The tourists are gone, which means tourists like us arrived at Sandy Hook this weekend. I’ve been waiting for this weekend since it turned cold last winter. Pete and I drove down to the park, rode like Jehu to this snack bar/rest stop/unprotected beach and sat on the roof for small snacks and lots of fluids. I was actually as happy as I have ever been in my entire life. If someone calls you on the phone and says, “For $10,000, Jed, do cream cheese, dried cherries and fresh basil make a good sandwich?” Well then. You say yes.
I never shut up when I succeed, but sometimes I fail fabulously as well. Let’s dig in, shall we?A friend asked if I could teach her to make yogurt, the trick being that she lives now as a vegan. I took this as a challenge, like when I’ve had to fight my way out of a restroom or read my site stats here on cryptic WordPress. To the grocery store, then, away!
To follow my glorious failure, you will need:
a large can of coconut milk
a can of coconut cream
a small container of coconut yogurt
one envelope of liquid pectin
It’s important to remember we’re in the experimental stage and don’t want to spend A MILLION DOLLARS on failed recipes. Let’s fail cheap! Recipes for coconut yogurt use tapioca starch or gelatin. Gelatin is not vegan, so that’s out. I happened to have liquid pectin in the cheater envelopes because I’m a desperate woman. So I went with what I had.I started reading about the process of making coconut yogurt with limited infodata but with the certainty that no method I could come up with would kill anyone. That inspires confidence.
So I heated coconut milk and coconut cream and added an envelope of liquid pectin. My kitchen thermometer is trying to die, but I don’t let that stop me. No, I stir constantly and the temp rises faster than I expect because the coconut starts at room temperature and my kitchen is not air conditioned. The spoon tells me when the pectin likes the temperature and begins thickening. I let the temperature go to just above 170 and turned off the heat. Unlike animal milks, coconut milk doesn’t form a skin when the scientist doesn’t stir, but cooling occurs more quickly when stirring breaks surface tension. I stirred some and let it go some, and when the mixture cooled to 110, I added the yogurt starter and popped the bowl into my yogurt heating contraption, which is an old metal roasting pan lined with dinner napkins and resting on a heating pad set on medium. Twelve hours passed. In the morning, I was sad to see the mixture appeared not at all thick. I put it in the fridge and forgot about it.
This evening, a funny thing happened: Pete tasted the coconut mixture and mentioned the crazy flavor.
Tata: Let’s drop that into the ice cream machine and dance like it’s New Year’s Eve.
I suggested raspberries. Pete said no. I said grilled pineapple. Pete said maybe. As I watched Pete out the coconut mixture into the ice cream machine, I realized the coconut cream didn’t belong there and the texture without it was probably pretty good. Pete added Amaretto di Saronno and brought me a taste. I almost could not believe my mouth. It was unbelievable, even for my mouth.
As yogurt goes, it was a failure. As frozen yogurt goes, it is a complete, crazy success. I gotta think!
About a week ago, my mom and stepdad sat at Pete’s and my dining room table with earnest looks on their faces. They’d brought a case of empty Ball quart jars and a bag. Mom took a breath, opened a bag I didn’t see before that moment and pulled out a large bag of jasmine rice.
Mom: Do you eat rice?
Tata: We do eat rice.
Mom: I bought this rice some time ago because I thought Jasmine rice would be delicious. I should have that.
Tata: That sounds good. What happened?
Mom: We don’t eat rice. We have it. We just never cook it.
Tata: You could just do that, you know. Just put it in a pot and cook that.
Mom: We just do not.
I stared at her and Tom. They smiled and shook their heads. It is too mysterious for us. Who understands these things?
Tata: I will give this bag of rice a good home and a big yard to run around in. Does everyone feel better now?
Everyone did. This morning, I was home sick and restless in that way one is when about 60% better but still 40% squirrelly from illness, when I remembered that rice and consulted Dad’s cookbook collection. I decided to make rice pudding and maybe actually follow a recipe. Odds were against it, but I thought I’d try. Fortunately, the recipe spoke slowly and used simple gestures even a feverish simpleton could understand. Unfortunately but not at all significantly, I was out of cinnamon and substituted ras el-Hanout.
Next week, the kids in our tiny town start school. The first week is often hectic and unnerving. If I make individual rice puddings for my niece and nephews’ breakfasts, it’ll be one thing they don’t have to worry about, with peaches.
This evening, I went out to pick herbs for dinner and found someone had invited himself or herself or deerself to dine. At first, I wasn’t sure what was amiss. The tenant’s giant squash plant looked a little squishy and a lot less giant, though it took a second look to determine why. The long golden flowers were all tucked into the planter but the elephantine leaves that shaded them were all gone. Suddenly, I was suspicious and crept around the outside of the garden fence. The tops of carrot flowers were nibbled off, but most of the garden was fine. Fortunately, I was staring at stems and crab-walking like a refugee from Mumenschantz when my neighbor, hosing down his broccoli, said, “Hey Domy, whatcha doin’?”
Only Grandpa ever called me Domy, so I stopped crab-walking to stare at him. Teddy, who looks exactly like his dog should introduce himself with a hale, “Peabody here,” is not properly afraid of me. He is fairly sure that I am crazy and will sit and watch his chickens do silly, chickeny things and he is right. He is looking at me now like he is considering his options, but I am not worried.
Tata: It looks like we’ve had one deer stop by on the way back to the bar. The brussel sprouts are a goner!
Teddy: I covered my broccoli with mesh – you know that wire mesh – I covered my broccoli with the mesh and I got perfect broccoli.
Tata: That’s…exciting. Someone looked over the fence here and found miniature cabbage leaves at eye level. But there wasn’t much else to eat.
I leaned on something Pete and I should remove at our earliest convenience.
Teddy: What is that, anyway?
Tata: It was a peach tree.
Teddy: It was a peach tree?
I rearranged a dead little branch to lean on another dead little branch.
Tata: It has gone to Heaven.
We both stared at the tragic little branches.
Tata: Well, nice talking with you. I gotta go slice the still-living limbs from defenseless plants. See you!