We Interrupt These Thirty Days

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(Which, TOTALLY STILL HAPPENING, but I need to catch up. People, I’m VERY grateful for all of you. Fry sauce, fried dill pickles, whole garlic cloves, wedding cake, hummus, shashlik, chicken and stuffing sandwiches, lobster, brisket, cheesecake, the AH-MAZING cheese from Saturday night…these are ALL previews of posts to come) (Funeral potatoes, steak tips and rice…)

BUT NOW, Audience participation time. (I NEED AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION-YOU KNOW HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH ME…) A friend is going to be going on two long plane trips with apparently 1.5 adults (I’ve seen the work of half of the “adults” and frankly, chronology will only get you so far, Sir.) and two older kiddos and on the return trip, they will have another kiddo. And I know the last time I was on a 14 hour plane ride, I had personal masseurs and Mr. Spielberg himself making whatever sort of videographic entertainment I desired, but apparently cutbacks have been made. SO I NEED YOUR HELP.

(My friend politely turned down my offer of actual things to take over to the place that they are going, presumably because all I ever post about is Labradors and Bacon and those are questionable items in checked baggage.) (Amateurs.)

I’m combing the YouTubes to see if I can’t stock up her personal electronic device about which we are currently having a difference of opinion and therefore will not name with hilarious videos. From what I gather, there are two personal electronic devices (which sounds weird…let’s call it a personal non-creepy video electronic entertainment device), one for the tenderer eyes and ears and one for the ones that can handle the PG-13, m’kay?

An idea of what they will consider to be enjoyable:
-Mad Men
-Breaking Bad
(I love them)
-Excellent stand-up humor
-ANYTHING to do with Carly Rae Jepsen ūüėČ
-K, I’ve already sent them the Nineties video and watched it myself three times this AM.
-Miss America Talents (A? The Fringe is already in my list.)
-Kilgore Junior College Rangerettes
-Labradors (because I truly, truly want her children to resume their “can we have a dog?” campaign at this time in her life because I try to be a kind friend like that…)
-Anything TRULY hilarious. (If we found it hilarious in college? Really examine it before we send it.)
-Anything TRULY hilarious. (If we found it hilarious in law school? Let’s really examine when we first found it hilarious before we send it.)
-They do enjoy appropriate God Humor.
(I like talkin’ God with her.)

So-you have your task. Get ready, get set, GO!!!!!!!!! (NOW! They are leaving soon!)


Thirty Days of Gratitude-Three

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Gentle Reader,

Posting a little early, because Sunday’s post will be a little late.

So “today” (meaning Saturday…or, not really because I try to be grateful everyday but I fall way short of that…ow. ¬†My head hurts.) I’m thankful for gravy.

(I should really rename this blog to “Wordie Talks A LOT About Obvious Things”.)

In our little nuclear family (the parentals and the critters and me) I am the gravy/sauce maker. ¬†It’s a role that yields great power and great responsibility. ¬†Thanksgiving dinner is riding on ME. ¬†(What? ¬†You don’t make a 20 pound turkey specifically for the drippings? ¬†You don’t have two recipes for mashed potatoes? ¬†One for the rest of the year that has yummy things like sour cream and mayo and garlic and then one for Thanksgiving which is plain-intended SOLELY as a vehicle for the consumption of gravy? ¬†Amateurs.)

This talent has been documented on this blog before. ¬†I did NOT inherit this ability from my mama. ¬†She DIDN’T TEACH ME ABOUT GRAVY. ¬†I saw my Gamma fixin’ it one day, and asked what it was. ¬†One day, mama will live that gem down. ¬†But not today. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†Mama was called to task for this unacceptable hole in my culinary preparation, and Gamma spent the remainder of my time with them that summer teaching me the fundamentals of gravy.

But despite this, gravy unites me to the woman who has questioned her maternity MANY, MANY times in my life.  The fundamentals of gravy are pretty symbolic.  And they serve to highlight areas of our personalities that, um, need some more spiritual refinement.

As hinted earlier-gravy starts early. ¬†With the placing of the turkey in the oven. ¬†You’re going for drippings. ¬†So while most people would be focusing on the main event, you have to have your eyes on two prizes here, people. ¬†The bird and the drippings. ¬†Bird is going to cook for awhile. ¬†And if you have any sort of desire to cook the bird in time for dinner, you’re going to have to apply heat. ¬†Heat + Fat= A balancing act. ¬†You want butter (OBVS.) but butter is a bit of a wilting violet when it comes to heat. ¬†It can’t take a lot (unless you clarify it which I probably should but FER CRYIN’ OUT LOUD, it’s six o’clock in the dark and we’re not actively seeking extra tasks here) so you have to balance the butter with some olive oil. ¬†And then, when you baste, you have to pay attention to the bird and the drippings again. ¬†Add stock to temper the oil. ¬†Add water to keep the drippings from scorching-but not too much because too much creates a steam bath which does NOT equal crispy skin.

Summary-gravy requires planning ahead. ¬†Gravy demands commitment. ¬†(We’ll discuss my planning ahead skillz later. ¬†I’m not prepared to talk about those tonight.)

After they emerge from the oven, the drippings are reserved. ¬†The second phase of the gravy starts. ¬†With a roux. ¬†You can google a “recipe” for roux, but honestly, it’s something you learn. ¬†Time after floury, pasty, or alternatively burnt, time. ¬†I no longer measure. ¬†I don’t time it anymore. ¬†I wing it. ¬†I can, because I’ve done it enough. ¬†I had to log in the practice first. ¬†And even now, my “is it done yet?” test involves me asking myself if I can be patient any longer and if the answer is yes, I keep going. ¬†I know me well enough to understand that when I say “HECK NO!!!!”, I wait 30 more seconds, and it’s done. ¬†Magically. ¬†Every time.

(So-my internal clock is tied to gravy.  Yes.)

Gravy requires patience.  (Which clearly I have in spades.)

After the roux is done, it is combined with the reserved drippings and some more stock, and seasoned to deliciousness.  And then the final requirement for gravy: a warm table with loving friends and family to share it with.

Mama, we got that part NAILED.  And I am thankful for you.





Thirty Days of Gratitude-One, and because I’m already behind, Two

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Gentle Reader,

So a lot of folks seem to be doing this and for once, I’m not tragically late for a good meme. I decided I would do it too, on the blog and on the FB. (But I decided to blog AFTER my bedtime so I’m plinking this out on the iPhone rather than trot to the laptop and get my delicate sleeping requirements messed up. Andy, I’ll try for brief.)

I love me some food. (In other news, the earth is round, not flat, and the Pope is still Catholic. What’s your contribution to the Patently Obvious Things discussion?). I have said it before-preparing a meal, serving, sharing, the table, the kitchen, the company? These complete me. When Alton Brown said that while he might consider some foods not worth eating, he would never turn down an honestly and lovingly prepared meal? I fell more in love. We’re totally simpatico there! Except I cannot make his version of hollandaise sauce without making lemon-y scrambled eggs. Blender hollandaise is TOTES the way to go.

Ahem. So naturally my family and friends (read: the people for whom I would give most specific thanks) are usually inextricably linked to food in my mind. So for my thirty days, I’m thankful for different and specific people and I’ll tell you my food “imprint” with which they are associated.

So Day One. Butter milk and crackers. I’m exceedingly thankful for buttermilk and saltine crackers-crushed up and mixed together and eaten from a glass glass (never. plastic. ever. yucky.) with an iced tea spoon. I’m coming out of the closet, people. No longer do I have to drink my buttermilk and crunch my saltines crouched in a dark corner, away from prying eyes. I am Wordie, and I drink buttermilk. In much, MUCH greater quantity than regular “sweet” milk. Because my Papa Jack taught me since I was wee-bitty. (This also adds credence to the already mountainous evidence that my cousin Susan and I were somehow switched at birth, despite the ten year gap in ages. Susan is so very nearly my mama, it’s wacky. And I am my Aunt K. It’s spooky, people.). (My own mama cannot stand the buttermilk, and Aunt K loves the stuff.)

So Papa Jack. Yes, Wordie, but why on the green earth would a soul drink buttermilk? Because there were times when he wouldn’t be able to swallow anything else. Because it soothed his angry stomach. (I also learned various other home remedies from him. And to NEVER EVER NEVER get sick at their house because if I did? I’d have a spoonful of baking soda crammed down my gullet before the bed was fully turned down. And then be awakened in a few hours to have a raw egg in a little juice glass helpfully poured down after it. Be VERY glad it was just the buttermilk that I adopted.). So I’m not sure when or how, but I’ve loved my buttermilk since before I actually remember. It was very much our deal.

It’s still my comfort food because it instantly brings me home to arms that loved me beyond comprehension and hands that would sooner die before they let anybody or anything harm me. To a voice that still rings with happiness upon seeing me. “HeHAAAAY, Ol’ Bud!” And then he’d jog a little faster to get to the hug that much sooner. So tight that nothing could pry it apart.

I miss it and I miss him.

I like to think that the last, “HeHAAAAY, Ol’ Bud!” and ensuing hug is still suspended in the heavens above 4th Street in Ocilla, GA, waiting for us.

Until then, I make do with the buttermilk.

(And now we switch gears and talk about Day Two.)

Day Two. I am thankful for Red Velvet cake. Because my Gamma made it JUST RIGHT. With homemade cream cheese frosting.

Gamma was a baker. I am not. It mystifies me, I burn things, and I figure why bother with all the mixing and the dishwashing and anxiety when God gave us ice cream and Reese’s peanut butter cups? (the full size ones, not those weird mini ones…peanut butter to chocolate ratio in those things is DANGEROUSLY out of whack). Given my flagrant disregard for recipes, I need to focus on cooking more forgiving dishes. Otherwise people could die. And manslaughter has SO MUCH paperwork…

Anyway-Gamma always made red velvet when I came to visit. There are so many other Gamma Food Memories that I have (fried chicken, jello in the “special cups”, home canned green beans, cube steak, little cereal boxes, stop me when I start to sound like the kid in Forest Gump…) but this one is emblematic and is more personally “mine” than the others.’ My Gamma was truly one of the bravest women I know. Because the day after my Papa Jack died suddenly and without warning, she got out of bed. After the center of her world for nearly 54 years was instantly gone, she got out of bed the next day. Surviving that day, that first lonesome day, she earned her bravery badge.

And while I want them both here. Now. With me. It is a muted comfort that they are both Home. Together.