Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Food Stuffs

Blog part two. Part one is below. I couldn't end on such a relative downer.

If you consult the weekly blog below, it will be very clear that I needed food therapy this week. Luckily, I had a lot of raw ingredients that needed converting into elements of great dishes. Fortunately, the buying frenzy of last week left me with a lot of material to work with and many chores that allowed for almost a meditative state. I have become obsesses with perfecting stocks. And it turns out, that that's not such a bad thing for a serious cook. Julia child states in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that the French term for stock, Fonds de Cuisine 'means literally the foundation and working capital of the kitchen.' [page 106]. She was not so much of a snob as to say never use the canned stuff or even bouillon cubes in a pinch. I have several varieties of stocks in boxes for emergencies. But the gravy or sauce or soup is always tastier if the stock is from scratch. I finally have a source for all manner of soup bones last week. Thus, I lost myself making fresh batches of chicken stock and beef stock. Simmering stock always makes me feel relaxed, and the smells are mouth watering.
I love doing something that is so familiar even though I'm always trying to improve on my technique. That's a matter of getting just the right balance of veggies and herbs and just the right amount of reduction and straining. Yes, it's fascinating. I did do some new things along with the stock and roasting garlic and asparagus and other veggies. I made a variation on a pasty that I saw on Aaron McCargo, Jr's Big Daddy's House. His recipe was closer to an Empanada which I adore, but not so exotic that Jon wouldn't go for it. I chopped up more veggies in my version of the dish. I even added finely chopped fresh spinach (something I've been adding to almost every ground meat or sauce of late). Thus, this grand scale hot pocket was a whole meal wrapped in pastry dough. Jon really liked it. He said it was like a hand held pot pie. He'll never know how healthy it was! Keeping the meals wrapped in flaky dough theme, I also made Spanikopita. One box of frozen spinach and a half a box of phyllo dough will make a whole lot of pieces. I freeze them and bake them as needed. See, I can do dishes that aren't meat intensive. Lastly, I made mushroom Confit from a recipe Kim sent me from a Vancouver newspaper. I had made garlic confit (poaching garlic cloves in olive oil) quite often after reading Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. It's a great trick that yields lots of soft, sweet garlic and garlic infused olive oil. This recipe had mushrooms, garlic cloves and jalapeno peppers. I really liked the results. The mushrooms were very tasty and could go in a cooked dishes or in salads, I had roasted garlic and a sweeter, milder jalapeno pepper along with the infused oil. I'm going to use all of those in a batch of pasta sauce today.

Even with all of that cooking, I still haven't had a second whack at making soft pretzels though I've had all of the ingredients for more than a week. Jon and I will try today, I hop. And I also have a hankering for chocolate cupcakes with real butter cream icing. I have not been very successful in making that in the past – the icing, I mean. There is a recipe in Julia Child's book that looks simple ...too simple. I'm going to have to give it a try again. I really don't like the store bought frosting, especially after sampling the rich butter creams at the food fare a few weeks ago. I'm not likely to do that well, but it's worth a shot.

Stay tuned.

Craig, Pity Party and Pole Dancing

It's been a very strange week. I had thought the high point of wackiness was Craig's latest Marathon run(for which he trained at such places as The House of Pies ). I was promised a pie by his lovely girlfriend. It never made it out of his house. And then there was Craig vs filming weirdness at Central City Studio, current home of the Archive. Did Craig know about the Little Person in the dog suit? Did Craig notice that it was Lorenzo Lamas tied up on the bed in the motel set with the chihuahua? Craig has had a curious history with little people since his days as a carny. His issues with Lorenzo Lamas go back to high school. It had been that kind of week, and the kind of fun that has to have the singularly twisted running commentary of Craig. I had enough material for a few blogs between the Marathon and the studio wackiness. Alas, most of what I wanted to cover went out of my head with the latest Doctor's visit.

It's My (Pity) Party
No, the news wasn't terrible nor was it unexpected. I finally met with the surgical team that will be doing the procedure that is part of my cancer treatment. I'll be admitted in about a month for the surgical procedure and the follow-up chemotherapy. The doctors are very talented and they are familiar with this sort of cancer. One member of the team is a rare expert on it. After meeting them, I left very confident that I am in good hands. I still feel that way. However, there was something about the visit that left me crestfallen When I was given the worst case scenario for recovery time (the worst case scenario is all they gave me on every aspect of the procedures and hospital stay for insurance purposes), I realized that I'll be almost back to square one after this surgery. Even though I'm much, much stronger going in this time than in December, having chemo along with the surgery will leave me as physically weak. And that was a major bummer. Thus, I had a quiet though intense freak out about the litany of worst case possibilities before spiraling into a depression about the loss of my autonomy for several weeks to a few months. This was tough to get past as I feel better than I have in over a year(the amount of time all my Doctors believe I was sick). The thought of going back to counting being able to get a glass of water on my own as a victory was not sitting well. Everything I planned to blog about went out of my head – even the little person in the dog suit. All my plans for the upcoming months were in great doubt.

But I had to get past it. And I had to stop freaking out about what might happen. Patients have to go into these procedures with the most positive attitude possible (That's a tall order from a Doc who just scared the bejesus out of me making sure I gave informed consent). How did I get past the consultation of doom in hospital last December, you ask. One word, cats and kittens,, morphine! She could have told me I'd have four arms and two necks after that first surgery, and I would have responded 'sounds good to me, Doc. Let's get to it.' As always, I found solace in food – and my muses yelling at me (thank you, Sarah and Miss Kim). The library notified me that my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking had arrived. Thus, I had a lovely walk in the spring sunshine to pick it up and do some browsing in the neighborhood shops. Julia provided inspiration but the walk to and from the Library was the revelation. I have about a month to walk in the sunshine, to cook and eat really good food and, most importantly, to rest. I can be a lot stronger and healthier than I was in December. Thus, I needn't be all the way back at square one. It felt good to take control over this aspect of my treatment. But what about those worse case scenarios? Well, after giving it some calm thought, I realized that I had heard those warnings – almost verbatim in their scariness– before my first surgery. None of those problems came to be, and I was a heck of lot sicker and weaker back then. I'm not ignoring the warnings. I'm just not going to let them panic me.

Before everything hit the fan, we had some very productive meetings regarding one of the film projects. It was a lot of fun refining a pitch to just one paragraph and an entire film down to one page. Our funding connection approved. Now, we wait. If everything goes as I expect, we'll get a green light just before I go into the hospital. But such is the whimsy of the film trade. We'll figure something out. I think. I'm also developing a pilot for a health and fitness show hosted by Dr. Paul Drew, a sports medicine expert, personal trainer and author of Red Carpet Posture. We've been planning segments involving fitness while flying, while in the office cubicle and the best and most fun way to exercise one's way to the optimum fitness and posture. That's where the pole dancing came in. Don't scoff. A lot of physical control is required to work the pole while in those heels. I consider those ladies athletes (though I'm unsure about it deserving a spot in the Olympics, but then again, does ribbon dancing?). And no, there will be no photos of me on that thing. I'm a klutz, remember? I'd rather not have to explain to my team of surgeons why the procedures are postponed and why I have to be in traction. Besides, I don't want to horrify the kin that's on Facebook and who read this blog. Maybe I can get Jon to take a turn. I will now pause in the writing of this to laugh hysterically.

Once the decision not to panic was made, the exhaustion finally hit. I've spent the last few days more asleep than awake. Thus, many of my ambitions for this week went down the tubes. Even so, I managed to do a little cooking and continue my research. I am really enjoying the time I have to read. I've been really giving my new library card a workout. It's like working at Borders again where I could borrow whatever struck my fancy. I'm borrowing books that I would never consider buying, and they are a hoot to read. And I'll certainly have the time to read while I'm convalescing. I'm almost certain to be down another dress size – my undergrad size. There are some positives to all of this.

So, my plans for the next few weeks is more walking – hopefully a walk of some length each day, lot of rest and good food. And I'm going to start my Bollywood routine this week. There will be no pictures if I can help it.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's Cooking Thursday through Sunday

Why so many days, you ask? I got a bit ambitious last week. I think it's due to nervousness over the appointments this week. Or I'm just crazy with boredom. There is a limit to how many court reality shows one can watch in a given week. I've finally reached mine. Whatever the reason, I had a bit of a cooking frenzy last week, but I'm still a bit slow in my execution of a dish, especially when it's a new one. I made a few new dishes, so the time span for executing them was even longer than usual. My cooking of late has been market driven. I've been deciding what I'll make based on what is on sale in the circulars we receive on Tuesdays or in-store specials. Thus, my goal for Friday's meatless dinner was the elusive Fish Soup Provencal. There was a sale on lobster tails at one of the nearby markets. At less than $4 per tail, I couldn't pass them up. I have a great seafood stock recipe that involves shellfish shells. I had some shrimp in the freezer from a previous sale. It seemed like destiny. On a side note, I finally learned to cook shrimp and lobster tails without overcooking them. I roast them without the shells in a hot oven. I coat them with a little olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. For some reason, I get it right with that method. When I boil or steam shell fish, I can't seem to not make them rubbery and overcooked.

Now, keeping in mind that I'm still slow and tire easily, I also brought home a nice piece of Alaskan cod as a back up for dinner(on sale as well). That was prudent. We ended up having homemade filet o'fish sandwiches with a side of fries Friday night. I finished the soup on Saturday. The fish sandwiches were very good. The soup was quite yummy. It wasn't the toe curling goodness I sampled at the Food Fare last week, but it was quite yummy. I didn't have the moxy or energy to whip up some aioli or rouille that typically garnishes this soup. That will have to wait for another, far more ambitious day. Besides, I like to make sure that I can execute the recipe so well that it stands out on its own. Then, I can make the clever garnish or sauce that goes with it. However, my soup was not unadorned. I made these amazing, healthy and decadent croutons to go with it and my side salad. Healthy and decadent, you say. How can that be? It can be when it's Deep Fried Eggplant Croutons. This bit of brilliance is courtesy of Food Network chef Aaron McCargo Jr – also a denizen of the Delaware Valley. I threw a twist on his recipe by also using zucchinis with the eggplant. It is very tasty in the soup and salad or on it's own when you're warming up the soup and get the munchies.

The other big thing on sale this week was pork shoulder. I bought two large roasts this time (it was under $1 a pound). I made the slow roasted pulled pork again, but I tried something completely daring with the other one. I actually made Scrapple from a recipe that was featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives. Instead of pork scraps, the cook made hers with slow cooked pork shoulder chopped fine and mixed with stock from the cooking, corn meal and fresh sage. And it actually worked! The texture was denser and less fragile than the brand we were buying out here. And the flavor was really good. I got tickled when I was loading the mixture into the loaf pans. The texture reminded me of a dense corn muffin batter. I considered glopping some into a muffin pan and making meat muffins for Anthony Bourdain. He'd appreciate that.

More on the Year of Fun activities and the latest on the film and TV projects later today or late tonight.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Golden Era Begins -- Food Fest

Last week was stellar in so many ways. I had some great news about my diagnosis and the upcoming treatment. Professionally, long dormant projects had a sudden and major lurch forward while we were also tapped to write something entirely new for someone else. I've had some wonderfully productive meetings, read some fascinating books. And then there was all of the food. I hardly know where to begin. Actually, I do. I can't really get into details about why the film projects are suddenly active other than Jon and I had nothing to do with their jump starting. We were largely mind our own business in each case. I am very hopeful about this situation as the party involved has begun the legal due diligence(proof of ownership of the material, etc.) that generally only happens when a contract is in the offing. This sort of inquiry hasn't happened since Demon Under Glass got funded. Needless to say, we're very optimistic. And, naturally, at a time when I'll be extremely taxed physically, more than one project must heat up. No worries. I'll just get a litter and some bearers like Cleopatra (well, maybe not that elaborate. It would take forever to get into a room. And then there is all that extra food). And I'll get some extra minions (aka Pas) to do my bidding if need be. Interviewing them could be fun. They'd have to be young and strapping with lots of stamina....What were we talking about? Yes, making films again. We'll work it out when the time comes. This looks to be a fabulous opportunity. More on this in the next segment.

Month of Fun – Supersized!!

My good friend and occasional muse, Kim Berglund, pointed out recently that as I turn 50 this year, I should have way more than a month of fun. She proposed and I agreed that the occasion called for a Year of Fun. And while that year would run from May 2010 to May 2011, I also agreed with her assertion that I shouldn't wait until May if some fun presented itself sooner. I freely acknowledge that my life hasn't been a boatload of fun lately, but I know that I should be open to anything out here.

Anything came in the form of a trivia contest by Zesterdaily.com, a website and newsletter about all aspects of food and wine. The prize for winning the contest was two tickets to the annual Planned Parenthood Food Fare, a fundraiser in which dozens of local restaurants and merchants gather to sample, sell and auction off their wares to raise money for the valuable services offered by this organization. I answered the trivia question and then promptly forgot all about it. I seldom win these sorts of things and it was best not to think of what could be where all of that yummy food was concerned. When I received the e-mail from Zesterdaily.com, I almost didn't read it. I was really busy that day and figured that I could save the newsletter for another day. Fortunately, I did peek. I had won two tickets. Unfortunately, the Food Fare was the very next day, so I couldn't find anyone to go with me. But it was now The Year of Fun. I was ready to go it alone.

I have often availed myself of the services of Planned Parenthood since the age of 18. When between jobs that actually have health insurance, it is a good place for the annual 'Female Exams' that are vital to a woman's health. I don't have a lot of money to donate to the cause, so I thought I would blog about the wonderful vendors that came out to support it. I couldn't get to them all, unfortunately. However, if my readers support them and let them know why, I am confident that they will be back next year to aid this excellent cause. Why am I taking pictures of food? That's Kim's fault as well.

Elixir G – ElixirG.com – This is a ginger infused cocktail mix. I think it can be used for any sort of refreshing drink like a zippier lemonade in the summer or a spicier virgin margeuritia. I happened to have a Gingerita plopped into my grasp as I crossed the threshold. That one had tequila in it. Yummy! And who can dislike any event that begins with a cocktail?

Thyme Market and Cafe – Thymecafeandmarket.com. 1630 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405. The website offers gourmet boxes and products for delivery. This lovely establishments is mere steps from my primary care physician and yet I've never chanced to pop in. Silly me! They had generous samples of their Pressed Roasted Turkey, Caramelized Onion, Arugula & Brie on Ciabatta. The turkey was freshly roasted and the bread freshly baked. There was a perfect ratio of meat to brie and arugula with the bread. I did a lot of humming and making of yummy noises while I savored it. It took all of the decorum I possessed not to go back and jam six more pieces in my pocket. I only had the sandwich as there was a constant and long line to their table. I completely understand why.

Got Kosher Catering and Market – gotkosherinc.com –8914 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90035 The market and website offer a vast array of foods for small and large gatherings or just for meals at home in a hurry. I am a complete sucker for all things Kosher. What impressed me was their vegetarian chicken liver pate. I do not know how they pulled it off, but it tasted like meaty, delicious pate. If they can work miracles with a product like that, I can't imagine how good their pastrami on rye must be. I plan to find out.

Cakified – cakified.com. This wonderful bakery delivers anywhere in Los angeles with a minimum order of only a dozen cupcakes. They had their samples in a bon bon sized ball with a hard icing shell for carrying convenience. Alongside the bon bons was an icing shooter in a tiny paper cup. That moist cake (I sampled the chocolate and the red velvet) was moist with just the right amount of sweetness. The icing was dense and creamy and so good that it made my toes curl. I urge my film making peeps to give this company a call for your next craft services table. These treats will make even the crankiest crew guy smile.

Jamagel – jamagel.com. I love this company! The regular bagels were really good (and as you know from my previous blog, I'm a bagel snob). But what makes this vendor stand out is the jerk seasoning bagel which is spicy without being overpowering and is really delicious toasted with cream cheese. I liked this product so much that I had them deliver samples to Lucy's soundstage. She liked them so much that she gave out samples to the two shoots working there. They eagerly took all the business cars we had on hand and have sent for more. Again, my film making peeps, this is a quality product that is freshly baked daily and willing to deliver in the LA area. Treat your crew to these marvelous bagels and have a Jamagel day!

La Bistro Cachette – lacachettebistro.com
1733 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Again, this place is steps from my doctor's office and again, I have never stopped by. Well, that will be changing big time. This wonderfully gifted vendor had fish soup Provencal to sample. Yes, the very soup I've been obsessing about making. Well, I don't think I'm ready to pull this off. One spoonful froze me in my tracks in utter bliss. I couldn't even make it to the tall tables with lovely blue tablecloths set up to enjoy the food. I stood in front of the table and inhaled the little bowl of creamy goodness and then shamelessly had another one. Fortunately, the table wasn't very busy. I asked the Chef (who had a French accent) what was in the soup and in the little dollop of cream. The soup might have had six ingredients (the seafood stock must have been first rate to support so few ingredients). When I loudly bemoaned the fact that I wasn't ready to pull off such a soup at home, the Chef comforted me with a little square of warm chocolate cake with a thin, warm fudgey sauce and sweet whip cream. I almost floated down the street to my next meeting.

This was one heck of a start to The Year of Fun! Thank you Zesterdaily.com!

Next up, why am I talking to a Pole Dance Instructor and what does that have to do with posture and the Oscars? Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Elegance in the Age of Twitter

This is part one of this week's blog. I have a lot on my mind and a lot going on. This was on my mind.

One of the last books I scanned for the Internet Archive before I fell ill was a novel called Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro. The book was typical chick lit that left me unimpressed. However, I was fascinated by the book that inspired the novel. It was A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. The author was a maven of haute couture for Nina Ricci during the early 60s.

I finally read the book last week and found myself as inspired by the anecdotes and advice as I had been by the snippets I had read in the novel, Elegance. The book is organized in short, succinctly written chapters that cover topics from Accessories to Zoology. There is no occasion in life for which Madame Dariaus does not have sage advice. And though she was originally writing this advice in the era of Jacqueline Kennedy (it was updated in 2004), I found her tips and insight quite sound and applicable to any era. For Madame Dariaux, achieving elegance is a matter of knowing yourself well and being comfortable in your own skin. From there, it simple to dress in clothing that feels as good to the wearer as they are flattering. The elegant woman does not wear colors or prints simply because they are the hot style. She is never a slave to trends in fashion. Nor does she wear clothing that is too tight or awkward or uncomfortable. Her advice is also practical for any budget. Any woman, no matter her age or her physique (Madam Dariaux described herself as unfortunately shaped like an oval), can achieve the serenity of elegance with a little care and effort.

I found this tome to be uplifting and affirming – almost feminist in its message to celebrate your womanhood and be confident in herself. I was thus surprised and very disappointed to find the women on my social networks giving it reviews that totally missed the mark (thinking it was parody) or were outright hostile to the themes. I was puzzled. I thought a long time about why this might be. I mean the women in generations that have come after mine are born with more confidence than I had as I reached adulthood. Why would they find advice on what to wear to a funeral hard to handle? And then, I remembered the last time Jon and I attended a function that we thought called for some formality.

Before I continue, let me say that I am far from a slave to formality. My goal in life is to find a way to spend the majority of my time wearing pajamas. I have, in fact, found pajamas that are so nice that I have worn them to work for years. I have even found a cardigan that goes with them so well that it looks like a causal suit. I will not reveal this find as I do not want everyone to snatch them up.

That said, My husband and I were invited to a religious ceremony by a close friend who was going through a rite of passage. It was a most unconventional religion and we were given the basics of what the ceremony entailed. We decided on dressy casual. We were still the best dressed people there other than those participating. There were many pairs of flip flops. There were even wrinkles amongst the congregation. My husband and I shrugged at the time. But I think that is where the reason for the negative reaction to the book can be found. The generations behind me have such a sense of their own self that a sense of occasion is what that individual deems it to be regardless of the reality. That is why my friends who are office managers have to teach incoming MBAs that casual Fridays don't include crop tops and flip flops. Or some of the advice I received about meeting European businessmen at the Cannes Film Market involved advice on not dressing like I was heading for a day at the beach (not that I would have. The advice was for all American filmmakers).

I think the Twitter generation likes to live by their own rules and are loathe to have them imposed upon them in any fashion. If I am following all of these rules, I can't ever really be me. Madame Dariaux's sage wisdom seems out of step with that philosophy. But it really isn't. If the reader follows the advice and learns how to be totally at ease with themselves, it is easy to find an appropriate dress that is comfortable and elegant in any situation. In closing, I give prospective readers of Madame Dariaux, Audrey Hepburn. She was as elegant and comfortable in Capri pants and ballet flats as she was in the chicest of evening gowns and opera length gloves and she knew when to wear each outfit. Ladies, read the book, find yourself and for goodness sake, burn those flip flops.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Scripts and Blood and Sunday Gravy

This turned out to be an exciting week, creatively speaking. We had a meeting with an investor about a script that has long been on a back burner. It turned out that he didn't want mere dialogue tweaks but another concept entirely. One would think that I would find such a meeting highly irritating. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have. But the meeting topped off what was an odd and nearly whimsical day, so I think I was ready to roll with anything. Why Jon was so cooperative, I have absolutely no idea. Typically, a meeting that took that kind of turn would end with some sort of scorched earth statement on Jon's or my part and the relationship would have been destroyed before it began though we would have felt wholly justified. But considering what we've been coping with the last few months (a life or death issue), semantics over the direction of a script are far less important.

I spent my day at the soundstages again with a break to go to the hospital to get blood tests for surgery. I keep the mantra in my head that my Cancer Docs are among the best in their field in this great land (I found their seriously illustrious credentials on the Google, don't you know)as I stood in line with my paperwork with a couple dozen people in line with their paperwork. When a patient gets to the first set of windows, he or she is given a number to wait to be called to a second set of windows. Sometimes, the patient is also given a urine specimen cup to fill (hopefully, before their number is called). Luckily I didn't require one of those as I had contributed that specimen during my ER visit. I was given a number that had been called two minutes before I made it to the window. Fortunately, the nice phlebotomist waited for me to trundle over. I sat in front of her window, stuck my arm through the window and she syphoned a couple of vials of blood almost painlessly. I was on my way in less than a half an hour. Did I mention the orange jumpsuit clad prisoner with LA Sheriff escort? She was just ahead of me in the Conga line.

The speed of the tests left me a lot of free time at the soundstages to work on my script research. Not the script we were having the meeting about. This is the one Jon and I have been fighting about for months. The research really helped. We found out a lot about the lead in dispute that changed the direction for that character that neither of us expected but we could absolutely agree upon. Also, the research has yielded a plethora of great supporting characters – many of them women – that we hadn't expected. These discoveries have resulted in the script treatment all but writing itself. I just love it when writing surprises me. Later, as the time of the investor meeting approached, Marguerite, Jon and I found ourselves trapped in Ralph's chic downtown office in the dark. You see, there was a shoot going on just beyond the frosted glass double doors. It was a re-enactment of a police bullpen scene following the murder of rapper Biggie Smalls for some VH-1 crime show. The light switches were in the waiting room, but we couldn't use them even if we could reach them as the ceiling lights would have ruined the set lighting. And the set dresser apparently borrowed the office lamps. Thus, all we had was the eerie glow of Marguerite's laptop. And we couldn't talk because they were shooting with sound. It was such a goofy situation that I was left in a far better mood for the meeting than I would have been otherwise. Jon is now telling me that he was more of a director than a writer in that meeting and acted accordingly. Groovy. In any event, it looks like we have another film in the works (not at all the one we thought would be in the works) and we've finally broken through on the one we've been researching for so long. I'm in a very good mood, creatively.

Thursday Night Soup
This is from my Facebook Notes. You may skip ahead if you've read it.

It was good that I felt good creatively. On top of everything, I have a cold. And I have found that scratchy, raw throat is more annoying than the cancer symptoms. And I want soup, but I can just throw something in a pot and heat it up and have any sort of soup. I used to be able to do that. But that was before Anthony Bourdain barged into my life. He is the patron saint of properly simmered stock. He is ecstatic over flavorful aromatic broths. His cookbook berates the reader to take the time and care for the perfectly executed, unctuous stock. And now, I do just that. I make vats of stock almost weekly. This week, I'm out having used the last in the freezer for chicken gravy on Sunday. I was too tired to roast bones and veggies and wait six hours. But I couldn't open a can or a packet for soup either. Store bought soup is too thin and salty for me now. I managed a compromise. I had some chicken parts and some stock in a box (that's okay to have so long as I have homemade stuff as well). I poached the parts in the pre-made stock along with some aromatics and herbs and a head of garlic for a couple of hours. I always have soup noodles, so a few minutes more in the pot and Voila! It is passable chicken noodle soup. It was soothing to my throat and my sensibilities. My only concern now is how much is in that pot.

Sunday Gravy and Pretzel Knots

I'd never heard pasta sauce called gravy until I worked in a Center City Philly restaurant with South Philly Italian Americans. I was puzzled by the term. Our Northern Italian employers were outright annoyed by it. 'Tomato sauce is NOT gravy!' They would often shout when they caught servers ordering that way. They actually shouted about a lot of things. Sometimes they would have bread fights in the diningroom. But on this one issue, I actually thought the consternation was justified. There was no roux or meat juices involved, were there? The therm made no sense and thus vexed me. And then I started seeing the dish on the cooking shows. First was America's Test Kitchen that featured Sunday Gravy. The host and his chef explained that the gravy was, in fact, made by slow cooking meat on the bone along with tomatoes and red wine and other loveliness. I noted the recipe, but wasn't moved to make it until I saw Tyler Florence's version, Neopolitan Ragu, more than a year later. I changed his recipe a bit through. I can't make meatballs that big, for one. His were the size of softballs. I like little ones that I can put on a hoagie roll later. So, I made a few bigger ones and a lot of mini ones. The mini ones, I roasted in the oven. The bigger ones, I cooked in the sauce along with pork shoulder, pork neck bones and beef neck bones until the meat fell off the bone. By then, the sauce did look like gravy. It tastes just amazing – far more rich and savory than a marinara sauce. I can envision using that sauce for a great sub as well as on pasta, but the recipe yields a vat of meat sauce. I have to divide and share. Even with sharing, I'll have enough to freeze for many meals.

Meanwhile, we tried our hand at making pretzels from a Martha Stewart show recipe. They weren't bad. In fact, they were rather tasty, but not quite up to the level that we enjoyed in Philadelphia. We'll have to take some time to figure out where we went wrong and try again.

I'm to get my surgery date this week as well as find out if that meeting will result in making a film.

Stay tuned!