View The Austin Gastronomist blog the traditional way– in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent post.
There are certain situations– high school, church, and family reunions, for example– where it sucks to be different from everyone else. A lot of times I get uncomfortable in situations like those because I have trouble fitting in.
Next time I am in situations like those, I will think of Imogen Heap, and how she is powerful in her weirdness, and how she wears a bird’s nest with a flower in her hair, and how she can look chaste wearing a jumper with no sides. Plus, who else is making music like this on mainstream television? This is a live performance in which Imogen Heap kicks ass with a freaking Judy Jetson soundboard and a Yamaha acoustic piano. Unbelievable.
While we’re paying tribute to incredible, one-of-a-kind musicians, please let me introduce you to Philippe Jarousky. He is one of my favorite singers in the world. In the video below, he is performing with a woman. Can you tell which voice is a man’s and which is a woman’s?
Hint: his is the slightly richer sounding voice which enters second. Remember the sound of Philippe’s voice next time you feel self conscious because you are different from other people. Then be thankful for the gifts you have, get over yourself, and sing your heart out. Like so:
I have been nesting a bit in preparation for my big move this weekend. Look at the treasures I found on Etsy:
This wall hanging would look wonderful in my bedroom. Clearly, these bigfeets are in love. And I think it’s lesbian love since one is pink and the other is red.
The next wall hanging is for my dining area:
I have been thinking for a few weeks about hanging decorative plates in an interesting pattern on my dining room wall. These would be a lovely way to discourage company from lingering too long after dinner parties.
But what if I want to discourage company from coming over at all?
This uncomfortable picture will be my secret weapon.
Today is my sister and her husband’s first wedding anniversary! They spent the weekend in Washington DC celebrating. While they were gone, their cat Sebastian suggested that I should cook them a surprise anniversary dinner so we could all hang out together when they got home.
Sebastian likes boxes. He also like surprise dinners. My sister and her hubby’s flight landed around 5:30 PM, so the timing was perfect for some stealth dining preparation. One tiny bummer was that the happy couple chose to get married at the end of the month, so I only had $15 to put together a fabulous meal. Here’s how I did it:
First, I chilled some free champagne. (I had a bottle left over from my So You Think You Can Dance 100th episode celebration, and since I paid for it last month, it counts as free this month.)
Then I made some Corn Dog casserole. This was inspired by the free lunch I ate yesterday courtesy of the Casserole Queens. I know it’s not the fanciest casserole in the world, but it is delicious. Plus, what is more romantic for your first wedding anniversary than hot dogs, cheddar cheese, and cornbread? Total cost only $9, and I splurged on name brand hot dogs!
For a side dish, I served steamed baby carrots with honey mustard sauce. I chose mustard sauce to compliment the corn dog flavors, and I chose baby carrots just in case Beth and Andy are trying to conceive. Get it, “baby” carrots? Recipe for honey mustard sauce is as follows:
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. dijon mustard
4 shakes of cinnamon (about 1/4 tsp.)
4 shakes of cumin (about 1/4 tsp.)
2 Tbs. butter
No need to cook the sauce. Just mix it up and put it on the steamed carrots before serving. Total cost of sauce and carrots $1.89. (I had everything on hand already to make the sauce, so the total cost is lower than if I had needed to buy expensive things like honey and dijon mustard.)
The grand finale of the dinner was vanilla ice cream with spicy strawberry syrup. Large cartons of strawberries were on sale today at HEB for $2.50. I had the rest of the ingredients for the syrup on hand:
1 carton strawberries, hulled & quartered
1 c. sugar (I used half splenda, half real sugar)
1 c. water
5 drops red food coloring
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper
Combine everything in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and stir frequently for 10-15 minutes. The syrup will thicken as it cooks and even more once it cools. If you use splenda like I did, or if you like thick syrup, you may have to add a slurry of cornstarch in the last few minutes to help things gel. Homemade strawberry syrup is so easy and delicious, I will never understand why people buy that Hershey’s imitation crap. I like the real thing, without high fructose corn syrup!
I’m going to end this post with some fun pictures from Beth and Andy’s wedding. Thanks for the memories, y’all, and many happy years ahead!
That last one was actually taken after the wedding, at a barbecue celebration we had that night. After dinner Rami made bananas foster for everyone, and you can see his entire BF set-up on the counter. He lugged a portable burner, 3 bottles of liquor, and countless bananas to Dallas for the sake of winning over my family and Beth’s new in-laws. Needless to say, it worked!
Sometimes I forget to brush my teeth in the morning, usually because I am busy worrying about where to part my hair, or whether gladiator sandals make my ankles look thick.
Today I forgot to brush my teeth because I was busy thinking about my boyfriend. I wonder so many things about him. Does he ever forget to brush his teeth because he’s thinking about his hair? or gladiator sandals? or me?
This morning I wondered, does he get in the shower on the faucet side or the other side? How often does he switch bath towels? Does he put down the toilet seat every time???
All these questions seemed urgent this morning. I had a little breakdown and forgot to brush my teeth because I realized that I have fallen completely in love with a man who could use the same bath towel for weeks at a time until it smells. He could get in the shower on the faucet side and spill bathwater all over the floor. HE COULD LEAVE UP THE TOILET SEAT. EVERY TIME.
I COULD FALL IN.
As scary as that possibility is, it’s even scarier to know that I would love him anyway.
My boyfriend and I made an agreement on our fourth date not to live together before marriage. I know that seems prudish and old fashioned to most couples our age, but our decision feels right so far. Plus I love the little mysteries that remain in our relationship over two years later.
It’s also scary as hell. I mean, without mundane crap like toilet seats and bath towels, what do we have to discuss? Real feelings? Vulnerability? The kind of life that we want to build?? Jesus, that’s terrifying.
The more I think about it, the more I think the fear is worth it. Some day it will feel so good to have answers to all my urgent questions about him. It will also feel good for him to learn about me. For example, he probably didn’t know before reading this that I forget to brush my teeth once in a while.
Luckily, I have a whole stash of disposable toothbrushes in my glove compartment for days like today. I’m not in any hurry for him to know about my morning breath.
Today was a good day. Today, if my soul were water, it would look like this.
If my soul were water it would be smooth and calm. My thoughts would be evenly spaced like sail boats in the bay. But fluid, still, and there would be bobbers.
Today, I had space in my thoughts for ideas like, “If I ever have a child, I would like to take him fishing.” Bonus points for striped shirts and wild, curly hair.
Yes, today was a good day.
I went shopping at Sun Harvest after work today with every intention of making a guilt-free, delicious salad that my boyfriend’s sister taught me. That salad is made with
- 1 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, chopped
- 3 avacados, peeled, pitted and chopped
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
It is full of healthy fats and fiber. It will make you feel virtuous and skinny.
Unfortunately, Sun Harvest was out of ripe avacados so I ended up making potato salad instead. Potato salad is much less virtuous, with no healthy fats in sight. Plenty of bacon and mayonnaise, though! I also added celery, radishes, and onion to help offset the carb load of the potatoes.
- 2 lbs. red skinned new potatoes
- 6 ribs celery
- 1 large white onion
- 6 radishes
- 3 slices of bacon
- dressing: 3/4 c. mayonnaise, 2 tbs. lemon juice, 2 tbs. mustard, 2 tbs. white vinegar, 1 tbs. dill weed, salt and pepper
First, boil the potatoes. (My potatoes were the size of racquetballs and took about 20 minutes to become tender.) While the potatoes cook, dice the celery, radishes, and onion. Then make up the dressing in a large bowl. Combine the diced vegetables with the dressing and pop the bowl in the freezer. Next, drain the potatoes. To cool the potatoes quickly, toss a few cups of ice on them and pop them in the freezer. While the potatoes cool, cook up the bacon.
By the time you finish cooking the bacon, the potatoes should be cool enough to chop. Leave the skins on and cut the potatoes into chunky pieces. Combine the potato pieces with the cold dressing. If needed, pop the salad back in the freezer until it’s cool enough to serve. Crumble the bacon over the top of the salad before serving.
P.S. I added about 2 tsps. of the bacon drippings to the dressing. Somehow it feels less sinful if I just leave it out of the regular recipe and tell you about it here.
Summer’s officially over. Austin ISD started school today, and the UT campus is hopping along. Classes here at UT don’t start until Wednesday, but all the faculty and many students are already in the building making trouble. Like so:
The kid’s face at 1:43 describes my mood today perfectly.
Dr. Ross is a busy man. He spends hours every Saturday making gougers, pre-gougers, and beautiful music. But not last Saturday! Last Saturday he made me a paperweight!
The paperweight started as an English horn gouger bed. The bed is the part of the gouger that holds the piece of cane when the machine is working. See below:
This particular bed was a reject for gouging, but cosmetically perfect in every way. To make a paperweight, we used Dr. Ross’ milling machine to make a slot down the center of the bed to hold my business cards. Like so:
Except not so fast! We had to do a little prep work before the brass started flying. Here’s what it looked like in the beginning.
First, Dr. Ross used the measuring device on the milling machine to find the center of the bed. We wanted the slot to be exactly at the midpoint of the bed, and eyeballing it was not an option. The keypad on the right of the milling machine helped Dr. Ross measure the dimensions of the bed and guide the drill exactly to the mathematical halfway point. It also helped him make the slot exactly the correct length. This step was complicated, but not too bad if you understand X-Y planes and have done a lot of calculus recently. (Thanks, MBA!) After he set up the measurements, Dr. Ross used the steering wheels on the machine to move the bed back and forth beneath the stationary bit.
One steering wheel on the machine moved the table left and right along the X-axis. Another steering wheel on the machine moved the table up and down along the Y-axis. Meanwhile, the screen to the right of the machine (visible two pictures above) told Dr. Ross how far along each axis he traveled. Nothing in the milling process is approximate. Every measurement is accurate to the thousandth of an inch. (I think it’s to the thousandth– it’s hard to understand the notes I took, so please correct me if I’m wrong.)
Obviously, I enjoyed this process. There’s more too it than just moving the bed side to side along the drill bit, though. We still needed to make both in-sides of the slot smooth.
Whether you’re milling a gouger or a paperweight, when the bit touches both in-sides of the slot at the same time, it creates a smooth side and a rough side. In order to make both in-sides of the slot smooth, we had to move the bed so that only one side of the slot touched the bit at a time, and so that the bed moved in the same direction that the bit was spinning.
This was complicated, and my MBA classes did not help me understand it as well as I would like. Jenn, if you remember how this worked better than I, please comment!
The next step in the process was less complex.
Dr. Ross took the gouger bed-cum-cardholder to the polishing department. (The polishing department is a brillo pad in the corner of his workshop.) The polishing department made the brass shiny and clean.
The final step in the process was to personalize my new, mathematically perfect, one-of-a-kind business card holder! Have you ever wondered how Dr. Ross puts the serial number on your gouger? Pay attention!
This is a set of metal stamps. There is one stamp for each letter of the alphabet and one stamp for each number 0-8. (There is no number 9 since you can just turn the 6 upside down.) I wanted to stamp my initials, “KLH” onto my business card holder. To do this, I used a tiny hammer to stamp each letter onto the metal. Ready, aim, aim, aim
aim some more! It was more difficult than I imagined to get the letters in the correct position and in a straight line. Plus, brass is a hard metal, so you’ve got to really mean it when you strike the stamp. After several attempts at stamping and some help from Jen and Dr. Ross, my business card holder was finished!!
Here’s a close up of the cardholder in action:
If you look closely, you can see the KLH stamped on the front. The “L” is the most visible because Dr. Ross stamped that one for me. Congratulations if you made it all the way through this mammoth post! That means you’re probably an even bigger oboe nerd than I am!
My friend Lauren started a blog this week. In celebration of making a new blog friend (she was already my in-person friend), I’m going to steal her idea for a post: 5 resolutions I have for the upcoming school year.
5. Be more affectionate with family, friends and boyfriend. Sometimes I have a hard time calling my friends and making plans. I’d like to get over this once and for all and hang out more with people I like. It’s hard for me to remember that relationships need nurturing, and sometimes that means picking up the phone and calling someone just to say hello.
4. Continue blogging and taking pictures. I enjoy both of these activities, so this one should be a no brainer. But I struggle to choose meditative, meaningful activities over the drivel on TV. Speaking of which, I’d like to…
3. Watch less television. Really. Seriously. I resolve to break up with Bravo’s Housewives, America’s Next Top Model, non-Cowboys pro-football, and Family Guy. It’s been real, y’all, but I’ve got to get a life. And more natural sunlight.
2. Eat better food. I have been making a lot of progress towards this resolution already. I want to build on that success by eating fewer breakfast tacos, limiting alcohol to once or twice a week, and cooking meals for myself at home instead of eating fast food.
1. Move around more. Success in this department involves effort towards goals 5, 4, 3, and 2. I have never been a gym rat, but I do feel good when I spend a little time each day moving around. Taking pictures out and about, getting active with friends, spending less time with the TV, and eating healthy food are all steps towards getting more exercise.
Looking back at my blog, these are very similar to the resolutions I have had for every birthday and New Year for the past four years. Everyone’s a work in progress, I suppose, or a hamster on a wheel.
This past weekend I made a pilgrimage to Jonesboro, Arkansas, to see one of my favorite grown-ups in the world, Dr. Ross
Dr. Ross is an oboist who teaches at Arkansas State University and also makes a really cool piece of oboe equipment called a gouger. There are lots of different gouging machines in the world, but Dr. Ross is the only man who makes the Ross gouger– one of the most popular kinds and my personal favorite. I met Dr. Ross in 2003 almost immediately after he had been diagnosed with cancer. A bad kind of cancer. We thought he only had one year to live! Luckily, he proved cancer wrong, and now we get to hang out every year when I invite myself to visit him. This year, I didn’t have to invite myself to Jonesboro because my friend Jen did it for me. She has a Ross gouger and needed a little tune up, so she made plans a couple months ago to visit Dr. Ross. Of course when I heard about this, I told her I was coming, too.
We left at 7:00 AM on Friday morning, equiped with gobs of oboe gear, lots of snacks, and a full tank of gas. We were road warriors and made it to Jonesboro in just under 11 hours. On the way, we saw this:
It’s a building shaped (sort of) like the Battelstar Pegasus from the TV show, Battlestar Galactica. Who would have imagined culture like this in Italy, Texas? Best part? The building is for lease! It’s just waiting for Lee and Duala or some other interracial, intercolonial couple to make it their home sweet home. Or for Caine and Gina to move in. I don’t know how the locals would react to a lesbian cylon, but I took the Pegasus sighting as an omen for good things to come. (To be continued…it’s time for bed tonight.)