That Which is Bread

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? – Isaiah

A (qualified) lament for the Britannica

Another victory for digital media: the Encyclopedia Britannica will not be printing another edition. Only their online version and some subsidiary publications will continue.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. My reflexive response is to sigh “Another good thing, done gone on.” But I’m very much part of the process that ended the print edition: we have a set of Britannicas on our shelves (bought at a yard sale years ago), and we hardly ever touch them any more. Instead we turn to Wikipedia.

When I read about the Britannica, I briefly wondered whether I should Do the Right Thing and subscribe to their online edition. As an experiment I looked up a couple of items that I’d recently looked up on Wikipedia. In all cases the Wikipedia article was more thorough and, as far as I could tell, at least as accurate. Admittedly the articles were a bit off the beaten path (one was about Yasujiro Ozu), but it made wonder what I’d be getting for my money with the Britannica.

So perhaps the Britannica, venerable as it is, has just been superseded.

The collaborative nature of Wikipedia is what makes it so great, but I’ve found some cases that show the need for caution. I once looked up the Orthodox “Tollhouse” theory of the afterlife on two separate occasions, and found two substantially different articles with two very different slants. Presumably different partisans in this contested subject had managed to seize the controls temporarily.

But then, I think we always need to be careful about any “authoritative” source; the Britannica tends to enshrine the opinions of the authorities who write its articles.

I suspect, too, that the Tollhouse example is an extreme case: the subject is both hotly contested and obscure. I doubt that the Tollhouse entry is as closely monitored (if it’s monitored at all) as, say, an article on the American Civil War or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

So while the news about the Britannica gives me a wistful, mono no aware feeling, I have to admit that the feeling is mostly empty sentiment.

(…and, of course, the mono no aware link in this post is to Wikipedia.)

Roasted Cabbage with Lemon Juice

A friend posted this on Facebook from the Kalyn’s Kitchen blog. We haven’t even tried it yet, but it’s so obviously good that I’m posting it right now. We’ll be eating it next time we have a cabbage in the house.

Preheat oven to 450°.

Cut a whole cabbage into 8 equal-sized wedges. Arrange them in one layer in a roasting pan.

Whisk together 2 Tbsp oil (olive, sesame, canola…) and 2–3 Tbsp lemon juice. Brush the mixture onto the exposed sides of the cabbage wedges, then generously salt and pepper them. Turn the wedges over and repeat.

Roast for about 15 minutes, until the sides touching the pan have browned. Turn the wedges over and roast for another 10—15 minutes.



Fried Rice

This is so simple it could hardly be called a recipe, but it’s tasty. We eat it often. The only caveat: do not use freshly-cooked rice; day-old rice works much better. In Chinese households, this is a standard way to use leftover rice.

Brown rice and white rice work equally well, since they’re already cooked. No quantities are given for the rice or vegetables: they don’t matter. Use what you have, or what will fit comfortably in the pan.

In a large frying pan, heat up some sliced garlic, some sliced ginger, some chopped onion, and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes in several Tablespoons of oil (we add some sesame oil for flavor). Fry the mixture at medium heat until the garlic has just begun to turn brown. If you want a blander or quicker dish, you can skip this step and just heat some oil in the pan.

Turn up the heat (to fairly high) and add chopped vegetables: broccoli, chopped carrots, chopped cabbage, peas, whatever. You may want to use pre-cooked vegetables if you’re adding something that won’t cook in a few minutes.

Add cooked rice. Drizzle some soy sauce over the mixture. While it’s cooking, stir well so the rice gets lightly coated with oil. Keep cooking and stirring till the rice shows some signs of browning.