|Sunrise with buzzard…|
Well, yes—I have been busy, with more tasks and chores than time, energy, or nice weather for the outside stuff that needing doing, allowed. Last week I wrote five articles, finished painting, staining, and varnishing the front door (nope, haven't forgotten those promised photos) split wood, redid a kitchen light, bought and laid out paving cobbles for a hearth we're putting in the great room for a new wood stove, and ran around to endless stores and a dozen appointments.
I still have a bit of wood to split—mostly logs which have to first be chainsawed to a shorter length so's to fit in the splitter. The wood stove has to be picked up from the farm supply store and wrangled into the house—and, of course, the hearth must be set and finished beforehand. Then, everything in place to measure accurately, the fireplace opening needs to be tightly sealed off so the stovepipe can be vented through the former opening and into the chimney.
My daughter and son-in-law will be in Florida for Thanksgiving. So we'd planned a sort of pre-Thanksgiving meal here, Sunday. I had my menue all sorted out, everything bought and ready. Dinner, I said would be at 6:00 p.m. sharp. They were going to come over a couple of hours earlier. I had various appetizers and hors d'oeuvres covered, and intended to to make this one of those leisurely get-togethers where much of the meal-prep work was accomplished early, and I could spend time with guests instead of fussing in the kitchen.
The day couldn't have been lovelier—sunny and warm enough that had it been a more midday meal, we could have been enjoyed al fresco.
Well, it was a tad windy. Gusty. Boisterous. Tempestuous. Blustery. Okay, if truth be told, at times howlin' and roarin' like a banshee. The big wind-chime which hangs near the front door and almost never feels wind sufficient to move its heavy clapper, was clanging like the tolling bells of a sinking ship.
I'd planned to get the appetizers and hors d'oeuvres done in the morning—ready the bowls of red-bean hummus, sour-cream and fresh chives, and minted blueberry salsa, and cut my dipping veggies up. I'd fine chop several cloves of garlic and an equal amount of ginger root for later. I'd also do the salad and make a cruet of fresh dressing. Slice cheeses. Fill the relish trays. Cut up my beef and start it marinating in the spices and orange zest. Prep and parboil green beans. And maybe bake a couple of loaves of banana walnut bread.
About 11:00 a.m. I'd put my spiced beef with orange sauce in the oven to slowly braise. At 4:30 p.m. I'd make a quick sauce of honey, brown sugar, butter, allspice, salt, pepper, and bay leaves, simmer that for a few minutes, and pour the mix over sliced sweet potatoes wedges which would bake for about an hour.
I could then spend time visiting and we'd munch appetizers and hors d'oeuvres.
About twenty minutes before time to eat, I'd start a pot of water boiling. I'd also heat up a wok, add olive oil, fry the green beans, garlic, and ginger. Drop some extra-wide egg noodles into the boiling water. Finish off the stir-fried green beans with a splash of sesame oil and a good sprinkle of sea salt and parmesan cheese. Drain the noodles. Pull the braised beef from the oven to dish atop the noodles. The sweet potatoes would be ready. I could add dressing to the salad. And Myladylove would have her apple pie which she bakes for an hour inside a paper bag in the oven, ready to start.
A good meal, all planned, tasks clicking off like clockwork, with no fuss and last-minute rushing and dithering. Just twenty minutes kitchen time after they arrived. Not time frantically spent, but leisurely man-in-control minutes, with space for thoughtful words, kidding, calm chatter.
The power went out sometime after 10:00 a.m. Given the gale-force windy conditions, I shouldn't have been so surprised. But I have an electric stove. And while I knew I could push things until considerably later and still get dinner done…seeing as how it was a Sunday, and a holiday weekend—plus the unlikelihood we were the only area without power—I didn't want to guess how long repairs might take. After an hour or so, I called my daughter. No answer. I left a "call me" message. Five minutes after making that call, the power came back on. An hour after that my daughter called. "I thought dinner might be late, or even cancelled," I said, after telling them what happened, "but looks like everything's now a go."
I'd barely hung up from that conversation when the power went out for the second time. I called back. Got voicemail again. "Dinner is back on standby status," I reported to an uncaring answering machine.
The second blackout lasted longer. My great meal prep plans went out the window. Now it was a case of could we even manage a meal. Ninety minutes before dinner the power returned. Lacy and Dave arrived. The cooking schedule was impossible. No slow braise time for the beef. No veggie chopping or banana bread baking. No sitting around munching appetizers and hors d'oeuvres and chatting with the family. I sautéd the beef, added the marinating mix, and set it to a quick braise. Cut sweet potatoes, made the sauce, put the dish in the oven alongside the braising beef. Parboiled and then stir-fried the green beans. Boiled water and cooked the noodles. Salad was deemed unnecessary. Myladlylove's apple pie was bagged and started in the oven. I had to finish the sweet potatoes in the microwave.
In spite of all the uncertainly, fretting, regrouping, revising, and dishes which didn't get fixed…the meal was good and the pie excellent. A fine evening and family get together.
I think there's a lesson in there, maybe two or three. Or perhaps the final observation is that it takes more than high wind, a couple of power outages, and hastily prepared food to keep this family from eating when we're hungry.