Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PERSIMMONIOUS WITH AGE

I was once frivolous with persimmons. Injudicious with their use.  Didn’t use ‘em fast enough? Oh well, Grandma had a tree, there were PLENTY.  Want a REAL fruit cake?  Here’s persimmon cake--juicy, moist but firm, full of complimentary golden raisins or currants.   OH!!!! And the COOKIES!!!  I would scatter these to the masses without heed to the coming apocalypse. 

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Our county has fungus. It killed Grandma’s 30+ year-old persimmon tree, and with it, a piece of my heart.  Persimmon salad and baked goods are some of the first memories I have of my Mom and Grandmother’s cooking, the first times we baked together.  Poor, dead tree, it couldn’t have known how rash my youth had truly been.

So now I am older, greedier, and have to buy the sweet, precious beauties like the rest of you suckers.  Except for one looooovely woman, Purple Kathy, a fellow knitter and gustatorial maven.  Also, Kathy the Persimmon Tree Owner.  You heard me.  

She pinged the other night and asked if anyone in the area might just want some persimmons. She doesn’t live far away, I’m surprised she didn’t hear me howling from home.  She also delivered to my doorstep, an extra service atop an honor to which my past persimmon indiscretions leave me undeserving.  There are two major types of persimmon, Fuyu and Hachiya.  Hachiya are terrible until they are super-ultra ripe and hard to work with.  I know a few devotees, but the most widely available are the squat, round Fuyu persimmons--sweet and crisp like an apple and can be eaten out of hand if you just can’t wait.


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I have now agonized over the best use of my bag of persimmons, once again risking rot in the face of indecision, so I started with salad. 

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(TEASER)

For dressing persimmons I really do prefer citrus, and the CUMIN IS ESSENTIAL.  This is a Magic Mom Product (TM).  When I was a kid, Cumin smelled like...persperation.  Then it went into dressing and onto this fruit and became a smokey, lemony, savory counterpoint to the sweet, crisp fruit that I have never forgotten and never fails to make me actually drool the moment I set eyes on even a photo of a persimmon.  It’s that good.  I added sweet curry powder for an extra trill of savory counterpoint to the fruit and always use stronger, slightly bitter greens such as mixed field greens, lighter baby kale or spinach because underneath it all, persimmon is firm with a good snap when it’s fresh. Keep it all nice and toothsome.

If you are a persimmon aficionado, you will have a preference for skins on or off. If you are an eager novice, I find them kinda chewy, so I peel them, quarter, remove any disagreeable centers and slice.  Then dress with this vinaigrette based on a standard 4-serving recipe--just use the 3:1 Oil-to-Acid ratio then math it up or down according to need. 


PERSIMMONIOUS VINAIGRETTE DRESSING:

3 TB GOOD SALAD OIL: Favorites include Walnut, Olive, Avocado.
1 TB LIME JUICE, FRESHLY SQUEEZED
1/4 tsp DIJON MUSTARD
1/8 tsp GROUND CUMIN
1/8 tsp SMOKED PAPRIKA
OPTIONAL: 1/8 tsp SWEET CURRY POWDER (I used Penzey’s Balti Curry blend)
PINCH KOSHER SALT
FEW GRINDS Fresh Black Pepper

Add the nuts to the greens, dress and toss well, then TELL NO-ONE IT’S READY-- 


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There are times when snorking it up yourownself is the wisest resource management policy.  

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Monday, October 21, 2013

PEASE PORRIDGE IN THE POT...



Think this will be some heartwarming tale of culinary salvation?  
Some like it Hot, Some like it Cold, I liked it in the Trash, One Day Old.

Yup, I did it.  I trashed a whole pot of soup.

There are no post-apocalypse photos, this is the only record of the aftermath.

I used America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook’s recipe for Split Pea and Ham Soup [pg104], carefully doing the maths for a 1.5x recipe.  I procured ham hocks from my grocery’s very reliable, high-quality butcher.  The suckers were hu-uge.

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But no worries, I thought they were roughly the same amount as 1.5 times the recipe (original: 3).  I followed all the directions, except for the salt.  I added the smaller, original recipe amount (1tsp) to the pot and let it go according to scripture.  


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After one hour I added the carrots, etc.  


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Crucially, I did not taste at this point!  Correction or abandonment could have occurred here, the hocks pulled and a re-set achieved the next day.  Nope, not me!

One half hour later I extinguished the flame, yanked the hog shanks to cool before returning the meat to the pot, and added the extra diced ham, giving the whole thing a whirl for luck.  Then I tasted.  

Salt Lake City, baby.  Bonneville Salt Flats.  Down the Ol’ Salt Mine.

This is the point where I swoop in with great advice--scientific or homespun-- such as adding a potato to remove saltiness to save dinner.  

Well, GingerMan’s lightning search of the internet proved the number one solution is, indeed, adding potato to your soup to reduce salinity.  I’m not sure how many potatoes this case would have required, but it quite possibly would have created another famine in the homeland, and--sit down for this--Irish Girl had no potatoes.  Zero inventory at 10.20pm on a Friday night.  We’ve been cutting down.  Our bloodwork looks normal, but our spud situation was dismal.

The next two suggestions were Cider Vinegar and Honey or Sugar.  I had every other sort of vinegar, and the recipe had already called for lemon, so the acidity was high.  So I went for the honey.  Did nothing for the saltiness, but I will be adding 2TB honey to the next batch because it reaaaalllly enriched the smokey flavor from the ham hocks.  

GingerMan and I stood over the pot, gazing woefully into the murky green depths and decided to give it a night.  I took it out the next day and all the marrow-y, gelatin-y, smokey ham goodness added to the earthy peas and underlying sweetness of the honey and thyme was simply divine...

Then our mouths sucked dry like a Bugs Bunny cartoon as we ate a bowlful each.

Peas Porridge in the Bin One Day Old.

Sometimes you will be brilliant.  A lot of the time you will be pretty good if you follow all the directions and learn from a few mis-steps.

Every once in a while, you gotta mis-step all the way to the trash with whatever burnt, charred, slimy, runny, salty mess you’ve concocted, make a lot of notes and try again.

Saturday 19 October:

Pease Porridge Hot...
Yesterday was Pea Soup Day again. I doubled the recipe but used two hocks due to their buxom, salty nature.  I had added extra peas to the first batch as a salt-reducing measure, to no avail, but the contrast in textures was quite nice so this go-around I added a portion of the peas later, with the carrots. I omitted all salt until having tasted at the very end, potatoes were on-hand, and both were entirely unneeded.  

Pease Porridge Cold...
The soup was fridged for the night. Let it relax, give the ham bone essence and split peas time to meld. Today's early tasting was ZOMGYUM! Rich, super-thick, smooth but chewy, just enough carrot and wicked smokey-hammy. I'm learning!

Pease Porridge in My Pot, Wiser and Older.
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Saturday, October 12, 2013

IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A PAINT CHIP...



The Downstairs needs decorating...

So if the Kitchen and Living Room need painting, a Girl needs paint colors.

...If a Girl needs paint colors, she needs ideas.

...If a Girls needs ideas, she needs yarn.
And if a Girl needs to go yarn shopping, she needs to go with friends.

So if a Girl goes yarn shopping with friends for color inspiration....

She HAS to go to Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Portland!

See?

My beloved friends Abby (KnitKnitCafe podcast) and Mary Kay Carol may have applied gentle influence and offered hostelry to seduce me into going up.  Because Portland is completely repellent all on it’s very own. (I’d drive up there again tomorrow.)

I brought the worst weather they’d seen all year.  (Sorry.)

For the Official Record, we ate at:

Pine State Biscuits, partaking of the Reggie Deluxe--A fine biscuit, a piece of fried chicken, cheese, sausage gravy, bacon and, because it's me, an egg on top:


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Bread and Ink Cafe, featuring an unbelievable cinnamon roll, Lox Benedict and a Liege waffle with fruit:


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Carol and I also tried the much-vaunted Dar Essalam in Wilsonville, which everyone in the whole wide world recommended.  We went for lunch, which meant we missed the Tagine they’re famous for, but reveled in the Casablanca, a dessert of a perfect phyllo pillow filled with gorgeous fruit that absolutely curled our toes:


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The requisite Piggy-Girl’s Logbook being done, we did actually attend the festival as well!  

Friday I took Mary Scott Huff’s Knitting Behind the (Color) Wheel class.  If you are unfamiliar with her work, she is an unparalleled fiber artist and all-around Sassy-Ass Cat.  I would have paid just to hug her.  We started a modular envelope bag incorporating what we learned about color and coordination earlier in the morning, then in the afternoon, applied i-cord (as in ideal-cord, inspired-cord, and intelligent-cord) and a Dorset Button.  

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This may have been where I fell down on my lack of sewing skills, but all around it was six sacks of fun and I had lunch with a great veteran spinner and knitter, Betty, who gave me a ride to the MiniChef where we ate, surprise, some pretty mean biscuits.


Is this all starting to swirl together?

As the heavens continued to sheet down rain, Abby and I visited my all-time favorite yarn shop, Twisted, where I scored the Perfect Kitchen Yarn. It was shortly after we fell down at Pine State and then ran the hell home to watch Big Bang Theory and knit.  

Saturday, we visited the festival market, spread through several buildings and out on the lawn, an unfortunate circumstance in the typhoon conditions.  Highlights included Huckleberry Knits, Abstract Fiber and the winners, scratching my current  Self-Striping Itch:

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It's Fly Design's Monarch (Purple and Black) and Shoe Fly Sock (Rainbow) super wash, self-striping yarns that made me tap-dance like an elf in the crowded corner booth.


I also FINALLY procured a beautiful, full-size noste-pinne (yes, I immediately lost the tag):

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We met up with lots of local yarn gals, including Kristine (Kadyellebee Designs),  of whose sultry voice I will never tire, and KnitCents Rachel came all the way down from Olympia for the afternoon.  Mary Kay Carol brought Wonder-College-TeenK down from school for the day so we walked and shopped and lunched and generally went a bit nuts with the weather and all.  Fiber Festivals are always a little wild and wooly...

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Looted up, we headed home, where Abby made the best tomato soup ever:


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 ...and we snuggled up to watch Bridesmaids. Siiiiighhhhh Chris O'Dowd is one of my favorite actors ever, as being at turns hysterical and heart-rending is the Irish Gift. And he’s Cute.  And Irish.  A distant second to GingerMan, but an entirely similar sensibility and a hilarious movie.  I now feel really terrible that I avoided it for so long and grateful to Abby for making me watch it!

We met up with Carol on Sunday after brekkie at Bread & Ink and went to Happy Knits where I scored with Sherlock.

No, Really:

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This is intended for the Bandwidth Hat from Stephen West’s Book Two, which I reviewed the very first time I ever appeared on Knitmore Girls as “That Squirrel Girl They Know On Too Much Coffee”.  It’s one of my favorite of his designs and I’ve been looking for the perfect yarn for, what, two years?  Local dyer Black Trillium's beautiful swirly-coffee yarn will be the cabled headband with the gorgeous olive for the patterned crown.

Monday I met Carol’s knitting group at Beyond Art, a lovely yarn and bead shop in Aurora, Oregon.  They’re a spirited group of knitters and spinners who also volunteer in the local and state spinning guilds, often in period costume. That’s their super-power, and their secret identities involve a bevy of cheek, naughtiness, and some very sound knitting advice. 

Tuesday I was deposited at the airport in cold, wet, darkest gloom and after waiting extra time in security while the TSA dude literally took a jeweler’s loupe under ultra-violet light to the license of the man in front of me, I hoofed it to my “gate”.

Or “gate-lette”.  To find my plane.

Or “plane-lette”.

I boarded the tiny prop plane, texting my dad, so as not to have a nervous breakdown in full voice...

....dad i can’tstayonthisplaneigottagetoffthisplaneisTINY

He talked me down sufficiently that I did not disembark, weep openly, or throw up.  Thus we climbed through the cloud cover and I saw the sun for the first time in five days.  It was the smoothest flight I’d had in ages.

So the yarn and I made it home safely. 

Now the Girl has yarn in her favorite colors.


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And paint can be bought.

The Downstairs can be decorated.

... And if the Upstairs needs to be painted and decorated, a Girl might need more yarn. 



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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

UNRAVELED

ps- there are no photos here because between flickr and yahoo asshattery i am locked out of my photos.  if you know how to permanently fix or prank them, i'd appreciate knowing... now, on to the blog...

So this year, I came undone.

Now, a sock------

Yes, a sock. It is a beautiful knitted thing.  A mastery of magic and engineering.   Toe, foot, heel, leg, cuff.  Heels being my favorite, the juncture at which horizontal becomes vertical by sheer trickery.  There are as many recipes for socks as for spaghetti, but in the end, it is the making and the wearing that spark joy in my soul.  Imagine the betrayal as the little fucker fell right the hell apart.

(photo of one of my socks with a stupid hole in it here)

I tried to mend it by taking up the broken end and securing the live stitches, but the little tail kept coming loose and unraveling even more, making it three times worse every time I thought I had it sewn up.


It started in March.  My doctor and I decided to change my medication.  The old one was terrible for blood sugar, weight gain and liver function. Feeling that the last year or two had been quite fine, we moved ahead with a new medication in a calm and orderly fashion. Everything seemed to be okay, the stitches were holding, the pattern lookin' dandy. Hearts and Flowers.


(clever photo of heart-and-flower sock here)

In April I gave notice at my job for May, as the commute was frightful and I thought I'd move on to a home-based business. Everything made sense, I still felt in control, relatively happy and confident.  I started that business, got off to a roaring start....

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Just a couple of strands at first, but I was still rolling, keeping busy.

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I woke up one morning from the middle of the hole.

The depression is unbearable and seemingly unbreakable.  It's a uniquely isolated feeling, like being a little wooden doll suspended in deep black space. Nothing about me has felt natural in sixth months, I have absolutley no emotional connection to what is going on around me-- Parties, hangouts, birthdays, doing laundry are all the same gig. There are parts of me I am nearly certain will never connect with the outer world again.  

Hyperbole and a Half wrote about her struggle with depression recently and the part that made me laugh and sob uncontrollably was the way she described what I call Giving Face.  Unless you've just been surprised by a party girl poppin' out of a cake at a funeral, you have natural facial expressions related to your everyday speech.  I feel like I literally need to reach up and mold my face into a look appropriate to any given experience. I often stand among people feeling stretched and awkward. I hear conversation around me, the attendant phrasing and pauses, then the alarm sounds that I'm supposed to react!  Formulate, execute, et VoilĂ , A Face!  Needs some work? Sorry.

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So here's me in therapy, and at the meds doctor, on time and ready to go...I pick up stitches and whip the yarn round and we pull the hole shut a bit...

fwoopfwoopfwoop

And there's another loose end, coming undone, the hole three times worse again.  I can't think much of the time, I don't actually care or have opinions about a lot of things and I have all the energy four cups of coffee and two naps a day can afford me.


I feel obligated to say that with some tinkering, yes, I am a bit....Lifted? Brighter, I think. But I’m still floating in the hole, wooden and sometimes completely emotionless.  It’s odd, but some of this, including intermittent feelings of ennui and total uselessness are actual side effects of the medication.  

I’ve never experienced this before.  Many, many sufferers of mental health problems maintain that the medication makes them unbearably gray.  Fellow Bipolars and others suffering with more severe conditions feel it takes away our Super Powers. When I find a way to explain those to you, I will, but suffice to say, the more severe the change, the more likely some people drop their ball of meds to find their way out of the wool. My meds mostly made me feel more “me”, more in control, able to live among friends and family without causing damage. Lately, though, I have nearly ached for that razor’s edge of unmanaged ZING, just those few beautiful moments before everything will go, inevitably,  to crazy hell, just to get the feeling of life back, to see the extra rainbow color, to cinch that hole tight and sew in the tail in a fit of mad possession. 

Looking back, I could just rip the entire year out, no matter how much I had loved the pattern, as that tiny, ungraspable end eludes me and I can't stop the unraveling.  It feels like a slow, perpetual, unrelenting state now, which leaves me at moments panicky, frightened, embarrassed, heartbroken and, ultimately, resigned.  

Every day is a step in this sock, every day the hole may rip and leave me exposed or the heel may hold and I’ll just keep walking.



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