Chocolate Marquise [Daring Bakers]

This month’s challenge looked overwhelming (and very, very egg-heavy) at first read, but was actually a pleasure to make and eat. Not that I didn’t f*** up part of it – my meringues were downright bizarre – but the showpiece (the chocolate marquise) and the caramel accompaniment were delectable. They were a hit among my friends, including B., whose birthday it was and who got a candle plunked into the the middle of his marquise square.

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

A marquise is similar to a semifreddo or even ice cream, except that it relies more on egg yolks and eggs than cream to give it its velvety texture. The custard is made by pouring in boiling sugar into a frothy yolk/egg mixture, and a chocolate base, this time with some cayenne and pepper for some extra zest, is added at the final stage for flavor. I personally think folding in the whipped cream wasn’t absolutely necessary, but it did give the marquise a bit of a rocky-road like appearance.

I also loved the tequila (OK, I used mezcal, which we had just bought in Mexico) caramel, which I drizzled onto the plate under the marquise. My meringues were just too odd and burnt from the broiler, more like toasted marshmallows. I thought I had had almonds at home and was planning to make the spiced almonds accompaniment, but I didn’t end up having them after all. They would have added a nice touch, but they were optional and I was under a bit of a deadline.

My favorite freaks: the nut-hating nutter

Walking up Market St towards Castro, crossing Octavia Blvd.

In front of me, a very short, bespectacled homeless woman, carrying her sleeping bag, muttering to herself. She basically looks like a shorter version of Fran Lebowitz. Equally neurotic.

“I don’t like Brazil nuts. (mumble mumble) I don’t like Brazil nuts. I don’t like Brazil nuts. (mumble mumble) I don’t like Brazil nuts. (mumble mumble)…”

This continues until we reach the Gay and Lesbian Center. She stops. Reaches for the door handle, but then stops herself. Continues walking.

“I don’t like lesbian Brazil nuts. (mumble mumble) I don’t like lesbian Brazil nuts. I don’t like lesbian Brazil nuts. (mumble mumble) I don’t like lesbian Brazil nuts. (mumble mumble)…”


My other favorite freaks: the screaming BART station lady and the crazy cat guy

Loathesome homophobe Keith Rabois is Square’s COO

Keith Rabois - self-loathing homosexualProof that in the world of new media, previous transgressions that prove that you’re a bigoted asshole will not necessarily be held against you. Keith Rabois works at Square, the credit card gadget for iPads and smart phones.

Mr. Rabois, in what he later characterized as an attempt at demonstrating the importance of free speech, harassed a Stanford professor while he was at law school there, repeatedly calling him a gay slur and, Ayatollah Khomeini-style, wishing death upon him. (“Faggot! I hope you die of AIDS!” and “Can’t wait until you die, faggot.”)

The irony? If my (notoriously accurate) gaydar is right, Keith is as queer as a $3 bill. Of course, this should come as no surprise to anyone who’s witnessed the hypocritical implosions of the likes of Ted Haggard and Larry Craig in recent years.

And judging by the childish defensiveness of some of his tweets, Keith might be hiding more than his sexual orientation. His 4th-grade Twitter bravado is the electronic version of a penis car.

UPDATE: Loathesome self-hating homosexual Keith Rabois no longer works at Square. Why? He married a beautiful young woman and took a year’s paternity leave to take care of his baby children.

Of course I jest. He hired some boy toy guy, sexually harassed coached him, and then was sued by this young man (ingrate!). He was then hired by Bill “Falafel” O’Reilly Vinod Khosla. We wish Mr. Keith “Faggot” Rabois all the best!

My disenchantment with Christianity, encapsulated in a Twilight Zone episode

I was raised Catholic, but by the time I entered college, had abandoned Christianity altogether. I went through a long period of being “nothing in particular,” identifying as atheist and agnostic, while dabbling in Buddhism and (more) Taoism, before finding my spiritual home in Judaism.

Before you start worrying, this post isn’t going to try to get you to convert to Judaism. Jews don’t do that!  Judaism is not a proselytizing religion (i.e. it accepts converts, but does not go out to seek them). Something else that Judaism is not is dogmatic. This is an important distinction that undergirds my choice to leave Christianity.

Christianity (and Islam) are dogmatic religions; that is, they have a dogma, or a set of required beliefs. If you don’t believe something required (that Christ is your savior), then the religion threatens you with eternal punishment.

Think about what this means. You are required to make yourself believe something, under threat of punishment. Think about how difficult, if not impossible, that really is. Jesus is always scouring your thoughts, trying to detect any doubt and send you down to the 9th layer of Hell if he finds any. This is little more than mind control.

I’ve been watching the Twilight Zone recently, the original series created and hosted by Rod Serling (unsurprisingly, a Jew) and saw this episode last night (“It’s a Good Life” – part 1part 2part 3) . The whole “think happy thoughts!” and “put it out of your mind!” attitude displayed by the perennially frightened villagers captures the essence of Christianity to me. The cornfield is nothing more than the threat of hell.

When people don’t feel the freedom to let their mind explore, much less say out loud or print an unconventional opinion, they are in prisons of their own making.

Thor – more Hollywood garbage

Maybe I’m just getting old.

We just saw Thor last night. After seeing the trailer the previous weekend, I had no interest whatsoever in seeing it. Then my partner said it got 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. I begrudgingly agreed to go.

By the time we got out of the theater, the RT score had dropped to 78%. And that didn’t even include my panning of it!

Here’s my unorganized thoughts on this trainwreck of a movie:

  • You have to be a brainless meathead to appreciate the one-dimensionality of the plot. Seriously, no nuance, nothing that makes you think, nothing clever whatsoever. A three-year-old would roll his eyes at the storyline.
  • Hollywood has GOT to stop emphasizing this Mormon idea that the fairer you are, the more morally good you are. You can just know who the good guys are by the color of their hair and skin nowadays (I think the Karate Kid was the last movie to run against this paradigm, and that was about 30 years ago). Orphan was the last movie that reminded me of this (the dark girl with the foreign accent tries to kill the blond, blue-eyed American girl…really?!)
  • The cast is 99% white, with one token black guy and one token Asian guy. OK, maybe because it’s about Norse mythology, and no one is more lily-white than the Scandinavians. Except that one Asian god. And they make both the black and Asian guys’ eyes lighter.
  • I’m not sure why a Norse god of the Middle Ages speaks modern British English with the occasional Victorian turn of phrase. Maybe the actors can’t pull a Scandinavian accent off? And why do Norse gods use English as their native tongue?
  • A clever FX budget-saving technique: throw in a lot of “camera movement” and noise during the fight scenes, so people won’t realize the animation is cut-rate. I noticed this in Iron Man 2, too. Wasn’t that a Marvel film, also? Hmm….
  • Just because a character on the screen laughs at his lame joke doesn’t mean we’re obligated to laugh at it, especially when it’s not even remotely funny. I know this is a matter of social conditioning, but still. And just because it’s delivered with a British accent doesn’t mean it’s wit.
  • It’s not unusual for Hollywood to pick a female lead because she’s pretty, even if she lacks any charisma or acting talent. Maybe we should be celebrating the objectification of male leads with Chris Hemsworth’s casting as Thor as a milestone. Great body, not much else. Oh, crap, I forgot about Matthew McConaughey.
  • Was the pressure of having delivered an Oscar-winning performance in Black Swan just too overwhelming for Natalie Portman, that she had to act in something brainless next? Or did she have a mansion in the Caribbean that she wanted to buy?
  • You might wonder if Kenneth Branagh’s directing skills are what ultimately made Emma Thompson divorce him. I did. Thor is as overrated as Dead Again was.

If you think my lambasting of Thor means I hate everything out in the theaters right now, you couldn’t be more wrong. I really enjoyed Source Code, and The Adjustment Bureau wasn’t half-bad, either. But Thor is going to make me trust my instincts about all other Marvel movies I see trailers for. (And the Captain America one I saw looked absolutely ridiculous)

Wislawa Szymborska – A Hundred Comforts (Sto Pociech)

Let me dust off my rusty Polish skills and translate one of the poems of my favorite poet, Wislawa Szymborska, who won the Nobel Prize in 1996. (Sorry, had to convert all the Polish letters to their closest English equivalents, since WordPress fucks them all up…)

Sto pociech

Zachcialo mu sie szczescia,
zachcialo mu sie prawdy,
zachcialo mu sie wiecznosci,
patrzcie go!

He wanted some happiness
He wanted some truth
He wanted some eternity
Just look at him!

ledwie rozróznil sen od jawy,
ledwie domyslil sie, ze on to on,
ledwie wystrugal reke z pletwy rodem krzesiwo i rakiete,
latwy do utopienia w lyzce oceanu,
za malo nawet smieszny, zeby pustke smieszyc,
oczami tylko widzi,
uszami tylko slyszy,
rekordem jego mowy jest tryb warunkowy,
rozumem gani rozum,
slowem: prawie nikt,
ale wolnosc mu w glowie,
wszechwiedza i byt poza niemadrym miesem,
patrzcie go!

He could barely distinguish dream from consciousness
He could barely guess that he was himself
He could barely carve a hand straight out of a fin, a flint and a rocket
Easy to drown in a teaspoon of the ocean
Not funny enough to laugh at the emptiness
He only sees with his eyes
He only hears with his ears
His speech personal record is the use of the conditional
He criticizes reason with reason
In a word: almost nobody
But in his head, freedom, knowing it all, and existence beyond just unintelligent meat
Just look at him!

Bo przeciez chyba jest,
naprawde sie wydarzyl
pod jedna z gwiazd prowincjonalnych.
Na swój sposób zywotny i wcale ruchliwy.
Jak na marnego wyrodka krysztalu
-dosc powaznie zdziwiony.
Jak na trudne dziecinstwo w koniecznosciach stada
niezle juz poszczególny.
Patrzcie go!

Because he probably does exist, doesn’t he?
He really did come into being
Under one of the less sophisticated stars.
In his own special way quite full of life and jumpy
Like the poor outcast of a crystal, quite seriously curious.
Like in a difficult childhood in the needs of the flock
He stands out in not a bad way
Just look at him!

Tylko tak dalej,
dalej choc przez chwile,
bodaj przez mgnienie galaktyki malej!

Keep on going on, but only for a moment
Just a blink of our small galaxy!

Niechby sie wreszcie z grubsza okazalo,
czym bedzie, skoro jest.
A jest – zawziety.
Zawziety, trzeba przyznac, bardzo.
Z tym kólkiem w nosie,w tej todze,w tym swetrze.
Sto pociech, badz co badz.
Nieboze. Istny czlowiek.

You have to wonder how it will eventually turn out,
Who he’ll become, what he already is.
And he is – stubborn.
Stubborn, you have to admit, very.
With this ring in his nose, in this toga, in this sweater.
A hundred comforts, if nothing else.
The poor guy. A real man.