Spotty blogging because I’m involved just now in moving 42 years of detritus into a smaller house. So forget about Kiev and Rick Perry’s pseudo-intellectual glasses, and on to a recipe from a book called A Taste of Murder, subtitled “Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers” —
The hero of my Tom Bethany series lives alone in an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He mainly eats stew, which he makes on Sundays and freezes. I used to do the same thing when I lived alone in a Cambridge apartment. My favorite and therefore his:
Dump three pounds of lamb, bones and all, into a pot with a teaspoon of peppercorns and nine cups of water. Neck bones are best, but shank or breast will do. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer. Don’t bother to strain the scum unless you’re the kind of person who won’t eat a piece of candy after it’s fallen on the floor. In fact if you’re that kind of person, forget this whole recipe. And get a life.
Once the meat has simmered for one and a half hours, fish it out and set it aside in a bowl to cool. Skim the fat from the broth or don’t. Whatever. Whack up two carrots and three onions. Scrape the carrots first if you feel like it, but the fact is we’re about to sterilize them anyway. Better peel the onions, though, because the papery stuff gets stuck in your teeth. Toss it all in the pot, add a cup of uncooked barley, and start simmering again. Keep going until the onions have pretty much disappeared, the carrots are soft, and the barley is too. Now pick the meat off the bones and toss it back in, minus the fat.
Chop up one of those 10- or 12-ounce boxes of mushrooms, using the same cleaning method you applied or didn't apply to the carrots, bearing in mind that mushrooms grow in horse manure. Dump in the mushrooms, along with as much thyme, cumin, and chopped garlic as you want. Cook just long enough for the mushrooms to soften up, then add a half-stick of butter and a cup of cream. Once the butter melts, you’re done. It may look a little soupy, but it will thicken up as it cools.
For immediate eating, rip a hole in one corner of a bag of frozen peas and pour a handful of them into your bowl. Close up the bag with a twist tie and put it back in the freezer. Now ladle lots of stew on top of the peas, stir, and eat. Trust me on this business with the peas. Just do it the way I say.
Once the remaining stew has cooled, portion it out for freezing into those beautifully designed and incredibly expensive refrigerator containers from Williams-Sonoma or into old yogurt cups. Up to you, but Tom Bethany uses the pint-sized containers that Stoneyfield yogurt comes in. They hold up under repeated microwaving.
This recipe has no salt, because both Tom and I are health and fitness fanatics who regard our bodies as temples. The rest of you may salt to taste.
In case you haven’t already figured this out yourself, check out this method of removing the skins from a bag of potatoes in less than a minute, via Ezra Klein.
I tried not to post this, God knows I tried. But here it is. O Canada! —
The headline says it all:
Forty years ago I planted a black walnut sapling, which is now a huge, massive tree producing bushels of nuts every year for the squirrels. Not for us, as you would appreciate if you ever tried to shell a black walnut.
Producing also, from its roots and fallen leaves, a substance called juglone which poisons practically every edible plant in its vicinity known to man — except the pawpaw tree. The pawpaw is a native American fruit in the custard apple family, reputed to be delicious. Neither you nor I have ever tasted a pawpaw, because it doesn’t keep well enough to reach the market.
What could I do then but plant pawpaws in the shade of the walnut? Nothing, and now, four years later, I have two pawpaws big enough to bear flowers and thus, theoretically, fruit. The thing is, though, that pawpaws are not self-pollinating. In the wild they are pollinated by carrion-eating flies, which they attract by having flowers the color of rotting liver. Since this is an iffy proposition, the hopeful pawpaw grower is advised to hang spoiled meat from the branches. Fortune smiled on me. Out hunting snakes just at blossom time, I came across a rotting deer carcass.
Just to be sure, though, I backed up the deer bones with hand pollination. The deal is this. First you take an artist’s brush and then just go to it:
Pollen is ripe for gathering when the ball of anthers is brownish in color, loose and friable. Pollen grains should appear as small beige-colored particles on the brush hairs. The stigma is receptive when the tips of the pistils are green, glossy and sticky, and the anther ball is firm and greenish to light yellow in color.
See? Nothing to it. A few weeks later and Shazam!, you’ve got yourself not just one but two baby pawpaws. Only about an inch long so far, but wait till October.
You didn’t expect me to pass this one up, did you?
Apparently, eyeball licking is considered to be the new “second base” for Japanese kids, The Daily Caller reported. Teachers first started noticing an uptick in students wearing eye patches. They first blamed it on a fashion trend, only to find out it was really a surge in conjunctivitis, or pink eye…
News you can use, brought to you by Mary Roach, in Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.
Stop wearing cologne. Women don’t find it attractive. If you don’t believe me, here is a quote from a press release from the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago: “Men’s cologne actually reduced vaginal blood flow.” Foundation director Al Hirsch hooked women up to a vaginal photoplethysmograph and had them wear surgical masks scented with ten different aromas or combinations of aromas. (To be sure the women weren’t just getting aroused by dressing up in surgical masks, Hirsch put unscented masks onto a control group.) In addition to the smell of cologne, the women were turned off by the smell of cherry and of “charcoal barbecue meat.” At the top of the women’s turn-on list was, mysteriously, a mixture of cucumber and Good & Plenty candy. It was said to increase vaginal blood flow by 13 per cent.
Here is yet another system for living the healthy life, this one designed for people who are prone to giving up the bad for the worse. According to this system, living is treated as an accounting ledger, a series of additions and subtractions the sum of which will tell the story.
This is nonsense, of course, but it’s a lot easier to understand than Immanuel Kant. Here’s how it works.
You reach certain points in life, some of them fairly early, where you have to give up things. But, when you give up one thing you often are tempted to substitute another. For instance, I gave up drinking and replaced it with ice cream. A debit offset by a credit, you might say. One thing balances the other. The trouble here is that the ice cream also adds pounds. You debit drinking but credit ice cream and now you have to credit pounds as well. The columns start to get out of balance.
To counterbalance the added pounds I added squash — the racquet sport, that is, not the vegetable. Now, with the ice cream offsetting the drinking, the squash would offset the pounds. Shortly after adding squash, I subtracted from my life-ledger chocolate fudge sauce, which I had also added when I added the ice cream. But the chocolate fudge sauce had added even more pounds and now I needed to move some of the pounds to the debit column before my balance sheet got completely out of kilter. I expected to accomplish this by joining a gym.
At first, the gym offset the chocolate-sauce pounds. The ledger was getting messy, but balance was restored, more or less. Then my back started to act up, forcing me to lie down. It’s very hard to meet life head-on when you’re lying down, so I had to subtract whatever it was that was hurting my back. I identified the problem as the squash.
I gave up squash so I didn’t have to lie down all the time and the elements of my life began to come back into alignment. Then I added Snickers bars and the figures once again started to go awry. The Snickers bars added more pounds and to counter the pounds I increased the weights on the machines I pushed and pulled at the gym. The added weights caused my neck to spasm and I had to lie down again. I was back in a place where I didn’t want to be and the debit and credit columns were still out of whack.
I decided to subtract the gym to save my back and neck. This was good asset management, but as soon as I was able to get out of bed I quit smoking. Overnight I developed an insatiable appetite for chocolate mousse pie. The debit of not smoking was more than offset by the credit of chocolate mousse pie. Credits were accumulating around my waist faster than I could let out my belt. Other credits were oozing though my cardiovascular system like Elmer’s Glue, clogging arteries, gumming up valves. In no time I began to look like Fats Domino and sound like the Little Engine That Could.
I subtracted all of the Snickers bars, half the chocolate mousse pie and added a stationary bicycle, an inspired piece of double-entry derring-do. Although I still looked like Fats Domino’s brother, I could now walk all the way across the living room without stopping for a breather. I felt good. Things were in balance, more or less. My figures checked out. I was beginning to look like a pretty good investment and I started thinking of putting out an annual report, maybe going public.
I tried, God knows I tried, but I just couldn’t let this one slide by without posting it. Those of you with strong stomachs will find the full story here. For the rest of you, a taste:
“If you look at it in a real sense, they’re just invertebrates — no different than shrimp or crabs,” he said, speaking admirably of Archbold’s mental control. “If you caught them in baskets in Maryland, people would put Old Bay on them and gobble them down.”
From The Economist:
Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee producer, but also one of the most obscure. Unlike coffee exports from countries such as Brazil and Ethiopia, Vietnamese beans are typically used in cheap instant Western coffee, which earns scant international commendation. His country, he declares, needs to market a trendy style of coffee drinking—like Starbucks, he adds, but finer. “Civet dung,” he proclaims. “Civet dung makes coffee good. It’s natural, and it makes real coffee.”
Mr Hung is one of a handful of Vietnamese aficionados trying to revive tastes for this epicurean and elusive beverage. At specialised coffeeshops around the world, this coffee sells for around $30 a cup. As it happens, civet cats are coffee connoisseurs. With their long noses, they sniff out and eat the best and fleshiest beans. Their digestive enzymes ferment the beans and break down the proteins. These beans, harvested from the faeces, then create a coffee that tastes rich and slightly smoky with hints of chocolate. The beverage is known in Vietnamese as ca phe chon, or civet-cat coffee, and is also commonly produced in Indonesia and the Philippines. The final cup delivers a smooth, dark palate that is stronger but, some say, less bitter than typical coffee.
…to secure for our children the right to stay fat. From the Associated Press:
In an effort many 9-year-olds will cheer, Congress wants pizza and french fries to stay on school lunch lines and is fighting the Obama administration’s efforts to take unhealthy foods out of schools.
The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year. These include limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. The legislation would block or delay all of those efforts.
The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. USDA had wanted to only count a half-cup of tomato paste or more as a vegetable, and a serving of pizza has less than that.
Nutritionists say the whole effort is reminiscent of the Reagan administration’s much-ridiculed attempt 30 years ago to classify ketchup as a vegetable to cut costs. This time around, food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and lobbied Congress.
Frankly I don’t see the problem here. It’s not like he blew his nose in the clam chowder.
DAVENPORT, Iowa – An Iowa restaurant owner said he'll pay a fine after his head chef was videotaped kissing and licking toads in the kitchen … On the tape, chef Christopher Turla is seen with two small toads on the prep table. He kisses the toads a few times, licks them, then stuffs them in his mouth.
From the Daily Mail, specialists in News You Can Use:
Jacqueline Baudry, the victim’s tearful mother, had earlier in the trial said: “I want Cocaign to look me in face and tell me why he killed my son, and to explain to me why he eat his lung.”
It doesn’t really fit the theme of my recent posts, but I’ve been enjoying this comforting winter casserole so much I feel compelled to pass it on. I found the original somewhere on the net, probably Cooks.com, and made it a lot spicier.
The two best features of this recipe are ease and flexibility. You can prepare the ingredients in the time the oven takes to preheat; and preparation is limited to cutting up several things, pouring them into a baking dish, and spreading soup and spices over them. It can use many different sets of spices and vegetables, include or exclude meat, use different potatoes, come with a heavier or lighter sauce, and be vegan if you prefer.
It’s no surprise to cooks that soups like cream of celery and mushroom will save the blandest and most conventional ingredients. But as someone who could eat Indian food every meal for the rest of his life, and lives in an area with lots of Indian restaurants, I was surprised at what a decent curry this recipe makes. Hope someone enjoys it!
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut red and/or gold potatoes into slices about one-and-a-half to two inches thick. Spread them cut-side down over the bottom of a baking dish; I use an 8-inch circular one, so I usually need three or four potatoes, cut into two or three slices each.
Cut up whatever veggies you like; level of coarseness doesn’t really matter. Scatter the results across the potatoes. I used:
You can add arbitrary ingredients at this stage. I cut up chicken into bite-size pieces; substitute whatever you like, or go with what’s here.
Sprinkle spices over the lot. I used:
Smother with a 10.5 oz. can of cream of celery (or onion or mushroom) soup. Add an additional half-can of broth, water, milk, beer, or probably even wine, but I haven’t tried the latter yet. If you prefer a lighter sauce, substitute chicken or vegetable broth for the cream-of-whatever soup.
Cover and bake for about an hour. Check around 45 minutes. The baking time is very flexible; the only issue is to make sure the potatoes are done.
Having just chopped my thumb, I had to look up Akroyd playing Julia Child.
Apparently it’s polygamy.
Something struck me last night, looking at TV footage of the wives and children of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who were taken from their home in what’s starting to look like another bonehead play by the Great State of Texas
Every single one of them seemed vigorous, healthy — and slim. There were perhaps 20 or 25 women and children altogether in the cllps I saw. What are the odds, in a random group of that size anywhere else in America, of not seeing a single wide load?
More of the Pigmy President’s legacy:
Despite more than 100 published studies by government scientists and university laboratories that have raised health concerns about a chemical compound that is central to the multibillion-dollar plastics industry, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe largely because of two studies, both funded by an industry trade group.
The agency says it has relied on research backed by the American Plastics Council because it had input on its design, monitored its progress and reviewed the raw data.
The compound, bisphenol A (BPA), has been linked to breast and prostate cancer, behavioral disorders and reproductive health problems in laboratory animals.
See? What did I tell you about snorting pig brains?
The packing house, in Austin, Minn. (pop. 23,000), slaughters 1,900 pigs a day, working two meat-cutting shifts and one clean-up shift. Virtually everything is used, including ears, entrails and bone. The 12 sufferers of the neurological illness — most are Hispanic immigrants — all work at or near the “head table” where the animals’ severed heads are processed.
One of the steps in that part of the operation involves removing the pigs’ brains with compressed air forced into the skull through the hole where the spinal cord enters. The brains are then packed and sent to markets in Korea and China as food.
Investigators say there is no reason to suspect that either the brains or the pork cuts were contaminated. Their working hypothesis is that the harvesting technique — known as “blowing brains” on the floor — produces aerosols of brain matter. Once inhaled, the material prompts the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the pig brain compounds, but apparently also attack the body’s own nerve tissue because it is so similar.
As if cheeseburgers were something we should be promoting, a German company is offering them in a can. For a mere four euros, you too can open a tin can and remove a squashed cheeseburger, complete with bun, after a week-long trek into the wilderness. (h/t William Gibson; yes, that William Gibson)
Researching for a novel I came across this account of the filming of George Romero’s masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead. Everything I really need to know I learned in kindergarten, and one of those things was to share:
Once the zombies did get a quick meal their feast had to be graphically shown. The raider Sledge, played by Stavrakis, gets his abdomen ripped open by a mob of zombies. Savini sculpted a false chest appliance and glued it to Stavrakis from his groin to his neck. Blood tubing and actual sheep intestines were sealed inside. All the extras would have to do is rip the foam abdomen open.
Anyone who would actually stick these entrails in their mouths were shot for gross-out close-ups. Whenever zombies ate what looked to be human entrails, they were actually gnawing on hams, hot dogs or other deli meats. One extra, a pregnant lady, proposed having the zombies rip her open and a fetus falling out. This idea was too shocking even for Romero and Savini.
I’ll admit I was happy to hear that they were pulling the soda machines out of schools. After all, we didn’t have those when I was a kid and it sure didn’t seem fair that kids should have amenities that I didn’t when I was a child. However, something has come to my attention that just riles my blood. I do admit I’ve never had a Fluffernutter sandwich but it sure seems wrong to outlaw something that’s been around since the great depression, namely the Fluffernutter sandwich. I mean seriously folks, what’s next? The peanut butter and jelly sandwich? The marshmallow and wienie roasts that I enjoyed as a child? And what about my plans for a big wienie roast in Washington? There are loads of wienies in Washington and I had big plans for that project. If the food police keep this up, we’re all toast and we’ll never make it to the big Washington Wienie Roast I had planned. It was going to be a great project. After all, there are more wienies in Washington right now than were made in Topeka in the last 100 years.
By the way, sorry for my long delayed return. I’m finally back to bring you stories that rival the great crises of this country that the mainstream media lets us know about every day.
..and one more thing. Just the mention of a Fluff Whoopie Pie gets my juices flowing. That sounds like something I could enjoy all day long.
One bite into the chili-strewn dish known as Water Boiled Fish, and your mouth explodes. Your forehead erupts in beads of sweat, eyes water, the nose runs, and the tongue and lips go prickly. Sichuan food isn’t just hot and spicy. Some of it is numbing. Hardly anywhere else in China does one encounter such innocent-looking but searing food. Nor can one find a people who eat blisteringly hot food with such gusto. …
Locals say some discomfort is to be expected. At the end of one Sichuan meal, a waitress inquired how a foreigner liked the food. Told that it was, er, special, she offered an apt summation.
“The consuming of Sichuan food is both painful and happy together!” she said, trotting off.
I’m reminded of a Cajun-born friend’s description of the Crawdad Delight served at the Old Venice Pizza Company on the main square of Oxford, Mississippi (a good-eatin’ little town if there ever was one; and while there, don’t forget to drive to the Old Taylor Grocery in Taylor, too): “Sometimes it’s too hot, you know when it’s so hot it makes your lips numb, and down where I’m from when it’s too hot, that’s when it’s jes’ right!”
SICHUANESE WATER BOILED FISH