Saturday, June 11, 2011

All about bedrooms and a little about brisket

8th grader no more
"Bedroom community" strikes me as the wrong term for a suburb, at least the suburb in which I live. This feels more like a factory town where the product is children. I'm not talking about babies, which, yes, are traditionally made in bedrooms. But in fact, they're often made in urban bedrooms and eventually (some) parents bring the babies out to the suburbs for finishing. I grew up in a city. That was fun. But this seems fun, too.

June is a big month, as product starts coming off the assembly line. Day before yesterday, Owen graduated from elementary school. He and his cohort have mastered their math facts and can sing Congolese folk songs. They are of middling height and physically awkward. According to the inspirational quotes they recited, they believe in striving, friendship, and the value of being true to one's self. Admirable! At the graduation, there were a lot of dresses with "bubble skirts" like this. While the ceremony was sweet, it did not feel momentous and I went straight from the graduation to buy goat ration and fly traps.
A few hours later, Isabel graduated from middle school. That ceremony was not sweet and it did feel momentous. There were a lot of dresses like this. At one point during the distribution of diplomas the principal called the name of a girl named Ella C. who spent the night at our house several times circa 2006. I said to my husband, "Well, they screwed up. That's not Ella." He said, "That's Ella." I squinted my feeble old eyes. I still couldn't see that this was Ella.

But later I confirmed: it was Ella.

This happened again and again and again. Everywhere wandered radiant young people I've known since they were five, almost all of them taller than me with vaguely familiar faces and very long legs. It was poignant and unsettling.

Isabel went to a graduation dance in the evening where the dresses got shorter and tighter, the heels higher. I had bad dreams all night. One involved raising a baby albino alligator that I was feeding with an eye dropper until the baby alligator ate the eye dropper and swam away. In another dream, I excised a very tiny kid goat from inside of a Bartlett pear. And in the worst nightmare of all, I overheard a friend say that my bedroom looked "like a pig pen." I did not, in the dream, deny that my bedroom looked like a pig pen, merely chastised this friend for gossiping about the way I keep house. If you know how to analyze dreams, please, please don't.

Back to our scheduled programming: The other night I made Guy Fieri's Bring It On Beef Brisket.  About half of his dishes have gimmicky names like that, which doesn't bother me when the recipes work. This one didn't, not for me. It was the most disappointing kind of bad meal, because I was so looking forward to it. The photograph in Fieri's book shows the brisket is falling to shreds, collapsing under a blanket of what appears to be glossy barbecue sauce. I thought about that brisket all day and it cooked for what seemed like all day. But the the meat never softened, remaining an implacable raft of stiff gray cow flesh. The sauce lacked zest.

Three possibilities:

1. the recipe is wrong
2. the piece of brisket I got was wrong
3. I did something wrong

Last night, I made Fieri's ginger carrot soup. My husband thought this was great, but I could not eat it. I've grown accustomed to vegetable soups made with only vegetables, and the homemade chicken stock was overpowering, too chickeny, and I couldn't taste the ginger.
None for me, thanks
Tonight: Fieri's pork blade steak piccata. The grill is heating as I type.

On another subject, we've begun milking Natalie. Last night, Owen helped milk and then I went upstairs and made him hot chocolate with the fresh milk. He couldn't get over how awesome the whole experience was. I don't think I could persist in our onerous and messy animal project without him. I appreciate not just the work he contributes to keeping them, but his sheer joy at having them.


  1. thank you for converging the confusing world once again.

  2. So, that kind of dress on (recent) eighth graders, huh? Neat.

    I'll just be over here being a prude.

  3. I went to a piano recital today. Some teen girls had on the minimal material dress that you reference. I kept thinking, "Isn't her back cold?" instead of listening to her playing. My 8 year old daughter is a young prude. She insisted on wearing leggings under her bubble dress, even though I wanted her to take them off.

  4. Bummer about the brisket. What was the recipe? This is usually a low maintenance dish to cook and does fine with the right amount of liquid and cooking time...

  5. There is something about brisket--seems so simple but hard to get it just right. I buy mine at Rudy's ;) Texans know brisket. Kids off at summer camp--trying to eat all the stuff they hate (brisket is one of them)

  6. I had a brisket disaster (tough as anything) and made it alongside my mother-in-law and saw where I had gone wrong. Not sure how Guy makes it or this was your issue, but my biggest issue was that the meat wasn't sealed tightly enough. My MIL put the brisket in a very tight foil packet and didn't open it till it was done. I had lightly covered mine with foil and kept opening it to check.

  7. Horrible how they grow up, isn't it? I went to high school with your husband; the picture of you son being a goof looks oddly reminiscent.

  8. I've learned that the secret to a great brisket is in how it's cut. You have to cut it 'across the grain' and thin, and it will be very tender when you eat it. If you cut it 'with the grain' no matter what the recipe, it will be tough. Something else I do is slice it, cover it in gravy and let it sit overnight. Talk about tender! good luck next time!

  9. Find the test kitchens version of brisket. About 2 hours on the grill and then in the oven wrapped for 3 to 3 1/2 hours at 275 or so. KILLER!!

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