Kitchen Action

…or, “Pies and Potatoes”

I told you Wednesday that I had many chores to complete in preparation for Thanksgiving. I didnʼt get to the raking that day, meaning Wednesday, although I should have (maybe today while The Lovely One decorates some more), but I did do the kitchen work, even as I also pumped out a bunch of posts to cover all the days from Thanksgiving through now (and that means I was writing this post about 2:00 PM last Wednesday).

Can you tellwhich is the apple and which is cherry? Does the apple pie look done to you? (And you also get a glimpse of some of Janetʼs autumnal décor.)

Just before Janet headed out the door to drive to work, I already had preheated our oven and pulled out the two pies (one apple and one cherry) that we were to bring to Thanksgiving, celebrated with my family this year at my Aunt Alaireʼs apartment complex in Coralville. I would like to brag that I made those pies, but actually we had purchased them, “homemade” by the Catholic Daughters here in town as a fundraiser, the previous Saturday. Our neighbor, Vera, asked us if we wanted some last year, and they were so good that Janet went a bit over the top when offered her chance this fall. We bought eight. Apple and cherry, the most obvious and ordinary, were slated for my siblings to consume.

The directions said to paint the top with milk or egg mixture (ordinary skim milk, for us and therefore for my family, too)  and then slit the top crust a few (five or six) times, and Janet adjusted that to poking with a paring knife about a dozen or fifteen tiny slits. Meanwhile the oven was preheating fully to 450° into which, on a baking pan to catch seething juice later, we placed a pie at a time (each pie was supposed to get an hour altogether). Apple went first, after I had dusted the top with cinnamon and a little sugar, and after the first fifteen minutes, per directions, I lowered the temperature to 350° for the next forty-five minutes.

Then I went down to the basement to finish checking what I still had on the drives for the two old computers (and the extra SCSI hard drives) in order to have them gone by the festive holiday on Thursday, a deadline my beloved had imposed so she could use the table for her decorations. I had carted the PowerMac 7100 out to the truck when the timer went off. Checking the pie, I thought it still looked pretty pale, and the surface even seemed doughy, so I gave it a further ten minutes. That gave me time to extricate the monitor and printer and take them to the garage (I still donʼt exactly know what I am going to do with them; I hope Goodwill or the local Community Services store wants them). When the ten-minute timer chimed, I looked again. Still uncertain, I removed the pie, cranked the oven back to 450°, and got the second one, the cherry pie, ready to go in. Then I came into the office to check e-mail and Facebook updates.

When the bell tinkled to indicate the oven was warm enough to insert the second pie, I did, likewise turning down the temperature to 350° a quarter of an hour later. This time, however, still concerned about the unfinished look of the first pie, I set the timer for only thirty-five minutes, intending to return the apple pastry for perhaps ten more minutes then, if it still looked like it needed it. It did. In fact, both pies, the cherry working better than the apple, required about twenty minutes longer than the directions suggested. Even leaving the apple pie in for ten or twelve minutes longer than that left it feeling soft on the top, but I decided I was done. (By this time it was nearly 11:00, and I had finished clearing the former residence of the old, never really used computers, too.)

Does this look like ten pounds of mashed spuds to you?

Then I wrote about 1500 words on the novel, followed by the posts for Thanksgiving, yesterday, today and Sunday. Sometime around two, Janet called for some advice on a letter (which hasnʼt happened for perhaps close to a year now), and that prompted me to interrupt my literary labors and get back in the kitchen. I had to peel, boil and mash ten pounds of potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, as well as chop up celery and onion for The Lovely One to use in making stuffing. And I did. The potatoes were a chore to peel, but I cut them into pretty small pieces, filling our largest pot (except the ten-gallon soup pot), seasoned with some herbs, garlic and onion powder, and some pepper, and once covered in water twice (I read somewhere you can reduce the starchy element by washing your potatoes repeatedly), set to merrily build to a boil. Meanwhile I got out the big chefʼs knife and started work on the celery, which almost half filled a big mixing bowl. The onion was almost instantaneous by contrast, and when that job was done, so were the potatoes.

I dumped them into a huge colander we bought just a few years back (and which was exactly what I needed for this job), shook out the excess water, and dumped the potatoes into two bowls (the huge on in the picture and a smaller one) to mash (using Janetʼs grandmotherʼs old hand-masher) with skim milk, margarine and some cheddar cheese. That only took perhaps fifteen more minutes, so I recombined all the mashed potatoes into the one larger bowl and came back in here to finish this post.

Now itʼs after 5:00. I am going to take a few pictures of pies and potatoes to illustrate this sad little post and, at halfway between 900 and a thousand words, declare it done. Itʼs pouring rain (supposedly perhaps freezing up toward and around Dubuque — drive carefully, Janet), and I forgot ever to go out and get the mail. Oh, well.

Oh my. The word count once I moved the post over to WordPress for finishing touches, says weʼre over a thousand even before I tack on this note. Interesting. (Are there that many words in the photo captions?)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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