Sunday, August 30, 2009

oak nuts

Did I ever tell you about the time I went foraging for oak nuts?


Well, this story gets a bit graphic, so cover your earballs, or pray, or whatever you need to. Maybe stop reading now. Alright?

Here goes:

There I was, on a familiar trail in a familiar east bay park, picking many types of sometimes edible berries. Aware of the rampant poison oak all about, I'm being very cautious about where I step and how I stretch my hands into the plants I'm inspecting immediately next to the trail. While reaching into a plant with small bell shaped, white berries, I notice a few somewhat similar shaped ones and inexplicably disengage my brain. I reach for these, and pluck two from the eight or ten in the cluster. My senses make a brief return back and I notice that these berries aren't soft at all, but have little papery husks over small hard seeds. As my brian returns to normal, I find myself rubbing the coverings off, backing away from the plant and smelling the little nuts in my left hand.

These aren't from THAT plant....

What kind of seeds are.......

Hey, that plant has a branch growing up through that other one....

Ooohhhhh, F@%* ME!!!!

I throw the seeds down, think about what I have touched and immediately head back home, touching nothing with my contaminated hand. I've had training concerning contaminated environmental work sites and how to work in them safely. Having done this professionally in the past, I knew that my number one mistake was not wearing any form of protection on my hands. A barrier between yourself and the contamination is key. Remember this grasshopper.

So, I get home, rush into the bathroom and start washing my hand with some real expensive solvent we have for just such occasions. I disrobe, and then take a nice thorough shower making sure to wash everything with copious amounts of lather and do it twice. Thinking that I have been diligent with my decontamination, I congratulate myself for having summoned formerly critical information when it was needed most. This was a sunday morning.

On monday all is well and I'm feeling even better about how I reacted to my poison oak encounter.

By tuesday morning: Is that a zit on my nose? WTF? By evening time: Oh shit, there are a few clear looking blisters...

Wednesday morning: Definite small blisters on the bottom between my nostrils, and creeping up the edge of the right one. Some swelling feeling on my top lip in the center. Seems to be spreading slowly. Sounds like sweating to death in hot summer weather is the last thing I should do today. I call my BIL and cancel the kayaking we had planned for the day. I get off the phone and want to cry, but then my nose will run and complicate things. On top of this, I'm feeling a bit stuffy. I call my doctor. If it gets any worse I can see someone tomorrow, if not, I wait until friday.

Thursday morning: Not significantly worse; doesn't seem to be spreading or fluffing up any more. Weeping from the rash is constant and profuse. Every time I move my nose a bit, which happens every time I talk, some dry crust splits and more leaking occurs. With two children running about, it is impossible to not talk. Constantly. In a matter of an hour or so, a stalactite of sorts forms. With regularity, chunks come off, but more weeping oozes out and dries and a new drip structure forms. (In this picture, about ten minutes earlier, I had accidently scraped everything off of my nose after blowing it and was experiencing the "building phase.") I think to myself: This sucks and quite bad.

Friday morning, bright and early, but certainly not feeling chipper, I see my doc. He takes one look at my nose and then writes a script for some heavy medication. Time for hormones and fast. I call a few pharmacies to find the shortest waiting time and then drag the kids on a bike ride. With the meds back home, I eat some lunch, take the first dose and read the literature. Phwew! No adverse interactions with alcohol, so I'll have to crack open a homebrew later.....

By saturday morning, my nose is looking better. The weeping has stopped and a touch of the redness is subsiding. I still don't want to have a nose on my face yet, but at least I've stopped fantasizing about plucking it off and using a prosthetic. The end of this experience is dimly on the horizon.

Sunday morning, things are waaaay better on my face and it doesn't itch anymore. The medication makes me feel a little funny, but by the third day the dosage is tapered enough that I'm feeling more or less normal. Good. Because after dinner, tonight, we're busily prepping lunch for the elder monkey's first day of kindergarten. Tomorrow!

My nose is still a touch red, but at least I can blow it and wipe it now without disturbing any drip structures. Which is good, because no matter how excited I am for my big girl and her big day, and my reduction in work load for a few hours each day, I'm bound to shed a few tears tomorrow. You know, even though I'm a man, being the mommy blogger type that I am.

Happy first day of school big girl! I am extremely proud of you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

new word: engmuffpusa

Words are not enough. The ineffable rules. As a result, sometimes, you just gotta make shit up in order to make it "fit." With this in mind, I introduce a new food word: engmuffpusa.

It all started here. I get to the end of cutting out the muffins and contemplate the fate of the scraps or "negative." Usually, I gather this into a ball, give it a gentle squeeze and roll it out again, then cut a few more muffins. The second round of scrap has too much gluten development to properly be called an english muffin, so what to do? Pull a Biggles. Say "just add pork."

With some yummy smoked bits around the house, I diced up the end hunk. I fished around in the cheesey drawer for something smallish and came up with some swissy thing. Pressing these it into the dough ball, I folded it in on itself a few times and then gave it a cornmeal dusting. Griddling it up same as the others, it turns into one divine hunk of muffin love.

My two year old grabs one from the counter while still hot and says "dat engmuff (then pausing to correct himself) meat cupcake is HOT!" I bust up laughing then try to give him credit for calling it two things at once.
"It's kinda like an english muffin and a pupusa sweetie."
"ENG-MUFF-PUSA?" His little nose gets all in a crinkle. Then he breaks his face with a smile, and saunters off, stuffing the engmuffpusa into his face and repeating the word over and over.

Next time scraps were around, my mind drifted to the topic of universal dark matter. For one thing, without it, orbits would not be the same. Kitchen orbits. It got me thinking how the "negative" leftover from muffin cutting is a form of dark matter. Unwitnessed (for the most part), but certainly part of the overall accounting and trajectory of things. More importantly though, it is wasted food if not used. Luckily, sometimes, serendipitous use yields amazing results. Besides, adding chocolate chips to just about anything is superb, no? Well, that and the fact that they are another form of dark matter.

Breaking it open, it reminded me of having the best mom in the world. When my sis and I were kids, occasionally, ma would bust out with chocolate chip studded pancakes. Pure decadence to some; for others, addressing the ravenous sweet-tooth genes that were handed down. Fond, fond memories. I just know these thoughts were loitering around the synapses when this experiment fell out of my head.

Whether using up kitchen dark matter, or acting as receptacle for meat and cheese trimmings. Maybe serendipity or deep seated culinary memory, savory or sweet, the engmuffpusa is the bomb. Try one. Or six.

Now repeat after me: