June 25, 2004

(A work of collaborative fiction, bad puns and, if we’re really lucky, silly erotica.)

Our heroine rolls over easy in bed and awakens on the sunny side of the room.  She gingerly stretches her leggs.  She wonders what eggactly last night’s dream of poachers means.  Is it an indication that she was plagiarizing?  Or was it just her fertile imagination free ranging far and wide, spinning fantasies of cocky lawmen who keep evildoers from hatching plans to illegaly feather their nests?


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June 24, 2004

(whispering) Don’t tell the guest bloggers.  I’ve been leaving them alone to wallow in their own crepulence, and I promised I would not spy on them.  And I’m not, really.  But, see, I get cards, I get letters, I get irritable e-mails saying “what?  you’re too good to send us a goddamn picture now?” Well, I have pictures, and lots of ‘em, and thanks to my sweet darling Lloyd, I now have a camera cable with which to download them.  Regardez la..

You may be asking, “Is this what you’re doing with your time?  Just taking pictures of your room?” Well, of course not.  Sometimes I walk into Eureka Springs and take pictures there, too.  Of course, those will be shared, too.  In time.

I now return you to the aid, comfort and succor of the few, the happy few, the band of guest bloggers.  Remember, you never saw a thing.  (/whispering)

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June 22, 2004

To my delight, yesterday afternoon the mailman brought me this :  The New Making of a Cook:  The Art, Techniques and Science of Good Cooking.  The revamping of her classic book from 1971, The Making of a Cook.  A gift from the goddess of cooking I would daresay.  The title grabbed me, the cover grabbed me, the outright significant weight of the book itself grabbed me- and then the first 60 pages…

Let me just say that at the time of it’s arrival, I was cooking a whole chicken to go with a pan of dressing (I’m sure it’s called ‘stuffing’ by other folks) made on the spur of the moment in response to 2 slightly-stale half loaves of bread in the box and a can of cream o’ celery soup outta the hurrican stash - my instinct was then justified when I read this sentence:

Some of my former students may remember how I answered their question, “Should I throw it away?” My answer was always, “Think it out first; can you salvage it?”

I applauded the lack of color photographs.  In the one cookbook I own, “Italy:  The Beautiful Cookbook”, the photographs are almost 3 feet high, and the food actually appears rather unappetizing in most of the pictures, as it does when you finish trying to prepare something from it without the half-dozen expensive and/or unattainable ingredients included in each one of them.  But lofty dated cookbooks have only been one hurdle in my race to learn how to cook.  As with many of the other guestbloggers who have ‘come out’ so far- I think that we all have tortuous relationships with our food in some way.  About to turn 31, I am just now learning how to cook.  My father was the one in my family who did the cooking for the most part, while drinking heavily for the most part.  “If it’s brown it’s cooking, if it’s black- it’s done” was the only kernel of advice I remember clearly.  Meat, potatoes- salt, and of course, butter, lots of butter.  And at this point I utter a completely unheard unnoticed, ‘wow’ at reading there are two, 2 different ways to cook butter alone.  Although I’m sure that if I even tried to say ‘noisette’ in front of my father I’d be summarily dismissed as ‘just stoned’. 

Further into the book I find that my inherent avoidance of those decorative vinegar and oil bottles is dead on, and the clinical name for it is Clostridium botilinum.  The history and chemistry put in understandable words, along with Kamman’s personal observations and experience- is a magical combination.  Although I have such a respect for books that I usually do not leave them in places where they risk being damaged in any way; I expect to have this one open on my kitchen counter for some time.  And high hopes are sneaking into my heart on the cooking front.  I can see that this is one of those things that I’m going to have to teach myself, as- after spending 3 hours in the kitchen chopping green and yellow peppers and onion, mixing, sauteeing (?), baking, frying, seasoning- breaking my damned back (not to put to fine a point on it eh?)- oldman is fast asleep.  He will eat his microwaved, and I do not protest this development much as I sit down and finally enjoy a hot plate of my own food.


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June 21, 2004

AKA, Apricot Jam

Yep, that’s what I did Sunday.  Four batches.  The kind made from a box of apricots that’re just at the point of melting into mush in the bottom of the crate.  The kind where you smell them and you say, “ahhhh” and you breathe way out and you put your head down in the box and you breathe way in and you think, “Clearly there is a goddess in charge of all this and she loves me,” and you breathe out and then breathe waaaaayyyyyy in and hold it until your head spins and then breathe out and bury your head in the box and do it again and again while believing for a minute that all is right in the world.
And then you turn on the stove and sterilize the jars and pit the apricots and add a splash of good lemon juice and pectin and sugar and nothing else and put two pots on the stove and make them both at the same time.  Sweat dripping down the small of your back and off the tip of your nose while you stir with both hands.  Hot jam.  Hot kitchen.  The smell of cooking apricots and sugar.  Jars filled and inverted.  Hundreds years of tradition embodied in the liquid sunshine preserved on the counter for the joy of giving.  For the joy of opening a jar of summer in the middle of next winter.  Riches beyond compare.
And then.  And then there was just enough apricot puree left over for a blender full of fresh apricot daiquiris to wash away the sore back and summer-kitchen heat and the tiredness.  I know there is a goddess in charge and she loves me.  I have 20 jars of her love and a rum hangover to prove it.

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June 19, 2004

I am humbled by my fellow--much more prolific!--guest bloggers.  Although I miss Bakerina I’m greatly enjoying the flurry of posting in her absence.  And as I am cleaning house, today (literally and figuratively!), I’ve decided it’s time to throw my hat into the ring.

What follows is an article I wrote many moons ago.  In the midst of trying to find someone to publish it, my life (read: marriage) kinda blew up, and lucky for everyone in the blogosphere, this little slice-o-life never made it to print.  So now I can share it with all of you, via PTMYB.  At the time I wrote it, I was feeling great frustration over my lack of time/will/whatever to cook just because.  I’m pleased to report that since then I’ve made my way back, ever so slightly; and my kitchen loves me a little more, now.  But back then… well… read on if you dare:

There are a few hobbies of mine that I am somewhat loath to admit to others.  Or I will be forthcoming with my admission, but immediately make fun of myself before anyone else has a chance to do it.  Crocheting is one of these sorts of things, because really, any type of needlecraft by a woman under 50 is somewhat suspect in today’s society.  I do have a hard time admitting that I crochet without launching into an exaggerated parody of Old Mother Hubbard.  Likewise, I love to cook, but this is not the sort of thing someone like me can freely admit without raising some eyebrows.

Saying “I love to cook” is a loaded statement.  It conjures images of gourmet meals, dinner parties, and shiny chrome kitchen appliances.  It suggests that I do cook and that I cook often and that I cook well.  I may as well say “I love to scale Mt. Everest” for as often as I accomplish either of these feats.  I’m quite certain that no one who’s ever eaten at my house thinks of me as a gourmet.  What I should really say is that I love to watch cooking shows, and I miss the days when I was able to pick a new recipe out of a cookbook or a magazine and 1) shop for the necessary ingredients, 2) prepare the meal as directed, and 3) serve it to someone who cared.  Ah, memories.

Here’s the reality in my house: I have two small children who eat like most small children, which is to say, they rarely eat at all.  Between the two of them I’m dealing with one who adores spicy food and one who can’t tolerate it, one who has texture issues, one who would cheerfully drink a gallon of milk rather than eat one mouthful of food, one who loves green leafies but hates all other veggies, one who loves all veggies that aren’t leafy, and one who has diet-limiting food allergies.  Then there is my husband, who works too many hours and often eats lunch late and/or arrives home an hour or more later than expected.  In my fantasies of motherhood and my plans to lay down the law for family unity, my perfect fictitious family met every night at the kitchen table for a balanced meal that I had painstakingly prepared, and everyone talked and ate and laughed and loved.  The only part of my suppertime fantasy that turned to reality was that we do indeed have a kitchen table upon which food is placed.

I quickly learned that the longer I spend cooking a meal, the greater the chances of my children refusing to even try it, and the more likely that my husband will be delayed at the office.  The corollary to this law is that—contrary to every parenting article I’ve ever read—offering a variety of foods to a picky child merely causes said child to refuse to touch anything on the plate because “some of that icky stuff kinda might’ve touched” the desired food and rendered it toxic.  For a long while I gave up on offering more than one type of food to my kids at any given meal, and then I got smart and bought some divided plates that guard against contamination between foods.  (Sadly, my children also wised up, and now mix their food and then declare it unsuitable.)

My daughter has also reached the age where she needs a sufficient label for a food before she deigns to put it in her mouth.  I look back with nostalgia to the days when I, as a young child, would press my own mother with the dreaded “What is this, anyway?” and my mother would lovingly reply, “It’s poison.  Eat it.” Thanks to the wisdom that aging brings (and many years of intense therapy), I’ve learned my own mantra to share with my daughter on the frequent topic of “What is it?” When she asks, I tell her, “They’re monkey patties!” And my darling daughter, coached by her father, gleefully replies in her best hillbilly voice, “Now that’s good eatin’!” Of course she still doesn’t eat it, but we enjoy the banter anyway, and I’m hoping she’ll need fewer years of therapy than I did.

Over time, I have succumbed to familiarity and convenience.  Soup is good food.  It’s not delivery, it’s Digiorno.  Please make some Kraft macaroni and cheese.  I can’t think of any catchy slogans for chicken nuggets at the moment but I do buy them in industrial-sized bags.  Listen, I tried; I really did!  I made homemade chicken nuggets once and the children behaved as if poisoned.  My homemade macaroni and cheese (with whole-wheat macaroni) was similarly shunned.  I do have a handful of recipes that the entire family will eat, but I wouldn’t dub any of them stunning.  Some of them represent all the different food groups, though.  And when all else fails (or when I’m too tired to think), we drive though “Old MacDonald’s” (complete with mooing and clucking from the carseat set) and get the only food my children will always eat: ketchup.

I still love to watch cooking shows… and to log on to gourmet kitchen supply sites and browse the beautiful kitchen appliances that I lust after.  Maybe I should start my own cooking program.  After all, every cooking show I’ve ever seen has a 6-quart 500-hp Kitchenaid mixer sitting atop a spotless marble counter next to a food processor that can turn brisket into pate in under 6 seconds.  Sure, it’s a gorgeous kitchen, and the food they make looks good, but that’s not life.  I could do something real:

The camera pans in on a cramped kitchen and a crumb-covered formica countertop cluttered with items such as a mooing cookie jar and goody bags from the last birthday party the kids attended.  Instead of a Kitchenaid mixer there is a toaster oven.  Instead of the fancy Cuisinart… a crock pot. 

Me: Welcome to Meals Even You Can Make That Don’t Involve the Microwave.  I’m your host, M—
[Background noise of screaming and scuffling]
Me: You kids stop it right now!!!  Okay, as I was saying…
[sounds of toys being thrown]
Me: Excuse me one moment.
[I leave the kitchen]
[I return.]

Me: Alrighty then!  I’ve just turned on Dragon Tales, which means we have exactly 24 minutes to make dinner!  I know, I know, you’re thinking, wait a minute; it’s only 8:30 in the morning.  Funny, huh?  Well, that’s okay!  That’s why God invented crock pots!  Now, take everything in your kitchen that looks like it kind of goes together, chop it up, and throw it in the crock.  Ready, go!

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t make for fabulous entertainment.  But it is what passes for cooking in my house these days.  And I do confess that my life has become mundane enough that throwing a new food into the crock gives me a little thrill.  Yes, this does mean that I need to get out more, but it’s also a vestige of the days when I cooked for the pure joy of it, not just because I am required by law to nourish the underage creatures that roam around my house.

Someday, maybe, I’ll get back to my cookbooks or actually make one of the dishes I see featured on television.  In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for daydreaming about gourmet meals while I make grilled cheese in the toaster oven.  It’s not so bad.  And so far, no one over the age of 10 has complained about the meals I prepare.  There’s always plenty to go around—partly because my kids barely eat and partly because it’s easy to cook in mass quantities when none of the food prep involves julienning, sautéing, whisking, caramelizing, etc.—and I’m always thrilled to have some adult company.  You can come join us any time!  Would you like to come over tonight?  We’re having monkey patties.

Posted by Bakerina at 06:17 PM in stuff and nonsense • (0) Comments • (1) Trackbacks
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