Wednesday, May 27, 2009

To Do: Get A Job

My job search began nearly four months ago. I've sent out dozens of cover letters and applications, mainly for jobs without pre-requisites. A history major like me doesn't come with many specialized skills besides research. These days, it's difficult to convince people to take a chance on an entry-level hire.

I've landed a handful of interviews, but still no job. There was one week when I got three rejections. It felt like I'd hit a brick wall. I'm scared of having nothing to do after working non-stop for four years. I'm not questioning my abilities, but I have been questioning my choices, knowing students with engineering degrees are still finding jobs. And many of the positions I am equipped to fill are disappearing.

Alex Kaz is another new graduate without a job. He majored in physics and has been applying for teaching jobs like Teach for America which usually hires recent graduates. Not this year.

"We had the one day interviews and that's when everyone comes in," Kaz says. "A lot of people were former bankers, lawyers, attorneys, etc. You could see that clearly this was not their first career choice. And many worked on Wall Street for x number of years, or worked at a law firm, marketing or whatever. And they were sitting amongst us in a program originally geared towards people leaving college and trying to get them to get into the classroom."

Now Kaz is feeling a bit lost. So am I. After all our hard work, it's difficult to face the reality of a big blank space now that we've finally graduated. I'm not devastated but I'm exhausted. Before graduation, my father kept asking if he should bring the car to take my things back to Boston. I wasn't sure how to answer. If I found a job, I wouldn't have to move home. So I just said, I don't know.

At least I can commiserate with my friend Avigail Oren about our job searches. We give each other pep talks. At this stage of the game, it's all about shifting our expectations.

"I would hate to say that I would take any job," Oren says. "I've definitely had to rethink. I started out looking for jobs that paid $30,000 to $40,000 and now I'm looking definitely from 20 to 30 (thousand). And I would say it's been difficult hurry up and waiting. 'Oh! We want to get you in for an interview right away! Right away!' You hustle in. Two weeks later, you're sending a follow up email saying: 'Are you still alive? Hello?'"

I've been there. At one small nonprofit, the hiring manager told me up front that other applicants had master's degrees and years of work experience.

"Ultimately I am a new entry into the job market," Oren says. "Despite all my unpaid internship experience, despite all of my volunteer work and activities. I've never gone into an office at 9 o'clock and walked out at 5."

And for us, it may be a while longer until the 9 to 5 job materializes. I finally decided to take another unpaid internship and stay in New York for as long as I can afford it. I'll have to get temp jobs to pay the rent. But at least when my father asks about my plans, I can tell him not to bring the car.

Emma Jacobs graduated from Columbia University last week with a degree in History. Her story was produced by Youth Radio.

Chinese Author Sees Breakdown Of Values

As the People's Republic of China prepares to celebrate its 60th birthday, what is the state of the world's most populous nation? We posed the question to three bestselling Chinese authors from different generations and look at their country through their works.

Author Yu Hua says that for his 40-something generation in China, life can be divided into two periods. So perhaps it is not surprising that his bestselling novel Brothers was published in two volumes. The first laid bare the political excesses of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and '70s; the second was dedicated to the capitalist excesses of the past 30 years.

"The Cultural Revolution was a craziness for revolution, then we had a craziness to earn money," Yu says. "It's like a pendulum that's swung from one extreme to another. It's gone from being an extremely oppressive society to being an extremely free one with no moderation."

Brothers, a lewd, rambunctious, heartbreaking epic of modern China, has sold 1.3 million copies. It is wildly popular — and widely criticized — at home.

Yu was inspired to write the novel after witnessing an explosion in the popularity of beauty pageants in small-town China in the 1990s. He added a subversive twist: He writes of a government-backed beauty pageant for virgins, which creates a booming market in artificial hymens as the fake virgins busily bed the competition judges.

400 Years Of Change In 40 Years

Yu charted such political madness in an earlier book, To Live, which was made into a film by Zhang Yimou. Yu compares the abrupt changes in China to the difference between Europe in the Middle Ages and Europe today. But in China's case, he says, 400 years of change was crammed into just 40 years.

He blames capitalism, rather than communism, for the frenetic pace of change that led to a breakdown in traditional values.

"In the late '60s, people were often beaten to death on the street, but children were safe. But today, who would let their children out on the street? They could be kidnapped by child traffickers, who are of course driven by capitalism," he says.

In Brothers, the epitome of this economic madness is small-town tycoon Baldy Li, who sits atop his gold-plated toilet, dreaming of buying a ride into space on a Russian rocket. This tragedy of the absurd also focuses on his stepbrother Song Gang, an honest and hardworking man going nowhere who, out of desperation, has breast implants in order to sell breast enlargement potions.

Yu says their differing fates sum up the divisions created by China's go-go capitalism.

"If you're rich, you've succeeded. Otherwise, you've failed. There's no other criterion. Honest people are obsolete in today's China. Chinese critics say I shouldn't write like this, I should write from a positive, healthy perspective, conducting an autopsy on our sick society. But I say in this society, there are no doctors — we are all sick," he says.

'One Of The Worst Sights In The World'

Yu, 49, began his working life as a dentist after being assigned to the job without any choice. He loathed the work, but it now gives him a reliable laugh line when speaking to audiences. He recalls his five years peering at the inside of the human mouth, or, as he puts it, "one of the worst sights in the world."

He says he was driven to write by jealousy over the easy lives of the culture bureau writers, who loafed around the streets aimlessly yet still collected a government salary. Nowadays, as a bestselling author, he relishes pushing boundaries; he forced his publisher to sign a contract agreeing not to change a single word of Brothers.

"The contract was quite totalitarian," he says. "But in order to pursue their economic interests, the publishers had to shoulder some political risks."

A play based on Brothers was staged in Shanghai last year, adapted by local playwright Li Rong. The playwright believes the story's power is in its depiction of China's morality vacuum and local government corruption.

The tycoon character Baldy Li "holds a lot of political power," Li Rong says. "He controls all the industry in the county. And this actually happens in local politics here. It's government by the strong for the strong. It's the politics of dirty money."

A Bestselling Author, But Controversial At Home

These unvarnished depictions of modern China's failings and excess make Yu controversial at home. Four different literature professors refused to be interviewed about the author, citing the sensitivity of the topic. He is also unpopular among young Chinese. He, in turn, criticizes those born in the 1980s for being too nationalistic.

"They live in a world where every day is better than the last. They don't believe China has bad things, too. I have a problem understanding those new patriots, their blind feelings of happiness and glory. They don't care about other people," Yu says.

But Yu believes that the global financial crisis being felt in China may change the way Chinese view their country. It is time to look at the spiritual, moral and environmental costs of the so-called economic miracle, he says.

"Over the past few years we've been too optimistic. The speed of growth has been seen as a miracle, but it's also masked a huge number of social problems. As the economy slows, those problems will emerge all at once," Yu says.

He says he doesn't worry about social stability. "I've never doubted the Communist Party's ability to control the country," he says grinning.

But he now sees Brothers in a different light: as an epitaph in novel form to China's dog-eat-dog years of early capitalism. "Things will never be quite so crazy again," he says, with the rueful smile of one who reveled in chronicling the madness.

Excerpt: 'Brothers'

by Yu Hua

By Yu Hu
Translated from the Chinese by Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and Carlos Rojas
Hardcover, 656 pages
List price: $29.95


Baldy li, our Liu Town's premier tycoon, had a fantastic plan of spending twenty million U.S. dollars to purchase a ride on a Russian Federation space shuttle for a tour of outer space. Perched atop his famously gold-plated toilet seat, he would close his eyes and imagine himself already floating in orbit, surrounded by the unfathomably frigid depths of space. He would look down at the glorious planet stretched out beneath him, only to choke up on realizing that he had no family left down on Earth.

Baldy Li used to have a brother named Song Gang, who was a year older and a whole head taller and with whom he shared everything. Loyal, stubborn Song Gang had died three years earlier, reduced to a pile of ashes. When Baldy Li remembered the small wooden urn containing his brother's remains, he had a million mixed emotions. The ashes from even a sapling, he thought, would outweigh those from Song Gang's bones.

Back when Baldy Li's mother was still alive, she always liked to speak to him about Song Gang as being a chip off the old block. She would emphasize how honest and kind he was, just like his father, and remark that father and son were like two melons from the same vine. When she talked about Baldy Li, she didn't say this sort of thing but would emphatically shake her head. She said that Baldy Li and his father were completely different sorts of people, on completely different paths. It was not until Baldy Li's fourteenth year, when he was nabbed for peeping at five women's bottoms in a public pit toilet, that his mother drastically reversed her earlier opinion of her son. Only then did she finally understand that Baldy Li and his father were in fact two melons from the same vine after all. Baldy Li remembered clearly how his mother had averted her eyes and turned away from him, muttering bitterly as she wiped away her tears, "A chip off the old block."

Baldy Li had never met his birth father, since on the day he was born his father left this earth in a fit of stink. His mother told him that his father had drowned, but Baldy Li asked, "How? Did he drown in the stream, in the pond, or in a well?" His mother didn't respond. It was only later, after Baldy Li had been caught peeping and had become stinkingly notorious throughout Liu Town — only then did he learn that he really was another rotten melon off the same damn vine as his father. And it was only then that he learned that his father had also been peeping at women's butts in a latrine when he accidentally fell into the cesspool and drowned. Everyone in Liu Town — men and women, young and old-laughed when they heard about Baldy Li and couldn't stop repeating, "A chip off the old block." As sure as a tree grows leaves, if you were from Liu Town, you would have the phrase on your lips; even toddlers who had just learned to speak were gurgling it. People pointed at Baldy Li, whispering to each other and covering their mouths and snickering, but Baldy Li would maintain an innocent expression as he continued on his way. Inside, however, he would be chuckling because now — at that time he was almost fifteen — he finally knew what it was to be a man.

Nowadays the world is filled with women's bare butts shaking hither and thither, on television and in the movies, on VCRs and DVDs, in advertisements and magazines, on the sides of ballpoint pens and cigarette lighters. These include all sorts of butts: imported butts, domestic butts; white, yellow, black, and brown; big, small, fat, and thin; smooth and coarse, young and old, fake and real — every shape and size in a bedazzling variety. Nowadays women's bare butts aren't worth much, since they can be found virtually everywhere. But back then things were different. It used to be that women's bottoms were considered a rare and precious commodity that you couldn't trade for gold or silver or pearls. To see one, you had to go peeping in the public toilet — which is why you had a little hoodlum like Baldy Li being caught in the act, and a big hoodlum like his father losing his life for the sake of a glimpse.

Public toilets back then were different from today. Nowadays you wouldn't be able to spy on a woman's butt in a toilet even if you had a periscope, but back then there was only a flimsy partition between the men's and women's sections, below which there was a shared cesspool. On the other side of the partition the sounds of women peeing and shitting seemed disconcertingly close. So instead of squatting down where you should, you could poke your head under the partition, suspending yourself above the muck below by tightly gripping the boards with your hands and your legs. With the nauseating stench bringing tears to your eyes and maggots crawling all around, you could bend over like a competitive swimmer at the starting block about to dive into the pool, and the deeper you bent over, the more butt you would be able to see.

That time Baldy Li snared five butts with a single glance: a puny one, a fat one, two bony ones, and a just-right one, all lined up in a neat row, like slabs of meat in a butcher shop. The fat butt was like a fresh rump of pork, the two bony ones were like beef jerky, while the puny butt wasn't even worth mentioning. The butt that Baldy Li fancied was the just-right one, which lay directly in his line of sight. It was the roundest of the five, so round it seemed to curl up, with taut skin revealing the faint outlines of a tailbone. His heart pounding, he wanted to glimpse the pubic area on the other side of the tailbone, so he continued to lean down, his head burrowing deeper under the partition. But just as he was about to catch a glimpse of her pubic region, he was suddenly nabbed.

A man named Victory Zhao, one of the two Men of Talent in Liu Town, happened to enter the latrine at that very moment. He spotted someone's head and torso burrowing under the partition and immediately understood what was going on. He therefore grabbed Baldy Li by the scruff of his neck, plucking him up as one would a carrot. At that time Victory Zhao was in his twenties and had published a four-line poem in our provincial culture center's mimeographed magazine, thereby earning himself the moniker Poet Zhao. After seizing Baldy Li, Zhao flushed bright red. He dragged the fourteen-year-old outside and started lecturing him nonstop, without, however, failing to be poetic: "So, rather than gazing at the glittering sea of sprouted greens in the fields or the fishes cavorting in the lake or the beautiful tufts of clouds in the blue sky, you choose instead to go snooping around in the toilet. . . ."

Poet Zhao went on in this vein for more than ten minutes, and yet there was still no movement from the women's side of the latrine. Eventually Zhao became anxious, ran to the door, and yelled for the women to come out. Forgetting that he was an elegant man of letters, he shouted rather crudely, "Stop your pissing and shitting. You've been spied upon, and you don't even realize it. Get your butts out here."

The owners of the five butts finally dashed out, shrieking and weeping. The weeper was the puny butt not worth mentioning. A little girl eleven or twelve years old, she covered her face with her hands and was crying so hard she trembled, as if Baldy Li hadn't peeped at her but, rather, had raped her. Baldy Li, still standing there in Poet Zhao's grip, watched the weeping little butt and thought, What's all this crying over your underdeveloped little butt? I only took a look because there wasn't much else I could do.

A pretty seventeen-year-old was the last to emerge. Blushing furiously, she took a quick look at Baldy Li and hurried away. Poet Zhao cried out for her not to leave, to come back and demand justice. Instead, she simply hurried away even faster. Baldy Li watched the swaying of her rear end as she walked, and knew that the butt so round it curled up had to be hers.

Once the round butt disappeared into the distance and the weeping little butt also left, one of the bony butts started screeching at Baldy Li, spraying his face with spittle. Then she wiped her mouth and walked off as well. Baldy Li watched her walk away and noticed that her butt was so flat that, now that she had her pants on, you couldn't even make it out.

The remaining three — an animated Poet Zhao, a pork-rump butt, and the other jerky-flat butt-then grabbed Baldy Li and hauled him to the police station. They marched him through the little town of less than fifty thousand, and along the way the town's other Man of Talent, Success Liu, joined their ranks. Like Poet Zhao, Success Liu was in his twenties and had had something published in the culture center's magazine. His publication was a story, its words crammed onto two pages. Compared with Zhao's four lines of verse, Success Liu's two pages were far more impressive, thereby earning him the nickname Writer Liu. Liu didn't lose out to Poet Zhao in terms of monikers, and he certainly couldn't lose out to him in other areas either. Writer Liu was on his way to buy rice when he saw Poet Zhao strutting toward him with a captive Baldy Li, and Liu immediately decided that he couldn't let Poet Zhao have all the glory to himself. Writer Liu hollered to Poet Zhao as he approached, "I'm here to help you!"

Poet Zhao and Writer Liu were close writing comrades, and Writer Liu had once searched high and low for the perfect encomia for Poet Zhao's four lines of poetry. Poet Zhao of course had responded in kind and found even more flowery praise for Writer Liu's two pages of text. Poet Zhao was originally walking behind Baldy Li, with the miscreant in his grip, but now that Writer Liu hustled up to them, Poet Zhao shifted to the left and offered Writer Liu the position to the right. Liu Town's two Men of Talent flanked Baldy Li, proclaiming that they were taking him to the police station. There was actually a station just around the corner, but they didn't want to take him there; instead, they marched him to one much farther away. On their way, they paraded down the main streets, trying to maximize their moment of glory. As they escorted Baldy Li through the streets they remarked enviously, "Just look at you, with two important men like us escorting you. You really are a lucky guy." Poet Zhao added, "It's as if you were being escorted by Li Bai and Du Fu. . . ."

It seemed to Writer Liu that Poet Zhao's analogy was not quite apt, since Li Bai and Du Fu were, of course, both poets, while Liu himself wrote fiction. So he corrected Zhao, saying, "It's as if Li Bai and Cao Xueqin were escorting you. . . ."

Baldy Li had initially ignored their banter, but when he heard Liu Town's two Men of Talent compare themselves to Li Bai and Cao Xueqin, he couldn't help but laugh. "Hey, even I know that Li Bai was from the Tang dynasty while Cao was from the Qing dynasty," he said. "So how can a Tang guy be hanging out with a Qing guy?" The crowds that had gathered alongside the street burst into loud guffaws. They said that Baldy Li was absolutely correct, that Liu Town's two Men of Talent might indeed be full of talent, but their knowledge of history wasn't a match even for this little Peeping Tom. The two Men of Talent blushed furiously, and Poet Zhao, straightening his neck, added, "It's just an analogy."

"Or we could use another analogy," offered Writer Liu. "Given that it's a poet and a novelist escorting you, we should say we are Guo Moruo and Lu Xun." The crowd expressed their approval. Even Baldy Li nodded and said, "That's more like it."

Poet Zhao and Writer Liu didn't dare say any more on the subject of literature. Instead, they grabbed Baldy Li's collar and denounced his hooligan behavior to one and all while continuing to march sternly ahead. Along the way, Baldy Li saw a great many people tittering at him, including some he knew and others he didn't. Poet Zhao and Writer Liu took time to explain to everyone they met what had happened, appearing even more polished than talk-show hosts. And those two women who had had their butts peeped at by Baldy Li were like the special guests on their talk shows, looking alternately furious and aggrieved as they responded to Poet Zhao and Writer Liu's recounting of events. As the women walked along, the one with a fat butt suddenly screeched, having noticed her own husband among the spectators, and started sobbing as she complained loudly, "He saw my bottom and god knows what else! Whip him!"

Excerpted from Brothers byYu Hua Copyright © 2009 by Yu Hua. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Features Abound For New Smart Phones

The fanciest phones — known as smart phones — will get even more new features this summer. Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone, T-Mobile's Google Android is getting a face-lift, and there's a lot of buzz about the soon-to-be-released Palm Pre.

Soon your phone may be smarter than you are. Well, not quite, but phones are getting fancier. They have music, e-mail, video and countless other features. Then there are application stores that let you download everything from games to financial planners.

Go into the store of any carrier, and the number of features and phones can be overwhelming. I visited a Verizon store on Market Street in San Francisco and pretended to be a soccer mom in need of a new phone with personalized features.

"Where do you plan on using the phone?" asked salesperson Muki Lok. "Take me through a day of how a cell phone might benefit you."

I tell him I want to be able to text-message my kids and e-mail my friends.

"Do you want to be able to open attachments for e-mails?" Lok asked.

If I had said yes, he would have directed me to one set of phones. If I had said no, he would have suggested a different set.

The number of fancy mobile phones sold in the U.S. has exploded in the past two years. Ramon Llamas, an analyst with research firm IDC, says the release of the iPhone two years ago was the catalyst. Its high-end features and sleek design helped change the way people thought about a phone.

Llamas says the revolutionary touch-screen technology spawned dozens of imitators. "A lot of people said I like that touch screen," he says. He points out that there are now dozens of other phones with touch screens that are capturing the hearts and imaginations of a lot of phone users.

Palm, which hasn't been on top of the game since its Pilot dominated the market 10 years ago, is hoping its new Pre is going to be as revolutionary as the iPhone. Matt Crowley, a product line manager at Palm, showed off the compact-sized device at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"The overall design of the Palm Pre was really based on a polished river stone," Crowly says. He holds it out and turns it over as if it is a gemstone.

The Pre takes into account one of the biggest criticisms of the iPhone: its touch-screen keyboard. Crowley slides open the device to reveal a keyboard with tactile buttons.

Among the Pre's other nice features is that several programs can be open at once. So, it's possible to type an e-mail while looking at your calendar.

The Pre is getting praise. "It's so slick and so intuitive that people can say, 'You know what? That's kind of what I really want my device to do,' " Llamas says.

Although the market for smart phones is getting crowded, Palm does have a shot at toppling both market leaders Apple and BlackBerry if an informal survey of customers at Coffee Bar, a cafe in San Francisco, is any indication.

"I don't really like it," Jasper Gregory says of his iPhone. "It seems too breakable. I keep it tucked away so it won't be stolen. I never hear it, so I'm not as connected anymore."

Another customer, Sara Skikney, says her BlackBerry isn't very user-friendly. "I can't figure out how to set up certain things that I think should be more accessible," Skikney says. "Like, you have to dig through several lists to find different functionalities."

The attitude of the people in this cafe is nothing like the way people in Europe and Asia feel about their phones, Llamas says. He says there, a phone is a personal statement.

"I kind of liken it to people bringing home a puppy or a cat," Llamas says. "Oh, look at my new device. It's so cute. Check it out. Do you want to hold it? You want to pet it?"

One thing is certain: There is a huge potential market for fancier phones in the U.S. Last year, fewer than 14 percent of people who purchased phones got a smart phone.

Glowing Monkeys Pass On Gene To Babies

For the first time, scientists in Japan have shown that a gene that makes monkeys glow green can be passed on to their offspring. Scientists say this shows that they can breed monkeys with genetic modifications, which could be useful in studying human diseases.

The research team used a virus to carry a gene for a green glowing protein into 80 marmoset embryos, says Hideyuki Okano of Keio University School of Medicine, one of the researchers on the team.

"When these embryos are returned to the uterus from the surrogate mother marmoset, the pregnancy was established," says Okano.

Five babies were born, and four had the gene in their body. But the real triumph is that when they reproduced, their offspring had the gene, too. The results are described in the journal Nature.

For years, scientists have been able to routinely create mice that have human disease genes. But for many diseases, mice are too different from humans to be a useful model. Monkeys are biologically closer to humans, but it's been a lot harder to change their genetic makeup.

Searching For A Model For Human Disease Genes

The glowing gene in and of itself doesn't do anything. But the new research in monkeys shows that an added gene can be inherited, something that has never been shown in primates before. Now it should be easier to generate groups of monkeys with genes for diseases like Parkinson's.

Gerald Schatten, at the University of Pittsburgh, was part of a team that made the first genetically altered primate about a decade ago, a rhesus monkey named ANDi. But, he says, ANDi has never been interested in mating.

Another research group created monkeys with the Huntington's disease gene, but those monkeys haven't reproduced either. Schatten says the work in Japan is a stunning milestone in the development of monkey models of human disease.

"It suggests that the nonhuman primate world might be able to follow in the footsteps, or maybe the paw prints, of the mouse world," he says, in terms of being able to create useful laboratory models of human diseases.

Schatten says some people may fear this will increase the number of monkeys used in medical research. But he thinks it might allow scientists to work with fewer monkeys because they will more precisely mimic human diseases.

Another concern often raised is whether similar genetic techniques could be used on human embryos to make designer babies. Schatten says scientists generally see that as a line they won't cross.

"We don't support doing any genetic modification in human embryos," he says.

Chicken Skewers Marinated In Paprika-Mint Yogurt

I almost always prefer grilling dark chicken meat to breast meat, which dries out the second you look at it. This yogurt marinade has an enviable moistening and tenderizing effect — and the longer you can leave the chicken in, the better it will be. You will need about 20 wooden skewers.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 cloves garlic

Salt to taste

1-1/2 cups yogurt (full fat or low-fat)

2 tablespoons dried mint

1-1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika

Juice of 1 lemon

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Crush the garlic with a bit of salt in a mortar and pestle until it forms a paste (alternatively, you can use a garlic press). Combine with the remaining marinade ingredients in a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.

Lay the thighs on a cutting board; unfold each boneless thigh to its full length. Cut crosswise into strips about 1 1/2- inches wide — you'll get 2 or 3 from each thigh. Drop the strips into the marinade bag and massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, soak the wooden skewers in water for an hour or more (this prevents them from burning on the grill).

Preheat a gas grill or start the coals for a charcoal grill. While the grill is heating, carefully thread the chicken onto the skewers. Grill over high heat, turning once, until just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.

Manti In Yogurt With Sizzling Paprika Butter

I have found that two-thirds of the recipe of manti dough is sufficient to wrap the lamb, but you may enjoy cutting up the excess into rough shreds of pasta, which are delectable eaten with the yogurt and butter. You don't have to make dumplings so tiny; it's a time-consuming task, and you're going to gobble them up in 5 minutes anyway. If you use a 2- or 3-inch wrapper instead of a 1-1/2 inch, it's unlikely anyone will cry foul. This recipe is adapted from Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Chronicle 2008).

Makes 4 servings

Manti Dough

2 to 3 large eggs

14 ounces bread flour

1 teaspoon sea salt


7 ounces minced or ground lamb

1 small onion, grated

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Garlic-Yogurt Sauce

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

14 ounces Greek-style yogurt

Mint-Paprika Butter

2 ounces unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried mint

To make the manti dough, lightly beat two of the eggs, and put these into the bowl of an electric mixer with the flour and salt. Use the dough hook to work it to a stiff dough. If the dough is too stiff, add the remaining egg, lightly beaten. Knead for about 5 minutes, then put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for another 5 minutes or so, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, then cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for about 1 hour.

Separate dough into pieces the size of a golf ball. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface to form a large, paper-thin rectangle. Cut into strips around 1-1/2 inches wide, Repeat with the remaining dough. Stack the strips on top of each other and cut into 1-1/2-inch (or 2- to 3-inch) squares. (If you have a pasta machine, roll the dough through the settings, then trim the sheets to end up with 1-1/2-inch squares.)

Combine the lamb and onion in a bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Place a chickpea-sized amount of filling (or more, if using larger squares) in the center of each manti square. If you're brave enough to attempt the traditional shape, bring two opposite corners together over the filling and press to join at the top. Repeat with the other two corners, carefully moistening and pinching the side "seams" as you go to seal them. You should aim to end up with a four-cornered starlike shape. For an easier option, simply moisten the edges with a little water and fold the pastry over the filling to create little triangles, then squeeze to seal. Whichever shape you decide to make, ensure that the edges are sealed well so the filling doesn't come out as the manti cook. Place the manti on a lightly floured tray as you complete them and repeat until all the dough and filling have been used.

Crush the garlic with 1 teaspoon salt, then beat into the yogurt until well-combined.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Drop in some of the manti — they will rise to the surface within 1-1/2 to 2 minutes as they are cooked. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer the cooked manti to four warmed serving bowls. Repeat with the remaining manti.

Spoon the garlic yogurt sauce over the warm manti. Quickly sizzle the butter in a small frying pan, then add the paprika and mint and heat until foaming. Swirl the sizzling butter over the manti and serve immediately.

Mint And Paprika Make A Lovely Couple

We all get into habits of taste, whether because of culture, personal preference or the idiosyncrasies of whoever taught us to cook. Why do we put lemon or milk in our tea, but never both? Why is it always mustard or mayo? These are the sort of thoughts I was having the first time I used mint and paprika in the same dish.

For me, mint had always been the cool bachelor uncle of the herb family — the one that lent its icy wit to mint chip ice cream, whose lofty aroma could turn a bourbon into a julep or give fruit salads a sweet and lively bite. As spearmint, I found it bracing and wintry, as peppermint, nimble and teasing. Dried, it made a soothing tea, the nip of menthol tamed to a numbing tingle that worked equally well served hot or cold.

Paprika was the inscrutable maiden aunt, that dusty red powder derived — who knows how? — from a bell pepper. For years, my only use for paprika was to dust it over a roast chicken, which, like a rouge or bronzer, I felt, gave it a lovely color. As far as taste, it might as well have been a cosmetic, because I couldn't have told you what difference it made. Later I used it in salad dressings, but still more as a color than a flavor. Like the mysterious "red matter" in the new Star Trek movie, the paprika I knew was enigmatic, unexamined and served mostly to advance the plot.

Eventually, I got hold of some real sweet paprika rather than the faded red dust of my youth, and I learned to love its gentle, earthy warmth for its own sake. Along with its hot and smoked siblings, I found I liked it on roast vegetables and in chili.

But never in my long, slow, spice-cabinet learning curve did I dream that mint and paprika might go together. One might be a sweet herb, the other a sweet vegetable, but there the kinship ended. If the sweetness of mint was crisp and cool, the sweetness of paprika was a soft glow of heat — their existence, diametrically opposed. Somewhere far beneath the Earth, I liked to muse, paprika and mint could be locked in eternal combat, determining whether the universe belongs to the forces of cool or warm.

It would have been different if I'd had even the most basic familiarity with Turkish cuisine, where paprika and mint join in a dance at least 300 years old. Mint is a Mediterranean native, weedy and ubiquitous; the chili peppers used to make paprika showed up after Columbus and made themselves right at home. As was the case with that more famous Old World-New World pair, basil and tomatoes, it was a match just waiting to happen.

And if it was to happen anywhere, it was bound to happen in Turkey, whose strategic position as a terminus of the Silk Road made it an inevitable, tumultuous melting pot for the flavors of many empires.

Alone, mint is piercing and paprika rounded. Together, their sweetness converges into something completely different from either — an herbal, fruity wake-up call, confused and aromatic; cool on the sides of the tongue and warm at the tip. It's a strangely addicting hybrid that tastes equally of the pasture and the garden.

You can sample that constellation of taste in many versions of the traditional Turkish red lentil soup (ezo gelin corbasi or mercimek corbasi). The paprika and the mint (dried and flaky) get swirled together in butter, their blended flavor lifting and brightening the rustic soup. It's the dried mint, with its intense, herbal zing, rather than the fresh mint, that you want here. McCormick markets it as "mint flakes," but you can find it in bulk at natural food stores. I suspect you could even just tear open a packet of mint tea.

I fell hard for the same seasoned butter draped over manti, the Turkish lamb dumplings with garlicky yogurt. In fact, once the dumplings were gone, I just kept on going — spooning buttered, herbed, spiced yogurt into my mouth without even the dieter's pretense of remorse.

Along the same lines, a yogurt marinade is good for conveying mint and paprika deep into chicken, there to await the fiery blast of the grill. Or you can sprinkle the two together onto sauteed potatoes, or mix them into a skillet of wilted greens and ground beef or lamb.

The whole experience has caused me to cast a probing, evaluative eye on the wooden cabinet in the corner of the kitchen. What other couples have come to a secret understanding in that dark, aromatic niche? Could the oregano be having a fling with the Aleppo pepper? The thyme and the mace? Is the fennel consorting with the sumac?

I'd like to demonstrate the kind of abandon my son does when he makes salad dressing (his last one included cinnamon and grains of paradise, a medieval spice), but I usually end up doing the same old sums on the spice abacus: nutmeg plus allspice, cumin plus coriander. It will probably take more than one ancient civilization to bring about real change in my herbal calculus. Until then, I'll remain just one more traveler on the spice road.

Streets of philadelphia!

Strets of Philadelphia (Bruce Springnsteen)

I was bruised and battered and I couldnt tell
What I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didnt know
My own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me
On the streets of philadelphia

I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of philadelphia

Aint no angel gonna greet me
Its just you and I my friend
My clothes dont fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip the skin

The night has fallen, Im lying awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of philadelphia