Giving Thanks: A Reflection on Thanksgiving for Three

 

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By Collier Curran

Even as my desk is piled high with papers and textbooks and my laptop has seventeen tabs open, my mind wanders to thoughts of mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and family. As the semester–and midterm season–trudges on, my excitement for Thanksgiving only builds; I open my eyes every morning and immediately grab for my phone to check the number of days left until the 23rd. In this age of only seeing family and hometown friends every few months, I can’t help but reflect on how my relationship to this holiday, and to my home, has changed.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was a somewhat typical day. Sure, my mom had spent most of the previous day cooking, but roasted chicken (we don’t like turkey), mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce were hardly a rarity in my house. I am incredibly lucky to have been born to a modern-day Julia Child; if I ever had a bad day, or a good day, or even an okay day, my mom was cooking. We almost always had a sit-down, home-cooked dinner as a family, but every few weeks we would enjoy a feast similar to that of Thanksgiving as a treat. While I was always grateful for the delicious food in front of me, I had somewhat grown used to it.

My Thanksgivings were also typical in terms of the company. I cannot remember a time where I ate Thanksgiving dinner with someone who didn’t live in my house (or next door, when my grandparents lived one block away). For one reason or another, my mom always cooked the Thanksgiving meal, and my very immediate family always enjoyed it. In this way, an artfully prepared meal with the members of my household just felt like another Thursday. Sure, the Macy’s Parade was on TV in the background, and my dad I ran in our town’s 1.4 mile Turkey Trot (I will admit that me running meant it was not a typical day), but once those festivities ceased, we engaged in typical family time.tumblr_lus03cg5181qav5oho1_500

After leaving for college, Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning. My first year at school, I lived off of subpar meals from the dining hall, and now, I mix take-out with semi-homemade dinners that would even make Sandra Lee cringe. A meal homemade by my mom is something I miss every day, almost as much as the company.

I’m always saddened when I think about how little I appreciated the beauty of Thanksgiving when growing up. I was fortunate enough not only to share a bountiful meal in a welcoming home, but also to eat that meal with the strong and beautiful women in my life. Though the makeup of my household has changed slightly throughout the years, I have never had a shortage of inspiring family members, despite the small number. I currently live with my mother and my grandmother, both of whom challenge and motivate me every day. I know now that I will never again take for granted sharing a table with them, and coming home to experience everything I love about my town and the place that unrelentingly supports and encourages me. I am who I am because of these small family dinners, and even if we do not fill up my dining room table, I would not trade them for anything.Chast_2010_11_22_0071215-Thanksgiving-Slideshow2

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Beat Midterms Stress: Easy Study Treats!

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By Collier Curran

I will admit, the title of this article can be slightly misleading. All college students–especially upperclassmen–know that the stress of midterms never truly fades until reading week, when it is replaced by equally suffocating finals stress. However, activities like cooking and baking can provide a temporary reprieve from hours in the library, with the added bonus of a delicious snack to boost morale. I have found three tasty and indulgent dorm-friendly recipes for when you need a sugary, buttery pick-me-up.

  1. Easy Pie Crust Cannolis

This is definitely more of a hack than a formal recipe, but I loved it so much I had to share! Whoever thought that ready-made pie crust could be transformed into crunchy and flavorful cannoli shells, and with no fancy tools or equipment? All you need to do is cut out circles in your pie crust using a drinking glass and dust them with cinnamon sugar. To get the distinct cannoli shape, form long cylinders with aluminum foil, adjusting the diameter to how large you want the cannolis to be. Simply spray the foil with cooking spray and fold your circles of pie crust around the cylinders. After you bake the shells for 20 minutes at 350º, they’ll be ready to enjoy! As far as filling goes, Delish has a great fall-inspired recipe for a pumpkin filling (search “Pumpkin Cannoli”). If you’re tired of all things pumpkin spice, these shells could be filled with nearly any sweet filling you desire. I would suggest whipped cream, jam, frosting, or even a homemade ricotta filling, if you’re feeling bold (or very stressed about midterms!).Mamas-Best-Banana-Pudding-3-sm

  1. No-Bake Turtle Cheesecake Dip

I feel it is necessary to remind you all that I did label these recipes as indulgent, so I cannot be held accountable for how you use this information. That being said, I firmly believe that this dip can satisfy any stress-induced dessert craving out there. It would be great eaten on its own, but also as intended with graham crackers, pretzels, or apples as dippers.

To make this dip, beat 8 ounces of softened cream cheese until light and creamy. Beat in one cup of powdered sugar and mix in 8 ounces of thawed whipped topping. Stir in ¾ cups each of chopped pecans and chocolate chips, and swirl in ⅓ cup of warmed caramel sauce. The result is a dreamy and rich dip with ribbons of sweet caramel and the lovely crunch of chocolate and nuts. This dip is great to share with friends or roommates, or to bring to a club meeting or party. For more on this recipe, feel free to check out the blog Back For Seconds.

  1. Banana Pudding

So, I visited Magnolia Bakery a few weeks ago and I am still dreaming about the banana pudding. The texture is absolutely perfect, and I love the moist bits of cake thrown in with the ripe banana slices. Unfortunately, Magnolia Bakery is quite a distance from Morningside Heights, in addition to being a burden on the college bank account, so a homemade rendition is in order! I was shocked to see just how easy online banana pudding recipes could be. It really is as simple as whipping up instant vanilla pudding (with a few tweaks) and adding ripe bananas and nilla wafers (or vanilla cake pieces if you want to go the extra mile). I especially like AllRecipes’ take on banana pudding because they enhance the store-bought mix with condensed milk and whipped topping in order to create that signature Magnolia texture. I always buy more bananas than I need when I’m at the store, so this recipe is great to use up those last few bananas that are too ripe to eat as is.

For this recipe, beat one package of instant vanilla pudding mix with two cups of cold milk. Blend in one 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk until well combined. Stir in one tablespoon of vanilla extract (for added vanilla flavor) and fold in one 12 ounce tub of thawed whipped topping. After that, you’re ready to layer! Start with Nilla Wafers, then add bananas, pudding, and repeat the process until your container is full. This recipe would be great to bring to a study group, since it is definitely sized to share!

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Every Barnard student knows the struggles that accompany midterm season. When times get really tough, stress creates a void only sugar, butter, and chocolate can fill. Become the talk of the study group and bring along one (or all) of these delicious recipes to make papers and exams that much more bearable. Good luck with exams, and I will see you all next time!

Alone or Lonely?

 

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By Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman

It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m sitting on the steps across from Milbank. It’s sunny but chilly outside, and I’m sipping a hot coffee. There are students around me; some of them are talking in groups, some in pairs. Another girl, alone, like me, is sitting on the step above me, eating an orange and looking at her phone.

Before I entered college, people told me that I was going to have some of the best years of my life here. An important part of that experience, they said, was the lifelong connections and friendships that I would make, the late nights, the wine parties.

I kept this in mind all throughout last year, especially during NSOP, when new students were scrambling to make as many friends and meet as many people as possible. People went from being best friends during NSOP to acquaintances when classes began. I think about several people who I’d become “best friends” with within the first couple days of orientation, and how quickly they fizzled out and amounted to, at most, a smile when passing each other on the way to class.

Last year, socialization was important to me. I hated being alone, so I filled my schedule with lunch dates, outings, movies, etc. I made plans like crazy. But I felt on a deeper level that these social interactions, at least in the first month of college, were superficial. But I was happy, because at least I wasn’t ever alone.

Because all the freshmen lived in close-quarters and had similar eagerness to “get involved” in the social scene, clubs, organizations, etc., being constantly social was easy, and it was something that I got used to.

I’m a sophomore now, living in Plimpton. No more communal bathrooms or kitchens, no more walking out into halls of people heading to the shower in a bathrobe. Often, I’m in my room. I don’t like going out as much; things are too far away. Introducing myself to new people is harder now, since I’m not new to the school anymore, and I don’t technically have an incentive to branch out. Yet, at the same time, I am a bit lonely; looking at what everyone is doing on social media is disheartening. It’s easy for me to feel isolated, or to feel as if I’m not doing anything, as if I’m wasting my college experience, and I’m feeling more and more these days like a loner. For a while, this was very difficult for me– at times, it still is– but I’ve learned that being alone isn’t always a bad thing.

When I was hyper-social last year, I felt good about having a full schedule, a rich social life, a group text, etc. However, I often felt compelled to keep up relationships and people that didn’t make me feel good. I felt anxious all the time, desperate to be liked, wondering why someone didn’t answer a text that I’d sent a day ago. The worry that came with all of these things was exhausting. While I still experience these feelings, I’ve found that taking time for myself has been helpful. Being alone on my own volition took mountains of social pressure off – I’m beginning to enjoy walking by myself, studying by myself, having dinner by myself, without worrying about what I’m supposed to be doing, such as having dinner with five friends every night. This semester, I’ve learned the value of having just a few really great individual friendships; I’ve learned the relief of not having to belong to a group, and most importantly, I’ve learned to love alone time.
That’s not to say that I still don’t sometimes experience episodes of loneliness on campus, FOMO, sneaking suspicions that that one friend doesn’t actually like me that much, the feeling that I’d made someone mad, etc. I still experience these things, which I think, I hope, is part of the larger experience of existing as a social being, but something that I ultimately learned this semester is finding value, enjoyment, and serenity in being alone, and that being alone shouldn’t and doesn’t necessarily equate to being unhappy.

Chickens and the Ivy League

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by Sinead Hunt

If you’re anything like me, these past few weeks have been characterized by an unrelenting barrage of exams, papers and deadlines, with no discernable finish line in the foreseeable future. Your celebration over the completion of one assignment is almost certain to be overshadowed by yet another looming deadline, as this semester’s midterm season drags on. If you have ever felt overwhelmed by school work, internships, and the overall pressure to succeed, then you too have felt the effect of Barnard/Columbia’s toxic “stress culture.”

In light of recent events, including an ill-conceived “time management calculator” recently circulated within the Columbia Buy Sell Memes page, you would have to be living under a rock to have never heard the term “stress culture.” As the term has become firmly ingrained in the lexicon of Barnard/Columbia students, there have been numerous attempts by the administration to deal with this insidious pandemic. From limiting the number of credits students can take to expanding access to mental health services, members of the community, including students, faculty and administrators are all struggling to discover a panacea for stress culture.z 

No place better embodies Columbia’s stress culture than Butler Library. On Sunday nights, Butler’s atmosphere is perfectly dismal, the intimidating silence punctuated only by the furious clacking of student’s typing. While Butler’s formidable presence is expected, however, even the social spaces on campus have been co-opted as oppressively silent study spaces.22-memes-youll-only-understand-if-youre-about-to--2-30792-1492602277-1_dblbig

Who should be held accountable for this school’s pernicious stress culture? While I acquiesce that there are many things the administration could be doing to mitigate stress culture, it is equally important to consider what we as students could be doing right now to foster a healthier, less stressful environment.

After my first semester at college, I was struck by the story of an evolutionary biologist by the name of William Muir. In an effort to better understand the relationship between competition and productivity, Muir set out to measure the productivity of chickens. He separated his hens into two distinct groups, the first of which being a collection of simply “average” chickens. The second group was a carefully selected cross-section of the most productive chickens, also known as “super chickens.” Each generation, Muir selected only the best egg-layers to place into this elite flock. After six generations, Muir examined the egg production of both groups.

we are all super chickens, willing to do whatever it takes to maximize our own productivity

The results of Muir’s experiment were shocking. If egg-laying is a heritable trait, then simple evolutionary biology dictates that the latter of the two flocks, the group of “super chickens,” should have been more productive than their average counterparts. However, contrary to expectation, it was the average flock that thrived, increasing egg production by 160%. And what about the super chickens?

They pecked one another to death.super_chicken_by_shway__dude

Muir found that the individually productive chickens had achieved their success at the expense of their neighbors, suppressing their peers’ egg-laying so as to maximize their own. The intense competition among these super chickens, rather than increasing productivity, actually led to the demise of their flock.

The results of this study resonated with me on a personal level. From the moment I arrived on campus, I knew that the vast majority of my classmates had been at the top of their class in high school, and came to college with one simple objective: to succeed. In other words, we are all super chickens, willing to do whatever it takes to maximize our own productivity, even if it comes at the expense of our neighbors. At this point, I could regale you with countless stories of times where my classmates and even my friends reified this toxic ethos of competition through both words and actions.  From my best friend who only agreed to share her notes with me “because the class isn’t curved,” to the classmates who made me feel ashamed of a 96, stress culture is ultimately perpetuated by us, the students. While the administration certainly needs to make a concerted effort to address this culture of competition, we, the students, too must critically examine our inordinate emphasis on success. As long as we normalize unhealthy practices in the name of academic success, we are complicit in the further perpetuation of an unhealthy stress culture that is bad for all members of our community.

 

Journalism. For or Against?

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Jaime Kedrowski / Missourian

By Ruby Samuels

It was late afternoon, right in the middle of midterms and the red-eyed students in my sociology class were just getting into the topic of the day: mass media’s negative influence on social movements. We were not talking about “fake news,” Breitbart or Alex Jones radio. We were talking about the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the four other “corporate” media companies that we were informed have been purveyors of skewed information both nationally and internationally for over a century.  

As I sat back and listened to my fellow classmates, some of whom are social activists themselves, speak about the media as a rabid and biased generalized other, I was taken aback. They described unwelcome “swarms” of reporters descending on protests that they participated in. They spoke about how even the most openly liberal and anti-Trump reporters are empowering the president by shining a spotlight on his misdeeds. They spoke of how the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in American history, only reached front page news because it was all about Trump, the man whose name and hair gets people to read articles. Therefore, they said, protests that don’t explicitly resist the president are not covered. They spoke of how the widespread negative coverage of the antifa movement halts progress against white nationalism. Lastly, they said that journalists cover protests as though they are isolated events, which limits the information that readers can absorb about the political and social context that gave rise to the movement in the first place. usa-new-york-daca

A lot of the points that were made in class this week are valid, but I am still grappling with how journalists could be so mistrusted by college students in an era full of headlines that seem to be on their side (in opposition to the current administration). Media may be somewhat inherently  biased– after all, reporters are human beings too– and everyone should learn to be a critical consumer, but I’ve always thought that journalism was a noble and necessary part of democracy. How else can everyone else, who spend most of their waking hours working in their own fields, be made aware of the political, cultural and economic events that shape, however abstractly,the world they live in?

In class, we have also read about zines and citizen journalists with their own publications and distribution methods, who are openly biased and seek to inform the public of their cause. But we still need people whose whole job is to report the news, who are trained in a professional setting to research, report and write about events that their personal ideologies aren’t already tangled up in. Don’t we?

Yes, we have fantastic, well trained, full-time reporters like Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! and Rachel Maddow, who take an activist approach to journalism. But we still need sources that ride the line between parties, that will be listened to by more than the liberals in the preacher’s choir, that can’t be called fake news so easily.

The book we were assigned to read for class that day is called “The Whole World is Watching,” named after the chant of anti-war demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The author, Tom Gitlin, mainly talks about just that– Vietnam protests and the way that major news organizations allied with the Johnson Administration’s pro-war agenda to frame the anti-war protesters as a bunch of riotous hippies. I never got the sense that Gitlin intended to convince his readers that media is the enemy. He just seems to have wanted readers to realize that whatever they read, it’s not the whole truth.

In any case, times have changed. Journalists are still part of an elite intellectual class, which they supply with one version of the truth. As Gitlin wrote: “Simply by doing their jobs, journalists tend to serve the political and economic elite definitions of reality” (pg. 12). But these days, at least, journalists also uncover stories that politicians and certain members of the elite would rather not be shared. Journalists, however, can’t take sides, even when covering injustice and the movements that hope to be the solution. As the New York Times wrote in May:

“The question is which approach is more effective — when The Times looks as if it has joined the resistance, or when it excavates facts without prejudice? In the legal system, it’s the difference between an investigator and a prosecutor….Some readers, alarmed over a Trump presidency, want the newsroom in full combat mode”

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I think that recent events show that journalists are not turning their cheek to social movements. Six reporters, for example, were charged with felonies and arrested (four of whom acted even after seeing the consequences faced by the first two) for covering inauguration day protests in January,  under the premise that they were violating a Washington D.C. law against rioting. Just a few weeks ago, reporters repeated again and again the date of the deadline for DACA recipients to renew their two-year period of legal status. And what about coverage of the protests that have nothing to do with president Trump?

I’m still left with questions about how to go about doing journalism in a way that maintains the reporter’s role as the white helmet in a war of words. How do journalists cover the news in a way that reveals the structural inequity that leads to protests while also revealing the truth of the other side? How do journalists remain truly unbiased, or reveal their biases without losing readers?  What I do know is the less  that social activists trust the press, the less free the press can be to uncover the stories that those activists  and everyone else need to know. 

Fall Baking in a Dorm Room: Small Batch Apple Cinnamon Scones

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By Collier Curran

Some of my fondest memories from home involve fall baking. I will always remember running off the bus after school and opening my front door to be greeted by the warm and comforting smell of cinnamon and nutmeg. Whatever my mom was baking–cupcakes, cookies, bread–would waft through the house and blanket the existing coziness of my favorite season.

Now that I am in college, I am determined to recreate the comfort of home baking in my studio apartment. One of my favorite ways to do so is through small batch recipes. Recipes that fall under this description generally feed about two people (or one if you are hungry and determined), cutting down on waste while still allowing for that comforting baking experience. Specifically, these small batch apple cinnamon scones are perfect for making in your dorm room or apartment. With them come certain advantages, such as: using cold butter (meaning that you can decide to make these on a whim and can avoid the pain of having to wait for the butter to soften when you just want to bake already), and How-to-Make-Soft-Scones-Picturehaving fresh pecans in every bite (this may be a stretch, but these provide a chunk of your daily protein!). I will warn you; I recently bought pecans at Morton Williams and my debit card was certainly not pleased. However, if you are willing to make the investment, you can chop them up into small pieces and make a minimal amount of nuts go a long way. Then, you have the rest of the bag to add to oatmeal, granola, or simply to snack on. If not (or if you have an allergy), these would also be delicious nut-free!

Lastly, I will provide a small tip for dorm room bakers. The recipe recommends that you roast the pecans before adding them to the scones. I will second this notion, because I believe roasting adds a great depth of flavor to the scones, but I know many of you are rolling your eyes even thinking about roasting the pecans in the oven before you even start the recipe. So, here comes the tip! Believe it or not, you can actually microwave your pecans and still get the wonderful roast-y flavor! Simply spread your chopped pecans out on a plate and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring halfway through if your microwave doesn’t automatically rotate the food. Microwaving the nuts is such a simple tip which will really amp up this dorm room recipe. Who knows, you may want to double this recipe once your friends catch wind of your new baking expertise!

Check out this recipe on the blog One Dish Kitchen in order to read the original commentary and find similar small batch treats.

Small Batch Apple Cinnamon Scones

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Makes 4 Scones

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold butter , cut into small pieces, 1/2 stick
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup pecans , chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup chopped apples (Appx. 1 small apple)

For the Glaze (optional, but delicious)

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar , sifted
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup

 

*A note: I also suggest using pre-made apple pie spice in place of just cinnamon. Similarly, do not be afraid to go a little heavy on spice. I find that in scones, the spice can often get lost among the other ingredients, so more is necessary to really get that spicy fall flavor.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and sugar.
  4. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. (Note: if you don’t have a pastry blender, don’t fear! You can simply mush the butter into the flour mixture with the back of a fork or with two crisscrossed knives.)
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and the milk. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  6. Gently stir in the toasted pecans and the diced apples.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead very lightly and form a circle. (Add a little more flour to the dough if the dough becomes too sticky to handle).
  8. Cut the dough into 4 wedges.
  9. Place the wedges onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Let cool on baking sheet for a minute, then transfer onto wire rack.
  11. To prepare the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cream and maple syrup until smooth. Spread over the tops of the cooled scones. Top with additional chopped pecans, if desired.

Ta-da! There you have it. Beautiful scones for you to enjoy during the fall season, especially as midterms approach. Take a study break and try these out! If you liked this recipe, check back soon, as I am seeing these posts turning into a series…

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