Monday, August 30, 2010

Whirling Danish

I want to open a coffee shop called The Whirling Danish. I would serve mystic pastries and coffee. On hand would be a couple of plate spinners to perform the ritualistic whirling of the food and drink, rotating them in harmony with the universal rhythm that keeps all things balanced between the material and cosmic worlds.

Why danish? Because it's time for danish to make a come back, I think. They were big in the 60's. Then it was donuts. Then bagels. Then muffins. Lately cupcakes. But the time has come for the danish to re-emerge from the shadows. "How 'bout a nice danish to go with that coffee?" Such comforting words. I'm ready to live in a world where people are saying this to one another.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Curious Jar of Floating Mystery

I wrestled with the question only briefly, as I sat waiting for the vet. Should I ask him about that jar sitting on the counter? Yes, of course I should. I had been staring at its murky contents for the last fifteen minutes, while the vet was with my dog in another room. I had a right to know what was inside it!

The jar looked out of place next to two big glass canisters chock full of tongue depressors and cotton balls. The glass canisters were impeccably clean, inspiring confidence. But the curious jar looked like some dowdy stepsister next to those gleaming vessels. It was squat, and the lid was a giveaway that it was a pickle jar. A pickle jar full of dirty liquid, with something floating inside.

I had seen jars like it before. When I worked at New York Medical College, I would sometimes pass down a back hallway in the rear of the building, and along one wall was a dusty shelf upon which sat several jars full of brown and yellow water, containing pieces of tissue that resembled small curled-up pigs.

Now, face to face with another unidentified floating object, I was sure I was looking at some sort of nasty speciman. Though I felt weirdly afraid of getting "caught" I got up and walked over to the counter to peer more closely at the jar. The thing inside was the color of raw chicken, and it looked squashed against the glass. Its purpose was just as puzzling to me as the purpose of those creepy jars at New York Medical College. What the hell was it and why was the vet keeping it here?

That is the question I was going to ask. Oh yes indeedy. Was going to ask it. But then the vet brought Cheri in and started talking all doctory at me, and it slipped my mind. But believe you me, I am going to find out. Or get Roger to find out for me next time he goes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

High Altitude Test Kitchen

What must it be like working in those high altitude test kitchens? When I see the High Altitude directions on the back of a cake box, I picture a woman in a tall tower on top of a mountain, wearing an apron and mixing up batter. She cooks her experimental cake on a small propane oven, and radios her findings down to a control station on the ground below.

"You're gonna need an extra 3 tablespoons of flour, an extra egg, and an additional one quarter cup of oil for that devil's food recipe," she says into her walkie talkie.

Then she wraps a scarf around her head, and climbs down the tower, her heels clacking on the metal stairs. All in a day's work.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

As Vichyssoise Season Winds Down

We nearly screamed for ice cream last Friday at the ice cream social held at Annabelle's school. Five hundred families trying to squeeze into the grade school cafeteria, all for a dollop of ice cream. Mind-numbing. I have a better idea for a fund-raiser: Parents pay $2.00 a head in exchange for not having to go to the ice cream social. Ha, ha. The parents could even buy insurance, to protect against ever having to attend another school ice cream social again.

Last Saturday, we took Cheri to Young's pool for something called the Pooch Plunge. The pool was opened to dogs from 9:00 to 11:00 am. We saw dogs paddling, splashing, swimming with tennis balls in their mouths. One dog jumped off the low diving board and went ker-splash right into the water! Not our Cheri. She huddled next to the fence, as far away from the water and the other dogs as she could get. She wasn't having any of it. The only time she goes into the water is if we go in first. But no humans are allowed in the Pooch Plunge. So doggie no budgee. We finally gave up and took her for a walk in the park nearby.

On Sunday, Lilah and I were looking for something to do, and we decided to go to the library to look for cookbooks, so we could try a new recipe together. While we were browsing I said, "Hey, why don't we make vichyssoise?" Lilah has been trying to get me to take her to Cafe Provence, saying that their vichyssoise, which she loves, is only served in the summertime. My low-budget idea was that we try to make our own. So we checked out a book called "Glorious French Food: A fresh approach to the classics." We drove straight from the library to the store to pick up the ingredients: leeks, potatoes, chicken broth, chives and heavy cream.

Preparing the leeks was the hard part. We couldn't figure out how to cut them from reading the instructions in the book, so we watched a demonstration on YouTube. The leeks made our eyes water and sting as bad or worse than onions. I chewed a piece of bread as I sliced them, which is supposed to help, and stuck tissues inside my glasses. Between the tissues and my teary eyes, I could barely see what I was doing.

We didn't have 6 hours to let the soup cool, so we had to use the speed-chill method, which meant putting the soup pot in a big bowl of ice water, and stirring it every few minutes , to keep it from forming a skin. You don't want skin on your vichyssoise!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bathroom Relics

You know how some people have ointment tubes and medicine jars in their bathroom cabinets that have been there for decades? You can tell by the package design that the item hails from a time when nurses still wore white dresses and cute, triangular hats. The metal lid has rust around the edge. The cream inside has solidified. Yet they don't throw it out. Resting in the shadows between Q-tips and corn pads, it has taken on the gravitas of a family motif, a fixed indicator of their collective identity and medical history. The children in the family have grown accustomed to bumping into that crusted old bottle of Doan's Pill's whenever they retrieve a Band-aid. Years later, the sight of Doans Pill's will trigger a wave of nostalgia for them.

I don't have any over-the-counter relics gathering dust and significance in my bathroom cabinet. The closest I can come is this little green tin of Doctor Burt's skin ointment. I have had it for probably 7 years --more than half the kids' lives. Annabelle asks for it from time to time, when she has bug bites. "Where is that green container with the man on it?"she says. Perhaps years from now the scruffy visage on this tin will be one that hurtles her back into the dimlit corridor of some childhood memory.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Doggie Gone It

This morning before work I had to drop our pooch off at Camp Bow Wow for boarding, because my plane for Vermont leaves tomorrow at 6:00 am, and there is not enough time to drive her down to Olathe after work tonight.

Cheri was excited about seeing the people there, but when the owner tried to lead her through the partition into the doggie area, she balked. She braced herself and refused to budge. When I tried to pick her up, she lay down. The owner coaxed her and sweet-talked her, but she just lay there inert. We finally had to slide her across the floor through the partition.

Poor thing! I felt bad having to send her off that way. I hope she'll be alright. Will make some doggie friends and not feel too abandoned. She has been to Camp Bow Wow before. She used to love going. I took her a few times last summer, just for the day, and she'd pull eagerly on her leash to get to the front door, and wag her tail like mad when we went inside. Though she is shy around other dogs, and would start out by hiding under the play equipment, the staff reported that after a few hours, she'd warm up and spend the rest of the day playing her little heart out with some puppy or other. But ever since the first time we actually boarded her for the night, she is no longer a fan of the place.

Maybe she'll be too busy to miss us too much. Camp Bow Wow has several indoor and outdoor play areas, where the dogs play and stay active all day. By evening they are pooped, and sleep a lot. Hang in there Cheri, we're coming back! I told her that repeatedly in the car this morning, as we zoomed through rush hour traffic on I-35. I sang her a little song, ","On the seventh day, we will come back for you ....on the seventh day, we will come back for you.....will come back to youuuuu....oooooooo....coming back for you..."

She just stared out the window. It was bad enough that the rest of the family bailed on Monday, leaving me as her only source of attention. But now I was deserting her too. She knew, when she first saw the kids dragging out the suitcases, it would come to this.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Espresso Martini

Last Saturday night the girls and I went out to hear Roger play with CoCo Trio at the Intercontinental, a fancy schamncy hotel on the Plaza. I made a point of going to hear CoCo Trio because Stephanie, the female singer of the group, was nice enough to invite us to a party back in January, in which they stuffed us silly with exquisite food. The gathering was quite small, just a few people affiliated with the band, but they had a truckload of food. It was well-prepared, gourmet food that Stephanie's husband Paul had prepared. He's a real foodie, and is especially adventurous with meat. That night he served ostrich. Little cubes of brown meat that looked like steak.

So the kids and I were sitting in this nice hotel lounge, listening to the band. I ordered Shirley Temples for them and an Espresso Martini for me. I'd had one there years ago, and never forgot it. It looks like muddy creek water, but it's good.

The girls got maraschino cherries with stems in their drinks. So naturally, Lilah and I had to try tying the stems in a knot, inside our mouth. It's something we do, when we get maraschino cherries with stems. My friend Rick, whom I knew back at KU, was the first person I met who could pull such a feat. He demonstrated his skill in Perkins --repeatedly. I chalked it up to him being freakishly talented and good at everything, like making well-crafted and creative projects for design class, putting clothes together, having good taste...of course he would be good at this.

I forgot all about the cherry stem trick, and then several years ago, I'd heard about someone who also possessed this ability. I was amazed. I really thought maybe Rick was the only one who could do it.

Well, one day I got a drink that had a cherry stem. I looked down at the stem, and then the most amazing thing happened to me. All of a sudden, I knew how to tie a cherry stem into a knot inside my mouth. I can't tell you how I knew, I just knew, as if the knowledge I had been downloaded into my brain. If you've ever seen the Matrix, it was like when Neo knew Jujitsu. I knew! And I knew I knew. I stuck the stem into my mouth, manipulated it with my tongue and teeth, and voila! --successfully produced a knot.

From that point on, it became my parlour trick, though usually performed in bars and restaurants. I always wanted people to see the knot, so they would believe me, which meant holding up a slimy, wilted stem that had been gummed a few too many times.

I have had some failures. I can't do it if people are making me laugh, or if the cherry stem is too short. When Lilah started trying to tie knots in cherry stems too, she agreed that a longer stem was preferred.

Well, there in the Oak Room at the Intercontinental, Lilah and I worked on our stems. But mine was one of those pesky short ones. I don't think it was even a full inch long. So imagine my pride when I spit the stem out into my mouth and saw that yes, I had tied it into a knot.

It was quite an achievement! I held out the stem in the palm of my hand to show the girls. I put it on the table next to my martini. Sipped my martini smugly. How many people sitting around me could do that? Certainly not that deeply tanned, platinum blonde woman wearing the tiara and pink banner that suggested she had won some sort of contest, probably at her country club.

I slipped the stem into my purse. I wanted to hang onto it. Maybe I'll look at it once in a while, when I need to be inspired.