Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thankful for...

Thanksgiving dinner this year took place at my wife's sister's home with both of our families largely represented. We were each given a paper "feather" on which to write things for which we are thankful. At the time, I was not able to muster much, so I wanted to correct that here.

I am thankful for my wife, mother, father, sister, and brother, each of whom have never judged me on my uneasy path through life.

My wife, N., who has believed in me since the day we met. The little presents she gets me that make a Tuesday night something special. Her silly mannerisms and pranks that make me smile every day. Her warmth, her strength of character, her depth of compassion, her love of dogs and tolerance of cats. Her smile, that makes you forget the rain. Her embracing of our quirky town house, making it into our home.

My father's brilliant, subtle wit which has always made me laugh and think and has defined my own. His unfailing generosity, his commitment to give his family the best life possible. He is a man who would give you the shirt off his back, and has done so many times when I've forgotten to bring one home.

My mother's warmth and spark. Her wonderful vision of the world, her love for natural beauty. She defined my aesthetic, my own appreciation of people, of places, of old things. She faces life's challenges with gusto, learning, inventing, and adapting to each era of her life without missing a beat.

My brother, who has always been there when I needed him, to help and support me when I've found my life unraveling. His determination to achieve and succeed at whatever he does has always inspired me.

My sister, whose smile and enthusiasm for life is unwavering. Her refusal to grow up, her constant joy, her wonderful husband and boys, her happy home, they all shape my vision of family.

Thanks to the most important people in my life. Each of you is a model of character that I hope to live up to. I couldn't ask for anything better.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Tis the Unseasoned

Thanksgiving. It's here again. Tomorrow, yeah!

It's that time when most Americans fire up that seldom-used appliance, the range, and roast a 20 pound bird. This even includes most people for whom "cooking dinner" means sticking a London broil that Whole Foods marinated for you into the oven for an hour.

I, too, will be conforming to this most American of traditions, though the only turkey for which I'm personally responsible will be deep fried in glorious peanut oil. But I am also supposed to be making the stuffing for the other bird, which shall be roasted. The reasons for this division of labor are political in nature.

I love stuffing. It is so gooey and delicious and soaks up all the best parts of the bird. It's good by itself, with turkey, on sandwiches. It's good hot or cold. It's especially good to snack on in the middle of the night. But not all stuffings are created equal.

Stuffing comes in many forms, from Stove Top, which is something I ate at 3 AM when I was in college, to "do it yourself" which involves baking a loaf of just the right kind of bread, letting it get stale, and chopping it up into cubes. Or, if you happen to be a "homesteader" or something, using the stale bread that you already have since of course you make all your own food and waste nothing.

My personal level of cooking patience falls slightly on the easier side of doing it all myself. That means, I want to get a bag of bread that's already stale and cut into cubes. I don't want to dry out my own bread or worry about getting the right kind of bread and wonder if it will be the right texture after I let it sit for a week. And also hope it doesn't have any psychedelic mold spores growing on it by that time.

So I leave those basics to some industrial baker, but I want to season it myself with some fresh veggies, herbs and spices.

It has become nearly impossible to buy unseasoned stuffing.

I went to no less than five supermarkets before finding the holy grail you see pictured above: a bag of unseasoned bread cubes.

I finally got it an Snider's, a little independent supermarket in Silver Spring. This was after trying:

  • Giant? Negative. Only seasoned stuffing from Pep. Farm and Arnold's.
  • Safeway? Negative. Safeway actually sells their own brand of stuffing, that looks sorta homemade, but it is just as doused in dried onions and stale celery powder as every other brand they sell.
  • Whole Foods? Negative. I had high hopes, but despite dealing with the insane crowds and pompous people, struck out again. Oh, they have their own brand too, "365 Everyday Value Organic Stuffing Mix"... traditional flavor. That means, of course, dried onions and "organic chicken flavor" whatever that is. Does that mean, it tastes like organic chicken? Is that different than "Purdue chicken flavor?" Could you have "organic Purdue chicken flavor," that is a fully-organic flavoring that tastes like Purdue chickens?

Anyway. It seems that, these days, most people are not interested in even the most basic of cooking tasks: chopping up some stuff and throwing it into your stuffing so it doesn't taste like it came from Boston Market.

It's not exactly rocket science. In fact, it's probably the easiest part of the whole meal. So why is it near impossible to find some bread cubes that haven't been infected with the contents of Pizzeria Uno's spice drawer?

Just tell me the truth, people. Am I the only one left on earth who is interested in seasoning my own stuffing?

The bag I bought was the only one in the entire store. This means one of two things. They were all sold out because it's incredibly popular, or they only had one bag at all. When I asked at each of the other three markets if they had "unseasoned stuffing" the employees generally stared at me as if I'd asked if they sold ostrich relish.

I'm guessing they sold one bag of unseasoned stuffing this year. I should probably check the date, it's probably been there since 1998.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May your bellies be stuffed, whatever that stuffing be made of.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Great Photographer: Sergey Gogolev

I wanted to take a minute to recommend Sergey Gogolev, our wedding photographer. We had an unconventional wedding. Having both been married before we decided that we didn't really want a big traditional wedding, but we still wanted to have a ceremony so we would remember the day by more than just a date. We reserved the Old Stone House for the date, and had an old friend who is an ordained minister perform the ceremony in September.

So we set about looking for a professional photographer in May. It turned out to be a little trickier than we expected to find someone. Because our wedding was during peak season, many photographers weren't willing to commit to our 2 or 3 hour session, since they'd rather hold out for a full-day client. Or they would make us pay the full price for an all-day photography shoot.

After making some inquiries of a couple other photographers we knew through friends of friends, and not finding someone who was going to work out for our situation, N. found Sergey through an ad on Craig's List. We met with him in Georgetown and he spent an hour with us at the Old Stone House and walking around Georgetown to find other good settings for pictures. We liked him and he had a nice portfolio. He was also willing do the work for us for a reasonable price. So we gave him a deposit and crossed our fingers. He encouraged us to have the ceremony in the morning because it would avoid the harsh afternoon lighting. Unfortunately we couldn't make this happen for a lot of reasons, so we just hoped for the best.

When the day arrived, we ended up being an hour late to our own wedding. Good thing there weren't any guests. But Sergey was unruffled and we began everything around 3:00 PM, probably the worst time of the day for outdoor photography in the sun. Sergey, and his wife who was also shooting, took hundreds of pictures of us in various settings for a couple hours all around Georgetown. As the afternoon progressed we felt good about everything, he had so many interesting ideas for settings, poses, and so on. Even though we started an hour late, we were never rushed - quite the opposite, I think we had to cut things off because we were both about to drop from hunger by the time we finished!

Barely two weeks later we were able to look at the pictures online. We were stunned. The package we had agreed to included 50 prints that would be edited and color-corrected, but there were so many incredible pictures that we literally took a month to choose our favorites. He gave us more than we had agreed to in the end, and delivered the prints in a beautiful customized box with a DVD. At every step of the way he was accommodating, easy to work with, and gave us far more than we expected.

If you need a photographer I can't recommend Sergey highly enough. His skill and creativity are top notch and his fees are fair. And if the afternoon lighting was bad, well, you wouldn't know it from the pictures. We couldn't be happier.

N. put many of our favorites on Facebook so be sure to check them out there if you're a friend.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Schrödinger's Blog

Hello, loyal consumers of Farm Fresh Meat! As you are no doubt aware, things have been a bit lean on the Farm lately. Sorry 'bout that. Since I last posted, more than three million seconds ago, much has happened. None of the intervening events are responsible in any way for my silence, but I thought I'd imply that they were.

From the perspective of a typical blogger, whose job is to retool some local news tidbit with his own unique, witty or insightful perspective, the last month in DC has been astoundingly bountiful. Any one of these incidents would have been worthy of a rehash, scattered, smothered and covered into delicious hash-browned blogginess:

  • The DC9 situation, still unfolding
  • The Chandra Levy trial
  • The election and Fenty write-in campaign
  • Rally to Restore Sanity
  • The weather for the love of spaghetti monsters

In my own life, there have been just as many noteworthy incidents:
  • I got married and had a honeymoon
  • Some remarkable home improvement stuff
  • A ridiculously absurd outing for a friend's birthday to a roller skating rink in Anacostia
  • Not one but two incidents of harassment and absurdity involving the DC government, involving unwanted contact with such agencies as DMV and DCRA. (Isn't contact with those agencies always unwanted, though?)

... just to name a few. Then, yesterday, talking buses. I almost couldn't resist writing about that. But I did.

Or did I? Does writing that I didn't write about something count as writing about it?

I just blew my own mind.

One thing is clear. If you don't add your two cents to the great collection tray of life when it comes around, you won't get your reward in heaven. At least that's what it said on the scrolling marquee on the "Praise-A-Thon" I happened upon while watching TV the other day.

Translated to blogging, that means if I don't make some unusually insightful observation, or shockingly lowbrow joke, about whatever it is within 24 hours of its happening, then nobody will care. Having studied Eastern philosophy extensively, I know that if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, all that happens is a cat belonging to a physicist may die. The physicist is already confirmed dead, just FYI.

So, as the weeks have slipped by since my last post, a lot has happened. Pumpkins were carved and smashed, the balance of power in DC government has changed, a nightclub was closed, the weather has gone from endless summer to endless summer. I probably had much to say about all of these things and a lot more, too. But the time to weigh in on those things has passed, and time has marched on. The domestic shorthair of determinacy remains caged, its fate unknown, unknowable.