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September 11, 1999
a year ago
two years ago

Fezzik's Party

So. Last night, because we really had to get stuff for the party, I did a bit of a number on myself that I don't really have much pride in; but it really did get the job done, even if I was unhappy. So I was kinda woozy and unhappy when we got out of work, and I wasn't as loud about it as I probably should have been. I really should probably have gotten into the back of the Land Rover and slept on the truck bed instead of trying to prop myself up in the passenger seat and be all stoic.

We got to Costco and meandered about getting things, and I did okay for most of the way through, until we were standing in the paper cups and plates aisle and I got really dizzy and had to sit down. John found me a place to sit, and I sat for a bit and just got my breath back and my head back, eventually. John picked the one check-out line that had a guy with an entire pallet of cigarettes, and, to be fair, I guess John only saw that the conveyor belt was empty, or something; but he piled all our stuff there and was surprised when he had to wait a good twenty minutes before he got checked and all the lines to either side of him were emptying. I just shook my head and sat down on the concrete to wait it all out.

The small mistake just made me angry because the extra wait and just having to stand still made me feel really awful. I now know, exactly, why some older people or people who are in constant pain get really angry and cranky and nasty. I was feeling really awful, so I was really awful. Bad stuff, all around. John escaped into an Albertson's on the way back and with some time to myself to just figure out where I was and how I was and the simple fact that while *I* saw John as the instigator of my agony, it really wasn't so much his fault as the simple fact that I really was in pain and really was feeling awful physically.

Eating helped tremendously. I had marinated one split, skinless chicken breast in nonfat buttermilk with a dash of Old Bay seasoning. I coated 'em in flour and more Old Bay along with a handful of corn flake crumbs and then pan fried 'em. John first unloaded the truck of about 30 people's worth of party food and then helped me by reheating rice from a day or two ago and nuking some veggie or another. We sat down and ate within a few minutes of getting home, and that really helped. As did just lying on the couch while John did green chile stew and peach salsa. Eventually, with the energy from eating and the rest I got up and did the magic things needed to make for real, hand-cranked ice cream.

One great good thing that John found in the Albertson's was a vanilla bean. A real vanilla bean, one that was a good four inches long. I never really understood how it was that the one edible fruit from all of the orchid clan, which is grown only in the tropics in certain, specific and very esoteric conditions, is picked and then aged and dried to a slender, twisted bean with an aroma that is so utterly rich and thick with flavor would be, in the vernacular, equated with bland and every day things. I don't get it.

It was really cool to heat up the half and half and add the sugar and a pinch of salt and then take the vanilla bean, cut it up into one inch pieces, then split it in half and scrape out all the dark, aromantic flesh and put it all into the liquid. The whole thing heated up to 160 F. The heat changes the dynamics of the sugar and liquid in the diary products so that the sugar bonds with more of the water elements and it enables a superfine crystal structure in the ice cream that isn't possible unless the whole thing is heated. So I heated it all, and the heat really helps get the vanilla flavor out as well. When it was done, the cream was sweet and heady with the orchid tones of vanilla.

John stayed up writing email for work and stuff, so I asked him to put it in the fridge just before going to bed. Give it time to cool to room temp slowly and not shock the fridge too much.

I fell into bed around 9:30 p.m., and didn't wake up again until 11:30 the next morning. Not really true, as I woke up a couple of times, like when John got up and when Fezzik was barking a lot at nothing. But when I finally got up I really felt like I needed the sleep I got. That was very good.

So, in my continued search for a Good Biscuit, I thought I'd try a very old standby. Instead of doing everything from scratch or from self-rising flour, I decided I'd go even that one step further and do it with Bisquick, just to get some calibration on how things Ought To Be. I had a box of the stuff in the cupboard and it's as easy as putting some in a bowl and pouring in milk to the right consistency, cutting out the rounds and sticking them into the oven. Two important things I learned while doing this. The first was that the only attitude adjustment Bisquick made was that the oven was twenty five degrees hotter. They didn't say to throw in extra flour, extra liquid, or the usual things most boxed mixes do to adjust for a need for less leavening. Just the temperature rise. The second was that the temp was upped all the way to 475 degrees, which was a good twenty five degrees hotter than I'd done anything at and fifty higher than some of my experiments.

Talk about exacting.

Anyway... the Bisquick biscuits turned out pretty good! So that was good. I had mine with a bit of lemon curd and Fezzik ate the blobby one, and that was good for both of us.

John was running around doing stuff all morning, went to a local farmers market for fresh corn and got all the setups going so that we'd have fresh from the tap root beer and stout. Turned out that, last week, when we dropped by the brewing company, he'd gotten more yeast for a batch of stout which hadn't gone bad; but it seemed like the yeast had just died in the summer heat. So he added more yeast over the weekend, and when we tried it last night, the stout was perfectly fine! That was good! So we had both very dark liquids on tap and had the taps well-labeled so that they weren't mixed up.

The root beer was good, and folks drank a lot of it. The food turned out really good too, in two different ways. We'd mostly stocked up on various sausages, wursts, and hot dog buns so that we had a lot of easy food that was simple and quick to prepare, nothing fancy. We also had the various drinks and folks brought good things to nibble with, and we had plenty of chips and salsa as pre-meal munchies. So it was all pretty easy going. I didn't have to do much of anything so far as food preparation.

We started the ice cream fairly soon after folks arrived, and let it really get going well. Let it sit a while in the ice to cure it, and some folks had to leave before we uncapped it, which was somewhat unfortunate. It was still pretty soft by the time we actually ate some of it, and it was really lovely, smooth and creamy and in the just-frozen state it was nearly as much melted as frozen. Cool and good.

Only 30 folks showed up for this party of Fezzik's, but Kona, Molly, and Precious also showed up, three dogs with three different families, and Precious is another Newfoundland! It was really funny to watch Fezzik and Precious together because they had much the same build, so a lot of folks started mixing the two dogs up. Big, black and friendly. Precious had white mottled feet and was a bit more slobbery and six years younger, which showed when she ran, but she already had enough problems with her back legs that she hops with her back legs more than striding. But she seemed very happy, content and willing to play and wrestle and run around with Fezzik, which was really neat. The two of them really got along well and both of them mooched off everyone and anyone that had food.

They all got doggie treats and got to run around all they liked and get petted. That was cool to watch.

Turns out 40 some odd had RSVP'ed and, in our usual tradition, John prepared for 60, since in the old place that's what normally happened. So, of course, we have a ton of leftover food. And when folks wandered off as the sun set, we had to take care of a lot of it. The ice cream went into small tubs into the freezer, first thing. There was a lot of fresh corn that had to be dealt with as well, but just before I plunged into the blanching and cutting and freezing bits, John suggested that we bring some of the ice cream over to the Goodell's as they're close and Jeremy had done a lot of the cranking. Just before we left, however, Jennifer and her beau showed up and we took them around the house and did a tour of the place before they had to go to their dinner. That was actually a lot of fun, just meandering about and talking through the house and property and the nice fact that the basement has a really, really tall ceiling.

We then went to the Goodell's with a couple of containers of ice cream and had fun just sittin' with them and talking about stuff. It's really nice to have folks around that we can relax with.

So back home and I went thorough all the work of getting all the corn into the freezer. With all that work under my belt, I finally sat down and ate an entire bowl of sweet corn as my reward while watching TV with John. Plain corn, which was pretty easy on my confused stomach as I'd been eating odd stuff all day, and it really helped just settle me and made going to sleep easy and quick.

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