Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I've Arrived?

Those of you who have commented on my posts know that I review comments before they are published.  It does make things a bit inconvenient, but I do this so I can eliminate comment spam before it reaches my page.  It seemed like a wise precaution when I set up this blog.  I didn't want to be flooded with ads for porn, penis enhancement or cheap pharmaceuticals.

The expected flood never arrived, so I've been considering dropping the comment moderation.  I thought that after a year and a half spam-free blogging it should be safe. Nothing like tempting fate.

This morning I received this rather cryptic comment from an anonymous reader, "IT IS A VERY NICE SUGGESTION, THANK YOU LOTS!"  Not a particularly mysterious comment on its own, but I hadn't made any suggestions in my post about duck eggs. Curious. Rosiecat had offered some insightful advice. I wondered if the reader was responding to her comment.  It seemed like a reasonable explanation, and I was just about to approve the comment when I noticed the blue line.  A link!  It must be SPAM! 

Of course, I had to investigate.  I don't have enough readers to risk offending one by rejecting a legitimate comment.  I clicked on the link and thong-clad bottoms leapt onto my screen.  Yep.  It was a spammed comment alright.  Now I know that people other than friends and family are aware of this blog.  Somewhere in the blogosphere there's an anonymous purveyor of naughty images who knows I exist.  Does this mean I've arrived?  

I chose not to share the comment.  I'm of the opinion that the owners of such cellulite-free fannies couldn't possibly eat, and as such their comment was irrelevant.  It is a food blog after all, but because I don't want anyone to feel cheated by my choice, I've included the picture below for anyone who might be in the mood for a little tail.  I think it suits this blog's theme perfectly.

Thanks once again for the awesome photo Dad.  I knew I could count on you!

Friday, March 19, 2010

What the Duck?

There are a half dozen duck eggs in my fridge.  I'm not sure why I bought them.  Probably because I've never had the opportunity before.  Maybe because I have some vague memory of my grandmother buying duck eggs. It just seemed like the right thing at the time.  

Now I'm not sure what to do with them.  Today I took them out of the fridge and took pictures of them.  

You can't see it very well in the photos, but they are a pale, ghostly blue-green.  They look like they should glow in the dark.  They don't.  I checked.  (Picture me in my windowless water closet, peering intently into the darkness, looking for a glimmer of light from the bowl of duck eggs in my hand.)

I suppose, at some point in the not-too-distant future, I'm going to have to do something other than photographing the eggs.  I might even have to cook them.  Finding duck eggs for sale is so uncommon that I'm finding it difficult to decide how to cook them.  I feel like I might not get the chance again, so I want to get it right.  Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Grinning Gadget

I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets.  Some are useful, others are not.  Some I've purchased, others were gifts.  Most make me happy whenever I use them.  This little guy makes me laugh right out loud.

He's a gift from my parents' trip to Seagrove N.C.   Funny-looking pottery is a long-standing tradition there.  The grotesque faces were originally designed to frighten children away from jugs containing items that shouldn't be consumed by children.  Like poison.  Or whiskey.  

This little fellow wasn't designed to alert us to the dangers of poison or moonshine, though he is a useful guy to have around.  Most days he just hangs out in my kitchen making me smile.  He only demonstrates his true talent on baking day.   

My little pottery pal is an egg separator.  You crack the whole egg into the top of his head, then you tip him and the egg white oozes from his mouth.  I laugh every time.  Useful and amusing.  What more can you ask from a kitchen gadget?

(Note: The hand in the photo belongs to Hubby.  Also a useful and amusing guy to have around. Thanks honey!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

I’ve Created A Monster!

As of today, I haven't had a call to work in two weeks. (I expected the phone to ring as soon as I finished writing that. It didn't.) This is the longest dry spell I've had in ages. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Sometimes worried, sometimes relieved. I guess ambivalent would be the best way to describe it. Frustration is another fairly common emotion. Not necessarily frustration with the work situation. I'm frustrated with myself. I feel as though I should be accomplishing great things with all this spare time. I'm not. I'm not even keeping up with the basics, though I did do some cleaning (with lots of help from Hubby) over the weekend.

Part of my problem is that nothing in my background prepared me for being a housewife. Not that I'm not familiar with the skills. My parents made sure I had mastered the basics of domestic survival before I left home, but my education focused on preparing me for some mythical career. Lately, that career is feeling more and more like a myth.

The weekend's cleaning session gave me the opportunity to think. As I scrubbed my completely grotty bathtub for the second time – the first time didn't take – I decided that if current circumstances have made me a housewife, I may as well be a housewife with a good attitude. I will embrace my housewifeliness with gusto and embark on my new path with a spirit of adventure. That attitude found me out of bed and in the kitchen before 6am. That on top of the time change. Right. We'll see how long this lasts.

So what was I doing in my kitchen at that unearthly hour? Well, first I cranked up the oven and baked a spaghetti squash for tonight's casserole. Meal planning – score one for the domestic goddess! Then, while that baked, I made bread. What could be more housewifely than homemade bread? Of course, for a while I wasn't sure if what I had created was going to be bread. 

I found the recipe for English Muffin Bread in a cookbook I've had for ages: Breaking Bread with Father Dominic. The whole book is about bread making. Apparently I've been considering making my own bread for a long time. 

The recipe looked pretty straight-forward. I figured that with my marvelous mixer it would be a snap. Things came together quickly. I even managed to heat the milk without scorching it. 

The recipe didn't call for kneading, so I knew I wasn't going to get typical bread dough. After five minutes of mixing I was supposed to have a "slightly stiff batter". It was beyond "slightly" stiff, but it still had to rest for ten minutes. I figured the texture would improve after the batter had lounged for a while. I was wrong. If anything it got stiffer. When I tried to "stir down the batter" it chewed the tip right off of my rubber spatula. I was beginning to think I had created a monstrous new life form. This idea was quickly reinforced. After the demise of my spatula I grabbed my wooden spoon and tried to beat the blob into submission. It grabbed back! I could hardly wrestle my spoon out of the bowl, and when I did manage to pry it away the batter clung on with long, stubborn, rubbery tentacles. At this point I was supposed to "spoon batter into prepared pans". I certainly wasn't going to risk putting my spoon back in there, so I went at it with both hands. I needed to divide the beast into eight mini loaves. By the time I finished there were batter-y appendages creeping up past my wrists.

Eventually I got the creature into my mini-loaf pan, and I set it aside to rise. Fortunately I covered the pan with waxed paper before I covered it with a towel. As the batter rose it stuck firmly to the paper. I would have never rescued my towel.

While the batter rose I washed the morning's dishes. (My dishcloth was ruined in the process. The bits of dough that were stuck to my utensils are now permanently adhered to my dishcloth.) As I scrubbed I pondered the problems with my bread. Had I forgotten something? Did I over-mix? Under-mix? Was it just lack of experience? Was the monstrous outcome some strange culinary reflection of the religious differences between the recipe's author and the cook? Had I had enough sleep?

At the end of the recommended rising time the loaves went into the oven. I didn't have high hopes, but I figured I may as well go ahead and bake them. I'm glad I did. They turned out quite well. They're crispy on the outside and moist and airy on the inside.  They aren't as craggy as an English muffin, but I don't know if that's normal or not.  I've never had English muffin bread before, so I have nothing to compare them to.  Ultimately, I think it's better that way.  Calculated ignorance may be the solution for this reluctant housewife.

Notice how tip has been chewed off my spatula.  That stringy bit is a wee batter tentacle.  I didn't dare get my camera close to any of the larger appendages.

More sticky tentacles.  The stuff had a life of it's own.

Loaves out of the oven.  They look promising.

Mmmmm.  Bread.  What a lovely surprise.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Didn’t Know There Was Going To Be A Test!

I was at the check-out counter at Brambles yesterday when Angeline asked why I shopped there. Ummmmm. I hadn't realized there was going to be a test. I hadn't studied, so I gave her the first lame answer that popped into my head. I've thought about it a bit more since then. I hope I can redeem myself with the list below.

 Why do I shop at Brambles?
  1. James and Angeline have kindly done all the thinking for me. I don't have to wonder where the food came from, or what went into the raising of the food. They've done the homework for me.
  2. I get good value for my money.
  3. The staff is friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.
  4. They have such sexy produce.
  5. Because of the sausages. No, wait, because of the bacon. No, scratch that. It's really because of the sausages. Or maybe it's because chicken legs are sexy too. Actually, we don't really eat that much meat, but when we do it's nice to be able to buy it reasonable amounts. I like that I can go in and buy 2 slices of bacon or one chicken breast if that's all I need.
  6. The store is always tidy, clean and bright. It's also conveniently located and has parking.
  7. You can get things there you just can't get anywhere else in town.
  8. It's locally owned and operated.
  9. They're involved in the community.
  10. My lack of a schedule means I can't always get to the Farmer's Market. (And sometimes I just don't want to get out of bed on Saturday morning.) Brambles has much better hours.
  11. They keep their customers up-to-date on food and related issues through facebook and Twitter.
  12. Shopping at Brambles gives me the opportunity support smaller BC food producers.
  13. They have lovely, local lemons in December. That's a seriously huge accomplishment for a small Canadian shop.
Did I pass? I hope so. I'd hate to flunk out and have to resort to shopping at the Mega-Mart.

Note:  If you're a Brambles shopper, please feel free to add your reasons for shopping there in the comments.  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Warning - Contains Language

If you're reading here you're likely already aware of the dangers of over-consumption of processed foods.  Rarely are we made aware of the dangers of avoiding processed foods.  The following photo landed in my inbox this morning.  I think it sums up the risks of abstaining from processed foods quite nicely.  

Remember, I did warn you...

Takes me back to the days when I had to sell the darn things door-to-door.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Time to March Forth

I started this blog with an elusive onion story, but it wasn't the elusive onion story. The original story, while simpler to tell, would have made my blogging much more complicated.

The original story also takes place in that teeny, tiny town in Midwestern Ontario where I was a new school teacher. I spent many hours outside of classroom time planning lessons, hanging artwork and taking care of the hundreds of small tasks that school teachers do each day. Add to that meetings, report cards and after-school supervision and there were days when I didn't leave the building before 6pm. Long hours aren't uncommon for new employees. I had expected that. What I hadn't expected was that the teeny-tiny town basically closed at 5pm. That wasn't usually a problem. It wasn't like I wanted to go out and party after a long day at work. All I wanted to do was eat, relax and get some sleep before doing it all again the next day.

Eating sometimes presented a problem. Inevitably, I'd get home, start preparing my meal and discover that I was missing a key ingredient. Often that ingredient was an onion. You'd be surprised at how many quick meals require an onion – at least they do in my mind. If it was after 5pm there was nowhere to get an onion, or anything else for that matter. Those nights often ended with me on the sofa, watching re-runs while eating microwave popcorn. I used to find the whole situation quite frustrating. Having moved from the city, I was used to having what I wanted pretty much at my fingertips 24 hours a day. I was annoyed that I couldn't get what I wanted when I wanted it in the teeny, tiny town. To hide my annoyance I'd joke that if I ever wrote my life story I'd title it "The Search for the Elusive Onion".

Of course, this blog isn't really a life story. The problem with a life story is that it can't be told in isolation. Each life intersects with many other lives, and it's almost impossible to tell our stories without revealing the stories of those around us. I started this blog as a food blog - mostly because the topic interested me, but partly because it gave me a place to hide. I could choose what I wanted to share about my life and the lives those around me. Things were far less complicated and scary that way. We've all heard stories where sharing too much in the blogosphere has backfired on the writer. I didn't, and still don't, want to be one of those writers. Sometimes though, I feel like I could share more – that I could be less elusive. Today in particular it feels like I should honour the spirit of that original story. It may be the date, but I feel inspired to boldly march forth and reveal something about myself. Here it goes....

About a year ago I was laid off from my job. That in itself wasn't a bad thing. I was ready for a change. I had a few options open to me at the time. I could bump someone else, I could go on recall, or I could leave. I chose recall – if someone else is away, I'm high on the list of people they'll call as a replacement. Not a huge change I'll admit, but it was a safe one. I think of it as a compromise between bumping, where I would be doing the same job but on different days, and starting over elsewhere. Most of the time I enjoy the freedom of being on recall, though sometimes my bank balance is a bit frightening.

I think I've adapted to most of the challenges presented by an unpredictable schedule, but it has been surprising to discover how much I'm a creature of habit. When I had a regular schedule my writing had a schedule too. I worked Thursday evenings, therefore I wrote Thursday mornings. Now that I don't have a schedule keeping me organized, my writing is all over the place. Yes, there are weeks where I work all kinds of hours, so it's difficult to find time to write. I can accept that. What I have trouble accepting is that I often can't find the time to write when there's no work. I'd like to say it's because I'm off doing all kinds of exciting, important and enriching things. I'm not. Usually I'm hanging around the house compulsively checking my email and playing solitaire. I'm certainly not cleaning! Part of it is that I hate to start anything in case I get called to work. The rest of it is that I seem to need a routine to keep me organized. And not just any routine, I seem to require an agenda imposed by someone else. It's painfully obvious that I'm not setting my own schedule for writing. This has been an eye-opening realization for me. I had secret hopes that I could be spontaneous and cool. Obviously I can't. Without that schedule I have trouble deciding what to do first, so I do nothing – or at least nothing much.

Thanks to those of you who have stuck around in spite of my lack of predictability. Now you'll know what's up when the posts are few and far between. I hope you'll be kind and assume that I've had several calls to work. Sometimes you'll even be right!