Sunday, August 19, 2012

Aloo Baingan and the Art of Efficiency

I pride myself on efficiency.  When I had boring jobs back in high school and college like stuffing envelopes, I would spend the first few minutes figuring out how I could optimize envelope and paper placement so that I could move at the fastest speed.  When I'm cooking, I tend to try to do as many things at the same time as I can, stirring two pots with two spoons at the same time, doing dishes while something is simmering.

Which is why I had such a hard time in graduate school figuring out why I simply couldn't get it all done.  I found out later that no one else was actually doing all of the assigned reading, so my whole efficiency approach was shot to hell; it wasn't physically possible to do all of the reading.

Post-BlogHer, I made a commitment to myself to be more active in social media.  I already comment as much as I can on other people's blogs, especially if I know that that person is reading this blog (with apologies to WordPress people whose blogs don't always show up in my reader).  I have a Pinterest account where I pin beautiful food that I publish here and that I find elsewhere.  I created a Facebook account for this blog so please go make my day and like me there, and I've made more connections on Twitter (tweet me!).  Part of my previous reluctance was an attempt to keep my "real" identity separate from my blog identity; I think I've finally given up on that semi-anonymity.  So now I'm trying to keep up with all of it.

I still haven't figure out yet, though, how to be efficient about all of it.  Reading and commenting take up a lot of time.  And then reading Facebook.  Forget the Twitter feed, which is gone instantaneously if you're not watching it scroll by on your phone, or managing it on Tweetdeck, and if you follow a few people who post things every thirty seconds.

The efficient perfectionist in me hates this.  I keep thinking, there must be an easier way.

The SITS Girls tweeted on Thursday, asking tweeps what advice they'd give a new blogger.  I replied, "Build a supportive community by being a supportive community member."

But what does that mean?  How do you keep up with the social media maelstrom, especially if you want to engage people in meaningful conversation?

One place I love to be efficient is in the use of our CSA veggies.  When I can find a recipe that combines several vegetables from the share for dinner, I feel like I've conquered the box.  Here's one we ate this week.

Aloo Baingan
(adapted from here)

1 T. olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut in half lengthwise, then cubed in 1/2" pieces
1/4 c. water
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

2 T. olive oil
1 t. mustard seeds
1 t. cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t. grated ginger
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into rings (1/2" thick)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 wedges (you can also cut them into cubes)
2 c. water

1 t. coriander powder
1 t. curry powder
1/2 t. garam masala
1/4 t. turmeric

Heat 1 T. oil in a non-stick pan on medium. Add the eggplant, a little salt and cook for a few minutes on both sides until it turns slightly dark and starts to soften. Add tomatoes, water, season with salt and pepper and cook covered for a few minutes until the fresh tomatoes are soft.  Set aside.

Heat 2 T. oil in a pan on medium. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, cover and let them splatter. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the onion, a pinch of salt to help it soften faster, and cook covered for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the red pepper rings and sauté for a few minutes. Add the potato wedges and cook covered for another few minutes, turning them around from time to time. Finally add the water, enough to almost cover the potatoes, the spices and cook covered for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender but not easily breakable and the liquid has reduced.

Add the eggplant/tomato gravy and cook together for a further 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. If the curry is thick enough, keep the lid on for the last minutes. If it's still liquidy, keep it uncovered until it has the right consistency.
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  1. It really is the semi-anonymous thing that throws a spanner in the works, isn't it? As I slowly "come out" to more and more IRL friends, I find my pool of blog fodder diminishing, as I don't want to offend, or gossip, or divulge too much personal information. I know that many of the most avidly read blogs tend to be the ones where people are unabashedly naked with their lives, but that's not what I want to do. I have to find my own comfort level, I know. I have never, even from the start when I was totally anonymous, written anything I wouldn't stand behind, but still...

  2. One help is to have a system of prioritizing. I subscribe to a ton of blogs, and I read every entry from my ALI friends that comes up in my Reader.

    Some of them I'll click over from a partial feed.

    Some of them I read on my phone but don't comment because I am all thumbs on my virtual keyboard.

    Some of those I'll keep Unread until I CAN comment from a pooter.

    Some I comment on once in awhile; others frequently, and a few I try to comment on just about every post.

    In conclusion, concentric circles :-)

  3. I struggle with this idea. Because I'm the kind of person who doesn't like superficial interaction with people, and so much of social media has turned us into valuing quantity over quality. I don't get a lot of comments on my blog, but I intensely value the ones I get. How are you supposed to have meaningful interaction with 400 people on your facebook friends list? I still go back to my core folks for almost everything.

    The other part too for me right now, is when you've established yourself as a member of a community based on a common thread (like IF) what happens when your blog/identity/focus changes. Are you supposed to slip away into the darkness? Are you supposed to find a way to integrate your new destination with the old identity in order to keep those ties? It's an odd conundrum as our blogs evolve to continue to maintain meaningful communities as the ties that previously bound us all unravel.

  4. @loveandchaos: I wanted to reply to your comment directly about the change in blog identity, but didn’t have your email address, and I can never tell if people see follow up comments. It’s an excellent question, one that I wrestle with as well … and I went to a session about just this question (with Mel!) at BlogHer. The liveblog (transcript) from the session is here … worth a read: .

    The jist of the conversation in the room, though, was that once you build a following, people return because they like your voice and writing, not necessarily because you talk only about your common interest. Most of the people on the panel agreed that it wasn’t necessary to leave your old blog; all of them had integrated their new destination into their old blog identity, explaining that they hadn’t left it *behind*, per se, because it was still a part of them … it just wasn’t the *only* part of them.

    I’m hoping that’s the case … but it’s a sort of scary step to take, because even if our blogs are for *us*, we write here (instead of, say, in a private journal) because there is a “them.”

    And where else, really, do we belong?

  5. @Lavender Luz: yes ... concentric circles. That is a very you-like approach! :)

    @(Not)Maud: agreed. Once I knew that people I knew IRL were reading me, and sharing me with other people I knew IRL, it didn't make sense *not* to integrate. But it did complicate matters. I think I was always pretty careful about not sharing information I wouldn't share if someone knew me, but that doesn't mean it's perfect.

  6. Good question - I don't know. Feel like I'm permanently running to try and catch up.
    I joined Twitter(a 2nd time recently, for blog community reasons. But I think I managed about 2 tweets? Hard to be 146chars concise. As you can probably see. (First account is full of Cheezburger updates last time I checked) but completely agree - unless you're on it all the time, its so easy, especially with the timezone thing, to miss everything.
    And I think I must be one of the few people left on the planet who doesn't access the internet through their mobile phone, so its just whenever I can sit at a computer for more than 20 mins.
    Sometimes I get antsy about feeling so behind . . . then realise this is supposed to be enjoyable, I follow *lots* of blogs AND keep up on fb with everything AND return emails within a reasonable timeframe (to friends etc), and I believe that real life should (mainly) always take priority.

  7. Up until recently I only used blogger and read and commented as much as possible. I do get behind sometimes, but I go back when I have time and try and comment often. I read posts and comment from my phone when I'm out and about waiting at a Dr and stuff like that. I don't like the limit on twitter. Sometimes I can't get full thoughts out.

  8. ICLW #4. I came back to this post because it resonated with me. My answer has been to define which community I want to be part of, rather than try to build a bigger community on all the social sites. But then, I write pseudononymously (sp?) and keep my circles separate. I deliberately choose to write my blog and build my community there, and not to participate in twitter. My FB is for people who know me IRL, but who do not (except for a few rare exceptions) know I blog.

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