Monday, March 21, 2016

The Situation of Socks

We have been watching a lot of Parks and Recreation, so much so that I often find myself coming up with Perdism’s throughout the day.  I can’t write this story without recalling the moment I was inspired to put pen to paper…  

It begins...
I was walking through the living room and saw a pair of tiny socks on the floor.  I frowned, stooped to grab them, and was greeted with the site of another, larger sock underneath the coffee table.  I grabbed that too.  I walked through into the kitchen: a pair of folded socks on the kitchen counter.  Having captured this errant hosiery as well, I bore my increasing burden through the pantry, damn it, another pair of tiny socks discarded, one on top of the dog food container and one perilously close to the dog’s water bowl.  I retrieved them, one slightly damp, and, increasingly suspicious that I was following the trail of some monstrous leprechaun or mischievous sock faerie, I continued my way upstairs.  

There, underneath the banister.  A veritable cache of tiny person stockings.  All told, I had about ten pairs of socks in my arms to deliver to the washer after a two minute walk through the house, and the Perdism came to me.

I have a situation, which means a problem, and that problem is with the situation, which means a location, of socks, which are mittens that you put on your feet.

Why?  Why are there socks everywhere?  Why do I put socks on my children only to have them shed within minutes?  Don’t they understand that even though it is spring it is still like 60 degrees in our house?!

Another pocket of castaways.
Perhaps it is because socks are, historically, the most loathed of all garments to a child.  Coming in a close second are underwear and anything with a tag on it.  I know this because I have two siblings, and between the three of us we were constantly tortured by socks, underwear and tags in our youth.  I have very specific memories of trying to get out of wearing socks, of putting them on while my parents were watching and then hiding them in spots when I thought they weren't looking and trying to run outside before they noticed.  Of course, this never worked, and what ensued was a battle royal in the laundry room just off the garage.  

I would be told that we were not going to school/the store/a party/hiking/etc until I put on my socks.  Then I would writhe on the laundry room floor in agony until one or both of my parents forcibly placed them on my feet.  Then I would writhe in greater agony because the offensive garments were killing me.  They.  Were.  Killing.  ME!

Anyone out there feeling me?  Anything else out there know what it is about socks that is absolutely unbearable to sensitive young toes?

Is the seam the issue?

Yes, that’s right.  The seam.

The fucking seam.  The root of all evil.  It chafes your toes, it digs into them, and God forbid your socks should ever get turned around and the seam should become off center.  That was the worst.  Stop everything.  Literally.  I have to take my shoe off and adjust my sock or I will go insane and start throwing things.  Underwear and t-shirt tags were the same.  They were always touching you, itching you, or tickling you.  If your parents cut them off then that inevitable 1 cm leftover was even worse.  If they ripped out the tags then your clothing disintegrated in the next wash.  It was a lose lose lose.

All I can say about recent advancements in the textile industries is thank God that we have learned how to mass produce socks without toe seams, and print ink labels on the backs of t-shirts and underwear.  This is a life saver for parents of tortured children and parents who were formerly tortured children everywhere.  Well, everywhere our first world problem having, entitled,  ridiculously tortured by good clothing asses can afford to buy seam and tag free clothing, that is.

Maybe it is not the seam that is the culprit here.  Perhaps it is just the nature of our two girls that they want to be barefoot, free to feel the carpet and wood under their feet at home, the grass and mud between their toes outside, and the hot, sticky chafe of the inside of their shoes in direct contact with their skin.  Perhaps they don’t understand that the foot can produce a quarter of a pint of sweat in one day (GROSS) or that heat is lost through their feet at a higher rate because of the greater surface area of their toes!

Or maybe temperature regulation is the issue.  Now that I am old and beginning to waste away I wear socks almost year round, especially to bed.  Double thick wool in the winter and light running socks in the summer, but the socks are always on.  If I get into bed without socks, I feel like my toes immediately turn into ice cubes, and the rest of my body heat is sucked down through my ice cube toes and lost to the ether (don’t question me on the science of this, I don’t care).  However, my eldest must run a few degrees warmer than I do, because even when our house is 60 degrees she sheds her socks as soon as she comes in the door because they make her feet sweat and they are too hot.  MOM THEY ARE TOO HOT!

The final cache, mere feet away from the washing machine.
Well, regardless of wether their feet are being attacked by demon seams, they just want to run around like naked little fairies,or the socks are melting their feet off of their bodies, the crux of the matter is not the why, but the where.  Or, rather, the why of the where.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but why do they have to leave their socks all over the God damn house?!?  They have sock drawers.  They have laundry baskets.  They can both reach the washing machine, and, point of fact, regularly indulge in the pleasure of throwing clean clothing and random non-clothing items into the washing machine just because they can.  But can they, when directed, put a dirty sock into any one of these many acceptable receptacles?
Of course not.

My daughters, and, I believe, most children, are still more like faeries than human.  As J. M. Barrie pointed out faeries can only be bad or good at one time, “because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time.”  Children are like that when they are young.  Their bodies are so small and their feelings and thoughts are so big, that much of the time they only have room enough for one at a time.  The socks are scratchy, chaffing, hot, restricting their sense of freedom — they come off.  The next moment they are borne away on the back of another whim, sensation, or fit of imagination and the socks are left behind on a stairway or behind a couch cushion.

Knowing this, however, doesn’t keep me from getting frustrated at the growing number of missing socks in sock drawers or the frequency with which I stumble upon strays.  But it does keep me from threatening to throw away the errant hosiery that I do find.  Afterall, if I am wrong about their one track minds, then such a feint on my part would be playing right into their hands.  If they are sneakier than I think, then that might be what they had in mind all along…

Whimsical faeries or nefarious villains?  The jury is out...

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Simple Soup

I know I am a little crazy.  But it is days like yesterday that bring that fact home even more.  I had an awesome morning with an old friend and her little boy, who were in town for an overnight playdate.  Right after lunch they got in their car to drive home, R went down for a nap, and D walked out to go into the hospital for a few hours to do patient follow up.  Right as he walked out we talked a little bit about plans for the rest of the day.  It was Ash Wednesday, so we were planning on going to mass in the evening, and then having a vegetarian dinner.  Since I didn't have anything planned, Don suggested we just have some soup and bread.  And then he walked out.

(Note: this is not really true.  Actually, before he left he asked me to please do something nice for myself like read or write something, instead of picking up legos.  Because I was on my hands and knees picking up legos.  And sometime in that conversation we talked about a simple dinner of soup, because it was Ash Wednesday and that was an easy thing to do when you are not eating meat.  But mostly we talked about me not cleaning or doing laundry the whole time R was taking her nap.  Because my husband loves me and wants me to take care of myself.)

And this is where the crazy comes in.

I sat down.  I read for a while.  But I couldn't get settled.  Something was nagging at me.  Something was making me feel shitty and nervous and a teensy bit bitter for some reason.  And then it dawned upon me.

Soup.  A simple dinner of soup.  A simple dinner of all vegetable, no meat, soup.  Are you fucking kidding me?  Because what is the one kind of stock I do not have in my house.  Vegetable stock.  I have chicken stock.  I have ham stock.  I have beef stock.  I even have dashi, from last year when I went crazy for several weeks, ordered a bunch of stuff online from Japan and cancelled life for three days to make David Chang's ramen broth.  But I don't have vegetable stock.  

So what?  I have a pantry.  The pantry has cans.  Some of those cans contain soup.  One or more of those cans of soup are likely to be tomato or another variety of all vegetable soup.  Right?

Wrong.  Not wrong as in I don't have any cans of vegetable soup.  Wrong as in, no, we are not going to eat canned soup.  Wrong as in now I am going to put my book down, get my ass up out of this chair, and make some damn vegetable stock.

Note: this is obviously not what D meant when he suggested a simple dinner of soup.

So, here you have it.  A recipe for some not so simple vegetable stock (yes, one of the ingredients is dried mushrooms, which I happened to have because of the afore mentioned ramen broth adventure in the Spring of 2015) followed by a recipe for not so simple vegetable soup.  Pair with a thawed loaf of bread from an Italian restaurant that you forgot was living in your freezer.

Vegetable Stock
1 Huge Stock Pot
32 cups of water (or however much that was that I poured in there)
2 carrots, peeled and broken into pieces
2/3 bunch of celery, root cut off so I could pretend I rinsed the dirt off of it
1 large onion cut in quarters, peel left on
1 head of garlic cut in half 
4 dried mushrooms from a bag in your pantry from when you went crazy and made ramen broth, or whole mushrooms of you have them, or mushroom stems if you are insane and keep mushroom stems in baggies in your freezer for use in making stock.  Along with shrimp shells.
4 sprigs of thyme 
A handful of parsley
Salt and whole Pepper corns to taste

1. Literally throw everything into the pot and bring it to a boil.  
2.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, or whatever keeps things at a low simmer on your stove top, and simmer that mother for as long as you have.  Seriously, if you don't need the stock until tomorrow or you are working ahead, simmer that all day.  All. Day.
3.  Except half an hour in decide that the mushrooms are really potent and take the two biggest ones out.  Reserve for the soup.
4.  When you are done simmering that mother, turn the heat off and let it cool a little.  Or put on some protective clothing, get your strainer and another large pot or Tupperware out, and strain that mother while it is simmering hot.  It will splash.  It will burn you.  An onion skin will pour out into your strainer, act as a luge, and cause about 4 cups of scalding hot stock to shoot up at you, soaking your apron that thank God you remembered to wear and sweater and jeans.  You were warned.
5.  Show your two year old the stock and ask her what color it is.  This is fun because everything is blue.  Everything.  Well, not really.  Your stock should be dark brown because of the mushrooms and onion skin.
6.  Use immediately, or cool in the fridge and then portion into freezer bags and freeze for later use.

Simple Vegetable Soup
1/2 sweet onion or yellow onion, diced super, super small so your kids don't freak out at the texture
4 cloves of garlic (or less or more) chopped finely
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 potatoes, diced
4 mushrooms from your stock, chopped however you want them
2 cups of cherry tomatoes that were getting a little wrinkly, cut into quarters
8 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of farro, barley, kamut, rice, or whatever locally sourced, non GMO, ancient grain you have on hand

1. Melt a pad of butter and a blop of olive oil into your soup pot on medium low.  Add the onions and garlic at the same time and sweat them for at least 10 minutes, low and slow.  You don't want them to brown, just get soft.  Add salt and pepper.
2.  Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes.  Saute these with the onions and garlic on medium for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start getting mushy.  Add more salt and pepper.  If you want to add any other spices, this is the time.
3.  Add your vegetable stock, preferably warm from the stock pot or the microwave.  Turn up the heat to bring the soup to a boil.
4.  Once it is boiling add the grain of your choice, and stir.
5.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the grain is cooked through.  If you notice the soup getting too thick for your taste, because the grain is absorbing it, then add more stock.

Enjoy your "simple" vegetable soup with crackers, bread, or some shavings of Parmesan!