Sunday, October 28, 2007

Facing Reality, with Recipes

I've finally come to the conclusion that pending parenthood this third and unexpected time around is taking more out of me than I was admitting to, and some things are going to have to go. So SlowishFood is going on a sabbatical of indeterminate length. I'm hoping to get back to all things food, as my concerns about our food choices remain as passionate as when I began this blog, but I find right now I'm cooking and experimenting less, and just have a lot less to say -- even if I had the energy to sit down and write, which I'm finding I don't.

So I leave you with two recipes, one a new one and one that's been my favorite for years.

First, the new one. And pardon my being apparently the only person on the planet who didn't know this party trick. We recently went to our friends Bill and Toni's house for the weekend. They live in a small town outside Indianapolis. Their house is huge -- originally a very generous house on two lots that had been generously added to over the years. They have two kids, one slightly older and another slightly younger than M, and their home is a kid paradise: Goldfish pond out back, motorized cars, Thomas table with full setup, room for little boys to strip off their shoes and shirts and run around like English schoolboys in Lord of the Flies.

Toni made some wonderful meatballs when we were there, and I asked if she would have a chance to give me the recipe. She looked at me like I was making fun of her, which I wasn't. I was being sincere. They were delicious. Here's the recipe, which apparently everyone in the Western world but me knew:
  • Mix 1 large jar grape jelly and 1 equal-sized jar salsa in a slow cooker. Add however many frozen meatballs, bought in bulk, that you want. Cook on low for several hours until the meatballs are hot and ooey. These would be great on egg noodles, although we ate them just as they were.
And the second recipe, requiring slightly more effort and resources, comes from Zelda Fitzgerald from Zelda Fitzgerald: The Collected Writings, and is for "Breakfast":
  • See if there is any bacon, and if there is, ask the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily. Also in the case of bacon, do not turn the fire too high, or you will have to get out of the house for a week. Serve preferably on china plates, though gold or wood will do if handy.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

DKW 2007

The group at high tea. Pardon my blink.
This past weekend was our annual Damned Knitters Weekend, or DKW. (You might remember last year's weekend.) It was at my house, a locale I'd volunteered a week or so before the rabbit died. My plan initially was to get the place finally together. Paint the rooms that needed painting. Finally get a new dining room table that didn't teeter if someone cut meat too vigorously. Fix the leaky sink. I didn't realize at the time that the next few months I'd be lucky to muster the energy to get showered for work. So the house wasn't out of Martha Stewart Living, but with this group of laid-back women, it didn't matter. We could have been camped out in a cabin without running water and still had a great time, provided there was lots of food and a bit of beer.

This has been an interesting year of transition for nearly everyone in the group. On top of my surprise pregnancy, there have been relationship shake-ups, a pending divorce, a pending move across the country, and international adoption. It was so good to get together, compare notes, encourage each other, and of course, eat lots of cheese.
And I mean LOTS of cheese.
Friday everyone came, weighted down with supplies for the weekend. Katie brought growlers -- jugs of beer brewed at the local brewery Broad Ripple Brewpub. Kitty brought a few bathrooms' worth of fun and indulgent bath supplies. Kim brought specialty food, including ten (yes, ten) kinds of cheese recommended from Frasier's Gourmet Foods. Kate and Betsy were both feeling environmental this year and brought everyone the absolute coolest gifts: From Kate, stationery made from recycled Monopoly cards and earrings made from recycled electrical insulators; from Betsy, beautiful magnets or pins (we chose our objects and what we wanted them to be) that she made by painting and sealing with resin recycled beer bottle caps.

Katie and Kitty get down to business.
We spent the next three days eating great cheese, interspersed with meals, knitting, and talking talking talking. The only excursions out of the house in the 90+ degree weather were to go for a short walk Friday (I bowed out and fell asleep on the couch) and to go for high tea on Saturday.

Betsy, somehow looking both funky and Victorian, at high tea.
What did we eat? Other than the prolific cheese -- which included a four-year-old cheddar so silky and tart we were encouraged to eat it sans crackers -- Kate made her famous stuffed mushroom caps, which we used as a pre-cursor to Kim's vegetable-pasta soup for lunch. For dinner Friday night we had cornbread-topped chili. The next morning, we had scones and fruit. Saturday afternoon was high tea, where we stuffed ourselves with more scones, cucumber sandwiches, chicken finger sandwiches, little tartlets, fruit salad in lovely little parfait glasses, and gallons of tea. That night we went the comfort route with ginger chicken, risotto, and roasted carrots. The next morning we made a baked fritatta with leftovers: the filling from Kate's mushrooms, some ricotta and cottage cheese, tomatoes. For lunch, we had the uber-easy crab cakes.

As she did last year, Kim volunteered to be the Ken Burns of the weekend, documenting our every move. She's been publishing a series of digital photography books, and is getting very advanced in her technique. Like this altered focus of Katie and flowers:

Or this knitting action shot of Kitty and a yarn swift:

We realized that next year will mark the tenth year we've gotten together for this weekend. We started thinking of things we wish we would have recorded, and someone mentioned that it would be cool to remember what we'd been working on each year. So, for the record, here's what we were doing this, the ninth year. The eight previous years might be lost to history:

  • Betsy: A baby blanket for Iraqi orphans that she began years ago, at the start of the Iraq War, at he behest of a politically active friend. After Betsy completed a few inches, she lost steam and put away the blanket. She made quite a bit of progress over the weekend, however, so unlike the actual war, the end is in sight for the blanket.
  • Cindy: My third Hourglass Sweater from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. This is my all-time favorite sweater pattern. I realize that it's ludicrous to make any garment with a fitted waist, as I'll have no prayer of wearing it for another year, but the Hourglass is a completely mindless pattern, so I didn't have to worry about finding my place after taking numerous breaks for more cheese.
  • Kate: Kate is the only non-knitter in the group, but is crazy-crafty. She stitched instead of knit. She embellished some China flat shoes, made a friend an adorable "Dictator" onesie from her book Not Your Mama's Stitching, and spent the rest of the weekend on a cute, multi-colored cross-stitch.
  • Katie: A beautiful red in-the-round sweater made from yarn she purchased during a rare yarn run Kim, Katie, and I took a few weeks ago. Katie's been knitting for years, and only in the last year actually completed a sweater that looks great on her (she completed one years ago that she hated and shoved in the bottom of a bag upon completion, and then never tackled a sweater again), so this is a second version of that successful sweater.
  • Kim: Kim worked on a beautiful charcoal wrap/poncho (Phil calls them "raponchos") with an allover cable stitch from Weekend Knitting. The yarn also came from our recent yarn run. She's thinking of giving the raponcho to her sister, but I spent the weekend trying to convince her she should keep it. We'll see if her altruism or my selfishness win out.
  • Kitty: Kitty is the most prolific knitter in the group. She completed half a pair (i.e., one sock) of pink lace knee-highs that looked stunning with her new loden Danskos. *And* she made a friend a My So-Called Scarf from grape-hued, rich Malabrigo yarn. (Even if you're not a knitter, sometime take the opportunity to fondle this yarn.) As I did with Kim, I tried to convince Kitty that she should keep the scarf for herself.

Kim just accepted a job that will have her moving to Seattle at the end of the year. (I'm weepy just typing this.) So we've already planned that our 10th DKW will be in Seattle. I'm already scheming about what to knit and what we'll be eating.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wag of the Finger: Ms. Manners' Guide to Blogging

I’m interrupting food writing yet again for a minor blogging rant. Pardon me while I perch myself atop a soapbox, but I have to get this off my chest.

Blogs are so predominant these days. Yesterday during a presentation here at work, a co-worker who has a blog I love said the estimate is at something like 8 million blogs and counting. Professionally, we use them for book publicity, to keep up with competitors, and to see instantly what our customers are into. Personally, they’re where I get much of my information, including recipes, political updates, knitting patterns, and parenting thoughts.

They’re so prevalent and simple to use and free, it’s easy to forget that they’re public. So I’ll state the obvious: A blog is a public journal that anyone with an internet connection can easily find through a quick Google search. As cathartic as writing might be, this isn’t a leather-bound journal kept by your bed that only you, and maybe a peeping spouse, can access. It’s out there for everyone. That means that prospective employers, divorce lawyers, family members, and future clients can all take a stroll through your life. I know people who have told me they felt violated when someone was reading their blog and didn’t make their presence known. Get over it. You’re posting in a public setting. You can’t run through Central Park naked and not expect people to whip out their cell phones and snap some pictures.

One of the most notable blogging-gone-bad stories happened to Heather Armstrong of Dooce who was famously fired for the venom she blogged about her boss. In fact, getting fired for what is written in a blog is now called getting “Dooced.” In Heather’s case, all turned out well; she now supports herself, her husband, and her daughter through blog earnings. But she’s rare. She’s an exceptional and innately funny writer. Most bloggers, even if they can turn a decent phrase, are only adequate writers and don’t have the magnetism to pull in a substantial fan base. This is why I invite you into my kitchen, but keep the other rooms in my home and office private. I’m okay if my current employer or any future employers know I like to cook; other details that might sway their opinion one way or another aren’t for sharing.

Which leads me to my other point... even if you’re comfortable baring your soul online, don’t bare the souls of others. If your best friend wants to let everyone with a good search engine know about her affair, it’s hers to tell, not yours. Don’t break the circle of trust. Some blogs I’ve stumbled upon remind me of Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers. If you don’t know the story, this was to be his opus; his Remembrance of Things Past. What it ended up being was three chapters of thinly veiled secrets that his society friends had shared with him over the years. They confided, he took notes and spilled to all of America. Amazingly, he died somewhat friendless. Go figure. Friendships have been destroyed and families strained based on what someone thoughtlessly spewed in a blog. So remember to be thoughtful.

If you’re thinking of starting a blog, or if you’re currently writing one, imagine that your employer, mother, and estranged husband are all reading it. Because even if they don’t tell you, they will be reading it. And don’t feel that you can journal about others online the way you can when tucked into bed holding a fountain pen. You can’t.

I’m stepping down from my soapbox now. On a less finger-wagging note, this past weekend was my annual knitter’s retreat, or DKW. When I can get my arms around all the goodness those three days gave me, I’ll write about it. As always, it was a magical time, even if I was drinking Fre wine and avoiding unpasteurized cheese.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Taste of Crow

About four minutes after T was born, people started asking us if we were going to "try again" for a girl. "Heavens, no," we'd reply. "We are finished." Even at that point, with hospital staff on hand to help ease some of the burden of a newborn, I was already overwhelmed with two kids. And, not for nothing, I have a cousin with six boys, and I'm sure every one from the third on seemed destined to be a girl. Neither Phil nor I had any intentions of being outnumbered.
To drive the point home, I unloaded all of my maternity clothes, gave away T's clothes and toys up to his current age, and started listening to Justin Timberlake. My maternal years were behind me as I was watching my thirties whipping by.

Other than M's fashion sense, the perfect family. Two kids. Just as we'd always planned.

A week or so after my Milestone Birthday, a co-worker confided that she was pregnant. And the wheels started turning. Maybe my dizziness and vertigo wasn't a sign that I'd be dying any moment of high blood pressure. Maybe my crankiness with Phil wasn't because he had suddenly become impossible to be around. Maybe falling asleep every night as I was putting M to bed wasn't just an inevitable curse of aging and oncoming uncontrollable narcolepsy.

Maybe not. In fact, Heavens-No-We-Are-Finished Kitchel will be making an appearance around mid-March.

So if the entries in the last several months have been a bit sparse and the writing has been a bit light on food content -- one might say intentionally avoiding writing much about food -- forgive me. Know that I was either konked out or sparing you any rhapsodizing about the foods I was enjoying, namely boxed mashed potatoes and Co-Co Wheats.

Bear with me. The food will be coming back. With a vengeance.