Archive for October, 2008

October 3rd 2008
Retro recipie attempts at “the good old days”

Posted under American history & art & childhood

Erica at the good old days has given another recipe of the American culinary past an (undeserved) try.  For some reason, every time I click on over to the good old days, I think that Rose at Romantoes would really enjoy this blog.  I have a feeling that we both grew up on the same cuisine, found mostly in 1950s, 60s, and 70s spiral-bound cookbooks assembled by church auxilliaries and women’s clubs.

This week’s treat?  Orange Velvet Pie.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, frankly Erica, I think there was a good reason that this pie was illustrated with a drawing that recalls the abstract expressionists (above left).  Because the actual pie?  Well, it looked like this instead (see the slice at right.)  Her verdict?  “The taste and consistency is exactly what you’d expect from orange juice, whipped cream, egg whites, and a bit of gelatin. But the amount of ingredients and work required for is crazy, considering that you would get the same result with orange Jell-O whipped and folded with whipped cream”  (Come on, Erica–Cool Whip would be more authentic!)

You’ve got to check out the rest of her entries under “retro recipe attempts,” which are mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, interspersed with a few very brave attempts at early American cookery from The Accomplished Cook: or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery, which went through at least two editions in seventeenth-century London.  (The earliest edition I found was 1660, and I also saw a 1685 edition cited–but don’t trust me, this information is just from a lazy google search of the non-peer reviewed internets.)  Don’t miss especially Erica’s attempts at “Jellied Boullion with Frankfurters” (see left–please tell me this is an artifact of wartime rationing) and “MOR cheeseburgers,” in which we learn that there was once a canned meat even more disgusting than SPAM.  Perhaps the strangest of all was a recipe for a sauce for New England boiled dinner made of canned creamed corn spiked with mustard, horseradish, and pickle juice.  Man, I want what those in-house Del Monte home-ec experts were smoking when they came up with that one!

Hey–wait a minute.  My department’s fall potluck picnic is tomorrow–where can I get my hands on a can of MOR?  I could dice it up and throw it in a crock pot with that “Swedish meatball sauce” made with a jar of grape jelly and a jar of mustard mixed together.  That would really impress the team.  (But I suppose the only place they stock MOR any more is in some undiscovered fallout shelter…)  Maybe I’ll bring the baba ghanouj and veggie tray after all.

What makes roasted eggplant dip inherently more appealing than canned meat?  Nothing, really.  I’m sure most Americans in the 1950s would have found baba ghanouj disgusting and/or too embarrassingly ethnic and connected to memories of family poverty.  It reminds me of when I made an offhand comment about historical dramas on TV and in the movies in a recent post, and how the costumers and makeup artists never get historical hairstyles right, and Sisyphus explained exactly what that is.  Ze wrote, “historical shows/films never use period-accurate hair if they want you to find the characters sexy. Hair is so tied to the vagaries of beauty and how really culturally specific they are.”  I think food is at least as freighted as hair as a vehicle for displaying a culture’s tastes and values–perhaps because it too has an even more intimate relationship with our bodies than purely external fashions in clothing, furniture, or architecture, for example.

My favorite essay on food, culture, and class is M.F.K. Fisher’s “The Social Status of a Vegetable,” originally published in Serve It Forth (1937), and available in a variety of reprints of her books and essays.

UPDATE, 10/5/08:  Rose at Romantoes has a post up about depression-era foodways.  She wasn’t kidding about her parents saving food products for decades (see her comment, below.)  Rose, you might propose a Hathaway House Museum of the Twentieth-Century!


October 2nd 2008
Peer Review: editors versus authors smackdown edition

Posted under jobs & publication

Last spring when I posted on the vagaries and arbitrary nature of the peer review process for publishing journal articles and books, we had quite a conversation.  Here are two articles that address peer review for journal publishing from both sides:  an editor of a top journal in her field, and a professor who appreciated her helpful comments but wanted to remind editors of their responsibilities in upholding the integrity and professionalism of the process. 

First, Lynn Worsham, the editor of a “quarterly journal of rhetoric, writing, culture, and politics,” gives a number of common-sense how-tos for submitting one’s work to a scholarly journal.  I especially like her first point:  make sure that your work is suitable for the journal in question, and (paraphrasing here) indicate that you’ve at least skimmed one or two recent issues.  (I always hit the 10-year backlist of a journal heavily so that I can read and appropriately cite some of the journal’s articles I may have missed.)  This jibes with my experience serving on and chairing search committees:  having to evaluate totally inappropriate job applications that were clearly fired like grapeshot from a cannon, instead of tailored to address our specific job ad and qualifications.  I totally get where she’s coming from.  Worsham boils it all down helpfully to a list of bullet points:

  • Familiarize yourself with the types of articles that a journal publishes and only submit work appropriate for that journal.
  • Pay close attention to the tone and style of work published in the journal and try to duplicate it in your own work.
  • Follow, religiously, the style guide used by the journal. No hybrid styles!
  • Only submit work that you believe to be final, publishable copy. A poorly proofread manuscript wastes your time and mine.
  • Placing your work in the context of articles previously published in the journal is good scholarly practice and helps make your article a better “fit” for the journal.
  • Follow the journal’s submission rules — exactly.
  • Develop a healthy attitude toward rejection. You know from the outset that competition is fierce, so maintain a positive attitude.
  • Next, Kevin Brown in “What Professors Want from Journal Editors and Peer Reviewers,” compliments Worsham’s article, but addresses the frustrations on the other side.  For the most part, his righteous complaints boil down to lengthy delays in the peer review process, and editors who don’t communicate with authors about the status of their manuscripts.  But perhaps above all, he warns editors and manuscript reviewers to respond with constructive criticism instead of nastiness when rejecting articles.  He writes, “[W]e know that editors will decide, for whatever reason, that our submissions should not be published in their journals. However, that does not give them license to insult either our work or us. In speaking to friends and colleagues, we all have horror stories about responses from editors and readers that are nothing more than ad hominem attacks or a dismissal of ideas because of the readers’ particular view of a work.”

    He then relates a personal brush with evil, in the form of an anonymous (natch!) peer review:

    This type of response can be especially problematic for graduate students and professors just beginning in a field. When I was in graduate school, I submitted an essay on Edith Wharton to a journal. The essay was the best one I had ever written, as far as I could tell, and I was eager to begin participating in what I hoped would be my future discipline. I attended a college, though, where professors never discussed publishing, so I had no knowledge of it before I entered graduate school. Not surprisingly, the journal turned down the essay and rightly so, as it was certainly not the caliber of writing that editors should expect. However, the response has stuck with me for years, as the reader simply wrote, “This is a good essay, for an undergraduate.” When I tell that to most people, they are surprised that I stayed in the profession and that I ever submitted anything again.

    Ouch! That “undergraduate” comment was entirely gratuitous.  What an a$$hole.  Brown continues: 

    As professors we are not afraid of a healthy debate about ideas, and we seek honest feedback on our work. However, insults, whether directed at those ideas or at us personally, have no place in the critical debate. We would never allow our students to write essays using some of the responses I have seen from readers, nor would we write those comments on our students’ papers.

          *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      * 

    What professors truly want is constructive feedback that will make them better writers, thinkers and researchers. If, especially in our early days, we have somehow overlooked a seminal work (or a work that a reader at least believes is seminal), or have faulty logic, then, please, tell us so, but do so in an effort to make us and, therefore, the discipline, stronger.

    UPDATE, this morning:  Um, Kevin Brown (and everyone)–please avoid use of the adjective “seminal.”  It’s just, well, eeeewww.

    Historiann will once again renew her call for all peer reviewers to sign their reviews rather than hide behind anonymity, although she’s sure she’s vox clamantis in deserto.  (For those of you who don’t read Latin and/or didn’t go to a Bible college or Catholic school, the rough translation is “pissing up a rope.”)  Anonymity on the part of reviewers is cowardly and encourages bad behavior (like that on the non peer-reviewed internets, by the way).  Clearly, people write differently and give different advice if their identities are known, so cowgirl up and sign those reviews.  As a very wise cowgirl once said, “[i]t’s a rigged system, but we can each make the process a little fairer and a little more transparent for each other.”


    October 2nd 2008
    Progress, at last!

    Posted under GLBTQ & happy endings & jobs & local news

    Here’s some good news (for a change!)  My employer, Baa Ram U., will begin offering domestic partner benefits to faculty and administrative professional employees on January 1, 2009.  Moreover, it was decided by a unanimous vote of the Board of Governors.  So, we can all rest assured that if CAM the Ram (at left) has a Ram partner, they will be insured equally.

    Maybe I’m entirely wrong that this state isn’t rapidly changing.  (But, let’s not get carried away by foolish optimism, shall we?)


    October 1st 2008
    Introducing our Fall and Winter Collection, 2008

    Posted under Dolls & fluff

    This post is just a bagatelle for my Barbie knitwear fans.  Looks like the girls have a trip planned–where will they go?  What will they do?  Will they bring along a knit bathing suit, if there’s a pool at their hotel? 

    I kind of like that ensemble on Blonde Barbie, at right, although I could do without the flowers–they remind me of the Christmas jumper Mark Darcy dares to wear in Bridget Jones’s Diary.  Sometimes it’s a fine line between something you’d see in your Anthropologie catalogue, and one of those kitty-cat or Christmas tree appliqué sweaters…


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