Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Pie Diaries: Month 5

January: Time Travel Pie
(aka Creme de Menthe Pie)

In honor of the beginning of the last season of LOST, I present pie from a bygone era. Creme de Menthe makes me think of 1950's holiday cocktail parties and a time when it was totally acceptable to make an entire desert out of other, pre-packaged desserts. The alcohol content, albeit more symbolic than anything else, evokes a bit of a desperate housewife image. Also, it's green. YES! And although the time tumbling cast of LOST only spent a hot second in the 50's... hell, why not! (Thanks to Brece for the recipe!)

16-18 chocolate oreo cookies, (my aunt used 24 for a 10" pie plate)
1/3 c. melted oleo
26 large marshmallows
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. green creme de menthe
1 c. whipping cream, whipped and unsweetened (believe me you do not need any more sugar!)
2 squares chocolate

Crush cookies to fine crumbs (blender). add melted oleo and mix well. shape into pie pan and chill. mix marshmallows and milk in top of double boiler. stir over low heat until marshmallows have melted. cool to room temperature. add creme de menthe. fold into whipped heavy cream. spoon into pie shell and chill. garnish with grated chocolate and remaining additional heavy cream and/or fresh mint leaves.

(*Oleo?? Clearly I didn't use Oleo. I used Earth Balance. Which is like Oleo but fully endorsed by the Whole Foods Generation. Seemed to work just fine as a replacement.)

Apparently Lee owns a blender! (Which would have come in really handy that time I tried to make a ginger-snap crust a few months ago and ended up making the most pathetic mortar and pestle out of a titanium thermos and a metal bowl. Not even kidding. It wasn't pretty. Or quiet.) The blender crushed those oreos with ease, though, so the crust was completed without insult or injury.

Who doesn't love a good double boiler? It took a while to heat up (mostly because the only other pot i own is a huge soup pot...) but the marshmallows melted quickly and evenly once the water was finally boiling.

Oh man... adding the Creme de Menthe was like adding alcoholic food coloring! I have no idea what kind of drinks you'd make with Creme de Menthe... but that stuff is STRONG! (The color, that is, not the alcohol...) I imagine you have to mix it with a bunch of stuff to dilute it enough to be safe for drinking.

I topped the pie, fittingly enough, with shavings from an individually pre-packaged, mini hershey's chocolate bar after letting the pie chill for several hours in the fridge. And, when served, it was delicious. No seriously. DELICIOUS! I mean, how could it NOT be when it's main ingredients are Oreos, marshmallows, alcohol and sugar?? But, astoundingly, the pie was even better than the sum of the delicious delicious parts. LOST club gave it a unanimous A+ rating, with some members risking missing important scenes to serve themselves seconds! I HIGHLY recommend this recipe to anyone who enjoys the mint/chocolate combination and wooing their friends.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thoughts On Knots

"Down through the ages the tying of knots and the making of rope have played highly important roles in the life of Man. That there has always been a need for rope or cord of some kind can be readily appreciated. Since rope could have served but few useful purposes unless it could have been attached in some manner to the things it was desired to pull, life, or secure, Man, at the time of his first conception of the use of rope, must have conceived of some means of tying knots."

Thus begins the introduction of Raoul Graumont and John Hensel's Encyclopedia of Knots and Fancy Rope Work: Fourth Edition (1942). And although the history given in their brief preface is entirely dated, some interesting tidbits were intriguing enough to be worth repeating here.

The Making of Rope! (as of 1942, remember... Mostly, I just loved the old-school, industrial photos that the book posited as "how to make rope" as if it were the only way.)

Step one: Bales of fiber are put through a series of carding machines that transform the "hemp" into a consistency referred to as "silver.")

Step two: Through multiple cardings, the "silvers" are separated into smaller strands and those strands are spun into yarn.

Step three: Individual strands of yarn (of differing, specific guages) are plied together to make rope.

Step four: Multi-stranded ropes are again plied to create thicker, stronger, finished ropes.

Step Five: Uhm.. this diagram shows more plying? The photos aren't actually labeled all that clearly...

Step six: Finished ropes are wound onto spools to maintain their twist and tensions.

Knots: Symbolism and Superstition

I have found, through my informal investigations of history and myth, that objects with the most important functionalities are often associated with the most powerful symbolisms and superstitions: a correlation that is exemplified perfectly by the history of knots.

One example of this is the Early Egyptian, Greek and Roman practice of omitting knots in any of their artistic renderings. No knot was illustrated in their paintings, even where they very clearly should have been. Instead, rope was draped over the spot to indicate the existence of an absent knot. It's theorized that the reasoning behind this tradition was the supposed relationship of rendering to reality: were the knots to be permanently embodied in art the knot it represented in real life would thusly be permanently tied. Since knots were used as temporary holdings for farmers, sailors, etc. the inability to untie a knot would have disasterous consequences.

Similarly, among the Lapps, certain Germanic races, and the aboriginals of Borneo (as well as other ancient peoples) there was a strong superstition against pregnant women wearing knots or knotted garments. It was thought that the presence of a knot would cause complications during childbirth. In the more superstitious cases, even the husbands of pregnant women would abdicate the wearing of knots until the child was born. In some sections of Scandinavia even use of words related to knots were seen as having great power: parents with a large number of children would often name a son "Knute" or "Canute" (translations of "knot") in the hopes that the name would act as a form of birth control.

Among some European tribes, there was a belief that knots had the ability to either cause or cure illness. One such superstition was that a fever could be cured by tying knots in the bows of a willow tree: one knot for every day of fever. Then by the incantation of certain words the tree would acquire the fever and the patient would be cured.

Witches and Wizards were often considered to be able to control the magical powers of knots. Sailors would go to a witch or wizard to purchase "the wind tied up in knots," embodied by a piece of rope tied into three knots. In an emergency, these sailors were told that by untying the knots in sequence they could release the winds: first a strong wind, then a gale and finally a hurricane. (Apparently, there were risks that came along with the use of such powerful magic.)

Knots have also led to numerous common words and phrases, such as "cutting the Gordian Knot" (a bold and direct way of dealing with a complicated project), knots per hour (the method of measuring boat speed- actually derived from the use of knots) and the literary term "denoument" (a french translation of unknotting or unravelling that refers to the point in a plot where complicated things become clear).

Oh man.. I could go on and on. There are infinite applications for knots, cultural histories that range the globe and span history, even a whole branch of mathematics that deals with "knot theory." I had no idea that by committing to this project that I would be presented by such a wealth of metaphor... which just proves yet again why i love textile so much: The history of our culture, of humanity, is tied up by textiles. (Pun intended.)

**Sources consulted:

Encyclopedia of Knots and Fancy Rope Work: Fourth Edition (1942), by Raoul Graumont and John Hensel

Rigamaroles & Ragamuffins: Unpicking words we derive from textiles (2007), by Elinor Kapp

wikpedia entry for "knots"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Happy New Years and Merry Fun-A-Day 2010!

I've been a little busy lately with grad applications (done! now onto the fafsa... grossss) and other crafty stuff but that doesn't mean I've forsaken Fun-A-Day! (<-- Check out some of the other awesome projects-in-progress at the ArtClash website!)

Fun-A-Day 2010: Knot-A-Day!

Over the summer I met a fantastic artist named Debra Folz who had a contagious infatuation with knots. She had brought a great knot dictionary with her to Haystack and we even used one of the knots on our group project. As the summer wound down a bunch of us decided we wanted to carry the project on into the fall... but... let's just say that none of our momentum stood up to the test of our real lives. Ooops! So when Fun-A-Day rolled around, what better than to pick up where we left off in August?

I actually had kind of a hard time finding a good knot dictionary. The Philadelphia Free Library had alarmingly few and none to my liking... and the internet had surprisingly few diagrams that weren't specifically for camping or fishing. So when I was in Providence last weekend I picked up Deb's dictionary- the same one we had perused so enthusiastically over the summer.

Look at the super cool diagrams!! You know how much I love diagrams... mmmm... Each knot has it's own name and the descriptions are pretty hilarious. Get this one:

"Fig. 60: The Two-Strained Wall or Japanese Granny is formed by walling the strands up through each others parts, as illustrated in PLATE 53, Fig. 2. This is the Japanese method of tying a Granny Knot."

Walling the strands up? What does that even mean?? Nuts. But so much fun!

I love the way the knots kind of look like dna couplets...

My plan is to mount and frame each knot so as to accumulate a collection of well labeled knots for the show in February. How nautical, no? Nineteen days down... I'll keep you updated...