Friday, March 25, 2011

Remeber this guy?

Remember my friend, The Loyal Lurker, and her brother?

Today's snark consisted of the following.

I hear they are planning for another “Day Of Rage” somewhere in the middle east.

Isn’t that like the rest of us “announcing” a “Day of Breathing”?

How about a “Day of Not Having Our Heads Up Our Asses”?

or a “Day of Not Cutting Off Our Noses To Spite Our Faces”?

or a “Day of Acting Like Adults Instead of Irate Spoiled Toddlers”?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Colonial Williamsburg doesn't have Monsters

Sweet Daughter and I were driving through Williamsburg (where the hotel was – yes. We hotel it in March. Sue me.) to Jamestown on Saturday morning when I saw a lovely 18th century house with a very simple sign out front. The artwork consisted of a pineapple and three letters.  “AHA!” I said. I need to get a picture of that. So on Sunday morning, I managed to stick my camera out the window and grab a picture. “THAT’s getting sent to New York Times best-selling author Larry Correia!” I told Sweet Daughter.  She ignored me and continued eating her Froot Loops.

Funny - I would have expected something more lethal than a pineapple.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Living History – Blue Angels and Bearcats

“It’s kind of like having two piranhas chewing at the side of your airplane”

H/T to Neptunus Lex via the ususal suspects.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not the most fun I've had this week

Sweet Daughter came home last week with a flyer advertising the “planetarium” that was going to be at school tonight. I told her that I was REALLY BUSY this week, and didn’t know if we’d be able to go. She came home from school today telling me I had to read the flyer in her book bag about the presentation in the school cafeteria tonight. Shorter Half had a meeting from 6:00 until 8:00 tonight, so even though I have reports due at work tomorrow, and a HUGE weekend to pack for, and food and clothing to document, I agreed to take her. She SO wanted to go.

We got to the school at the appointed hour and walked in to the cafeteria to find what looked like a giant silver mushroom cap inflated in the middle of the floor and chairs set up in rows behind it. I naively hoped that the presentation would be projected onto the outside of this thing. No such luck. Have I mentioned that I’m a bit claustrophobic? And that it seems to be getting worse as I get older? So when I found out that they expected us to crawl through this tunnel thing like it was some kind of space-age igloo, I asked the parent of one of SD’s friends if he’d mind keeping an eye on her, and told him he was free to rip off her arm and beat her with the wet end if she misbehaved. I went to go sit and wait things out when the Guy In Charge lifted up the side of the giant mushroom for those of us that were old, infirm, halt and/or lame to enter. I thought that I’d try that way – after all, there was plenty of room inside, right?

The good news: I ended up sitting by the fan that was blowing fresh air into the giant Hefty bag. The bad news was that the fan was so loud I couldn’t hear the presentation. We were packed in there like sardines. We had to sit on the floor, and being closer to 50 than I am to 45 these days, that wasn’t terribly comfortable. It was stuffy in there. And when he started spinning the stars across Kinderdome, I thought I was going to hurl. Did I mention that there was no way out that didn’t involve a bladed instrument?

So I sat with my head down next to another claustrophobic mom and waited it out. Then the sick bastard giving the presentation told us those of us ducking under the side had to wait until everyone else had gone through the tunnel before the rest of us could exit. I thought I’d done pretty well until I got home and found that my stomach was still in knots an hour after leaving. And to top it all off? I found out the kids had already sat through the same, if not more extensive presentation, earlier that day.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Preparations - Asparagus forced in French rolls

Asparagus forced in French rolls.

TAKE three French rolls, take out all the crumb, by first cutting a piece of the top-crust off; but be careful that the crust fits again the same place. Fry the rolls brown in fresh butter; then take a pint of cream, the yolks of six eggs beat fine, a little salt and nutmeg, stir them well together over a slow fire till it begins to be thick. Have ready a hundred of small grass* boiled, then save tops enough to stick the rolls with, the rest cut small and put into the cream, fill the loaves with them. Before you fry the rolls, make holes thick in the topcrust, and stick the grass in ; then lay on the piece of crust, and stick the grass in, that it may look as if it were growing. It makes a pretty side-dish at a second course.

Okay. So these probably aren't French Rolls, at least by 18th century standards. The county I live in has two grocery stores, and they're both the same chain, and the selection isn't exactly ... ample. These worked fine for the test run.

Hannah Glasse, p. 195

* Asparagus = "Sparrow Grass"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Preparations - Curree of Chickens

Curree of Chickens.*

CUT two chickens as for fricassee, wash them in two or three waters, put them into a stew-pan with as much water as will cover them ; sprinkle over them a large spoonful of salt, let them boil till tenderish, covered close, scum them well when they first begin to boil; take up the chickens, put the liquor into a bason ; put half a pound of butter into a pan, brown it a little, put to it two cloves of garlic, a large onion sliced, let these fry till brown, shaking the pan ; put in the chickens, strew over them two large spoonfuls of curree-powder ; cover the pan close, let the chickens do till brown, often shaking the pan ; put in the liquor the chickens were boiled in, let all stew till they are tender: if acid is agreeable, when the chickens are taken off the fire, squeeze in the juice of an orange, or a lemon. Put half a pound of rice picked, and washed in salt and water, into two quarts of boiling water; boil it briskly for twenty minutes, strain it through a cullender, shake it into a plate, but do not touch it with the hands, nor a spoons serve it, with the curree in a separate dish.

18th century Chicken Curry

Rinse cut up a chicken, cover with water, add salt and boil until done, removing scum as it forms.

Remove the chicken, save the liquor, and melt butter in a frying pan. Brown the butter a little, add one minced clove of garlic, and a sliced onion. Fry until brown, stirring things around so they don't burn. Add the chicken pieces and two spoonfuls of curry powder. Brown the chicken (add more butter if necessary), shaking the pan often.

Add some of the broth/liquor and simmer the chicken pieces until tender, adding more broth as necessary. Squeeze in the juice of an orange, or a lemon. (Since 18th century oranges were bitter, I used orange and lemon juice.)

Make rice: Put quarter of a pound of rice* into a quart or so of boiling water; boil it briskly for twenty minutes, strain it through a colander, shake it into a plate, but do not touch it with hands or a spoon. (Sorry, I had to use a spoon. Sue me.) Put curry in a separate dish.

*The lady's assistant for regulating and supplying her table: being a complete system of cookery, containing one hundred and fifty select bills of fare, properly disposed for family dinners; Page 254

**This is 18th century rice. It is amazing – incredibly aromatic. If you ever see any in the store, it’s worth trying.

Preparations - A fricasey of kidney-beans

A fricasey of kidney-beans*

TAKE a quart of the seed, when dry, soak them all night in river water** then boil them on a slow fire till quite tender; take a quarter of a peck of onions, slice them thin, fry them in butter till brown; then take them out of the butter, and put them in a quart of strong draw'd gravy. Boil them till you may mash them fine, then put in your beans, and give them a boil or two. Season with pepper, salt and nutmeg.

Instead of using 4 cups of kidney beans and 8 cups onions for my test run, I used 1 cup of dry beans and 2 cups of sliced onion. I soaked the beans in water with soda over night, drained them, added fresh water and then boiled them for about an hour until soft. I fried the onions in butter and then added a cup of gravy and boiled it all together until I could mash up the onions. I added the beans and added salt, pepper and nutmeg. It ended up looking like something a cat horked up, but dang – it was tasty! It’s definitely geared for 18th century tastebuds, but I’d serve it to company in a heartbeat.

* Hannah Glasse, page 109
** River water would likely be soft water.

Preparations - 18th century gravy

So, I’ve been trying to get ready for this event next weekend, and I’ve been failing miserably. The riding habit? Not even cut out. I think I’ve lost about 15 pounds since my fitting, and I’m not putting that much time, effort and money into something that’s not going to fit. The cooking competition? I couldn't get my head wrapped around the amount of research I needed to do, and that's usually my favorite part.

Albemarle Soundings managed to get my food planning kick started, thank heavens, and I’m testing recipes (or “receipts” as they were called) this weekend.

Last weekend, I made gravy. Lot's of "made" dishes require gravy which isn't the thickened stuff we're used to today. Samuel Johnson defined it as "The serous juice that runs from flesh not much dried by the fire." This receipt is neither, but more like a broth.

Gravy for turkey or fowl or ragoo.*

TAKE a pound of lean beef, cut and hack it well, then flour it well, put a piece of butter as big as a hen's egg in a stewpan; when it is melted, put in your beef, fry it on all sides a little brown, then pour in three pints of boiling water, and a bundle of sweet-herbs**, two or three blades of mace, three or four cloves, twelve whole pepper corns, a little bit of carrot, a little piece of crust of bread toasted brown; cover it close, and let it boil till there is about a pint or less ; then season it with salt, and strain it off.

The description of the beef sounded a lot like cube steak to me, and being pressed for time, that's what I used.

Here it's been floured well, and is browning in butter.

Here are the herbs and spices I used - rosemary, sage, oregano, pepper, cloves and blades of mace.

Here's the pot before the water got added, including the toasted English Muffin I used.

Here's the pot after everything's been stewed to rags.
I covered the pot for a while, and then took the lid off so the liquid could reduce. It doesn't look very appetizing, but we'll see how it works out.

* Hannah Glasse, the Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, 1774, page 121

** Sweet Herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme. I didn't have parsely, and my thyme was dead so I threw in a little oregano that I found peeking out of the ground. I'd use the parsely and thyme if it was an option.