I'm not sure why, but when I was first introduced to a recipe involving salmon and cream, it seemed like an unlikely pairing. I have since discovered how wrong I am, so I'd like to share two recipes that are meant to be served with pasta.

Fresh Salmon and Cream (thanks to Grete who introduced me to this combination):

Saute some onion in a skillet until soft. Add some fresh salmon, breaking it into small pieces as you cook it. When the salmon is cooked through, add some half and half (or cream, if you'd rather). Cook it down a bit and then add a tablespoon or two of pesto. Simmer until the pesto integrates with the cream. Serve on any kind of pasta (I like it with rotelli).

Fettucini with Smoked Salmon (thanks to LaReesa for this recipe, which I made tonight).

12 oz. fresh fettucini, or 6 oz. dried

1 T. butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

4 oz. white mushrooms, thinly sliced

3/4 c. heavy whipping cream ( I used half and half and cooked a little longer)

3 oz. smoked salmon, coarsely chopped

salt and pepper

2 T. freshly grated Parmesan

chopped fresh parsley

Cook fettucini as per the instructions on the package. Meanwhile, heat medium skillet over medium high heat and add butter to coat pan. When butter stops sizzling, add shallots and mushrooms. Cook stirring continuously until mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes. Add cream and smoked salmon and stir until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat.

Toss noodles with sauce. Top with parmesan and parsley.

1

I kept track of all the books I read again this year. It's a much shorter list than last year's (44 as opposed to last year's 54), in part because I read some pretty long books. Although there's still time to finish more reading before the end of the year--my grading and travel schedules pretty much assure that won't happen. Also, I'm in the middle of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, a book I'm enjoying but one that I don't anticipate finishing any time soon.

The books that I repeatedly recommend to others tend to be non-fiction; one of this year's favorites in that genre was Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts, a fascinating portrayal of the American ambassador to Germany and his daughter's simultaneous (but very different) experiences before World War II. It's such an interesting exploration of how difficult it is to see what's happening in the present clearly. Our ability to assess wrong doing and figure out appropriate responses can be obstructed by passion, love, fear, dishonesty--which makes clear thinking during stressful times all the more heroic.

Another book I loved was Cheryl Strayed's Wild (count me among many others). Strayed unflinchingly describes her own foolishness, yet a dogged persistence to complete a seemingly impossible journey. Her ability to rethink who she is and reset her course in life are remarkable.

The last two books I'll write about are ones that I assigned to my graduate students in an American Indian literature seminar. I'd read them both before, but re-reading them gave me an even deeper appreciation for these writers. Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is a powerful examination of secrets and the ways that who we are can't be defined by gender or biology. Her cross-dressing main character, a woman who lives most of her life as a Catholic priest, tries to document the seeming performance of miracles by a troubled nun.

The other book I studied with my classes was LeAnne Howe's Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story. To be honest, I don't think I really understood the book the first time I read it--I just tried to figure out how the permeable boundary between past and present worked in the fragmented narrative. This time, however, the book made me think about how language can be powerful enough to change how we see the past, allowing us to transform and even redeem ourselves.

Here are the books that have stayed with me this year (in the order I read them):

  • Scott Lyons, X-Marks: Native Signatures of Assent.
  • Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts.
  • James Welch, Fools Crow.
  • Lauren Groff, Arcadia.
  • Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl.
  • Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.
  • Sadiah Qureshi, Peoples on Parade: Exhibitions, Empire, and Anthropology in Nineteenth-Century Britain.
  • Louise Erdrich, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse.
  • Kate Atkinson, Case Histories.
  • LeAnne Howe, Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story.

One possession I cherish is the anthology of Shakespeare’s works that my mother used as a university student. Published in 1927 by The Literary Digest, it is tiny compared to the Riverside edition I used as an undergraduate. The book contains no annotation except for my mother’s name and the date, 1954, so it is curious to me that she held onto the book for so long. In contrast, my Riverside edition has highlights in two different colors and annotations that I am sure are direct quotes from my instructor about theme, character, and context. But my marginal notes also reveal an engaged reader who underlined both lines I loved and passages I thought were important.

I wonder if these two texts demonstrate how annotation is a relatively recent development in reading. I have books that I owned back before I was a university student and remember feeling that it would somehow deface the page to underline words or write in the margins. Perhaps this is because I bought very few books and so transferred my respect for library books to the texts I owned.

1

Recently, I traveled to Norway to attend the American Studies Association of Norway annual conference. This year, the organization worked with Fulbright Norway to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Roving Scholar program, the program that took me to Norway during the 2008-2009 academic year. At the conference, I was able to meet and reconnect with a number of former Rovers. Although our presentations at the conference focused on our scholarly interests, between presentations and at meals, we told stories about our roving. We shared how many visits we'd made, which cities we'd visited, and what we had talked about with students. In some cases, almost 20 years separated our experiences as Rovers, yet we could still connect on some level.

Moreover, we talked about future collaborations--in fact, last week at a conference I attend every year, I had dinner with one Rover, Laura Turchi and her husband Peter (and my wonderful friend Debbie--who merits her own entry--joined us, too) and we talked about organizing a panel for next year's National Council of Teachers of English conference.

There are many things I appreciate about my experience as a Fulbright scholar, but I didn't anticipate how, three and a half years later, this experience would continue to bring intelligent and thoughtful people into my life.

Watch the video I've linked above and help spread the word about Norway's Roving Scholar program.

1

Sight: colorful homes, sparkling water in the fjord, electric cars getting charged, overcast skies.

Sound: ducks quacking, cars zooming, clicking of ski poles for skaters getting ready for the winter.

Smell: damp air, burnt coffee close to the coffee factory, sewage smell in a couple of spots.

Touch: cool air, light mist of rain.

Taste: bread and cheese at the end of my walk.

1

Recently, I took two of my nieces to San Francisco for a weekend. They have become experts on Korean pop music--mostly from reading tumblr blogs and watching videos on youtube--and their enthusiasm was infectious. They spoke with confidence about the companies that produce K-Pop, the bands, the cultural practices unique to this genre of music. Needless to say, my newfound enjoyment in Korean pop is linked closely to my love for my nieces . . . but I find that I also really enjoy its dance/movement and stylistic choices. Here's one of my favorite videos that my nieces introduced to me:

We listened to bands like Super Junior, 2NE1, and Big Bang all across northern Nevada and as we descended into San Francisco. We also went to the closest thing we could find to a Korean section of the city, namely Japantown. Oddly enough, I'd only driven through that area, never walking around the plaza, streets, or malls that are in that part of town.

The highlight of the entire trip proved to be lunch at a place called Seoul Garden. My nieces really wanted to try Korean barbecue and this restaurant proved to be a great introduction. We chose bulgogi (beef) and we all really loved it and the banchans that are served with each Korean meal, yes, even, nay especially, the kimchi. We also enjoyed the process of creating ssam: extracting the meat from the grill on our table, placing it on a big piece of romaine with some of the banchans, and then creating a packet of meat/veggies that we ate by hand. It was a fabulous meal.

If you'd like to know more about Korean barbecue, you might watch this Eat Your Kimchi video which features a pork version (start at about 2:25 if you want to go straight to the food portion of the video). You could also watch the series The Kimchi Chronicles on Hulu to learn more about Korean cooking.

Seoul Garden

1655 Post Street

(inside mall, second floor)

San Francisco, CA

Today I attended a dance performance at the Oslo Opera House. I was intrigued by the description, a combination of Indian dance and music with Norwegian Black Metal. I bought a ticket, not quite sure what to expect.

Right from the start, the performance captured my attention. The narration explained that the Hindu call our current era "the time of darkness," a description that was echoed by the music of Vreid. The band members took the stage with their frenetic music, energizing the audience but also creating a serious, even somber tone. As two Indian dancers took the stage, there was a shift, but the shift was one of degree rather than tone. The dancers' movements, their use of their bare feet to drive the urgent rhythm of the music provided a continuation of the energy and chaos that the band had created. To this point, the performance was good, but with the emergence of Rukmini Chatterjee, the dancer who was also the choreographer, the performance took on layers of meaning that I didn't anticipate. Chatterjee is a mesmerizing presence; she communicates a strength and power that more than stood up to the driving rhythms of Vreid's music. Moreover, Chatterjee's facial expressions, which at times included eyes turned up so far that only the whites remained, reinforced the theme of darkness at the heart of this piece. Her strength combined with the anguish and pain that are part of both the ethos of heavy metal and the Hindu prophecies about the contemporary moment.

As the performance continued, I thought about the events of the last year in Norway, in which the issues of immigration and the shift to a more culturally diverse society have been key. Certainly one outcome of these challenges to Norwegian identity could be continued violence and conflict. And Questionings most definitely does not posit a "happily ever after" ending. Rather, it does what great art should do: provoke, challenge, and reveal. Yet, the piece also embodies the artistic and even philosophical shifts that can emerge from cultural collisions. As Norway deals with the aftermath of the events of June 22, 2011, it can live up to the stirring reaction of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg which drew from the traditions that have made Norway the home of the Nobel Peace Prize . . . or not. At least for me, that's what Questionings made me think about, in part, because it illustrated the ways that two strong cultures/traditions can be maintained side by side and even fused together in ways that don't lessen the power of either.

Chatterjee has a long relationship to Norway, according to her website, but she's from India and is a resident of Paris. Her work over the past decade has combined Indian dance with other types of music like flamenco and hip hop. I'm not sure what her intentions were in this collaboration, but, in my opinion, it was an incredible performance, one that I'll continue to think about.