Tag Archives: life of refinement

Janelle Monae & 500th post

This is the 500th post on life of refinement.  I’m proud of the non-linear series of artifacts gathered here that point toward new understandings.  I use this web site to archive interesting things.  Meaningful things.  This is a curation of the rambling series of artifacts and patterns of representation I find significant enough to be marked and analyzed in a free open public space.  This is as close to learning as we’ll ever get.

Thanks to all who read the website.

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I knew of Janelle Monae and appreciated her music but only had singles in my library.  Inspired by a Wax Poetics write up, I bought a copy of “The Electric Lady” last night.  With two full listens into the album (barely enough to comprehend what is going on) I’m sold.

This project is wonderful dance music and a really good concept album (or an extension of a concept album to multiple projects — Monae plays an alter ego pretty consistently).   The record is an extended riff on technology, cyborg/human interactions, civil rights and living life with dual identities.  Given that “The Electric Lady” could be a Phillip K. Dick novel, the smooth inviting production and musicianship is what carries the project.

This albums sounds VERY eighties to me.  From the sonic structure and choices of beats/samples to the rock opera lyricism of the concepts.  At points I was reminded of my nostalgic childhood filled with Styx, Heart, Bon Jovi and Run DMC.    The strings sound eighties.  The drums sound eighties.  Even the vocal harmonies remind me of eighties hits.   But the eighties were a point of technological jump off and the slight broadening of pop music.

I like the futuristic world that Monae is painting.  And the willingness to build futuristic pop music out of the sonic blocks of the past.  Astute Monae names tracks after inspiring pioneers: “Sally Ride” (astronaut) and “Dorothy Dandridge Eye’s” (first black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award).

In the context of the blog, I’ll quote the end of the “Dance Apocalyptic” when Janelle Monae says: “I really really want to thank you for dancing to the end.”   Thanks for reading and dancing ’til the end.

 

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Seitan: refined

Swiss chard, mashed potatoes, fried seitan and vegetarian gravy. Everything is Humboldt locally grown except the flour.

 

The life of refinement is about making things better.  It takes practice for most of us to get good at the things we want to do.  It requires that we try and try again in order to achieve our goals.

So I’m back in the flour aisle of the health food store looking for vital wheat gluten to make seitan.  There are thousands of flours that have the gluten removed, but only one brand of wheat gluten.  Casual evidence that the  anti-gluten side is winning in the gluten vs. non-gluten wars.

For the second time around I pick up up some Bob’s Red Mill vital wheat gluten.  I don’t usually promote any brands on this website, but I think Bob’s is a fairly positive corporation, and the dude gave his flour factory to the workers.   Not to mention if you are out in the boonies and don’t have access to a local health food store to buy vital wheat gluten, Bob’s will mail you a bag.

STOCK

The basis of my stock is usually a browned fond — onions, oil and flour.  Cook the three on a lowish heat with regular stirring to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

As I added vegetables for the stock, I cooked it down with a little white wine each time, reducing and then browning each time.

Thinly sliced carrots, cooked down until the pan was browning and then douse with white wine.  Then I added a couple local potatoes (chopped with skins!), browned and then added more wine.  Repeat with chard stalks, and then I added oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, chili powder (personal preference), and some chili flakes.

What you get is a thick goo — a seasoned foundation for a vegetable stock.

I added water to almost an inch of the pot.  Dropped a giant frozen nub of ginger into the soup, and added some soy sauce and a spoon of miso to taste.  I let it sit for a while, just simmering while I made the seitan.

SEITAN

Last time I felt like the dough came together too quickly and not all the flour got moist at the same time.  The seitan was tough, and I knew I wanted a more loose dough.  I wasn’t sure if the broth I added to the seitan was too hot or if didn’t add enough broth at one time.

So this time I put the flour in a wide bowl, added recommended herbs from the package and stirred the whole thing gently with a whisk.   Concerned that the stock might have been too hot last time (potentially cooking the dough strands into seitan before kneading), I chilled two cups of stock.

This time when I added the cool broth, the seitan was a joyous mass of juicy chewy-ness within seconds.  I made sure everything was moist and stirred together and let it rest for ten minutes.

I’ll acknowledge my chief conspirator in this experiment, my sweetie who happens to be an artisan bread baker.  With decades of dough experience, I asked her to knead the seitan.

I strained the stock and after a quick rest (another ten minutes), I chopped up the dough into slices and slipped it into the simmering broth.

I let it cook for an hour or so, and then shut it off.

The result was pretty tasty.  The seitan is tasty by itself, rich with the broth and a little taste of flour.  This seitan is wonderful to fry, staying moist inside while getting a crispy exterior.  Next experiment is to try to bread and deep fry seitan — make a nugget so good that I don’t want to share it with other people.

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Filed under do-it-yourself, food, learning, vegetarian