Monday, November 28, 2005

Life Is Just Happening Too Damn Fast!

Well, I see I forgot to post the Cranberry relish - well, I'll do it in time for Christmas, I promise. You will forgive me when you hear my story:

About 6 weeks ago, I picked up the phone and heard somebody ask me if I was the same dks married to an Army officer, who lived in MD in 1984-85 and had a foster child named David. When I assented, the caller told me he was that same David, who had spent years looking for us after we had left the area for a tour in Germany.

That David was a sweet, quiet 16 year-old who had spent most of his life in institutions, had been severely abused by his father to the point of brain damage, been separated from his 3 sisters since he was 5, and was very poorly socialized. He didn't even know how to use a knife and fork when he came to our house from a juvenile detention center. He was with us for 9 months, during which time I despaired of him ever making it in the world outside of institutions. He hated homework, didn't read well, had a hard time with the freedom normal family life brings (but really liked it), and needed 24/7 intervention on the part of school officials, medical people, the legal system, and us. In spite of the difficulties, we became very attached to him, and considered adoption, but knowing we were going to have an overseas assignment, decided he couldn't handle that stress. We managed to locate one of his sisters, though, and flew her from another state to spend holidays with us. That reunion was so poignant.

We lost contact with David, but he spent the next 2 years in a number of placements that were not the best. He ran away from the last institution, and turned 18 "on the lam". He looked for us in a number of cities, hitchiking the West where he thought we might be. He eventually gave up, got some job training and a CDL, met a great girl, started his own tanning business, and married her. He has 3 kids. Guess who we had for Thanksgiving this year?

So this sweet boy, so quiet, so damaged, who I thought would be in prison or a group home somewhere, at best, came to see us, looking for the only good family memories he ever had. We thought we had failed him, but he made the best of whatever he got from us, and has succeeded in life beyond our best hopes. He asked us if we could be a family again, so I went from being a grandmother of 2 to a grandmother of 5 over the Thanksgiving holiday. He was surprised to find he had a baby brother, and happy to see his sister, our daughter (Goddess of Purple) again. Their birthdays are a day apart in November, so we celebrated them together again this year. Our daughter gave him a framed copy of a picture taken on his birthday in 1984 of the two of them together. We gave him a more practical gift of hunting binoculars.

Mr. dks is already tired from running for office, and the election is a year away. Every Saturday brings at least 3 "meet and greets". He found a treasurer last week, an old Army buddy, and his own "Band of Brothers" is forming around him. I don't think he'll be "swift-boated", though, for a little Texas Legislative district campaign. But just in case, Terry, Chad, and some others will be there for him. Goddess of Purple is his communications director, Little Harvard is his volunteer coordinator, The Ned will be organizing block-walking, and I, dks herself, have been named campaign manager. It is going to be a hell of a ride. I was idly wondering last night just how many surprises this campaign will deliver; maybe even winning. Now that would be a mighty change, indeed.

Mmmmm. All those turkey left-overs gone yet? I sent mine home with GoP and the Ned. He doesn't think it has really been Thanksgiving if he doesn't eat turkey for 4 days afterward, so he gets the leftovers. I kept the cranberry relish, and have had it for dessert every night since T-Day.

I hate articles about using left-over turkey. We're supposed to eat turkey sandwiches with them, not make them into all kinds of other stuff like "turkey divan" and "turkey croquettes" or "turkey tetrazzini". All that stuff tastes better with chicken, anyway. But there's nothing like a turkey sandwich with a little chestnut dressing, some mayo, and a schmear of jellied cranberry sauce on sourdough bread.

What are you cooking for dinner tonight?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Let The Games Begin! (with pecan pie)

Well, here I am on the third day of weather cool enough to turn off the A/C since February. Not that we actually keep the A/C on all that time - our Army days have conditioned us into thinking Summer begins officially on June 15, the day the Post Commander says it's OK to use the A/C; and ends on September 15th, when we must turn it off. In my old age, I have extended "summer" from May 1 to Oct 1. No matter that I am a crabby menopausal bitch even with the A/C on - but it's a matter of degree. When I pant, rant and stomp the house saying, "It's so fucking hot", mr. dks mildly observes that we do have A/C, and that he would even go turn it on for me. That just makes me more hormonally freaky. But today, like yesterday and the day before, it is actually cool here in South Texas. The cat wishes to spend her days cuddled up to the dog, kneading her side coat. Madame La Chat gives me malevolent looks, trying to force me to turn on the heat. That we do no earlier than November 30th which is the Duck's birthday. But mr. dks came home from work last night, in the cold dark, and said in his commander's voice, "Turn on the heat, now." See, he got some sort of tropical affliction when he deployed to Panama. He can no longer stand cold weather. Some sort of mild, tropical fever he got down there has the lasting effect of have him shivering in temperatures under 75 degrees, and the docs are stumped by it. That, combined with a very weird skin condition he got in Gulf War I, a 50% hearing loss in his "rifle ear", and about 20 stress fractures in each leg and knees that don't work right, are part of his retirement package from the military - along with this strange difficulty I have using the A/C and the heat unless the calendar (or a general) says I can.

I write about Mr. dks today because he and I have made a momentous decision, a decision so unexpected, so far from what we thought we would be doing at this time in our life together, that we are still dazed. Yes, it's true. Mr. dks will be running for a state representative seat in the Great State of Texas. Tonight a lady is coming to talk about setting up a PAC, folks have started already volunteering to work the campaign, and we just look at ourselves across the dinner table, wondering, "What have we done?" I am trying to get used to the idea of wearing makeup, pantyhose and some kind of dress thing in the heat of the campaign summer. People who know me won't recognize me, which will be good thing, because I feel vaguely ashamed, as if I am wearing a Halloween costume, when I wear makeup.

So, in celebration (?) of a new beginning, I offer you my very best, most-requested dessert recipe - Texan By Injection Pecan Pie:

1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick real butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 beaten eggs

1 unbaked pie crust for a 9" deep dish pie

2-3 cups fresh shelled pecans

Combine first 5 ingredients in a 2 quart pot, and bring it to a rolling boil. After the butter is melted, cook the syrup for about 2-3 more minutes. Cool it to room temperature. (I do this by placing the pot in a bigger pot of ice and stirring until it cools to room temp.) Stir in the vanilla and the beaten eggs.

Put the pecans in the pie crust-lined pie pan, pour in the syrup-egg mixture. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes on the bottom shelf of your oven. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake 30 minutes more. Cool to room temperature before cutting.

Now, you can make this even more nutty by using 2 pie crusts in 2 shallow 9" pie plates, using 2 cups of nuts in each, and dividing the syrup-egg mixture between the two, and baking as directed, except to cut about 5-10 minutes off the final baking. It's OK if the top cracks. It will collapse as it cools and look fine. Done this way, the pies are more like candy in a crust, less like a conventional chess pie.

Oh, BTW, I have won contests with this recipe, even modifying it by adding 1 cup of chocolate chips to the pecans, and 1/4 cup bourbon with the vanilla, and calling it North American Cup Derby Pie in celebration of Little Harvard winning medals at every fencing tournament he fenced in Louisville, Kentucky.

If you use clear glass pie plates, the crust will be best on the bottom, but that's your call. I just really hate soggy beige crust - I like a nice dark crisp bottom crust.

Next week I will post Mawgie's Cranberry Relish. You will need 1 large pkg lemon jello, 2 cups fresh cranberries, an orange, some celery, some pecans and sugar.

The Texan By Injection is yours truly. And watch it be 88 degrees on Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Geez, how can any American cook, let alone, eat?

"Is Crucifixion Legal Under Bush And Cheney?

Jane Mayer, who along with Jill Abramson wrote Strange Justice, a definitive account of how Anita Hill was smeared and ridiculed during the Clarence Thomas hearing, has written a searing account of the death of a prisoner in Iraq.

Jamadi’s bruises, [a forensic pathologist who examined the case records] said, were no doubt painful, but they were not life-threatening. Baden went on, “He also had injuries to his ribs. You don’t die from broken ribs. But if he had been hung up in this way [with his hands tied behind him in a painful position known as a "Palestinian Hanging"] and had broken ribs, that’s different.” In his judgment, “asphyxia is what he died from—as in a crucifixion.”

As in a crucifixion. At the hands of Americans. And it may not be against the law anymore"

via Digby.

I mean, I am having a hard time even sleeping at night with this torture shit going on - how am I supposed to plan, let alone, cook and eat Thanksgiving dinner? I think it may be time for bread and water for us until we take our country back so decent, hard-working, right-thinking normal people can feel good about being Americans again.

In our early days as a nation, leaders called for days of prayer and fasting when the country was in a crisis. Perhaps it would be a good thing if our star chefs in America did the same thing? Godde knows, our leaders would never do it; but coming from the likes of Alice Waters, Wofgang Puck, et. al., it might have an impact. They could hold special "soup and bread" fundraisers for lefty causes. Hey! How about "Soup and Bread Impeachment Parties"?

It's just about time, isn't it, to stop playing and indulging ourselves, and fast a little? Fast from not only food, but stuff like movies out, those sexy strappy little red heels we saw in the store window, the fast little silver sport car, that new cool kitchen gadget, the $12.00 pound of pasta and the truffle oil?

No recipe today, sisters and brothers. I can't even think about food today.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tarte Tatin

Created by impoverished old maid sisters, this is one of France's beloved desserts; and it is truly easy to make. Check it out:

1 9" pie crust

3-4 large, crisp, tart(e!) apples, like Granny Smith
1/2 stick butter
@ 3/4 C sugar

Melt the butter over low heat in a 9-10" skillet with oven-proof handle. Peel and core apples and cut them into 6ths. When butter is melted, put sugar into the pan, and raise the heat to medium, shaking the pan frequently until the sugar begins to caramelize. Remove from heat, place apple slices core side up in the caramelized sugar, tucking them in neatly but tightly. Cover the pan, place the pan back on the medium burner, and cook for about 15 minutes covered. Check frequently for signs the apples are cooked through. Remove the lid, cook apples down until browned where they touch the pan bottom. I like mine quite brown. The caramel will cook down, absorbing the apple juices, to a glistening golden glaze.

Remove from heat, and cool to warm or room temperature. About 30 minutes before serving, cover apples in pan with the pie crust, tucking the crust down around the edge of the pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven until well-browned. Cool very slightly, then invert onto a rimmed (to absorb the juices) cake plate. Serve almost hot. To make it "American", top it with some cinnamon ice cream.

Why cookbooks make this sound so hard and fussy, I'll never figure out. It is easy (no, easier) than, well, pie. I keep rolled-out homemade pie crusts in the freezer in an old Rubbermade cake keeper, separated by plastic wrap, making it a snap to make this dessert on the spur of the moment. Who doesn't have apples around? My only caveat is that you really must use real butter - salted or not, your preference.

Now, legend has it that the Tatin sisters were able to keep the family home and body and soul together by baking and selling these tartes in the Fall and Winter. I just love the image of these two old maiden ladies, picking their apples, chopping the wood for their wood stove, peeling and cutting, sauteeing and tasting, gossiping and fussing, hoping to pay the bills by making these treasures.

This kind of thing still can pay the bills. A friend of mine put her daughter through Texas A&M by making and selling tamales between Hallowe'en and New Year's Day.

Maybe I'll try putting Little Harvard thru Harvard by baking and selling my pecan pies, the recipe which I will give y'all for Christmas (but early enough to make and serve on that day).

Yesterday, November 5th, was 94 degrees in Austin, Texas. It's hard to think of cooking Christmas dinner in this heat.

Godde bless.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Culinary Confessions, Part Deux

Got this idea from LisaSD over at Comfort Food, and I am going to run with it cuz I want to confess:

1. I hate papaya, definitely a Problem in San Antonio
2. I actually pay $3.99 apiece for artichokes
3. I sometimes let dirty dishes stay in the sink for 24 hours before I feel guilty
4. I have some tea in my cupboard that costs $165.00 per pound, and I am afraid to drink it. Little Harvard has no fear and brews it lavishly, and cavalierly throws out the dregs with nary a blink. Shouldn't we be making ice cream, salad dressing, or something from the dregs?
5. I read cookbooks in the bathtub
6. I think food and sex go well together
7. I am altogether too fussy about chocolate
8. I adore Rice Krispie Treats cereal, with milk or without
9. I like Pillsbury box brownie mix
10. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, due to all the food
11. I would like Christmas better if there were less decorating required so I could spend more time cooking
12. Speaking of Christmas, I really like fruitcake

Now, to get to the bitching part of my post today - lookee here for a righteous rant about a righteous rant. I am so mad at the RW Wackos running this country into the ground that I sometimes don't even want to eat, let alone cook. For this I am willing to actually get political. So now you know why I rant so much. I have been robbed of my most intense pleasures because I am too pissed off to think creatively.

Pray for me, and send me a good, simple recipe of something delicious.

Godde love ya.