Never Gonna Fall For

Listen, I am not a genius, but more than a dozen years ago, I started trying to make myself a decent loaf of bread. At the time, my ideas about what a decent loaf of bread was and how I would make that were – I admit this – extremely silly, but I persevered, making many a whole wheat brick, which I ate or fed to particularly desperate wildlife – I assume.

Bread is sexy, unless you eat all of it.

The small loaf doesn’t fall far from the large. There’s a joke in there someplace.

Last year, my neighbor Andie, organic farmer girl roughly the same age as my daughter Miss Sasha, gave me a sourdough starter I came to regard as a mildly surly pet. It is less surly than I am. Of course. Anyway, in the course of trying to make a decent loaf of bread as I now see one, it turned out the secret to great texture and complex sourdough flavor is giving the dough all the time it needs and almost more time than I can handle, because I am one of those people who stands in front of a microwave and growls, “COME ON.”

 

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Who Had Tried To Calm

For the first time in my illustrious career, Central New Jersey has had daytime temps in the sixties in February. This is not normal. Also not normal: garlic shoots.

Plants, walking like Egyptians.

Garlics, making cameo appearances.

Maybe this is what our winters will be like now. I can’t say, but the chance to spend an afternoon in my garden at a time when I expect to be cooped up in the house was a peculiar delight. The chickens were pleased to have company. They told me so themselves!

The Night Belongs To Us

Jarring is not alarming!

I stepped over a bag on my way in and out of the house for over a week before I realized that is a bag where no bag should be, which no doubt has meaning, and maybe I should look into that, and then I found these. Because when everyone knows you jar stuff, people leave jars and hope you find a recipe for homemade Irish cream.

The exam for my art history class is tomorrow at noon. Looking at art and examining my own ideas about history and pre-history has been interesting and challenging, but we’ve come to the point where I’m supposed to remember 45,000 years of objects and buildings. My brain doesn’t function that way, so the exam’s a crapshoot. If the instructors put objects on the exam I remember and thought were really cool, I’m golden. If not, well, I spent the semester looking at art. I can’t wait to put this behind me.

To Have Fun With Anyone

Here in the Northeast, a chill is in the air. I’m relieved to say so, since it’s late October and last week it was inexplicably over 80 degrees for a few days. You know what autumn for realz means: leaves will fall and you will eat soup. This is not a recipe, but it plays one on TV.

First: go to a farm, a farmstand or a farmers market. Talk to a farmer! Farmers are so interesting! Pick out your favorite soup vegetables, even better if they’re organic. Which vegetables? Well, ask yourself this tricky question: Hey, you, what things are delicious? Then buy those. The farmer wins!

Prepare your vegetables for roasting. You may peel things. Here, I peeled a butternut squash and a passel of apples. I chopped up the peels and fed them to the chickens. The chickens win! I quartered onions and saved the tops and peels for stock. Future Me wins! Then I added spices I like, salt, pepper, bay leaves, a cinnamon stick and fennel seeds to my vegetables, swished them all with olive oil and roasted them at 350 until the squash was fork tender. My house smelled great, so again: I win!

Oh fennel seeds, you complete me.

Dewy glam shot of roasted vegetables. Everyone loves an ensemble cast.

I let these cool, pulled out the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then I pureed my vegetables with an immersion blender. Those are fun to play with, so I win again! Then I simmered my velvety puree, added some apple juice until I was happy with the texture and seasoned until I was super happy. Happiness is good, so I win again!

 

Seriously, this is so pretty I'm almost embarrassed.

I added matchsticks of swiss cheese and a chiffonade of basil, which means I chopped them up with a sharp knife, which you can do! Everyone wins!

To summarize:

  • the farmer wins
  • the chickens win
  • future Me wins
  • I win
  • I continue to win
  • I win again
  • you win
  • everyone wins!

Finally, Pete, who is a chef and sometimes is sick of cooking, had a fine meal without having to lift a hand. Pete wins!

So: this isn’t a recipe, it’s a method. You can make yourself really good food for truly next to nothing, and besides you, a whole lot of people and critters win. Go, you!

Surely You’re Not Saying We

Jacqui the organic farmer gave me a sourdough starter as a pet. As you know, I adore a new pet! But I knew less about taking care of sourdough starter than I did about feeding giant pandas. Did you know you can learn anything on YouTube?

Jar full of yeast is yeasty.

It is…ALIVE!

The procedure is this: you dump out about half your sourdough starter, feed it with a water and flour mix. I had some trouble with this. The mix ratio is 1:1 water to flour by weight or 1:2 water to flour by volume. You can use almost any kind of flour you like. I’m using whole wheat.

There are variables. If you keep the starter on the kitchen counter, it bubbles and grows. You have to dump out and feed quite often. If you keep the starter in the fridge, it sleeps. You have to pick a feeding schedule, say once a week. When you get up in the morning, take the starter out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, feed it in the afternoon, then put it back in the fridge before midnight. It sounds complicated, but that’s because it’s so easy.

It's not like the chickens can go out for McMuffins.

When life gives you sourdough goop, get yourself going on some pancakes.

Once I’d worked out how to care for my new pet, I was left with one more problem. Each time I fed my pet, I would be pouring out some otherwise useful goo, which I could not bring myself to do. I looked out in the backyard and realized I also had chickens to feed.

Discarded goo makes a good basis for pancake batter. Add it to your favorite pancake batter and feed pancakes to your chickens – or my chickens. My chickens are very nice people with an excellent sense of humor, but every morning, they’re going to want breakfast.

Be Just Like Starting Over

 

 

While the temperatures here topped 90 degrees every day for over a month, I got sick and couldn’t shake it. I had a headache for over a week; a pinched nerve in my neck made cycling impossible. During the Olympics, I spent a lot of evenings lying flat and watching TV with one eye open. This has put me in a MOOD.

slicker than a greasy ticker

Red peppers, looking sexy.

My doctor, to whom I’ve been a consistent source of amusement for about 25 years, retired at the end of June to move to the West Coast and spend time with family. I understand that other people have their own lives – in theory! – but this is very inconvenient. To me. One day, I was so sick Pete poured me into a car and took me to the doctor’s erstwhile office, where a young sports doctor looked me over and was very confused about how I was balancing an ice pack on top of my head and making conversation. I liked her very much, and she was very helpful, but I’m used to working my comic stylings before an older demographic.

Pickled. You heard me!

Sometimes I too feel like I’m full of tiny bubbles.

Though it was above 90 again today, the spell is broken. I am pale and out of shape, but feeling like myself again. The fall semester begins in just about a week and I’m registered for a class I’ll do well in. Most of our jarring season is behind us now.

I’m ready for things to cool down just a little. I’m ready for things to heat up.