Big Kitchen Fail: around the farmhouse 8/31/10

corn stack 2.jpgThe corn is good this year!  The corn is very very good and plentiful and not too expensive but I still choke at the thought of seven ears wasted!  However, the cobs, after giving up much of their flavor to a stock, made the chickens very happy.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been working on a corn chowder recipe.  One version had too much heat and too much cilantro in it but was otherwise PERFECT.  (I know this because right before adding one too many jalapenos and the entire bunch of cilantro I tasted it and it was so incredible I almost stopped right there.)

roux 2.jpgMy basic roux always has a little dash of cayenne in it- but for this project, the corn chowder, it made it too hot! 

So yesterday was my remake day and I was really excited.  Not just to make a new better batch which I suspected would then be ready to share with you, but because I was simultaneously experimenting with an olive oil roux in hopes of making a superb vegan version for my vegan friends.  I had already made some corn stock (more about that when I write the recipe) and the roux worked beautifully, the sauteed vegetables were added and then, then was the moment of truth: adding the corn.

This is the moment where everything went wrong.

I had cut all my corn off the husks and had it ready in a bowl.  7 ears’ worth of it.  The only problem is that I’d had it prepped and ready to go for a day and a half.  All that time it was sitting on the counter.  I can’t tell you now why I didn’t put it into the fridge.  I have no explanation for my actions at all.  I smelled the corn (I have an excellent sense of smell) and it was sort of sour.  Not deeply sour.  But sour.  It wasn’t moldy, it hadn’t been hot (thank god!) and I had the most misguided thought in my entire cooking career: maybe it would be fine to use in the soup.  The cooking would kill anything dangerous and maybe the slight sourness would add a good flavor, the way soured cream does…people do intentionally rot fish in holes and call it a delicacy.  What’s a little fermented corn?

What’s a little fermented corn?!

Pretty unappetizing, as it turns out.  I followed through anyway.  Cooked it for about half an hour and in that time all the soured corn kernels turned brown in the soup and it didn’t smell delicious.  I gave up.  It makes me so angry when I achieve such incredible waste in my own kitchen.  What’s worse is that I didn’t even compost it which would have saved it from being complete waste.  I have a very active compost going on in my yard and I don’t throw much food in the garbage or down the garbage disposal. 

But sometimes I get overwhelmed by giant pots of soup that fail and I do weird things like panic about what to do with it and the thought of huge wet pots of soup getting slimy on the compost pile gives me palpitations.  So I tossed it in the rarely used garbage disposal. 

Today I’m feeling properly subdued about so much waste: 7 ears of corn, 4 home grown potatoes, two stalks of celery, some flour, a quart of home made stock, an onion, two jalapenos, and a can of evaporated milk (I was proceeding with the non-vegan version).

knock knock 2.jpgKnock knock?  Anyone home?  Can I come in?  Surely there’s a grub or two you need cleaned up?

When these kind of things happen you just have to let it go.  Now that I’ve shared my calamity with you and come clean about not composting, I am letting it go.

In other farmhouse news: the hens are LOVING their free-ranging in the early evenings.  The big girls have become much mellower and follow us around in the garden and up to the porch where they hope to be included in all family activities such as family movie night.  Sadly, they must be put to bed before the movies start. 

The adolescents have no problem finding their way back to the coop when the sun sinks but our big girls gather up on the porch railing instead and we have to put them away each night by carrying them to the coop.  They are already in their middle age and this is the first time in their lives they’ve been allowed to roam around outside their run a couple of hours a day so they don’t really know what to do.

They’ve been eating all the blackberries that I haven’t wanted from the garden (the too sour ones and the overripe ones).  It’s made for colorful messes on the patio.  While I am not loving all the messes, the benefit to my hens is obvious and I can tell that they are feeling much more fulfilled and happy.  Yes, you really can tell.  Birds may not be as smart as pigs but they are sentient beings and they do have some thoughts and emotions.  

Dot arrives inside 2.jpgHey Dot, whatcha peckin’ at?  Thanks for dropping in the kitchen for a chat!

Dot even made it inside the kitchen once!  She didn’t care for the slick texture of the floor but was much interested in joining me in the cooking… lest you think I am a completely dirty scary person who lets her farm animals make a manger of the farmhouse… I audiosed the bossy gorgeous Dot almost at once.

Though I secretly really do wish my chickens could follow me everywhere. 

For all you germaphobes out there, I promise you this floor has since been mopped well.

saffron from Sharon 2.jpg

My long time close friend Mrs. E brought me this amazing gift when she visited me a couple of weeks ago: Spanish saffron!  Look how many packets!  It’s like gold!  I’ve never experimented with saffron because it’s always been just a little too precious for me.  This gift is so treasured- thank you Mrs. E!  I can’t wait to play with it!

Enjoying my hens running around has deepened my enjoyment of my old farmhouse and garden both of which have experienced serious neglect as we’ve  been struggling so hard to hold everything together.  As many of you know, we are going through a process with our bank that may take many months in order to try not to lose our house.  Not knowing if I’ll get to stay here is stressful and could easily overwhelm me and prevent me from enjoying it while I am still in it.

The truth is, there is a curious little circle going on where the more I emotionally let go of my farmhouse and accept that at any time in the next year we may end up having to rent an apartment and give up our birds and our garden and the peach trees which have just begun giving us fruit, the more
I find myself enjoying it in the moment, the more I enjoy it in the moment the more I realize I don’t want to let it go.

I’m amazed at how I’ve managed not to let that drag me into a horrible pit of anxiousness.  I just keep coming back around to letting it go and deciding to enjoy it while I have it.  As long as I keep coming back to that I can’t lose because even if I have to walk away in a few months, I’ll know that I didn’t waste all my time worrying about it and dreading it.

In an effort not to live in the past or the future I’m going to finally make winter curtains for this house and share the instructions for doing the same in your own if you need to make some for yourself.  In the past I wouldn’t have done it knowing that I might not even be in this house by winter time.  But what if I am?  This will be our third winter here in the farmhouse and if we don’t have to move it will be COLD because we don’t turn the heat up past 58 and may go a little lower this year.  Keeping an old house warm is a challenge and one of the very best ways to keep heat in is to have lined winter curtains on all of your windows. 

I’m also planning to do a tutorial on making coasters.  They don’t seem important until you can’t find any around the house and the few pieces of good furniture you have are getting damaged by drink rings.  I haven’t done sewing tutorials in a long time and that’s one that almost anyone can do.

So, though there have been some epic failures around here, there is a lot of good going on and I’m really taking the time to enjoy those good things.  Every day we go outside for a little while to walk around with the birds and feed them blackberries and kitchen scraps and talk to them, which they like.  I’ve been cooking really good food and have been enjoying the process of recipe development which sometimes ends in a mess but nearly always evolves into something really delicious worth sharing with you.

I hope all of you are taking the time to enjoy what’s good in your life right now too and with so many of my friends in such tough circumstances right now I just want to say that all of you are in my thoughts and when you navigate your own tough moments with grace I keep that with me as inspiration.

One thought on “Big Kitchen Fail: around the farmhouse 8/31/10

  1. Bonnie Story

    Good for you, for staying in the moment and keeping your heart open despite the wolves at the door. Damn things are so tough out there. I know so many people that have lost their homes, or are about to, or who are leaping through hoops of fire to keep them. I commend your refusal to dissolve into the trauma of it, and standing firm in the moment and enjoying what you have right now. As they say, when one door closes another one opens, I truly believe that. Who knows what is around the corner? It’s not for us to say… The best vaccination against failure is to have a grateful attitude, and an open heart, and that’s what you are doing, So bravo!! I really enjoy the chicken vignettes with the impromptu visits and such. Chickens are adorable!!!!

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