And in the realm of "I really should have said something before...."

Yes, it's my birthday today.  Many thanks to the kind friends who are organized enough to remember such things (I don't know how you do it!) - your timely messages make me smile.

And I'm giving myself a belated birthday present: Joy and I are going North.

Next weekend, from Thursday the 13th to Monday the 17th, we're going to be in various parts of New England.  We'll start out in New Hampshire on Thursday and Friday, and then will go to Massachusetts on Saturday, and will be in Connecticut on Saturday night, departing Monday morning.

So, um, is anybody in the Boston area who's reading this free on Saturday?  Maybe for breakfast or brunch?

And is anyone in the Middletown area (I'd include Manchester in this, by the way) free on Sunday?  (Or, hmmm, possibly for Saturday night dinner?)

Yeah, I should have posted sooner.  You'll notice that I'm not one of those organized birthday people - not even for my own birthday.  Sorry!

Anyway, if you can read this, I'd love to see you, and introduce you to my big one-year-old girl.  If folks could let me know in the comments whether/when they might be free, I'd appreciate it.  And if I miss you, know that I'm thinking of you.

(no subject)

One year ago today, a little girl came along and made me a mother.  Nothing within recent memory has changed my life as profoundly as that act.

So much I want to say about that, but she's done eating now and wants to be up and doing.  So for now I'll just say:

"Happy Birthday, Joy."

(no subject)

Just wanted to let my LJ-community know that I'm taking a short hiatus from blogging altogether, to consider how and where (and whether) it fits into my life right now.  If I continue, it will be elsewhere (given that LJ has not revoked their tagging-by-others policy, as far as I know), but if at all possible I will try to stay connected to my LJ friendslist.

Winter, and the turn of the year, are good times for reflection for me, so I think I will do some, perhaps with old-fashioned pen and paper.  If you are reading this, know that I wish you well.

(no subject)

Over at lj_biz, I just posted the following explanation of why I currently plan to leave LJ over this new tagging-others'-entries policy.  It's philosophical, but at least it served to clarify my thinking.

The search for alternatives continues; my deepest thanks to those friends who have made suggestions.  Can anyone tell me how to back up my journal here?  Oh, what an enormous pain in the patookus this all is.  Stupid conscience.

Anyway, the explanation:

I can accept the self-tagging as a concept, but for me the tagging by others changes the character of the LiveJournal community into something in which I fear I can no longer participate.

I’m willing to bet that my mild-mannered little journal, regulated by my own personal sense of public decorum, would never incur a tag.  Yet I cannot say this policy will not affect me, because it wreaks a profound change on the nature of the LJ community members’ relationships to one another - it restructures who we are for each other in a deeply harmful way.

LJ’s current functions institutionalize benevolent behaviors.  The blog invites us into self-declaration; the friends list invites us into relationship; commenting invites us into dialogue.

The function of tagging others’ entries as “inappropriate” to particular contexts, however, structures us to become not one another’s peers and dialogue partners, but one another’s judges.  Worse, because in this medium we represent ourselves only by what we say, by giving others the power to dictate what we may say to whom, it gives the community power over our very existence in this medium.  You have sanctioned others to have a potentially binding effect over what we get to say to whom, and thus to some extent over who we get to be to whom, on LJ.

You are institutionalizing a community relationship of judgment and existential restriction.  This is not a relationship designed to bring out the grace in human nature, I assure you.  In my opinion, it tends towards things like McCarthyism.  It tends towards things like the USSR before glasnost and Maoist China in the days when the government encouraged “self-criticism.”  It makes possible an online world of being informed on at any time by our neighbors.  I read my 1984 (back when I was 16, by the way), and I know doubleplus ungood when I see it. 

I thought it might interest you to know that this function of tagging others’ journals will cause someone like me, with my mild little posts about my 9-month-old daughter or my solar oven, to take my content elsewhere.  It grieves me deeply to do so, but I cannot in good conscience be a party to this.

Thought Police


LJ just announced a new feature: the ability to flag one's content as "adult concepts," or to otherwise indicate that entries might not be suitable for those under 14.  Now, when I first read about this, I thought it was the ability to flag one's own content - and it is - but when I read about it here, as the 11/29 entry in LJ-biz, it seems that the feature also includes the ability to tag other people's content in this way.

You know, I think this might be it for me on LJ.

Now, I don't post any such content, and never intend to, because to me, the internet is a public place, no matter how locked the entry, and I won't say anything in this venue that I'm not comfortable being associated with in front of thousands of people.  And I grant you that LJ's advertised procedure for this "flagging by others" is that you have to be flagged multiple times, and then it gets reviewed by actual human beings before anything happens, which seems to be an attempt to mitigate abuse of this policy.

But this is still way too thought-police-y for me.  I would far rather protect children from censorship and all its potentially thought-maiming, soul-stunting consequences, than protect them into a box built by other people's dictation of what is and is not acceptable to say, or for children to hear.

So, does anyone know of another blogging medium that does not police content in this way?  'Cuz if I can find a good one, I think I'll go there instead.  Maybe this policy will never affect me personally, but I don't intend to be a party to it.


Old bike, anyone?

Before I freecycle my old bike from high school, it occurs to me to ask if anyone local who's reading this might like it.

Here's the description I've written for freecycle:
Grey men's 10-speed Fuji Supreme bicycle, almost 25 years old but perfectly rideable.  Thin wheels, approx. 24" in diameter; I'm 5'2" and rode this bike, so it's not for the very tall.  Detachable front wheel.  Rat trap, gel seat, spare inner tubes of indeterminate age.  Was tuned up in 1999 or so, when it got new brake pads and new black-white-and-grey camouflage tape on the handlebars; chain is in decent condition.  It's been kept indoors most of its life when not ridden.
I don't know how to screen comments (if that can even be done from a free account), so if you want the bike but don't want to comment here, write me at myfirstname.mylastname at (sub in my actual names, of course) and let me know - or comment here if you've a mind.  If I don't hear otherwise by tomorrow, I'll go ahead and freecycle it.

The basement cleanout continues!  (Slowly, slowly, slowly....)

The Winter Palate: Bacon, Cabbage

In the way that writers sometimes use story prompts to stimulate their writing, I use recipe prompts to stimulate my cooking.  One of my favorites is: How can I use up X?

This is a particularly fun prompt because it tends to cascade: in planning how to use up X, my solution may yield extra Y, which starts the whole process over again.  This works both for individual ingredients and whole dishes, stimulating new dishes and new menus respectively - and sometimes both at once.

Case in point: two factors influenced this past week's cooking.  First, we had leftover butternut squash and apples from the dish we contributed to Thanksgiving.  (I like this dish because not only is it in season, it's also a crockpot recipe, meaning that it adapts easily to solar oven cooking - which we could have done except that, due to late leaffall this year, we still didn't have enough sun in our oh-so-shady backyard!  Still, we just threw it in the crockpot and let it cook overnight - an easy Thanksgiving contribution, though HUGE, as it turned out.)

Second, over the weekend I'd succumbed to the lure of the bacon in the freezer (baconbaconbaconbacon - death to any hope of my being a full-time vegetarian.  We loves us our bacon in this household!)  Now usually when we freeze bacon, we wrap it as individual slices first, so we only take out what we need for one meal - but this time I had bought nitrate-free bacon from the farmer's market, and it had been sold to me in a pre-frozen package, which I transferred from their freezer straight to ours - all two dozen or so pieces, which couldn't be refrozen and which, because of their relatively preservative-free state, would have to be used fast.  (And even we can't use that much bacon at a sitting, or even two sittings.  We tried.)

So, what would go with butternut squash, that would use bacon, and also use more CSA vegetables I still had knocking about the fridge?  I chose a scalloped cabbage recipe, that not only used CSA cabbage, green pepper, and celery, but also incorporated both the bacon itself and the bacon fat rendered in cooking, which became part of the white sauce.  Voila - add chicken apple sausages, and one has a tidy little winter meal or two.

Or five.  Or six.  Thank goodness for our weekly potluck - after two days of this menu, I took the rest of the squash and the rest of the scalloped cabbage there, for our friends to enjoy (which they did - along with the asian pear pizza I brought for dessert, clearing more  old CSA produce out of our fridge.)  I'm happy to repeat a meal once or even twice if it's good - less cooking for me - but after that I start looking for ways to share or freeze it.)

But of course it was a HUGE cabbage I used, and so we had leftovers of that too - but I only discovered that after I'd boiled the whole thing.  I knew plenty of things I could have used the uncooked cabbage for, but what could I do with already-cooked cabbage?

The answer: potato-cabbage croquettes.  I had enough for a double batch, so I fried them all up and froze the extras - additions to two more future meals.  I didn't have any easy meat ready except for more of this darned bacon, but not enough for a meal if I were going to throw the rest into bean-with-bacon soup as I'd planned.  So I stole a trick from the scalloped cabbage and made bacon gravy - a hint of meat for the meal, bulked up and dressed up the croquettes, and used the last of  the bacon too.  I'd meant to serve it with a side salad, but it was so late by the time I finished that I just opened a can of green beans.  I figured preserved beans would still be in keeping with winter options....

All in all, for my first week of winter-palate cooking, I'm ridiculously pleased with myself.  I look forward to seeing how this evolves.

Winter Food Game

Now that the CSA has wound up for the year, I have wanted to invent a new game for the winter (and early spring, I guess) that will shape my cooking into both a creative outlet and a learning experience, the way that the CSA does during the rest of the year.

I think I have one now.  But first, a little story.

Through the CSA, I have come into a deeper relationship than I've ever had before with the seasonality of food.  This very simple truth - that in the ordinary course of things, certain foods are harvested and available at certain times, and not at other times - just fascinates me.  I mean, it sounds so obvious, right - but we don't live that way.  Everything's available all the time at supermarkets - if it's not in season here, it is in Chile.  As I've been googling for recipes, I'm consistently struck by the presumption implicit in the ingredients lists, that acorn squash and scallions and tomatoes and green peas (or whatever - this is my best grab at a seasonal mishmosh, but I'm still pretty ignorant) will all be available together.  And yet, how long have they been so?  The last century?  Less?  Greenhouses aside, how much air traffic and trucking and refrigeration does it take to make them available together?

All this was more or less invisible to me before the CSA and the farmer's market.  I had very little idea what grew when.  In my first few CSA boxes, I was shocked when all we had for weeks in mid- and late May was greens, greens, and more greens - I had to go onto the CSA website and confront the harvest calendar in order to find out that the cornucopia of vegetable varieties that I had been expecting would not show up until mid-summer at the very earliest, because they just plain weren't ready until then.

Now, the CSA runs mid-May until late November - about six months.  Over the past two years, I've become pretty darn proficient with all those greens in the spring and all those sweet potatoes in the fall.  But now, I'm curious - what about the other six months of the year?  I've learned the available summer and fall foods in their seasons - but what about the winter?  What about the early spring, before those greens come 'round again?  What's available in the leaner times?

And then I get to dreaming....

I imagine myself back in pioneer days (go on, try it, it's fun) - what would I have done then?  I would have a root cellar, perhaps, with potatoes and sweet potatoes and carrots and parsnips and turnips and rutabagas.  I'd have onions strung on strings and hanging in bunches.  I'd have piles of winter squashes.  I'd have barrels of sugar and cornmeal and flour.  I'd have milk and butter and cheeses.  I'd have preserved meats.  I'd have dried beans.  Would I have cabbages?  Would I have other greens - lettuce, kale, chard, things like we were getting in our CSA boxes as recently as a few weeks ago?

So that's my game now - exploring the bounty of the pioneer winter: soups and stews with squashes and beans.  I'll learn to stretch my meats, to portion foods to last for several sittings, to fill in the corners with salads or with inexpensive starches, and yet never to have it feel like privation.  I'll play the game of thrift in new ways, which always makes me feel clever.  I may cheat a little with green vegetables, just to watch our nutrition, but I'll keep my friendships with greens, and become even better friends with cabbage.  And just to throw in some extra spice, so to speak, I'll start with things that Joy will also be able to eat, and supplement my current supply of frozen purees while hopefully broadening her tastes.

I've already started picking out recipes.  Painting with a winter pioneer palette!  I can hardly wait!

Final CSA/New Game

In this, the last CSA box of the year, we got:
  • salad greens
  • radishes
  • fingerling potatoes
  • a head of cauliflower
  • celery
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • a rutabaga
  • a butternut squash
  • a head of garlic
  • sweet potatoes
  • apples
I traded with our share partners, such that they got the cauliflower and the fingerling potatoes and the butternut squash, and we got the rutabaga and the parsnips and the sweet potatoes, as well as the radishes because they never want the radishes.

We spent the first part of this week finishing up the root vegetable and sausage soup and lima bean risotto from Sunday, adding the salad greens to round things out.  I'm essentially vamping tomorrow, because Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is date night - so I'll make the gumbo, finally, with the last of the salad greens as a side dish.  Then I'll make a root vegetable and chicken bake on Saturday, which will use all our root veggies and most of our garlic as well.  Sometime next week, I'll make a shrimp and radish curry.

In the weeks to follow, there'll be borscht, and the fish/cabbage/potato/apple bake, and possibly some stuffed cabbage leaves.  (Hmm, and maybe a black bean soup for the last of the celery and green peppers?)  As for the sweet potatoes, some will be for Joy, and probably some will go in soup, and there may be a pie at some point.  That will be the last of the CSA - and as I look at it, it will last us several weeks more....

I've decided on a new food game for winter, but that will be the subject of another post.