I was told that the red I should see
From the gardener — who is he, and not me.
The color flashed bright
I pulled with my might
A premie orb overshadowed my glee.
Today, as of 10 am, I had:
We have a brunch to attend on Sunday, which promises to be a delightful time, with friends from church and outside of church, and friends we’ve yet to meet. And a whole roasted lamb, which has me more than a little excited. I’ve been pondering my contribution, finding little inspiration, thinking about last year’s sour cherries, the last little bits still in our deep-freezer, considering new things like gnocchi, wondering how to serve frozen yogurt to 30 adults and almost as many sticky, egg-finding children. And then it hit me, in a moment of instant relief, it was a no-brainer, in fact I really knew it all along.
I will make deviled eggs,** for the first time ever. I will provide the one thing I always hope to find at the brunch table, the one thing I eat embarrassing quantities of, each time I am faced with a platter.
One thing down. But it’s funny, how that decision has nailed down a corner of my day, and the rest of it no longer seems to be blowing away in the chilly spring wind.
* Grocery postponed. Instead chose to stay home w/ the Wee One, do at-home chores, and make sour cherry frozen yogurt. Priorities, right?
** The greenish eggs in the photo are not some exotic variety. They are the color you get when you dye brown eggs blue, which is what we did yesterday at an egg-dyeing party, where I was the one who brought the “hippy eggs.” And darnit if we won’t use them.
For most of my life, I had no idea what it meant to eat seasonally. As far as our hometown big-box grocery store allowed, the only seasonal differentiation occurred on the candy aisle — we had peppermint sticks in December, candy corns in October, and peeps in April.
Over the past decade I’ve come to embrace seasonal eating, as has much of our middle-class, college-educated American population; it’s become cool to eat seasonally — and it tickles me pink. If something is going to be in vogue, I’d rather it be a thing that makes environmental, economic, and nutritional sense rather than the alternative (think late-90s when every upper-middle-class college freshman in the south owned an SUV).
So I can embrace March and April in the midwest for the long-awaited, beautiful resurgence of tender salad greens. I can enjoy the sales on organic kiwi and avocados at the grocery stores. I can gobble up the radishes, look forward to a garden full of spring kale, and make my once-a-year pan of spring vegetable risotto. But one thing I’ve never included in my spring-bounty food list was odd-tasting cow’s milk.
Raise your hand if you knew that cow’s milk was seasonal (dairy farmers, you don’t count).
Back in 2009, right after our move to Indiana, I began an interesting search for local cow’s milk (it involved phone numbers scrawled on scrap paper by shifty-eyed Mennonites, phones answered by quiet men with Old-Testament names, and the willingness to own a share of our very own cow — sans the option to name her). We purchased a cow share from a farm outside the city, then switched to another farm, and last fall went back to the original. The reason we did all that switching was because we wanted the cows who provide our milk to be purely grass-fed — this increases the nutrients in the milk, and allows the cows to eat as they naturally desire.
But cows can’t eat grass when the ground is frozen — so during winter months, they get hay. And this change effects the milk — but (we thought) mostly on a production scale. During months of drought or feeding transition to hay, the cows can run a bit dry, and we in turn must go without their milk.
But a few weeks ago, just as green grass began to peek out of our thawed winter tundra, and production was back up to normal, our milk had a funny taste to it. It was subtle, and different from a this-milk-is-sour taste; it was all-at-once gamey, grassy, and, well, a little funky.
The taste got stronger as the week went on and we plowed through our usual 2-gallon allotment. My 7-year old loved it, but Tim and I began referring to it as “nasty milk.” We couldn’t stomach the last half-gallon jar, and when Tim picked up our next weekly batch, he asked the farmer what was up.
Apparently, the spring grass is what’s up. During these first few weeks of eating up all those fresh greens, the chemistry of the milk changes — and ironically, the milk is at its nutritional high during this time. You can tell by the color, too (see photo above, comparing our grass-fed milk to the pale Trader Joe’s Organic on the left) — it’s the color of butter, rich in beta-carotene. In short, our milk is seasonal, and these are the precious weeks when the gettin’s good.
And oh, how I want to embrace it, because it’s hip to be seasonal. I hang my hat on it, I blog about it, I “discuss” it with unwitting, unresponsive listeners. I want that beta-carotene, want to gratefully consume the best our little cow has to offer. But this one might have to be filed away with liver — under the heading of Things I Wish I Wanted To Eat Because I So Like The Idea.
Things That I Just Can’t Stomach.
Reasons To Be Vegan For Just Two Weeks.
I Don’t Like Spring Milk And I Am OK.
My Seven-Year Old Is More Sophisticated Than I Am.
This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday, at GNOWFGLINS.
So here we are, in my newly-renovated home. I’ll still be vacuuming construction dust for a few weeks (months?) and might continue to rearrange some of my knick-knacks and wall hangings. But today you get the gist of it. The tour:
First things first: I changed the name. Thought for Food, for me, had worn out its welcome.
There were a few other considerations as well — the site needed some changes to be logistically easier to manage. You shouldn’t care about this at all — but it’s been a long time coming, on my end. Lastly, l was bored with the design; it needed to be cleaned up a bit, get that facelift I mentioned. Hopefully you will find it comfortable, and to your liking.
Are you too warm? Too cold? Can I get you a drink?
The best part about all of this change? When it’s finally done (I’m sure I’ll be fixing broken links and 404 errors for the next few weeks), I can get back to things I actually enjoy — things like cooking new things, and writing about it.
Not to mention giving you the play-by-play on our kitchen project,* which is now fully underway:
* No, I won’t really put you through this (save this one photo). While misery does love company, even I know that the best part of a kitchen redo is the “after” shot. The process, most folks can do without.
This weekend, Tim pulled a few kitchen cabinets off our wall.
In an unrelated incident, I began the painstaking task of moving my blog to a new host.
These things have nothing to do with each other, short of the fact that both can result in my looking down to find I have two white-knuckled fists full of my own hair, not exactly knowing how it got there.
The kitchen, well, remember my whole obsession with the fact that I don’t have a kitchen window over my sink? But that a window should be there, because a previous owner closed it up? We are righting a wrong, by undertaking a small renovation — pulling down some cabinets, installing a window, building some shelves, tiling a backsplash, and replacing a portion of our countertops with butcherblock. All in all, it’s not a very expensive or even complicated project, but will take many weeks to complete, since Tim will do all the work and still has a full-time job (how selfish can he be, providing for his family in that insistent way of his?).
While I can’t say that my blog needs a new window (because it is a window, metaphorically, or at least it used to be, but now we’ve moved beyond the metaphor as interface, or something? or perhaps it’s a window into my blackened soul?), it does need a facelift. Maybe a shot of botox, or at very least a chemical peel. I’ve grown quite weary of a design that I never really loved, but used because I could make it work; and since I was already going to be in there, it seemed a good time to change the name.
So if you happen upon the site in the next few days, and things seem odd, you can rest assured that I’ll be somewhere, in front of my computer, cursing silently at inanimate objects while actively pursuing friendships with every tech support guru at my new hosting company.
And if all ultimately goes well, I’ll have a fresh new look for you in just a few days (the address will remain the same, even though the name will change).
If only my kitchen could operate on the same schedule.
One day last week, I tweeted:
And how truly sad that I believe it to be true — only because no one has offered up another bowl of thom kha to challenge my assertion.
But let’s back up a bit, shall we? I am nothing if not confident in my ability to cook many things — often over-confident to the point of leaving my face with the occasional coating of (proverbial) egg — so what’s the big deal, whether or not I’m full of my ability to cook an Asian soup?
Thom kha might mean nothing to you; it might ring a faint bell of familiarity; or, if you are at all like me and Tim, it is a yardstick by which you measure the value of every Thai restaurant at which you’ve ever eaten. That’s right: Tim and I, as a couple, have never once eaten at a Thai restaurant without ordering at least a cup of thom kha (coconut-chicken soup). For some reason, it’s a true litmus test. We start with the soup — and usually, if the soup is to our liking, the rest of the meal will be, as well.
And, granted — neither of us have ever been to Thailand. So we’re not even sure if our way of enjoying it is in any sense authentic. We like it a little spicy, but not sweat-inducing; not too sweet; chicken pieces that are not rubbery or dry; the optional addition of straw mushrooms; flavored with ginger, but not full of chewy strips of the stuff that will leave you feeling like you’re gnawing on ginger-flavored tree bark. A rich broth, not too watery or thick, but a Goldilocks just right.
The fact that we don’t eat out much doesn’t help my assertion that no Thai restaurants in this city live up to our hopes — but we’ve tried at least three, and really, that’s the magic number for burning up a desire to keep trying. Even after a New York Times article praised the ethnic restaurant scene in our city, we continue to get recommendations for the places we’ve tried before, and felt were lacking (the article didn’t mention Thai).
While I love this dairy-free soup, for its quickness, simplicity, and surprising complexity (note the ingredients you shouldn’t do without), I’ll admit that I wish we could pick up a cup of it at a great little Thai place in a local strip mall. With a side of red curry to match. Because this soup, in my perfect world, would definitely fit into the category of Things I Can Make At Home But A Restaurant On The Westside Does Much Better.
And if you live in Indy, and know just the place, pass on your rec. Our chopsticks are waiting.
Thom Kha (Thai chicken-coconut soup)
adapted closely from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking
makes about 6 cups
The things that make this soup go from acceptable to thinking-you-make-the-best-soup-in-town: use homemade chicken stock, use the fish sauce (it smells mildly offensive straight from the jar, but makes the soup authentic), and if you’re lucky enough to run across some lemongrass, add that step.
If you have lemongrass, simmer the coconut milk with the chopped stalks for about 15 minutes before proceeding (be sure to remove the lemongrass and discard before adding the chicken).
Bring the coconut milk and chicken stock to a simmer in a soup pot. Add the jalapenos, fish sauce, ginger, and salt, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the chicken thighs, optional mushrooms, and lime juice. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Check for seasoning and/or more lime juice.
Serve with a scoop of cooked rice, garnished with cilantro or parsley. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 2-3 days.
My husband and I are not picky about the cars we drive. This has nothing to do with any sense of self-denial for the greater good (if so, we’d ride bikes everywhere, right?) — but everything to do with the fact that we’re cheap, stingy, sons-of-motherless-goats. Both of us.
So, while I’ll admit to admiring my share of late-model Volvo wagons; will confess that I secretly, mildly curse every woman I watch open the hatch and both side doors of her minivan by pressing a sleek button from a distance of 100 feet as she balances a toddler and five bags of groceries on two shoulders; reveal that in-dash navigation systems make me tingly all over — I do hold tight to an advantage my stripped-down, used, pre-cool-model, blend-in gold Honda Odyssey has over all of these things:
No one is breaking into it.
(Knock on faux wood-grain interior.)
We are just not flashy people (again, cross-reference the part above about our frugality, our miserliness, our motherless-goatness). We have a flat-screen tv, but stash it way up in our attic playroom so no potential ne’er-do-wells can see it from street view (we do live in a city, a city where most every neighborhood has its share of petty thievery, usually targeting flat-screen tvs).
I take comfort, walking in my 7-year old Danskos, that nobody could possibly want what I have. Why should someone try to steal from me?
This thought is so prevalent in my mind — this precious way I have, of balancing the scales of covetousness — that it was my first thought today as I wiped the splattered egg white and flour from my Kitchenaid stand mixer, like washing down a thoroughbred after a good race. I’ve had this tilt-head classic for almost 10 years, but by looking at it you would think I inherited it from my grandmother. Packing tape holds the hinge pin in place, and motor grease seeps out underneath. The butter, oil, flour, and eggs of countless loaves and cakes past has given the once-pristine white sheen a yellow haze, like teeth in need of cleaning.
We once purchased a replacement — a Kitchenaid Professional, with larger capacity and improved dough hook — but it couldn’t whip a small amount of heavy cream, a task the least of which I felt I should ask my mixer to do with ease. So we returned it, and kept our Little Engine that Could. No, I will never be able to mix enough dough for 4 loaves of bread — and I fully expect one day for the hinge pin to break free from its cellophane binding, sending the mixer head crashing to its death on my cold tile floor.
Until then, though, it’s safe in my kitchen, safe from would-be culinary thieves. No one will peer into my empty house one day, and break glass with eyes set on this mixer as misdemeanor prize.
But since I do occasionally leave my Le Creuset dutch oven in full-kitchen view, I’m double-locking my doors, just in case.
This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday, at GNOWFGLINS.