2810 words long
the work goes slowly but nevertheless it goes
Food content in today's blog post is going to be minimal because I'm in the middle of revisions, and revisions are hard, and I'm going to whine about that.
Also there isn't much to say about the food, beyond that 1. if you're going to substitute oysters for shrimp in this recipe, you probably need to account for the oysters being rather smaller than your average prawn to begin with and then shrinking as you fry them. Which is not to say they weren't delicious. I would happily eat a meal of nothing but those oysters in that fry prep and sauce, noodles optional. But that would be rather labor intensive what with the shucking and all, and I have kimchi plans for the rest of these oysters.
AND ALSO 2. if you are going to put the oyster brine into the dish, you have to subtract an equivalent amount of liquid from the recipe, or else you get a slightly soupier result. Unless you just cook it longer, in which case you might end up with overcooked noodles. One or the other. (Next time I think I'd sub the brine for the 2 tbl water in the cornstarch slurry.)
It was tasty, though. I ate it all. And that's all I have to say about that.
So. Revisions! I'm simultaneously revising two things, a poem and a short story, both of which I want to submit to Nightmare Magazine before their current open submission window closes on Sunday. And the work is going remarkably slowly.
In the case of the poem, it's mainly that I've got an image I am telling a very short story about in verse... and that's pretty much all I know. The rest is the problem of UNLIMITED CHOICE, and I'm having the darndest time deciding anything concrete. So I keep throwing words and phrases at the page, hoping that something will stick. There's a lot of uncertainty here. Today's session felt a bit more successful to the extent that I reduced the amount of uncertainty more than in previous sessions. Hooray. But sometimes poems come easily and sometimes they just suck, and this poem is definitely not an example of the former.
As for the story--ye gods, this story. It's got a major pacing problem. The tension tightens and tightens like a good horror story do, and then all of a sudden we end up at the end without having hit the anticipated turning-point-of-no-return. I've suspected it will take a new scene to fix it, but without any clue what that scene will look like or where it should go. So I've been putting that decision off, or, to put it more generously, laying the groundwork for making that decision, by doing line-level edits to the rest of the story. And it's working! I have a much better idea of what the new scene will look like! It will look like several new scenes.
Did I mention this thing needs to be submitted by Sunday? Argh.
I console myself with the indisputable fact that I have managed to find time and energy for revision sessions four whole days in a row. Four! And each of those sessions has brought non-trivial improvements to the story. So while it's easy to think I've spent all this week circling around the real problem without actually landing--because I'm a writer, right, and writers are by and large very good at talking smack about ourselves, and devaluing our own accomplishments, and catastrophizing about what we perceive as our failures--in truth, I really have been making progress.
But progress is happening so slowly.
Look, I'm going to submit something by Sunday, OK? One poem, one story. But I might keep revising them afterward, right? Because odds are they're going to get rejected so I can submit them again. That's not self-smack-talk! That's just sheer numeric probability, given how prestigious the market is, how few open slots they've got, and the skill and talent and artistry of the authors competing for those slots. Hell, even if I am fortunate enough to make a sale here, there will likely be a revisions phase. So basically, what I'm saying is, deadlines happen but the work continues.
For how long? Until I've decided it's enough, dang it. At which point, back to the reprint rewrite. Woo.
got a shucking knife, not afraid to use it
Writing content in this blog post will be minimal. THE OYSTERS HAVE ARRIVED and I'm a little obsessed.
You remember, right? The mail-order oysters I mentioned splurging on? Yeah. They showed up today. And I have successfully shucked and eaten a few of them. Hooray!
There was a little anxiety at first, because I had no idea how to read a timestrip. The Real Oyster Cult FAQ says that if the temp sensor hasn't turned blue, you're cool. Great! So I open up the package, I pull out the two baggies of live oysters (Truro Pearls and Irish Point, 20 each), I find the temp sensor strip at the bottom of the box, I flip it open, and it is all blue. Oh shit! Panic! Needlessly. I was looking at the completely cosmetic faceplate color, rather than the actual temp sensor window--which was still empty and white, indicating that the oysters had spent no appreciable time above 50 degrees. To be fair, making the faceplate the same color as the temperature sensor dye was definitely a choice. Anyway, an email to ROC with a photo of the thing cleared up the whole misunderstanding without delaying my dinner one bit.
And I had been very good. I had put in my time and my wordcount by then. I'd got the beginnings of a new poem, a decent start on the February 19 Friday Fictionette (still a month overdue, but still uploading a new one every Friday or as soon afterward as possible), and real progress on revising the story I intend to submitting to Nightmare Magazine this week. (I've got until Sunday to submit it, so everything's fine.) I'd even done my bunny chores--I gave Holland his daily fresh veg, tidied up his habitat, refilled his various hay containers, and gave him treats.
I'd done my homework, is what I'm saying, so I was free to play with oysters.
They were a lot easier to shuck than I remember from when Dad taught me several years ago. But then they were a lot smaller than gulf south oysters and also a bit pointier around the hinge. I made myself up a lovely little plate with a half dozen on the half-shell, each with a dollop of that fantastic caramelized shallot spread on top, and then a couple pieces of crawfish bread. Crawfish bread is not as effective as plain French bread for sopping up oyster brine, being already fairly sopping with cheese and spices and crawfish tails, but that's OK. It's tastier. And I am not above tilting the plate up to my mouth and simply drinking whatever's left.
As I mentioned before, this splurge was in celebration of a rather special huge big deal of a story sale, so when I placed the order, I left myself a little gift message commemorating that. It sounds hokey, and it is hokey, but I still got such a happy thrill when I opened up the shipping box and found a hand-written gift card inside saying, "Dear Niki: Congratulations on your first sale of fiction to Apex! Love, Niki."
So now I have a very hard choice to make. Do I commit the sin of drowning the delicate briny flavor of these maritime gems in kimchi? Or do I give myself the joy of homemade kimchi flavored with fresh delicious oysters? That's a trick question, of course. The answer is yes, and also yes. Besides, I'm only going to make half the recipe anyway, so there will still be a few oysters left to do other things with. (I'm thinking of subbing a few in for the shrimp in this dragon & phoenix recipe.)
So that's the story. It's Tuesday, I'm feeling accomplished, and life is delicious. I hope things are going just as well for you, whoever you are and wherever you may be.
there's such a thing as overdoing it
- 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 2,540 words (if poetry, lines) long
Ha. So remember that "long and deeply satisfying skating session" last week? Well, it turns out that when I kick my own butt skating for three hours straight, including over less than hospitable terrain (the sidewalks! OMG, the sidewalks on the east side of 28th Street! Whyyyyy?), and then the very next day I take part in an exceedingly ambitious 40-minute HIIT workshop that's heavy on the same muscles I wore out skating the day before, the result is several days of being pretty much good for nothing but whining.
I have been a little more cautious in my daily workout since.
I mean, I'm still trying to have a daily workout. That has been my goal for March. A year of no roller derby has meant fewer hours of physical activity per week, and lower-quality exercise when I do exercise because I'm not a particularly strict self-coach. My endurance has suffered, and so has my strength, both in terms of both ability and muscle mass/definition. I am a pathetic noodle during the league's Thursday night Zoom workouts. I've put on weight, and though weight is a number that never meant much to me before, it says something when that number's the highest it's ever been in my adult life. (I've never paid much attention to BMI either, except to note that it, like one's credit score, is a metric that is notorious for being misused, with malice aforethought, to make people's lives measurably worse. But realizing that my current BMI might qualify me for the COVID vaccine a little earlier than I had hitherto expected is just weird.) And my blood pressure, which metric does mean quite a lot to me, has been up a titch. So! Daily exercise is my current goal.
Yesterday's exercise was going to be skating, but I left it for too late, and now it's going to be snowing through the weekend. Yuck. So yesterday's exercise was an extremely modest amount of squats, sit-ups, crunches, knee-lifts, and leg-lifts. Like, fifteen minutes, all told. Not an impressive session. Enough to say there was a non-zero amount of exercise in the day, which is the main thing. Today will be similar. Then tomorrow, being a Thursday, will kick my butt again, but because I won't come to Thursday's workout with a pre-kicked butt, I should be functional the next day.
Which is all very much the long way of saying "No, I haven't gotten back to the revision of 'Lambing Season' yet, sorry." I'm going to put that sucker to the side for now, though, because I would very much like to have a horror original to send to Nightmare Magazine when it opens to all demographics for the week of the 14th. And I know just the story. I think I can get it revised in time, but I need to start today.
(Oh, look! They'll take poetry that week, too!)
Meanwhile, I promised you a recipe. Or a method. Or a something involving chicken, mushrooms, asparagus, and cream. Here, then, is that something.
Step One: Read this. Then put it away. We're not so much following a recipe as improvising on an idea. This recipe is the idea. Also preheat the oven to 350.
Step Two: The big cast-iron pan. Bacon in little chunks. Medium heat until greasy.
Step Three: Chicken breasts, liberally coated on both sides in LOTS of fresh ground pepper (seriously, this makes the dish) and a little salt, on top of the bacon. While they sear, sliced onions and mushrooms on top of that. Eventually, when that first side has cooked enough, flip the chicken, let the other side cook a bit. Then slice it into slices. Introduce those slices more thoroughly to the onions and mushrooms and also the heat.
Step Four: Now what? You want to boil some pasta, but your chicken onion mushroom mess is taking up the burner you want to use! Guess you'd better just shove that whole cast iron pan into the oven along with the crawfish bread. (The crawfish bread was why we preheated the oven in the first place.) Problem solved! Now boil up that pasta.
Step Five: While the pasta's cooking, check on the pan in the oven. Add some cream to the liquid being released from the mushrooms. It'll look a bit like cream of mushroom soup. That's fine. Let it boil down. When convenient, return the pan to the stovetop and the heat to medium-high. Add more cream if you want. It's sort of a balancing act between "is it thick enough" (no? cook it longer) and "is it creamy enough" (no? add cream). The flow chart also includes "can you wait any longer?" (no? eat it).
We are not worrying about the chicken. The chicken isn't getting overcooked or dry in this mess. The chicken is getting braised.
Step Six: So the sauce is the right consistency, the pasta is waiting to be introduced to it, you're ready to eat. BUT WAIT! There's asparagus! Toss it into the sauce and leave it on the heat only as much longer as it takes to get the asparagus cooked to your taste. Then: remove from heat, sprinkle with parmesan, and toss it all about so the parmesan gets melty.
And now it's done. Serve it over that pasta. Eat it all. Lick the bowl. And save a little bread to mop up the pan. The sauce is really tasty.