Roads We Have To Walk Are

In January, I’m scheduled to have surgery, followed by a month of nothing but sleeping, eating and stretching. It’s so exciting! I get to hibernate for once! So I’m all aflutter, stocking pantries and stacking decks, which always has something to do with soup. A vat of borscht the size of most towns’ water towers is simmering on the stove as we speak. For the last two nights, I made pirogies. You know, for when I can’t stand up and can stand soup no more.

Turns out to be easy, even without an Eastern European grandma.

Pirogy dough, courtesy of the Fair Siobhan


* 4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 cup warm water
* 1 egg, beaten


1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Make a well in
the center.
2. In a separate bowl mix together the vegetable oil, warm water, and beaten egg.
Pour into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Cover dough and let rest for 2 hours. Roll out and fill as desired.

The hardest thing about this recipe was getting Spellcheck to accept a spelling for pirogy.

Rolling this dough with a rolling pin was as much fun as a three-day toothache, so I put gobs of it through the pasta machine. It’s a hand-cranked affair, so I felt good and rustic. I imagined Cossacks tearing into the village and going, “Let’s sac later. I feel a bit peckish. Ivan! What do you say we break for some lunch?” A coffee cup saucer served as the round template for half-moon pirogies.

For filling, I boiled two russet potatoes and gave them a whirl in the old food mill, added grated cheddar, smoked some-cheese-or-other, some diced, browned beef sausage and very buttery sauteed onions for moisture and a light crunch. Salt, pepper, dried basil. (You can mix just about anything you like with riced potato for filling as long as you dice it fine and taste it. Is it super fantastic? JACKPOT.) Finally, I sealed them with a basting brush and a gentle swoosh of water and popped them all into the freezer. Later, they join the others of their kind in a freezer bag for the duration.

Pirogies are your friends.

When dinnertime comes, boil in salted water for two minutes after they float to the top, then saute in melted butter. Serve with applesauce and sour cream or good, tart yogurt. Easy, cheap, completely awesome.

One Knows What It’s Like To Be

New bathroom mirror. Note the gouge in the wall made by its predecessor during its tragic fall from grace and a plate hanger.

On Friday morning, I found my bathroom mirror propped up in the sink, which was not at all where I left it the previous night. Curiously, the plate hanger from which it had been suspended lay on the floor like a chalk outline. The mirror itself was not really a mirror but a drinks tray that came as part of an overly festive glassware set, but it looked positively forlorn with large cracks down its glittery back and sad little chunks torn out. I didn’t have the heart to throw it away, so it lay on a kitchen counter until Pete Harrrumphed and took it out to the trash. Of course, I couldn’t replace it with a regular old bathroom mirror. That wouldn’t be silly enough, but this Pier One holiday plate and a lightweight plastic charger is practically its own punchline.

But wait – there’s more! Turns out a superstorm, a Nor’easter and Thanksgiving weekend were not enough. South Jersey also had a small earthquake. I do not live in South Jersey; however, as far as I know, my bathroom mirror was the only damage.

From Standing In the English

The mighty huntress eyes her prey.

Yesterday, a friend of my father’s thanked me for doing something philanthropic I hadn’t done, but which he had. I objected gently, but he squeezed me and quoted Reagan. I wondered why I didn’t burst into flames.

If you can’t beat ’em, dance with ’em.

I’m Not Proud Or Tired

The cook’s breakfast: duck liver sauteed with butter, onions, dry sherry, basil, salt and pepper, served on toasted garlic naan. I make coping with anemia look vaguely…what’s the word I’m searching for?…inconspicuous.

Happy Thanksgiving, Poor Impulsives! I myself stay home, lock the door, turn off the phones and generally ignore everyone claiming to be one of my relatives. For Heaven’s sake, you don’t know where those people have been and they look a little ravenous. Best to avoid the whole thing by refusing to wave drumsticks at them. Anyhoo, here we are in the early years of the twenty-first century, twirling around in our hoop skirts and marveling at our electric lights. You yourself should take some interesting pictures. In fifty years, your relatives won’t have a clue that you were funny unless you leave images lying around like an inedible breadcrumb trail.

A Superhero Everyone’s A Captain Kirk

There’s no telling if news of New Jersey’s and New York’s storm damage reaches beyond the Apalachians, except my sister Daria’s currently playing host to four Texans who drove a semi filled with thousands of pies from one tiny community, evidently in the middle of nowhere. My sister and the Texans were on Fox & Friends this morning, discussing their crazy caper. While the caper is impressive, the show is for shit. You can find the segment yourself, if you’re so inclined.

Excellent footwear. Not my size.

Before the storm, I reviewed my favorite game: the Snow Day. At the time, I thought it was a bit of a dark impulse. Meteorologists run around with their hair standing on end if the break room runs out of Splenda, so we’ve all come to take their warnings with a boulder of salt. I didn’t really believe it could be as bad as it was predicted; neither did I know that I was not actually prepared.

Let’s assess, then, our outcomes.

Our house is very high up, roughly a hundred feet above sea level, says Pete. This came in handy when we were never flooded. Our basement didn’t flood. Our yard drained immediately. That our neighbors within a few blocks were not as fortunate may amount to luck.

We are on a tree-lined street, which worked against us when great branches fell everywhere, taking down wires. We did not suffer, as many did, when whole trees tipped over and crashed into houses. A startling number of the people who died were inside houses when trees barged in.

We lost power for about 46 hours. That sucked. If it had been longer, we might have had to make some difficult decisions about where we should be. Power came on in a seemingly endless patchwork, so while we got power back Wednesday night after the Monday night outage, our neighbors down the street did not get power for a week, some for two weeks and some still do not have it. This led us to conclude we would not face another hurricane season without a generator. Because everyone with generators went sort of crazy about buying gas, we will not be buying a gas generator, because the idea is to have less crazy.

The hurricane’s aftermath exposed a few chinks in our armor we were not aware existed. An example: our cell phones were mostly useless for five-six days, Pete’s having a much stronger signal than mine for no reason we could determine. Further: our cable bundle internet-television-phone was a total failure. Remember when the U.S. converted to digital TV and we all stared at our coat hangers like old friends? After three days, Pete set up our bedroom TV with the attic’s bunny ear contraption and we had TV. You have not lived until you’ve watched one of those CSI shows by candlelight.

The phone thing was mostly a pain in the patoot, but it meant that to communicate with the outside world, I had to go to work, where phones called, lights lit and the internets remained snarky. I was writing from a remote location in the middle of fucking Jersey, and though I was okay and had a home and food to eat, everything was not all right. My co-workers also came to work in self-defense and didn’t so much want to go home to cold, dark houses. When things went well, it was still a strain. I did not count on that and now know I’d better mull that over.

There were also things that went well.

Crepes. Because why the hell not?

We had gas and hot water, so we could cook. Further: we had taken the precaution of filtering quart after quart of tap water – we do not do bottled water – so we had clean water to cook with. The boil-water order came days later, as we suspected it would, but it was predictable. We had clean water to drink, too, but we discovered that our bodies reacted to the conditions by trying to hold on to its own resources. Thus: in the future, I will also make sure our house always contains cranberry juice. At the first sign that urine changes color, drink!

Funny, I don’t feel nostalgic.

A package of a hundred or two hundred – I forget which – tea lights proved invaluable. I lined a platter with foil and lit a bunch. They produced not just light, but also no small amount of warmth. This was a big asset. We will never be without them from now on.

We save our carrot tips, onion tops and celery bases in our freezer, so when the lights went out, we set up stock pots on the stove. The simmering of chicken carcasses and beef bones produced marvelous aromas, normal humidity and kept the house from cooling completely. It also helped that I’d set aside jarring projects until the storm hit. Having something steady to do really kept me focused. We also brought in herbs from the garden and set up compound butter. My sister Anya reported:

Daria: Do you think they’re really okay? Would they tell you if they were in trouble over there?
Anya: They’re fine. They’re making compound butters.
Daria: We just don’t have the same kinds of problems, do we?
Anya: I’m calling from my basement canoe.

Some of our outcomes were the luck of the draw. Some require further thought. We also obtained some definite results. Because of some excellent planning on the part of Pete’s parents decades ago, we are way up high and that helped. Now, if only we can go back in time and get them to put solar panels on the garage roof last year…

To Have Fun With Anyone

Here in New Jersey, you can’t go three feet without someone mentioning relief efforts because it is no exaggeration to say whole neighborhoods and a few towns along the New York and New Jersey coasts have been damaged or destroyed. We’re cooking or shopping or moving things from donor to donation center or looking for something specific. There are benefit concerts, dinners and drives. This is our life now, perhaps for some time. In related news: cats love reusable bags and Drusy is sometimes a cat.