Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Because Tradition

This recipe is adapted from Real Simple | Bourbon and Orange Pecan Pie

This is Hubby's favorite pie and he requests it every year. Thankfully, this recipe is pretty easy:

1. Eyeball your pantry and refrigerator to make sure you have all the ingredients:

1 piecrust (store-bought or homemade)

1 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup light brown sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons bourbon (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups pecan halves

2. Go to the store for whatever you don't already have. 

3. Set an oven rack in the lowest position and heat oven to 350° F. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet. (Oops. I forgot the foil. No worries as long as the filling doesn't travel beyond the boundaries of the pie crust. In that case, you will just want to throw your baking sheet away because the filling will caramelize into indestructible stickiness on the pan.)

I realize the original recipe only has three steps. I'm just trying to give you the most complete information.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup . . .

5. It looked like a full cup of corn syrup in the bottle but it turns out it was only 3/4 cup. Top it off with honey to make a full cup. If you don't have honey, there are other substitutes for corn syrup. Okay, . . .

6. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, butter . . . 

7. Turn off the oven and melt the butter. Right, melt the butter first.

8. While the butter is melting, grate the orange zest. If you only have a Valencia orange, that will do although it won't be as good. Use a zester (rather than a grater), then mince.

9. Turn the oven back on to 350° F.

Really, this recipe is very simple.

10. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, butter, sugar . . .

11. Turn off the oven. Turns out the brown sugar in the pantry was from two years ago (because you didn't make pie last year) and is rock hard.

12. Go back to the store. Get light brown sugar. While you're there, pick up a navel orange. It'll be better that way. Might as well pick up something easy for dinner because now you're running late.

Everything should go smoothly from here on out.

13. Turn the oven back on to 350° F.

14. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, sugar, butter . . . 

15. The butter has hardened slightly so ditch the whisk for now and use a spatula to stir the first three ingredients rather vigorously. If your grocery store was nearby then the butter shouldn't be too hard. (Otherwise, you might have to go back to the store because that was the last of the corn syrup!)

16. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, sugar, butter, eggs, bourbon, orange zest. . . .


18. If you turned the oven off again, turn it back on for crissakes!

If you haven't already taken a swig of the bourbon, go right ahead. You won't be alone.

19. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, sugar, butter, eggs, bourbon, orange zest, and salt.


Breathe. We're almost there.

21. Pour the pecan mixture into the crust. 

Here, I want to warn you that there's always excess mixture. You don't want to overfill the pie crust (refer back to Step 3). If you want to fish out the remaining pecans in the bowl, use a fork rather than the spoon to avoid adding too much of the goo.

22. Bake until the center is set, 50 to 55 minutes.

23. What the heck, pour yourself another bourbon.

24. Let pie cool to room temperature before serving.

25. Order something from DoorDash or Uber Eats because you don't feel like cooking anymore. And, the kitchen is a goddam mess.

26. Curse Hubby under your breath for requesting pecan pie which you don't even like and consider not making pie again next year. (Maybe that's why I didn't make it last year.)

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Hashtag Travel Stories

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, we traveled to a place most notable for rain - not in terms of inches but number of days. But having once lived in this place, I can tell you it is also a place well known for its beautiful sunny days (when that happens), it's relatively temperate climate, beautiful water, and amazing seafood. 

This trip was over several weeks and we visited several locations. At one time, we stayed on an island, accessible by ferry. Tourists flock to the main town while the rest of the island is quiet, residential, and heavily wooded. We had been to this place before and knew its best haunts. This time we had a car so we decided we didn't need to stay in town and opted for a lower cost option instead. I won't mention the name so I'll just call it the Un-Quality Inn.

There was nothing really wrong with it, exactly, but there were several things that could have been more right, shall we say. It was a motel where the rooms all had one window with a heavy curtain facing the parking lot. Beneath the window was a through-wall A/C unit that, we soon learned, rattled. The motel advertised that it had been remodeled which translated to a fresh coat of interior paint (which didn't cover the smell of the pets who had accompanied travelers before) and a truckload of new air conditioning units that had been delivered but not installed (due to a significant labor shortage). 

We were not deterred and our spirits not dampened because, in this place, we could get fresh Dungeness crab - in my opinion, the best crab to be had. We secured our crab and a bottle of wine and proceeded to eat it at a bistro table and chairs arrangement which had been placed on the sidewalk between our hotel window the trunk of our car. The meal was romantic, not because of ambiance I assure you, but because we were in a special locale, generally speaking, eating exquisite local crab.

Before too long another guest pulled into the lot, backing his exhaust into our picnic dinner. Larry dropped the tailgate on the back of his pickup truck, opened a beer, and joined us by the fact that it was rather unavoidable. We learned he had been living in the room next to ours for the last two months while he was on a construction job building a multi-million dollar mansion on the island. 

Soon, another pickup truck parked across the way. This was one of Larry's co-workers, also living at the hotel but across the parking lot from us. He complained about the air conditioner unit in his room and said he had had enough. He was going to march right into the motel office and offer to install one of the new air conditioners in his room himself. He and Larry then argued about whether they should charge the motel for this service and, furthermore, offer their services to replace all of the units since they were staying there anyway.

All three of the men - Hubby included - trudged off to the office bolstered by their collective resolve to get this job done. Hubby did an excellent job of supervising while the young men carted a new unit to Larry's co-worker's room. 

Here arose a problem. Neither construction worker had any tools in their work trucks. Imagine.

Hubby came to the rescue in the form of a never before used screwdriver which was factory installed into a secret compartment in the truck of his German import vehicle. Larry and his co-worker found this fortuitous as well as amusing - not so much that he should have a secret compartment with tools in it but that it had never been used. (Hubby showed must restraint by not telling them that no self-respecting German import vehicle owner would be caught dead using the tools himself. Especially not on his German import vehicle.)

The next night, they repeated the story they told at work: Some dude in a fancy car was staying at the same cheap motel that they were. One worker responded, "At least he knows where to count his pennies so he can afford that expensive car." Hubby took pleasure in telling our hotel neighbors that his car cost less then their work trucks. They were astounded.

And, it came with its own screwdriver.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A weekend in America

NASCAR at PIR. My weather app says it’s 86 degrees, 16% humidity. Nevertheless, I’m overheated. My heart is pumping even in the shade. A man loaned me a hat for a while but I knew I couldn’t stay in the sun much longer. Hubby came with me as we climbed higher in the grandstands to find available seats in the shade. I feel better but my heart is still pounding. Soon I will have to get my cool cloth wet so my brain will snap back to full attention. 

I ate a hotdog and now I feel like I need to shit. What fun! The track is oval and I can see all of it, cars so load I have to wear ear protection in the 42nd row. Cars roaring around in circles. (Ovals!)

It’s hard to describe a NASCAR event without offending the people who love it. In an attempt to avoid stereotypes, I would describe the spectators as proud, hard working people who come to see heroes. The drivers they look up to represent American values (whatever that might mean). Most of the drivers are white. The crowd appears to be at least 99% white. There are a few beautiful people here. Most are ordinary. Like all of America. 

On the way in, people were seeking signatures from registered voters. For what, I don’t know. One man yelled, “Are you tired of people laughing at our voting system?” 

“Let’s go Brandon” shirts were popular. 

We stood in line for hot dogs - the one that still makes me want to empty my bowels. We were behind a man who told us that COVID was a made up thing. He went on to say that his father died of COVID. He also had COVID. He’d lost his sense of taste and smell and “maybe had some brain damage.” Even still he concluded the whole thing (COVID) was manufactured. 

He didn’t have all of his teeth and, at one point, spittle flew from his mouth as he was telling his story. I saw it fly towards Hubby. Would it hit his face or his beer? I didn’t see where it landed and Hubby either didn’t see it or pretended not to notice. This man had been attending NASCAR at PIR every year for 30 years. It was the increase in prices that got him spitting but he was a nice enough fellow and, really, who hasn't spit accidentally while talking?

One of the things I noticed this weekend, which also included attending an NHL game, was that while people seemed weary of talking about COVID, they nevertheless did. And people who championed choice had strong opinions about other people’s choices whether it was an individual, local government, Federal government, or foreign nation. 

After we got the hot dogs, I tried to refill my water bottle but the three water fountains I tried were dry. I thought it was illegal not to make free water available at a stadium. Not sure about that and don’t know how long it would have taken to find a water station if there was one. (With 40,000 people in attendance with no mask requirement, they couldn’t have been worried about transmitted diseases.) I bought another water instead.

Before the end of the race, I saw woman with beautiful gray hair and professional cut gumming a cigarette. Her face was caved from missing teeth. She was thin and hunched over as if too tired to manage sitting up straight, weary-like. She was sitting alone and it was easy to imagine she'd had a rough life but for her well coiffed hair. I imagined instead that she was had been beautiful in a former life. 

My need to rid myself of the hot dog I ate previously has not waned. I let out a noxious fart in the ladies room and pretended it wasn’t me. 

If this reads like I didn’t have a good time, you’d be mistaken. People watching is great. (Cars driving in circles, meh.) People wore shirts with messages - some in support of their favorite driver, some political, some funny, and others celebrating the consumption of alcohol. 

I wore a plain white t-shirt and just enjoyed the show.