Sunday, August 31, 2008


No, not that kind of Peaches. The kind that you eat. There is a store - Brennan's - here in Madison that posts a sign every summer advertising "Chin Drippin Peaches." Despite their failure to use the appropriate folksy apostrophe after the second "n" in this phrase, I usually buy a case every year. A case = lots and lots of peaches. I like to make them into pies, which I then freeze for baking later in the fall and winter, when it's a pretty neat trick to produce for one's dinner guests a delicious peach pie that tastes like it's August. The project started auspiciously, with the case of peaches being on sale for $5 less than usual. Then I got myself a Corporate Iced Latte, which gave me enough hyper energy to make lattice-top pies while listening to one of the best compilation albums in my collection - "Rockabilly Riot!". Do not - I repeat, DO NOT, omit that exclamation point. Punctuation, then, is the theme for this post. When my husband came home from work, I am sure he thought I was having some sort of psychotic break, listening to Fifties music ("Baby, Let's Play House" is on the disc) and baking! Baking! Baking! In my cheery red apron. It was a "Mad Men" moment, if you will. Three pies later, only half of the case of peaches has been scalded, skinned and chopped up. Wait, isn't that how they used to punish treason in the original thirteen colonies? The one peach pie I baked fresh came out perfectly, due to nothing but dumb luck. How can you know in advance how much thickener-of-choice (I use potato starch) to add in order to avoid soupy pie? And how to fend off the rapacious family that wants to eat the pie before it has had time to cool and set? It's really just a blind guess for me, but this time the cards fell in my favor and the pie consistency was spot on. I've come down from the caffeine high and am wondering what to do with the rest of the freakin' peaches.

Book blogging. Re: Doctor Books

Stuff is very much going on in my kitchen nowadays, but without photos, it seems a bit pointless. So here's my subject: I am obsessed with books about medicine. Clearly, I'm not alone, since I see a seemingly endless parade of them come through my hands working at the library. The appeal is not hard to figure out. We all have bodies, we all (might) get sick, and few of us have the brain power or persistence to actually become M.D.s. In addition, we're inundated with pop-cultural doctors on television (E.R., House, etc.). I'd also like to pitch in what I consider the "freakshow" factor. I love reading about weird, rare diseases. Well, who doesn't? I have a total lit-crush on Atul Gawande (New Yorker medical writer). My kids and I routinely watch Nova videos about strange medical cases. Boy in the Bubble? Check. Family That Walks On All Fours? Yes, please!
So recently I read two books in a row that were, in different ways, about medicine and the human body. "Why You Shouldn't Eat Your Bookers and Other Useless Information About Your Body" was something I picked up thinking it might have kid-interest (didn't) and it turned out to be a collection of ho-hum, read-it-before factoids (why men have nipples, etc.). It didn't even take a strong stand on the bookers issue, coming down, it seemed, more on the pro-booger-eating side more than anything else, based on keeping your nasal passages clear and boosting your immune system by ingesting bacteria. So dull, and also misleadingly-titled. Simultaneously, I read "Intern: A Doctor's Intitiation", Sandeep Jauhar's account of his completely miserable year of internship. Dude was depressed. I realized what it is that Atul Gawande does so well, which is to focus on patients and illness rather than his personal struggle, and to take fascinating individual case studies and weave them into a larger narrative about some big medical issue that would never occur to a layperson to ponder. Jauhar occasionally does this, but larded with too much Eeyore for me.
BUT the big realization here is that I read doctor-books for much the same reasons that I gravitate towards yet another micro-niche: books by restaurant waitstaff (like Phoebe Damrosch's "Service Included." Because I am a hard-core people-pleaser, it's like research on how to be the BEST. CUSTOMER. EVER. Whether eating a meal or putting my legs into a set of stirrups (not the horsey kind), I just want to be liked. Is that so wrong?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

...Still waiting for pictures

If I were a more independent and self-actualized woman, I would learn how to upload my own digital photos onto the laptop my own damn self. If I had actually been listening to the lyrics of Destiny's Child's "Independent Woman Pt. 1" or Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" or any of the Ani DiFranco CDs I bought in college, I would take the initiative to master what is most assuredly a fairly uncomplicated piece of technology that would save me from becoming one of those grannies who relies on the teenage grandkids to program whatever the 2040 analog to the TiVo might end up being. But no. This isn't a technophobe thing. It's more one of those marital-bailiwick things. The digital camera is my husband's turf in much the same way that, say, home plumbing is mine. See, I'm not a total dunce, Gloria Steinem! But what this means for my two faithful blog readers (hi, mom) is that the breathtaking shots of my cherry clafoutis are not yet available for public consumption even though the dessert itself was made available for private consumption some weeks ago. Option the first is to abandon the notion that this is a cooking blog and just use it as a forum to grouse about library patrons. Option the second is to move on. Thoughts? Opinions?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Stay Tuned . ..

Cherry clafoutis has actually been made. This involved the purchase of ramekins and vanilla beans, and the subsequent assembly of what looked like an effortlessly thrown-together Frenchy bistro type meal but was in fact the coldly calculated result of weeks (two, but still weeks PLURAL) of planning and scheming so that I could be all nonchalant with my whisk like, "I don't know why I don't make my own vinaigrette all the time. It's so easy!!!" There is actual photographic documentation of the clafoutis that has yet to be uploaded to my computer, HAL 9001. So stay tuned for awe-inspiring clafoutis snaps and enjoy this vintage test pattern while you long nostalgically for a time when the television broadcast day had a beginning and an end and was capable of approximating something resembling a narrative arc rather than serving as a metaphor for the neverending Sisyphean struggle of humanity in its relentless barrage of meaninglessness. That is all.