Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snake Goddesses

Where's winter? It barely snowed at all in the city this year. But I guess it's not too late for some surprise blizzards. Maybe?? Right now it's the weird temperature where it's cold enough to bundle up before going outside, but not cold enough where you're not sweating by the time you power-walk to class.

This week I went to the ROM since I remembered that it's free for students on Tuesdays. I used to go a lot, I think I'm gonna start doing that again. My class on Aegean art and archaeology has made me think about museums a little differently. I read one long paper by a couple guys who basically spent the whole 60 pages saying, "people didn't used to think Cycladic figurines were beautiful. But then they did. Then the art people starting collecting them and they gained value on the art market. Then people started looting them and making fakes. The collectors become celebrities and the museums become show business! Archaeological context is destroyed! Question their motives!!" And in fact my professor said during a lecture that he and one of his colleagues who was an expert in Cycladic figurines or something went to the ROM, and at least 4 of the 7 that they had were almost definitely fakes. This doesn't make me like museums less though. I think it makes it more interesting to go to a museum and have to question some things and think about it for yourself.
So I went to find the Bronze Age Aegean section, which was tucked away and small and creepily vacant. It was actually really cool to see at least a few examples of the things we had been talking about in class. But I had no idea which figurines were fake and which ones were real. This is one of the info-things that was up, I don't know if you can read any of it from the crappy photo:

The thing about this is, all this stuff is from a prehistoric time. So there's no written records to go by and all the evidence they have is the stuff archaeologists dig up. When they say "The Minoans worshipped in sacred caves, in sanctuaries on mountain peaks, and in towns" what they're really saying is "we've found caves and places on mountain peaks with Minoan stuff in them that some archaeologists believe was sacred or used for rituals, and some of these things were also found in places with houses." It's easy to jump to the religion conclusion when you find an unfamiliar and unexplained artifact. By the way most of this is just spewing back what our professor rants about during every lecture. Obviously I've only been taking this course for like five weeks now so I'm no expert. But what surprised me most was the first paragraph, where they're talking about the female deities and their specific domains. Not even my textbook talks about it with that kind of certainty and detail. I don't know how they know this? Maybe they are just giving the best guess for the sake of simplicity and sign space? For example I've read a little about the "snake goddesses" which are mainly these cool figurines of bare-chested women with their hands up holding snakes, and there are all kinds of interpretations that people have for them, like they are maybe fertility goddesses or protect nature or have some kind of chthonic meaning, if they are goddesses at all. And it all just depends on interpretation of the context and the objects themselves, and putting all the pieces together the best you can. And no one can ever really know for sure, because all those people are gone now. Basically what I'm saying is, I've found in archaeology the same kind of enigmatic...ness that I loved about astronomy. And that I still love about astronomy. And by the way I fully intend to go back to astronomy in the future. But right now I'm really enjoying this class and never realized archaeology could be so super interesting.
I spent the rest of the day sitting in the natural history section with a sketchbook, drawing the taxidermied animals and trying to self consciously hide the page whenever someone walked behind me.

Let's talk about tea now! First let me tell you this thing I read in a tea book yesterday. If you really want to taste your tea super awesomely, do this:
1. Breathe out
2. Take a sip
3. Hold the tea in your mouth and breathe in through your nose
4. Swallow the tea
5. Breathe out
Seriously try it, it works so well.
Okay now on to ROOIBOS!
This is actually a type of tisane but the processing is similar to tea. Rooibos ("red bush") is a shrub-like bush only grown in the Cedarberg Mountain region of South Africa. The tea, sometimes called red tea, used to be a poor man's drink there and only very recently gained popularity in Europe and North America, mostly because of its multitude of health benefits.
The plant itself is pretty tough and can withstand a harsh climate and various altitudes. Every year the upper branches are harvested and cut into tiny pieces, then bruised to allow oxidation. This used to be done with axes and hammers, but now it's all machines. :/ During oxidation it changes from green to red. After that, it's spread out and left to dry under the sun. There's also green rooibos, which is dried immediately and not oxidized.
Both types of rooibos have a smooth and slightly sweet taste. I don't really like green rooibos, but people say it has a light, fresh taste and it's often compared to green tea. I don't know, it always tastes kind of mildewy to me. There are a few green rooibos blends that I don't mind, but it's usually part green and part red with other stuff thrown in there too. If green rooibos is the main ingredient chances are I won't like it. I love regular rooibos though. It has a very woody and slightly syrupy sweet taste. Rooibos makes a perfect base for dessert teas. One of my favorite David's blends is called Oh Canada and it has rooibos and maple and caramel and it's amazing. Octavia has a rooibos blend called Chocolate Mint with rooibos, chocolate, peppermint, and vanilla. Basically there are tons of things that it blends well with, and it's also great on its own or with milk and sugar.
Of course it has a million great healthy things about it like antioxidants and all that, plus it's caffeine-free. It's easy to prepare since it's not sensitive to leaf amount or water temperature and it won't go bitter if you steep it too long. And it's cheap! Why are you not drinking it right now??

That's all, goodbye! Go try some green rooibos and tell me if you like it!


Claire said...

holy sweet mother of god I need to get my hands on some of that oh canada rooibos. Also we havent talked in quite some time. BE ON SKYPE MORE!

Claire said...

also looking back on these photos i can see how they're all related. pretty obviously, actually. OK BAI.

Lianne said...

I just read your blog, now I 'm going to drink some Rooibos tea!