Dumpling Soup

Last night I had a dream that I was making a dumpling soup.

So today I made one.

Until very recently I’ve never used anything more than a few tablespoons out of a bag of flower for a roux or a thickener. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of very flower-centered work in the kitchen, despite not having had a working stove for the entire six years that I’ve lived here (see “Tyler Durden’s House,” 15 April 2007). But tonight was the first time I’ve ever made anything that required me to knead and allow rest.

My first product requiring kneading, 28 July 2009

I could almost hear Alton Brown’s voice explaining the formation of the gluten structures and the importance of the right balance of kneading and rest to texture.

Anyway, cut off spoon-sized pieces, ball them up, drop them in the boiling pot and violà:

Boiling dumplings in soup, 28 July 2009

Dumpling soup.

Sweltering Rain

A hot, wet night in Washington, D.C., 23-24 July 2009

It alternated scorching heat and opaque, battering summer storms all day today. The monumental buildings may mislead that this is the seven hills of Rome — the Potomac is our Tiber, or perhaps given it’s inaccessibility, our Chao Phraya — but after you’ve lived here for a while there’s no mistaking it: the heat, the damp, the vegetation, the smells of decaying plant gonads, the short primitive trees, the cicadas: Washington, D.C. is a swamp.

Space Rendezvous

Okay, so my posts on Apollo 11 have been a little Stanley Kubrick-esque. In the film 2001 (Wikipedia | IMDB), the proto-human throws a bone into the air where it is suddenly replaced by ship engaged in an elaborate docking maneuver with a rotating space station, set to Strauss’s waltz, Blue Danube. It is one of my favorite scenes in all of cinematography because of its purely aural-visual implication of the technological continuum from the first tool through the most unrecognizably advanced, and then, in the dance of space ships, the humaneness of otherwise inhuman machines .

On space maneuvers being like dance, here’s the official NASA Apollo 11 Spacecraft Commentary from the radio broadcast of the mission explaining what’s going to happen during the docking maneuvers of Command Module Columbia and Lunar Module Eagle (APOLLO 11 MISSION COMMENTARY, NASA, Manned Spaceflight Center, Houston, TX, 7/21/69 CDT 13:40, GET 125:08, 413/1, p. 466):

In all of these maneuvers Mike Collins aboard Columbia is spring loaded to do what is called a mirror image maneuver approximately a minute after the Eagle is scheduled to make its maneuver, and if for some reason Eagle can not make the maneuver, Collins would do the exact same maneuver only in reverse so that Columbia would in effect begin a CSM active rendezvous with Eagle.

The dance analogy seems apt here because, like Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire, Michael Collins had to do everything that Buzz Aldrin did, only backwards and in a command module.

Apollo 11

At 20:18 UTC / 4:18 PM Eastern time, Lunar Moduel Eagle landed on the surface of the moon. Six hours of checking over instrumentation, preparations and suiting up ensued. At 02:56 UTC / 10:56 PM Eastern time, forty years ago, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the Lunar Module and became the first human to walk on the surface of a planet other than the one on which he originated.

The clichéd original “Yes we can” refrain aside, I often reflect on the fact that humans have been to the Moon and find that I can hardly believe it. And we did it forty years ago. It’s a feat I would be hard pressed to imagine we could do today, and yet we did it forty years ago!

This is a picture of a human walking on another planet:

20 July 1969, Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon

This is a man in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

Three and a half million years earlier, humans looked more like this:

Australopithecus afarensis depicted in the Laetoli footprints diorama at the Natural History Museum, New York

This, a hairless ape, set out to explore the universe forty years ago.

This is a picture of a lander vehicle and an interplanetary vehicle conducting docking maneuvers in orbit around another planet (the Earth can be seen 384,403 km away in the distance):

21 July 1969, Lunar Module Eagle as seen from Command Module Columbia

We have actually constructed vehicles for the purpose of flying to other planets, and other vehicles for landing, and those vehicles have done so, and conducted maneuvers in orbit around another planet. There are people among us who know how to do this: engineers who can design and construct the vehicles, physics who can plot the course and lay out a mission plan, people capable of piloting the ships. It’s hard to believe.

That it has been forty years since we have done such a thing seems like a bit of a fall. What must it be like to be one of these people, a relic of the future?

Frenetic Fojol Cusping on Celebrity

It’s been a big couple of days for the Fojol Brothers. Thursday was their weekday lunch debut and they were back again on Friday (I parenthetically hedged, though they said right there in their tweet that it was their first weekday daytime appearance).

Fojol Brothers, Lamont Park, Mount Pleasant, 19 July 2009

Today they were in my neighborhood on the corner of Lamont Park in Mount Pleasant. And it was quite a show. There are two new Fojol sisters, Mewshah and Bhujaja. The AcroFiends were there, just to eat though, Peter / Kipoto, girlfriend in tow, was there out of costume as it was supposed to be his day off from Fojol.

Kahn, Howie, "Keep On Food Truckin'," GQ, August 2009, p. 34

On Thursday they told me that they were getting profiled in GQ. On Friday Justin / Dingo had the issue with him and they got the introductory page to a whole piece on food carts in various cities.

Seattle's Maximus Minimus pig truck

As is often the case with such articles, it’s somewhat arbitrary in selection. For instance, I have no idea how GQ could have missed Seattle’s mind-bogglingly tricked out Maximus Minimus (website | twitter).

After wrapping up in Mount Pleasant today, the Fojol Brothers tweet that they will be at Eastern Market all day tomorrow.

Our Odyssey

Countdown to launch of Apollo 11, Firing Room 1, Kennedy Space Flight Center, 16 July 1969

NASA is currently streaming the complete mission recording of Apollo 11 in real time in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing.

It feels appropriate to listen to an Apollo 11 cycle, so to speak. This is a performance of an incredible history and a true adventure. This is our Odyssey. The Iliad and the Odyssey were typically performed over three nights. Apollo 11 was four days from launch to touchdown on the Moon (16-20 July 1969; splashdown back on Earth 24 July). John F. Kennedy, Wernher von Braun, Neil Armstrong are our Homer, Agamemnon, Akhilleus and Priam.

I have heard it explained that part of the reason that Joyce’s Ulysses is such a pastiche is that he was trying to cram all the language of Dublin into a single work. Similarly, this week I was talking with some people about the way that David Foster Wallace appropriated the languages of commercial communication, technical writing, bureaucratic memoranda or the casual writing of e-mail to the purpose of literature. The language of our Odyssey is not Dublin bar talk, lyrical poetry or bard’s tale, but bureaucratese, engineering-speak: gage readings, mission book codes, equipment test reports, pre-burn checklists. Instead of the lyre and drum, we have the harmonics of white noise — a combination of the cosmic background radiation and electromagnetic interference of the communication and recording gear itself — and the synthetic electronic beeps of computers.

Fojol Do Lunch

Fojol Brother Peter Korbel, weekday lunch in front of the IMF building, 16 July 2009

Fojol Brothers had their first (at least since I’ve been following them) weekday lunch. They parked at the corner of 19th and Pennsylvania Avenue, at Edward R. Murrow Park in front of the IMF building, necessitating a bit of a hike on my part, but always worth it.

While ordering, Peter (above) told me that a picture of me was included in their write-up in Brightest Young Things (Nicholson, Alex and Dakota Fine, “Hitting the Streets With: Fojol Brothers of Merlinida,”, 13 July 2009). This is not a surprise since they asked if I would pose for a food shot. I’m the guy in the bike helmet in the first large photo. Oddly enough this was my first time catching the Fojol Brothers. In the photograph accompanying my first post on the Fojol Brothers, I think that the guy in the foreground turning around to look back is Dakota Fine, the photographer for the Brightest Young Things piece.

I think that the Fojol Brothers have so far been limited to nights and weekends by their other commitments. I hope this is an indication that things are viable enough where they’re going to be doing it a lot more.