Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I like to complain about the engineers in my life, but today I had an experience that reminded me why I love them.  You see, during the summer months I work as a daycare teacher.  There are about 12 kids, depending on the day, ranging from 5-12 years old.  Most of the kids in my class are the children of the other teachers at the school who need daycare for their children who are off school.  We have lots of fun while I trick them into doing lots of language arts, math, science, social studies, and all sorts of art and music.

In any case, today one of my co-workers brought her daughter lunch today, and as the daughter opened it I here a loud squeal and "Look Miss Kristina, Mom packed me blue juice!"

It was one of those plastic, individually wrapped juices.  You know the ones that sort of look like a pale white rocket filled with strange blue rocket fuel?  Yuck.  I made a face.  This is our game, this little person and I.  She shows me all the gross processed food she eats, and I make a face and share my fruits and veggies with her.  Perhaps someday she will not die of a heart attack because of the apricot I made her try, but I suppose we will never know.  Back to the story.

Her mother and I are great friends, but when she looked at me and said slightly defensively, "You know, I felt a little bad about getting those sugar water things for them, but I looked at all the juices, and they're all just sugar water!" I didn't know what to say.  As if I didn't know.  Yes, they are all sugar water.  You can reduce the amount of sugar, by drinking, wait for it, water.  Just like the ladies taught us last summer at that healthy drinking event she scheduled.

This is why I must stay with engineers.  Their logic will make up for their quirkiness.  I hope they never abandon me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mark Today on your Calendar

Today, without being asked, of his own free will, my brother the engineer made dinner.  We had this ground beef in the freezer that needed to get used, so he decided to make lasagna.  Lasagna, by the way, is my absolute favorite food.  I was thrilled.  My favorite engineer is making my favorite food, how can this evening go wrong?

About an hour later I'm sitting in my room doing email etc. when my brother the engineer pops his head into my room.

"Well, dinner is ready, but you can't think of it as lasagna." Then he made that face he makes when he's about to say something that he thinks is really clever. "You see Kristina," he continued, "this is an issue of expectations.  If you go out to the dinner table expecting great lasagna you're going to be disappointed.  It didn't really work, what with there being too much beef and not enough sauce and the noodles got a little crispy.   However, if you'll follow me, there are fantastic pasta tacos!"

I was a little bit disappointed that we didn't have lasagna for dinner.  I was looking forward to lasagna.


They were good pasta tacos.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just because you're an engineer does not mean you get to call things by their scientific names gosh darnit!

Actually, the title of this post is slightly misleading, because the friend that I found standing in my kitchen this week was not an engineer parse.  He was in fact a chemist, but that's besides the point.  We were dining informally, that is we were standing at the counter helping ourselves, apparently graduating from university and eating dignified and cultured food does not in fact make us dignified and cultured adults.  There were fresh peaches from the farmer's market, and a delightful Camembert that we were spreading on fresh Sourdough bread from the local market.  Now this isn't a particularly uncommon occurrence in and of itself, but what made this day interesting was the quality of the bread.  If you've never had Sourdough made in San Fransisco, you need to travel there right away and have some, because it is the best in the world.  This bread that I was eating, hacking chunks off with a dull kitchen knife, was almost as good.  I was in heaven, and so was my chemist.

The difference between me and my engineers, is that I can stand there in the soft glow of the setting sun coming in through the tiny kitchen window and silently bask in the glory of Camembert on sourdough with a slice of fresh peach.  I have the ability to close my eyes and do nothing but experience the amazing flavors, the contrast of the sour and sweet, the crunch of perfect crust.  While I'm sure my engineers have as much appreciation for a thing of beauty as I do, they do not silently bask in the glory, they are compelled to tell you why it is so wonderful, ideally in words you won't recognize.

"This is great Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis," he says.  "Isn't it great that we live close to its natural habitat?"

At this point I have to take a deep breathe.  I know what he means.  Isn't it wonderful that we live close enough to San Fransisco to enjoy amazing sourdough.  I know it's in his nature to say things like this.  He has knowledge he wants to share, or wants to make sure I know he knows.  It is a compulsion.  Well you'll forgive me but I'm feeling a compulsion of my own coming on.  I feel a great need to...

Dear Chemist Friend,

Quit being a smartass.

Yours truly,
That one girl with the kitchen

You are welcome back any time, just bring more cheese.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Actual Conversation

R_: Today I learned that you can only make two cups of tea with one teabag.

Me: Yeah, the second cup is never as good as the first and the third is undrinkable, but you can make an entire pot of tea with one teabag.

Randolfo: It has to do with the order that stuff comes off of the tea.

R_: I bet if you mixed all three cups together you would have something that was drinkable.

Randolfo: Or continuously moved the teabag from one cup to another.

R_: That's what I need... A teabagging robot!

Randolfo: OOooh!

At which point they both burst into hearty laughter. I still can't decide if he was leading up to a teabagging joke or if it just happened. In either case I won the point since making a pot of tea is infinitely more practical than building a single-use robot, no matter how funny its name is.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bet you can't figure out what they're talking about

Wilhelm: My position is that originally it tapered away for a long time but now it kind of just stops dead.  It's like one over X.

Randolfo: Eh, it's more like sine over X, cuz it falls away and then another peak hits you.

W: Sine of X plus a constant cuz it never falls to zero.

R: Eh, I still think it's more like sine of X.  Maybe with some kind of adjustment factor...

What are they talking about?  Bet you can't guess.  They're discussing the wine.  The wine we had with dinner.  Normal people use vague terms like "hint of freshly cut grass with peach overtones" but my engineers use functions of X.  What would I do without them?  By the way, the names I'm using for them were chosen by the engineers themselves.  Nerds...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mmmmmmm... Gluten

Chocolate chip cookies are a staple of my lifestyle.  My family recipe makes the best, chewiest, most delicious cookies I've had anywhere.  I've made batches using this recipe hundreds of times, so I was a little perplexed when one of my engineers walked into the kitchen and announced, "You're doing that wrong."

"Doing what wrong?  I'm making cookies!"
"Measuring the flour."

I had in fact been measuring the flour.  Flour is a very important thing in baking.  It contains gluten, which binds the cookie or cake or bread together.  Without enough flour your baked goods might fall, or deflate when you take them out of the oven.  If, however, you add too much flour whatever you're making will turn out tough and dry because of the long chains of gluten that are contained in the flour.  I know all this because my information junkie friends told me so.

"I know all about flour, you've told me before." I snapped.  I mean really, if he thought he was getting any cookies when I was done he'd better be a little bit more supportive of my work.  Besides I had been measuring it very carefully.  I glanced down at the perfectly smooth and level surface on flour in my measuring cup, and then glared up at the engineer trespassing in my kitchen.

"But you're still measuring it wrong.  The flour particles are very light and squishy so they're easy to compact, but the recipes are designed using non-compacted flour.  If you measure by volume it's likely that you're compacting the flour as you measure it and are therefore getting too much gluten in your dough. The only right way to measure flour is by weight, not by volume."  He then wandered back out of the kitchen feeling very good about himself.  He felt he had saved the cookies.  Well, if he wanted to buy me a fancy kitchen scale, and find me some more space in my kitchen to store it he was welcome to.  In the meantime he can forget about eating any of my cookies unless he washes the dishes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Playing with Fire

One of the things I never learned to do was barbecue. I was never really allowed to touch the exalted black box. It wasn't because the men in my life thought I couldn't or shouldn't, it was just because they really really wanted to. They loved to play with fire, so I never got to. Even on camping trips, if I wanted to start the campfire myself I had to be the first one awake and do it very quietly before my engineer brother woke up and took over.

So today when I decided to have burgers for dinner, there wasn't really a question of who would actually man the grill. R_ didn't even ask me if I wanted his help. In his worldview It isn't a question. He's an engineer, of course I would appreciate his help.

The first thing he noticed about my barbecue was that it was "hardwired." Typical not to notice the pretty plants around or the beautiful stone tables, but the fact that my barbecue had a direct gas line, that he noticed.

The burgers turned out perfect and were in fact delicious. Overall the experience was not nearly as frustrating as it could have been. Someday I'll wake up early in the morning and sneak outside. Alone in the world I will learn to cook with fire by myself without the hovering presence of an engineer. I will learn to barbecue. Until that day comes, I'll just have to take deep breaths and let the boys play with the fire.