Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2017

For Thanksgiving, we once again shlepped our way down to Tennessee, this year with Alice, aka the best traveling dog in the world, in tow. There were coffee and donuts each way because survival

Once in Tennessee, highlights included:

*Eating, duh...

*The annual Turkey Trot (in which this mama kicked one eighteen-year-old son’s butt, take THAT, Youth).
*Thrift store shopping.
*Constant Kitchen Clean-Up...

*The always-open hot chocolate bar...

*Reading (I finished this book and then, on the way home, I read this one — so good — from start to finish).
*Over-priced candy buying...

*Soccer games on the turf field.
*The new Spiderman movie and popcorn in the living room: a couple people insisted on turning on the subtitles but so great was the outcry that a vote was called for and they, the subtitles, were mercifully (now you know how I voted) removed.
*A hike to Point Park...

*Dancing to this song, which ended up being the weekend's soundtrack (to get the full effect, blast it) via Alexa...

*Towel snapping wars...

*Nyquil shots
*Arm wrestling paired with Shakespearean insults...

And then, when everyone was sufficiently stuffed to the gills with family, food, and frolicking — the Holy Thanksgiving Trinity — we loaded up the van and drove home, the end.

This same time, years previous: Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2016, curried Jamaican butternut soup, Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2015, apple crumb pie, in my kitchen: 7:35 a.m., a treat, how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers in 10 easy steps, monster cookies, peppermint lip balm

Monday, November 20, 2017

the quotidian (11.20.17)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace 

Tanking up.

Leftovers for two.

Before I oversmoked it by five degrees: I CAN'T DO PORK.

Flying pie.

The stuff of soup.

Salvaged microwave popcorn kernels.

Craving met.

And the coma that followed.

He didn't like drinking from plastic water bottles day after day so I fixed the situation

Bath toys: they evolve.

Speed dry.

No ma'am, Miss Peggy.

How not to ride a horse.

Dress rehearsal.

This same time, years previous: spiced applesauce cake with caramel glaze, in my kitchen: noon, apple raisin bran muffins, sock curls, candid crazy, the quotidian (11.19.12), orange cranberry bread, chocolate pots de creme, brownies.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Smoking food, it turns out, is a lot of work.

Actually, I take that back. It’s like bread: If you have time and understand the process, it’s not that difficult. However, it is an undertaking.

And it takes a long time.

Have I mentioned that it takes time?

We started the fire around eight o’clock in the morning and finished smoking about twelve hours later. I spent the day at the kitchen window, staring out at the metal beast, watching the smoke drift from the chimney, and fretting. Did the fire need more wood? Was the smoke too thick? Should I give the fire more air? Less air? Was the thermometer giving us an accurate reading?

Accessing the firebox was tricky. Because it’s at the very bottom of the barrel, under the racks of food, every time I wanted to add more charcoal or wood, I had to enlist my husband’s help.

Very carefully, we’d lift the top half off, making sure not to jostle the racks full of water pan and food, tend the blaze, and then re-situate everything. By mid-afternoon my clothes reeked of smoke (kind of nice), and by evening my eyes were watering (not so nice).

But things went just as planned! I forgot to inject the brisket, and I rubbed the outside with a bit too much S&P, but the process itself was spot-on. Mid-afternoon, we hit the stall — when the internal meat temperature refuses to rise above 160 degrees — but then we wrapped the meat in foil and let it go for a few more hours. Right at the 12-hour mark, the meat registered 203 degrees, perfect! We rested the meat in a cooler for 30 minutes (it should’ve been a good hour, but our beds were calling) before cutting into it.

And wouldn’t you know, everything was just as the experts said it would be. There was a smoke ring! The meat separated when stretched! We were able to identify the deckle and flat, and we could taste the flavor differences!


I had made a sauce, of sorts, to serve with the meat, but no one ate it. They all prefered to devour their meat, slice after slice, straight up alongside the still-warm pan of buttered buns. The meat was so tender and juicy and smoky. It almost tasted like ham.

Also smoked that day:

Roma tomatoes
I cut about six tomatoes in half, drizzled them with olive oil, and added S&P. After a couple hours in the smoker, I divided them into two portions and stuck them in the freezer. Later, I’ll chop them up and add them to chili.

Sweet bell peppers and poblanos
My younger son charred these directly in the coals at the very end, and then I scraped off the black, seeded and chopped the peppers, and froze them. These will also go in chili, or maybe I’ll add some to a pot of beans or a butternut squash soup.

Stew meat
I smoked two pounds of beef in beer. Later, I finished it off in the crock pot with potatoes and carrots. The kids didn’t like it that much — I think the beer flavor may have been too strong — but I did.

Baked beans
Since I left them in the smoker longer than the recommended hour and a half, the smoke flavor was intense ... so I divided them into smaller portions and popped them in the freezer. Whenever I want a kick of smoke — in chili, soup, or ordinary baked beans — I’ll toss in one of the bags, my own little flavor bomb.

I’d like to do more smoking — I want to try a roast, and we have a couple fresh hams in the freezer — but, because I need my husband’s help to lift the smoker and it’s hard to find days when we’re both home the entire time, I’m limited in when I can do it.

Isn't it fascinating, all the myriad ways there are to prepare food? Smoking is such a tasty, fun way to go.

This same time, years previous: Thai chicken curry, the quotidian (11.16.15), gravity, lessons from a shopping trip, official, the quotidian (11.16.11), three things, peanut butter cream pie. SSR.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Shakespeare behind bars

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that my younger daughter, if she’d just break free of her inhibitions, would enjoy acting (says her mother, the woman who wasn’t brave enough to act until she was thirty-five). So a couple months ago when I learned that my friend, the head of the theater department at Eastern Mennonite University, would be reworking MacBeth for a female cast (because she has mostly female students and wanted them to get a chance to dig into some of the more meaty Shakespeare roles), I asked my daughter if she’d like to audition.

She hesitated. “I don’t want a speaking role. And I’d rather work backstage.”

“Well, how about you audition anyway, just to do it. On the audition form, you can say what you’re willing to do.”

My daughter hedged.

“Listen,” I wheedled. “If you get a role you don’t want, you can always say no, right?”

And so my daughter did her first audition. A friend of ours, an EMU student, went to the audition with her to provide moral support and help her prepare (shout-out to Clara!). And my daughter got just what she wanted, a non-speaking role as an inmate (because this version of the Scottish play is set in a women’s penitentiary, how cool is that?)

For the most part, my daughter’s been mum about what goes on in rehearsal. I did hear about the fight director who came on Wednesdays to teach combat, and once when I arrived to pick her up, I walked in to see my child holding another actor in a stranglehold while stabbing her in the back and bellowing with rage.

She told me she got to eat and drink on stage, too — she was quite excited about that. And then dress rehearsals started and she began waltzing into the house late at night sporting black eye makeup and neck tattoos, oh boy. 

The show opened last week. I have yet to see it (can’t wait!), but a couple of the other kids saw it already and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. (My brother and sister-in-law saw it, too — my sister-in-law said it was so full and rich that as soon as it was over she wished she could see it again.)

Sunday afternoon (when I went to hang around the green room, observe the fight warm-ups, and watch my daughter get ready) was the first time I had seen the set — seen anything, really — and it kind of pulled me up short. The tall chainlink fences, the industrial lighting, and the concrete walls bring the harsh reality of prison to life. It's disconcerting.

I’ve heard reports that my daughter, who also gets to play janitor and mop up all the blood (and on opening night actual vomit!), plays a delightfully sullen inmate. When I heard that, I busted out laughing. I could just see her angrily pushing a mop bucket around and ramming into anyone who gets in her way. I live with the child, after all. She’s been rehearsing for this role for years.

The other day I asked her if she'd be interested in auditioning for another play. "Yeah, maybe..." she said with her typical reserve, but her body told a different story. It had snapped to attention — she was suddenly sitting on the edge of her seat — and her eyes were sparking.

For tickets (three shows remaining!), go here.

This same time, years previous: enough, for now, George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger, butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, the quotidian (11.11.13), refrigerator bran muffins.