June 6, 2014

Chicken, apples and cream

 

Blondviolinist

Behind is good. Farther away from the FRONT is GOOD. Also, it turns out, good is the awful spotlights that frelling BLIND YOU. It means you can’t really see the congregation.

Yes. Never underestimate the calming power of bright lights in your eyes. Congregation? What congregation?

Yay for having fun with singing!!! And when you do write that power ballad, I want to hear it.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.  And here I thought you were going to say something all helpful* and knows-way-more-about-music-than-I-do.  Fie.

But . . . I’m pretty sure it was you, a long time ago now, posted to the forum asking about Maggie’s mom’s chicken, apples and cream recipe.**  I TORE MY KITCHEN APART*** looking for the frelling recipe and had just about decided that it must have been in one of the cookbooks I’d got rid of when I went off dairy—probably one of the Shaker cookbooks.  You know all these clean pure lines of Shaker furniture and houses and how they dressed simply and were celibate and so on?  THEY MAKE UP FOR IT IN THE FOOD.  If there was ever massive sublimation going on Shaker food is it.  Or anyway the several Shaker cookbooks I had in my twenties and thirties† were ALL cream and butter and thick gooey sauces and . . . glorious.††  Although it helps if you have a really fast metabolism and/or regularly save the world which is usually a high-calorie undertaking.†††  The rest of us have to have a week’s detox on lettuce and water after every foray.  Even if I hadn’t gone off dairy twenty years ago I’d’ve had to get rid of my Shaker cookbooks when I hit menopause and my metabolism said, nice knowing you.  Going to sleep now for several decades.

BUT I FOUND IT.  CHICKEN, APPLES AND CREAM.  YAAAAAAY.  From the notes in the margins there was at least one other recipe I had already tried—which probably was in one of those lost Shaker cookbooks—but I know I used this one too.  It’s been so long since I’ve made it I can’t remember much about it except that it’s good.  The original is from COUNTRY SUPPERS by Ruth Cousineau which I’ve praised in these virtual pages before.  I think it’s a lovely cookbook and it should have been a fabulous best-seller and still in print.  But it’s not—still in print, anyway.

2-3 T slightly salted butter

1 large sweet onion

2 medium-sized sour/cooking apples:  popularity was busy ruining Granny Smiths when I moved over here:  when they first hit the ground running they were the perfect all-purpose apple, not too sour to eat if you like brisk but excellent in pies and so on too.  So I’m not sure what you Americans use now.  I used Bramleys when I first moved over here‡ but they are VERY SOUR.  Also, Bramleys tend to HUGE.  You’ll probably only want one Bramley.  Anyway.  Choose your weapon.  Then core, peel, slice.  You know the drill.

3 T flour

1 c good strong chicken stock.  Either make it yourself or buy proper stock in the refrigerator section of your grocery.

½ c heavy cream‡‡

4 c chopped cooked chicken‡‡‡

Melt the butter, gently fry your fine-chopped onion.  Add apples and go on cooking gently.  If you’re using Bramleys be aware that they get fluffy if they’re cooked too enthusiastically.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir till you get something resembling a lumpy roux—all those apples and onions in the way.  Then slowly add the stock and cream.  As I recall I added it alternately in bits—so half the stock, stir till it’s all taken up, then the cream, stir etc, then the final stock.  It’ll be much thinner, obviously, but it should still be a proper thick sauce.

Add the chicken and heat through.

You’ll need some salt:  add how you like it.  You may want pepper.  I don’t but then I’m not eating this, am I?  You can think of me and feel superior.§

* * *

* I need to learn how to change key signatures and how to write a descant.  Okay?

** SHADOWS.  For those of you still waiting in the loan queue at your library.^

^ Suggest they buy more copies.

*** It did not, in fact, look a great deal different than before I started the tearing process.

† Before I went off everything that was fun besides tea, chocolate and champagne

†† I was just googling Shaker recipes and there seems to be some revisionism going on.  Simple pure lines of Shaker cooking.  Hmm.  Okay.

††† Ask Kes.

‡ I sashayed back and forth over the ‘no dairy’ line for a while till my body convinced me that it meant NO DAIRY.

‡ Oh frell.  US/UK translation problems.  I think if you’re in the UK you want what’s called ‘whipping cream’.  I’ve just been pestering google and that seems to be the consensus.  I too fell into the ‘double cream’ trap.  The UK is just cream mad.  Which is why I started falling off the no-dairy wagon when I moved over here.  Clotted cream.  Be still my heart.  SIIIIIIIIGH.  I’m old and mean now though.  I’m used to my bitter privation.

‡‡‡ The original recipe calls for shredded chicken.  Ugh.  You can also just joint your chicken.  It makes quite a nice presentation if you arrange your chicken pieces on a platter, pour the sauce over and artfully arrange a few slices of raw apple on top—not Bramley.  People die of intense shrivelling by eating raw Bramleys.  This method also saves all that chopping time.  You could knit several rows in the time you didn’t spend chopping.

§ I CAN STILL EAT BUTTER.  With black tea, champagne, chocolate and BUTTER, my life is not a desert.

Ow, continued

 

Last night* did not begin well . . . when I shut Wolfgang’s front passenger-side door on my thumb.

I was very good.  It was urble-mumble o’clock in the morning** so I did not scream to make the welkin ring, although there was some fairly dramatic hissing, and the thirty seconds or so it took to hustle the frelling hellhounds into the car—they dork around and dork around looking for THAT ILLUSORY PERFECT PLACE TO PEE—may have been the longest thirty seconds of my life*** before I could pelt back indoors and fish out the arnica bottle—with, you know, my other wounded hand, the one with the slightly cracked finger.  Meanwhile I don’t suppose my thumb had really blown up like a balloon on an electric bicycle pump but . . . close.†  So last night I took the other half of the bottle of arnica I’d started the night before when I semi-broke my finger.  And last night’s insomnia was made more interesting by my thumb going BANG every hour or so necessitating me to sit up, groggily feel around for the arnica bottle, and take another tiny pill.††  Plus a certain amount of hypericum.†††

And today my thumbnail is turquoise.  I think it’s slowly turning black, the way squashed fingernails do, but it was a positively brilliant turquoise this morning.  New experiences.  I could have done without this one.  This is also the first time since my discovery of the wonders of arnica that I’m going to have a black fingernail anyway.  Sigh.  I hate black nails;  it takes a good six months for one to grow out—on me, anyway.  And it makes you look so hopeless.  No one ever got a black nail saving the universe.  It’s always because you’re a dolt and you shut your finger in a door.  I need more sleep.  I’m not usually quite this self-destructive.

Meanwhile . . . at the moment neither hand works very well.  And except for the fact that it’s my left thumb which is superfluous to requirements on a keyboard, it’s a lot more inconvenient than the middle finger on my other hand.  No opposable thumb.  No grasping.  Also I can’t hit the brake on Chaos’ lead—now that’s dangerous—and Pav is usually on that side too, but I can at least make a wild poke with my right thumb.  But it’s REALLY GREAT TIMING that I have two sub-functioning hands when I’m trying to yank us toward readiness to move house.  Which in this case chiefly means BOOKS.  Lots and lots and lots and lots of books.‡

Ow.  Ow.

* * *

* And by night we mean that time at the end of a long evening which reaches well past both the big and the little hand on the tick-tock^ device sticking straight up, and begins with that fell and doom-laden moment I face the necessity of loading sixteen hellcritters and enough kit for an assault on Everest in January into Wolfgang to make our slow bleary way back to the cottage.  Well, that’s how it feels.

^ I’m sorry, but all the best clocks still go tick-tock.  And have hands.

** Which is late even for me.  Well, I’d been having a long semi-unplanned conversation with an across-the-pond friend earlier, not for lack of trying to create something like an advance strategy.  NONE OF MY TECHNOLOGY WORKS.  NONE.  Am I only suffering from aggravated nostalgia, or am I right in thinking that back in the days when street mail and telephones were your only options, they mostly worked pretty well?  TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES wouldn’t make you crazy if misdelivered letters were a commonplace.^

^  ANGEL CLARE IS A MOULDY DOG TURD.  Just sayin’.

*** Although the rather fewer seconds between bouncing off the side of a caroming car and watching the ground rushing up toward my motorcycle and me also took a surprisingly long time.  I’ve told you this story, right?  Well, I haven’t told you in at least six months and it’s one of my favourites.  I was lying there in the road and someone who’d pulled over and stopped his car came running up to me yelling, Son, son, are you all right?  And I said, Well, you could get this motorcycle off my leg, and he said, Oh my God it’s a girl—and ran away and was never seen again.  Although he was probably responsible for the deluge of fire trucks and ambulances that began to arrive shortly thereafter.  This was—gleep—over forty years ago.  No one, including William Gibson, was entertaining any fantastic notion of mobile phones yet.  You had to go find a phone booth or one of those EMERGENCY PULL/PRESS HERE boxes.

† I want to know—well, I think I want to know, graphic gore is not my thing—what happens if someone who’s shut a toe or a fingertip in a car door^ doesn’t have a source of cold water or arnica to stop the swelling?  Fingernails don’t stretch.

^ All those jokes about silly-putty steel in modern vehicles are suddenly not funny.  But then one of the reasons some of us like VWs and Volvos and various not-I-think-exclusively-German four-wheeled bombs is the higher percentage of real steel in their composition.  A headlong juggernaut will still take you out but a careening lorry might not.  I think there could be some research done into rubber door mounts however.

†† Plus the two phone calls and two no-you-don’t-have-to-sign-for-it-but-we’re-still-going-to-knock-on-your-door-and-wake-you-up-again deliveries.  In their defense, both deliveries were after nine a.m.  And I sleep in clothing I can answer the door in.^

^ Kes is telling herself that sleeping in chainmail would be really uncomfortable.

††† Hypericum is another really basic homeopathic first aid remedy.  For injury you always start with arnica, but if it needs some help, hypericum is particularly good for nerve-rich bits like fingers and toes and your coccyx.  Also for injuries that stab you repeatedly.  This one echoed very unpleasantly not just through the rest of my hand but up my arm to my shoulder.  BANG.

‡ The Oxfam bookshop is going to ban me.  No!  Not more classics of English literature that no one reads any more!^

^ I’m keeping Dickens and Faulkner.  And Anthony Trollope.  And Hardy.  And George Eliot.  And Elizabeth Bowen.  Some Conrad.  Some Henry James.  And a ridiculous amount of poetry.  Willa Cather is out.  F Scott Fitzgerald—out.  Madame Bovary—out.  Most of the Russians—out.

The Incredible Shrinking Living Space

 

Third House has shrunk.  I should have realised that the shiver in the aether when Peter said ‘okay’ Saturday afternoon was reality contracting.  Oh, and the books on Third House’s shelves have all reproduced.  In fact I think most of them have had litters.  Arrrgh.  I didn’t notice immediately, I was too busy dancing the fandango* and telling Third House we’re finally going to live in it.**

The red-shifted or Dopplered or whatever mystery of physics describes what happens to a house you’re about to start living in*** became dreadfully clear, however, when Fiona† showed up Tuesday morning†† and we tackled the surprising amount of stuff left over from last autumn when I was clearing out toward handing it over to the letting agent.†††  ARRRGH.  Fiona‡ had already agreed to come for a day and make me by her presence GET THE FRELLING FRELL ON WITH IT, when I still thought I was going to be letting it.  But we’ve been haemorrhaging money on storage since last autumn:  get your butt in gear, McKinley.  So I told Fiona that she was to keep repeating:  NEVER MIND. NEVER MIND.   JUST PUT IT IN A BOX AND PICK UP THE NEXT THING.

The angle of approach to the eventual goal has altered, but the merciless bottom line is still that it’s Too Much Stuff and Too Little Space.  But at least it’s our too little space again.

And you know the most amazing thing?  Fiona the B is coming back next Tuesday.‡‡  To do it all over again.  Which includes the fact that doing it all over again is necessary, sigh.  Now if only I could figure out a way to sic her on BT. . .

* * *

* If houses can shrink, I can be two people and dance a fandango

** It’s a nice house.  It should be lived in.  Aside from housing shortages^ I have felt bad for however many years I’ve owned it that I’m/we’re not doing it justice.  At the same time I was pretty discouraged about the prospect of letting it—very sensible, should have done it years ago, but it’s my house.  I want my books on the shelves (and the floor) and my drawing table in the attic.

^ Which I don’t in fact feel very guilty about since one of the many governmental scandals that resurface when there’s nothing newer and hotter to develop migraines over is the number of council houses that stand empty because the local council can’t get its act together to have them set to rights.  This would be less of a scandal if a lot of those local councils didn’t prefer to build new ones . . . which will need repairs shortly.

*** Usually they wait till you start unpacking your 1,000,000,000 boxes, but the situation here is unusual.

† Hereinafter to be known as Fiona the Blessed or possibly Fiona the B.

†† Well . . . um . . . it was still nearly Tuesday morning.  Fiona the B had some silly story about a flat tyre.  I had my usual silly story about non-eating hellhounds and going to bed so wound up I was humming like a gyroscope.

††† Unfortunately the need to do stuff like find out why the toilet tank erratically leaks^ and finally placate the ratblasted TV licensing mob who have suspected me of malfeasance for nearly a decade now^^ and enter into *&^%$£”!”!!!!!!!! negotiations with *&^%$£”!”!!!!!!!! BT^^^ has not evolved in the slightest.

^ and all you DIYers out there, no, it’s not that you just have to difflegag the dorgummer, because if it were the obvious thing(s) Atlas would have done it.

^^ She owns TWO houses and she doesn’t have TV in EITHER of them??  A likely story.

^^^ Jaccairn

Yeah for Peter moving closer! Does this mean you’ll have to resume discussions with BT about the phone line?

Snork.  The things you people remember.  Yes.  BT claims there is no phone line to the house despite the fact that it’s an eighty-year-old cottage in the middle of a several-hundred-year-old village+ and there’s a phone jack in the kitchen.  And that if I want a phone line put in for the first time in eight hundred and fifteen years (approximately) it’s going to cost me a lot of money because they have to start with the Roman aqueduct.++  But Peter has said diffidently that he really does feel he would be happier with a landline . . . and I need my internet.  And even Peter uses email+++.

Pam Adams

I’m sure the hellterror will be happy- another pair of hands to pet her all day long.

???  The hellpack and I are at Peter’s mews more than we’re at the cottage.  We sleep at the cottage# and the hellgoddess imbibes her morning caffeine at the cottage.  Then we schlep down to the mews—pausing to pick Peter up in front of the grocery store because post-stroke he can walk one way into town, not both ways.  I usually try to hurtle critters back to the cottage for a spell in the afternoon to garden, do the laundry, shovel the accumulation of whatever off the stairs, etc.  I AM SO LOOKING FORWARD TO NOT HAVING TO COMMUTE ANY MORE.  As real commutes go it’s piffle, but it’s just far enough that you can’t nip back for something you’ve forgotten, and whatever you want is probably at the other house.  Hence the whole gruesome business of two knapsacks, three hellcritters and Wolfgang, every frelling day, no weekends and no holidays.  And you’ve still brought the wrong coat.

Firebyrd

I love it when procrastinating on something big like renting out Third House turns out to be a huge blessing.

Ha.  Indeed.  Although I wish I’d merely procrastinated about turning the CLEAN SHINY EMPTY FULLY MOD-CONNED### HOUSE over to the nice rental agent rather than having stalled at the gee, wasn’t this supposed to have gone into storage/what about ALL OF THESE BLASTED BOOKS? phase.  Not to mention the overflowing toilet cistern.

Mrs Redboots

That sounds better! So does that mean you will sell your place, too, and move into Third House with Peter?

Good golly no.  Third House is LITTLE.  And littler than it was a week ago too, before Peter said ‘okay’, see above.  It only had two bedrooms to begin with and one of them is now mostly staircase on account of the No You Can’t Do What You Want to Do with Your Own House building-reg disaster of putting a weight-bearing floor in the attic for the 1,000,000,000,000,000 boxes of backlist.  Couldn’t one of us have been a chef or a horse trainer or something?  My idea was an attic like at the cottage, which is finished, with a Velux window and a fitted carpet and everything, but you get in and out by something more like a ladder than a stair, and removable.  That would No Longer Be Allowed### Because Building Regulations Have Decreed That a Weight-Bearing Floor Means Living Space and You Can’t Live in Something You Can Only Reach By Ladder.~  As I found out when I hired my architect.  So I now have Living Space I can’t stand up in (it’s still an attic) and a second bedroom that you could maybe get a single bed in.  Maybe.  If you don’t mind rappelling in from the doorway.

Or, if you and the hellhounds are staying put (although the hellhounds will have lots more garden to roam in, which means lots more lovely photos!!!), is it a lot nearer and more convenient?

Yes.  In the first place it’s a BUNGALOW so the only stairs are to the backlist and Peter has staff (that would be me) to fetch and carry.  In the second place it’s across the churchyard from my cottage instead of at the other end of town and in the third place it’s a short level walk to the shops instead of half a mile and a hill.

I am SO LOOKING FORWARD to having that garden again.  I stopped letting the hellpack play there when I decided to let the house so I’d be used to the loss by the time I gave it over to the agent.  But I was really dreading walking past it—and it’s slap on one of the basic hurtles from the cottage, there’s no way I could not go that way some of the time—and seeing other people and, probably, other people’s dogs in it.

We haven’t started using the garden again because I’m a bit preoccupied with getting on with the house.~~

Stardancer

Less stress for everyone, I hope, and YOU GET TO KEEP THIRD HOUSE!

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

No bothering with renters! You could put the backlist back in the attic! …Well. If it doesn’t immediately fill up with Peter’s things.

The backlist has to go into the attic.  WE ARE GOING TO GET ALL OUR STUFF OUT OF STORAGE.  I was staring at the walls at the cottage this afternoon and thinking, okay, I can put another bookshelf up there.  There’s still a terrifying amount of stuff to deal with, one way or another.  The only reason I haven’t just run away from home and joined the space programme~~~ is because I keep reminding myself that the mews, while it has the most floor space of our three little houses it has the least storage.  It pretty much has no storage aside from some unsatisfactory crawl spaces.  What you see is what there is.  Which is bad enough.

Skating librarian

Great news … It would seem your life will be much less complicated and Peter’s much safer. 

That’s the plan, yes, thanks.

+ Granted that telephones were rare in 1200.

++ Start what with the Roman aqueduct?

+++ And google at least twice a year.

# Theoretically we sleep at the cottage.  We at least assume a recumbent position at the cottage.  The hellpack, by the snoring, sleep pretty well.  Me, not so much.

## Including a frelling landline phone and broadband at a speed not less than that attained by a dead muskrat.

### The attic in the cottage was done up by my predecessor.  I’ve been there a decade (!) and it was a few years old when I bought the cottage.

~ Tell that to Lothlorien’s elves.

~~ But I did buy an extra tray of snapdragons today.

~~~ Aside from there being no space programme to join, and that they don’t take clueless retirement-age-approaching women whose only degrees are BAs in English lit.

‡ the B

‡‡ I’ve told her the cattle prod is optional

Emma Tupper’s Diary

 

 

I told you it had been reissued:  http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2014/02/13/dont-i-keep-trying-to-reinstate-short-wednesdays/  Almost any of Peter’s books, if you mention it suddenly and catch me off guard I will probably say, Oh, that’s one of my favourites!  But in Emma Tupper’s case I’m telling the truth.

Here’s a new review by its very own republisher:  http://smallbeerpress.com/not-a-journal/2014/04/16/reading-like-its-1971/ *

I was already distressingly near to grown up by 1971 and wasn’t hanging out in kids’ book sections any more.  I knew about Peter Dickinson, but I knew him for his rivetingly bizarre murder mysteries.  It would take several more years and a job at the children’s division of Little, Brown (as it then was), for me to learn what I had been missing.  L,B had the back catalogue of its colleague Atlantic Monthly Press on its shelves too . . . including Peter Dickinson’s kids’ books.  Including Emma Tupper.

If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?  You don’t have to be told a third time, do you?**

* * *

* I wish I’d grown up on a Scottish loch side.  ^

^ I’m keeping the five years in Japan though.

** Makes a good gift too.

Book rec:* THE FREEDOM MAZE by Delia Sherman

 

This is such a good book.

I don’t remember how I managed to notice it;  unless I am being even more clueless than usual, which I admit is entirely possible, I don’t think it’s been waved around and shouted about much over here, which is a pity—do the British really think a YA fantasy novel about the American antebellum south isn’t of interest?  But it isn’t a YA fantasy novel about the American antebellum south, although it’s certainly that too—it’s a novel about what it is to be human.  Which is what all the best novels are about, including—and I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating—the ones featuring fuzzy blue eight-legged methane-breathers.  Or a Louisiana sugar-cane plantation a hundred and fifty years ago, run by slave labour.

Thirteen-year-old Sophie’s parents have split up (very shocking in 1960 middle-class America) and her mother is taking her back to her family’s old home for the summer to get her out of the way.  Sophie’s mother’s family were very grand a hundred years ago, and the house where Sophie’s grandmother and aunt still live is on a remnant of the old plantation.  Sophie is miserable;  she’d already been outcast by her friends because of the divorce, and the back of beyond in the bayou is nearly the worst fate she can think of.  She explores the overgrown—and reputedly haunted—maze that had been part of the Big House’s garden in the plantation’s day.  And there she meets . . . a Creature.  “There’s no question that there’s strange things around Oak River,” says Sophie’s Aunt Enid, “and if they’re not ghosts, then they’re something mighty like.”

“I warn you,” says the Creature to Sophie, “I mighty powerful juju.  I sits at the doorway betwixt might be and is, betwixt was and will be, betwixt here and there. . . . ”

But Sophie, reckless in her unhappiness, and having perhaps reread E Nesbit and Edward Eager a little too often, wishes for an adventure.  “Adventures just come along natural with going back in time,” says the Creature.

And Sophie discovers that she’s back a hundred years.  When her ancestors, the Fairchilds, were plantation owners.  And what had been her bedroom in 1960 is the bedroom of the daughter of the family in 1860.  Who is understandably dismayed by the strange girl in it.  But Sophie, with her frizzy hair and her dark summer tan, is mistaken for a runaway slave.  And the only reason she isn’t flogged and dragged away in chains is because she is obviously a member of the family—she has the famous Fairchild nose.  She is, it is decided by Miss Liza’s parents, the daughter of Miss Liza’s rackety uncle—and one of his slaves.

Which makes Sophie a slave.  Which is not the sort of adventure she had in mind.

The plantation world is brought superbly to life, as are the people in it.  One of the things I found particularly effective is sheltered, white-girl 1960 Sophie having no idea what it means to be a slave:  that just meeting someone’s eyes because they’re speaking to you is uppity, that any answer at all may be the wrong answer, that it is perfectly acceptable to be expected to wait on table when you are half-sick with hunger yourself, that it is perfectly acceptable to be sent on another errand, and another errand after that when you’re exhausted—because you aren’t really human.  And that the white overseer is always right even when he’s wrong, and that a black slave doesn’t know more even when he does—because he’s a slave.

And what this grotesque imbalance of power does to both sides of this criminally bad bargain.

There are so many neat, tucked-away little details in this book, of plot, character and serendipity, none of which I can tell you—but I can tell you to look out for them.  I’ve discovered one or two more just glancing through it now to get the names and quotations right—and many of these apparently casual bits and pieces come together beautifully for the climax and denouement.

Give yourself a treat:  read it.

* * *

* I read a book over supper last night.^  It was thrilling.  I always used to read over meals unless Story in Progress was giving me an unusually ferocious time;  but in the last six and a half years if I’m not wrestling with a recalcitrant Story I’m mostly writing the blog at night.  Hey.  More book recs on the new blog system.  Yessssssss.

^ I was also up way too late as a result.  Sigh.  Well, no system is perfect.

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