Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not

•July 27, 2021 • 13 Comments

The poem.

Tonight I had dessert first. When I was growing up there were two ways to eat blackberries, depending on the time of day you picked them — there was the two-crust pie, if you picked in the afternoon, or the bowl with a dusting of sugar and a dousing of heavy cream for breakfast, if you picked in the morning, or had more than enough for a pie.

So I had breakfast in the evening before the main course. Oh, my. We could only ever have this once or twice in a summer because the plants in my grandfather’s woods didn’t bear more than that, and of course the birds got their share once the berries ripened. I’m jealous of Heaney, who had them for a week.

I got these from the farm truck at the corners here in the little town. I have one more bowl, for tomorrow morning.

And then the main course: yogurt / barley / mint soup. Based on this recipe (from the early days when Moosewood was all about the dairy). I made this a lot in grad school, but this was not something dad cared for. But, as Heaney would say: Summer’s blood was in it.

Don’t skimp on the mint. In grad school, we picked it from the margin of the yard, where it grew wild. Nowadays I buy it from a Hmong grocery.

If I can’t be in the South of France

•July 26, 2021 • 14 Comments




•July 17, 2021 • 25 Comments

[eta: typos]

It’s mid-July (can’t believe the summer is half over). In the ongoing quest to reclaim my life, or in any case figure out what that even means, I’m starting to revise my diet back to the way I cooked before I was making all of dad’s meals.

This means I can add strong flavors and unfamiliar components again.

Mini-gnocchi with sage / brown butter sauce and a sprinkling of (domestic) Parmesan. I did not make the gnocchi, but I did use De Cecco and I hope that absolves me among the foodies.

I’m also aided by the fact of summer and the rush to eat fresh local fruits and vegetables (this is a mania of mine that was seeded in my youth and has accelerated rapidly in recent years).

Salad of fresh green peas with green onion, cherry tomatoes, and hard-boiled eggs, dressed with mayo / sour cream / milk, salt and pepper. The variant of this dish with ham or bacon and cheddar cheese was something that I used to see here on every summer picnic or brunch table when I was a teen.

And then there’s the CSA box. It’s a lot because I reserved one for two adults, and now it’s only me. This week, for instance, I got: green beans, rainbow chard, carrots, beets, thyme, a green lettuce, a red lettuce, young onions (not scallions — fully grown but not cured), and daikon radishes. My go to has been to sauté or shred/cut whatever is in the box and eat it on top of the lettuce in the box, sometimes adding a protein, and a judicious application of Brianna’s vinaigrette. I’ve also made some soups (I loved the garlic scape one, I was meh on the radish soup.) Over time my goal is to move back to kashrut or at least kashrut-adjacency (once I eat or give away all the tref that is still in the freezer). I’m already eating way less meat.

And Monday I gave into nostalgia and did something I haven’t done since the 1970s, with my grandparents — I drove up into Door County for the cherries.

You’ll notice that I somehow managed to drive past Luxembourg, Brussels, and Denmark, all in only 100 miles. American geography gets a lot done in small spaces. It wasn’t a long trip, but since we sort of canceled last summer, it feels vastly liberating.

The peninsula is seeded with a lot of farms and orchards — not just cherry. But the cherries are the most well-known. They are Montmorency cherries — tart. Also, I think because the ripe cherries don’t travel well, if you want them, you have to go get them. Unprocessed, they don’t even come one hundred miles to us. They are very juicy and fragile.

Two ice cream pails full of Montmorency cherries. Ignore all the crap in my car. I promise you I washed them!

The concrete fact that pushed me into this trip was that the cherries we usually get (Bing cherries from the Pacific Northwest) are basically inedible this year, due to the heat wave. They’re in the stores, but they are shriveled and not very sweet. Living in Germany spoiled me badly — where I could just walk onto the Wochenmarkt during the season and buy a kilo and eat that for supper. Both the German cherries and Bing cherries are sweet, whereas the Door County cherries are (mostly) tart, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to replicate all-cherry meals. But I decided I had to have some, so I drove up.

I did eat probably a quart of them, but they’re a bit hard on the stomach to eat too many at once. And since I drove all that way (the first half of the drive is quick, on an interstate; the second half is mostly two-lane highway through a bunch of small resort towns), I decided I’d do something else that belongs to the 1970s in my mind, although people still do it.

George Washington’s favorite tipple: cherry bounce. Although I guess Martha made it with Morello cherries.

The virtue of this recipe is that it is as low-stress as food preservation can possibly be. Way less stressful than canning or drying or pie-making.

Wash your cherries. Pitting them is optional. Fill a receptacle about 2/3 full of cherries. Drop in some white refined sugar (this is the only calculation involved: a good 1/2 cup sugar per quart volume of the receptacle). Fill to the top with the spirit of your choice (in Wisconsin, usually brandy or whiskey. I made three different kinds: two jars with Bulleit rye, two with Makers Mark bourbon, and then ten with Kesslers). Cover and shake a bit to help dissolve the sugar (although it will gradually dissolve over time anyway). Put in a cool, dark place.

One and half gallons of cherries make twelve quarts of bounce. I ate some of the rest and gave a generous dish full to my new neighbors.

The bounce is ready to go into the basement to cure. I did top off a few of those jars, since if the cherries break through the surface of the brandy, they will spoil.

The bounce — called that because as the drink ripens, the cherries float to the top of the jar — will be ready in a month and keep up to two years. When ready to consume, open and strain the fruit from the alcohol. It was long a northeastern Wisconsin tradition that you put your cherries in whiskey in July and then had the first taste on Thanksgiving. I think people open their jugs now during the football season for tailgating, but it’s been a while. Anyway, the alcohol can be drunk straight or in the cocktail of your choice. The fruit is usually used to top vanilla ice cream (but if you do this, make sure people know that it is unpitted).

Aah. We’ll see how they come out.

On the way back, I kept noticing the Walloon place names, so I decided to stop at a Belgian restaurant for the quintessential Wisconsin-Belgian dish.

This is called “booyah.” It’s essentially a very thick soup with chicken, beef, noodles and vegetables. It’s not known where the name comes from, but one possibility is the Flemish word “bouyu,” possibly related to the French “bouillon.”

There wasn’t a huge immigration from Belgium to Wisconsin, but they hung on until WWI, when they stopped speaking Flemish, and then WWII, when the last people were born who still understood it. About ten years or so ago a researcher was trying to document it before everyone who remembered it died.

I also had a second course.

In southern Door County, this is called “trippe.”

I wish they’d had Belgian frites instead of these American ones. I don’t like French fries with a coating on them. I ate a few, but skipped the bread — these particular descendants of the Walloons must have left their bread tradition behind them. But the sausages were good. The distinguishing feature is that they are made with cooked cabbage inside the sausage. I guess it is only called “trippe” here any more — in Europe it’s called “saucisse de choux.”

The cherries will continue for another week or two, and who knows, I may go back for more. But this week the raspberries started.

Last year’s picture. This year’s are already a bit redder. The strawberries were a disappointment but we’re supposed to have a bumper crop of raspberries.

So I’m on my quest to make and eat as many of these as I can choke down:

Servetus’ favorite easy, low or no-bake raspberry pie. So juicy. Also last year’s picture.

But first, a serenade to the cherries:

And what the heck, why not a second one? Armitage could definitely read this. Campion was a much better poet than Hughes.

We don’t get a lot of things to really care about

•July 17, 2021 • 16 Comments

It’s been a long time — probably two years — since a movie has stuck this much in my head after I left the cinema. Definitely see this.

More teasers for that troublesome birthday

•July 17, 2021 • Leave a Comment


The fling list

•July 16, 2021 • 22 Comments

(Stolen by way of Esther. This was a lot easier than “Marry Me”!)

Name six sexy fictional characters you wouldn’t mind diving in bed with.

Incidentally, re: one night stands, I’m a serial monogamist (when I’m in a relationship I am faithful to one partner and expect that to be reciprocated), but at other times, I have engaged in casual sex, albeit infrequently. In defense of casual sex I will say: there’s something great about leaving the burden of history and identity behind and just thinking about pleasure. Also, since there is also by definition no future, you can be a lot less picky about who you choose. Aside from strong sexual attraction, the key to a successful one night stand is to be on the same page emotionally as your partner. (To this end, in my opinion, it’s a good idea to choose someone who is not all that emotionally available.) All in all, I guess that what I’m saying is that I am a fan of casual sex without having done it all that often. Whatever floats your boat (given consenting adults, no disease transmission).

So, on to the list. These are in no particular order.

First, I’m with Esther on Porter.

Richard Armitage as Porter under Danni’s (Shelly Conn) scrutiny in Strike Back 1.1. I discussed this image extensively a long time ago.

To me this seems ideal, actually, as you know he’ll be gone soon and emotional involvement can only lead to pain. Despite the “frustrated family man” story line of the first episodes, it’s hard to me to see Porter wanting to be the kind of guy who takes out the trash every Thursday night. Not unless it involved parachuting into the front yard and defusing a bomb attached to the lid of the can. Slight caveat: I would never have sex with book John Porter. Only screen John Porter.

Second, Mr. Spock.

Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy) struggles with the pon farr in ST:TOS (“Amok Time”). I wrote about my teenage platonic Spock love here.

If you can only have sex once every seven years, but then you can’t avoid it, it’s gotta be good, right? But seriously: although I’m definitely one for the cerebral types, someone with an everyday inclination to find scientific problems more interesting than his romantic partner is not great relationship material. I dated a physicist for a while; I can tell you stories.

Third, Father Ralph de Bricassart.

Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward in a publicity image for The Thorn Birds. Richard Chamberlain was “My first Richard.”

There’s something about that soutane. But again, this is someone whose first love is the Church (or maybe G-d), so you’re never going to get anything but the crumbs. But such tasty crumbs! On an island off the coast of Australia. By the time the sand starts scratching, it’s already just a pleasant memory. Important tip: TO KEEP IT JUST A MEMORY, USE BIRTH CONTROL.

Fourth, Ross Poldark.

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. I really want to play with those curls.

In my defense I will say this is not just about Aidan Turner; I have read all the books in the series now. (Although I’d never have read twelve novels of 500 pp each without Aidan Turner’s prompting.) Ross is the impulsive type, but we all know — even if he doesn’t — that he really loves someone else. Also, he’s always on the coach to London or paddling across the English Channel or whatever. This is the kind of guy who’d be a pain in the ass as a husband, but as a little bit of dessert on the side? Perfect. And I think Aidan Turner has the sexy stare down pat.

Fifth, Hawk from the Spenser novels.

Avery Brooks as Hawk (photo from the 1990s).

Hawk is Spenser’s sidekick (and foil) in the Spenser novels, which I started reading at the suggestion of my freshman English teacher in high school — before the TV series (which I also enjoyed, and which introduced me to Avery Brooks. Hawk is the height of cool, but also a person completely without morals beyond his loyalty to certain individuals. The point in the novels seems to be that the thing that separates from Spenser from Hawk is conscience. (This is primarily important as an element of genre — Robert Parker was consciously channel Raymond Chandler — but it’s interesting on an emotional level, I find.) Spenser is not really emotionally available, either, but as he has a moral code, he has certain attractions. In the books both of them sleep around, but Spenser has girlfriends as opposed to sexual partners.

Proof that this is about Hawk and not Avery Brooks? I’d put Captain Sisko on this list (also played by Brooks), but he’s a widower and extremely emotionally vulnerable on that level (although not as a soldier).

And finally, Dwalin.

Graham McTavish as Dwalin.

This is the only one I feel slightly bad about — insofar as #1-4 are all people who are not really relationship material anyway. I think the loyal Dwalin could be. However, my long-term relationship heart belongs to the probably-emotionally-unavailable Thorin Oakenshield. There could be something great about an extensive encounter with the beard, the tattoos, and the sheer mass and energy of Dwalin. Although I personally don’t need heavy weapons to get off, some people apparently enjoy axe-play in bed.

OK, that’s it! Sweet dreams!

that pesky birthday is approaching

•July 15, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Info about Guylty’s annual birthday auctions.

Coming to Rome

•July 12, 2021 • 6 Comments

This is annoying

•July 8, 2021 • 10 Comments

On the whole I don’t spend much time either fancasting, trying to figure out which roles Richard Armitage is up for, or mourning the ones he doesn’t get (particularly as I usually don’t know anyway). This bugs me, though, even though I don’t see how I could get to England this fall and I’m not sure I’ve got the money in place.

We know Armitage wants to play Macbeth, we know Farber wants to work with him. I’m meh at best about Saoirse Ronan and I don’t know how I’d feel about a “women’s lib” version of the play. But this kind of stinks.

Ah well. Indeed, I’m reminded that most of us spend much of our lives in the state of “I’d rather be doing something else.” Richard Armitage, too, I suppose.


•July 6, 2021 • 16 Comments


He’s still attached to it after all?

I did buy the English edition of this book and read the first few chapters — and thought they were interesting, before drowning in grading — but since I have a lot more free time now, maybe I should read it in Spanish. Hari did say that it’s a fantastic book in that language, and of course, traduttore, traditore.

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