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November 26, 1998
a year ago


Wednesday was a mostly nothing day, though I did get through a solid phase of YK2 testing on our products, which passed with flying colors. Plenty of testing to do for that. Dan had told everyone to go home early the day before, but I had a few things I wanted to do at work, so we stayed until well after four.

We also got the Rangy's fuel pump back from the diesal shop, as they found water damage to the pump, somehow there had been water in the fuel tank. Which isn't that surprising given how much water there is in the air here. Thing is that we had to drive the Happy Buddha in order to get around anywhere and on Wednesday the seat belt on the passanger side finally failed for good. I usually had to do some pushing to get it to catch, but finally it failed for good.

So Wednesday night, John tried to put the fuel pump back into the Rangy and discovered that they'd put a bracket on backwards. Oops. They were closed and weren't opening again until Monday, so he was frustrated, entire, by his desire to fix the Rangy to the point where we could at least drive it again. It also needs attention to fix the overdrive and he's by-passed it for the moment. The Stoat needed to be completely taken apart to check on the head gasket, and the Green Monster needed its master cyllander looked to, but neither could be done while the Rangy and Moby Dick still took up all the garage space.

Moby Dick is what I call our white pickup that John's taken down to the chassis. There's an old, dust blue '54 that sits on the driveway that we got a few years back that I'm starting to call Dusty Blue, but it needs a full rennovation and there was the Wreck, which we bought a while back which couldn't run and is now in parts all over the place, it's what provided the spare rear axil for the Green Monster when John took it to the British Car show. So, all together seven legally owned cars and none of them working completely.

As he worked on all those things I started the Russian sourdough starter from International Sourdough and mixed some flour and water into the older Yukon batch which was deeply alcoholic in scent. It was funny to blow the top on the jar and have the stuff inside bubble up to the lid, I really shouldn't seal these so tight. It proved, however, that the stuff was alive. Really alive.

So I added a bit of flour and water to the other jars as well and considered tossing the commercial mix out as I liked the results from the others much better. The old Yukon I put in a bowl, added a full cup of water and flour to it and put that in the incubator along with the jar of the newly started Russian. Instead of following the instructions that came with the the stuff, I actually mixed the envelop of stuff with 90 degree water first, let it sit for fifteen minutes and then added the flour to make it into a pancake batter consistency.

After getting frustrated by the fuel pump, we took Fezzik on a walk in the pouring rain, and got back good and damp and John then played Bandicoot until pretty late at night, and I watched. It seemed a good way to turn off the brain for a while. By the time we stopped, though, I realized that I was going to seriously short change myself on sleep, as we had to make four pies in the morning before the 2pm Thanksgiving dinner, and with all the cooling time and all involved we'd need four hours before leaving for the dinner, so we'd have to get up around 8 to get breakfast and everything before working on the pies.

Before going to bed, though, I checked up on the sourdoughs and the Yukon was already growing, so I put back the refridgerator amount, added a cup of whole wheat flour and water to the rest and put it all back into the incubator. I like my pancakes with some whole wheat as it tastes different.

So we did.

First thing I did, though, was mix up the pancake batter with the Yukon sourdough, as the batter needed at least an hour to rise before the pancakes could be baked. Yes, these things take a bit more patience than instant mixes.

It's been years since I've made a volume of pies, used to do it at Caltech, a guy at Lloyd house named Jeff was the one that taught me how to make real pie crust, flaky, crisp, lovely. I still remember him bemusedly complimenting me on my dough control ability while I was working it *way* too much in order to control it and keep it in perfect circles. He was very nice, rather than telling me that I was ruining the crust by creating gluten with my mashing. I've learned, since, but I still remember that really fondly.

And now, instead of working the shortening in by hand, I had a small food processor, so the combination of flour and shortening was a few pulses instead of a good ten minutes of mashing. A bit of ice water, and a bit of mixing and I had many lumps of very soft dough that could be rolled out quickly. So quickly, I did shells faster than it took John to mix the canned pumpkin into pie filling.

So the pumpkin pies went in first, then we made the apple pies and the apple slicing and peeling tool did a great job on a bag full of Granny Smith apples. John managed to get the apple pie filling done before my crusts were done, this time with half butter and half shortening and a bit of sugar to boot. Fezzik got to enjoy all the cores and peels from the apples and was pleased by how much there was. Cinnamon, cloves, flour, lemon juice, and sugar with dots of butter and the whole thing went into the oven only after the pumkin pies came out with a completely cooked custard.

We got a little rest between pies, where I went and got the risen batter and made pancakes. Yum. They did really well, and I made 'em thin, as I remembered how I couldn't eat the thick Yukon pancakes before. These were sour, really sour, and had that distinct texture that only sourdough pancakes seem to have. It was wonderful with plenty of syrup and John was really, really happy with it.

The apple pies went well and there was enough apples and enough leftover pie crust to make an apple tart with apricot jam. It baked on timer while we went to dinner.

Dinner was great. The Rostyki share Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner duty with another family, and the two families trade off each year, so there were 17 people at dinner, including two neighbors of John's parents, who were Japanese and brought traditional chirashi sushi for their part in the dinner. It was a special, for celebration preparation of the dish and it was gorgeous and tasty as an accompaniment to the rest of the meal, which was pure Americana. Roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, the olive tray, the gravy, and even the candy cups at each place setting with a turkey sticker glued to the back.

It was a big, happy, family gathering. Huge and happy and laughing and filled with catching up and stories and thoughts. Del kept asking me when I was going to get my Harley and everyone commented on how my hair was growing out compared to last year.

Nearly overwhelming, in the end. Five hours of gathering, and by the end of it all I was exhausted, so John took me home around seven and I just went directly into a hot bath after the cold of the Happy Buddha (I had to open the front vent to get fresh air as there were enough gas fumes in the truck that I was getting a bit dizzy), and then directly to bed. John took Fezzik out for a walk and before they got back I was asleep.

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