27 January 2014

Cookbook Boot Camp

I took off a few days and headed South to Charleston, South Carolina by way of the famous New River Gorge. I spent a few days ay the Lee Bros. Cookbook Boot Camp. Not too long ago, Matt and Ted Lee set up a boot camp to get chefs focused and ready to write and ultimately publish their first cookbook.

I read about the boot camp which was geared to chefs. Since I was a blogger, I wasn't sure if they would let me in. Later on the year, they are conducting a session for bloggers in Brooklyn. After some e-mails, Matt e-mailed and said they thought I might fit in with the Charleston group. I answered a questionnaire and several weeks latter, headed down Charleston.


There were 6 people in the boot camp, chefs, former chefs, a cooking instructor and yours truly. Now, generally, this type of “workshop” event is set up in some Marriot anteroom with unflattering lighting, bad coffee, and soggy pastry. But this event is a Lee Bros event, proving that it doesn’t matter where you are born, you can always become a Southern gentleman.

The boot camp took place in an old Charleston house, complete with pocket doors, a porch, and a fireplace, that many folks thought was necessary, since it was a frigid 55 degrees! The week before the wind chill in Shirley was 20 below. BELOW! The weather in Charleston was like a spring day.


The night before the boot camp, the Lee Bros. hosted the campers for an oyster roast. The next morning work began at 8 a.m. Not one to complain though 8 a.m. seemed a tad uncivilized, but the coffee was excellent. Charleston has never been a big “bakery” town until the last year or so, when several great bakeries set up shop and Matt and Ted knew them all. No soggy hotel pastry for us.

The first day was a series of hands-on writing exercises to articulatethe reasons and focus of the cookbook. Butcher and Bee, a sandwich shop written up in every food magazine from hell to breakfast, catered lunch. More writing and talking through ideas followed lunch. That night, we met for dinner at McCrady’s, where we were treated to a special Boot Camp Dinner.

The second day (yes, at 8 a.m.) was a nuts and bolts look at what it takes to actually put together a cookbook, from testing recipes, to photographers, to agents, to publishing. That day, the most famous caterer in Charleston, Hamby, catered lunch. It was an elegant and very Southern. There were tea sandwiches on crust less white bread with shrimp or tuna paste, deviled eggs, and petite fours. The Lee Bros. said that Hamby catered so many events in Charleston that people could walk into an event and tell you the price schedule the event had purchased. After another jam-packed afternoon, we headed over to the lovely home of Cathy Forrester for some goodbye bubbly and a ride on the joggling board.

If you think you might just be ready to write that cookbook, I can't think of better teachers than the Lee Bros. Check out the boot camp here.

Update: I was supposed to mention that the oyster roast was at Fleet Landing and our chef that night, Drew Hedlund, was a camper. But no one sent me pictures at Fleet Landing and I had a picture of the McCrady 's menu!


17 January 2014

Gigantic Snow Flakes


It started to sleet, the. Snow this afternoon. I stepped out to take photos and found the flash captured these big flakes.


They were so white against the gray skies that they look like lights.

I can't remember such big flakes. You could practically lift them off your shirt.


13 January 2014

West Virginia Water

Thanks to everyone who was worried about me in the West Virginia Water Crisis.  I am North of the spill, so my water is not affected...by this.

I was without water for four days due to frozen pipes.  By the end of it I was ready to KILL anyone who crossed my path.  We were never in any danger, mind you.  There was enough bottled water for cats, chickens and even me.  There was water for coffee and cooking.  After several days, though, there were no more clean dishes.  At that point, cooking is not an option.  The kitchen is beginning to get a bit odoriferous.  And my hair, lets not even go there.  Needless to say, I was ready to KILL. 

I did not have a baby in the house, nor and elderly person, nor anyone with the flu, and on and on so one can only imagine how 100,000 West Virginian's feel at day 4.

Here are some of the highlights of the water contamination:

First, lets just ask ourselves, who zones a chemical waste storage facility one mile ABOVE the water treatment plant? 

Naming your company, "Freedom" and slapping a red, white and blue logo on it does not make it "freedom."  Nor free, nor patriotic as you dump gallons of unidentified chemicals into the drinking water.

An associate of "Freedom Industries"  was dismayed that West Virginia reacted so harshly, this time.  This time??

When asked how long this emergency might last the Governor said he didn't think it would be weeks.  WEEKS??  Seriously, WEEKS.  So a week or two is OK but probably not WEEKS.

When asked WHAT chemicals were leaking, officials said chemicals that smelled like liquorice.  But the exact chemicals are proprietary.  This bodes well for fracking, as their chemicals are also proprietary. 

When asked if the leak was underground, officials said no, there was a hole in the side of the tank.  A hole no one noticed until you could smell the chemicals in your car as you were driving up to the water treatment facility a mile away...

Freedom Industries said "We have mitigated the risk, we believe."   We believe in Santa.  "Mitigated", does that mean they duct taped the hole?

C.W. Sigman, an emergency manager for one of the counties involved, said the tank appeared to be "antique."  He said  it didn't appear the company was in emergency mode when his team began to arrive Thursday. "They didn't appear to understand the magnitude of the incident at the time, and we didn't either because we just got there," he said, adding that investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency had also arrived and took the lead in the investigation. "It took a little bit of time to get a determination how serious it was," he continued. "I never got a good indication from the plant folks how bad the leak was, how much was going to the river, anything else. It was probably a little ways into the incident before we realized how bad it was getting into the river."

 But, hey, lets give these companies TAX breaks.  Let's invite gas companies to drill and pump chemicals into the ground, and give them TAX breaks.  Let's disband the Environment Protection Agency! But whatever you do, don't extend unemployment benefits, or give someone an extra $32 in Food Stamps!  But I digress...

Again, thanks to everyone who expressed concern. 

11 January 2014

Weather Swing

Tuesday morning the wind chill was -20. Today it is 58. The weather needs psychiatric care, lithium or some such thing.


After setting up a perfectly reasonable cold house, the weather did it in. We were counting on cold weather, but not wildly frigid winds. Nor did we expect frozen pipes.


Better luck next time.


The good news, seed catalogues shipped much earlier this year.


09 January 2014

Haint Blue

Recently, someone came to the house and just after, "hello," he asked, "why did you pick that porch color? It's beautiful and you can see it from the road."


Well, I picked a lovely haint blue to keep those evil spirits out. And because it is pretty. It also has a practical function. The color gives the impression of sky and discourages birds and bees (or wasps) from nesting.


I must confess, I am a rather lousy painter, so I over prepare. I hired my help for three days. We swept, cleaned and power washed. We taped, and taped, and taped. We painted ceilings first. We painted all the white posts and sides. Finally, we painted the floors. It did, indeed, look lovely.

After nearly a week of drying, I stepped out one morning to drink my coffee. As I started back in the house, I lifted my bare foot and the paint came with me. The original paint from years ago was not compatible with the new floor paint. The floor had to be stripped, sanded, and repainted. In stripping the floor, we got blue paint on the white side, so they had to be repainted. My three day job turned I to three weeks.


Alas, there were some bits of painter's tape lingering and the screen got smudged, but after a month, I was done. We have since cleaned the screen removed most of the painter's tape.



The good news is, not one single haint has entered the house. One bold bird did managed to nest on the white trim.


06 January 2014

Holiday Food Recap

Yes, it was a pink disco ball Christmas tree. Even I was shocked! But there you have it.

There was a lot of holiday cooking. There was even more holiday dish washing. I did not keep an accurate count, but I believe I washed every dish in the house at least 4 times...and I have a lot of dishes. My favorite, mismatched Le Creuset pan was often washed 4 time a day itself! I washed so many dishes, I didn't always take the requisit photos, but here goes.
There was fruitcake and...
and more fruitcake.
Beer bread and honey butter.
A turkey smoked in the Ugly Drum Smoker we built this summer.
One of my favorite gifts from last year was a subscription to Julibox. Frankly, we have had more fun with the Julibox than one can imagine. We are always finding new cool spirits to try. Of course, it takes me a while to try them as I must have the box sent to another state because, West Virginia wants to protect me from mail order booze, though I can have OxyContin sent to my door, but I digress...
One of my fave drinks was Laird's Applejack and proseco. So when I got big bottle of applejack, I planned ahead. I had a tray of apples I couldn't get around to eating or cooking, so I juiced them and made big ol' ice cubes out of them. The apple juice ice cubes made these Cocktails At The Burn Pit, cool and fruity!
There was a standing rib roast with Yorkshire Pudding. Now I love shopping at discount, dollar store kind of places. Truth is, most of the time one would be hard pressed to find anything worth a dollar, which is why one must be persistent. I popped into one looking for nothing in particular, always on the lookout for cooking gear. I looked down and saw a pair of popover pans. They listed for $28 a piece, but were marked a mere $5. Score!
I made a Christmas Tree Pavlova.
Tired of leftovers, I made mozzarella-stuffed meatballs and spaghetti and some bread.
My friend, Catherine, sent me a huge bag of Black Twig Apples, that went into a pie.
Holiday food means a trip to the big box store. I know that Chefy types will be appalled, but I love to buy a huge bag of peeled garlic cloves. Truth be told, if you are not running a restaurant, there is no need for a huge bag of peeled garlic. But here in the woods, keeping fresh garlic is often a bit hard. So I plan for a garlic rub on the rib roast, 40 clove chicken, meat sauce, and on and on. Then, I confit the remaining cloves and freeze little containers of soft, oily garlic. When I need a spread for bread, or garlic in a stew, I just pull out a little frozen cube, and I am good to go.
All the unused citrus was turned into Marmelade. I made a mixed citrus with lemons, limes, oranges, and three different grapefruits. I used a fine chop on the mixed peel. I had two huge pomelos that made a pomelo mamelade. The fruit was very pink and the peel was a bright green, so it made a very preppy marmelade.
For the pomelo, I left the peel in very long, thin strips. I think the long strips make for an elegant marmelade.

The new year meant collards,
black-eyed peas,
And a lovely pig-head cornbread.
Only 350-some days till Christmas. I'm off to the kitchen.


03 January 2014

Barbara Stanwyck

So this year, as always, I marked my most favorite Christmas wishes on my Amazon account, per my friend Ann's wishes. I was supposed to select the books I really wanted. I picked out several off my loooong list and waited. As Christmas rolled around, Ann informed me that she went rogue and selected books on her own. Now, I get a lot of books, so I was concerened. Grated, there are books I miss, but I was worried.
I was, however, pleasantly supprised. Ann did a great job. Of course I wanted the Barbara Stanwyck bio, but I chose to give it to my BFF, Beverly. Then the copy got lost in the mail. Then it got re-ordered. Then it didn't arrive till Christmas Eve. It is finally winging its way to Alabama. I was luckier. Ann saw it on my list and bought it for me, even though it was on the list for Beverly.
The book, A Life of Barbara Stanwyck, is over 1000 pages of everything you would ever want to know about Barbara Stanwyck... until 1940. It is just Volume One! Well I know what I will be getting next Christmas!

Hey, Christmas is not Christmas until you have seen Christmas in Connecticut. For several months I watched the Western channel as they showed re-runs of The Big Valley and then they just stopped. I was bereft. So now I have this cool bio. I do admit, I really don't want to start it till I am sure volume 2 is on the way. What if I read it and want more? 1940 doesn't even get us to Christmas in Connecticut!
I don't care. I am reading it now! Thanks, Ann.


01 January 2014

Happy New Year

What year is it?
2014! Are you sure?
I demand a lawyer!
I was not alone!
But we all wish you a Happy New Year.


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