Monday, June 28, 2010

FS gourmet

So, I've been on something of a cooking kick lately.  It all stems from the fact that I really quite enjoy food, and I tend to associate it with times, locations, and emotions.  When I last lived abroad, I spent the better part of a year craving bagels every day, and there are at least three online international groceries that have saved regular orders for me.

So, knowing this, I decided to prepare ahead of time for what would eventually be quite an extended time away from the united states.  Basically, I figured it would be a good idea to learn to make everything I enjoy from the barest possible ingredients.

So first, I started with cookies.  Easy enough, I know, but it's hard to find "your recipe", especially when you're baking at altitude.

Then I moved up a little: Pizza, soft pretzels, ice cream, and oreo cookies.  The ice cream turned out very well, if I do say so, both with and without egg yolks.  Here's a bit of my "hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows" batch:

Today marked my most auspicious "from scratch" experiment yet:  Mexican food.

Since I'm devoted to doing this all from scratch, I started with long grain rice, pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, a pork loin with a leaf of pork fat, some flour, and a block of cheese.  I'm looking into making the cheese from milk, but that's pretty involved.

So, in short, I learned a good deal.  I learned how to render lard, how to roll out tortillas from dough, how to cook legit Mexican (Spanish) rice, and how to beg the Hispanic ladies at my local taqueria  to share their secrets with me (cumin!).  It honestly turned out great, though every time I try a recipe I file away mental notes of how to improve it next go around.  First suggestion for next time? Open the windows when you render lard.  It is delicious stuff, and good for you, too, insofar as any fat can be good for you, but it's hard to get the "insides of a pig" smell out of your nose for a few hours afterward...

The next step is homemade bagels, fritos, and tacos al pastor.  Hopefully I'm not being too optimistic in thinking I'll have the time, inclination, and available heavy cream overseas to keep this up.  In any case, this kind of exercise seems like its own reward.  I need something to keep my skill up before I attempt pomegranate caviar again, anyhow...

Thursday, June 24, 2010


So, friends, it's that time again.  Since A Daring Adventure handed the mantle of the weekly roundup over to the community, we've had a number of very talented folks take the wheel and pilot you all through the twisty, tumultuous world of State Department Blogging.  Alas, that run of good luck ends here.  But have no fear - you're not paying for this roundup, and the odds that you'll some day have to work with me are pretty slim.

So without further ado, let's begin!


The blogging world was abuzz (like with bees) this week over the resignation of General McChrystal from his position, following a muckrakey article in Rolling Stone.  He is pictured above in a rare, tight-lipped pose.  The gist of the outrage appears to be threefold:

1) He was quoted as saying some disparaging things about The president shortly after his appointment (despite his personal political beliefs, allegedly)

2) The White House is of the opinion that he leaked his classified performance review.  The pentagon disagrees, but I could see how that would rankle someone.

3) He was pretty indignant and outspoken about civilian leadership (as in, you know, POTUS) in the Rolling Stone article.

Our trusty State bloggers weighed in as well, helpfully.  Patricia at Whirled View noted that "McChrystal was sowing the seeds of mutiny", and was very pleased with the civilian leadership's response. agrees with her.

Other bloggers were not as pleased with the president's actions, though sometimes for different reasons...


Also in world news this week, vuvuzelas!  or, as some people refer to it, the World Cup.  Being from America, I personally have limited interest in soccer, but my goodness does that apparently change once a man acquires a little culture! 

Many folks, like "The Uncommon Life", watched some games relevant to their country.  Apparently, all of FSI was pretty wrapped up in the triumphant USA vs. Algeria, and Digger was caught in the middle.

Apparently, this victory means that the USA won their group, or so Matt at "Mountainrunner" informs me.

All this is wonderful news, as it's certainly easier to follow a sport at which your country excels.  Check back come Olympics season, and I'll be full on rooting for us.  Until then, do bear with me, as I cautiously morph from someone who still says soccer to someone who says "Futbol" and "American Football" without a slightly shameful look upon my face.


As the FS is constantly a life of transition, many of our compatriots are involved in moving in, moving out, and moving around.

Zoe at "Something Edited" discovered that she has finally reached the correct number of children for her UAB allowance, and has 520 pounds of joy soaring across the world for her.

EF'M and Dinoia are also packing out, with varying degrees of success.  Hang in there, everyone, I hear that those boats almost never sink with all your earthly posessions aboard!

 A few more FS hopefuls (like yours truly) are moving ever closer to their own packing joys and nightmares, as "Lawyer, Nurse, Diplomat?" got her security clearance, "Around the world and back again" passed the OA, and "the b files" made the CON register!  Congratulations to all of you, and may we meet each other sooner rather than later.  May we all be in the same position as "Adam and Jill", who received their Bid List this week! 

Rock Star in Dhaka is packing things as well, and bemoaning a lifestyle that hampers her shoe collection.  I wholly understand, even though all my shoes would definitely fit in a few freezer bags in an overstuffed suitcase.

And speaking of shoes, "A Daring Adventure's" wonderful husband James© got a gift he had evidently been anticipating eagerly:

Congratulations, James, and welcome to the club!  Mrs. V and I are proud members, and can almost fit our little toes into the slots in under 5 minutes now.


Thankfully, part of going abroad is coming home again, and a number of our bloggers are in the process of doing just that.

Of course, moving back stateside comes with its own difficulties, which are often all the more troubling because some part of us continues to believe they shouldn't happen.  "Girl in the Rain" is experiencing just that, and admirably well.

The Perlman Update is back in California, and loving it.  Reports have her and her two adorable children at Disneyworld, which, by virtue of their inclusion of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, remains the happiest place on earth.  She neglected to mention their trip on said wild ride, but I'll chalk it up to excitement.

Email From The Embassy is also back home, and is additionally kind enough to guide us through some of the difficulties associated with flying your life entire life around.  Best of luck to you all during re-entry (or reverse culture shock, or whatever you prefer), and you are all in our thoughts as you come to terms with what would appear to be the passing of a truly beautiful dog.  If there is one constant in life, it is that nothing is better than a dog.

...even if that dog has to pretend to be something it's not... (Foreign Service Tails)


Aside from the incontrovertible truth about pets, it would seem that FS life holds few constants, aside from "change" (ha ha).  Some bloggers, for instance, find themselves visiting the original Legoland (absentee voter).  Others, like "Avuncular American" find themselves starting new, amazing, awesome jobs in old, amazing awesome places. 

Others, like "A Slow Move East" can recount amazing tales of gender segregation abroad, and how it can be used to curious effect.

Some try new foods, as "Mobile Home" did.  Well, I guess some take pictures of more adventurous classmates trying new foods (for shame).  Others crave foods that were once new, but are now staples, and apparently risk ruining all of their clothes in the process (For Lack Of tacos).  Seriously, I had never even heard of Chinola, and I'm something of an omnivore, but now I want some SO. BAD.  Look at these things!

(okay, apparently they're also known as passion fruit.  still, passion fruit margaritas?  yummmmm)

And with all that new food comes new calories, which necessitates new workout regimes.  Digger runs a 5k every day or two now, apparently, and "Beau Geste, Mon Ami" thinks about doing same very hard.  Now "Destination Unknown" has assumed the responsibility of getting from the couch to the 5k, as it were (or p90'ing the x, or whatever the kids do these days), and applause are in order.  We'll see if Mrs. V and I's recent attempt to echo their successes... well... succeed.

Through all of it, though, the FS seems to inculcate in many of us a very extended sense of family.  For that reason, and many others, the entire internets breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as we found out the Schipanboords are alive and well and cancer free.  Amazing and wonderful, and I speak for everyone when I say that we could not be more thrilled.

Now go and explore, and do report back.


Friday, June 4, 2010

An Ethical Dilemma

Mrs. V and I have a biweekly ethical dilemma brewing, and I imagine it will always present itself in one form or another.  Friday, you see, is Bible Study Night.  Friday is also debauchery night, going way back.  Being the chaste man that I am, Bible Study Night usually wins out, but, alas, this week was never meant to be.

My thesis advisor (I know, right) invited me out to play at some charity poker tournament tonight, and I really want to take his money.  I billed it as a "networking opportunity" to Mrs. V, and she ate that up. So, instead of meeting with friends and discussing the discipline of solitude, I'll be meeting up with a room full of individuals who started the night caring about the poor, and will end the night poor themselves.

I have this mental picture of the foreign service, and this night plays into it perfectly.  In my head, weeknights as a PD officer will constantly be divided between two extravagant galas on either ends of an exotic, remote capital city.  I need to be present at both, but even my excellent driver (named Pagoda in my head) can not manage to get me to both places, so I have to choose.  Which event will I attend myself, and which will be privileged enough to have me represented by my beautiful wife?  I know from reading blogs that this is a hopelessly provincial and naive view of how things go, but little delusions like these keep me motivated, so don't you dare burst my bubble, comments section.

Oh yeah, hey, we also got our Med. clearance this morning.  One down, one to go!