Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The War Zone

What a dramatic title! I am not referencing the Gaza situation or the brutal ravaging the apartment in currently experiencing (at the hands of moving tenants and home improvement efforts) but what sounds like a luftwaffe raid outside my window.

It's New Year's Eve. I am used to the idea that you don't set off your fireworks until midnight. But I guess people want to play with them now.

Actually, they've been playing with them for days. I was awoken this morning to the BOOM of what is either a large loud firework going off nearby, or artillery fire.

As I sit here right now at 7:25 pm, my typing is punctuated by the pop pop pop of fireworks. Or possibly rifles.

No, this is Denmark. It must be fireworks.

Seriously though, it sounds like a History Channel special or an episode of Band of Brothers.

Pop pop poppety pop BAM poof bang BOOM!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Disaster in the Kitchen

Christmas dinner went so well! Yeah, I forgot to serve the cranberry sauce until the next day, but whatever. We also were too stuffed for several days before we managed to cut into the pecan pie.

At which point we discovered the disaster lurking in the kitchen.

The pie did not set.

At all.

I spooned the syrup out of the pan and we now have candied pecans sticking to a flaky crust. It's not bad, but it is most certainly NOT pecan pie.

My husband almost got himself wished into the cornfield after implying that I had somehow followed the recipe incorrectly. He then tried to redeem himself by suggesting that the recipe itself was wrong. However, it came from a site where comments are allowed, and no one in the comment section had said anything about their pie not setting. It's not the recipe and I followed that recipe to the letter.

There is the curious substitution I had to do, using a sugar-beet based syrup instead of corn syrup. But I have it on fairly good authority that this is the best substitution of corn syrup one can have: the internets and personal experience. I use the darker syrup to make gingersnaps and it works perfectly as a molasses substitute. I'm pretty sure this is not the culprit.

I think what happened is that the center of the pie never did get hot enough. The wretched oven failed me. I think the pecans formed a barrier that kept the heat from penetrating the pie. The pecans began to burn and I had to remove the pie from the oven at just over the time suggested by the recipe. I think I should have kept the pie in the oven for at least another hour, but with the heat off. The residual heat might have been able to get into the pie and do that voodoo that they call "chemistry" and turn the syrup mixture into the jelly-like substance that makes pecan pie "pie" and not candied pecans in a baked crust. Notably, the sugar in the liquidy mess were still granular, indicating that they had not melted and mixed into the rest of the filling.

Yes, I analyze my failures in the kitchen. I'd hate to repeat a disaster because I didn't bother to figure out what went wrong the first time.

It'll be a while before I get the chance to try pecan pie again, though. Pecans are not a common nut in Denmark and so you can only get small bags of organic pecans at ridiculous prices. This was a very expensive disaster I am afraid.

But at least it is still edible. The worst Archaeogoddess kitchen disaster ever was not only inedible, it was horrific in it's intensity of inedibleness. It was a cheap dish, but alas, one of the few things in the house that evening that could be eaten. Then there was the other disaster, but that one was actually edible, even if it took hours for some of the potatoes to cook. You can actually eat raw potatoes, they aren't that great, but they can be eaten if you are hungry enough. It took days of reheating the leftovers before finally most of the potatoes were cooked. Even the last bite was partially raw. Gah.

Speaking of kitchen disasters, I have to rustle something up for tonight's grub. I miss my Christmas left overs! Why is it that when you are little, the left overs go on and on and on and you can't wait for the day when you get something other than turkey for dinner? I made a mountain of food and it was gone in THREE DAYS!! I don't think I'm married to a human being, I think I am married to a black hole. We go through a huge amount of food and yet no one is getting that much fatter. Okay, I'm a bit padded around the middle at the moment, but we ate a 6 pound duck in THREE DAYS! Six pounds of duck, two celeriac roots (over a pound each I'm sure), three pounds of sweet potatoes with marshmallows, a pound of cranberry sauce, twelve biscuits, four cups of gravy, and 8 cups of ris a la monde! Not to mention my personal intake of three dozen gingersnaps.

The One Hundredth Post!

Good golly geez - I've actually managed to write 100 posts. Who would have thought? Especially since I was a lousy blogger in the beginning.

Samuel Pepys I am not.

My diary from my childhood include an entry on the day I received it as a present and once again about the Summer Olympics - spelled "olimpeks" I think. I got another diary years later, this one without dates (a very good plan since consistency is NOT my middle name). It records more of my life, in that it mentions things that happened in the world that I felt were of historical importance, such as the OJ Simpson car "chase," but not my feelings on the matter. It reads a bit like a history book. Why did I record world events? As if somehow if I didn't write them down the world would forget?

So obviously I am not a natural blogger.

Yet over the last few months I have become rather prodigious in my writings. Partially because I find it much easier to write the blog than the dissertation. I may spend all day working on one paragraph, checking footnotes, trying to think of a much jazzier word than "thing" and trying to write academically.

Something that also does not come easy to this archaeogoddess.

I find that it's rather nice to see the words flying out from my fingertips, even if it's just my ramblings on what I cooked in the kitchen the other night. There is a sense of accomplishment, from the cooking, but also the telling of the cooking, and the act of telling anything, anything at all!

It's rather funny because I can and do write ridiculously long emails. This has a downside, in that I will write lots and lots about my life to one person and then not realize that only ONE person received that email and therefore NO ONE else knows anything about what I'm doing. I then make a reference to what I'm up to and suddenly people are saying "you didn't tell me that!" I can't keep track of who've I've told what to. It's a good thing I'm not a lying sort of person, because I would never be able to keep my stories straight. As it is I keep telling the same people the same jokes and then not telling other people those jokes at all. I'm convinced that there are people out there who feel I'm a dreadful bore who keeps telling the same stories again and again and others that think I am an intensely private person because I never tell them anything.

Experts have wondered why blogging is so popular. Why do people feel the need to express and flaunt their inner selves to an anonymous public? Google "why do people blog" if you don't believe me. Hey, I know how to back up my statements! I am a foot-note fetishist!! I have not read all of the various reasons people blog, but I have my own theory.

Well, duh, of course I have my own theory. I blog, so I must think about why I do so.

I fall into the group of people who blog to "document their life." This includes the use of the blog to not only record one's existence, but to also inform family or friends of what's going on. In my life, I would probably not blog if I lived in the same home town with all of my family and friends. There would be no need, because I would be able to talk to these people frequently and easily. If I lived in say, a typical small town setting, everyone would know what I was up to anyway, so there would be no reason to write any of it down. But in this global age, when people travel and move far and wide and we lose that sense of community in the place where we live, we create new communities on the internet.

As a Romanist, I love that we call these places "forums" - it tickles my fancy.

I'm not big on joining the forums though. They require constant supervision if you want to maintain a conversation. I don't really have that kind of time and energy. It's like trying to maintain a large circle of friends. I really can't do it. The people I consider friends are the ones who can not hear from me in a while and who KNOW it's not because I'm pissed off with them or have dropped them for other people, but because I've gotten distracted by a new research problem or forgotten the date or something else silly, but not malicious.

Heck, I'm still trying to remember to blog about my successful attempt at Chinese food. I'll get to it one of these days. Really. I'm pretty sure.

Until then I'll try to keep up with the random events of my life. Not that there really are any, but the things that pass for events in my life. And any random thoughts I may have. And definitely more about food. I really really love to write about food and cooking. It's not so much about documenting my life as my stomach. But whatever. It's my blog.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Decline of Civilization

Honestly now, how many times have *you* wanted to shoot the a$$hole who keeps yakking in the movie theatre? I admit, I was kinda cheering, just a little, inside.

But then James lost my admiration when it was revealed he was carrying his fire arm "clipped inside his sweatpants."

Whip your concealed weapon out of your purse, boot, movie-style holster (although that wouldn't be that concealed) or something other than your sweatpants that you threw on because you were too lazy to dress before you left the house. I mean, really! Can you see the thought process there: "Geez, it's Christmas and I'm bored. I know! I'll go see a movie! Hmm, I don't want to have to put on real pants... oh, almost forgot my .380! Boy, would that have been embarrassing!!"

Was he planning on holding up a store on the way home or just worried that the roving bands of thugs that populate the streets ready to take Christmas toys away from youngsters might try to steal his sweatpants?

I suppose I could be really charitable and say that he was prepared to protect the youngsters from the thugs... Or maybe that's just my imagination working over-time.

Well, let that be a lesson to all you would be Sopranos out there (really, check out James's mug-shot), don't shoot the guy, just call the manager. And for those who would DARE talk during a movie, shut the f#ck up, because someone in the audience may be packin' heat.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We celebrated last night, as all Danes do. In fact, all of Denmark was at home between 6 and 10. I know, my husband, driving his taxi found the streets deserted at 6.

Dinner was planned for 8pm and sure enough, it was done at 8pm. Which was a little later than we should have had dinner, what with the streets being empty at 6, but oh well.

I made enough food for 6 people and completely forgot the cranberry sauce, which is still in the fridge. Eh, we'll have it tonight!

I out did myself, truly, with duck and everything. I made my own duck stock to go into the gravy and what with the drippings and the duck fat it was a marvelous gravy. I saved the stock and drippings to make more gravy for the next few nights. A good plan since we have mountains of mashed celeriac. I think I got a bit carried away there. There's still duck and biscuits that can handle the extra gravy that will grace our table for the next few nights and enough sweet potatoes for at least one more meal. Of all the things I have introduced to my husband, the sweet potatoes with marshmallows is by far his favorite.

We also have a huge pot of ris a la monde to get through and a pecan pie that hasn't yet been touched. Ooof, so much food!!

I was glad that my boy went back out for a few hours of taxi work after dinner so I could lay on the couch and digest. I'm wearing my most baggy trousers today, but as I reach for another cookie, I wonder, how much longer can I wear these pants?!?

The dishes are now all washed and the cook books have been put away and I can see my research again, artfully arranged under a tupperware of cookies. I suppose that means the holiday is over and I need to get back to work. I still need to get out my Christmas cards, though. Whoops! I'm becoming my mother in that regard. And I suppose at some point I'll take down the Christmas decorations, but I'd like to leave them up for a bit - I only just got them up two days ago! Christmas was so fast this year, it seems to have come out of nowhere, beat me senseless and left in a huff.

At least it left me plenty of food!

Best to everyone during this mad holiday, wherever you may be!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve Day!!

For the feasting tonight (Danes feast on Christmas Eve and then several times again on Christmas Day, but only in the morning and afternoon) - the Duck Is In The Oven.

I repeat: The Duck Is In The Oven.

Six hours of roasting. Two down, four to go. I'm going to have lunch and then start prepping the rest of the food.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas marathon cooking event of the year!

Alright, it needs a snappier title, but it pretty much covers my life right now.

Christmas has been sort of un-cancelled in that I'm making enough food for ten and if my husband gets home soon we may be able to go buy a tree! Whoot!

Yesterday I baked approximately 11 dozen gingersnaps. It took hours. Only one dozen were crispified by the wonky oven, so I'm eating those first. I also removed the labels of 3 cases of wine and applied new labels to those bottles plus another case of wine that was already label-less. That doesn't have anything to do with cooking or Christmas, but it was something that needed to be done.

I live in a weird world where wine goes from point A to B to C, stopping sometimes to be relabeled and sometimes straight into my belly.

I also wrapped presents. And edited my Christmas letter. Which should have been mailed days ago, but wasn't and now won't get mailed until after Christmas. But hopefully before New Years.

Today I made homemade cranberry sauce, the pecan pie is in the oven, I did my chores (yesterday's cookie mayhem didn't allow for vacuuming), and will put up a Christmas tree and make ris en grøl (rice porridge). We'll eat SOME of the ris en grøl because....

Tomorrow I make ris a l'almonde (Danish Christmas dessert made with left over ris en grøl, so good), roast duck (currently defrosting in the fridge), biscuits, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, salad, celeriac mash, duck gravy, and oh, no, that's it.

Somehow this meal must all be done at about the same time - 9 ish - using a wonky oven.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas shopping

Well, due to abject poverty and the news that we need to come up with 58,000 danish crowns for my residency, my husband and I cancelled Christmas.

However, no one else did. I was all for telling people we were really canceling Christmas and not buying anyone anything, but that's an apparent "no-can-do" around here, which means we still have to buy Christmas presents. My husband's brother, bless him, who we always split the cost of presents with 2/3 to his 1/3, told us to never mind buying him something and that we can do 50/50 and we should try to go on the low end of the budget.

So by "canceling Christmas" all we've really accomplished is that we are not traveling this year and my husband is going to work Christmas Eve in the taxi.

I'm pretty sure I can make a Christmas out of that. I can make a festive meal. I could probably even decorate a bit. I need to find myself a Christmas tree....

Anyway, every year my husband's grandmothers ask for the same thing: stationary. This is because they are convinced that this is a cheap and easy gift to get. The reason they keep asking for it each year - it is not easy to get. Stationary is no longer sold in Denmark.

Okay, I exaggerate, but only slightly. The only place I've ever found stationary was in the kiosk in Ebeltoft. Which means a late night drive out to Ebeltoft tonight or tomorrow night to buy it.

Meanwhile, I have wandered all over Arhus, into book stores, hobby stores (oh wondrous hobby stores!), and stationary stores. And by "stationary stores" I mean the stores that sell fancy pens, fancy paper, photo albums, scrap books, organizers, cards... but no actual stationary.

I mean, in America we have stores dedicated to the stuff! Of course, if I could think about these things enough in advance, I could have ordered on-line. This is what actually bothers me, every year when Christmas suddenly looms on the horizon - I *know* what the Grandmas want and I forget to do something about it! Every year!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yes, I did pay attention to the History Channel

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Take More Quizzes

I rock. Heh heh heh.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some really good days!!

After the lethargy and depression that was Thursday afternoon, Thursday night turned out to be just right.  Once that pitiful excuse for the sun set (at 4:30, mind you) and then once my brain decided that it could in fact agree with the light to time ratio (dark before 8 pm is just WRONG), I found myself typing feverishly.  

And what I wrote was good.

This is important.  I can write a lot of words - I'm a fairly competent typist and can hammer the keys at an acceptable speed, but I cannot guarantee quality to go with the quantity.  More than once I have caught myself writing the same sentence again and again with slight variations in vocabulary to make a paragraph.  Then I read over it and proclaim "this sucks!" and I start again.  I have days where I have re-written the same paragraph again and again.  Thankfully, Thursday ended up not being one of those days.

My husband then returned from his "internship retreat" where all the journalist interns from his year were rounded up and babbled at for a day and a half.  He had the rest of Friday off and that meant that he was in the office doing his thing and keeping me from doing mine.  

Fortunately, I had planned for this.  I was determined to try to make pumpkin pie and Friday was a very good day for it.  No one else was around and I could make as big a mess as I wanted.  Which I did, because making a pumpkin pie from scratch is a messy affair.

How "from scratch" was it?

I started with a light blue pumpkin and a bag of flour.  That's how "from scratch" it was.  I had to boil and mash the pumpkin before I could even begin to make the pie filling.  I also had to make the pie crust.

The pumpkin I used is the one on the left.  That's a Queensland blue pumpkin.  Note the amazingly thick rind and flesh of that pumpkin.  Do you know how hard it is to cut through all that?  This is why you do not make jack-o-lanterns out of any old type of pumpkin nor do you use jack-o-lantern pumpkins to make pies.  This is important to know since you need to make a lot of pumpkin mash to make your pie filling from scratch.  You want to buy a pumpkin with this amount of orange fleshy bits.  My 4 pound pumpkin yielded 6 cups of pumpkin mash.  A regular old sugar pumpkin weighing 4 pounds will only give you 1.5 cups.  You need 2 cups of mash to make a pie.

Full disclosure: I had no idea if I bought the right kind of pumpkin when I picked this one up.  I just knew I didn't want to buy the jack-o-lantern or decorative pumpkin.  This one said "good for soups and baking" on the label.  

It took me a good half hour to hack this one into chunks to be boiled.  Then I had to remove the rind.  Then I had to mash it.

Meanwhile, I am always being told by cooking shows and cook books that there is no excuse for not making your own pie crust and that they are SO EASY.  They are wrong.  It is only easy to make pie crust if you have a Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer with a pastry attachment (aka flat beater).  Blessed be, I do have one of these.  Honestly, this machine has changed my life.  Anyway, you can make pie crusts without this machine, but it is not easy.  It involves cutting butter into flour and then adding small bits of water at a time, mixing but not over mixing the dough etc etc etc.

So, I had made my pumpkin mash and my pie crust, it was then a walk in the park to assemble the rest of the pie.  I think I made my crust a bit thick (i.e. I didn't roll it out thin enough) because not all of the pie filling fit into my pie.  Oh well.  Into the oven it went.

Of the entire process, this was the bit that had me the most concerned.  The oven isn't exactly stable - in many respects.  I tried the old medieval approach.  This is where you fire up the oven as hot as you can get it, then turn it down after you put the food in.  The heat from the oven, originally too hot, will slowly dissipate, but cook your food while it does so.  This way you don't have one heat source burning your food on one end while the other side stays raw.

This actually worked!  And while I was testing the pie for done-ness, I pulled the tray too far out and the whole thing came crashing down.  The pie stayed intact.  So did the door to the oven, strangely enough.  This was proof to me that my baking was done.

The pie sat while we had dinner and then afterwards we whipped up some whipped cream (because whipped cream does not come ready made around here) and dug in.

It was fan-f#cking-tastic.  I haven't had pumpkin pie in donkey's years, so you might suggest that my palate was fooled.  But I'd have to disagree.  Perfect consistency.  Perfect amount of spices.  Naturally sweet (no sugar used in any part of this recipe).  Oh, lordy, it was perfect.

I sang and danced in my chair.  And overate.  Oh well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A good day.

Maybe I'm nuts.

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  Cold, yes, but the sun was shining and everything glistened from the frost and with all the Christmas decorations up, it was a truly beautiful day.  A day that normal people find impossible not to be out in.  Unless you are me.

I find beautiful days the best for working.

I had the most productive writing day in a long time.  I did go out, I had to deposit a check.  I enjoyed being out.  It was lovely.  But I itched to get back to the keyboard, because I'd had a break through.  I've been stuck on the last section of this chapter and after days of rewriting, it still sucked in the way few things have sucked before.  And suddenly, with the appearance of the sun, all became clear.

And it's not like I'm working in the sun or getting any benefit from the good weather.  My desk is in a little corner of the room, far from the window.  Half the time I miss the weather completely because I can't see it from my desk.  Why is it that on gorgeous days I suddenly find myself in my cubby hole madly writing while other people are suddenly drawn to the outdoors?  It's really traumatic when the Danish Boy has a day off on nice weather days because then he drags me off somewhere and I get nothing done.

It's the cold rainy grey days that are perfect for me to take a day off.  Not that I like going out in the rain, but I find it almost impossible to work.  Today, for instance, is a very cold grey day.  It's so bloody cold that it looks like it snowed, the frost is really really thick and it's covering everything.  Including the underside of things, which snow doesn't normally do.

Kinda stupid for a person who works best in sunny conditions to perpetually live in cold and dark locations, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is it just me?

When you are out in the cold and walk by a window displaying dummies wearing lingerie, do you feel even colder?

What if the window also was decorated with snow and christmas trees?  And the dummy was wearing a Santa hat.

I took one look at the window and felt my core temperature drop by at least half a degree.

Or is it just me?

A bad day.

Actually, it could have been a really bad day.  Yesterday was just a moderately annoying day.  The kind where you find yourself rather miffed that the whole thing happened and you'd like to do it over but not a go cry yourself to sleep kind of bad day.

It ended in one band-aid, one bruised tendon, a lightly scraped thumb, a lightly scraped heel, some stubbed toes, a couple of lumps on the head, sore body, and exhausted archaeogoddess.

What did I do that caused such injury?  I did the chores.

I fell over the vacuum cleaner several times and once it bit me on the heel, right after it pulled itself out of the wall instead of the cord unwinding from the machine as it normally does.  And this is the machine that likes me.  The old one used to fall to pieces when I approached.  I kept hitting my head on the sloped ceilings as I tried to get into the corners to vacuum and mop.  I cut myself and bruised myself on the washing machine, whose filter was clogged and so would not run properly.  Since I couldn't get the filter to unscrew (resulting in a bruised tendon), I had to manually drain the washing machine every time it was supposed to drain.  Through a little hose at the bottom of the machine.  I sat on the floor in the bathroom for an hour walking that stupid machine through a 20 minute wash.  I moved furniture that had been left all over the place during the roommate shuffle and over exerted myself.

On a normal day I can perform these chores without injury to myself.  I have done all of these tasks without bruising or scraping myself.  I have happily dragged the vacuum to the farther reaches of the room with the cord unrolling itself behind me without having it unplug itself and shoot itself into the back of my leg.

Yesterday was, therefore, not my kind of day.

On a normal day when things go wrong I will just give up and put myself in bed or in front of the TV and wait for the jinx to pass.  But you cannot let the shower curtain and the bath mat stay in the wash until your big strong husband comes home.  Especially if you know the other roommates take showers at night and like to do their laundry when they get home.  You also cannot just stomp off and leave the vacuum in the middle of the floor.

Once there are no more roommates, however, I will do precisely that.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Broadening the horizons with food

Danish food is pretty boring most of the time. Pork and potatoes make up the majority of the cuisine. And then there is the ubiquitous brown sauce. Brown sauce is basically milk with the addition of "brown sauce" which comes in a bottle. I think it's salt, beef stock, cornstarch, and brown food coloring. The exciting food comes out for special occasions. This includes pickled herring and spiced red cabbage.  Danish cuisine is also the only in the world where potato chips are served in a bowl as a side dish.  With a serving spoon!!

There are GREAT danish meals, you just don't see them all that often.

That's probably a good thing, I don't think my arteries would survive long if I kept eating pork with crackling.

So I learned to cook, for survival reasons if nothing else. A person cannot survive on broiled pork, boiled potatoes and brown sauce alone.

Foreign food in Denmark is also kind of a crap shoot. There are immigrants to Denmark and, as can be expected, most nationalities bring their cuisine with them. (This is why the best Indian food you can get outside of India is in England.) You can get pretty good shwarma in Denmark. However, and this is only my theory, you do not get really good foreign cuisine in Denmark because the emphasis on immigration in Denmark is assimilation. "New" Danes often out-Danish the Danish in order to be accepted. Which means the foreign food around these parts gets dumbed down to fit Danish palates. It's probably a good sales tactic, you need to be able to sell your food to the largest customer base, which are "real" Danes, but it means BLAND food.

One of the excuses for piss poor foreign cuisine in Arhus is that it's a small big city. But that's a stupid excuse. Arhus is one of the better cities to get a really good meal in, there are numerous restaurants. But almost all of them serve variations on Danish cuisine. There are also plenty of immigrants and other foreigners, so no shortage of alternative cultures. But when opening a restaurant, it seems that all the spices are thrown out the window. I've had amazingly bland Mexican, Indian, and Chinese food. "Italian" means tomato paste and béchamel sauce, but no Italian sausage or ricotta cheese. It's enough to make a person cry.

So I learned to cook foreign cuisine. Desperation will lead a person to do crazy things. Like walking a mile for ricotta cheese. Back before the supermarket in Ebeltoft started selling ricotta cheese (and when we still lived there), I once drove an hour in each direction for said food item. I really wanted to make lasagna. I also learned to mix my own italian sausage. Yup, I'm nuts.

My Danish boy is reaping the benefit of my endeavors.

Recently I've been craving some down home American food. American cuisine you ask, what's that, burgers and fries? Pshaw, people, ponder for a moment. Cornbread. Biscuits. Anything made in a skillet. Pie.

So there was the fried chicken dinner of a few nights ago. And last night I made biscuits to go with the leftovers.

I can understand that my husband had never eaten cornbread before he met me. But biscuits?!? I can't believe that in the five years we've been together he's never eaten biscuits.

For the record, my husband has now eaten biscuits and he likes them very very much.  Next on my list: stew with dumplings.

And then there were two...

Two roommates gone, two to go.

As people move out they take their stuff with them, which leaves one empty apartment. It's rather odd. Well, not that they take their stuff, that's not odd. What is odd is the stuff left behind. We're discovering what belonged to people and what was considered communal property and what was considered to be crap that no one wants.

The really lovely coffee table did belong to someone. Nuts.

The really crappy couches do not. Drat.

Still, there are two other people that will be moving out, so maybe the couches will go.

The apartment feels very weird at the moment. My office is so completely stuffed with our things and the living room is almost completely bare. It will make for some very easy cleaning.

Once everyone is out we have to fix up the place, while still trying to make mortgage payments, which will be made more difficult because, even though we were getting very little for rent from the tenants, we were at least getting rent. That's all over with now. Now we have to pay back deposits. Ugh, I think we'll be back to cabbage soup soon.

Still, I look forward to finally moving into the big room in the back. We have to remove a partition to make the room one single big space and sand the floor and repaint the trim, but that room will be loads quieter than the room we are currently in. It faces the street and the parking lot where deliveries for the mail and one of the supermarkets arrive at 5:30 in the freakin' morning Monday through Saturday. Hopefully it'll be warmer too. Our current bedroom is in the corner of the apartment and thus has two walls that face the weather. One is just a simple brick wall, no insulation, and so the room just does not keep the heat in. At all. Brrrr.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The other root vegetable

I made some fantastic food last night. We had enough money that I could buy chicken and with my discovery of rasp (bagged bread crumbs) I could make proper fried chicken and sage pan gravy. Yummmmmmm!

Normally you eat this with mashed potatoes. But I have eaten A LOT of potatoes lately and there are other root vegetables out there that can be mashed and eaten.

One of them I've had in very fancy restaurants and I really really like. Celeriac. Or celery root for those who are normal people and not obsessed with root vegetables. I don't recall seeing it in the US, although I'm sure you can get it there. It looks like the brain of a vegetable man. Not exactly a shape to inspire confidence. It also has a very special taste that is not quite completely unlike celery. It does but it doesn't. I really can't be more specific than that.

It is absolutely the best vegetable to have mashed as a side dish for fried chicken with sage pan gravy. Sage pan gravy is the normal gravy that you make after frying chicken in a pan, but with a 3/4 tsp of crushed dried sage added to the flour. If you never knew what to do with the sage you bought to go with your parsley, rosemary, and thyme, now you do.

I didn't make the perfect celeriac mash. It was lumpy and watery. And still tasted so good it brought tears to my eyes. And I told my partner in life that I was the best damn cook in 5 time zones. He didn't argue. Too busy eating.

So here's what I did to make a less than perfect celeriac mash. Hopefully some day I will figure out how to do it a bit better, for aesthetic reasons, if nothing else.

A pound of celeriac per person is probably correct, as long as you know you all like celeriac. A normal sized head will feed two.
1) Put a pot of water on to boil. You want the water boiling when you throw in the celeriac. Salt the water if you like.
2) Peel the celeriac. You cannot do this with a vegetable peeler. You are going to have to take unbecoming slices with a large knife to remove the very bumpy skin from the celeriac. This is why you need a pound per person, after you peel celeriac there is not a pound per person left. Dirt will probably be everywhere. So rinse the cutting board, the knife and the celeriac.
3) Cut into 1 inch sized pieces. Or whatever size you want. Smaller means it boils through faster, but too small means it will disintegrate when you strain the water out.
4) Boil for 10 minutes or so. Just like you do with potatoes.
5) Drain. Possibly even wait a while. I think I didn't give it enough time to drain - celeriac is less starchy and more watery than potatoes. Celeriac needs it's drain time.
6) Mash with some olive oil. If you are have made gravy, do not add salt to your mash. If you ask your husband to do the mashing, he may at this point complain that it's bland. Tell him to suck it.
7) Serve with a salty gravy. Oh lord have mercy on my taste buds!!

Not what I'm supposed to be doing.

I really ought to be working some more on my dissertation. In fact, every waking moment when I am not cooking or cleaning I am supposed to be working on my dissertation. But today is just not shaping up to be one of those good working days. It could be because I am exhausted. Half of Aarhus was up and about last night celebrating the first weekend of the month (ie, the first weekend after you get paid) and the beginning of the Christmas party season. The part of Denmark that was not already festooned with Christmas decorations in October is now truly tricked out - Advent is upon us and so if you aren't in a Christmas spirit now you will probably go to hell.

Anyway, this first weekend of the month plus the joy d'season means drunks on the streets. Singing. Two roommates were up until 4 am chillin' and drinkin' beer and watching a DVD of the Depeche Mode concert last year. The other remaining roommate came home soon after 4 and was very noisily sick. Several times. The husband got up at 4 to get ready for work (taxi driving).

Four am in the apartment was a very busy time. I was the only one where normal decent people are at that hour, in bed. But not sleeping. Chewing on my duvet would be a better description of my activities at that hour. I had already listened to the concert several times and the parade of drunks for several hours. Normally I would be wearing ear plugs, like my dear husband does on Saturday nights, but I have this stupid infection behind my ear so it hurts to go putting pressure (a la ear plugs) on my right ear. And you can't just wear one ear plug.

At 5:30 the delivery trucks start showing up and they deliver, engines running, continuously, until 7. Then I slept. Up at 11, day half gone. I have to shop before 5 when the stores close, interrupting the day even more.

I just hope everyone is hung over enough that they don't go out tonight. I can then go to bed at a respectable hour, like midnight, sleep soundly and get up and have a nice full day tomorrow. When no stores are open, so no deliveries are made, and I cannot be easily distracted by chores or tv or anything.

Tomorrow is another day!!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Random bits

I've been very busy getting the dissertation back in order. However, life, or what passes for life around here, continues on.

I've got a couple of things to talk about. Or mention. Or whatever.

The Importance of Rinsing Rags
One of my chores this week was washing the cleaning rags that we use during the week. These include towels used to dry dishes, kitchen sink rags, sponges, and floor rags. Since we use soap to wash the dishes as well as the floors it is VERY important to rinse these out thoroughly. So what is currently going on in the washing machine is actually my own dumb fault.

I can't see into the washing machine because of all the soap bubbles.

It really didn't help that I think I added too much detergent.

So I will have to run the program again without soap.

But they will be VERY CLEAN RAGS.

I burned myself on Monday while making quesadillas. And I didn't notice until Tuesday.

Well, I noticed the pain at the time. I put it under cold water, as one does, and then got back to cooking. I must have had a blister, but the joy of salsa, guacamole and quesadillas was just too much for anything so simple as pain and disfiguring marks on the hands.

Speaking of Throbbing...
My mac screen was, well, throbbing on Saturday. It would get brighter and then dimmer. Not to any particular rhythm, which had me completely concerned. Rhythmic throbbing I could handle. But unrhythmic?

I figured out what it was finally. My mac is SO clever that it changes the brightness of the screen automatically to fit the ambient light. If you happen to be back lit by a light, as I am, and you tend to move about in your chair, as I do, periodically changing the amount of light that gets past your body and is registered by the sensor... well, you get unrhythmic screen throbbing.

I turned that feature off.

I only found it by wandering around in system preferences. I had no idea how clever my Mac was. Honestly, what an annoying feature!! I thought I was going mad!

There is a VERY large rat lose in the bowels of the apartment building. There was a visual sighting. Um... that was redundant. But it was actually SEEN which is something new. So we know it is a rat, not a mouse, and it is VERY LARGE. Nice brown Norweigen rat. Not a pet, sorry to say for the rat enthusiasts out there, and so it must go.

This is where it gets interesting. Because my darling husband has a phobia of rats. Which he did not mention when visiting my best friend who has LOADS of pet rats. But apparently they give him the heeby geebies. He got all twitchy about the idea that there was one running around our building and especially since it was sighted on the stairs. He may never sit on the toilet again.

He compared his fear to my aversion to spiders. I don't necessarily agree, for a load of reasons that no one other than a fellow arachnophobe would agree with, but that's okay. He's scared and I can ride in on a white horse and save his cute little butt. Read: I will put out traps and bait them and check them and dispose of any and all corpses.

As soon as he goes into our spider infested basement and get the traps.