♫ Chipmunks chestnuts roasting on an open fire…. ♫

‘Tis the season, oh yeah.

Belle has a pear tree in our front yard.  She purchased it, many years ago, using her allowance and babysitting money, and planted it (with MH’s help). Last Saturday she discovered, to her delight, that her father had wrapped the tree’s trunk and branches in green and blue lights.

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Not to be outdone in the parental décor department, and because nothing says Happy Holidays like pranking your offspring, I gave myself a decorating project this week. Monday afternoon, walking home from the school bus stop, Belle was greeted by this festive site:

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Yes, now she has a ____ in a ____ .  I can hear you, humming to yourself.

Belle’s response to my arboreal embellishment was the archetypal teen’s determined-to-stay-cool non-reaction. Part of what made her non-plussment so genuine was that, in a very basic way, she truly didn’t “get it.” MH and I had to explain the Partridge family reference.  Seeing as how we are the Cretins Without Cable TV ® family, if Nick at Nite or whatever has the reruns, we’re out of luck.

“Maybe we can check Netflix?” I wondered aloud during dinner. “Or, we can probably find a song or two for her, probably on YouTube.”

Her looked at me askance as she shuffled the cards and passed the deck to her father.  MH dealt the next round of Thirteen[1] and said, with possibly the greatest forced nonchalance known to humanity, “I think there might be a Partridge Family album up in the attic.”

After 24 years of marriage, you think you know the man….

Earlier this week I received the preliminary copy of the Marketing Plan my publisher, Scarletta Press, has drawn up for The Mighty Quinn, my middle grade novel. Reviewing the plans was both an exciting and gut-churning, where are my blood pressure pills? task for me. Although I can be the life of the lunch table (or lefse party, as attentive readers will discover next week) I am a pathetic excuse for a self-horn-tooter.[2]  The readings and book signing appearances I’ve done for past publications have been ordeals for me.[3] Ah, but who knew that watching a Partridge Family video could be so reassuring? No matter what happens in any public appearance I may have to may be fortunate enough to make, I figure it is highly unlikely I’ll look or act as dorky as the Laurie Partridge character does when she mimes playing the keyboards by robotically flicking her wrists as if she’s trying to dislodge some exceedingly sticky boogers from her fingertips.[4]

*   *   *

“I couldn’t imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah.” —President George W. Bush, at a White House menorah lighting ceremony, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2001.

That was a truly historical stinker of a Presidential quote.  And (how’s this for a segue) some folks think any dish made with Brussels Sprouts is a stinker. Some folks are occasionally right, but mostly, they are wrong. This week, I had some leftover BS – whoa, the judge’s ruling says that acronym has got to go. This week, I had some leftover B sprouts (just lying around, you know, keeping the house safe from bed bugs and Libertarians), and came up with the following for Wednesday night’s dinner.

Let Them Eat (BS) Cakes
– 3 medium shallots, peeled, stemmed & halved
– Brussels sprouts (~ ¾ lb before trimming), stem ends trimmed, outer leaves removed
-3/4 c low fat ricotta cheese
– 2 eggs
-1 t baking powder
-sea salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
– 1 ½ t or more ground cumin (toasted and freshly ground, if possible)
– ½ c chickpea flour, plus more, if needed
-EVOO (extra v olive oil) or canola or grapeseed oil, plus cooking spray or oil-mist-thingy

1. Place sprouts & shallots in food processor, pulse until shredded, or until evidence of Brussels-sproutness is camouflaged.  You should have ~ 4 c of shreds.

2. Use a fork to mix ricotta, eggs, baking powder & spices in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add shredded B-sprouts and shallots to bowl, stir until incorporated.

4. Sprinkle chickpea flour into the bowl and stir.  Add more flour if necessary, 1T at a time, until you have the desired consistency.

5. What is the desired consistency? Reflect on this, for a sec. Perhaps recalling those petty but entertaining family spats over the inadequacy of the Thanksgiving gravy[5] will help.
5a. If you’re going the fritter route (ala pakora[6] style) and like using a bucket o’ oil in which to fry foods because you don’t give a bodybuilder’s ass[7] about your arteries, you’ll want the mixture more moist.
5b. For “cake” style (think crab cake texture) you want the mixture just moist enough to hold together but not so dry that it falls apart.

5c. there is no “c” option. Make up your mind.

6. Line a large platter with a piece of wax or parchment paper.  Using an oiled or sprayed measuring cup, or just your lightly oiled hands and keen sense of proportion, scoop out ¼ c of the mixture, form/press into cakes, and place on the platter. Place platter in frig and chill at least 20m or up to several hours.

7. When ready to fry ’em up, film a large cast iron pan[8] with oil, heat pan over medium for two minutes, then add cakes, flattening them with the back of a spatula.[9] Sauté 5-7 cakes at a time (depending on the size of your pan), for 3-4m each side, until browned. Spray or mist the tops of the cakes w/oil before you flip them (quickly remove the fry pan from stovetop; do the oil-spraying thing over the sink, never near an open flame, unless you support the Firefighters Full Employment Act).  When cakes are done transfer them to a clean platter and keep ’em toasty warm in the oven while you cook the remaining batch.

Served with heaping dollops of nonfat Greek yogurt thinned to a sauce-like consistency with a whole lotta lemon juice and spiced with a pinch or so of cayenne.

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Dateline: the last weekend in October.  MH and I had driven up to Tacoma, to visit son K for the University of Puget Sound’s Homecoming/Parents/Alumni weekend revelry.  On Saturday morning, MH participated in the UPS 5k Fun Run while K partook of his idea of Saturday morning fun (sleeping in). I made my way to one of the campus’ cafes, where I sipped the foo-foo drink of the day (pumpkin spice chai; foo foo is sometimes quite yummers), listened to KUPS  and read the local (Tacoma & Seattle) alternative newspapers.

Skimming through the events section of Seattle’s The Stranger made me feel young again and older still, all at the same time.  We were headed back to Oregon on Sunday the 29th, which meant – damn! I would have to miss the Zombie Speed Dating event scheduled for the 30th:

“All (undead) singles 21-39 years old are welcome”…

Oh, never mind.  Zero for three.

Scanning the newspapers’ lists of upcoming gigs made me want to extend my visit for another weekend.  Surely, I thought, I could talk MH into driving up to Seattle see an amazing triple bill: the bands Bruce Willis’s Smirk and Septic Flesh opening for Bitch Magnet. Or we could trot on over to an adjacent club and catch their house band, Diarrhea Planet.  But wait—there’s more.  Across town the joints are jumping with the mellows sounds of Truckasauras, White Coward, Bigfoot Accelerator, Laff Hole….

In my college Days of Yore[10] I spent way too much time in my dorm’s lounge, allegedly taking study breaks, which oft-times consisted of my fellow dormies and I dreaming up band and/or song titles of our own. Composing clever band names was easier than actually forming a group or writing songs, and much more practical, given our utter lack of musical talent.

I’ve always had an attraction for song titles that are a story unto themselves. The much (and often rightfully) maligned Country-Western field arguably leads all other musical genres when it comes to evocative titles. “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” – with a title like that, you don’t even need to hear the lyrics, do you?  What I would have given[11] to have composed the inspirational choruses of:

– If My Nose Were Full of Nickels I’d Blow it All on You
– Help I’m White and I Can’t Get Down
– Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart
– Who Bit The Wart Off Grandma’s Nose?
– My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, And I Don’t Love Jesus
– The Pint of No Return

*   *   *

Twenty years ago, driving home from an yet another unnecessary errand I’d undertaken to keep me busy busy busy on the day I was expecting amniocentesis results,[12] I was aurally assaulted by my car’s radio. Good thing I’m not superstitious, or I might have considered it a bad omen when, two times in a row, I switched the channel because a station was playing my most detested kind of song (“Oh baby come back, I’ll be lower than worm dung if you leave me“), only to find that the subsequent channels were also out to get me.

There I was, driving on a public highway, yelling a How the hell should I know?  answer to Michael Bolton’s plaintive (read: screeching) rhetorical entreaty, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?

Okay; cleansing breath; punch the radio dial instead of the steering wheel.  Punch punch.  Oh yeah, just what the doctor ordered: Laura Branigan’s version of the same damn song.

Punch punch punchity-punch. No. This cannot be happening. I’d punched myself right into Harry Nilsson’s plaintive, wailing, “I can’t live/if living is without youuuuu…”  Once again I found myself smacking the steering wheel, this time screaming, “Excuuuuuuuse me, but if you can’t live without me then why are you still alive?”

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As soon as I returned home I wrote down the lyrics that were swirling through my festered mind. I borrowed an electronic keyboard from a neighbor and painstakingly, one-fingeredly, came up with a suitable tune. I figure the subject matter cried out for a country-western, full-twang treatment; thus was begat my one and only foray into songwriting, the mercifully unrecorded[13], “If You Can’t Live Without Me Then Why Aren’t You Dead?”

Attention, Garth Brook’s manager:  if the Garth-man is looking for that next big hit to lure him out of retirement…[14]

And they say nobody writes love songs anymore.

Hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1]  A card game we often play at dinner. We’re the geeks at the restaurant who pull out the mini-deck of cards after the server has taken our order.

[2] That sounds like some vaguely naughty, self-abuse practice. Not the kind of thing to be mentioned in the same paragraph as a children’s novel. See? I told ya I sucked at self-promotion.

[3] I’m of the writers should be read and not seen school of thought. Not a good fit for the prevailing attitude that everyone should want to be a celebrity, or at least in the public eye, for their 15 minutes.

[4] I hope I’ve redeemed myself for the earlier quasi-sexual reference.  Boogers are kid-friendly!

[5]  Aunt Erva wanted you to make it soupier and Uncle Anus prefers it clam chowder thick.

[6] An Indian snack or appetizer of almost infinite variety, typically composed of shredded veggies dipped in a gram or chickpea flour batter and pan-or deep-fryed.

[7] Probably not any smaller than the average girly man’s tush, but the musclemen’s gigantamous torso and thighs do give that illusion.

[8] You’re not still using nonstick cookware, are you? That stuff will kill you. Or give you herpes, or shingles or axillary lymph node tumors, or club feet. Whatever you’re afraid of.

[9] I love that word. Spatula.

[10] insert The Waltons theme music.

[11]  Well, okay, not much.

[12] Procedure performed due to maternal age, rather than family history of genetic disease, disability or malformation. Unless you think a family tendency to deem The Lawrence Welk Show the height of entertainment qualifies as a disability (and I do). But they don’t have a test for that. Yet.

[13] So far.  Hey, the century is young.  Any takers?

[14] He just may have to keep on looking.