Well, here we sit … someday we’ll all be sitting around a campfire looking back on this time fondly and someone will say “Remember the days of social isolation?” and we’ll all pause, filled with melancholy pondering the good old days as we rock back and forth in our little plastic bubbles with their complicated air filtration systems and food delivery units, remembering how good we had it before everything went to hell in a handbag.
Just kidding! I’m looking forward to this being over and getting back to “normal”. The daily routine is now set and we got one piece of good news today when my daughter’s ballet teacher announced that the scheduled ballet spring break was off and there would be zoom classes all week averting a potential storm of “I’m bored … what can I do …” to compliment the actual storm that seems to have been constant for the past three weeks. 3 weeks of daily rain is an extreme anomaly in a city where in 50 seasons of play the baseball team has had a total of 19 rain outs. But, we’ll take it after a less wet than usual winter. Especially since the beaches and parks are closed along with … well … every damned thing … including baseball.
My wife is upstairs having another marathon day of video conferences trying to manage her office with everyone at home. Her coworkers seem to have a preternatural obsession with the fact that I painted the walls in the office (which is usually my work space) lime green but none of them has noticed the nautical chart of Antigua on the wall and my wife’s job is very ocean focused.
I am sitting here in the basement killing time between serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner by exploring some of the nooks and crannies of the internet that I have not explored recently and I have made some actual discoveries. For instance, We signed up for Amazon Prime for the free delivery. I learned by accident that this also gave is access to some free videos and music (though I am not fond of the music interface so I’ll stick with iTunes, thank you). And I was happy that when Amazon bought Whole Foods, they not only lowered the prices across the board, but there were special Prime deals that saved us even more money. Yesterday I discovered that there is a whole pile of books available for free including Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste a cookbook from Dominique Crenn. If you enjoy food, and are not familiar with Ms. Crenn, you should be. She is a fascinating person: the first female chef in the US to earn three Michelin stars. Her episode in the season two of the series “Chef’s Table” is my second favorite of the entire series only after Alex Atala (not available on Amazon, the link is for Netflix).
Through the magic of the algorithms, when I loaded Metamorphosis of Taste into the Kindle app on my iPad, another book popped up as a suggestion: Fire, Smoke, Green by Martin Nordin. This one was not free, and wasn’t actually even released yet, but it looks to be right up my alley. While I am not a fan of vegetarian meals, I live with someone who is. Thus, where I would be perfectly happy with a plate that contained nothing but a perfectly medium rare (maybe slightly rare), lightly salted rib eye cooked over a hardwood charcoal fire, that does not satisfy the requirements of the lady of the house. Or those pesky nutritional experts. My most inventive vegetable thing to date has been putting curly kale on a pizza between a base of tomato sauce and a covering of buratta. Unlikely they are going to invent a Nobel Culinary prize to reward that brainstorm. I do like playing with fire though and this book looks to pander to that proclivity as the whole thing is about using fire to cook vegetables. I am hoping to find cool ways of preparing vegetables by throwing them in the smoker box of the offset smoker while smoking some kind of meat. Or just smoking them. I have a sneaking suspicion that Brussels sprouts would do well in either of these applications, but it hadn’t occurred to me until I saw the title of this book. At the time I am writing this (April 14) the English version is scheduled to be released in two days, with free shipping (because I’m not going anywhere so why rush) that means I should have it in my hands around the 21st and the fun will begin.
In brewing related news, the American Pale Ale I brewed based on my cousin Bob’s recipe for Tupper’s Hop Pocket Ale (damn you for buying Dominion Brewing and killing that beer, Anheuser-Busch!) should be ready to drink on Thursday and then the two batches of Saison I brewed (one using clarity-ferm to make it “gluten free”, the other normal) will be ready on Saturday so I will have a total of 15 gallons of beer hitting the “ready to drink” stage in the next 4 days. Then I have a batch of imperial saison to be bottled on the 21st, and a batch of Belgian Tripel brewed with sage that I’ll be bottling on the 23rd. Those will be ready to drink in early May (it takes about 2 weeks for the carbonation process to complete). I’ll transfer the two batches of Belgian Dubbel (again, one with clarity-ferm, one without) from primary fermenters into secondary fermenters that the Imperial Saison and the triple were in, and then it will be time to brew again. I am planning on a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, a slightly modified version of my standard saison recipe, and a blueberry lambic.
I brewed a blueberry lambic back when I first started getting “serious” about brewing. I tried it after it had been in the bottle for 2 weeks, it was disgusting. I thought “Well, there’s $40 in materials and two days of my life down the toilet.” and was resigned to using it for cooking, or some kind of detergent because it tasted that bad. But I left it sitting there for a year and decided that it was time to start cooking with it in order to free up bottles. When I tasted it again, I found it had actually turned into something quite pleasant: lighter than normal beer (probably because I used a wit beer malt bill with a lambic yeast strain), with the slight tang one expects from a lambic, the true to style champagne carbonation, and the blueberries came popped in with their slightly fruity sweet note just at the end. It was then it occurred to me to actually read up on lambics and I realized they are supposed to sit in the bottle for at least 18 months. One of the more prominent “Read the fucking instructions, Peter.” moments in my life. That was 6 months ago and I just recently cracked open the last two 750ml bottles I had. It was even more exceptional, possibly the best beer I have made to date really. I have two magnums of left that I am saving to celebrate the end of social isolation and the return to normal life.
And just like that, I’ve brought this whole mess full circle and we are back to Pandemic living.