“The people who need what you have to say are waiting for you and they don’t care that you think it's boring, unoriginal or lacking in value.”
Havi Brooks

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

a day in the life under the new normal
Mon 2020-03-23 18:42:44 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

When it's been more than a month since my last blog post, writing a new one seems daunting. I feel irrationally obligated to include Every Single Thing That's Happened Since Then, and because that's obviously not feasible nor even possible, the tendency is to just not. And then another day goes by, a day full of More Things to Blog, and the endless spiral descends further.

So today I'm just going to say Hi! and more or less report on the doings of the day.

Today I woke up in the office, which has become my bedroom since coming home from the Berthoud Inn on March 16. That weekend, I'd gone out to a couple bars (in Berthoud), and John had hosted his annual gaming miniconvention (which was why I was holed up in Berthoud), so we've been sorta quasi-isolating ourselves from each other since then to keep what social exposure we'd had as much to ourselves as possible. We joke that the boundary between his space and my space runs right down the center of the kitchen table, where we sit on opposite sides in the evenings to play Spiral Knights. But of course we both use the kitchen. We even cook together sometimes; we made pad thai together Saturday night, for example. So there's only so much we can do. But we're doing it.

First thing I did upon waking up was call to cancel today's appointment at Cafe of Life and tomorrow's at North Boulder Physical Therapy. I guess I'd been kidding myself until recently, or just not thinking about it, but I thought about it over the weekend and realized that these, too, were non-essential as far as medical appointments go. I have my homework, I have my exercises, I can keep myself from losing ground on what both professionals constantly remind me are marathons rather than sprints. It's fine. We'll reconnect after the curve flattens out somewhat.

So then I made myself tea and got to work. Work looked a lot like work on any weekday. Morning Pages followed by breakfast, tooth-brushing, pill-taking, and catching up on news of the day. Freewriting to a prompt. Work on this week's Friday Fictionette offering (have I mentioned my release schedule is back to normal? Yeah! I done caught up). Work on the next very belated Fictionette Artifact for my exceedingly patient $5/month subscribers (obviously still catching up on that). Break for lunch and some admin duties. Then a solid session of Submission Procedures, because it's Monday. Logged the rejection letters my poetry and fiction got over the past week. Resubmitted my latest flash fiction piece. Did a final proofread on my story in the Community of Magic Pens anthology (which I will talk about a whole bunch tomorrow, so stay tuned).

It is a bit unsettling how very little my work and social routine have changed under pandemic lock-down. Under normal circumstances, I can quite easily go days without seeing anyone but my husband and my roller derby teammates. I'm seeing more of John since he's working from home every day rather than some days; I'm seeing my derby friends online for virtual workouts rather than in person for practice. That's pretty much all that's different; otherwise, it's life as usual for this hermit. And, well, wow. I already identified as an introvert, but I guess I didn't realize how much of an introvert I was until I realized how little this sort of social isolation bothers me--and how much social isolation I was already performing by choice before it became the medically necessary and socially responsible thing to do. I feel like maybe I should be a little bothered by that. But I'm not, not really.

Both John and myself continue symptom-free. But of course I get paranoid every time I blow my nose first thing in the morning or have a small wet coughing fit shortly after a meal. Which I've done, and had, every morning and after every meal for years. Is it still hypochondria when the microbes really are out to get you?

I'm powering through the main storyline quests on 4thewords.com, the system that turns writing goals into RPG-style battles. I'm currently in the Gansu Watering Hole chapter. Before I began writing this blog post, I fired up a battle against the Red Witch: 4,000 words in 1,000 minutes. Woo! With my attack and defense stats, it's actually 3,254 words in 1,200 minutes. I have until tomorrow at 1:30 PM to make the required word count. Sounds entirely plausible; by then I should have done tomorrow's freewriting and Fictionette work. Not to mention I'll have finished this blog post.

The sun's out, it's vaguely warm, and the sidewalks have dried off since the most recent blizzard, so I went skating. I did about two miles going "around the block", which is to say, all the way to the dead end of my street, then onto the path that follows the southbound highway, turn the corner to follow the westbound highway, then hit the creek path that cuts through the neighborhood and puts me back onto my street. There was also an early detour to a neighborhood park for footwork/individual skate skill practice on the cement basketball court.

Lunch was leftover peanut stew with bacon and okra, a variation on the recipe discussed here. I'd gone to the grocery Friday--that and Boulder Food Rescue combined are the one weekly out-of-the-house errand I'm still running; food delivery to those in need is more important now than ever, and while I'm at the donor grocery, I might as well get my own groceries too--and acquired ingredients for the peanut stew, the aforementioned pad thai, and an attempt at Dragon & Phoenix. In the absence of occasional meals at restaurants, I'm cooking my favorite restaurant meals at home. I got the okra, oyster sauce, stir-fry noodles, and various happy-making snacks for me at the Asian Seafood Market on my way home; they are still open too, and they are wonderful. Neither they nor Sprouts had fresh garlic, but I've got a small supply in addition to a bunch of minced roasted garlic in a jar in the fridge. We'll get by.

And now I'm back in the office writing this blog post. John's at the kitchen table finishing up his own day's work. We'll meet up soon for another dive into the Clockworks (I just made myself Mercurial Mail and I can't wait to level it up!). And that, more or less, is the status report for Monday, March 23, 2020.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone, and treat yourself well.

Image courtesy Atthis Arts, LLC
i show you a thing! two things! only one might make you go eww!
Tue 2020-02-18 19:54:43 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

Work on the Magic Pens anthology is progressing. Author bios are getting finalized, and final story edits are due back in the next couple of days. My story got the benefit of a couple more pairs of eyes, and I'm thrilled with all the care and attention that this editorial team is bringing to the project. I'm also thrilled to see who else is in the table of contents with me; the Codex online writers' group is well represented.

And the cover art is finalized! I get to share it with you!

If you want to get a head start on ordering your copy, the preorders page is here. Note that the limited editions are only guaranteed available through March. Mid-May is what I'm hearing for shipping (of any edition).

Because you have come to expect foodie content on this blog, and I am loathe to disappoint, BEHOLD: How I learned to love tolerate liverwurst.

Look. I picked some up thinking, "Hey, look! Liverwurst! I've never had liverwurst. I wonder if I'll like it?" because that's how I approach food. I sliced off some and spread it on toast and lo, I did not like it. The ingredient list said "pork, pork liver, spices," but as far as my mouth was concerned, it was just liver paste. I may have actually gagged.

But I didn't want to throw the rest away. I hate wasting food. So I found these sandwich recipes. I like the cream cheese and cucumber one best; it has enough bright, crisp flavors in it to balance out mask the liver muddiness. And, as a bonus, there's literary content.

(I was also open to frying slices of liverwurst in bacon fat along with a bunch of chopped collard greens, as I remember actually liking a charbroiled liver and collards dish I got at the French Quarter Fest some years back. I had no fresh collard greens in the house at the same time as the liverwurst, however. Maybe next time. If there is a next time.)

And that's what I've got for you today!

Cover art incorporates and modifies illustration from page 7 of Mjallhvít (Snow White), an 1852 icelandic translation of the Grimm-version fairytale, via Project Gutenberg.
on the benefits of high pressure fiction practice; also a recipe
Thu 2020-02-06 18:12:43 (single post)
  • 983 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,021 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hey, I just posted another overdue Friday Fictionette yesterday! It was the release scheduled for January 17. It's called "The Huntsman's Assignment" (ebook, audiobook) which, yes, is a reference to the dude who gets sent out to kill Snow White and bring back her heart in a box. It isn't a Snow White retelling, but the assignment remains. Look, it comes with a content note for suggested harm to children. Best go in knowing that.

Now I'm working on the January 24 release in hopes to push it live tomorrow night. It's looking like Momo fan fiction. You know Momo? The lesser-known children's novel by Michael Ende, author of The Neverending Story? The little girl who listens, and the Men in Grey who convince everyone to "save time"? Ok, so, the Jan 24 story-like object is about her, but all grown up and living in a complicated world, and, well, apologies in advance, but I'm about to commit mild character assassination.

I do not always write grim cynical things! OK, the drabble forthcoming at Daily Science Fiction is pretty cynical. But the stories forthcoming at Cast of Wonders and Community of Magic Pens are sweet! Bittersweet, maybe. But they are guaranteed to contain a significant portion of your daily recommended intake of hope and heart! Promise! But... sometimes the grim stuff comes out. You're not surprised, right? I also write horror. You know this.

On a related note, I'm realizing yet another benefit I'm getting from the Friday Fictionette project: behind schedule as I am, I'm still getting a lot of practice at producing presentable story drafts in a very short amounts of time. The Magic Pens story has my Friday Fictionette practice to thank for its existence. Mostly written all in a single evening, but still polished enough to submit and sell? That's not something I could have done without some five years' practice writing four short-shorts a month.

So the project is stressing me out some as I scramble to get back on top of the release schedule, but my writing skills are improving in all sorts of ways because of it. And of course now I have this huge stable of reprintable flash fiction, which has led to two paid publications to date. So. Conclusion? Worth it.

All right. Time for a recipe. Let's talk West African Peanut Stew

I've been making a lot of this lately. And eating a lot of it, too. I could probably eat it three meals a day for three weeks and not get bored. It's hearty, nutritionally dense, and full of complex flavor and texture. It's super easy to make, and it's a great excuse to haul out Mawmaw's big iron gumbo pot.

(Gods I love that pot. Me and that pot, we talk chicken fricassee, we talk mushroom bourguignon, and we definitely talk gumbo. But, yeah, we've been talking peanut stew a lot.)

From looking around the internet, I can see this recipe from Budget Bytes is only one variation on a wider theme; the Wikipedia entry for peanut soup led me to a couple that look really interesting. But the Budget Bytes recipe is convenient, as it's not particularly time consuming or difficult to prepare, and its ingredients are all readily accessible at any bog-standard mainstream U.S. grocery store. I don't have to plan too hard about it. All I gotta do is pick up some sweet potato and a bunch of collards on my regular Friday grocery run. Maybe a can of tomato paste too, since I don't have much on hand all that often. It's also vegan and gluten free, which means I can make it for pretty much anyone I know who isn't allergic to peanuts. And as long as they like things like sweet potatoes and collard greens, I guess.

My vegetarian husband doesn't care too much for sweet potatoes and collard greens, which means 1. more for me, and 2. I can carnivore it up if I want. Last time I made it, I added bacon. I cooked three big slices of bacon until the grease covered the bottom of that iron pot. Then I took the bacon out, chopped it up, and set it aside to be added back in along with the broth, peanut butter, and tomato paste. So basically I substituted bacon grease for olive oil, because I fear no cholesterol (thanks, genetics!). But the other adjustment I made was to throw the chopped-up collard greens in to sautée with the sweet potato chunks, because I'm less interested in collards boiled in soup than I am in collards fried in bacon grease and then boiled in soup.

Meanwhile, I'm making the brown rice in the multicooker. This last time I actually used the BROWN RICE function, not the PRESSURE function. I still don't know how the two functions differ, but it worked just fine. 2 cups brown rice to 2-3/4 cups water, set the timer for 22 minutes, turn it off when it beeps and allow it to sit 20 minutes longer before releasing the pressure. Definitely turn it off; leaving the multicooker to KEEP WARM for too long resulted in burnt, dried-out rice that one time I made that mistake.

Also, don't mistake the BROWN function for the BROWN RICE function. "Why? Why are you beeping at me? What is your emergency? ...Oh. RIGHT. Got it."

It took me maybe three days, maybe less, to get through all of it. Now I am ready to make more. And tomorrow is Friday! Friday is grocery day! How convenient!

all right, 2020, you can stay
Tue 2020-01-21 23:43:43 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have a couple new pending publications to announce for the New Year!

...Wow, that sounded a lot like the way last blog post started out. Of course, last blog post was almost a month ago. Twenty days, anyway. More or less. What'd I wrap up that post with, something about how "tomorrow" I was going to share a recipe? Sheesh. Hold that thought, though.

Here's the thing. When 2019 ended, three of my outstanding submissions were in HELD PENDING FURTHER CONSIDERATION status. Which is always a hopeful thing, but more often than not ends in REJECTION, PERSONAL. I have learned to get my hopes up only so far when I receive a HOLD notice.

And then on January 11, two of those HOLDS converted into ACCEPTANCES.

I can tell you in detail about one of them: Daily Science Fiction, well-respected purveyor of exactly what it sounds like, will publish my drabble, "The Rarest of Prey", in the coming months. The estimate I was given was two to three months, but thanks to intel from acquaintances I know this may in practice mean anywhere between 10 and 90 days. So you might as well just make a visit to DSF part of your complete breakfast. Read stories, love stories, rank and comment on stories, and maybe even support the stories so that the stories continue to appear in the green and white boxes. You won't be sorry!

The other story soon to be published will in fact be a reprint, and if you follow my Friday Fictionette project, you may already have read it; it's a past month's Fictionette Freebie. It is soon to be reprinted by one of my dream markets and I am over the moon. I should be able to reveal more details soon; I just returned the contract with my signature today.

I keep visiting each story's submission status on each publisher's interface and hitting REFRESH just to reassure myself that it's really real, it absolutely happened, two of my dream markets actually sent me acceptance letters this month. Payment's small beans because the one is only 100 words long and the other's a reprint, but it's a huge deal on my Wanna-be Writer Bucket List. Thus, I am happy dance for the forseeable future.

OK. So. I promised a recipe. Turns out I did already post the mirliton casserole recipe a whiles back, so you can click that link, or you can read on for...

Multi-cooker Recovery Dal: a tale in three functions

...for when you've just got home from roller derby practice (or tryouts!) and you're hungry but also too tired and brain-fried to cook anything complicated. Multi-cookers are GREAT for this. You may be familiar with The Instapot; I have a Lux Fagor Multicooker, which is less revered the internet over but does basically the same thing. Like so:

  1. SAUTE function: 5 minutes. Couple tablespoons canola oil (or a tbl canola and a tbl mustard if you can get it); half an onion, chopped; couple cloves garlic, smashed and minced. If you have a bunch of root vegetables from last fall you're trying to use up, chop 'em up and throw them in. It'll make it more filling. I like parsnips. When onions are soft, add black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, turmeric, whole cumin. Those last three are key. Don't stint. Toss in any additional fancy peppers and salts that make you happy. If you haven't got any mustard oil, toss in some ground mustard at this time, too. (Mustard oil must be labeled EXTERNAL USE ONLY/NOT FOR CONSUMPTION in the US because of reasons. I got mine at India's Grocery around the corner here in Boulder. If it's a massage oil product, double-check that it's 100% mustard oil and not full of random other ingredients. I'm all, erucic acid, sure thing, but shea butter? Hard pass. Anyway...) Stir the spices around in the sauteeing veg until your kitchen smells wonderful (about a minute).
  2. PRESSURE/HIGH function: 15 minutes. I add 3/4 cup red lentils and 4 cups water, give it all a good stir, and then seal the lid tight and start the pressure cook function. (I watch it like a hawk for the first few minutes to make sure steam isn't escaping out the sides; I think the lid's gasket is already starting to wear out. Boo.) When the 15 minutes is up and the pot beeps at you, turn the knob from PRESSURE to STEAM, i.e. perform a pressure quick-release. We are all far too hungry to wait on the natural release method, and besides, them beans are cooked. You can serve 'em up now and devour 'em. Or, if you can bear to wait just a few minutes longer, you can do what I do, which is to poach an egg in that glorious mess, like so...
  3. SIMMER: 5 to 7 minutes. Depends on how hard you like your egg poached. Just crack that sucker in there, hopefully without any bits of shell accompanying it, put the lid back on, and start the simmer function for the desired time.

When next the timer beeps, all that remains is to ladle yourself up a bowl and just try not to burn your mouth in your impatience. Which is thoroughly understandable. It's been half an hour since you got home and you need your protein!

Bonus: Enjoy in the bathtub with a soda and/or adult beverage of choice. LOOK, I DON'T JUDGE.

new publications for the holidays with a side of mirliton and fruitcake for dessert
Mon 2019-12-30 23:15:39 (single post)
  • 42 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have a couple new publications to announce for the holidays!

First, for Winter Solstice, we have the latest issue of the Pagan literary journal Eternal Haunted Summer. It includes my poem "Hold the Door", a tongue-in-cheek contemplation of homesickness framed by an invocation to Papa Legba.

Second, for New Year's Eve or reasonably thereabouts, we have Episode 413 of the Tales to Terrify podcast. It features my story "Lambing Season" as read by the excellent Summer Brooks. It went live on the last Friday in 2019, and I've only had a chance to listen to it today. (I'm always nervous about hearing someone else read my stories. Then, when they're done, I always wonder why I was nervous.) It's longer than most of my stories, and a bit of a slow burn. Enjoy it with a mug of tea while wearing something warm and fuzzy.

On Winter Solstice, our Yule Log, a formidable chunk of elm, burned all night long and then down to ash. A friend and I had the first test slices of this year's fruitcake, shared some very tasty brandy, and worked on hand crafts together. Mine was a pair of socks that had been lurking unfinished in my bookbag for far too long. I finished them. (They are warm and fuzzy.)

John and I spent the last weekend of the year down in Colorado Springs with family near and extended, old and new, local and out-of-town. Mostly we cooked and ate good food, watched a lot of football, and took a healthy amount of naps.

One of the things we ate was a mirliton & shrimp casserole produced somewhat by committee: I brought seven mirliton that I'd bought recently and not yet got around to cooking, and I added to it the remaining portion of the shrimp Dad brought up from Louisiana and the onion, green pepper and celery that our hosts volunteered from their stash and chopped up. (The author's chronic homesickness was nicely assuaged, if temporarily.)

Another thing shared was a big chunk of the fruitcake, which was a lot closer to acceptably boozed up by then. The addition of candied citron turns out to have been an asset after all. Whew!

I may regale you with the casserole recipe--or, as "recipe" is saying too much, method--tomorrow, if I haven't already done that on this blog at some point or other. But not tonight. Tonight I am keeping my blog post short and to the point.

& so goodnight!

late fruitcake preparations for a quiet winter solstice
Tue 2019-12-17 14:47:42 (single post)

So I'm baking a fruitcake today.

I almost didn't bother. It's less than a week until Winter Solstice, so it won't really be ready to open up at the annual all-nighter Winter Solstice vigil and open house. It won't have had time to soak up enough booze. Besides, I don't even have the wherewithal to host the all-nighter this year anyway, so why bother with a fruitcake?

And then I thought, screw it. I like fruitcake. I like mailing slices to long-distance friends. And Dad's going to be in town shortly after Christmas, and he likes fruitcake. So let's do this thing.

But let's also be kind to myself about it, all right?

So when I browsed Whole Food's bulk section for dried fruits, I prioritized stuff that didn't need chopping up. I got raisins, both golden and Thompson. I got currants. I got blueberries, sour cherries, and cranberries. The only things I got that needed chopping up were the dates and the prunes. Why prunes? Prunes are tasty. Also they are easier to chop up than dried figs.

Then I forgot about "be kind to myself" long enough to pick up a Buddha's Hand Citron and make plans to candy it. Which I finally got around to doing last night.

Want to play along at home? Here's the recipe I used.

So his ingredients list includes weights for everything except the citrons themselves. Two citrons, the recipe calls for. But in the introductory blurb, the author refers to "one 8 ounce (240g) fresh citron", so I assumed the recipe called for 480 grams of chopped up citron. I also assumed from "cut them up into 1/2-inch cubes" that including the pith of the citron was OK. Thank goodness. I hadn't been looking forward to carefully peeling the zest off a fruit so inconveniently shaped for applying a peeler. I wound up with about 375 grams of citron and adjusted the other two ingredient quantities accordingly.

The bit where you're supposed to "blanch the citron pieces in barely simmering water for 30 to 40 minutes, until translucent" was a lie. Some 75% of the fruit was nicely transparent by minute 45; the remaining 25% only got part of the way there over an additional 45 minutes. This seems extreme even given how widely my citron pieces varied from the prescribed 1/2" cube. The next step took forever too. You'd think at a high altitude it would take less time to boil off sufficient water to result in 230-degree syrup, but my candy thermometer didn't reach the magic number for at least an hour. It was 1:00 am by then, so instead of leaving the citron to sit in the syrup for an hour and then straining it, I left it to soak overnight. I went to bed.

In the morning, the pot contained a block of something that was too soft to be called "citron brittle" but certainly too solid to pour. So I stuck that pot inside another pot to heat it in a water bath until it did pour. I poured it into a strainer and left it there as I went about my morning. When I came back, what remained in the strainer was more or less one solid mass again, so I rinsed it with boiling water (I'd have to rinse it for the fruitcake recipe anyway) until I had individual pieces which I could scatter on parchment paper to dry.

This was not what was meant by "being kind to myself." But I've been snacking on candied citron all morning, which is by no means a bad thing. And I'm kind of eager to do it again, knowing what I know now. For instance:

  • The recipe told me to use the coarsest sugar I could find. The coarsest I had on hand was raw turbinado, which has a molasses component that I probably could have done without. This made the syrup much darker than in the recipe's photos. It also probably made it stickier.
  • I'd probably skip step 4 and proceed directly from "we have reached 230 degrees" to "Strain."
  • I might try doing it with just the zest. I'd hate to lose the slight bitter note from the pith which compliments the sweetness so well, but it might make blanching the fruit take a lot less time.
  • The reason I did this at all was Whole Foods being out of candied ginger when I went fruitcake shopping. Maybe next year I'll candy my own ginger. I'll be able to cut fresh ginger into the long, thin shapes I prefer, rather than trying to cut up already candied ginger cubes. Fresh ginger is much easier than sticky candied ginger is to cut.
  • And I'll darn well start earlier than 9:30 at night!

So now all that remains is to actually bake the fruitcake later this afternoon or evening. That's the easy part.

As for Winter Solstice itself, while I'm not going to announce to every social circle that I'm holding party space open all night long, I'm still going to hold vigil, keeping a fire lit the whole night through and waiting for the return of the sun. That part of the ritual is my own personal Pagan religious observation. I'll always do that, party or no party. And I'll probably still cook all the things I usually cook, because when else do I get to drink home-made eggnog and eat medieval midwinter pie?

And I'll probably spend a good part of the night writing like it's the first few hours of NaNoWriMo. Or the last. If any friends in the area want to join me in writing or crafting, or reading stories aloud, or reciting poetry, or other such quiet celebrations of creativity, my door will be open to you from sundown on Saturday night to sunrise on Saturday morning.

And the fruitcake won't really be ready by then, but we can give it a taste.

cauldron of sour fiery hot yum
what i talk about when i talk about homemade kimchi stew
Mon 2019-10-28 17:33:57 (single post)

I'm still getting over the gluey aftermath of the week-long cold that hit me upon my return to the Denver area. I'm very, very sore from yesterday's yoga-for-derby-skaters session, which, possibly because the yoga instructor knew her audience, turned out to be more of a two-hour conditioning session masquerading as a yoga session. Also there is a lot of snow outside.

Good thing I have a ton of leftover kimchi-jjigae in my refrigerator.

This is a statement requiring several caveats. Or possibly one big caveat, from which all the other caveats flow, which is to say, I made the stuff, so don't expect a high level of fidelity to the recipe as written.

I use Maangchi's recipe, which is a good place to start. Possibly the best place to start. Maanchi's blog is my absolute go-to for all Korean cuisine. Read it, love it, bookmark it, eat it, order the cookbooks, watch all the videos. She's wonderful, and she makes a point to lead her non-Korean fans gently by the hand through the maze of unfamiliar cultural touchstones and unfamiliar ingredients labeled in an unfamiliar language. Her recipes are great, is what I'm saying.

It's when the recipe falls into my hands that all the trouble starts.

First off, I don't pay much attention to ingredient proportions. I mean, it's soup. Stew, actually, not that this changes much. I approach kimchi-jjigae with the same mindset as I approach all soup recipes, which is this: It's soup. It is not baking. It does not rely on precise chemistry. It will tolerate variation and substitution. In fact, this is how I approach a lot of recipes that aren't soup. I've substituted yellow squash for carrots in tomato soup because I had squash and not carrots in the house at the time and the whole thing was going through the blender anyway. I substitute parsley for cilantro in any recipe calling for cilantro because I don't like cilantro, and I will substitute carrot greens for parsley if I have the one on hand but not the other. I'll typically double any recipe's call for garlic or green onions, because there's nothing in my opinion that can't be improved thereby. There are things I won't bother measuring because life's too short. It all turns out fine, but it's worth knowing, if you're ever in a position to eat stuff I cook, that this is how I cook.

So my kimchi-jjigae wound up with a full package of tofu rather than half a package, because I don't do tofu by the half package. It also wound up with two and a quarter pounds of pork belly rather than a half pound, because after defrosting the slab of meat I'd rather not put myself on the "use the rest before it goes bad" doomsday countdown. Besides, I like pork belly. I also like green onions quite a bit, as mentioned above, so I put most of a bunch in the pot where the recipe called for two, and most of the rest of the bunch in at the end where the recipe called for one. And then I'm not sure how close I got to the recommended pound of kimchi plus quarter cup kimchi brine, because I didn't bother weighing, draining, or otherwise measuring the contents of the two jars of kimchi I had in the fridge before I dumped it all in.

Those two jars consisted of one (1) jar of McCauley Family Farm's "radish root chi" and one (1) jar of Farm Hand's Organic Spicy Napa Kimchi. Neither of these contains fish sauce, so I glugged a generous glug of fish sauce into the pot. Neither is as spicy as I really want, either, so where the recipe called for two teaspoons hot pepper flakes I used two tablespoons. I'm not even sure how much gochujang I used; I carved out, with difficulty, a big lump of what was in the very outdated tub in the fridge, and figured it would dissolve eventually like bouillon. (Look, how bad can outdated gochujang go? It is made of hot pepper! Over time it stops being a paste and starts being a sort of sticky lava rock, but, hey, no big deal, I just start using a knife on it instead of a spoon.) The results still weren't hot enough for me, so there may be more of each added during subsequent stovetop reheats.

Oh! About that pork belly. It came from 63rd Street Farm. They do meat shares, and then any pork not already earmarked for meat shares gets sold to general CSA members on share pick-up day. I bought some. 63rd Street Farm also provided the daikon radishes, two of which I added in an attempt to approximate the anchovy stock flavor without actually making the anchovy stock featured in Maangchi's kimchi-jjigae recipe. (I also added about a teaspoon anchovy paste. Someone commented in asking Maangchi about substituting anchovy paste for dried anchovies. Maangchi said no. If you can't get dried anchovies, better to just skip the anchovy stock entirely and use beef or chicken stock instead. My answer to that was, I'M USING ANCHOVY PASTE AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME. But I did also toss in a big lump of Better Than Bouillon roasted beef base, just to hedge my bets.) I'll probably pickle the rest of the daikon radish I got from my CSA share according to this other recipe from Maangchi; it actually calls for Korean radish rather than daikon but I'm willing to take my chances.

In defrosting and slicing up that pork belly, I learned a thing! This has been your random biological fact of the day.

Anyway, point is: When I say I'm making kimchi-jjigae, this is a random example of how the process might go. Having been warned, if you're still interested in having any, come on over. But do it soon if you're doing it because it might all be gone by tomorrow evening.

(I'm not opposed to making more, mind you. It's not like it's going to get any less winter outside for the next few months.)

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by saltus (Pixabay)
Cover art incorporates and modifies images by keithamoss and Andrzej Rembowski (Pixabay)
from the end of a pretty darn good week you get a pretty darn good view
Sun 2019-09-08 00:27:21 (single post)
  • 1,164 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,009 words (if poetry, lines) long

As promised, the Friday Fictionettes for Week 1 of both August and September are up. They didn't go up on Friday, but given the overdue I'm overcoming, Saturday in the early afternoon is practically on time. So here they are:

  • August 2, 2019: "Eyes in the Rain" (etext, audio) - "I first saw those eyes in the cafeteria, looking at me through the rain. It was raining everywhere in those days. Nothing could keep it out. The rain passed through roofs the way that elementary particles pass through the largely empty space of a living body. It passed through our clothes and glazed our living bodies like a second skin. It joined us for lunch, it slept in our beds, and it threatened to wash everyone’s sanity away."
  • September 6, 2019: "The Best Revenge" (etext, audio) - "I’d never personally witnessed a deathbed curse, let alone been the subject of one. They tend to be something that happens to a friend of a cousin’s daughter’s classmate’s uncle’s co-worker. You never hear about it from the people who get cursed. I found out why. You mention that you’ve been cursed, people start to look at you funny. They start wondering if maybe you deserved it."

It's been a good week, writing-wise. There were no dud days. Even the day I spent biking most of the way across south Longmont, all the way from County Line to Hover and back again, while the Chevy Volt was getting serviced at the dealership from 8:30 AM until 6:00 in the afternoon, I still got all the things done: Submission procedures and short story revision at the Java Stop (highly recommended; a more comfortable space I haven't been in since that late night computer and video game cafe that used to be on The Hill closed), freewriting over a chicken sandwich at 300 Suns (they have a full kitchen now and a new menu, y'all!), and fictionette work and blogging back home late in the evening.

It's amazing--not surprising, exactly but still amazing--the difference a week like this makes in my overall outlook. Weeks where I barely eke out two good days between days of I can't even leave me feeling scared and despondent about everything that still needs to get done. I look back at how little I accomplished in the previous seven days, and I despair of what remains on my plate. But a week like this one, a week in which every day I hit every assigned task--except blogging, and that's kind of sort of optional anyway--I look back on this week and get a generous impression of how much I can get done in a week. Which makes the stuff currently on my plate look like an ordinary meal.

(Pardon the food metaphors. John and I just had an amazing dinner. I put together some caprese, he baked butter fan rolls to serve with spaghetti, and we made apple fritters as a dessert experiment. Talk about a lot on our plates. There are most certainly leftovers. John's probably gonna put up a photo on twitter, but he hasn't yet.)

Anyway, I'm optimistic about my short story revisions and oddly excited about getting the Friday Fictionettes Project all caught up by the end of the month. Like, 1. it's going to happen, and 2. it'll be awesome. Happy weekend, y'all!

i share with you the casserole of my people
Wed 2019-07-24 18:49:26 (single post)

No news today, just a recipe. Because I win at casserole, is why. And you can too! Here is how.

First, acquire seven medium-sized mirlitons. Seven is a good number. If you can't find mirliton, chayote will do. BECAUSE THEY ARE THE SAME THING. If you don't already live in a climate and neighborhood where everyone's growing them all over their backyards, I am sorry. I'm with you. I get homesick about it sometimes. If you can't just run out and pick some, and you can't find them in your usual grocery store, you might have luck with an international market. Here in Boulder, I can usually find them at the pan-Asian market over at Valmont and 28th, and I've never not seen them at the Longmont Packing Company, which is a Latin grocery and butcher shop over at Ken Pratt and South Pratt.

Take those mirlitons and boil them for a while. Half an hour? Forty-five minutes? Stick 'em with a fork. If you'd eat a potato that felt like that when you stuck it with a fork, it's probably done.

When they're cool enough to handle, slice each mirliton in half and scoop out the seeds. The seeds are kind of flimsy but the flesh around them might be kinda tough; scoop the tough bits out too. Peel the mirliton halves and chop 'em up.

Put the chopped up mirliton in a pot over medium high heat. Don't add water; just mash up the mirliton. This is a very watery squash. Use a potato masher or a fork or, if you've got one, hit 'em with an immersion blender until they're about like lumpy mashed potatoes. Add as much bouillon as would make a couple cups good rich broth. I used chicken, but you can use whatever you like. Add a tablespoon or two of butter or your favorite vegan substitute. Add black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. Leave the whole mess to simmer, stirring occasionally. You want to boil off as much of the liquid as you can without burning anything.

If you like shrimp, now's a good time to prepare a pound of raw shrimp. If it's frozen, defrost it. If it's got shells on, peel it. Chop it into a nice nubbin size, large enough that your mouth knows it just got a treat but small enough to get several in every spoonful. Ham is another option, chopped to the aforesaid nubbins and added directly to the simmering mirliton mess. Or keep it meatless. It'll be delicious whatever you do.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a pan. Chop up and sautée a respectable-sized onion, two or three ribs celery, a fistful of parsley, and some three or four scallions. Garlic wouldn't go amiss, but it won't be missed either. I meant to put some in but I forgot. Oh well. As long as we're talking onions and celery and New Orleans cuisine, you'll be thinking green bell pepper belongs in there too, and you're not wrong, but my mom always left out so I tend to do the same. Anyway, sautée this mess until the onion's soft and translucent, at which point you'll add your shrimp if you're doing shrimp and cook it 'til it just turns pink.

If the stars are aligned and all things are in harmony, your savory vegetables will be done and your optional shrimp just pinkened about the same time your seasoned mirliton mush will be mostly liquid-free. If the stars are not particularly cooperative, you can soak up the extra liquid with half a cup or more of bread crumbs. Actually, just add the bread crumbs regardless. I mean, it is a casserole. Combine the two messes into one big mess, stir it up good, then decant it into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Put more breadcrumbs on the top. Plain? Italian style? Panko? You know what you like. Make it happen.

Bake at 350 degrees F until done. "Done" to me means that there have been visible bubbles percolating up through the casserole for a while and that the breadcrumb topping has gotten some definite golden brown crisping action around the edges. Bake it until it's whatever "done" means to you.

Let sit about ten minutes, then eat it while it's hot. Leftovers may be reheated or eaten cold, optionally right out of the baking pan.

And that is, more or less, The Casserole Of My People.

a recipe for spur-of-the-moment dirty rice, presented in second person POV because that's what it sounds like in my head when i talk to myself
Wed 2019-01-02 22:00:00 (single post)

Defrost and begin browning a pound of sausage. You've still got a few pounds left in the freezer. You always bought it five or ten pounds at a time, and you're glad of that now, because you're not likely to get the opportunity to buy any again, not this sausage. The pig farmer, who was also your teammate, had to sell the farm and move out of state, herself with all her animals. You miss her. Maybe one day you'll see her on the track again, probably as her opponent at some away game in Kansas. One day you'll get to hear it again, her mutter of "Damn it, Fleur--" that means your attempts to play offense on her are working, at least a little.

Chop up a small white onion and add it to the sausage. Then three ribs of celery. You'd like to use all the celery, it's getting old and that takes some doing with celery, but three ribs really is plenty. What's left will keep for next time. Not so the parsley, which you bought three weeks back for those culinary adventures involving mirliton and seafood on the one hand and beef tongue on the other. Chop up and add to the pot as much as looks right, about a quarter cup or so. The rest can go in the compost. Add garlic. Two cloves? Better make it three. Three big cloves. Smash them lightly under the flat of the blade to loosen their skins, then mince them fine. Throw 'em in.

Stir. Break up the sausage. Add spices: black pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes. A shake or two of Cajun Land seasoning, if that isn't redundant. Keep mashing at the sausage with your wooden spoon to crumble it further. Add a cup of long grain white rice and stir it around, getting it nicely coated in the grease.

Defrost a quart of seafood stock, also leftover from that adventurous cooking weekend. You made this stock with veggies, spices, and the shells of almost three pounds of crawfish. When you upend it into the pot, the smell of crawfish is unmistakable and strong. Better turn on the fan over the stove. The stock is still mostly a thick core of ice because you got impatient and because the rice started sticking to the bottom of the pot. So it'll take longer to come to a boil and the rice will take longer to cook. Oh well.

Wonder for a moment whether there's too much broth and not enough rice. Will it wind up more like soup? That will be fine, as long as it's delicious. It smells like it's going to be delicious. Cover and leave to simmer.

Adjust the timer several times. With eight minutes left, the rice is still uncooked. Put it back up to fifteen. Ten minutes later, reset it to ten. Is it done yet? You're hungry!

When the rice looks cooked enough, take the pot off the fire. Ladle up a serving into a bowl. Put the lid back on securely. If it isn't quite there yet, it'll steam the rest of the way. It isn't, but it does, and you have another serving. The rice has absorbed most of the broth, so it's not soupy after all.

Exercise a little self-restraint. After your second bowl, put the rest away in the refrigerator for leftovers.

Contemplate the sink full of dirty dishes and cooking implements. Groan a little. Resolve to do it, but later tonight. It can wait an hour or so. Grab a book and succumb to food coma on the couch. Everything--the dirty dishes, the writing tasks not yet done, the still-broken web code on your blog, all the rest--will still be there waiting for you when you get up again.

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