corned beef and pilzner, the scent of tomato leaves still on my skin, Loki, beer bottles smashing against moving trains, sun burn, Weleda iris lotion, 2 pounds real coffee, 1 pound decaf, a massive amount of basil, and pain in my wrists, worry, laughing, keeping a promise to watch the sun set every evening, red wine, warm milk, and eventual velvet dreaming
I love to buy and cook dried pinto beans. Less so with other beans--in fact, I prefer canned black beans--but I do think that pintos taste best from scratch. Especially refried beans, but that's another post.
I tend not to bother soaking my beans, but I do rinse them before stewing, of course. My favorite way to cook them, is to stew a couple of cups of pintos with chopped onion, garlic, a can of Rotel (juice included), and a glug of Shiner Bock. I add salt to taste, but only toward the end. Then, when the beans are done, I take them off the heat and stir in a healthy handful of chopped cilantro. I wait until the beans are done so the cilantro doesn't get bitter from cooking.
Here is my favorite corn bread recipe: Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread
Note, I don't bother using the skillet. I just mix the ingredients as I would for any other corn bread and bake in an 8-inch square pan. In my oven, this recipe takes longer to bake than noted, so I've experimented using a 9-inch pan with good results.
Bacon-seared collard greens are super simple. Just dice 2-4 slices of bacon, cook until bacon is browned and fat is rendered, add washed and chopped collards (I like a chiffonade), add salt and pepper as needed, and cook until the collards are tender, just a few minutes. Add a splash of balsamic or red wine vinegar, if you like.
My aunt Doris Reagan grew these artichokes right in her front yard in South Austin. I don't think I'd ever even seen an artichoke plant before, so I was thrilled to inspect hers. And I was even more impressed when she cut off four artichokes and gave them to me. How kind! The leaves didn't contain much edible material, obviously, but the hearts were surprisingly large and tasty. Thanks for sharing, Aunt Doris!
Yes, I'm still addicted to iTunes U, but I vow to start reading proper books (and by proper books, I mean ebooks, of course) next week.
•Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley, read by Farid Akhtar (completed) I spoke at length about this last week.
•Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, read by Laray Montgomery (completed) This is the first book that ever gave me the idea that a female could be a writer and an inkling of what the writing process might look like. I vividly remember reading it while lying on a blanket under a canopy of trees. I particularly related to Jo, of course, and while she's still my favorite, the years have given me a deeper appreciation for Amy, whom I used to dislike for being childish and vain but now see as an amiable and harmonious figure with a strong appreciation for manners and for doing things properly, which I like.
My only complaint is that the reader, while well-suited to Anne of Green Gables, gave Little Women a too-cheery tone throughout, even though the novel grows more somber as the girls mature, and even while the beloved Beth lay dying. The reader also mispronounced words and phrases, saying high dungeon when she meant high dudgeon, pronouncing mischievous, which must recur in the book about 100 times, as mis-chee-vee-ous (a pet peeve of mine, though it's accepted), and pronouncing Nice to rhyme with spice. She also seemed to have trouble distinguishing between conscience and conscious. But as it's a free recording, I'll try to just be grateful for the entertainment and a mostly pleasant trip down Memory Lane.
Writing & Other Projects
I haven't been posting to this blog or working on much of anything at the keyboard this week, since I'm trying to rest my injured wrists (carpal tunnel). Wearing wrist braces and reducing my movements is pretty much torture to a busy bee like me, but I'm trying to force myself to do it. Here's hoping I feel better soon.
Just bought this adorable necklace at the Knotted Ram shop on Etsy. I'm so excited. :)
iTunes U will be the death of me, or at least of my reading life. I can't decide if it's the greatest thing ever, allowing me to listen to old books for free while I cook and garden, or if it's going to ruin my relationship with reading. Probably neither, or both, and like all things a blessing and a curse at once, but right now I'm thrilled about being able to listen to my favorite books over and over, wherever I go.
In the past two weeks I've read three and a half books. But, really, I've only listened to them.
•Dracula, Bram Stoker, read by Rick Kissner (completed) This was my second time through Dracula, and I was surprised by how much scarier it is "on tape". Maybe because the reader adopted subtle voices for each character, which, combined with its being an epistolary novel, brought the whole story to lurid life. I'm beginning to think that gothic/romantic/horror novels generally lend themselves well to being read aloud.
•Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, read by Laray Montgomery (completed) I can't believe it took me so long to read this book. Having been an orphan myself until the age of five, I relate so well to books about orphaned children. This will go into my beloved canon, including The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, and Oliver Twist.
•Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brönte, read by Amanda Eland (completed) I've read Jane Eyre many times, and it never fails to impress me, because each reading brings out an aspect of the gothic novel that I hadn't noticed before. I've seen most of the film/TV adaptations, and I'm always amazed by how the text lends itself to and bends so gracefully for different interpretations. Amanda Eland's pleasant, girlish voice opened a window for me onto yet another view of the novel. Somehow she managed (finally) to convince me of Jane's deep reticence to admit her feelings for Mr. Rochester where other actresses and my own imagination had failed.
•Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley, read by Farid Akhtar (partially completed) Yet another gothic/horror novel that's proving far more appealing in the listening than in the reading. (I've tried to penetrate the text a few times with little enthusiasm.) Considering my deep love for the concepts behind artificial intelligence, how could I not like this book? It's Blade Runner over a century earlier. An obsessed inventor creates a being over which he has little understanding and even less control. This stronger, smarter, and perhaps even more moral Monster struggles to understand his existence and proper place in the world, and inevitably seeks out his Creator to demand answers. I haven't finished it yet, but I'm enjoying reading an old take on this fascinating subject.
(Another thing that interests me is how, while listening, I sometimes lose track of who is speaking, the Monster or the Creator, and while looking for clues I find that it could be either, their situations are so perfectly symmetrical.)
None. My headphones have been otherwise engaged over the past fortnight.
Writing & Other Projects
•BD (abbreviated working title, novel series) SUCH a great couple of weeks! This project is really taking on a life of its own now, which is a relief since I've grappled so hard with and sweated over it. I expect this to be a good month.
This is my favorite cake ever and not just because I seem incapable of screwing it up. It's pure indulgence, extravagant, and impressive, perfect for a dinner party, and so, so easy to make.
As with all of my favorite recipes, it's a great canvas for versatile flavors from fresh berries and fruit to caramel or chocolate sauces. This would be amazing later in the summer along with ripe peaches. Or add a bit of lemon zest to the whipped cream for a refreshing zing. I could keep riffing on ideas all day, but instead I'll just say: Make this!
Pastel de Tres Leches. Enjoy!
Note: If you do plan to make this cake but don't have a small kitchen scale, go ahead and buy one. You can get them for so little now, and measuring ingredients for baking by weight is really so much more effective. Hint: I use a coffee filter as a container, which is basically weightless, so I don't have to tare out its weight. Easy peasy.
Further: I just spray the cake pan (I use glass without any trouble) with cooking spray, because I'm too impatient to flour pans, and that always works just fine.
And more: There will seem to be too little batter for your 9X13 pan, but it's really alright. Don't panic.
I love how, at a casual glance, this cooked chard looks something like a bouquet of flowers.
And I love how the neon colors and patterns of these chard stems remind me of old-fashioned hard ribbon candy.
I can't stop dreaming about a new life. As a child, I lived a too short time in the country, and the experience changed me deeply. I spent hours playing outside, studying flowers and contemplating bugs. For a while, my favorite pastime was building cities of rocks and sticks around ant hills. My mother has a photograph somewhere of a particularly elaborate one.
Later, after we'd moved into town, the one time that I ran away from home, I headed back toward that old country house with no other thought than that I must return to it and live off the land somehow, completely alone if necessary. Fortunately for my silly little self, my stepfather discovered me heading north along the highway and took me back to safety.
But the dream has never left me, that I might live as close to Nature as possible. And these past few weeks of gardening have awakened it again and even more strongly. I have a sort of mania about it now.
The trouble is that Shane doesn't share my enthusiasm, at least not at this stage in life, so until we're both on the same page, I'll console myself with dreaming, bird watching, small-plot gardening, and with trips to gorgeous nurseries like The Natural Gardener. Here are some pics from a few weeks ago . . . sigh.