30 September 2013


The world is complicated, and sometimes things are not as they should be.

Today is the last day of September. Yesterday, we picked apples and pears, we enjoyed the brilliance of the changing leaves, we gloried in a chairlift ride up Hunter Mountain on a perfect fall day.

And I took pictures of some of the flowers around in the yard:

Flowering Quince



Mountain Bluet

Why yes, they aren't supposed to be blooming now, in the fall, on the verge of October. It's supposed to be in the spring that cuckoo-buds of yellow hue do paint the meadows with delight...

But aren't they lovely?

27 September 2013

Let's Review: Baby Bangs

You've probably seen baby girls wearing head garters, you know, elastic bands with a big bow or flower, a sad attempt to disguise the fact that the kid is bald. Those things are bad enough, but it gets worse. You can actually get headbands for babies with hair attached, so your bald baby girl doesn't look bald and, I guess, looks more like a girl.

My kid wasn't exactly bald, but she had a bad greasy comb-over for a while. Still, I never stuck a head garter on her. Yuck! Gross! Ugly! Plus, in some dark anxious corner of my soul, head garters will slip down to the baby's neck and hazard! Strangulation will occur! (And I'm not even a helicopter parent.)

I've never been a girlie-girl, and one of the reasons we kept our child's sex a secret was to minimize the pinkalicious pink pink pink that revealing her to be a girl would have caused. But after she was born, and announced as a girl, the little pink dresses and footies and hats and blankets came rolling in. So, she wore plenty of pink in those early days. It's kind of unavoidable.

One day, when she was about six months old, in those halcyon period when she went to work with me every day, I went out to get a sandwich for lunch. She was wearing a pink sundress and a pink hat and strapped on my chest in the Bjorn. As I was paying for a my sandwich, the guy asked me how old HE was. I said "she's a girl!" and he asked "but where are her earrings?"

A head garter with bangs would not have done the trick.

23 September 2013

Skim The Fetid Scum

I was at the Strand the other day, hoping to find a nice old copy of The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, because I need to read it for the library "Farm to Table" book club, and somehow, I don't already own it. I was a tiny bit disappointed that they only had a newish paperback edition, but I was intrigued by another book on a nearby pile, called A History of Food in 100 Recipes, especially when I flipped to an Egyptian meatball recipe from 1250:

I'm so fascinated by recipes like this. It's so sketchy, and leaves so much to the imagination. And, of course, it assumes that the cook already has the basics down.

Cut the meat into pieces, put in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil while removing the fetid scum. 

What kind of meat? How much? What size pieces?

Next add small meatballs the size of a hazelnut. 

Are these meatballs made from the just cooked meat? Or are they meatballs from some other recipe?

The quantity of broth must be reduced so that when the cooking is done only a residue of light and velvety juice remains. 

Is the broth to be reduced with the meat/meatballs in it? Or is the meat removed, and then the broth is reduced?

In the meantime, take some sour pomegranate juice, sweeten it with rose water syrup, 

How much pomegranate juice? How much rose water syrup?

add some mint leaves and pistachios crushed in the mortar to thicken it, 

How much mint? Fresh or dried? How many pistachios? Are the pistachios crushed alone, or together with the mint?

colour it with a little saffron and season with all the [ingredients of] atraf tib [a mixture of spices including black pepper, cloves and ginger]. 

Again, how much saffron? And, do you add all of these ingredients to the broth and that's it? Or does the broth need to be cooked with the flavorings? Further, if you removed the meat before reducing the broth (and adding the flavorings), when does the meat get returned to the sauce?

Sprinkle with rose water and diluted saffron and serve.

What is the saffron diluted with?

It's tricky, reading old cookery books.

Incidentally, I had always thought that that Alice B. Toklas had included a recipe for pot brownies in her Cook Book. In point of fact, they aren't brownies at all - they're called "Haschich Fudge" - and actually, it's not really fudge, either. For one thing, there's no chocolate. It's more like some kind of middle-Eastern sweet, made from crushed dried fruit, sweet spices, and nuts. And hash.

Somehow, I don't think there's going to be any at the library book club meeting, but wouldn't that be kind of awesome?

20 September 2013

Green Soup, Or What's All This About Yogurt Anyway?

Once upon a time, I talked incessantly about my CSA. We still belong, and I still love it. I love that it challenges us to prepare and cook and eat vegetables that we'd otherwise pass up at the farmers market. I love knowing that our food comes from not too far away, from people who care deeply about their role in making the world a better place. And every year, they try growing things that they'd never grown before. This year, it was tomatillos. And I had no idea what to do with them.

Sure, I could have made a salsa, but something sent me to the cookbooks, and something impelled me to pull Annie Somerville's Fields of Greens off the shelf. And there I found a recipe for the unprepossessing sounding "Green Corn Soup". I had the corn, I had the tomatillos, I had an approximation of most of the other ingredients, and so I set to work.

I suppose I could have fed it to my husband and child, but instead I brought it to work, along with a bunch of cilantro, and a container of plain yogurt, and for three days running I had a glorious, virtuous, delightful soup for lunch. Hot, as a nod to fall, but garnished with fresh cilantro and creamy cold yogurt, because summer's still hanging on, it was just what I needed to be eating.

Speaking of yogurt, what is going on with the yogurt explosion? It used to be that there was yogurt, silky, low fat, not especially dense. You know, just yogurt. And then came the "Greek" yogurts, like Fage (which is now based in Luxembourg) and (moldy yucky Greek-style US made) Chobani. And if you're paying attention, more and more countries are getting into the yogurt game. I've seen Australian yoghurt (note the H spelling) and some Icelandic yogurt ended up in my fridge not long ago. In point of fact, Smari, the "Icelandic" yogurt, is actually made in the United States, from milk from cows from Wisconsin, by bosses in California. Whatev. I like their plain yogurt. It's thick, to be sure, but it stood up to being plopped into a bowl of hot soup. And it has an appealing gaminess about it - it's not a bland, boring yogurt. [I didn't much care for the Smari fruit flavors, but I nearly never buy anything but plain yogurt anyway. You want fruit flavored yogurt? Stir in some jam or a cut up peach.]

Corn and Tomatillo Soup (adapted from Fields of Greens)

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cobs
3 cups chicken stock
1 pint tomatillos, husked and halved
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
fresh cilantro leaves (for garnish)
yogurt or sour cream (for garnish)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and corn, and cook until the corn is heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and add 2 cups of chicken stock, cover the pot, and simmer until the corn is tender (about 20 minutes). Add the tomatillos and poblano, and cook until the tomatillos are falling apart tender (5 to 10 minutes). Puree the soup with a blender (a hand blender in the pot would be perfect). Add chicken stock if the soup seems too thin. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serve hot, garnished with a handful of fresh cilantro and a blob of yogurt or sour cream.

Makes enough for three lunch sized portions.

Disclosure: The publicist for the Icelandic yogurt had some dropped off at my house. My opinions are my own, and no one paid me to talk yogurt.

13 September 2013

Let's Review: Bamboo

Okay. "The Snugg". What do you think that is? Honestly, the name makes me think it's gonna be one of those blankets with arms, for when you have to be a couch potato. Or maybe some kind of body pillow, if you like to curl around something when you sleep.

Actually, though, it's the brand name for a line of cell phone and tablet covers. And because I was on the verge of upgrading my phone - and therefore was going to be needing a new cover - I said sure, send me a case when the PR rep emailed me. Timing is everything.

I'm actually very fond of bamboo. Unlike hardwood, it's a rapidly-renewable resource. It's got an appealing fine texture, with a plasticity about it that lets it take a good amount of detail. It's multi-purpose - it can be made into flooring, and cutting boards, and even bicycle fenders.

actual bicycle fender on a bike
parked down the street from my office

So, I picked the bamboo case out of The Snugg's line-up. Because face it, there's something delicious in juxtaposing the high tech glassiness of the iPhone with a tactile bamboo jacket.

actual cell phone case (on cell phone) sitting
on one of our bamboo cutting boards

You know what? It's a really nice case. It feels good in the hand, it snaps on pleasingly, the myriad holes are all well-machined. In fact, it's so nice that my husband, the appliance slut, stole it from me. That's actually his phone encased in the bamboo case above.

I've no idea how well it'll hold up, or how protective it is. But it's rather lovely.

And in a pinch, you could probably use it as a cutting board at a picnic.

Disclosure: Yes, I got a free case sent to me by The Snugg people. But my opinions are my own and they didn't pay me to talk about the case.

09 September 2013

A Question Without An Answer

If I write a post in my head, did I write it?

Spectacular getaway.

Were The Millers

Were the Millers the conjuring mortal instruments?

There are many questions.

There are only some answers.

"Okay, Mom, stop putting a downer on my logic."

Maybe I do have all the answers. And when I have more time, perhaps I will write some more posts. Lord knows, they're rattling around in my head all the time.

This is the end.

[It's never the end. Until, well, it is the end, which it isn't. Yet.]

And who the hell are the Millers anyway?

03 September 2013

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

Last week, I dropped off a bunch of board books at the daycare the girl attended from when she was 20 months old until she entered kindergarten.

And today's her first day of middle school (because in our town, for better or for worse, middle school is grades five through eight).

You've come a long way, girlie.