Sunday, September 28, 2008

Iced coffee for archaeologists

Whoa, a sort-a archaeology post!

So, coffee is part of being an archaeologist. There are archaeologists who don't drink coffee. But they are weird. Coffee is something MOST archaeologists need. No, not "like" or even "desire," but NEED. In a kind of if-they-could-only-invent-an-IV-drip-that-could-put-the-coffee-directly-into-my-veins kind of way. Of the two digs that I'm on per year, one in Israel and one in Jordan, the one in Israel used to be the best-coffee dig. We had The Sacred Coffee Pot that brewed REAL coffee, because most of Israel believes that Nescafe instant coffee is the god-given drink of the chosen people. If so, God really hates the Jews. I wouldn't wish Nescafe on anyone. Well, maybe the Taliban. Those bastards are drinking delicious Arabic coffee in their hidey-holes and I'm stuck with Nes? Gah!

Anyway, this year the most horrible thing happened. The Sacred Coffee Pot, brought to Israel in the mid 80's, surviver of two intifadas, two confrontations with Iraq, two American presidents by the name of Bush, one fire (which it started), several blown fuses (which it caused) and god knows how many dig seasons... died. Now, normally at 4 in the morning, you aren't brewing coffee, you make Nes to get you going, but we had a carafe out on the site for coffee, proper coffee, with breakfast. And then there was pre-pottery washing coffee at 3:30. And I have to tell you, Nes, at 3:30 is horrible. You are awake to actually taste the horror that is the instant coffee.

So now the coffee on the Jordan dig is better. If you can get to the Bodum coffee press while there's still coffee in it. I used to get up earlier than the people in my cabin to get to the coffee, but when it became apparent that they were getting up WAY to early and I really didn't need to go very far (I worked in the house, meaning instant access to instant coffee all day), it seemed prudent to sleep in that extra half hour. So no French press for me. It was Nes and nothing but Nes, all the way.

The problem with coffee on an archaeological dig in the desert, however, is that it's damn hot (both coffee and environs) and really, you'd give just about anything for a nice cold lemonade. Provided that the lemonade had A LOT of caffein in it. What to do?

Well, this year was the first year we had REAL MILK for our coffee. Yeah, we really were living it up. I mean, the toilets still don't flush and you have to use the water from the shower to flush them (only when you have to) and you can't put toilet paper in them (use the little trash cans), but we had REAL MILK. This led to the creation of Iced Coffee.

God bless Dr. McP! This is why he has the degree, you know.

Archaeologists have a little bit of MacGyver in them. Everyone thinks that archaeologists run around with trowels and now-a-days GPS units (I've actually never seen one) and we dig holes and look at broken pottery. We do that. But we also have to work in substandard conditions with broken materials. Archaeology is a field where, if you are not at the top, you don't get the nice shinny toys. You have to make do with what you've got. And often what you've got is duct tape and styrofoam.

So how to make iced coffee in the desert.
You need: a working freezer that makes ice, water, fire (of some sort), Nescafe, milk, one pot to heat water in, one large mug to drink the coffee from, sugar if you like that sort of thing.

Iced Coffee for Archaeologists
Step 1:Make sure you have the above items. You cannot make iced coffee without ice. Really, you can try, but I doubt you'll succeed.
Step 2:Add the normal amount of Nescafe to your mug as you would for a normal large mug of hot coffee. Put some sugar in there. Normally I add my sugar to my hot coffee after I've melted the instant coffee with hot water, but in this case, it doesn't matter.
Step 3:Add just enough boiling water to melt coffee and sugar into a nice black, slightly thick, soup. Should only take up the bottom fourth of your mug. That had better be a big mug, by the way, because you'll wish you had more otherwise.
Step 4:Add ice, right up to the top of the mug. Since the ice is going to melt, make sure that you used potable water in making the ice cubes. If your water is icky bad and has to be boiled or iodined or whatever, make sure you do that before you make the ice cubes.
Step 5:Swirl it around a bit, maybe smash the ice with a knife, trowel, small hand axe, whatever, if you like your ice in smaller pieces. I'm lazy and I want the yummy coffee NOW so I skip this step.
Step 6:Add milk right up to the top. Some folks like to add a bit more hot water to help melt the ice cubes, but when it's over 100F (or worse, 50C), the ice is going to melt pretty damn fast anyway. I say, enjoy the icy coolness.
Step 7:Stir. You'd be amazed at how often I forget this step.
Step 8:Drink.

If you'd like to feel like a real archaeologist and try this at home, I suggest you try to stick to what we really have in the field. So ignore the microwave. Some digs have hot water heaters (like the one in Israel does), others have kettles. Try it out with the kettle. A great number of archaeologists can congregate around a boiling pot, it's like the water cooler in offices. For your coffee mug, do not even think that your normal coffee mug will suffice. It will not. Think thermos, flower vase, jug, some large vessel that can be filled with coffee.

If you are really nuts, you can even dig a bunch of holes in the back yard first - although if you are really that fired up about feeling like a real archaeologist, I'd suggest just going on a dig. Digging holes in the backyard is great... right up until you mow the lawn.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Spread the miser... joy.... I meant joy.

I have the WORST ear worm EVER. And so I share.

Do you remember The Connells? 74'-75'? Oh, you will. You will.

Yes, I am the Keeper of All Knowledge

It happens in all relationships. That moment when it becomes apparent that one of you has been chosen to be the Keeper of All Knowledge. How do you know if that person is you?

Question 1: Have you ever been asked "Where are my keys?"
  • If the answer is "No, I have never been asked this question" then the answer is, no, you are NOT in fact the Keeper of All Knowledge.
  • If the answer is "Yes" proceed to the next question.

Question 2: Do you know where the keys are?
  • If the answer is "No, where did you put them?" You are NOT the Keeper of All Knowledge. You are the Other Person. See below for enlightenment as to your position in the relationship.
  • If the answer is "No, I have no idea where the keys are." It means you have a way to go yet, young padawan of knowledge.
  • If the answer is "Yes" then congratulations, you are the Keeper of All Knowledge.

This knowledge will include EVERYTHING from the location of keys that do not belong to you to what was that strange beast that ran in front of the car the other night.

On the other night in question, my husband and I were driving along when this small furry beast zips across the road.
Beast: ZIP!
AG: Whoa! What the hell was that?
DB: I don't know. What kind of animal was it?

Now if you think that's an odd response to my question, you perhaps are not the Keeper of All Knowledge in your relationship. But are you familiar with this conversation?
You: Where are my keys?
Other Person: I don't know. Where did you put them?

Obviously, if you knew where you put them, you wouldn't ask, now would you? But the Other Person is not the Keeper of All Knowledge, so they cannot tell you. They can only ASK the questions, not answer them. (See, I told you enlightenment would follow.) This is why the Danish Boy asked me what animal it was, after I had already exclaimed "what the hell was that?" If the conversation with the keys is very familiar to you, but you are most certainly not the Other Person, you are probably the Keeper of All Knowledge in training. Here's a hint to get you on the path to further enlightenment: it does not matter if you can ever find your keys, as long as you always know where the Other Person's keys are.

The Keeper of All Knowledge has an important role in the relationship. You can be guilty of not knowing everything all the time, but you have to be able to pull answers out of your ass every now and then to keep your title.

So two nights ago, when the DB was reading the instructions for deep-freezer maintenance (in Danish, otherwise guess who would have read them already) and then began ranting about how there was no button for super-freeze, it was my job, nay my mission, to then walk over to the deep freeze and say "you mean this button right here that says 'super'?" And then push the button.

In his defense, the Danish word for super-freeze-button (which is a very long word that I can't pronounce let alone spell) is not in the least bit like the word "super" which was the label above the button. The "super" button also looked suspiciously like an indicator light.

But that's the job of the Keeper of All Knowledge, to know that sometimes an indicator light is really a button in disguise and that descriptions of items in manuals are often not at all like the real object.

Quite often I get phone calls from the DB asking very odd questions. Because, he says, it's easier to ask me than to google.

Yeah, it makes me all tingly too.

Hence our conversation in the car the other night.

So what was the animal that zipped across the road? Well, it could have been a European Polecat. It wouldn't be the first polecat we've seen.
I assure you, that is a picture of European Polecats and not ferrets. The going theory is that ferrets are the long domesticated versions of the polecat. They can breed and produce viable offspring. But this is probably not what we saw.

It was more likely a European Pine Marten.

It had the fox like tail and was very dark in color. See the puffy tail? The dark coloring? Isn't it cute??

Yes, I am the Keeper of All Knowledge.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yesterday was a bad day

And so I'm not going to even talk about it.

Today has been better.

To try to get a handle on all the things that I need to do and break them down into manageable lumps so that SOMETHING can get done every day, I've broken the list into sections and then vow to do one thing from each section. The sections are:
1) do one thing involving paperwork (someday this will be the dissertation section).
2) unpack something
3) figure out dinner and shop if you must
4) move something

Obviously once the move is finished, I can scratch two sections off my list. I'll probably have to make a new list, but for the moment, this keeps me sane. I do not have to work on one thing all day, feeling like I'm falling behind on something else and I can feel at the end of the day like shit got done. And you know how important it is to feel like you've gotten shit done.

Also, because I'm a little OCD, I like to do these things in order.

So if you'll excuse me, I have to go shopping now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grand plans laid to waste

Okay, a little over dramatic. I was going to write about the frittata I had made.

It went like this:
What is a “frittata”?

Well, the word “fri” comes from our word “Friday” which everyone knows really means “free day” or day of freedom and since the 4th of July has been known to fall on Friday this means that not only should you be very free with this recipe, but it may also be your patriotic duty to be free with this recipe.

The word “tata” is another word for boobs, which are also known as “jugs” which are containers that are known to hold all kinds of stuff in them.

Therefore a frittata is a casserole where you are free to put whatever you want into it.

Thus ends our brief lesson about the etymology of the frittata.

But the frittata turned out to be a bit of a disaster. I need to play with the recipe a bit.

But something also rather strange happened with the bread I baked and with the potatoes I roasted the other day. I hesitate to say, in case reality warps in order to bring this into being, but my oven may be *erk* on the fritz. When you turn the oven to 200* C (400 F for those who care) you should not be able to comfortably stick your arm in there for any length of time. I mean, that's hot, right?

I'm not sure how to test this because my meat thermometer only goes up to 100 C. I suppose I could set it for 100...

I'll think about doing that later.

Meanwhile, I now know why people swear by their bread machines. Gah, the bread I made included the instruction: stir the dough, adding more flour, to form a firm dough. Eventually I had to just take off my rings and dive in with one hand while the other kept shoveling flour into the mess. Sticky sticky dough.

Which would then not come out of the bowl or off the scrubby I used to clean the bowl or my poor encrusted hand.

It tastes pretty good. But I added caraway seeds as per instructions and turns out neither the DB nor I like caraway all that much. Oh well. I only made FOUR loaves.

Which will last about 4 days.

Gad, with only the two of us, you'd think the food would last longer. I got $20 to get us through this week. It looks like cabbage soup and pasta and pesto for the next 7 days.

Today is also chore day. I hate chores. I would much rather clean when I should be doing something else, cleaning is how I procrastinate. So what do I do when I'm procrastinating the procrastinating?

Write blog posts, obviously.

But I don't wanna wash the floor. Or take out the trash. Or go to recycling.

I also do not want to go shopping for milk and spaghetti. And I certainly do not want to chop up 6 cups of cabbage for the soup tonight.

I do not want to go to the other apartment and try to pack stuff and move stuff.


I think I do want to hold a pity-me party and sip cognac while in my pjs and watch Dirty Jobs on Discovery.

I don't think I have a choice however.

Really, would expect any less of me?

From the lovely folks over at Quizfarm - I present: Which Scifi crew would you best fit in with? I think it shows that I really need to get off this planet. Who's with me?

You Scored as Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

You are a light and humorous person. No one can help but to smile to your wit. Now if only the improbability drive would stop turning you into weird stuff.

Moya (Farscape)
Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)
Serenity (Firefly)
Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)
Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
Enterprise D (Star Trek)
Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)
SG-1 (Stargate)
Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)
Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)
Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)
FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Supermarket Nexus of Evil

Where I grew up, supermarkets are separated by shopping centers. Each supermarket had it's own shopping center (this would be the supermarket axis of evil, a separate post) which would act as a buffer between supermarkets. The supermarkets would then compete with each other, which is what supermarkets do in a capitalist market economy regulated by labor laws.

Not so in Denmark.

In Denmark, where the labor laws are so strict that they actually keep the worker from actually having to perform any work, supermarkets tend to congregate in what can only be defined as a Supermarket Nexus of Evil.

Within a two block radius I have the following supermarkets: SuperBest, SuperBrusen, Aldi, and Netto. You may think that I am incredibly lucky to live so close to so many supermarkets, but you forget, this is the nexus of evil not amazingly convenient. They've all decided to band together (hence "nexus") and, instead of competing with one another, not lift a finger to differentiate themselves other than the price of the food inside. Everyone knows that Netto and Aldi are the cheapest, followed by SuperBest and then SuperBrusen. They all have the same type of food. You pick your supermarket based on the degree of snobbishness or elitism that you can afford.

(The AG shops at Netto, much to the DB's horror, because we po'. As soon as the DB will stop hyperventilating over the loss of social standing we've taken through my choice of supermarket, he'll realize how much money we are saving. And I may be able to afford to keep buying the whole-bean-organic-free-trade coffee that he loves so much. Or not, because we po'.)

So how could this nexus of supermarkets be *evil*? Because the entire nexus shuts its doors at 5pm on Saturday and does not open up again until Monday. There's no point in being open on Sunday, it's not like you're competing with the other supermarkets in the nexus! This would not be a problem if Denmark were the type of place where you can buy a weeks worth of food in one go. But Denmark is not that kind of place, despite my best efforts, and continues to be a place where you buy small amounts of food frequently.

And 5 pm on Saturday is just too damn early for me to know what we're going to eat on Sunday. Especially since it seems the DB is going to go through a liter of yogurt every two days.

What is the AG to do? Walk her damn self to the next damn nexus is what. Because there is another nexus 5 blocks away, one that is open on Sunday. All those supermarkets are open on Sunday. One of them is even open really really late into the night. There is no discernible reason why this nexus is AG friendly and the local one is not.

And if it weren't so damn far away I'd go there every day and show my support through economic means. Five blocks is damn far when you are carrying everything in a backpack and two large shopping bags. I'd like to see you carry all your groceries home.

I'm just glad that we don't live in the bedroom community of Feldballe, where the single supermarket is open M-F 9-5 and on Sat. from 7am to 11am. Honestly, when do people go shopping?

Oh, wait, that's right, no one in Denmark actually works M-F 9-5...

Silly me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Living in a state of chaos

The last few days have been, well, a bit odd.

There was the moving, which is still happening. I really ought to be unpacking, but I've run out of places to put things. I also ought to go to the other apartment and pack up more things, except where am I going to put THOSE things and I think I need more gas and I don't have enough cash to do that and buy food.

But what has really thrown everything for a loop is the construction that is going on. We had the windows on one side of the apartment replaced, which included the windows in my bedroom, my office, the living room and the dining room. Which left the bathroom as the only room in the house that was unaffected. The bathroom has no windows. I cannot go spend all day in there, we have roommates and presumably, they pee. So I've been a bit cold of late. Yesterday the carpenter put the insulation in, thank god, which means I can no longer hear the street so much and the drafts have finally lessened. Of course, the sun then immediately came out and it is now warmer outside than in here.

I've turned on the heat, but it feels as if the cold has permanently invaded my living space! Perhaps it is the sawdust. Sawdust seems to be everywhere, even in places that it shouldn't, like the refrigerator. I think the sawdust is releasing cold into the room.

Don't tell me that this is thermodynamically impossible.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cup of creamy goodness picked in our own backyard!

Okay, that title is misleading - but this post will end with a recipe for the best kick-ass cream of mushroom soup EVER! Cause, I don't know if you know, but cream of mushroom soup is actually tasty when it's not out of a can. Canned cream of mushroom soup should be banned. It's only worth making bad casseroles and no one should have to eat bad casseroles!

I was not passionate about cream of mushroom soup until last night. But last night I had a taste-bud epiphany and I must now spread the word.

But first a digression - All the windows on one side of the apartment, which includes my bedroom and my office are being replaced. Yesterday the old windows were ripped out and new ones nailed in. This means no heat on all day yesterday. Now the new windows are all open so that the carpenter can easily pack insulation around them. So, still no heat. I haven't felt my nose, fingers or toes for the last 36 hours. God I hope tonight I can turn on the heat and not feel the icy draft that is common to Denmark in the fall.

Denmark in the fall, often gorgeous, but freakin' chilly.

Back to the soup. In order to get to last nights feast of flavor I have to go back two days, to when the Danish Boy was assigned a story by his editor. "I want a story about picking mushrooms!" the editor cried. And for whatever reason, the DB was chosen to write, what he calls "a puff piece." I say it is a great chance to try to write a gonzo-journalist story. l I even offered to write it for him. I was really exited by the idea, as you can see.

So yesterday, my boy gets a chance to write a story that would be relevant for the next day's paper, but because his newspaper is trying this new approach, called the "planned newspaper," his editor refused to let him off the hook and so the DB headed off into the woods to pick mushrooms with a nature guide, instead of writing up a story about the latest Gallup poll on the voting youth of Denmark.

Digression - what the heck is a "planned newspaper"? I mean, that's why they call it the NEWS, fercryinoutloud! You can't plan the news. Or, if you could, could you also give me tomorrow night's stock figures? Honestly, once I get done straightening out the danish political system (psst, everyone who hates the current government, instead of voting for 5 different parties, thus splitting the vote and ensuring that the government will not ever change, could you all just pick ONE FREAKING PARTY TO BACK! And hey, Social Democrats, stop pushing a nanny state solution during your campaigns. No one wants a nanny state, which is why Venstre keeps winning. And Venstre, dump the goddamned Danskfolkparty - they suck and anyone is better than that poor excuse for the KKK.) I'm going to have a go at the newspapers. First on my list, no more "planned newspapers" because that's just dumb. Second, stop laying off journalists and trying to compete with the free papers. The free papers are going to collapse soon, the economy cannot afford it. Nyavisen died, so will the others. Lowering yourself to their tabloid standards is tarnishing your reputation. Gah!

Anyway, the DB goes mushroom picking. He learned what mushrooms you can eat and how they are often in symbiotic accord with certain species of trees and all kinds of other things. He was bored stiff. The DB loves nature. He likes to walk through it and look at it. It's me who points to things and says "what's that!" Or "oh, look at the raccoon tracks! You can tell that their 'coons because of the little thumb print here!" I really should have been the person on that hike and the person writing that story. Damn and tarnation.

So after an hour in the woods (which, incidentally, are all over Aarhus, carefully cultivated and well kept) he brought back a bag of mushrooms. "Here" he says, "I slayed dinner."

Yup, my hero returns from the hunt. Only later would he admit that the guide had picked them. But during that time did I question his ability to pick edible mushrooms? No I did not. I accepted those mushrooms as dinner and up I cooked 'em.

Of course how I could cook them was another story. They were a little weird looking. Not your button mushroom, that's for sure. The DB suggested that I saute them up and serve them that way. Pshaw! I can do better than that. And I did.

So I now present the most awesome of Cream of Mushroom Soups (brought to you by

Digression - all of my measuring cups and things are still packed. I highly doubt the accuracy of the IKEA silverware as measuring spoons. Also, I didn't have enough mushrooms. Actually, although I did use everything listed in the ingredients, I sort of played with the amounts. Okay, so the soup I made may not be exactly what I was supposed to be making. I'll put my changes in italics in the right hand side of this table that I spent hours writing the code for. Hey, I learned something new - html code sucks ass.

Cream of Mushroom Soup Archaeogoddess Style
5 cups sliced mushrooms - any type4 cupsish wild mushrooms, I have no idea what type
1 1/2 cups chicken broth2 cups or 500 ml, because that's what one cube of bouillon makes
1/2 cup chopped onionA handful of chopped onion, because it looked like it was probably 1/2 cup
1/8 tsp dried thymeThat's a crying shame, I poured some in my palm and then added another dash or two or more. Hey, I like thyme
3tbsp butterTotally put in 50g or so, which is more than 3 tbsp, but I like butter
3 tbsp flourI put three soup spoons of flour in, which were not leveled or in any way properly measured
1/4 tsp saltOr perhaps more, I used my palm to measure and I'm not good at that at all
1/4 tsp pepperAbout the same amount as the salt
1 cup half and halfUsed whipping cream. And probably more than a cup, since 1 cup is 235 ml but I used the whole carton - which is 250 ml
1 tbsp sherryHa! A soup spoon and a lot more. I like sherry.

1) In a large pot cook mushrooms, onions, thyme and broth until tender - 10-15 minutes. So easy!
2) Puree, it's okay to leave some chunks. Oh thank god for my immersion blender! But there wasn't really enough soup to use it easily, so I had to sort of turn the pot at an angle... that's okay, I am totally doubling the recipe for next time.
3) In a smaller pot, melt butter and whisk in flour until smooth. Add salt, pepper and half and half. Mix thoroughly and add mixture to soup. The recipe writer originally wanted you to do this in a big bowl and add the mushroom mix to the cream, but that's just dumb and uses too many pots.
4) Bring soup to a boil, cook until thickened. About 30 seconds if you use whipping cream. Add sherry. Season to taste. And eat that bad boy while it's hot! So freakin' good!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The trouble with research.

The trouble with research is that it piles up. There is the stuff you need to research and thus goes on a to-do list and takes up valuable thought processes and then there is the physical research debris that you cannot get rid of, because you never know when you might write that article or thesis or need to start a bonfire.

The result is that you have potential research piling up metaphysically, current research piling up on your desk, and previous research piling up on your bookshelves.

I have research coming out of my ears. And most of it, tragically is not my own.

No, I'm not stealing other people's research, I am talking about the Danish Boy's research.

If we were to measure book shelf space and use that to judge quantity of research the numbers would go:
9 feet of research space for the archaeogoddess
16 for the Danish Boy - and that's only archaeological research, there's about another 2 feet of philosophy, 1 foot for journalism, and 2 feet that I'll be generous and say we share since they are encyclopedias (of ancient Egypt and the Near East, which I am not currently working on, but hey).

The most frustrating thing of all, at least to me, is that he's not even doing archaeology any more!! That's valuable space that is being taken up with large binders labeled "Akkadian" and "MB tombs: method and theory". Some of these binders are thicker than the binder I have for one chapter of my dissertation. (Space taken up by all dissertation chapter research: 1.5 feet.)

This is because we have very different ways of doing research. I tend to read something, take a page or two of notes and then if I need to see the book or article again, I check it out of the library, again. I deal with finite quantities of data at a time, chapter by chapter and so apart from the huge stack of library books I may have circulating around on the floor, my research space remains small. Lifetime of sharing bedroom and/or office space teaches you to minimize. The DB, on the other hand, has no problem collecting EVERYTHING he may ever need in perpetuity, because he's always had lots of space.

Now, you may be thinking, why, since you've moved and all, don't you just pack it all up and put it away in storage.

Because, dear reader, while the research may not be so useful for me or him, it is useful to the rest of mankind. Also known as those other archaeology student friends of mine.

I have become the one stop shop for research. Need to know something fast? Ask the AG, if she doesn't know it off hand, she can look up the right reference. Got a large topic and don't know where to start? Ask the AG and she'll put you on the right track and possibly even set you up with a preliminary bibliography. And get this: she can even do it for archaeological subjects she knows NOTHING about!

I am... the Archaeogoddess!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So we've moved...

And boy are my arms tired.

So are my legs. Or perhaps I should say "sore are my legs" - ha, I love bad puns.

Seriously, my legs look like Dalmatians, if Dalmatians were tan with blue spots. I am covered in small, medium and very large bruises. I look like I've gone several rounds with a midget. I think the midget won.

I'd take a photo, but since the really spectacular bruises are near groin level, I think I'll pass. The best is a cross-shaped one just at the top inside of my thigh. I seem to have burst a rather large blood vessel up there and the color cannot really be described.

I'd love to say that we are settling in, but that would be a big fat lie. We've still got stuff to move and nowhere to put it. Storage is out, since we've already filled up the storage room we have and both rooms we've moved into are stuffed, and I mean STUFFED, with stuff.

The big problem is that we need to organize before we move in more things. Have you ever tried to move a couch in a small space filled with breakables? Yeah, I think the couch is staying where it is. I also need to run A LOT of cables around the perimeter of the room, which is now completely filled with bookshelves. The cables, of course, are still in the other apartment along with routers and plugs and lamps. This is because most of the clean up moving that we're doing now must be done at night, in the dark, because my husband is working during the day.

I, oh lucky me, get the task of unpacking. And moving furniture.

I just rearranged the furniture in the bedroom. Thankfully, since the floor was freshly finished, I can slide most of the stuff around without too much lifting. Ack! You say, that'll leave a mark! So far, not yet. The floor is SO lacquered both the furniture and myself are sliding all over the place. The so-called no-slip floor protector under my desk is anything but. Every time I step on it I suddenly find myself laying on the couch with my legs up in the air.

Yeah, that couch is staying there all right.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Two things.

One thing that really annoys me is the list at the beginning of every cookbook that tell you the things that you MUST have in your kitchen.

Things that I am told I MUST have, but have managed quite well without:
1) a slotted spoon (use a fork or a regular spoon people)
2) a set of mixing bowls (mostly what bothers me is that they give you a size requirement, you know any number of sizes will do, I use my salad bowls and soup bowls and cups depending on how big a mixing bowl I need)
3) kitchen tongs (I'd like tongs, I really would, but a fork and a spoon have done me well over the years)
4) ruler (this is just plain stupid, almost nothing needs to be exactly measured this way and only encourages budding cooks to be overly anal)
5) pastry blender/knife (use your freakin' hands)
6) spreader (as in a thin flat spatula) (use a freakin' knife)
7) custard cups (use your damn water glasses)
8) rolling pin (this is actually something I'd like to get, some day, but a bottle works really well)
9) egg separator (use your freakin' hands if you can't figure out how to use the egg shell!)
10) melon baller (yes, this was listed as a must have and I have NEVER EVER needed one)

The second is the assumption that you have other obscure things as well.

1) double boiler (without fail it is not mentioned in the list of must haves, but always turns up in the dessert recipes)
2) parfait glasses (unless you were married with 300+ guests, chances are you do not have a set of these hanging around your house)
3) local [insert foreign place name] specialty store (my California cookbook is very guilt of this, unless you live in San Francisco, you probably don't have a local asian specialty store)

There are, IMHO, only two things that you really really need to have in order to turn out a meal in your kitchen.
1) water heater
2) the internet

From making a pot of tea to oh-shit-I-don't-have-enough-boiling-water-to-cover-the-pasta, the water heater is in use in my home almost constantly. At least once a day. Back before we got a coffee machine, this is also how we made coffee. Yeah, you could point out that I could have boiled water in a pot on the stove, but I say to you, HA! With a water heater I can make coffee and instant soup NOWHERE NEAR A KITCHEN STOVE!! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you don't actually need a kitchen if you have a water heater. That makes it the number one most important thing you may ever own in your life - and you read it here first. Unless someone else said it first on some other blog, but you know, I do not have time to scour the web looking for precedents.

The internet can also save your butt in the kitchen or... get this... give you recipes for things you can make in your water heater WITHOUT a kitchen! It also gives you regular recipes, including a handy search option (I google) to find recipes for, say, all that red cabbage you suddenly have in your refrigerator. Realize you can't get creme fraise in a hundred mile radius from your house? You can find a substitution on the web! But hands down the most important thing the internet can do for you in your kitchen is answer that age old question "you want me to do what with the what?" We all know how to steam veggies (well, except for my dear Dane, but that's another post), but the first time I was asked to reduce the drippings to one half? I took half of the drippings out and poured it down the drain. Lets not talk about that moment, okay? I was also stumped with "deglaze the pan with some wine" the first time I saw it. This is why cooking blogs were invented and I am extremely grateful for everyone who has ever posted how many grams are in a tablespoon of butter (14g btw).

The down side to the internet and cooking blogs is that you may suddenly realize you are not the chef you thought you were. This becomes readily apparent when you are looking for something to do with your left over red cabbage and discover that someone else had the same problem and so just whipped up a hot and sour soup with it. Completely pulled the recipe out of their ass and presto! Brilliant soup.

Me, a throw a bunch of leftover broccoli, an egg, some milk and a bunch of cheese into a pan and try to cook it. Lets just say it would have made a great quiche had I only put it in a crust. As it was... well, it was pretty tasty, if you like salty green mush, but nothing that I would make anyone else eat. Gah! If only I had thought "gee, this might make quiche! I should put it in a crust and bake it!"

Next time I will totally google the shit out of that.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's my party and I'll cook if I want to!

So, apart from the fact that we're flat broke and so eating out is NOT an option and despite the fact that I desperately needed to use the yeast cake that was in the fridge (how gross does the term "yeast cake" sound? really gross? yeah, me too) I actually did really want to cook my own birthday dinner.

I like coking for an appreciative audience and I like the instant gratification I get from eating the results (provided that they taste good).

I sort of didn't start early enough... but by the time dinner was served (9pm) I'd been on my feet cooking, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and more cooking... for over 9 hours.

What all did I make?

1) Pine-nut Olive Oil Bread: fantastically good, very labor intensive. It came from my Californian cuisine cookbook, which, although it turns out great meals after a fashion, I am not sure if it was particularly designed to be used by normal not-professionally-trained people. The part that had me howling was the "knead in your mixer, using the bread hook, for 8 minutes." My KitchenAid mixer has not yet arrived and I don't know if my Danish Boy ordered it with a bread hook, but I happen to know that my current hand-held mixer does NOT have a low setting (it's settings start at "beat" and end with "dervish") nor the proper attachments. This was a hand made bread. Which means it did NOT get whirled around the bowl for 8 minutes.
2) Tomato-Shiitake Mushroom Bisque: this is a fantastic soup. Really really really good. I do not generally like tomatoes and I am only just warming up the other foreign mushrooms (I'll do button and portobello, no problem, I'm working up to the others) but this is an amazing soup and crazy easy to make, in my humble opinion. (I did just wrestle with the bread, brain surgery would probably have felt easy.)
3) Asian Noodle Salad: and not just any asian noodle salad, but the one on Pioneer Woman's blog. It, uh, makes a lot of salad if you follow it. Cabbage heads are VERY big in Denmark.
4) Apple Dumplings with homemade carmel sauce: I really wish the other food had not been so damn good and that I had not made so damn much of it and that I hadn't, therefore, eaten so damn much of it, because this is my new most favorite desert EVER! I made carmel sauce!! Whoot!

So everything was all ready at the same time, because I had to cool the bread first, so that was out of the oven hours before dinner, and well, you can make a salad earlier in the day and so really the only thing that was cooking was the soup... but that's not the point. I was able to field a three course meal with home-made bread!

It is probably the most cooking I've ever done in a day.

Monday, September 08, 2008

So how is that Danish coming along?

That alone has to be the number one question I am asked.

It has beaten out "Did you find gold?" and "When will you finish your dissertation?" Which shocked me until I realized that most of the people I talk to have already asked me the first and have been told to never ask me the second.

So how is that Danish coming along?

Remarkably, I seem to be picking up some of it as I go. I certainly do not speak it. Oh, no, not at all. However I am spending more time answering questions posed in Danish - correctly. Conversations that used to go like this (italics mean in Danish):

Dane: And how are you today?
Me: No, thanks, I'll have cheese.

Now are more likely to go like this:
Phone rings, I answer...
Dane: This is Anna Jensen, can I speak to the Danish boy?
Me: Oh, he's not here right now, he's at work.
Dane: Do you have his mobile phone number?
Me: Sure it's ###.
Dane: Thanks for that, good bye.
Me: Bye!

It's rather funny when I'll have one of these conversations and then suddenly the Dane realizes I'm not actually speaking Danish. There is usually a pause and then the question Do you not speak Danish?

Sometimes, however, I still have the cheese conversation.