Monday, December 31, 2007
Just to make the point, there was a magnitude 3.6 earthquake in Yellowstone National Park last night, followed by 13 aftershocks. It didn't do any damage, but it was larger than usual.
So tonight, we will have a beef fondue, with cubes of top round dipped in hot oil, then into any of a variety of dips (hollandaise, horseradish sauce, salt and pepper, sweet and sour, soy/lime juice, plus anything that happens to still be in the fridge from the holidays); my husband's favorite addition is a thick-sliced pickled ginger that I make once in a while. Over the years, we have added a bunch of vegetables to accompany to meat; this year, it will be portobella mushrooms, daikon, sunchokes, celeriac, cherry tomatoes, and maybe garlic cloves. I love leeks, but couldn't find any good ones this year; I have also used potatoes and sweet potatoes with success. Actually, any vegetable that looks good at the store seems to work, some cooked and some eaten raw. I'll serve some good bread with it and call it good.
Happy New Year!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I served it with pork chops (basic preparation) and individual goat cheese souffles from a Martha Stewart recipe (which I can't find on her website); the goat cheese I used was an aged one with some blue threads in it. It made a great combination.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
Now I just need to think of some way to cut the richness so it isn't overwhelming. Maybe a pickled vegetable, or something with lemon, or a green salad with vinegar and oil. Another way would be to do some kind of a red-wine sauce on the meat (although my favorite one has butter in it, which isn't exactly light, either). Probably the red-wine sauce on the meat and a green salad with oil and red-wine vinegar would be best.
It needs a basic starch, like sourdough bread, or just rice to serve under the slices of meat; the rice would be best with a sauce. That gives me something rich, something acidic, and something calm, my preferred balance for a meal. For dessert, I would probably serve one chocolate truffle per person, to go with the big red wine this deserves.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
- Compass Guide Montana, a guide book with literary excerpts and short essays;
- High, Wide, and Handsome, a 1943 history of Montana that is still one of the best general histories about the state;
- Bad Land, an American Romance (fiction), which I don't know anything about;
- The Last Best Place, an anthology of Montanan writing both fiction and nonfiction that serves as a great introduction to Montanan literature; and
- a map.
This Essential Reading is followed by a long list of other books that might be of interest to travelers to Montana: guidebooks, history, cultural portraits, biography, natural history, field guides, science, maps, and literature. It is a good selection; I suspect that I will be acquiring some of these books in the near future, even though I already have a pretty good library of Montana books.
Now I just need to figure out somewhere to travel, so I can justify using this site more!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Roasted winter veggies
Preheat oven to 350 or 400 degrees. Clean, trim, and cut into bite-size pieces some combination of the following (I used the first four plus shallots):
Rutabagas (sweet, looks like a turnip - very good)
Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
Carrots (big chunks)
Shallots or onions (definitely include some of these)
Garlic - whole cloves
Potatoes (not too many)
Sweet potatoes or yams
Place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some herbs (I used savory), and toss with your hands. Place in oven; this will take just under an hour at 400 degrees, over an hour at 350 degrees - the temperature can match your meat, if it is in the oven too. About 20-30 minutes before you pull the veggies out, trim some sweet peppers (I like the little ones that come in a plastic case) and add them to the pan.
Remove the pan from the oven. Cut some goat cheese into small chunks and toss with the veggies. Serve.
Monday, December 24, 2007
To learn more about umami, see this nice collection of articles on Finding Dulcinea. The linked article from the Wall Street Journal is especially helpful.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
To go with steak tonight, I picked out tiny brussel sprouts and oyster mushrooms; I will sautee the mushrooms with shallots I already have, microwave the brussel sprouts, and toss them together before serving. The sprouts and mushrooms led to conversation at the check-out stand, when the young man checking me out asked what I was doing with the oyster mushrooms and how they were different than criminis or shitakes. He likes mushrooms and cooks with them regularly, but hasn't tried oyster mushrooms because they are pricey (and shitakes aren't?). I pointed out that I had enough mushrooms for 6 people, at a cost of $2.50, and enouraged him to try them. When I mentioned that I was going to mix them with the sprouts, we then had a long discussion about not liking brussel sprouts and how to cook them so that they aren't so bitter (microwave in a covered bowl with a little water until they are JUST tender, before the flavor get strong). He sounded game to try them now that he is older; he may never like them, but at least he will have a better idea of what they really should taste like. I can't say that brussel sprouts are my favorite, either - I get them because my husband loves them and they are at their best this time of year - but they aren't bad when they are cooked with mushrooms, shallots, and butter. And they are one of the easier choices this time of year, when I am still missing the summer vegetables.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Inspired by Seasons of Light at the Museum of the Rockies planetarium, we have come up with our own ritual to scare the sun back up into the sky. Every July, we get an extra set of mortars and fountains, which we stash until December 21 comes along and it is dark and cold. We have my sister and her family over, and we set off fireworks in the snow. Fireworks in the winter is a completely different experience than July fireworks, as the lights reflect off the snow. Some years, it is so cold that we use a propane torch to light the fuses and the little ones watch from inside; other years, we can sit comfortably outside and light them without gloves. And it works - every year since we started, the sun has promptly started rising in the sky the next day, making the days longer and, eventually, warmer.
For more information on winter solstice rituals, see
Thursday, December 20, 2007
There was one challenge to overcome first: I had carefully bought three cans of WHOLE green chilis, avoiding all the cans of chopped green chilis on the shelf. But when I opened the cans, they turned out to be full of chopped green chilis. I looked at the labels, thinking I might have made a mistake, but no, they were mislabeled. So my husband and son made a run into town, to a different store, to get more cans of whole green chilis. This was good, because even the larger cans they got didn't really hold enough chilis for all six of us; my son had done his best to figure out how many chilis each can held, but was fooled by the "Approximate servings per can: 5" - it turned out that each can held three large chilis.
Find cans of WHOLE green chilis, two chilis per person (don't trust the label - get an extra can or two); remove any seeds, trying not to tear the chilis. Slice farmer cheese (or Monterey jack, or pepper jack, or something else that melts well), not too thinly; cut some of the slices diagonally to create two long, thin triangles. Stuff each chili with slices of cheese, using the triangles to get down into the points.
Put some flour on a small plate, and mix in a little salt and chili powder. For 4-6 people, beat 2 eggs (or 4 egg whites*, if you made hollandaise recently) and place on another plate.
Heat something to fry with in a skillet; the best is lard, if you have it, but shortening or oil will work. Make sure it is good and hot before moving on. Dip each chili carefully in the eggs, then in the flour to cover. Place the chili in the lard and fry on each side until just turning golden; if you cook it too long, the cheese will melt all over the pan and make a real mess. Serve and eat promptly.
Good with black beans, Mexican rice, or just chips and salsa.
*Egg whites freeze well, at least for this use. I freeze one egg white in each depression of a mini-muffin tin (or an ice tray), then bag them together.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
In looking for something to back this up, I did find reviews of a report that said, among other things, that London is subsiding generally as the land mass of England responds to the unloading of the last ice sheet, with the north tipping up and the south tipping down. The weight changes as tides come and go up the Thames are dramatic enough to change the level of the ground by 10 mm twice a day, and the seasons load the ground differently, so that measuring true subsidence is tough. All this is relevant because the Thames is rising over time, about 1 mm annually, leading to increasing flooding. So even if the lack of local beer doesn't flood London from below, the Thames is likely to take care of the job.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It must be so frustrating to be in retail anymore. You provide a quality product and good service, spend time to help someone figure out what they need, and then they buy elsewhere to save a few dollars – if they really save anything after shipping. I understand wanting to save money, and internet purchasing is great if you know what you want; but if you need the service, it is only fair to pay for it instead of “stealing” it from the business. It seems wrongheaded to me. And I won’t even get started on supporting the local business community so it is there when you need it!
Monday, December 17, 2007
In 1096, the People's Crusade, the first branch of the Crusade to leave France, made its way into Germany, where the hot-headed among the Crusaders decided to eliminate the Jews before continuing to the Holy Lands. Jews were massacred and temples desecrated in Spier (in spite of being sheltered by a Christian bishop), Worms (where 1000 died), Mainz (where they were protected at first by the archbishop, who later fled; 900+ died), and Wurzburg. In Hungary, Jews were attacked in Trier, Metz, Prague, Ratisbon, and Nitra before the king of Hungary stopped the Jew-killers. Would-be Crusaders in England picked up the idea and massacred Jews in London, York, Stamford, and Norwich; only Winchester Jews were safe.
The killing didn't stop in Europe. When the Crusaders made it to the Holy Lands, they killed Jews even more enthusiastically than they killed Muslims; the Jews in Jerusalem were basically wiped out, in generally upleasant ways. This pattern lasted throughout the Crusades, as far as I can tell, but seldom shows up in the text books.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Plating for a table is actually easier than plating individually, especially if the kitchen you are working in has expansive countertops. You lay out 8 plates, deal out a pork chop to each plate, then get the potato pan and spoon out a portion on each plate, and follow with the pan of apples. In the meantime, the server puts a roll and two pats of butter on the plate, where you indicate. At the last minute, you start putting 4 asparagus and a dollop of hollandaise on each plate, just before the server takes them. In this way, 8 plates can go out in about two minutes, instead of 10 minutes, even if the server takes the time to serve the ladies first. The second table's plates can be put together while the first table is being served, and everyone can eat quickly.
When serving at a family event with young children, it also helps to figure out if there are any special plating instructions - like small portions - before you start putting food on the plates. (But I suppose it is unrealistic to expect young adults to have mommy experience.)
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I called La Chatelaine, which makes very good chocolates, and asked what I had done wrong. The chocolate master wasn't there, but the person I talked to thought that the problem was adding cold cream to the warm chocolate. I then told my sad story to a chef friend, who said, "You broke it. And you can't fix it." All her recipes call for adding the liquids before melting the chocolate, or warming them before adding to the warm chocolate. She also very nicely admitted that she had had the same problem with a batch of chocolate for mousses last week, which made me feel a little better.
While I was talking to real people, my technocentric son hopped on the computer and found this advice on the internet: "Be extremely careful not to get any water (not even a drop) into the chocolate. Water will turn the chocolate into a grainy, lumpy mess. If this happens, you can add a little vegetable oil in order to make it smooth again, but this will affect the flavor. What if your recipe calls for melting chocolate along with water or some other type of liquid? That's fine, as long as the liquid is mixed with the chocolate from the beginning of the melting process, it won't get grainy on you, (but adding even a drop in mid-melting will cause this problem)." Which makes sense of what I was hearing. (For more on what happens when you melt chocolate, see this Cooking for Engineers post on tempering chocolate.)
Sigh. So I went back into town, got more chocolate, and came home to try again. This time, I added the cream and Kahlua before turning up the heat - and it worked perfectly. So it was an expensive lesson, but I learned something.
Dark Chocolate Fondue:
Put in the top half of a double boiler (I suspended the fondue pot by the handles over a pot of water):
4 bars of chocolate (5.3 oz each)
1 3/4 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 oz Kahlua (give or take)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Turn the heat to medium low; the water shouldn't boil or even simmer. As the chocolate softens, stir regularly. DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUIDS.
Keep the chocolate mix warm and dip any or all of the following in it:
Pound cake (Sarah Lee frozen is the best for this use)
Mandarin orange segments
I will also take praline bits (ice cream topping; I would have prefered Heath bits but couldn't find any) and dark cocoa powder to dip the chocolate-coated goodies in, for a truely decadent experience.
Friday, December 14, 2007
According to a biograph of William Marshall that I am reading, when King John died in 1216 and left a 9-year-old son (Henry III) as his heir, the English nobles did not automatically transfer their allegeince to the boy. In fact, many of them, already in rebellion against John, had chosen the French prince, Louis, to be their leader and had invited him to be the next king of England. So in 1217, Louis and his knights landed in England and soon controlled southeastern England, with the exception of Dover and Lincoln castles; it took William most of the summer and fall to run the French out and regain the loyalty of the rebel nobles. Since the French king, Phillip Augustus, had already run John out of Normandy and his other possessions, this was the beginning of the true separation between France and England, although the English kings tried unsuccessfully to reverse it for another couple centuries.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Life has changed yet again, and now I have a child at an activity for 45 minutes near the grocery store, at a time when I can haul groceries - on a Tuesday. So I am once again buying groceries on Tuesdays, whether or not we are desperate for them. It is lovely. When I put things on the grocery list, I know when I will get them, and we run out of things less often; I can mail packages or drop off film then, so I am more likely to remember them; I can check my post office box. But best of all, it reclaims a rhythm that I had really liked, brings a calm back into my life that the haphazard patterns had eliminated. It's funny how such small things can make such a big difference in your life.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
- Use it as a spread for a grilled or hot sandwich, especially with portobello mushrooms, chicken, or beef.
- Pound some chicken breasts flat, spread some spinach leaves on top, and cover with a layer of the dip. Roll up carefully and place in a baking dish. Add a little something for moisture (white wine, chicken broth), maybe a slice of provolone on each breast, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
- Grill beef tenderloins, reheat dip (maybe after adding some minced garlic), and serve beef on top of dip, with baguette.
- Use as a topping for baked potatoes (reheat first).
- Add chopped onions or shallots, reheat, and use on top of mashed potatoes.
- Top a hamburger with bacon and warmed dip.
- Grill portobello mushrooms, top with warmed dip, and stick under the broiler for a few minutes, then serve as appetizer or main course. I would probably add a dash of Worchestershire sauce to the mushrooms before I grilled them.
- Reheat and use in pork or chicken tacos (without too much hot sauce).
- Spread on pizza instead of tomato sauce, preferably after adding some minced garlic.
- Reheat and use as intended.
Hmmm - I might have to see if the dip freezes and make several batches to store for future dinners. I know it will keep in the fridge for 24 hours before baking and I can't think of anything that freezing would harm. (On the other hand, everything in salsa freezes fine, but salsa gets watery after being frozen.) It would certainly be handy to have stashed in the freezer.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Amusingly enough, although apologetics developed with the first apostles and was part of the church before the Protestant Reformation, Christian apologetics now defend "their" faith against Roman Catholics, in addition to Mormons, Muslims, and atheists.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Someday I will tell him that there are easier ways to make lasagne - when he is no longer home to make it for my birthday.
In a food processor, place
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained
1 C shredded parmesan (do this in the processor before switching to the metal blade)
4 oz feta cheese
enough mayonnaise to make it all hold together, about 1/4 cup
Pulse to blend and stop before you have a paste.
Spoon into a small baking dish and cook at 375 degrees for half an hour. Serve with crackers or small toasts.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
His comments on conformist individuality are the stronger parts of the book. His primary observation is that the urge to establish yourself as an individual is so strong now that it has become a kind of conformity of its own. Although I wouldn't say that I feel a compelling need to present myself as an "individual", I recognize myself in his description of the many people (from the baby-boomers on down) who bypass the formal institutions - religion, work, marriage, having children - in order to organize their lives exactly the way they want them. In my case, it is homechooling; I bypass not only the school system but also the formalized homeschool curricula available, and create individualized curricula for my kids designed for their specific strengths, weaknesses, and interests. So while I don't think of it as being an individual, I am clearly acting in ways that place a higher value on individual needs and preferences than on traditional structures and forms. This argument makes sense and makes sense of current trends.
It is when he brings in the "I'm Special" theory and tries to apply it to every aspect of modern life that Niedzviecki loses me. I accept that people want to feel special; that pop culture causes some people to be dissatified with their drab, humdrum lives, that it encourages them to do stupid things in order to be famous, and that it is ubiquitous in modern culture. His descriptions of why people feel the need to be noticed in the media help me make sense of behavior that I don't otherwise understand, such as volunteering to go on Survivor, and other things that are simply odd, like the number of people who post videos on YouTube. However, Niedzviecki confuses the basic human need to be an acknowledged part of a community, a need that goes back to a time when being an outcast was practically a death sentence, with the need for celebrity (or notoriety, which it increasingly resembles). Of course it is important for people to have a niche in a community, to know that other people know who they are and (with luck) value their contribution; this is part of being human, not a modern development. But this is not the same thing as doing things like setting up back-yard wrestling federations, engaging in extreme sports, or killing school kids in order to make it on TV or the internet. (He neglects to mention one obvious example: more people are giving their children unusual names or unusual spellings of common names.)
Niedzviecki sidesteps the flaw in his argument by setting up a world in which everything is a symptom of the I'm Special disease; no one is immune, in his view. Doing stupid things to get on TV is obviously a symptom, but so is joining a strict religious order - the latter is simply a reaction to pop culture's insistence on being special. He ignores the obvious counterexamples: what of the Amish, who mostly avoid pop culture altogether? And more relevantly, what about people who simply don't care? There are still people who are happy with their lives, who take sufficient satisfaction in family and friends and doing a job well, who don't feel the need to make a fool of themselves in public just to get their name in the paper. Niedzviecki may not know them, since they are mostly married and not part of hip culture, but they exist in substantial enough numbers to disprove his universal application of his theory.
Niedzviecki has some good observations, stories, and points, and explains some odd trends in modern life. Now if he would just apply a little more precision to his arguments, he would have a stronger book - although maybe less sensational.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Of course I figure this out just after I bought some new icicle lights for my deck.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
We took advantage of the unfortunate warm spell to peel the ice off the driveway and put up the house lights while the roof was dry. With the exception of one string of lights that I had to get last night, we are now ready for winter again!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Even a fancy stew takes time, half a day for this recipe. I figure that if I'm going to put that much time into one dish, I will make the most of it - four batches worth. Luckily, my son tried making beer last summer, so we have a huge stainless steel that worked perfectly (although I still need to get the bottom completely clean). So I spent most of today making chili: browning the pork and beef, peeling tomatoes, dicing onions and more onions, seeding and mincing four different types of peppers, sauteeing the vegetables, and simmering the whole mess all afternoon. I got some help on the tomatoes from my daughter, but the peppers were mine to deal with; I have washed my hands repeatedly, but I can still feel the pepper oil on my skn. The good news is that the chili smells wonderful and I have plenty to put in the freezer for this winter, even after saving some for my parents and my father-in-law.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
We took some teenage friends and sleds so that we could mount a diversion, not let the trees realize that we were actually looking for one to bring home. The boys had a blast careening down short, steep slopes full of obstacles, where they really shouldn't have been sledding at all, but it wasn't enough to fool the trees. Nearly all the good trees headed for higher slopes or took refuge behind a ratty looking older trees, and we had a hard time finding one that came even close to our requirements (which admittedly got looser as we got colder). Finally, my daughter found one hiding amoung four or five spindly trees and, after a lot of discussion, we cut it down and took it more-or-less proudly home. It looked pretty small and sparse in the woods - that was part of its disguise - but turned out to be a great tree with lots of room for ornaments, and just the right size. So we got a trophy tree after all, in spite of the wily trees.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
- Montana is an agricultural state and most of our crops depend on moisture from snowpack or rain. Even in Bozeman, which farmers and ranchers would say isn't very rural any more, agricultural concerns are still recognized - especially by all the people who care about local food. So when the summer is long and dry, town people still note that the crops are hard hit by the lack of rain; in the winter, a good snowpack leads to plenty of irrigation water next summer.
- A good snowpack also makes for better winter recreation, whether you ski downhill or crosscountry, snowshoe, or ride a snowmobile. Even many summer recreations depend on good snowpack, or at least plentiful spring rains: water skiing, rafting, and the local economic mainstay, fly-fishing.
- Dry summers lead to wildfires, which are hard to ignore when the skies are full of smoke and occasionally ash. So the amount of rain we are or aren't getting is a popular topic all summer.
- Because so much of the state is open, neither developed in tall buildings nor covered with trees, the sky is not just visible, it is a large percentage of the view. We have a lot of sunny days, too, so the weather fluctuations aren't hidden by persistent cloud cover. It is easy to see the storm clouds moving in across the valley; the weather is part of the daily environment.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The one tree that makes me change my mind (sometimes) is one that isn't even native to the valley; the ponderosa pine is native to nearly all of the northern Rockies except this valley. It is a bushy, open tree that is missing the dark heaviness that I associate with conifers; it looks cheerful instead of depressed. We have one in our yard - the only conifer we have - but to really appreciate them, you have to spend time in a grove of them, where you can listen to "the whispered plain-song of this elemental congregation." (Donald Culross Peattie, in A Natural History of Western Trees, an excellent book if you are interested in trees.) One of the things I love about our trips to Lewistown is the chance to listen to the wind in the ponderosas, somehow different from any other pines.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
But for many adherents, Slow Food goes far beyond selfish indulgence. On a personal level, Slow Food encourages paying attention to details, savoring the moment, valuing quality over quantity. These attributes are likely to lend more awareness of the world and how individual actions affect it; and to a calm, centered individual who can act on that awareness.
On a community or political level, the belief that a tomato is just a tomato - a round, red globe without identifiable taste, importable from anywhere in the world - leads to industrial agriculture and food that travels halfway around the world before it is eaten. Valuing a local, fresh tomato then has many economic, environmental, and political ramifications: Supporting small-scale farmers strengthens rural economies. Encouraging the sustainable agriculture that Slow Foodies treasure leads to lower levels of artificial fertilizers (hence less petroleum imported from the Middle East), less toxic run-off to poison rivers and the Gulf of Mexico, less use of pesticides that reduce biodiversity and destroy habitat for wild animals, and fewer road miles as food no longer needs to be brought by trucks, ships, and planes from far corners of the world. Preserving heirloom or heritage breeds of livestock and food plants retains biodiversity and genetic options for future needs, and fuels the fight against genetically modified foods. That's a pretty good list for an indulgence.
On top of that, Slow Food looks to people who can't afford the fancy foods that are often associated with it. On World Food Day, Roberto Burdese, the president of Slow Food Italy, addressed the Right to Food in a speech. "The Right to Food is the right of every person to have regular access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and culturally acceptable food for an active healthy life. It is the right to feed oneself in dignity, rather than the right to be fed." This certainly sounds like the beginning of a remedy to me, especially if it is acted on. It is certainly a far cry from a selfish attachment to one's own pleasure.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
I've never seen any statistics, but I suspect that on a per capita basis, cities swallow fewer resources than rural areas. Cities have more expensive roads, but far fewer of them for each thousand people; mass transit and walkable distances reduce the amount of gasoline used by each person; community waste water plants are easier to keep from polluting water than dispersed septic tanks. Urban areas certainly generate more wealth than rural areas (which is why so many people throng to the cities), so if the per-capita resource use is the same, cities show a better return on investment.
Besides, if everyone were evenly distributed over rural areas, there wouldn't be much room for resource extraction, or even agriculture. Getting rid of the cities wouldn't automatically make the countryside any better off; it would probably be a case of a lowering tide dropping all boats, since there would no longer be the wealth-generating cities to buy the countryside's produce, meat, and resources.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Humans are animals, and carnivorous ones at that (actually omniverous, but that includes carnivorous meals). So it is in our make-up to eat meat, which means that someone has to kill it first; since we aren't generally scavengers, that means humans have to kill other animals to eat them, just as lions and wolves do. But we are also human, which means that we shouldn't kill mindlessly; we need to respect the animal that is giving its life so that we can eat it. This philosophy means that hunting an animal, with respect and in a fair chase, is morally acceptable to me; and yes, fair chase means what it says: we miss far, far more pheasants than we hit each fall. It also means that raising animals for meat is fine as long as the animals have some kind of natural life (cattle eat grass in open pastures, chickens scratch for grain, etc.) that respects their instincts, and are killed humanely. This is part of the natural cycle.
Respectfully eating animals that have been raised and killed humanely is much more morally acceptable than ignoring the whole issue, pretending that meat comes from some kind of plant before it is wrapped in plastic in the grocery store. This is why I want my kids to know where their meat comes from, whether that means helping brand cattle in the spring or hunting for pheasants in the fall. I want them to know that an animal has given its life for their dinner, so that they appreciate the animal and the food, rather than taking it for granted. If an animal is going to die, it should be honored at the meal. (For that matter, all food should be appreciated and honored, which is one reason we pickle vegetables and bake bread and make yogurt.)
Thursday, November 22, 2007
- My husband's appreciation of my cooking - even when it doesn't come out the way I expected it to.
- My stylish daughter's recognition of my clothing style and her ability to tell me what it is, in positive terms.
- A sister who agrees with me when I rant about people who find which guitar they want at a local store with very good, knowledgable service, then buy online to save a few dollars.
- A father who always helps out when needed.
- A son who is young enough to tell me he loves me and still small enough to cuddle.
- A son who is now old enough to tell me he loves me again.
- Friends who encourage me when I decide to start freelancing in technical writing and editing, and are willing to hand out business cards for me.
- A mother who helps me write letters introducing myself to potential clients - she is much better at that language than I am.
- Having my new-college son back with us for Thanksgiving, in Lewistown where he doesn't have to split his time between us and his friends.
- My children's cooking ability; they cooked the turkey today and made many of the sauces.
- A friend who always understands that when I complain about my family, I don't really mean it.
- The ponderosa pine tree in our backyard, which we planted for father's day a dozen years ago and which is now about 40' tall.
- Fresh snow in November.
- Pheasants, especially the roosters that fall out of the sky when my sons shoot at them and taste so good for dinner.
- A hug from a good friend to brighten my day.
- Actors who go out of their way to welcome an aspiring one.
- Meals on Wheels, which lets me volunteer in a way that fits my schedule, and the people who smile when I deliver their meals.
- The Community Food Bank, which has provided a place for my son to belong and grow for 5 years.
- Deep massage from hands that know my body - and the friend who has them.
- The fresh, local food at the Monday mini-market, and the friendly faces who sell it.
- Friends who help me raise my kids, either directly or with advice and comfort.
- The public library, which provides a safe haven for my daughter.
- My sons' friends, whom I enjoy having in my house.
- Old friends that I see only occasionally - they always make me smile and remind me of who I have been.
- Cranberry bagels with cream cheese and ham.
- Books that present an argument in a coherent and readable form, whether or not I agree with it.
- Bookshelves. And more bookshelves.
- Homeschooling and the opportunity it gives me to continue learning.
- Lots of time with my kids, through the good and the bad days.
- My youngest son's giggle.
- Friday-night dates with my husband.
- A reliable vehicle that I can pack with kids and dogs for trips to Lewistown.
- A comfortable bed.
- Turkey leftovers.
It is a sign of how far removed we are from our food sources that we no longer know this intuitively.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
For a dip to eat with veggies and pita slices at lunch, I blended:
Half a small head of garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
1 jar of roasted red peppers, including the oil
4 oz of feta cheese
For appetizers before the turkey, I have learned to serve things like dill beans and olives, instead of rich cheeses. I made up marinated olives, by draining the juice off a container of kalamata olives and adding:
1 bay leaf
Some dried rosemary
2 parts red wine
1 part olive oil
I will let it marinate until Thursday, then pour it into a baking dish and heat at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
Another appetizer I will serve is marinated goat cheese:
Slice a log of goat cheese into 1/2" disks, or cube. Layer in a jar with a selection of herbs and peppercorns; I used preserved lemon slices, garlic, and peppercorns this time, but I have used rosemary and bay leaves in the past. Fill the jar with olive oil and refrigerate at least 24 hours, then serve with crackers. The left-over olive oil is tasty in salad dressings.
For Friday night, I am serving a New York roast with blue-cheese butter. To make the butter, blend 1 stick of warm butter, 4 oz of warm blue cheese, and 1 tsp of Worchestershire sauce together. Form into a log shape on tin foil, roll, and refrigerate overnight. To serve, slice into disks and place on slices of beef or piles of mashed potatoes. Or both.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
This morning, nearly a hundred cedar waxwings congregated at the tree to eat the apples. They would hang out in the Rocky Mountain maple nearby, waiting until the dogs and other threats were gone; then one by one, they would transfer to the crabapple and start pecking at the apples. The waxwings are beautiful birds, with their yellow tail tips, red and black/white-checked wing edges, and the distinguished little horn on the top of their heads. It was fun to see them so close to the window, where I could get a good look at them.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
But no, he wanted to read The Inferno. I didn’t figure he would get very far before bogging down. Instead, he has kept at it steadily, and says he likes it better than The Canterbury Tales, which was boring. (Dante is better than Chaucer’s bawdy stories?!? Whose kid is this?) It probably helps that the edition I had includes a summary before each chapter and a gloss on the odd terms and constructions at the end. But still, I’m impressed. And reminded, once again, that I should never underestimate my kids.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
But no matter how much I organize what I teach to my kids, I can’t organize how they learn. Often my favorite topics don’t excite them at all (although they are polite when they know I am excited), and my carefully-crafted organization doesn’t always (ok, often) translate into brilliance. But just when I get down about it, one of them will do or say something that reminds me that they are always learning – they just don’t always put the emphasis where I do. Somewhere along the line, my teenager learned his multiplication tables very well, although I know I didn’t teach it to him, he can answer nearly any geography question I put to him, and he knows more about WWII than I ever taught him. My daughter has picked up all kinds of historical tidbits that come in handy at odd times, and she is way ahead of me at that age when it comes to inter- and intrapersonal awareness. My youngest son knows more about machines than I will ever care to know and can explain how they work in great detail. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I have so carefully crafted for their enjoyment – but it’s important learning nonetheless.
Friday, November 16, 2007
What struck me the most about what he says, though, is how aptly it applies to raising kids. His basic formula for raising happy, healthy dogs is Exercise, Discipline, and Affection (in that order). The same applies to kids, although the order might be reversed. Kids need affection; they need to know that they are loved for who they are, not what they do. They need discipline - not "showing them who's boss", but consistent, reliable "rules, boundaries, and limitations". And they need plenty of exercise to discharge the energy that will otherwise get them into trouble. Millan is a big advocate of psychological challenges for dogs, and giving them a job; kids also do better if their brains are engaged, and if they have a job to do in the household, a way to contribute. Kids need to know that their parents (or the adults around them) are in charge, leading the way, keeping them out of trouble. And kids do best if the adults can maintain a calm, assertive (but not aggressive) energy, confident that they know what needs to happen next, willing to stand up for themselves without picking a fight, gently keeping the kids in their place (which, unlike dogs, changes as they get older). So if you can raise a dog Cesar's way, you can probably do a pretty good job of raising a kid.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
1. I left behind the diapers and the bathroom dashes.
2. They eat real food, on more-or-less normal schedules (except my teens, but they can fake it).
3. They ask more interesting questions.
4. They can follow directions better, and the directions can be more complicated.
5. They can move around town without me, get themselves between activities.
6. They can better entertain themselves.
7. They can clean their own rooms (mostly, if reminded forcefully enough).
8. Their sense of humor move away from potty humor and toward something more sophisticated (ok, so it's puns, but that beats potty jokes).
9. I can actually follow their conversations, and some of them are really interesting.
And most relevantly today:
10. I almost never have to clean vomit from carpet, bed, and kid in the middle of the night. That has to be my absolute least favorite parental job, especially since the child needs me to be patient while they feel miserable.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Slice a baguette thin and spread each slice with a mild soft cheese - I used a goat mozzeralla from a local producer. Top with a small dollop of pesto and half a kalamata olive. Place on a cooling rack and stick under the broiler until the bread just starts to toast. Eat quickly, before it disappears.
Ceviche Salad (for 5-6 people):
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C lime juice
1/2 a moderate head of garlic (3-6 cloves, depending on size)
1/2 tsp salt
Add 1/2 pound of cooked shrimp and let sit for half an hour.
Toss a medium red onion, diced fine, and 8 Roma tomatoes, diced, together with the shrimp and dressing. Serve with baguette to soak up the dressing.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD???
Plato: For the greater good.
Aristotle: To fulfill its nature on the other side.
Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.
Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken's dominion maintained.
Hippocrates: Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its pancreas.
Jacques Derrida: Any number of contending discourses may be discovered within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial intent can never be discerned, because structuralism is DEAD, DAMMIT, DEAD!
Thomas de Torquemada: Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I'll find out.
Timothy Leary: Because that's the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.
Douglas Adams: Forty-two.
Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes also across you.
Oliver North: National Security was at stake.
B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.
Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.
Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.
Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of "crossing" was encoded into the objects "chicken" and "road", and circumstances came into being which caused the actualization of this potential occurrence.
Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.
Aristotle: To actualize its potential.
Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-nature.
Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing events to grace the annals of history. An historic, unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt such an herculean achievement formerly relegated to homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurence.
Salvador Dali: The Fish.
Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.
Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.
Epicurus: For fun.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.
Johann Friedrich von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.
Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.
Werner Heisenberg: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken was on, but it was moving very fast.
David Hume: Out of custom and habit.
Saddam Hussein: This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.
Jack Nicholson: 'Cause it (censored) wanted to. That's the (censored) reason.
Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?
John Sununu: The Air Force was only too happy to provide the transportation, so quite understandably the chicken availed himself of the opportunity.
The Sphinx: You tell me.
Henry David Thoreau: To live deliberately ... and suck all the marrow out of life.
Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.
Mishima: For the beauty of it. The chicken's extension of its sinuous legs sent shivers of a dark despair into the souls not only of the silently watching hens but also the roosters, who felt a sudden sexual desire for their exquisite comrade. The dark courage of the chicken was as beautiful as drops of dew upon jade at midnight, struck by a partial moon, its light filtered through clouds. One of the deeply aroused roosters could stand the intensity of the moment no more and bit off the head of the beautiful, courageous chicken-hero, whose wine blood was deliciously drunken by the road, and he died.
Johnny Cochran: The chicken didn't cross the road. Some chicken-hating, genocidal, lying public official moved the road right under the chicken's feet while he was practicing his golf swing and thinking about his family.
Camus: The chicken's mother had just died. But this did not really upset him, as any number of witnesses can attest. In fact, he crossed just because the sun got in his eyes.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Most of us don't really want to have made these choices, but it is hard not to in this culture, which values so highly the efficient multi-tasker who gets things done. People who don't get things done tend to be viewed as slackers; we no longer honor our wisemen unless they have long, impressive resumes. It is hard to turn down the plethora of good opportunities so we can sit quietly - and harder to turn down the books to just sit; it is easy to feel guilty that we aren't doing something "productive". It is one of the hidden disadvantages of living in a culture with so many options.
So how do I quit being "too busy"? How do I learn to say no, to balance calm against active, to value wisdom over information? I guess recognizing that I've made a choice is the first step - then I have a chance to make a different choice.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Jenny's Easy Yogurt:
Warm 1 gallon of milk, preferably unhomogenized, on the stove until you can just leave your finger in the milk for a count of 10 seconds (this comes out to 110 degrees). Remove half a cup of milk and mix 2-3 tablespoons of a plain yogurt you like into it (the yogurt works as a culture to start the fermentation). Pour the milk and yogurt into the pot and stir well to mix completely. Place the pot in a cooler, wrap the cooler in blankets, and let set for 24 hours. The yogurt can then be spooned out into containers and stored for a week or two; add flavoring now so it doesn't interfere with the setting up.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
People who like to use their yards think that pretty is nice but that uncluttered ain't gonna happen; yards are for playing and working in, not just looking at. Yards hold on-going projects, bike and ski jumps, toys, and anything too big for the house. In our immediate neighborhood, we are the only house with kids and the only ones who apparently make use of their yards; in addition to the relatively non-offensive compost heap, we have forts made of old fence rails, bike jumps, occasional obstacle courses, and, in the summer, a tent trailer for guests (since we don't have a guest room). Luckily, our immediate neighbors enjoy seeing the kids out playing, so we don't have a problem. We also have a pretty tolerant set of covenants, much more accepting of yard activities than many I heard about; at least we can have home-built forts, patches of unmowed field, and a woven-wire fence to keep our dogs in. But in many places, the clean-yard brigades have won the covenant battles and people who want to use their yards are out of luck.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Monday, November 5, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Scientists who study these things are now saying that a new food has to be introduced up to 10 times before a child will actually start eating it regularly. So start small, think like a kid, and be patient. Finger foods are always better than fork foods until kids are well into elementary school, so cut up yellow, red, and orange bell peppers into strips and serve them raw, maybe with ranch dressing. Give kids small amounts of raw broccoli, in small "trees", to eat as finger food with a dip; don't cook it and bring out its stronger flavors until kids are older and used to broccoli (and then cook only lightly or you ruin it). Do a whole platter of finger foods with dip and let them choose what to eat. Try an artichoke with lemon butter; the whole process of tearing the artichoke apart and eating something so improbable tends to intrigue kids (at least if the adults at the table are enthusiastic). Serve a mango/onion salsa on grilled beef. Add tomatoes or some spring spinach to tacos. Make spaghetti squash with butter or spaghetti sauce. Try a mild hummus (made with chickpeas) and crackers. Play with vegetables, have some fun with them - they don't have to be so serious.
Finally, when kids are maybe 7 or 8 (depending on how the adults in the house eat), start feeding them small amounts of the stronger vegetables such as large-leaf spinach, mushrooms, beets, or brussel sprouts, preferably mixed into something else that they will like. My family (including me) learned to eat beets when I started dicing them fine and putting them in a salad with grated carrots, hearts of palm, and plenty of vinegar; the early-season beets are milder than the dark red fall beets. Sautee some mushrooms in lots of butter and serve it with steak. There are some people who are super-tasters, and they still won't like the stronger vegetables no matter how often they try them, but there are lots of ways around the strong flavors that are still healthy; if they don't like broccoli, serve lettuce. Rather than fixing on any one vegetable as critical, serve your child a wide variety of vegetables in a range of colors and find out which ones they like; as long as they cover the rainbow, they will be healthy.