Tuesday, November 26, 2013

yes, i'm still alive

I had another living-history event last weekend (finally) so I've been busy as a hustler with two bunks.  ;-)  How do you define "comedy of errors"?  Well, consider this....

Many weeks ago I requested the job of preparing the Saturday lunch at this event, which was "hosted" by "the Oklahoma gang" of which i'm an honorary member.  When I hadn't got my confirmation (with time running out) a week before i'd need to SERVE IT, I sent a prompt with a deadline attached -- unlike most of the rest of the participants, I have to dedicate an entire day to get to the venue!  Finally heard, YES, I was doing the meal.

Now, for the first few years I attended MBS* the only meal with individuality was Friday dinner -- one breakfast is usually pancakes and the other eggs (both including bacon or sausage), Saturday lunch used to be either carried-in fried chicken or build-your-own sandwiches, and Saturday dinner is still (and always will be) STEAK.  :-D  As you can well imagine, the only meal I count on eating with the rest of the town is the latter.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I volunteer to be the primary cook for Saturday lunch (or Friday dinner, but there's more competition for that).  I don't try to impose my lowcarbism on nonbelievers, but I do try to reduce the damage, and to stick as close as possible to the paleo religion.  But this is just an "aside."  The comedy part is the way I had to scramble to get my menu prepared and to get where I needed to be.

In my refrigerator's freezer was some leftover meat from a previous MBS lunch (meat pies -- leftover filling); I determined to use it up somehow.  The character/persona I planned to portray to serve this meal is French, so a recipe from my beloved Picayune Creole cookbook was definitely in order, and delivered as promised.  It's a wonderful thing that old cookbooks often have recipes for what they called "cold meat cookery"....  I adapted the recipe for rissoles, and was pleased to add to the frozen meat some small portions of leftover sausages and some coconut-rice I had in the freezer -- got a pretty good cleanout, actually!  :-)  Then I found out how many people we expected to attend; I was going to need twice as much main-dish as I had.  I went downstairs and dug around in the BIG freezer....

Three big packages of Costco ground turkey!!!  My croquettes were less "miscellaneous" than my rissoles were, but i'd still be challenged to replicate exactly how I made them!  The technique was identical, however -- muffin tins filled with one dip from my old ice-cream scoop, baked in the oven, made for a PERFECT alternative to the frying that the book recommended.  I made a hundred little meat patties, and went looking for mini-croissants to serve with them.  ...Failed.  Improvised.  I baked the crescent rolls that fat little dough-boy pre-mixed for me.  Not something I was proud of, but economical, and J helped me get them ready for the oven.  Bless his little heart, he wanted to help more, but the configuration of our kitchen and limitation of tools stood in the way.  I also decided to provide a potato-based side dish -- Saratoga chips are a period-correct but too-common choice for MBS lunch -- I wanted something different.  Seasoned mashed potato cakes with cheese, made the same way as the meat cakes, turned out beautifully.  Dessert was easier -- I asked the ladies to make cookies, which provides variety as well as assistance.  Selfishly, to have a low-carb choice for myself, I also made a batch of "oatmeal" cookies from a recipe by Dana Carpender, and they were FABULOUS!!!

I bagged up everything and put them in the freezer.  Ready for the next challenge!

My poor old Volvo has been unreliable for way too long.  Last spring, on my way down to Texas, I experienced the last straw, and I've been unwilling to take it on ANY road trips, however short, by myself.  I arranged to rent a car for this event, and on Wednesday, J went to pick it up. 

Now, when you're facing an 11-hour drive, your comfort and safety are going to depend on some subtle details in your vehicle.  Different cars are designed for different physiologies, and if you have a mismatch going on, your trip will be less than optimal.  I DO NOT recommend the VW Passat if you are less than 5'8" ... and the dashboard lights, icons and information screen were invented by someone from another planet.  I THOUGHT I was getting an Altima.  :-(

It was mizzling when I left home, an hour later than I planned (no comment).  Parts of the trip, it was raining so hard I couldn't see the stripes on the road.  I had a completely disappointing dinner, and when I had to fill up the gas tank I got drenched.  I couldn't raise my friend on the phone to make sure the road into MBS was passable, so ten miles up the road I decided to be a wimp and get a hotel room; there were bugs.  Or, at least I saw one bug, and that makes one suspicious....

When I got to town the next morning, it was lovely to see my friends, and the condition of the ground wasn't nearly as bad as I HAVE seen it.  :-)  But it was cold, windy and wet all weekend.  Meg's and my little cottage was pretty snug, with the bedrooms' excellent insulation and the wood-burning stove in the parlor/kitchen allowing hot water for washing.  Our rooms were adequately heated by just our Aladdin oil lamps -- those things are amazing!  We have small kerosene heaters, but got along without them this time.

To my delight and relief, my lunch was very well received!  I made enough, but not too much (something that doesn't always happen when you're cooking for 50).  Even my cookies were favored!  I plan to make the recipe a little more historically correct and name it the Banting Biscuit, in memory of the first published low-carb diet.

It was excusable, I believe, to cheat and use some modern technology this time.  Bad weather was moving in on us, and I kept track of the storm's progress and the forecast for the area and our routes home (Meg lives in Kansas just northwest of Wichita).  She ended up bugging out on Saturday night.  I woke up horribly early on Sunday, and decided to consider it fortuitous and packed up, myself -- it takes some time to get everything packed up and loaded, and to ready a cabin for two months of non-habitation.  I take down my curtains and store them in a trunk so as to have a less-dusty place to sleep, and make sure there's nothing that will attract vermin or insects in my absence:  windows nailed shut; chamber-pot cleaned and aired; vessels turned upside-down; hats dust-covered; foam mattress inverted in such a way as to discourage mouse-nesting....  I had awakened just before 4, and headed out at 7.  It was cold but still and dry, and my drive was uneventful for about four hours.

I clipped the oncoming edge of the storm front right where a lake borders the highway for a number of miles.  For some reason, the traffic had gotten pretty thick, too.  For 20 miles I crept along at 50mph, keeping my fingers crossed as I changed lanes to pass people who probably had less practice than I have, in driving in winter weather!  Topping it all off -- my gas tank was very low.  I feared the rest of the drive was going to be hell, and calculated when I could reasonably expect to check into a hotel....  Finally had a chance to stop for gas, and by the time I did so, used the restroom, and texted my position to J and Meg, the precipitation had pretty much stopped.

The road wasn't even horribly slick, but I must say the car was pretty sure-footed on that sleety day!  The rest of the trip was uneventful except for having to take measures to stay alert.  I got home before dinner and had a lovely hot bath and a delicious rack of lamb before tucking myself in for a 10-hour sleep!

So that's why I've been "missing" for the last week!  Busy times, mostly good....

*  i'll use the common abbreviation to protect the anonymity of our "resort"....  ;-)


  1. Using muffin cups like that was brilliant! It all sounds like you had some fun recently.

    1. :-) i was with friends i don't get to see often enough. A lot of effort goes into doing it, but it's completely worthwhile!

  2. Welcome back! I had hoped nothing happened to you.

  3. Both Eddie and I were wondering where you were and was everything ok.

    Us bloggers must stick together - it's sometimes a strange old world - but blogging is so much a part of our lives now, wouldn't have it any other way - don't know if everyone would agree?

    Anyway ..... great post I really enjoyed the read and hearing what you'd been up to, fantastic and glad you got back safely.

    All the best Jan

    1. thank you, Jan (and Eddie)! :-) maybe i should figure out how to compose a blog-post while i'm driving down the highway....

  4. What an event! Sounds like it was good for you. Great idea ..the muffin tins.

    1. it IS nice to get away; much as i enjoy my home, a little new air is reviving!

      i have to thank the cookbook-writers who inspired me by their little egg-muffins, for the idea to make what are essentially mini-meatloaves from my rissole/croquette recipes. :-)

  5. Personally, I like my silicone cupcake liners. No greasing, no scrubbing. The food pops right out. (No, I don't own a silicone product factory.)

    1. it was remarkably easy to clean up after the rissoles and the potato croquettes, but the turkey ones ended up a mess even in my old nonstick tins.