potato hole

A couple weekends ago Mark and I drove down to southern New Hampshire to attend a beer and chili festival with a group of friends. The beer and chili festival was exactly what the name implies: a festival in which you get to walk around trying many different beers and many different versions of chili. The chili was all you could eat, in fact, and was included in the price of admission. Chili = zero dollars in this scenario.

Remember that. It’s going to be relevant later.

When you first go into the festival they give you a sample glass and ten drink tickets, the idea being that each time you go to an exhibitor’s booth and get a sample of their beer, you give them one of your tickets. When you’re out of tickets, you’re ostensibly out of beer. Except…none of the exhibitors were actually taking tickets. Some of them had containers out to collect tickets, but not a single one of them were creating any kind of “you can’t have this beer until you give me a ticket” enforcement situations. So in essence, it was a no-holds-barred, beer-sampling free-for-all. With chili. FREE chili.

We entered the festival and proceeded to work our way around the small tents, sampling chili and beer. We got almost to the end of the lawn area where we had entered and I asked if it was time to perhaps circle back around to hit the tents we hadn’t visited in our first round. Our friends, who had been to this festival before, laughed and pointed down along a paved walkway at the end of the lawn which led to another, larger lawn with several GIANT tents set up on it. Turned out there were a lot more breweries exhibiting at the festival than we had realized there’d be. Three giant tents worth, in fact! Excited at the prospect of sampling many more beers, we made our way toward the giant tents.

It’s worth pointing out here that New Englanders are known as a thrifty lot. My people aren’t big into wasting things, especially food and drink. Thus, the concept of getting oh, say, a sample of beer, and only drinking a few sips before dumping the rest out is kind of foreign to me. Also, how would YOU feel if you were a brewer giving out samples of your wares only to watch people take just a few sips and then dump them out? You’d be offended, right? You might begin to question your chosen profession, even. You’d surely be hurt. I try to do my best not to hurt people if I can help it, so I was doing my level best to finish off each beer sample entirely before I’d go for the next one. Even if I didn’t particularly like the beer. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in me drinking a fair amount of beer on a stomach that only had a few sample-sized portions of chili in it.

img_20161001_131728050_hdr

Ommegang Brewery’s Rosetta – it’s a lambic that tastes like sour cherries and heaven. And my heathen ass doesn’t even BELIEVE in heaven. A++, will buy.

So, we were there by the giant beer tents and my husband started talking about wanting more food. Beginning to feel the effects of all the beer samples I had been diligently finishing off for the last hour or so (mustn’t waste, after all), I agreed that food would be a smart move. We assessed our options. The chili tents were waaaaay off on the other end of the park where we first came in, but there were a couple of food trucks vending quite close to the end where we were.

“But the chili is FREE”, I said.

“But the guy selling sausages is CLOSE. Plus: we got cash on the way here for just such a situation. Plus: sausage,” Mark replied.

“Damn you and your flawless logic”, I grumbled, and off we went to the sausage truck (which is an inherently funny phrase, but don’t derail me).

There were a few people in line ahead of us so we got a good look at the wares as others got their orders. The choices were a disturbingly long grilled hotdog, a pretty normal-looking grilled sausage with or without grilled onions and peppers, and french fries. The purveyors didn’t have any signage displaying pricing, but it was kind of too late at that point because it was our turn at the counter.

Me: “Hi, how much are your hotdogs?”

Sausage Man: “Sausages and hotdogs are $8”

Me: “$8…does that include fries?”

SM: “Nope.”

Me: “Oh. How much are the fries?”

SM: “$6”

Me, trying not to snort at that absurdity: “Ok, we’ll take just a sausage please”.

We stepped back from the counter while the guy made the sausage and I turned to Mark with wide eyes.

“Six bucks for FRIES?!” I hissed. He made some malarky argument about captive audiences and hand-cut fries but I stopped hearing the words coming out of his mouth because, six bucks. For fries. When there were seventeen (at least!) types of chili like 500 feet away. FREE CHILI. ZERO. DOLLAR. CHILI. 

The guy gave us the sausage (hurrr), we ate it, I went back and told others of the outrageous pricing, then we all drank more beer and talked about more amusing subjects. A good time was had by all. (That whole story was really just background, so I don’t feel bad ending it abruptly.)

img_20161001_124536306

My husband is shown here exhibiting the infinite patience for which he should be sainted. Note the slightly manic twinkle in my eyes. Or slightly drunk? Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. JOKES WITHIN JOKES, OMG.

Anyway. Fast-forward to last night.

(I wanted to put a gif here of the thing they do on Wayne’s World when they change scenes, but you think I could find that thing anywhere? NO. Fucking Internet. Why do I even bother?)

Wait, what?  Oh yes. Last night.

So last night Mark and I were running some errands and I was ranting about…I don’t even know, something…and at the end of the rant Mark pointed out that I was nearly as offended by that thing as I had been by the price of fries at the beer festival. Since the rant pump was already well-primed, that was all the nudge I needed to go off about those stupid fries.

“Six bucks for fries. THAT WAS INSANE. Do you know how much a 50 pound bag of potatoes costs? Like $10. MAYBE. And that’s RETAIL. If they were buying them through a wholesaler they were like half that. And it’s not even like there’s LABOR involved with making fries. With the sausages, I can kind of see the justification – you have to grill them, you have to slice and grill the onions and peppers, you have to put the sausage in the bun…there’s semi-skilled labor involved in that. But french fries? You dump potatoes into hot oil and you WALK AWAY for several minutes. You maybe go back and shake the basket halfway through cooking, but that’s it. There’s no labor. Nothing.”

Mark tried reason on me:  “Well, someone’s gotta cut the potatoes, at least.”

“NO THEY FUCKING DON’T. They put them through a fry cutter!  You set the potato on it, push the lever down, it forces the potato through a cutting grid, and VOILA, french fries. You don’t even have to PEEL the potatoes. The most you could argue is that they have to WASH the potatoes, but big fucking deal, how long does that take? Not $8 worth of time, that’s for damn sure.”

“Err, $6.”

“Huh?!”

“You said $8, but the fries were $6.”

I side-eyed him as best I could while also keeping the car on the road, because I was driving through this entire thing, it’s worth noting.

“Six dollars, eight dollars…I don’t fucking care. They were too damned expensive and I am deeply annoyed by it. So…so shove THAT in your $8 POTATO HOLE,” I spluttered.

Needless to say, the $8 potato hole was still being brought up this morning. I don’t even want to think about how long it’s gonna to take me to live that one down.

It’ll be longer than it takes to make a batch of french fries, though. I can guarantee you THAT much.

Delivery Day

Yesterday I worked from home because I had to be around to sign for the new washing machine that was being delivered.

As an aside, my old washing machine committed one of the ultimate washing machine sins: it died during a load of post-vacation laundry. At the time, I may have actually kicked it and yelled, “YOUR TIMING COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE WORSE, YOU BIG METAL ASSHOLE“. I’ll give credit where it’s due, though: it at least had the good grace to finish the cycle and drain all the water out of the tub first. It’s not like I was left having to bail water out of the washer with a coffee cup. I would have yelled something a lot fucking worse if that had happened, trust me.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, working from home.

When I work from home, I usually sit at the kitchen table with the laptop. It’s near a window, it’s near the fridge, I can see out the front living room windows and hide in plenty of time before anyone gets to the front door…it’s an all-around good locale. The only downside to working at the kitchen table is that it’s about the farthest point away from the bathroom in our entire apartment. Which, granted, it’s a pretty small apartment so it’s not like it’s THAT far away…but still. Sometimes seconds count, especially when you have to traverse a staircase.

The delivery guys were supposed to show up sometime between 10:30 and 12:30. I wanted to be super extra adulty and ready to meet them out front so that I could direct them where to park the truck, so I tried to make sure I had everything personal done and squared away by 10:30.  The creepy cobwebs around the laundry room door had been knocked down (which was a traumatic fucking experience in and of itself because you know how I feel about spiders), I had consolidated all the empty wine and beer bottles (aka: ‘the recycling’, but let’s be real. It’s all bottles.) into a plastic bag, and I walked Junior not once but TWICE just to make sure I wasn’t halfway across the lawn watching him do his patented ‘four crab-walk circles of varying widths before I finally shit’ dance when the truck showed up.

I was totally prepared.

10:30 came and went. No truck. Unperturbed, I drank my coffee and dug in to my computer work.

11:30 – still no truck. ‘That’s fine‘, I thought magnanimously, ‘I’m surely not the only delivery they’ve got scheduled today. Besides, I have plenty here to keep me busy‘. I drank a bunch of water (I believe in aggressive hydration, partially to make up for my converse habit of occasional aggressive inebriation), ate a big apple, and did some more work.

Noon – no truck. Again, not that big of a deal. Except…

…coffee makes me need to poop. Apples also make me need to poop. Drinking a liter of water doesn’t specifically make me need to poop, but what goes in must come out, and…yeah.

My guts gurgled somewhat forlornly.

I looked at the clock.

I looked out the front windows for any sign of a truck coming down our road.

I looked at Junior.

IMG_20160819_144701

“I’m so disappointed in you, Mahm.” – Junior, every day of his life for the last 6.5 years

His beady little eyes seemed to be saying to me, “Just go. You’ve got plenty of time. Plus, you know I’ll bark like the world is ending as soon as I hear anyone pull up. Go on, you got this.”

With as close to a blessing as I’m ever likely to get from the dog, I made my way upstairs to the bathroom to care of business. I won’t get into the graphic details, but suffice to say it was not merely a tinkle-and-dash situation. It took a few minutes.

Roughly four minutes into the proceedings, the worst case scenario became real: the dog started barking his fool head off.

“Of COURSE the delivery truck is here. OF FUCKING COURSE IT IS,” I muttered to myself, finishing up as quickly as I could.

I got downstairs and looked out the front window. No truck. ‘Balls, that means they’re already backed up to the breezeway, unloading the washer! They probably knocked and I didn’t even hear them! UGH. I AM A FAILURE AS AN ADULT.

The dog kept barking and barking, jumping against my leg so I couldn’t move quickly lest I kick him. It took me a full minute to get from the bottom of the stairs out to the kitchen where I could look out the front door to see…

…nothing. No truck, no delivery men. Nada. There wasn’t even a god damned neighbor cat around that would have set the dog off. I’M PRETTY SURE HE WAS JUST BARKING TO GET ME TO COME BACK DOWNSTAIRS, YOU GUYS.

We had a quiet discussion after that.

Phrases like “poopus interruptus” and “payback’s a bitch” may have been bandied about. We eventually came to the understanding that I as the human, provider of kibble and meat, purveyor of walkies and scritches, actually had zero rights in the household and that if he, as the dog wanted to bark bloody murder until I came running to see what the matter was, that was entirely his prerogative. Further to that, I should probably be thanking him for the privilege.

At least we’re all on the same page now.

Epilogue:

The delivery truck showed up at 12:15, at which point Junior had an even MORE frenzied barking fit. They took away the traitorous old washer, hooked up the shiny mystical new one, and were gone by 12:30. Junior was the beneficiary of several more walks after that, during NONE of which did I interrupt his crapping in any way. Because some of us have MANNERS.

sugar therapy

This week has been kind of shit-tastic. Mass shootings, Republicans trying to de-fund Planned Parenthood for like the 85th time, bad weather, fuckery at work, on and on.

Normally my strategy for dealing with stress like this is to drink, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’m not saying it’s a GOOD strategy…but, you know, it’s better than some.

Anyway.

I had already decided this afternoon that an adult beverage or two was in order this evening. Then, on the way home, a brilliant plan struck me: why not drink…AND build a gingerbread house! My husband was going to be out playing cards with his buddies so it was a perfect opportunity to have a dinner that he’d totally hate, then crack a bottle of wine that he’d also hate, and make a huge sugary mess on the kitchen table.

SOLD!

IMG_20151203_180035996_HDR

Sugar and wine! How bad can it go?

It should be noted that this kit came with directions. I didn’t READ the directions until much later in the process…but it DID come with directions. Good for Hasbro, trying to make things easier for people. The kind of people that read directions before getting halfway through something and realizing they might have fucked up, anyway.

It turns out that what you’re SUPPOSED to do is apply the icing and construct the house first, THEN use the rest of the icing to apply candy decorations.

My problem with this plan is as follows: who the FUCK other than professional bakers who work with piping bags on a regular basis can pipe icing decorations onto a surface at a frigging 90 degree angle?

Not THIS bitch, that’s fo’ sho’.

So, rather than follow the prescribed order of operations, I applied Shelby Logic and did what I fucking wanted. Incidentally, this may be a large part of why I failed Algebra three times in high school as well.

Shelby Logic says that decorating the walls of the house while they’re still flat on the table makes WAY more sense, so that’s what I did. I decorated THE SHIT out of all four walls, then I went to stick them together in the little tray that comes with the kit…and started to realize the possible error of my ways.

It turns out that the reason they have you stick the walls together in the tray first is because you can’t lay an already-decorated piece of gingerbread decorated-side down in order to apply the frosting for the joins, and it’s actually surprisingly hard to apply the frosting evenly with one hand while holding said piece of gingerbread up with the other. Especially when one has been drinking. Also, there’s the fact that if you do it the “right way”, the joints have time to harden up before you put the roof on, which saves a lot of panicking about the whole structure caving in when you insist on trying to spread icing flat across the roof parts later on.

Ahem.

Anyway, I channeled my inner Tim Gunn and made it work:

IMG_20151203_191809432_HDR

As Tim would say, “that’s a LOT of look”.

It’s a little rickety in places, but it’s not like I’m gonna be playing Gingerbread Barbie with it or anything so I think it’ll be ok.

And you know what? People are going to be dicks, stuff is going to go wrong, bad things are going to happen…but it’s ok. Life goes on.

And gods willing, I won’t have a hangover tomorrow.

fruitcake chronicles: in the beginning

In the beginning, there was booze.

Two kinds of booze, to be precise.

IMG_20151129_122808237

The much-coveted Screech was on sale. IT WAS A SIGN!

There was also an ass-load of dried fruit, but that’s nowhere near as exciting as the booze. Also, ignore that random onion in the background. I don’t know. This is why I’m not a famous food blogger. I can’t control what’s going on in the background of my pictures. Or my life.

Anyway.

I made fruitcake on Sunday and also managed to get pretty well schnockered in the process. It wasn’t my intent to get wasted while baking AT ALL, but that Screech, man. It’s so good. And so smooth. And I just kept sipping it..and sipping it…and mixing it with apple cider and sipping THAT…

…and about an hour later I realized, quite to my surprise, that I was fucking LIT.

I feel like I kept things pretty well under control, though:

  • I didn’t burn the fruitcake (or the potholders or the walls or anything else).
  • I didn’t cut myself AT ALL even while handling multiple knives (none of which are especially sharp, to be fair. Kind of like me).
  • I even managed to construct a truth be told quite magnificent turkey pot pie after the fruitcake, all without maiming anyone, poisoning anyone or blowing anything up.

However, I DO wish that I had taken before and after shots of my kitchen cabinets. I went to grab the potato starch tonight while making dinner and basically had to take everything out of the baking cabinet to find it. Similarly, the kosher salt was buried all the way at the back of the bottom shelf when it’s usually front and center. The bag of sugar was precariously balanced on top of a leaning tower of plastic containers partially full of various dried fruits, and there was a box of currants leaning at a 45 degree angle on some of the shorter jars of spices. My cabinets aren’t organized to an anal degree or anything, but I try to kind of keep sections – dry goods section, spice section, oils and vinegars section, canned goods section. You know…just sort of a basic semblance of order so that I’m not, for instance, swearing and throwing shit left and right in the middle of making gravy, trying to find the stupid fucking potato starch at the last second.

Also, valuable lessons about day drinking were re-learned on Sunday… chief among them, the reason why I don’t usually day drink. You see, when you drink yourself stupid at night, you can just go crash on your comfy wonderful bed, close your eyes and fall blissfully into a deep and dreamless stupor. You awaken the next morning, if not refreshed, then at least usually with a modicum of functionality. The drunkenness becomes a thing of the past and you move on with life.

When you day-drink, you’re fully conscious and aware of the sobering up. At least, unless you’ve REALLY gone overboard, in which case you may have bigger problems. Point is, being awake and aware of slowly becoming less drunk is basically no fun at all. It’s like the polar opposite of all the fun you had getting drunk, but with added ennui, guilt, and quite possibly shame. Being aware of moving back up through those layers of suckitude on the way back to sobriety is pretty depressing.

That’s how it seems to work for me anyway. It’s quite possible that there are plenty of people who handle day liquor better than I do. I decided on Sunday that I didn’t really want to learn that skill, though.

I’ll just stick to evening drinking and going to bed at relatively appropriate times to sleep it off, thanks.

tactical error

Last night on the way home from Carnage we stopped at the Long Trail Brewery for dinner and drinks with friends.  I really like Long Trail’s pumpkin ale, which is one of their specialties this time of year, but when I tried to order one the waitress informed me they were out.  Sadface.  Then she mentioned that they did have plenty of the Imperial Pumpkin and asked if I wanted to try that instead.  It sounded good to me so I said sure, and off she went to get me one.

It’s worth mentioning here that “Imperial”, when it comes to American-made beers at least, usually means that the alcohol content is higher than normal beer – generally somewhere between 8-12%, which is double what normal beer usually runs.

Long story short, I ended up drinking two glasses of the Imperial Pumpkin, plus about half a pint of my husband’s hard cider, by the time all was said and done. WHEEE!  By the time we were ready to leave I had decided that I really needed a growler of the Imperial Pumpkin to take home.  We bought the growler plus a bottle of a fancy stout that my husband wanted to try, and then headed home.

When I got home, I started reading the printed info on the back of the growler bottle at home, I noticed that it said it should be consumed within 72 hours of bottling…and within 24 hours of opening.

A growler, for the record, is 64 ounces. 64 ounces of beer is a LOT. I was definitely thinking this bottle of beer was going to last me the better part of a week, not A DAY. There’s no way I can drink it all tonight, certainly…especially given that I have to work tomorrow.  I’m just going to have to hope that it keeps ok for another couple days.

Moral of the story: don’t go beer shopping when you’re already drunk.

Legit.

A post shared by Rhubarb Swank (@ealachan) on

confessions of a sometimes wino

Friday night I drank a whole 750ml bottle of cheap pinot noir.

Rex and I have a long and storied relationship.

Rex is my favorite frenemy.

Beer tends to give me a headache before I get much of a buzz going so I usually stop after a couple.  Wine, however, affords me a nice long of a window of “buzzed but essentially functional”.  It takes me to that wonderful loose place where life is essentially good, everyone is at least entertaining if not downright lovely, and dancing doesn’t seem like entirely the worst idea ever.  I can string words together more effectively, I become a creative genius in the kitchen, and I often become prone to small to medium sized philosophical epiphanies.  All things seem possible when I’m half a bottle in.  Of COURSE I’d like another glass!  This highly enjoyable state of mind must be preserved for as long as possible!  Bring me more happy juice!

Except…eventually I have to sleep, and be able to drive and go to work and, you know, not be drunk.  Which is kind of a bummer.

I don’t drink entire bottles of wine in one go very often anymore.  In my early 20’s it was nothing for me to drink a 750ml bottle of an evening, and I used to fairly frequently consume the majority of 1.5L bottles when the mood struck.  This was not done during a party, mind you.  This was just me sitting at home on a Saturday night, knitting and watching PBS, getting tanked on cheap wine and staggering up to bed.  I didn’t mind the feeling of being out of control at that point because there wasn’t anyone around to call me on it and frankly, I often didn’t realize quite how shit-faced I had actually gotten until the next morning when I looked back on the things I had done the night before.

That’s what I mean about wine making me “buzzed but essentially functional”.  If I sit at a table and drink three shots of tequila or a couple of Dark & Stormy’s in rapid succession then stand up, I will FEEL drunk, and I will not especially enjoy that feeling.  If I sit there and drink three glasses of wine, even very quickly, then stand up, I’ll feel cheerful and loose…but I won’t feel what my body and brain recognize as drunk.  I won’t feel like I can’t do certain things or like I should switch to drinking water.  I’ll feel excellent and want to keep drinking to keep the excellence flowing.

What bothers me more than my actual drinking habits (because like I said, I really don’t drink all that much anymore. I might have a couple glasses of wine or a beer after work, maybe three nights a week on average), is the fact that I actively miss the wine feeling when it’s gone.  I miss feeling like all is right with the world and like I am capable of most things.  I know that to seek wine out regularly in an attempt to continue those feelings is to flirt with functional alcoholism, so I try very much to keep myself in check in that regard…but it makes me wish very much that there was a way to achieve that level of contentedness without having to subject myself to possibly addictive substances and irresponsible behaviors.

If you have any suggestions on that front, I’m all ears.