Tuesday, November 27, 2007

thank you for this food

Tonight I cooked myself a big dinner of farfalle pasta with chicken sausage, canneloni beans, red kale, and sundried tomatoes. It was delicious, and not that hard to make. I made a big pot of it that produced about 4.5 meals worth of food. This is so excellent and satisfying because if I divide up what I spent on the ingredients, each meal cost less than 3 dollars! And I know exactly what went into it, so I know it's good for me, and it's made with fresh food. Oh, so excellent. ...Also, this was my first time cooking red kale, or kale of any color at all, and despite its scary multicolored leafy look, it's actually pretty mild and tasty when cooked. Yay for trying new things!

Anyway, last week's Thanksgiving extravaganza at the Fernando's house was lots of fun, as it is every year. This year even Andrew flew out to join us for the big gathering of cousins, which also included our second cousins Anjali and Lauren and Amrit, as well as our first cousins, Sanji, Michelle, and Anil, with their various kids. Except Anil, who brought his girlfriend instead, woah. There was turkey, stuffing, lamb curry, biscuit pudding, pumpkin muffins, mulled wine, naptime, movies, trivial pursuit, taboo, football, bowling, beirut, chinese checkers, and shopping. Couldn't forget the shopping with sister Kimmo around. She is kind of too bossy for me, but we managed not to poke each other's eyes out this year. Yay for us.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

chilly autumn air of new hampshire

I spent this weekend in New Hampshire, fighting off a cold and avoiding the wintry temperatures that materialized in frozen ice puddles on the plastic chairs on James's back porch. I was hardly sure when I had kicked the cold, since the sneezing and runny nose persisted in response to the cat hair of Easy. Despite my allergy to cats, I cannot resist hanging out with cats such as James's roommate's cat Easy - a fat, mostly-white, whiny, indoor cat who has found a new purpose to life in the purple mouse toy I crocheted her that now hangs on the high chair in the kitchen. It is beyond hilarious to watch Easy roll onto her back and attack this mouse with her back feet, teeth bared, crazy look in her eye. Oh, lazy cat.

We went to the UNH library this morning to get some homework done, since our Saturday at home was piddled away by cozy fleece pants and movies and snuggles. Not that I didn't enjoy that completely. But anyway, the UNH library has a big study room that reminds me of the Doe at Berkeley, with high ceilings and a row of long tables with lamps. We certainly knew we were not at MIT anymore upon realizing that the room was filled with 85% female students. They wore their typical UNH weekend girl uniform of UNH sweatpants, Ugg boots, grey sweatshirt and a ponytail with a headband. I was seriously the only girl in there in a cable-knit cardigan.

Anyway I think I've got my health back, and just in time for a hockey game against Harvard JV tomorrow night. I can't wait! I have only exercised like twice in the past 2 weeks, and that basically makes me enjoy all my food less, since I feel it going straight into my love handles. I prefer to work out really hard, ~3 times per week, and then feel happy about eating whatever mostly-healthy food I want. With a chocolate-chip cookie here and there. And with Thanksgiving coming up, I might have to throw in an extra run somewhere this coming weekend...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

a feast for a crowd

On our second day in Dhahran, our hosts at KFUPM (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals) took us out to a traditional Saudi meal at a restaurant in Dammam. A bunch of faculty and graduate students also met us at the restaurant. When we first arrived, our host jumped out of the van and came back in to tell the driver to go around the back. I noticed a big sign that said "Ladies' entrance" near the door that we entered. We walked on a carpeted pathway to the door and entered a big receiving room, lined on all sides with couches. Between each couch was a small table with a little dish of dates. The room was the size of a basketball court, but we all took seats around the edges on the couches, and a guy came around with a stack of tiny coffee cups and the Saudi-style coffee pot of coffee spiced with cinnamon and cardamom, or something like that. Coffee and dates, everywhere we went.

It seemed the table wasn't ready for us (we had a group of like 35), so they led us out the back door, around the side of the building on some more carpet pathways, and into another door where there was a big oven where a dude baked circular puff breads before our very eyes. We even got to try some (yum!). Upstairs, we wandered through some kind of museum with old artifacts of SA, and pictures of its history, including one of the King visiting KFUPM on its opening day in the 1960s. On the stairs we passed a couple with a child - the woman was wearing a black abaya with a black scarf and veil covering her eyes. She even wore black gloves. You would think that such strict Muslims would have migrated to Iceland at some point, where such heavy attire makes more practical sense.

The dinner was held at a loooong T-shaped table about a foot from the ground, and we sat cross-legged on carpets to eat. Giant platters of rice with lamb in the center and small plates of hummus, salads, triangular cheese pastries, and drinks beckoned to us, and we ate what we could (after being offered so much food all day long). Dinner was followed by dessert of Om Ali, a regional dessert that debatably originated from Egypt with a story of two wives, one of whom died and the other made the dessert. Details of that story were uncertain, but the dessert was very tasty. Then we were offered small glass mugs of tea as we chatted with the graduate students, who were eager to know what I thought of KFUPM and how it differed from MIT and what advice I had for getting into a place like MIT. They were very courteous and nice, and it was really interesting to hear what their student life is like. Most of them seemed to be from India or Egypt, and one guy from Sudan. They were very enthusiastic about this potential collaboration. I would be interested to know how all the other students at KFUPM would view it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I'm back in town, and totally exhausted. The trip to Saudi Arabia was eye-opening and fascinating. The culture of SA is so different from American culture, and it's incredibly enlightening to actually meet and chat with people who live there, to understand how they think, where they come from, how they live. The unknown is scary and intimidating, but by meeting many people who wear traditional Saudi clothing, with the white headdress and white long shirt and black facial hair, they become people rather than figures on tv.

On our last day we drove out of town to see some sand dunes and camels - they were chillin' by the roadside, eating some shrubbery, with one guy sitting on a tan camel, perhaps a camelherd. They started wandering away from us when we came up with our cameras, but they were pretty amazing to watch.