Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Labor of Love

While in college I took a Sci-Fi / Fantasy Fiction class in which my professor loved to illuminate the symbolism in each of the tales we read. To him, Little Red Riding Hood’s cloak could not simply be red, it was a tale about a little girl’s fear of her approaching menarche. The whole point of Red’s journey was to bring sustenance from her mother to her grandmother and to hopefully avoid all the temptation of the forest. Although I could not get as excited about the sexual symbolism, what rang true for me was the idea that in fairy tales & fables, food = love. I could see how this symbolism carried over in to everyday life, how the act of creating a meal for someone else was an act of love and a desire to nourish and care for someone else.

With that said, nothing says love like homemade tamales. It was also fitting that Meghan and I would be making such a dish on the weekend in which she shared with us some fantastic news ♥ ♥  !! We started with a pork tamales recipe, but swapped out the meat for yams and kale. 

After a tasty breakfast of banana french toast, we cleared the counters and started in on our day of tamale making. We decided to double the recipe so we would have plenty of goods to split even after our feast. We made the chili sauce, then the filling and masa, meanwhile soaking the husks. In retrospect we decided we might have made the filling and sauce ahead of time since we had already been cooking about 3 hours when we sat down to start assembling all the tamales. 

Spreading the masa (Rainier is optional, but very helpful)

Adding the yam and kale filing

Wrap and seal the edge with a tuck

Fold the end up

Tie with a strip of husk

Put in steamer open end up

Production line


The foundation for a good tamale is all in the spreading of the masa. You must leave enough husk to fold up and tie. There must also be enough masa to create a seal at the seam so the filling does not leak out. It wasn't until the second batch of masa that I felt I had figured out how to get the desired result. 

We lined the steamers with corn husk and set our feast a-steaming, while we finished off the rest of the masa into tamales that were headed straight for the freezer. After an hour and a half of steaming we pulled them off the stove and let them rest for 7 minutes. Only then, after 6.5 hours in the kitchen was our labour of love complete and ready to serve.

This is love...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Patching for the soul

Jayme asked the other day if I knew how to patch pants. I smirked inwardly since, unbeknownst to him I used to be the queen of patched pants. Dana and I used to religiously search the Goodwill for holey 501s. They needed a patch or two right from the start, but before long they were almost more patches than pants. The patches were always functional, but it was also important that they were fashionable as well. Selecting the right thread color was almost as important as the fabric. But as I patched Jayme’s jeans, the object was just the opposite, the less visible the better.

Why do we patch, mend and darn in a culture where it is so much easier and often not much less expensive than just buying new? Frugality and environmentalism are the forerunners, but more often than not the bottom line for me is attachment. I develop some sort of emotional attachment to the item and am not ready to let it go. Which makes me realize what an art there is to repair. You want to strengthen and reinforce something that is fragile, but also beloved. If you add too much you jeopardize the emotional connection to the item –perhaps they no longer feel or look the same. But if you do not augment them enough, you are at the task again before you know it.
So I reconstructed the back cuffs, gusseted the crotch and patched a couple thinning spots of his favorite jeans and now they are back in action. I hope I have not tipped the balance with my mending since the goal here was maintaining and not adorning. Whether the art of patching is aimed at invisibility or art, the result of breathing a little more life into an object is still satisfying. It felt like one small act in fighting the good fight against the consumerism of our throw-away society. Patch-on.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Folkdräkt: The History of Folkdress and the Birth of the National Costume

As recently as 1830 Sweden was still an agrarian society in which each region had very distinctive characteristics. From home design, to furnishings, cuisine and dress, each region had a specific style in which all of its inhabitants partook. The dress was in fact enforced and since every province had its own style of dress, a worker from Angermanland was easy to identify when he came to work in Stockholm down to the very town of origin. Soon after the Industrial Revolution dress edicts disappeared and within a generation folk costumes faded out, in favor of individualism.

In 1900 Märta Palme came to Tullgarn Castle, which was the home of the Crown Princess Victoria of Baden. Due to the Princess’ Nationalist convictions, she required that the female staff and herself wear folk costumes. Märta Palme wore a version of the costume that belonged to the region of Vingåker-Österåker in the province of Södermanland.

This introduction to folk costumes led Märta to head up the Swedish Woman's National Costume Association in 1902. Section one of its by-laws states: "The purpose of the association is to bring about a liberation from the domination of foreign fashion among Swedish women through the introduction of a more common use of national costumes." The national costume, which she referred to as "Din Svenska Dräkt," was to have its origin in the folk or peasant costume. And by 1903, Märta Palme Jörgensen had fashioned a costume for all of Sweden, which she described in a series of articles in the magazine Idun. “We need strong colors in the peasant costume. They have an invigorating effect on our senses - and they are necessary as contrast to the deep, green pine forest and the cold, white snow."

Shortly after the First World War, eagerness for the National Romanticist waned and the Swedish Costume fell to the way side, (though Märta Jörgensen wore it religiously until her death in 1967). She did not live to see the Folkdräkt revival of the 1970's, nor to see her costume popularly accepted as the official National Costume when Queen Silvia wore it on the first National Day, June 6th, 1983. While the Regional costumes are presumably only to be worn by inhabitants or descendents of a particular region, any Swede may wear the National costume, with pride. 
The costume consists of a blue linen dress with a high bodice embroidered with white marguerites, a white särk, or smock/shift is based on a man's wedding shirt from the early 19th century, a yellow apron with a blue panel embroidered with marguerites, and a blue belt. Black shoes and stockings are worn. The costume is finished off with a pewter brooch and matching belt clasp. Many women wear a huvudbonad (or head covering) that is a bit reminiscent of the flying nun's wimple. 

Folkdräkt are commonly worn for celebrations such as Midsommar, National Day and Lucia Festivals. Folkdräkt are held on the same level as a parade uniform, but can be used on less formal occasions as well.

My National Costume was a gift from my very dear friend Inga-Marte Ahman, who was also a great resource in learning about folkdräkt.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Devil Pants!

With every couple I know having a baby, I needed to branch out from the standard baby hat into something more interesting. I had the pleasure of talking shop with my building's resident knitter extraordinaire, Andrea of AndreaKnits and she recommended baby pants. I was hesitant until I saw how cute they are.

These Devil Pants call for a superwash knit on 3's, but I decided to go with Cascade's 220 superwash and get a faster knit. I made some adjustments for my switch in gauge. I wish I had bound off a stitch or two and then picked it up, rather than made such a large hole, as the pattern called for. I also chose to switch to seed stitch for the last inch, rather than make a seam.

I made these as a practice round for creating my own monster pants pattern. I started charting it as I knit in the same Cascade 220 superwash. I think they are going to be bigger than intended, but I know a couple little cuties they will fit.