Thursday, November 22, 2012

Farm to Table

So last Saturday, we went and did this.

And had she been alive to see it, my mother likely would say this:

“Your grandmother didn’t haul her ass from the mountains above Krakow, land at Ellis Island and go to work in a Chicago slaughterhouse so her college-educated granddaughter could kill her own food. Get your head out of your [expletive] and go to the grocery store like a normal human being.” And then she would utter a few curses in Polish while shaking her head in disgust.

It was a breathtakingly expensive turkey. We named him Carl, in honor of the irritating kid on The Walking Dead. (He has has his own twitter hashtag— #killcarlalready.) Here's what he looked life before:

And here's what he looked like after 12 hours in brine and nine hours of smoking on the Weber:

No, Carl isn't burned. That's just what the skin looks like after nine hours of smoking. The tradeoff for not having the crisp golden skin is probably the juiciest bird we've ever had. Seriously good turkey.

I came home from work last night to find Chuck in the kitchen, scalding and peeling Carl's feet. The feet went into a stockpot with celery, carrot, onion and some herbs; Carl's neck went into the oven to roast. I chopped up the neck meat and used the drippings and foot stock to make gravy. Seriously good gravy too.

And then we ate. The complete menu: cold cracked crab, crab cakes with homemade remoulade, the world's most expensive turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes (because as much as my friend Carmela says she doesn't like children, she knows my youngest loves her roasted potatoes more than anything), my mother's bread dressing, cornbread dressing (because Chuck doesn't like fruit in his dressing and you can't make my mother's recipe without the dried fruit) and green bean casserole. Dessert: caramel apple cake, cheesecake with pineapple compote and vegan pumpkin pie (don't ask). The guest list: fun people we love.

Apropos of nothing, here's my friend Koly with a crab claw shoved up her nose.

And just in case you were wondering, it's been 10 days since Nigel's last escape.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Frailty, Thy Name is Turkey

In about 10 hours, Chuck and I are going to a harvest party. What's being harvested: the main course at Thanksgiving dinner.

For some reason, getting a turkey raised with organic TLC by someone we know sounded like a great fucking idea two months ago. But now that I received the Facebook message from a friend advising us to wear clothes we don't mind getting bloody, it seems like less of a good idea.

It's part of next week's cover package. The Silence of the Turkeys: Sometimes to make a killer holiday dinner, you have to kill your holiday dinner.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Random Facts

Or, ten things most people don't know about me.

10. I read every single thing I can get my hands on about Mt. Everest and the climbing of it. I get altitude sickness if I'm more than five feet above sea level, but I love reading about climbing.

9. I have a Chandler & Price 1904 treadle-action letterpress and two job boxes of type. I like to think of it as, "What I'll do when I retire."

8. I become obsessed with certain music based on the season. Right now, it's the Tomasz Stanko quartet, Spoon, and Gorillaz. In January, I will obsessively listen to Sting. Food obsessions take place based on season too. Right now, it's soup and cheese.

7. My sister is 20 years older than me; she lives with us and we take care of her. If anyone messes with my sister, they will end up wishing they were dead. NOBODY messes with my sister on my watch.

6. I work for two men who have really empowered me to speak my mind when it comes how the workplace operates. I'm sure there are days when they regret it, like when I told them they were hypocrites for taking vacation the week between Christmas and New Year's while the rest of us are at work.

5. I get nutty if my house is messy. This means I'm mostly nutty all of the time.

4. My idea of perfect happiness--Chinese food and a movie with my family--takes place almost every Friday night. Tonight the eldest teen joined us for the food, and the youngest joined us for the movie.

3. My best friend became my best friend by stumbling on an early blog I had and making me a sock dog named Fergus. The BFF can do anything she sets her mind to and is a good counterpoint to my approach of neurotic laziness.

2. If I feel a relationship is doing me more harm than good, I have no qualms about ending it, and once it's done, I will never think about it again. This has given me a reputation for heartlessness, but really I just figure life is too short to be with people who suck the life out of you.

1. I miss my mother something fierce.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Heidi Chronicles

Ruthlessly stolen from someone who ruthlessly stole it from Heidi, creator of The Heidi FAQ.

Q. What is Mary wearing?
A. Honestly, who gives a shit? It's almost midnight and Mary is in a mood. The country's going to hell-in-a-handbasket, and Mary doesn't even know if that phrase needs to be hyphenated or not, that's how grumpy she is.

Q. What kind of mood is Mary in?
A. See above.

Q. What are the factors currently affecting Mary's mood?
A. Desperate need for three days of absolute solitude and quiet and not worrying about anyone else's needs.

Q. What is Mary's situation vis-a-vis coffee?
A. Mary is looking forward to a peppermint mocha in the morning.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

There's Always Something To Do In Salinas

Two weeks ago Sunday night, this happened in my front yard.

One week ago Sunday night, this happened down the block from my house.

It's Sunday again. So far, my friend Heather,

who is visiting from Virginia, was almost killed—KILLED, I tell you—by a hipster driving a shopping car erratically through the condiment aisle at the Whole Foods in Monterey. A condiment aisle where, I might add, I was forced to buy hipster wing sauce for our planned hot wing pizza (shredded chicken, wing sauce, blue cheese and mozzarella, shredded carrot and celery leaves) because they don't have low-rent Frank's Red Hot Sauce.

(Why shop there at all? It's not an unreasonable question. I've just grown very fond of their prepared whole grain pizza dough and as I had 20 lbs. of tomatoes—a case of dry-farmed Early Girls and a case of heirlooms from my favorite farmer, Jamie Collins, owner of Serendipity Farms
—to process and can this afternoon, I wanted to make the dough easier ...) (Take note: we finally, after 18 months of living upstairs in the main house, have kitchen counters.)

So far, it's been a quiet day and I'm hoping men and dogs make it through the night without bullets flying around the hood.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What I've Been Up To...

First, there's this.

And then, there's this.

In a few days, when I get my thoughts together, I'll be writing about how Walgreen's "lost" a prescription for a morphine patch—a so-called Class II Controlled Substance—leading me to waste precious hours that could have been spent sitting with my mother instead of running between pharmacy and doctor's office in a futile effort to help relieve her pain.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


This is grandma.
Not my grandma. My friend Carmela's grandma. I am having a lazy day we're loosely calling crafternoon, which involves pulling out all the craft supplies I have, staring at them for awhile and making nothing. But Carmela and grandma have joined, and Carmela is making jewelry while I futz with paper and glue. Carmela was a red diaper baby. Her grandparents were UFW ... well, not organizers exactly. Let's just say that Cesar Chavez used to camp out at their house with his German shepherds when he was down here pissing off the lettuce growers. Then Carmela's parents became UFW organizers when the UFW was born. Her sister was one of the first babies born under the UFW health plan. Here's Bobby, the oldest of my offspring, knitting. This is fabulous because a) I can't knit and b) he's complaining that his stitches are too tight.
That's about all I got. Chuck spent the morning hooking up irrigation piping in the now-trenched front yard, so now he's up in the tub. Last weekend's adventures in trenching involved running the trencher over the water main, then a call to a plumber who sadly explained the concept of weekend overtime, to which I said, "He cut the water main. How fast can you get here again?" There are a million other things I should be doing, like cleaning out the back hallway or cleaning out the laundry room or ... you get the idea. Tomorrow we will plant tomatoes and basil, and I will muck out the back hallway then. For now, paper and glue.

Friday, May 11, 2012

In October 2010, we scored this on Freecycle. Eight months ago, I dropped it off at the upholstery place on Main Street and told them to hold on for it for a few weeks until I could get to Britex and pick out fabric. Three months ago, I picked out the fabric. And now, we have this:
For the amount of time and trouble and cash, yeah, we could have bought something new. But what the hell. Nothing about this house is easy, so why should the furniture be.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Know You Are Broke

I Know You Are Broke by Mary Duan
I Know You Are Broke, a photo by Mary Duan on Flickr.

In 1948, Pat Covici, John Steinbeck's long-time agent, wrote him this letter. Steinbeck had by then "pissed away two fortunes."

You will have to start over, Covici said, and indeed I know you will. "I am groping for something I am convinced you need."