WEDNESDAY night was grocery shopping, mostly at Treasure Island and then at Cermak Produce, because TI didn't have large papayas or (inexplicably) eggs. I spend about six thousand kerbillion dollars on groceries, but it was all worth it, because...
THURSDAY was Thanksgiving. As usual, I got up very early and started both cooking and drinking. As usual, by the time people arrived, I was pretty lit. My guests were delightful, they watched an exciting football game while I tried to follow along while flitting back and forth to the kitchen and fretting over whether or not I was ruining everything, and if I do say so myself, the food was pretty good, although my ability to present and prepare so that everything resembles a meal instead of a potluck still kinda sucks. A rundown, course by course:
Blue Mountain Cocktails (Jamaica): I kinda forgot to make this. On account of I made a punch with an entire bottle of rum in it, and also there was beer and wine, so. No great loss, as everyone was fairly lubricated by night's end.
Bombas de Camarones y Papas (Shrimp and Potato Cakes, Dominican Republic): These turned out great. Really light texture for the size (puffy instead of heavy), improved by my last-minute addition of egg white and fresh herbs, and although I was worried about them falling apart in the fryer, they held together nicely after about a half-hour of pre-cooking refrigeration. These disappeared in about a minute, so I'd say they went over well.
Cream of Crab Soup (Barbados): Another big success, I think. Initially it didn't thicken as much as I'd have liked, but a couple of hours in the crock pot did the trick. The fresh crab was awesome, and the relatively light seasoning was counterpointed by the nice flavor added by the bitters. This also was gone in a heartbeat.
Blaff (Poached Marinated Snapper in Lime-and-Herb Broth, Martinique): I'd consider this the big failure of the night. It wasn't terrible, but the recipe's call for an hour and a half of marinating was excessive, and it turned out to have an overcooked, jerky-like texture. Also, despite the rich marinade (lots of habanero pepper and juniper berries), it flavored kinda bland for some reason -- all I could pick up was the lime juice. Ah well. One disaster is forgivable.
Coconut Bread with Pawpaw and Mango Jam (Antigua): The bread was pretty good -- very flavorful, although with that lumpy texture I don't seem able to avoid in my baking. The jam was great, with the addition of Scotch Bonnet pepper giving it a terrific kick both hot and fruity. Not a total success (I still suck at baking), but not bad at all. (The jam also really worked well on the bombas.)
Baked Papaya with Meat Filling (Jamaica): Although my poor planning skills resulted in this not being done until 9PM, with the result that everyone was too stuffed to eat any, I can report, it was pretty goddamn good. thaitea and I have been wolfing it down ever since. The seasoning was heavy (more Scotch Bonnet, shredded cheese, and lots of garlic), but not overwhelming. I might make this again.
Pork Loin Calypso (Jamaica): This was one of two dishes I previewed the week before, doing a trial run for my awesome girlfriend ninafarina and her daughter. It turned out great then, and this time, I improvised a bit, altering some of the rub ingredients (I used regular sugar and blackstrap molasses instead of brown sugar, amped up the shoyu, and went lighter on the garlic). I'm pleased to say it came out even better. Perfect texture (it's all in getting the right cut of meat, of course) and amazing flavor, this will definitely make its way into my regular rotation. Disappeared in a trice.
Moros y Cristianos (Black Beans & Rice, Cuba): The other dish I previewed before, and again, it came out better -- I think because I used white rice and a bit more broth in the cooking, but I'm not sure. This, I discovered, is absolutely awesome mixed with Pickapeppa sauce, and I'm having a bunch of the leftovers for lunch today, as I have been for the last few days.
Planter's Cake (Layer Cake with Mocha Butter Cream, Jamaica): thaitea made this, and it turned out swell, as you might expect from a dessert with about two pounds of butter in it. I even really enjoyed it, despite my aversion to cake. Mmmm!
Carribean Cocktail (Virgin Islands): I made this as a punch (I even bought a cheap punch bowl, because I am a dork), and, well, hell, you can't go wrong with Mount Gay rum. (Ha ha, I said "gay". And "mount".)
FRIDAY I lazed around the house endlessly, reading and writing and stealing music and watching television. Among the many movies I saw was Marathon, a 2002 film about a woman who rides the NYC subways all day doing crossword puzzles. There: I've just saved you two hours of the most boring cinematic experience in human history, and I say this as a man who highly enjoys the films of Chantal Ackerman. I could only find four reviews of this thing: two agreed with me that it was the celluloid equivalent of watching paint fail to dry, one (by a New York critic) liked it because of all the familiar New York locations, and another loved it because it was by an Iranian director, and there is a certain school of film criticism that says if an Iranian filmmaker wipes his or her ass, the result will be ten thousand times better than anything Hollywood has ever come up with. If you're looking to recreate the experience of riding a train for two hours with nothing to look at but another person doing puzzles, this is the movie for you; otherwise s-t-a-y-a-w-a-y.
SATURDAY I did some cleaning, loafed some more, and I think passed out from massive drug intake or food saturation or something. This was not a productive weekend is what I'm saying. I wrote some more, had to cancel a meeting in Berwyn (rescheduled for today, and hooray for getting to drive all the way the hell out there in a thunderstorm), read some more, watched more bad TV, and gazed longingly at my poor neglected RPG stuff.
SUNDAY my roommate had to work, so I was faced with the prospect of having to loaf around all day by myself. I elected to go outside for a while, running a few errands and seeing what the world looked like after I'd just spent 3 days indoors. I bought a few groceries, went to a garage sale (see below), checked out our neighbors, read some more, and got a phone call from my awesome girlfriend telling me she was back home safe and sound. Then sleep, and today, and stupid work.
- My dad called to not talk about my girlfriend, or visiting me in Chicago, or treating our relationship like anything more than a requirement. He's having his knee replaced, and I wished him good luck, because I keep trying to make things right between us in the face of apparent utter indifference. My mom also called; she's going away for a month to Houston and wanted to get all her nagging out of the way.
- I finally read the first Harry Potter book, my only exposure thus far to this deranged popcult phenom. (Someone was having a yard sale -- in late November, for some reason -- and was selling a box set of the first five for five bucks, and I figured, fuck it.) I have to say, it's not really great -- the prose style, while not bad, is also not great, and while it's not quite a children's book, it's not really for adults either. But, that said, it's compulsively readable, with absolutely hypnotic proairetic sequences (as Marshall Blonsky liked to describe them when he was feeling guilty about liking Beverly Hills 90210), some pretty interesting characters (though, also, some pretty lame, one-dimensional ones, but I guess that's sadly what we have been trained to expect from genre fiction), and a nifty, sprawling mythology. I'll probably get around to the rest of them one of these days, since they're quick reads.
- While roaming around our neighborhood, I noticed, parked in the garage of our neighbor's building, the Kerrygold VW! I dunno if they were a relative just visiting, or if an employee of Kerrygold lives there, but I sincerely hope it's the latter, because they make THE best cheese and THE best butter on the planet, and I'll mow their fuckin' lawns if it gets me some free Dubliner.
And how was your holiday?