Monthly Archives: September 2006

little victories

Ben took his first nap at home on Sunday. His little Ikea bed is the reason why. It has a blue cat and black dog in the headboard, and a puffy duvet with purple dogs, green trees, white mountains, crescent moons and stars.I found myself at the table with a cup of coffee and the Sunday Times. Reading will happen…

And before taking this record nap (2.5 hours), he ate broccoli (“tlees”) with his lunch.  Welcome, autumn!

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Filed under coffee, Ikea, lunch, napping, naps, NYT, sleep, toddler, Toddlerhood, Uncategorized

the (maxipad) medium is the message?

Dear reader,

I’ve been up since one and am between press releases, so I’m grouchier than the average bear. Let me warn you in advance that this post is graphic, but not sexy. You may want to wait for something else.

What is the last thing a woman needs when she is having her period? My vote today is for inane messages on the adhesive papers of her maxipads. Funny, then, that the company that makes one of my menstrual products has decided to change the exterior packaging yet again, and also decided to include inspirational messages on the peel-off strips.

I noticed a multilingual set of messages on the pads I bought in Denmark, which said, “Keep moving with always” in Dutch, English, French, and German. (That’s right, not Danish.) But the pads I bought when I got home really ticked me off. I’ve got a migraine, severe cramps, and I open the package to find “Have a Happy Period.”

Package designer, here’s a clue: If I bleed enough to fill overnight pads every two hours, the only “happy period” I have is when it’s over. Capeesh?

At least if they said “I enjoy being a girl,” the implicit subjugation would be worth a pained grin. Worse yet, the “always” mark, along with the infinity symbol, keystones the slogan. An infinite period. Makes menopause sound almost inviting.

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Filed under Humor, marketing, menstrual period, menstruation, Period/Pms-ing, personal, stupid ideas, Uncategorized, women

Stone fruit’s Ms September, raw and baked (recipe)

One of my favorite fruits awaited me in my csa crate this week, tucked into a crumpled brown bag. The farm has one Italian prune plum tree, and my halfshare resulted in a pound of the humble beauty.

I can, and have, eaten a pound of ripe prune plums in one sitting, to dramatic and not altogether pleasant after-effect. Their tart-sweetness, and hearty flesh make them more of a cousin than sister to the californian stone fruits of summer, but also make them a dream for baking. I make at least three clafoutis each year with whatever good IPPs I can find. Here is my recipe.

Clafouti

Clafouti is one of those dishes that is easy to make and yet can be utterly gorgeous in presentation, especially if you use pie plates for the baking instead of casserole dishes. Any stone fruit works, but when the IPPs bloom with wine/magenta color in contrast with the buttery pudding, it’s tough to beat for looks and substance. If stone fruits are out of season, try with sliced firm apples (cortland is my preference, if you have them where you are), sliced thin. Maybe macerated in a little calvados… oh, you can do whatever you want. It will be delicious.

My first recipe came from Monet’s Table by Claire Joyes, but you can find plenty of variations at epicurious.

1 cup flour
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk (soy milk if dairy is a problem)
2 tbsp unsalted butter (shortening again if dairy prob)
5 cups pitted prune plums, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375F. Make a batter with flour, 2 tbsp of sugar, eggs, salt, and milk, beating the mixture until smooth. (Instructions say it should not be too liquid, but given the proportions, that’s tough. Batter will have similar consistency to pancake batter.) Use the butter to grease a 9 inch pie pan – deep dish is ok. Put the plums into the pie pan – the fruit should be firmly packed. Pour the batter over the fruit and sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar. Bake for 45 minutes or until the batter is golden brown.

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Filed under autumn food, Baked Desserts, clafouti, community supported agriculture, Cooking and Baking, csa, dessert, Desserts, france, fruit, italian prune plums, Love, prune plums, Recipes, stone fruits

a sad 5th anniversary

Our management meeting was just starting; we were at a site in Cambridge, and our small group was wrestling with network connectivity issues in advance of reading the agenda, when Eric pinged Ralph on IRC. Something terrible was happening in New York. We could only read Eric’s transcription, which stopped with an “Oh my god”.

In the months and years that have passed and the number of times that murder has been shown and edited into “news”, the picture in my mind always goes to my friend’s words on the screen, his remarks about trembling and having trouble typing, and seeing.

A very good friend of mine often flew from Boston to DC for work, and had her flight plans changed at the last minute, making it possible for us to have dinner that night. I wrote her to say how lucky we were she didn’t fly that day, and how I was looking forward to breaking peaceful bread together.

One line came back to me in email. “*Her husband’s name* was on United 175.”

I gasped. He never flew for work – he didn’t have to. He was a doctor who specialized in family medicine, the kind of MD who took you cradle to grave. He was funny, and smart, and he made my friend bloom. And now he was gone, oh dear god. How would they find him? (The thought of it even now makes me choke.)

I didn’t exactly follow him that day, but I left the room mentally. In the blue tangy sky, in grief. My fiance was in meetings in San Jose; his mom called him from Denmark to break the news. We touched base (all hail irc) once his meeting started, and then, with Tim’s ok, I was gone.

I drove to the town where there was a candlelight vigil, and searched for my friend. Many somber faces – many somber children’s faces – and a disturbing encounter with a former soldier talking about hell and damnation in front of his toddlers. I escaped his manic rant, and arrived at my friend’s house. Her sisters were with her, and when she saw me, her shoulders dropped. We held hands, and hugged, and I told her I was there to help her with whatever she needed. I tried to get her to eat a little bit of food (a mantra repeated by all of her friends and family), and told her I would stay the night if she wanted.

Friends and family had found a little television in one of the storage rooms (this was not a TV house) and hooked it up. Within three minutes of getting a focused picture, there it was. Oh my God. She was looking at it for the first time, the second plane, her husband, dying in the corner of her dining room. I was in the far corner of the room; I went to her and said, “We don’t have to see this if you don’t want to.” She gave me a soft look, and I turned off the set, unplugged it, and hid it in a closet.

I stayed with my friend that night, and every other night for the length of my visit. What I remember finally were the sounds – the sounds of heartbreak and loss in an old house, callously interrupted by jets overhead. The screeching shook the small town that had lost 3 citizens, echoing over the harbor, too late to save anyone and too loud, too indecent to allow for grieving.

This morning, like every September 11 morning since, I have been quiet through those hours. I woke on this anniversary three hours behind New York, PA and DC, but with it in all around me, in the warm pre-waking embraces, the need to be held, cared for, comforted, in silence.

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Filed under anniversary, Grieving, MIT, September 11th, w3c, Wars

roadside delicacy in seaside towns

Ten years ago, I learned about a vacation roadside delicacy in Woods Hole. My boyfriend at the time showed me that the rugosa bushes on every walkway held snacks, once the blossoms passed. The rosehips swelled and ripened from green to yellow, to orange red, and finally to deep red. A sharp eye and careful bite (the seeds are indigestible, hail nature) gave a quick sweet rich snack, a little tart, full of vitamin C.

I thought about this as I limped along the paved and clay roads in Lonstrup. Here, rosehips – or hyben – are harvested and made into jelly. It is considered a bit untamed to pick them fresh from the bush, but I did. The salt air, the wind, and the tartness of the hyben – summer on Cape Cod by another name. I didn’t convince Henrik to try it. Instead, we have a 500g jar of jelly (the base for the jelly is apple, but it is not obtrusive – it’s really just a medium) in the cabinet, in case of a summer jones.

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Filed under Denmark, Food, fruit, hyben, jam, rose hip, rugosa, Summer Vacation

Bakeries I love, West Coast

A loaf of Hominy Bread from Ballard’s Tall Grass Bakery prompted me to write this post, as bakeries are one of my favorite places. The smell, the heat, the often wonderful people who work at them… man. I didn’t know that Seattle was an epicenter for the artisan bread movement, but I know it now, intimately.

So, I’ll write a little about the gorgeous treats that await a Seattle traveler.

Tall Grass Bakery, Ballard – Love these folks for the bread they make and distribute through the city and burbs, as well as the stand they set up at my neighborhood farmers’ market. They call themselves a micro-bakery, and given the quantities they produce and how fast they go, I’d say that’s an appropriate moniker.

They make a brick of a rye bread that is so close to Danish, you can hear it switch its v’s with W’s. Tangy, rich, dense and moist – it’s close to German dark rye, but it doesn’t quite slice thinly, so you have to go with a slab. Oh, too bad.

The Hominy bread is made partly with cornmeal, keeps forever, and is a great eating bread either plain or toasted.

In the winter, they make an outstanding gingerbread with a coffeecan mold. I served it with real whipped cream and loganberry sauce. Seconds everywhere.

Essential Bakery, Madison Valley, Seattle – There are two of these in Seattle. I’ve only had a chance to eat at Madison Valley. But oh, I’m glad I did.

First, let me tell you about the brownie. It’s a brick of butter and bittersweet (my guess is guittard) chocolate, with just enough flour to keep it from completely oozing in your hand. De-luscious.

We go through a loaf of Mille Grane each week, thanks to its availability at TJ’s. Along with the always good Columbia baguette and the aforementioned Tall Grass Dark rye, my husband’s bread lineup is complete.

They also make a seasonal bread – a honey orange rosette – that begs to be made into french toast and bread pudding.

Macrina Bakery (Belltown and Queen Anne neighborhoods, Seattle)

Macrina is a full grown daughter of the Seattle Bread movement’s mama, Grand Central. Leslie Mackey has two lovely (though not precious) cafes in town which offer a range of sweet and savory treats. The cookies are always good, as is nearly every variety of coffee cake I sampled here. Like Essential and Grand Central, they provide some merchandise to local supermarkets, though I prefer Macrina for the eat-in experience.

Macrina has had some media attention also – you may see Leslie featured in at least one episode of a road show on the Food network. She has at least one book on the shelves, and sometimes makes travelling appearances – I once noted her on the special appearances listings at one of my Cambridge favorites, Upstairs on the Square.

Grand Central

I probably should have started first with Grand Central, since it is the source of nearly all the great bread makers in Seattle. Gwen Bassetti inspired or trained many of the people who got things going in the bread scene, and her bakery makes some amazing breads. I miss the corn loaf, but often enjoy the Como and the tasty little rolls. (Like Danish bolle in size, but rustic italian in substance.) My only Grand Central experience is at the supermarket level, but if you’re near a market and there is a cafe deficiency, you could do a lot worse than a Grand Central baguette, a lump of butter and a midrange cup of coffee – even in the parking lot.

Belle Pastry, Old Main Street, Bellevue

We discovered Belle Pastry while living in a one-room apartment during house construction. Belle Pastry is a real French patisserie. The glass and gold cases do not overflow – rather, they showcase the tiny tasties in their buttery glory. Rich eclairs, delish sables, but the baguette is the understated belle of the ball. A real shell of crust served with jam and cultured butter. Quel Magnifique – even in the suburbs. The environs are understated french femme – gold, cream, fresh roses, and clean. Good italian coffee, too.

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Filed under Ballard, Bar Cookies, bread & pastries, Bread and Bakeries, Breads, cake, coffee, cookies, dessert, Food, french bread, Restaurants in Bellevue, Tall Grass Bakery, trader joe's, WA

(mainstream) pasta salad improv

We were at Henrik’s family summer house on the nw coast of Denmark for about a month. Dining and cooking provided challenges, as Ben has a milk protein allergy, I am a vegetarian, and my mil has a nickel allergy. (You wouldn’t believe all the foods that have it.) Asian cooking is out; so were yogurt/cheese. Ben enjoyed frikadelle (a fried meatball patty made of either ground pork or cod paste) nearly every day, and so more traditional meals emerged.

My mil came from the market one day with 6 gargantuan florida avocados. These are the big boys, never smaller than a papaya and always tasteless, unlike their ecstasy-inducing cousins, the hass. But I discovered that a ripe florida avocado, with a fair dose of lemon juice, is a tolerable substitute for mayo in a conventional pasta salad. Just be sure to add lots of other flavors to a thoroughly mashed and blended base.

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Filed under avocado, florida avocado, Food, hass avocado, mayonnaise, pasta salad, remoulade, Summer Vacation, Uncategorized, vegetarian