0003 Indera 08: In which I hang my head in shame....

Dear Kanukistan:

Please accept my humblest apologies for destroying your culture. In the spirit of internationalism, I promise not to get offended if you choose to ignore Double-Meat Day.


The Lapinian Consul-General.

So, I did it.

After thinking much of the day about very little at all—an unfortunate side effect of having had no available fires to fight at work that wouldn't have set even more alight—I decided that, gosh darnit, I really didn't have a good reason not to violate more human rights. So, on the way home, I stopped at the store, acquired the necessary torture devices, and came home and made Abominable Poutine.

This turned out to be surprisingly easy to do. Geneva should be notified.

I brought water to a boil, then put four red potatoes—about two pounds—into the water and cooked them for four minutes. Then they came out and went into a cold-water bath. After fully cool, I sliced them with an apple corer to produce more-or-less even wedges, which I left on paper towels to drain. This would form the base layer of the unholy disaster.

For gravy, I took approximately one tablespoon of bacon-turkey grease off of the top of the SOLO cup in the fridge and put it into another pan on the stove, melted it on medium heat, and added flour to form a roux, which I cooked until golden. Scraping off the remainder of the grease in the cup into a second container revealed a wealth of rich brown congealed turkey-bacon consommé, which plooped with a ploop into the pan with the roux and then melted into a very runny sauce. I added flour to thicken, whisking constantly, then added pepper and oregano to taste, then water to thin it back out when Jessie complained that I had made kitchen-paste.

Eight ounces of Swiss cheese got chopped up in place of curds, because QFC, while fancy, is not Whole Paycheck, and I didn't feel like going to Bellevue for an abomination. It felt a little too much like a violation of the Mann Act.

Frying potatoes turned out to be surprisingly complicated. First, I didn't dry out the water from the pan completely after rinsing it, so when the oil got hot, it immediately started to spatter, and of course I had no luck finding the spatterguard, so I just had to turn the heat down and wait, then wipe up most of the mess. Then I had the heat down too low for fear of scorching, which meant the potatoes didn't really fry so much as sog. When I did turn the heat up to medium-high, though, they almost instantly crisped up for their own good and turned the golden-brown I usually only see in 1970s-era cookbooks as a favored carpet shade. I spatulated them onto paper towels to dry.

The final combination was really just pouring all of the ingredients into a bowl in layers, plus some crumbled bacon from a bag from Costco, and a can of peas that I added specifically so that I could say I had consumed some kind of vegetable matter with dinner. The result... looked about as appealing as only a bowl of pepper gravy with Swiss cheese lumps and forlorn peas sticking out of it could. I didn't take a picture; I thought I would spare you all the pain.

The taste, though....

Jessie insists that the Swiss cheese is the wrong flavor—excuse me, flavour—and that I should've headed down to Bellevue to get cheddar curds. I, however, think that it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish. That's French for "what the fuck." Whatever it is, it's gravy and potatoes and bacon and cheese and okay yeah there's a pea here and there but it's gravy and potatoes and bacon and cheese and what more you ask for?

Of course, having intentionally made poutine south of the Kanukistan border, I'm probably on the hook for some kind of violation of a treaty somewhere. I can only hope my above apology and the threat of an orbital lightning cannon are enough to restore international relations.

I'm sorry. So very, very sorry.


0003 Indera 07: Son of Abomination

As I hope I've said before, I like snow. I do, really. I enjoy the appearance. I like walking in a light snowfall. I even enjoy tossing snowballs, and I get a mild thrill out of driving around and looking at snow-covered landscapes. Growing up in Texas, I never really had anything that people would consider "winter." The best we could manage was a heavy autumn every so often, with maybe black ice for entertainment, but real snow was a rarity.

Then I moved to Pennsylvania, and suddenly I understood what actual snow looked like. More to the point, I understood why people hated it. Six inches of accumulation on city streets will make them impassable to anything smaller than a duelie or a monster truck with chains, and I've had the good sense not to try to buy and then drive either of those. I did approximately USD1500 of damage to a Chevy Blazer getting blown sideways on a snowy road into a metal divider. Upon leaving the area, I was heartened to learn that, while "up the mountains" would get a lot of weather, Bothell rarely saw anything like that.

Of course, the year we arrived, we got precisely that kind of snowfall. I don't recall the exact details, but I remember clearly that one night my wife and my roommate set out for a quick trip for a computer component and ended up getting stuck for eight hours on the road, and that at some point during the winter we had to pack up some belongings and relocate to a hotel for three days, because the power in the apartment complex had died. Surely, though, such an event was a freakish occurance, not likely to happen again any time soon.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice....

As I type this, I'm looking at getting a good night's sleep, so that I can be in the office again for the first time in eight days. That's how much snow we've had this year. Three separate storms have hit us, or maybe one storm in three movements; it's hard to say. Either way, we've had between six and ten inches of accumulation since last week, and the weather reports I'm seeing say that we're supposed to get "a few flurries" next week. This after they told us that we'd see "an inch or two" last week. I am not hopeful. 

In fact, the weather was so bad that of the time I've been out, the office actually closed day. Two I spent sick because the weather had necessitated us turning on the heater, which in turn dried out my throat and nose so badly that I practically crusted over internally. One was some holiday that everybody around here seems to take really seriously. The rest I remained indoors, working from home, because our apartment complex is situated on the side of a steep hill down which I couldn't have safely driven the car even if my life had required it.

Not to say I couldn't get down the hill in an emergency. I could, surely. I would just likely end up on 405 South without having taken an on-ramp, if you get my meaning.

So, what does one do when facing the prospect of being snowed in? Commit nutritional atrocities, apparently. I think this is becoming one of those morally hazardous Lapinian traditions, like hot pepper consumption for Indians or Jerry Lewis films are for the French.

Some of you may remember the abomination that I created for Bandaza this year. In the end, while the flavor was great, not all of the chicken breasts came out done, the meat near the bones was undercooked, and most of the bacon fell off of the turkey during the cooking, which ended up making a mess in the bottom of the oven, as the grease-trap trick of folded foil underneath the baking plate did astonishingly little to stop the flood of meat juices. It was an experiment, well worth undertaking, but obviously "beta code."

I believe I've perfected "version 1.0" of the bacon-infused turkey. Call it "Son of Abomination."

On one of the few trips out of the apartment to secure supplies between snowfalls, Tanya and I decided that a smaller turkey, twelve pounds or so, would make for a good meal for a few days. We got an "artisan" turkey, which is to say we got a heritage turkey that's not a Large White. I'm not sure what breed it was, exactly; I believe it was a White Holland, but I wouldn't swear to it. I do intend to check, though, and whatever I determine it was, I'd definitely buy it again. At any rate, it was a little over twelve pounds and still slightly frozen when I went to bake it.

So, I got the turkey into the pan, and I thought about what I was going to do to stuff it, because I still had some stuffing from making a batch earlier since this has apparently become favored nibl around the Embassy for the vegetable-eaters. Then I found a package of bacon in the bottom of the fridge, and I knew what I had to do.

Recalling the Bandaza experiment, I realized that the reason the bacon hadn't stayed in place was, obviously enough, nothing had been holding it where it needed to be. I still had no pins or other obvious tools, but I did have an embarrassment of creativity, and I devised a fix: I wove a bacon "blanket" for the turkey, ensuring that the side-to-side strips were always weighed down by at least two lengthwise ones. The strips covering the legs I "tied" in place, wrapping a second strip around the leg at the thickest part and looping it over to help hold the longer strip in place. The ones over the wings, sadly, I could only drape in place.

The whole assembly I then put into a proper roasting pan, which then went into the oven set to 350F, for two hours. I then dropped the temperature to 300F for another three-and-a-half, at which point I pulled it out and declared it done.

This time, almost none of the bacon fell off the turkey. I think a total of two strips fell into the bottom of the pan, to become part of the drippings, which I meticulously saved. This roast, unlike its predecessor, was cooked completely, succulent from skin to bone, and infused with sweet and meaty joy. The turkey legs pulled off of the main bird without a fuss, and the wings did as well.

Now I just have to decide what to do with a SOLO cup full of turkey-and-bacon drippings, besides make the awesomest gravy ever.

I think this should be proof unto the gods that there is, in fact, a thing as too much snow. Though, considering that whole poutine thing up in Kanukistan, I'm not so sure.

Hang on. Fries... with bacon... and Swiss cheese... and turkey-and-bacon gravy....

I know what I must do.

Always one more try.... I'm not afraid to die.


0003 Ertera 15: General Trivia

So, as always, it's later than I expect updating this thing. I always start off with the best of intentions, saying "I'm going to update regularly from now on! Every Kimya after work! Every Pozya morning! Something, just... say something!" Of course, me being me, I get distracted, and then I get sullen and silent over the fact that I haven't updated, and that leads me to... delay updating.

Vicious Cycle: see Cycle, Vicious.

So, first, the all-important post-Bandaza update. The turkey turned out wonderful; The bacon stayed in place for the first hour or so, and then crisped up and fell off, destroying my careful entombment of the bird, but having imparted a good amount of grease and pepper to the turkey itself, which kept the bird moist during the rest of the cook cycle. Much of the chicken inside came out tender as well, though the middle of the bird and the innermost breast failed to cook to my satisfaction and went instantly into the trash. I don't know how many arteries clogged as a result of my dish, but I'm sure I've just added to the overall cost of American health care.

Of course, during clean-up I did manage to dump the turkey carcass, including the serving platter and all of the drippings, onto the carpet. Some quick work from a number of friends managed to prevent any unlivable damage, but there's a weird dry-and-flaky spot on the carpet that will need power-vacuuming at some point, or perhaps a good carpet cleaning. Most like, it means the end of my security deposit, but I never expect to get that back anyway.

All in all, ten people came for the get-together, not a record but a fair showing. When I told my parents about it later, they were shocked to discover that I could actually prepare a meal for ten people. I told them I'd served for fifteen once, and they were duly impressed. Maybe they were horrified. Either way, I got impassioned responses from them on the subject of my holiday meals. No real conversation occurred on exactly what I celebrate, but that's a minor detail.

Much of the intervening time has been, sadly, a case of "Work Eat Me!" To give you the best description yet that I've found to tell people what working at Big Pink is like, imagine that you're a firefighter working for an insurance company doing damage control, and you get a call from a customer who says, "my car is on fire but I'm late for my child's wedding or maybe it's my wife's first delivery; I forget. Either way, I need you to come drive alongside me and put out the flames so I can get to where I'm going without dying in a fireball or stopping. Remember, if I burn up, it's your fault!" Now imagine that every call you ever get is like this. Eventually, you know the drill by heart, and you get really good at fighting mobile fires, but you know that for every fire you successfully smother, two or three cars have exploded and one driver has simply stopped calling, and so you know it's all very urgent every time, but it's really hard to care about any individual case too much.

Jessie's been out of town over the last week, which happened to coincide with my on-call rotation, which has meant that my sleep levels have been absurdly low. I don't sleep well when she's not around, so I end up delaying trying to sleep until I'm too tired to do anything beyond crawl into bed and collapse, but three times last week I would lie down and then get a work call ten minutes later, meaning several days at work with virtually no sleep. This has made for some interesting conversations with my manager, to be sure.

Further Confusion 2009 approaches swiftly; I'm going to need to arrange the days off of work. Plane tickets are apparently absurdly cheap at the moment, so rather than drive twelve hours each way, we may fly it. I'll discuss the options with Jessie, but I'll confess that I'm having second thoughts. It's not that I won't have a good time. It's not even that I'm afraid I won't have a good time. It's that every time I turn around, it seems like there's some large expense that "we can afford just this once" that keeps me from getting ahead on my goals. Ghost Patrol was absolutely awesome despite my feet giving out and my general exhaustion, but the final bill came out to more than I expected. Jessie's enjoying her trip to her parents', but it was an emergency expense not in the budget that I could only just barely afford. Now FC's approaching, and while I don't expect it to be a bank-breaker, it's yet another bill that I'm somewhat loath to incur, even knowing I'll enjoy the experience.

Of course, I make this complaint knowing that there are people I count among my friends who can't afford to put two beans on the table in the same night. I don't know how to feel about that. I'm reasonably secure in my job, I have a good home, I have roommates with whom to share good times and living expenses, and I'm bitching that I'm not paying off my car enough ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, people I care about are literally starving. Part of me feels really shit-tacular when I think of it that way, but on the other hand, it's not like I haven't been generous. I just wonder if I'm being generous enough. Call it Schindler's Syndrome.

In more cheerful news, I'm slowly adding the back entries from my old website to the Ranch. I did a large lump and then stalled for a while, but I haven't forgotten. Nor, for that matter, have I forgotten the Nail, but it too has languished. Most of Fathera and the end of Ertera goes into preparation for the holidays, and frankly while Jessie's out of town my energy levels are usually pretty low anyway. Plus, work's been a beast through various on-call shifts and teammate vacations, so most nights I've come home, fought crime for a few hours, and then called it a day, when I could sleep at all. Bombarding hordes from towers has sucked up large chunks of my time as well. Plus, starting in the near future, I'm going to be helping to organize a puzzling event to be held in the spring, and somehow on top of all of this I have to help prep for All Fur Fun at the same time.

What I really need is a twenty-eight hour day and a nine-day week.

Is it any wonder I'm not crazy? Is it any wonder I'm sane at all?