Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In which I make my mother ashamed of me again, but my sister is happy
because I've finally posted some shit (*rimshot*)

Warning: this post discusses bodily functions and is probably WAY more information than you ever wanted. Seriously. I only posted it because my sister said I needed to write something, and then informed me that she had to poop. It sort of took off from there. You've been warned.

I've discussed how my family isn't crazy about saying "I love you," but that doesn't mean we're not a little too close in other ways. Burping, for example. My mother's commpletly given up trying to civilize us—she doesn't even look at us pointedly any more when we let a solid belch fly. Secretly I think she thinks we're funny. I swear I saw her chuckle when my brother informed my fiancee that he was excusing himself permanently, and would henceforth belch when and where he pleased without a by your leave. By her leave, I guess. Whatever. Maybe my mom was just having a little schadenfreude moment at my sister-in-law's expense.

E4 has also gotten in on the act. She rewards burps that have good volume and length by saying "Good push." When I asked her what that even meant, she gave me a level look and said, "It's like a little 'I love you.'" Ah, the witty runs in the family. It's on the gene right next to the "laugh at farts" sequence.

My other sister takes the bodily functions rudeness to an entirely new level, as is her wont. Usually in the middle of a conversation. We're chatting about a new pair of pants and out of the blue she goes, "Hey, did you hear about the Browns? They're going to the Super Bowl. I'll be right back." I was momentarily confused, and then more-than-momentarily grossed out. Of course, thinking about it now, I don't know why I should be surprised. She's a product of the family that once spent an entire meal at a restaurant discussing pooping. My brother was trying to convince us it was "fun." I kid you not.

I'm impressed, actually, by how much this excessive misbehavior colors my attitudes. I once decided that I didn't like a friend's boyfriend because he didn't laugh at a fart joke on Scrubs. ("There's your heated seat, my friend."/"It's everywhere!") I was eventually proven right—the guy was entirely too uptight to be dating my friend. One might even say he was...anal. Oh, please, you knew it was coming. I also try to choose friends who will embrace my talent for burping, because frankly, I'm good at it, and I like to do it. It's not quite as good a bodily function as sneezing, but it certainly gets a better reaction from people. I've had more than a few instances where I've burped at my friends in public, forgetting that not everybody does that. It's embarrasing, but it's also funny as shit. Literally.

I think we've all heard that thing about how in some cultures it's a compliment to the chef when you burp, although I can't remember if it's the Japanese or the Native Americans or just the Rednecks. In my family, it's a huge compliment when we burp around you at all. It means we like you. It means we trust you. It means we're gassy.
And if you ever hear one of us fart...you're adopted.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I am Catholic! Stop predending that I'm not! Do I have to recite the Hail Mary RIGHT HERE?

Often I try my material out at work before posting it here. This has been certified giggle-worthy by my co-workers. If it's not funny, blame them.

I've been thinking about the Pope lately, as I must, since I am Catholic. This Catholic thing, by the way, was apparently kind of a shock to my co-workers, who had to be reassured several. Times. that I do, in fact, go to Mass every week and can even tell you how the Catholic aerobics (stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, shake it all about, kneel) of it go. Their ignorance, however, confirms I am doing my job as a Catholic, which is to be chill and non-evangelical. It's good times being a Catholic. I'd recommend that you try it, but you know, whatever. No pressure. Although what I think is really interesting is what one of my friends told me once about converting to Judaism (sorry, I can't remember which Jewish friend it was), which is that the Jews are kind of like, you know, we don't really need a whole lot more chosen people here, so chill out. They make today's Catholics look like 15th century Catholics. Hm, that was a fun digression. Yay Catholics! Yay Jews!

Okay. What was I saying? Oh yeah, the Pope. Right.

Okay, there's the whole process of being elected Pope, and then, all of a sudden, some guy is the Pope, and he picks his pope name and puts on his pope robes and meets the popel people. It's the pope name I'm wondering about. Like, does he have that picked out before he goes into the conclave? "If I become pope, I'm going to be Pius XLXVIII?" Or is that bad luck, you say it and God goes, "Noooo, you shall be Pope Nobody the Nothingth," and then you get assigned to be Archbishop of Antarctica and you spend a lot of time ministering to penguins? I don't know. I just think it's a lot of pressure to pick a pope name on the spot like that. That's probably why we had two John Paul's in a row, because you know John Paul II was a dark horse. John Paul I dies, Carol Wojtyla gets elected and is all, "Uh. What? Pope name? I don't know...John Paul?" And then everybody thinks he's a copycat but they can't say anything because, hey, they just elected him pope. Also, can we get more creative with the names, here, popes? We've had enough Innocents and Pauls and Clements. (And I'm probably going to hell for this, but doesn't Clement make you think of a redneck guy who's missing a few teeth and wears overalls to church? Me too.) Let's go back to the early popes and start picking fun names. May I recommend Zebedee? Pope Zebedee. It's got a certain cachet.

Update: Habemus papem! More when we find out who it is later. If he's Pope Zebedee, you owe me a MILLION dollars.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Heart-Attack Bread Pudding

Adapted from Chef Michael Babb's recipe, with apologies. Makes two 8x8 bread puddings.

1 stale muffin
1 French baguette, long (the kind that sticks out of bags in movies)
11 eggs
2 c. whipping cream
3 c. half-and-half
2 c. sugar (half brown, half granulated)
2 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon plus enough to dust top of puddings
8 cubes white chocolate bark, chopped until the pile falls off the edge of your cutting board.

Throw the muffin on the floor to distract the cat. Then check that your bread is stale, or dry it in the oven if you are too impatient to wait for natural staleness. I recommend the oven method because I always wait too long otherwise, so my bread goes from stale to moldy, and that's just gross. Tear the bread into small chunks and put half in each 8x8 pan. Put them back in the oven to finish drying while you watch the last 15 minutes of your t.v. show.

Crack all your eggs and pick out the biggest chunks of shell. I figure nobody's going to notice the really small bits. Whisk the eggs until you get tired; make sure the yolks are all broken and things are pretty mixed up. Add in the sugars, the cream, and the half and half. Eyeball the vanilla and cinnamon; why dirty a spoon? Whisk until your sugar is mostly dissolved. Pick out those hard molasses things from the brown sugar; someone could crack a tooth.

Dump the chocolate chunks over your bread and then ladle the milk mix on; turn the whole thing with a spatula as you go so everything sticks together and looks as disgusting as possible. Ideally it should look like something a wildebeest regurgitated. (Mmm, tasty.) After you've got all the milk mix on and everything mixed, let the bread puddings stand for about 30 minutes.

Heat your oven to 385° F (I know) and put in two shallow pans with water in them. Sprinkle the tops of your puddings with cinnamon and set the puddings in the pans. Bake for about an hour, until the pudding sets and the edges turn golden brown. Good luck getting it out of the oven after that, because it will be hot and weigh approximately twelve pounds, not to mention you've surrounded it with a lake of lava. Enjoy!

Oh, right. After the stuff cools enough to get it out of the fridge, you can top it with a white chocolate ganache. This is a particularly good idea if you are suicidal and want to leave a smiling corpse. Heat up a half cup of whipping cream in a saucepot on the stove, and add your remaining four bricks of chocolate (chop them first). Stir until everything is melted and kind of translucent. Dump over your puddings. Eat immediately.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I should get my own Food Network series: "The Blind Feeding the Blind"

What's a good toy for a nine-month-old kitten? If you said "stale muffin," you win! She's currently batting it about the kitchen. It's a very bad muffin. Blueberries make you evil.

Tonight I made heart-attack bread pudding, which involves 11 eggs, a pint of whipping cream, a pint and a half of half-and-half, and an accidental overdose of white chocolate. (It was supposed to be six bricks, but eight fell out of the package and I didn't notice until I'd chopped them up. What can you really do with an extra half cup of white chocolate shavings?) If it turns out, I'll be taking half of it to work tomorrow, and giving half to someone I hate. Eleven eggs!

I have to say, I'm not the world's greatest cook, and I suspect this is because I have no problem with fudging recipes. (There's a joke in "fudging," but I can't quite find it. Make your own, you lazy bastard.) I read somewhere that the secret to being a good cook is careful measurement. Oh, wait, that's making good coffee. Um, good chef...oh, right, sharp knife. Well, I've got that, so really, I just need to start obeying the damn recipes. For example, tonight's bread pudding is a mish-mash of three different recipes, plus I sort of adjusted it based on what I thought would work. One recipe called for three cups of sugar on top of the white chocolate, and really, I thought that was overkill. Like, let's aim for death after work and not during. I cut it back to two cups, but upped the eggs by three so the whites could do their congealing thing and hold everything together. Yes, this is seriously how my mind works. Julia Child spins in her grave; my mother the food scientist is writing me out of her will.


Sorry, as I was writing it occurred to me that I had forgotten to put the cinnamon on top of the bread pudding, so I had to rush off to the kitchen to do that. Of course, I was too lazy to take them out of the oven (I say "them" because it's in two 8x8 casseroles), so now one pudding has entirely too much cinnamon on top. Give me a break; they're in water baths and I only have one potholder. I know, sad story.

So, will this recipe work? No friggin' idea. It wouldn't be my first disaster in a pan, and nor, I suspect, my last. The thing is, when I enter the kitchen, my common sense seems to go right out the door. Can I catch an egg with my knee against a the cabinet? Sure, great idea! Thank god my mother has IM. She fields all the stupid questions that result from my lack of culinary common sense, like when I asked her if I could start a fire in the oven with water. I've asked her all sorts of things, like what's the difference between cheese and milk and how do you know when cantaloupe is ripe and what the hell is wrong with my chicken? (Renin, salt, and active cultures; thump and smell; you're cooking it at too high a temperature stop cooking everything on high for the love of all that's holy.) The woman knows that I am minus the cooking gene, believe me.

Although, I will say, I did get the gravy gene. According to my mom and her friend Pat, good gravy is genetic. My mom makes fantastic gravy; Pat can barely make gravy with a mix. (This is her secret shame, because somehow she's the only woman in her family without the gene.) I discovered last time I (over)cooked a pot roast that I, also, can make a good gravy with little to no effort. I'll tell you the secret, but it will honestly do you no good if you don't have the gene. The secret is this: don't stop whisking. Put in your thickening agent while you're whisking the broth, and don't stop whisking until you take the whole mess off the stove.

Oh, thickening agent. (Last thing, because I have to go get the bread pudding out of the oven in a minute.) How great a product would this be: milkfat in a jar. I know, it sounds gross, but it is the most practical idea I've had in weeks. Okay, here's the thing. My "recipe" tonight called for half-and-half, whole milk, and whipping cream. That is far too many milk products to have to buy, especially since I walked to the grocery store to get this stuff. If I could just buy skim milk and a jar of milkfat, I could mix it in the correct proportions to get all these things, no? I know, I'm a genius.

Update, 11:45 p.m.: I am a genius (slash idiot savant). The bread pudding is awesome and also deadly. Recipe tomorrow.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The moment you've all been waiting for (ish)

University of Iowa.