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Category: Ephemera

Swallowing the tongue

Swallowing the tongue

Yes, I cooked the tongue.

It looked like a tongue when I threw it in the pot and simmered it for a couple of hours. It looked like a tongue after I took it out and sliced the base off to give to the chickens (they didn’t care). It looked like a tongue when I peeled the tough tough membrane off it, which was totally weird; it just sort of peeled off in these almost plasticky sheets. And it looked like a tongue after it was peeled and placed in a backing dish with some mustard, apples, and onions. There were still taste buds on the inner membrane. We cooked it, and it still looked like a tongue when we put it on the table and sliced it.

But when you cut into it, the meat looks like beef, and it was tender and delicious. I personally felt the need to peel the inner membrane off entirely because I just couldn’t get over the taste buds. If you didn’t know it was tongue, you’d have no idea. Well, except for Geoff, who came over for dinner and not only raved about how much he liked tongue, but snagged the tip. “It’s the tenderest bit,” he explained.

So will I do it again? Yes. But I think I would bake it using a different recipe. I had assumed we had horseradish, because who doesn’t have a jar hanging out in the back of the fridge? We didn’t. So it was a little bland.

And there you have it.

Today, I cook tongue.

Today, I cook tongue.

We’ve really stepped up buying local/sustainable this year. Part of this has entailed going to Bob’s Quality Meats, a local butcher in Columbia City that features all local, pastured meats. I swear, their whole chickens are the most delicious things ever. A few weeks ago, I was perusing the freezer and came across a beef tongue. I was feeling daring that day–and thinking about eating “nose to tail”–and thus the tongue found its way into my basket and into our freezer at home.

Now my grandmother used to cook tongue all the time. I remember it as being very tender and tasty. I never really thought about it that much, probably because it generally appeared on my plate already sliced and smeared with horseradish. But this … this hunk of tongue. Any recipe entails boiling it and then peeling the skin off it. It’s been taunting me from the freezer.

Well.

Last night, I pulled it out out the freezer and stuck it in the fridge This morning, Steve took the Pyrex dish out of the fridge and onto the counter because it wasn’t thawed. We stared at it wordlessly. Finally, he broke the silence. “I’ll eat anything,” he said. “But I have to tell you. I’m not really looking forward to dinner tonight.”

The thing is, a tongue is a tongue is a tongue. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a pig, a cow, or a human. They all look the same. (Except of course for size, which led to some fairly ribald comments as we were contemplating it.) But I tell myself: How is it any worse to eat tongue when we eat other meat? The only difference is that it’s more easily recognizable for what it is. When I was 10 or 11, I went out to a fancy dinner with some relatives and ordered sweetbreads off the menu. To be totally honest, all that was going through my head was, “WOW! I like this place–you can have COFFEE CAKE or DONUTS as DINNER!” So yeah, I pretty disappointed when I got some meat in a buttery sauce. It was pretty good. But it wasn’t CAKE. Later on, my great aunt told me what sweetbreads really were. I just shrugged. It was okay.

I’m hoping the tongue is like that.

So here I go ….

Making butter

Making butter

Sometimes I wonder whether cookbooks are becoming obsolete. I mean, I have cookbooks–and nothing is a better quick kitchen reference than The Joy of Cooking–but I find myself going online to find recipes far more often than looking through cookbooks. (I actually posed this question recently at a small dinner gathering; one guy said that he thought books in general were becoming obsolete. Yikes. Perish the thought.)

Anyway, one of the perils of researching recipes online is the fact that one gets easily sidetracked. For instance, I went online this morning to get the proportions of beef bones to water to make stock. And before you know it, there I am on a page on how to make butter.

Well.

Why not?

Here’s the page (complete with an explanantion of why you shouldn’t feel guilty eating butter). His directions are nice and lucid, and include complete pictures. Should you not feel like clicking, the process of making butter is as simple as throwing heavy cream into a KitchenAid and whipping it until the fat sticks together

So here we are at the buttermilk whooshing out of the butter stage.

We just happen to have an antique butter mold and paddle.

With a nice little pattern inside the mold.

Pressed it in

And now it’s resting in the fridge, waiting to be unmolded.

*Update: It behooves one to read up on how to use a butter mold before one actually uses it. To wit: Apparently, you are supposed to soak it in water for 30 minutes before using it. Otherwise, the butter won’t pop out. Sigh.

Neena and Veena, the bellybots

Neena and Veena, the bellybots

So it’s been about a year since I started bellydancing classes, and I’m more in love with it than ever. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been bad about getting to class, but good about practicing–and as part of that, I dug up the DVDs I bought last summer. And the whole purpose of this post is to tell you that if you’re in the market for bellydance DVDs, stay away from Veena and Neena.

You may have heard about these people. Dubbed the “belly twins,” they are undeniably thin and gorgeous. But I think they’re automatons; they have no soul; they’re like little bellydancing robots. Actually, I remember doing this a couple of times last summer and being bored out of my skull. Like they’ll do snake arms on one side for 30 full seconds. Then the other. Then both. Yawn.

But when I dug it out again and did it, I realized something. I’ve had this rotary cuff thing going on for a few months, and blamed it on my obsessive two miles a day in the pool habit of my twenties. NOW I realize that it has nothing to do with a repetitive crawl, and more to do with the fact that I’d been doing the shoulder shimmies and snake arms they way they did. Which they do with a snapping movement that’s almost violent. (I finally broke free of this habit not so long ago–basically letting the shoulder blade do the pulling rather than the shoulder itself–and lo and behold, no more pain.)

In other words, they have no soul AND they’ll damage your body. So what’s left? Not much. I would give this DVD away, but you know, I really think they’re a hazard.

I am getting chickens

I am getting chickens

Barnevelder chickens. They are amazingly pretty and lay dark brown eggs. Great photos here. I’ve been dreaming about doing this for a long time, and figured why now now? I ordered the hatching eggs yesterday. Carrie, on the corner, offered up one of her broody hens to hatch a few of them, and is lending me her hatching apparatus for the rest. (Barnevelders are big birds, and her broody hen is quite small.)

I’m setting up the coop on Geoff’s lower stretch. Haven’t started building it, but I figure this will get me motivated in terms of deadline. I even have a scheme: What I am going to do is get a plan, get all the materials, and then start putting it together. Steve will come over to see what I’m doing. He will then pronounce my efforts an abortion, and help. I’m really hoping that he’ll just take over building it, but we’ll see.

The Hungry Caterpillar

The Hungry Caterpillar

Which was the only book I loved more than Pat the Bunny when I was a wee little thing. So imagine my delight when I opened up Google this morning to see this:

This morning

This morning

If you can believe it, I actually got up this morning when Steve did–at 4:30. He does it because he has to (though apparently he “slept in” a little); I did it because I fell asleep last night at 8. Which is completely weird. Also weird were the dreams I had, in which all the soap in my drawer of soaply delights melted into a gooey, unsalvageable mess while I went from door to door trying to peddle the stuff. Considering all the oddness, it felt completely natural to wake up to an unseasonal snowfall.

snow-012

An Elegy to Real Coffee

An Elegy to Real Coffee

Oh caffeine! My Caffeine! Our love affair is done, the stress you cause does me rack,
Though greeted with the sun. The drip is near, espresso I hear, the adrenaline once exulting
While follow eyes the steady reel, the liquid black and daring; But O heart! Heart! Heart!
O the bitter brew of brown, Where in my cup my decaf lies, a drink flat and dead.
O Caffeine! My Caffeine! I wish I could drink you. I wish—but you cause panic—but
you make me jangle.

(with abject apologies to Walt Whitman)

So much for fish oil

So much for fish oil

I just listened to an On Point podcast with Sylvia Earl, talking about how you can now go into the oceans with Google Earth. Great show–as always–but I was dismayed to learn that while fish oil is great for YOU, it’s not great for fish populations. Actually, it’s terrible for fish populations. Luckily, there’s an alternative: Oil derived from algae. Supposedly, all the fish omega threes come from algae anyway. So I guess I’ll finish out my current bottle and then switch.

Phrase of the day

Phrase of the day

Tramp stamp: This is what all the guys on Steve’s construction site call those big tattoos that cover a woman’s lower back. Sadly, this came about because of the “base girl,” a woman whose job is to install base trim, and who is obviously always bending over. The cause is not helped by the fact that she’s a retired stripper.

Disgrace

Disgrace

I have actually let a whole month go by without blogging. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s longer than a month, but I’ve been focusing on the fact that my February 2008 listing in the archives will be … missing. Oh well, such is life. And life is good. The shack is shacky (more on that later). The kitchen is still far from being finished. Steve put two windows in my former office, but other than that, it’s still down to the studs. The dog is cute and furry. Steve is cute and furry too because he’s growing a beard. My soapmaking obsession continues, which means that my essential oil threshold (i.e., the most I am willing to spend for a single oil) just keeps increasing. Anyway, I’ve been working all day and my eyes are starting to blur; it’s time to rouse the snoring pug and go for a walk. Good night, sweet blog, good night.

(I hope not, but it seemed a fitting end.)

It’s my birthday

It’s my birthday

Well, not yet. But soon. Steve’s depressed. “You gave me such a great birthday,” he says. “But I have no clue what to get you.”

“Want suggestions?”

“No, because then it’s not a surprise for you. I mean, I wasn’t expecting any of the stuff you got me, you just went and got stuff you knew I’d like.”

(Ahem, this is me putting in a plug for myself for awesome girlfriendedness. Never mind the fact that even though he SAID he wanted an alarm clock with a CD player, he now wants me to return it and get a plain one. But he liked the rest.)

“Okay,” I said.

Silence.

“Well, okay, tell me what you want.”

“There’s always the still,” I said hopefully. Actually, I’ve decided that I want a copper alembic still, so I can make hydrosols, rather than the glass one.

“Are you kidding? You’ll set the house on fire.”

Bummer. Though he’s probably right.

“There are some prints I’m coveting.”

“Naah.”

I told him that I’m thinking about replacing my desk, which is sawhorses and building planks for something that looks nicer and is a bit smaller. All of a sudden he got quiet. This morning, he left really early and came back an hour ago. “You’re going to have the best birthday ever,” he said before he took off again.

Dare I hope?

I stink.

I stink.

It’s been a long, long time. I’m chock full of excuses for not updating the blog, but basically it comes down to one thing: Sheer laziness. Here’s a brief recap:

1) Amazingly, the ranch didn’t burn. The fire was only about two miles away, but everyone stayed and were fine. I was pretty useless for a full week, doing nothing more than hit refresh on the various google map mashups people created. What is really stunning is how different this catastrophe was than Katrina.

2) Obie the foster pug has been adopted. Steve is relieved; he hated him. As for me, I grew rather fond of him, but it’s nice to have a single mellow dog again,

3) No progress on the kitchen, but Steve did finish rebuilding the deck this summer, started and finished carriage doors for the garage, and busted out more concrete in the backyard. He also ordered new windows (2 large , rather than 4 narrow ones), which are sitting on the deck.

4) All of a sudden, I’ve gotten really, really busy workwise. This is going to be one of those weeks. Actually, this is probably why I’m probably updating the blog, after these many moons. It’s funny, but when I’m not busy, I get nothing done–and when I am, I get oodles and oodles accomplished. Not very logical, but there you go.

5) I’m feeling all sustainable living and stuff. Those pumpkins I grew? Peeled, pureed, and frozen. Okay, okay, I never quite got around to making the pickled green tomatoes, or making as much jam as I did last year, but there’s something so satisfying about putting up the veggies you’ve grown for the winter. Granted, most of it will probably end up as dog food–and granted, if I HAD to do it, we’d starve. And, of course, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. However, I’m kind of on a buying locally kick, making a concerted effort to buy only food that’s grown around here. Alas, my efforts are completely negated by:

6) On the Japanese print front, I finally took the plunge and bought some from artelino. The shipping costs are outrageously high, so you can choose to hold your prints over a period of time and then have them shipped all at the same time. So I don’t have them in my hot little hands yet. Funny thing though–I keep seeing prints recycle their way across the Internet. Something that was on ebay with no title reappears on ebay with artist and title and then wends its way over to artelino or a gallery.

7) But speaking of the buying locally thing–I’m trying to buy more stuff locally too, so no more book chains, local supermarkets, and so on. But here’s my question: Amazon and Starbucks are headquartered in Seattle, so does that constitute buying locally??

Nice Words – by Steve Smith

Nice Words – by Steve Smith

A few years ago, Steve’s mother Pam pulled out this book that Steve wrote when he was in the second grade. It cracked me up, and she gave it to us. I’ve been meaning to post it to the blog for eons. I was looking for stamps the other day and found it. It’s really very sweet, though still very funny. (“I like your baby anyone”??) Also, it’s clear that Steve used up his lifetime store of compliments very early on. Apparently, he had a crush on his teacher. And finally, he won an award for it. So with no further ado …

On Domestic Tech Support

On Domestic Tech Support

Mr. Nom de Plume started his new job this week. Much to his dismay–and much to my amusement–they gave him a BlackBerry. This evening, he came home with his new laptop too. “I need to hook my Outlook into my BlackBerry,” he explained.

“You need to sync it?”

“Yeah, I’ve tried everything, but it doesn’t work. So I figured you could help me.”

“Do you have a cable?”

Silence.

“Oh. Maybe that’s the problem.”

“Does it have bluetooth?”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, it does. But I have blue teeth too so I don’t really know what that means.”

Actually, to be honest, I can’t figure this thing out either because I don’t know if it syns locally or through the server. So I told him the same thing any self-respecting tech support person would. “Take it back to IT.”

!!!

!!!

So this afternoon, I’m heading down Rainier Ave into Renton. Traffic is awful, all backed up because of Seafair, and of course, there’s the idiot who decides that he needs to head down the center turn lane and bypass the traffic. The rest of us mere mortals just inch along.

Finally, I see the erring minivan pull over into a parking lot. I briefly indulge that fantasy that we all of have, you know, the one where we pull over and let the person have it, thus changing their ways forever. I float in a reverie of changing drivers around the world–traffic bypassers, humvees squeezed in compact parking spots … okay, let’s be honest, I really want to take out my Seafair anger on someone. And maybe he has his pregnant, about-to-deliver wife in the car. Or some other emergency.

And of course, I do nothing. But, as I am stuck in a long line of slow-moving cars, I get a good glimpse of the person. He’s standing in front of the open hood, which is unfurling great plumes of smoke. Oh, I think. It was an emergency.

And then I see he’s not wearing pants.

And then I see that his pants are around his ankles.

And then I see that he’s fumbling with his tightie whities.

And then …

And then …

And then, he pees on the engine.

Swiftsure Results

Swiftsure Results

Well, Bifrost 3 came in second place. Pretty impressive. They sailed through last Saturday night–until about 3:30 in the morning. Steve wandered around the Victoria harbor like a homeless person–finally crashing in the grass–until my ferry came in. Which, of course, was late. Apparently, the race was fraught with excitement; high winds tilted the boat until the crew was dangling in the water, and they ripped the mainsail. You can tell that I know nothing about sailing with my descriptions–but here at Chez Smunshi, we’re pretty thrilled.