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Operation Butter Cookie Is Underway

Once again, it is Tuesday, otherwise known as Ethnobibliography Day. This is a required class for all ethnomusicology students. It is taught by The Insanely Nitpickety Professor of Doom. She will kick you to hell and back, make you pay all the tolls, and in the end, you will thank her, for she will have taught you how to squeeze libraries, journals, databases and archives so thoroughly that there will be no more blood left in those particular stones. The Insanely Nitpickety Professor of Doom is very smart and a great researcher (and, we all suspect, a wannabe librarian), but she seems curiously unwilling to teach. She prefers instead to give us long and incredibly detailed assignments (e.g. looking up a thousand Library of Congress call numbers, then providing citations and analyses of fifteen reference sources, in a single weekend) and then spend the class period tearing our work apart and mocking us for things we don't understand. It's kind of like the Socratic method on crack.

Last week, she nearly drove one of her thesis advisees to tears by haranguing her for ten minutes over the proper capitalization of book titles in Spanish. Apparently, she had told this advisee how to do it last year. The advisee foolishly followed the professor's instructions. It now seems that the professor gave the advisee the wrong advice. The professor a) wouldn't admit to having given the wrong instructions, b) implied that this was all the advisee's fault, c) sent me off to fetch a style guide to prove her point, and d) started grumbling when the style guide turned out not to have much useful to say on the subject of foreign title capitalization. The class is literally driving the students to drugs and alcohol.

So I have decided that it's time to do something drastic. To bring in the big guns. The secret weapon. Yes, folks, I have made my mother's butter cookies. Precisely at break time, whether or not the professor is in the middle of a tirade about how the guy who does Japanese music should translate all the Italian subtitles in a particular reference book (oh, you don't read Italian? What's wrong with you?), I will unleash these delicious little bombs of butter, sugar, eggs and chocolate chips on the seminar room, and then, with luck, we will have a few minutes of peace to calm down and gather our thoughts. Music may have charms to soothe most savage beasts, but for Ethnobibliography, you go straight to the butter cookies.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2005 01:33 am (UTC)
You'll have to let us know if this works, Pony. And I have to say that I am rather opposed to sadistic professors. I don't think you have to be that way to have high standards. And they make the rest of us look bad.
Feb. 23rd, 2005 01:55 pm (UTC)
Operation Butter Cookie was a success. It ensured that we had our break on time this week, that everyone had something to munch on, and it turned out that the professor really liked the cookies. People just noshed away during the second half of class.

It does make me feel better that you're opposed to sadistic professors. I think at a lot of institutions, there's this very macho "In grad school, no one can hear you scream" attitude, so it's nice to know that there is at least one professor out there who is firmly opposed to professorial sadism.
Feb. 23rd, 2005 12:03 pm (UTC)
So heartily agreed there with you. Sadistic is not good. Nor is refusal to admit being wrong.

Putting people into a state of extreme upset is no way to get a lesson across. The only thing memorable will be how upset you were, and it might turn you off to the entire subject forever. I know people who've allowed that to occur.

High standards, of course, and even refusing to compromise on them, are great. Knowing when there is no way that your students, because they ARE students, will be able to meet some of them, and so teaching them how, without holding the initial lack of knowledge against them, even better.

But yes, let us know of the butter cookie goodness. I've not tried that one since the very early grades of pregrad anything, but it actually did work back then. *WEG*.

Feb. 23rd, 2005 01:59 pm (UTC)
Knowing when there is no way that your students, because they ARE students, will be able to meet some of them, and so teaching them how, without holding the initial lack of knowledge against them, even better.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Sure, we're grad students. But really, would we be doing coursework if we knew everything already?

I think the entire class is fairly turned off to bibliography, but that isn't really our main subject. So far, everyone's managed to keep focus on their actual area of musical interest. It's not like anyone would be taking this class if it weren't required, but one could at least make it less like a mob interrogation.

But, yes, the butter cookie thing worked. It's the sort of thing you can only pull off once a semester at the absolute most, but it's the dreary end of winter, and I think it was not to soon to do this.
Feb. 23rd, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
I taught a night class last year that met for three hours. We took turns brining dessert to eat during the break. It really helped us all perk up for that last hour and a half.

Are these exceptionally good cookies? If so, you should give us the recipe. The parnsips were pretty good!
Feb. 24th, 2005 03:55 am (UTC)
Ask and ye shall receive.

Norwegian Butter Cookies. NB: My family is not Norwegian in any way, shape, or form. That's just the cookies. My mother probably got this recipe either from the cookie-press box or from the Fannie Farmer cookbook.

1/2 C butter
2 hardcooked egg yolks, pressed through a sieve
1/4 C sugar
1 C flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter thoroughly. Add egg yolks. Beat in sugar. Add flour and vanilla. Mix well. I think Mom does this with a kitchen mixer. I just used my hands. The dough turned out kind of the consistency of playdough. Shape. Mom uses a cookie press. I don't have a cookie press, so I tried rolling it out and cutting it with a juice glass. It worked okay. Bake about 8 - 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

You can decorate the cookies right before you bake them. Chocolate chips are the best. When Mom makes the cookies with a cookie press, she puts a chocolate chip right in the center of the flower-shaped ones. I made thinner, larger cookies, so I arranged chocolate chips in interesting patterns on top.

Mom Pony usually doubles or triples this recipe.

It's really been a recipe sort of a month. Parsnips and cookies, of course. And one of my friends is having a baby shower and the hostess has asked us to bring recipes for that. And I spent an enjoyable evening hour planning an elaborate feast to be given by a (comparatively) fabulously rich Elf.
Feb. 24th, 2005 11:47 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'll have to try them. I stopped baking a few years ago on the grounds that we only ate the stuff and got fat! But on special occasions, I still like to do it. I'll print this and put it in my recipe file.
Feb. 27th, 2005 03:56 am (UTC)
Hard-cooked egg yolks, pressed through a sieve. Fascinating. More trouble than I'll ever go through, but fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

Sorry you have this demented professor. Maybe she is a wanna be cataloguer. I understand that cataloguers are a strange breed.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


by Illsaysheis

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