Friday, August 30, 2013

Everything German--A Delicious Restaurant in Hurst, TX

Since moving to Euless, TX, I've missed many of our favorite restaurants, like Addis Abeba, Joe's Italian Cafe, and Kostas Cafe. However, I was happy to discover one excellent new restaurant, Everything German, and it's so delicious we can hardly go two weeks without eating there.

As you might imagine, Everything German serves German food, including an amazing variety of Schnitzel, brats, and other authentic German dishes. My favorite dish is the Rahmschnitzel, which is Schnitzel topped with a delicious brown gravy and served with red cabbage (Rotkraut) and Spatzle. The Schnitzel is crispy on the outside, but tender on the inside, and the gravy is rich and flavorful. The Spatzle are buttery little pasta dumplings that are wonderful on their own, or mixed into the extra gravy. The Rotkraut has a delicious tangy flavor that's a very satisfying accompaniment to the richer food. Plus, it's healthy.

My husband loves the Zwiebelschnitzel, which is topped with sauteed onions and a fried egg, and he also like the Schnitzeltopf, which is topped with Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, and a creamy mushroom-leek sauce. In fact, none of us has tried a schnitzel at Everything German that we didn't really like. 

Recently, we decided to order the house sampler so we could try a large variety of other things on their menu. It started with a selection of their salads, including a fantastic cucumber-dill salad, a sweetly delicious carrot salad, and a shredded cabbage salad. All of them were good, but the cucumber salad was a real treat. 

For the main course, the sampler included two Schnitzel, a Roulade, a Krautroulade, a Kaiserwurst, a Weisswurst, Spatzel, and Semmelknodel. The Schnitzel and Spatzel were as wonderful as always, but we hadn't had a chance to try the other dishes until now. I enjoyed the Semmelknodel, a type of Austrian/German bread dumpling immensely. It had a texture I loved, and great flavor. The Krautrolade was a cabbage roll stuffed with ground pork. It had good flavor, and I really liked the sauce it was served with. The two wursts were quite excellent as well. The only disappointment was the Roulade, a beef roll stuffed with pickles, onions, bacon, and ground pork. The beef was too dry, and the stuffing tasted too briny for my taste.

Our meal was accompanied by Rotkraut, Sauerkraut, and Jagersosse. The Rotkraut is always excellent, and I enjoy the homemade Sauerkraut as well. I'm not a fan of mushrooms, so I let my husband eat the Jagersosse, a type of mushroom gravy. He liked it very well, and liked dipping his Schnitzel in it.

For dessert, we shared a bavarian cream, which is a cold vanilla cream topped with warm fruit compote and whipped cream. The combination of the cold cream with the warm fruit is absolutely amazing, the perfect end to our meal.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More Japanese Poems: Tanka and Haiku

I'm still experimenting with different types of poetry, and most recently I've started writing tanka on twitter. Tanka is a genre of Japanese poetry similar to haiku, but with five lines instead of three. They usually follow a pattern of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. The longer form of tanka can give you more opportunity for emotional expression, which I enjoy. Like sonnets, tanka usually have a "turn" in the poem, a point where the poet goes from depicting an image to an emotional response.

Here are some of my tanka:

Sometimes I wonder
If a journey is worth it
Find peace in stillness
Listen to beloved voices
Beauty of the familiar

Family pictures
Line my wooden dresser
They smile cheerfully
My pillars of strength
Not alone anymore

Even as she sleeps
I watch her beloved face
Her gentle breathing
A perfect rhythmic music
The soft sound of her essence

Longing for the stars
Hidden by false light and smog
As the concrete
Imprisons the dark soil
Trapped in a tower of glass

Thin dark face, glasses
Awkward but intelligent
Endlessly bullied
Someday you'll escape the pain
When the world learns your value

Here are some new haiku as well:

Wind rustling the leaves
Roll of distant thunder
Moonless summer night

Leaving her today
Time to go back to work
Missing my heart

Breasts swelling with milk
My body loves her deeply
As my soul

In early morning
I hold her to my body
Warm hungry infant

Shots at the doctor
Poor little crying baby
Mother crying too

Baby sleeping now
Mother needs to unwind
Having a doughnut

Heedless children run
Never looking down
until they fall

Other Haiku Posts:

Three Poems

Monday, August 19, 2013

James Joyce's Ulysses: Chapter 4, Calypso

The first three chapters of Joyce's Ulysses are focused on Stephen Dedalus, who represents Odysseus's son Telemachus. These chapters parallel the first four books of the Odyssey, known as the Telemachiad. In chapter four of Ulysses, Joyce at last introduces his main character, Leopold Bloom, who represents Odysseus. Right away, Bloom reveals himself to be a very different type of man then Stephen. Unlike the fastidious, squeamish Stephen, Joyce describes Bloom as a man who "ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls" and liked "thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencodss roes" and especially grilled mutton kidneys.  Bloom's love of organ meats likely refers to the many descriptions of feasting that occur in Homer's epics where heroes eat roast meats, especially organs and innards, after a sacrifice to the gods. It also shows that Bloom is a heartier, earthier character than Stephen, and it indicates that he is a more mature adult than him as well.
Bloom begins his morning by making tea and breakfast for his wife, and feeding his cat, who he alternately admires and mocks. He buys a pork kidney at the butcher's for his own breakfast. On his way home, he feels a moment of bareness, possibly as he thinks about (or avoids thinking about) his wife's imminent affair and the history of his people. Bloom is a Jew, one of "the oldest people" who "wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity." Bloom's Jewishness makes him a wanderer, and further links him to that great wayfarer Odysseus, who was held captive many times along his journey as well. Bloom's sense of captivity reflects the chapter title, Calypso, the name of the goddess who held Odysseus captive for seven years on her island.

Once he returns home, Bloom gets the mail, which includes a letter and a card from his daughter, and a letter to his wife from Blazes Boylan, her lover. His brings his wife her tea and makes the kidney for his breakfast. His wife Molly asks him about a word she's read, metempsychosis, and Bloom tells her it means "the transmigration of souls" or reincarnation. The idea that souls themselves can travel around further reflects the chapter's theme of wandering, and the beginning of Bloom's journey.

After talking to his wife, Bloom eats his kidney (which he's accidentally burnt a little) and reads the letter from his daughter. He remembers the day she was born, and that reminds him of the day his lost son Rudy was born (and died). His thoughts about his daughter's youth and promise gradually transition to thoughts about her mother, his wife Molly. He feels "a soft qualm, regret, [flow] down his backbone, increasing." Bloom regrets that his wife is going to have an affair, but when he considers preventing it, he thinks it's "useless to move now."

Having finished his breakfast, Bloom now feels heavy and full, so he gets a paper to go read on the toilet. This is one of the scenes in Ulysses that was considered shocking and vulgar at the time, since literature had never really depicted people going to the bathroom before. As he finishes up, Bloom once more remembers casual moments with his wife--watching her dress, washing her teeth, but his homey reverie is interrupted when he remembers her asking about Blazes Boylan. Bloom wipes himself with the "prize story" he'd been reading (a sly commentary on the state of literature?), checks to make sure his trousers look neat, then heads off to prepare for a funeral.

Blogs for James Joyce's Ulysses: 

Blog Posts for James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five

Blog Posts for James Joyce's Dubliners:

"The Sisters" and "An Encounter"

"After the Race" and "Two Gallants"

"A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"

"Clay" and "A Painful Case"

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

"A Mother"


"The Dead"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

More Haiku, Senryu, and Haiga

As part of my experimentation in writing haiku on twitter, I've been reading about haiku and a related type of Japanese poetry, senryu. In essence, a haiku is a Japanese poem of 17 kana (or less) which focuses on nature. In English and other foreign languages, that usually means three lines in a pattern of 5 - 7 - 5 syllables. Senryu follow the same sort of syllable pattern, but instead of focusing on nature, they are about human nature or politics, and often have a humorous or sarcastic tone.

Haiku inspired a type of Japanese artwork called Haiga, where the poem was written in beautiful calligraphy with an accompanying drawing or painting. The artwork and the poem give depth to each other, by reflecting or complimenting each other's images or tone. While traditional haiga were paintings, modern poets/artists often use photography or digital imagery.

In addition to writing my own haiku or senryu, I've also been reading lots of poems by other writers. With their permission, I've included a few of my favorites here:

By my husband David (I added a picture to this one to make a haiga):

When I wake to find
That most reaffirming smile
All dark is made light

By Grace Wagner:

You say I'm grown-up
But sometimes I am a child
Who's just pretending

By Lealia N:

Dark clouds above trees
Slowly golden rays emerge
Happy smiling sun

Here are some more of my haiku or senryu:

Scientific thought
Gives us our great advances
Why then distrust it?

Music of Mozart
Listening is thoughtful joy
Pure grace, brilliance

A heavy downpour
Sound of thunder near
Now the breeze is cool

Hum of insects
Singing birds
Calm of rain

Buzzing cicadas
Dappled sunlight through green leaves
Forest in summer

Tell me a story
As I listen intently
Awake to new thought

Nurse hungry infant
Rain thrums against the windows
Quiet afternoon

Man on bended knee
Makes a fateful proposal
Hoping for a yes

Public Library
Respite from ignorance
Quietly reading

Day after childbirth
Body aching from incisions
Taunted for my weight

Other Poetry Posts:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Twitter Haiku (Writing Exercise)

Lately I've been writing haiku on twitter. I started when I came across some good ones in my feed, and I decided to give writing them a try. It's been a great writing exercise, since I can write them in brief moments when Anwen is feeding or napping, yet they require careful word choice to be effective. Haiku need economy since they're so short. I haven't written much poetry either, so this is a nice change from how I usually write.
Here are my favorites of the ones I've written:

A thousand regrets
For every time I hurt you
and every lost kiss

Slips through my fingers
All the time I have with you
Never seems enough

Soft pink baby face
I'll never stop kissing you
Love is forever

Beloved my child
Her smile is stars in my sky
Bright eyes the dawn

My precious infant
Warm milk breath against my skin
Kiss on your soft cheek

Sing to the baby
Watch her gurgle, smiling joy
Tiny feet kicking

My sister's visit
Recall our shared memories
And create new ones

You've trapped me
In a crowded, noisy room
Solitude calls me

In a time of pain
You reached through my darkness
And soothed my fears

Hot Texas sun burns
The painful heat sears my face
Is this place in hell?

Other Poetry Posts:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Seven Excellent Biographies

When I read non-fiction, I often enjoy biographies. It's fascinating to read about the lives of creative, intelligent, or world-changing people, like Mozart, the Bronte sisters, or Albert Einstein. These books can be as informative as they are engaging, so here's a list of my favorites.

1. Mozart's Women by Jane Glover

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the greatest composers and musicians who ever lived. What few people know is how deeply connected he was to the women in his life--his incredibly talented sister, Nannerl, his wife, Constanze Weber, and his muse, Aloysia Weber. Mozart's Women is the story of Mozart's relationships with the women in his life and how they influenced his music, especially the sympathetic portrayals of female characters in his operas. Glover's portrait of Mozart himself reveals the composer's keen insight into human nature and his sophisticated understanding of relations between the sexes. This book captures a fascinating side of Mozart's life that is rarely explored in other books, and Glover's discussions of the composer's operas reveal a profound insight into his works. Her writing is engaging and enjoyable, so the whole book flows beautifully. If you only ever read one book about a classical musician, this one should be it.

2. The Bronte Myth by Lucasta Miller

Lucasta Miller's The Bronte Myth is a biography and something of an anti-biography at the same time. That is, it's a biography aimed at dispelling all the myths and legends that have grown up around the three sisters of the Haworth parsonage, and encouraging a more intellectual re-examination of their works. Indeed, Miller argues that instead of studying their lives, Bronte scholars should focus on analyzing their brilliant literary creations. For example, instead of indulging in romantic myths about Emily Bronte as an untutored genius, she finds connections between Emily's work and the German romantic poetry of Heinrich Heine. Emily, who learned to speak and read German fluently, was less influenced by English writers than by the passionate, intense German Romantics.

This book's skeptical approach felt refreshing, and Miller still effectively depicts the Bronte sister's lives. While other authors wallow in romantic fables about the sisters, she reveals them to be fiercely intellectual, thoughtful writers whose myths should not be allowed to overshadow their powerful literary legacy.

3. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography by John Dominic Crossan

Even if you're a secular humanist or an atheist, you should read this book. Crossan brilliantly captures the world that Jesus lived in, and how his actions would have been interpreted and understood by his contemporaries. He depicts Jesus as a radical social revolutionary, who advocated for absolute equality between social classes and genders thousands of years before Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, or Susan B. Anthony (all of whom were inspired by the messages of the bible). Crossan's description of historical crucifixion and his interpretation of the true meaning behind the resurrection are as heart-wrenching as they are convincing. To often, Jesus's message has been lost or misinterpreted by hateful people who call themselves Christians. The real Jesus had humanity, compassion, and a deep love for the poor and oppressed. His true story and message are inspiring even if you don't believe in the supernatural aspects of it.

4. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Albert Einstein is possibly the most famous scientist who ever lived, and his theories revolutionized physics as we know it. His life was tumultuous, fascinating, and an example of the power of imagination and intellect. Einstein rebelled against the oppressive authoritarianism that swept Germany, even from his earliest days as a student. By rejecting the scientific status quo, Einstein freed himself to find the truth. His personal life, especially his relationship with his first wife, have the same intensity as his intellectual work--indeed, the two seem intimately entwined, as Einstein fell in love with Mileva Maric because she shared his enthusiasm for physics. Isaacson's book captures Einstein's rebellious yet humanitarian character, and reflects on how the great man's flaws were also some of his strengths.

5. Night, by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel's autobiography is a powerful testimony to the cruelty and savagery of the Nazi Holocaust, as well as the forces of denial that keep people from seeing disaster and evil before it's too late. Wiesal's account begins with an account of his spiritual teacher, Moshe the Beadle, who escaped from a Nazi massacre to warn the Jews of his village about the Holocaust. Moshe's warning, like many other warnings and red flags, falls on deaf ears--the villagers can't or won't face the truth, and they continually reassure themselves that everything will be alright. The beadle's desperation and terror foreshadows the villagers' impending doom, and reflects the book's theme: evil succeeds when good people are blind to it. After his first night in Auschwitz, Wiesel knows that he will never forget the horrors he saw there. If we are to prevent such atrocities from happening again, we much never forget them either. This harrowing story reminds the reader that only constant vigilance prevents evil.

6. Virginia Woolf, by Hermione Lee

Hermione Lee's biography of Virginia Woolf captures the complicated depths of this great modernist writer. Woolf lost both her parents at a young age, and these tragedies (as well as possible sexual abuse) left her vulnerable to periods of depression and mental breakdowns. Yet, her writing remained prolific during her calm periods, and she helped to revolutionize modern literature with classics such as Mrs. Dalloway and To The Lighthouse. Lee's book sheds light on how Woolf's life influenced her writing and her political consciousness. It's also a fascinating depiction of family life at the turn of the century, and how rapidly the world was changing for the people who lived through it. 

7. Maus, by Art Speigelman

Maus defies traditional genres--it's part biography/memoir, but it's also an experimental graphic novel. Art Speigelman relates his father Vladek's experiences in the Holocaust with a depiction of his difficult, often strained relationship with his loving but damaged father. This books shows that the Holocaust had victims long after the death camps were closed. Speigelman's parents survived the camps yet never really escaped them. His mother remained so haunted by her experiences that she committed suicide years after being freed, and his father became hopelessly stuck in obsessive patterns, afraid to let go for even a second. Speigelman himself suffered from depression, and had to be hospitalized as a young man. 

The story of Anja's experience in Auschwitz is conspicuously absent from the narrative. She committed suicide before her son could learn her story, and her husband Vladek was so enraged by her death that he burned her notebooks. Yet the loss of her story also reminds the reader of how many other stories were lost. The dead have no voices, so the victims of the gas chambers can never write their own stories. Without the notebooks, Art doesn't know for sure why his mother killed herself, or what secrets she had. 

On a personal note, my understanding of Anja has changed since I became a mother. While obviously I never knew her and I can't say for sure what cause her such enormous pain, I think it's the death of her first son, Richieu. I can't imagine the horror of losing a child, but the circumstances under which Richieu died seem particularly agonizing. He died far from home, away from his parents. He was probably frightened. I think Anja might've tortured herself, wishing she could've been there to comfort him, maybe even to go with him. The guilt and loss from his death overwhelmed her, until she decided to join him.