December 19, 2005

Moussaka and Tagine

The kids are sleeping late this Monday morning -- no six a.m. alarm clock to start them racing toward school. It's nine o'clock and I haven't had breakfast or showered or put on street clothes. Time is slowing down for the winter, congealing like syrup that's been set out in the cold.

We spent the weekend attending one party and throwing one of our own. Our party was a celebration for one of my wife's colleagues who'd gotten tenure on appeal after having been denied it last year. The denial was a gross injustice in this case, the result first of all of the fact that our friend was doing cutting-edge work in educational technology whose products did not fit into the usual pattern of publication in refereed scholarly journals (he could make a lot more money in the private sector, but loves academia); and secondly, that his recommendation letters were weakened by two spiteful letters from professors at a prestigious private university where he had received and declined a job offer. Apparently in the tenure game, negative letters are so rare that a single one will raise a serious alarm.

Well, our friend and his family had a nightmarish time last December and a nailbiting, extraordinarily stressful time during the reapplication year. This time he pulled through with the help of supportive colleagues who agitated for his case -- first among them, my wife, Agent 61, who felt that without him, her whole departmental program could fall into irrelevance.

It was a joy to be able to congratulate him last night and to hang around with fifteen nice, bright, sociable people drinking wine and making cheerful small talk. I cooked my famous Greek moussaka, slightly adapted from Craig Claiborne's NEW YORK TIMES COOKBOOK -- the 1961 edition, missing its cover, its pages stained with ingredients from thirty years' cooking -- and Agent 61 made a Moroccan tagine of chicken, olives, and lemons, plus several Moroccan salads, from Paula Wolfert's COUSCOUS AND OTHER GOOD FOOD FROM MOROCCO. (Agent 61 spent two years in Morocco in the Peace Corps.) We toasted our friend with Veuve Cliquot 1998. This morning, all the glasses and dishes and pots and pans are clean, and on the kitchen counter are a carrot cake, a German chocolate cake, and a raspberries-and-cream cake, all partially eaten. I hope I don't succumb to them.

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