Monday, January 21, 2013

The Gates of Vienna Hijra

In The Garden of Forking Paths, I am alone in this space now.

Where the other and more essential blog used to be on the dashboard it shared with this one there is simply a notice telling me that GoV is "locked" and only authors may access it. So what am I, chopped liver?

The reality is that no one can enter the Gates anymore. That little fabrication about "the authors" being allowed to see our blog is merely a convenience for Blogger. What expediency the lie actually serves is beyond mere mortals to understand, and as we all know, Blogger lies in the land beyond Mere Mortals.

Well, at least the Baron and the team had the foresight to back up all those years of work. Had they not done so, the twelve thousand or so essays would now be stuffed into some black hole in cyberspace.

But. Always the Big, Crucial BUT...They did indeed keep the archive current all the time, figuring Blogger would be pressured by someone or other to take us down. So now, instead of gnashing our teeth in the outer darkness the crew has been busy hauling everything to the new, improved Gates of Vienna.

Let me correct that: the new and soon-to-be improved Gates of Vienna. At the moment it's looking a bit skeletal - as it should since that's eight years or so of work they're moving. However, it's progressing surprisingly well: every time I open the link I see something else they've added. I thought this would take at least a fortnight - and in the end, it may take that long for the new place to feel like home. And eventually newcomers to GoV can listen to the war stories of the old-timers.

The Baron never wanted to move. Despite the almost total lack of customer service, Blogger had two advantages: it was free and it was very secure. Besides, he's always lived in the safe lane, i.e., 'the-devil-you-know-etc.' I dread to think what it would be like were his character different, if he were indifferent to novelty. Why, he could easily trade in old things for wives, for example. Ugh. It doesn't bear thinking on too mcuh.

Another factor was the complaints he'd heard from the users of other platforms. Their moaning made it easier for him to stay with Daddy Bloog than to wrestle with the "features" of strange new creatures. Easier to stay even as ol' Daddums got more and more abusive and less easy to work with.

The abusive part? The last major dust-up was when we wanted to stay with the "old" Blogger template, the one without all the Java junk. But if we did, then our archives became unavailable. In other words, the offer we couldn't refuse was simple: stay with what we had and bid our archives adieu. Or get with their new template and keep our history. We considered the former, but not for long.

Our readers were not happy with that atall, atall. It turned out that they frequently go back to look at old essays, favorite authors, etc. So, not having time to wrestle with it, Da B asked a student if she'd be willing to do it for him - set up the new templates, etc. She'd done it with her own blogspot site and she was a very bright young woman. So the two of them figured it would be easy. She set aside a weekend to get it done and he paid her - student wages, of course; we couldn't afford anything more given that our own rate is about the same.

If I remember correctly, it took much longer than a weekend. She wrestled with that template, trying to get it to do what we needed. In the end, she and the Baron had to let some things go - the improved version couldn't entirely handle what the old version had done with relative ease.

In the meantime, other platforms were becoming easier to use and other bloggers assured the Baron that a move would be messy but not impossible. Some of them even had -gasp! - real customer service. So by the time Blooger slammed the door on our hands - and yes it damn well did hurt! The bloody bastids. But time heals all wounds and wounds all heels, so in the end it's Blooger's karma to deal with. Given all of us "little people" they've stepped on, the cosmic payback must be appreciating faster than our natinal debt.

I'm glad it's over. I wish it could have been more civil and courteous, though. For example, we have no idea why they shut us down. Not really. Supposedly our blog contained "malicious code"??? Our template was their Blogger code, so maybe this tissue-thin covering for their abrupt move is more true than they will ever admit...

It will be interesting to see if they notice I'm still here. I seriously doubt they care. However. When all the huffing and puffing of the Big Move is done, I'll ask The Righteous Crew to archive the Neighborhood. Just for posterity.

Onwards and upwards, Junior Birdsmen!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


If anyone sees this, please help us find out why Gates of Vienna has been removed. When I got on the dashboard only Neighborhood of God was still here. It is as though Gates of Vienna never existed. Oh my God.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Bless Her Heart"

Over at the other place I'd been discussing the latest liberal meme, one more artificial - but no less hateful - than usual. I'd mentioned Michelle Malkin's recent essay at Townhall, "The Condensed Liberal Handbook of Racial Codewords".

As often happens, my thoughts diverged from the main subject; in this case, the subject being quite ugly accusations against candidate Mitt Romney, claiming he used coded messages in speeches to tell purported insiders - i.e., white people - what was really going on.

I began with a great video from Bob Parks and went on to talk about Ms. Malkin's essay and those "SEEKRIT" words.

Every single group or culture, or sub-culture within a larger one, has code words. It's simply human nature. What makes the process poisonous is when one group is falsely accused of publicly using code to say vicious things about another group as though the second group were too stupid to catch on.

The tipping point of paper-thin-skinned black grievance neurosis may have finally been reached. I certainly hope so. By now the accusations of - as Ms. Malkin puts it so well - RAAAAAACISM!- have been done to death. For the most part, average people find the whole rage and pity-pot victimhood simply tedious. It has become like trying to reassure a child who stubbornly hangs on to his giant refusal of reassurance because he needs his anger more than he needs justice or harmony.

At any rate, that essay led me far afield, into pondering the kinds of social dog-whistle talk that exists among all groups. I often found myself in social hot water in New England because I didn't know the rules - rules that others had long learned by heart.

However, being raised in the South, I knew most of the Byzantine rules and moves of Southern social intercourse - without even knowing I knew them until I moved back here and found myself moving within in a more familiar milieu. A fish back in her own lily-padded pond once more.

In order to truly understand it so that it's part of your being, you have to have lived immersed in a local culture from before you could think. Being a first-generation American, I missed some of the finer points. On the other hand, being a not-quite-outsider makes one a kind of participant observer; thus you notice more than the born-and-bred folks, the people who ask, "Bless your heart, you're not from around here, are you?". When I studied Anthropological Methods in college, I was surprised to discover I'd been living those methods all my life. I called what I did "standing in the doorway"...less academic, perhaps, yet more evocative for born outsiders.

But I want to relate it back to the so-called dog-whistle political talk of that earlier essay, and to make the broader point that group talk always partakes of some dog-whistle undertow. Those currents are meant to carry the stuff at the bottom swiftly along without every little detail having to be brought to the surface for discussion.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Here's an example from my own experience.

American Southern women (black and white) have a number of expressions that sound for all the world like innocuous fluff. To insiders, though, these phrases convey volumes without ever having to say anything that smells bad. It's difficult to pick a favorite, but since one in particular has been exposed of late, let use it for the purposes of demonstrating social dog-whistle.

This one was perhaps my favorite of all until some Miz Big Lips had to go blab it to the world just to get a laugh. Some folk are desperate for attention, as I'm sure you've noticed: anything for a laugh, including betrayal of your own. Now it has become harder to employ this useful filler while maintaining a straight face or, more importantly, a polite fiction.

I'm talking about this all-purpose expression, used for generations by Southern women to cover a multitude of social emergencies: "bless her heart".

I'll give you a hypothetical situation, sans much context. The setting is a kitchen table around which three women are seated. Two of them are talking, the third is simply observing. There is a fourth woman, not present, who is the focus of this snippet of conversation:

Bobby Jane: "By the way, Babs is flying to Europe next week. She told me she needs a break in the worst way..."

Mary Jo: "Babs? Europe? Seriously? Why bless her heart..."

For the sake of (ahem) brevity, I'll tell you that the three women - Bobby Jane, Mary Jo, and the absent Babs - know one another extremely well; they've been friends since grade school and are a sub-group of a larger cohort of women who have aged together in varying degrees of grace for several decades now.

I'll also posit that the silent woman at the table is on equal terms with the two speakers. Let's call her Annabelle since everyone else does. And let's examine what Annabelle knows but may never be willing to admit to anyone (husbands don't count). She knows darn well what Mary Jo's "Why bless her heart" really really means.

Annabelle "knows" in a global way, right on down to her limbic system, this truth:
she-apprehends-every-single-nuanced-layer-of-that-utterance-down-to-the-subatomic-inflection-at-the-end. And she knows (without stopping to think about it)that the other two know that she knows what just transpired.

It would take a Cheovkian-long time for me to tell you all those nuances so let's boil it down to a New York minute: Bobby Jane is being a trouble-maker here. They all know - despite the fact that Babs swore Mary Jo to secrecy about the transaction - that Babs owes Mary Jo a fairly large sum of money. Babs swore Mary Jo to secrecy about the transaction. You see, Babs 'borrowed' it to buy some clothing when they all went on a shopping expedition to Atlanta last year and she'd "forgotten" her charge cards. In reality Babs had been persuaded by her husband - for the sake of marital harmony - to leave her credit cards at home. And she really did have every intention of repaying the cost of that shopping trip to Mary Jo, she really did. In fact, she still has every intention of doing so...except not now, not when she "needs" to get away.

Do you get my drift here? Mary Jo has been blind-sided by this news of Babs' trip. Bobby Jane was sadistic enough to tell her in front of Annabelle so that Mary Jo's indignation at being put off again by Bab's self-indulgence has to be suppressed for the sake of social solidarity among good friends.

That's all there is. They finish their coffee and go their separate ways to pick up their respective children at school. But each of them, driving away, has her own separate and distinct "aftermath" of feelings about the gathering around the kitchen table, and about the proposed trip of the absent Babs, busy planning for Europe, and most importantly, about Bobby Jane's character. Or at least Annabelle and Mary Jo grasp a little more deeply what they've known about BJ since fifth grade: Bobby Jean's integrity is a little wobbly, bless her heart.

That's a rough translation without any background of social dog-whistle as played by Southern women of a certain age. It's just a template you can use to apply to other situations where the occupants of a given social universe feel the undercurrents that outsiders don't even perceive...

...and yes, life really can be fraught. We don't need any more faux-anger spouting heads making things uglier. Everyday life provides enough of the real thing without having to listen to the fake stuff being generated what? Gather an audience, perhaps? Honey, now that I've seen him in action, I wouldn't cross the street to watch such mean-spirited blather. That child's soul is still in short pants.

But then, that's his social universe. It's populated by talking heads who can chatter on smooth as silk without ever showing a lick of common sense - they do indeed seem to be the curse of this generation.

Bless their hearts...

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Jaccard and Widget Phobia

All right, I had this big plan to talk about the fun I have shopping at Amazon and to add products here and there that I've enjoyed. These are things I hadn't seen elsewhere. Well, actually I can't go elsewhere without paying for it in pain and suffering.

But I visited the widget page and I can't figure out how to work the damned thing and get it onto my sidebar. So for the moment to heck with it. I'll wait till the sugar clears from my poor system.

Yesterday we had an exciting trip to the dentist to have our teeth cleaned. Our togetherness knows no bounds...

On the way back, I noticed a new Asian food store. Nothing would do but that I had to stop there and see if they had the kind of ginseng that one of our readers had recommended. So I got that, but then I remembered coconut milk, and -oops- almost out of cloves and fennel, and then there was cleaned frozen squid, who could resist? I didn't exactly stride down the aisle, but...well, I passed the palm sugar on the way to the jasmine rice. Oh heck, why not tell you what really happened: yes, I actually had to find someone and ask where the palm sugar was.

Palm sugar for me is like Jack Daniels is for an alcoholic. If my head didn't hurt so bad from eating the stuff, I'd bang it on a nearby wall. Much of one jar is almost gone and the other will be delivered out of here to someone who can drink eat sweets responsibly. Definitely not in my skill set.

However, that binge happened later. Long before I broke into that jar we went to Marshall's, a discount clothing store I used to love. It was always full of things I didn't know I needed until I saw them.

This time, however I DID need an oversized man's shirt and a pair of slip on shoes.

With fibromyalgia I need very lightweight footwear. Weightless ballet slippers would be best but they're an arm and a leg. Instead I looked through the clearance section till I found a faux-snakeskin pair of flats that will go with black or brown. They actually fit! Are they lovely? Nah. Serviceable, though.

Since I've lost some weight (despite that binge with the palm sugar) I needed to find some casual pants that didn't fall off, or I didn't have to bunch at the waist to make them stay up. The oversize shirt covers those problems mostly, but a pair that actually fit was a nice find.

I do love Amazon, but I can't afford the clothing there. Marshalls? The pants were fifteen dollars.

I also found a heavy denim shirt in clearance for the future Baron. It's black and will go with his tan chinos. I'm working on pulling him into the modern world and out of his proclivity for Mormon missionary attire. That wasn't his intention originally - in his early teenage years he saw a Cat Stevens' picture and decided that was for him. But it's not really "him" because when he dresses like that he looks like a Mormon when in reality he's an Episcopalian tenor who just happens to play a 12-string guitar. So I'm nudging...and worry warting: he's too thin in my humble opinion so I bought him a lunch box. Mothers never quit.

And so passed the day: the dentist and two stores. Which might have been doable had I eaten at all in between times. But I didn't think about it. By the time I dragged my aching carcass to the car, I was light-headed and in full-mode PAIN. Partly from trying to stuff too many activities into a few hours and partly from inadvertently fasting.

What did I do to fix the problem? Why I opened that damned jar of palm sugar. Just a bite. And then another bite. By today I was in binge mode. The Baron looked at the remains in that jar and went into sugar shock himself...

That lovely jar with the brown sweetness and the red top is but a memory...umm...Not quite. My body is still muttering imprecations, all of which I deserve. I have no idea what he did with the jar but I no longer care. Uuggghhh...

But back to the widget phobia. I went to the Associates page, planning to use one of those thingies that will let you profile several products at one time. I liked the skyscraper version for the design of this blog, and I wanted to keep my purple hose whilst adding another favorite product. But I couldn't get it to work. So my beloved lightweight purple hose will have to live here for the moment, while I put another product on the sidebar in its stead.

Water Right PSH-050-EP-4PKRS 50-Foot x 1/2-Inch Polyurethane Lead Safe Ultra Light Slim Garden Hose - Eggplant

The new offering - not new, exactly; I've been using it for about eighteen months or so - is now on the sidebar in place of the hose.

The Jaccard is an ingenious kitchen tool. It tenderizes meat, crushes fruit, and is extremely useful as long as you learn to clean it. Back when we ate bread, I used it to crush very stale slices. Days of bread and sugar are gone. Well, mostly gone.

I use my Jaccard on less-than-tender cuts of beef, on venison hunters give us in exchange for using our woodlands, or chicken breasts, pork slices, or veal (if you can afford i). First I sprinkle on whatever herbs, spices or marinade I'm using and then I push that thing all over the steak, turning it over and doing the other side. It saves long hours of marinating, and the meat cooks in about a third the time. I've also use it to pulverize fruit, especially strawberries for yogurt.

Now that I have those squid from the Asian store, I'll see if they benefit from a few mashes with the Jaccard. Can't hurt and it mighr prevent the rings from toughening when I cook them. Squid is a temperamental flesh.

The Baron loves my Jaccard, too. Men generally like gizmos, though he's more resistant than most. However, there's nothing like whacking slabs of meat to get one's testosterone flowing...

...we both learned the hard way about cleaning those 48 blades. Unless you're careful you can stab one of them into a finger as you're attempting to move them to reach a fiber of meat. But it takes only one carelessness and you're cured - of being careless, I mean. Now I use the hose attachment at the sink and quickly rinse off any meat shreds - they're aren't usually very many. I think the blades plunge in and out so cleanly that they don't take any meat with them. When done rinisng the Jaccard under the hose, I plunge it into a waiting pan of soapy hot water to which I've added bleach. It stays there, soaking, until any other utensils I might use in preparing the meat are ready to be washed - e.g., the pan used for marinating or the trimming knife.

Given how quickly cuts of meat that have been Jaccarded cook, I'll bet this thing has paid for itself by now.

NOTE: When I bought mine it came with a sturdy plastic sleeve which covers the blades. Both pieces are in shrink-wrapped in plastic. You could get by without the sleeve but I hope it's still sold that way. For the sake of Jaccard's liability insurance premiums if nothing else.

I've been thinking: I got this gadget because I could no longer use my meat pounder - tha't a fibromyalgia thing. I should do a Listmania for gadgets that make living with this DD - "damned disorder" as they say on some of the forums - a bit easier.

So far, by coincidence I have talked about two of them. The "eggplant"-colored garden hose that looks like a snake in the grass and this well-designed Jaccard.

Who knows, this could be a trend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why I Love Amazon, Chapter One

Okay, I'll grant that my politics and those of Mr. Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, don't mesh. But fortunately, he's built a wonderful organization - ironically, one which appears to operate quite at odds with what little I know of his political beliefs. The man is an entrepreneur extraordinaire so it’s okay by me if he chooses to be a mugwump – i.e., his mug being on one side of the fence while his wump is on the other. I don’t care because the company he founded – Amazon - has benefitted my life immensely.

Whether the working conditions in his shipping warehouses are the best is a subject for another post and one I’m certainly willing to address when I have better information.

In the meantime, my paean to Amazon…

I call Amazon "the Wal-Mart for Shut-Ins" and so it is – that and much more. In addition to the obstacle of my physical infirmities – they make long drives difficult - we live a right good distance from “real” stores – things like Target or the Pottery Barn or Starbucks. It’s twenty-one miles to the nearest latte, but that's progress; in the old days it was a forty-mile haul.

Before fibromyalgia claimed me for its own, I commuted sixty-five miles (or more) round trip every day of the work week for many years, not to mention traveling back there to see a movie or eat at one of the Indian restaurants…or theatre occasionally, or concerts. Not to mention the variety of stores where I could get whatever I needed, from garden supplies to toiletries to the herbs and spices I couldn’t get back in our third world county. Zipping through store aisles wasn’t a problem, either. While I was never much of a shopper – walk in with a list and get out a.s.a.p. – those kinds of errands weren’t a hardship back then.

In fact, some of my work hours were spent shopping for those higher up on the income chain than I, people who had more to do than one person could possibly accomplish. As is often the case in life, we traded: my time and energy and shopping skills for their money; both parties were happy with the arrangement. So I would be the one to buy children’s school clothing, family groceries, party supplies – even taking children for their routine well-checks at the doctor on occasion. In other words, whatever my customers needed but were too pressed for time to do…and speaking of pressing, that included dropping off items at the dry cleaners with special instructions as to how they were to be treated.

In a world where both partners (and both parents) work, all too often the minutiae of quotidian tasks falls between the cracks, making life more fraught and frantic than it has to be. What drops into the oubliette of nagging “shoulda” can be picked up by enterprising gleaners…like me.

For many years I thought I wanted to save the world by doing crisis intervention. What I discovered though was the immense pleasures to be had in cleaning out my customers’ closets and organizing them in creative ways they’d never had the time to consider. I grew to enjoy hearing, “Oh my, you’re a genius!” when all I’d done was make the most out of a small space. At one point, I considered going into partnership with a good carpenter. We’d have created order and beauty; what could be more satisfying than that?? Building cathedrals? Maybe, but then you’re not going to live long enough to see your work finished and in our present cultural environment the ecology dictators would rob you of much of the pleasure of the process. Petty tyrants abound in our political institutions. Such a shameful waste of human energy.

But I digress…as I often do. It is the privilege of those of us with the vapors. Our wandering minds can be the bane of those around us. Oh well.

I was speaking of my great enthusiasm for Amazon. Today, after a long absence from this neighborhood, I was finally moved to come here to talk about the ways in which Amazon has improved my life. And as I move through other chapters devoted to Amazin’, I’ll be sharing the particulars of Amazon that have helped me.

Today I’ll begin with something I wanted, but wasn’t sure existed. I needed a lightweight, easy-to-drag-across-the-yard water hose. The ones we have I can no longer easily maneuver and I am sooo tired of having to ask the Baron to do these things. It’s not any one task I require, but the sum of them in a given day. Hose-dragging is just one of many…

So I went looking on Amazon, drilling down from the “Patio, Home & Garden” and restricting it to Amazon prime. In no time, I found just what I was looking for:

Water Right PSH-050-EP-4PKRS 50-Foot x 1/2-Inch Polyurethane Lead Safe Ultra Light Slim Garden Hose - Eggplant

The image is over on the side bar.

I got the eggplant color because that's what was available. Is it pricey? Yes. Enough so that I visited that page for a few weeks before I took the plunge and ordered it. It’s hard to get one’s mind around to accepting the hidden costs of being disabled. But that’s just the way it is: the things I need to make life doable cost more.

To go with it, I bought a present for the Baron:

Gilmour 528T Solid Brass Twist Nozzle

I haven’t included a picture for that but you can see it at the link.

By the way, I didn’t see this one immediately. It wasn’t on the presenting page. But when I pulled up the page of a brass nozzle that wasn’t covered by Amazon Prime’s free shipping, this one was on the side bar. I don’t understand why things sort like that but I’ve found it worth my while to click on second best, non-Prime, to see if what I really want is in some other category further down the page – e.g., the listings of what other people bought after viewing an item.

The Baron has been complaining for years about the cheap nozzles we’ve had. Can’t say I blame him, either. Back when physical pain wasn’t an issue, I didn’t mind my hands getting tired holding it open, or the bother of the little dingus you had to push against to make it stay open, or the fact that they always leaked all over me. With this nozzle, though, I can simply twist it open or closed. No fiddling with the parts. It doesn’t leak.

And my dear heart is very happy to have a heavy-weight nozzle again – “the kind my Daddy had” is how he describes it.

Of course, I always look at the reviews. They may be the best part of shopping on Amazon…

Bottom line: I love this purple water hose.

So does the man who came to fix our heat pump. He raved about it, wanted to know where I got it, and said that as soon as he got off work he was going to “get me one of them”. I hope he likes his as much as I like mine. Funny thing was he didn’t mind the purple color.

“Kinda looks like one of them harmless snakes in the grass, don’t it?” I looked at it bit harder, then unfocused my eyes a little. He was right. My purple snake hose.

Now there's a bonus for you: any herpetologists you know are bound to love this thing.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Good Day to Marry

Today is my birthday.

To commemorate this remarkable phenomenon — remarkable because I never thought I’d live past the age of nineteen — I decided to re-open this small gated community just to see what transpires. I have lots to say, but much of it’s not fit for our regular blog. So instead this will be the depository for those things which snag my passing fancy: instead of burdening my friends with forwards they may be less than thrilled to see in their already-overloaded email accounts, I’ll plop ‘em here.

Over here I can indulge my propensity for hyphenating anything that needs it. Or rather, anything that in my humble opinion would be improved with the addition of a hyphen or two. This quirk is akin to my daughter’s fool-proof (fool-resistant?) ‘fix’ for words that didn’t look ‘right’. This rightness was certainly in the eye of the creator. Thus her motto — “when in doubt add an ‘e’ somewhere” — produced some strange neologisms. Those words may have still been wrong, but what the heck — just one more standard made subjective. As the narcissists like to say, “works for me”. Of course that’s not all they say but perhaps we’ll leave that subject for another time.

Another thing permitted over here is…well, anything that suits my fancy. Is that not the sine qua non for blogs without a mission? My mission in real life is to get up before noon and do whatever demands my attention at that moment until something else seems even more urgent; and so it goes until bedtime. These ‘demands’ vary depending on the limits my body decides are permissible right then, or anything my soul puts at the top of the day’s list. Thus, my appearance here… it is overdue.

I will always be struggling to answer mail or acknowledge contributions over at the real place. That seems inevitable now; there simply will never come a good time to tiptoe over here. I will just wrest the moment and show up anyway…

Today I come bearing a delightful video. It made me smile:

I imagine the children of this couple, somewhere off in the future looking at this video of their young parents and smiling too.

Hat tip: Rick at Brutally Honest

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Supermarket Rotisserie Chicken Redux

When we go grocery shopping, we try to remember to eat first. If we forget, or if it’s not convenient, then we’ll be hungry by the time we get to the checkout line. And this means we’ll end up noshing on the rotisserie chicken we bought for our dinner well before we arrive home. Oh, heck, we’ll open the darn thing while Ned is still pulling out of the parking space and eat hunks. Good thing Ned keeps paper towels in the car.

Inevitably couples form familiar eating routines. For example, if we have a can of mixed nuts on hand, I’ll get all the varieties which don’t appeal to my husband. As I pick out the brazil nuts or the pecans, I’ll tell him I never met a nut I didn’t like…which is why I married him. His retort is never PG 13, so let’s draw the curtain over his inevitable guy-type response, the one where he always sounds like his brother or Dave Barry imitating Ice T.


With that baked chicken, we know our parts quite well by now. He prefers breast meat and thighs. Yeah, yeah…never mind. I like the oysters found on the back, but in the car it’s simpler to pull off a drumstick for myself and strips of white meat for Ned. Later, when we’ve gotten home and put the groceries away, dinner is some kind of salad and further pieces of that poor bird we ravaged in the car.

Since there are only two of us, that leaves a fair amount of meat to contemplate. Sometimes, say when my fatigue is the main thing on the menu, I simply toss the container into the refrigerator, promising myself I’ll think about it tomorrow. Then I crawl into bed to recover from my big adventure at the grocery store while Ned heads upstairs to catch up on the hundred emails that came in while we were gone.


When these chickens became a regular feature in our lives, I was sometimes at a loss as to what to do with the remainders. When I stop to consider why we buy them at all, I realize it’s because of my energy-killing fibromyalgia. In the case of food shopping, if I’m to be included in the trip - or, gasp! actually drive myself to the grocery store - I have to figure out some work-around which still allows us to eat that evening, once we’ve acquired next week’s victuals and stored them away..

Eating “out” is too expensive. Besides, the wait between ordering and eating is too tiring. Another besides: we don’t eat starches anymore. Locating cheap restaurant protein sans starches or sugary sauces is problematic out here in the woods. Thus our acquaintance - nay, our firm friendship - with rotisserie chickens these last few years.

You know how people say a friend is someone who knows your faults and likes you anyway? Well, that aphorism describes well my relationship with the chicken carcass the morning after. Usually I’ll ignore it for a day or two, but then Steps Must Be Taken.

The First Step is to extract all the remaining white meat for chicken salad. I wrap it snugly in a slightly damp piece of old linen towel (just the way they would’ve done in the old days for starched dress shirts that needed to “set” before ironing). Then it’s covered with waxed paper - or something a bit porous. Sometimes just leaving the package in a plastic bag open to the air is sufficient. Meat doesn’t keep as well if it’s deprived of oxygen. Just as you would do, it deteriorates more quickly.

With the breast meat set aside and decided upon, now we have all the rest of it to deal with. Usually All The Rest is a broken-looking thing. The wings, maybe a drumstick or a thigh plus the anonymous bits and pieces clinging to the back, especially those pocket oysters - my favorite part of any whole chicken. Stack ‘em up and there’s quite a bit of meat. Sometimes it’s enough for another meal but more often you’re left kind of a drumstick short of reality. This is when other leftovers come in handy. A few frozen shrimp, perhaps a hunk of ham or some smoked sausage?

Here’s where I’m going: more-or-less gumbo. In order to arrive, though, I have to rummage around to find the brown roux. If I’m out of roux, never mind. I’ll just make a poha pilaf with pecans and whatever and add the chopped bits of chicken. A good lunch for two.

On the other hand, if I do have roux, then gumbo it is!

Gumbo III - Almost-But Not-Quite The Real Deal

Meats: rotisserie chicken parts; peeled, raw shrimp if you have them, leftover smoked sausage or ham.

Veggies: sliced onion, chopped green pepper and celery, chopped or canned tomatoes.

Flavorings, etc: Chicken broth, Cajun spices, celery seed.

Essence of gumbo: a minimum of two tablespoons brown roux. Real Cajuns would use a half cup or more, but that’s way too much starch for us. It’s bad enough that the stuff is made with wheat, never mind using it in depth-charge amounts. I’ve tried making brown roux with rice flour. What can I say? Think of rice bread instead of a crusty sourdough roll. It’s like that…one of those better-than-nothing substitutions, but just barely so. By the way, if you don’t have time to make your own from bacon drippings, I hear tell you can buy roux now.

[The Christmas before she died, Shelagh made a jar of brown roux for me as my present. I laughed when she declared ruefully, "that stuff sure does smoke up the place. How do you stand it?". And then when she died so suddenly, I couldn’t bear to use it at all up…eventually I did, but as I spooned out the last little bit, the train carrying me away from her increased its speed...]


If there is any fat on the chicken, I render that to sauté the onions, green peppers and celery. Otherwise use bacon drippings or butter, maybe 3 tablespoons or so.

You can let the onion brown a bit if you want, but don’t let them darken enough to get bitter. While they’re cooking add whatever herbs you’re going to use. Store-boughten Cajun seasoning is fine; rendering it with the veggies kind of refreshes the flavors. Celery seed is good with all the meats/fish in this gumbo.

Oops, back up here: when the onions and celery are limp, that’s the time to put in the okra. You can leave them whole or slice them, but if whole, leave the cap on so the okra will stay intact. Cook and stir until the okra, onions and green pepper are a bit brown.

If you’re using fresh diced tomatoes (about three), put them in now and stir the dice around a bit, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Otherwise, pour in the chicken broth and do it then instead. Then add the canned tomatoes and let it all simmer, covered, for about fifteen minutes.

A gumbo with fresh chicken would be done in a different order, but this is leftovers, so the meats are going to go in last. It’s a more introverted kind of gumbo, but nonetheless a good thing to do with parts of a rotisserie carcass.

Cut up the sausage or ham and add that to the simmering vegetables. Stir in the roux and mix it well through the pot. Let it simmer for a few minutes with the cover on.

Now add the chicken carcass, back, skin and all. If there’s any jelled broth in the bottom of the container, scrape that out into the pot. Don’t bother breaking up the pieces since you’ll be removing them in a few minutes. Push the chicken well down into the simmer; cover the pot tightly again. Make sure the heat is real low at this point and leave it barely simmering for about fifteen minutes. If the broth has reduced, add water, more chicken broth, or - even better - a jar of clam juice (you can find it in the soup section).

When the time is up, use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the chicken parts and skin. Put them into a bowl. Have the shrimp ready to add. If the shrimp is cold enough to take the gumbo off its simmer, turn up a bit. When the simmer begins again, immediately turn off the gumbo and cover it. Don’t take it off the heat. Here, you want to cook the shrimp until they’re barely pink and still firm. Overcooking, even if it’s just a minute or two, will make their texture unpleasant.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull off all the pieces and shreds of chicken you can find. Discard the skin and the bones. Any large pieces of meat should be cut into bite sizes.

Return the chicken to the pot and let it sit until you’re ready to eat. Traditionally this is served over rice, but we often eat it as is to avoid the starch. Sometimes, though, I’ll steam a small amount of poha to go in the bottom of each bowl. It’s a not-quite rice for a not-quite gumbo.

Even dumbed down like this, Gumbo III is mighty fine on a cold evening.

Oh, dear. The recipes are starting to stack up. This one started out to be about Curried Chicken Salad, but I bogged down on the middle pieces.

But even before that, I said I’d tell you how the vension ribs turned out. Of the latter, I’m still contemplating how it could have been improved…I’ll write on that first. And the curried chicken salad is worth reading about eating, so I’ll get to it right soon.

I spent a long time today - too long - looking at meat grinders on Amazon. I’d really love to just grind up that venison haunch. More on haunch at a future date also.

Chow mein, y’all!