Monday, January 25, 2010

Scarborough Fair dumplings

The worst of our cold seems to be over. I say this with confidence in January because the cold snap earlier this month is the worst this area has seen in well over a decade. It lasted so long that I was scraping the bottom of the cookbook; it has been a long time since I have needed a warm-me-up dinner more than three nights in a row.  One of those cold nights I made Scarborough Fair Dumplings.

I am fairly certain that you can guess the primary ingredients used in these dumplings. There is the standard dumpling: flour, egg, water, baking powder & the Scarborough Fair bit: parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme.  The beauty of these dumplings is that they can make a pot of plain boiling vegetable stock more interesting (although I would probably add some chopped carrots & white wine to make things more interesting).

- get out a big bowl & a sifter that can hold at least two cups.  Put the sifter in the bowl.

- into the sifter put 1/2 cup of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder & 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.  Start sifting.

- when the ingredients in the  sifter volume are about half what they were, add a second 1/2 cup of flour (for a total of 1 cup of flour).  Sift until they content are again about 1/2 what they were.

- into the sifter put in dried parsley, dried sage, dried rosemary & dried thyme.  In my view a little rosemary goes a long way, ditto sage although a bit more is OKay, parsley is as nothing & thyme is my favorite so I tend to dump it in there.  If you must have proportions,: 4 parts parsley, 3 parts thyme, 2 parts sage & 1 part rosemary.

- sift until there is nothing left to sift.  Rub the big chunks through the mesh with your fingers if you have to.

- break an egg into a not-less-than-2-cups liquid measuring cup.  Add fluid to the 1 & 1/4 cup mark.  What you use is really up to you.  I have made them with water when I needed something pareve, but they were not so fluffy as when I have made them with milk.

- add the liquid to the large bowl of sifted ingredients.  Mix by hand.

- roll the dough into balls.  Bring your soup to a simmer.

- drop dumplings into broth.  Simmer covered for not less than ten minutes.

- serve immediately.

This is an easy recipe to prepare in the afternoon & then leave the dumplings resting for even several hours.  Then you can put it all together just before it gets to the table.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This is when I learn I have something in common with Taylor Momsen

Let me begin by saying I could not pick Taylor Momsen out of a line up.  Even if she was the one that I saw running away after mugging that lady/robbing my house/shoplifting that whatever from the wherever.  Yes, there is that whole Gossip Girl thing but guess what-I don't watch it.  The only "under 25" people in this house are dogs (as in canines, not arfy teenage girls, who probably DO watch Gossip Girl).

But it turns out neither one of us is thinking about Haiti.  I admit it, I turn on the tv, it's about Haiti & I go do something else, change the channel or both.  I have made no donations to any Haitian relief funds & do not foresee a time when I will.   I am busy with my own life, as is Taylor Momsen.

Unlike herself, though I am consciously avoiding Haiti-watching.  Because I think it is vulgar.  These are human beings, not some circus side show out on for cable news channels so they can make "so sad" noises while cutting their overhead sharing a feed with every other network & still charging their advertisers top dollar.  This is the most depressed country in the Americas & was long before you could give the phone company their cut by donating to Haitian relief using their text services.

Will all this attention make a difference?  Sure.  Will most of that money get to Haiti? Probably. Will any of it make any life better than it was before the earthquake?  I doubt it.  In another day-week-month we will be watching some other BIG story (my money is on Michael Jackson rising from the dead) & no one will care any more than they did this time last month about Haiti.  Which is too damn bad, because Haiti really could use our help.

Monday, January 11, 2010

You shouldn't need me to tell you, but

You don't need me to tell you it has been bitter cold here for about a week.  & yes, I know it is colder elsewhere.  But bitter cold here is like a heatwave in Maine, the locals just are not prepared.

In addition to the standard Florida fare of snowbirds in trailers  & migrant workers in shacks (this is where both of them spend their winters), we also have the standard home construction here:  the cracker cottage.  Where I am from, you would not call a building a cracker cottage anymore than you would call it a honky house, but it is an actual kind of architecture.

A cracker house is a simple wooden frame house, often with a tin roof & among other distinct features, it is raised off of the ground.  This makes it easier to keep termite & other bug free.  There is usually almost as much outside room (porch) as there is inside & the front door generally opens into a room or hallway that runs straight through to the back of the house, often the long way if it is a rectangular building.  Even our house, which is not a cracker house in any other respect, has such a dog run.  Interior walls often have windows,so that the whole house can be truly opened up to catch a cooling breeze.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a cold climate can probably spot several design flaws.  The most treacherous is that business of being off the ground.  Yes, it is good for keeping down bugs.  It is also nice to have a shady spot to put things (dogs come to mind) when the summer gets hot-Hot-HOT.  It is also the reason half the houses on this road do not have water:  there is nothing to keep those pipes from freezing so around dusk, you turn off your pump & drain the water out of the system.  You can turn it back on when it warms up in the morning.  If it doesn't warm up in the morning...well, you cans see why 29F at noon is a problem here.

Someday, when this winter is over, let me suggest you pay a visit to some of the local cracker houses open to the public.  The closest to me right now is the Dudley Family Farm, although there is every possibility the legislature will be closing that as well as several other State Parks over the next few months.  You might instead go to see that most famous cracker house:  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home &, well lets say studio.  Get out of your air conditioned car & let the temperature catch-you-up.

Then walk into the grove of trees surrounding every cracker house I have seen & feel it get cool again.  Walk through the front door; it will get cooler still.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The 12th day of Christmas

Here in the US, Christmas begins when they (the ubiquitous THEY) decide it is time to start selling & ends 12/26-or-so, but in most of the world, Christmas begins December 25th & ends yesterday.  While there were no lords'a'leaping in my world, there was (& still is) an unusually cold weather pattern hanging around.  Being able to see my breathe, wearing every article of clothing I own, the long long night clearly visible in the big windows of our Florida room has brought home the season to me in ways I have not felt it in years.  I could even say decades. It seems only right that I spent the 12th day of Christmas at herbarium with the holly & the ivy.  Well, the holly anyhow-I am up to Aquifoliaceae.

This is not a particularly large family, at least not collection-wise, but unlike so many others it is world-wide.  I ended 2009 with my first specimen from Ireland & spent yesterday tromping through Brazil, Cuba, Surinam & left after cross-referencing multiples of Ilex dahoon, a vigorous Florida native.

On December the 23rd campus was largely deserted.  A & I did not go out to lunch as we usually do when I am on campus.  We would have liked to, but all the on-campus restaurants close when the students are away.  The weather was lovely, I stopped by the farmers market (the only bustling place in the whole town) & walked around the Plaza.

On the 12th day of Christmas it was bitter cold-seriously.  The temperature got up to 50, but mostly hovered around 45.  I am not trying to make this into a macho 45-thats-nothing-here-it is-X contest; I grew up in New England, I know what cold is.  You can say my blood is thin if you like, but I promise you dry cold is just more bearable.  I would take 15 & dry over 35 & humid ANY DAY.  There was also an added factor: one of the turbines was dead & the back-up was dieing & so the 11th & 12th days of Christmas there was no heat on campus, at least none to speak of.  & campus was hopping.

On the 12th day of Christmas I left the well heated herbarium (yup, the only place on campus that seemed to have heat was the part of the building that houses a collection that requires dry cold, satire junkies rejoice) & onto the cold sidewalk where it was wall-to-wall people.  & since I am outside I mean from the wall of that building across the street to the wall of this building over here.

Which means no matter how cold it is, Christmas & winter are over.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Wrong time

As per usual, the big birds started breeding as autumn came to an end, started laying when the weather turned chilly & last night being the first freeze of our winter, sat egg-adjacent all night thereby guaranteeing there will be no emu babies again this year. This is perfectly fine in the grand scheme of things (& if I were all fired up for emu babies I would bring them to an incubator) but it does make me think on two lines:

1. why the hell can they not get their calendar right?  I mean, giant prehistoric birds are not using paper to tell them it is breeding season, they must be using some weather-clue?  How then did they get it almost exactly wrong?

2.  maybe it is the time of year but I am thinking of entirely different lives I would have lived if I had returned that phone call, not quit that job, quit that one sooner, left well enough alone.  I can honestly identify two other, different ways my life certainly would have gone.  I do not think I am special in this, I think everyone can reflect on their lives & find at least one instance of right-place-right-time/wrong-place-wrong-time that made a difference that would not have been made a step or two earlier, later or at an entirely different juncture.

I am not complaining; I like my life.  I just realize it would not have taken much at particular points for it to be a very different life.  & I probably would have liked that one too. I am just wired that way.