs for a time, don the robes of a monk, and walk around begging, praying and meditating. It may benefit their minds and souls, but it is not a good way to make money.

"Employers are accelerating their offshoring, part-timing, and temping of as many white-collar jobs as possible. That results in ever more unemployed and underemployed B.A.'s. Meanwhile, there's a shortage of tradespeople to take the Obama infrastructure-rebuilding jobs. And you and I have a hard time getting a reliable plumber even if we're willing to pay $80 an hour—more than many professors make."
-Marty Nemko, career counselor based in Oakland, Calif.
I guess much of the problem in framing this debate is that educators, social scientists and policy analysts are typically college educated, so it is difficult for them to conceive that trades people, small business owners and those educated other than in four year colleges could be happy and/or prosperous.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Disturbing H1N1 vaccination side effects

Montreal- Health care providers in Montreal are reporting an increase in irate behavior and paranoia as side effects of the vaccinations against the H1N1 "swine" flu.

" Its very disturbing" says public health nurse Marie-Claude Baguette "normal people are demanding to see the 'space aliens ' who make the vaccine". Other reports include people who have claimed to glimpsed American president Barack Obama eating a poutine while chanting magic incantations over a batch of vaccine at an H1N1 clinic in Hochelaga-Maisoneuve. Requests for a response as to Mr. Obama's whereabouts were not immediately returned by his press secretary.

Typically, reported symptoms are an increasingly loud voice, hectoring demands as to " Who came up with this system" and " Do you know who I am?". A sullen silence may follow along with general peevishness. Attempted cue jumping has also been attributed to H1N1 vaccination.

On the positive signs, recovery is imminent when the afflicted person says"Maybe I should have paid more attention in science class."

-Between Adam's Ears

External Links:

Pandemic Quebec

A Short History of Conspiracy

Richard Hofstadter; Conspiracy Denier

Sunday, November 01, 2009

We have evolved to reject evolutionary theory; The Irony of Creationism

A friend of mine told me I should(as should all MA's) read promiscuously; That is to say, not only course-related or even discipline-related literature. So I am thinking about the social response to evolutionary pressures.

Darwin saw that overproduction and limited resources create a struggle for existence in which some organisms will succeed and most will not. He also recognized that organisms in populations differ from one another in terms of many traits that tend to be passed on from parent to offspring. Darwin's brilliant insight was to combine these two factors and to realize that success in the struggle for existence would not be determined by chance, but instead would be biased by some of the heritable differences that exist among organisms. Specifically, he noted that some individuals happen to possess traits that make them slightly better suited to a particular environment, meaning that they are more likely to survive than individuals with less well suited traits. As a result, organisms with these traits will, on average, leave more offspring than their competitors.
-T. Ryan Gregory "Understanding Natural Selection: Essential Concepts and Common Misconceptions" Published online: 9 April 2009

Gregory, a biologist at U. of Guelph, made me think about how certain behavioral traits have different evolutionary advantages. And how these same traits might yield attitudes resistant to how evolution works, or a least as how

Recent economic theory looks at how notions of fairness channel our decision-making process. Thus if you offer people two buttons, one which gives themselves fifty cents and a stranger fifty cents and the other button gives themselves a dollar but a stranger gets four dollars, many if not most people press the first button. This seems to be a hard wired response for fairness, that has also been found in Chimpanzees and other anthropoids.

Classical economic theory expects people to press button two, because the reward for the button presser is twice that of button one. Now, evolutionary theory describes how individuals don't matter, as long as someone gets to reproduce. This idea is appalling to people who seem hardwired for fairness. Why should Jack have kids and not me? Why should his genotype be more evolutionarily successful. It's not fair, from that perspective.

Of course, our responses are more nuanced and generally less reflective. As social creatures, much of our ability to survive and reproduce is predicated on traits of cooperation and trust. Societies that lack that seem to be less successful than others. The biggest strongest, most dominant male is likely to be assassinated by a group of friendly males, if the 'alpha's' leadership starts getting in the way. The neo-nazi idea of a single genotype as being the best is both foolish spacially, because many different people successfully have children who in turn reproduce, and it is foolish temporally, because different strategies for survival and reproduction are successful at different times. The diversity of people offers a diversity of strategies to cope with a constantly changing environment. The facial features of the Inuit are more resistant to snow glare and frostbite. The diversity of hair colours among northern Europeans arose from women trying to attract mates during a period in the last ice age that killed off a lot of men. Apparently, blonds and redheads are declining in numbers because hair colour no longer confers an evolutionary advantage.

So the survival of the fittest is proven by one's ability to pass on one's genes. That idea appalls others who tend to see themselves as equal to others. So much resistance to evolutionary theory may lie in a trait that helps humans reproduce and survive. The natural process that we refer to and theorise as 'evolution' doesn't care (at the risk of ascribing agency to a natural process) any more than oxygen cares if we breathe it in as O2 and out as CO2. The fact that we care arises from evolution.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster