Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ma-Po Tofu (Page 280)

  • Date: Monday, April 21, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Since I am soon moving out and handing over my apartment to some other people for the summer, I am trying not to stock the freezer too full of food. So instead, I am making recipes that sound like things I would actually like to eat (crazy, I know!?!). The only reason this recipe made it so long without getting made is because up until very recently I didn't own a wok. BUT, a few months ago Mike came for a visit and he bought me one as a present! Yay! So how was this Ma-Po Tofu? Well, I am typically not terribly impressed by my own cooking. But I took one bite of this last night and my first thought was, "Man, I'm good!" To be fair, I didn't do much -- it is just an excellent recipe. But Asian cooking is not my specialty, and yet this came out as tasty and delicious as any Ma-Po Tofu I have ever had. I think what made this recipe so good was that The Book didn't dumb it down. Often when The Book has recipes for Asian dishes they modify so that the ingredients are easy to find. It's not an unreasonable choice to do that, but the ease comes at a cost -- the end product is often not as good as a more authentic version. This recipe wasn't dumbed down in that way. So yes, I had to go to the Asian market to find the ingredients, but it was worth it! This dish was delish. It was flavorful and spicy, without being overpowering. I was skeptical about poaching the tofu before stir-frying it (I had never done that before) but indeed the tofu came out with a perfect texture and flavor. The sauce had a great consistency, and even though it only had a few ingredients it had a wonderful depth of flavor. Ground pork is always delicious and this dish was no exception. The remarkable thing though was how well everything worked together. This dish really sang. I was extremely happy with it.

Here is the recipe.

I spent part of my morning today filing academic misconduct reports against my two students who cheated on the quiz last week. I debated about whether or not to file official complaints against them, but after talking with some of my colleagues I decided that it was important to do so. Plus, the system here really has a second chance for the students built into it. On their first minor offense students usually receive only an internal mark on their record (and whatever penalty I inflict on their grade in my course). It is the later offenses that are a real problem for the student. So I decided to go ahead and file the reports. Part of the process is confronting the students and giving them a chance to respond. I spoke with both students separately this morning and had two very interesting, and different experiences.

The first student I spoke to denied having cheated. When I asked why he had written down the answer to a question that wasn't on his quiz (and happened to be on the other version of the quiz) he couldn't offer any explanation. He insisted over and over that he would never cheat, that he wasn't the kind of person who cheats, and that I could ask anyone who knows him to verify this. I told him that I believed that he had cheated and I was filing an academic misconduct report, but it shouldn't be a big problem if he doesn't have any past offenses. That's when he admitted that in fact he already had an academic misconduct on his record for cheating. So much for "I never cheat." Then he admitted that he may have glanced at the paper next to him, but pleaded with me not to file the report since it could have serious consequences for him. Seriously? He just lied to my face, and then wants empathy?!? I filed the report.

Student number two immediately confessed that he had copied off the person in front of him. I told him that I was filing an academic misconduct report. His response: "But I was honest about it." My response: "But you cheated." He, too, pleaded with me not to file the report. I explained that I take cheating seriously, and that I was going to file.

The thing that was difficult about it was that both students acted as though I was being unreasonable. I explained to them the first day of class (and over and over throughout the semester) that I take cheating seriously, and that there would be consequences. It was their choice to cheat, not mine.


John and Katie Flanagan said...


I have been there! I teach Senior English at an international school and have dealt with lots of plagiarism this year. My principal has been unsupportive to say the least. I don't think that a student fessing up or being "sorry" negates a punishment. You did the right thing! Bravo!

Melanie said...

Yay! Good job on getting those cheaters. I serve on the Committee for Academic Misconduct here at OSU, and have heard every excuse in the book. Just remember that they are sorry that they got caught for cheating, not sorry that they cheated.

Also, remember that filing the report allows the students to plead their case in front of an impartial panel - that's part of their right as a student. We actually hear some cases where the student is found not guilty and all the circimstantial evidence can be explained.

Speaking of which, I've been thinking about writing a blog about some of my experiences on COAM. Can't get to specific because of FERPA...but I can talk about details like the box of Kleenex at the student end of te table that keeps have to be refilled!

Anonymous said...


You did the right thing. It is a pain, but typically goes away quickly. Ask me about a former student who claimed he wasn't cheating, but that a particular Hindu goddess had given him information during the exam.

Those hamburger buns look good. Save your reciepts for the ingredients, by the way.


Teena said...

Thanks for supporting my decision to file against them! I wasn't sure at the time what I should do, but I am more and more convinced it was the right decision!

Mel: you should totally blog about your experiences on COAM. I would love to read that!

Paul: A Hindu goddess? Seriously?!? Wow.

Magdalen said...

I am so proud of you. Obviously it was the right thing, but it was hard. Letting the students slide is easy, and it's cheap.

School is a place where people should be held to the standards of life. They should be expected to contribute, play fair, not cheat, etc. And when they fail to meet those standards, they should get in school what they won't get in real life: a slap in the face with the reality fish!

You would hope students thus assaulted by reality would then do what they're there to do: Learn. Alas, they may or may not happen, as you know from Student #1, who confessed that he'd already gotten slapped.

But you also learned, and that's a wonderful thing.

[Quick question: What would your grader have done? Is it worth asking, and discussing the options so you two are clear on the process?]

Teena said...

My grader likely would have just not graded the paper, and left it for me to deal with, which would be the right thing for him to do. I made it clear to him at the beginning of the term that if anything looked suspicious to him, he should bring it to my attention.