We’ve Got Crabs

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While I was home in Virginia, a truck carrying thousands of live crabs overturned on Interstate 64 at the Croaker exit, which is about 9 miles from my house. Apparently Dave Barry already beat me to the most obvious joke (involving a tanker truck full of drawn butter) about this on his blog “A Funny Book to Have in the Bathroom if it’s 1991”. Oh, Dave Barry!

Though the accident was a waste of precious potential fodder for long lunches at the Commonwealth Club, it is also just great that Virginia’s maritime bounty is bounteous enough that we can festoon our interstate highways with backfin and call it a nice Friday. No reason to cry over spilt milk or (spilt crabs).

Now here’s some interesting information about crabs!

Here’s how to tell a male blue crab from a female blue crab:

Male Blue Crabs are called Jimmys, Female Crabs are called Sooks. All of this sounds better if you’re hearing it from somebody from Guinea standing right here in the parking lot of the post office in Susan, Virrginia.

You can catch a crab easily using chicken necks and string. That is a good way to pass an afternoon.

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Here’s what a baby crab looks like, cuddly!

A softshell crab is a crab in its molted state (not a bobby or a peeler), and you catch them by walking around at low low tide in the waxing summer and poking a wire basket on a stick around in the spartina grasses. Softshell crabs can’t move once they’ve molted and will move you to ecstasy when lightly floured and fried and tucked into white bread.

Crab::butter>Nick’s tartar sauce>special sauce>cocktail sauce>fork

And lastly, to round out crab fever, here are some Mexican Crabs:

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Hooray for VDOT and the buttery roads of the sweet sunny south!

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Cheese Makin’ Mama (with Sioux chef Nan)

We Made This Cheese

We Made This Cheese

I got back to Virginia Wednesday night, and from my arrival my ever-lovin-mama has been a-buzz with cheese fever. She and her dear friend Kitty went to a Cheese Making class in the Berkshires where they learned the best and easiest simple rusticated cheeses and their histories (carrying some milk in a camel bladder on the way to some midnight oasis made soft spreadable cheeses long before T.E. Lawrence hit the scene with a need for tea sandwiches). For dinner the first night she had prepared home-made labne, a divine middle eastern yogurt based cheese that we served with home-made pitas, red-pepper-babaganoush with capers, and Zaatar on the fly (herbs de provence and smoked paprika). Shukran Bisef!

In the world of make-your-own cheese, making fresh Mozzarella is like learning to play “Heart and Soul” for first time piano players. It’s relatively easy, incredibly satisfying, pretty soulful, and much more fun to do with a partner.

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The first (and probably the most difficult) step in making the cheese is somehow procuring the milk. In 1924 the United States Public Health Service instituted regulatory pasteurization standards to reduce milk borne ilnesses (now known as the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance), meaning that all milk sold in certain states (including Virginia and New York) has been heated to more that 172 degrees, and all organic main line milks (Horizon Organic) are ultra-pasteurized, meaning that they’re boiled to within an inch of their life. The 99.9% of microorganisms that are killed in the pasteurization process are the little cellular devils that react to the added enzymes and make the cheese. It is illegal in most states for dairy farmers to sell raw milk, that is, milk that came fresh from the teat of the cow into your glass.

IMG_0529Through her powers of bedevilment and bartering, Mama found a great farmer across the Pamunkey willing to trade her some milk for some calf starter.

We drank some wine and then sipped some of the raw milk in cold clear glasses that were streaked with the sweet fat of the cream, which you can see at the top of the bottle here, rising to the top, as it is wont to do.

The raw milk was simply marvelous, as was the wine.

I painstakingly took pictures of all of the steps, though Mama said the whole time “don’t take my picture!”… it was well worth it… Here are the steps:

You need:

1 Gallon Whole Milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

1 1/2 Tsp Citric Acid dissolved in 1 Cup water

1/8 Tsp. liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4 Cup water.

Salt

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Pour milk into stainless steel pot, and stir vigorously while adding citric acid solution.

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Heat Milk to 90 degrees Farenheit, occasionally stirring (it’s OK to touch the pot bottom).

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Remove pot from burner and slowly stir in the rennet solution (pour through a slotted spoon, slowly circling the milk to evenly distribute)

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then stir using an up and down motion for approximately 30 seconds. This is the step where the rennet reacts with the good bacteria in the raw milk and curds start forming and separating from the whey. There are many awesome cheese puns/miss muffet references to put into the mix at this time, and we also highly recommend that you are listening to Memphis soul music at this stage, as Sam and Dave help set curds:

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more about “CheeseMaking“, posted with vodpod

Then, as Mama says, “Don’t touch it!” and let it sit for 5 minutes, not hours.

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Check the curd, it should look like custard with a separation between curds and whey (if you’re using super fresh and awesome raw cow’s milk it’ll get curdier faster)

Cut the curd with a curd knife, horizontally, vertically, making sure to get the curd out of the corners, put the pot back onto the stove heating to 105 degrees Farenheit, gently moving the curds around with your spoon. Remove from heat and let sit (2-5 minutes, depending on how firm the cheese already is and how firm you like it, the longer it sits, the firmer the cheese).

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Ladle the curds into a microwaveable bowl. Pour off as much whey as possible, pressing the curd gently with your hands. Microwave for one minute and drain off the whey again before stretching….

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Now you stretch the cheese like taffy! You can put salt and/or herbs on it at this point, and form it into whatever shape you’d like (you can braid it or you can make bocconcini or you can make it into beautiful balls of cheese).

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Whichever shape you pick, the cheese will take that on when you plunge it in ice water.

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.Then if you’re fortunate enough to be in a temperate climate (such as Virginia in October), and you have had the brilliant foresight to plant a straw bale garden which is still producing sweet 100’s this late in the season, take a flashlight outside and pick a bunch of fresh tomatoes and thai basil. And, of course Bon Appetit!

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Published in: on October 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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Shag!

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I’m going to my cousin’s wedding back home in Virginia this weekend, and, like all good big marvelous southern parties, there will most certainly be a soul band there which means, of course, shag dancing! I’m not a particularly excellent dancer, though I love to dance, and before I could shag I was generally limited to “the dandridge” (which, unsurprisingly there are no videos or images on the internet, but “the dandridge”- not to be confused with the “flying dundee”- is a wide stance lunge where one plays one’s leg Pete Townsend windmill style… but I digress). The shag is a dance that is meant to be done while one is holding a cocktail. This is the official parlance, that when shagging your arm should rest “as if holding a drink about to spill, or simply holding a drink” and your body should move so fluidly that it won’t spill before you’ve finished (the drink or the song). Shag music is always beach music, which is ACC soul, mellow enough (the drums are always so laid back it’s like they’re in the other room or in the next county maybe) that as you complete the delicate steps your glass sweats just a little bit less than you do on dazzling-fall-in-love-humid summer nights.

Shag dancing is also recommended by this amazing movie from 1989:

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Anyone with eyeballs can agree that Buzz Ravenel is a sweet potato, anyone with a wrist can hold a cocktail, and anyone with a clue would love to shag. Let the shagging begin!

Doopalus (Plus)

 

So I’ve been thinking about the title of this little page, and I think I might keep it. “Doopalus Plus” was what I settled on as a working title since every other thing I thought of from behind the kindly-blurred rose-colored long-stemmed glasses empty of fall’s first big hearty red wines seemed absurd and/or self important. “Part or Particle”? A reference to the all-encompassing divinity of ones thoughts courtesy of Emerson, leading then down the mental primrose path to dangerous thoughts of how much dear old Uncle Walt would have loved blogging (sidebar, though that universalist primrose path of smug meta-awareness dead ends with a lame referential song of myself blog title- who knows, “Loafeing on the Grass”? “The 29th Swimmer”?- there is a path at the Botanic Gardens, wouldn’t you know, seemingly my favorite place, which has Grauman’s Theater-esque name plates of a bunch of Brooklyn-born celebrities, the list of which is awesomely fascinating- starting with Whitman and including Woody Guthrie, Abe Vigoda, and Tony Danza).

So what is Doopalus Plus? Well, “doopalus” is a bastardization of the punch line of one of my family’s stories which is as follows:

My uncle was doing a radio interview in Los Angeles, and had brought along his twin sons, at that time both 10. He had taken them to Laker’s Games and shown them the town and when his part of the interview was over, the interviewer asked the boys, both in the studio during the live broadcast, how they were liking their visit. The first son repiled, “Oh we’ve been having a great time here! We went to a basketball game!” and the DJ repeated the question to the other son and he leaned into the microphone and said:

“Poop Doop”.

Doop and its variants has since become a stand-in for any variable X, when your tongue searches out a word but can’t quite find it in time doop is an acceptable substitute, it can be et cetera anything or nothing or noun or adjective adverb gerund and, of course, interjection. I suppose it’s a lowbrow part or particle, and where there might be ne plus ultra there will always be plus doopalus, doopalus plus.

So then, the idea of Doopalus Plus brings me, upon considering, to a lovely and often-late-breaking discovery of family specific vocabulary. That is a word or phrase used in one’s household extensively when you’re growing up and then you only realize when you get a bit farther out into the world that not everyone knows what a “crappity” is (for the uninitiated, a “crappity” is the name for the place where all of your important miscellany collects, in my house growing up my father’s crappity had keys, guitar picks, a schubb capo, letters, change, plats, swiss army knives, less recent laminated wallet sized pictures of my brother and me, and little mag-light flashlights that you could unscrew the top and turn into a candle).

These words are marvelous because they’re usually fun to say and have a great marbles-in-the-mouth quality that comes from childish wonder and also because there is usually not already a good word in existence that so perfectly crystallizes exactly what the family word does. A Crappity isn’t just where you put your keys, it’s also a place that is exempt from straightening, an ad hoc filing system, a place of interesting artifacts both of the day and of the life of the crappiteer (a pearl handled knife that belonged to my grandfather and shearling lined gloves in winter and half filled out pads of paper free from Binswanger Glass).

Obviously, my family isn’t the only one with it’s own vocabulary (though old boyfriends still make fun of my father for telling them to “cool their motors”). The Easons from North Carolina bring us the effortlessly judgmental “Queebie Food”, a sneering bacon umbrella covering particularly bilious health food sprouted grain bread, coconut water, vegetarianism, and any food -free (gluten, fat, whey, lactose whatever). My cousins, the Chappells, gave us the “zerbert” (which has become more universal, and is onomatopoeia at its most 6th grade Language Arts definition).

Apparently, we are not alone.

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 2:46 am  Comments (3)  
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Bourgade Bell Choir plays “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

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This is pretty awesome. They almost lose it at SCARAMUSCH SCARAMUSCH CAN YOU DO THE FANDANGO, but ol’ yellow shirt pulls it all back together again just in time for Brian May.

This begs the question, Bjorn Turoque, are air bells next?

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Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ipod’s Original Genius Function

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Waking up tousle headed with a decidedly early 80’s blow-fro mullet, I asked my morning DJ to put on some music, and maybe make a genius playlist. We’ve discovered Ipod’s Original Genius Function, all you do is select Bob Seger and play.This also reminds me of a little known corollary of the genius function, which is that when “Genius is Unavailable For This Song” then “Genius is Unnecessary For This Song, Just Keep Playing the Whole Album”*. Again, some proof:

Genius Unavailable for Thunder Road

Genius Unavailable for You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away

Genius Unavailable for Electric Feel

Genius Unavailable for Cleaning Windows

Just try and listen to your Genius playlist based on Yelle and you’ll see what I mean.

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Dvorak Keyboard

Dvorak Keyboard

The layout of the traditional QWERTY keyboard (like the one I’m typing on now like a real philistine) was initially chosen when typewriters were mechanical and the keys moved on levers that would get stuck if one struck two close keys too quickly or if one spilled ones gin-rickey-and-laudanum onto the keyboard. The most seldom used letters were placed next to the most common and unless you were writing a treatise on how James K. Polk liked poi, you’d be in the clear. Now that keyboards are no longer Rube Goldberg-esque monuments to machinery, some people think it would be a good idea to move all the keys around according to the ergonomics of the human hand. The result is the Dvorak Keyboard. Woah. That is interesting!

Published in: on October 5, 2009 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Chile Today, Hot Tamale.

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Today is the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Chile Pepper Festival!

Published in: on October 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

I saw…

IMG_4018An awesome band in a strange place last night. The King Expressers were so good, in fact, that that they’re hoarding their music in a bunker in bed-stuy and not putting any of it on the internet. Though if the apocalypse is going to go down, I’d like to be in that bunker with bells tied to my ankles and a copy of Kavalier and Clay to discuss with the drummer.

Published in: on October 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Don’t Forget: Michael Jackson is Old Gregg

Lest we forget, the selfsame Michael Jackson that bought the Beatles catalog after appearing in whiteface with Paul McCartney in the “Say, Say, Say” video IS Old Gregg. He’s a lover not a fighter, you motherlicker.

(for those contrarian types who need some sort of proof, those that might not believe that Bigfoot is, say, simply out of focus, go to minute 3:03 and then keep in mind that July 2nd 1979 was when MJ got his first rhinoplasty.)

Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 4:14 am  Comments (1)