During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
First heard about on the BBC History podcast when they interviewed the author, Helen Castor, and I had been looking forward to reading this for ages. Like many titles that specialize on European history, this came out in the US nearly a year after first published in the UK. It is now available in paperback and ebook in addition to the hardcover in the States. It also has an accompanying one-off TV series that is also available in the US on DVD which I’ve seen and is very good.
While I adore the topic Castor covers, I had a problem with her presentation of the TV series in which it is a little too dry, a little too academic-y, and a little too author centric. Although very well versed at the topic in hand, she’s very staid when she presents. I had hoped the book wasn’t going to be in the same vain and unfortunately it is.
This is not to say She-Wolves is not an entertaining read because overall it is, but it is to say I am 25% in and with a subject area that has more drama, violence, romance, and intrigue that could rival any fictionalized TV show, and I’m puzzled at how Castor can almost make it almost a snooze fest. I’ll give a more indepth report later once I’ve finished the book.
Thanksgiving, as a holiday, has always been a source of conflict in our house. There is, of course, the idea of thanking the fates for all the bounties the year has given us and then there is the history of the day, which is steeped in blood, violence, and deceit. We’ve started approaching it more as a “Let’s make a fabulous feast and have people over for cards!” as our tradition rather than dwell on the historical origins.
Here is this years menu, along with recipes:
Meat: Guinness marinated, slow cooked roast beef
Instead of turkey (which both of us are eh on) or ham (which TheHusband is not a fan of), we opted to make a slow cooked Guinness marinated roast beef just like the meat pies of the same name I usually make, except minus the crust. We marinated the beef for nearly 48 hours before slow cooking it for about 8.
This year, the beef was good but on the dry side. We decided it was because we used a janky slow cooker which we’re now discovering has terrible heat element and thermostat control. We’ve decided next time, whether as a stand alone dish or for the meat pie itself, to use Mark Bittman’s techniques for making pot roast from his How To Cook Everything
I should also add that in the three years since I first published the recipe, much has changed with how we prep and cook the beef. Namely, there is no dried onion soup mix or cornstarch involved. TheHusband, when we make this meat pie, now makes the gravy via a roux from the beef drippings and caramelizes the onions instead of relying on dehydrated spices.
Sides: Cornbread & Sausage Stuffing
It’s a well known fact nothing can come in between me and my carbs. This is TheHusband’s take on a Whole Foods recipe of the same name, except we take the corn bread recipe found on the container of corn meal, double it, and use the same pan the corn bread cooked in as the baking dish for the stuffing. He also doubles the meat, and adds carrots for color and flavor. By far our favorite part of the meal it has now become the default staple when we do big meals like this.
Sides: Lemon Garlic Kale Salad
This recipe was pulled from the New York Times’ essentials for a 2013 Thanksgiving and came out a dud. It looks super pretty, but tasted of oil slicks. The dressing, which I prepared as directed, was the culprit. Given I had double the greens requested, and made the dressing to a T, we ended up having more than double of the dressing left over after giving the greens a good toss. The olive oil and lemon juice looked emulsified but tasted strictly of oil even though garlic cloves steeped in the concoction for roughly an hour. The recipe doesn’t give precise directions on what you should be looking for or how long the garlic was to steep, so I worked with what I had.
Next time we make this salad, we’ll use the same greens/almonds mixture, but with a different vinaigrette.
Sides: Mashed potatoes
TheHusband used russets which he smashed using goats milk and vegan butter. They came out delicious and ultra creamy.
Sides: Roasted root vegetables
Sweet potatoes, carrots, and kohlrabi were slow cooked in the oven for about an hour under a brown sugar glaze TheHusband whipped up for the cooking process. TheHusband was meh on most of the veg, only liking the glaze and the sweet potatoes, while I adored the whole concoction. Next time we make this dish, we’re going to change out the kohlrabi and add in turnips and another veg for color and flavor and keep the glaze.
Deserts: Chocolate Pecan Pie
The pie crust held up remarkably well using vegan butter (Earth Balance) and but the caveat is I should add is I should have rolled the crust thicker to the size as it shrank when it was pre-cooked before I added the filling.
Per the instructions listed, the pie was to bake 30-40 minutes until it jiggles and then pull out to cool completely. After 35 minutes, the pie was a’jiggling and was set aside to cool for an hour before being placed in the fridge to chill for about five hours before it was cut.
Turns out the pie had not finished cooking and the middle, even after chilled completely in the fridge to hasten the thickening process, was like runny black blood. TheHusband didn’t care for the pie, declaring it too chocolatey and sweet, which is odd since I used bittersweet chocolate not only for the chips but also for the cocoa powder. But I do have to agree the chocolate, even with the pecans, is overpowering. May make this again in the future, but modified to taste. The crust recipe, however, is a definite keeper.
The tradition to eat trifle for major dinners and feasts is a long standing one in TheHusband’s family, one of which he introduced me to when we got back together and one he has been in charge of making. Upon finding out my allergy to dairy a few years ago, the entire concoction is now artisanal with nothing coming pre-packaged except the cake mix, which we found saves a lot of time when we have so much else to prep for other courses, and of course the fruit, none of which is locally instead at the moment.
Trifles are layers consisting of cake, custard/pudding, whipped creams, and fruit of some sort. We usually do a yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding/custard, fruits striking the fancy, and of course the whipped cream. As nearly each component is lengthy for prep, we usually start assembling the ingredients a few days before the event it is to be eaten. (And if TheHusband had his way, all he’d eat is trifle for every meal.)
For the pudding/custard layer, TheHusband makes it from scratch using the following technique:
Throbbing Manor custard
8 egg yolks, whisked together
4 cups of goats milk
3-4 Tbls Tapioca (optional, for texture)
2/3 cup of sugar
3-4 Tbls of cornstarch to thicken
Guts of a vanilla bean
Using a whisk, combine milk, tapioca sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat on stove top. Allow milk to scald (heat to the point when tiny bubbles form around edges of pan). Whisk occasionally to prevent cornstarch from clumping on bottom edges of pan.
Remove milk mixture from heat,
Mix a few tablespoons of scalded milk mixture into eggs using whisk, then introduce eggs/milk mixture into remaining milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
Immediately return pan to heat and whisk gently until custard thickens, another two or three minutes. Do not allow to boil.
Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla.
Cool completely before eating. Should be refrigerated at least 12 hours before assembling in trifle.
I personally found the above a little on the thin side after it was assembled in the trifle, and TheHusband agreed. He said he’d probably up the cornstarch to get it to thicken more.
Throbbing Manor coconut milk whipped cream
1-2 can of full fat coconut milk
Sugar/Vanilla to taste (optional)
Refrigerate the can of coconut milk for at least 10-12 hours (we like it after at least 24). Several hours before you need to whip the cream, place metal bowl in freezer to chill.
When you’re ready to whip the cream, open the can of coconut milk and scoop out the firm layer coconut cream that has risen to the top of the can and put it in the chilled metal bowl. Do NOT scoop out any of the water left in the can, you want just the solids. You can use the leftover water for drinking/smoothies/whatever.
Mix on high speed for 3-5 minutes using a hand mixer or mixing stand. You want soft peaks to form as you whip.
Add in optional sugar/vanilla during the end stages of the whipping
Keep unused mixture in the metal bowl and keep in fridge to re-whip before using again.
For the trifle, we used two cans of coconut milk
And there you go. Now you know why we are so fat. Happy holidays!
I grabbed some hair, measured what I wanted to cut and using the scissors bought specifically for events like these, cut my hair.
I ran my hands around my head, measuring and eyeballing what needed to get cut and what was going to stay. I kept this up until my hair, combed wet, was nearly dry and then stopped. Once satisfied with my work, I jumped in the shower and shaved the rest of my body. A hairy body is the sign of not being in control, and we can’t have that, now can we?
I could make the argument the impromptu cut I got at a chain salon a month ago, now having grown out resemble a mess, was to blame — and that would, at some level, be true. But cutting my hair is just one of the many fail overs I use to soothe whatever fire is in my head.
I can’t control what is going on in my brain, so cutting my hair is one of the myriad of ways I assert my own control over my person.
I will take control. I have control. I am in control.
Since I had disclosed the sads had returned two weeks ago, their manic cyclic behavior has been taking a huge toll on my mental health in addition to my personal and professional lives. It is taking every bit of my energy to not fuck shit up, to not let important things lapse, to not let this thing, whatever name I want to call it, rule over me so completely.
The cycles in the past have been pretty prolonged but this time is different. They have returned with fierceness that is humbling and often catching me unawares. I can be high for hours and then down shift into depression within a blink of an eye – it hit so hard while grocery shopping last week, I felt like I was going to faint from its sudden impact. It lifts for a few hours and then BOOM, we down shift again into another bout that can be and will be as dark as its brethren.
Drugs would have smoothed this out, sure. But the drugs don’t work when you can’t tolerate them and they, in my case, make things worse. At least here — in this space — I know that it will lift at some point. It will, as Stephen Fry says, get sunny one day.
Here are some obvious things about the weather:
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.
It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
Even though the world looks dark, and I would do anything in this moment to rip my skin from my body in order to not be me anymore, I know this will pass. It will get better.