Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hashtag Activism and Borek

Maybe I've always been a little overprotective.

But the fact of the matter is, I've always cared deeply about my students.  When I call them my students, I'm not simply being possessive; I've assumed responsibility for them, perhaps like foster children, who have been entrusted to my care for a while.  It's true that they don't all need my care, but pressed, I would probably tell you that I love them anyway.  Which may be terrible professional practice, unless you're a Freirian (maybe I am, a little).

When I started working where I am now, I was responsible for sending them off on Fulbrights: helping them to prepare competitive applications, helping them to think about what they wanted to do, helping them to dream broadly and ask larger questions, encouraging them to go out into the world and do good ambassadorial work.  Now, a year later, I have something more like my own brood, like I used to have years ago: a group of students I get to meet in freshman year, whose stories I get to hear and watch unfold through their college years.  I encourage them to go out into the world, too.

The one-off relationships were easy; a little sad, perhaps, because after that period of intense connection they'd disappear (if I did my job well), but at least I couldn't get too attached.  And I could comfort myself with the knowledge that even if they were doing academic work, they were brokering peace.  I worried about them, but not in the way that I worry about my students now.

As I watch the news lately, my reaction to the violence is the world has been visceral.  I listen to NPR talk about small boys killed while playing on the beach, and even if I didn't have small children of my own, it would make me want to throw up.  I listen to the reporters from the BBC talk about being handed the personal effects of someone flying on that ill-fated Malaysian jet, and I find myself weeping.  I think about the small sparks that started world wars, and I wonder, even as I never wondered during my Cold-War childhood throughout which the spectre of global thermonuclear destruction loomed menacingly from abroad, if these sparks will be the ones to catch.

I live in a relatively protected little corner of the world.  But my students are out there.  Some of them travel out there, and some of them live out there.  One of them texted me from Norway the other day with the travel warning from the Embassy about a possible Syrian terrorist attack.  One of them is trying to figure out how to get to Israel to do senior thesis research, even though she can't land in Tel Aviv.  Some of them are from Malaysia, from the Netherlands, from Iran, from Russia, from the Ukraine.  They bring the world to my doorstep in 4D, 24/7, in a way that the radio and the internet can't.  And it's people like them--innocent civilians, young people full of promise--that are getting caught in the crossfire of misunderstanding.

In the face of that reality, my hashtag activism and my spatula feel woefully inadequate.

I'm not at BlogHer'14 this year.  Part of me is disappointed, because it's been good motivation to write and think, and it's been a useful way to meet people who are from a different tribe.  There was a session yesterday on "Deep Blogging," and I'd be curious to know (beyond what I was able to glean from the Tweetstream) what the conversation looked like there.  I think that on some issues, hashtag activism can be incredible powerful--domestic violence, boycotting of organizations that support unethical practices in their own business or among those with whom they do business.  But in matters like this?  I'm lost.  How do you intervene in a controversy that's not your own, and demand peace?  Unless you're John Kerry, how do you get people from different nations to break bread?  (Come to think of it, John Kerry isn't having such good luck, either.)  Besides worrying over the students who send you texts from faraway places, what is your role in ending this madness?  Are you supposed to watch in horror?  Post things about the way you feel to Facebook, where everyone will nod sagely and agree that yes, these things are horrible?

I made Borek the other day.  I was trying to use up some frozen phyllo, and I found some recipes online that looked worth a try.  As I dug a little deeper, I realized I'd found a dish that had been eaten on tables in many of the places in the world I worry about.  At the risk of sounding naive: I wish that some of the people in those places could sit down to one table, and realize that while everyone has a slightly different take on the dish, they were, in essence, all eating the same thing.

This dish has variants made in Turkey, Albania, Syria, Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Israel, Italy, Crimea, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia, Bosnia, Algeria, Moldova, and Russia.  It's found on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim tables.

10 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
3 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 c. skim milk
1 large egg and 2 egg yolks, divided
2 T. plain yogurt
1/2 t. salt
pinch black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped1 lb. fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
1 T. olive oil
1/4 t. salt
dash of pepper (optional)
2 T. sesame seeds 1 c. feta cheese, crumbled

Whisk 2 T. olive oil, milk, whole egg, yogurt, salt and pepper in a bowl until combined.  Set aside.

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large pan. Add the chopped onion and saute until fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach, salt and pepper; cover and cook over medium heat until the spinach loses most of its volume, about 5 minutes. Stir and cool for 15 minutes.

Strain the juices from the spinach, and combine it in a bowl with the feta cheese; stir gently until combined.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray it with vegetable oil.  Place 2 sheets of phyllo dough on the parchment and brush it with 3 tablespoons of the milk mixture, being careful to work quickly and not tear the dough.  Repeat the process one more time.

Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough and spread the spinach-feta cheese filling evenly leaving ½ inch space on the edges and corners.

Continue with placing 2 sheets of phyllo dough and brushing it with 3 tablespoons of the milk mixture two more times, and then place the last phyllo dough on top and brush it with 2 tablespoons of the milk mixture.

Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 F. degrees.  Slice the borek and brush it with 1 egg; sprinkle each piece with sesame seeds.  Bake until it is golden brown, 30-35 minutes, and serve immediately.
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1 comment:

  1. You have made me think. And feel.

    I'm so so sad. I remember the hope in the early 90s that peace would finally arrive. But the vacuum left behind with the fall of the walls has sucked war back in. Maybe humans are not really made for peace.

    Which is the thought that makes me so so sad.


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