Friday, October 27, 2006

Eating From the Pantry

Years ago, a fellow writer (you know who you are, Mr. S.) wrote a story in which a married couple played a game. The game's name was based on whatever place was a wartorn hotspot at the time, and in this particular short story, the game was called Sarajevo. The rules of the game were that for an indeterminate amount of time they could only eat meals made up of ingredients in the pantry. No shopping trips (except for maybe milk.) Obviously, the dramatic potential for revealing the dynamics of a relationship are vast.

We are playing a modified version of Sarajevo now, not in order to test each other with ever more inedible food concoctions, but merely because we'll be moving really soon now and I'm trying to use up some stuff instead of packing it or throwing it out. I'm not playing by the rules. I open up the pantry and the fridge and I think, what can I possibly make? And if I feel like a chicken breast would make something palatable, I go to the store and buy a chicken breast.

Tonight we had Sarajevo for dinner. (I called upstairs, 'Are you ready for a plate of Sarajevo?' and Bob came trotting down.)

Tonight's dinner started with a single chicken breast and a package of Trader Joe's frozen beef teriyaki stir fry. In the pantry I found a tiny jar of Thai red curry paste and a package with a cup of jasmine rice in it. I also found ghee. (Ghee is indestructible. It's butter heated to melting with the solids strained off, a kind of oil of butter. At room temperature it's solid and it does not need to be refrigerated.) I melted ghee in a sauce pan and dropped mustard seeds in. (This is a pretty common rice dish in India.) When the mustard seeds started to pop I poured the cup of rice in and stirred it for awhile until it started to toast, then I poured a cup and a half of water over it, dropped the lid on it, turned it down and let it steam.

I cut up the chicken breast, sauteed it for a couple of minutes, added the Trader Joe beef and vegetables. After two minutes I added the Thai curry paste, a teaspoon of sugar and three teaspoons of Thai fish sauce (the fact that I have things on hand like Thai fish sauce explains why I never have a big enough pantry. Walter Jon Williams told me one time that he had so many bottles of sauce and stuff in his fridge that he didn't have much room for regular food. I was struck because I have exactly the same problem.) When everything was ready, I poured the rice in with the stir fry and then glopped the whole thing on a plate and called Bob.

Amazingly enough, it was pretty good.

Early in the day I had finished off the last of my shortening, pumpkin and evaporated milk by making a pumpkin pie. So that was desert.

Ethnically confused, but oddly satisfying. I think because it felt so, so virtuous.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We Hates It

Shelly in her Halloween costume of hotdog bun and mustard. Since she is responsible for Bob's toe, click on her name to see his toe.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Where Are My Shoes?

It appears we will be heading for Texas on Nov. 9. Actually, we'll be heading for Texas on Nov. 1, for house closing and World Fantasy, but we are moving in the 9th. I got really ambitious and I've packed over 20 boxes of non-essential things. ("Shoes," Bob says. "Where are my shoes?" What man needs more than one pair of shoes? And an engineer. He's going to have to hand in his guy card if he keeps this up.)

Unfortunately, my ftp setting are on my old computer, which was non-essential. But any day now I will find it and post a clickable link to Bob's toe.

Today my brother-in-law (hi Denny!) is coming to pick up another load of our stuff that we want to get rid of. A couple of shelves for the garage, and old wheelbarrow that's still usable but not worth transporting, snow shovels, stuff like that. He's bringing my nephews to do the loading. I think that when people come to do you favors, you should feed them. So I'm making Hell's Kitchen chili, cornbread, and chocolate chip cookies.

Any leftover cookies are going to be packaged up, along with a batch of Scharfen Berger brownies, to go to camp Le Jeune, where Jason is coming home from Iraq on Thursday. We are all doing the happy dance here in Ohio.

Hell's Kitchen Chili

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1/4 cup of olive oil (you can reduce this)
2 large onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 lbs. ground chuck
3 cans (35 oz.) Italian plum tomatoes, drained.
2 T. tomato paste
jalapenos to taste, chopped, 2 is a good number, so is 6
6 T good chili powder
1 cup of red wine
2 cans of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Cut the casings off the sausage. Saute the sausage in a big pot. (you may have to add a little olive oil at this point.) Take the sausage out of the pot and pour in some olive oil. Saute the onion in the olive oil and sausage bits until they are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped bell pepper. (If you want to soften the heat of your jalapenos, you can saute them, too.) Add the chuck, and brown it, and then put the sausage back in the pot. Take it off the heat and add everything else. I drain the tomatoes in the can and then stick my hand in and crush them up. Juice squirts out of them, and sometimes seeds (don't drain that off.) Then I dump them in.

Simmer for thirty minutes. The chili is fine at this point, but truthfully, it's better the next day.

I serve the chili over rice (a southern thing which I'm sure will be frowned up, like so much of this recipe, in Texas) with shredded monteray jack and sour cream on top.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bob's Anatomy

Bob fell on the stairs on Friday (it all involved a dachshund and a laundry basket) and although he and Shelly the minature dachshund avoided serious injury, Bob caught his toe against the railing. At first he thought he might have broken it. I was at Context in Columbus so I gleefully announced to a roomful of people that my husband was running late because he had broken his toe. I kept promising people I would post a photo of it--we've been taking digital photos of his bruised, swollen and probably sprained rather than broken toe. But now Bob says he doesn't want me to post the picture because it's gross.

So I ask you, America, to tell me. Do you want to see a photo of Bob's bruised little toe?

Pumpkin Pie w/o Libbys

Today I bought a pie pumpkin. I split it in half, cleaned out all the guts and roasted it for 50 minutes in a 424 degree oven. Then I peeled the skin off and pureed it and used the puree instead of canned pumpkin.

This is part of the continuing pie experiment.

It was quite good, although Bob and I are undecided about whether it is better than canned pumpkin or just slightly different. I used 15 oz of pumpkin puree, the amount of solid pack pumpkin in a can. I'm not sure if the puree didn't have more liquid in it than canned pumpkin--it made a much more liquid filling before baking. It also made a little more filling than 15 oz of canned pumpkin. On the other hand, it baked about ten minutes faster than a pumpkin pie usually does for me. The custard was more airy and the color was paler than with canned pumpkin, which may simply be a result of the kind of pie pumpkin I used. (I don't know what variety of pie pumpkin I used because the store simply identified it as 'Pie pumpkin.' It was significantly smaller than the pumpkins used for halloween decorations.

We're going to let it sit overnight in the frige and then see what we think.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Something About Texas

From Harper's Index:

Number of U.S. counties where more than a fifth of "residents" are prison inmates: 21

Number of these that are in Texas: 10

* * *

For a long time the State of Texas used to have a website that listed the last meals of Texas condemned inmates. They have taken it down, but a capture of it is still available on the web. It has all the qualities of a good highway accident. I slowed down, I gawked.

The meals tend to be straightforward food. No one is asking for foie gras. Lots of hamburgers, lots of fried chicken.

David Castillo requested:

Twenty-four soft shell tacos, six enchiladas, six tostados, two whole onions, five jalapenos, two cheeseburgers, one chocolate shake, one quart of milk and one package of Marlboro cigarettes. (Prohibited by TDCJ policy)

David Castillo had a ninth grade education. He murdered a clerk in a liquor store hold-up, stabbing 59 Clarencio Champion. Champion died a week later.

John Baltazar's request was Cool Whip and Cherries. On 09/27/1997, Baltazar and one co-defendant kicked in the front door of a Corpus Christi home and began shooting. A five year old Hispanic female was struck by two bullets, causing her death. Another female and a male in the residence were struck by bullets, but survived the wounds.

I am trying to decide what I would want my last meal to be. It would finish with birthday cake and ice cream, because that is a guilty pleasure. I don't know that I'd actually be able to eat anything. But as a parlor game--if you were going to be stuck on a desert island, what five books would you take, if you could request your last meal, what would you eat--I find myself turning over choices.

Monday, October 02, 2006


We found a house and now we are in the process of buying it. Our offer has been accepted. We close during World Fantasy.


This is why I wanted this house. This would be the biggest, best kitchen I've ever cooked in. And amazingly, I found the house on Craig's List.