Saturday, October 29, 2011

So much a gwanning

I meant to post yesterday, but we were so busy with our collective ditch day that I didn't get a chance. The Big Yam had a decreased appetite on Thursday that J noticed during the day and he barely at any dinner at night was pretty sad and tired so I brought him back to our doctor, who said that one ear was definitely in ear infection mode and put him on some penicillin. He seems to be doing better already but Thursday night was a write-off. The Boobla woke up in the middle of the night inconsolable so I brought him into bed with us and he was so snuffly the Dotytron couldn't sleep and he moved down to sleep on the couch so we all got a rotten night's sleep. The Dotytron called in sick because we were having B & G and S & P over for dinner last night, and if he hadn't, with all the running around (I had a massage in the morning) carting the Big Yam to his appointment and back I would have had to cancel dinner.
So we all ditched. The Big Yam ditched daycare, the Dotytron ditched school and I kinda ditched but not really since yesterday was my day off. It was nice. I loooove ditch days. I also loooove 4 day work weeks.
Even in my bleary-eyed, sleep deprived frustration at being a human cow suckled on by a mouth breathing pint-sized zombie, the Big Yam was pretty hilarious. He got all milk drunk and started doing this drunken flop around the bed - pitching himself forward and backward, babbling silly stuff, laughing to himself, and playing with our hair like a drunk girl at a party. It was pretty funny.
On Thursday night I had my friend K over for dinner. I had made this Greek Mac'n'Cheese on Sunday (part of a whirling dervish Sunday where I cranked out 3 meals in like, 2 hours and was EXHAUSTED afterwards). The mac'n'cheese was a HUGE HUGE HUGE winner, so I've posted the recipe at the end. I doubled the recipe, which made enough for 3 square foil pans of mac'n'cheese. One for us to eat on Thursday and two frozen - one for us at a later date and one for my neighbour when she has her baby:

After dinner K and I went to see a reading put on by the Walrus as part of the International Festival of Authors. Going to IFOA makes you feel like part of the Toronto intelligentsia (which I like). We saw Elizabeth Hay read from Alone in the Classroom and Tom Perrotta read from his latest, The Leftovers, which I just finished reading about 10 minutes ago. I hadn't really been interested in Elizabeth Hay - her Giller Prize-winning novel, Late Nights on Air I had (unjustifiably) written off as "mom-lit" (in this category I put books like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) - I was in it to see Perrotta. As it turns out, Hay won me over. She is a lovely, lovely reader. Her voice is smooth, subtle, soothing with a faint husk to it and the way she paces the phrases is so bewitching to listen to. I felt transported into the world of her new book and am intrigued by the salacious intimations of some bedrock-shaking scandal hinted at in the passages she read. Perrotta, by contrast, isn't as great of a reader. He also picked a weird chapter, in the middle of the novel, which required too much explanation - if I were him, I would have chosen the beginning chapter, which lays out the complicated world of the book a bit better. His voice and elocution aren't as strong as Hay's (K later told me that Hay has a radio background, which makes sense). But it was still nice to hear them both. If I had gotten my act together I would have gotten a book signed, but as it was, it was late on a Thursday and I didn't have the mustard for it.

I loved this book. The book follows the Garvey family - a small town father, mother, daughter, and son, as they each try to make sense of their lives and find meaning in the wake of what has become known as the Sudden Departure - an event 3 years before the events of the novel, where millions of people around the world suddenly disappeared, as if the Rapture had occurred. However, part of what makes characters in the book unhinged is the randomness of the Sudden Departure - the indiscriminate religious affiliations and morals of those who dissipated into thin air. They weren't all Christians, which makes it even harder for those left behind (religious and non) to accept. Stephen King, in his review of the book in the New York Times Sunday Book Review said it best: "Perrotta has delivered a troubling disquisition on how ordinary people react to extraordinary and inexplicable events, the power of family to hurt and to heal, and the unobtrusive ease with which faith can slide into fanaticism." The aftermath of the Sudden Departure finds each member of the Garvey family struggling to cope in different ways: father Kevin, now the town Mayor, gamely tries to put the uncertainty and misery behind him, longing for a return to the halcyon normalcy pre-disappearance; wife Laurie finds comfort in a cult/movement known as the Guilty Remnant - people who dress in white, take a vow of silence, and chain smoke, appearing at events and standing as visible reminders that the world cannot, and must not, slide back into its ignorant, evil ways; son Tom quits university and joins another cult headed by a charismatic figure known as "Holy Wayne" - a man whose reputation is built on his ability to absorb other's pain; and daughter Jill flounders in the wake of the abandonment (by choice) of her family - drifting without an anchor in a sea of high school bad influences.

The book is about family, it's about faith, it's about how people deal with the unexplainable - both on a large scale, and also, on a small scale. Having recently dealt with the loss of a loved one, I found Perrotta's text really spoke to the uncertainty and rootlessness one can feel when one loses someone. The mass disappearance of the Sudden Departure is but an exaggeration for the questions and purpose-defining self-examination that occur after you lose someone - with death always, no matter what, seeming random and without purpose when it touches your life. I also thought the book really brought to life how someone can turn themselves into a fanatic so slowly and how "normal" the process can be. It's something I've always wondered - on more than one occasion, I've looked across the table at the Dotytron and wondered if one day he would wake up and turn into an evangelical Christian - the way people seem to suddenly do (ahem, Kirk Cameron.) Is it a sudden shift? How does one suddenly turn their back on everything they once held dear? The book describes the process in a way that is real, subtle, and for that, all the more terrifying. It also deals with how hard it is to be young - a teenager, a college student - when these generation-defining moments turn an already turbulent, unstable time into more of a chaotic mess of fraught choices. I would highly recommend this book. I'm feeling lost as to what I'm going to read now...I've got that weird blues you get when you finish an engrossing book, the hangover or coming down off of a good read.

Me at 7am on Friday, about to put 3 racks of ribs on the smoker
Our ditch day breakfast of fried salt pork and Swedish pancakes.

Guys, Laura Ingalls doesn't lie - fried salt pork is the ill na na. It's soooo good! The fat turns puffy and translucent and airy light - it's like a cross between the most ephemeral pork rinds and the sweetest bacon. I highly recommend it (in moderation - ie. once a year).

Fridays dinner: ribs, coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread

Peach cobbler and Tahitian vanilla ice cream

Why don't I make cobbler more often? Good question. Eating the crunchy biscuits on top of the soupy, silken, just-sweet peaches was enough to make me question my own non-cobbler-making-sanity. Cobbler is for people who like biscuits (should be everyone) and peaches (should be everyone). I will post the recipe tomorrow.

Today was my ditch day. I just didn't feel like going to school after a late dinner with good friends (people didn't leave until after midnight!!) and a night spent with the Big Yam in our bed, which had the unfortunate appendix of him falling OUT of our bed and onto the floor. Ouch. I can still see myself flying out of my half-asleep daze when I heard the thump and see his outline, on our floor, on his back, in the dark and I'm still shook about it. Luckily he was fine - nothing a lot of kisses and cuddles couldn't fix...but I still feel awful about it.

We broke from our Saturday morning St. Lawrence tradition to check out the Evergreen Brickworks farmer's market instead - so nice there! It's still being held outdoors for the next week or so - it was cold, but they had steel drum fires going and there seemed to be a dios de los muertos theme happening. We got these delicious breakfast crepes from Clement's Crepes - his crepes are made with red fife flour and the one we like has egg, spinach, chunks of ham, mozzarella, and hollandaise sauce and it's SOOOO good. It's $9, which you would think is really steep for a crepe, but it's actually a very substantial meal. You get full eating it and finishing it is a bit of a chore.

Then we went to the Friends of Greenwood Park (FROG)'s annual Fall Festival - they had apples and coffee and a fire truck and a police car and face painting and a magic was small but nice. I think I might join FROG and become more involved - did I tell you guys I was thinking of running for school board trustee? I figure FROG is a good way of starting...

We brought the Big Yam in his costume and it was the hands-down favorite of the people we saw, including our City Councillor, who took a picture of him and tweeted it.

I am very vocal in my bias against store-bought costumes - and I feel like the photos above show why.

Tonight we have two (!) Halloween parties that we'll be attending at the very UN-party time of like, 7pm, with the aim of being in bed by the very family-friendly time of 9pm.



Greek style mac'n'cheese
adapted from Saveur Magazine, makes 8-12 MASSIVE servings

3-6 slices bread, torn into smallish pieces, or I used the heels (about 3" long - both ends of the bread) from a multigrain loaf
3 T. olive oil
6 T. butter
1 lb (approx) of elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
1/2 c. flour
6 cups of milk
1 lb (approx) kefalotyri cheese, grated
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. grated nutmeg
1 x bunch scallions, sliced
3 x bags of baby spinach (or 2 of the clear salad containers)
1/2 c. chopped dill
2 c. crumbled feta cheese

- buzz the bread in a food processor until they turn into coarse crumbs. Toss with 2 T. of the olive oil, set aside.
- melt the remaining 1 T. of the olive oil with the butter over medium heat in a large pan. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat until it's combined and some of the raw flour flavour is cooked out, about 2 minutes or so. Slowly whisk in the cold milk. Whisk and cook over medium to medium-low heat until the sauce thickens and bubbles. Take off the heat, and whisk in the kefalotyri cheese.
- meanwhile, cook the elbow macaroni until cooked through (past al dente), drain.
- sauté the scallions and the baby spinach over medium heat in a bit of oil until the spinach is all wilted and all the moisture has been absorbed. Toss the spinach mixture with the pasta and the cheese mixture in a big bowl. Stir in the chopped dill.
- season to taste with black pepper. Additional salt won't be necessary.
- pour into a buttered casserole dish (a 9x13 pan would be probably enough, but you may have some overflow) and top with the bread crumbs and the crumbled feta.
- bake in a 400F oven covered with aluminum foil for about 30 minutes, then take the foil off and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the macaroni and cheese is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

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