Saturday, August 13, 2011

Better than Kraft

We had a really interesting time at the dinner table last night. "Interesting" in the sense that eating with a toddler is interesting. That is, not so much interesting as kind of irritating.

Despite the lovely dinner presented to him, Cubby was not having it. He smacked his food with his fork, examined it minutely, flung it around, but did not actually eat it. He even refused the coleslaw, for the first time ever. Usually he'll eat so much coleslaw I fear for his digestion. But not last night.

I very charitably chalked it up to sore gums from teething and gave up, unstrapping the malefactor from his chair and taking him outside to whine and throw things and generally misbehave until bedtime.

About an hour later, shortly before Cubby's bedtime, I figured I'd better get him to eat something. And what better for sore gums than ice cream? And peach pie, because the MiL had made one that very afternoon.

Yes, my son had peach pie and vanilla ice cream for dinner last night. It may not win me any parenting awards, but it's better than dyed-orange macaroni and cheese product, right? Right.

Nutrition Mother of the Year, right here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Talk to Me

I'm here, I'm fine, and I'm totally blanking out on anything of interest to talk about today.

So! I think it's time for you to talk to me! That's right: A.P.D. strikes again.

How about food? We all like food, right? Right. Except when it's nasty food. And when I think "nasty food," I always think of my friend Alyssa's story about when she went as an exchange student to Thailand and her host mother asked her what kind of meat she liked to eat. Meat is a very expensive luxury there, but this woman thought every American must have meat. Alyssa is not actually a huge meat-eater, but she told her host mother that she liked chicken. So the woman bought a microwave--which probably almost bankrupted the family, but she was determined to be hospitable--and some chicken, and every morning for breakfast, she would microwave chicken for Alyssa.

Yes, you read that right. Microwaved chicken for breakfast. It wasn't even just re-heated, which is bad enough, but cooked in the microwave. And of course, Alyssa had to eat it, because not to do so would have been incredibly rude. I don't know how she did it without throwing up.

So, duckies! Can you top microwaved chicken for breakfast? What's the most disgusting food stuff you have ever been obliged to eat?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Momentous News

A. brought home a tiller yesterday. And what a tiller it is.

Since I've been at Blackrock, there has not been a resident tiller. Except the actual residents of the house with a shovel, that is. In the past, we have borrowed tillers from various family members, but for one reason or another, that did not happen this year. So the entire garden was dug up by hand.

You know how big our garden is. You can see that that is plain crazy.

I vowed I would never do that again, and that there would be a tiller on our property by next spring, so help me God of Labor-Saving Machinery.

That God heard. And He sent a tiller the likes of which has not been seen for a generation. Literally.

A. saw this tiller on his way into the Small City for court the other day. He was immediately attracted to it because it's old. As you might recall, we have an old lawn tractor that, despite its age, is the best lawn tractor we have ever owned.

And here's Tuffy now!

The old machines were built better. Period. So when A. saw this tiller and realized that it was old and solid cast iron, he was all for it.

He didn't tell us how old this thing was when he mentioned that he had bought it. When he brought it home last night, though, it was apparent that it was older than me. Older than A. Almost, in fact, as old as the MiL. Possibly 50 years old. But it was indeed cast iron and did indeed appear to function properly.

Behold, the Beast.

So we put it to the test in the garden. A. set to on a patch of weeds near the fence where the peas would have been if rabbits hadn't eaten them. And sure enough, that beast of a tiller chewed up that ground like it was nothing.

It performed admirably, but it was quite clear that this is not, as A. enjoys saying in a really terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger accent, a tool for the ladies. The cast iron nature of the beast means that it weighs about a thousand pounds, give or take 800 pounds. Us ladies aren't going anywhere near this behemoth. A. will be doing all the tilling at our house, without doubt.

So, no shoveling or tilling by me? I'll take it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Crazy Begins for Cubby

It rained pretty hard most of yesterday, which meant Cubby and I spent quite a bit of quality time in the four rooms. When the rain stopped and the sun came out around three in the afternoon, we hightailed it outside.

I noticed Penny the hen hanging around in the garden near the hay barn, so Cubby and I went into the garden to see if she had laid an egg in her spot. She hadn't. But while we were in there, I decided to pull some more pigweed, since it's starting to go to seed and I really don't need MORE pigweed in the garden.

Pulling pigweed is an ongoing chore, one that has been neglected in the past month or so because the lack of rain has made the ground so hard that those damned weeds will not let go of their hold in the earth. Whenever I would try to pull one up, it would inevitably break off and then sprout more stalks from the one root, like some kind of botanical Hydra.

Hate pigweed.


There were many large, stubborn pigweeds that were finally pullable thanks to the rain, so Cubby and I wandered around and I pulled weeds while he . . . did whatever it is he does. Mostly fall down, actually, since the garden is pretty uneven and full of pitfalls like potato vines and row cover.

We eventually made it over by the tomatoes, where I decided maybe Cubby would like a Stupice tomato to eat. They're pretty small, just about his size, so I thought it might be a good before-dinner snack. I wasn't sure if he would really enjoy eating a whole raw tomato, as he hasn't had much experience with them in his short life. But I figured he could try one, anyway.

Yeah. He ate four. It appears the Tomato Crazy is genetic.

That's my boy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Must Be Canning Season

And how do we know this? Because it was a pleasant 74 degrees outside last night, but a steamy 85 degrees in my kitchen. Firing up all four burners on the stove at once will do that.

So! Let's talk canning! Last night was a peach night, which is not all that strange, since I can peaches every year. But this year, I decided to try something different: reusable jar lids.

I've never used these before, and neither has the MiL, so it's just an experiment. I got just a dozen of these, in the wide-mouthed size. It's just the lid part; the metal rings that are used with them are the standard rings. They're easy to use, only requiring a bit of loosening before going into the canner--to vent, the package says--and then tightening when the jars are taken out. All the jars appear to have sealed, which is more than I can say for all of the standard jar lids I used last year. I don't really know how long these reusable lids will last, since I must assume the plastic will eventually crack or the rubber rings will disintegrate over time. We shall see.

Another fun note from canning this year, concerning weeds. Weeds and canning? Whatever could the connection be? Well! Let me tell you! Boiling water will kill weeds. And what do I have several gallons of after I'm done processing jars in a canner or skinning peaches or blanching greens for freezing? Yup. Boiling water.

Almost all the annoying weeds that grow up in the cracks between the stones on the north patio outside the kitchen door have been eliminated this year courtesy of my otherwise useless boiling water. I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out.

You just have to be careful not to dump it on your toes. Not that I have done this.*

More peaches tonight, then bread and butter pickles with some pickling cucumbers the MiL broke down and bought because STILL no cucumbers on our vines. And then? The tomatoes are ramping up.

Brace yourselves. The Crazy is coming.

* I have totally done this.

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Is Why It's Called Slow Food

In this modern day and age, it's amazing how much time goes into preparing our food before we ever see it. I'm not talking about ready-made food like frozen pizza or restaurant food, either. I'm talking about the plain, raw ingredients you might pick up in the produce section or the meat counter and then spend some time of your own turning into a meal.

Let's take yesterday's Sunday lunch, for example. We had roast chicken with a tarragon sauce, boiled potatoes, corn on the cob, and a cucumber and tomato salad. Simple enough, right? Right. Except . . .

The chicken was one we had raised, slaughtered, plucked, and eviscerated ourselves. To say nothing of the breaking of the legs. Hours of work already there. Inside the cavity I stuck some random little onions I had thinned from the garden. Hours more work for planting, watering, weeding, and cleaning those onions.

The sauce included tarragon from the garden, which of course had been planted, watered, weeded, and then harvested, plus washed and chopped. The chicken stock for the sauce had been prepared by the MiL from the hearts, necks, and gizzards of the slaughtered roosters. She spent quite awhile carefully skinning and trimming those pieces before putting them in the pot to simmer.

The potatoes, in addition to the back-breaking work in the garden before they even grew big enough to harvest, had to be dug up, scrubbed clean, peeled, quartered, and then boiled.

You all know the work that goes into tomatoes, shallots, and cucumbers (although these weren't our cucumbers--the MiL bought some at a farm stand because we HAVE no cucumbers dammit) in the garden before they can become a salad. Same with the corn, which then has to be harvested, shucked, and de-silked before being simply boiled.

So for a relatively simple meal that was consumed in less than half an hour, I probably spent at least an hour in the kitchen doing the actual cooking, and there were untold hours to plant, grow, harvest, and prep all that food before it became, well, food.

It's kind of tiring to contemplate, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that everything on our plates yesterday was the best possible example of that particular food. It was beyond delicious, and doing all the work yourself will make you appreciate your food a whole hell of a lot more.

That said, you should know we had leftover Chinese takeout for dinner. Because even I have my limits.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Farm Humor

Killing and prepping chickens is a macabre activity without doubt, but it is not without humor.

We turned six more roosters into roasters last night. As A., the MiL, and I were sitting in a circle around a bucket plucking them, I kept feeling a tickling on my leg. Eventually I realized it was coming from the toenails on the rooster A. was plucking right next to me. Getting tickled by chicken toenails is kind of disturbing. But also sort of funny in a disgusting kind of way.

Later, when A. was eviscerating them, he kind of leaned down on the bird he was working on and it, uh, squawked. They can do this if there's any air still left in their windpipe or whatever, but to call it startling would be an understatement. I can see what a wonderful practical joke that would be if there was someone around who was not aware of that peculiarity. And if the joker has a particularly sick sense of humor.

Not exactly funny, but sort of odd, is the skill I am acquiring at breaking chicken legs. See, the easiest and least messy way to cut the feet off is to break the joint right below the thigh and then just cut the skin. No bone splinters that way. So I am becoming quite adept at twisting the joint apart and then cutting away the skin with a knife. I broke 12 chicken legs last night. That seems . . . wrong somehow, right? Like a poultry mob hitman, or something?

Oh well. Six more roosters to go, and then peace will be restored to the ram pasture, our freezer will be full of chicken, and I can retire from my current gruesome job of leg-breaker.

The things we do for food.