No Walls Only the Bridge

On a clear day, you can see goddamn Coney Island.

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.

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Get Right Back To Where

I never shut up when I succeed, but sometimes I fail fabulously as well. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Coconut milk, large can.

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.

Plain coconut yogurt, tiny container.

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.

Liquid pectin, a hero in three-quarter profile.

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.
Pete: Okay.

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!

In Time I Walk And Talk In Two

The 5 lb. bag of jasmine rice sees you, you know.

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.

Terrifying in its homey goodness – I mean, eeeeeeeevil.

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.

And It’s Turning Out All

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!

You may be trying to outrun a terrible memory. I tried to sew once.