Sunday, March 25, 2012

New thing #22: Pinterest

Pinterest is the hot new social network, but when I first checked it out I thought it was dull. It looked like a site for wedding planners, fashion merchandisers and the little girls who want to be their clients one day. But one by one my friends and family joined the site and invited me to follow their pins. I tried to resist, but resistance was futile. Late one night while on the road, huddling in the middle of the bed fighting jetlag and trying not to pick up some random hotel room DNA, I succumbed. 

Some people use the pinboards to chronicle their life, the places they've been and things they love. Some use it to inspire, pinning positive thoughts, exercise routines and books they want to read. Others use it to lampoon, like the clever series of fake Mitt Romney boards. 
I use it to collect recipes.

I have always been obsessed with collecting recipes! I have dozens of cookbooks and online recipe boxes, a drawer full of recipe clippings, a stack of foodie magazines and several bookmarked celebrity-chef websites. I rarely actually get around to using any of the recipes, but I do like to have them at my fingertips. And Pinterest offers absolutely the best way to organize them. Every recipe can be categorized on boards any way you like, easily recognizable by a pretty picture, and linked directly to the recipe source. It's OCD heaven.

But now I can't stop pinning recipes. I want to collect them all! And I want you to repin them and think I'm wonderful for finding it first! In fact, I got so hooked on pinning and having stuff repinned, I started to branch out. I started experimenting with those inspirational sayings, creating them in Powerpoint and uploading them to this blog, one at a time. Then I pin them on Pinterest and see what kind of response I get. It's quite a sociological experiment. Uplifting thoughts generally get a little reaction. Snarky sayings are usually repinned immediately by a dozen or so people. But by far the biggest and most positive reaction (well over 400 people) has been to the picture I found and posted about my pinning obsession. Seems like I'm in good company.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New thing #21: DIA Detroit

I've been to museums all over the world, but somehow I've never made it to the one in my backyard. That's why I've wanted to make sure I got to the Detroit Institute of the Arts during this experiment. The DIA's collection is considered one of the top in the US, and is known for its quality, range, and depth. It's housed in a gorgeous building flanked by white marble wings, located in the cultural historic district north of downtown.

We had kicked off Daylight Savings that morning by having brunch with The Boy, so he joined us as we headed downtown. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was a Ford Free Sunday, meaning that everyone got free admission to the DIA thanks to a sponsorship from the Ford Motor Company Fund.

"Sea Boots" 
by Andrew Wyeth
With more than 100 galleries, we knew we would not get to see everything in a single trip. We started in the Prints and Drawings gallery, where you could use magnifying glasses to appreciate the fine details in the "Once Upon a Time" storytelling exhibit. From there we paused for a moment to listen to some pretty good music from the Scavenger Quartet, then headed to the Photography gallery which featured an exhibition called "Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010", with over 50 photographs chronicling the decade. We made sure we didn't miss the "Detroit Industry" fresco cycle by muralist Diego Rivera (a 360-degree tribute to the city's manufacturing base and labor force of the 1930s) and the armor collection of William Randolph Hearst lining the main hall. It was fascinating to see weapons over 400 years old that still looked pristine. We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the abstracts in the contemporary art gallery - those are my favorites - and the works in the Modern Art gallery. I was glad to see some of Andrew Wyeth's work featured, so realistic you felt like you could pull on those boots.

The museum is clean and bright, with several interactive exhibits and plenty of staff on hand to answer questions.  We had a great afternoon there and I look forward to returning to see some more of the treasures.  We did make a quick trip through the gift shop on our way out, but managed to avoid the considerable allure of the seatbelt purses and handblown glass vases that caught my eye. And on our short walk back to the car we passed the Science Center and the Scarab Club. I haven't visited either of those yet, but they'll have to wait for another day of New Things.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New thing #20: Mexican caviar

mmmm.... larvae
A recent trip to Mexico offered the opportunity to complete the trifecta of tasty New Things I'd been experiencing in February. My colleagues there are wonderful hosts, and invited me out to dinner at a lovely restaurant in the historical center of their city. We enjoyed the warm night seated on the terrace, where we could soak up the ambiance of the Plaza de Armas under twinkling lights. Live music serenaded the people who strolled by, and a fountain bubbled in the distance.

Cool and refreshing Mexican beer soon arrived along with bowls containing chiles or sweet limes, baskets of tortillas and a variety of breads. Starters appeared on the table, including cheeses, melon, prawns, mushrooms, and a delicacy called Sopes de Escamoles, which are little fried masa cakes topped with 
"Mexican caviar" - perhaps more commonly known as "ant larvae".

Yep, that's right, tiny little embryos harvested from the woody roots of the agave plant where ants make their nests. Tonight ours were roasted and served over fresh guacamole spread on small, dense hand-shaped corn tortillas. Actually I was pretty excited to eat something that sounded so unpleasant. I think I was more nervous about eating the guacamole, which I don't really like.

I squeezed a little lime on top, picked it up and took a bite. The flavor was really mild and kind of murky. The escamoles have a soft, cottage cheese-like consistency and a nutty aftertaste. The guacamole was very subtle and balanced the dryness of the chewy tortilla. I took another bite and set the rest down on my plate, but as I did I bumped the lime, causing some of the escamoles to roll off.

Hearing them scatter around my plate was like a switch turning on, giving me the heebie jeebies and totally grossing me out. For a minute I contemplated spitting it out, but I was determined to eat the whole thing! I struggled while swallowing but managed to hold it together. Then I drank some of my beer and ate a couple pieces of melon before going back for the final bite. I finished it, and I'm glad I tried it - but I was really happy that I didn't have to eat another one.