Sunday, March 24, 2013

How to win friends and influence people... with sushi.

Two days ago I said farewell to amazing eight people I have been fortunate enough to have worked with for the last two months. It isn't goodbye forever of course, I will still hopefully see them quite often around campus, but Friday marked the end of our first block of Problem Based Learning ("PBL") groups. We celebrated our hard work and friendship with a BBQ and drinks at someone's house and I can only hope that my new group is as dedicated and hilarious as my first. 

PBL is the one thing about med school that I love the most (at least in these first two years where they're reluctant to let us to go anywhere near patients!). I must admit however that I came into the process a bit skeptical... I'm somewhat a lone wolf, i.e. a socially challenged introverted hermit. This means that I would rather through my lecture notes and revision questions alone, prefer not to leave the house unless absolutely necessary, and spend most of my time reading or wasting time on the internet. The last two months have taught me that it is actually fun to have study groups, it nearly impossible to learn twenty pages of information in a day and a half and it's very easy to fluff your way through a presentation when you have no idea what you're supposed to be talking about. 

What basically happens each PBL session, is that we are given a case and we have to work through it (differential diagnoses, tests we would order, etc) and come up with "learning issues" that we then go away and research, collate in an online document and attempt to learn. The idea is that in the next session, you will be asked to randomly present any one of the nine learning issues. It might sound a little bit stressful (and it sometimes is) but it all becomes worth it when the person who is on the food roster for the week whips out their homemade creations/hurriedly store-bought delicacies (I'm pretty sure any free food counts as a delicacy when you're a student). We've had Vietnamese spring rolls, lemon meringue pie, a variety of gluten-free cakes and biscuits (we had a coeliac in our group), fried rice, pizza, doughnuts, nachos,  the list goes on... 

Something that is always first to disappear at family gatherings is my mum's sushi. So under Mum's watchful gaze (and I admit, with her helping me) I made sushi for my group for my first food roster. I took nachos and Afghan biscuits for my second go and my group didn't let me forget that I didn't bring  sushi again. I'm glad they liked it so much the first time though. Little do they know that I am planning on packing them each a wee tupperware container of sushi when I make it for my next PBL group. I just hope they enjoy the surprise when the time comes. 


Sushi (from my mother's cookbook brain)

Ingredients

For the sushi rice: 
540ml short/medium grain rice or sushi rice
600ml cold water
80ml rice vinegar or good quality white wine vinegar
1 Tbs caster sugar
½ tsp salt 

For rolling the sushi:
Several sheets of nori (seaweed) 
Filling of choice (tuna, egg rolls, crab sticks, lettuce, steamed carrot, cucumber, avocado, teriyaki chicken, etc) 
Equipment - bamboo sushi mat 

Directions 

To make the sushi rice:  Place rice in a large sieve. Rinse under cold running water, stirring occasionally with your hand to remove any excess starch, until water runs clear. Drain well. Cook the rice in a rice cooker (or a thick saucepan - place the rice and water in a large saucepan, covered, over high heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat. Set aside, covered, for 10 minutes to cool slightly). Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Transfer the rice to a large glass or wooden bowl. Use a wooden paddle to break up rice lumps while gradually adding the vinegar mixture, gently folding to combine. Try not to mash rice. Continue folding and fanning the rice until rice is cool (Or just let the rice cool by leaving it on the bench for a wee while).    

To roll the sushi: Place a sheet of nori on the bamboo mat and starting from one end, cover 2/3 of the nori with rice (make sure that the rice goes all the way to edge). In the middle of the rectangle of rice, place a relatively thin strip of filling. If you want lots of filling, it is best to stack the food items up high rather than wide. Using your thumbs, hold the edge of the mat and lift the nori (from the rice end) away from you, ensuring the ingredients don't fall out. Wet your fingertips and use them to wet the edge of the nori that has no rice on it as this will help the roll stick together. Complete the roll with the bamboo mat and squeeze firmly but not too hard! Place the sushi roll on a chopping board and cut into slices of desired height. Serve with soy sauce and wasabi. 

- Matilda

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bald and [hopefully] beautiful

On Friday last week, one of the girls in the year above me at uni chopped off my ponytail before taking clippers to my head and bringing my previously beautiful – if I do say so myself - long reddy-brown hair down to a number one buzz cut.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s World Greatest Shave is something that I have wanted to do since I was  15, when I watched one of my beautiful friends shave her luscious locks off at school. But things came up that meant I “couldn’t” do it… school formal in year 12, first year of university (my logic was that I would need to have hair when I met new people), my coming of age photo in Japan, etc, etc. It was really just a string of lame excuses to justify my irrational attachment to the dead keratinised cells that were making winter nights even colder and summer days a sweaty hell. To prevent myself from putting it off for yet another year, I signed up for this year’s shave as soon as I got back from my trip to Japan in late December. I figured that by committing to it early, I would be giving myself time to get used to the idea – as well as preventing me from getting cold feet and running away from yet another opportunity to do something simple to benefit those in need. I know firsthand how cancer can affect the lives of not just the individuals who are sick, but their families as well, and I felt as if it were time to reach out to others in worse situations than my own family. By the time Friday came around, I was more excited than nervous and if I am to be honest (and a wee bit crude), not having any hair feels freaking great

With donations still trickling in, I’ve collected just over $2200 for the Leukaemia Foundation. Now this is what has been so humbling and overwhelming for me… nearly a hundred people have given money to see my 50cm of hair disappear and their generosity astounds me. Never before did I think that the simple act of shaving my head had the potential to motivate people to give money to charity. When I was younger, current affair programmes on television would show other little girls my age who would cut off their ponytails to raise money for charity but the thing that struck me with these girls was that they all went to private schools. Having gone to a private school myself, I knew that the majority of the thousands of dollars raised by those girls came from the parents. Yeah that’s right, no-one ever said I was cynical… I suppose what I’m trying to say is that what made this whole experience so special for me was the fact that I had my peers’ support. Most of the donations I collected came from my new university friends. Seeing as we are going to be spending the next four years in each other’s pockets, it reassures me to think I’m going to be surrounded by such generous, supportive and encouraging individuals.

However, it would not be honest of me if I did not admit to being worried about what I would look like with a shaved head. It’s all well and good to raise money for charity and yada yada but I am a teenage girl living in a first world country in the 21st century. I would be kidding myself if I said I didn’t give a damn about physical appearances. It also doesn’t help that my self-esteem is pretty much zero to begin with and that my mum was telling me I would look bad since I’m a girl and “girls aren’t supposed to shave their heads.” Luckily though, being a c-section baby meant that my head wasn’t ridiculously squashed during the parturition process and subsequently, my adult head is an alright shape. Phew. And for all the drama leading up to the event, Mum seems pleased with my new do, which is possibly the biggest relief of all.  Her and Dad have taken to calling me “little monk” which I secretly love (two years ago I decided I was going to become a Buddhist nun and live the rest of my life in a temple, so this is reasonable replacement for now).

All the love and support I’ve received over the last few weeks has been phenomenal and it really helps with someone, such as myself, that constantly struggles to realise that there are people out there that actually care for them.  I have always been one to doubt myself and, apart from the warm and fuzzy feeling I’ve received from this whole giving-to-charity exercise, the act of shaving my head has given me some much needed confidence, as well as a reminder that my friends are the most precious people in the world and their support is integral to my overall wellbeing.

Gee this turned into some soppy “I love you guys” post.. but seriously. I do. Much love to all you wonderful people. You know who you are :) <3

- Matilda

Friday, March 8, 2013

Inspirational Penguins

A dear friend told me the other day that the inspiration for his own blog came from a girl called Matilda but, "she's been a lil' busy nowawadys - which of course, is totally fine and understandable." 

I was a little taken aback when I read his message but just as quickly, the offence turned into sadness and a sense of loss. My primary excuse for not having written much lately is of course uni studies... and not having a garden to cook out of makes a fair bit of difference as well I suppose. The latter point is one of the reasons I was a little apprehensive about committing to a "food blog" in the first place: I felt it would restrict me as to what I could write about. However, scanning through my posts has made me realise that food is on the side. Life and the things that are important to me seem to come through in my posts more than my feeble experiments in the kitchen in an attempt to excite my favourite of the special senses, gustation. 

After reading through my friend's posts, I stopped. And I thought. The first thing to pop into my mind was "wow, I feel so honoured that he felt comfortable to share his private corner of cyberspace with me." Then I thought about me because, let's face it, we are all good at thinking about ourselves. It seems like some sort of evolutionary protective mechanism us humans have developed. I should probably do some research first before I make such comments but I still remember doing driver safety courses at school and being told that the driver, in the context of a potential car accident, will always swerve to protect themselves first.  It's the same sort of thing I suppose. Where I'm trying to take this train thought, I'm not entirely sure.. the point is, I'd love to start blogging again - I just feel I should give readers a small word of warning first: food isn't going to be the primary focus anymore. Food will be interweaved between all the rubbish that my fingers vomit onto the keyboard but at this stage in my life, it really isn't practical to be aiming for a recipe a week. Particularly, as I've already mentioned (I think this will be the third time now), I no longer have access to fresh organic veg. 

Anyhow, those are my thoughts and I hope I haven't sent you to sleep. To the dear penguin boy (he has a penguin fetish) who was inspired -and is now doing the inspiring - I thank you. 

In love and peace,
Matilda