Category Archives: Recipes
Perhaps you, dear Reader, like your humble Columnist, hates change. Tradition is one of the hottest numbers in Fiddler on the Roof for a reason. This column is for those whose holiday traditions have changed to the point where, as he says in It’s A Wonderful Life, everything’s all “screwy.”
Usually by now I’m shopping Harriet Carter, cranking up the treacle spigot on Hallmark TV, shaving years off my age at pharmacy checkouts (nothing says holiday hospitality like the fine wines of Rite-Aid), fending off rabid skunks and inventing statistics in time for the family argument at Thanksgiving, just having a gas. But the year’s events, including my parents’ leaving the Upper Valley, have altered tradition considerably.
My own woes are small. My mother, God love her, has baked me 52 birthday cakes. She couldn’t mail #53. Sniff sniff! I never went to Silver Lake’s state park, and I missed the Barnard Fire Dept. tag sale, Bethany Church TNT Auction, Tunbridge World’s Fair, knitting fireside with my Bostonian golf pahtnah, and other key events that mean, well, life in Vermont — either because the people I did those things with weren’t around or I thought them depressing to do alone. Relocating to a condo, I haven’t been to the dump in a year. Vermonters understand the social importance of the dump on Saturdays. I’ve never even seen a garbage truck here. We dump it. We give and get at the FREE table. We love it. I got my recipe for gravy (nod to the Valley News) at the dump. I miss it. I miss all those people and events.
Sadness sometimes means feeling sorry oneself – which our forebears pooh-pooh’d as self-indulgence but I believe humans are allowed to do – or sometimes sadness means grieving losses from change. The world ever changing, for the messier, my people are suffering. They’re losing their hair, teeth, bodies, savings, their minds. They are concerned about their parents — if they’re even alive — and their kids. And about Europe. Africa. The Americas The whole planet for God’s sake. It’s a lot to worry about. Troubling dreams besiege us. We are sad. Rattled.
Friends move away. Kids grow up. People and pets die. I’ve found that just getting out there and doing holidays differently instead of lamenting a past now gone does create a useful diversion. In California I spent many an odd holiday, with weird foods and people, but the casseroles exploded and turkeys were dropped and people fought and laughed – business as usual.
In the history of Vermont’s 14 counties on PBS, my favorite part was when, decades ago, a visitor noticed there were no squirrels in Winooski. His host advised this was because Vermonters ate them. I’ve spotted beefy squirrels across the Land this fall – big, meaty, good-eatin’ rodents. That turkey deep-fryer sitting in the barn? Fire it up and drop ‘em in there. So they don’t have wings. Big deal. Invite others who have no family and go local this Thanksgiving, with the bounty of your own back yard.
Some traditions remain. I will lovingly wash the dust from my decorative light-up Pilgrim’s little plastic fanny by autumn’s hazy light. We’ll buy winter boots on sale from a log cabin-y shoe store chain where the shoes are, seemingly, cobbled by elves. We’ll haul out the holly and spark up A Vibraphone Christmas and do a secret mitzvah. Nothing helps like helping someone else – fact. But if you can’t work that up, and sometimes you just can’t, slog back a hearty glass of Poor Me and have it. If you go through that terrible feeling, you’ll be on to the next. Emotions are fleeting.
Melancholy? Don’t give up! Things can turn around in a heartbeat. Something wonderful can enter your life. Leave a space open in your heart. Nature abhors a vacuum, as do the Great Oz and all other magical forces. Lost someone? Take in someone new. You might change their life. You, dear Reader, have changed mine, and for that I am thankful. Good gobblin’, and good day.
Trotting out an old column’s Turkey Day Sniglets® for your holiday pleasure:
Bloatilla – The fleet of bloated bodies littering the living room post-meal.
Candensation – Glistening moisture layer that forms on canberry sauce.
Exconversation – Labored dinner conversation with your sister’s creepy new boyfriend.
Goo-Goo Goggles – What your son must be wearing to see any merit in his new girlfriend.
Coochie Cool – The appeal of your niece’s cute new squeeze.
Loonesta – The senseless postulate posed by a crazy relative so late in the meal it puts you to sleep.
Yankee Panky – What the Pilgrims did after the feast to increase their number.
Winter and spring were certainly…something. Something weird. Now the corn is as high as a squirrel’s eye—if, by the time this goes to press, he’s standing on his hindquarters, which says something about how fast corn grows—and suddenly: summer! Which reminds me of a Betty Crocker product named Suddenly Salad®, which says something about marketing, the onset of delirium during lengthy marketing meetings, or the neurological effects of pollutants in cities where marketing smoothies dream this stuff up.
Googling “Where was Suddenly Salad invented,” which autofills so I’m not the first to ask, you find a list of consumer grievances about this product. The only person who seems to like it goes by the handle CrzyCatLady. Among my favorites: “This salad is way too salty! Suddenly DEHYDRATED…Thanks for nothing, Betty!” Poor Betty. Was she a real woman? Let’s look!
Of course not, sigh. The facts: A flour milling company that became General Mills invented the sadly fictitious Betty in 1921, when a contest generated so much mail—and baking questions—that the all-male advertising department had to consult the women of Gold Medal Flour. Enter the faked Betty, who “signed” letters and ended up on the radio.
Suddenly Salads’ comments section suggests a product named Armour Treet ® (what, it’s not technically a real treat so they can’t legally spell it right?) that you can mix in with Suddenly Salad® if you have completely lost your mind. It’s like SPAM®, apparently, because when you Google Armour Treet, it autofills with “…versus SPAM” (salt pork and…mystery? NO! Shoulder of pork and ham, according to Mental Floss in a tight online synopsis. God love the Internet.)
Anyway: summer. Bicycling to a swimming hole, I ride into a blizzard of (poplar?) fluff. The air is filled with it. I think it’s snow. Which says something about how short our summers are or how long our winters. Get out there and enjoy it people. Five picnics from now it’ll be over.
This time of year there is fluff in the columns, fluff between our ears. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the livin’ is easy, but it’s definitely less…motivated. To wit, the annual June Hazmat Follies , in which we miss the hazardous material drop-off by one minute (“Sorry, we’re closed.”) and return the bag of toxic waste to the barn for another six months. Every year.
But hey, it’s summer. Songbirds. Six-packs (both kinds). Suddenly Salad®. Certainly Something®. Fishin’. Fireflies. Farmers’ Markets. Tomato sandwiches. River plunges, frolicsome naked moonlit swims. Tenny, golf, DEET, and all the mayo you can slather. A friend’s reaction to my recent column maligning DEET: “I have several times decided that temporary relief from biting insects is worth a lifetime of brain damage.” And this from a father of two. Summer!
Other hazards: we expose ourselves more to wild animals. Something we don’t think about until it’s too late—the crazed rabid skunk is charging your neighbor who is beating it with a shovel to no effect all, she just keep charging. Then there’s the red fox we’ve seen trotting about; that thing covers a lot of ground. He will gladly relieve you of your small dog or cat. And don’t forget the fisher cats. Those crazy varmints will run onto your porch, grab your pet, and run off. Vigilance!
More happily, summertime convo—like this gem overheard lakeside:
“Malcolm, don’t be rolling around in the sand. We’re leaving!”
“It’s an emergency.”
“What kind of emergency? Put it into words.”
“I can’t explain it.”
“It’s not an emergency. We’re leaving.”
Which says a lot about the lure of sand, perceived crises, and family dynamics once school’s out. Good day, good naked swims, and good summer.
Summer Bumper Sticker
Retired Teacher—Every Child Left Behind
…I will be baking my first whole chicken. I don’t want to do it; it was just on sale. Which says a lot about how much I care about the Sooper Bowl.
These are all the non-dairy ingredients on hand — we’ll see what makes it in. I’m thinking: chocolatey goodness. In the cavity, you might find smoked almonds, whole frozen egg rolls, and pickles (not pictured, not kidding).
But first, we’ll do what we did last year. Gotta make hay, er, before the field becomes a lake during the thaw.
A special thank you to last year’s Detractor for pointing out that Sooper Bowl is two words.
Looks like Smokey preferred the bearer over the gift. Which in many cultures is considered a compliment.
There’s hot, there’s sooper hot, and then there’s just too bloody hot. Dirty Dick’s Hot Pepper Sauce is sooper hot. I didn’t know that when I soaked a cracker in it. Hoo! I then made Dirty Dick’s Mayo (for mini ham sandwiches on crackers), Dirty Dick’s Tomato Bisque, Dirty Dick’s Home Fries, a Dirty Dick’s Bloody Mary, and a Dirty Dick’s Vanilla Ice Cream Cone. Why not? It’s won awards incl. a first place Screaming Mimi award at the 2013 NYC Hot Sauce Expo. Everyone loves a winner.
The label graphic appears to be of a flaming, drunk pig. A serving suggestion? Just marinate the little feller in some some Dirty Dick’s, add a splash of hooch, and spark up the grill!
I asked this congenial nutter why he was ice fishing in 30 MPH winds. The answer? Power out at home. Due to 30 MPH winds. Gone fishin’.