Feedback. Reprieve.: Citrus Salad with Navel Orange Cubes

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

-An intriguingly molecular change of pace.-

Staring at a computer screen for 15 hours sucks.

It wasn't a straight 15 hours, thank heavens, as I'm afraid such a feat can be braved only by the truest of IT techs and World of Warcraft gamers and I am not a man of such mouse-clicking mettle; but rather 15 hours within a 30 hour time frame. Stephanie and I did take the occasional break to drink water, pee, or eat something that wasn’t 99% composed of carbs and dairy.

During the recent three day weekend we had rallied ourselves as key-striking soldiers for our most recent literary campaign. An editorial scorched earth policy where we would finally – Finally! – go through in hand-stitched detail all of the recipe feedback forms that had been pouring in from our testers for the cookbook.

Allow me, first, to provide some statistics to ease in comprehension of this task:
  • 72 testers from eight countries, and nearly all 50 states
  • 53 completed and approved recipes
  • 3 testers per recipe, sometime more
Essentially, 160+ pieces of feedback to sift through.

-Let's get ready to sit down and work at the computer!-

Careful as a surgeon we read through each form as they trickled in over the past few months. Now we were going back and re-doing, re-testing, tinkering, or totally scrapping some recipes as testers wove stories of glowing dishes that wowed their friends, belabored the stresses of unclear or rather quirky instructions that left them in stupefied state, and hearing about the joyful discovery of new cheeses and/or the depressing inability to uncover them. Yet, to go over the whole of them again in one fell swoop for editing purposes was… daunting.

Like scaling a mirror-surface mountainside daunting.

More than once we attempted to forcefully distract ourselves with web cartoons or by teasing Rocky, Stephanie’s Aslan-looking cat with a Cowardly Lion demeanor. Yet, when one of us began to waver the other would rap the other on the knuckles like sister of the cloth-come-teacher and sit him or her back down in front of the computer because the work must be done.

-"Oh God, I'm so scared of everything!"-

The only real work breaks were, well, other kinds of work.

Temperamental Disposition - Homemade Honey Mustard

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

-Sarcasm: The primary building block of society. Mustard: possibly a distant second?-

“What are you –“

“Doing?” I cut Fiancé off before he could finish his sentence. “Mortar and pestling mustard seeds in my molcajete that actually has more uses than that of a decorative book end.”

“I was going to say ‘stupid,’ but okay, that explains things too. So why aren’t you using the food processor to grind them up?”

“Shut up. I tried that and the blades sit too high to pulverize the seeds and for some godforsaken reason that I cannot fathom I actually don’t own a spice slash coffee grinder to do this. So,” pause to slam in a few more pounds with the pestle against the crack of the tiny black balls, “molcajete.”


It was one of those projects I was for some reason suddenly obsessed with. You know how it is. Some random little idea for a recipe, activity, or whathaveyou finagles its way into your brain and without warning you're buried deep in every book about the subject and performing strange experiments in your kitchen.

Out of nowhere last week I was overcome with the urge to make homemade mustard. Not that mustard is my favorite ingredient and slather it on everything I eat. I mean, I like it and I go through a fair share of Dijon. At least, as much as any other average person. Yet here I was in my newly tiled kitchen with polished gas range and any number of fancy bits of equipment beating mustard seeds with a rock like some kind of culinary savage.

-The inhumanity of it all!-

Why I let these urges take control of me I will never know.

Oh wait. I do. Because it’s fun.

About Relationships: Champagne Cheese Plate

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

-The following discussion may be easier to read and deal with while eating cheese and drinking champagne due to possible bouts of self-reflection on your part. Just a heads up.-

I had a recent conversation with a co-worker about relationships a subject that we all can assert we know everything about and probably know what is best for everyone except ourselves. Because, hey, let's be honest. It's easier to think you can analyze another person's romantic situation since you're not the one emotionally invested in it (or are you?).

We started discussing various aspects about what makes a relationship work. What do we, as individuals need to do. No situational assessment here. Simply what does a person need to be aware of to make romance more than a fling?

Here's my personal down and dirty opinion.

This Other Person is a Unique Individual:
All those adorable little quirks that you used to fawn over and think were so adorable are about to turn into gargantuan annoyances. No longer will those stray Mountain Dew cans collecting underneath the patio chair become something you roll your eyes at with an “Oh you…” and a wave of your finger in jest. They become a glaring bad habit that begins to scratch at your calves with needle-like claws. Forgetting to clean the cat box, again, becomes tedious. As the odious smells screeches for your attention like a cold fan belt on a winter morning that announces to all your neighbors, “I’m off to work at 6AM! Sorry for the wake up call!” you realize that - holy crap! - you are forever committed to this bad habit.

And you better realize how damn lucky you are. (Just a head’s up: That’s how you are supposed to feel. If you don’t then some serious re-evaluation needs to occur before you strut down that aisle.) If this is the person you truly are willing to commit to then that means accepting each and every albatross about to be strung around your neck.

It means realizing that you will be putting up with their horrible taste in television shows (a new reason to start reading again during those nights when they monopolize the TV with another documentary about mysteries of space or re-runs of Stark Trek: Deep Space Nine). Get ready for the fact that they may not be able to fathom your love of Bravo’s nightly trash-programming and Doctor Who. Accept that they may never fully grasp your obsession with royal biographies and NPR or understand why mayonnaise really does belong on everything sandwich.

Brace yourself that this person’s likes and dislikes may evolve with time. No one is static; frozen in a perpetual state of sameness. They will find new jobs, new hobbies, new friends, new ideas and outlooks. This is all normal – indeed it’s possible that the fundamentals of this person may shift. Yet people are like renovated buildings – the façade may change with new paint and appearances; the supports may shift, come down, and be rebuilt, yet the foundation of that building always remains unchanged.

Your job is to help keep that building in shape. Support it, give it a new touch of paint here and there, and perhaps show it off a bit. In return you get a warm place to live and be happy.

On 2011: Maple-Bourbon Hot Chocolate

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

-Because chocolate and hooch are a fabulous way to hitch off the old year.-

Last year on my New Year's post I dwelled on the importance of resolutions. That, no, I don't believe that they're worthless if you pick goals that are both achievable, self improving, and allow for a bit of fun. When accomplished they're small lampposts that illuminate the year in your life. Tiny memories that may not be significant in your grand adventure but that you will remember regardless.  Memories to reflect on, skills gathered to call upon, knowledge gained to draw from.

2011's list was short and sweet:
  • Learn to play mahjong.
  • Learn to make beef bourguignon.
  • Learn to make macarons.
  • Finish the thesis.
  • Burn a copy of the finished thesis out of spite.
  • Start that project with Stephanie.
  • Perfect making crepes.
As of today, 2012, here's how it looks
  • Learn to play mahjong.
  • Learn to make beef bourguignon.
  • Learn to make macarons.
  • Finish the thesis.
  • Burn a copy of the finished thesis out of spite.
  • Start that project with Stephanie.
  • Perfect making crepes.
Not bad. Not bad at all.

-Still, I do wish I had gotten to those crepes. Probably could have found time if it wasn't for all the bourbon.-

Still, it's not complete. This could be viewed as a failure.

Here's the thing about resolutions that I didn't get into last year, though. If you don't do them all, it's not the end of the world. Don't kick yourself if you didn't learn to scuba dive, make homemade sausage, or take that road trip to Santa Fe.

Life won't end.

Things come up. Deaths, births, changes in work, new friends, new projects, new goals, travel... The Unexpected Happens.

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