Saturday, December 27, 2008

Waffle Iron 1 Ben 0

Do you know how kids, when they're young, wake up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning and dive headfirst downstairs to look under the tree, while mom and dad are hoping for a little more sleep first? Fast forward to a few years later, when the same kids are home from college for the holidays and, around 11:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, mom and dad are saying, "Are they ever going to wake up and come down here?"

I got a gift this year I'd really been hoping for: a waffle iron. I'd wanted it since getting used to having fresh waffles while on vacation earlier this year, when the hotel had an electric one in the lobby as part of their breakfast set-up. Since the last thing I need is another electric appliance on my kitchen counter, I got one of the old-fashioned cast iron kind for the stove top.

If you've never had cast iron cooking equipment, your first is
a real experience. First you have to bake it to clean off the paraffin used to protect it during shipping. Then you have to oil it and bake it again to "condition" it. Turns out cast iron is not naturally non-stick. Who knew? For washing, ti's water only. If you use soap, it undoes all that conditioning.

Combining the conve
nient parts of several batter recipes, including some I just made up, I proceeded eagerly into this new adventure and made my first waffle. Or what would have been my first waffle had the half that didn't overflow onto the stove not burnt to an unrecognizable crisp and gotten shredded as I tried scraping it out. A few minutes and one quick visit to the Internet later (and now armed with information on how to actually use a cast iron waffle maker), it was time to scrape it clean for another attempt. I was determined to make as many tries as it would take to cook something edible. (That's what big bowls of batter are for, right?) The second try wasn't much better, though at least it didn't overflow. The third try came out overcooked but moderately edible, assuming the person you gave it to was either really hungry or in a charitable mood. The fourth and fifth tries came out reasonably. The fifth quickly became a total disaster when I poured the last of the batter into the bottom half of the waffle iron and then, drunk with my new-found waffle-making successes, put the top half on up-side down. (In the true spirit of foolishness, the fact that the two sides of the top half look nothing alike wasn't enough to prevent me from doing this.) What I was able to scrape off became my portion, but that's ok. One of the great parts of cooking things yourself is that food which you'd recognize as horrible if someone else made it ends up tasting great to you.

The waffle iron is now rinsed, oiled and stored away till I get a rematch. And this time it's personal.

Class of 2008

I may not have put decorations on the tree or remembered to buy a wreath, but at this time of year the gingerbread cookies just have to get made. Some readers may recall that last year, in addition to making conventional gingerbread men I put together a kind of designer series. (They're at Right click on the partial photo and select "view image" to see the whole photo.) This year, I am pleased to announce the following new additions:

The Jennifer Aniston:

The Governor Blagojevich:

The Plaxico Burress:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lost Soles

"It's not funny the first time you see it, but after 15 times you start laughing."
(My niece Caroline discussing "Napoleon Dynomite.")
Finally taking a break from the pressures of the season How easily a busy work schedule and holiday preparations distract us from the important things: guessing what Michelle Obama is going to wear to the inauguration.

Like everyone, I've seen over and over again that clip of the Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at Bush. After my initial anger at how they were treating our president - I thought only we could treat our president that way - I started wondering about a couple of things. First and perhaps most obvious is: you're 15 feet away - HOW COULD YOU MISS??? Second, especially after learning that this, apparently, is a traditional means of expressing disrespect in Iraqi culture, I started wondering exactly how many shoes does the average Iraqi own that they can do this? Think about it. If you threw one or two shoes every time you felt dislike for someone, how many times could you do it before you'd run out and have to control your emotions or, failing that, start throwing socks? And does the cost and general condition of the shoe factor in somehow? ("I hate you so much you're not worth me throwing my new Bostonians. Eat these old Payless shower flip-flops, you dog!")

Unrelated Item: Timber!

A couple of nights ago I was up for a bit in the middle of the night, though the crash downstairs probably would have wakened me anyway. Prepared to take on a vicious gang of hoodlums, I walked downstairs and in the living room found the Christmas tree laying on its side with the vacuum cleaner and various other items that were in the tree's fall-path knocked down as well. Also there were two cats staring up from the rubble, their concerned expressions clearly saying, "Don't worry, Daddy. We'll find whoever did this awful thing!"

There is a certain futility that comes with having a Christmas tree and cats in the same house.

It's an artificial tree set in a heavy concrete base that's supposed to be hard to overturn. (Having raised twin sons and, in the process, lost all faith in the word "unbreakable", I probably should have known better.) Although it could have been either of them, I suspect it was Willie whose physics experiment led to the tree incident. He's grown into a muscular and athletic fellow we call "mighty cat." (Motto: why walk when you can leap?) Catch the right spot on the tree with a well timed leap and the concrete base doesn't stand a chance.

Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Am I The Only One Who Thinks This Is Funny?

Photos have always held a fascination for me for the way they so often capture things the photographer could not have anticipated. A photo in my local newspaper today showed a group of parochial school kids depicting a nativity scene in a Christmas pageant.

Sometime between now and December 25th photos of things like that will be in nearly every small newspaper. Yet this one stands out for its inclusion, even unintentionally, of an additional religion icon...

Poetry, it seems, does not always need words. Sometimes numbers will do just fine.