Monthly Archives: November 2009

Leftover Pie Dough

As predicted, I have not been able to quite handle posting daily. However, I’m still feeling pretty darn good with the general uptick in writing I’ve been doing over here. It’s amazing how once I start being open to the idea of the mostly daily blog post, the ideas for the blog posts begin to flow in my direction.

For instances, I spotted this post today on The Kitchn, in which Emma recalls what her mother used to do with the leftover bits of pie crust that got trimmed from the crust during holiday baking. It took me hurtling back through my own memories of pie baking with my mom. Whenever we had leftover pie crust, she’d divide it between my sister and me, and let us make tiny, jam-filled tarts. We’d bake them in the toaster oven, a bit of jam would always leak out and burn to the pan, making for a delicious, sticky mess.

I know that I always looked forward to those crust scraps, because they made me feel like the little girl in that chapter of Little Men, in which she’s given a toy kitchen and is taught to cook miniature meals (ingredients delivered by the family dog). I have no plans to make a pie this year, but thinking about those days makes me want to mix up a batch of pie crusts, just to make a batch of jammy turnovers.

Rubber Bands by Color

rubber bands, clothespins and twist ties

I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat and by afternoon, was harboring a case of something cruddy. I stayed home from work today, and while I’ve been desperate for a bit of concentrated time in the apartment, this is not the way I wanted to get it. I had NO energy and so all I could do was stare at all the messy piles and half done projects.

However, by around 2 p.m., I had to do something. So, I did what you see above. Yes, that’s right. I separated out my rubber bands, twist ties and clothespins (I use them to close bags and clip notes together) by color and size into their own jars (I’m not entirely sure how I came to possess so many rubber bands – I think some have to be leftover from my grandparents).

Happily, after a day of laying around, which brief organizational breaks, I’m feeling much better. The cold (at least, that’s what I think it is) seems to be leaving (although my right nostril is a faucet I can’t quite turn off) and I should be back to work tomorrow.


Grades 5 through 9, my family lived in a house in the West Slope neighborhood of Portland (just off Canyon Drive, for those of you keeping track). It was a quite little pocket of suburbia, bordered on all sides by busy streets. Next door to us lived an elderly woman and her son. For the most part, both generations of this small family were grumpily quiet, keeping to themselves unless we actively engaged them in conversation.

I remember one day, my mom had to go over and knock on their door to ask a question. When she returned a little while later, she reeked of mothballs. The chemical smell radiated from her person as if she’d been dipped in a vat of pest killer. It turns out that this neighbor had wool carpets and her method of protecting them was simply to scatter handfuls of toxic mothballs around her home. “Take that, moths!” I imagined her saying.

This woman has been springing to mind for me of late, because this is the time of year when the William Penn House hallways begin to smell of mothballs, as people pull out their winter things and stow away their summer stuff. There are a couple of days at the change of every season when the mothball aroma seeps through the walls and into our apartment. It takes a while to identify as mothball stink, at first I just notice a slightly off scent and start running around the apartment, sniffing and trying to find an abandoned dirty sock or a rotting potato (there’s little that smells worse than a rotting potato).

Then it begins to get stronger and I’m finally able to identify it. I don’t love it, but at least I don’t have to be on guard, wondering what’s crawled into the drain and died.

However, I still don’t understand how people can live with mothballs the way they do around here (I use a combination of lavender and ceder to keep my woolens moth-free). They are so toxic and awful smelling.

Handwashing and KYW


At Barcamp Philly this last weekend, I noticed the sign you see above in the restrooms of the University of the Arts, where the conference was being held. I appreciated the reminder, however they would have been far more effective, had the soap dispensers beneath them contained any soap at all.

In other news, I did an interview with a reporter at KYW on Friday about buying local for Thanksgiving, canning and some of my favorite holiday recipes. This morning, I started getting emails, messages and Facebook notes from friends and family, saying that they’d heard me on the radio. I have no idea how much of the interview has been airing, but all 24 minutes of it is available online (I imagine that my parents are the only ones who will want to listen to this straight through, but who knows). Links to the recipes I mention are here.

quick, quick

I’ve waited until the last moments of this Thursday to post here. I’ve got so much I’d like to write – about being a helper to a woman who fell at the corner of 18th and Walnut last night, making a dinner out of leftovers that was more satisfying that the original incarnation, the beauty of well-seasoned cast iron pans – but I am simply out of brain power at the moment.

I wrote about making cranberry jelly tonight over at Food in Jars, and a new grocery store on East Passyunk Ave. earlier today on uwishunu. And, if you’re in the Philly area and listen to KYW, consider tuning in tomorrow around 9:30 a.m., as you’ll hear me talking about buying locally for Thanksgiving (I may also squeeze a brief plug in for my cranberry canning classes).

Those Pesky Foundational Tenets

Growing up, my parents had different styles of teaching the operating rules of life to my sister and me. My mom took a more nuanced approach whereas my dad was more direct and straight forward about communicating the tenets he wanted us to absorb and make part of our way of operating in the world. I’ve come to live with what they taught in a similar way. My mom’s life lessons are just part of who I am. My dad’s exist in a different place and live in bold letters in my head. Here are a few of them…

  • If you take your shoes off in the living room, tuck them under the coffee table so that other people don’t trip over them.
  • Turn off the light when you leave the room (after one warning, we owed him $.25 a lamp)
  • When taking the trash out, the job is not complete until the bag has been replaced.
  • Clean up as you go while cooking.
  • Do not leave trash around the house (particularly candy/gum wrappers), they will appear in your bed if they’re found outside an appropriate receptacle.

and, most importantly

  • Life is lived within a series of communities. Always be aware of your impact on the community around you. This starts with your home community and extends in ripples out into the world. It is of particular importance when you’re driving. You must be aware of how your actions effect the people around you.

As I’ve approached the age at which I’m considering/planning on having kids myself, I am increasingly impressed with the way my parents raised me and I hope to do a similarly able. We shall see (thankfully, it’s not an issue at this time).

(As I was writing this list, I realized that I wrote something similar for Father’s Day a few years ago. I may be running out of ideas).

Finding Pleasure in Food

Earlier tonight, I went with Scott, Becky and Eric to see Jonathan Safran Foer read from his new book Eating Animals. It’s an exploration of the choice he made to become a vegetarian, while his wife was pregnant with their first child. He said that he was compelled to look at his eating habits as he anticipated parenthood, because he’d soon be called upon to make decisions for another being.

He read briefly from his book, primarily from a section that poetically details his foundational childhood food memories, many of which took place around his grandmother’s kitchen table. I connected with this part, being someone who’s spent a great deal of time examining the roots of her own food/eating aesthetic, and the many woman in my family who played a role in shaping it.

After that, he moved into an hour of question/answer, which didn’t hold me in the same way as his writing. It’s not that he isn’t a personable and engaging speaker. And to be honest, I essentially agree with the thesis of his argument, which is that the factory farming of meat is an un-humane and unsustainable practice in this country. Yes, we eat to live, but we also eat for pleasure. And in our culture, where food in plentiful, it’s impossible to separate the practice of eating from the receipt of pleasure. Every bite can’t simply be a political act. It also has to be a joyful one.

Now, I’m not saying that we have to eat lots of meat because it’s the only source of pleasure. There is so much food that can be deeply delicious and pleasing that contains no meat at all. I just believe that you can’t talk about food without at least touching on the subject of pleasure and satisfaction. To me, it’s an empty discussion without that factor.

(Just to be clear, I buy the best meat I can. I haven’t personally bought factory farmed meat in at least a year, so I’m deeply on board with the idea that if we eat meat, we need to ensure that it’s the most humane we can get).

For a more thoughtful discussion on this issue, go read what my friend Joy (co-author of the recently published cookbook Almost Meatless) wrote last week.

Questionable Name Choice

Bland Farms?

It seems to me that this is an incredibly poor choice in company name. Because who says, “I’d like my onions to be as flavorless as possible. Yep, that’s right, give me the bland ones.”

One can only imagine that it’s the family’s name. Otherwise it’s just ridiculous.