Sunday, January 23, 2011


I hate cooking dinner after a prolonged grocery store visit. I rarely do it. Usually I claim wifely privilege, saying, "I just did all the shopping. I'll be doing all the cooking, all week. But not tonight." And so we get a pizza or something. This time, however, I noticed that we had all the makings of a fondue in the grocery bags, and I thought even exhausted I could handle some rough chopping and a little grating.

I steamed some baby potatoes (I didn't cut them or peel them, cuz, hey, this was supposed to be easy) in the same pot as a head of broccoli, ripped into florets. I tore up a chunk of sourdough baguette, chunked up a few apples, wiped off some button mushrooms, and I was ready.

The fondue came together so quickly! I boiled a bottle's worth of Guiness, threw in some whole-grain mustard, minced garlic, and English mustard powder, then added handfuls of grated sharp Cheddar (tossed with a tablespoon of cornstarch to prevent clumping). I whisked after each addition until smooth and kept going until my pound of cheese was all smooth and bubbly and delicious.

Poured into my fancy-pants All-Clad fondue pot, this did a great job of pretending to be a classy, time-consuming meal. We ate like pigs, and not for the first time (well beyond, in fact, the four thousandth time), I thanked the universe for not making me lactose intolerant.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why I Am Not A Baker

I am not a baker, I am a cook.
Why? I think I would rather be
a baker, but I'm not. Well,

for instance, Max wanted
to make a blueberry pie. I said yes.

This is what happened:

I thought it would be adorable to make little pocket pies, and I just happen to have a heart-shaped sandwich cutter. Sounded easy and foolproof. But for me, no baking is fool-proof--because baking is Not. For. Fools. You have to be able to measure, for godssake. And that requires numbers. So right away I'm doomed.

I didn't know I was doomed until Max had cut out all those cute little hearts and painstakingly piled tablespoon-fulls of blueberries on top of each one. (NB: Do you know how many fresh blueberries fit in a tablespoon? Three. So, as I say: doomed.) (NB2: Do you know how hard it is to get a 5-year-old to painstakingly do anything? Much less pile three blueberries into the center of irregularly-shaped pie crusts? DOOMED.) The full force of the doom hit me when I went to place the top crust on each pie and realized--a tad belatedly--that the top crust couldn't possibly be the same size as the bottom crust, or it wouldn't fit over the berries. But I had just the one cutter. So I stretched and cajoled the unwilling dough, eventually just saying "fuck it" and patching up the edges with dough scraps.

When I pulled them out of the oven, they were so browned and crunchy with sugar crystals and beautiful and fragrant...and completely empty. Every single drop of filling had leaked out of every single pie and coated my expensive cookie sheet and my baking stone.

Good thing I thought to pour the leftover berries into some ramekins and stretch a little extra dough over the top. One even made a smiley face. See?

He seems to be saying, "Clearly, I was the better idea, dumbass." Yeah? Thanks a lot, pie.

** My sincerest apologies to you for both the blurry photographs and my egregious (and awful) appropriation of one of the loveliest poems I know: Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter."