The last two weeks I've worked on a couple drafts of a new short story. The idea formed quickly, and I had a lot of time to write during a road-trip. In fact, I wrote the entire first draft long-hand. It was a good diversion.
However, I'm not sure what to do with it. It's a different sort of story for me. Specifically, it skews young. Too young to bring into the writers' group I'm in, and too young for me to judge it myself. I don't have kids or spend a lot of time with them, after all. So, I need to decide what to do with this. When in doubt, read some advice from experts. I've got one book coming already.
And while I research this, I'll try to get back to some of my abandoned projects, see if I can make anything of the poor devils. The problem there, of course, is that there's a reason each of them was abandoned... Anyway I turn, I've got some real hard work ahead of me.
My husband and I don't like having extra stuff around the kitchen. Which makes sense; we don't have much room, so if it's a specialized tool, it's not likely to be in our home. Except once in a while I fall in love with a little gadget, or the *idea* of using that gadget. Case in point: pie birds. I have two.
What's a pie bird? It's like a chimney for fruit pies, acting as a vent so that the filling doesn't bubble over the crust. And, traditionally, they look like little black-birds. Mitch has commented a few times on how silly it is to have them.
Well, yesterday we watched Alton Brown's episode on apple pies. AB is also against kitchen tools that only do one thing. But he had a pie bird! I gloated - here I was vindicated!
It only lasted a moment. Because Mitch quickly pointed out that it would help my case a lot if I actually made pies.
It's on my list, now more than ever.
I love pickles. I mean, they are just plain good. And I'm not picky - any pickled veggie looks like a great snack to me.
I used to keep some homemade pickles in the fridge all the time, the infused, refrigerator sort of pickle, not the fermented Kosher dills (which I also adore, but that sort of work isn't for me). Refrigerator pickles are as simple to make as it gets, and, on the personal health angle they are a very low-cal snack. Which is why I originally kept them around, to have a bite to eat when I felt peckish and skip on the guilt.
Now I'm trying to get back in the habit. Once again, I've turned away from wherever I got my old guidlines (I honestly don't remember - it's a handwritten piece of paper I've had for years) and turned to more modern cooks for a recipe. Alton Brown had a couple shows on pickles, and I used the recipes from one of those. And maybe played just a little with the recipes...
Anyway, I made three different recipes of pickles the other day: Spicy, sour, and sweet, with three different kinds of veggies. We'll know in a while how they turn out. For now, they are very tempting, colorful jars in the fridge.
Writing work gets into routines. I took a short story to the workshop, got advice, and edited it up this week, which is the same thing I've done over and over. I'm not tired of the repetition, actually, but it does leave me without much to say. This is one of my favorites I've done, and it went very well with the group. One member even said it was "95% done and excellent and worth fixing the rest of it." Which is high praise in my mind. So today I will hand the new version to another reader and see how that goes. Soon, possibly early next week, it will join the little fleet of my stories out in the world, trying to earn its keep. And that is a very good thing.
You know what I learned this Easter? Hollandaise sauce isn't that hard. For years I had thought I could only get this sauce at reputable restaurants (after an unfortunate greasy-spoon diner incident with Eggs Benedict). I thought it was too hard, too delicate, to try at home. One wrong move and you curdle the eggs! Using the recipe I had in Betty Crocker's Cookbook (1996 edition) only proved that theory - my Hollandaise turned into a tiny, tart lump of scrambled eggs.
Of course, I also learned to use the right instructions. And those would be Alton Brown's, from his show Good Eats. Unlike the instructions in Better Crocker, which call for using direct heat on the egg yolks, Alton Brown's recipe has every insurance to make a smooth sauce. He uses a double boiler and even just a pinch of sugar to help keep the eggs from denaturing (curdling).
And now that I know how to make it, you can be sure I'll be making more of it. Pair it will any simple meat and some sauteed veggies and you have a great dinner! How can I not love it?
Holidays are rife with special food, mixing both cultural and family traditions on the same table. I grew up in the normal household that had plenty of these traditions. Thanksgiving dinner was always the turkey and common American sides, plus lefse (Norwegian flat-bread); Christmas Eve was always Mom's spectacularly involved New England Clam Chowder, and Christmas day was another turkey dinner with lefse. Easter was an enormous brunch with plenty of eggs, ham, and asparagus.
With just the two of us, though, Mitch and I don't need to go all out for holiday cooking, but we are building a few of our own traditions. And for every Easter, our breakfast is my variation on Portuguese Easter Bread.
My version is actually very simple: a hard-boiled egg baked on top of a buttermilk biscuit, with some strips of biscuit dough pulled over the egg to keep it in place. The result is something that looks like a little basket holding an egg, an undeniable symbol for Easter. I'm looking forward to making them again this year. In fact, for the first time ever, this year I'm going to make the biscuit dough from scratch! The tubes of Pillsbury dough may be convenient, but I'm sure that I will get even better flavor by doing it myself.
When it comes to entertainment, my mom and I share similar, but not the same, tastes. She likes mystery novels, especially the amateur chef sleuths and the animal detectives. I prefer a tight procedural crime story, and I prefer them as movies or television shows. Then we both like speculative fiction, the Sci-fi, Fantasy, and horror stories. Only, I haven't read a horror story in years. And while she loves long, sweeping fantasy epics, I much prefer stand-alone novels. I always have; it's not that I'm opposed to series, and I've certainly read a few, but in general, I want my story packaged in a single book.
But this year I've made a sharp turn. I'm currently reading a 3,200 page epic sci-fi tale, an expansive story with a broad set of characters and long, long detours. It's exactly what Mom loves (she actually recommended the books to me). And, after finishing one of those books, I decided to take a break. I picked up a book I had bought used from a sweet, talkative older woman at a book fair. A talking-animal mystery, "perfect for stormy days, or when you're snowed in."
I loved it. It was light, charming, and sweet. I love the sci-fi epic; I'm even enjoying some of the detours the story takes, since the author is pretty darned skilled at making them matter.
I guess if one has to turn into one's mother, there are worse ways to go about it.
Mitch and I love Parmesan cheese on our pastas, and we almost always keep a wedge in the fridge. By the time we get to the end, it's old, dry, as hard as a rock, and super flavorful. Which is wonderful, for as long as we can grate it. But we are always left with a tiny bit too small to grate and too hard to slice.
A suggestion I'd read years ago, in an old cookbook by an Italian woman, was to toss that last hard piece of cheese into a soup while it simmers. I'm currently reading "Joy of Cooking" and the suggestion is there too, reminding me of the possibility to find a use for that leftover Parmesan. So this Sunday I made a variation on Minestrone soup, and tossed the cheese (about an inch, cubed, in size) in with the broth to see how it went. I expected it to melt, but it never did - just got a bit gooey on the outside. So I left it in the stockpot when I served dinner. Still, it brought a lot to the soup. The aroma was wonderful, but not overpowering, and the flavor of the broth was clearly altered by the cheese, without becoming heavy like a lot of cheese soups. I loved it, and I can't believe it took me this long to try it.
Very little to report: I did an edit of the new short story this week. It ended up being 3,700 words, which feels about right for this story. Now I think I need to get some feed-back on it before I do anymore.