Friday, August 30, 2013

Tea for two?

Dear Society,

     Hello stranger.  I hope, one day, when this is all over, and children ask "what was social media?" and there is no more Facebook, and no one is cell-phoning from bathroom stalls, and the twittling and twaddling dies down to a comfortable 'used to be,' that you will come by, for an honest cup of tea.

     I will keep the kettle heated for you.

      In the meantime, why not take a little break from working in the mind mines, and join us, in trying to learn Crazy Legs?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dodo vs. Bouchon

Dear Reader,

     Here, at the Dodo, many gears are turning behind the pale electrical field of your computer, or as the kids say, your 'device:'  which gives it vaguely sinister and phallic connotation, don't you think?  Ah, but I digress; behind the Dodo, inside the Dodo, are people:  Two capable IT genii; two top-notch editors, and two people working round the clock for Microdique- a small custom fabrication team.  Yes, these are the same two people;  there would be no blog at all but for these 6-in-2 superhumans, and it seemed a good time to say 'thank you' to them both.  There is, to be sure, me; a voice and focusing lens for what you receive here, but these other two are the cream in our coffee.   

      Today's project has been lifted, sifted and re-wrangled from this cookbook; Bouchon Bakery.  Purged of conceit and arcane instructions, this adapted recipe has new hope of being made by regular joes/common folk/mere mortals.   Bouchon Bakery is a beautiful coffee table book- the images are lush, the format commands respect (not to mention half your counter space, should you dare to place it within the splotch zone), and the foodstuffs are showcased in salivating center-folds of delicate, crumb-free perfection.  The Bo Derek of photographed baked goods (note to 'device' users: look her up on the Internet).  The thing, any gamer or game theorist knows, is that we want challenge, we want to earn it, we want it to be hard, but we don't want to be Sisyphus.  It must be a challenge, but not foolish make-work.

     A cookbook's highest function, it's desire, is to be followed; to have its recipes live again and again in being made. 
     The instructions in Bouchon Bakery cannot be followed without a diminishment in love- they do not foster love.  They foster frustration.  Cooking without love is not for this blog.  Cooking without love is cooking for money.  Bouchon Bakery cooks for money and it smells like it.  In fact, it attempts to drive readers away from cooking for love; but I think the recipes in this monstrous book deserve a little love; there are good recipes here, if a bit high-needs.  The spoilt little beasts just need to be tempered by confidence.

      I walked by Bouchon in Yountville, early this summer- it was a nice yellow, with delineating frames of pleasant co-ordinated trim, and crowded with custom. They spilled out all over the sidewalk, this flock of:  Purchasers.  Buyers.  Consumers.  Clients, even. 

     Cooking for love is what we all do- when you make toast for your child while on the phone, you make it for love.  When you stir risotto for 40 minutes; it’s for love, and when you make a pie, spreading flour all over the floor, you do it for love.  This is a noble and worthy pursuit- do not let fascist cookbook authors take that away from you!  You are the one who is making food for the love of another. 

    There is another cookbook I have been reading recently, and I have been meaning to tell you about it: Essential Pepin.  This book has terrific recipes with plenty of challenge sans cabalistic overtones.  The book comes with a delightful DVD, where Jacques Pepin demonstrates a bevy of kitchen skills.  It is illustrated by the author, not so much to instruct, but to embellish the pages.  He pens a hand lettered message to the chefs, cooks, and bakers who read the book:  "There is no greater love than the love of cooking.  One always cooks for another."  What a fine gift for us, the chefs of love!

     Here is what I made you,  based on Bouchon's  cream puffs:

Make yourself a batch of pâte à choux.  Take 1 cup of water; put in 1/2 cup of butter and heat it in a saucepan until it boils.  Lower the heat, add one cup of flour and a bit of salt (if you used unsalted butter).  Mix this paste pretty robustly, with a wooden spoon.  Mix it for maybe 2 minutes, then remove it from the heat.  Now add 4 eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition.

Dollop the dough out by the tablespoon onto a silpat or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Put the sheet in the freezer, while you make a streusel type dough to form into a little cookie to put on top of the puffs before you bake them. 

The streusel cookie dough: 

Mix well: 
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour/meal
6 Tablespoons of butter

These ingredients will clump up, but to get them to hold together you will have to press them with your fingers- dribble in a teaspoon of vanilla; it will help it to hold together.  Press a teaspoon or two into a small, thin patty.  Freeze these little patties for 10 or 20 minutes, to make the whole assembly less anxietizing.

Next, balance a little patty of streusel onto each puff, and then put them into an oven preheated to 375.  Lower the temperature to 350, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 325, and bake them another 10 minutes, to insure their centers are cooked.  Just take one out and break it open to test it. 

If you get this far, bravo!  I'll throw you one better if you've got the nerve, make pastry cream or whipped cream and fill them with it.  Pastry cream is a dense egg and milk/cream custard- Joy of Cooking has a recipe, as does Essential Pepin.

     Hoping to be your Worcestershire, dear.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

the Perils of Poultry

Y'all may not know that we have a fine little flock of hens here.  There is Abigail, Georgette, the Bobbsey Twins, Darla, Dandelion, Stella, Nanette, Mikado, Francine, Harriet and Dorrie.  They send you their love, and a bang on the ear.

The following video about the difficulties and dangers of keeping a small flock was sent to me from a dear friend- helpful and informational public service is what the Dodo is all about.   You have been warned.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Listen, Skirt

Greetings, O Capable Ones!

Today, a wonderful one-hour project for you....don't be shy, step right up!  To be sure, you'll need a little more than one hour, because you'll have to read through this, and watch the tutorial once through, and gather some ingredients and tools:

sewing machine (or, more time, more patience, and a needle and thimble)
elastic; 1 inch wide
1 or 2 yard of fabric

One thing- you will want to pre-wash your fabric, so that your skirt won't shorten or shrink.  Ironing the fabric after the washing tames it, making cutting and seaming easier.

If you are timid about cutting up your fabric- you can make a practice skirt with an old sheet first.  Also, if your skirt isn't as right-on as you'd like, you can cut off the waistband and make napkins out of it in a jiffy.

Here is your tutorial, from the lovely Brett Bara. 

Now, for your hour of skirt sewing fun, some music choices:

For calm, methodical workers, for extra nervous cats, for beat-loving seamsters.

Happy stitching!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Starry Night: August

     This is Pat Steir's print "Starry Night:  August."  This is Pat Steir

      I hope you will look tonight, at the Perseid meteor showers.  The night sky bends my thoughts  towards two poles:  One;  to the infinite and connected;  we are all a part of this vastness of space; I am but one grain of sand making up the whole.  Two;  to the ever startling awareness of how immense all that is "not me" really is- the way you might just tilt off and away into that depth, and fall for eons.

     A good and starry night, to all.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer's waning

Give a little listen; watching not required.
If you'd like more September Songs, try:
Or, this compendium.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mrs. Necessity

Dearest Ones,
     You know how it is, when you are driving down the road, or washing dishes, or even sweeping the porch, and maybe you hear a song- maybe the radio, maybe the neighbor’s garage, or maybe it even flashes across your mind, and you are catapulted, rocketed, sent.  You hear and see and you know that it is alright, and it’s truth and it's beauty and it’s meaning.  You know, in this scrap of enlightenment, that it all fits together.
     In this small minute, when you know-all and understand-all, in this time driving down the road, and that slips away so suddenly, I found a little message to myself.  It was like this:
NPR’s news had come on,  so I rolled the dial to the college station.  The DJ is an old college prof. of mine, and he said, in his bedroom voice, that here was someone you just didn’t hear near enough of these days:  Frank Zappa.  And the band played on, and later, when I was making a little object, an almost-sculpture- darning tufts of wool onto a branch- I thought, of course!   I am growing dental floss.



This clarity, from the sober light of the outside, may seem to you like satire; a lampoon, a spoof; but I tell you sincerely, that the message of the music explained a fleeting truth to me, and I wish it for you, too.