Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
Then with cracked hands that ached
From labor in the weekday weather made
Banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
And slowly I would rise and dress,
Fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
Who had driven out the cold
And polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
Of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Monday, May 20, 2019

When Abortion Stopped Making Sense

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense
By Frederica Mathewes-Green

January 22, 2016 9:00 AM

Roe v. Wade -- Abortion Won the Day, but Sooner or Later That Day Will End

At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, I was a college student — an anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student. That particular January I was taking a semester off, living in the D.C. area and volunteering at the feminist “underground newspaper” Off Our Backs. As you’d guess, I was strongly in favor of legalizing abortion. The bumper sticker on my car read, “Don’t labor under a misconception; legalize abortion.”

The first issue of Off Our Backs after the Roe decision included one of my movie reviews, and also an essay by another member of the collective criticizing the decision. It didn’t go far enough, she said, because it allowed states to restrict abortion in the third trimester. The Supreme Court should not meddle in what should be decided between the woman and her doctor. She should be able to choose abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

But, at the time, we didn’t have much understanding of what abortion was. We knew nothing of fetal development. We consistently termed the fetus “a blob of tissue,” and that’s just how we pictured it — an undifferentiated mucous-like blob, not recognizable as human or even as alive. It would be another 15 years of so before pregnant couples could show off sonograms of their unborn babies, shocking us with the obvious humanity of the unborn.

We also thought, back then, that few abortions would ever be done. It’s a grim experience, going through an abortion, and we assumed a woman would choose one only as a last resort. We were fighting for that “last resort.” We had no idea how common the procedure would become; today, one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion.

Nor could we have imagined how high abortion numbers would climb. In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade, there have been 59 million abortions. It’s hard even to grasp a number that big. Twenty years ago, someone told me that, if the names of all those lost babies were inscribed on a wall, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wall would have to stretch for 50 miles. It’s 20 years later now, and that wall would have to stretch twice as far. But no names could be written on it; those babies had no names.

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.

Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.” For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. A woman who determines instead to continue an unplanned pregnancy looks like she’s being foolishly stubborn. It’s like she’s taken up some unreasonable hobby. People think, If she would only go off and do this one thing, everything would be fine.

But that’s an illusion. Abortion can’t really “turn back the clock.” It can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself may struggle. When she first sees the positive pregnancy test she may feel, in a panicky way, that she has to get rid of it as fast as possible. But life stretches on after abortion, for months and years — for many long nights — and all her life long she may ponder the irreversible choice she made.

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child.

If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed that the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.” Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals.

The same thing goes for the human animal. Abortion gets presented to us as if it’s something women want; both pro-choice and pro-life rhetoric can reinforce that idea. But women do this only if all their other options look worse. It’s supposed to be “her choice,” yet so many women say, “I really didn’t have a choice.”

I changed my opinion on abortion after I read an article in Esquire magazine, way back in 1976. I was home from grad school, flipping through my dad’s copy, and came across an article titled “What I Saw at the Abortion.” The author, Richard Selzer, was a surgeon, and he was in favor of abortion, but he’d never seen one. So he asked a colleague whether, next time, he could go along.

Selzer described seeing the patient, 19 weeks pregnant, lying on her back on the table. (That is unusually late; most abortions are done by the tenth or twelfth week.) The doctor performing the procedure inserted a syringe into the woman’s abdomen and injected her womb with a prostaglandin solution, which would bring on contractions and cause a miscarriage. (This method isn’t used anymore, because too often the baby survived the procedure — chemically burned and disfigured, but clinging to life. Newer methods, including those called “partial birth abortion” and “dismemberment abortion,” more reliably ensure death.)

After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright on her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, “I see something other than what I expected here. . . . It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.”

He realized he was seeing the fetus’s desperate fight for life. And as he watched, he saw the movement of the syringe slow down and then stop. The child was dead. Whatever else an unborn child does not have, he has one thing: a will to live. He will fight to defend his life.

The last words in Selzer’s essay are, “Whatever else is said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense [i.e., of the child defending its life] will not vanish from my eyes. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?”

The truth of what he saw disturbed me deeply. There I was, anti-war, anti–capital punishment, even vegetarian, and a firm believer that social justice cannot be won at the cost of violence. Well, this sure looked like violence. How had I agreed to make this hideous act the centerpiece of my feminism? How could I think it was wrong to execute homicidal criminals, wrong to shoot enemies in wartime, but all right to kill our own sons and daughters?

For that was another disturbing thought: Abortion means killing not strangers but our own children, our own flesh and blood. No matter who the father, every child aborted is that woman’s own son or daughter, just as much as any child she will ever bear.

We had somehow bought the idea that abortion was necessary if women were going to rise in their professions and compete in the marketplace with men. But how had we come to agree that we will sacrifice our children, as the price of getting ahead? When does a man ever have to choose between his career and the life of his child?

Once I recognized the inherent violence of abortion, none of the feminist arguments made sense. Like the claim that a fetus is not really a person because it is so small. Well, I’m only 5 foot 1. Women, in general, are smaller than men. Do we really want to advance a principle that big people have more value than small people? That if you catch them before they’ve reached a certain size, it’s all right to kill them?

What about the child who is “unwanted”? It was a basic premise of early feminism that women should not base their sense of worth on whether or not a man “wants” them. We are valuable simply because we are members of the human race, regardless of any other person’s approval. Do we really want to say that “unwanted” people might as well be dead? What about a woman who is “wanted” when she’s young and sexy but less so as she gets older? At what point is it all right to terminate her?

The usual justification for abortion is that the unborn is not a “person.” It’s said that “Nobody knows when life begins.” But that’s not true; everybody knows when life — a new individual human life — gets started. It’s when the sperm dissolves in the egg. That new single cell has a brand-new DNA, never before seen in the world. If you examined through a microscope three cells lined up — the newly fertilized ovum, a cell from the father, and a cell from the mother — you would say that, judging from the DNA, the cells came from three different people.

When people say the unborn is “not a person” or “not a life” they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life. But there’s no agreement about which abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, law cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is “Can I kill this?” the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data. And the fact is, an unborn child, from the very first moment, is a new human individual. It has the three essential characteristics that make it “a human life”: It’s alive and growing, it is composed entirely of human cells, and it has unique DNA. It’s a person, just like the rest of us.

Abortion indisputably ends a human life. But this loss is usually set against the woman’s need to have an abortion in order to freely direct her own life. It is a particular cruelty to present abortion as something women want, something they demand, they find liberating. Because nobody wants this. The procedure itself is painful, humiliating, expensive — no woman “wants” to go through it. But once it’s available, it appears to be the logical, reasonable choice. All the complexities can be shoved down that funnel. Yes, abortion solves all the problems; but it solves them inside the woman’s body. And she is expected to keep that pain inside for a lifetime, and be grateful for the gift of abortion.

Many years ago I wrote something in an essay about abortion, and I was surprised that the line got picked up and frequently quoted. I’ve seen it in both pro-life and pro-choice contexts, so it appears to be something both sides agree on.

I wrote, “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Strange, isn’t it, that both pro-choice and pro-life people agree that is true? Abortion is a horrible and harrowing experience. That women choose it so frequently shows how much worse continuing a pregnancy can be. Essentially, we’ve agreed to surgically alter women so that they can get along in a man’s world. And then expect them to be grateful for it.

Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it, 2800 times a day? If women doing something 2,800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation we’ve won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression.


And so we come around to one more March for Life, like the one last year, like the one next year. Protesters understandably focus on the unborn child, because the danger it faces is the most galvanizing aspect of this struggle. If there are different degrees of injustice, surely violence is the worst manifestation, and killing worst of all. If there are different categories of innocent victim, surely the small and helpless have a higher claim to protection, and tiny babies the highest of all. The minimum purpose of government is to shield the weak from abuse by the strong, and there is no one weaker or more voiceless than unborn children. And so we keep saying that they should be protected, for all the same reasons that newborn babies are protected. Pro-lifers have been doing this for 43 years now, and will continue holding a candle in the darkness for as many more years as it takes.

I understand all the reasons why the movement’s prime attention is focused on the unborn. But we can also say that abortion is no bargain for women, either. It’s destructive and tragic. We shouldn’t listen unthinkingly to the other side of the time-worn script, the one that tells us that women want abortions, that abortion liberates them. Many a post-abortion woman could tell you a different story.

The pro-life cause is perennially unpopular, and pro-lifers get used to being misrepresented and wrongly accused. There are only a limited number of people who are going to be brave enough to stand up on the side of an unpopular cause. But sometimes a cause is so urgent, is so dramatically clear, that it’s worth it. What cause could be more outrageous than violence — fatal violence — against the most helpless members of our human community? If that doesn’t move us, how hard are our hearts? If that doesn’t move us, what will ever move us?

In time, it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era. Future generations can accurately say, “It’s not like they didn’t know.” They can say, “After all, they had sonograms.” They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters.

One day, the tide is going to turn. With that Supreme Court decision 43 years ago, one of the sides in the abortion debate won the day. But sooner or later, that day will end. No generation can rule from the grave. The time is coming when a younger generation will sit in judgment of ours. And they are not obligated to be kind.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Magnificent Obituary

Tim Schrandt

June 11, 1955 - March 29, 2019
U.S. Veteran

Tim Schrandt, age 63, of Spillville, IA died on Friday, March 29, 2019 at Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse, WI after a short battle with cancer.

A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Spillville with Deacon Pat Malanaphy presiding; burial will be in the church cemetery with full military rites.

Visitation will be from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at the St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Spillville and also after 10:00 a.m. at the Church on Thursday morning.

Tim Schrandt (Lynyrd) made his last inappropriate comment on March 29, 2019. If you are wondering if you may have ever met him, you didn’t — because you WOULD remember. For those of you that did meet him, we apologize, as we’re sure he probably offended you. He was world renowned for not holding back and telling it like it is.

Tim was born to William (Bill) Schrandt and Mary (Schrandt) Manning on June 11,1955 - 100 years too late. Given Tim’s demeanor he would have been the perfect weathered cowboy in the old west or rough and tough pioneer, or maybe he just should have been Amish.

Tim was the 4th of 8 kids, the bottom rung of the top tier (the big kids). Instead of taking his place on that rung, listening to the older kids and doing as he was told by his older siblings, he decided to anoint himself “king” of the 4 little kids. Tim spent his childhood and early adulthood ordering them around and in general, tormenting them. He was a great orator, (not like Shakespeare, but more like Yogi Berra), as he always had something to say,
and always had to get in the last word.

His position as “king” and orator was challenged by the nuns at St. Wenceslaus school in Spillville. He may have met his match. We’re not saying the nuns won, but they put up a good fight, we mean literally - he got into a fist-a-cuff with a nun. In fairness, she probably started it. You didn’t take a swing at Tim and not expect one back. Tim’s fondness for authority (his own - not others) followed him to South Winneshiek High School in Calmar and later into the Army. This provided for many interesting episodes and stories, detentions and demotions, and a few “run ins” with the law, not just locally, but globally.

Tim worked at Camcar/Stanley Black and Decker in Decorah as a tool and die maker for 30 plus years. Tim worked with many friends and “a bunch of morons”. His words, not ours. Well not exactly his, words because that would have included a bunch of swear words.

Tim leaves behind a hell of a lot of stuff that his family doesn’t know what to do with. So, if you are looking for a Virgin Mary in a bathtub shrine (you Catholics know what we’re talking about) you should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch with them.

Tomorrow would be fine.

In addition to his stuff he leaves behind two great boys who he was extremely proud of, Cody (Jenny) Schrandt and Josh (Lydia) Schrandt were the product of his marriage to Crystal Hilmer. He will be missed by his two granddaughters that he adored and taught to cuss, Peyton and MacKenna. Also left to keep the stories alive (but damn, there won”t be any new material) are his mother Mary Manning and siblings Mike (Rita Dixon) Schrandt, Marty (Clint) Berg, Becky Schrandt-Miles, Bill (Grease) Schrandt, Pam (Rick) Barnes, Peter (Sandra) Schrandt and many nieces, nephews and cousins that wanted to hang out near him, because you just knew he was going to say or do something good. It’s not that he was such a great storyteller, it’s that he WAS the story!

To his siblings’ amazement he was actually able to snag a good woman, Cheryl Murray, and hold on to her for the past 13 years, and as far as we know restraints were not used. Tim also created great memories and stories for Cheryl’s kids Alex (Christina) Murray and Samantha (Evan) Luedking and grandkids Tatum and Grace.

He will be having a reunion with his infant daughter Ashley, his brother Duke, his dad Bill Schrandt, many aunts and uncles and a handful of cousins that passed before him. Tim was in charge of getting the beer and ice for our family reunions, so they will be happy to see him.

A common line in obituaries is “He never met a stranger”, in Tim’s case he never met a rule he couldn’t break, a boundary he couldn’t push, a line he couldn’t cross and a story he couldn’t stretch. Another common obituary phrase is “He’d give the shirt off his back”, well Tim was prepared to do that, and he could do it quickly, because he always wore his shirts unbuttoned ¾ the way down. Tim was anything but common!

Despite his crusty exterior, cutting remarks and stubbornness, there is actual evidence that he was a loving, giving and caring person. That evidence is the deep sorrow and pain in our hearts that his family feels from his passing.

Tim led a good life and had a peaceful death - but the transition was a bitch. And for the record, he did not lose his battle with cancer. When he died, the cancer died, so technically it was a tie! He was ready to meet his Maker, we’re just not sure “The Maker” is ready to meet Tim.

Good luck God!

We are considering establishing a Go-Fund-Me account for G. Heileman Brewing Co., the brewers of Old Style beer, as we anticipate they are about to experience significant hardship as a result of the loss of Tim”s business. Keep them in your thoughts.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Scrumptious Banana Pudding

This is a family favorite, and people would ask my mother-i-law for the recipe only to be told “my next-door neighbor made it.” So here it is, Judy Weathersbee’s recipe, by way of Bobbie Boone Craig.

  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 3 small boxes instant vanilla pudding (French vanilla preferred)
  • 5 cups milk
  • 8 oz. carton sour cream
  • 12 ox. carton Cool Whip
  • ~5 bananas
1. Mix pudding with milk & whip until thick.
2. Fold in sour cream.
3. Fold in 1/2 the Cool Whip.
4. Start layering in a serving dish: pudding, wafers, bananas. Be sure to start & end with the pudding, but reserve some wafers for the top.
5. Spread the rest of the Cool Whip over the later of wafers.
6. Refrigerate until time to serve.

 I will doubtless be making this for some family event, but will not be using Cool Whip. Instead, I will be whipping some actual cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Baked Home Fries

I’ve been chasing ways of cooking potatoes that end with a crispy crust around a fluffy interior for a while. Combining a couple of tricks from different cooking shows, I think I have found a relatively easy method, and last night Dr. SWMBO said that this was it. Instead of cubes, I made dinner fries this time, so my prep time was even less than it might have been. The basic innovations are:
  1. use an apple wedger/corer to cut the potatoes,
  2. parboil the wedges in water with baking soda, and
  3. bake at high heat.
Beyond that, you will want to think about flavor profiles and adjust as needed. But here’s what I did last night to make a side dish for two adults and one teenager:
  • Preheat an oven to 400º F.
  • Cut two medium-large Yukon gold potatoes in half across the short axis in order to make stable bases so you can
  • use an apple wedger/corer to cut the potatoes into wedges with a few tubes (I used a tool that cuts 12 wedges; the thickness of the wedges (a function of the number of wedges) will obviously affect cooking time).
  • Bring a pot full of water up to a boil; you will want a pot with a whole lot of head room as there will be quite a bit of foam.
  • Toss a good bit of baking soda into the water; I probably used a couple of tablespoons, but I was just eyeballing it. The water will foam and then settle.
  • Add the potato wedges (and tubes) to the water and wait for the water to come back up to a boil.
  • In the meanwhile, grab a large mixing bowl, pour in
    • some EVOO
    • some kosher salt, and 
    • some paprika
    (you know about how much seasoning you want on your taters; but do try to use kosher salt or something else with large grains so that it will be more abrasive on the surface of the parboiled potatoes).
  • When the water comes back up to a boil, let the potatoes dance around for one minute. (There will be a lot of foam at this point. A lot.)
  • Get the potatoes out of the water and into the bowl with the oil & salt. (Use a colander, or a spider, or whatever you feel like washing later.)
  • Stir vigorously. Notice how this develops a kind of creamy coating on the surface of the potatoes. This coating will turn crispy in the oven, and this is the magic that the baking-soda-induced pH change in the water does to the potatoes. And the coarser the salt, the more little crispy furrows you will get.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or with oiled foil.
  • Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer with room between the pieces. (I just dump them out of the bowl and give the sheet a few shakes in a couple of different directions, then do any final arranging with whatever tongs, spatula, spoonula or other thingy I happen to have been using.)
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Flip the pieces. (Now aren’t you glad you sprayed the foil with non-stick oil?)
  • Bake for 20 more minutes.
  • Plate & let cool a bit before biting into those bad boys.
With Yukon golds, this produced a crisp exterior with a creamy interior. I’m willing to bet that russets would produce a fluffier interior rather than creamy, and I might try that some day. For neither type of potato will I be peeling first. I love the skins. But a Yukon gold’s skin is much thinner and more delicate than a russet’s, so some adjustment or other will be needed to keep the skin of a russet from getting too tough.

I might also experiment with flavoring the potatoes. I have in the past made cubed potatoes for a large crowd by cooking them on a large griddle. For those, I cut the potatoes the night before and tossed them with oil & spices like salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and rosemary before leaving them to marinate overnight. Great flavor, but very labor intensive to get the browning right.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thin Pizza Crust

Thin Pizza Crust from Tori Avey

This recipe makes one thin, 11-13" pizza crust.
  • Put into a bowl and whisk:
    • ⅓ cup warm water (~95℉);
    • 1 tsp sugar, honey, vel sim.; and
    • 1 tsp active dry yeast.
  •  Cover and let stand to proof the yeast. If it’s not nice and foamy within 10 minutes, you need fresher yeast (although when I did this two days ago, our nearly-empty jar of Fleischmann’s that had a 2015 expiration date on it produced yeast that was still quite active).
  • In the meanwhile, put into another, larger bowl
    • 1 cup all purpose flour and
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
  •  and whisk to combine.
  • Add the clearly active yeast mixture and 1 Tbsp olive oil to the dry ingredients.
  • Mix to combine thoroughly and then
  • knead for five minutes. (I did this in the bowl and needed (ha!) no more flour for the kneading).
  • Form into a ball and
  • transfer to a smaller, oiled bowl.
  • Turn to completely coat the ball with oil.
  • Cover and let rise in a room that is ~76-80℉ for about 2 hrs (until double in size).
[Insert two hours worth of music & other chores here.]
  • Place a pizza stone, cast iron bistro pan, or some other such item into an oven and preheat to 450℉.
  • Punch down the dough.
  • Get out some parchment, sprinkle with semolina (I switched from corn meal and like the texture slightly better), and start rolling out the dough from the center, shifting 90° with each stroke. (With other crust recipes, I get slightly better results when I can use my fingers to knead the dough out into a round shape, then pick it up and stretch the outside circumference to enlarge the circle. I still find myself finishing with a rolling pin, though. This crust is fairly loose, so rolling pin it is.)
  • When the dough is ~13", sprinkle with a bit more corn meal semolina,
  • prick all over with a fork,
  • flip,
  • brush with olive oil, and
  • top with desired toppings.
  • Transfer to heated stone or iron in the oven. (I slide a thin metal pizza pan underneath the parchment, just set the parchment with the pizza down on the hot stone or iron, and slide the fake peel out; the parchment makes a convenient tool for removing the cooked pizza from the oven and for containing the mess when cutting and serving.)
  • Bake for ~12 minutes
  • check for desired browning of the crust, and either leave in for a bit longer or
  • take out, cut, and serve.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Skillet Mac-n-Cheese

This is completely experimental for the time being. I’m recording things here to keep track of my changes as I work on the recipe. When it’s done, I’ll delete this header.

Update, July 2017: I made my first attempt at smoked Gouda mac-n-cheese. Because there would be the two of us and a very hungry Chinese teenager (the one who made it 40 days), I worked off of the proportions from the original recipe. For a creamy cheese, I used cream Havarti. The smoked Gouda was the hard cheese. And of course, I used Locatelli instead of Parmesan. I did the whole thing with one heavy skillet, toasting the creole panko first, then putting it into a bowl, then pan roasting some coarsely  cut tomato ends (which added nothing to the conversation) and putting them in a bowl before finally staring in on the pasta.

  1. Dr. Nurse doesn’t like mac-n-cheese done with gnocchi. Too heavy. This time, I made it with Barilla Rotini, and that seems to be the way to go in the future for us.
  2. The flavors were almost where I want them to be, but the dish was not creamy enough. So pump up the smoked Gouda flavor, but make it smoother. Possibilities include switching back from the Havarti to the American or finding a way to make smoked Gouda work all on its lonesome. (Added Oct 2017: switching back to American didn’t do it. So, I’m going to try cream Havarti and increase the amount of milk in the pasta water.)
  3. I prefer the panko & cheese toasted in a pan before stirring it in, so in keeping with the one-pan idea, toast them first, reserve them into a bowl, and then stir them in at the end, just before putting some of the whole mixture back into the same bowl to eat out of.

I think that the flavor & texture I want here could be achieved with cream Havarti and smoked Gouda. Tonight, I did this for two people:
  • Bring
    • ½ c. water
    • ½ c. milk
  • to a boil in a small skillet.
    • Add 8 oz. Rio Bertolini gnocchi.
  • Reduce heat to medium & cook with frequent stirring until the gnocchi is floating (~10 min.).
  • Add 
    • 2 oz. shredded American cheese (block, not singles) 
    • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
    • pinch cayenne pepper
  • and stir constantly until the cheese is melted (~1 min).
  • Off heat, stir in 
    • 2 oz shredded sharp cheddar.
  • Cover & let stand 5 minutes.
  • Stir until smooth.
  • Sprinkle with
    • Cajun panko crumbs
    • S&P
    • Locatelli Romano
  • Enjoy!

I’m basing this on the Cook’s Illustrated recipe that appears in the March/April 2017 issue. That recipe to serve 4 people is as follows:
  • Bring
    • 1½ c. water
    • 1 c. milk
  • to a boil in a small saucepan.
  • Add 8 oz. Barilla elbow macaroni.
  • Reduce heat to medium & cook with frequent stirring until the mac is al dente (6-8 min).
  • Add 
    • 4 oz. shredded American cheese (block, not singles) 
    • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
    • small pinch cayenne pepper
  • and stir constantly until the cheese is melted (~1 min).
  • Off heat, stir in 
    • 4 oz shredded sharp cheddar.
  • Cover & let stand 5 minutes.
  • Combine
    • ⅓ c. panko crumbs
    • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
    • S&P
  • in a hot skillet &
  • cook over medium heat until browned.
  • Stir in 
    • 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese.
  • Stir Mac & Cheese until smooth.
  • Season with S&P.
  • Top with panko & Parmesan.
  • Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Soft-boiled eggs

I like my fried eggs over easy—whites set, yummy yolks hot and runny. Occasionally I like that hot, runny yolk without the crispy edges of a thin white. Sometimes, I like the white thick like in a hard-boiled egg, but still want the liquid gold in the center. I even have an egg topper, a couple of egg cups (I used to use footed shot glasses), and some demitasse spoons to fit out the ritual of eating soft-boiled eggs. I know that it’s a little fussy, but I find it fussy in a good way. Like a tea ritual, it slows me down and forces me to savor and appreciate a single egg, eaten in tiny spoonfuls straight out of the shell, lightly salting and peppering as I go.

This procedure I got from America’s Test Kitchen, who developed it so that they could reliably soft-cook a single egg or a dozen. It relies on the temperature of steam to cook the egg(s) and the quick recovery time of a shallow batch of water when a variable number of cold eggs are introduced into the mix. They recommend five and a half minutes, but even with jumbos, I prefer 5:15. They also use a saucepan or somesuch, while I use a skillet with a tight-fitting lid. I think that they want a taller steam area, but I find that the shallow steam bath works just fine for me.

  • Choose a cooking vessel with a flat bottom that is large enough for the number of eggs you want to soft cook to fit lying down with lots of room around them. It doesn’t matter if the sides are straight or sloping, so long as the flat area works and the lid is relatively secure. I normally use a Le Creuset 6" skillet, which has pouring spouts that leak steam, and it works fine so long as I cover it. I can’t think when I have ever cooked more than two eggs this way, so the small size works for me.
  • Put in enough water that it will come about halfway up the eggs you are going to put in later.
  • Cover (so that everything in the equation gets nice and hot).
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to a vigorous simmer.
  • Carefully but quickly add the cold eggs.
  • Recover and watch to make sure that the steam starts running out the top again.
  • Set a timer for 5¼ minutes.
  • Carefully drain and run cold water over the eggs.
  • Put the eggs into cups, open the tops, and enjoy!
So that’s my riff on the ATK recipe.

Hard-Bolied, easy peel eggs

Forget the salt, vinegar, and/or baking soda in the water. The key to easy peeling hard-boiled eggs is shocking them in an ice bath. The key to solid yolks without any green around them is the amount of time cooking, which is controlled marvelously well by using retained heat no matter what size eggs you’re cooking. The procedure I learned from my mother-in-law was to put eggs into tap water, bringing the water to a boil, removing the water from heat, and letting it sit covered for eighteen minutes. Even this has now been simplified by the use of an auto-shutoff electric kettle.

  • Put as many eggs as you want to hard-boil into an electric kettle. Mine does 1-6 in a single layer, but I’ve cooked as many as twelve with no difference.
  • Cover with tap water. I like about an inch over the top of the highest shell, but (as with all of this recipe) it’s pretty flexible.
  • Turn on the kettle
  • Wait for it to boil and then click off.
  • Set a timer for 18 minutes.
  • Prepare an ice bath large enough to quickly chill all of the eggs you’re cooking.
  • When the timer goes off, drain the eggs and 
  • dump them into the ice bath.
  • Agitate to thoroughly and quickly chill the surfaces of the eggs.
  • Pull the eggs out of the cold, then smack and roll them on the counter to break up the shell.
  • Slide the completely shattered shell off the egg under running cold water.
That’s it. It has not failed me even one time. I look forward to the entire flock of deviled eggs made to look like chicks this Easter. I’ve always hated all that peeling in the past, but now it’s easy as π.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Object Lessons: Another Oxford Comma

Widely reported. I chose to lift this article from NPR as it has fewer extraneous annoyances. The original article is linked to the title below.

The Oxford Comma: Great For Listing, Pontificating, And Winning Court Cases

March 16, 20171:24 PM ET

by Colin Dwyer

Surely, Oakhurst Dairy would have done well to heed the immortal words of the ‘80s hair band Cinderella: “Don’t know what you got (till it’s gone).”

The milk and cream company based in Portland, Maine, likely never appreciated the serial comma — also known as an Oxford comma — so much as it did Monday, when the lack of that little curved stroke cost the company an appeals court ruling that centered on overtime rules for drivers.

Specifically, the ruling in favor of Oakhurst delivery drivers came down to Maine state law, which dictates that the following activities are not subject to overtime protections:

    “The canning, processing, preserving,
    freezing, drying, marketing, storing,
    packing for shipment or distribution of:
    (1) Agricultural produce;
    (2) Meat and fish products; and
    (3) Perishable foods.”

The trouble rests with “or.” The presence of that tiny conjunction without a comma as a companion makes for some muddled meanings: Is “packing for shipment or distribution” exempt from overtime regulations? Or are both “packing for shipment” and “distribution” exempt?

These aren’t idle questions for the five delivery drivers who sued Oakhurst, because as Quartz notes, “the drivers do distribute, but do not pack, the perishable food.” In other words, one interpretation of the law’s list would make the drivers eligible for overtime pay; the other would mean they won’t get those extra dollars for extra time on the job.

Enter the appeals court judges. In the opinion, 1st Circuit Judge David Barron writes that the lack of a comma renders the whole phrase too ambiguous to agree with Oakhurst — and the district court that originally ruled in its favor — that the drivers don’t get rights to overtime pay:

    “The District Court concluded that, despite the absent comma, the Maine legislature unambiguously intended for the last term in the exemption’s list of activities to identify an exempt activity in its own right. ... But, we conclude that the exemption’s scope is actually not so clear in this regard.”

Even making allowances for the fact that Maine’s legislative style guidance eschews the Oxford comma, Barron argued that the ambiguity of the sentence “must be construed liberally” — and so adopted “the drivers’ narrower reading of the exemption.”

Case closed ... for now, at least. With the district court ruling in favor of Oakhurst reversed, Quartz reports the case can now be heard in a lower court.

Now, as adherents of the great and terrible AP Stylebook — which also eschews the Oxford comma — we must admit the moral of this story flies in the face of everything (or one thing) NPR’s own sentences stand for.

But we offer the above fable as a reminder that every punctuation mark deserves a fair hearing, a glimpse into the glories of grammar(,) and a quiet rebellion against the tyranny of copy editors everywhere.*

*Just a joke, NPR copy desk! Please don’t break out the red pen.

Note from the copy chief: While NPR does generally follow the AP Stylebook, we on the copy desk take a more liberal approach in deciding when a series is complex enough to warrant the comma’s use.

The final note from the copy chief puts me in mind of the sage advice from the original, non-Burchfield Fowler’s on the split infinitive.

In all fairness, the judge’s ruling does not rely on the ambiguity being entirely caused by the missing comma. As the Quartz article and others note, there is also the fact that all of the other elements in the list are given as gerunds (canning, processing, … packing), while that final action putatively meant to be exempted from overtime pay (distribution) is not. I would say that what won the drivers their appeal is the lack of both the serial comma and the parallel noun form.

Update, 21 March:
Mary Norris’ New Yorker article from half a week ago (St. Paddy’s Day, actually) reports that there is also a third grammatical element at issue in the ambiguity, asyndeton.

Judge David J. Barron’s opinion in the case is a feast of subtle delights for anyone with a taste for grammar and usage. Lawyers for the defense conceded that the statement was ambiguous (the State of Maine specifically instructs drafters of legal statutes not to use the serial comma) but argued that it had “a latent clarity.” The truck drivers, for their part, pointed out that, in addition to the missing comma, the law as written flouts “the parallel usage convention.” “Distribution” is a noun, and syntactically it belongs with “shipment,” also a noun, as an object of the preposition “for.” To make the statute read the way the defendant claims it was intended to be read, the writers would have had to use “distributing,” a gerund—a verb that has been twisted into a noun—which would make it parallel with the other items in the series: “canning, processing,” etc. To the defendant’s contention that the series, in order to support the drivers’ reading, would have to contain a conjunction—“and”—before “packing,” the drivers, citing Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, said that the missing “and” was an instance of the rhetorical device called “asyndeton,” defined as “the omission or absence of a conjunction between parts of a sentence.”

Read the rest of that article. It’s quite nice. And note that the paragraph quoted above contains a link to the actual opinion.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mrs. Moore’s Chess Pie

This recipe is from Marion Brown’s The Southern Cook Book, published by the UNC Press in 1951. Our dying copy was printed on very acidic paper in 1961 by Pocket Books, Inc. (NY). I can not tell you what page it’s on; it seems to be somewhere between pp. 327 & 332, but most of the pages have fallen out and been stuck back in at some point, and their corners are badly foxed.

In my earlier, rapid-metabolistic, pre-diabetic days, I penned above this recipe the words “(MOORE) FILLING!!),” but numerous experiments by Dr. SWMBO over the years have shown that scaling the recipe monkeys with the pie’s ability to set properly, so if you want more (or “moore”), just make another pie. The procedure here at The House of Chez Casa now involves using the smallest metal pie pan we have in the house (not one of the stoneware nor one of the glass plates) and cooking it on top of a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven.

Here is the recipe, word for word. I have only changed the formatting:

This “just about perfect” Chess Pie appeared in the first edition of the Burlington Episcopal Church’s Soup to Nuts some years ago, and by popular demand in the revised 1947 edition. At the request of many, I am again using it—it never fails to win applause.
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ egg shell of milk
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs, unbeaten
  1. Mix together the white and brown sugar and flour.
  2. Break the two eggs into mixture,
  3. add milk and vanilla.
  4. Melt butter and pour in last.
  5. Bake in a slow (325-degree) oven in uncooked pastry shell. If baked around 30 to 35 minutes it is better than if cooked fast.
When done it will look puffed and yellow; when cooked it falls into rich jelly-like consistency.
[This mixture makes delicious little tarts. Put tablespoon in each uncooked pastry shell, bake as above. Serve with whipped cream.—M. B.]
Mrs. S. I. Moore, Burlington, N. C.

I will only add here that the whipped cream is necessary. This is a very sweet pie, and the richness of actual cream that has just been whipped very much enhances the experience by cutting the sweetness and adding a contrasting texture. Don’t bother with non-dairy whipped toppings or even semi-dairy spray junque from a can. Open up a carton of whipping cream, toss it into a vessel with some vanilla and a bit of confectioner’s sugar, fire up a beater, and whip that stuff. It’s quick and delicious.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Baked Beans

The basis for this recipe appears on p. 392 of our 1981 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book. Since SWMBO can not digest muscle protein, we do not put actual bacon in it, and we start with vegetarian pork & beans. Also, our proportions are a bit different. Here is what we did for Sunday brunch last weekend:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Put a heavy skillet on the stove to warm up.
  • Quarter & slice one medium red onion.
  • Sauté the onion in about 3 Tbsp. bacon lard at least until translucent if not until caramelized.
  • Stir together:
    • the onions,
    • 2 28 oz cans of Bush’s vegetarian baked beans,
    • ¼ c. ketchup,
    • ¼ c. brown sugar,
    • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, and
    • 2 Tbsp. prepared mustard.
  • Bake in a 9 x 13 pan for 90-105 minutes at 350°F.
  • If everyone can eat meat, this would be the time to cover with about ¾ lb. of crisped & crumbled bacon.
  • Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
This looks like a lot when you start, but I think that for seven adults and five kids we could have made even more.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Egg & Cheese Casserole

This recipe appeared in a Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church cookbook under the name “Jean Corey’s Egg Casserole” and with the recommendation that “this casserole has become a tradition and a favorite for the Thursday morning Women’s Bible Study spring brunch.”

Here at the House of Chez Casa, for a large brunch we sometimes make two: one with breakfast meat (sausage, small ham cubes, vel sim.) and one vegetarian. Conveniently, a recipe and a half makes two 9 x 9 pans’ worth. Just stir up everything else, pour half into one buttered 9 x 9 casserole dish, add meat to the stuff still in the bowl, mix that up, and pour into the other buttered dish.
  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Beat 10 eggs in a large bowl & set aside.
  • Melt 1 stick (8 Tbsp, ½ c.) butter in a saucepan.
  • Stir in
    ½ c. flour
    1 tsp baking powder, and
    ½ tsp salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the eggs & mix well.
  • Add
    1 lb. shredded cheese (Jean’s recipe calls for Monterrey Jack; I prefer a very sharp cheddar),
    1 pt. small curd cottage cheese (I often have to make do with a 12 oz. container), and
    8 oz. large green chiles, drained, diced, seeded (Jean also rinses for a milder flavor; I often just open diced chiles, strain them & dump them in; sometimes I don’t even strain them).
    • Optional breakfast meats (often a tube of breakfast sausage, scrambled up ahead of time) should also be added at this stage.
  • Pour into a 9 x 13 pan.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes. (Jean’s recipe calls for baking 30 minutes and no rest. I think her oven may run a bit on the hot side. We have made this in three different ovens, and all of them needed 40 minutes to set and then a rest.)
  • Serve with salsa.
That’s it. It’s always a crowd pleaser. And it’s even better with the sausage!

Michelle’s Meatloaf

This started as a simple recipe cut from a box of Quaker Oats. The Doctor has made a couple of changes, all for the better.
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Combine well in a large bowl:
    • 1 lb. ground beef (preferably ground chuck)
    • ½ lb. ground pork
    • ¾ c. uncooked oats
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • ¼ c. chopped onion
    • 1 c. salsa (look for something gluten free to make your friends happy)
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  3. Press into a standard 8x4x2 loaf pan (ungreased)
  4. Top with the rest of the salsa (½ - 1 cup by measure (be careful; some salsas are jarred by weight instead of by volume))
    If you want a more BBQesque topping, mix the remainder of your salsa with ¼-½ c. brown sugar before spreading on top of the loaf.
  5. Bake at 350ºF for about one hour.
  6. Let stand/rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Curried Chicken

(This family-favorite recipe clipped from a magazine by Margaret Hamilton and passed on to my m-i-l Bobbie Thomas Boone Craig was Dr. SWMBO’s favorite chicken back when she could still digest muscle protein; the proportions are those Bobbie used to feed 8 rather than those from the online version. Total cooking time: 1 hour)


6 Tbsp. flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger (I used fresh, peeled & sliced thin, then processed into the dry)
2 fryers, quartered or 8 breasts (I used a mix of thighs & breasts)
6 Tbsp butter
Combine flour, salt and ginger in a paper bag. Melt butter and roll chicken in butter then place one piece at a time in paper bag and shake to coat well. Then arrange chicken, skin side up. Bake uncovered in hot oven (400 degrees) 20 minutes or until beginning to turn golden.
1 medium red onion, chopped 
6 slices cooked bacon, finely diced (I used 1/3 lb raw, chopped and spent a long while caramelizing it & the onions together before adding the rest) 
2 Tbsp. flour (I added the flour to the browning onion & bacon & let it convert before adding the broth)
1 can condensed beef broth 
2 Tbsp. curry powder 
2 Tbsp. sugar 
2 Tbsp. coconut flakes 
2 Tbsp. applesauce 
2 Tbsp. catsup 
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Then simmer uncovered, stirring often, about 15 minutes or until thickened. Spoon about half of glaze on top of chicken to make a thick coating. Bake 20 minutes. Spoon on remaining glaze and bake 20 minutes longer or until chicken is tender and has turned brown. Arrange on a bed of parsley rice to serve.

Lady & Pups' Magic 15-Second Creamy Scrambled Eggs

(Original recipe & procedure below.)

This is a great recipe, y’all, this adding starch and butter to the eggs. One brunch, we scrambled about 20 eggs, had about 3 eggs’ worth left over, put them into a container and refrigerated them. When we reheated them three days later, they were still fluffy.
  • Choose a heavy-bottomed pan/skillet whose diameter will let your beaten eggs stand 1/8-1/4” deep when they start to cook.
  • Place the pan on low heat.
  • Set aside 1 Tbsp butter per egg.
  • Put 1/2 Tbsp milk per egg into a mixing bowl.
If I’m preparing a dozen or more eggs, I use a stand mixer. Otherwise it’s a regular mixing bowl and a whisk.
  • Into the milk put a mounded 1/2 tsp of cornstarch per egg and
  • whisk/mix until smooth.
  • Beat the eggs (yes, 1 egg per egg) into the milk/starch mixture.
  • Toss the butter into the pan. It should start sizzling immediately. If it doesn’t, turn up the heat. Either way, your going be standing here stirring constantly for the next little while.
  • Pour in the egg mixture and start stirring. At first, it’s going to look like there’s way too much butter in there. Don’t worry; it’s going to get absorbed.
  • When the eggs are almost set, cut the heat (gas) or move the pan to a cooler surface (electric), quickly stir in S&P to taste, and plate. The eggs should still be slightly wet looking when they hit the plate. They will continue to cook in their own heat for a couple of minutes.

Proportion chart:

# of eggs
Butter (Tbsp)
Butter (other)
Milk (Tbsp)
Milk (other)


rounded 1/2 tsp
1/4 stick

1 heaping tsp


scant 2 tsp
1/2 stick
1/8 c.
2 1/2 tsp


1 Tbsp
3/4 stick

3 1/2 tsp


4 rounded tsp.
1 stick
1/4 c.
1 1/2 rounded Tbsp


scant 2 Tbsp
1 1/4 sticks
scant 1/3 c.
1/8 c. / 2 Tbsp

1/3 c. +
rounded 1/8 c.
1 1/2 sticks
3/8 c.
1/8 c. & 1 tsp


scant 3 Tbsp
1 3/4 sticks

3 Tbsp -pinch


3 Tbsp
2 sticks
1/2 c.
3 rounded Tbsp


3 1/2 Tbsp
2 1/4 sticks
1/2 c. + 1 Tbsp
3 1/2 rounded Tbsp


scant 1/4 c.
2 1/2 sticks
5/8 c.
1/4 c.

scant 2/3 c.
rounded 1/4 c.
2 3/4 sticks
2/3 c. +
1/4 c. + 1 tsp


1/4 c. + 2 tsp
3 sticks
3/4 cup
1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp

In Lady & Pups’recipe (below) you might notice that there is a fudge factor built in for the amount of starch one uses. 1 3/4 teaspoons starch for 3 eggs is NOT three times the 1/2 + 1/8 tsp per egg. The first measure comes to 14/8 tsp for three eggs; trebling the second gets one 15/8 tsp for three eggs. It works out to a rounded 1/2 tsp per egg.

Also, the recipe assumes that there are three eggs per serving. I prefer 2 eggs per serving, while Dr. SWMBO’s preferences average out to ~1.5 eggs per serving (depending on what else she’s having). When we’re entertaining, I start with an estimate of 2 eggs per adult, 3 per teen, and 1 per toddler. Thus the chart above.

Lady & Pups’ Magic 15-Second Creamy Scrambled Eggs

Author Notes: “A thickening agent is the answer to the previously-thought-impossible scrambled eggs fantasy,” Mandy @ Lady and pups writes. “Speed, and creaminess, all together.” You'll notice that this calls for a lot of butter, so just to be safe I tried the recipe both with and without the cornstarch, to see how much was really just the goodness of the butter. Without cornstarch, the eggs were good but tougher, the butter more free-floating. And I've found that even if you skimp on the butter, the cornstarch has dramatic effects. Adapted slightly from Lady and Pups. (less)Genius Recipes
Serves 1

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk (1/2 tablespoon for each egg)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons potato starch or cornstarch (1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon for each egg)
  • Salt to season
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon for each egg)
  1. First, crack 3 eggs into a medium bowl.
  2. Then, in a separate cup or bowl, evenly whisk together the milk and cornstarch until it's lump-free (don’t mix them directly with the eggs or you’ll get lumps).
  3. Add the milk and cornstarch mixture to your eggs, and beat until smooth. Season with salt.
  4. Heat a non-stick skillet over high heat until hot, then add the butter (should sizzle right away). Wait until the butter’s melted and bubbly, but before it browns…
  5. Add the beaten eggs. Wait for 3 seconds without stirring anything, until the edges of the eggs start to bubble up…
  6. Then remove the skillet from the heat (yes, remove!), and start stirring the eggs, making 1 full circle per second… 1, 2, 3….
  7. 4, 5, 6, 7…8, 9, 10, 11…(If you use a mini skillet instead of a large one, it may need a few more seconds)...
  8. For about 11 to 12 seconds. The eggs will have absorbed all the butter, but remain partially undercooked (add about 5 seconds more to every 3 extra eggs you’re scrambling, but I wouldn’t do more than 6 at once).
  9. This is when you transfer them onto a plate. Do not wait until they look fully cooked! 

Update, October 2018

Because I par-cook a load of bacon in preparation for the Sunday brunch group, and because I love the taste of bacon, I have started making this stuff with bacon grease instead of with butter. Also, my batch normally starts with at least 18 eggs. So, use about 2/3 the bacon grease as you would the butter. (Bacon fat doesn’t have the water that butter does.) Also, I whisk the corn starch and milk together and then add the bacon grease. I let it stand for a bit while I’m doing other things, and it forms a kind of thick paste. This whisks into the eggs beautifully and results in a very silky batch of scrambled eggs.

Just remember, 2/3 the bacon fat as what the butter requirement might be. I’ll try to make a new table, just for my own Sunday morning sanity.