The Best Date EVER, (and how you can have one too!)

Standards  are difficult things to maintain.

But there is no reason why taking chance should involve lowering the bar.

Have you ever had a really bad date? Or even a simply mediocre date?

Hyperbole aside, dates are very tricky things to pull off.

They always involve a bit of a risk. They require excellent timing, just a hint of intrigue, and pleasant experience all around.

So to ensure that you have as standard up to which you can hold all others, I will give you the recipe for Best Date you will ever have; a date the ensure you feel excited, interested, warm, and full of love.

Behold . . . .

 

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Wine & Poetry

Inspired by that same passage in Brideshead Revisited, a group of graduate students decided to conduct an experiment to see if we they could muster the same sort of poetic results.

Sebastian Flyte did have a great palate for both wine ad words. For example:

 ‘ . . . It is like a little, shy wine like a gazelle.’
‘Like a leprechaun.’
‘Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.’
‘Like a flute by still water.’
‘ . . . and this is  wise old wine.’
‘A prophet in a cave.’
‘ . . . and this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck.’
‘Like a swan.’
‘Like the last unicorn.’”
 

It gives a whole other meaning to a “Wine Flyte”.

Surely, a group of brilliant-albeit-harried-by-the-advent-of-Finals students could produce something equally delightful.

Thus, they arranged a gathering, and proceeded to dove into it with scientific care.

The established paradigms are as follows:

  1.  Sip a wine.
  2. On the slip of paper attached to that wine, write one or two lines of  description, association, or general feeling.
  3. It is preferable that these line be lyrical, although they do not necessarily have to follow the lines preceding that were written by someone else.
  4. Proceed to another wine, and do the same.

The idea was that by the end of the evening, we would have a poem for each wine.

It takes absurdity to an art form.

They begin quite prettily, but quickly descend into violence, grammar abuse, and mixed metaphors, and bestrewn with many references to animals and pocket watches.

Therefore, behold the fruits!

I did post this a while ago on the Egotist’s site, but it pertains so neatly to the professed subject of A Bitter Cucumber that I felt pressed to share it again. And with an added treat – a DRAMATIC READING!

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Wilde Chicken Salad

Oscar Wilde, that mad Irish genius, once remarked, “To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomat – to know how much oil to put with one’s vinegar.”

The parallel is striking. Not often do the stars align to help cooks get that tasteful balance.

Fortunately, with some salads you have to neither be a diplomat nor professional salad maker to get it perfect.

Sometimes, everything works out perfectly, not matter what mistakes you might make.

Sometimes life can be just that simple!

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A Dairy Tale

Once upon a time, I thought that I hated milk.

I hated the taste. That bland, thick, slightly mildewy flavour.

I hated the texture. That thicker-than-water-but-not-thick-enough-to-really-make-a-difference thickness.

I hated the smell. I hated the colour. I hated the thought of it!

(And in particular, I hated Skim Milk. It was really just milk flavoured water, and that is disgusting.)

 

My brother loves milk. He could drink an whole gallon by himself. In one day.

sip makes me gag.

I love cheese.*

And I like yogurt. And cottage cheese. And ice cream. And whipped cream.**

But their main ingredient always made me feel sick.

 

Then one rainy day, my housemate accidentally bough Heavy Whipping Cream instead of Half and Half. for her coffee. It was too rich for her, so she offered it to me.

I have a passing acquaintance with Whipping Cream. Usually I whip it into Whipped Cream. With a teaspoon – or two, or three – of sugar, it is delicious.***

Now I was curious.

My aversion to the bovine juice had thus far prevented me from polluting my beloved morning beverage.

But, as I prepared for a stroll about the neighborhood, in the company of a good book and a good drink, I decided to be daring.

(Yes, I read while walking. I recommend it.

And yes, putting things in my coffee is much more strange and adventurous than navigating the lopsided sidewalks and cracked intersections of this suburb.)

So I poured a tad in my mug, and set off on my way.

 

I was half way down the block when, in the middle of reading MacDonald essay on fairy tales, when I took a sip.***

And the skies opened and poured forth heavenly glory.

This glory came in the form of more light rain.

But it was shiny and wonderful and my eyes were opened to see everything as grace!

The cream was a channel of love and happiness and Divine peace.

I wanted to sit on the curb and kick my feet and squeal like a fangirl.

It was that good.

 

I promptly went home and made another cup.

And every cup of coffee since then has had to have whipping cream in it.

That thick, sweet, curdling taste of cream is addicting. It adds a depth that coffee on it’s own can never achieve. It brings out the flavour, and layers the texture.

And by itself, cream is  . . .  absurdly delicious.

 

But recently I have been doing odd things.

Last weekend I went out to a coffee shop. And they did not offer whipping cream for coffee. So I used Half and Half instead.

And I was glad.

And then this week, I was thirsty. But I did not want to make coffee. So I poured a little bit of whipping cream in a glass, and drank it.

And I was happy.

At this rate I might be drinking milk with gusto by the end of the year.

 

Hmm. This is a slippery slope.

So I recommend, the next time you have coffee, be adventurous.

Use REAL Cream.

Behold, the power of CREAM!

* Cheese might actually be my favorite food group.

** And butter. But butter is rarely eaten alone. So I feel I must disinclude it in this list.

*** Or even more sugar. But the real delight still the rich, thick, frothy cream.

**** Hence the terrible title of this entry. Forgive me the punniness.

Bake with Yeats: Irish Cream Cake of the World

I like Yeats.

Actually, I love Yeats. Little pink hearts appear over my head whenever I think about him.

But right now I don’t care for him over much.

Mostly because, while his prose is simply delightful and his poetry feeds the soul, the logic in his essays does not help me develop my thesis. In fact, it confuses my thesis. And, as my thesis is supposed to be on him, this is an issue.

So I decided to get into his head by means of food. Afterall,you are what you eat. And if I eat something Irish, then I will be better able to understand Yeats, right?

See? My logic is already better than Yeat’s is!

To this end, I offer you,

Irish Cream Cake!

Interspersed with Yeats
 Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh. (“A Drinking Song”)
Gather the following:
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 box vanilla instant pudding
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup Irish cream Liquer. (Baileys, Carolans, etc.)
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips (they MUST be mini, or they sink to the bottom)
Mix all ingredients. Make sure they blend well, with no bits of powdery stuff left in the corners of your very round mixing bowl. If possible, use a gyring motion.
The gyres! the gyres! Old Rocky Face, look forth;
Things thought too long can be no longer thought,
For beauty dies of beauty, worth of worth,
And ancient lineaments are blotted out.
Irrational streams of blood are staining earth;
Empedocles has thrown all things about;
Hector is dead and there’s a light in Troy;
We that look on but laugh in tragic joy.
What matter though numb nightmare ride on top,
And blood and mire the sensitive body stain?
What matter? Heave no sigh, let no tear drop,
A-greater, a more gracious time has gone;
For painted forms or boxes of make-up
In ancient tombs I sighed, but not again;
What matter? Out of cavern comes a voice,
And all it knows is that one word “Rejoice!’
Conduct and work grow coarse, and coarse the soul,
What matter? Those that Rocky Face holds dear,
Lovers of horses and of women, shall,
From marble of a broken sepulchre,
Or dark betwixt the polecat and the owl,
Or any rich, dark nothing disinter
The workman, noble and saint, and all things run
On that unfashionable gyre again. (“The Gyres”)
Grease 2 large loaf pans. Or 4 mini-loaf pans. Line the bottoms of said loaf pans with wax paper.
Pour mix into pan, stopping about an inch below the top.
Bake according to the directions on the box.
 . . . . Measurement began our might:
Forms a stark Egyptian thought,
Forms that gentler Phidias wrought,
Michael Angelo left a proof
On the Sistine Chapel roof,
Where but half-awakened Adam
Can disturb globe-trotting Madam
Till her bowels are in heat,
Proof that there’s a purpose set
Before the secret working mind:
Profane perfection of mankind. . . . (Excerpt from “Under Ben Bulben”)
When the tops of the loaves are high and brownish and getting crackedy – don’t ask what crackedy means. You will know – and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, you may remove the cakes from the oven.
Let rest for 23.6 minutes.
Run a knife along the edges of the loaf pans, pulling the cake away from the pan. Take a toothpick, (or anything with relatively small prongs. I have, in times of desperation, used a fork,) and poke holes ALL over the tops of the cake.
Go ahead. Let out your latent violence. Just don’t completely destroy the cakes.
 . . . . Then Conchubar, the subtlest of all men,
Ranking his Druids round him ten by ten,
Spake thus: “Cuchulain will dwell there and brood
For three days more in dreadful quietude,
And then arise, and raving slay us all.
Chaunt in his ear delusions magical,
That he may fight the horses of the sea.”
The Druids took them to their mystery,
And chaunted for three days.
Cuchulain stirred,
Stared on the horses of the sea, and heard
The cars of battle and his own name cried;
And fought with the invulnerable tide. (Excerpt from “Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea”)
Ohh! I forgot! While the cakes are cooling, you were supposed to make a mixture of:
  • 1 1/2 cup Irish Cream. (The same stuff you put into the cake. If you have not drank it all already. In which case, get another bottle.)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar. (Known to the hoity-toity as “confectionary sugar”.)
Whisk until smooth.
If you, like me, forgot to do this before you poked the cakes, that is okay. You can do it now.
And THEN, pour the mixture slowly over the holey cakes. Make sure it dribbles doe those sides! Wait a bit, until it has sunken into those holes we created, and then pour some more.
Drink, mix, repeat.
Perhaps contemplate the marvels of the human life. And how cake sings peace int our breasts.
Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child! 
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

 

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

 

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scare could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand. (“The Stolen Child”)
Leave the the cakes – yes, I know that this is hard, but just walk away – and let the sauce harden. This might take a while. But you will be glad you waited.
Finally, turn pans upside down, and empty them of their contents.
I recommend wrapping them in seran wrap and freezing them.
But, if you need to eat them all right away, I am fine with that. Bow down in wonder at the deliciousness, and rejoice in the beauty of the world!
Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream?
For these red lips, with all their mournful pride,
Mournful that no new wonder may betide,
Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,
And Usna’s children died. 
We and the labouring world are passing by:
Amid men’s souls, that waver and give place
Like the pale waters in their wintry race,
Under the passing stars, foam of the sky,
Lives on this lonely face. 
Bow down, archangels, in your dim abode:
Before you were, or any hearts to beat,
Weary and kind one lingered by His seat;
He made the world to be a grassy road
Before her wandering feet. (“Rose of the World”)

Wine-Tasting With Sebastian Flyte

My approach to life is mitigated by my literary experience:

I look on foppishness as a form of intelligence. (The Scarlet Pimpernel)

I idealize turf houses. (My Antonia)

I become distressed when fashion logos sport a large, embellished initial. (The Scarlet Letter)

I have baked several different variations of Lembas and Meadowcream Cake. (Lord of the Rings and Redwall)

I see mustachios and begin to think of little grey cells. (Hercule Poirot)

So it is completely natural, rational, and even compulsory that my guide to wine-tasting would be Sebastian Flyte. The explorations that Sebastian and Charles make into the world of fermenting grapes will forever form my methods of trying, tasting, and testing wines.

 

 

Step One:

Activate interest and willingness to form new friendships.

“Wilcox welcomed our interest; we had bottles brought up from every bin, and it was during those tranquil evenings with Sebastian that I first made a serious acquaintance with wine and sowed the seed of that rich harvest that was to be my stay in many barren years.”

Step Two:

Be open to learning and seeking knowledge.

“We would sit, he and I, in the Painted Parlor with three bottles open on the table and three glasses before each of us: Sebastian had found a book on wine-tasting, and we followed the instructions in detail.”
 

Step Three:

Coax out the best taste and enjoyment.

“We warmed the glass slightly at a candle, filled a third of it, swirled the wine around, nursed it in out hands held it to the light, breathed it, sipped it, filled our mouths with it and rolled it over the tongue, ringing it on the palate like a coin on the counter, tilted our heads back and let it trickle down the throat.”
 

Step Four:

Develope and share the joy.

“Then we talked of it and nibbled Bath Oliver biscuits, and passed on to another wine; then back to the first, then on to another, until all three were in circulation and the order of glasses got confused and we fell out over which was which, and we passed the glasses to and fro between us until there were six glasses, some of them with mixed wines in them which we had filled from the wrong bottle, till we were obliged to  to start over with three clean glasses each, ad the bottles were empty and our praises of them wilder and more exotic .”

Step Five:

Expend praise and poetry magnaminously.

” ‘ . . . It is like a little, shy wine like a gazelle.’
‘Like a leprechaun.’
‘Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.’
‘Like a flute by still water.’
‘ . . . and this is  wise old wine.’
‘A prophet in a cave.’
‘ . . . and this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck.’
‘Like a swan.’
‘Like the last unicorn.'”

Final Step:

Find the point of hilarity, (but not much further,) to paraphrase Thomas Aquinas.

“On a  sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate strawberries and drank the wine – as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together – and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger’s breadth above the turf and hold us suspended.”
 
 

 

(Note: This is reposted from my original blog, Egotist’s Club.)

Throw It Away!

My housemates and I are graduate students.

My housemates and I belong to a vegetable co-op.

We pay ten dollars once a week from our meager funds, and in return receive a huge bag of goodies from the local farmer’s market. Every thirteenth week it is our turn to get up early o’ a Saturday morning and do the shopping.

We can – quite suddenly – be over run by a sea of potatoes and grapefruit. And then we are faced with the challenge of disposing of our all our food stuffs while, while keeping up on all of our homework.

This tends to result in incredible adventures in food and literature.

Keeping body and soul together is difficult enough, without involving the intellect!

One week, we were recipients of a great quantity of cucumbers. Many, many, HUGE cucumber. I do not know which shopper thought buying 20 cucumbers for each household was a brilliant plan. But it happened.

Only, none of us at my house – The Wabe – particularly like cucumbers. Not unless they are carefully prepared to taste like something that is not a cucumber. But doing that requires time. Time that poor students lack.

But one night, in a fit of desperation about the tubular green vegetables crowding our fridge, one brave housemate decided to make Le Grande Gesture.

She ate a cucumber.

She chopped it up, drizzled it with oil and vinegar. Tossed in a few garlicy seasonings, added salt and pepper, covered the bowl, and proceeded to shake the darn thing to the rhythm of a waltz.

In fact, she waltzed with  it around the house.

Then she carefully opened the lid . . .

(It did not explode, which we have discovered is usually a healthy omen.)

. . . and tasted.

She made a face, and said regretfully, “I should have tried it to a rumba.”

Despite the shaking-cucumber tempo, it really tasted fine and was quick and easy enough for a ravenous grad student.

Later, this housemate realized that she should have done her reading assignment first. For there, in the pages stoic philosophy, were the proper instructions for dealing with our cucumber infestation.

“A bitter cucumber? Throw it away!” ~ Marcus Aurelius

And thus did Liberal Arts and Culinary Skills meet, and a blog was born.

 

Dancing Cucumber Salad
(To Be Devoured or Discarded, As Desired.)

  • Two (preferably non-bitter) cucumbers, cut into prefered shapes.
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, smooshed.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Cover bowl that contains all ingredients with lid.
  3. Shake the covered bowl in which the afore-mentioned mix is housed while dancing to the rhythm of your choice. (although we do recommend a rumba or a salsa.)
  4. Nourish yourself with the sustenance now found in the bowl.