January 2010 Archives

A Sharp Tale of Dicey Consequence

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When one's favorite of all favorites knife disappears, a chef's kitchen world gets blurry. Nothing is in it's place, long-established food prep rhythms are interrupted, and dire consequences can ensue. Shortly thereafter, when all the inquisitions prove useless, a pair of new gadgets make an entrance. It's a total surprise: husband has purchased another brand (egad!) of pairing knife to replace the missing Henkels Four Star, and has also brought home a famous brand "mini chopper" to lessen the blow. How can he not know that I am loyal to one brand of knives and one brand alone, and only rarely delegate the very largest pureeing, chopping or slicing tasks to my trusty 12-cup Cuisinart? How can he not also know that food prep is my mediation, my relaxation, and my nirvana before later sitting at table to enjoy "the fruits"?
The answer is simple, my friends: he does not cook. Over one month after the offending weapon arrived I finally broke down and unsheathed it. Pretty sharp, decent weight, good feel in my hand. And the mini food chopping gadget has also finally been christened. Ugh. I repeat, big jobs get processed in the Cuisinart but only if I'm in a hurry. I like to cook. Chopping & dicing are at the top of the list of pleasant prep tasks. Now where's that gift receipt?

We have had a very particular food diet imposed on our household. It's a one-for-all deal. Two of us don't need to be on it, but it's just plain unfair to the afflicted to be slurping down one's favorite whatever while the other looks on in hungry frustration. What's on the menu is white breads, white rice, potatoes; all without seasonings or fats of any kind. White meat chicken and plain fish fillets. Cheerio's, corn flakes, rice chex. Soy milk. That's about it. No fruit or vegetables. Mind you it's just for 3 weeks. It surely speeds up my prep and cooking times in the kitchen. There's really nothing to do. No sauces to simmer, no herbs to snip, onions to chop, no garlic to mince, The big whisk has been hanging sadly unused. I love my whisks (I have 4, all different sizes). I love going into the kitchen long before dinnertime and going through the mise en place process. Everything gets prepped, measured, placed in it's own little dish and set by the stove in order of use. The entree' is cleaned, trimmed, cut-to-order, and returned to the refrigerator. Pots, saute' pans & roasters are pulled out of hiding. Finally I check the clock so I know what gets started first, make myself a Manhattan or a cosmopolitan and go watch the evening news.
Clearly, I am missing this ritual. I noticed yesterday that the giant bottle of favorite olive oil I automatically purchased because I was almost out is yet unopened. Ack! I haven't used a drop in two weeks. Will I loose my taste for it? For butter and s&p, for garlic and heavy cream in a pan sauce? We are slowly reintroducing foods on the "maybe" list. Canned carrots, vinegar, applesauce, jam, and jelly. Bleech. Not much to work with. While the ailing family member may be feeling a bit better, my palate is in serious withdrawal and I am chomping at the bit (pun intended) to return to my favorite hobby: cooking. I might start dipping the ends of white bread loaves in my delicious olive oil when no-one is around. Yum!

tunneling mice? who knew!

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Having lived half a century I am astounded when I see something for the first time right in my own backyard. I am a very observant person. Success in my chosen career(s) has depended on it. Working in community corrections, details are very important, and missing a critical one could cause you injury, or at best (?), you might just loose your suspect. In the computer field, clearly, details make all the difference. As a chocolatier, we finish and garnish our products remembering that one eats with their eyes first.
So, when I spied these mouse tunnels in my yard the other evening, I was more than curious. Luckily, trusty Tiggr the cat helped solve the puzzle.
longer tunnel.jpg I expected a long search on google to find the proper name for this phenomenon, but my first hits were filled with the simplest explanations. There have even been children's books written about them. How have I missed this? I feel left out.
The morning after we spotted them in our yard, we saw hundreds more in a field while on our daily walk. Apparently when there's just the right amount of snowfall, and it's exactly the correct texture, when the little critters wander out they are not only unseen by the red tailed hawks looking for lunch, but the snow does not collapse on them or behind them.
mouse tunnel (2).jpg Unluckily for one fat mouse, Tiggr has superb hearing, so he tracked the creature down and gleefully played with him before finishing him (or her) off. You can see from the messy catprints on the left, Tiggr had a fine time romping and playing with his prey. We've seen him do it before in this blog. Tiggr likes public appreciation.