Sunday, December 31, 2006

Just Another Diurnal Event

Omedito Gozaimas'

to all and sundry

Tonight its tillapia fillets, peapods and wild rice/barley with shitakes. -- a suitably humble repast to end a year.

Ah! But tomorrow begins in riches with a standing rib roast!

Go easy with the bubbly. It kicks.
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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Clean Up Party

Company coming -- like maybe Parents? Stress making. Clean everything to the nth degree!

"Nonsense," said Tune, A fine dame who kept a neat house. "Just pick up before the party and clean the mess up afterwards."

Wise words thought I.

But I heard wiser ones on CBC Radio 2 last week:

"My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance."

Happy holidays
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Solstice 2006

All I want for Solstice
Is a party for most of us.
A party that accepts:
If we can pay for war,
We can afford peace.
If we can make people rich,
We can support the poor.
If we can invent technology
that causes global warming,
We can invent technology
That doesn't, if we look.
There's more to do.
Add your own conventional behavior
that should be the reverse.
That's the party I wish for:
the one that works for all of us.

Happy Solstice!
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Note From Del

I've been baking cookies. Among the cards and sheets in the recipe file was this:
Subject: Almost enough time
Dale: Thu, 03 Dec 1998 14:57:32 PST
From: "Del Kahn"

We just may have enough time for this one.
These have molasses in them instead of honey or brown sugar, and were truly baked in the old-fashioned German way. The dough, which had to sit for 3 weeks in a cool basement, was made early in December so the cookies would be ready by the Christmas holidays. They are still great if you don't have the full 3 weeks. But the flavors really have time to marry this way and they have such a wonderful flavor.
Braune lebkuchen
(Brown Christmas Cookies)
3 lbs (1350 g) flour (bout 6 cups, 1.5 L)
1 lb (450 g) sugar (about 2 cups, 500 ml)
1+1/2 lb (675 g) molasses (about 3 cups, 350 ml)
5 oz 140 g) Butter
5 oz 140 g) Lard or shortening
2 oz (60 g) candied orange peel
1/4 oz (7 g) baking powder
1 cup (250 ml) rose water (or l cup water)
1/2 oz (15 g) Cloves
1/2 oz (15 g) Cinnamon
grated lemon rind
1 cup (250 mL) almonds, blanched and split in halves
It is better to take again as much butter and lard. Cook molasses and sugar for a little. Let cool. Stir everything else in. Then add flour. Leave dough stand for three weeks. Roll out fairly thin, cut into rectangles 1 and a half inches by 3 inches (4 x 8 cm) with a fluted cutting wheel, or just a knife. Brush with beaten egg to make them glossy, decorate each with 1/2 slice of almond, and bake for about 10 minutes. This recipe makes lots of cookies, but they keep well if kept in a tightly covered tin or in the freezer.

They're good. Remember them for next year. Or Start to celebrate Martian Christmas which is maybe two weeks after Ukrainian Christmas. Or call them Chinese New Years cookies. Whatever.
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006


One reason European types give presents around the solstice is the works of a Bishop in Smyrna in the Fourth Century CE. He was acustomed to provide poor girls with a dowry. No girl without a dowry was likely to be married. As Melissa said: "Oh. cool!"

Today is the eve of St Nicholas day which the Dutch celebrate, as many Americans do Christmas, with gifts and food and lots and lots of Koekjes! Sinterklaas arrives by ship from Spain with his grey-white horse, Schimmel, and Zwarte Piet, his trusty kickside. They visit every house. Black Pete knocks and throws in a handful of peppernotten (gingernuts to the Brits) just to get everybody's attention. The usual recital of naughty and nice with presents ranging from coal to straw to something a kid would like whether useful or otherwise. For the fascinating tale of this tall dignified cleric's transformation into the jolly old elf of Madison Avenue's Dream follow the link above and here.

To make peppernotten according to Dutch and Belgian Cooking (Galahad Books 1973):
Preheat oven to 350ºf. Mix 2½ cups flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ cup Brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon each of anise, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add one egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water. Butter two baking sheets. Knead all ingredients into a soft ball. form into about 90 marble sized balls and place on sheets. Bake 20 minutes or until rather hard.
Somehow my flour is always too dry for this to work. So I add a whole egg and about a half cup of water. Add it little by slow so you wont use too much. When it is right the dough will clump together rather than stick to the sides of the bowl. I also double the quantity of the spices and replace some of the four with a cup of whole wheat and a ½ cup of rye flour. The result is not particularly sweet but, lord, they are too easy to eat!
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What I Left Behind

It is 9of.
The snow in the firs out my daughter's window looks like Vermont.
The snow crunches underfoot.
I haven't heard that in decades.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rain Is Not Just Liquid Sunshine

Sometimes it gets chilly enough around here to transform the whole scene. Here's one of our apple trees:

Here's the poor little brown Washington birds trying to get a bite.

Amazing what happens when you get all those light beams bouncing from grey cloud to white ground and back again!

Friday Cat Blogging (Not)

The simonized in the snow.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Out Of The Ether

Tiscali UK Ltd asks "Why do sailors wear bell bottoms?"
hmmm ...
Among the answers I know is that, after it became common for sailors to change their clothes (at all, at all), they sailed in ships that were likely to be:
  • attacked at any time; or
  • were likely to catch a fire
Fireman will tell you that sleeping in fire retardant pants is not pleasant. Yet, getting into one's clobber quickly is very important when the station house bell is ringing.
More so for sailors when a sudden attack lit the companionway to the magazine. Worse, when the oil bunkers caught afire, instant action was required.
For the watch on deck this is not a problem. They are dressed and ready to go.
Since it became acceptable-- and possible -- to sleep in something other then one's workaday clothes, the off watch was in a quandary.
Comfort called for divestment. Readiness called for assumables and shoon. That is: sleep comfortable and be ready to die putting on your clothes; or sleep in your boots and be ready to go without your pants; OR jump out of your hammock in your boots into your pants that get wider toward the bottom to go over your clodhoppers.

If that is too techno-babble an answer how about this:
The girls love a handsome sailor in bell bottoms.

For this reason the US Navy decided to retire bell bottoms as part of the uniform at the height of the winding down of the US-Vietnam conflict when capitalist fashion designers declared the bell bottom IN.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Parent Seminar

Wil at WWdN in Exile reports:

Ryan pointed to V for Vendetta, which was on top. "I've been thinking about it, and I think the book is better than the movie," he said.

"It usually is," I said.

"They should have kept in a lot of stuff that they cut, and they sort of changed the entire meaning of the story with the screenplay." He said.

If films were all maxi series and books were all short stories the problem might be less so.
When I read I see in my head what no director, no camera man, no set (costume, makeup, sound, color) designer ever thought of.
Certainly no producer, not even New Line, would ever approve the cost of bringing that vision to the screen / stage / speaker / museum.
Even if one did, you would accuse it of not being what I saw in my head, let alone what you saw in your own.
If an apple is wanted talk about which apple.
Do not quibble about the mikan.
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Thanksgiving: prayer?

Every one of us is in a muddle.
Many of us are in a muddle because of our assumptions.
Many assumptions have some basis in what we agree is reality.
All else follows?

95% of the universe is not just unknown to science...
Is currently unknowable.

We're working on that

Still, be thankful that we can.
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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thanksgiving III

Survive the Process

You want philosophy? Read my maugerings beginning with Time's Just No Thing and et seq. here and here. Besides wasting your time (possibly pleasurably), these will fortify your comprehension of the ancient new Hassidic-Zen concept that there is time to do what is important to you. Maybe not what you want to do, but what you must do and what is important to you. If that is cooking a feast, so what's the problem? Otherwise you have to choose among the myriad invitations pressed upon you by a breathless public, or wheedle your spouse into watching the game at the brew pub -- she'll love the wide screen and full theatre sound system.

Practically speaking, to those who remain ...

To build your feast without causing your day runner to scream tilt! or your temper to fray way past anybody's enjoyment, you need not to mourn but to organize.
First, observe that a feast need not be many complex dishes. An agglomeration of simple dishes will do the job, provided each is very good or better. By that I mean making from scratch whenever possible.
The big handle on cooking is the difference between preparation and cooking. Cooking is passive for the cook. Prep is active. What can be done ahead? All the cutting? How many steps can you do in the days before the event? What can you start while the first dish cooks? Without getting too far ahead of yourself?
A quarter hour spent planning your menu will go a long long way to de-frazzling the chef.
Here's the plan of battle I drew up for one year:
Tuesday, AM: Shop
Tuesday, PM: Make lime sherbet, cranberry sauce
Tuesday, Eve: Start knot rolls
Wednesday, AM: Finish knot rolls, make pie crust, roast nuts
Wednesday, PM: Assemble rice ring and stuffing up to baking, make pumpkin pie filling
Wednesday, Eve: Turkey into oven for overnight baking.
Thursday, AM: Breakfast, soup, salad and relish for lunch
Thursday, PM: Vegetables, warm stuffing. rice ring and so forth, make gravy, relish tray etc.
This works if you happen to have the days off before Thursday.
Without that luxury you have to do something more like this:

Saturday: Shop
Sunday: Sherbet, cranberry sauce, nuts and pie pastry.
Monday, Eve: Make pie filling,
Tuesday Eve: make rice ring and stuffing.
Wednesday Eve: Start knot rolls overnight. Turkey.
Thursday, AM: Breakfast, bake rolls, make soup, salad for lunch.
Thursday, PM: Vegetables, pies, warm it up, gravy and serve.
The point of the feast is to be mindful of the good in our lives. Good food is surely one of these. It's preparation, if fun, will make it so.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thanksgiving Afters

Dorothy used the Nonesuch condensed mincemeat by Borden and reconstituted it with a teaspoon from a small flask of Christian Brothers Brandy which appeared to me to last all through my childhood until as a teen I finished the half bottle mixed with various fruit juices. I survived. Not only the drink but also the pies and with an intact liking for mincemeat. Yes, I am aware that this places me in a minority. Again. But I do.
I have tried several recipes for Mincemeat, including ones that do include meat. The one I return to since I first acquired the recipe a quarter century ago is in "Great Britsh Cooking: A Well Kept Secret" by Jane Garmey (Random House 1981) It is readily available still in paperback from the usual suspects. In my experience it has only excellent recipes. Naturally I make changes, many of which are reflected below. I don't peel my apples, she does. I use ginger root instead of powder. She calls for brandy which I replaced with a dark rum which I preferred. That of late has been too hard on my blood sugar so I am trying a single malt Scot's whiskey (which does not bother my glucose). Ordinarily I consider that too good to be wasted by admixtures of any description. But what the hell. If you make it, do make enough to keep for next year. Already good, it will be much improved.


1 cup beef suet, shredded
1/2 cup fruit mix
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup Thompson raisins
1 wineglass dark rum
3 medium green apples, diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup marmalade
1/4 tsp nutmeg, grated
3/4 cup almonds, chopped
1 slice ginger root, smashed
1 cup brown sugar

Mix all in a large bowl.
Cover with a cloth and
leave in a cool place overnight.
Next day Mix thoroughly
pack in sterile jars and
seal in hot water bath
for 5 minutes (sea level)
Make at least 3 weeks
ahead of time.
Keep it for a year for the best flavor.

Pastry is the reaction of flour and fat to heat. Gluten is a valuable ingredient in flour if you are making bread. Well developed gluten encloses gases released by the yeast as bread rises. Without the gluten the dough would pass the gases, so to speak, and collapse. But in pastry well developed gluten makes the crust as tough as shoe leather. Work quickly and lightly when mixing and rolling pastry. Roll the dough in one direction only to give the gluten as small a work out as possible. Use pastry flour or flour that is low in gluten (a soft wheat, not a hard wheat) and free of the most glutenous parts of the wheat grain. Keep making it and before very long you will receive accolades for your pies. Here's my current implementation. It freezes well for other times of the year. The lard does make a difference to the flakiness of the crust, while butter provides flavor. There are many other fats that work as any basic cookbook will show.
Pie Pastry
Yield: 3 Pies
-ml- Lard to make it flaky,
Butter to make it tasty.

1/2 cup lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 tbl ice water, approx.
21/2 cups flour

Cut lard and butter into flour and salt
until the texture of coarse meal.
Add just enough ice water to
gather the pastry in a ball. Chill.
Cut in thirds.
Roll one third out for each crust.
Prick all over the bottom
for a crisp pastry.
This makes pastry for
a one crust pumpkin

and a two crust mince.
Dorothy would say "All our pies are pumpkin" in that particular way that people use to signal they are quoting. I remain ignorant of the source to this day. So all my pies are not pumpkin. Neither were Dorothy's.
The special features of this recipe is the flavor given by the molasses and the coarse, slightly lumpy texture of the filling. If you insist you can use pumpkin instead of another squash.
But why would you do that when the sweet flavor of a delacottia is available?
Del once had a pumpkin that was a runner-up for the largest pumpkin category at the county fair. It was on the porch in good time for Halloween with a scary face carved in the street side. But Del couldn't see wasting all that pumpkin. He cut a slab of about a half square foot out of the back and boiled it up for dinner. That squash lasted he and the large family he was sharing the house with for pies and vegetables all winter long. It wasn't until February that blue fuzzies appeared on the pumpkin meat because the temperature warmed up.
Pumpkin Pie Filling
Yield: 6 Servings
1 squash
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbl molasses
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp ginger 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
Cook butternut, acorn, or other squash.
Preheat oven to 400°f.
Place 1½ cups squash, in chunks, in a bowl.
Add remaining ingredients and mix.
Keep texture coarse. Pour into single crust.
Bake 40 minutes

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving Sides

Here we have a plethora of sides among which you may pick and choose as pleases you and yours.

Brussels Sprouts With Chestnuts
2 cups Brussels sprouts
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chestnuts
2 tbl butter
Steam sprouts. Blanch and shell chestnuts. Sauté in sugar and butter. Mix.
It may be that Dorothy's straight forward presentation had a lot to do with my early rejection of turnips.
Dorothy's Turnips
Peel and dice a cup of turnips. Cover with water. Salt and bring to a boil. Simmer 'til done. Add salt, pepper and butter and serve. Treat rutabagas the same way.
As I said, Dorothy liked turnips and rutabagas.
One of my versions:
Turnip Yer Nose
3 lbs turnips
3 tbl cilantro
3 cloves garlic
3 tbl rice vinegar
1 tbl sesame oil
1 tbl sugar
1 tbl sesame seeds
2 tbl Canadian bacon
Peel and dice turnips. Simmer 'til just cooked. Drain.
Mix remaining ingredients. Add to turnips and toss to coat.
Var: use fresh tarragon instead of cilantro and omit garlic.
Another possibility:
Baked Turnips And Cream
(with apologies to whoever I stole this from and forgot to note down.)
½ cup cubed bacon
6 medium turnips, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch
3 leeks (white portion only) cleaned and sliced
3 cups whipping cream
3 tbl Dijon mustard
2 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper
Fry bacon until almost crisp; drain. Layer raw turnips with bacon and leaks in baking pan. Combine whipping cream, Dijon mustard and nutmeg in a small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over turnips. Bake at 350º for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until tender. Serves 6 to 8.
Here is this year's new addition which probably has appeared at many other tables unbeknownst to me.
Crustless Leak Quiche
2 tbl ham cubed
3 or 4 leaks, cleaned and sliced.
1 lb Gruyeres cheese cubed.
1 cup whipping cream
3 eggs
celery seed
cayenne pepper
salt and pepper.
Butter a baking dish and fill with the first three ingredients.
Whisk remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over leaks.
Bake in 350º f. for ½ hour or until done.
This is straight off the Ocean Spray package:
Cranberry Sauce
1 cup water
1 bag (12 oz) cranberries
1 cup Sugar
Rinse and pick over cranberries.
In a saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil.
Add cranberries and return to boil. Stir.
Reduce heat to a slow boil for 10 minutes. Stir. Cool and refrigerate.
Ann does this which we very much prefer:
Cranberry Chutney
Gourmet Magazine Nov 2000
Makes about 2 cups
5 shallots (6 oz) coarsely chopped
1½ tbl vegetable oil
12 oz cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
Cook shallots in oil in a 3 qt heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until berries pop, about 10 to 12 minutes, then cool.
Note: may be made 1 wk ahead and chilled, covered
Ann comments: It keeps for quite awhile in fridge, though is so good it can be eaten by the spoonful from the jar and thus doesn't stay around long.

Now for the carbs. Hooray!
Potatoes With A Butter Mine
-ml (Stolen from Phyllis)
8 medium red potatoes, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup milk
salt & pepper
Cook potatoes. Drain. Reserve water. Add ¼ cup butter, ½ cup milk, garlic, cayenne, salt & pepper. Whip in electric mixer until smooth. Add reserved potato water if needed. Put in serving bowl. Push remaining stick of butter into the middle. Mold potatoes to hide the butter.
Melissa prefers Yukon golds. Oh well. Works.
Rice Ring
-ml- From Phyllis who used all wild rice. I sometimes mix wild and pearl (short grain.) Long grain also works.
Wild rice calls for simmering about 40 minutes to cook. 1 cup of rice to 3 cups of water. Or use dilute (1 can stock to 2 cans water) chicken stock. A rice cooker, which is my preferred method for cooking long and short grain rice, doesn't do it. Shitakes are wonderful in this. Any mushroom you like would be.
2 cups rice
21/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup butter
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 medium onions
8 oz brown mushrooms, sliced
salt & pepper
Cook rice in stock. Add ¼ stick butter. Set aside. Sauté garlic, onions and mushrooms in remaining butter. Add to rice. mix. Pour into a buttered mold or covered casserole. Bake in 350°f. oven for 30 minutes (or more) Unmold onto platter to serve.
Onion & Sage Stuffing
-ml- loosely based on Dorothy
1 loaf bread
1/4 lb butter, melted
2 tsp celery seed
3 medium onions, chopped
1 celery with leaves
1 tbl thyme, fresh chopped
2 tbl sage, fresh chopped
1 can (10.5 oz) chicken stock
2 cans (10.5 oz) water
Leave the bread out for a day or two to dry out. Dice into ½" cubes. Place in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix Thoroughly. Pour into 2 buttered casseroles. Cover (with foil if no lid.) Bake in 325°f. (or more whatever °) for a minimum of 30 minutes. After that hold at the cook's pleasure.
-n.b. Stuffing in the bird's cavity spends too long at the proper temperature to grow unwelcome critters.
Turkey Stuffing
-ml- experiment #1 of 11/98. If you make bread often this may interest you.
1/3 cup water, lukewarm
1 tsp salt
1½ tbl yeast
½ cup butter
2 tbl honey
1 cup celery with leaves, chopped
1 cup regular rolled oatmeal
2 cups onion, chopped
4 cups bread flour
1 can (10.5 oz) chicken stock
1 can (10.5 oz) water
2 tbl olive oil
2 tbl sage
1 tbl thyme
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tbl celery seed
Three or four days ahead:
Proof yeast in lukewarm water and honey.
In a bowl combine yeast with oatmeal, oil, sage, thyme, salt and 2 cups flour. Mix. Add rest of flour. Knead. Rise. Form into a long loaf. Rise.
Preheat oven to 400°f. Bake loaf 25 to 30 minutes. Spritz well to make heat moist.
Let loaf dry at room temperature until ready to make dressing.
Cut bread into ¾" cubes.
Sauté onions and celery in butter until translucent.
Mix with bread. Add stock and water. Season with pepper and cayenne.
Pour into 2 buttered casserole and cover.
Bake above 325°f. for at least 30 minutes.
- n.b.: Heating stuffing in the bird's cavity makes a very good growing media for nasty critters because it takes so long to get the stuffing above 120°f. This method reduces the chance of ruining a fine holiday.
So that does it for side recipes. What about the main event: the turkey? Oh that's here and here.
And then there are afters.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanksgiving II

The first Thanksgiving feast I cooked was in college. There were four couples to feed and we each kicked in to buy the food. Sean was living in a house that overlooked a young river valley nature preserve. The November day was grey and blustery with on and off rain, fog early and late. A typical Southwest Ohio late fall day.
I started cooking early, before Sean and his housemates were really stirring. I made noise. I made commotions. I made messes. I cleaned up messes. By late afternoon I was rewarded by the sight of my friends sprawled back from the table forms recumbent in satiety. Not a bad start.

The menu changed but subtly over the years mostly in response to what I learned about cooking and about eating. My reward for all that effort was that no cooking need be done for the next week as the remains were encored again and again. The penalty was that Turkey was off the menu the rest of the year.
I'm still working on that one. Turkey is too good -- and inexpensive -- not to appear periodically, and in other guises, e.g: turkey with mole sauce.
Dorothy always finished by turning the turkey carcass into a soup. It was tasty the first time or two. Regrettably it did not disappear then but lingered for several more meals spaced into December by which time the stock had soured. Dutifully I did the same. My stock, though good, waited its encores even longer and so more of it soured. At last I gave myself permission to not make stock. Throwing out the carcass before making soup may not have been the best conservation practice, but it did save expense compared to making soup and throwing that away.

Once we had Thanksgiving at Phyllis' house. She was a Californian, A student of the Martha Graham school of modern dance, an interior decorator and writer manque, trapped in the Midwest. She was like encountering a cordon bleu restaurant in the middle of a farm town. She added the wild rice ring to Dorothy's menu and subsequently to mine.

In my menu the turnips and rutabagas were out tout de suite. Of recent years the turnips have sometimes crept back. This year my crustless leek quiche will join the parade in my effort to shift the feast away from carbohydrates. A forlorn effort given my love of stuffing and potatoes and rice. Is self mastery the only answer? Gawd help me!

The best turkey was, of course, a unique and unrepeatable experience. We moved into a house set against a hill side we called Tiger's End because it was where the plain (tiger in feng shuey terms) ended.
It was an old house that had grown without much benefit of professional contractors. The owner had removed the kitchen. Over the summer I had replaced the bathroom, and re-plumbed the whole house and built the kitchen cabinets as inspired by the Motion Minded Kitchen.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I installed the new oven-broiler and the cooktop. All that remained was to run the gas line from the meter on one side of the house to the kitchen on the other side.
First I connected and lit the furnace. It was cold. It was very cold and starting to snow. This was a rare phenomenon at maybe fifteen feet above sea level. We were used to wearing many layers: under and over shirts, sweaters and even jackets. Elaine had just arrived from grad school in Oregon. There was a stray cat huddled in the window between the porch and my office. She was pulled inside which was accepted with a haughty bad grace. She did us the favor.
Then the furnace blower started.
Melissa, just two, took off her coat. She began to move about. The frost patterns on the windows faded. Melissa took off the first sweater and then the second and began to dance. Finally it was warm enough that in just her 'ummers' she danced from one end of the house to the other.
I cooked dinner on the propane two burner camp stove as usual and soon we settled for the night in a warm and snug house while the snow blew outside.
In the morning there was almost a foot or snow drifted to a couple of feet in places. It was so pleasant to be in a snug warm house and look out at it. Del arrived to help me lay and connect the last bit of gas pipe. As the coffee descended to bottom of the pot he pointed out that if we were going to eat turkey that day we had best get the turkey in his oven.
At the time he was the live aboard watchman of the former Army Corps of Engineers steam snag snatcher: the USS Preston then moored aground as a museum, next to the old railroad station just a block or two away.
Del and I hefted the bird into the back of Beulah Witch, our black VW squareback, and slid-drove to the boat. The galley featured a rather massive oil fired range which Del soon lit. We slid in the bird and made our way back to lay the pipe.
Which took longer than expected, of course.
At last , crossing all available limbs, I lit the pilots on the oven.

We didn't explode.

By then it was four and getting dark. Grateful to Del for suggesting it, we returned to the Preston and picked up the bird.
Then I put the various side dishes, made the day before, in the oven to warm. In the second oven I put the pies. We could eat in a half hour so it was time to uncork a nice red.
Ten Minutes later a wonderful aroma of done stuffing & pies perfumed the air. Only twenty minutes to go.
Five minutes after that a general suggestion from the assembled company offered that any pie that smelled like that wanted some supervision. So I opened the door to reveal the most gorgeous deep mahogany pies I have ever baked. Two of them. One was a crust covered mince. The other was an open top, spicy pumpkin. Both a rich almost chocolaty brown.
Intervention occurred just in time. The pies were on the dark side of perfect.
In my haste to start baking, I had neglected to place the temperature probe inside the oven. So the gas roared away without moderation driving the temperature to heights where few pies have ventured before.
The rest of the meal was hot. And the turkey ...

The turkey fell apart at a touch into succulent and tender bits of meat. There was no need to make gravy because the pan juices reduced to an excellent thickness a beautiful light brown color and delicious flavor.

Melissa calls this the 'fall-apart-bird' and it has become the standard by which we judge our efforts

-- ml

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thanksgiving Lunch

At some now misty moment in the passage of years a transient spark of lucidity brushed past my synapses. It illuminated a question: Do you have to eat all of this all at once?

It is a good question. One that is susceptible to answers in several directions. 'Eat all this' was dismissed out of hand as an unprofitable line of inquiry. 'At once" beckoned more congenially. At length a glimmer hove into anchor: No. No, I don't suppose I do. Really. That gem combined with my observation that the salad wasn't eaten with the meal for lack of interest, (nor was it eaten subsequently due to a wilting lack of interest). The result was the feast day lunch. This 'light' repast (soup, salad, pickles, bread, butter and jam) serves to remove a portion of weight from the main event just sufficient to permit all contenders to finish in due course with dignity.

For Thanksgiving this features:

Brazilian Consommé
Yield: 6 Servings
6 oz Brazil Nuts
2 cans (10.5 Oz) Consommé
1 cup whipped cream
Slice the Brazils nuts thinly. Toast in a 400°f. oven about five minutes until brown.
Whip cream.
Heat undiluted Consommé.
Serve the nuts and cream in small bowls to garnish the top of the soup.

Knot Rolls
Yield: 4 Dozen
-dl- Thanksgiving standard.
-djs- says "If they are not rolls, what are they?"
2 cups water, boiling
1 cup oatmeal
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbl olive oil
1 tbl yeast
1/3 cup water, luke warm
5 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
Pour boiling water over oats and oil.
Set aside 'til lukewarm.
Proof yeast in luke warm water.
Combine oats, and yeast in a large bowl.
Add brown sugar, salt and 3 cups of flour.
Rise. (Can do this over night at room temp.)
Punch down and roll to ½" thick.
Cut into 1" X 3" strips. Tie in overhand knot.
Place on a buttered (or parchment paper covered) tray.
Rise. Bake in 375°f. oven 20 to 25 minutes.
Butter tops when done.

Holiday Salat
Yield: 1 Serving

Per person:
2 leaves curly endive (escarole)
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp black olives, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1 ring red onion
salt & pepper
1 tbl bleu cheese, crumbled
Mix bleu cheese, oil and vinegar.
Rinse Escarole. Slice or tear into bite size pieces.
Arrange on a plate.
Place onion ring on top.
Fill center with olives.
Pour dressing on top. Season.

Lime Sorbet
Yield: 6 Servings
1 tbl lime zest, Grated
1/2 cup lime juice, Fresh squozen
1 cup water
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
Grate zest, squeeze limes (about four.)
Heat sugar and water to boiling. Cook about five minutes. Add lime zest and cool to room temperature. Add lime juice and pour into a tray. Freeze to mush. Stir often to break up the ice crystals. Whip cream. Fold in mush and freeze.

var.: Substitute lemon or cut the sugar to ½ cup and use oranges or tangerines.

Holiday Roast Nuts
Yield: 3
-dl- did just almonds that we cracked
-ml- used shelled nuts and added filberts, Brazils etc.
-djs- calls them Killer Nuts

1/2 lb shelled almonds
1/2 lb shelled nutmeats, of your choice
1/2 lb shelled hazel nuts
6 tbl butter
1/2 lb shelled Brazil nuts

Preheat oven to 400 °f.
Warm a baking tray a minute or two so it will melt butter without burning it.
Add a pat or two of butter and let it melt.
Add no more than ½ pound of nuts. Shake pan to coat nuts in butter. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until nuts begin to brown. Remove to another pan covered in paper towels to absorb excess fat.
Sprinkle salt. Stir. Let cool. Repeat until all nuts are roasted. Store in paper towel lined tin.

Pickles? As you will. Dill, gherkin, roasted peppers, capers, cornichons, baby corn, watermelon rind pickle, jalapeños ... there are so many and mostly good that you must choose your own favored ones to serve.
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Thanksgiving Breakfast

Here begins the recipes that belong with the Thanksgiving I post.
Breakfast is a much needed meal, even on feast days. Yet with so much attention on the main event, better it should be simple. If it is also elegant, or otherwise special, so much the better. Dorothy's solution is both.
Among the Dutch immigrants to Western Michigan in the nineteenth century the Dutch Reformed church and its minister were the central focus of life. A visit from the minister was an honor to cherish even if it came by surprise. For the huswife caught without a cake to offer with the coffee social disaster loomed. The blitz kuchen, or lightening cake, saved her. The story is that seeing the minister turn in at the gate was ample warning. The cake was mixed and baked ready to be served by the time the minister knocked, was greeted and made comfortable in the best chair by the fire and the first pleasantries exchanged. Coffee was offered and as soon as accepted the tray issued from the kitchen with the fresh hot coffee, cream, sugar and the hot cake.
Here is Dorothy's version:

Cinnamon Hot Bread
Yield: 6 Servings
--dl- Thanksgiving standard
2 tbl butter
1 tbl baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 tbl sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 375°f.
Butter a pie pan.
Mix butter with first sugar. Add eggs, milk, flour, baking powder and salt.
Pour into buttered pie pan.
Mix last sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over top.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes.

With the cake in the oven, it is easy to make the egg for each person as follows:

Shirred Eggs
Yield: 1 Serving
-dl- Thanksgiving standard
1 Egg
1 Slice Canadian Bacon
Preheat oven 375°f.
Butter a ramekin. Line it with Canadian bacon.Add 1 egg. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or 'til egg is set.
Can substitute ham. Bake it with Cinnamon Hot Bread.

While they bake Grapefruit can be sliced and the sections cut away from the membrane. For smalls who disapprove of sour tastes a sprinkle of sugar may help.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thanksgiving I

Dorothy had a Thanksgiving routine that seldom varied in my memory. Breakfast was always a half grapefruit, cinnamon hot bread and a shirred egg. Always served at table; a table set with full service on place mats usually. Sometimes the bamboo ones I didn't know then were sushi formers until an importer had the marketing inspiration needed to sell them in a land where 'sushi' was then a bizarre custom of an alien and enemy race. But sometimes the exquisite Red embroidered on white palm net scenes from the Philippines, a hostess gift, I believe, from a visiting Philippine business man and his wife to Dorothy. Earle got a case of San Miguel, an unheard of oddity in the land of Bud.
Already there were dishes and they had to be done by one of us children. Done promptly too, for the turkey was in process and the rest of the meal poised. All the silver had to be polished. That meant dragging the heavy chest and serving platters into the kitchen, washing each piece, applying the polish, rubbing it in, washing it off, and carefully wiping it dry to increase the luster of the now shining piece.

This was drudgery. To be avoided, whenever possible.

Guests were coming so the house had to be picked up and vacuumed to an acceptable standard of order. Not an over the top, compulsive, don't touch a thing!, clean -- just neat enough that no one need notice one way or the other.

More drudgery to be avoided.

Dorothy, meantime, created and slaved in the kitchen: Mixing, chopping, sautéing, stirring, sliding in and out of the oven, buttering, heaping, basting, and tasting.
If the weather was clement, I might slip outside. One year, second or third grade maybe, I made it to the local movie house and watched a film about the Mayflower over and over until Henry showed up to fetch me to the table. As a last resort I could try the basement full of woodworking tools and a room with my trains. To no avail. I would be found. I would receive my giving thanks dose of Dorothy's fury as she screamed her anger and frustration with my dilatoriness. Until I was big enough to effectively oppose it she would grab me by the throat and bang my head against the wall. Subsequently I learned that she had treated all her children thus under similar circumstances. After that I learned that she had been abused far worse by her parents as a child. Fortunately Melissa made me break that particular, and all too common, pattern of parental violence.
Time passing has brought understanding of just how far I incurred her rage by my attempts to evade pitching in to what I was told must be a community effort. Dorothy's eruption did exceed the provocation. It allowed her to spew her nervous tension as she created a wonderful meal for her guests who might sometimes be vital to Earle's business, and other times friends of one or another of us, but always all were important to her. Like a summer thunder storm it cleared the air and made the house fresh for the now imminent guests.

The extra leaves go into the cherry gate leg dining table which can seat six comfortably with out them. Spread the cotton pad. Smooth the snowy linen cloth over the top. This is one of Dorothy's great ideas: Each time the cloth was used all guests were invited to autograph their place in pencil. Before the cloth was washed Dorothy embroidered the signature in white thread. With the years the cloth became a nubbly palimpsest of her hospitality.
Now lay the rose and cream Spode, or later the black on white Carol Leighton New England Industry plates by Wedgwood, with the freshly polished silver. Among the last were six tiny tubs with minuscule spoons to hold salt. Beside each tub place the miniature cellar filled with pepper. There were two forks and two spoons and a shorter butter knife as well as the regular dinner knife. There was a butter plate, a soup bowl and the large dinner plates, though they were stacked next to Earle's place at the end of the table. There were glass goblets. Small for the ritual cranberry juice cocktail to begin the meal and large to hold water or milk. Only once was wine served. Dorothy disapproved of alcohol. The guest's too enthusiastic (too nervous?) opening of the sparkling burgundy turned a modest sea of the cloth purple-red. Slowly the stain faded, turning to grey and then to shadow, in wash after wash. That one Thanksgiving reverberated through the next decade.

With the table set, the nuts and other tit bits appeared in the living room just as the doorbell announced our guests arrival. The nuts were adored by all of us though they caused more drudgery. Dorothy did not buy shelled nuts until I returned from Japan and pointed out that not having to spend half a day shelling them was worth the few pennies more they cost.
Dorothy only used almonds as the teaser. Once a sufficiency were shelled, she blanched them in hot water to remove the brown skins. Batches were spread over a jelly roll tray and dotted, freely, with butter. Popped into a 400˚ f. oven for about five minutes, the cream of the almond turns a luscious light brown and develops the full aroma and flavor that deep frying overwhelms. Whisked off the tray onto paper towels, Dorothy salted the nuts lightly, stirred them vigorously and set them to cool.
Another nut which was much harder to shell was the Brazil nut. These were needed for the Brazilian Consommé. Dorothy poured boiling water over a bowl of the nuts and let it steep a minute. Drained and rinsed in cool water: “Now,” she told us, “they are easy to shell whole.”

I never found it so.

Since she shaved the shelled nuts into thin slices it hardly seemed to matter to me struggling to find the right pressure and the correct placement for the cracker. Of course she was thinking how much easier it is to hold the nut while you slice it if it is whole.
When I make the nuts now, the almonds are mixed always with filberts and sometimes with walnuts or pecans as well. I do not blanch the skins off the almonds. I buy them all ready shelled. How the standards have declined in the younger generation!
Diana calls them killer nuts. That does not keep her from eating her fair share.

Once the company is assembled, the feast begins, there is no time to dawdle. Left handers are accommodated as we sit. The cranberry juice is tossed off or gingerly sipped. The younger of us (me) frequently making dramatic pain in the arse noises at its sharpness. My appreciation for the tart-sour-bitter taste range came much later. This was succeeded by soup. Strong beef broth with a dollop of unsweetened whip cream and a scatter of toasted shaved Brazils, oh excellent foil to the richness to come. Knot Rolls (“If they're not rolls what are they?” Diana cracks every year.) and last June's strawberry jam are on the table. Also there are celery and carrot sticks and stuffed green olives swimming in the cold salty water that melted from the ice cubes that keep them crisp.
Dishes are removed “No stacking at the table” Henry admonishes. And Ann's Freshman year at Oberlin brought the unforgettable: “Gracious living, dears. Gracious living!” pet phrase of her Dorm Mother.

A brief intermission is offered in a palette cleansing dish of lime sherbet. Quite tart. So tart that small children are disillusioned by it thinking that even ice cream is turned against him. Adults enjoy.

Silence quickly returns as we watch Earle assess the enormous bird resplendent on the platter before him. He spent a good fifteen minutes before dinner sharpening his knife, but a few whets more are good to review the plan of attack.
The sharpening stone set aside the fork is inserted in the body where it will give the most purchase and one leg is deftly removed to a charger. Where it is promptly sliced and the not quite stripped bones set back on the platter to await late evening browsers. It is joined by the wing. Now he is free to address the main redoubt: the breast under its succulent brown skin, glistening with juices. Slice after white slice goes on the charger next to the dark sheaves of leg. Finally he asks – a ritual only this-- “What will the youngest have?” There is a fiercesome divide among us. Henry likes dark meat. Leonard likes white. These predilections are as firmly held as any doctrinal dispute over the nature of transubstantiation, or the serving of grape juice or wine in church. I am agnostic and like both. Earle digs a spoonful of stuffing out of the bird and places it next to the meat. The plate begins a solemn passage from hand to hand the length of the table to Dorothy who distributes vegetables: the good and the bad. While Earle inquires the preferences of the next person and fills their plate, Dorothy receives my plate and adds the good mashed potatoes, the okay Brussels sprouts with their maybe yes, maybe no, chestnuts and a huge spoonful of rutabaga and another of turnips. From my jaundiced perspective no one in the family except Dorothy likes these two roots. They are the plague of the day. Appropriate chastisement for the sin of gluttony which pervades the day. No arguing, no cajoling, no prayer will avoid the dread Plop. Plop! Of those two vegetables. But at last the plate descends in front of me. Agony. I can't start until Earle and Dorothy serve themselves – always the end of the line. An age of the world passes before it is permitted. Gravy is circulated. Cranberry sauce makes the rounds. There are sweet gherkins and pickled watermelon rind. There is a salad which can only find room as a side show on the small plate. The big tent is full.
Slowly it empties until only the dread rutabagas and turnips remain. “Seconds?” Earle asks. Still chewing I nod. Dorothy's hand stays my hopes and she repeats the rule: “No seconds until your plate is clean. Eat your vegetables.” Squawking is to no avail. Henry suggests I close my eyes and hold my nose. (I try this once -- but there is still the texture. And the after taste.) Leonard cheerfully offers to get a clothes pin to make sure I don't smell the offense. Amidst this rousting I somehow choke them down.

Seconds at last – but not of those horrid roots!

A hiatus may or may not occur depending on the stamina of the company. Just long enough to clear the table and set out the pies? Or long enough to retire to the living room and enjoy the fire? The bursting point of full bellies decides the issue.
The pies are daunting. A pumpkin and a mincemeat. Whipped cream, sweet with sugar and vanilla, is offered. The nuts reappear and any chocolates or other afters. Once, but only once, there were ants and bees and grasshoppers in chocolate. Dorothy loved crystallized ginger, for instance. Any ravenous teen ager who was not sated to the uttermost could thoughtfully nibble a cookie. Dorothy's ginger snaps and coconut oatmeal were the favored.
Thereafter a collapse before the fire was the only option.
Hours later, after the dishes were done and movement had rearranged the contents of the alimentary canal somewhat, one might venture on a sandwich of turkey and cheese on a knot roll. or just pick at the carcass.

Ann tells the tale differently. She remembers that there was a farmer's wife near our house who always saved geese for us. For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Henry's birthday. The goose is all dark meat.
But that was a different town from the one that features in my memories. For most of the time we lived in that house Ann was in college or beyond. She also always liked turnips. Of late years I do too.
For recipes see: Thanksgiving Breakfast
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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Step This Way, Me Boyo!

The war to end all wars ends.

At some point in the first quarter af the 20th century:

A country without a memory is a country of madmen.

--George Santayana



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Monday, November 06, 2006

Stand up! Stand up!

John strikes me dumb with his eloquence.
I haver for minutes over the blank comments screen.
No screed of my devising appears.
Later I am abashed. The penguin adds much in comments.

BadTux shames me further with this stentorian Penguin snort.

What can I say?
Gad I wish I had said that even half so well.
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More Guy

Tim Abbott at Walking the Berkshires offers a deeper look into Guy Fawkes and muses about home grown US opportunities to celebrate similar rats.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Penny for the Guy

On November fifth in 1605, a plot to blow up the English Parliament was foiled. A dastardly group of conspirators infiltrated the basements beneath parliament from a warehouse next door. Had these recreant hounds succeeded we would, of course, refer to them as courageous heroes fighting for the greater glory of the fatherland. Writing history is a minor joy of winning.

Guy Fawkes was the most notable in the media accounts of the day -- broadsheets and ballads for the most part. And so November 5th is celebrated as Guy Fawkes Day everywhere in England save Yorkshire. They cut to the chase and call it Parkin Day. Neighborhood urchins demand "a penny for the guy" in the day or two before so that they may acquire the materials to build the guy -- an effigy of Guy Fawkes -- which will be burned with gay abandon on communal bonfires. Naturally a certain number of the guy's pennies find their way into the hands of cart men selling cider and parkin, a moist, rich, gingerbread cut into long rectangles that "look lak 'is fingers, luv."
Guy Fawkes is an adopted holiday of mine for two reasons. The socially acceptable one is that it serves as a civics lesson to appreciate our periodic chance to throw the bums out. Which I hope we do Tuesday. The other is Parkin:

The Horizon Cookbook1 is one of my favorites for festal occasions. It provides the starting point, a very good one, for Parkin as follows:
1/2 cup molasses         
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
l egg, beaten
2 cups Flour, sifted
l teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
3/4 cup sour cream
l teaspoon grated lemon rind
(3-4 cups powdered sugar
mixed with 2-4 tablespoons
lemon juice.)
Heat molasses. Add butter, sugar,
and baking soda and cool.
Beat in the egg.
Resift Flour with baking powder,
salt, and ginger into a large bowl.
Make well and pour in molasses and
sour cream. Work flour into
molasses mixture until smooth.
Add lemon rind and beat well.
Butter and flour a 7 by ll inch
pan and pour in batter. Bake in a
preheated 350° oven for 15 to 20
minutes or until cake springs back
when touched. Cool for about 10
minutes and remove. Ice with sugar
icing. Cut into "fingers." Makes 24.
The phrase in parens is mine to replace a reference to another recipe in the original.
This year's changes include:
Substitute a half cup of rye flour and a half cup of almond flour for one cup of wheat flour. Add 1/2 teaspoon anise, and cinnamon. Cut one or two (or Three or four) slices of fresh ginger root and smash them with the flat of a cleaver or otherwise grate them. Add. I think I got generous with the sour cream. Tchah. Only used a cup of powdered sugar in the icing which is why you can't really see it except in one or two spots and in the shine. It's plenty sweet for me and transparent. The rapidity of their vanishment testified to the accolades of the community.
1Horizon Cookbook, Wendy Buehr & the Editors of Horizon Magazine, American Heritage Publishing 1968. page 675.
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Thursday, November 02, 2006


Roy says:
Remember, the blogosphere thing is just a bubble, and its skin, like that of the paramecium, is only semi-permeable: news may enter, but outrage mostly stays inside, which is of course the secret of both the blogosphere's growth and its ineffectuality: it swells without discharging.


Actually amazingly swift.
Once I figured out how to put the little scripts into the sidebar things smoothed out until the site almost looks normal (to me).
Despite my murpfhing of yesterday, this is an all around improvement today.
Principal gain is the ability to label, or categorize, posts. The reader has a more direct route to items of particular interest. I have a way to organize my scatter shot into the main venues I want to build here. See the sidebar about a third of the way down.

Feast of Holidays is a collection of recipes and table talk connected by the annual round of festal occasions. When completed the initial post for this would be "Time is just no thing." It is a quick way to find the directions for Seattle Brown Out Turkey.

Dum Luk's Ordinary is a second table talk/recipe book focusing on the rest of the year, the ordinary.

Supposedly this blog started as an exploration of design. Now those posts are collectible.

Dum Luk's Stockpot is just what you'd expect, the oddments that didn't go elsewhere tossed into a big pot to simmer and meld. A slice of life picture of my thought (hah!) process?

More may occur to me. Comments are always welcome.
Blogger beta,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

If You Don't

Upper Left provides a jump off point:

base (bās) (n.)116240627907725424">

A supporting part or layer; a foundation.
A basic or underlying element; infrastructure.
If you don't understand 'base', it is 'infrastructure'.

Briar Patch

So today I suckered for the new blogger beta.
The turkey carpet salesman told me how easy it would be: I wouldn't ever bother my not so pretty head with HTML code again.
And they are right. I can use their template (none of which do what I want done.) and I can add and move with just a mouse drag.
'Course to do what I want done does re quire code. Not plain HTML, Brand spiffy new XML.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Come a Yippie Ti Yay

More on Cowpoke Beans from Sarah at CorrenteWire who remembers sitting in her "Papa's" lap:
He went up the Chisholm trail three times as a youth, and cooked for ranches until he “got too old and stove up to climb up on the wagons during roundup”.
To make real Texas chili | CorrenteWire
Read the rest and make the chili. I aim to.

-- ml

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Seasoned Seasonal Tale (Redux)

In honor of Samhain's approach, as a treat for all you ghosties and ghoulies and the occasional hob goblin: here is a reprise of a favorite tale that first appeared here last year.

In my stage struck youth I once appeared as -- literally -- a spear carrier in a semi professional summer repertory company. Amid much hard work there were occasional parties. Usually they followed the strike of one set and preceded the assembly of the next. At times this was from 2 am Sunday morning until the realization that the work call was for ten on Sunday morning drove us to our weary beds.
One of the directors was David Hooks. He told the seasoned seasonable tale more or less as follows:

When I was just starting as an actor I was engaged to play the Doctor in Dracula for a touring company. Dracula was, of course, Bela Lugosi.
In his native Hungary Lugossi had been the leading theatrical light of his generation. A fabulous actor capable of a much broader range than the Count. But he came to Hollywood to do Dracula and never had another role. He ended his career in his eighties taking a vaudeville send up of Dracula to London.

Continue reading

-- ml
Bela Lugosi, Halloween

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Appropriate Economics

Given that there is lots of what Samuel Beckett quaintly called "filth" up for grabs (ie, money)
Any cashier will tell you that money is called "filthy" not as a metaphor, but as a simple truth. The stuff has been around far too many times.

Yet there is a misconception, frequently promoted by those who have most to gain, that profit is dirty.

Nothing lives
that does not take in
more than it spends.

Creatures who spend more energy than they ingest die.

Businesses with insufficient capital fail. go banrupt. die.

Non-profit organizations are soon dead.

A due regard for the meaning of words terms organizations dedicated to noble purposes that do not monetarily benefit those who provide its capital as:

Non-Dividend Organizations [NDOs]


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Saturday, October 21, 2006


Misread Rob.
Misinformed myself.
Misled you.

Rob Hunter corrects my jumped conclusion.

The Song of the Rice Barge Coolie *has* been contracted by Aeon Speculative Fiction,, for either their Nov 2006 or Feb 2007 numbers.

So head on over and bookmark it to keep that in mind for later, and then visit One Tin Leg for what Rob does have up.

[Life is so difficult on teh intarwubes, *sigh*]


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Friday, October 20, 2006

Today's Design Divergence

The old ice trays leak.

The new ones are serviceable with one exception: If you stack them after filling, water squirts everywhere as the upper tray nests into the lower.

Ok. The maker wants to save space. Space in the package; space in the container; space on the retailers shelf.

The manufacturer is rewarded for this design.

And the user has to find some sort of rack to keep the trays separate.


-- ml

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Rob Hunter's One Tin Leg

New Links to your right.

Rob Hunter, when I first met him, drove a black van named Dead Ernest Delivers. At that time he was a dj in between gigs. Once, in an alternative universe, he was a drummer for the Grateful Dead ( Or the founder of Greenpeace. Perhaps a standup comedian from Adelaide, Australia.

Now he writes -- very well, I might add -- science fiction of a kind Rod Serling might want to produce but would know his sponsors would find too unsettlingly true to life to want to pay for.

One Tin Leg offers samples in type and voice with cool interpolations by Rob's son Charlie Hunter.

A Rain of Frogs is Rob's blog.

Go read. I'll still be here when you get back.


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Tonight's Opera

Thespis kicked me about 2AM this morning.

Setting: The Izu Peninsula of Japan

Period: Circa 1905 to 1910

Back story: The fourth or fifth son of a British aristocrat, with little chance of succeeding to the title but sufficient income to please himself, becomes a marine biologist and settles on Izu with his wife and small daughter. Before the Opera opens the wife dies. Absorbed in his studies, the father allows the child to grow up at his side and among the children of the fishing village they live near. This is not so much an unstructured upbringing as it is a thoroughly unconventional one.

Plot: At nineteen our heroine is become a beauty and attracts the attention of a young Japanese Biologist who works with her Father. Father is informed that with the death of the last surviving brother he now succeeds to the family title, an Earldom which happens to be full of tin -- literally and metaphorically. This brings the attention of the diplomatic community in Tokyo. Among these is a visiting nob who falls for our heroine. The rest of the opera works out this situation. It does so on two levels: the present and her memories of growing up. So that in the midst of a drawing room scene of wooing, the heroine's memories of racing with her rarely freed Japanese companions over the hills and shores of Izu. Both scenes occupy the stage at the same time with only the heroine and the audience aware of both.

The Music: What a grand blend of Sullivan, Elgar, Holst and Shakuhachi, samisen and koto. But that's only a suggestion to the composer.

Theme: She says: But I'm not English, do you see? I was born here and spent all my life here. I am of Japan. Yet -- you see my dilemma -- I am not Japanese! I am my own peculiar self and you will find it hard to have me to wife. I will be too Japanese or too English and not enough of either to please you or any other.

Then Morpheus reclaimed me. damn.

-- ml

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Language for Food

Archy posed a challenge to define a certain practice of efficient cooks: multiple uses of ingredients larger than the company can consume at once.
One might call it the canny cook.

My first thought is a bit fuzzy and requires a bit of a bleg. There is a bit of light verse floating about in the fluff between my ears (Did I hear Stanley Holloway recite it?) that I will paraphrase (uhmm: make up) as follows:

Ah the noble joint
Roast on Sunday
Boiled on Monday
Cold on Tuesday
Fried on Wednesday
Hash on Thursday
Minced on Friday
Soup on Saturday
The beef of old England!

(with fulsome apologies to the shade who wrote the original verse I am attempting to remember. Any who recognizes it, please correct me in comments.)
That describes the practice Archy follows with his chicken, but does not give it a name.

The French keep a kettle slowly simmering on the back burner to accept all the liquids used in cooking vegetables and the pan scrapings from meat. The tops of celery and the peel of root vegetables also goes in. When stock is required for a soup or stew or sauce, it is strained from the Stockpot. But never empty it. Like a sourdough starter something is always left over to build the next stock so that every meal bears a faint rolling echo of many that passed before.

The Chinese do the same thing with wok scrapings to create Master Sauce.

Roy Andries de Groot was a noted mid 20th century journalist who wrote a fascinating text for Knopf in 1966 called "Feasts for All Seasons". Not content to provide over 700 pages mostly of recipes he also provides a thoroughly organized 'system culinaire' Which organizes the kitchen, the shopping, the cooking and the eating into the most efficient gourmet mode possible. One more Germanic-organized than the Germans -- as one would expect of a Dutchman. For instance in the section "Epilogue: Appendices and Indices" There is a directory of cheeses which surveys the prospects in firm, soft, fresh and aged. Another on wine discusses color, locale, price and quality up to and including rum as good as brandy and single malt Scotch -- remember this was the age of blends. Marketing and mail order sources are carefully and thoroughly examined for both ingredients and tools. A 'General Index' keys us to dishes by title. A 'Menu Planning Index' divides the recipes by categories: 'Breads and Cakes', 'Breakfasts for Lazy Sundays and Other days', 'Budget Pull-Back Dishes', and so forth. Finally a 'Regional Index parses the catalog by geographic origin.

de Groot's word for Archy's process is Encore Dishes. I submit that this word suffices for all occasions save the snarkiest of sarcasms.

Me Mum fried Sunday's chicken in the sausage fat left from breakfast. The herbs of the sausage made a delightful aromatic oil fit for chicken. Being a moderately large family, there rarely was more than a wing left. As me Dad said: "The pigs'll get it anyway."

One might brown the chicken in sausage fat before roasting and achieve somewhat the same effect?

Speaking of which, it is time to turn the pastry for tonight's party tartlets.

Technorati Tags: Archy, 'encore dishes'

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Today's neologism


-- A migrant's state of being disillusioned by assimilation?

Or is there a more weighty thought to add?

Reader comments invited.


Technorati Tags: neologism, migration, dissolutions

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Secrets of a Tech Master

Del said:
"Read the screen. Then do what it says."
Harder than it sounds.
-- ml

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Beware the Outliers That Please

Kevin Drum finds an interesting study of studies:
The Washington Monthly
So far, this is unsurprising. Publication bias is a well-known and widely studied effect, and it would be surprising if G&M hadn't found evidence of it. But take a closer look at the graph. In particular, take a look at the two bars directly adjacent to the magic number of 1.96. That's kind of funny, isn't it? They should be roughly the same height, but they aren't even close. There are a lot of studies that just barely show significant results, and there are hardly any that fall just barely short of significance. There's a pretty obvious conclusion here, and it has nothing to do with publication bias: data is being massaged on wide scale. A lot of researchers who almost find significant results are fiddling with the data to get themselves just over the line into significance.
In any system where continued occupation depends on particular results, does it surprise anyone that those results appear to be found more often? It is a corollary of Sinclair Lewis' observation that it is very hard to convince a man of a truth when his livelihood depends on his believing in a lie. (Paraphrase)

This effect is less obvious, and yet stronger than malice in explaining the vast amount of contradictory scientific (so called) facts believed by the general populace.


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Monday, September 18, 2006

Cowpoke Beans?

Before this Molly Ivins link slips irrevocably into periodical oblivion I want to use it as a hook for a rant: How can we trust folks that don't know beans?

The most amazing part of cow college was meeting the cow whisperer. Think of everything you know about moving cattle from one place to another -- for shots, round-up or loading into trucks for market -- just physically moving a lot of cattle. GEE, GIT ON, GO DOGIE, whistle, whip crack, move 'em out, chase 'em down. Turns out all these years we've been doing it wrong.

What happens when you scare a cow by making a lot of noise and chasing it down and forcing it to move where it doesn't want to go is the cow responds by relieving itself. And since a cow has three stomachs, it can unload up to 20 percent of its total weight at one go, the last thing you want just before you take it to market to sell.
Westerns are less hegemonic today than in my youth. Then the greats, the Waynes, Ladds, Coopers, Carillos, Autrys, Rogers, Reynaldos, and others, with Pavlovian efficacy, instilled the images of the West in our mushy brains.
The vast herd -- sole prop of the widow back at the ranch -- pushed and chivvied through the chaparral desserts by a bunch of handsome *white* galoots, more or less colorfully dressed in hats and chaps and spurs, astride their Appaloosa paints, with Gabby Hayes grumbling at the reins of the chuck wagon in the exact middle of the dust cloud following the last heifer.

At some point in my putative adult existence I began to seriously deprogram myself. Working with Utah Phillips, the Utah Folk Thrush, had something to do with it, though he is to blame for other stuff, not what happens here.

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Cattle drive hands existed as a serious job description for less than 40 years. This was the time it took for the railroads to complete the exploitation of the prairie between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Nobody moved a herd of cattle because they felt like it. It was the only way to get the herd from the ranch to the nearest railhead. Just as soon as a railroad siding showed up nearby the cattle drive ended. Drives also needed unrestricted open range. The "range wars" were lost as the ranchers gave way to the farmers who insisted on fencing their fields.

Punching cows was not a glamour job the way the films would have you believe. It required long hours in the saddle and months of camping rough in all weathers. Believe me the prairie can hand out some weather. All this came at the meagerest of wages and all found. "All found" meant whatever ground you could throw your blankets on and whatever food could be preserved to last the length of the ride. That's mostly dried beans and bacon. Most hands were Black, Mexican, Indian or mixes. Only the boss was White. Hence "cowboys". Ten or fifteen years was the usual career, which frequently ended in a violent death or crippled. The smart ones -- the lucky ones -- soon found other work. The very few fit for nothing else -- who happen to cook well enough to attract the best hands -- became the "old woman" -- the Gabby Hayes part.

The herd needed grazing. The herd needed water. Push the herd too fast and all the meat turns to string, tough string. So the herd moves slowly through river valleys where sweet grass is plentiful and covers maybe 12 to 15 miles in a day. Maybe a mile per hour. That's why it took 70 to 90 days to traverse the Goodnight-Loving trail from Young County Texas southwest to the Pecos (to avoid the Comanches) and then north through Ft Sumner, New Mexico, to Greeley, Colorado. It ran over a thousand miles including at least 80 miles of the Llano Estacado dessert where the Pecos flows from Texas into New Mexico.

Think about that wagon. Its an open box covered with canvas stretched on ribs but more or less open at both ends. Much of the food hangs free or is loosely covered in coarse cloth. Who would put it at the end of the parade? Riding drag at the end of the herd was the joy of the greenhorns. Nobody who cared about their food was going to bathe it in dust twelve hours a day for three months and call it a treat.

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Then there's the beans.

They weren't in a can. They were dried. They were in a bag.

Most modern cookbooks will tell you to soak the beans in water overnight. A second option is to cover with water and bring the pot to a boil then let them set for an hour. Drain and cover with fresh water to begin cooking them. The wagon is not traveling on the Interstate. It is traveling a trail. "Trail" is by courtesy. "Trail" means that somebody in the outfit knows the landmarks that show the way. It has nothing to do with any sort of road. So let's set a pot of beans covered in water in the wagon and go for a nice cross country ride of twelve miles. How much water and beans do you expect to find in the pot at journey's end? Enough to feed eighteen hungry people? Not likely.

So I deduce that the chuck wagon moved around the herd. First there was breakfast of biscuits, bacon and beans (Left over from the night before), with coffee. The Old Woman hands everybody extra biscuits, pemmican or jerky for lunch. The hands move the herd off while cookie cleans up the camp, his pots and pans, etc. With the mules hitched the chuck wagon leaves to find the herd. As soon as found, the herd is passed. The mules can do three miles an hour easily, so by lunch time the wagon arrives at the campsite. Hobble the mules to graze, gather firewood, draw water, start the fire, then the beans go on the fire. Two or three hours later they are fully cooked and ready for flavoring.

Now that's another topic. Likely the actual cowpokes were used to what we now call Tex-Mex with its spicy heat. On the other hand a bit of molasses or cone sugar made those beans tastier to the energy starved, just as doughnuts taste good to cops on the night shift. Possible that the boss has roots back east that call for moderation of the spiciness with a nod to the baked beans of New England? Maybe there was a fusion? Flavorings were also influenced by what the cook found.

So I took the needful about three hours upriver into the Mt Baker National Forest and set to work about 3pm with a cast iron Dutch oven and some charcoal. By 6pm when the other campers rolled in there were some beans ready for them. Didn't hear any complaints that night.

Goodnight Loving Beans

Wash and pick over 1 pound of pinto beans. Place in a 4 qt. Dutch dutch oven with water to cover. Place in fire pit with 6 briquets beneath and 12 briquettes on top. When the pot boils remove 3 briquettes from beneath and 4 from the top. This should maintain a simmer fast enough to cook the beans. After an hour, or so, the skin should peel when you blow on a bean. Now add 1 tsp baking soda (softens the beans[?]), ¼ cup sweetener (honey, molasses, cone sugar etc.) a spice bag -- containing allspice, anise seed, cloves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, celery seeds, mustard seed and pepper corns -- dried tomatoes, and ½ pound salt pork. Simmer another hour. Add a rabbit or duck, disjointed if necessary, and a spring onion & pasilla pepper chopped. Simmer another hour or 'til done.
Mix 1 cup flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt. Work a ¼ cup butter in to flour mixture. Add enough milk to make a soft dough. Drop spoonsfull on top of the beans. Bake ½ hour, or until done.
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The Flatulence Question
Lino told me that adding baking soda would prevent gas.
I have not found it to be so. What seems to make the difference is how much I eat and how fast.

2. Soak most beans in three times their volume of cold water for six hours before cooking. (You can cook beans without soaking, but it takes longer, and some people think the beans taste better when soaked.)

To Discard Soak Water or Not Some people are more susceptible than others to the discomforts of the gas, or flatulence, sometimes caused by eating beans. Flatulence occurs when bacteria normally found in the digestive tract reacts on certain chemical compounds in beans. Some are water-soluble and will be partially removed when the bean soak water is discarded. Small amounts of water-soluble vitamins and minerals are also removed by discarding the soak water. Therefore, many cooks believe it is nutritionally important to use the soak water for cooking the beans. Current research shows that only small amounts of nutrients are lost. For many people, the discomfort avoided by discarding the soak water is more important than the small amount of nutritional benefits from using it.

Consumers do not soak the beans, because it changes the flavor and the aspect of the cooked beans and they do not add salt at the beginning of the cooking process due to the same reason. Organoleptic studies conducted in the laboratory confirmed that soaking of beans or addition of salts in the soaking water or at the beginning of the cooking process negatively affected acceptability of cooked beans by panelists.
Your experience will very. When it is good stick with it. Else, try this and see if its any good for you.

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