Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim Thoughts

One of the Purim traditions is wearing masks and costumes, being disguised. Many religions and regions have similar customs: fools' day, tribal dances, Venice, Rio, Mardi Gras, any theater play, and even the Hamas terrorist killing in Dubai.

Now why would we want to be someone else? Why pretending? It's fun, it's a show, but there must be some root cause. Don't know much about tribal dances and African or Polynesian masks, so my take is probably a Western one. We want to be someone else because:
a. We are unhappy being what we are ('If I were a rich man...')
b. We want to do something unaccepted by society
c. We make a living out of it
d. A combination of the above.

I believe religions and early states allowed masquerades as a safety valve for [oppressed] masses. 364 days you do what religion/society prescribes, 1 day you are free to live the dream you cannot fulfill in you daily life.

In fact, we do a little pretending or acting in many mundane situations. We are not behaving the same at work, with our spouses, with our children, with our friends...They all have a different image of us, even though we don't wear a real mask at these encounters, maybe just a virtual one. Our acting was best described by William Shakespeare in his immortal "All the world's a stage" in 'As you Like It':

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Illnesses and Grandchildren

My blog is usually triggered by some event or thought that come to me during the week. During the past week I caught a nasty cold and felt really bad. Although it's very tempting to describe all my symptoms and gain loads of compassion, I won't do it. Why? Because nobody is really interested in other people's illnesses. Besides, only old people and maybe hypochondriacs talk about their illnesses.

My late mother in law's favorite subject whenever she met another older lady -whatever the occasion- was discussing constipation remedies. Need I say more?

Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer had a group of fellow grandmother friends, that used to convene at one of the Tel Aviv cafes. The rule of the group was that each woman is allowed to mention only one illness and one grandchild during each meeting.

Have a healthy week!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Self-definition vs. Reality

Lately, my chorus decided to put up a new website and all the singers were asked to write a short bio, 1-2 sentences describing us. This is mine: 'Apart from singing, juggles between a high-tech job, spoiling the men in her life and blogging her opinions.' I wasn't sure this is a good self-definition, until this Thursday's events.

Tom and I decided that after my therapy in the morning, I call him to to check his location (he was supposed to be on his way home from the base) and if he is less than 30 minutes away, I return home, wait for him, have breakfast together and then leave for the office. This arrangement worked successfully in the past. I called as soon as I left the clinic, but there was no answer. After a few trials I gave up and headed to work. I thought he fell asleep on the bus and hoped someone will wake him up on time.

After about half an hour in the office, my phone rings and shows an unknown caller ID. Tom was on the line. He forgot his phone in the base (asked a passerby to use his cellphone), got home and couldn't find his key.  I'm having a deja vu.  He asks me to come and rescue him (as if I have a choice). Half an hour later, rescue squad 669, aka mom, lets him in and makes him breakfast. Noticed he coughs and has a sore throat. Gave him Vitamin C, instructions for lunch and left for work. Again. After work, instead of going to the gym as planned, went to a nearby supermarket and bought ingredients for chicken soup, aka the ultimate Jewish medicine. Came home and made him soup. "It makes me feel better", he says slurping from his bowl. I'm melting away.

Tom: "Will there be a time when I will rescue you?"
Me: "Hope not."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Romanorum Queribundus Machinator

I admire engineers. They know a great deal about the underlying laws of our world, they apply logic to solve problems, they drive technological progress and make the world a better place. I'm married to an engineer. That's because I can only love someone whom I appreciate and because statistically, many of the good Romanian Jewish boys at the critical time went to engineering  (or medical) schools. (Just like in England they became lawyers, accountants and doctors, in Yemen they were jewelers and singers- of course these are gross generalizations, but that is what this post is about.)

Do you know what do engineers and German shepherd dogs have in common? They both have an intelligent gaze but can't express themselves.

Well, that's one of their downsides. Their social skills could sometimes be lacking, they apply logic to 'soft', human matters, they are not smooth talkers or good writers. A salesman will tell you want you want to hear and even though you know it's not the truth, you enjoy the pleasant atmosphere. There are times we really don't want to hear the truth (like in a romantic setting) and times we absolutely need it (like for home repairs and maintenance).

Many of my friends are engineers, most of them of Romanian origin. They are excellent professionals, but only a few made it to management or business for a variety of reasons: they like engineering, they lack drive and entrepreneurship because of the socialist environment of their childhood, they immigrated late to fully integrate in Israeli society and enjoy the opportunities it offers.

Lately I made a [statistically invalid] observation. They all complain about management in their workplace, mismanagement to be precise. According to them, their managers take poor decisions, are bad leaders, don't have high enough degrees or sufficient experience, request too many progress reports, are involved in office politics, waste time on insignificant issues, are basically high-wage parasites, or all of the above. And of course, they, the engineers could do it better. Just let them put all the problems into equations and crunch the numbers.

Isn't it easier to complain and make excuses than push yourself to become a good manager and prove you can really do it better? Now, before you start hating me, consider my small token of appreciation - a species I made up specially for you: Romanorum Queribundus Machinator.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Food - Advanced Tactics

Even though I cook mostly for weekends, I don't like being too repetitious in the kitchen. Apart from my traditional Hungarian/Transylvanian cooking with some appreciated staples, I like trying out new dishes. With time, my family moved from the frustrating 'have-we-tried-this-already?' to the more encouraging 'wow-this-looks-really-good' attitude. They can't tell me what they'd like, they expect me to come up with the ideas and the precise shopping list.

In a previous blogpost, I described some basic meal planning techniques (searching for recipes on the net and watching the food channel). Still, this entailed deciding what I want or getting an idea from somewhere and then looking it up. Takes too much energy. Lately I've improved my tactic and here I am ready to share my winning formula so far, hoping it helps some fellow meal-planning challenged who like to try new dishes (did you taste spaghetti in beet and poppy seed sauce?).

I start by looking at the recipe columns in the Friday papers. If I find something I'd like to try, a save the paper till I cook the meal, then throw it out. I know it's not clever (Dan is still reminding me of some kind of roast beef  with cherries I prepared for a Passover dinner years ago), but I prefer not saving recipes as this would require  digitizing, storing, indexing, retrieving ... too much energy. I prefer recipes coming to me rather than me haunting for them.

This brings me to tactic number two: following professional food blogs. I know there are many out there, so just pick some you really like. I incidentally ran across (Hebrew) in an acquaintance's Facebook status and liked it immediately. They have really good weekly recipes. Here's an English one too: (less professional than the previous one, sent by a friend of mine mostly for the site's aesthetic look).

The last tactic requires a little more investment: bookmarking really good food sites (like - also Hebrew). The recipes come from many different chefs (yeah, some are too fancy) and they have professionally taken videos as well. The good thing (apart from the videos) on this site is the clickable categories. These allow you to find a soup/salad/side dish/whatever is still missing from the plan. They don't have an RSS feed, you need to register instead - yet another username-password pair I won't remember - so I just check back from time to time. They also have a non-recipe blog I don't have patience for. Just give me the recipes, no literature please.

And finally, here is a little bonus for my Hebrew-speaking readers looking for Hungarian recipes. This page will also take you to Ofer Vardi's site and book. Personally, I never used this blog since I can search in Hungarian, but I saw many positive feedbacks, so I decided sharing the info with you.

And a plea: if you eat something at my table and like it, come and have it again, just please don't ask me how I made it. For some mysterious reason, I prefer keeping it for myself.