17 April 2022

Magpie on Magpies

Sometimes the universe conspires and magpies come at you from all sides. All three of these magpies came to me this past week.(Click the pix for more information.)

A friend sent a link to a podcast about a Japanese boy in an internment camp who befriended a magpie - or the magpie befriended him:

Another friend snapped a picture of a painting in a museum in Philadelphia, of a magpie eating cake:

Magpie eating cake-rubens peale

And the New York Times had an article about very very clever magpies in Australia, helping other magpies:

I do like magpies. They are smart and charismatic and nicely graphic.

26 February 2022

I Have Solved the Buttermilk Problem

You know how you buy a QUART of buttermilk because a recipe needs a little bit, and then the quart sits there in the fridge until it's over the hill and you throw it out, thereby wasting most of the quart? (And then you feel terrible because food waste is actually an enormous problem - the USDA estimates that more than 30% of the food supply gets wasted.)

I have figured it out, or - to be specific - I have found a way to buy one quart of buttermilk and use it all up in two recipes: Whole Grain Pancakes for breakfast, and Buttermilk Brined Chicken for dinner.

The recipe for the pancakes is something I adapted from the New York Times site; I changed up the flours a bit to reduce the carbohydrate load. They are very tender, and complexly flavored. We make up the whole batch and then I freeze what we don't eat for breakfast. They reheat well, in the toaster. In lieu of syrup, I usually blitz a handful of frozen strawberries in the microwave; they kind of fall apart and become a good syrup analog. Feel free to use maple syrup, if that's how you roll.

WHOLE GRAIN PANCAKES (makes about 14 good sized pancakes)
1 cup spelt (or whole wheat flour) 
3/4 cup almond meal 
1/2 cup cornmeal 
1/4 cup rolled oats 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
2 1/4 cups buttermilk 
3 eggs 
1/4 cup melted butter

 In a large bowl, mix together spelt, almond meal, cornmeal, oats, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, mix together buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until smooth. 

Heat up a griddle over medium heat. Add a little butter to the pan and let it melt. Using a 1/3 cup measure, pour batter onto griddle - make as many as you can at a time. Leave space for pancakes to spread. 

Cook until bubbles form and start to burst, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate as they finish, and serve immediately with butter and maple syrup or melted strawberries. 

Repeat with the remaining batter, until done. 

If you are going to freeze the excess, cool them on a baking rack. When cool, separate with waxed paper or parchment, and stack them into an airtight freezer container.

Once you've finished breakfast, you're going to want to brine the chicken. Back up. You've been roasting chicken for years. You shove a lemon or some herbs in the cavity, fling the bird in a cast iron skillet in a hot oven, and bob's your uncle. Roast chicken gets A LOT of ink, but it's not hard; it's just roast chicken. But. Brining your chicken in buttermilk? It's kind of magic. You think there's nothing new under the sun, and then you decide to make the quart of buttermilk come out even, and yeah. Do it.

Here's the thing: Samin Nosrat tells you to use 2 cups of buttermilk for one chicken in a gallon ziplock bag. BUT 1 3/4 cups is fine too, and 1 3/4 cups is what you have left after you're done making pancakes. Nosrat's recipe is divine and it's on her website. But you should get her book - Salt Fat Acid Heat - because it's good and useful and informative.

And there you have it. Two recipes, one quart of buttermilk, no science experiments with the leftover lurking in the back of the refrigerator.

25 February 2022

My Crankiness Knows No Bounds, and Yet...

About a month ago, I posted a picture of an envelope on Facebook...


...with a comment: See that envelope? That's in the outgoing mail. Does it have a check in it? It does not. It has a note asking that they take me off of their list because of that ridiculous stunt with the five 1-cent stamps.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Human Rights Watch has used this direct mail ploy; I wrote about it two years ago, on this very blog!

Today's mail included ANOTHER solicitation from Human Rights Watch. I opened it. (I always open the solicitations, it's like a busman's holiday - you have to check out what other non-profits are doing - and if they're really appealing I might even send them to my Development Department. And sometimes the March of Dimes sends you an actual dime - free money! I digress.)

I had to laugh. Instead of a bunch of live 1-cent stamps, it had printed images of stamp-like doodles.

Well played, Human Rights Watch, well played. (But no, don't put me back on your list.)

23 January 2022

The Warmth Of A Quilt

The summer before I went to college, my mother and I made a patchwork quilt for my dorm room. It wasn’t fancy, just a log cabin pattern made of 2” x 6” strips made into 6” blocks. And it wasn’t actually quilted - it was tied through to the blue and white gingham backing with yarn at the intersections of the blocks. On one of the corner blocks, I embroidered my initials and the year.

That quilt cheerfully lived on my dorm bed for four years, but once I graduated, it got stored away at my mother’s house.

Years later, after my daughter moved from a crib to a bed, I pulled the quilt out of storage. It looked perfect in her room. But over time, small person shenanigans, coupled with the age of the quilt, meant that the fabric was springing holes at the drop of a hat. Periodically, I’d haul it off the bed and appliqué new patches in place - patching the patchwork - but eventually I put it away and bought a down comforter for her bed.

This past September, she went off to college - to my alma mater, as it happens. Her dorm room is on a corner, and her bed is hard up against the window, and it’s a little chilly. She told me she thought she needed another blanket - and the quilt popped into my head.

So we pulled it out, and carefully catalogued the fragile spots, and I taught her how to cut the strips, turn and iron the edges, wrestle the quilt into position in the sewing machine, and patch patch patch.

We rebound the edges, and she embroidered a strip with her initials and 2022. 

The quilt went back to school with her yesterday.

It is crudely made, as far as quilts go, but it is full of love - my mother's, mine, and now my daughter's. And I hope it keeps her warm for years to come.