Monday, January 31, 2011

Enough with the Breading

weservegoodfoodcolorLast night I had a familiar experience, well two familiar experiences. First I had an entire meal, three items, all cooked casserole style and all topped with cheese and breading of some sort. I have been reassured time and time again that this is Southern cooking. Truthfully I have had Southern cooking like this, but I’ve also had modern, fresh, and delicious Southern cooking. Second, I spent an entire evening with The Professor’s younger friends, the ones looking to buy an RV and travel the world, or whatever.

A little after noon we got a call from Miss RV asking if they could come over for dinner, and she would cook. Apparently they have a deadbeat sleeping on their couch and they needed a break. We agreed and set a time of 7pm, she called back and said it would be more like 5:30. The menu consisted of chicken casserole, (made with chicken in a can) which had vintage-schlitz-beer-adcrumbled Ritz crackers as its breading, broccoli casserole which reminded me that even broccoli when prepared a certain way could actually stop your heart, and green bean casserole (although I never remembered seeing an actual green bean). There was also chicken gravy in a can which was heated over my stove while still in the can.

I don’t want to sound snooty, or critical, or judgey, but I guess am a bit judgey. Once everything was cooked and served up, it all looked the same. Everything had breading on the top. Everything had a cream-of-blank filling, mixed with cheese and mayo.
SuperStock_255-1270To top it off Miss RV got drunk on our booze. We had said we’d have the drinks, because we already had some alcohol in the house and with the little notice we got there was little time to go to the store (because we live in the middle of nowhere). In total we had some nice bottles of wine given to us at our wedding, some whiskey, some scotch, some vodka, and some mixers.

Before I got a chance to offer, she asked for some wine. Then during a conversation she found out I had Bailys and asked me to make her a drink. “But you still have some wine, do you want me to wait?” was my reply. She responded, “Oh, I’ll just chug this down.” Which she then proceeded to do. After the Bailys drink, she made a vodka drink, then another. Then finished the bottle of wine as we sat down to eat. None of this bothered me, she is young, she is having a good time. C’est la vie. But then she got up from the table, fumbled around in our wine area, and came back with an opened bottle of our wedding wine, with the card still taped to it, and proceeded to water it down with ice cubes and drink it down. Appalled.

Oh, and at one point she asked how much older than her I was, when I responded she said surprised, “wow, I thought you were much older than that.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In-Flight Menu: Kalamata Hummus, Fried Leeks, and Lemon Butter Shrimp

One way I pass time here at the cottage is to cook and bake. This has become a bit of a problem since our return for two reasons. First, American food is really expensive. Second, American food is full of chemicals, and thus takes forever to pick through at the store. Luckily all I have is time.

1950s-kitchenSince returning home I generally make at least one baked good a week, something to have for breakfast. We are huge scone fanatics, so expect some recipes eventually. This last week I made donuts. I know, gluttonous. It was quite a fatty day (but hey, I sent The Professor to work with at least a dozen to share). I also glazed them with chocolate, hello calories. However this was sort of a last-meal type week as next week I’ve pledged to start eating healthier. I used to be quite a health nut but the return to America has sort of put that on hold as I wanted to eat everything I missed (and apparently, I’ve missed a lot. Hello turkey pepperoni!)

Hummus is my best friend, for serious. We go way back. Before moving to England I used to make a big batch each week which would serve as snacks and lunch. Then, sadly, without a food processor or the money to invest in a British one, I bought hummus from our local English grocer. Luckily, English store-bought hummus is pretty fresh, really cheap, and without yucky chemicals.

SAM_4303Last week I made kalamata hummus, or hummus with a bunch of kalamata olives thrown in. The great thing about hummus is you can stick to the original recipe and then just throw in whatever you fancy that week; roasted red peppers, extra garlic, artichokes, whatever. A lot of recipes call for tamari, but this can be hard to find in the middle of nowhere. My recipe basically looks like this:

    • 2 cans garbanzo beans (15 ounce cans), rinsed and drained
    • Spoonful of minced garlic
    • Juice of 1 lemon (should be about 1/4 cup or a little more)
    • Seasme oil added a little at a time until desired consistency (a lot of recipes call for about a tablespoon, but without tamari, start with two tablespoons)
    • Then add in whatever extra you’d like. Here I added about three tablespoons of cut up kalamatas and a bit of their juice
    • Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne and blend, blend, blend!

With the kalamatas thrown in, you shouldn’t need as much salt because they’re already drenched with delicious, natural saltiness.

SAM_4315I love leeks. I love to just sauté them with butter and sea salt. Delicious. The Professor, however, was raised in an atmosphere without vegetables, literally. Dinner with his family to this day is a carbophobe’s biggest nightmare. He is familiar with what I call soccer-mom veggis: corn, peas, broccoli, ect. However I love all veggis equally: bok choy, radishes, parsnips, hmmmmm turnips (don’t even get me started on bean sprouts.) So I introduce him to such things slowly, and sometimes deep fried. Enter fried leeks. I’m shameless, I know. I came across this recipe for them on By the by, I love They came out pretty good too, although it was a pretty big challenge to keep the flour batter from becoming cakey.

The Professor promises that he has become much better with food since knowing me. And if you knew how he was before you’d know of this great accomplishment. He doesn’t eat any seafood, for example. I’m quite picky with seafood as well, so this works out, but I LOVE shrimp. Those little bottom feeders have found a place in my heart. I’m turning his head towards them as well. Usually I have them as a side dish but this week I snuck them inSAM_4314 as a main course, starting out as shrimp scampi. I learned how to make scampi while working in a restaurant during my college days. It’s really simple, but unfortunately I’ve never had a recipe for it, so you’ll have to bear with me. Also on this day I had no onions or sweet vermouth, huge fail. So I started by sautéing fresh garlic, smashed and minced, with olive oil. Then I mixed in the shrimp, lemon slices, a bit of lemon juice, and added dry white wine. I used a wine I was unfamiliar with, and it was a big acidic and strong. Thus I changed my mind of doing a straight up scampi. I just started adding in whatever I felt like, which included roasted red peppers, butter, and ricotta cheese. This created more of a creamy butter sauce. We did not complain, it was delicious. I served it with cous cous. Amazing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

For Love of the Weekend

This past weekend The Professor and I were determined to do something, anything, other than our rut of late (read: him, videogames; me, cross stitching.) So we created a best of both worlds weekend. Meaning, we had the best of the country, followed by the best of the city.

good-outings1958Saturday we planned to go hiking at the park closest to the cottage. We were late, however, given that our dog had a tick (gross, gross, gross) which she got from our awesome woods. Fantastic. After calling the in-laws, calling the vet, calling the in-laws again, and calling the vet again, we had successfully extracted half of the tick, been reassured twice that it should be OK and just to watch the dog. Then we went hiking. Which, by the way, was glorious. Oh, and at night we had a wheel barrel competition. That means we each took turns 136614261v4_480x480_Frontbeing the wheel barrel to see who could go the farthest. Yep, that’s romance in the boondocks.

Sunday we met up with the in-laws who had gotten us all tickets to The Blue Man Group in downtown Atlanta. gericault-harra-bierAwesome day. I got to go into a city, walk around, smell that awesome city air, and see some percussion-based performance art. Afterwards we went to a funky neighborhood, found a fancy pub, and had delicious northern food (pierogis) and German beer. Life is good.

Sunday, however, was a long day, followed by the longest.night.ever.

Down the Lake (yes, you can use such expressions when living in the middle of nowhere where streets are irrelevant) there have been some new dogs which do not adhere to the traditional I’ll-stand-at-my-property-line-barking-while-you-stand-at-your-property-line-barking inter-dog communication. They PDVD_271routinely stride into our yard. This annoys our aggressive dog to no end. Last night was no different and every 45 minutes to an hour throughout the entire night our dog went ape-shit. This meant The Professor was outside, then inside, then outside, all night. We both woke up cranky, but unfortunately for him, he had to go to work.

No BabiesThis reminded me of one, very important thing. We are not ready to have babies. It also reminded me that I won a bet as to how many times the in-laws would make comments about the aforementioned babies during our day out on Sunday. Three times.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Click Your Stylish Heels Together…

…because we’re not in Kansas anymore, and by Kansas I mean anywhere, we are off the 435946Cmap. I am a city girl. Every cell in my body screams out for a large chai latte, a fresh magazine from my favorite kiosk, and texting friends last minute to meet you at that thing you heard about by reading that poster board at your favorite café/mid-afternoon bar/hot lunch spot de jour. I love walking, up streets, down streets, across town, through the shopping district; not over the river and through the woods.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m also an avid hiker and love to camp. I spent two weeks backpacking through Scotland with The Professor, two days of which were spent in the Highlands donning my 40lbs pack in the rain. I can do the outdoors. That doesn’t mean I want to live in the middle of it. Not that the cottage is refined camping, a term I’ve used in the past for actual residences of mine. It’s a nice house, on a nice piece of land, on a beautiful lake. But it’s in nowhere, literally. The address of the cottage is made up. A few years ago it had no address and when county governments down here needed to start cataloging addresses for maps and gps systems, they asked The Professor’s family to make one up. We don’t even get our mail sent here.

The closest “town” is about 25 minutes away by car, not so much the downtown lifestyle to which I’d grown accustomed. After trying computing-womenout three grocery stores I’ve found one only 30 minutes away, but it is a poor man’s version of the one 45 minutes away. Besides food, which is  basic necessity, I’ve taken to acquiring all my worldly needs over the internet, including by not limited to crafting supplies, photo printing services, and birthday gifts. I yearn for the days when all I need to was pop out of my row-house door and grab anything within two to seven blocks. I actually miss the city bus, something I thought I never would, breakfast-signand even the scary, publicly drunken man who basically lived at my stop. I miss Sunday breakfasts with The Professor at the place we had made our place, trying out new restaurants, deciding last minute to see a film at the indie theatre, and of course having access to all the public transportation one could desire. I’m getting used to driving an hour to go to a plaza, that connects to another plaza, that has an exit off the highway.

5329918775_fd1daa4a9eAlso, where is the good Eastern food in the South? I’ve found some Chinese food, which was not a pleasant experience. But where is the Pho, the Thai, the Indian, the Japanese (and not that awful Japanese buffet recommended to us by the man with the baby-eating cats.) Cross your fingers that my job search will deliver me urban bound once more. If only for the pad thai and wonton soup.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why I won’t call my pets “fur babies”

dog_photos_1I’m sorry if you do. I’m even more sorry if I know you and you do, because then I have to constantly hear you say it. My pets are not babies. They are not my children, they are my pets. While my cats and dog depend on me to feed them and care for them, I enjoy a number of liberties in owning pets that a parent simply could not. Example, I can ignore them for at least a few hours. I don’t have to know where they are all the time. They get yelled at when they eat each other’s poop or take considerable amounts of effort to open your closet door in order to eat your favorite sweater for seemingly no reason. They don’t get yelled at when they color on the walls or sneak out or accidently set the house on fire.

5298582510_e12176f1f2One of our two cats has developed a new tendency since our return. He constantly meows, or chirps as we call it. He chirps to be let outside, he chirps to be let inside, he chirps when he wants more food, he chirps in anger when presented with dry food instead of wet. Unlike a baby, I can put him outdoors and basically ignore him unless it starts raining. He likes it out there. He climbs trees and explores img4the crawl space under the house.

Also my pets don’t have the personalities of babies. My dog acts like an angsty teenager and the chirping cat must have the soul of a bitter, old man. But please help me if I really start attributing personalities to my pets, because then I will have become a crazy cat lady, and being here day after day has made that a fear of mine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Off The Book Shelf

vintage-hanes-womens-stockings-ad115-1What are you reading? After seven straight years in higher education, the freedom to read for fun is a blessing. An overwhelming blessing, as the unread stack of books recommended to me (or found during my guilty pleasure of pouring through bookshop shelves) has gotten quite high. In the past I never seemed to be able to deny myself a book. I love the smell of a new, old book from a used book shop. But living in England posed challenges to this favorite of pastimes as the heaviest thing to mail or pack away in luggage is a stack of paper. Figuring this out early, we banned the buying of new books, deciding instead to photograph ones we found interesting in shops and add to an ever growing list.

20090801210139Now back in America, settling into an unsettled life has left me free to splurge on books once more. A trip into The Professor’s University City last week found me in a favorite old haunt of mine, a used bookstore downtown. My finds? Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, for one. Living in Northern England finds one often on the sprawling grounds of Dukes and Duchesses, Lords and Ladies, as many of their historic properties are opened to visitors. The Devonshire’s estate was high on my list of favorites while in England and the infamous Duchess’ biography high on my list of delayed reads.I4BND00Z

T3EIF00ZAnother find was Women in Berlin, an anonymous diary kept by a German women during two months of the Russian occupation post-World War II. Post-War Germany was the subject of one of my theses and I was really happy to find this story.

I am most excited about my third find. I love looking for cookbooks at used book stores because many times new versions are overpriced. You never know what you’ll come across at your local used shop and I discovered The Merrie Christmas Cook Book IMG_4651[1]from 1955. The beautifully decorated, slender book will be a perfect decorative addition to a future kitchen and fun to pull out during vintage-inspired parties. One of the recipes is actually for cheese cubes. Seriously, cube cheese, it was that simple! Although I love healthy cooking, it’s so curious to see a time before low-fat, low-cal; when chemicals in food was brand new and cheese triangles with bacon and sardine canapés were fantastic additions to any good hostess’ Christmas party.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Defunct Curator, or About Me

I realize I dove into this blog without really explaining anything about myself or how I found myself in such a holding pattern. I currently live in rural Georgia and sometimes wonder, how did I get here? Like that Talking Heads song, I sometimes think, this is not my house. But the cottage really is not my house. I’m squatting, along with The Professor, in a borrowed holiday home, on a lake, down two dirt roads, surrounded by trucks and semi-wild dogs, and turkey shoots. Seriously, I still don’t understand turkey shoots.

So how did I get here? It wasn’t watching the days go by, it was more a whirlwind romance, followed by a long-distance relationship, followed by moving to England, followed by the lack of a plan, no money, a wedding, and semi-settling into the non-permanent state of living in which we currently find ourselves.

After college, when everyone else was finding themselves unemployed, searching for jobs, unsure, and generally 5a49389rright where I’m finding myself now, I was going to graduate school and preparing for a career in the museum field, hence The Defunct Curator. A year into my degree program I met The Professor in a way that only he and I could have met, smack dab in the middle of bad timing forGreat Britain us both. But that’s a whole other story. After we met, it took about two days for us to fall in love, two weeks for us to decide to be together, and two months for us to see each other again. Eventually we decided on the long-distance thing for a year. During this time he decided to travel to England for his Masters program, and I decided another year apart was not so much going to work for me, and I packed my bags.

With our return to America getting closer everyday, I started applying for jobs a few months out. I had some great interviews and was a finalist for two positions, but no cigar. Upon our return to the States we had about three weeks before our wedding, every moment of which was spent preparing, organizing, making programs, tying ribbons, and experiencing multiple bridal showers and homecomings. When The Professor got a granted position at the University we came to the cottage, with the plan of me becoming employed, moving, with him eventually joining me. But it’s now been three months, and twenty applications later I’m still unemployed, still spending my time baking and not working, and still going stir crazy. Thus my holding pattern. Until the job thing is sorted, no plans can really be made, no trips organized, no escape.

button 3I like to observe, to people-watch, to spot similarities and differences. As a New Yorker living in the South I’ve been provided with a window into a different world, one on which I hope to comment. Moving into the cottage has proven as full of antidotes as it is filled with The Professor’s family’s bits and pieces, including an elephant figurine collection that would shame Dumbo himself. While moving in I leaned into the closet and bumped my head on something, which turned out to be a rifle. Later in the week I found the bullets in the bread basket. It never ceases to be odd living amongst the things of other people, like being a piece of furniture, one more thing shoved into an already filled lake house.

What else about me? I’m neurotic, but I like to think socially-acceptably neurotic or at least I hide it well. I like to travel, I like to live in other countries, and I’m currently going through reverse culture shock. I have pets and they help keep me entertained during the long days. I like to read, love history, and appreciate a by-gone era while still maintaining an optimistic feminism (meaning I really think one day we’ll reach full equality.) My girlfriends live in the North and I miss our adventures vie1111together. I can get judgey and critical and try to keep that in check. I am crafty and I like to cook and bake. I also like to wear red lipstick, vintage styles, and bows in my hair.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

For Love of the Weekend

NT3708242Weekends always used to be lazy days filled with relaxation and dread about the upcoming work or school week. Now everything is topsy-turvy and weekends have taken on a new connotation. With my husband, let’s call him The Professor, gone most workdays at a University over an hour away, (thus making his commute through the nothingness that is this rural place a bit like hell,) weekdays are my lazy time, my relaxation, making weekends a time to be together, reconnect, and have as much fun as we can before another week starts. They’re like stolen moments. Living in the middle of nowhere adds its limits to these moments but also can make weekends seem like a post-apocalyptic world where we are the only two left. But a cuddly, make-your-friends-nauseous-because-you’re-so-adorable-type post-apocalyptic world.
Friday night saw our tiny cottage turned into the hottest dance club this side of Atlanta (which, sadly, is probably true). Pandora and cheep beer proved a recipe for success. Our dog was not amused.
Saturday was The Professor’s day. His friends wanted to meet up about an hour from the cottage, providing me with an excuseil_fullxfull.84091251 to get dressed and put on make-up. I wore the most adorable ‘50s inspired blue sweater, zipped up my leather boots and was excited to be out and be social. But of course, being organized by men, the night did not end up exactly as I’d hoped. After his friends were two hours late (sorry waitress whose table we completely monopolized while only ordering drinks and salivating at the fantastic menu), we had to retreat to the outdoor porch of the bar because they brought their tiny, yappy dog. Also, it was freaking cold. The Professor’s friends, although close to me in actual age, all are much younger in spirit and most of them have taken longer to graduate college, only now entering the post-go-to-class-once-a-week-at-11:00 phase in their lives. So we listened to them talk about their far-fetched plans to live in an RV and travel the ijviIJICUXYtbKiSxxcountry, selling DVDs over the internet (And then something about pirate cruises on a pirate ship, their 5-year plan.) Then we followed them to the most disturbing hole of an apartment to meet another friend, who had us watch a YouTube video that can only be defined as porn-light while changing his three month old baby on a dirty, dirty, dirty floor while his many cats circled in what I can only believe was a secret plan to one day saucecrush the infant.
After much marital eye-communicating, we developed an exit strategy, called the night a bust, got Taco Bell and retreated to the cottage. Why is it that men always plan a night through vague text messages?

Friday, January 14, 2011


Why “The Holding Pattern?” The simple answer is because I am in a holding pattern. My pattern has multiple causations. I am a newlywed living in Georgia, in the middle of nowhere (it literally takes two dirt roads to find my house) on a lake. It’s a holiday house provided to us by my husband’s family, who also lives in the same area and who I’m getting to know slowly. I’m originally from the North and find myself a stranger in a strange land, a strange land where people eat mayonnaise salad and wear overalls in public. They are also overwhelmingly friendly and speak with cute accents.

We decided to follow our own path and marry, even though at the time of the decision we were students, had no money, lived abroad, and generally had no plan. Upon returning to America we married in a wedding planned from Europe, honeymooned, and immediately moved South. My holding pattern is this: I am unemployed, I am highly educated, I am living about an hour from civilization and spend my days baking and dealing with reverse culture shock while my husband goes to work. I also constantly search for employment within my field, taking this time as a luxury that I don’t have to take just any job, and appreciating the fact that many women are not so lucky. That said, after three months not being able to make any plans because I might be hired soon and I might be moving soon and I might be able to take all my worldly possessions out of storage soon (two storage locations, 1,000 miles apart), and after three years of additional higher education, during which all my friends have found employment, apartments, and social lives, I might actually be able to join them, I am close to cracking. Enter, blog.

During this absolutely unique time in my life, where I am time rich and money poor, and when I have all the time in the world but can’t buy a plane ticket to go anywhere because I don’t know if I might be relocating at any time, I thought I might be able to share my experience with other comrades in their own holding pattern. This life is full of contradictions. I love my husband and am happy we married but resentful that he works within his field and I’m still applying. I’m a feminist who has stumbled into being a housewife (which my mother oh-so-pleasantly pointed out in this year’s Christmas letter). I desperately want a job, but am seriously picky and afraid that once I’m hired I won’t live up to all the hype. Contradiction after contradiction.

If ages 20-25 are supposed to be the years we’re searching for identity, figuring out who we are, and defining who we want to be, what happens after 25 when everyone else seems to have answered these questions but I decided to be a grad student, and sort of fell behind on life? I like carving my own path and I like doing things different.

I hope this blog serves to be an avenue of outreach for me (did I mention I lived in the middle of nowhere, seriously, 45 minute drive to buy milk!), with a side of wanderlust and a bit about my love of cooking. I have no lofty goals and really not a lot of focus. But hey, isn’t that just like a holding pattern…