Thursday Born

The everyday life of a medical student (who was born on a Thursday).

Archive for March 2010

Trying not to step on too many toes

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My sophomore year in undergrad, I took a class called Culture and Diversity in Psychology. A good deal of the cultural comparison psychology studies out there are East vs West, and there’s the general idea they like to use that Eastern Cultures tend to be more collectivist, whereas Western Cultures tend to be more individualist.

I think all cultures have a bit of both traits mixed in, but there does tend to be a more dominant flavor.

I have a hard time saying which I lean more toward. I come from an interestingly blended background where personal excellence was emphasized, but so was family togetherness and taking care of each other. I remember one example given in class of a group of people going out to eat. In an Individualist Culture, people try to order different things, so as not to copy someone else. In the Collectivist Culture, they all try to order the same thing as show of similarity, which is good.

My family tries to order different things, so we can share with each other. Oh, you’re getting the pancakes? Ok, well I’ll get the eggs and then we’ll share.

I usually think of myself as more individualist (I’m a stubbornly independent person, sometimes irrationally so), but recently a lot of Health Care Reform debate has me realizing I have more collectivist traits than I would have assumed. I’ve been finding American culture more and more foreign lately, and I’m not just saying that “Huh, conservatives are so weird!” Though I will admit that I find these Tea Party people frightening, genuinely frightening, because hate that deep is a terrible, dangerous motivator.

No, it’s not just conservatives. There’s many random things that are just foreign to me, personally, not me as a liberal, not me as an American-Ghanaian, but me as just me.

While there are some very matter of fact objections to the Health Care Bill (“How can we afford this?”) a great majority of what I’m seeing have to do with personal values. A lot of Americans value freedom in an almost rabid way that I don’t really understand. I think freedom is overrated, in the way someone who’s lived her life in peaceful countries can think freedom is overrated. I’m still trying to work through articulating this coherently and gracefully, but it seems like I value “the greater good” over “personal freedom.” Fine. Tax me more. Force me to buy health insurance. I honestly don’t care if it means a better life for more people.

(Aside: This is likely related to how I don’t think that Dictators are inherently awful, and how I feel that a Benevolent Dictator can possibly do more good for a country than a well meaning democratically elected President. Unfortunately, a malevolent Dictator can do more harm, so we take the general stance of preventing the worst case.)

Another point of debate has been “I don’t want to pay for the guy who ate/smoked himself sick.” I know I’m going to be jaded on this in a matter of 2-3 years, but right now my feeling is, “Well you know, it sucks that he did this to himself, but suffering is wrong, self-inflicted or not, and I’m not going to let my fellow human suffer if I can help it.” And people aren’t making these choices in a vacuum. Society has contributed heavily to the existence of the smokers and the over-eaters. Maybe we should be paying for their care. Collectively, we helped do this to them.

The solution to many problems could be more government regulation. It could be less government regulation. It is possible that those are both viable solutions. But the solution is certainly not to be found in doing nothing. I would rather see this bill pass and fail, so we can learn from its mistakes, than see nothing change and life go on as it has been.

I wish people would talk more about the practical objections, and less about the value-based objections, because I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on those.

There’s a lot more on my mind but I think I need to split this into separate posts. So I guess this will be my Health Care Reform post.

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Written by Aba

March 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

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Craving Satisfied!

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Current favorite recipe for poğaca! This is the first batch I made with that recipe, and I’ve made one more since. They all turned out well (fillings: olive paste, goat cheese and dill, goat cheese and olive paste and dill, feta and parsley) and I think I’ll be making these often. I even have my boyfriend’s confirmation that they taste like authentic homemade Turkish poğaca! The website the recipe’s from seems like a great resource for Turkish recipes; it’s a Turkish woman’s recipe blog. I wonder if there’s any ghanaian food blogs… My boyfriend’s found quite a few Turkish ones that I’ll probably refer to over time, but Ghanaian food isn’t very well documented in recipe form.

When I was younger, my mother would want to teach me how to cook and I would say, “I can cook in theory. Give me a recipe and I can follow it.” And I didn’t really get the big deal in going through the motions and knowing how to cook without recipes. I don’t think I would go back and force my younger self to learn though, because I think you need to want to cook before you really start getting it. Before you can skim a bunch of recipes, get a feel for where you’re going and how to get there, and then just run with what you absorbed.

I really don’t mean to turn this into a food blog, but I was studying the other day and starving and I made this and it was delicious! It was really easy to throw together which was good, because I really didn’t have the time/mental energy to make anything elaborate. I stole the general idea from an appetizer recipe and made it into a sandwich:

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Sandwich

Lightly toast (ie, warm) two slices of Ciabatta (homemade!). Drizzle (or in my case, somewhat drench) with olive oil, then spread with goat cheese. Coat liberally with black pepper, dill, rosemary, and thyme. Add smoked Salmon. Enjoy!

Written by Aba

March 28, 2010 at 3:28 pm

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Procrastination through Baking (and posting)

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I think I’m getting better at this whole taking pictures of food thing! My phone is still not the best camera ever, but I think I really might be able to hold off on buying a real camera for longer than I thought. =)

Anyway, these are actually only 2 of the 3 things I baked yesterday. I also baked some normal sandwich bread, except I substituted a cup of whole wheat flour in (total of 3 cups of flour) but did not add quite enough extra water, so it didn’t rise again so once again my bread is too small. =( Which is fine for morning toast but not for sandwiches. On the other hand, my ciabatta loaf came out beautifully! And I froze six slices from the middle to be used for sandwiches on some later date.

The original ciabatta recipe can be found here. I recommend skimming through the comments. My roommate tried the recipe but added rosemary in to the original dough, instead of folding it in after rising and/or dusting the finished dough with herbs. Hers did not rise as much as mine did prior to baking, nor did it rise as much in the oven (so she had a flatter, wetter bread that did not cook through as well). I followed the recipe exactly (we both did, I think) but I added in garlic and other herbs just before putting it in my cast iron pan (which was light buttered, and then floured). You can’t really mix the herbs in very well, just to warn you. It really is just folding it in. But you can still taste them, and the garlic managed to work its way in quite well. Delicious bread, and really easy recipe. I might give up on trying to make normal american style sandwich bread and just make ciabatta.

I really recommend making the ciabatta. It is a fairly bland bread, but for how easy it is to make, it’s amazing. Tastes great with olive oil mixed with a bit of salt and black pepper. It’s really a base recipe too, and it’s meant to be tweaked.

The little pastries  are my attempt at recreating these olive paste filled rolls I had in Turkey last May that were delicious. My boyfriend dug up and translated a recipe for me. Alas, as he suspected, they turned out more dense and scone like than the fluffy rolls I’m craving. Next try, I’m adding more water and perhaps more yeast. Not sure yet what else I’ll do. I also found a recipe for crescent rolls and I might make a hybrid of these recipes and see what happens. I also might be actually ordering olive paste, because while these Kalamata olives are delicious, I do not have a food processor (yet) so it’s hard to really make a paste out of them.

I really, really liked those rolls… Honestly though, I think it was the paste. I don’t like it when olives are just chopped up and baked into bread, but the paste… that was delicious! I think it’s a texture thing. I usually don’t like nuts in baked goods either. Raisins only belong in certain things. So I guess my goal is to find a roll recipe I like, and just fill it with the paste, and then I will be happy. It does not have to be authentically Turkish. I think next “semester” (rather, “neuro block”) will be filled with more ethnic food experimentation. I would like to make more traditional Ghanaian food (I make more of the fringe foods, but nothing really, truly Ghanaian), and maybe a few of the Turkish dishes that I particularly liked.

Translation of the recipe (original recipe here) I used for the rolls (edited my boyfriend’s translation a tiny bit):

Olive Pastry (30 pieces)

Materials:

  • 600 gr. (5 cup + 3 / 4 cup) flour (Piyale brand.  Seems to be generic flour)
  • 2 tsp   Dr. Oetker instant yeast (ie, use instant yeast, or if using regular, activate it first)
  • 300 ml. (1 cup + 3 tbs) warm (temp: mild, lukewarm) milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 125 ml. (1 / 2 cup) hazelnut oil or any liquid oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1 / 2 cup very finely chopped dill (optional)
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • Olive paste
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly whipped

Description:

  1. Add into a rather large mixing bowl: the flour, the instant yeast, milk, the large egg, liquid oil, the dill and salt. Knead the dough thoroughly until comes together.
  2. Cover it with plastic wrap then wait up to 1 hour in a warm place for it to rise.
  3. Roll walnut-sized dough pieces in your palms. Using the palm of your hand, knead them into a flat circles. Put 1 tsp olive paste (or other material) in them and close the dough. Pinch closed
  4. Take the pastries you’ve prepared and line them up on a baking tray you’ve covered with parchment paper. Brush them with the egg yolk.
  5. Cook in Pre-heated 180 C (~350F) degree oven for 20 minutes

NOTE:  You can fill them with cheese, pork, potato, etc.

Oh, and I found a new hairstyle. Because my double braids did not make me look enough like a 16 year old. =D With my hair and my occasional black sneakers instead of dress shoes, it’s no wonder when people are confused as to why I’m in the hospital. “Are you… a nursing student? How old are you?” To be fair, that time I was not wearing a white coat.

These are sock buns. Or to be more accurate, scrunchy buns. Socks (ok, I used arm warmers. Couldn’t find old black socks to cut up) made for too thick of a bun.

I really, really should be studying right now. I’m going to go study. Finals start Friday and I have a quiz tomorrow. I think I’m ready for the quiz, but I have a long way to go for Friday’s test.
Edit to Add: Ooh! Thanks to my boyfriend, I am now armed with two new recipes for the rolls (which are called pogaca in Turkish). They both specifically claim to be fluffy. I might have to try them both since the ingredients vary and I’m curious what difference that makes. I will probably try one of them first, since it does not call for yoghurt, and then try the other later.

Written by Aba

March 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm

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Doctors are people too, part 1 of many

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“Pseudoscience and Misery” is how I recently heard a second year describe Psychiatry. Another choice quote, this time from a classmate:  “What’s Afghani food? Hashish and heroin?”

Still, I have to say that for the most part, my classmates are fairly open minded and respectful people. And they are, first and foremost, people. Wanting to go into medicine does not automatically make one a saint.

It also doesn’t automatically make people more sanitary.

I’m a germaphobe, I’ll admit (since  late 2007. And no, I do not have OCD. At worst I’d have OCPD, but I don’t actually have that either). I think about these things a lot and am often picking up new habits (like putting down the toilet lid while flushing; last summer I bought one of those cleaner tablets you put in the reservoir and they had blue dye. I was rather distraught to notice lots of blue dots of water on the seat after flushing. So now, lid goes down. I guess that’s what they’re for?). I also pay attention to other people’s habits, and while my classmates are sometimes a bit cleaner than the general public, they’re still fairly normal and standard in their behavior.

So when I think about that, and I think about the high rates of hospital acquired infections, I’m not surprised. Sure they’re foaming in (ie, using the hand sanitizing foam) before they come in, but they’re using the same pen they’ve been using all over the hospital, using the same stethoscope, checking their phone, wearing the white coat that hasn’t been washed in months, etc. And we’re the cleaner generation. I’ve seen doctors who wash their hands only after each physical, not before. I’ve recently heard of doctors who don’t ever wash their hands (even after touching a hemorrhoid).

But hey, it has to start somewhere, right? The fact that my generation of doctors is having “foam in and foam out every single time!” drilled into our heads is actually a big step in the right direction. And I’ve been rather impressed with the hospital protocol for patients with any sort of infectious condition, even a minor cold. Gloves, gown, and sometimes a mask required before entering the room. I think that in daily life, my personal level of cleanliness is not always necessary (and definitely not for kids. Kids must run around and play in mud and eat dead bugs!) but when you’re dealing with patients, a higher standard really should be the norm.

Written by Aba

March 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm

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Thinking Ahead

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I went to a career talk about Psychiatry today (only 3 students, including me, showed up; there was another talk with free lunch at the same time). It was actually kind of comforting and I feel better about the fact that psychiatry has been on my mind lately.

It’s kind of early to be thinking about a specialty, but it’s also not. It’s early to be sure, but I think it’s healthy to start thinking about it, because there are things I can choose to do or not do now that could effect my chances later. If I knew for sure that I wanted to go into Radiology or Ophthalmology, for example, then I’d definitely be looking for research to do this summer. Instead, I’m still in flux about what I want to be doing. I’m waiting to hear back if I got funding to go back to Ghana for the summer; if that doesn’t go through, I might consider a paid shadowing preceptorship in US for 4-6 weeks, or as a back-up back-up, research. I’m planning on spending at least 2 weeks in Ghana and another 2 in Turkey though, which leaves me at max, 7 weeks for research).

One of the more interesting things about the panel, was listening to all these happy psychiatrists talk about the decision process they went through before they decided on Psychiatry. Most of them thought they would do something else, Neurology in the case of 2 of them, or something with Surgery in the case of 2 others. One in particular phrased it in a way I could see myself saying someday. He thought he’d go into Cardiology or something surgical or with procedures, because he liked to work with his hands and he’d done a lot of Cardiology research, but then he did his Psychiatry rotation and he loved it and he loves his job, and as for the working with his hands, there’s always hobbies and things around the house he can do to fulfill that. Yes! Hobbies! Things around the house! I like those!

In other news, normally on Monday we have Histology Lecture, followed by Histology lab. Well, today, we got an email in the morning saying it was all lecture and no lab, so I had an extra two hours at home before heading to school. I was torn between going to the free lunch or the psychiatry talk, because I was out of easily packable food for lunch, so I used my extra time to make some rice and bake some salmon, and I made salmon filled onigiri. Japanese food, American-Ghanaian style. My roommate made some about a week ago, reminding me that I’ve been meaning to try making these for a while now, and I conveniently had salmon in the freezer.

There were three more, which I packed for lunch, and these got cling wrapped and put in a ziplock in the freezer for some later day when I need to pack a quick lunch. I used sushi rice, cooked with salt, butter & some chicken stock powder, and a salmon filet seasoned with olive oil, onion powder, butter, garlic, turmeric, chicken stock powder and maybe something else. Only thing I think I’d change for next time is to put more furikake on the finished balls (sesame seed, seaweed, sugar and salt). And maybe add a bit of heat.

My niece/god daughter got the blanket I crocheted for her! Isn’t she adorable? Next crochet project, as soon as I get around to buying the yarn, is a blanket for my high school best friend’s daughter (8 weeks till she’s due!). Having something to crochet is always great for paying attention to lectures. Keeps me busy at a low enough level that I actually listen. Not taking just doesn’t work too well for me as a standard thing and I don’t think I’m willing to work on making it a habit at this point.

Written by Aba

March 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

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Homebrew is good for the soul

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I started two batches of mead today.

Almost a year and a half ago, I picked up home brewing. Liqueurs are really simple and easy to make, and until today were all I’d experimented with (peppermint, almond and coffee. And a batch of limoncello that was way too strongly infused and too much trouble to cart half-way across the country).

I was content with liqueurs and there’s still a wide world of experimentation left (I would love to make coffee liqueur with real beans instead of the instant stuff, and I want to try limoncello again), until I discovered mead. Mead was something I’d heard about but had no concrete or accurate concept of beyond knowing it was a type of alcohol.

So when my boyfriend and I ordered a dessert sampler at a bar ( a chocolate bar, to be precise), I wasn’t expecting anything in particular and certainly nothing delicious from the glass of mead that came with it.

It was delicious! Sweet and faintly alcoholic. A nice, subtle flavor that I didn’t initially realize was honey.  I tried to ask for the brand but the staff was completely unhelpful. Months later I decided to try to find some mead to buy on my own, but instead of finding links of where to buy mead, I kept finding links on how to make mead.

Now, I love to make things. As a kid, I would read books on how to do all sorts of craft and science projects that I had no hopes of ever carrying out due to living in a third world country with limited resources at hand (admittedly, this did not stop me from improvising and trying).  Now, as an adult (how strange to be able to say that), I jump at every plausible and exciting enough chance to try making something new.

So less than two months after realizing that mead is makeable, here I am, with two gallons of mead sitting in my kitchen pantry, fermenting away. They should be drinkable in two months, but I think I’ll just take a little bit off each batch to taste, and then store the rest away to age for at least 6 months to a year. I might gift small bottles to my parents and to my boyfriend’s father this summer, with instructions to wait a few months  before opening them.

Home brewing takes supplies, and quite a number of them. It also takes a fair amount of money. The honey alone for this cost me about $20 (there’s about 2- 3 lbs leftover. Bought 10, needed 7, failed at measuring accurately), and that was really cheap honey. Thankfully though, most of the costs are just start up costs that won’t be recurring (although if I decide I ever want to make 3 or 5 gallon batches, that will cost me about $30-$50 more, because 1 gallon bottles are only $7, but bigger bottles cost more than just 3X or 5X the volume). There are also costs incurred when you want to bottle your results.  I think I’ll be using 375ml screw top wine bottles.

Everything but the oranges before I started brewing. There’s an extra 1 gallon bottle that I got just in case, and the brown bottles are for liqueur storage later. The auto siphon won’t be useful for about two months, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to using the hydrometer.

I used a recipe called Joe’s Ancient Orange and Spice Mead, which is supposed to be fool prof and a great newbie recipe, if you follow the instructions. I almost but not quite followed the instructions. I have no idea exactly how much honey I added or if I added equal amounts to each bottle, I put the yeast in before the bottles were room temperature, and although in one bottle I put the orange in whole, in the other bottle, I peeled off the zest, then cut it up, and then peeled off and discarded the pith.

Wow this was a long post. Honestly, I could babble on, but I’m cutting myself off. 🙂 I need to eat dinner and I need to actually pay attention to the lecture I’m playing over my bluetooth earphones ( only $24!  I can now cook and listen to lectures even if my roommate is studying in the living room!)

Written by Aba

March 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

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