Archive for the 'cooking' Category

SOUTHWARD HO! AGAIN!

The pickins in the Oregon economy right after our return from Alaska

were dreary at best. I picked moss and sold it, shaved chittum trees

of their bark and sold that and I even packed said items into the side

basket of my old schwinn bike and cycled on my own power to the

local merchant to sell them. In case you are unaware, chittum bark

is what they make laxatives from. The bark back then sold for .32

per pound. Since we needed firewood anyway, and there did seem

to be a need for the um, end product in this country, I was able to soothe my conscience

over stripping these trees of their bark along with cutting them down and I went

about my merry but trail blazing way. I even picked up our goat milk on my bike,

fed the kids on brown rice, wild black berries and government commodities.

Our oldest daughter took the two little ones down to the river to catch crawfish

about twice a week and arriving home from the woods we would feast on a poor

mans miniature lobster dinner, with dandelion greens and taters dug from the neighbors

garden. But my apartment over the shop was too small, (boy did I have alot to learn).

We only had one vehicle that ran sometimes. It rained and rained and rained in the

winter. I had grown up with a steady pay check and we had never known the uncertainty

of not knowing weather there was going to be a paycheck or not. I had always worked

but now I had babies and I did not want to have someone else to raising them.

Hubby with all his multitude of talents and education could only find a job driving school

buses. The economy was really bad. And we both had student loans to pay off.

Needless to say, after dealing with students who shot spit wads,

toted hand guns, and cleaned their fingernails with machetes while riding

the bus, we decided it was time to move where he might find a more lucrative position.

About this time a friend from California called and offered Hubby a job at

the then outstanding wage of $10 per hour! Dollar signs clicked and rolled

over and over in our eyeballs. Though we didn’t move to Beverely Hills, we

did immediately pack our bags and embark on another grand adventure.

Slug Latte’

With such a small apartment we didn’t do very much entertaining. My kitchen was a cute little cubicle the size of a closet.  There was a long hand hewn counter top for the table. The living room was on the other side of that. We slept in the living room on a fold out couch and our daughter slept in a small alcove bedroom. 

My husband often indicated exasperation at my lack of hospitality when folks came over.  Instead of a what can I get for you type of persoanlity, I often conveyed a get it yourself type. However, wanting to please my man I often made attempts at appearing hospitable anyway. I loved to visit, or I loved to serve, just not both at the same time.  I have a tendency to hurt my self when I try to do more than one thing at a time.  One fine afternoon a long time friend of my husbands came over for a visit and to meet the new bride.  I offered to fix us all coffee.   

Hubby had found one of our few coffee mugs outside sitting upright on a fence post. Inside said cup was a huge, gross, slimy pulsating slug.  He dumped it out and walked upstairs placed this cup upside down in the sink.  About this time the coffee had begun to perk. I walked over while he was chatting with his friend and grabbed the upside down mug.  (In the home where I came from an upside down mug meant someone had washed it and left it to drain in the sink. Apparently the same gesture in my mans home meant a dirty cup please wash)  I grabbed the mug without looking inside and poured a steaming cup of brew in to it.

Guess which mug I served to my new friend?  We were enjoying our coffee when I noticed my man had gone quite pale.  Odd.  I kept glancing from our friend, (who was very much enjoying his coffee) and back to hub. Usually  up beat with our friends he kept  quiet this time. There was a look of  horror on his face. I just couldn’t understand what was wrong with him. 

We said good by to our friend and went upstairs.  “What on earth is wrong with you?” I asked.  “Did you wash that cup you gave him?” he asked.  “Noooo, why would I wash an already clean cup?” I asked.  “BECAUSE  everyone knows you wash cups that are in sinks!”  “Well everyone in my family knows that upside down cups are CLEAN!”   “I CAN’T believe you didn’t at least LOOK!” He yelled.  “Well I can’t believe you didn’t wash it out yourself!” I yelled back.

Sitting on the couch with his hands covering his face, he moaned, “I’ll NEVER be able to face my friend again!”   “Why?” I asked, “He clearly enjoyed it, slug slime or not. Just don’t tell him!”   

Their relationship was never the same.  Every time my husband visited with his friend, visions of coffee slugs danced in his head.  It really put a damper on the conversation.  I don’t know though. Since he clearly enjoyed the flavour, perhaps we’ve stumbled on a new coffee shop recipe.

THE 9 YEAR MAP READING LESSON

You too can learn what ever you don’t want to in just nine, count em, NINE years!  All it takes is resistance for the first eight, and total submission for the 9nth. It’s not effortless but as they always say, “No Pain, No Gain!”

Thus began my hubby’s personal mission to teach me to read a map.  “Sweetie Pie”, he’d say as he periodically would try to corner me for my geography tutorial, just sit down and relax!  “I’ve got a nice assortment of yellow fluorescent markers, some fresh maps, and a compass.  “Whoopie”, said I.  

Ignoring me he would begin in a monotonous tone, “Now let’s begin by finding where we are on the map.”  He would shove the map over to me and grin hopefully.  “Well, I said,” where are we?”   “You do it, he said encouragingly,   “Find where we are at.”    Looking at the squiggly lines, I fought down a growing sense of panic and frustration. Turning the map so North was directly in front of my forehead and all the words were right side up, I sat and stared.

“Well?”   “I’m LOOKING!”  “Try over in this quadrant.”   “Well that’s real helpful to people who know what quadrants are! Quadrants are sections of peoples bodies, I don’t see any cadavers on this map!”  “Quadrants are sections on maps .”  “Well that’s helpful,” I said, “does a map have veins and arteries too?”  “I don’t think you are taking this thing seriously, ” he said looking rather hurt.

Looking him straight in the eye I said, “I fail to see why I should learn something that causes me this much stress.  Learning should be fun! I have a private pilots license, a degree in psychology, and a degree in art. Why in the world should I do this thing that makes my brain hurt?”   He stared at me with his mouth open.

“How on this earth did you pass the test for your pilots license if you didn’t learn to read a map?”   “Easy, ” I said.  “First, I faked it.”  Second most maps for pilots aren’t covered with a bunch of squiggly lines crossing and criss crossing over each other. Third you only have to score 70 on that test and I got a 72.  Two points overkill.  I didn’t have to get every map question correct and by flipping a coin on the multiple choice ones I had a 50% chance of getting it right!” And lastly they got a little gadjet called a VOR at each airport so all I have to do is dial it in and they tell me which way to go.”

He stared at me a long, long time. “Remind me, “he said,”to NEVER fly with you, it’s dangerous enough driving with you!”   “Fine, ” I responded, ” But I’ve only gotten lost once and that didn’t count because I forgot to set my gyroscope  every-time I landed. Besides power lines are fun to follow when your flying.”   By this time he had his head resting on his maps. “Are we done? ” I asked.

“For now.” he moaned.  “BUT, I’m putting this map up on the door so you can study it every time you go out.” “Sure go ahead,” I mumbled.   Periodically when the map reading issue would come up I would rip the map down.  He would follow me around the house with florescent markers and new maps thinking today would be the day he would make it click for me!   I tolerated this reasonably well until the moon would exert its phase on my female body.  Then I would turn into a horrible shrew, throwing anti orienteering tantrums worthy of any two year old.  “You are MEAN!  Why can’t you leave me ALONE!  I have DOCUMENTATION about dyslexia!  IT IS A REAL THING!” I ‘d rip down the map and he’d put it back up.  

“Don’t feed me that junk,” he finally said.  “I will not give up!  You can fly a plane,  then you CAN learn to read a map.” This went on  periodically for 8 years.  I felt like an old wild horse that someone was trying to break. I began to rethink my tactics.  He obviously hadn’t learned what it said in the books about dyslexia.  I had to show him first hand to convince him.  Here was my new strategy.  I would put forth a serious, concerted effort and spend whatever time it took with him, studying and trying to learn to read the map. Once he saw that something in my brain made this task impossible for me, he would give up on his own.  It would make for fewer arguments anyway.

But a funny thing happened to me on the way to trying to convince him.  In one year, I was reading that map. The lines no longer appeared to be just a tangled mass.  I knew how to tell north, and south, east and west just from being outside and looking at the sun. I could orient myself by the stars!  The man who would not give up on me glowed with pride at my accomplishment!  I felt a new sense of power, of self esteem!  I began to think there was nothing I couldn’t do or learn.  There was no greater gift that he could have given me.  Thank you Lord for my OC husband. 

“Now”, he said “let me teach you how to make bread!”  

“Aahhhhhhhggggggggg!”

ACT 2 FINAL SCENE OF

FIRST FIGHT BALLET

    The stage was set.  The lines clearly drawn in the shag carpet.  Hub went to work that AM and left me there alone with the liver.   Opening the refrigerator door I gazed upon the cost free culinary delight.  It had begun to thaw ever so slightly and was beginning to ooze red down the sides of the previously white butcher paper and draining into the bottom of the clear Pyrex 4 cup measuring receptacle. 

   This was not a sight that even an ardent liver lover such as myself would appreciate at 2 months pregers. I reached in and shoved this item farther back in to the fridge and decided to prepare other items on my menu.   For a few days any way.  Now under the best of circumstances I’m a rather spacey sort of individual. But being pregnant facilitated this state of being and I pursued other activities, forgetting the organ meat wedged between last weeks leftovers and a stale loaf of bread.

   All but obscured from sight, the blob began to take on a life of its own.  First a slight green fury film began growing along the red stained lines down the length of the butcher paper and into the bottom. Congealed blood mingled with green fur that almost pulsated with life. 

  At this point we both regretted that we would have to waste this food, (at least we agreed and feigned regret).  I kept promising to “do something” with it.   Each time SP reminded me of this need his voice acquired a change of tone that I found quite annoying.  Every day I looked in the back of the fridge and my stomach rolled.  Every day I closed that door just a little harder than I had intended to.  Now I was growing angry at the liver and angry at my lover.  The green furry obligation stared back at me from its semi-arctic repose.  I swear it blinked.

Seven mornings later lover boy delivered an ultimatum. “Get that thing out of the refrigerator or else!”  Knowing I could delay the task no longer I donnned protective gear and approached that white rectangular guardian of food with determination. Opening the door I reached in and grabbed the creature by the Pyrex handle while averting my head to avoid any oders.  Holding it out at arms length I made my way rapidly to the kitchen door.

Stepping out into the winter evening I headed for the dumpster a few yards from our home. I had truely intended only to dump the liver out and bring the container  back in and wash it out after pouring massive quantities of bleach over it.  However halfway to the dumpster an Alaskan evening breeze blew past the outstretched  cup and right into  my nose!  Pregnancy hormones took over and my body threatened to heave the entire days meals out in reverse.  The foul aroma was dancing around me like the Aurora Borealis.  Heaving and coughing I leaped back up the porch while simultaneously tossing everything, cup and all into the trash can on our porch. Slamming the door shut behind me I stood their gasping for fresh air.  I decided to retrieve the cup later.

I had almost forgotten the entire episode and awaited my mans arival at home.  When he hesitated to come in the house, standing far too long out on the porch, I suddenly remembered the Pyrex cup. That expensive container that I had when we got married.  The one he had admired.  Now I had not only wasted food, but I had thrown away something of great value.

Walking carefully into the home in slow motion, cup held out as if in supplication he looked at me and spoke in a tone of voice that was not only entirely new to me but very ominous as well. “Since when can this family affored to just throw away valuable cooking utinsels?” I began to sob, and attempted to explain about the smell and etc but now at the end of his long day and rope, and not having collected money owed from a client he displayed a rare but effective communication style.

“Do you really want to  throw this away?! ” he demanded.  Taken aback by the new volume I said nothing. “Well by golly lets just do it right then! I’ll make sure it gets thrown away for good!”  He flung the offending cup out the door.  Expecting a soul satisfing shater as it hit the road he waited for the noise.  But instead of that sound he heard the distinct ping, ping, ping, of pyrex bouncing across the icey surface.  Deprived of his revenge the focus of his anger now became Pyrex.  He ran outside after the item and snatched it off the ground.  Running up to the dumpster he flung with all his might and hurled it into the metalic abyss.  Ping, Ping, Ping it sang out richocheting around inside.  It didn’t break.  My man stood beside the dumpster, winter breath whirling around his head.  Looking upward he said, “God, are you trying to tell me something?” Hanging his head momentarily, he climbed INTO the dumpster, emptied the contents of the cup and brought it back into the house,  straight to the sink.  Without flinching he washed it out with hot soapy water and disinfected it. Placing it upside down in the drainer he walked by me and kissed me lightly on the forhead.  Sitting down to read the paper he mused, “Any thing that can survive that deserves a permanet place in our home.”   I never fed him liver again.  Ten years later. Count em! Ten I was standing beside our 3 foot tall kitchen counter and bumped this exact container off onto the soft linolium floor.  It shattered into a million shards of Pyrex.  We looked at each other. Close curtain.

FIRST FIGHT

 (OF LIFE AND LIMERICK)

sighed a maiden both tender and true

I’ve done plenty of dreaming of you

for I’m in the habit

of eating welsh rarebit

and there’s no telling what I will do!

author unknown 

       I remember watching an old Andy Griffeth show where he said, “What looks like fighten to some folks is waltzen to others.”   The following is a description of a beautiful ballet performed by a newly married couple.

      We wasted no time starting the work on that  3rd member of our family brood. Our marriage had come complete with two 5 year old girls. One from his side and one from mine.  Ahhhh but now the “bean in the pot” would help to blend the flavours of this newly mixed family stew!

    Two months into the pregnancy I was quite content because I hadn’t yet thrown up  and all appeared to be going well health wise.  We were tight financially, (still) and I accepted all food donations where ever they came from.  Since we lived in Alaska, naturally some one had extra moose liver on hand.  I loved liver! Wouldn’t my frugal and thrifty hubby be proud!

     “I hate liver.”, he said trying not to grimace.  Distraught over the  realization  that I was not going to impress him and suddenly awash in pregnancy hormones, I couldn’t stop the  rush of tears that welled up in my eyes.  My lips trembled. “You.. you hav’nt had liver the (sniff) way I make it!” I said. 

     “Sweetie Pie,” (he always starts any disagreement with this phrase) “my mother has prepared liver as many ways as there are in this universe and it still makes me throw up!”  My lower lip twitched and another tear worthy of an alligator slid down my cheek.  He groaned.  “Honey Bun,” (now I knew there was no convincing him because he had used the second pre argument phrase)  “when my grandmother invited me over for supper with the rest of my family, she served the best tasting liver I’ve ever had in my life and I still had to spit it out into my napkin! It makes me sick!”

I looked at the free package of meat that represented to me, a stretching of my grocery money and turned around slowly.  More slowly than usual because the speed at which one turns when one is pouting is directly proportional to how much sympathy one generates.  It is a carefully orchestrated maneuver.  Just as my body was  at a 3/4 turn from my beloved I let go with a barely audible sob.  This strategy would never have worked 5 years later but he was new to the game as was I and well, this skirmish was mine!

   He agreed to try MY liver! Happily I began preparations for the best liver  meal he had ever eaten in his life. When I had finished cooking this,  not only would he LOVE liver, he would beg me to prepare it this way at least once a week! I was so going to impress my man!

    As we sat down at the table I failed to notice the slight green tinge around his face.  He forced a week smile. No problem though.  All that reluctance would change as soon as he tasted this gourmet fair.  I served him a heaping plate full of steamy liver strauganoff.   I sat and waited.  He stared at his plate with knife in one hand and fork in the other.  Trying to set a good example for him I sliced and stabbed a fork full of the delicacy.  “Mmmmmm”, I murmured and cast hopeful eyes in his direction.

  Five minutes had gone by and he was still slicing his liver. The chunks had begun about the size of good beef stew size meat pieces and now he had reduced each morsel to a sliver. “Sweetie Pie”, I said. (oh no! Now I had used the SP word!)  “Why haven’t you even tasted your meal yet?”   The green tinge had crept a little further up his face.  He ever so slowly lifted that fork of shredded meat to his mouth.  Actually placing it in his mouth he began to chew, and chew and chew.   He finally came up for air and downed his entire glass of milk.  Clearing his throat he said,  “That was absolutely the best liver I have ever eaten and I still don’t like liver! That tasted exactly like my grandmothers! ” 

   If he had looked closely into my eyes at that moment he would have seen one phrase in each eye that read, “web page unavailable right now”.  Regaining my internal composure,  I contemplated his words.   I had invented this recipe!  No one else had it!  What did he mean just like his grandmothers?!  Not wanting to appear to start an argument I sat there festering and feeding a growing resentment while he headed rather rapidly I thought, to the bathroom.  Well I sighed,  no accounting for some peoples tastes and pretended not to care while I cleaned the kitchen. 

   That evening there came an unexpected knock at the door.  Grinning from ear to ear my best friends’  husband dropped off a huge wrapped package of moose liver.  He jumped into his car waving a friendly goodbye.  Hubby sat in  the living room staring at the unwanted but free groceries and leaned his head back on the couch while muttering something under his breath.  I stared at the unmanna like package wrapped in its’ fresh butcher block paper.

    “Well”, I said with nervous laughter, “this is frozen through completely so there’s no need to cook it right now. It’ll take a while to thaw so I’ll just place it in this giant Pyrex measuring cup and let it thaw out in the fridge for a few days.”   “Wonderful”, was the only thing he said.  Half of me was angry but the other half was really worried about his green pallor.  I placed the liver filled Pyrex cup in the refrigerator and decided to sleep on it.  It being my resentment.

That was act one.  Next blog is act two of  the First Fight Ballet.