a hard nut to crack


I’m shelling hazelnuts for next week’s Eugene Weekly column, and I’m as grumpy as can be.  Everything’s irritating me, from the grey sky to the too-umami taste of my soup to my lack of bagel to my cat short-sheeting me to my headache to not enough milk in my coffee to the endless grading I’ve been doing to the irresponsibly thin “article” on local food for Thanksgiving in this week’s Register Guard to my overfull and unreliable freezer to my crappy camera that can’t take pictures of hazelnuts worth a damn.  Why is it that other food bloggers smile dreamily into their lima beans and wax poetic about used napkins without a care in the world?  Hang it all.

So I thought I’d write about the ugly side of Thanksgiving — the week before.

The not-so-fun part: cleaning.  With the busy term, I’ve turned the cleaning largely over to my long-suffering husband, Retrogrouch.  He’s a crack ace at laundry and dishes, but he has a habit of leaving a trail of metaphorical breadcrumbs wherever he goes.  I’ll find a sock on the floor, a shirt on a doorknob, a canning jar and a plastic lid on the counter, fifty-seven cents on top of the TV, two rolls of tape on the washer, a vacuum cleaner in the middle of the living room, a receipt ambiguously autographed with a telephone number on the cutting board, one section of yesterday’s newspaper carefully folded and placed between two bowls on my display shelf.  (He’s going to be mad when he sees this, but my journalistic integrity obliges me to tell the truth, with only a hint of slant.)  So now, my house is bedecked with tidbits and loose ends and doodads, not to mention fear in a handful of dust.

A related task is cleaning out space in the refrigerator and freezer.  Here, I am the doodad whisperer.  A tiny bit of mustard vinaigrette in a Maille jar.  Seven containers full of still-pickling fermented green tomato pickles.  A butt end of gruyere.  A lone farm egg.  Some flat leaves of green sauerkraut awaiting stuffed cabbage experiments.  An Anderson Valley Brewing Company Christmas beer from last year.

The freezer, always stuffed, never working properly, is worse.  A single roll.  A hot dog bun.  An abandoned bag of Quorn.  Three abandoned boxes of fake bacon (and rightly so).  Four slightly freezer-burned t-bones.  A pork roast of dubious origin.  A single tiny tuna fillet.  Three containers of bacon grease.  Two more containers of sauerkraut.  Local black beans and lo! some frozen corn from last year.  Another bag of dried tomatoes.  Two bakery scones, which became my breakfast.  It’s going to be a marvelous dinner, that is, if I ever stop writing this blog post…

The fun part:  buying local foods.  I’ve been storing up winter squash from my CSA to make Squash Whip Queen of Hungary, a lovely purée inspired by medieval Queen of Hungary water (brandy, rosemary oil and sage).  Squashes are beautiful and plentiful this year, so local foodies should turn squashward.

I hope you’ve already ordered your turkey.  Wait…did I?  Oh yes, I did.  Whew.

And don’t forget those potatoes.  In a state that put the Ore in Ore-Ida, we have so many beautiful local tubers, and a variety for those allowed to experiment.  Potatoes were one of our very first white-man crops in Oregon, with records of planting dating back to 1795 near Cape Disappointment (surely named by someone on the Atkins diet) and culminating in the crowning of the “Potato King” in the Willamette Valley in the 1880s.  Can’t make this shit up.

Am I allowed to say ‘shit’ in a food blog?  Sorry.

Green beans.  Did you can or freeze yours?  It was a pretty good season for beans, as good as the corn season was poor.  I dehydrated all my green beans, in an experiment in trying to make a camping version of the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean classic green bean and tomato stew loubiyeh (sp?).  I won’t torture my guests with the results.  If you do have local frozen beans, you can cook them for about 60 seconds in a pressure cooker, and they won’t have that weird bouncy squeak to them when you eat them. A wonderfully simple way to serve them, of course, is with some sauteed local chanterelles or other specialty mushrooms, topped with fried local onions.  It’s almost like that casserole.  Almost.

Corn.  If you were able to freeze some, heat up a knob of salted butter in a frypan, brown a shallot or finely chopped slice of red onion, then add the frozen corn with no extra liquid and a bunch of freshly ground pepper.  The corn will shrivel a bit and brown in parts.  When it is heated through, pour in a glug of Noris Dairy whipping cream, stir well, and remove from the heat.

And pies.  Frozen fruit works well in pies.  I’m thinking of either using up my local boysenberries or my sour cherries.  And those hazelnuts sure would make a beautiful crust.  Then again, I have apples up the wazoo, including some local Cortlands, Empires, Rome Beauties, Melroses and a beautiful King.  Ah, choices.

It’s enough to make a girl stop complaining about being grumpy and go off to do her work!


5 thoughts on “a hard nut to crack

  1. vp 19 November 2008 / 7:08 pm

    how in the world did your cat short-sheet your bed?


  2. Eugenia 19 November 2008 / 7:15 pm

    He sleeps at my knees, stretching across the bed perpendicular to my legs!


  3. shornrapunzel 19 November 2008 / 10:20 pm

    Your Thanksgiving sounds like it is going to be spectacular.


  4. Janet 20 November 2008 / 4:03 pm

    Love the corn idea. We never have any around long enough to freeze, though… I wonder if it’d work OK with TJ’s good frozen sweet corn?


  5. Eugenia 21 November 2008 / 8:14 am

    Shornrapunzel, thanks!

    Janet, I don’t see why not!


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