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Thursday, December 31, 2009

festivities

Our menu for tonight:
spring rolls
carrot ginger soup
fried rice
green salad with miso dressing
ice cream sundaes (Costco doesn't sell mochi ice cream balls anymore, a pox upon them)

Games we're playing:
Discombobulation
Scrabble Slam
Eat the Lifesaver Out of the Pile of Flour

Good news for the Myrmidons:
we have to replace our furnace

Poll on the sidebar.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I never did trust those dolphins

I was sent this amusing link by a friend and former coworker from the good old days of designing educational software complete with reward animations. She knows a runny from a thick.

Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling

It's not the most hilarious website ever, but it's worth a look. Much of his stuff is dang funny. There are some swears.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

remember the hippity hop? that was such a great toy

A girl--college-age--in our ward told me on Sunday that:
1. she loved my coat
2. she wanted to trade me outfits

See how stylish I am? I'm totally a funky mom. I refused to trade because she looked cold. Also because I liked my outfit a lot that day. Russian spy coat, yellowish leather boots, moss green cable knit nylons, navy blue dress with a magenta elbow-sleeve top over it. I looked crazy, but in an awesome sort of way. I try to keep people guessing with a sartorial melange of hippie, sexy secretary, lady who lunches and rodeo queen. That way I can carry off more looks, because no matter what I wear, people say, "It figures." It's a strategy.

Tomorrow my sister Troy and I are going shopping and I intend to find a pea coat.

I saw a guy wearing Birkenstocks yesterday! In the snow! What is wrong with people? He'll catch his death of cold.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm kind and generous to the rich . . . I often laugh at toilet humor

Things the stray cats will not eat:
1. buns from stale Subway sandwiches
2. chicken and rice

The gouda is working, I guess.

The cheese wheels in their high-tech aging cave.

Me washing the cheese in The Kitchen where Christmas Threw Up. I'm wearing Justine's ring that she left here when she washed my dishes (jealous?) after we made fudge, but it's only so I can remember to give it to her, not because I'm stealing it. Pinky swear.

When I think of eating one of the wheels a year from now it sort of blows my mind. No wonder good cheese is so expensive, y'all. Here are the cheeses I took to Christmas dinner:
Buche--goat cheese, mildish, a good one for people who don't like goat cheese
Delice de Bourgogne--in the Brie family tree, but much better, smooth and buttery with just a hint of pepper
Reypenauer Gouda--so freaking good, aged for a year, sweet and tangy
Roaring Forties--still awesome, but if you like a mild blue you had better eat it with a quickness before it ages too much
Manchego--sheep are good, especially with quince jam

Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry merry

All of the good gifts given today, ours is the sky and the wide open range.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

you use up all the glue on purpose!

The other night we were leaving to go to dinner at Ricardo's, which is a quirky Mexican restaurant that we frequent. Really frequent. Their frijoles enteros are like the crack cocaine, if crack were perfectly firm on the outside with a smooth, creamy center. I can't speak to that. And their chili verde! Glagulagalaaaa (sound of drooling with tongue hanging out).

Anyway, we walked outside and Edna started just shouting at us. BAAAAA! BAAAAA! BAAAAA! She's always been more loquacious than Traci, but darnit, it's so nice to have both of them back there, even if Edna is a bossypants. I went out to help Captain America re-up their hay, and hugged and scratched them like crazy. I missed them so much. They are all fat and bushy in their winter coats and seem to be putting on weight like good little mamas. Captain America has been much better about not stiffing them in the food department--I think he does feel responsible for their well-being to a large degree. And all we had to do was bloat Finola to get here!

Have you read that story by Pearl S. Buck about the boy who gets up early on Christmas and does all the chores for his father? Every time it makes me cry. Probably because animals are involved. I was way more worked up about the leopard eating the baby gorilla than about Tarzan's parents. I know that we always have a good time getting up on Christmas morning and doing the chores together, so if you want your family to be close and loving you should probably get some goats and chickens. I think the goats are the most important part. A cow wouldn't hurt, either.

what I imagine a class reunion would be like

Some of the things I did not like about our activity last night:
1. Plowing through herds of people on Temple Square.
2. Waiting forever for the train and finding out that it was already full to capacity.
3. Waiting in a line to get into the stadium.
4. Waiting for the free Jazz and Buzz tickets until they ran out and we didn't even get any.
5. Having The Hulk get yelled at by the lady in front of us because he kept kicking her friend's seat after she had twice asked him nicely to stop, but the seats are crammed together so tight and he has such long legs he couldn't help it.
6. The red pepper on my salad that tasted like lion poop.
7. Having my children run away repeatedly the entire evening.
8. Doing something I had no interest in.

Some of the things I did like about our activity last night:
1. Walking around Salt Lake.
2. The orange lighted trees next to the Assembly Hall.
3. Not having to eat free hot dogs and sodas and getting a sort of real meal instead.
4. Singing with my kids.
5. Wearing my spy coat.
6. Going to Gourmandise and buying a Peach and a Sable Citron.
7. Telling Captain America that the reason it's called Energy Solutions Arena instead of the Delta Center is because Energy Solutions wanted some good PR and bought the arena so they could try to put in people's minds another association with their company name besides the fact that they truck nuclear waste into Utah against our wishes.
8. Having fun even if I did think it was kind of a stupid idea.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

so angry about song lyrics

Oh, I forgot to say--I always switch the station when that LAME "Fireflies" song comes on, so I don't know the lyrics, but the other day I was going through the rotation and heard some of the song, and did you know there's a part where he says he'll get a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs? DID YOU? Did you know that the lyrics to that song have the power to make your TESTICLES RETRACT?

I HATE THAT SONG. So much more than I thought possible. I knew it was sucky, but then? BAM, second encore! WHAT A TERRIBLE SONG THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA.

if I had a dollar for all of my million dollar ideas . . .

Listen to this: I have an idea for an ice cream flavor, and you can go ahead and steal it if you want, but just pay me royalties every time you make it. It's called Chocolate Chimp. Hear me out--there are no monkeys. There are little bits of cookie, with possibly a fudgey swirl or something, and either a light banana flavor to the ice cream, or maybe a banana custard swirl . . . I'm not sure yet what the final product will look like exactly, but the flavors present are chocolate, vanilla, banana, and cookie (which I realize is not a flavor shut up).

There may also be a variation called Oatmeal Chocolate Chimp, but I'll work on that later. Am I a genius or crazy? Or a CRAZY GENIUS?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

sticking it to big gouda: part 2

I've already made it into something that's not Gouda, I fear, because the milk was getting too cold while it was ripening, so I turned up the heat on the roaster oven, but then my piano student got here and I forgot about it until the milk was at 108* instead of 90*, whoops. But it will be an interesting experiment all the same.

After the started has been added and the milk has ripened it sort of looks like yogurt. You let it sit until it breaks cleanly.

Then you cut it into 1/2 inch pieces.

Curds and whey.

After draining off all the whey.

Curds smooshed into the cheese press. You want to work fairly quickly so they don't lose too much heat.

Cheese press packed wrongly. I forgot what to do with all the extra globs of cheesecloth.

After it has been pressed for 20 minutes you take it out, undress it, flip it, redress it, and put it back in upside-down, which greatly resembles putting toothpaste back in the tube.

Twelve hours later it looks like this.

I don't want a honking great lump of Gouda, so I cut it into thirds. This way I can crack one open in three months to make sure it's not poisonous and still have some left to age for nine months, because aged Gouda is a precious jewel.

I wrapped each of them individually like little cake mummies.

Back to the press.

And now they get to be pressed for another twelve hours.

I'm nervous. It's so long to wait before you know if you're an idiot or not. I'll brine them when I get home tonight. It will be cheese of some kind, I am sure, but I don't know that it will be especially tasty.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

sticking it to big gouda: part 1

I am attempting Gouda for the first time. I am telling myself that it's going to bomb horribly, so that if it's edible I will feel like a queen of cheese.

I had two gallons of milk that had to be used, because four more gallons came today. I am rigging up my roaster oven to be a water bath for the pan of milk. This can't possibly work.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

product may stay: hoover flair vacuum

In The Devil's Storybook by Natalie Babbitt there is a story about a man whose cremated ashes get mixed up with the ashes of a pork bone, and he has to spend years in Hell separating his ashes from those of the pig, because the pig is down in Hell with him and won't leave him alone. When the maid who accidentally mixed the ashes by knocking over the urn dies and is herself sent to Hell, she sees the piles of ash and--being a cleaner--of course sweeps them together and disposes of them in an out-of-the-way corner somewhere, unwittingly undoing all of the man's hard work. He eventually learns to get along with the pig, but that's neither here nor there.

I imagine that Hell is composed mainly of hard surfaces, because you don't want people to loll around on the carpet in front of the hellfire and brimstone--next you know, they'll be roasting marshmallows! As hellish as a loud Victorian floral carpet might be, I think that Hell's denizens would still be grateful for the comfort, and then it would cease to be Hell, and then the universe would tear, and what a mess that would be.

I'm coming to my point, I promise. I too have a lot of hard surfaces--wood from stem to stern upstairs, except for the bathroom and my bedroom (until January, mwah ha ha hah). And I have had the devil's own time keeping it clean. Our vacuums, even though they have a "hard floor" setting, have always done a pitty job of sucking up the filth, and sweeping takes forever, especially when the cat keeps pouncing on the broom, which for some reason he does. But then recently we got the "Hoover Flair Bagless with Power Nozzle," and this, THIS is the one. I've been waiting . . . for a vacuum like this . . . to come into my life . . .

It is light, extremely maneuverable, and gets everything off the floor. I love this vacuum. I love it forever. I want it buried along with me in my pine box (you know the one the leg lamp comes in? like that) so I can vacuum with it in the afterlife. I would have those human and pig ashes mixed together so fast, along with any other ashes that were lying around. Except I bet if I were to be so unlucky as to end up in Hell, I wouldn't get to bring the vacuum! And I bet Heaven is way clean, so I wouldn't need the vacuum! Oh, snap! The universe is tearing again!

To sum up: if you have wood floors you need this vacuum. Buy it. Product may stay.

Friday, December 11, 2009

there are lots of pretentious people who don't eat kashi

My sister sent me this link and said I would laugh, and darn if she wasn't right. I bet you'll laugh, too.

I like their little red hats

I did an experiment with the mushrooms the other day. I love when experiments aren't shameful failures that you either can't even serve or that get left in the fridge for a few days until they look gross enough to feed to the chickens (strawberry cream pie). I took my cremini mushrooms and tossed them with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Then I thought how boring that was going to be. Then I put in some thyme and oregano. Still boring. So I added some minced garlic and turmeric and curry powder and paprika and a little cayenne pepper. Then I thought, why not? So I splooshed some cream in there as well.

Here's what they look like before they're cooked:

Here's after:

Here's what they look like on top of spinach with a poached egg that turned out SO RAD:

Way good. I had to put them in a container and stick them in the fridge because they breached my portion control defenses. Superman and Pinga picked out the mushrooms and left the rest. Looking at that last picture, I don't deserve my children's trust, do I?

The radicchio that I was so looking forward to, however, was a crashing, fiery ball of yuck. I oversalted it to a degree heretofore unseen by humankind. I could taste the good intent far, far beneath the briny crust, but I think I would have needed hypertension medication if I had consumed it.

So I'll just give you my best stabbing guess at the mushroom recipe. Amounts are very approximate. I don't measure! Just put in what you think is fair.

Roasted Mushrooms
Serves 4 stingily
1 large package of fresh mushrooms of your choice (about a pound? two pounds? I don't know--it's the big package of mushrooms in the produce section at Costco)
2 T olive oil
coarse salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 t curry powder
1/4 t paprika
small pinch cayenne pepper
splash of cream--somewhere between 2 T and 1/4 C

Drizzle the olive oil over the mushrooms, toss with the rest of the ingredients, roast at 425* for fifteen minutes, stir, then roast for another ten minutes. Or so. Serve alone or with a spinach salad topped with a poached egg.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

bustin' makes me feel good

The salad with a warm bacon dressing and the second batch of poached eggs because of clumsy me. I love eggs with greens.

These were our amuse-bouche. He even called them that, irony-free. It was thin slices of baguette spread with tapenade. Fine.

Potato caterpillars, or Truffle Pommes Dauphine if you don't like that imagery. You take pate a choux (cream puff dough) and mix it with some mashed potatoes, put it in a piping bag and pipe it in pieces into hot oil, where the pieces bobble around until they are golden brown. Texturally they're sort of like a cheetoh ate mashed potatoes, which doesn't sound good, but is.

Potato and leek gratin. Very good, unsurprising. Our teacher mentioned doing a gratin with apples and sweet potatoes, which I'm finally crazy enough to be interested in.

And this . . . this was the Steve Perry in our Journey meal. A superb medium-rare flat iron steak sliced thinly crosswise and perfectly sauced.

The apple and walnut upside down cake which for some unknown reason he served right side up. Not beautiful, but I swear to you that the fresh ginger in the cake is enough to give you religion.

Someone come eat at my house so I can make this meal again!

most hated job

I cried this morning when John told me he was too busy to water the animals.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

soooo baaaaaaaaaad

You know, far be it from me to second-guess the great Barbra Streisand, but what is her deal? Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes and snowflakes that stay on her nose and eyelashes really, really do not require the emotion volcano she's throwing out there. Get a grip, Barbra. Or at least save the anguish for the bee stings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

papa don't farm: part 2

This is tedious times eleventy for people not interested in agricultural issues, so I apologize.

Here's the thing. I can't so much interview my dad. I had a great conversation with him over our plates of Thanksgiving dinner, but because of my admiration for him I lack the emotional distance required to ask him probing questions, because I'm afraid of coming across like a clueless townie with no respect for farmers.

I did ask him why tractors are so much more expensive now, and he does think it's at least partially because tractors are capable of so much more. A tractor can now use GPS to drive, plow, and cut a field almost by itself. John the computer talker says "It's like a Word macro for tractors. You say, 'Record what I do,' and it does it." It's this sort of thing that makes it possible to farm 800 acres and still see your family every once in a great while.

He expressed frustration that the book my mom once checked out on organic gardening was full of propaganda about the cruelty of owning any animals for any reason. I know exactly how my dad felt. You know, they couldn't just be happy that someone was trying to learn how to get by without pesticides. They just had to throw a greener-than-thou speech in there (one with which I personally do not agree, but we've been here before). Once a few years ago I exchanged a couple of emails with the guy who writes Sludgie, and here's an excerpt:

Sludgie guy:
" . . . as a vegetarian, I would end up defending myself against vegans and meat eaters at the same time. And the cause gets forgotten. Most people are concerned about the environment, but say they don't relate to environmentalists. Yet we're all breathing the same air."

My reply:
" . . . I think you make a good point--environmentalism, or social consciousness, or whatever one calls it, is so full of striations that people who should be sympathizing and banding together end up bickering about the shades of grey within their cause, and therefore don't have a unified voice with which to accomplish their common goals. And they end up being the Captain Bringdown whom everyone ignores because it's just too depressing, man!"

In reviewing this email I'm painfully aware of how much of a Captain Bringdown I am at times. But I'm straying from my purpose here. And my dad made another good point. Barbara Kingsolver, my platonic celebrity girlfriend (buy her new book, The Lacuna, available in stores now!) who is unaware of my existence, said in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle something about the most productive farm, labor-to-return-wise, is one that is four acres in size (or thereabouts). I'm paraphrasing from memory, but her point, unless I misunderstood, was that a farm of four acres has enough land to grow everything you need to feed a family, but not so much land that you can't farm it without tractors, which require ownership of more land, which requires more tractors to farm it, and here we go 'round the mulberry bush. My dad disagrees, and when he put it to me that our own "farm," let's call it, produces enough hay to feed our few goats--and nothing else--I saw that there might be a sticky wicket there. I imagine that I'd have to have our entire yard planted in food-producing plants, and that's probably what Barbara Kingsolver meant. That you can do it, but you don't have room for luxuries, and you certainly aren't going to get fat on it. I need to go back and read that part again, because I want to believe her. I want to believe that we can be content with enough, not too much. But now we're veering away from my What's Killing Farmers speech and into my What's Wrong with America speech.

Anyway, I can't have this conversation with my dad, because he likes working more than talking about working. Plus he's busy trying to sell farmers the tractors that will make the difference between them eking out an existence and collapsing.

Conclusion: I'm going to talk to some other peoples who don't know me as well and will not mind me being nosy.

you know what this salad could use? fat.

I've tested this recipe for you, and it is good. A simple preparation for vegetables, and a nice change from buttersaltpepper.

Broccoli Salad Recipe

John, Superman, Pinga and I all liked it very much.

Monday, December 7, 2009

love you, orem!

I forgot to mention that I think my hotel pillow gave me torticollis or possibly necrotizing fasciitis, because I have such a headache! Also John (who couldn't sleep) reports that the person in the next room over spent the entire night coughing and/or vomiting, and in the laundry room on the other side someone was loudly doing their wash at three in the morning.

We did drive past some of the apartments we lived in while we were first married, including the divey fourplex, the dumpster of which was often filled with things like couches and baby walkers. It is this sort of apartment I picture when I read David Sedaris's story about his younger brother standing out on the balcony of his apartment in his underwear, stomping his frozen brick of chicken parts into smaller, more manageable pieces.

I think our teacher didn't like our phat beats, though

I had such a terrific time at my cooking class! The food was incredible, and I got to use the sharpest knife--it's one of the the new Henckels Miyabis, and I diced the garlic and shallots soooo tiny! The cutting boards were that dark gray composite stuff that seems too hard for knives you care about--like those horrid glass cutting boards which you should NEVER EVER USE--but I guess they know what they're talking about. I also poached the eggs for the salad (two batches--I didn't get the first batch out in time FAIL EMBARRASSING) which was very helpful--all this time I thought I'd been poaching eggs incorrectly, but it turns out that they're just messy like that. We put a bunch of fresh ginger in the batter for the upside down cake, and it was a revelation. I'd never considered fresh ginger for that application, and I'll never go back. I've got the knobby little bugger on hand anyway, so it may as well diversify its portfolio.

As soon as I figure out how to get pictures off my phone I can show you each of the dishes we made, but I can tell you that all the browsing holiday shoppers and the clerks' weird friends who were hassling them and making them appear spacey and unprofessional were very jealous of what we were eating. Little potato thingies that looked just like blond woolly bear caterpillars, for instance. Those were the Truffle Pommes Dauphine, which sounds slightly more delicious than potato caterpillars. I need more people in my family, but not kids. Except adventurous ones that will eat whatever I tell them to.

My sister's lovely and well-behaved baby was blessed yesterday, and I brought a strawberry cream pie that nobody ate. John thinks I overestimate people's love for pie. Is this so? I prefer a fruit pie to a cream pie, but still. Pie is good, isn't it? Isn't it often better than cake?

Friday, December 4, 2009

sing a rhyme, citrus time soon will be here

So, it's citrus season, right? Yesterday I drove to Logan to buy some radicchio from Lee's because their produce section is phenomenal. Okay, that may be a little strong. But it's varied like few others unless you're talking about the snobby ones. Their radicchio was not the best, but at least they had some. I'ma roast it like Tipsy said.

Anyway, citrus. One of the other things they had at Lee's yesterday was a display of navel oranges, half boxes of them for $6.99. We ate them for dessert last night, and while I was busy showing off my knowledge of horticulture to the children (which is sort of prodigious, in an ignoramus sort of way), explaining how all navel orange trees everywhere are grafts (or grand-grafts, or great-grand-grafts; I'm not a scientist, I just work here) of the one sport tree that first grew seedless oranges, I learned something TOTALLY FASCINATING. Did you know that the little mini slices in a navel orange are a conjoined twin orange? It's actually a smaller orange formed inside another orange! Biology is the coolest.

Thus, since selective breeding is impossible with the navel orange, every orange you taste is genetically identical to those oranges that grew on the mutant tree in the Brazilian monastery. It's impressive that it's kept up with our growing appetite for sweets, and worrisome, disease-wise. It makes me start fretting about biodiversity and cloned beef ranches--total downer.

Yay oranges!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the two of us need look no more . . . we both found what we've been searching for

Me while hugging John: Mmm. I really like the smell of your new deodorant. Like, really like it . . . (moments pass) . . . is this weird for you, with my nose buried in your pit?

let's eat this for dinner tonight

Remember the cartoon swan I told you about? This is what it looks like:
But that's not why we're here, is it? Instead, let's talk about the latest issue of United Caprine News, which I'll give you a minute to go get off your coffee table. Everybody got their copy? All right. On the third page there is a recipe for Rigatoni with Roasted Pumpkin and Goat Cheese. Here's what I like about it: it has all the flavors of that quintessential winter ravioli dish, but not so dang much work. Who needs work? Not me. The time I spend on cooking is time not spent blissfully cleaning my house, and that's the real tragedy.

We haven't eaten this yet (the pumpkin is cooking right now so I won't have to worry about it later), but here's my prediction:
Me: Slam dunk.
John: This is nice. Maybe too much sage?
Captain America: It's okay. Can I have dessert?
The Hulk: I'm not eating that. Goodnight.
Superman: How many more bites before I can have dessert?
Pinga: (thought, not spoken) It's good, but not as good as scratching the living crap out of my face.
Rigatoni with Roasted Pumpkin and Goat Cheese (adapted from United Caprine News)
Serves: your family, I imagine
Hippie Control Freak Trying to Get Rid of a Pumpkin Roasted Pumpkin:
medium-sized cooking pumpkin, halved and seeded
4 shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise OR 1 onion, diced
1/4 C fresh sage
3 T (give or take) extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt
fresh-ground pepper

Put the pumpkin in a large roasting pan in halves, or peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks. Toss with shallots and sage. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 450* until soft. (This will take a long time--at least 30 minutes for pumpkin chunks, an hour or more for pumpkin halves.) When the pumpkin flesh is soft, scrape it out of the rind along with the shallots and sage and mix together in a large bowl.

Spare Me the Sanctimony, I Just Want Something Good to Eat Roasted Pumpkin:
1 large can of pumpkin
4 shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise OR 1 onion, diced
1 T rubbed sage
3 T (give or take) olive oil
salt
pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan and add shallots/onion. Saute until they are softened. Then mix with other ingredients and bake in a lidded pan at 350* for 30 minutes or so.

Rigatoni
12 ounces rigatoni or large tubey (no, not Tubey) noodle of your choice
2 T butter
5 ounces fresh goat cheese

About twenty minutes before the pumpkin is done bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add the pasta. Drain the pasta when it is al dente, reserving 1/2 C of cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add butter, cheese and pasta water. Toss until butter is melted.

Gently fold in roasted pumpkin with shallots and sage and season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

if ifs and buts were candy and nuts I wouldn't be buying presents

I was in Smith and Edward's today wasting time while I waited to go pick up Superman from preschool. I keep waiting for those buckaroo boots I want so much to go on sale, but so far no luck. They would look so freaking awesome with my skinny jeans, and if I could just find a pair of spurs and a feather hair clip--you know, the kind that people wear in their braids when they're trying to pretend they're Native Americans--and then a shirt with pearl buttons, I will have recreated the outfit I wore once a week in fifth grade, until the mocking shouts of the chorus of "Rhinestone Cowboy" got too painful. Aside: my fifth grade teacher used the Vulcan death grip on unruly boys and sometimes threw desks.

The Hulk just came into my room and started into this:

Hulk: Mom, it's too bad that I can't have what I want most for Christmas. Isn't it too bad?
Me: Yep. Goodbye.
Hulk: No! Mom! I just want to tell you what I want most for Christmas! Can I tell you?
Me: (sigh) Yeah, go ahead.
Hulk: The thing I want most for Christmas is peace on the whole earth. Wouldn't that be nice to have peace on the whole earth? The second thing I want most is quietness on the playground and on the bus. Because everyone is so noisy on the bus all the time and there's so much yelling on the playground and everyone is talking and . . . (he continued like this for about three minutes until I forced him out).

First of all: BULL. Kacy over at Every Day I Write the Book (read her, she's way funny) was telling about a similar experience she had lately in which her son said that what he wanted for Christmas was for people to remember Thanksgiving. Now, it is very possible that her son was sincere. But I have my doubts that The Hulk was, other than peripherally. Sure, peace would be nice, but he's a pragmatist. He knows that people like fighting too much to be peaceful--heck, I sure do--but if he says kumbaya stuff like that it might get him brownie points with the Buyers. I call shenanigans.

None of my kids believe in Santa anymore, and of course they're the killjoys that tell all the other kids Santa is a sham. I haven't tried very hard to cultivate the belief, since John is also a killjoy, and it always struck me as weak and desperate when parents would threaten their kids with the Santa stick. Who wants a child who only behaves because he thinks it'll get him better presents? I'd far rather have a child who only behaves because he thinks he'll get to watch TV.

Monday, November 30, 2009

baba capra status report for december 1, 2009

Cooking class: I signed up for French Bistro Classics A, since that was the most popular, and when has popular ever steered us wrong? Thrill! As I shave my fingers off making Truffle Pommes Dauphine! Gasp! As I drop rosemary stems into the ice cream custard! Drool! As I eat my whole New York steak and don't share!

House: We're taking a break from remodeling for a while, because John made me promise. But once we're into the new year I'm painting our bed. I think I'll try a pale dove grey (am copying Sandi, but hers is really more of a charcoal grey, so no harm). Then the last piece of nasty pale purple office carpet is coming out. I might leave the wallpaper up, because it's a metallic gold damask pattern. So quirky! The woman who lived here before us was artistic and modpodged old-timey magazine pictures on all the doors, and hand-painted a cartoon swan on the outside of the tub.

Animals:
A. Goat: We hear that the chicken is in the pot, by which I mean the buck goat has put his half of the baby-making ingredients into Traci's kid bed (calf bed for cows, kid bed for goats) and made a little zygoat. Get it? Zy-goat? Ha! Reproductive farming humor! I'm excited to have little babies running around in the spring. They're the best part of gentleman farming. Except when they're orphaned, because then they're mainly loud more than anything else.

How do you like his stupid tailypo eyes? Not pictured: the seven other cats who think they live here.

B. Cats: Freaking cats. It's like a cat army up in here. Last night John went out to water the chickens, and there was a cat inside the pen--getting ready to suck their breath, no doubt--and he was so wigged about John that he spent the next five minutes running and ricocheting off the sides of the chicken run. FwoompBAM fwoompBAM fwoompBAM fwoompBAM until John had mercy after he was done laughing and moved to the corner opposite the door so the cat could escape. They make a Cat King every night in our garage and we even bought litter for them, but do they use it? No, and I'll tell you why: they suck. They want us to hate them.

C. Chickens: I like letting them out to graze, but they really, really like pooping on the patio, and only on the patio. A lot, they like it. So there are only a few days a week I can pull that off before John starts getting eye twitches. They are laying eggs like they were born to do it, and I swear we've got a triple-yolker in the fridge. None of them have been eaten by a skunk yet, and I'm giving credit to either the Australorp rooster or the butch Columbian Rock hen. I think I'll name her Miss Boland, after the nurse in the Soup books who asks the kids if their bowels have moved today.

our thanksgiving

My pie carrier next to my rosemary tree that cost only ten dollars at Whole Foods. I didn't even think about the poor little eight-year-old who must have grown it in a sweatshop greenhouse. Shame on me.

We had about 75 people at our Thanksgiving dinner this year, so it's true what you suspected, that we are better than you. Your family totally isn't as close as ours. It was in my uncle's shop, because that's the only place big enough to fit our awesome bulk. He and his lovely wife my aunt (who is on track to run one thousand miles this year, I'm not joking) sell Motorola products and such. We saw the famous captive geyser in Soda Springs from afar after returning from our tree harvesting (we knock out the forest, extract the tree we want, then put the forest in a bathtub of ice and write "CALL FOREST SERVICE" on its chest in lipstick--try this at home*), but we didn't go play in it. It's warm, but not that warm. We'll save it for summer.

I went to the Oriental Market in Riverdale on Wednesday and bought two bamboo steamers, and aside from the big stoneware pie dish that my visiting teachers gave me instead of a lesson one time--which worked out great for both of us--all of my pies fit in it and could be transported without endangering their delicate lardy buttery crusts. Something bad happened after dinner, though. My grandma whipped a bunch of cream for her squash pie, which was amazing as always (and did I mention that the squash was the nice big one I grew in MY OWN GARDEN?), but somehow there had been a container of salt emptied into the sugar bin, so it was like a sugar/salt mixture, and when she put it in the cream it made it taste bad. In case you thought otherwise. Not good on pie at all. But then we whipped some more and everything was fine and our family ate at least ten squash pies over the weekend. By contrast I brought peach blueberry, apple pear cranberry, lemon, and three other pie crusts that my cousin filled with banana cream, coconut cream, and blueberry cream, and my aunt brought a couple of pecan pies. None of these pies got eaten all the way. We love us some squash pie. The other conclusion that can be drawn is that Bethie and Sandi and I brought sucky pies, which I refuse to believe. That would require self-examination and contemplation. No fun!

We accidentally left the cat in the house while we were gone. Overnight. He didn't poop anywhere that we can see, but he did sleep on my bed and get hair all over the down comforter. Hmm. Hair/poop. Hair/poop. I guess we lucked out.

*I stole that joke from John.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

must . . . buy . . . single-purpose . . . kitchen tool

For heck's sake. I never even thought of this. Last week for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner we just strung pies behind the back seat and hoped they would survive, which they did. But this! The benefits are twofold: I get to carry my pies in smoosh-free safety, AND I get to go to the Asian Food Market and buy stuff! I have a weakness for Asian dinnerware. Just ask my sushi plates. And my soy sauce dishes. And my chopsticks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

the one about heidi

"Superwoman" is a term that gets bandied about so often that it has lost its punch. Frankly, there really aren't that many superwomen around. You can thank Syndrome and his Omnidroid for that. But I do know a few--my mom is one, my friend Jenny's mom was one, and my friend Heidi is one. No, she doesn't clear tall buildings in a single bound or have X-ray vision (she claims), but she is a smart, funny, practical and very capable woman with many strengths. Among her skills is the ability to crochet. And I'm just the sort of person to take advantage of her talent for my own gain. I saw a beautiful granny square afghan on Apartment Therapy last year and knew that I must needs collect it. I commissioned one from Heidi, and all these long months she has toiled away on it, spending I can't imagine how many hours on color pairings and tiny, perfect stitches. Here it is: Do you see how it is that I can never, ever repay her for this? It's so beautiful I almost can't look directly at it. I think I'll enter it in the county fair on her behalf and watch her win the sweepstakes ribbon. Look at these color combinations:
If she lived here I would cook for her for a year. But she wouldn't need me to, because she's totally gifted in the kitchen, too! Talent piggie. To sum up: I wish all of you had a Heidi. She's pretty great.

Monday, November 23, 2009

a few times I been 'round that track, so it's not just gonna happen like that

Are you ever reading one of your home/lifestyle magazines (which Ina Garten calls "shelter" magazines, sooooo twee) and you find yourself getting angry at the people in the stories? This happens to me all the time. Not surprising, because I yell at the TV, too. I get it from my grandpa. He used to shout, and maybe he still does, what do I know, "WHERE'S MY TV BRICK?" He's also to blame for me crying at things like the ambulatory Statue of Liberty stomping on the naughty ghosts in Ghostbusters Whichever That One Was.

Anyway, the things the subjects say in the magazine features ("We really try to draw ourselves and our guests into the living room, where the environment is so much softer.") always remind me of that Ab Fab episode when Patsy has gotten caught shagging an MP, I think, and she gets the horrible botched face lift in preparation for her interview with Hello! magazine, and the whole episode she's fantasizing about the Hello! piece ("Would you like to follow me into my gracious drawing room?" "I bless the wonder of life, and the newness of living."). I think it's sad that the magazine makes everyone sound so facile and materialistic. Unless they are, then good job, magazine! Way to expose hypocrisy while pretending to glorify it!

One of the guys in our ward left John a message saying, "This is the Home Teacher Data Commander. All Home Teaching programs are operating within prescribed parameters." You can't tell me that's not awesome.

The men working on the road up the hill from our house broke a water line and we have no water pressure and the toilets won't flush. This is one of the reasons I don't want to be a pioneer. They expect me to wash my dishes by hand? Like a caveperson? (I didn't say cavewoman because I don't accept the perpetual dominance of the patriarchy.) I realize now that it would be easy to infer from my remarks that I do my dishes in the toilet, which is not the case. I did have to do them in the bathtub for a while when we were remodeling the kitchen, and I'm grateful I no longer have to mash chunks through the drain grate.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

papa don't farm: part 1

I've been wanting to do a biased low-budget documentary, or, failing that, a series of biased articles, on the continuing decline of the American farmer. Farming is dear to my heart because 1) there's nothing like it for building character, and 2) I've never had to do it myself. Living where I do I have a number of sources whom I can pump for information, among them my dad, who owns a farm equipment dealership. But the thing is? I'm sort of scared of my dad. Not that he's going to hit me or anything, just that he'll wonder--possibly aloud--why I'm asking him about the cost of computerizing tractors, rather than, say, mowing my lawn (Because it's winter, dad! What? Why am I not cleaning my house, then? Uh . . . ). So I'm going to have to be sneaky about how I interview him. My first attempt was this morning. It went a little something like this:

I went into his office saying that we were driving past and Pinga wanted to come see him (it's true, she did). We discussed Pinga's holey cheek, then I smoothly segued into my real reason for visiting.

Me: "So, how goes the biz?"
Dad: "Oh, it's moving along."
Me: "Sometime I need to ask you about why it is that farm equipment costs so much more than it used to, and nobody can start farming now because he'd be dead before he paid off his land and equipment."
Dad (facial expression): "Sigh. I don't have time for this."
Dad (aloud): "Mm-hmm."
Me: " . . . and you've got people like [redacted] who are farming, what, 800 acres? And he's not getting rich."
Dad: "Oh, he does all right. But he got a lot of help in the beginning from his dad."
AWKWARD SILENCE
Dad (facial expression): "I would really like to get back to work."
Me: "Well, I guess I'll let you get back to work."

Tricksy, right? I bet he didn't even notice. He's going to be a tough nut to crack. So my hypothesis for this project is that even with the renewed interest in supporting small, local growers, farmers are still not making ends meet. I hope I find out that I'm wrong. Stay tuned for more of my skillacious investigative journalism.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

lisa, you're promoted to bart

Man, kings are always wanting a flying ship, or somebody to eat a mountain of bread, or somebody to drink a lake of wine,or imprisoning their daughters in a castle made of glass. Kings are the worst!

Tonight after I got home from Fat Fighters everyone wanted a treat. The Hulk chose to unload the dishwasher rather than eat a piece of apple pie.

I'm really full, because I ate a bowl of soup and two breadsticks, and also half a piece of pumpkin pie and a bite of apple pie already, but I'm still going to eat a goodly amount of my Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino ice cream. Just try and stop me, why don't you?

I never thought I'd get tired of buying my kids toys, but I am. Tired of it, I mean. Really tired.

Today Captain America was telling me something, and I couldn't even listen to him, he was so darn cute. I hugged him and told him I wanted to pinch his little cheeks. Then he repaid me for the compliment by dinking around downstairs and not cleaning up the Legos. Parenting lesson learned: do not compliment a child, or call attention to good behavior.

I really miss Domino. It failed and they gave me Cookie instead, which failed. Now the only "home and lifestyle" magazines I have left are BH&G and Country Living, which are old lady magazines, and I am not an old lady. Would an old lady jump off the couch onto a giant beanbag? Didn't think so. I do have a mean case of rheumatoid arthritis, though.

John refuses to vote in the comments, so the cooking class question is now a poll on the sidebar.

choose my own adventure

What does Utah have? Hillbillies! Polygamists! Mormons! Which are not the same thing anymore, I promise! Farmers! Cheesemakers (they are blessed)! Bakers! Earth nerds! Yuppies! People who give themselves enemas! Super Target! Walmart! As much as I'd like to say otherwise! Ikea! Sur La Table!

It is with that last that I concern myself, and why I have invited you here today. Remember how John doesn't think I know how to cook, I guess, and gave me a gift card to take a class from Sur La Table? Well, it's time to pay the piper. He can give me a gift card all he wants, but he's going to have to watch our people while I'm learning.

Here are a few of the choices that look good to me:

French Bistro Classics
MENU Truffle Pommes Dauphine - Frisee Salad with Poached Egg and Bacon - Grilled New York Steak with Red Wine Pan Sauce - Creamy Potato and Leek Gratin - Apple Tarte Tatin with Rosemary Ice Cream

Holiday Cooking for Family and Friends
MENU Three French Cheese Fondue with Toasted Ciabatta, Apples and Brussels Sprouts - Pancetta braised Greens in Phyllo Pastry - Pork Tenderloin Roast, Yams and Pecans with Maple-Bourbon Glaze - English Toffee Bread Pudding with Warm Berries

I can't do this one:
Bon Appetit: Roman Holiday
MENU Parmesan and Smoky Paprika Frico - Herb-Roasted Lamb Chops - Broccoli-Pecorino Gratinata - Panettone Panzanella with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts - Apple-Cranberry Crisp with Polenta Streusel Topping
because John is going to be singing (in Abravanel Hall! Get your tickets now!) that night, which blows, because now scarcity has increased demand, and I've decided that it is the only class I really want to take at all. Do you like how what John giveth with one hand, he taketh away with the other?

And then after Christmas, when maybe I'll need something to do to keep from killing myself in the horrid stretch of nothingness that is post-holiday winter, there are these:

Dining Healthy for the New Year
MENU Roasted Butternut Squash, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad - Panko Crusted Chicken with Mango-Mustard Sauce - Parchment Baked Black Cod with Fennel and Potatoes - Curried Coconut Soup with Chick Peas - Tangy Frozen Yogurt with Spiced Fruit Compote

French Bistro Classics, slightly different.
MENU Gougeres - Frisee Salad with Poached Egg and Bacon - Grilled Hanger Steak with Red Wine Pan Sauce - Creamy Potato and Leek Gratin - Apple Tarte Tatin

Classic Steakhouse Fundamentals
MENU Caesar Salad - New York Peppercorn Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce - Twice Baked Potatoes - Creamed Spinach - Pear Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise

So, I want all you crazy people to come on jump around, and also to choose which class I should take. Vote in the comments. Right now either of the the French Bistro Classics is looking the best to me, then probably the Dining Healthy one. And I realize that I may have chosen some of them based on hunger, not skill development. But I will bow to your mob rule and use any dissatisfaction to lobby for another gift card from my princely husband who knows what a girl wants, which is: to spend time doing what she loves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

who wouldn't be happy doing the neutron dance?

I told you about that pie class our ward was having. People who came: the people who made the pies. But we could still trade tips and try new recipes and give each other mani-pedis. The flavors:
1. banana cream
2. peanut butter whose quirky name implied endorsement by a country-western singer
3. sort of key lime
4. apple
5. pumpkin
6. pecan
7. coconut cream
8. apple pear cranberry

Apple and pumpkin were mine. See:

A was once an apple pie before the pie making class.

P was once a pumpkin pie after the class that was made from real pumpkin for a change because I didn't want to sacrifice another of my blue Hubbards, so you can see how much I care about my lady friends.

Nothing fancy, just good traditional pies. I think my favorite was the apple pear cranberry, but I plan to make the coconut and banana cream pies too. Typically when I make pie I go for fruit of some kind, and besides, John the Communist doesn't like coconut (bad childhood). But next week is the pie superbowl, after all, and I've been asked to bring some pies, and I can bust out all over. I guess I've shown enough gumption to work my way up from janitor to salesman--last time they had me bring a green salad, which you know is for screwups that you're trying to help feel important (kidding, Sarah--artistic license).

But I showed them, and I brought perishable ranch dressing. It may have even been from Maddox, such was my thirst for validation. Oh, I've got your green salad. I've got your green salad right here. *makes lewd gesture*

This is the kind of turkeys we have around here, and did you know they were introduced? Like our own version of the cane toad? I feel so dirty. But then I look at how beautiful the turkey is, and I tell it to sing, damn you, sing, and then I forget about it not being indigenous.

I am going to kill some cats pretty soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

while you're returning it, see if you can get in touch with australopithecus

The word "whence"=proof of time travel

People say, "Return that whence it came." I insist that it is a linguistic vapor trail indicating that its first meaning was FROM WHEN.

In other news, if I were to overhear someone having a conversation like the one I had earlier with the Caputo's cheesemonger, I would be rolling my eyes so hard they'd stick backward.

Friday, November 13, 2009

of numbers one and two

This may surprise you because I'm a grammar stickler and super concerned about people behaving correctly in public, but I think that potty humor is hilarious. Poop and pee jokes--done well--kill me. One of my favorite passages in fiction comes from "Us and Them," a humorous essay in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. In it he describes his backward neighbors the Tomkeys coming to trick-or-treat on November 1st, and how he shoved all his candy bars into his mouth rather than risk his mother giving them to the Tomkey children. Come along with me:

I had just started to mutilate a miniature box of Red Hots when my mother pried them from my hands, accidentally finishing the job for me. BB-size pellets clattered onto the floor, and as I followed them with my eyes, she snatched up a roll of Necco wafers.

"Not those," I pleaded, but rather than words, my mouth expelled chocolate, chewed chocolate, which fell onto the sleeve of her sweater. "Not those. Not those."

She shook her arm, and the mound of chocolate dropped like a horrible turd upon my bedspread. "You should look at yourself," she said. "I mean, really look at yourself."

The entire essay may be read here. Just don't blame me if you develop a Sedaris habit and you have to talk to your bishop about the adult subject matter.

When I re-read that passage to John last night--I'm always reading Sedaris to him, and he puts up with it graciously--I was sobbing with laughter. And it's got to be at least my fourth time reading it. But he says turd! Can you stand it?

I also enjoy seeing a chimp in a dress, who is roller skating and smoking a cigar. I hope you don't think less of me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I hold it very much against her

Let's talk for a minute, shall we, about the movie that made me burn my pie crust. I haven't seen many Jennifer Aniston movies, because why would I? She's probably a nice person, but I don't feel compelled to seek out more venues in which to see Rachel. So, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the premise of the movie Picture Perfect, as was I, let me educate you:

Single girl works for an ad agency. Girl attends a wedding, high jinks ensue, and she has her picture taken with the wedding photographer. Girl badly wants a promotion, but can't get it because she's free and easy and not dependent on the company, so they don't want to waste their time on her (hostile work environment lawsuit). Girl's friend tells everyone that Girl is engaged to Wedding Photographer (would not happen). More ludicrous high jinks ensue, including but not limited to clunky, unconvincing swearing, and the movie climaxes with Girl regretting dumping Wedding Photographer to advance her career, so she goes to a wedding he's filming (would not happen) and interrupts him while he's working to ask him to give her another chance. And when they totally steal focus from the bride and groom to work out their bizarre Rube Goldberg relationship, everyone cheers and applauds them (would not happen)!

My problem with this movie is that they didn't even try to make her character relatable or sympathetic. She's an acquisitive, vapid doormat of dubious moral character. And she's so self-absorbed that she barges into a wedding of complete strangers and jeopardizes the job of someone she blandly professes to care about, even when he asks her to leave. The movie shows her purportedly coming to terms with his unimpressive career of Life Event Capturing, but then she shows such a gross lack of respect for him, as well as the poor couple who hired him--it's not like it's a real job, filming this wedding, so who cares that she refuses to shut up and wait for him to finish? What would it take, a half hour? MY WORD. I cannot support this.

While I'm upset, I want to take this time to tell you that there are people who call me and just launch into a conversation without introducing themselves. People I don't know very well. That bugs me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

in which I fail at life

This is what I did tonight. I lost track of time while watching a Jennifer Aniston movie. Chew on that for a minute, would you?

before dipping also very delicious

I'm not saying it was the peanut sauce that caused me to have a dream that one of my cousins stole a baby from one of my other cousins, or that I was caring for a newborn baby that belonged to someone in my family who had died, or that I was wearing an ill-considered turquoise and brown polka-dot bikini at the beach, but I'm not saying it wasn't, either.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

in which I am pleasantly surprised by the lack of tantrums

Some conversations that were had concerning the spring rolls we ate for dinner:
Captain America: "I don't like these. I tried them, though!"
The Hulk: "I think I would probably have left out the chicken and the carrots, but they're good. Can I just eat one more velociraptor bite and be done?"
Superman: "Mom, you know those things we ate that had the rice noodles in them? Can I have one of those for lunch tomorrow?"
Pinga: "Uh bite dat!"
John: "I would never order these from a restaurant, but I like them. They are . . . unfamiliar."
Me: "I ate three of them. It was hard for me to stop."

Many thanks to the proprietress of the Asian Market in Ogden who steered me toward the correct rice noodles. I almost chose the angel hair size instead of the spaghetti size! CAN YOU IMAGINE! She was great--"Uh, you can use those noodles, but they're the wrong kind." Noodles are the best. Unless they're from these people. Never again.

I've seen those commercials

Just a heads up: I bought John some of that chocolatey Axe deodorant, and ladies? I don't want any funny business.

Monday, November 9, 2009

future bestseller

I'm writing a book called "The Christmas Turnip." It's about an author who writes a different formulaic holiday-themed emotional blackmail book every year, only he has finally run out of ideas. Then he finds a turnip sitting on the side of the road, and he squeezes and squeezes and squeezes the turnip until blood comes out. Then he writes a story about it and all the Costcos in the country sell it and everybody buys it even though it's a stupid book.

Don't steal my idea.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

thank goodness I got that education so I wouldn't have to do all the work that I do anyway

In the past few days I have swept and mopped the kitchen, cleaned out the garden and laid cardboard over the melon patch, mucked out the chicken coop, and dumped the poop onto the cardboard. I am accomplishing the CRAP out of my jobs.

My new chickens are all hyper dingbats. This is not a value judgment, merely a statement.

It was a lucrative day dumpster diving for cardboard at my dad's work.

I think I managed to offend our City Recorder/Clerk after voting this morning.

Lately I make Dutch Baby (new official name of German pancakes at our house) with half oatmeal and half flour. It makes a thicker and slightly stodgier, but better, product. Says I.

I've volunteered to help with making pie(s) for a church cooking class, and I can't decide which kind to do. Squash, obviously, but what about my mother-in-law's lemon pie? It isn't right to make those fake neon blobs when this is so much better, and everyone must know! But then both of the pies would be single crust, and I must say, I make lovely top crusts. And what is church for, if not upstaging your sisters in the gospel?

This weekend we're going out to dinner and I will be wearing my cheetah leggings. One of my requirements was that we go to a place where cheetah leggings are appropriate, because all too soon it will be too cold to wear them, and that will make me sad. Viva las leggings! Y los platform heels!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

werewolf bar mitzvah! spooky, scary

Happy Halloween, possums! Such a beautiful day to dress as a harmful spirit in order to confuse departed souls of ill intent!

My family has a party on Halloween every year (though I don't know what we're going to do next year--we certainly don't want to take stock of food supplies and slaughter animals for winter storage on the Sabbath!) with soup and bread and viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas. This year my parents are in Reno watching my sister's race, and they won't be back until right before the party. With most people (us) that would present a problem, since there wouldn't be time to clean the house before guests arrived, but they are brown-nosers and keep their surroundings neat and tidy. Lame.

I have opted to bring two soups, because my sister-in-law Emily makes a zucchini soup that if I don't watch out John will cast me aside and marry her for this soup alone, and also I had a big box? container? thingie? of mushrooms that needed to be used pronto. Then some bread, and since it is FINALLY cranberry season in the stores I bought two mondo bags of them for making the cranberry scones of myth, legend and song. I know I've linked to them before, but if any of you have not made them yet you should be reported to Human Resources for creating a hostile eating environment. Unless you don't like food that tastes good, which I guess is possible.

But the real meat of my story is the soup. Ha! Emily gave me the zucchini soup recipe, which was great of her, since I can't imagine being able to find and keep a man if I were back in the singles game. "Hi, I'm Layne. I have four unruly and strong-willed children, a pregnant (crossing fingers!) goat, sixteen chickens, an ottoman-sized cat, and a house populated with old-person furniture. Also I'm excessively bossy and opinionated. I'll be wearing the pants, in case you've heard otherwise. Hey! Get back here!" I used sharp cheddar, since that's what we stock, and it may be for that reason that John likes my rendition of the soup, but does not hoover it down. But! Have you made, have you made cream of mushroom soup (to the tune of "Were You There")? Before today I had not, which means it has been a long, lonely time since I'd eaten any, as we are not ordinarily consumers of canned soups. And this soup! Words fail me. It is silky, complex, earthy, but still bright from the chicken broth. Eminently inhalable. Quick and easy as well, and thus bound for a permanent slot on our haphazard family menu.

Shall I share both recipes with you? Do I dare? Yes, I dare.
Emily's Zucchini Soup
Saute until tender:
2 medium zucchini, chopped (green and yellow are pretty together!)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T parsley
1 t dried basil (use more if you've got fresh)
1/3 C butter

Stir in:
1/3 C flour
salt and pepper to taste, about 1 t salt and 1/4 t pepper

Stir in:
3 C chicken broth
1 t lemon juice

Let boil for 2 minutes, then add:
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 large can(12 oz.?) of evaporated milk (I'm sure that an equal amount of half-and-half or cream would also be fine, but I had some evaportated milk that needed using)
2 C of frozen corn

Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Just before serving add:
1/4 C parmesan
2 C shredded cheddar

Cream of Mushroom Soup
adapted from How to Cook Everything (if you stay true to his recipe it will probably be even better, but I did what I could with what was on hand)
Saute until browned:
1 1/2 lbs. cremini mushrooms, tops sliced and stems chopped
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
salt and pepper

Add and saute until softened:
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Stir in:
2/3 C flour

Let the flour cook for a minute, then stir in:
4 C chicken broth
1 C beef broth (I'm sure you can use all of one or the other, I just like a variety, and Bittman says you can also use vegetable broth)

Let boil for a minute or two, then stir in:
2 C cream or half-and-half

Warm it through, but do not let it boil.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I am the clown with the tear-away face

I don't know why there is such nostalgia for the Smurfs. It was a pretty stupid cartoon and perpetuated acceptance of patriarchal rule. I do grudgingly admire them for speaking a tonal language, though. I bet it's pretty hard for a non-native speaker to learn Smurf.

I roasted two of the roosters for our dinner last night. Verdict: tough, but juicy and flavorful. The Hulk tried to get away without eating any, but relented and had some breast meat. Captain America declared it the "best chicken ever," which it was not, but he is going through a stage. The more hand he has in acquiring or preparing a food, the better it is. Which is usually true.

English people have the best names for their food. Some British foods I like are:
1. Yorkshire pudding (which we call "pud")
2. rhubarb fool
3. trifle
4. Toad in the Hole
5. Sticky Toffee Pudding

I made Sticky Toffee Pudding for the first time last night, only with raisins instead of dates because I forgot to buy some, so it probably tasted nothing like, but it was still sticky and toffeeish, and you know how Brits are about calling everything "pudding," they're like Louisianans and "chicken," so stop judging! It is delicious and easy. So much better than Tres Leches cake, which manages to be too moist, somehow--I might like it better served warm . . . I should go make some.

I'm very conflicted about my costume. It's so boring! Even with eyeliner sideburns and an eyeliner cookie duster mustache, and the planned use of John's black knit cat burglar hat. But now it's too late to do anything else. I only get one shot a year at this, and I know I'm going to live to regret it. Werewolf! Audrey Two or One! Harley Quinn! The wasted opportunities!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

doubleplus ungood!

Maybe I'm overreacting, because when I hear the word "mandatory" in conjunction with "there is a new law because clearly we have so much time and money and nothing to do with it" I get cranky. But why would San Francisco be encouraging--and legislating--incorrect composting procedures? Perhaps the newspaper wasn't able to go into detail about which food waste is truly banned, but I have read over and over that meat and grease and eggs should never be composted, because it ruins your compost and attracts pests.

What they need to do is give everyone a flock of laying hens. I hardly compost anything anymore, because my chickens are so greedy.

Anyone who knows what's really going on, please educate me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

the longest and grossest post I have ever written

In pausing to reflect over last week's events, it would seem that I've once again violated the terms of my Humane Society endorsement. Dangit!

However, if you believe, as I do, that animal protein is a necessary (although preferably smallish) component of a healthy diet, then it's nice to know that the animal you're eating has been treated well, fed wholesome food it would have ordinarily eaten (none of its own species, for example--although I do let my chickens eat leftover eggs, since they do that anyway), and killed as quickly and painlessly as possible.

But on with the excitement!
Here is the wee little teal that Jason brought us. I think my face sort of looks like a horse when it's feeling wiggy--something about the nose.

Last Monday our neighbor brought us a duck he had killed, because I had mentioned that I would like to roast a duck, just to say I'd done it. But it was small enough that I decided against doing anything but breasting it.
Teals--and perhaps all waterfowl, what do I know?--are very easy to pluck. The breast feathers came out lickety-split.
Doesn't he know that ducks wear shirts, not pants?

Five minutes later, there he/she/it was, all barechested.
Then we singed off the downy fuzz. And we didn't even scald it--The Joy of Cooking recommended against it with a game bird, because it makes the skin tear more easily.
Then I cut down the breastbone and commenced my embarrassing crime against butchery.
Ugh. Look at all that wasted meat. I hate inefficiency.

We fried them up in a pan the next night, along with our Pad Thai, and the children descended upon them and devoured them like starving wolves. And you know how wolves are!

It was more difficult than I thought it would be. He was so tiny and weightless and soft, and he smelled clean and downy, like a pillow.
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Clockwise from left: Pad Thai, kimchi, marinated tofu.

Above is the Pad Thai I made from Alton Brown's recipe. It was fairly well-received, even by The Hulk, if you can imagine. I don't know what's gotten into him.
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Evidently Skiver doesn't care much for the taste of mouse.

Thursday we came home from buying our milk, and Superman found this on the carpet. It's one of the mice that has been making himself free with our food storage. He has gotten into my giant bag of chocolate chips and I may have said some swear words beginning with D and H when John told me about it.
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Saturday was killing day. It has been the killingest week ever at our house! We processed seven chickens--skinning three and plucking four. Thankfully our magic neighbors (as my sister-in-law calls them) are prepared for all chicken-killing emergencies. They brought over their contraption composed of a fifty-five gallon drum topped with a board and two traffic cones.
At first we held the bird over the cone and cut his throat, but before too long we started pulling the head through a hole cut in the end of the cone, slitting the throat and letting the bird bleed out. It worked much better the second way.
It really is an ignoble way to die . . . as opposed, I guess, to the way that animals normally die? Not likely. But at least it's better than flopping around and flinging blood everywhere.
Once the bird has bled out you can begin processing it. These we skinned by slicing a Y-shaped cut into the skin on the breast and down the legs--sort of like an autopsy. Loosen the skin and peel it off the meat, then slice the breastbone off and cut off the thighs and legs.
We skinned the first three, because they're over a year old and are bound to be tough, so there's no point in plucking them for roasting. They'll most likely have to be pressure cooked to be edible.

Then we processed our four big guys. Since they were chicks this spring, I'm hoping there's a chance they'll make halfway decent roasters.
It was a little bit ten pounds of chicken in a five pound pot.

The internets told us to hold each bird in the hot water for 1 1/2-2 minutes, then pluck them. So we did. It was harder keeping them in the water than I thought it would be--they're surprisingly buoyant.
Trying to get every last little hairlike feather off the breast. I'm very detail-oriented.

The plucking was far easier than I anticipated. Sort of time-consuming because they have these tiny little hairlike things that you have to pull out, and of course it was a misty day and we were wet from the scalding pot, so the feathers stuck, and also it was stinky times a lot, but I thought it would be more physically challenging.

The sheer redneckery of us standing in our backyard pulling feathers off of dead roosters was something to behold. But as Wade said about shoveling gravel, you just make yourself get stupider, and then you can do the job without thinking about how much you hate it.
Ready to be cut into pieces. Look at his legs, holy cow!

It's surprising how much smaller they are without their feathers. Once the birds were plucked, I cut off the oil gland on top of the tail, then we cut off the feet and head.
Now comes the really gross part. I thought it was yuck sticking my hand up a goat's bajingo, but that's nothing on cutting the anus and bowels out of a chicken. Which brings me to a story:

When I was in college I worked for a company that did telephone surveys. Surveys, not sales, so I was only Satan's-minion-adjacent. I hated it precious, and was complaining about it to my mom, and she, ever the compassionate nurturer, said, "Well, you could be working at E.A. Miller (a meat-packing plant) cutting buttholes out of cows." Ah, perspective.
Once the dangerous stuff is out you can go spelunking to extract the rest of the entrails. Chickens are small and I ripped a number of gloves trying to perform the dilation and curettage. Perhaps that reference is in poor taste as well as technically inaccurate.
Captain America helped a little with the plucking.

Cutting out the vent--that's chicken-speak for butthole.

John removing the innards.

Finally, a million years later and just in time for me to shower and get in costume for my piano recital, we finished. We were ready to not be smelling chicken anymore.
What I learned:
1. It was a good experience overall, because I would have felt so wasteful if I'd just thrown away all that meat.
2. It's hard to kill an animal when you're not used to it, and I think that's a good thing.
3. It was a good class in beginning butchery.
4. The difference between a sharp knife and a really sharp knife. Thank goodness for my Grandpa Herd and the filleting knife he gave us for Christmas.
5. It takes forfreakingever when you are an ignorant fool.
6. I don't want to do this very often.

Sorry if anyone is a vegetarian now because of me. I think it's good to know where your food comes from. I like that my kids can look at a cut of meat and know what part of the animal it was, and I hope they don't take eating it for granted.