Feeding day

In all my adult life, I cannot recall ever stepping foot into a butcher shop (a real butcher shop, that is). There may have been moments when I was a kidlet that I had the opportunity to visit one, but my memory is pretty darn good, and I don’t recall any from that time, either.

But, during the Big Bash, one of my aunts recommended that I stop into a local butcher shop and check out what the guy had to offer. So I did. The answer: after noon, not a lot that was of interest. I spied some frozen filets mignon that looked as if they’d been there since the beginning of time, quite a bit of bacon, and a huge 17-pound pork butt package (two butts in the package, as is common with boneless butts). One of the more amusing factoids I’ve always carried around in my head is that regarding the term “pork butt”. It is not, as the name might suggest to the unwary, really the ass end of the pig. Rather, it is the upper shoulder of the animal (the picnic is the lower shoulder). Quite a lot of people may know it as a Boston butt instead.

In any case, a nice butt – of the porcine variety, in today’s journeys – was my goal. While the package I saw at the first butcher was hefty and looked nice, I decided to bypass that one and continue my search.

Continue reading Feeding day

Some days

Some days I really despise people. In general. In particular, those of the asshat variety. I used to work with a woman whose favorite phrase was, “Oh, that’s nice” said in a sarcastic way, to every little issue that arose, as if it was right there on par with the D-Day invasion being called off because of fog and rough waters rather than being an issue that could be easily solved if someone just used whatever brain cells were available to them. Ever since then, I’ve hated that damn phrase, and really can’t bring myself to care too much for people who act like every little thing is the end of the world or who have to exaggerate issues instead of just dealing with them like normal human beings – or using a little common sense. People who imply that events are other than as they are – usually by omitting pertinent information – rank right up there on that list, too.

That is all.

Food porn

What are you eating right now?

This is mine.

Gratuitous closeup.

It’s a riff on a cuban sandwich – ham, tomatoes, dill pickle slices, cheese, and deli-style mustard, but naked (no bread, as bread is a little too much for me right now). I layered the ingredients, minus the mustard, then nuked it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. A line of mustard down it afterward, and we’re ready to go.

And yes, I did eat earlier. I made dinner for myself, my mom, and a dear friend: roasted boneless pork chops with my homemade bbq sauce on the side, corn on the cob – my mom always requests corn on the cob throughout the season, and it’s a bit of a staple – and oven roasted zucchini with olive oil, salt, peper, and shredded parm-reg. No pictures of any of that, unfortunately. I also ate part of the last slice of one of the chocolate cakes someone had brought, with a little milk. Surprisingly, I got hungry again, hence the naked cuban.

Someone did take my camera around on Sunday during the latter portion of the Bash and got some pics of the little bit of food that was left by that time, so I’ll upload those at some point.

Leftovers

Oh my. I’ve just started on a couple of ribs, the first of my own ribs I’ve tasted since I started smoking them. These are damn tasty, I must say. The meat is tender, but not disintegrating off the bone, with a nice smokiness permeating throughout. Some people were saying yesterday that the rubs (both the spicy and sweet) were pretty spicy, but I’m not tasting that – or maybe my taste buds are still so dead that it doesn’t affect me as much. It starts sweet and finishes with a bit of a kick at the end, which in my opinion is just how it should be. I’m also taste testing the barbeque sauce, and it’s fabulous. Maybe I’ll start packaging the rubs and the sauce for sale. Of course, this means I’d have to actually write down the proportions in the recipes in order to make them consistently.

Whew

Let’s talk for a moment about Mother Nature.

We’re in a bit of a drought situation around here. It hasn’t really rained here in weeks. Oh, there have been the occasional drops here and there, and sometimes the distant rumble of thunder makes those who don’t know any better hopeful for a washing of the air and a soaking of the ground. But we’re minus on rain, and will be until the real summer rainy season starts.

Until today, that is – the one day when clear (or slightly overcast) skies would have been most welcome, we get a typhoon. And I mean that, literally. The storm that rolled in brought lightning, hail, and wind that blew over tables and chairs outside. It was a nice change, and cooled things down pretty well, but of all the days, it was the day of the Big Bash. But some good came of it: everyone was driven inside, and it gave people a chance to talk with one another and eat more food.

Speaking of food, did you know that one serving of Publix prepared spinach dip is 2 tablespoons, 90 calories (80 of which are from fat)? the reason i mention this is only because I happen to be munching my way through some crackers with that dip, plus a lot of water.

The food. Goodness.

Got up this morning and got a fire started in the smoker, then tossed the ribs on. I had picked up a couple of rib racks, and let me tell you, those are the handiest things. All the slabs went on the grill in one shot, and they smoked away for just under four hours. This morning, the skies were clear and it was hot, so the ribs finished a bit fster than usual. While those were going, I made and prepped a bunch of other things, and when 2 PM rolled around, people started flowing in. Several people brought more food – desserts and a fruit salsa/dip, specifically. For the most part, though, the food was that we had prepared for everyone else.

And it was a blast.

I counted 30 adults and half a dozen or so kids, so our estimates of 30-40 people were spot on.

People started drifting out the door around 6:30 or so. I had prepared 12 pounds of shrimp, boiled, and another 4 pounds in a marinade (honey, soy sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and lime juice), only about 1.5 pounds of which was actually grilled before the torrential rains came. All 13.5 pounds were gone by the time the first guests departed. Since there was still another 4 pounds in the freezer, and the remainder of the marinated shrimp, I went ahead and prepared the rest, boiling the 4 pounds and sauteeing the marinated shrimp since it was still raining off and on and the open charcoal was now soaked. That batch vanished before the last of the guests left, and we are left with exactly zero leftover shrimp.

Of the ribs, there are a few chunks left. I told myself I would taste my ribs for the first time since I started making them, but I did not do that this afternoon. I’ll get to it on the leftovers. The guacamole was, if I must say so myself, excellent. It takes me awhile, and a lot of water, to eat an entire chip with some guacamole, but I had some, and could actually taste it.

I added a crab dip to the menu this afternoon, and had a taste of that – good stuff. That disappeared fairly rapidly, and there is none left for midnight snacking. However, I do have more crab and the other ingredients that go into it, so I may just have to make another batch tomorrow and have a more expansive tasting.

My brother requested zucchini at about the same time I was getting the remainder of the shrimp done, so I had him slice it lengthwise into flat strips, drizzled it with olive oil, gave it some salt and pepper, and then sprinkled shredded parm-reg on it. Alas, I did not get a taste of that, as it was all eaten while I was putting the shrimp into a steam tray. But, as with the crab, there’s another batch of zucchini in the fridge, and may be just the thing to eat beside a freshly made round of dip.

And then, there were the people. I think we had a good mix of people, both family and not, and although I had to endure lectures and nagging from certain parties about my eating issues (I did dump a cup of formula down the tube during the festivities), it was great to talk to everyone and listen to them talk to one another. It seemed to me that everyone had a good time and enjoyed themselves, and that really is the point, isn’t it?

My eating tally for the day: four shrimp. A few crackers and spinach dip. A chunk of watermelon. Three cucumber slices in a creamy dill sauce. A few tortillas and guacamole. A grape, peeled (unfortunately, I have no one to peel grapes and feed them to me, so I had to do this myself). A tomato wedge. A small piece of fried grouper. A small amount of crab dip. A cup of formula.

Before any lecturers start making the rounds of their circuits, I’ll be the first to admit this is not enough. As I pointed out to a dear friend when getting another one of Those Looks, all of this will get better. The moving-in phase of the move is over and things are fairly normal, the Big Bash has come and gone, and I’ll be getting back to a more normal schedule, so my eating will follow suit. But, until I can eat sufficiently, I’ll have to keep the tube as a fallback position, as the most recent weigh in bothered even me and my lackadaisacal attitude toward my fluctuating weight.

Defeated

As regular readers know, I’ve been avoiding using my feding tube, preferring instead to munch away by mouth and start eating real food again. Tonight, though, defeat: I had to pour some formula down the tube, along with a crushed up pain pill.

When I went to speech therapy this week, the pathologist pointed out that it takes me so long to eat and I use so much energy that the calories I’m eating are pretty much being chewed away. Since my meals are not very large, and thus not many calories to begin with, it’s a battle.

And the battle is not currently going in my favor. Today when I stepped on the trusty scale, it hovered between 110 and 111. This bothered me a little, as I’ve been making a great effort to eat more often and eat more calories. Obviously, though, I have so much going on that it isn’t working the way I’d planned.

So, a cup of formula entered my life again, after about a month of none. Depressing.

Also deepening my mood a bit is this piece of crap server that gave me fits today as I attempted to get the one and final account moved from it. It put me behind in my prep work, as I had to make a couple of trips to the NOC, so no smoking of the ribs today.

What I did get done, today, though:

Updated the application we use for support with no trouble at all, and finally went to bed at 5 AM, getting back up at 9.

Went to Home Depot, got a replacement handle for the sliding glass door, some chairs, charcoal, hickory, some plants, potting soil, and pots. Then not one but two trips to Publix for miscellaneous supplies, including the things my mom and sister needed for items they suddenly wanted to add to the menu.

I got the membranes removed from the ribs and got them rubbed. Three slabs of a spicy rub, three of a milder rub. I also made two batches of brownies with nuts, one without, the barbeque sauce, and made dinner for my sister, mom, and my brother, who is up from Orlando for the weekend.

But what this all boils down to is that Sunday morning is going to be quite active. I’ll need to start smoking fairly early in order to have them ready for the 2 PM Bash – four hours of smoke, at least, and I don’t think all these ribs are going to fit even on my large smoker all at once. I figure I’ll start four of them early, then have the great smoky smell teasing people as they arrive. Also on tap for Sunday is all the other prep that didn’t get done: the guacamole, the salsa, the remoulade, the fruit. I’m debating on the cookies, because I just don’t think I’ll have the time or energy for them. And of course, there’s the actual cooking of the hushpuppies, burgers, dogs, shrimp (boiled and grilled), and grouper (grilled and fried).

Here I sit, debating on whether or not to eat. I’m not terribly hungry – in fact, I’m not hungry at all – and this makes it difficult to get motivated for food. But I know what the people around me would say (Eat!) so I suppose I need to do that and then grab a nap so I can begin the new day slightly refreshed at least.

Calm before the storm

Today after a series of shopping trips for the previously mentioned supplies, I took my sister to dinner at Biscotti’s. She had to work this evening, so I figured I better feed her before she went. Since there was no way I was cooking anything (well, not anything that could qualify as a “dinner”), off we went.

The sweet potato-roasted red pepper soup was, as always, delicious. She had the beer cheese soup and pronounced it quite good. For dinner: parmesan crusted scallops with risotto and a lemon thyme buerre blanc for me, gemelli pasta with a cauliflower veloute for her. The scallops were excellent (so say us both), the pasta only so-so (according to her, but a gentleman sitting next to us said he liked it, so I suppose that qualifies as a mixed review). They also had a hazelnut-boursin crusted tenderloin on the menu, and that looked excellent, but I didn’t think my abilities would have matched my ambition on that. When my sister went to work, I stayed and had a capuccino to ensure that I maintained the proper caffeine level in my body.

Now, it’s time to begin work on some of the things we’ll be enjoying on Sunday. In the wee hours of the morning, I’m doing some maintenance work and replacing an application we’re using, and this damn server is giving me fits about moving the last four accounts, so I can tell this day is going to be another long one. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the four servers we have inbound did not arrive today, which means Tuesday for the setup of those. Plenty of recovery time from the Bash before then.

Laying in supplies

Usually – at least in some places – when you say you’re laying in supplies, you’re either preparing for winter or for a long siege (if you’re one of those nutbag militant types). In our case, however, it’s for the Big Bash. Food, accompaniments, and the supporting cast are rapidly filling up the fridge, freezer, and pantries. Since the painting I wanted done is done, it was time to turn my attention to laying in the supplies. This is done, of course, around handling some business-related items, including moving the final few accounts from my problem child server.

So, those who will be in attendance and not ask, what’s planned?

Thus far, we have:

20 pounds of shrimp
10 pounds of grouper
27 pounds of ribs (which seems like a lot, but is really six slabs of about 4.5 pounds each)
4-5 pounds of chicken breast
Burgers, dogs

I am still on the hunt for someone who can supply me with live blue crab on Sunday.

Beginning a little later today, I’m making cookies and brownies, mixing up the rub for the ribs, and making the barbeque sauce. Saturday’s plan:

Smoking the ribs
Making the guacamole, no doubt with assorted taste testers giving immediate feedback so it can be served appropriately on Sunday
Making the mango-papaya salsa, again with taste testers poking their noses into it
Making the fruit salad
Making the cocktail and remoulade sauces
Making the coleslaw
I might be able to sneak in a batch or two of bread and butter pickles as well

Then Sunday, it will just be putting it all out and firing up the grills.

Still unclear is just how many people will be here. We had roughly estimated somewhere between 30 and 40. Yesterday and today have both brought mentions of additional people coming along. No matter how many people are here, I think it will be great fun. If you’re in the area and at loose ends, feel free to join us. Email me at museATmusable.com for directions.

The sweet smell of success

Or at least paint. Given the size of the rooms in this house and how much circulation there is, there really is no lingering aroma of paint hanging heavy in the house. But while the painter was here, whipping through the remainder of the work, there was a hint of it in the air – the smell of progress. He finished very quickly and very neatly and the main living areas are now complete. It looks great, and the colors are superb.

Dinner tonight: szechuan beef, fried rice, and chicken lo mein. It takes quite a lot of water to get through a meal. I’ve blown through three liters for two small portions of food. I think some ice cream is in order.

Some days really are longer than others

Now, we all know that the days are all the same length, really, give or take a few nanoseconds. So perhaps that should be some days really seem longer than others. Sometimes people ask us what goes on behind the scenes – what is it that they never see about what we do? And specifically, what does one of my days look like?

Let me tell you about some of this atypical day.

My day actually began yesterday morning. At around 2 AM this morning, as I was wrapping up some work, one of the servers started behaving very erratically. After working on it a bit, I decided to just start moving everything off that server to another. Piece of cake, right? Not this time. I had thought I would simply run a backup and then restore it to a new server we brought online. Again, not this time: the server would not stay up long enough for the backup to complete. Think of it this way: you’re on your computer, writing a paper or doing some other work that requires about an hour or so. But your computer keeps crashing on you about every 15 minutes. It’s annoying, and difficult to get anything done. It’s the same with servers. If for some reason they won’t stay up for extended periods of time, it’s difficult to get some things done to make it easier to recover when you move files to another server.

So, since the wee hours of this morning, I’ve been babysitting this server and moving files off it as quickly as I can given its relative instability.

To add to the fun, just after these issues started, I had an incredibly upset stomach, the likes of which I’d not experienced since treatment. At around 3 AM, I wound up puking up what I’d eaten several hours before, which was unpleasant to say the least.

And to top off the fun, at around the same time as all of this, another server just died completely. It wouldn’t return from a reboot, and in fact, stopped booting at all. After puking and cleaning up, I hauled myself out to the NOC to take a look at the thing. Replaced the cards for the primary SCSI drive, replaced the fan, replaced the cables, and nothing. I did, however, manage to bring it up in a fashion so I could retrieve the last good backup that had run from the night before so it could be restored to another server. That restore took about an hour or so to complete, with all the cleanup items, like reconfiguring certain options to match the original server, following after that.

Finally this morning, I managed to grab about an hour or so nap, then got back up and started working again on the original server problem, continuing to move accounts to other locations.

Then, a bright spot: we get a call that the painter we had lined up (who bailed previously, being too busy) would be available after all. That meant I had to get myself showered up and head to Home Depot for some more paint and miscellaneous items in order to be home before the painter arrived. As soon as I stepped into the shower, the delivery guys showed up with the new mattresses. This is actually a good thing. Since I can now once again sleep lying down instead of at a 45 degree angle (because choking was a very real hazard during treatment and well into recovery), this means that for the first time in a long time, I’ll be able to sleep in a bed. As soon as I attach my head and footboards and put the sheets on it, that is.

Off to Home Depot, where one guy is working paint. I join the crowd of about 15 waiting to give mixing instructions. There are other things I need, but naturally, you can’t leave the queue until you place your order. I wait, the clock ticking in my head, since the painter is supposed to arrive wihtin the hour. Paint in hand, a few things grabbed that are needed in a dire way, such as screen for the sliding doors to the patio, and I’m rushing back to the house.

And here we are, running up to about 32 hours in this particular day. The painter has arrived, and is working on getting the last of things finished tonight. I’ve eaten once since 10 AM, and I’m debating what to do about some sustenance here. Can’t leave the house, although the painter looks like he’s making great progress, and who knows, maybe I’ll be able to make it out of here to do just that.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life