Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gadzooks it's 2010! Happy New Year all!

I've been piled under a throng of textbooks, consuming tea by the gallon and brainstorming ways to avoid the outdoors. Somehow -30 in Canada doesn't seem as bad as -3 in Dublin today, the entire city is covered in a thick sheet of ice making it impossible to get groceries or a much needed coffee.

I find myself having very specific cravings during exam season, and always justify setting time aside to make them as I start obsessing over the idea of 'brain food'. Yesterday it was bran muffins with applesauce and honey and blueberries, today it's anything with spinach, and loads of the du hammam from the palais du the. Tomorrow I'm hoping for oatmeal almond muffins, and a loaf of herb du provence and olive oil bread. I figure it's food for thought.

Unfortunately, not much time for proper reading over the holidays as textbooks were on my concsience, but the plane ride book deserves a mention. I was intrigued by a book review in last year's RCSI student medical journal critiquing Samuel Shem's 'The House of God'. It came out in the late 70s, and is unforgiving in its satirical and absurdist portrayal of intern life - the interns are caricatures of insecurities and disillusionment. The book is loosely autobiographical and revolves around the BMS (a thinly veiled Harvard medical school) and The House of God (I'm told this is supposed to be Beth Israel Hospital). I found it hard to relate to, as at this point in the curriculum we haven't had rotations and sleepless, ER filled nights. Something in it did strike a chord though.

The main character, Dr. Roy Basch, starts the first day of his residency with naive good-intentions and nerves. Each new character serves to slowly unfurl Basch's ideas on medicine and morality, until he embodies the cynicism he originally loathed in the system. Central to this change is the senior resident, 'The Fat Man', an obese, charismatic, lazy physician, whose 'Laws of the House of God' are completely shocking in their open negligence and laissez-faire attitude, but completely necessary in order to retain any semblance of sanity. The only real foil to the Fat Man is Jo, another senior resident, who manages to alienate everyone through her overly ambitious, do-gooder attitude, and whose worship of rules and order barely covers her intense loneliness and exhaustion.

The entire book is a circus set in a hospital, laden with dark humour and impossible moral codes. I feel the only way to approach the book is as a satire - although Shem at one point argued his book is devoid of humour, and is as realistic as it gets.

(In all honesty, I'd rather see this book as fiction, and rely on Scrubs for accurate portrayals of my future!)

Anyway. Enough on that for now. Here's something much more enjoyable - Mango Cranberry granola. It's terribly easy to make, nutritious, flexible, and makes a perfect gift or luxurious snack. I've made it a few times now, and haven't quite gotten the right consistency for granola bars, but am more than happy with crumbled granola for breakfast instead.

Mango Cranberry Granola

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey, melted
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup dried mango, chopped
1/2 cup chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.

Mix the oats, almonds, coconut and wheat germ on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 5-7 minutes until lightly toasted.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl to let cool.
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, maple syrup, sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir over low heat until just melted. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix to coat. Add the dried fruit, and mix until combined.

Reduce the heat to 300F. Spread the mixture into a 13 x 18 baking dish, a few inches deep, and bake for 30 minutes.

Let cool for several hours. Lightly break up with a wooden spoon, and store in an airtight container until peckish.

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