williamallenpepper

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Archive for the month “July, 2014”

PIZZA PIE

When I was a Freshman in college – back when the dinosaurs were still executing panty raids on the saber-tooths – my roommates and I pooled our cash to order pizza one night. One of the roommates wanted, in all seriousness, an anchovy pizza.

Yeah…we could have just run to McDonalds instead.

Anchovies, those salty little fish, get zero respect in the pizza topping community. Even cauliflower makes fun of anchovies.

We all groaned and made fun. College might expand your mind, but if you try hard enough, you can hold onto your ability to mock anything outside your immediate sphere.

But, for all his quirks and the sneering response of his dinner companions, this roommate was quite generous and he offered to share his anchovy pizza. For all the fun we were having, we were still polite enough to accept a slice. I can’t remember what my roommates did with theirs, but I ate mine.

AND…I didn’t hate it.

,..I didn’t really like it either, mind you.

BUT…to this day, all these decades later (sigh), I can still taste that anchovy in all its salty fishiness. Why?

I don’t think it’s the flavor so much as the distinctiveness of the experience. It was a little like eating a bit of shoe leather covered in salt. No chance of mistaking an anchovy for a pepperoni. Maybe the taste isn’t something worth recreating, but a memorable food experience is.

Every Saturday is homemade pizza and movie night here. We make good, basic, pizza for finicky kids. I like it, but, frankly, I’m a little bored. I could use a new recipe. A new crust, kick-ass toppings. Excellent sauce. Some combination thereof.

So, world, step up. Hit me with your best pie. Extra points for the pinnacle of pizza pie that includes whole wheat crust.

Hurry up, I’m hungry.

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ROCKING CHAIR OF AGES

So I pIcked up the boy from school on Friday after a long day at the day job. Just wanted to relax, maybe watch the news or read a little before dinner.

All he wanted to do was have a foot race around the block.

Great.

But I’m a good sport, so off we went.

“On your mark. Get set. Go!”

We ran and ran,navigating the concrete rectangle our house is on. And when finally we crossed the finish line…

The boy kicked my butt.

I didn’t really hold back all that much. I did run, largely because the boy kept looking back over his shoulder to make sure I was. I’m in pretty good shape,work out regularly. But I was sucking wind by the end of that short run. True, I was tired from work. He played all day. On this warm July day, he was in shorts and tennis shoes. I wore long pants, a tie and clunky hard soles. He’s five and I’m…not.

But still…beat by a FIVE-YEAR-OLD!?!?

Earlier in the day, I had a meeting with my insurance man to go over policies and crap. (Wanna be bored? Read a life insurance or homeowners policy.) My agent is “almost 40”. Younger than me. That freaks me out a little. I think my doctor is younger than me too. I’m not really old school, I don’t think, but this does give me pause. I feel more secure when the people controlling such important aspects of my life – health and finance – are older than me. Would you rather be told what to do by wise, old grandad who has been many places and seen many things, or your kid brother who can’t find the who flings cat poop at your head?

At my day job, increasingly among when I’m in a group of colleagues, I’m not the youngest one in the room. Scarier still, the young ones more and more look to me for answers, like I actually have some.

I’m not ready to be an elder statesman. I’m not ready to be an elder anything. But somehow, I seem to be aging into it.

A few years ago, I sprained my back picking up a pair of pants from the floor. “This has never happened to you before?” The doctor asked. “No,” I said, “Congratulations. You’re 40.”

The point of all this is not that I feel old. I’m not really even sure what that means? Aches and pains? Confusion about popular culture? Preoccupation with mortality? That all sounds too…cliché?

I think the point is that life moves pretty fast, but it’s not just the world that’s changing. So are you and your place in that world. Don’t fear it, don’t revere it, just own it and roll with it.

Also, my kid should have TV time taken away. Show the old man some respect, whipper-snapper.

FREEZING IS THE EASY WAY…QUICK…SIMPLE…PURE

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So, my father-in-law was in town for the Fourth of July holiday. When some relatives come to visit, they bring a bottle of wine. Maybe a dish to pass. Photos of their colonoscopies, perhaps.

My relatives? Well, they come bearing major appliances.

More accurately, he brought a modern nostalgic curiosity that was once a major appliance. It is a 1950-ish GM refrigerator that, despite a faint musty smell, actually still gets cold. He picked it up, along with two others, at an estate sale where he paid thirty bucks for the set.

A huge bargain!

Yay! A beer fridge!

But, yeah, I made him plug it in to make sure it worked before we hauled the beast down to the basement.

I’m not stupid.

When we discovered it did work, feelings were, I have to say, mixed. Sure, it’s awesome to have a cheap new beer fridge, but, crap, we gotta get it downstairs.

But we did. And I’m happy. It’s been running for a week as I write this and has not stopped making the air in its spacious storage compartment cold and has not shorted out and burned my house down.

I have three favorite things about this fridge:

1.  The handle you pull sort of like the handle on a slot machine is cool. It makes a satisfying clicky noise when you open it and a solid kerchunk when you close the door.

2.  The awesome GM emblem on the front. Yep, back in the days before recalls and exploding cars, GM once made refrigerators. I’m thinking of sending GM a demand for cash right now, just in case.

3.  When I opened the fridge the first time, I discovered it came with a bonus freebie.  HOW TO USE YOUR HOME FREEZER, copyright 1945, by Dr. James D. Winter. Here’s his bio: “M.S., Associate Professor of Horticulture, University of Minnesota; in charge of the frozen food research in the Division of Horticulture, Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, University Farm, St. Paul.”

This book is EIGHTY PAGES OF AWESOME about the wonders of modern science that resulted in the ability to freeze fish! Or strawberries! Or Nazis! (Okay, it doesn’t say that, but this was 1945.) And Dr. Winters is the man to lead us into this brave new world because, as his bio tells us, “long years of experience in frozen food research are backed by a keen personal interest in the subject.” Then it goes on to explain, that after working all day in the lab, he goes home at night and on the weekends to stick stuff in the fridge, which, apparently, is not a euphemism.

The rest of the book provides excruciating detail about what happens to the vitamins in food when you refrigerate them, the best packaging, the best way to get foods ready to store, and optimal arrangement of foods in the freezer (“It will be much easier to select the food you need if, for instance, all the strawberries, beef roasts, or whatever you want are each in their own pile from top to bottom of the freezer.”) Dr. Winter recommends an inventory chart.

Hey! I just realized that a guy named WINTER is writing about freezing stuff! Destiny is a powerful thing.

There’s even a handy section on the proper way to kill a bird before preparing it for freezing. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that I now know what’s needed to “permit better bleeding.”

If “How to Serve Man” was a cookbook (and we know it was. Never trust giant space aliens.), this book tells you how to keep your enslaved human population fresh and tasty as possible while you peruse recipes. Thank you, Dr. Winter.

Gotta go. Time to thaw out some…well, it tastes like chicken.

 

 

BURNT OFFERINGS

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Over the recent 4th of July Weekend, I celebrated, as many Americans do, by eating too much. A fair amount of what I ate was grilled. I’m not a grilling nerd, certainly not to the degree I’m a Doctor Who nerd (*ding* Every time I mention Doctor Who in a blog, a weeping angel gets its wings. If you get that reference, you’ve no ground to criticize me.)

I have no particular grilling skill, though I can typically cook a burger or even a hot dog (the dogs are for the kids – I know too much about where they come from) without burning them. I have little patience for fancy marinades and rubs. I don’t analyze the merits of gas versus charcoal. I use charcoal simply because I don’t grill all that often and it feels like too great an expense to invest in a gas grill and then worry about keeping propane on hand for it.

I’ve had a lot of good grilled burgers. Salmon. Corn on the cob. Asparagus. Shrimp. Last month, I grilled an awesome whole chicken, split into halves. Great experiences, all of them. But then, two unique experiences happened this weekend.

I stood in the rain. Umbrella in one hand, tongs in the other, to cook a bratwurst. We could have cooked something else. Ordered pizza. But, no. We wanted this – let’s face it – fairly unhealthy,but awfully delicious grilled treat. So I braved the elements and did it.

The other big grilling event? For the first time, I smoked a couple racks of ribs. For the firs time, I didn’t just throw the food on there to see what happens. I employed direct AND indirect heat. There was a pan of water to keep the meat moist. There was basting.

I wasn’t just cooking meat on the grill. I was straight-up grilling , friends.

And it was tasty.

Sooooo tasty.

*drool* interlude…

But it was something else too. The smile joy of food over an open flame has always been there. Fire up the grill, grab a beer, watch the grass grow. The path to inner peace, it turns out, tastes like chicken.

But there’s something new now; some new, small briquette of determination off to the side of the grill that has only now ignited and started to smolder. I don’t just want to make stuff on the grill. I want to grill stuff on the grill; with all the ferocious flavor power such redundancy can muster.

So, help me out, you readers who consume food – animal, vegetable or mineral. Well, maybe just animal and vegetable. Minerals tend to fall through the rack into the fire. I need some good grilling recipes that (1) taste good ; (2) are super simple; (3) favor charcoal, since that’s what I use.

Get to work. Find me recipes. Quit your jobs, ignore your families, skip your own meals, if you have to. I’m hungry,people.

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