Follow me down the rabbithole

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

East meets west...and chaos ensues

I grew up on the right coast, somewhere about the middle.  New Jersey, to be exact.  I have very fond memories of the 60's and even into the early 70's of the beaches, being in the water, down the shore.  The pines were vast, silent, creepy expanses of possibility.  Atlantic City, Salt Water Taffy, the concrete boat, Lucy the Elephant...boardwalks, tram cars, diving horses, pork roll sandwiches...

All amalgamated into that East coast lump inside my head.  And that stuff is bottom layer, foundational concrete, unshakable, immutable, solid.

So why is it that whenever I try something that I used to do with ease back east is such a shitstorm out here?

Let's talk BREAKFASTS - at whatever time of the day that we eat breakfast foods.  Like 9 PM.

Making jelly.  Never measured, just poured off and watched, and knew when it was right.  Made gallons of grape jelly, apple jelly, you name it jelly.  Easy peasy.  Paraffin seals?  Snap.

Fast forward to Oregon.  Jelly doesn't.  Jell that is.  It's soft and squooshy...kind of crawls away from the knife when spreading it is attempted.  Tastes decently, but it's not jelly.  And whenever I pour over the paraffin tends to leak.  GRRR.

Baking anything.  I understand, new ovens, learning the timing, increasing or decreasing things according to that oven's quirks - hot spots... but Great Caesar's Ghost-I have been here for 6 years!  Either the damn thing is possessed, or I have to relearn everything I ever knew about cooking.

I am becoming convinced that I need to adjust for altitude.  In New Jersey, I baked at what was said to be the highest point south of Trenton - the high point of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  The Gibbsboro Radar Station was placed there for that reason, at the commanding height of 63 feet above sea level.

Phoenix Oregon is listed at 1,543 feet in elevation.  How much difference can 1500 feet up make?  Although the sites I have been looking at generally invoke high altitude at 3000 feet or so - it is easy enough to make tweaks to perfect the technique out here.  Lower the amount of yeast.  That one I would not have thought of.

Higher altitude means lower air pressure.  Means bread will rise faster and farther with less gas.  Fewer hungry yeastybeasties means less gas, but the gas that they do produce will be much gassier.  A double rise was suggested.  Meh. More liquid.  ABSOLUTELY!  Reduce sugar -again -less fermentation needed,,,

OK.  That all makes sense.  But why are eggs so hard to scramble out here?  What is in east coast eggs that makes them integrate completely when assiduously whisked?  Whites and yolks create a creamy, frothy eggy colored liquid that pours into a hot pan without separating and sliming... what is up with all that nasty slime, western eggs???  Western egg whites NEVER cease to resemble snot until they are within 14 seconds of becoming vulcanized rubber.  Gross.

Bagels are explained by source material.  No one out here makes bagels.  They make hard outercrusted doughy donut shaped baked bready products that do an adequate job of supporting cream cheese...but they ain't bagels.  And if you need to ask me what salt water possibly has to do with bagels - you never ate a bagel.

Sausage with biscuits and gravy - This one I have been cheating with - I have made decent gravy over those frig biscuits.  I'll go back to my own biscuits later this winter.

Pancakes.  What in the 7 hells is KRUSTEZE?  or KRUSTEEZ - or whateverthehell that box says here...

They obviously have no idea just how fundamentally UGLY that combination of letters is.


It doesn't automatically say its name when you read it - you have to stop and sound it out a couple of different ways.

And some of those ways are downright UNFORTUNATE when linked with a food product.

First of all - it does say it is crusty.  That's what scratched-open bug bite wounds became back in the day.  Crusty.  

Then there is that warning in the middle.   R-U-S-T

To me - rust means that fungus that infects grains - and especially ergot on rye.  So now we have a crusty pancake that might cause you to hallucinate more than morning rush hour can.

The name ends with a z.  That's horrible.  In that font, that z at the end could be LOTS of letters - like... KRUSTEAL - great.  It's either blue, purloined, or both.

If bleary morning eyes read the logo with a t - we sit down to break our fast with KRUS TEAT.  A crusty tit.  BLEAH.

Out west - we get blue, stolen crusty wounded tits with hallucinogenic properties to pour maple syrup over.

Pumpkin Spice Flavor.

Of such does great despair spring.   Or a preference for Scotch Eggs in the AM.  Hell Yeah.

I bid you Memento Vitae!


  1. As always, you make me laugh. As children (and still today for that matter) I was/am in total AWE of your ability to take the common everyday object or happening and analyze it in a hilarious manner!

    You know those snapshot moments in your early memories that are so vivid that you know they will be a part of those flashing images of our life when we enter the big white tunnel at the end? Well, one of mine was riding a tilt-a-whirl with you when I was seven-ish. We must have been at the Huntingdon County Fair. What made those three minutes so special? One, that my big girl cousin would ride with me (the audio clip of my childhood would include "Stop following me, Mary Anne!"), and two, that you made that three-minute ride the funniest three minutes of my childhood. I believe we reenacted that ride with our daughters at Grange Fair a few decades later.

    Now, in regard to your cooking adventures. We call jelly that doesn't "jel" thick syrup. It's excellent over pancakes and French toast. If need be, heat it just a little and pour. It's funny that just this morning I made myself French toast for the first time in at least a year, and I thought of you. When I visited you in Gibbsboro as an adult, you made the most FABULOUS French Toast with autumnal spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and love). I have always remembered that French Toast.

    Finally, on the topic of pancakes, I have a fabulous buttermilk pancake recipe that comes together almost as fast as the boxed mix. Throw the Crusty-Musty away. I'll send you my recipe if you want it. I do have to say that the aforementioned unfortunately named baking company does make a mean lemon bar and lime bar. They are fast and easy, and probably filled with things I can't identify, but let's be real, when I'm eating a gooey, sugary dessert, do I really care? Clearly not.

    Sending you love and thanks for the laughs! I love you, Mel!

  2. And it is with great joy that I observe that pest finally managed to grow herself up so very well...and says such lovely things! Thank you for the love and encouragement. And for the offer of the buttermilk pancake recipe! Happily accepted.

    I finally resorted to buying pectin. Never had to use it before, but the Western varieties might be affected by the lack of water in these here parts...they might not develop as eastern fruit does, and I will have to tweak the results accordingly. Experimentation is always interesting...especially when the results do manage to taste good, even if the idea of jelly that crawls down your throat under its own power is somewhat off-putting.

    Haha...the tilt-a-whirl story! Little do you know that the tilt-a-whirl was my dish best served cold. Since I knew about my fear of heights very young, I was determined to have SOMETHING at a park/carnival that I could master. My choice of demon rides turned out to be anything that kept you on the ground, but turned you inside out as it attempted to separate your cellular integrity via centrifugal force. In other words, if it spun you in circles until you threw was a winner! Tilt-a-whirls, whips, scramblers...I could ride those beasts all day and all night, and whenever I needed to escape whiny little Klingons on the starboard bow (Scrape them off, Jim), I would invite said Klingons to ride the tilt-a-whirl. Two or three go-rounds, and I could relax, watching the pest stagger back to mom or dad, green around the gills.

    You beat the system, though, You refused to go down. Stubborn, you were. And I had a book waiting. I bowed to the inevitable, and we rode. Is that the one where the wall-eyed dude with the cigarette permanently affixed to his lower lip slouched by the break pedal with his bottle? He was a bit more than creepy. But all that being said, it's really neat to hear how that went down from inside YOUR eyes! You remember it with such fondness... I hope that learning that it was intended to blow you off doesn't change that!

    But then again - we all knew our places in the stepping order, and as youngest, you probably already knew it at some level...youngers exists to get blown off by the elders. However, as I recall... it was a pretty cool day out there...I remember laughing lots). A lot of my childhood can be summed up with 'cool days when we laughed lots'. And you, Bets and Dave are front and center of so much of that! Thank you for those memories. I love you right back!