Channeling Babette

This is a long post because I have a lot to say. If bored, skip to the image at the end.

I promise to post something shorter soon.

It’s the meds, stupid

What a difference a tiny pill—in this case, just half a tiny pill—can make. For nearly a week, I have been fighting the most pernicious fatigue. It has been hard even to walk around the house with my usual two canes or the walker. The weather has been hot, but even taking that into account all I have been doing is sitting on the couch or in my bed watching videos, playing solitaire, trying to read books, doing some knitting. I have spent a bit of time at the computer scanning in patterns for needlework projects, my new passion. But it was not until this morning that I realized I had not been taking the tiny little half pill of Provigil  to counteract the fatigue of multiple sclerosis.

I got distracted when I was parceling out my meds a week ago and just forgot to include it. Small error, big effect.

Tired and dispirited, I skipped church this morning. But then, in mid-morning, I took that tiny half pill for the first time in nearly a week.

The results were nearly immediate and, I  dare say, astounding.

Confident in the kitchen

About 12:30 p.m. I walked into the kitchen ready to do the dishes I was  too tired to do the day before. I was also thinking about breakfast. What follows is the saga of breakfast and coffee and a whole lot of things that just fell into place.

I felt like Babette in the movie Babette’s Feast, supremely confident, knowing what to do, moving easily from one task to another, everything meshing perfectly.

In the freezer was a box of multigrain waffles. I have never, ever made frozen waffles—they’ve always been from scratch. But since Robert is never awake early enough to have waffles for breakfast it seems too much trouble to make a whole batch, even my famous yogurt waffles from the recipe Sunset magazine paid me $100 for about 20 years ago.

I bought these whole-grain waffles in the “nutritional” frozen section at Safeway, made by a company called Vans that promises lots of good fiber. The catch is you can’t just stick them in the toaster, as I had supposed. You have to heat them for 10 minutes or so in a 400-degree oven to cook them thoroughly.

My nature abhors the idea of heating an oven to 400 degrees just to heat up two waffles. So I start thinking about other things that I can do with a 400-degree oven. Well, there were three big red beets in the crisper drawer. I could roast those. I could also make some bread.

So as I preheated the oven to 400 and started a pot of espresso coffee. I made some sponge for bread using whole wheat flour, some Bob’s Red Mill whole-grain cereal, yeast, sugar, and water. I usually proof bread in the oven using the proof cycle, but of course the oven was preheating to 400, so I set the bowl with the sponge on the stove near the oven vent, where it heated nicely and became quite spongy in about half an hour.

The oven dance: food in, food out

Meanwhile I put the waffles in the oven. Then I cut the beets in half, set them cut-side down in a big cast-iron frying pan, added about half an inch of boiling water from the kettle, put on a lid, and stuck the pan in the oven. Epicurious, the website where I got the technique, says it takes an hour and a half to roast the beets, but half that time is plenty.

About this time, I picked over about a pint of red beans with the idea of quick-soaking them to make chili for dinner.

Next up was eating those waffles, which were pretty good, along with an Americano made with espresso and a bit of boiling water. The sponge for the bread was ready within half an hour, so I added some white flour, salt, sugar, and light rye flour to the Cuisinart, scraped in the sponge, and let it rip. (I usually knead bread in the machine, using about 4 cups of flour to make one large loaf or two small baguettes or maybe 18 rolls, plenty for just two of us.) Pretty soon I had a nicely kneaded piece of dough.

About my wedding…

I greased a round 1-1/2-quart casserole, a stoneware dish in a pattern called Kaira, an iconic 1970s pattern of simple blue and brown bands on a gray background that was part of a set of stoneware I picked out after my mother gave me some money to buy dishes after my marriage. She hadn’t been around for the wedding because she wasn’t speaking to me at that point in my life because I had been living with the man I married. So when Mark and I got married it was a very simple ceremony before a Universal Life minister and two witnesses above an establishment on Durant Avenue in Berkeley called Top Dog. It was called that because it sold hot dogs.

Sorry for the wedding digression, but I thought it might be interesting.

Anyway, I set the kneaded dough into the buttered casserole and put it back on the stove to rise. The beets were still roasting. I had on hand a sugar pie pumpkin and a Delicata squash that I could also roast, so I split each of them in half, scooped out the pulp and seeds, laid them on a foil-lined baking pan, and stuck them in the oven, too. The beets came out, the bread went in. I did some of the dishes, then the beets were cool enough to peel.

The end is near

I finished the dishes. There were a lot; I do not have a dishwasher and I had been eating leftovers for a day and a half. About this time, I drained the red beans, refreshed the water and boiled them until tender.

By the time I was finished with these tasks, the squash and pumpkin were tender. I scooped out the flesh to keep for later; I don’t have definite plans for it. Robert doesn’t like pumpkin pie, so I’ll have to think of something else, or make a pie and invite folks (like Lyza, who loves pumpkin pie) over to help me eat it. If I do that, I’ll have to go to Pastaworks for some real lard, ’cause the Morrell lard they sell at Safeway is so full of preservatives it can be stored at room temperature. Yech, what is in that stuff?

What I know about piecrust and you should, too

You need either lard or Crisco to make a good piecrust; just using butter will get you a rich  crust, but it won’t be flaky. And Crisco, which produces a flaky crust, has that unfortunate oily Crisco taste. I have found the best method to be a combination of lard for flakiness and butter for richness and flavor, although, frankly, I sort of like the taste of lard used all by itself, the way Mom used to make pie.

Tea time with cappuccino

Well, there really is just so much one can do even with the energy of half a tiny white pill. So I finished roasting those pumpkin and squash seeds, cut myself a slice of the bread—which is actually delicious—put some butter on it, and made myself a nice dry cappuccino. I did that by heating some milk in a pan and frothing it with one of those tiny frothers that work just as well as my expensive, heavy industrial-strength milk steamer that takes 15 minutes to heat. The heavy steamer looks great and does a great job, but the little frother can  make tiny bubbles (cue Don Ho) in just a few seconds.

So now it’s 4 p.m., tea time, and I have my dry capp and my slice of wonderful bread with butter, and my computer to write down how deliciously good I feel. Yesterday I awoke in a funk, and in the days before that it was just too hot for me to function adequately, even with my cool vest, with it’s 68-degree chemical packs.

But now all is right with the world. I have beets, bread, pumpkin, and squash for later feasts. The seeds will disappear as soon as they come out of the oven.

I think I’m going to go do some art now, maybe some knitting or needlework. I want to make something for Theresa’s new baby, and I have buttons to cover with cloth for a tote bag from a favorite new craft book. You can see the tote bag behind the jackalope on the cover:

This book has so many good projects in it that I think I will make them all.

September 15, 2013 5:49 PM

September 15, 2013 9:17 PM

I took a break after writing the above, then started in on the chili: onions, garlic, green pepper, a fresh tomato, the kernels from a leftover ear of cooked corn, sun-dried tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, a smidgen of cumin (Robert doesn’t much like cumin), and a chopped chile in adobo sauce. Plus the red beans, of course.

Thick, rich, and flavorful, the chili was good with shredded cheese and a spoonful of Greek yogurt (which I don’t recommend and won’t buy again because it has as much fat in a cup as ice cream and isn’t quite the treat for the same amount of calories and fat).

Of course, one never uses all of a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, so I apportioned the chiles into small snack bags, enclosed them in a bigger freezer bag and froze them for future use. I do the same with tomato paste, freezing it in 1-tablespoon portions, ready to plop into a sauce or gravy.

And finally, more dirty dishes. My day is done, the kitchen is clean, and I have lots of ingredients cooked and ready for soups and salads.

9:24 PM

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