Saturday, June 15, 2013
I don’t know why I picked this image – neither my father nor my husband have ever been much in the DIY department. Maybe it was the cookie cutter. One of my favorite photos captured my husband – in his capacity as Santa’s helper – puzzling over the directions to one of those big plastic playhouses, while my father sat in a nearby chair offering helpful hints.
But both of these men in my life excelled at fatherhood. Not models of perfection, of course, but good, decent souls who would do just about anything for their children, and the kids knew it. When I failed to graduate from college in the standard four years, my dad said nothing but “Do what you have to to finish.” For my brother, who gave us all a few gray hairs, my dad made it to every court appearance or police station necessary. And with my own sons – why is it always the boys who end up at the police station? – when Officer Bob called late at night, my hubby would retrieve them, of course, then talk to them at length about why they’d done whatever stupid idiot crazy thing they’d done that landed them in the hands of the police.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
I love my husband, but I sure do have a great time in the kitchen when he’s gone. I get to try all kinds of weird foods, play in the kitchen late at night, and if I don’t feel like cooking, I might open up a can of Campbell’s Pork and Beans for dinner. Straight out of the can. Mmm-mm. Feels just like my single days in New York.
So tonight, I’m trying a fried tofu recipe from Melissa Clark in last Wednesday’s NY Times. I’m not sure I’m going to like it, but I’ll let you know. The tofu was only $1.48 at my grocery store, so if it’s too strange, I’m out less than a buck fifty.
I’ve been experimenting with condiments this week – mustard and mayo. I know, the grocery stores stock lots of perfectly good mustards and one good mayo (Hellman’s, what else?) on their shelves. But aren’t you ever a bit curious to see what the homemade stuff tastes like?
Thursday, May 30, 2013
In my stroll through the Sunday New York Times last week, I came across a piece about the migration of “Lean In” from book title (by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg) to cultural virus – in effect, the phrase of the week, or maybe even the month if Sandberg is lucky.
Columnists and editorial writers have seized on the phrase to talk about women in math and science classes, women in the executive suite, women in the boardroom. A lot of talk about pushing harder, seizing opportunities, taking risks. Excuse me, ladies, but to echo the 1970s, “Been there, done that.”
And here, the Kitchen Goddess takes just a moment to climb up onto her soapbox and say that we – “we” being women of a certain age who wanted both a career and a family – faced the same issues young women face today. In the 70s, we called it “Having it all.” That was before corporate child care, paid maternity leave, and options for telecommuting. Thirty years ago, I was a VP on Wall Street, commuting 5 days a week, taking night classes for my MBA, and pregnant with my second child. It was exhilarating, and it damn near killed me. Eventually, I found a way to get work, family, and sleep in more reasonable proportions. Lots of my friends did the same. It’s hard, but it’s not a new fight. You look at your life, you set your priorities, you make choices. I would like for Ms. Sandberg and her ilk to recognize that they’re not blazing new trails. So lean in, by all means. Just don’t lean so far you lose your balance.
[The thumping noise you hear now is me climbing down from the soapbox.]
Friday, May 24, 2013
I’ve now spent a really ridiculous amount of time just cruising around the site. Here are the sort of fun factoids you, too, can unearth there.
■ Store avocados at room temperature until ripe. After that, they’ll keep another 3-5 days in the fridge if you put them (whole) into a plastic bag.
■ Apples give off ethylene, a gaseous hormone that can cause vegetables like lettuce to spoil faster. So you should store apples in a separate refrigerator compartment, or in a sealed plastic bag.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
In the early days of my career, when I was a Wall Street researcher, there was a lot of talk among the analysts about the coming of the paperless office. How no one would keep files in file cabinets, and everyone’s desk would be clean, clean, because there’d be no need for paper. So maybe I’m still stuck in the dark ages, but even with much of my work now in digital files and on the cloud (where God knows I hope it’s more organized than on earth), I still find myself surrounded by file cabinets and paper.
I also still read magazines on paper, as well as our local Austin newspaper and my all-time fave, The New York Times. And as much as I enjoy the ability to find past articles on the digital versions of these publications, I hope I hope I hope the physical versions hang around at least until I’m too ancient to read or care.
There’s something wonderful about spreading the newspaper out on my kitchen island, where the Sunday edition of The Times often remains for days, until I’ve perused the sections I most enjoy. And as newspapers now qualify more as commentary and sources of information than hot news, it doesn’t really matter how long that takes.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
We’d sold the house in New Jersey and I was packing up the boatload of stuff we’d been collecting in our basement, winnowing the collection down to what had to go to Texas and what really could be thrown out.
I’d been through both boys’ rooms, tossing soccer trophies and ancient video games, the bowling ball that never got finger holes drilled, some ratty comic books, and several Gameboy cartridges that no longer had a player to run them. In the basement, I’d saved the arsenal of Nerf guns and the box of Lincoln Logs, but was determined that all other toys and child-related paraphernalia would be either trashed or sent to the Salvation Army.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The extra chairs on the porch are put away. The leftover paper plates and cups have been stored in the closet, and after two days of concentrated skimming, I’ve worked my way through the four issues of the New York Times that I haven’t gotten to read. The guests are gone – all 19 of them, gathered at our house for a long weekend as the latest in a series of biennial reunions among college friends and their wives.
Walking through the empty house, I am revisited by a sensation I remember feeling when our sons went off to college – happy for the peace and quiet and the need to do less for fewer people, but within the silence missing the hum of conversation, the frequent laughter, and the spirit of camaraderie so thick it changes the texture of the air around us.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
One of my earliest cooking-related memories is of my grandmother frying chicken in her cast-iron skillet. She had no air conditioning in that kitchen for years, just a big ceiling fan, occasionally augmented by a small, rotating table fan when the Texas heat became unbearable, which of course wouldn’t stop her from frying chicken. She’d tuck a handkerchief or tissue into the space between her rolled up sleeve and her arm, and periodically would use that to blot the perspiration from her face and neck.
I don’t know what happened to her skillet. It probably got sold in the estate sale. I had developed a real interest in cooking by the time she died, but even then wasn’t interested in frying chicken, and I couldn’t imagine what else you’d use that skillet for. What a fool I was.
Monday, April 15, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, I ran across some Key limes in the grocery store, and the evil angel on my shoulder whispered, “Buy these. Make Key lime curd.” I should have known better, but that has never stopped me before, so into my cart they went.
Key limes are smaller and have more seeds than regular (Persian) limes. Also, the flavor is sharper and more bitter. Apparently, they are even yellow when fully ripe, but you and I don’t get to see that color, as the little darlings are picked green for commercial use, and – possibly useful factoid here – citrus fruit doesn’t ripen further after it comes off the tree. It’ll decay, but it won’t get any riper.
In any case, Key lime curd isn’t any harder to make than the Meyer lemon curd I made back in February. The limes are so small, you’ll have to squeeze a ridiculous number of them to get a cup of juice, but TNT now shows re-runs of Castle and Bones in the afternoon, so I tuned in and started squeezing. I used the same recipe and process, adding ¼ cup more sugar to compensate for the tartness of the limes. Same velvety texture, and with a taste much like Key lime pie.
Friday, April 5, 2013
When I was a child – long before I became the Kitchen Goddess – two of the few things my mother would allow me to make in the kitchen were Jell-O® and Jell-O Instant Pudding. I thought it was magic: powder plus liquid equals dessert. Frankly, I also thought it was cooking. And I couldn’t imagine eating it out of anything but those Pyrex® 6-ounce glass custard cups.
I don’t think I had any Pyrex cups of my own until I had children, when they were the best things I could find to hold baby food. (The cups, not the children.) Since that time, I’ve discovered how wonderfully useful those little dishes are for a truly vast number of tasks. Storage, baking, microwaving, heating up small servings, but mostly for assembling my mise en place. Chop the parsley and put it into one of the cups. Measure out the curry powder, and put it in a cup. Mince the garlic, and...you get the idea. Then assemble all those little cups next to the skillet, and you won’t find yourself burning the onions as you scream, “OMG – how much garlic?!”