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Gepetto, I want to be a real boy

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Good morning faithful reader. Here in Missouri we had a beautiful weekend of weather and I unexpectedly had a little time on my hands. Yesterday I got some serious time in the garden and completed the cold frame. It was sunny in the 60s and it was too windy to finish raking the backyard. I also futzed around with the big compost bin and remembered to leave it open before the big rain last night. I finished shoveling the cold frame bed and pulled out the grass clumps because the biggest chunk of it was yard prior to the Fall.

I planted lettuce and leaf lettuce. I was out of seed, the seed catalog sitting on my counter unread, so I added some broccoli, cabbage, and peas figuring I would eat the little plantlings in salads. I didn’t have much luck with keeping the deer out of them to growing to adulthood. That sort of thing is supposed to be really nutritious and I would like to eat more salads.

Its been strange living by myself. Its hard to cook for one. I’ve been making a big meal and then eating it for days until it is gone. I made this bowl of dressing that has been two meals thus far with many to come. It was really quite delicious. I took my stale bread crusts, mostly whole wheat store bread, some whole grain white, some wheat/rye made slow to stretch the yeast (14 lbs of flour with the yeast pack) made in a clay oven in the woods in a 19th century camp out by my friend Jeff, and some holiday bread from my sister Betty that got stale on me.

I had sliced and all that dry, I keep a dish of it going through the winter and make dressing when I get a bowl full. I had frozen some Thanksgiving turkey and the drippings and I added that. I also added a bunch of celery, 1/2 red onion, yellow onion, 6 cloves garlic, maybe a tsp of thyme, 1/4 tsp mace, and the rest of my dried white sage from the garden I had dried last year (maybe 2 tbsp).

I baked it in my biggest glass mixing bowl with foil for an hour and without file for 1/2 hour at 400 degrees. Let it cool and yum. The mace really sets it off. Its a powerful spice. I added lots of fresh ground pepper as I didn’t put any in to cook. For left overs I sliced out a piece and baked it in the toaster oven with some smoked gouda and served it with a couple of farm eggs over easy. Will likely do the same for lunch. Better think about dinner, maybe salmon patties and a salad.

Saturday I took Fido for a hike. We were at the dog park but it was such a nice day everyone was there and there were to many big dogs for Fido to relax and run. So we walked down to the trails by Cosmo. Actually that was Sunday, yesterday felt like Sunday but it was Monday being MLK day yesterday. Saturday I did campaign stuff all day. I have two plans to go forward with and am awaiting someone else’s decision which created this space. I also closed down my Facebook account. Hadn’t realized how much I relied on it for pseudosocialization. Maybe I will go out and be a real person instead.

step one part two

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Living alone has forced me to really think about food. Its really inconvenient to live by yourself if you like home cooking. Been making tasty soups I can eat for days and days and realizing I need two thing, because I can’t eat lunch and dinner. The minestrone soup has been good. For lunch on my late day I made hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes so I added some peas, corn, and brie and am baking it for shepherd’s pie.

I have as long as it takes to get done to post. I am going to go back to my paraphrase of the NA Steps in clear, concrete, simple language with all references to hearing removed. Original text is also beautiful, spare and powerful,  from Cyber Recovery. I read the first part to get into the flow and it sounds really good I think. Maybe I’ll strip down all my writing, its kind of powerful and adds to clarity of thought.

In recovery what we call success changes. When we were using drugs we were planning to get high or getting over being sick from being high. Success was staying out of trouble. In recovery success can be staying sober and going to meetings. Some people just do that for a long time. Staying clean is success. Working the steps can be success too but really its about knowing God. That way we can get clean physically, mentally, and spiritually. If we know God we learn how to live. We are honest, help other people, and learn how to love. We love people who don’t even love themselves. Going back to school or getting a job can be success too. Some people think money is success. Recovery does not depend on what we have or what we know. Recovery is being free and not thinking about drugs or wanting to do drugs.

Being sad over not doing something we said we would do teaches us about failure. Being curious about what we can do helps us grow. If we can let ourselves fail we can try to do stuff. When we are clean we have to be brave and try new things. Thinking things are better then they are or worse then they are is like when we were using drugs.

Wondering what other people feel and think, especially about us looks  like a problem. This helps us think things over and get advice. It helps us learn about God. Learning more about what is good and what is bad helps us know God. We don’t believe old lies we heard or be afraid of things we don’t understand. Learning about God is important in NA.

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getting tired, looks like there will be a step 3. Thanks for checking this out and sharing it if you do. Its cool stuff and I am blessed to have been asked to get to know it more deeply. Your comments are requested and appreciated.

“i am mostly water, 70 percent, don’t worry about the rent”

Listening to an alt country mix John made for me a long time ago. Great stuff, late 90s. Feeling grateful and content. Last week was a veritable whirlwind and until now I have subscribed to a drama free lifestyle for a long time. But not always and even as I’ve gone about a more ordinary existence I have known a penchant for action lays. Certainly won’t have to worry about boredom anytime soon as it looks.

Fido has been sleeping all day getting up only to follow me to whatever room I’m in and crashing. After better then a week of Olive 24/7 I think he just wants rest. We did walk down to the park and he played a bit with a 6 month old Blue Sheltie. I don’t think I’d ever seen one that cute. She got Fido to chase her but she was slow and they didn’t figure out how to play anything else so we walked the trail home.

I was tired today, slept poorly and slept in for me. I lay down for a nap but didn’t go down and ended up just reading a Spider Man comic. The 70s stuff has a strong since of nostalgia for me. “Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider Man” I remember well from when I was a boy. Tarantula is the villain and I remember drawing him, even the foreshortened right leg and having to imagine the toe spike that’s imbedded in the wall. He was like if Spider Man and Zorro had a kid being Hispanic and the half mask. Some of the stuffs pretty solid but there’s a cheese factor. My next one features the “Death Dance of the Hypno Hustler!”

I forgot this song is on the CD, awesome. Whenever I hear myself its unsettling and hard not to listen to myself and yet its not entirely pleasant (and not just because  I’m such a bad singer).

Jeff and Becky and their kiddos came over for dinner. I was hoping Fido would get over his weirded out by kids thing if he had some sustained time with kids but no such luck. I had made minestrone soup yesterday. As a a base I used all my canned tomatoes (pretty much done with canned food all things being equal, I’ll pass on the skyrocketing BPA levels thank you very much).

While I got that going I took 2 local pasture raised cube steaks, floured them in whole wheat flour and browned in the cast iron skillet. Chopped them into little pieces and all the drippings and even the saucer of flour figuring it would thicken. I would later regret that move because I was going to someone who was gluten frees house for a potluck I thought but it was a chile supper and I was late so it didn’t matter anyway. Had a gluten free beer speaking of nostalgia. (Long term readers will remember I lost my papa and gluten free this and that was a frequent blog topic for awhile.)

Oh yeah, I fried the cube steaks in bacon grease, its not much meat for a giant pot of soup and the extra flavor didn’t hurt. I then added the giant kolrabi (well half of it, going to use it for chickpea potato salad with some russets for the work potluck), a couple of Michigan carrots, 3 Michigan red onions, a green pepper, half a bottle of homemade cherry wine (my sainted Mama taught me to add a little sweet to take the bite out of tomatoes), 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, some spinach, and purple cabbage. Whoop fresh green beans snapped real short, the black eyed peas I’d made at New Years, and a sizable amount of dried basil from the garden and Turkish oregano. At the end I added most of a can of black olives I had from Thanksgiving and some whole wheat spiral pasta.

It was yummy, pretty healthy too, and had a minestrone taste to it. Ended up adding a tsp of Better then Bullion too. Jeff and Becky are traveling and to hang out a few hours in the afternoon I thought soup and salad would be nice. I did an all local salad with market lettuce, spinach, purple cabbage, shredded carrot, heart nuts (a cross of Black and English walnuts) from the Michigan market, and Michigan apples.

I made a homemade dressing as well. I added apple cider vinegar to the last of the tahini in its own jar and some Michigan honey (boy you know local honey is cool but the honey that’s like the honey that I grew up on is just more honeyer to me), a little turmeric, a lot of freshly ground mustard (the kids enjoyed the mortar and pestle), maybe something else, I was gabbing with the guests.

Jeff brought a loaf of wheat/rye bread he’d made in the woods in a clay oven. He’s a history buff and reenactor who has a big 19th century or so camp out in Missouri every year at this time and we hang out for a bit before or after. Jeff hosted me on my first visit to Columbia and showed me the town I fell in love with. Its funny in the campaign I say “I love Columbia” and people always say “How long have you been here?”, its funny. He made it old school stretching the yeast, using only a packet for 14 pounds of flour like they would have in the olden days and stuff was expensive. They bought yeast from brewers who grew it.

Early in that paragraph I hopped over to Facebook and told a friend one of my favorite stories about my dad when she had mentioned David Bowie, here it is [One time a long time ago Dad called from the road and asked my mom to speak to me. He said, “Have you ever heard of David Bowie?” “Um, yeah Dad I’ve heard of him why.” “Well I went to get fuel last night about 3:00 in the morning and all the fuel pumps were blocked by these tour buses, so I went inside and I said ‘Hey whose buses are blocking the fuel pumps?’ and this anemic little fuck came up and said ‘They’re my buses I’m David Bowie'” Dad went on “So I said are you any relation to Jim Bowie? He had a knife that could cut his hair, you could use a knife like that.” This was 80s Bowie so his hair wasn’t that long but Dad was sensitive about stuff like that. A couple years ago I showed him The Man Who Fell to Earth and told him that’s who he’d told off.]

Well its getting late and I still have dishes to wash.

more blessed then lucky

I have to say I kind of love the three day weekend. Its closer to the 14 hour work week I dream of. Hosting a party yesterday really made it seem like another Saturday and so today feels like a Sunday, minus the morning paper. Its cooling off and still breezy. My one regret from the party was that it was to windy for a fire. But the sun is shining so it seems more brisk then cold. I spent some time outside puttering in the yard. I planted the last of my discount tulips. I put them near the house by the rain barrel at the West end in the back where its sunny. One of the secrets of winter gardening is work in the sun and I was low and out of the wind.

I also tried to rake. I finished the last little bit of the front yesterday but it was way too windy. The fence row was in the sun and out of the wind so I cleared that out. The compost could use the green from all the ivy I pulled out. If I get anymore gumption I’ll try something in doors. Like re-caulking the bath tub. I am listening to some music, my Wangbuckler stuff. Its kind of charming, if I do say so myself. John Fenn is really awesome. I need to contact him and see if he is going to put that stuff online so I can link it here. Its strange listening to yourself, oddly compelling.

For having a dinner party not a lot of mess to clean up and the house is pretty clean. Been sprawling into the empty bedrooms. Why not? At some point I guess I’ll have to reshuffle someday but my as well use the space. The party was pretty fun, good conversation. People came in little waves so we all got to eat around the table but in shifts. Everything came out pretty well.

I made pulled pork. I’d gotten a pork roast from the Coopers at the last Columbia market and I used a cup of market salsa, a cup of Sticky Pig barbecue sauce, green pepper, 2 red onions (Monroe market), stick of celery, lot of garlic (some from Monroe), tsp cumin seed, tsp coriander seed, tbsp chili powder and tbsp paprika so I had a nice local content and it was tasty. Cooked it until it fell off the bone, pulled it removed fat and bone and let it cook another hour or three depending on when you came to the party. I through the bone out back and Fido got to it first and ate it. I was kind of proud of him keeping it from Olive and have a lot of faith in both of them (2 dogs/1 bone can be serious trouble).

I’ve probably mentioned my family always ate pork on New Years so you root ahead. If you eat chicken you’ll scratch and beef leaves you standing chewing your cud. My sister made fish I saw so she could swim ahead. Healthier if not luckier then the other white meat. I also made black eyed pea/potato salad as I think black eyed peas on New Years is a southern thing. They’re not my favorite bean and hard to make good vegetarian so I didn’t try and used this recipe adapted for chick peas I saw in the paper. I peeled some and chopped potatoes (Yukon golds and a couple Russets [best thing I could find at Mosers which is not where you want to buy potatoes]) and boiled them til almost soft drained and let cool. Earlier I had cooked my black eyed peas with a little salt, dash of cayenne & turmeric just to boost the flavor a bit. Then I mixed that with 1/2 cup or so chopped parsley out of the garden, the juice and grated peal of a large lemon, also had cooked maybe 4 tbsps garlic in 3 tbsps olive oil and cooked on lowest heat for 6 minutes with my garlic pieces pretty big and added some freshly ground pepper. Not to shabby if I do say so myself and healthier then the usual, although I may add Miracle Whip to the leftovers.

My other dish was noodles which Asians eat on the lunar new year for luck but 1/1 is close enough. I called it savory peach and cashew noodles but it should be called noodle dumb ass. Harry always called made up stuff from what you have on hand “dumb ass”. I actually like to cook this way, brings out my creativity. I made a sauce out most a pint of peach butter (a butter has more fruit then sugar, unlike jams and jellies, healthier and almost as yummy but doesn’t keep like jelly so I was eager to use it), with Braggs, fried carrot, shallots, green pepper, 5 dried Thai chili peppers, and a chipotle bullion cube. I thickened it with the last of Kevin’s Thanksgiving rue and added a good splash of sesame oil at the end. I mixed it with 1/2 egg noodles and 1/2 whole wheat egg noodles because Mosers didn’t have Asian noodles. Oh yeah and some canned cashews, they were in their too.

The eggnog was special. I started with 11 Lacunae eggs (the shells are a pastel green, very distinctive) one was cracked and with a raw egg dish you’re already risking salmonella so I set aside which allowed me to show it off. I whisked the yolks and then slowly added 1 1/2 cups sugar. Mixed in a quart of milk and a quart of heavy whipping cream as well as 2 cups Wild Turkey, 1/2 cup of spiced rum, 2 cups E&J brandy, mixed that up and put it in a giant pitcher. After dinner I beat the egg whites until they were half way to custard and mixed that in best I could in my now two pitchers (I need an enormous bowl to make a full recipe, next year I’ll do a half batch). Then I beat another 1/2 quart of heavy whipping cream until it was most of the way to whipped cream and mixed that up. Fresh grated nutmeg for a topper and delicious. Not the heaviest nog I’d ever had but for carrying all that liquor it was pretty thick.

2012 is off to a pretty good start though to be honest I feel more blessed then lucky.

Categories: cooking, dogs, gardening Tags:

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I put in a movie, more to see if my DVD player works then wanting to watch a movie. Mostly I am tired of being productive and not tired enough to go to sleep and for such was invented television. Cancelling my satellite and having my housemates move out has made for something akin to if not loneliness then certainly a satiation with being with my own thoughts. A rarity as I’m rather into it. Watching a horror movie Harry loaned me. I think I’ve seen it before, HP Lovecraft’s From Beyond, pretty good as I recall for what it is.

Its been a pretty relaxing evening. Took advantage of Olive keeping Fido company all day and got some dinner at Wendy’s and did a little shopping. Got some of the things on my list a nice can opener with big teeth and a cork screw at Macy’s. I also picked up a few cardigans at a good price. Struck out on a few things too, no rain jacket, garlic press or even a spatula like what I was looking for. I’m not a fan of shopping but it was tolerable.

Glad to have wrapped up another week. Getting busier but I was thankful it was OK for a while. I did my education group on some selections from the Enchiridion. It was well received. I call stoicism the only evidence based philosophy because of its heavy influence on cognitive behavioral therapy. I had given a lot of the Dover Thrift Editions away and been speaking him up to some of the smart dudes in treatment so I think that paved the way for greater acceptance.

Yesterday I walked dogs and made soup. Walking a dog is a joy walking two dogs is a bit of a chore. Olive is definitely a hound as she likes to stop and sniff at pretty much everything except when she is pulling on the leash trying to smell something ahead. She also has a pit bull stubbornness and some pull. We got into a little test of wills when I finally made her sit. Ultimately we made it to the dog park, started making the rounds, lots of big dogs so both of them were a little timid and then Olive jumped up on a picnic table full of regulars, mostly older. There was this general look of disdain and I grabbed Olive by the collar and pulled her off the table a little to roughly for the general sensibilities and it was a bit embarrassing. Closest thing I’ve been to losing my cool for a while. Made me glad I never had kids. I am known for being calm, gentle even, but if I had to deal with kids at odd times I suspect I would grab ’em up, maybe even bop ’em like I did to Fido and Olive summer before last when they were going after Remi the neighbors little purse dog. Glad I’ve done batterer intervention for a long time. Makes me look past the bullshit of easy excuses and own up my behavior and work on changing it. Don’t think I’ll get short with Olive again.

Soup was a better experience. I looked up a recipe just to make sure there weren’t any  celeriac tricks I needed to know. There aren’t but I got a pretty good recipe which I only slightly modified. I cooked three shallots in a teaspoon of bacon grease, added the peeled and chopped celeriac and three yukon golds also chopped. Then a quart of homemade chicken stock, a Michigan apple (the rest I think left at Brenda’s), and a bit more then a 1/2 tsp of thyme. Also added a kielbasa and a half (Kowalski’s holiday kielbasa from Danny’s in Monroe) and cooked it til it was done about a half hour. Added some of Kevin’s rue when it wasn’t thick enough. It was good and different. I like making soup cooking for one. Everything is in one pot but you still get your veggies.

Tomorrow, market, shopping, laundry (60 & sunny definitely using the clothesline), hiking with the dogs (patiently), and cleaning house. Wouldn’t mind doing some yard work. I still have tulips to put in and haven’t finished raking even the front yard. Glad real winter has stayed her hand. With the beautiful day putting off some house cleaning to Sunday is not a bad idea. Not having people over until 3 and a 3 day weekend. sweet.

feeling a bit chill

December 18, 2011 3 comments

I was watching this pretty intense Australian movie called The Tracker when the VCR just went dead. Got it going again but now I’m blogging. Its got a grooving sound track and its a little heavy handed but good. shit. video out again. I think my DVD player is on the fritz. I guess I am more likely to cancel netflix then buy another one. It’ll be nice to stop them from dipping into my bank account. I haven’t missed directv and haven’t tried to connect the antenna I got from Harry yet. I kind of like peace and quiet.

What a great day, it was so beautiful, especially for December. The sun was out some and I hung a load of laundry out. I made soup. I used chicken stock I’d made and the turkey neck left over from Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of meat on a neck and Fido enjoyed a little integument and such. I added some water a piece and a half of celery and maybe 1/2 a cup of celeriac leaves. I chunked the celery up big. I also added herbs from the garden mostly parsley but also oregano, marjoram and wild onions. I also threw in almost a cup of lentils and cooked that until the lentils were done and turned it off.

I went shopping with Sarah and had a pleasant time at the mall and such and drove carefully through the maelstrom of pushy people on cell phones wheeling around in big SUVs. Didn’t end up getting anyone but me stuff but I got some neat stuff. I had a $15 Target card for being a good worker bee and got a metal colander (I’ve been looking at thrift stores for years and hadn’t found one) and a glass loaf pan.

I had no luck at the Shoe Department looking for a goretex or goretexlike hiking shoe. Did find one at “the locally owned shoe store that happens to be at the mall” as Sarah was an excellent mall navigator having grown up at the mall in her mom’s bookstore,  and got a new pair of Merrels for around a hundred bucks. I walk enough to justify it and I ripped the seams out of the goretex in my current two year pair when I was sinking knee deep in the mud floating the Lemine.

At the kitchen gadget store got my dough mixer I was missing from the pumpkin pies. Even a few pies will justify the expense. No luck on getting a sieve though, I’ll have to try flea markets and antique malls or else start shopping in a time machine. Stopped at Westlakes as Sarah wasn’t finding her present but I got some bathroom caulk and a cute little shot glass that also has teaspoon and tablespoon markers. Should come in handy. I did finish my soup before Michael came with some mushrooms from Harry, a few carrots, a handful of little taters, some kale, some rue Kevin made on Thanksgiving to thicken it, and garlic. Also threw in 3 or 4 semi dried thai chile peppers.

Maybe I’ll make some tea with Baileys and have a piece of my pumpkin pie. No way am I going to make one for Christmas. I’ve been eating it every day for better then half a week. Should have offered Michael a slice when he came to pick me and Fido up to go to the off leash dog trails by Cosmo park. They’re extensive with a couple good little climbs and some nice views. Goes down to the boardwalk and we hiked the extra loop by the golf course. Fido stayed pretty close and had fun playing with Olive. My face feels windblown from the brisk day and my new shoes have some inaugural mud but performed well on the muddy hills.

I could’ve gotten more done on the Christmas front but it was a fun day, the dog had a good time, and I got a lot of other stuff done. I planted the rest of the 50 pack tulips I got at a discount earlier this month. I continued to fold them into the strawberry patch and pull grass. Need to get in and clip up the white sage gone amok and plant another six pack and I’m done with that project. Probably after Christmas though, I’ve really gotta get wrapping and follow through on an idea.

Expect to hear more from me and of course the annual tradition of the holiday letter. Probably would have done it already but it was a somber year here at Leslie Lane. And with all the magic and the growth and getting better at standing on our own two feet, or four feet really for some, it is still worth celebrating a new year coming on. Hope you can make it for some lucky new years dinner, mimosas perhaps, Baileys and home roasted coffee, and weather permitting a fire. Any time after 3 would be lovely and if you get no more invitation then this, consider yourself invited.

 

Categories: cooking, dogs, gardening, hiking

Waiting for the Sunday Paper

December 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t like to blog this early on a Sunday morning. I like to drink coffee and read the newspaper, cover to cover, less the adds and sports. But no paper. I see Mary across the street looking under all the cars and wandering around the front yard. Its tough for the newspapers in this brave new world we’re creating. The newspaper continues to shrink, both in content and type size, while the price continues to climb.

I have more compassion for my ever changing cast of newspaper delivery folks. They seem on average to last about 6 weeks, some a little more, some a lot less. Its a tough gig, piece work pay, hard wear and tear on the vehicle, tough hours, especially on the weekends and your paid as independent contractor so no taxes taken out and that wicked 11% Self Employment tax coming next April. Probably good none of them make it. Its mostly black folks here in Columbia. I’ve had 2 clients land this job or helping their girlfriends do this job because the Tribune won’t let Felons deliver the newspaper.

Its a mean old world I tell people, almost every day. Most people don’t know, they think they’re losers and fuck ups and young ones don’t know that it used to be different. If you stay on track you mostly catch some traction and move forward. Unless your on the sex offender registry and live in a tent in the woods. Then you do the right thing just to keep death at bay and stave off the inevitable physical decline as best you can until some random tragedy closes this chapter.

I am bitter without a newspaper, my little church of knowing what happened yesterday. That’s where they put the good stuff too, the funnies in color, the gardening column, the travelogues, and high art biopics that my brother found amusing for redneck Missouri.

My legs are a little sore. Did some serious damage on the strawberry patch. Last years month of super hot hit them hard and the zoysa grass is quick to fill the gap. Its hard to pull those long roots all intertwined with the surviving berries. But I keep plugging away and putting in the super cheap off season tulip bulbs I bought. Its not helping me get other things done with Christmas coming but its getting more off season every day so it too has its time pressures. It’ll be worth it in the Spring.

Made Split Pea Dal for Erica and Jamie’s Solstice party. It was fun. Make a dish that looks like baby poop if you want a lot of leftovers to take home. I also took some green tomato chutney in a santa cup. Glad I did because Erica gave me one of her Skin Grin All Purpose Herbal Salve. Gave me a tour of her garden with keyhole beds and discussed her experience with chickens (layers doing nicely, eating chickens were more trouble in that stretch of heat I mentioned). It was fun making the scene and hanging out around the fire. I have a reputation as a sort of recluse (“an Indian who stays close to the fort”, Jamie said.) So people made a big deal of my showing up.

Also Kevin is starting to move out so with just Fido around, he’s running around with his Santa doll now, pretty cute. I think he’s watching for the paper as well. I’m probably projecting though. I helped him with a load yesterday and promised to help him today but I have a lot on my agenda. This being social thing takes time. Sarah and I are doing a little Christmas shopping and hope to catch Christina in the Christmas Chorale this afternoon. I also pledged to go to the off leash areas by Cosmo park with Michael and Olive. I am hoping Olive will teach Fido to stay closer when we’re on the trails.

Hold that thought. I’m drinking some medium-light Ethiopian this morning. Pretty yummy. Whoops there’s the paper. TTFN faithful reader.

Categories: cooking, diy, dogs, gardening, politics

Standard Bronze Wins the Gold

November 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I can’t write anything about Thanksgiving without beginning with gratitude. Working in the field of addiction treatment I see first hand the power of that emotion, those thoughts and actions, allowing acceptance of present day realities as a platform for a better life. I saw a meme going around happiness doesn’t make you grateful, gratitude makes you happy. There’s a lot of truth there.

Nonetheless Thanksgiving takes it on the chin as a celebration of colonial imperialism and a day devoted to gluttony and excess. I was chatting with an individual of Native American extraction who asked about my holiday plans and after sharing them I asked after his. He said he wasn’t making a big of it because it didn’t have positive associations for him as the whole thing turned out. I couldn’t do anything but apologize. Another friend rails against Thanksgiving like its an abhorrent thing and his angst ridden pseudo-suffering seems more like an excuse to judge. I could do nothing but ignore it.

For me, a fan of both family and community and cooking good food, its a day to be celebrated without limits. I am a fan of what I call “the good life”, living well but in harmony. I wanted to make a feast but without promoting things that I find abhorrent. And with the able assistance of my housemate Kevin we cooked the shit out of this Thanksgiving with local sustainably raised stuff and put out a feast we could be proud of.

You may recall the cooking began last week when I made chicken stock out of the bits and pieces of my roasting chicken I had made the open up room in the freezer. I also got my shopping done but only because Kevin made a couple of trips to the store so I could add a few things.

Tuesday I picked up my bird. I had ordered an heirloom turkey at the Root Cellar a couple weeks back and learned they would do first come first serve at 10:00 but I had already booked a 2 hour 9:30. I wanted a big one under the mistaken notion that females are bigger and you get more white meat. Actually when I looked up the particular on the Standard Bronze I ended up with I learned males are bigger which makes a lot of sense when I think of it.

Regardless, my friend Gretchen had agreed to pick it up for me at 10:00 and I drove to her place on my lunch hour. Helpfully, Fresh Air was replaying a segment from 1987, I think, with a food chemist on how to roast a turkey. She said brine it overnight with a cup of salt, 2 cups for giant turkeys and more if you use Kosher salt. This is of course for fresh birds only. Corporate birds are pre-brined of course amongst other things in their little plastic shells.

The show had just gone on to touch on the trickiness of getting the thighs & legs up to 155 degrees without overcooking the breast when I got to Gretchens. I considered hearing her out but I was on my lunch hour and still had hopes of getting lunch. Apparently Terri Gross is pretty attached to this segment so maybe I’ll catch it next year but I made a note of the phenomenon and got my bird.

I had to give Gretchen more money because it was a mammoth thing at 21 #s and at $7.50 a pound it was a chunk of change. A considerable chunk of change. But for good reason. Turkey farming is tricky being willful birds prone to total die offs for more then a couple reasons. Bobtail Whites, the 99.9% turkey of choice is sedate and unnaturally big breasted to the point of not being able to bread without a turkey baster anymore. They can fly and get into more mischief and you factor in inputs and risk and no externalized costs (corporate turkeys pollute the water, eat commercial corn with all of its issues, and are charnal houses of horror that diminish the souls of everyone who devours them) and they are appropriately priced.

To live in a world of small family farms we have to pay more. Right now Americans only spend 7% or so of their income on food. Cheap food is expensive to the planet, the farmer, and our communities. Europe spends around 10% and I think in the Philippines they pay 40%, some countries are higher. Regardless of all that it was cool enough to leave the turkey in the car until after work when I threw it in the fridge.

Wednesday morning I pulled the Rouge Vif D’Etampes Pumpkin(AKA Cinderella pumpkin)  off the front porch, washed it good, cut it in half, scooped out the guts and baked on a cookie sheet with some water and pumpkin spices (just to scent the house). I roasted the seeds (greased cookie sheet with olive oil, sprinkle with Bob’s Steak Seasoning [corporate seasoned sugar/salt Dad bought]) which were not numerous but big and juicy and they came out good.

I cooked the pumpkin until it was soft, could’ve been softer, peeled and mashed and beat. I had promised Kevin I would blend it when I offered to prep the pumpkin vs using the canned variety but I was already overwhelmed by the pumpkin mess I had so far for a before work morning, even on my late day. {I just made a second pot of coffee for this cold and rainy Saturday morning, its a medium roast South Seas coffee I roasted last weekend, oh so delicious, and the 2nd press pot is such a luxury.}

Wednesday night I brined the turkey. I did it in the bag and added a cup of salt (1/2 canning salt, all I had), water and all the ice in the freezer (and they laughed when I threw the rest of the bag in the freezer at my last Summer party). After thinking about it and the pasture raised turkey being a little tough last year I added another 3/4 cup iodized salt (all that I had). The radio lady said it could be crusted on, you just got to rinse it good.

I put the bag in a bucket and the bucket in the basement/garage (I am blessed with a split level new readers). Then I realized I didn’t really know how to cook a turkey. Up until this year my method was to say “Hey Mom” or later “Hey Dad, how do you cook a turkey again?” This is why grief is intrinsically a year long commitment. You never really know what someone means to you until they’re not there and you have to experience the loss.

With my mom it was pickles. Thinking of the seasons it must have been 6 or 7 months after she died, I know I wasn’t thinking of it every day anymore, when Amee, my wife at the time, was talking to her mom about her making pickles. It hit me like a thunderclap, I would never again eat my mom’s pickles and I just started crying.

But thank God now orphans have the internet and Whole Paycheck, though lacking any other parental quality reminded me of the particulars of roasting a turkey. I see why they hold the 1 spot on Google as it was easy to find, well organized and comprehensive. They recommended less salt in the brine but I was undaunted because you don’t make a lot of money selling salt but you do selling “healthier” food. (You always have to factor in the economic angle of who is providing your information). They did mention you are supposed to pull out the squishy things which I had forgotten to do and pulled them and the sizable neck out of Tom’s yahoo.

I think we do our birds at 350 1/4 hour per pound and Whole Paycheck said 325-375 so I felt good about that. On the breast up or down debate they split the difference with an hour of down and flip it so you get the best of both worlds, juicier breast and crisped up skin. Cover it with foil but uncover for an hour, which Kevin suggested half the time covered, half uncovered, under the theory you can always cover it back up if it gets done to quick as I had been bouncing my research off him as he wrapped up his first day of solid cooking.

Thursday I got going on the turkey around 7:30. I pulled it out of the ice water and rinsed it good and gave it an hour to get rid of the chill before going into the oven which both Kevin and Whole Paycheck recommended. It took me near that amount of time to deal with it. I carefully went over the pretty thick skin and pulled out feather pieces. Bronzes are notorious for this I later read and this turkey lived up to it. Knowing it was intrinsic to the breed made me feel better. After laying out a ton of money I was kind of expecting perfection.

I also rubbed the bird with olive oil and stuffed with a quartered orange (Kevin’s idea) that had been hanging in the fridge for a while, left over fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme) Kevin had bought for the dressing with some marjoram and oregano from the garden. I also shoved in a few pieces of celery, heavy on the leafy part and a few whole cloves of garlic.

I added a pint of seasoned chicken stock and 1/2 bottle of an Italian white wine. I didn’t pre-heat the oven on consideration of the letting the turkey get to room temp made me think a gradual rise in temp was better. I folded in my turkey and wrapped in foil on the bottom rack because that’s the only way it would fit. Got her going at 8:30 as planned.

I made stock out of the neck, organs & folds of skin from the neck end and the ass end and I threw in the ass as well. I added marjoram and oregano and mace and set that to simmer for 4 hours.

Kevin helped me flip the bird and yest that pun was used which was a little tricky but wooden spoons up both ends did the job. 1/2 hour later and a 1/2 hour later I basted again. At its weight I was anticipating a 5 1/4 hour cook time with checking it a 1/2 hour early recommended by Whole Paycheck I pulled the foil off. Before then Kevin had made wing tip booties to keep them from getting over done.

The breast got nice and bronzed early so we put a piece of foil over that. We checked the temp in the crook of the thigh and we got 155 at 12:30 and pulled it out to rest until carving.

The dark meat was strong tasting, almost gamy and was hard to carve. The white meat was incredibly delicious. Juicy and intensely flavorful, I couldn’t have been more pleased. There was a layer of subcutaneous fat and the thin was thick so it wasn’t particularly edible but you shouldn’t be eating that stuff anyway. There was some integument I’ve been cutting out and tossing to Fido as well but I suspect that’s the cost of doing business with having birds that walk around and lead a life.

Reviews were very positive, it was a fine looking bird and people liked it. It was part of an excellent meal with a great assemblage of interesting people and was a pretty nice Thanksgiving. In addition to the turkey I also did mashed potatoes; red new potatoes with the skins on mashed with butter, whole milk and sour cream and sprinkled with minced wild onions (the fall crop is in, if you get them early they are like a more pungent chive, much better in my opinion).

Kevin did an array of from the basics with foody flair and put over 16 hours in the kitchen in two days. The guests brought some wonderful items as well leading to a colorful array of delectable morsels. Kevin paired the meal with a Stone Hill (out of Hermann MO) Norton that was excellent, dry and flavorful. We probably were easily pushing 90% local for the spread and it tasted like it.

I would like to tell you about the party and I may but I’ve been writing this post for days and my coffees getting drunk and I am wanting to get about my day three of a a four day weekend. A trip to the store, some house cleaning while I have momentum and its getting to be Christmas tree time, perhaps tomorrow.

they’re dropping napalm in the streets

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

No not really, I’m just watching last week’s Walking Dead. Its been a productive day and it is nice to sit back and relax with a little television. I got the last of my shit shoveled and Dad’s truck cleared out, washed out, and parked in the garage. Only took me 3 weeks longer then I had anticipated but at least its done. Next step is to call a lawyer and make an appt. to see if I can get to keep it.

After that I turned to cooking. I made chicken paprikash and an Afghan pumpkin dish. The chicken was a big old roaster from the 4-H girl. I had cut it up and brined it yesterday so I rinsed off the pieces and laid them over a couple of big onions, three green peppers, 2 mildly hot red peppers and close to a pound of carrot pieces. I also added maybe a cup of tomatoes that ripened on the counter. I scalded their skins off and cut them up, a head of garlic as well, cooked in a quart of stock (a pint would have been plenty the broth was waterier then it could have been.

I baked that at 350 till it was done, another hour wouldn’t of hurt it any its good falling off the bone. I also threw in some red potatoes in lieu of the egg noodles. When its done you take some of the broth and stir in sour cream and eat it all in a big pile.

The pumpkin I seeded and peeled and chopped into inch or so pieces. I fried a big pan of them in olive oil till they were browned good. I mixed a sauce with half a little can of tomato paste and an equal amount of water, another cup of water, one big clove of garlic pressed, 1/2 tsp fresh ground mixed pepper, 1/2 tsp fresh ginger ( i keep mine in the freezer, works out well), 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup agave nectar, & 1/2 tbsp of salt. Mixed that up and poured it over it and let it cook for 1/2 hour. you serve on a smear of unsweetened yogurt and put a dollop on top.

Amy and Michael came over and brought Olive which was good for Fido. After Kevin moves out I’m going to start having her over for sleepovers and I get her for 12 days over New Years. He’ll like that and I can leave him with them guilt free when I drive John’s car to California. On that I think I am going take Amtrack back. I’d like to spend the extra couple of days with John but man flying sucks.

That was pretty much the day and I guess I have the time to put up another poem. This one I wrote upon waking up from a dream with the first line in my head and the whole thing flowed in the time it took to write it down. Oops, that’s Harry pulling up to watch the show so next time.

Categories: cooking, dogs, family

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Watching True Lies and realizing I don’t really like any of the characters and I am having a lot of tro0uble caring what happens to them. It is not uninteresting though, zany characters in preposterous situations, like an Elmore Leonard story. Its scratched, second one in a row Netflix. I might join the masses and cancel. I think I’m going to dump cable as well. Go to broadcast TV, I think its been a week since I’ve had it on. I’m going to wait for a week or two, when I will have a guest(s).

“What’d we learn Palmer?” “I don’t know”. that about sums it up. After rating 500 movies Netflix doesn’t have a clue what I really like. I’m going to have to start doing a little research before I get movies. Watching some True Grit now, the old one still has charm, liked the new one a fair bit as well.

Today got rolling pretty early and cleaned house in further preparation for the formal giving of thanks. The fridge was way over do and Kevin pitched in on the bathrooms so the place is now pretty tidy, although there is always still more to do. Kevin and I hit the market and i had a list and bought mass quantities. [“I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains”, when asked if she wanted whiskey, nice line.]

At the market I stopped by the Legacy Beef place. Figuring the market before Thanksgiving everyone is having a good day but him. We talked cooking cube steaks and he had me tell his wife how i made my swiss steak. They had the buy one get 2nd half off so I got that and decided to stock up on ground round since Brenda was coming and it was slow day for him so he sold me hotdogs at $6.25 for 2 pounds and threw in a couple beef sticks. All in all pretty sweet, might start buying in quantity less often if its going to save me money.

I also told them I’d stuck up for them with someone saying Veganism was the solution to the envioronmental problems. I told them I would put the carbon footprint of my local pasture raised beef against processed vegan food from California. There isn’t a solution, there are lots of solutions. They liked that which started a general conversation of OWS and one was with the “they don’t have a message or specific demands”. I said if the experts can’t fix it we can’t expect a bunch of hippies but economic justice was definitely the theme. How about putting some people in jail, fixing the regulations that allowed it to happen, getting rich people to pay some taxes.

I got more new red potatoes, onions, butternut squash, brats, eggs. The egg boy had his give aways, this year a pen with a pull out two year calendar. I gave him a tip when I went to the credit union I had gotten some crisp new 2 dollar bills and some dollar coins so i gave him a bill and one for his brother. God its been 5 years I’ve been buying their eggs, watching them grow up.

Had Guy and Gretchen over for coffee. Guy is my realtor so he was curious to see what I’d done with the house. Didn’t get after me for not doing anything with my floors yet. Liked the window I had put in, thanks again Eric, and I gave him credit for the wooden picket fence as Dad was trying to talk me into going with the vinyl fake stuff.

I showed them the coffee roasting set up and roasted a batch and made a pot of the medium roast Guat which was better then the light, a pretty good coffee. Tomorrow I’ll try the Honduran, I am hoping it gets better as well, none of them were great as a light roast in this batch. Gretchen is also interested in the Odd Fellows and agreed to pick up my turkey for me on Tuesday.

After a little rest I couldn’t really gear up and decided I would do a nap. I have a fairly productive day planned for Sunday with a project and an elaborate dinner. I cut up my roasting chicken, its huge. I saved the neck and back and innards and such and am going to make stock to cook the turkey in and maybe Kevin needs some for the dressing.

I am brining the chicken now in salt, sugar and apple cider vinegar and water. Tomorrow I will paprikash it up plus i think i need paprika so i will try to get my Thanksgiving grocery shopping in as well as finally complete the horse manure project. There’s some cleaning tasks I wouldn’t mind doing but that’s already a pretty full day. Its a short week but a chock full one.

Maybe I’ll try to start winding down and get some sleep before I get back in it tomorrow.

 

Categories: cooking, environment, politics