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You Were Right

So, you were right yesterday when you read my piece and thought to yourself, “No way is she getting all that done in an hour.”

My response:

1: You were right. I’m saying it again to give you the opportunity to revel in it. Who doesn’t like being right?

2: I roasted the mushrooms and minced the stems, but did not make stock. We watched an episode of Star Trek: Discovery instead (Michelle Yeoh forever!) and then I made a gallon of mushroom soup.

3: The extra time gave me a chance to switch gears. Today I decided to switch from making stock to duxelles, because the mushrooms were so fresh that even the typically-woody shiitake stems were soft and delicious. I’m sautéing that now and will (predictably) freeze them in cubes for later.

4: Even though the whole process took longer than expected, I’m glad I did it because yay, ready-to-eat mushrooms are great, but also because the optimistic time frame helped me get started in the first place. Yesterday was the kind of day where I woke up and wished I had another couple of hours to sleep in. Thinking about several hours of mushroom-related kitchen work might have meant me saying, “Hmm, thanks, but no thanks.” This way, I got started, made good progress, and finished several things I might not have thought I had the energy for yesterday.

It reminds me that getting started is often my biggest hurdle. That’s helpful for both the kitchen and writing.

* * *

So I didn’t get everything done as fast as I’d hoped. I still managed to tackle those three huge boxes of mushrooms before they went bad and also made soup, which we’ll have tonight for dinner with the bread I made this morning. So yay.

And really, that was a lot of mushrooms.

* * *

not sure what happened to that one roll in the back, but whatever, it’s fine

Stocking Up

Today is mushroom day. Not “a” mushroom day, the kind that’s dark and dank and often rooted in excrement, but a day for preparation.

Literally. Today we picked up 11 pounds of mushrooms from the good folks at Carleton Mushroom and I’m going to spend the next hour or so getting them cooked and into my freezer.

That’s six pounds of shiitakes and five pounds of cafe mushrooms. I’ll need to rinse, trim, cut and roast them, then let them cool before putting them in the freezer.

(Ok, I know what you’re thinking: That’s going to take longer than an hour. Like, way longer. You’re probably right:)

It’s worth it. Once they’re cooked, you can use them in many ways, and the shiitake taste like bacon.

Serious Eats has an article about this that’s helpful, but it’s a straightforward process. Here’s my stripped-down version:*

  • slice mushrooms, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • bake at 400F for ~45 minutes (30 to 60 minutes, really, depending on the mushroom; the shiitake dry out faster, so keep an eye on them, but also they are delicious when mostly crispy)
  • for stock: while the caps are roasting, chop and sauté any leftover stems with oil, salt and pepper, then add a couple of bay leaves and a whack-load of water and simmer on low until reduced by ~half or you get sick of waiting.

This is a shot from the last time I did this, with oyster and shiitake mushrooms.

In the end, we’ll have bags of frozen mushrooms ready for use plus stock from the stems.** (Stock is more more work to simmer down, then strain and freeze, but I hate wasting all those stems plus the result was worth it last time so I’ll do it again.)

Maybe I’ll finish in time to get down into the workshop (what? I like wishful thinking), but even if I don’t I’ll consider the afternoon well spent. And the next time future me is looking for a flavor boost for dinner or a quick addition to soup, pasta, rice, dumplings, or pizza, I’ll be glad I did.

* * *

* I’m not commercial kitchen level by any means, where cooks make an art of mise en place, but I do like being at least a little prepared. I’m more about shortcuts that take the pressure off and not opening a vegetable drawer to see nasty puddles of slime where mushrooms used to be. Because ew.

** The freezer tends to have bags of things like cubes of frozen spinach, tabouli, leftover lentils and rice, plus frozen citrus juice, chopped scallions, and whatever else I can think of to make life easier when the day’s been long and dinner seems like an insurmountable challenge. When I can make time for this, I’m happy I did. Whatever works for you? Do that.

Between politics and the pandemic, we’re at a low point. Will things get better from here? I hope so, of course, and I hope that writers and other artists will be part of helping people image a better future.

With that in mind, today I want to share a book brought to you by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Take Us to a Better Place

Take Us To A Better Place: Stories is a collection of 10 short stories that grapple with the deeply human issues that influence our health, from immigration, climate change, and gentrification, to cultural identity, family connection and access to health care.”

The goal of the book and associated conversation guide is to encourage ideas and debate on the challenges of our current system, and what it will take to build a better, healthier future. Also, good stories.

I love that they decided to communicate these ideas via fiction.

* * *

It’s free and available as an ebook or audiobook (I downloaded mine from Amazon but alternative download sites and languages are available). It also features some great writers (I discovered it while looking for other works by Martha Wells of Murderbot fame, but the table of contents is impressive all around).

Enjoy!

So.

Oh, America. On those who broke into the Capitol in the hopes of overturning a valid democratic election, and those who incited, enabled, failed to prevent, declined to censure, and continue to support? This is not a good look.

This isn’t a partisan thing. It’s a democracy thing. I could go on but there’s a lot of good material on yesterday’s events out already.

As Inigo Montoya said, “Let me explain! No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

What I thought yesterday morning:

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts…”*

― Abraham Lincoln

What I’m thinking this morning:

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

We’ll get through this.

Stay healthy, safe safe. Here’s to better days ahead.

* I originally used a version of this quote that ends with “and beer” because 1) I liked the idea of including at least a tiny bit of levity to this entry, and 2) it feels true, but the background on that addition is murky. Proving the point about facts! So I’ve removed the bit about beer, but you don’t have to. Go forth and enjoy a frosty adult beverage (whatever that means for you)!

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Public Domain Day!

January 1st marked the day when a number of literary and other works entered the public domain. This means that anyone can use these works for free without permission. Here’s an article with all the exciting details:

‘The Great Gatsby,’ ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ And Other 1925 Works Enter The Public Domain

The books will be available via the Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and Google Books.

The Great Gatsby is getting the most press (expect more film and book adaptations soon, I’d guess), but there are a lot of other works entering the public playground.

If you’ve ever wanted to do a gender-swapped mashup of Mrs. Dalloway and Kafka’s The Trial set to “Back Biting Woman’s Blues,” your time is now!

Here’s a selection of what’s on offer (via Hyperallergic):


Books

• F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
• Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
• Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time
• Franz Kafka, The Trial (in German)
• Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy
• John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer
• Alain Locke, The New Negro (collecting works from writers including W.E.B. du Bois, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Eric Walrond)
• Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
• Agatha Christie, The Secret of Chimneys
• Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves
• W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil
• Dorothy Scarborough, On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs
• Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction
• Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto, A Daughter of the Samurai

Films

• Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman
• The Merry Widow
• Stella Dallas
• Buster Keaton’s Go West
• His People
• Lovers in Quarantine
• Pretty Ladies
• The Unholy Three

Music

• Always, by Irving Berlin
• Sweet Georgia Brown, by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard & Kenneth Casey
• Works by Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, the “Mother of the Blues,” including “Army Camp Harmony Blues” (with Hooks Tilford) and “Shave ’Em Dry” (with William Jackson)
• “Looking for a Boy” by George & Ira Gershwin (from the musical Tip-Toes)
• “Manhattan” by Lorenz Hart & Richard Rodgers
• “Ukulele Lady” by Gus Kahn & Richard Whiting
• “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” by Gus Kahn & Walter Donaldson
• Works by ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton, including “Shreveport Stomps” and “Milenberg Joys” (with Paul Mares, Walter Melrose, & Leon Roppolo)
• Works by W.C. Handy, including “Friendless Blues” (with Mercedes Gilbert), “Bright Star of Hope” (with Lillian A. Thorsten), and “When the Black Man Has a Nation of His Own” (with J.M. Miller)
• Works by Duke Ellington, including “Jig Walk” and “With You” (both with Joseph “Jo” Trent)
• Works by ‘Fats’ Waller, including “Anybody Here Want To Try My Cabbage” (with Andrea “Andy” Razaf), “Ball and Chain Blues” (with Andrea “Andy” Razaf), and “Campmeetin’ Stomp“
• Works by Bessie Smith including “Dixie Flyer Blues“, “Tired of Voting Blues“, and “Telephone Blues“
• Works by Lovie Austin, including “Back Biting Woman’s Blues“, “Southern Woman’s Blues“, and “Tennessee Blues“
• Works by Sidney Bechet, including “Waltz of Love” (with Spencer Williams), “Naggin’ at Me” (with Rousseau Simmons), and “Dreams of To-morrow” (with Rousseau Simmons)
• Works by Fletcher Henderson, including “Screaming the Blues” (with Fay Barnes)
• Works by Sippie Wallace, including “Can Anybody Take Sweet Mama’s Place” (with Clarence Williams)
• Works by Mrs. H.H.A. (Amy) Beach, including “Lord of the Worlds Above“, Op. 109 (words by Isaac Watts, 1674–1748), “The Greenwood“, Op. 110 (words by William Lisle Bowles, 1762–1850), “The Singer“, Op. 117 (words by Muna Lee, 1895–1965), and “Song in the Hills“, Op. 117, No. 3 (words by Muna Lee, 1895–1965)

Put those creative minds to work and have fun!

Photo by Emre Can on Pexels.com

The Brownie Lady

Mr. Man’s mechanic dropped him a text the other day, mentioning that he now had a new location and was ready for business, and to come on down whenever he needed work. He sent along Happy New Year’s wishes for Mr. Man and (here’s the fun part) The Brownie Lady. That’s me:)

Quick bit of info: We spent a considerable amount of time in Cambridge, Massachusetts and also listening to the much-loved Car Talk. Along with the many (many) jokes and bits of car advice, Tom and Ray also devoted a lot of time recommending customers bring their mechanics brownies. 

Self-interested? Sure. But if the mechanic’s happiness is indeed equated with customer happiness, doesn’t everyone win? I decided to find out. 

I’ve shared my brownie recipe here before. It’s quick, easy to whip up at almost any time, and good. I like it, Mr. Man likes it, and it turns out our mechanic likes it. Not that he wouldn’t have done a good job without added incentive, but does he do it faster than he might otherwise? Maybe. And who doesn’t like to feel appreciated? Win win win.

I don’t know if the mechanic knows my name, but he associates me with chocolate and kindness, and remembers that I cared enough to send him a treat. I like that. 

Photo by Jb Jorge Barreto on Pexels.com

An Unexpected Delight

Today’s entry reminds me that unexpected delights can wait around any corner.

Cauliflower Salad

I’m not positive of this recipe’s provenance but I believe it came from a boyfriend’s mother, a long time ago. This is one of those dishes whose ingredients repel (me at least) but tastes fabulous. I tend to avoid cauliflower, dislike mayonnaise on textural grounds, and am reluctant to approve of anything with sugar and bacon in the same bowl.* Except this.

1½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 head lettuce, chopped

1.     Mix together mayonnaise, sugar, cheese and onion.

2.     Add cauliflower, bacon, and lettuce. Mix and let stand an hour or so.

* This recipe predates the candied bacon craze, which I admit is delicious.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Names & Days

The internet is a strange, wild, and sometimes twisted thing, but (today’s obvious understatement) it can certainly be useful. 

Take the matter of finding era-appropriate names for characters. If you’ve ever needed to know whether Madison would be a good name for a baby girl born in the U.S. during the 1890s, this handy resource from the Social Security Administration is here to help!

Top names of the 1890s

Short answer: no. You’d be better off with Edna, Ethel, Bessie or Minnie. But check out some of the other options on the site. If your character was born in Alabama in the year 2000, Madison would be right on target (it was the third most popular name that year!) And if you’re wondering why I sometimes use my initials, check out #3!

* Brought to you by Obscure Information for Writers, Inc. (not a real thing, except oh wait, that’s basically the internet in a nutshell;).

Nineteenth-century woman in white drinking from a china tea cup.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

In these, my last days of vacation, I bring you a delicious discovery: the guava cranberry mimosa!

So that’s my afternoon. Hope you’re enjoying yours too!

Happy New Year!

I know we’re still deep in Covid winter and things are still 110% not good. But. The vaccine! The holidays! The New Year! At this point, I will take all the hope I can get:) While saying goodbye to 2020 is not the end of our problems, I do hope that it is the beginning of the end.

In that spirit I made a “So Long, 2020” word search puzzle. Stay safe, stay well, and enjoy!

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com
So Long 2020 Word Search Puzzle