Tuesday, October 12, 2021

I Have Purple Hair?

My husband sits on the bench in the entryway putting on his sneakers to walk into work.  He glances up as we chat, and his eyes momentarily go wide, hands stilling against his laces for just a space between a breath.  But I was looking for the reaction, so I noticed.  Casually he looked back down and began tying his laces again.  “So, did you…dye your hair purple?”


“No no!  It’s just two streaks in there!” I replied excitedly, walking towards him.


He stands up and walks towards me, now looking intently at my hair, which is covered in purple conditioner and pulled back in a bun to keep off of my shirt.


“It…sort of looks ALL purple right now.”


“I know, that’s just because it’s pulled back and the streaks are all that you see, but its only two streaks.”


“OK.  OK.  So…did you dye it purple FOR the wedding this weekend?”


“Oh….um…no.  I just had been wanting to do a streak, and kept forgetting until I got into the shower and it was too late.  Except for today, I remembered.  So I did it.”


“But it will still be purple this weekend, when we go to the wedding?”


“Well, yeah.  Pretty much.  But I will shampoo it several times so it will fade a bunch.”


“OK….because it looks REALLY purple right now.  Not bad!  Just really really purple.”


“Yeah…”


Purple hair is fun.  A streak of purple in hair is fun.  Change is scary, but sometimes scary can be fun (it is spooky season, after all).  We have been using a couple of products in our house to do fun hair colors and streaks since March of 2020, and it has been really enjoyable. When the pandemic first hit and all schools were shut, I tried to make some lemo
nade out of the situation with my three daughters.  I let them pick a color and do some fun things with their hair, because their normally strict school uniform policy would otherwise prohibit that.  We had turquoise mermaid hair and purple streaks and pink streaks and a few full ginger makeovers over the ensuring year and a half.  We settled on using mostly Overtone because it is a coloring conditioner, and doesn’t strip any moisture from our hair or rub off on their clothes or pillows (once you do the initial wash).  Fun fun fun!


When winter takes over the land I typically just let my hair grow in a mousy dark blonde/brown and live with the darker roots until the sun shows its face again.  However, last winter I decided to use our new favorite coloring conditioner and lean into the darker colors of the season - I colored all of my hair Golden Brown and really enjoyed it.


Fun and enjoyment and satisfaction for everyone!  INSIDE THE HOUSE, that is.  


You see, what I forget about, consistently, every single time I do something like cut or color or change something about my appearance, is that however much I may enjoy that change WITHIN MY OWN HOME, I eventually have to leave my home to do the things.  I have to go out in the world and see other humans.  I have to take my tiny humans to their school and sports and go get them food at stores and interact with other humans.  And, I know this may be shocking to you but bear with me…humans have thoughts and opinions about other people’s physical appearances?  I know!  How rude, right?!


So this year I put two purple streaks in my hair.  I left the conditioner in for a long time (because I was doing laundry and I forgot it was in).  My hair is naturally blonde.  All of the sudden, it was REALLY purple. Then the scary part happened: I had to go out into the world to see the people and do the things.  


And I forgot that my hair was purple…until I got the looks and the double takes and the quizzical glances and the expressions of admiration or surprise or confusion or dismissal.  


I mean, I get it.  Purple.  It’s different.  What does it mean?  Is it a cry for help?  An expression of rebellion?  A declaration of something?


Nope.  Not really.  I just felt like it.  And then I panicked.  


Too.  Much.  Attention.

B, overjoyed after I told her that I turned
my hair purple with a magical spell.


So after I panicked I made a plan, and I layered Golden Brown over the purple.  Maybe that would make it less PURPLE!  Well, it worked…a little bit.  Mostly it was just darker purple.  


The strangest thing about the whole situation is that I forget that it is purple on a daily basis.  We have what I would say is a normal amount of mirrors in our house, but I actually look in them an abnormally low amount on any given day.  So when someone comments it takes me several minutes to remember why a person is scoffing at me in the parking lot at Kohl’s or why a friend doesn’t recognize me in the checkout line at the store or why a neighbor yells out “I love your hair!” while walking down the street.  I get paranoid and self conscious.  Why are they talking to me!?  And then I remember all over again…oh yeah.  


I have purple hair.


So for those of you who have wondered and asked or wondered and not asked, there is no real reason.  I just felt like it.  And then I forgot about it.  Don’t worry overmuch, it will be brown again soon.


Or will it?

Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Tale of Two Salsas

Roasty and Fresh.

If you are in a relationship, intimate or otherwise, where you and your partner/friend/work spouse/etc like the same type of salsa please stop and take a moment to consider yourself blessed.  If you don’t like salsa stop and take a moment to consider the life choices that led you to this point, because I don’t understand you and you should please contact eat some chips and salsa immediately.  In my relationship with my husband we are simpatico on a number of very important culinary issues (our mutual dislike of bad restaurant and grocery store foil packet hollandaise sauce is a foundational block in our marriage), but salsa is not one of them.

The depth of our feelings on this issue come out in the way we describe our own salsa preferences versus the way we describe the others.  I say that I love a nice charred, or double roasted salsa, whereas he prefers his salsa raw.  He says I like my salsa burned or charcoaled while he prefers his salsas fresh.  We both like a little heat, enough so you feel it building in the back of our throat but not enough to induce a trickle of forehead sweat the moment the first bite passes your lips, so hey, we’ve got that going for us.


You should make some nachos to go with your salsa!

It is hard, for me at least, not to start off like a Thoroughbred at Churchill Downs in reading a ton of personality traits into that salsa choice.  A double roasted salsa is smokey, spicy, and a little bitter.  It is complex, and layered.  A fresh salsa is bright, present, flavorful, and accessible.  It can be spicy and acidic too, but relies on the quality and freshness of its ingredients to really shine.  In a roasted salsa can throw any old wrinkled tomato, tomatillo, onion and pepper under a broiler or onto the grill and, as long as it is not moldy and spoilt, it will come out shinning.  Not pictured below is a tray full of wizened cherry tomatoes and if you look closely at those red jalapeños they have definitely seen better weeks, let alone days.


You see where I am going here?


Don is fresh and sunny and full of quality.


I am charred, smokey, and full of nearly spoiled things.


Sigh.


Seriously though, it is funny.  Correspondingly humorous was how easy it was to make Don’s fresh salsa, and how much the burn hurts on my hand from where the boiling hot salsa oil splattered on my middle finger while I was making my charred salsa (read: much more difficult!).


Ouch, and also worth it.


So, without further ago, recipes for two salsas.



Notice how I hid all of the squashy
parts of these veggies by piling
them in a bowl!
Charred Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients:

-1 1/2 to 2 lbs of tomatoes and tomatillos, in whatever ratio you have them, husks removed, split in half (about 10-13 medium)

-1 carton of really old cherry tomatoes

-1 medium white onion, peeled and split in half or quarters

-3 jalapeño and Hungarian wax chiles (remove ribs and seeds if you want it milder, or omit the chiles, or use a milder variety.  Honestly one came in the CSA so I am not sure what it was to be honest)

-1 small to medium bunch of cilantro, bottom of stems cut off

-6 cloves of garlic

-1 tbsp of vegetable oil (I used like 1/4 cup which could account for why I have a burn on my middle finger from boiling hot salsa oil splatter.  I did not follow Kenji’s instructions, and I have paid the price)

-Kosher Salt


Directions:

  1. Place your oven rack about 4 inches below the broiler and preheat it to high.  I used the convection broiler in my oven because I had two pans of ingredients to char.  Place tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and chiles on a foil Ines, rimmed baking sheet.  Broil them until they are really dark and blackened on top, and the tomatoes and tomatillos are form tender.  Throw the garlic in HALFWAY through once you start to see color on the other veggies.  DO NOT put it in at the beginning because you want roasty garlic, but you don’t want the garlic charred.  This is the only veg you don’t want to char.

    Nicely charred!


  2. Transfer veggies and juices to the cup of an immersion blender (which I had) or a blender.  Add in half of the cilantro, and blend in pulses until it is a rough puree.  No big chunks!  You may need to blend in batches, and if so mix all of the batches together in a large bowl before next step.
    Jam it all in and get blending!

  3. Heat oil (not too much!) in a medium saucepan or dutch oven until it is shimmering.  Pour the salsa into the hot oil ALL AT ONCE NOT SLOWLY.  It will steam and sputter like the devil in a holy water rain shower, so be prepared.  If you do it slowly it will only be worse!  Start stirring immediately and continue to cook until it darkens and thickens, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
    Splatters here.
    Splatters there.

  4. Finally chop the remaining cilantro and stir into salsa.  Season to taste with salt.  Let cool and then serve with chips, or serve warm with grilled meats, veg or enchiladas.  Or eat straight from the jar!
    Stir that baby.


Fresh Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:

-30 oz of tomatoes, fresh or canned or mixed (the famous recipe calls for one 28oz can of tomatoes and one 10oz can of Rotel, which I sadly did not have on hand.  I love Rotel)

-1 cup of cilantro, NOT chopped

-1/2 lemon, juiced

-1/2 lime, juiced

-1 tbsp white vinegar

-3/4 tsp salt

-1/4 tsp black pepper

-1/4 tsp cumin

-3 whole garlic cloves (recipe called for 1, you know I abode by a tripling policy when it comes to garlic)

-1/2 white onion, roughly chopped


Directions:


1.  Put everything in the cup of the immersion blender or the stand blender, with the cilantro on top.  Blend to your textural preference!
Blend that baby!


Recipe Notes: 
The recipe for charred salsa is based on the great Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe for Charred Salsa Verde: The One Salsa To Rule Them All salsa found on the always perfect Serious Eats website.  Any tweaks I made are because I was using the produce we had from our garden and a two week old CSA box.  Also, can we talk about how Chef Lopez-Alt and I agree on the best kind of salsa, and also how funny he is!?  This recipe is NOT difficult, it is just more involved than chopping and blending, because it requires chopping, roasting, blending and stirring.  Calm down, its also SUPER easy.  


The recipe for fresh salsa is an old family recipe from consummate cook and baker Rebecca Ann Walton’s personal files.  She gifted us with a jar of this salsa several months ago and we immediately ate the whole jar in half an hour and then begged her for a picture of the recipe card.  Shared with her permission (Becca is it ok that I shared this?  Thank you!). Any changes I made are also because of produce availability and the fact that I over blended the salsa.


Did I really need to make more salsa?
OF COURSE I DID!


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Why Is There Something Touching Me

Questions I am asking myself after four nights of sleeping with my daughters since D is out of town:


Note: it was a child AND
10 stuffed animals
1. Is that a child in my bed or did one of them just but 10 extra pillows in it?

2.  Is that a child in my bed or did one of them just put 10 stuffed animals in it?

3. Can she breathe totally covered by the sheets like that?

4. Is she still in the bed or has she wormed down to the foot and out of it onto the floor?

5. How did her feet get under my armpit?

6. Wait, how did her head now get under my armpit?

7. Can she breathe facedown under my armpit like that?

8.  Am I having a heart attack or just adrenaline rush from her sitting straight up and screaming "NOOOOO!!!!"

9.  Is she literally going to throw up on my in my own bed?

So adorable, so disruptive
to sleep cycles.

10. How can that many parts of her body be touching me right now?

11.  How can she have gotten even closer to me when there is physically no more space left between us?

12.  Why do I get fed to wolves in so many of my daughter's dreams?

13.  When do I get to sleep?

14. WHAT IS TOUCHING MY FACE?!?






Thursday, February 27, 2020

You're A Betch

Don and I have recently started eating mostly vegan at home.  This dietary change is in response to many things…Our slowing metabolism as we march inevitably toward middle age.  The desire to live as long and healthfully as possible to be present to our children (who thus far are all vowing to never move out!).  Our desire to keep taking steps to be better stewards of our environment so our kids don’t hate us, since they will be living with us forever.  The superiority we feel over the rest of humanity after completing a 72 hour kale fast.

However, we have also tried very hard not to let too many people know about it so we don’t become “those vegan friends.”  Those vegan friends are ok in my home state of California, but are less welcome even in this more liberal enclave of the Midwest.  I don’t talk about eating vegan unless being queried by someone in the alternative milks and cheeses sections of the grocery store, and even then it is only under duress (excuse me, does this stuff really melt and stretch like real cheese?  Really?  Look me in the eyes..does it?!)  Also, we still eat meat, under Section 1, Subsection A, of our Hospitality Clause (built into our marriage contract).  Did you invite us over for dinner?  Awesome, we will eat whatever you want to make!  Are we out at a fancy dinner?  Yeah, and I am ordering the skate wing (those bastards killed Steve Erwin, I will eat every one of them I can find!).  Is it Mardi Gras?  You bet your spicy andouille sausage filled gumbo it is!  So you see, it is a little difficult and confusing to talk about dietary choices.  I guess instead of being “those vegan friends” we are really, actually, those “what are they eating again right now?” friends.

Except, wait!  Apparently those “what are they eating again right now?” friends have started a movement in our post-millennial world.  This style of living and eating has a name now!  I can finally label myself accordingly and stop confusing everyone!  

Or not.  

Unfortunately for us all, saying that name makes my butthole clench up because it is so bougie and privileged.  Here, I’ll whisper it: flexitarian.  Ugh.  I have to get my free NPR tote bag out of my invisible L. L. Bean backpack of white privilege to vomit a nice zippy Albariño into every time I say that word out loud.

I mean, essentially it is a good thing.  Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.  Thank you Michael Pollan.  The problem with the whole system is how expensive it is to follow through on these decisions, and how privileged it is to be able to make that decision in the first place.  

Which brings me to the subject of oat milk.  And how much I love it.  Somewhat shamefully.  Until as recently as three months ago I did not see a need to explore the variety of dairy free milks with which we are assaulted on a near daily basis.  Half and half was good enough for me for my daily coffee, whole milk for my girls and for cooking, and then as much yogurt and cheese as my toddler would agree to ingest because she refuses to drink milk altogether.  But what is the need for an alternative milk when we were not vegan and no one was lactose or dairy intolerant?  

And then I got punished for making Don do a Whole 30 last year…oh, I mean…we made the mutual decision to eat vegan for thirty days…  Now I am up to my eyeballs in alternative milks because I have been slowly trying all the alternative dairy, alternative meat, alternative delicious things before eschewing them one by one as being hideous, unpalatable, over processed, and not real food in general.  Beyond meats and actually really meltable cashew cheeses and veganaise.  No.  Just no.  Maybe if I came at these particular items after a 30 day juice fast they would be delicious and not textural abominations, but right now….no.  All except for you, my delicious oat milk.  Of course I wasn’t talking about you.

Which is why I am here today to confess to you all that I have officially become an oat milk betch.  

Turmeric oat milk tea betch.  Matcha orange blossom honey oat milk latte betch.  Warm oat milk with spiced honey betch.  Talk to you about oat milk in line at the café betch.  Buying a carton of oat milk and two oat milk lattes while letting my toddler run screaming around the most hipster cafe in South Bend betch (shout out to you Dory Mitros for saving this betchs day earlier this week!).

Oat-ly! Barista Blend Oat Milk.  I just like it better.  It tastes nutty, rich and creamy without the sour tang of dairy in my coffee.  It doesn’t have that thinness that often accompanies almond or other nut milks (honestly I could brew my coffee with almond milk and still not be able to tell that I had put in any at all). 

 I.  Just.  Like.  It.

And that, my friends, is the whole point really.  At this point in my life I am getting close to rounding the base on the big 40, and I have started realizing that life it much too short not to embrace your inner betch.  In the winter I am a hot oat milk latte with spiced honey while wearing my muck boots and fjallraven parka over a long sleeved t-shirt betch.  In the summer I am an iced coffee with oat milk in a mason jar while wearing my rothy’s and one of my 30 open cardigans over a v-necked shirt with a small hole near the hem betch.

But I’m still not going to call myself a flexitarian.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Cher Amies en Fromage, or Dear Cheese Friends


To the couple seated next to us at dinner on Saturday evening at L’Albatross in Cleveland, OH, I want to extend my sincerest apologies.  If it appears that my husband and I were eavesdropping on your entire evening, I have the simplest of explanations…we were.  We were hanging on every single word you were saying.  I think you know why.  It seems, after all, that we have a very specific interest in common. Yes, yes, you know exactly what I am talking about:

Cheese.

From the moment you sat down next to us on the little banquette, our tables separated by the barest 6 inches, I knew that we were true companions at heart.  You, with your funky cats-eye glasses and your husband (Don maintains that you were unmarried but had been together for several years, but I know better) with his more practical CPA style frames.  You accidentally threw your fork at my foot while moving your water glass, and I laughed it off so casually because my Olive Suede Thursday boots could never be troubled by a mere salad fork. Don’t give it another thought, I said.  

And then the magic between us truly began.  Then you began to talk about cheese.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of dining at L’Albatross they offer a titillating surprise for the uninitiated.  Their menu features a small inset on the bottom left side outlining a cheese course, an Assiette de Fromage offering your choice of three, five or seven cheeses.  A simple enough offering, very often looked over I am sure.  But not by you, learned companions.  You knew better.  You were initiated.  You came to L’Albatross for this very reason.  You came for the cheese.

After you made your drink selections, you fell to discussing the menu with true vigor.  Two hors-d’oeuvres, or a potage and salade?  Well, the onion soup gratinée, of course (!), and then a salad perhaps so as to not get too heavy too quickly (one should rarely get too heavy too quickly, both Don and I agree!).  And then, of course, the fromage.  Should we get three or…no definitely five.  But not seven, that is too much.  Five.  Definitely.

By this time Don and I were riveted.  I fear our own conversation was coming in fits and starts because we were so enthralled by the intensity of your discourse.  I mean, cheese is exciting (believe me girl, I do my share of drooling at a wedge of Humboldt Fog or Mt. Tam or a nice goats milk Gouda) but I have never before seen people more excited by cheese outside of an actual creamery. 

You placed your order, finally, and Don and I fell back into our conversation. We laughed.  We ate prodigious amounts of liver pâté and pork belly and skate wing.  We looked forward to our concert date to follow, and wondered if our girls were behaving well or if they had locked their Uncle Dainty in the basement and taken over the house yet.  Then your our server came to clear away your first courses and we remembered: after the first comes…the cheese!

Dearest dining companions, I can tell you now, it was everything we hoped it would be.  And more.  So much more.

Minutes after your table was cleared, a man entered the room with an enormous cheese board.  You knew this was coming, of course.  It was what you were waiting for, after all!  But, you see, Don and I had no true comprehension of the Assiette de Fromage before this moment.  We assumed when you ordered your selection of five cheeses that the selection would be made for you, in the kitchen, by the chef or one of his more cheese obsessed underlings.  We assumed these selections would be sent out to you on a stylish board, perhaps a slate or a live edged hardwood, along with their house baked bread and some garnishes and jams and a whole grain mustard.  Oh no, such a thing is much too pedestrian for L’Albatross.

It was an enormous wooden board with twenty to thirty cheeses on it.  The gentleman, tattoos running up his arms, placed the board on a waiting tray stand right next to your table and proceeded to discourse on the cheeses with you for the next fifteen minutes.  I know because I propped my chin in my hand, elbow gauchely on my table, leaned forward toward your table and just watched.  All pretense of conversation between Don and I was lost, as I myself was lost to the magic of the cheese board presentation.  Fresh goats milk cheeses, soft French cheeses, washed rind cheeses, your blues, your hard cheeses and sheep milk cheeses.  Cheese cheese cheese cheese cheese YES!

CHEESE! 
Assiette de Fromage 26 October, 2016 - contributed by Yelp user Sheena W.

“Where do you think we should start?  Oh, never mind I know…let’s start hard and then work our way back around.” You proclaimed your plan with delight, your husband nodding excitedly and Cheese Man nodding sagely and markedly more sedately.  An excellent idea, m'am.

Don and I shared a pregnant glance.  Start hard and work our way back around.  A wise plan in any circumstance — we nod sagely as well.

You made your selections, and I will be honest in admitting to you, since we are so close, that I did not fully agree with all of your decisions.  The fresh goats milk, absolutely!  The nutty, aged manchego, clearly.  The full and heady Maytag, you go girl!  However, as much as I love cheese, I have never been able to get completely behind the washed rind cheeses.  I know, I know.  Do I even really love cheese if I can’t do a washed rind?  Jesus, what a poseur!

Funky, gooey Red Hawk, photo courtesy of cheesenotes.com


Believe me, I have tried.  I just can’t.  The Red Hawk defeated me utterly.  

In fact, I am ashamed to admit to you, I once returned an entire round of Red Hawk to a store because I was convinced it had gone bad in the wrapper after I opened it and cut my first slice.  I hadn’t bothered to look it up and research it, and I hadn’t asked the cheese man at the store about it when I purchased it.  I love Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam and Devil's Gulch, so I just went balls to the wall and bought an entire round, convinced that I was enough of a cheese lover to fully embrace anything short of a casu marzu.  After opening it up at home, ready to use it as the centerpiece to my epic Friendsgiving cheese board, I completely panicked.  As a Red Hawk lover (I know this because that is the washed rind cheese you picked) I know that you relish the funky, beefy aroma that I was met with when I unwrapped it, but perhaps you will forgive me when you realize I was not expecting the reddish brown color and moist texture of its rind.  I had another 30 minutes before picking up the kids at school, so I wrapped it back up, hopped back in the car, determined to get justice for myself and my obviously incorrectly stored cheese.

What followed was the most embarrassing customer service exchange I have ever had the misfortune to initiate.  They were patient.  They were kind.  They tried to explain the cheese without fully calling me an idiot.  In the end it is my belief that they just wanted my crazy bourgeoise cheese returning ass to go away since it was a holiday weekend and they had too much shit to do to bother with me.  I called my sister-in-law, the chef, on my way out of the store and sent her pictures I had taken and she soon set me straight.  Um, Crystal....Red Hawk is a washed rind cheese.  Washed rind cheeses grow extra funk, because, you know, moisture.  Red, funky and moist is exactly how Red Hawk is supposed to be.  Now excuse me while I laugh my ass off at the thought of you self righteously returning this expensive cheese to a Whole Foods on a holiday weekend!

Yup.  I think the only thing more bourgeoise than eavesdropping on someone else ordering five pounds of cheese at a sumptuous French restaurant is returning a full pound of cheese because you don’t understand what you bought in the first place.  Le sigh.

But I digress.  I wanted to share this little anecdote with you the other night, but didn’t dare take the chance that it would diminish your enjoyment of your own funky assemblage de fromage!  You see I feel we shared a certain simpatico that even our differing opinions of washed rind cheeses couldn’t diminish.  I was even willing to overlook your apparent interest, as I do for so many of my juniper scented friends and family, in gin cocktails!  In hindsight it is probably all for the best that I was unable to bring myself to interrupt your dinner and regale you with my own cheese themed stories -- I can only imagine the blog post you yourself could have written the next day: Dear Woman Who Continually Interrupted Our Valentine's Celebration With Stories About Cheese...

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  Don and I eventually finished our main courses, and were far too stuffed to contemplate either a dessert or, dare I even suggest it, our own cheese course.  We paid our bill and departed.  I presume you luxuriated in the absence of two other human beings seated six inches from you and visibly intruding on your romantic evening for the five minutes it took the staff to clear off, change the linens, and reseat our table.

For our part, we think of you often, dear cheese friends, and we wish you only the best in life.  We pray that life does not get too heavy too quickly for you, and that you are always able to start hard and then work your way back around.  We should all be so lucky.

Your Amies en Fromage,

Crystal and Donald Zimmer

P.S. For your delight, a selection of pictures featuring L'Albatross' Assiette de Fromage:

Assiette de Fromage 29 August 2018 - contributed by Yelp user Philip R.
Assiette de Fromage 1 May 2019 - contributed by Yelp user Philip R (this guy loves cheese too!)


P.P.S. For your comparison, a selection of cheese boards that suck compared with the Assiette de Fromage:
Ooohh, four types of cheeses, some dry salami and a
half ass bowl of mixed olives!  Pathetic.

It's a nice attempt at a linear presentation, but...no.

What is this peasant fare, a midmorning snack for an infant hobbit? 
There is barely an ounce of cheese on this plate.  Go home.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

How Many Prayers Per Minute?


This post was originally written on Tuesday, January 27th.

“What can I help you with today?”

“I’m hoping to light a candle at the Grotto”

“Alright then…thirty minute pass.  Ought to be enough to light a candle.”

“Alright.  Thank you.”

“Have a good day M’am.”

Thirty minutes.  Should be enough time to light a candle.  Well that is true.  That should go without saying.  Thirty minutes is enough time to park anywhere on campus, get to the Grotto, light a candle, and hot foot it back to wherever you illegally wedged your car in between Ziolkowski construction trucks. 

But how much time is enough time to light a candle and pray.  After all, is that not what we come to the Grotto to do?  Or to attempt?

How many minutes do I get to pray for my babies here on earth, safely learning and playing in school right now?  How many minutes do I get to pray for my babies in heaven, to ensure them of my love and pray to be reunited with them?  How many minutes, then, should I be allowed to pray for my brother Riley, or my sister Laura?  To rest in thoughts of their beautiful, heartbreaking, shooting star lives and wallow in misery at the moments of family togetherness stolen from us and their other loved ones?

How many seconds allotted for my husband, my love, still sleeping at home?  To pray for our marriage, that we continue to work at it and fight for it through the never ending waves of trouble and loss and joy and surprise and unending togetherness.  To wonder at my luck in finding him, catching him, holding him and letting myself be found, caught and held in return.

How many moments to pray for his patients from his last shift, and the people who will seek out his help at the Emergency Room in just a few hours.  That they be comforted.  That they be saved, if at all possible. That they be granted grace, and that they grant him and his colleagues grace in return.

And finally, how many minutes left for my own mother, and my friend, both going into surgery at just about this time?  

My mother, who, while never surprised at a new blow dealt by life will never take one laying down.  When we were flummoxed by the appearance of a brain tumor, and then harrowed by the appearance of a second one after a three month wait and see period, she took the bull by the horns, changed her insurance and switched doctors mid-diagnoses.  Now, two weeks later she is getting a hole drilled into her skull for a brain biopsy.  How many seconds to pray for a safe procedure?  How many seconds to pray for the skills of the surgeons?  How many seconds to pray that the needle follow a true path, and that the biopsy not leave her with more side effects?  That she not have a heart attack and not wake up from the procedure at all?  That I not get a call from my Daddy while picking up my daughters from school and have to pretend its all right its all right while hearing something unimaginable, again.  

How many seconds for a prayer from a daughter to God, begging to still be a daughter at the end of the day?

He didn’t mean it like that, I know.  The guard at the gate.  But as I drove past the lakes and found a parking spot on the road to St. Mary’s (all the parking spots in the small lot by the Grotto were taken up by construction trucks, per usual), I couldn’t help but wonder at his choice of words and and what it meant to me.  What it might mean to the person who passed through before me and the person who would pass through after me.  

What did they have to pray for today?  How many minutes were they given?  

How many minutes would it really take?




Thursday, January 9, 2020

Meat Sweats or Leftoverpalooza or We Have The Meat! or How To Cook and Eat Twenty Two Pounds of Prime Rib


This Christmas we took a page from traditional Whoville celebrations in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and made a real roast beast for Christmas Eve dinner.  I think Don’s dad had been watching The Grinch and the Christmas Carol on repeat, and when he went to the butcher’s he asked for the largest goose in the window and ended up with a 22lb bone-in prime rib roast.  I don’t really know how a description can possibly do it justice, and I didn’t think to take pictures of it, but it was a BEAST (in fact, I started referring to it as the Beast Rabban in my head, but then that got kind of weird, so I had to stop).  It came in the largest foil roasting pan available at your local grocery store, wrapped in butcher paper, and it busted out both sides of the roasting pan.  

Don and I took the Beast on as a project, and decided to cook it as a whole, rather than cutting it up into two or three roasts.  For more information about our favorite method of cooking prime rib, Serious Eats has several articles detailing the methodology and a great recipe as well.  Reverse Searing For Life!  While the recipe shown references a 3 to 12lb rib roast, I can now testify that the methodology works for a 22lb roast as well.  Just make sure you give yourself enough time, and if your roast is rarer around the rib bones you can always carve off the outside pieces and then put your roast back into a low oven to keep cooking the inside as you eat.

Note: also make sure you have a roasting pan that has not been bent and crumpled under the weight of your beast to roast.  Especially if your husband is taking your kids to the grocery store on Christmas Eve morning and asks you forty times if he needs to get anything else and you assure him that you are definitely good to go, nothing more needed.  Then he comes home and asks what you are cooking the beast in and you say “a roasting pan” and realize the roasting pan you are thinking of is actually the Platonic Ideal of a roasting pan, and does not, in fact, inhabit the physical plane of your in-laws house.  

So, perfect medium rare prime rib (and when I say perfect, I mean if you like medium rare meat then you need to make yourself an occasion and cook this immediately because this method is foolproof and amazing), Christmas Eve dinner.  22lbs.  We ate about 3lbs of it that night.  A few more pounds were sliced off for Christmas Day dinner to complement the turkey.  I would estimate that left about 16lbs of prime rib leftover after Christmas.  Don and I sliced that in half, and took one of the halves home when we left the morning of the 27th.  Call it 6-7lbs of prime rib per half at that point.  A goodly chunk of the original beast, which in reality was a full Christmas roast for a family in its own right!

Would you ever go to the grocery store and order 6lbs of sliced roast beef?  Well, now that I think about it, that sounds like a sandwich party to me, but still.  That would be crazy.  So what do you do with that much leftover, perfectly rare prime rib?

Well, really whatever you want!

Here is a list of the meals we ended up getting out of the Beast:

Prime Rib Christmas Eve Dinner.  Accompanied by mashed potatoes, Hawaiian bread rolls, sautéed green beans.
Prime Rib Second Christmas Dinner.  Accompanied by horsey sauce, baked creamed spinach, and garlic bread.
Prime Rib Second
Christmas Dinner

Prime Rib Ramen.  I broke out the last bag of dashi broth from the deep freeze, leftover from that time I went insane in 2016 and spent three days making David Chang’s  ramen broth.  Combined with beef stock, and purloined three bricks of noodles from our pantry store of Top  Ramen.  Combined with thin shaved prime rib, shaved carrots, onion and thinly sliced sugar snap peas.
Prime Rib Scrambled Eggs.  I didn’t really want to mess with making the potatoes for a full hash, and now I regret that.  Hash is one of my favorite breakfast or breakfast for dinner meals!  Instead I just cut up some cubes of prime rib, cooked them on medium high in a nonstick skillet to crisp up the fat, and then added some eggs beaten with a bit of half and half and garlic salt.  In retrospect I should have combined the prime rib bits and eggs after they were cooked separately so that the crispy bits did not get soggy with egg!  Still good!
Prime Rib Sandwiches.  The second to last leftover meal, this used a serious chunk of prime rib and was delicious.  Toasted hoagie buns, homemade horseradish sauce, cartelized onions, and sharp white cheddar.  Sandwiches broiled open faced in the oven for 6 minutes, then devoured.  I wanted to add some baby arugula to these but we only had romaine, and that did not seem right.  Lucy had hers without onions and horsey sauce.  R requested a ham and cheese with extra mayo, served neither hot nor cold, but medium, please.
Christmas Leftover Poutine.  This was the ultimate leftover meal.  Take leftover french fries from your prime rib sandwich night, top with leftover creamed spinach from Second Christmas, and top with chopped prime rib from the very last four inch by four inch chunk and shredded gruyere and parmesan from the creamed spinach.  Broil in the oven on low for 10 minutes, or until the smell drives you insane and you try to grab the cast iron skillet with your bare hands.  Ouch.
Delicious leftover chimera of french fries,
creamed spinach, prime rib and gruyere
This may not seem like a lot, but at the time it felt like we had been eating prime rib for two weeks.  Which is kind of true.  No one got food poisoning.  Not sure I would be up for cooking that large of a beast again in the future!

Here are some other meal ideas I considered in the leftovering process:

Prime Rib curry with sweet potatoes
Prime Rib and mushroom stroganoff
Prime rib soup with barley and carrots


Leftover scrambled eggs, sausage gravy and
creamed spinach atop leftover biscuits
Leftover poblano chile puff and sharp cheddar on toast