Friday, September 30, 2011

Food Friday: Apple Clafouti Crisp

'Tis the season to be eating apples! My reason for creating this was, in essence, because I wanted apple crisp and I also had leftover pancake batter to use up. But the result turned out pretty well, so I'm sharing it here. A result of putting the pancake batter over the apples before the crisp was added on top was that the pan of Clafouti Crisp cut up nicely into bars that held together for serving. With this recipe, it wasn't overly sweet, but you could easily add either sugar or warm honey or maple syrup to the batter if you'd like.

The night before, or several hours before, soak 1 cup whole wheat flour in 1 cup buttermilk.

Peel and chop enough apples to form a thick layer on the bottom of a greased 8x12 pan. I like to use an apple slicer and then cut the slices into small pieces.

To the soaked flour, add 3 eggs, slightly beaten, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla,  and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional: up to 5 T. sugar, warm honey, or warm maple syrup). Pour this over the apples.

Combine 2/3 c. flour, 2 c. oats, 1 c. brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 2/3 c. melted butter. Spread this over the apples. Bake at 375 for approximately 40 minutes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pasta Sauces

I recently saw a commercial in which Ragu and Prego were compared in a taste test. I think Prego won, even among regular Ragu-ers.

In other words, among people with lousy taste in spaghetti sauce, when choosing between two mediocre sauces, one of them did, in fact, have to win.

And then there was the Chef Boyar-dee commercial, in which we were told the history of this American staple, how a restaurant's pasta sauce became so popular that people were asking for the recipe and instead, they started sending it home with them.

In other words, back in the 1920s, Americans had no idea how to make a decent pasta sauce.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Scene from an emergency room

A police officer escorts in a young man in handcuffs who will later "swear to gawd" that he wouldn't have run if he'd known it was a policeman... or, anyway, if he'd known the officer had a dog. I guess they guy's hindsight is better than his foresight, especially when he a ragged wound in his forearm to remind him. Maybe that's not hindsight so much as houndsight?

But really, how was he supposed to know the guy was a police officer? As he noted, "It could have been anyone" shining a flashlight in his face. And saying "Stop! Police!"

Monday, September 12, 2011

Communing With Water

Yesterday marked the third time in the six weeks or so that Lauren and I have gone to First Unitarian Church in South Bend on a Sunday. It was, in a manner of speaking, Kickoff Sunday for them as much as it was for the NFL, which I suppose made our first couple visits preseason games. We got to see how the Unitarian offense and defense stacked up against the other teams we've scouted in the past. For the record: they look good this year.

Anyway, they had an interesting ceremony, which I gather is annual, called Water Communion. People brought with them water they had collected at some point in the past year or else used some of the provided water to represent symbolically some of the water that's passed through their lives. Many brought water from vacation cottages they visited, many involving long-standing traditions--and many noting that it would be the last time they went there, for one reason or another. The few words each person or family spoke pointed to more or less significant events in their lives.

We didn't go up for our first Water Communion, but it did get me to thinking about the place water has had in my life. After falling into a pool in a motel in Michigan when I was pretty young, I had a deathly fear of water that persisted more or less into my 20s, though I at least got better at masking it. As a result, although I grew up just 25 minutes off Lake Erie, I can't say that it loomed large in my childish imagination.

Water really entered my life in a significant way when I went to Kenyon College. There, one of the first things we did was learn the school songs, including "Kokosing Farewell," which is a song about the river that flows past Kenyon. I would go on to sing that song through four years of Chamber Singers--its status as the unofficial alma mater meant that we closed all of our concerts with it. The song talks about how, metaphorically, we students both were and were not like the river, then looked ahead to a time when we would be far from that river and yet feel called back, even as our lives came to a close. It's good stuff, very poetic. Anyway, the fact is that the river itself wasn't exactly omnipresent--it was a bit of a hike to get down there, so it wasn't like we spent every day looking at the river. But it was there, and more importantly it was in our imaginations as a symbol of ourselves and or our experience. That was where water became important.

Water didn't figure into graduate school life very much, but I distinctly remember my experience when I interviewed for what would be my first teaching job. Most of the interviews were done and I was sitting in front of the main administrative building, beside a fountain, thinking about whether I wanted to work there (if they even offered). And I was reminded of just how soothing the sounds of flowing water are. I suspected even then there might be something innate in us to which is speaks, and now my parenting experience seems to confirm it: babies fall asleep with relative ease under the influence of white noise machines, presumably because it takes them back to the sounds of the womb, where mother's nurturing blood was flowing all around, rhythmic waves from her heartbeat to her child by way of a substance that's mostly water. And between that fountain there in the middle of campus, the pond and its fountain on the way to the gym, and the rivers that separate the school from the town and run along another edge of the bluff on which it sits, there was a whole lot of water around there, and something about that made me feel welcome. I took the job.

When I left there five years later, I found myself living in The Ocean State. I couldn't see water from either of the apartments I lived in, but it was all around. It was in the air, the ocean scent wafting up to us. It was in the seafood section of the grocer--so much fresh fish wherever you went. It was... everywhere. I loved it.

And then, after a brief stop back at my first school. we made our way to our current school, situated on the 2nd largest natural freshwater lake in Indiana. It's a beautiful, beautiful lake, where people have beautiful, expensive homes and great summers. Unless I forget, I see the lake every day, because it's right there where I live and work. Our first year here, we made our song of the year Carbon Leaf's "Lake of Silver Bells" because it captured a certain spirit of what we wanted our life to be, a "year of living dangerously happy" as we move closer and closer to our hopes, dreams, and ideals. So far, we still think that's the kind of place we live, and that brings us full circle, to water that is both literal and symbolic.