Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Repast - Scents of Memory

I choose many things by the scent of them. Scent is the key part of taste. People that lose their sense of smell often lose their enjoyment of food. Smell is transport or torment, as simple as hunger, as complex as love. Scent is memory, simply the whiff of something takes us back. The smell of Charlie perfume, six months I spent in London on an assignment years ago where I bought some in an apothacary, the fresh clean air smell of raw corn silk, brushing my nose as I waited in an Indiana blind. Rosemary baking on bread and the floral steam scent that was my Mom hand ironing everything in our house, including the sheets, while I played with my little Tonka trucks underfoot. Waking up now, the faint scent of shampoo and vanilla on my pillow.

The smells of childhood are all their own, be it your own childhood or that of your children. Clean milky skin, the scent of fresh grass, bicycle oil and band aids, the bite of apple in a school lunchbox, soap bubbles and Hershey's chocolate. The teen years are simply a smell of angst, gangly legs and sweat, locker rooms, Right Guard deodorant, burnt rubber and a corsage that lay dying in a bedroom drawer.

Then the smell of a hospital, a smell I hate to this day, watching someone become more and more body and less and less self, until the self was so wrapped up in pain all that was left was the body, wasting away, releasing its scent to the room. Yet I could still hug them and could still smell, if only in my mind, the warmth of cookies, the smell of Wind Song perfume and baby shampoo. Not for me, an end like that, lay me out where I smell only fresh rain or motor oil, release me to the wild, to become part of it, then never look back.

Scents are like colors, bringing back memories some would wish swept away. Crayons, Flesh and Indian Red, colors not politically incorrect, and soon bleached to remove possible offense. Just as some mask the breathy clean musk of natural beauty with too much powder and perfume, covering up that which is innately desirable. But scent, like colorful crayons, remains vivid in memory, drawing horizons on pieces of paper that went back home to that kitchen that smelled of perfume and cinnamon. I can still walk through my childhood home and take in those scents, of yeast and meat, spice and coffee, tracing them with my noise through alleyways of retrospection, cataloging them with the smells of other things, marionberry pie, fresh cotton, the exhaust of a muscle car.

There are scents that in just one moment, take us back to a place, a single, distinct point of time.

The stale air in a bedroom, the smell of sleep laying deep in your throat as your brain refuses to rest. You watch someone sleeping, looking at that exposed place on their neck where the sheet and their hair almost meet, the skin laying pale in the moonlight. Flesh, bridging a contrast between soft silky hair that smells faintly of sandlewood and the sheets pure smell of crisp softness. You place your lips on that space of skin, inhaling softly and deep, breathing in the balm of future tears.

The oily jet smell of a turbine engine blowing up and out from the hot eternal darkness of a engine, the odor rising like flame and blowing cleanly back, across tarmac. You never forget that odor, the vivid, dead perfume that is a dinosaur cooked on a kerosene stove, coating everything it touches.

That particular smell followed me throughout the years. The air smells like brimstone, upon the disembodied plane of it, our shadows move, walking in grids, slowing, not stopping, as if our shadows only congealed for a moment, in proximate musings. That coppery smell of blood for me, is not just a smell of maturation, it's a visceral journey to those places I've stood, the blaze of remaining fire swimming in my eyes like two tiny torches, daring me to tear up. I don't, I can't. Not here, not now. The tears will travel back, harsh, sparse swift drops, brought back with the scent of soundless explosions and cold fire, to be gathered up into a sealed red container, where they remain as I drive home.

But, there are other smells, so many smells, that bring only smiles. The smell of wet dog, soaked and tireless, rushing from the water that beads on his dense fur, as slow as chilled glycerin. The smell of green, as the wheels of an airplane pull away from it, the length and breadth of life measured in the takeoff run on a freshly mowed runway. Garlic baking, a peppery meat infused scent of Merlot poured into glasses at lunchtime, stealing away from work and duty for a few days of leave in a city foreign of sight and scent, dim sum and sourdough, the salty scent of an oceans' release.

There is the smell of fresh blueing, the smell of the first handgun I ever bought. I held it, taking in the deep blued finish that seemed to hold all reluctant light and breath, feeling the weight in my hand, the scent of cold steel bracing me. Then I simply stepped up and fired it. A single shot, in which a lifetime lay behind me. A single shot, upon the bare and pock marked wall, the shadow of its form shuddered in what was not the wind, but my own trepidations, until holding it steady, I squeezed the trigger with one intake of virgin breath.

In that moment, in the rich, trembling roar of its power, the trepidation fell behind and I knew that this would be one desire that would stay with me always. In that moment, the sounds and smell of every old hunting rifle I had ever shot came in that single converging brace of gunpowder smell and noise that was that moment, spoiling me for anything else.

So many smells, so many memories. Food and wine, and guns and love, all intertwined, the power and the need of it all. I wonder what scents tomorrow will bring to store up for later? The snow falls from above, covering the landscape of both form and flaw, cleansing the sky of all burden and need.  I open the door to breath deep the scent of the air, curtains inhaling in and out with a breeze that is as fresh and new as the day waiting to be breathed in deep.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bits and Bites - More Weekend

There is one thing that is a given if one visits the Range (either crash pad one or otherwise.) You will NOT go hungry.

After a good night's sleep, our hostess and the tired travelers were to bed early Friday night, they being tired from the trip, me tired from some long duty days and early mornings this week.

Saturday morning, I awoke before anyone, and baked some pastries, set out to rise overnight, assembled a couple of days prior then put in the freezer.

Homemade  croissants, these  from my Croissants Pain au Chocolat  recipe with a tiny dab of  sweet and fragrant almond paste replacing the chocolate in the center.

Then it was off to half priced books!
I love the antique typewriters on the top of the shelves, but laughed at the Sci Fi Fantasy aisle also containing Westerns AND paranormal romance (The Quick and the Undead? Bella Star?) I was amazed at the growth of the paranormal romance books (Dad hates your boyfriend, bring home a horny werewolf, that will show him).

I think the audience is either housebound soccer moms or hormonally overactive young teens (In my day, we just went and rode the horse around for a while). Still it it made me smile to see the mix of what was in the aisle.
New Reading material for everyone, with a couple books for friends!

Then it was time for lunch, meeting a couple of friends, including Scout26 and offspring for lunch at one of the area Irish pubs. Miss D., on the left had the corned beef and cabbage, the rest of us trying less traditional fare, including a barbecue flat bread pizza the kitchen made up for young R. even if it wasn't on the weekend menu!
The young man had a brand new RC airplane, Miss D. gave him some lessons in aerodynamics while I scouted out a good operations site that was flat, open to the public and free from hard things to fly into. Unfortunately the local winds picked up to almost 30 miles per hour, double that of the max allowance for the craft, so the aircraft had to remain hangared. Barkley offered him self as backup to the boy, who got to play with big black dog for a while, while the grown ups caught up.

Then it was "girls afternoon out", while Miss D. and I took the bat truck and headed into the city.  We'd invited Tam and Roberta X. to join, but they were out of town with other plans, so we did the solo trek to some of our favorite haunts.
Goose the Market.  A piece or two of the jowl bacon will go well in green beans tonight simmered in a bit of stock with shallots and a pinch of red pepper, Along with that, a simple Goose the Market locally raised pork tenderloin, encrusted with French herbs and cooked in a few Tablespoons of garlic infused stock in an enamel pot until spoon tender. A simple supper after a day of fine food.

But for now? Bacon and chocolate gelato? Oh my. . but alas, we are still full from lunch. Next time.

So many good flavors, carrot cake with cream cheese, frosting, Turkish coffee and others. It was tempting, but we still have mead tasting and dinner together later.

With a little bit of everything including the kitchen sink, in our Goose the Market bag,  we were on our way to the  New Day meadery. 

D. and Peter have brought me their wines before, but I'd not visited.  How fun!  I'd never tried mead until Partner in Grime  made some Christmas of 2011.  I was hooked,  but when we had run out of the small bath, I found that  the liquor store pre bottled mead tasted like alpaca spit mixed with lemon scented dish washing detergent. The first taste I had of New Day's product was "THIS is what it's supposed to taste like, it's as good as what I first tried!"

We were very warmly greeted and made to feel at home.  There's a beautiful sitting area and gourmet foods and desserts to try if one would like a little food with their sampling.  They also have honey products from Wildflower Ridge Honey, LLC and other places (honey sticks in watermelon flavor. . oh yes).  We really try and do our business with local artisans and craftsmen. I will gladly drive a ways further, and pay a little bit more to keep our local small businesses successful/  Big Box Mart and the Chain Restaurants rarely, if ever, see my hard earned money.

So many different meads and ciders from which to choose.

I was driving so I took just the tiniest of sips of the ones I'd not tried. The Cranberry one definitely was coming home with me to share with our supper, and another bottle of blackcurrant carbonated mead for another special occasion.
We got to pick six different meads and ciders to sample.  Then it was home, to craft the light supper, while we caught up on stories, (the perils of chicken ingestion in a  low flying fighter engine and how NOT to get the handle of "Coop", how Barkley and Oleg's Cat combining forces in "the Royal Order of Dander" would be dangerous, and the merits of a REALLY good blue cheese with our crackers and wine).

After more mead and  perplexing Barkley with the Jedi Pocket Knives, (a gift from Santa in my stocking), we were off to sleep.  For some strange reason, everyone slept in this morning, the house chill as it got down to the low teens during the night.  Brrr, kick that heat on! But before Miss D. and Peter hit the road, there was breakfast at a great little Indiana restaurant, a ways from me, but worth the drive.  Emmy's pancake house in Avon, Indiana.

It's in what was once a totally vacant strip mall, where a large Oriental buffet used to be. Now there's a small college auxiliary campus and a VERY busy restaurant in the old giant buffet area.   The flaming dragon/neon fixture decor can only be described as Terminal 2 at Kai Tek airport in Hong Kong with some bottles of maple syrup and retro oatmeal tins lying about,  but it's  SO worth a try.  Much of the menu is standard breakfast fare, but they have some menu items that top anyone's in  the area, the eggs Benedict and pancakes being the best in town and the crepes we saw coming out, looking wonderful!

Taken with D's cell phone camera   Peter's Florentine eggs Benedict with spinach.

And my breakfast scramble with hash browns and pancakes. (scrambled eggs with ham, pineapple and Cheddar, throw on a dash of Shirachi, and it's even better)

We made a drive around the local area, commenting on how winter IS the best time to buy a house as you can really see by the obvious bare patches in rooftop snow, who has decent insulation. The worst homes for roof insulation, apparently the $189,000 and up, pricey for Indiana, homes in a new subdivision, the older brick and bungalows snug as a bug with their roof snow undisturbed, even around chimneys.

Barkley food was picked up at the pet supply place and then we had our nice long drive home, while Miss D. entertained us with stories of bush flying in Alaska.

The weekend was drawing to a close too soon.  The blog meet is this afternoon, but I have an invite to a colleagues for a housewarming, and my guests need to hit the road, for work very early tomorrow.  It was a great time.  There may be a treadmill and a salad in my future  tomorrow but it was worth it.   

Thanks for sharing
Brigid and Barkley

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter Adventures

My long time pilot friend Miss D. and her husband Bayou Renaissance Man arrived safely last night, bearing gifts of mead. I got to meet Peter a few months ago when they came up for  a weekend, and it was good to see them both again. Oleg V. was hoping to tag along but that didn't work out, another time.

I had time after getting off duty this week to to make dark chocolate cheese cake with ganache and espresso sugar topping for a dessert to our dinner and almond paste filled homemade croissants for  this morning's breakfast.  We are off to the book store then are meeting IND blogger Scout 26 and son for Saturday pub brunch and then it's girls day out to Goose the Market.  Beyond that, who knows!

Barkley is still not feeling too perky from his bout with kennel cough, hence no formal group plans this weekend, as I wanted to stick pretty close to home and vet.  Peter is going to hang with him this afternoon while we do our girl's jaunt.  But Barkley is off the narcotics. That made for an interesting dog.  Sometimes he just sat and kinda of leaned.  He would NOT get on the couch or his bed "Mom, I can't get on my dog pillow bed,. . it's too TALL, I might fall off. . burp".

And somewhere in there he got the munchies. . . .

At least I didn't catch him selling the remainder of the Turbotrol to a German Shepherd for biscuit money "No Barkley, our neighbor's a cop, he's probably undercover canine!"

But the medicine did clear up the awful wheezing/choking that kept us up all night right before Christmas and very quickly too, thanks to the vet coming in on Christmas Eve to take care of him.

Til later!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Smoke, Smolder and Ignite - Welcome to British Cars

I've had more than one British automobile worm it's way into my garage, and my heart.

It started in the Serengetti.  A Land Rover. So many switches, but fortunately, no matter which one I tried, the same thing happened. Nothing. It had all kinds of gauges, most there to fill up a hole in the dash, many unlabeled, which would be the automotive equivalent of "Door Number 3!"

I thought for a moment of flipping one labeled "FAN".  Rumors were a pilot had done that once and was never seen again. I knew better, getting back to base just as the light faded completely. For a moment I thought I'd light a match to see how much gas I had left before noting most of the vehicle was full of cans of gas (for when the gauge went in one nano-second from Full to Empty), I think not.

But I survived that little mission and the Rover wagon. . . .

Only to come home and find one in my garage Not a Rover, but a little Triumph in need of some restoring. OK. I hadn't planned on it. It was given to me for a little flying job I did that the person didn't have the money to pay for when his wife split. OK. It was worth  more than he owed me, even in the condition it was in, so why not?  It needed a new clutch plate, paint and some spiffing up, but really, everything works, it just needs a new battery.

New battery? Check. New clutch plate?  I can do that!  No, I can do that after pulling the whole $&#* transmission out with help. Then it was time to work on the wiring.  When you have a British car it's ALWAYS time to work on the wiring. I did not do it well. My entire wiring experience at that time, was the ability to draw the entire electrical system of a Boeing 727 on a cocktail napkin after 3 beers and old movies where someone with wire cutters  is saying "red wire, blue wire?" while sweat beads down their brow and something is ticking.

The automobile ended up as Day VFR only. I had figured the lights were the "blackout" version that was common during the War, and my car someone came with them standard.

I tried different things, including the familiar grey shape of rolled welding technology.  Once in a while the brake lights would blink at me like a firefly, but never when the brakes were actually applied.

Oh, but soon I was besotted, with bits and pieces of British car all over the shop floor and de-greaser in my shower, myself curled up in the Lotus position, wedged there under the dash muttering "OHM" as my meditative mantra. It wasn't long before I'd heard many things about Mr. Lucas, especially about him being the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper.

If you've not seen one, it's something to beyold. There's the wonder of the wiper trembling before you, hesitant to move, to break that spell, then suddenly, with a leap of faith, it flings itself upon the glass, back and forth in its death throes, then stillness and tears of rain against the glass for such a brief life. That sort of thing makes you believe in a higher power (and Rain-X and Triple AAA).

If you can't find one or afford one,  you too can have the experience.  Go rent the smallest car you can find and take it out on a completely isolated, uninhabited country road.  Turn down the radio so you can hear all the new sounds.  Roll down your window, turn off ALL the lights and start flinging new Twenty Dollar bills out the window while your passenger flicks a Bic lighter on and off somewhere near the dash as you attempt to maintain centerline at varying high speeds and sounds that range from "Woo Hoo! Autobahn!" to "is that a hard rubber dog toy in my crank case?"  It comes close.

So for my friends,

Miss D., who is coming to visit this weekend with her husband Peter, I present (with a hat tip to my friend Marty in Canada). . . .


Positive ground depends on proper circuit functioning, which is the transmission of negative ions by retention of the visible spectral manifestation known as "smoke". Smoke is the thing that makes electrical circuits work. We know this to be true because every time one lets the smoke out of an electrical circuit, it stops working. This can be verified repeatedly through empirical testing.

For example, if one places a copper bar across the terminals of a battery, prodigious quantities of smoke are liberated and the battery shortly ceases to function. In addition, if one observes smoke escaping from an electrical component such as a Lucas voltage regulator, it will also be observed that the component no longer functions. The logic is elementary and inescapable!

The function of the wiring harness is to conduct the smoke from one device to another. When the wiring springs a leak and lets all the smoke out of the system, nothing works afterward.

Starter motors were considered unsuitable for British motorcycles for some time largely because they consumed large quantities of smoke, requiring very unsightly large wires.

It has been reported that Lucas electrical components are possibly more prone to electrical leakage than their Bosch, Japanese or American counterparts. Experts point out that this is because Lucas is British, and all things British leak. British engines leak oil, British shock absorbers, hydraulic forks and disk brake systems leak fluid, British tires leak air and British Intelligence leaks national defense secrets.

Therefore, it follows that British electrical systems must leak smoke. Once again, the logic is clear and inescapable.

In conclusion, the basic concept of transmission of electrical energy in the form of smoke provides a logical explanation of the mysteries of electrical components especially British units manufactured by Joseph Lucas, Ltd.

And remember: "A gentleman does not motor about after dark."

Joseph Lucas "The Prince of Darkness"

So that's it folks, a little HOTR British Car advice. And remember, if you do fall under the spell of one, only to have to sell it,  just remember you can always install a dead battery and blame everything on that. - Brigid

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bacon Gravy and Southern Biscuits - Yea Doggies!

I'm sure some people are contemplating their New Year Resolution, eat better, lose weight.  I try and eat healthy 95% of the time but when I read a healthy eating blogger's words that each piece of bacon I eat takes a day off my life, all I could think of was "wow, I should have been dead in 1914!'

So I'm not starting that "no bacon" thing any time soon.  Especially when, with a foot of snow, high winds,  the driveway and Barkley's "path to the yellow snow", both needing some serious shoveling, Biscuits and Gravy just seemed the thing to do (recipe is for 3-4 folks, adjust as necessary).

  • roughly 1/4 pound bacon
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 2 and 1/2  cups milk plus 1/2 cup half and half (both at room temperature)

 click on this picture to enlarge, Barkley double dog dares you

First cut the bacon into thirds. Put it into a large skillet and fry it over medium heat until cooked but not too brown. Remove the bacon and keep warm. Stir the flour into the bacon grease (you want no more than 1/4 cup fat, if you have really fatty bacon or make extra pieces, remove any excess fat beyond 1/4 cup and save for your green beans).

Whisk over low/medium heat until the flour absorbs the fat and is just turning golden brown.  Add the salt, maple sugar and black pepper. Stir the milk a third at a time, whisking after each addition, allowing it to warm before adding additional milk.  Stir it in slow, using the whisk to keep it from getting lumpy.  Simmer (not a full rolling boil please!) for 3-5  minutes, until thickened, increasing heat as needed but NO more than medium. Serve over  fresh Southern Biscuits  (no cans!) sprinkled with the crumbled bacon pieces and a pinch or two of Sweet Paprika.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I'll Be Home for Christmas

My family has often gathered in different homes in different years. Some years we would have Thanksgiving and Christmas at Dad's. Sometimes they would go to my step mom's sister's house with an invite for us. With the children all in military or squirrel service of some sort in our younger days, getting together each holiday was not always possible, but there was always a home to go to.  Since my Step Mom died, the holidays are something Dad would just prefer pass, quickly and quietly.  We understand, the family gatherings are to be no more, only a handful of us left.

Going home is always different for people. Some have parents already gone, and there is no childhood home. Others have memories that are painful. events that  either temper or destroy, lit from within, like the fierce, still glare of a furnace.

I am lucky. My memories of childhood are good. Laughter and exploration wrapped in an warm blanket of sight and sound and tastes that I can taste with the fall of that first snow. My  memories of those times, though dusted with occasional hardships for us as a family, were, during the holidays, always  joyous, moments that like many childhood memories, hold that impossible quality of perfection we often assign to things we can never have back. 

My family never had a Thanksgiving feast for twenty people with Martha Stewart decor. We'd gather and all help in the preparation. Turkey, perhaps from the forest, not the freezer, sweet potatoes and pie, homemade bread and green beans. Though my Mom would make this green Norwegian jello dish that can best be described as a mayonnaise-based science experiment gone bad, but it was tradition. It was HOME.

 At Christmas, we never partook of the great debauchery of glut that crowds a home with paper trash and moments of surprise that pass like some race car past a stand; a streak of color, a exclamation of sound. Then gone so fast, leaving only a smell of something in the air that is burnt and past saving. Our Christmas was never like that, mine still aren't. They are slow, old-fashioned and savored. Their memory always haunts the edges of a busy, busy life.

Meals at Christmas were not a theatrical production, but elegant. Nothing that took all day, as it was a holiday for my Mom as well. Never something out of a can. Growing up in the depression, Mom learned to make up a delicious meal out of almost nothing left in the fridge. To this day, I still prefer a meal made myself, even if it's an apple and sharp cheese and a small dish of pickles, to something fast food-like, believing that the only creatures that should eat something tossed at them out of a window are seagulls.

Christmas day was special. We'd start with a breakfast of Bear claws from the local Scandinavian bakery and coffee. Well the adults anyway, for them, as myself now, coffee was a food, not a drink. I always begged for some, because that wise looking man on the Christmas-y looking red Hills Brothers can, brightly colored and studded with little stars, always looked so happy and full of knowledge as he drank from the coffee bowl. The decided grown up act of the Christmas coffee consumption and the robed man with his deep drinking pleasure was likely the reason my parents lingered over the table, whispering the quiet whispers of long lovers, while we snorted and charged around them, playing soldier and spy with our new toys.

The decorations still dot my home, an aluminum tree, wooden toys, a Nativity set that set on the bookshelf for some 30 years.  It was old, small and looked to be two different sets, the wise men, wearing bright pink and such robes, sitting atop  bright metallic silver dromedary (pimp my camel!).  Still it was OUR Nativity and when we were really little we took baby Jesus on a tour of the neighborhood on our bikes from a shirt pocket just so he could get acquainted.

The meals I make are what we had then. Lunch was Lefse in which was wrapped meats and cheeses with the ever present plate of cookies. Something to hold us through the afternoon of board games and music, perhaps carols I'd play on the piano. We'd have sung, but my family all bore the same family voice - all volume, no tone. So they would listen as I simply played and with the notes of that old piano resonating in us, we'd build the fire. Then, when the fire was blazing and the light outside began to fade, we would sit quietly and spend the rest of the late afternoon watching the Grinch or perhaps White Christmas and read books we'd all received, while Mom would put the dinner together. It's the dinner that I will still make, even if just for myself and a friend or two.

Roast beef with gravy, green beans with lemon butter, mashed potatoes and a old fashioned "bun warmer" full of homemade cloverleaf rolls. The smell would lead us into the kitchen like horses from the range, my siblings and I would chomp at the bit while Mom put it all together, placated with a slice of dill pickle or an olive from the ever present relish tray.

When the meal began after a moment of Grace, words spoken for those serving far away, it was a silent flurry of roasted meat, the creamy blanket of potatoes, and perfuming us all, the deep seated comfort of garlic. The meal would last until every last morsel was taken. It seemed as if we could eat endlessly, as if we'd had some successful inoculation at lunch time and could consume not only two plates of food, but more cookies. My youngest brother and I would help my Mom clean up as they gathered around the table for one last cup of coffee

As we bustled about, washing up and blowing bubbles at each other with the dish soap, we could hear the older members of the family, the laughter, and the comfort of a family together for a holiday. As we finished, I went to pick up from the table the can of coffee with the little man and the stars. But instead, I sat down beside it, full to bursting and worn out from a day of enchantment, lay my head on the table and my eyes drifted shut. Whatever laughter there was, there was, whatever deep worries my parents may have had about life, about a family member fighting in Vietnam, were outside our door. Now it was Christmas and there was something deep and starry in the kitchen. Simply moving the can to one side, I lay my head down beside it, nestled into my folded arms, stomach full, warm, happy safe. Despite my very young age, I knew that whatever happened to my family in the coming days, I could live for the rest of my life on this measureless family security.

Tonight, a cup of coffee and the sound of an instrument playing the first strains of Christmas music brings that all back in small ways, as I gather those I love near me in spirit and thought, the smell of good coffee awakening something in me  I was hoping for snow, but it was not to be the day dawning gray, the sky the color and texture of iron, that quietly pressed down upon the land until it lifted up into the darkness without notice.

I will not be "home for the holidays", but I will be home in spirit, with good food, gifts and conversations with loved ones on the phone. Not all of them family by blood, but family all the same, with that same tangible connection, silent invisible, like the draw of a bright flame that doesn't need immediate presence to warm you. Simple, loving human contact. Laughter with like minds and spirits. For the holidays are not simply about being "home" to a childhood memory, that for me and many others, does not exist any more. It's not about who or what have at your table, but what you have in your heart. It's more than the faith that you actively practice, or the faith that sits in quiet silence, waiting. It's sometime else, a connection to our friends and children, to the one who quietly loves us, to our God who gave us a wonderful gift. It's a visceral reminder that we are all connected, we are all worthy of love.

We can't all go home for the holidays but we can all let in a little bit of that old fashioned holiday spirit. Let in that feeling of succumbing to something that laps at the edge of your life all year long, something that will wear away the hard edges of stress, so for a moment, you can be a child again.

Tonight, as the light seeps out the sky, my future, not what I'd planned on years ago, my family changed in ways we didn't expect quite yet, a momentary longing of homesickness welled up in me and threatened to spill over. I just stopped, and for a moment my world was still. I looked at the photos around me, the gifts from friends and family, Barkley. I look out onto the frost twinkling on the ground like tiny lights in the sun and breathe in deep the beautiful world around and my homesickness disappears like tears melting into snowflakes. I realize that, just as love is not a lover, being with your relatives at home does not make it a Holiday. For the love that we expect to gather round us on these special days is there all of the time. It is a smile, a laugh, a certain special way of being alive. It is an intensification of life, a completeness, a fullness that seeps into the broken spaces in our spirit like fresh fallen snow, making us whole.

May you all have a blessed Christmas - wherever the day takes you.
Love - Brigid and Barkley

THE NUTMEG OF CONSOLATION - a Recipe idea for Christmas Eve

I've thoroughly enjoyed the Patrick O'Brian nautical historical series, starting with Master and Commander and continuing on. Some of you may remember this from one of my later favorites - The Hundred Days.

"I am very sorry for the pandemonium, Stephen, he said at last they sat down to their breakfast, brought in by a now silent, timid Killick. "All this mad rushing up and down, bellowing like Gadarene swine". The breakfast itself was adequate with quantifies of fresh eggs, sausages, bacon, a noble pork pie, rolls and toast, cream for their coffee, but there was little to be said for it as a fleshly indulgence, since every other bite was interrupted by a message from one ship or another, often delivered by midshipmen, washed, brushed and extremely nervous, presenting their captains compliments.

I've been on the go all year it seems  Lots of travel, taking care of Dad, professional obligations.  It's been good when I could get home for a hand crafted meal, a chat with a friend on the phone and a decent night's sleep.  So it  didn't take much more than a mention of  this breakfast repast  in the book to get me thinking about creating something of the pastry/meat variety.

Meat pies are part of almost every culture.  In the US, outside of the "pot pie" they are not really popular in U.S. cuisine, with the exception of the Natchioches meat pie which is one of the official state foods of Louisiana.  The Cornish Pasty, found in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. where mining is still a good industry has it's origins in another land.   In Latin American empanadas may be pies or sometimes pastries, baked or fried and are popular in the Southwest U.S. as well. Steak and kidney pie and pork pies are seen in both England.

In Australia and New Zealand the meat pie is a common convenience food found in gas stations and convenience stores.  

But for this holiday, something Canadian in origin and my personal favorite.  From Quebec. Tourtiere is typically made and served on Chrismas Eve (though it's tasty ANY part of the winter) the recipe passed down from generation to generation. I'm proudly American but I also have family from Montreal. I'm a sucker for the gourmet Canadian Cuisine as well as the Halifax Donier, and will not turn down a fresh beavertail with my coffee if offered.   

But this is a dish worth making when you have the time.  It's delicious in any culture, and "mmmm" sounds pretty much the same wherever you are. No, this isn't a typical tourtiere, but my own adaption..  The recipes vary from family to family and city to cities, many with all pork, some, from Quebec city, with more game meats. There is good natured rivalry for who has the best recipe that exceeds any seen at a Hockey game.  This may not be the best, but it is my favorite. 
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb ground pork, beef and veal
  • 1-1/2 cups beef stock
  • 2 T. bacon fat
  • 3 onions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • generous handful of chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried summer savory
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • tiny pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of cognac
  • a pinch of maple sugar
  • 1 cup chopped fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Pastry for double-crust pie 
  • 1 egg , beaten
  • 1 tsp water
  • a pinch of maple sugar (optional)
Cook meat in a a heavy pan of French oven over medium  heat in oil, breaking up with spoon until it is no longer bright pink in center.  Do not brown, as it will cook further in stock.  Drain off the fat and set meat aside but do not rinse meat.  In a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat, cook onions until starting to soften, add in celery and  dried spices, stir over medium for a couple of minutes, adding the mushrooms in the last minute. Then add meat back in with the stock, cooking on low to medium low for 40 minutes until you have about 2 Tablespoons of liquid remaining.  Remove from heat, add cognac, and stir in bread crumbs and fresh parsley. Cover and put in the fridge for at least a day (trust me, it gets better as it sits).  Make up double crust pie, making bottom crust about 1/8 inch thickness.  Place in pan, spoon in filling, smoothing the top and top with remaining pastry pressing edges together and sealing.  Combine egg, maple sugar water and brush over top, making small steam vents in the top with a small knife.  Bake at 375  for 45-50 minutes until goloden brown.  Leftovers are as good cold as they are hot and make a great lunch.
Easy perfect pie crust. (from my butcher at Moody's Butcher Shop)  Makes 3 crusts, two for a pie, one for a quiche.
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of rendered lard (if you've not tried, get thee to a butcher shop)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon of vinegar
  • 5 Tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
Cut the flour and lard together. Beat egg in a cup and add the vinegar, water, and salt. Add to the flour mixture. May need a little more water to make a nice ball. Roll it out. Makes about 3 crusts. Bake at 350 degrees unitl done.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Cooking with Jameson!

This recipe is for my friend Phlegmfatale who recently underwent some medically necessary but very painful surgery that left her unable to enjoy much more than liquid and soft food.  Drop her a line, check out her cool x rays and say hello. 

Till then, I will leave she, and you, with the perfect  "liquid and soft food" holiday recipe, with directions I wrote down as everyone says if I don't do that when as I make it, I won't remember the steps and it won't turn out the same for others.  So with that in mind, I present:

Irish Whiskey Bundt Cake


Check the Jameson's to make sure the quality is good. Pour a sample and sip delicately.

Take a large bowl from the cupboard. You will need that, two cups, and a set of measuring spoons. Check the Jameson again. Your shot glass is now in the dishwasher, so use that large glass.

In a bol sift flour, being careful not to knock over the glass of Jameson. You'd best move it, so take a sip and set it aside.

Turn on the electric mixer.n. . Beat cup of butter with the sugar in a large fluffy bowl.

Get the eggs out. Have another sip of that Jameson.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit there.. It's not in ther recipe, but what the heck. .

Mix on the turner, watching the the fried druit doesn't get stuck in the beaterers.

Oh #(&*. It DID get stuck. Oh look there's a knife, I can just pry it . . .

OW OW OW. Son of a *&^%#

Get bandage. Best splash some Jameson on the wound to sanertize it, and here let's have another sip. Pour a cup in the battery, stirring will, taking a taste to make sure the tonsisticity is still good

Next, measure two cups of baking . . .washing. . . . gun? Some kind of powder thing.

Another sip.

Now shift the liquids and strain your nuts. Add am xtra spoon of sugar if you lick it sweeter and one Table. . . . I can't read that, looks like. . .well. is that cinnaman, no, maybe CLOVES, or clothes?? OK, I set my clothes aside, now I'm cold, best have another sip to warm myself. It's medicinal you know.

Grease the oven. Turn the bundt pan 360 degrees.

Damn, now I'm dizzy. I think I forget to beat off the turner. Do that, and bake for 40 minuets.

This cookin thing is easy, need my own show on the TV ZZzzzzzzzzz

 cake photo and recipe

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Canine Aerodynamics

50 mph winds at home tonight.  I'd like to stay in but I have a pet.

Just think . . . . . Control Line Labrador Retriever.   (No!  No! Barkley, elevator UP, trim, then drop the cargo load!)

You all stay safe out there, this is a nasty storm.
Love - Brigid