About the name of the blog

Do we need forks? is a name that reflects my philosophy about technology - the first question we should ask is "Do I NEED this?" Will it make my life and meaningful occupations easier, or better in some way?
As a student (first time around), I remember reading a scene from a play set in the 1600s, where French nobles were wondering what to do with a fork. The social context meant that forks were unnecessary. In that time, people would
bring a knife, use a spoon for liquids, and hands for everything else. In a different social context where people are concerned about hygiene, a fork seems relevant. Or you could just wash your hands really well before each meal.
This philosophy about technology relates well to frameworks of occupational therapy. We look at the person - do they really need this technology? - the occupation - how meaningful is this occupation and do they need technology to make it easier to participate in? - and the environment, which includes social factors - is this technology going to fit with their environment?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Final blog with links and references

Four comments on other people’s blogs 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Final baking blog! A bit delayed because of illness...

This week I baked two things: a batch of oat cookies to take on a road trip, and a chocolate cake for a birthday.  I’m going to focus on the chocolate cake.  I made it for a friend’s birthday.  He isn’t really having much of a celebration so I decided he at least needed a cake!  Plus I wanted to express love and care and consideration on what I consider to be a special day, celebration of not only this person’s existence, but also the fact he has made it through another year on the planet.  Life can be tough sometimes and it’s important to stop and celebrate.
As with last week, my baking is about subsistence and celebration.  Rarely do we celebrate without food.
I’ve never been very good at cakes; they tend to sink in the middle and I have to fill in the gap with icing.  Or they are dry on the outside and too wet in the middle, or dry all through, or a little bit burned.  But I persist anyway, in search of the perfect recipe.  I asked my flatmate for a recipe, because he makes a really good chocolate cake.
I’m usually very good at baking, as my mother has taught me heaps of tricks.  When I think back to my childhood, when I learned to bake, we didn’t make a lot of cakes.  Mum made our birthday cakes, which were secret, so there wasn’t any teaching of skills at this point.  As a teenager, I used to make a bundt-type chocolate cake in the microwave, which usually worked, but I didn’t really like eating it so stopped making it.  Making cakes is definitely an area I need to learn some skills in.  It’s hard though, because I only bake them a few times a year.
I bought the ingredients from Countdown, as it’s cheap and has a good range and I know where everything can be found.  The eggs came from a friend, nice and organic and free range.

I made the cake after dinner when I was in the right mood.
I identified well with Mrs Baskin in Margaret Mahy’s short story "A work of art", getting into “a magical, cake-icing mood” (p. 39) when she decides to bake a cake for her son Brian's birthday.  When I’m baking for someone else, I like to have lots of free time, to think and get the creative juices going, and so I can take care, to ensure the finished product is worthy of a celebratory event!
I followed the recipe and it was all going well.  I used a silicone cake tin that belongs to my flatmate.  It was a bit annoying as the sides are wobbly and I almost lost the mixture over the sides.  Then I made a fatal mistake.  With only 20 minutes to go in the baking, I moved the tin to look at how the cake was going.  Well, it immediately sunk in the middle.  Badly!  I laughed at this, but was also happy, because now the mystery of my sinking cakes was solved.  I left it in for the remaining 20 minutes and got my flatmate to check if it was cooked.
This time, I’ve learned why previous cakes have sunk – me interfering!  I’m really pleased I learned something and it means that next time I make a cake, I will have some knowledge born of experience.
Once cooled, I made a lovely cream and chocolate icing – I’m good at icing!  It had to fill a big gap in the middle, so I made extra.  The cake looks great, but wouldn’t fit in the cake tin for transportation, so it is now a little bit oval and squashed in.  My hope is that my friend will appreciate the gesture and that it tastes ok.

I think if the cake hadn’t sunk, I would have taken more care and found a tin that fit the cake, but by this stage it was late, I was grumpy, and I believed the cake was a bit “ruined” anyway, so I decided my friend would have to lump it or leave it.  As the whole point of baking is to participate in his birthday, I wasn’t too worried about the outcome – it’s going to be eaten anyway!  As Mrs Baskin says “Some art is meant to last and some is meant to be eaten up.  Not everything has to be a monument” (p. 48), when the horrified art dealers see she has eaten the cake with Brian.  What I love about this story is that Mrs Baskin has eight children and still takes time to make a cake for Brian.  This story reinforced the fun aspect of baking for others, the joy of selecting ingredients.  Despite all the everyday mundane tasks we do, these celebrations are important.  I make time to bake because I have to, to participate in the celebrations of life with my friends and family. 
The second aspect to Mahy's tale is that Mrs Baskin's cake is so beautiful, it ends up in an art gallery, then is ultimately eaten.  This part of the story reminds us that food is something that is designed to be baked/cooked/grilled, then consumed, then you have to start all over again, as Mrs Baskin does at the end of the story.

Reference: Mahy, M. (1988). The door in the air and other stories. London: JM Dent & Sons Ltd.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Week 39 - What need does baking meet for me?

This blog relates to week 39 and the search for what need I’m meeting with my activity.  These last two weeks, I haven’t been able to bake.  I fell ill with bronchitis and have been bedridden with little energy.  This was quite timely, as it gave me an opportunity to literally answer the question Mary posed:  “What if you couldn’t bake?  What need would you have to fill?”  Although I mainly bake to give gifts, this week I’ve been missing my scrumptious oat cookies that are wheat-free (to suit my intolerance to wheat).  I usually make a batch in the weekend to munch throughout the week.

So, one of the needs for baking in my life is to consume, to eat.  Another need it fills is the need to give gifts.  Both of these needs are part of that we call “labour”, the never-ending cycle of life.  Thomas F. Green writes of the endless cycle of “gathering and consuming” (1968, p. 17), of the passage of life governed by seasons and death, then rebirth.  Green defines labour as being about necessity and nourishment.  The oat cookies form part of my weekly sustenance, while my baking for gifts is also part of my sustenance, as a person who is connected with other beings in this world, celebrating with them their ups and downs, birthdays, births, deaths, marriages.  These celebrations also occur on an endless cycle, as I was reminded when my friend’s brother died unexpectedly a few days ago.  My friend lives in France, so I sent a card rather than bake, but had she lived around the corner, baking plus a card would have felt like the right thing to do.  Baking fills my need to participate in life with those I love, both on a practical nutritious level, and a more spiritual level.

There is also something satisfying about producing something to eat, as Hannah Arendt puts it:
The blessing of labour is that effort and gratification follow each other as closely as producing and consuming the means of subsistence, so that happiness is a concomitant of the process in itself, just as pleasure is a concomitant of the functioning of a healthy body (1958, p. 108).

Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Green, T. F. (1968). Work, leisure, and the American schools. New York: Random House

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Last Friday's baking session -thinking about aesthetics, health, and spirituality

Today I made a lemon, banana, and rice cake for my friend.  I’d thought about it the night before as she is going through a rough patch, and this morning I decided “Yes, I will bake the cake!”
There is a certain spiritual aspect to this baking for a friend.  It is my way of saying “I’m thinking about you, and want you to have something nice in your life at this time”.  Baking for me also relates to a long tradition of baking for celebrating life, death, and events in the community.  I can relate to Alexa Johnston saying that “Once upon a time the normal, rather than eccentric, response to the birth of a baby, the arrival of a new neighbour or a sudden bereavement, was to turn on the oven, bake something appropriate and drop over with a contribution to the affected household” (p. 7).  This is a tradition I have been raised in and on reflection, am proud to continue, as I see nothing morally wrong with it, and no need to change it.  As Johnston says, this is a way of “showing love and care for others” (p. 8).  I feel part of a tradition that has been handed down from my ancestors in Scotland and then brought here to New Zealand.
My friend is gluten-intolerant, so she can have this cake without hassles, and I know she loves the taste of it.
Health aspects of baking arise here.  When baking for a gift, I often need to think about allergies or likes and dislikes of friends, or if the friend will even eat it, if they are, as Johnston states, afraid of creamed butter and sugar.
I had to be out of the house in two hours, so I decided to focus on just making the cake and no other activities, unlike usual, when I flit from baking, to cleaning, to tidying, and back to baking again.  I got out the mixer, and added ingredients like I was in a race.  For the dry ingredients, I got down my stainless steel mixing bowls, bought with my mother at the Milton supermarket in their second-hand shop at the back, where you can find good deals o a good day.  My wooden spoon has been with me since I lived in Australia, then moved to Wellington, through four different flats, then to Waihola, and now lives in Roslyn.  It is just the perfect wooden spoon for mixing baking and spooning it out.  I used a fresh banana, instead of one from the freezer, and a lovely, juicy, lemon from the tree outside.  The cake mixture seemed more yellow than ever, perhaps because of the fresh fruit, or because the eggs were from a friend’s chicken coop.  I’d visited there two days earlier, admiring the “girls” who were settling in for the night, having negotiated possies in the chicken house.  I felt like I was in the flow, dashing from garden to fridge to fruit bowl to pantry, making no mistakes and everything coming together nicely in the trusty mixer.  The yellow was so enticing; I just had to taste it – yes, best ever!  I used my trusty loaf tin, lined with baking paper that I’ve reused for at least 4 batches of biscuits, meaning the paper is nice and greasy with butter.  In went the cake for 50 minutes, giving me time to do the dishes and leave the kitchen tidy for my flatmate.  Yay for the mixer! - it made my task so much easier.  Fifty minutes later, the kitchen gleaming, my bags picked for Tech, bedroom tidied and house vacuumed, the cake was done, passing the skewer test but a little dry.  I should have checked it earlier!
If I think about the aesthetics of the cake, it is important that it looks edible – golden brown on the outside, and usually white and moist on the inside, although yellow today.  Now that I know I can get the cake all lovely and yellow, it will never be the same to me when it’s white inside, although others won’t know the difference.  For the crust, you need to stop baking at the exact right point to get the exact right golden colour, that hue that makes you go “mmmmmm”.

Reference:  Johnston, A. (2008). Ladies, a plate: Traditional home baking. North Shore: Penguin Group (NZ).