Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Roasting, rolling, mashing, reading, resting, raining


our freeway exit
So much has happened since my last post, so much that I wanted to write about but couldn’t because of shopping, baking, roasting, mashing, cleaning, carving, hosting, resting, and, when that was all over, because I’d forgotten how to write. It happens! I was on an unprecedented writing roll before the holiday, barreling ahead on two different projects, keeping up the blog, feeling superhuman. Then I took a few days off to host Thanksgiving and can't get back in the groove. At least I’m warm, dry, and fed. One of these years I'll hit another sweet spot.

Something I've learned about blogging is that if you don’t capture the moment at the moment, you have to let it go and just move on. So I’m not going to tell you about the most affecting piece I read on the terrible Ferguson conflagration nor the essay that explained why I shouldn’t like it as much as I did. I'm not going to even mention the fact that I’m suddenly tempted to block several friends on Facebook because I get so agitated every morning by their political posts and find myself arguing with them in my head for hours and hours. I’ll forego describing the amazing Ottolenghi celeriac with lentils and hazelnuts that I cooked per a suggestion one of you made in the comments. It was truly great, and I don't often say that of lentils, celery root, or hazelnuts. THANK YOU.

Six days have passed now and it's too late to let you know that the New York Times salty pluff mud pie was the one real loser on the Thanksgiving menu, or that the grape salad was weird, but not terrible, and that these brussels sprouts in peanut vinaigrette were the best part of the meal. I bought more sprouts yesterday so I could make them again. 

I’d wanted to write something about Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, a noble meditation on the end of life that I read in one sitting the day after Thanksgiving. The book is full of wisdom and grace, but also snapping femurs and mild symptoms that turn out to be metastatic cancer. Approach this important book with caution and, perhaps, some Ativan. Unfortunately, the moment to recommend/warn you about Being Mortal  has passed. So, too, the opportunity to share my my mixed reviews of the raunchy John Waters Christmas show, which wasn't as clever and funny as we'd hoped, and Mockingjay, the first Hunger Games movie I haven't loved, mostly because I can't understand why anyone would pine for Josh Hutcherson.

Fortunately, life has calmed down now that Thanksgiving is over and the kids are back in school. Plus, we've been hit by some awesome storms and rain is in the forecast for the next few days and I don’t want to leave the house lest I get swept down the hill in a flash flood. I'll have no trouble finding time to keep you up to date on thrilling developments in my mind and kitchen as I putter around in slippers, researching tramp art picture frames on eBay and trying to get my writing mojo back.

Thrilling developments like this: I’ve never seen Owen wolf anything down with such gusto as he did this ground beef dish from Orangette last night. Mark and I made pigs of ourselves as well and there wasn’t a crumb of meat left for poor Isabel when she got home from dance. I’ve decided I’m going to make this every two weeks until Owen goes to college or starts complaining, whichever comes first. So easy and delicious. For the record, I used a pound of ground beef (adjusting the other ingredients accordingly) and added a 5-ounce box of about-to-expire baby spinach intended for a salad that I never got around to making. Other vegetables could be safely incorporated, rendering the dish slightly healthier. I plan to experiment. Also, I omitted the fried eggs. A real hit, this dish. Try it. 

38 comments:

  1. I agree about Josh!! Now... Liam on the other hand, I could look at his rebel face all day long.

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    1. Something bad happened to Josh's hair -- yellow?

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  2. The beef dish sounds great, and I'm going to try it very soon. My son is a semi-picky eater, but the recipe doesn't seem to contain anything he would find offensive, aside from the egg. I'll definitely put one on my serving, though!

    I love grape salad, although we make it with a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese with lots of toasted pecans. And not broiled.

    Josh Hutcherson doesn't inspire pining in me, either. Neither does Liam Hemsworth. Maybe because their characters are young enough to be my children? Lenny Kravitz, however...yes, I could totally pine for him.

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    1. I love that! Lenny Kravitz for me too.

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    2. Katina -- are you from Minnesota?
      Woody Harrelson. I guess he's my Hunger Games man.

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    3. No, I'm from Indiana, land of persimmon pudding, according to the NY Times. I've eaten persimmon exactly 3 times in my life, from the grocery store, and never in pudding form.

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    4. Katina, my ex MIL lived outside of Indianapolis in Newcastle, and every year we had persimmon pudding for Thanksgiving. So, maybe it is an older generation or rural dish. By the way, I really liked it. She served it with whipped cream. I have no idea whether or not it was made to the NYT's specifications. Agree with the Lenny Kravitz choice, BTW!

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    5. By the way the grape salad caused quite the uproar here in Minnesota - nobody had ever even heard of it before. There were some amusing exchanges with the NY Times over this.

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    6. beckster, I live in northwestern Indiana, 15 minutes south of the Michigan state line(about 3/4 mile from Notre Dame). So maybe it's a central or southern Indiana specialty.

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  3. For someone who insists she has lost her writing mojo, you packed a lot of information in this post! I find the Thanksgiving experience a bit disorienting, so perhaps it will come back more quickly than you think. By the way, every time I see/hear/read Atul Gawande, I can't help but think how wonderful it would be to have him as my doctor. He is wise, kind, and without illusion about mortality, a position that is difficult to achieve and maintain. I admire him greatly. Thanks for all the information and references. Stay safe and dry and enjoy your puttering.

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    1. Atul Gawande is so thoughtful -- I agree. Did you read the book?

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    2. I have not read this book yet, but it is on my Kindle. I have read most of his essays, and I read the checklist book when I was still working in a hospital.

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    3. Jennifer, either you have added a lot of book reviews lately, or I have not checked that section of the blog in ages. Thank you, I find your reviews very interesting and helpful. Now, having said that, will someone please explain why Kate Atkinson's Life After Life is so beloved? I found it to be a more serious, but no less tedious, version of the film Groundhog Day. (My husband loves this film; I do not. What on earth did I miss? Educate me!

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    4. A lot of people feel as you do, Beckster, and I don't disagree. It wasn't my favorite Kate Atkinson at all and I wouldn't read it again. (I've read all her Jackson Brodie books twice or more.). I just really love her voice. It's all about voice for me.

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    5. I will have to try the Jackson Brodie books again. It's all about voice and character development for me. I absolutely loved All the Light We Cannot See.

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  4. Ben Watson's piece seemed to get pulled apart by some for not offering any solutions, other than "God." I don't think he meant to offer solutions. He wrote it, by his own admission, in order to try and pick apart some complex feelings. I liked it because it was a careful, honest and very articulate expression regarding his emotional reaction to the situation. Hang me if you want to, but I think the bussed-in protestors, looters, and arsonists would do well to sit and reflect on that for a few.

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    1. I've reread the Ben Watson piece a few times since reading the critiques, still find it powerful in a way the more "resolved" pieces are not. What a scourge we all inherited, white and black.

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  5. I read the trilogy before seeing the movies, so I became invested in Peeta before they cast Josh. I didn't really like the third book, so I don't anticipate I'll like this movie. But I'll watch it when it comes to Netflix ;) I am going to make that beef dish ASAP.

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    1. I thought Josh was cute in Kids are Alright. Just doesn't work for me here. I hope you like the beef dish! My sister put me on to it and the beauty of it is its simplicity. I feel like I could remember all the ingredients when I'm at the supermarket.

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  6. This has nothing to do with anything here, but I went to a friend's for Thanksgiving and she gave me a homemade fruitcake to take home with the instructions to drizzle a little bourbon on it every week until Christmas. I have always imagined myself to be a fruitcake hater of the first degree, but I couldn't resist taking a bite the first time I drizzled, then wound up inhaling half of the {mercifully small} tin that evening and demolishing the rest the second day. Do you ever bake fruitcake? I'm Jewish, and the thought of all of those glaceed fruits just seemed beyond nasty to me, but it was spectacular.

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    1. Hilarious! Isn't is great to be able to change your opinion of something when new info is input?

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    2. Oh yes, I have a long history with fruitcake, witloof, and for at least 8 years it's been on my "to-do" list to have a fruitcake-tasting party. But here it is Christmas again and I haven't done it. I actually had a tumblr a few years ago with pictures I took of various fruitcakes. I'll have to unearth that. Isn't a fruitcake a major violation of your diet? What kind of fruits were in the cake? Was it light or dark?

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    3. Oh, that fruitcake! Yes, it was a sin, seventeen ways to Sunday. I just didn't have the heart to tell my friend that I didn't want it. It was a homemade gift, made with love, and refusing it would have been extremely churlish. Then when it was in my house it started burning a hole in my pantry. The author of the diet I'm following says that if there is a food in your kitchen that you can't rest until you have finished it, you have a problem with that food and should not be eating it. Sweets and baked goods are definitely in that category for me! Even though I didn't think I would like it, it was there, so I had to take a bite. Then another bite. Then another bite. Etc. My friend says there were a lot of glaceed cherries and candied orange and grapefruit peel in it. The cake itself was the darkest shade of brown imaginable. My friend says it's her mother's recipe and that she probably got it from an old Fanny Farmer.

      Now that I'm back on the wagon, I made that brussels sprouts recipe, substituting almond butter for the peanut butter. It was really good!

      I must say that although this diet is a pain I'm losing quite a bit of weight and when I was visiting my friends, who live in the mountains and are amazing hikers, I kept up with them without any difficulty for the first time ever. So it's been worth it. Although I'm turning into a boring old food crank.

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    4. Anyone who raves about fruitcake like you just did is no food crank. I'll look in my Fanny Farmer. There are so many fruitcakes. The one I used to make is barely a fruitcake -- it's golden raisins, apricots, and some nut -- I can't remember -- and came from Joy. My grandmother made a very dark cake.
      Do you think your diet book author is correct? Does he/she mean that you should never eat the food you crave or that you should avoid bringing it into the house where you will eat it in extreme quantities?

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    5. What got to me about that cake was the mysterious, complex spiciness, the dense, moist texture, and the bourbon fumes. It was intoxicating! The woman who baked it absolutely loves ginger, so I'm sure she put in a lot.

      I'm the kind of person who cannot leave half a pint of ice cream in the freezer or any bread or cake or cookies in the kitchen, and interestingly, as soon as I stopped eating sugar, dairy, and gluten, I felt much better. The chronic foot and joint soreness I took for granted as a twice a week contra dancer has gone away, and my mood and energy levels are better than they have ever been. So it's been worth it, although when I look at my Kitchen Aid mixer and all of its lovely attachments, I feel really sad.

      She does absolutely say you can cheat once in a while, and you bet I did on Thanksgiving! I have been a vegetarian for many years, and when I walked in and smelled goose roasting, my first thought was "There is NO WAY I'm not eating that." So I did, and enjoyed every bite.

      I get the feeling that the author of the diet, Kathy Abascal, struggles with sticking to the principles as much as anyone else, because she frequently talks on her blog about getting back on track when you start making exceptions, and it sounds as if she knows from personal experience. I'm being strict with myself as much as possible because I don't want to fall off the wagon before I lose 30 more pounds {down 20, hurrah!} and want to make my new way of eating a regular habit. I"m sure I'll cut myself some slack later this month. Latke season coming up, after all!

      I have another friend who is strictly kosher, diabetic, and has a metabolic disorder and celiac disease. She does not have much money and her pots and pans and kitchen tools are rudimentary. She never buys any fancy ingredients, ever. She cooks low fat low sodium no sugar. Most of what she makes is vegan and based on vegatables, which she buys in a regular supermarket. And yet the food she cooks is always astonishingly delicious and very satisfying. I wonder how she does it?

      Thanks for the nice words about not being a food crank. I hope I didn't bore and annoy my friends about my discoveries, but I am afraid I probably did.

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    6. Jeez, I sure hope you can wheedle that recipe off your friend and share it with us! It sounds spectacular, and I don't even like glaceed cherries. But grapefruit and lots of ginger, darkly spicy and bourbon-laced? Count me in!

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    7. She did promise she'd send it, so I'll post it here if she does.

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  7. I think I bookmarked (i.e. "pinned") every recipe you mentioned here. Glad to see you back. Except that Minnesotan grape salad. It's bad enough I have to live in Minnesota. You're a sport for trying it out.

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    1. On the same page, I guess!

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    2. Oh, I meant that I pinned them after reading your descriptions! :)

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  8. Not sure if you read comments on older posts, but I clipped the salty pluff mud pie recipe and had been looking forward to making it. Would you mind sharing what made it a loser?

    Love the book, make the bread almost weekly, in fact, and (not sure why it took me this long) just started reading you here.

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