Oprah’s Bird

Earlier this year I was sitting around playing Animal Crossing on my Game Cube and sipping Holland House cooking sherry when there was a loud “THWUMPH!” against the bay window behind my head. I turned and just caught a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye.

This didn’t really startle me. When you look out our bay window, beyond that vast field of rosemary, sage, and oregano, you glimpse the beginning of 30,000 acres of state forest:

Bay Window 1

Granted, not a majestic sight this time of year in the space between summer’s verdant glory and winter’s snowy majesty. But you get the idea. There’s a bunch of trees.

There’s also a bunch of animals, many of whom do not make a distinction between “state forest” and “Dangerspouse’s yard”:

Bear Trash small

Or “Dangerspouse’s property”:

Hammock 2

But it’s not only bears and foxes and turkeys and bobcats and for all I know tapirs that poop in my yard. It’s birds, too. Lots and lots of birds. Lots.

So many that our old cat Gloria used to sit for hours watching them zip by, dreaming she had wings. Or maybe a pellet gun.

Gloria in Repose

With that many birds criss-crossing our property every day, you know a certain number are gonna slam into us. Smaller birds hit the window as they frantically try to out-maneuver the larger bird trying to kill them. Some, I suppose, just fly into the window because they’re retarded. I mean, I can understand them thinking there’s a big open area behind the window – which they can’t see because it’s clear. But don’t they see the cat? And strangely, an awful lot of those retards are hummingbirds.

So when I heard that “THWUMPH!” as I was haggling with Tom Nook over turnip prices it barely even registered. Ho hum. Another day, another bird corpse to pick up.

But as I say I did at least turn, and when I did I saw a flash of blue. And it wasn’t hummingbird blue.

That was kinda odd. We do have bluebirds, but so far none have managed to self destruct on our fenestra. Same with blue jays. They’re pretty smart, for all their annoying raucousness.

I looked out the window.

It was a blue jay. A baby, hopping around in circles on the lawn below. He must have just fledged and either couldn’t stay airborne, pegging our window on the way down, or he liked our cat.

I grabbed a shoe box and headed for the door. Occasionally I’ve been able to scoop up disoriented birds and either give them sanctuary until they can fly off, or turn them into stock. All depends on the size.

Down the stairs I went.

By the time I got down to the lawn the little guy was just kinda squatting in place under our Japanese maple. I guess he was tuckered out. The knock when he hit the bay window probably took a lot out of him too. But when he saw me advancing on him with a size 10 1/2 Adidas box he perked back up and took off, hopping and flapping just out of reach as I ran behind him. When he circled back and dove through a hole in the latticework of our front porch I lost him.

Dammit. I really didn’t want to use canned stock that night.

Oh well. I knew I couldn’t squeeze my fat middle aged ass under the porch to continue the pursuit, so I went back inside and grabbed my camera. At least I might be able to get a shot to show NewWifey(tm) I at least tried to save the little bugger.

Back down the stairs with the Nikon. Even though I couldn’t see Baby Jay, I could sure hear him. Bluejays are screamers even at their calmest. Trap one under a porch and you could hear him over a South African vuvuzela festival. I peered through the loudest opening and there he was, beak open, bouncing up and down in panic.

I backed up a foot and extended my zoom lens.

And suddenly the back of my neck started bleeding.

OWWWWWWWWWW!

It seems I wasn’t the only one able to pinpoint Baby Jay by his 200 decibel din. Mom and Dad Jay were alerted to Junior’s location just as quickly, but on arrival were alarmed to find a sweaty fat man with a shoe box trying to corral him. They swooped into action.

OWWWWWWWWWW!

OW! OW! OW! OW! OW!

There was a blur of blue and white feathers suddenly whirling around my head, and beaks and tiny bird claws were jabbing at my head and neck. And the noise! I thought Junior was loud. This was what I imagined being stuck inside a VitaMix was like.

I beat a hasty retreat, jacket pulled over my head. They could have him. I had some frozen stock in the freezer anyway.

But as I rounded the far side and made for the stairs, I saw a little head poke out of the latticework siding. Baby Jay must have heard his parents and was looking for them.

I quickly raised the Nikon, focused, and squeezed:

Bird in Lattice 3

Then I hightailed it the rest of the way to the door before Mom and Dad decided they needed to draw more blood.

Pretty good shot, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. Sharp focus on the eye, correctly exposed the subject instead of the brighter background, classic portrait using shallow depth of field to make the subject stand out. In short, I rock. Even while bleeding heavily from the neck, and half deaf.

Later that night I showed NewWifey(tm) the picture and we had a good laugh. The next morning the Jay family was gone, and I soon forgot about the picture.

Until about a month ago when I was flipping through our local free newspaper, the “Advertiser News”. Featured on one of the inner pages was a blurry photograph of a dun colored bird sitting listlessly in a nest, taken by some local reader. It was out of focus, lopsided, poorly exposed, and stupidly framed. I snorted. I could do a lot better than that.

Wait a sec. I did do a lot better than that. The baby jay!

I scanned the photo description for details, and sure enough at the bottom of the page it said “Submit your own photos for consideration at our website“.

To the internet, Batman!

I hit up their home page and hovered my cursor over the “Photos” tab. Sure enough, a drop-down menu appeared with one of the options being “Submit Your Photo”.

Click.

A minute later I was registered – as “Dangerspouse” – and Baby Jay’s pic was uploaded. Now all I had to do was title it.

Hmmmmmm.

I ran through the obvious choices: “Baby Jay in Porch” “Jay Junior Peers Out”, “Toronto Blue Jays’ Mascot Found in NJ”, etc.

They all sucked.

Then it hit me.

Oprah.

Oprah Winfrey calls her vagina “Vajayjay”!

Bingo.

Title: “VaJayJay“. Hit send. Done.

I told NewWifey(tm). “It’s never gonna be accepted” she said. “Somebody there will know what that means.” “Yeah, I know” I laughed. “But it was worth it.”

The next morning I opened my email and saw, “Dear Mr. Dangerspouse, your picture has been accepted for inclusion in our website edition. If it recieves the most votes it may also be included in a future print edition of our paper. Thank you for contributing.”

I clicked on their website, then the photo section.

Holy crap:VaJayJay screen shot EDIT

I wasn’t surprised they printed my photo – in comparison to everyone else’s efforts my pic was a combination of Ansel Adams and Caravaggio – but…they didn’t change my title.

BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!

I couldn’t believe it!

Not only that. if you look closely you can see that 4 people had already voted for it as “Best”.

BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! 

Four Oprah fans, I’m guessing.

I showed NewWifey(tm). “Somebody will call them” she said. “It’s never gonna make it to print.”

One week later:

Jay Paper Close Up

On the FRONT PAGE.

But…not as Oprah’s vagina, dammit. And “Dangerspouse” got changed to “Vernon resident”.

The next day, I had 9 votes for “Best”. That’s practically half our town!

Jay Paper With Screenshot

At least they kept “VaJayJay” and “Dangerspouse” in the online edition.

It’s still there by the way, although if you’re reading this in the far future it’s probably on a back page by now.

And hey – if you wanna go there and vote for it as “Best” and move me up the overall rankings, I’d love you forever. See, right now I’m just “Best” in the “Recent” category. There are some pics that have been up for 4, 5, 6 years and through sheer inertia have been gathering votes slowly but surely the entire time. I need to unseat those imposters!

Oh, and since then I’ve submitted several other photos, all of which have been accepted and put up on their website, with a couple also being featured in the print editions. You can see them online in the Photo tab if you click “Highland Lakes” in the column on the right. They should still be there. No more funny captions, but they at least credit “Dangerspouse”. That’s funny enough to me.

Finally, I must give credit where credit is due.

Thank you, Oprah. Your vagina has made me very happy, and locally famous. Not every woman’s vagina can say that.

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addendum:

Speaking of famous vaginas, I was looking for sugar cookie recipes the other day. Normally my first port of call for anything baking is “Bewitching Kitchen” (aka, “The Iron Uptake Chef“), the worlds greatest cooking blog run by the worlds smartest cooking blogger.

But I was on YouTube when the urge to look for sugar cookie recipes hit, so I said to myself “I wonder if Bewitching has a YouTube channel?” So I typed in “Brazilian Sugar Cookies” (she’s Brazilian) and the first thing that YouTube suggested was this.

I’ve watched it 15 (edit: 183 now) times but I still can’t figure it out.

So Sally, if you posted that…could you send me the recipe? It looks GREAT. Thanks.

Ciao!

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RECIPE: Thanksgiving “Butternut Squash with Port and Possum” Soup

Make this a day or two ahead of Thanksgiving to free up stove space on the day itself. It freezes just fine if you want to make it even earlier.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise. Scoop seeds and stringy pulp into a bowl and reserve. Do not peel.

Light chicken stock, about a quart and a half or so for a decent sized squash

1 stick butter

1 small onion, diced

Port, to taste. My go-to is Fonseca “Bin-27”, a ruby style that is well made, attractively priced, and widely available. But any will do.

Spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, thyme, salt, and pepper

1 opossum

Method:

Make flavored butter beforehand by simmering the reserved squash seeds and pulp in the stick of butter over low heat. Simmer until the seeds turn golden brown and the butter is colored a nice golden orange. This will take about an hour. Then strain out solids through a fine sieve, pressing hard to get as much butter out as possible. You will lose a certain amount that’s been absorbed by the seeds, so don’t be alarmed. Reserve that liquid. (You can pick out the seeds and salt them for a delicious snack or garnish.)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (f)

Spray, or lightly brush, both sides of each squash half with vegetable oil. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Cooking time will vary depending on how thick your squash is, but in general 45 minutes to an hour seems to be what it takes for the average butternut. You’ll know it’s ready when you smell it burning. Or when you THINK you smell it burning. What you’re smelling is the liquid that has leeched out of the squash and is charring on the pan next to the squash. The squash itself is fine. And probably done at that point. Flip it over. It should look beautifully caramelized, with a slight crust around the edges. A knife should slide easily in as well. If not, pop it back in for a little while longer.

Let it cool.

Once cooled:

In a deep soup pot heat the reserved flavored butter and add the minced onion. Cook slowly for a minute or two, then add the thyme. Cook for another minute and then add the squash flesh. Stir around to form a smooth paste.

Slowly stir in stock, whisking as you go to keep things smooth.

Now you get to exercise creative control: spices!

Most butternut squash soups I’ve had over the years, even at fancy places that you’d think would know better, have tasted more like butternut squash pie soup. Waaay too much brown sugar, waaay too much cinnamon, waaay too much cloves, waaaay too little thought.

Don’t do that. Unless that’s what you want, in which case save yourself some effort and just go buy a WalMart Kitchen’s brand pumpkin pie and throw it in a blender. It’ll taste exactly the same.

So what I recommend is using a savory spice – in this version, I chose thyme – and just accent it a bit with the aforementioned spices. This really is one of those recipes where “to taste” actually means something. Add a sprinkle of spice, taste. Adjust. Repeat. Until you go, “Oh my god, I get what Dangerspouse is going for now!

Generally speaking, I also add a bit of sweetener to the mix. Not much, but I do like some. And one of my favorite things to do is to play around with the sweetener I use. Brown sugar is universally lauded here, and with good reason. Maple syrup gets the nod in many quarters, and I can’t argue. I myself am partial to roasted fruits as they add not only sweetness, but a more complex flavor. Pears are my favorite there.

This time, though, I used port. I had half a bottle left over in the fridge, and went for it on a whim. I’m glad I did. What I did here was add it in two stages: first along with the stock, then near the end, when tasting showed a bit more sweetness was needed. Added benefit: it gave the soup a darker, richer hue. Definitely different.

Let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Doesn’t need long.

Now comes perhaps the single most important step of the entire recipe:

Bltiz the fucker.

Get your blender out and start whizzing up the soup. Do it in stages, filling the canister about a third of the way full each time. Empty the whizzed stuff into a clean pot before adding another third, and continue on like that til it’s all done.

The key thing here, the thing that will make or break your dreams of soupy success, is make sure you keep the blender on long enough. I can’t stress this enough. You not only want to break down small fibers that squash are known for (as well as the onion bits), but you also want to introduce a certain amount of air into the liquid through agitation. This will give the soup a creamy appearance and texture without needing to add cream.

Why not just add cream, you stupidly ask?

Because you just spent a ton of time, and a fair amount of money, simmering seeds in an entire stick of butter, making stock (if you used homemade), and adding half a bottle of de$ent Port that you really really would have loved to drink instead of adding to soup.

Adding cream will mute all those flavors. It’ll taste like Campbell’s Cream of Bleh soup. I’ve tried it both ways and I’m telling you, this is one creamy soup you do not want to add cream to. (Test for yourself: ladle out a bowl of the finished stuff, mix in a spoonful of cream, then taste. Now taste the au natural version. What did I tell you.)

Now just adjust salt and pepper, and any other last minute tweaks it might need like another shot of Port (couldn’t hurt).

I originally thought I might dissolve in some blue cheese as well, as Port+Blue is such a famous – and famously delicious – combo. But trying it out in a test bowl showed me the error of my ways. It didn’t work. If you had that brilliant idea also, skip it.

Now you just gotta let the soup cool down before you throw it in the fridge. Never put blazing hot covered soup straight into the fridge. Your electric bill will thank you.

Pour the soup into any large, lidded container you have and let it sit uncovered for a while. Because space is already tight from all the things you’re prepping, and because it’s late November and the temps outside are pretty much the same as in your freezer, place the container on the rail of your back porch to cool down. Leave the lid on the kitchen island.

Hose your wife down and have her accompany you to a local diner to meet some friends. (If you don’t have a wife, find a Mormon and borrow one of his.)

Two hours later arrive back home. Take the lid of the container off the kitchen island and and walk out to the now empty rail on the back porch.

Peer over the railing and look at the opossum eating your Butternut Squash and Port soup, which somehow landed upright, 25 feet below in the snow.

Run back in and grab your camera. Take a picture of the carnage, but without the opossum, who fled after your initial bloodcurdling scream. Hope people on the internets believe you, despite lack of possumgraphic evidence.

Close the porch door behind you. Open a can of Campbell’s.

NEXT WEEK’S RECIPE: Maple and Bourbon Glazed Roast of Beaten To Death Opossum.

Possum Soup

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It’s a Girl!

georgia-okeeffe-flower-of-life-ii-print-l-16319-fn5_25x30

I wasn’t ignoring you. I made the mistake of binge watching every Philomena Cunk, every “Glove and Boots”, and every “Ozzy Man Reviews” video back-to-back, and only now stopped laughing.

So where was I?

Oh yeah. Vaginas.

Imagine one of your male buddies comes up to you and says “Hey, wanna see my vagina?” What would you think?

You’d think one of three things was about to happen:

1) If he’s under 18 he’ll introduce you to his new girlfriend, who will giggle appreciatively at being so designated.

2) If he’s between 18 and 78 he’ll pull a novelty silicone sex toy from behind his back and mimic humping it. Or maybe more than mimic.

3) If he’s over 78 he’ll introduce you to his new girlfriend, who will giggle and give him his scheduled meds.

So when my 30-something year old buddy said to me, “Hey, wanna see my vagina?” I was fully expecting an anatomically correct and fully functional model of Asa Akira’s money maker to be produced.

I was not expecting a real vagina.

If you go waaaaay back through my archives you’ll eventually happen upon the time I housed two of my buddies while they were on leave from the army, and how they attacked a guy in Manhattan who was trying to steal my car but stopped when they realized it was a chick.

After being discharged from the army (honorably, somehow) one of the two moved west and became a commercial pilot. The other stayed on the east coast, became an engineer, and now does…I dunno, engineering stuff. He lives in Brooklyn and we’ve kept in regular touch over the years. I got to know him really well.

Or so I thought.

Back in 2014 he – oh, let’s call him “Buggles H. M. Worthington-McGee III” (not his real name). Anyway, Buggles called me and asked if he could come over. He sounded stressed. I said sure, and we made plans for that Saturday.

Saturday morning I drove to the Park-n-Ride and sat til his bus arrived (like most sane New Yorkers he’s too scared to own a car himself). He looked as stressed as he sounded over the phone. We drove the hour back to DangerHouse in silence.

When we walked in the door he spoke his first words.

Waddaya got to drink?

“Let’s see…wine…a 6 of Sierra Nevada IPA…Maker’s Mark…some girly liqueurs …homemade slivovitz…homemade limoncello…Pims Cup….and I think water.”

You got Everclear?

“Uh…that’s kinda, you know, poison.”

Yeah. Got any?

“No.”

Fine. Maker’s Mark.

I pulled down two tumblers and the bourbon. He grabbed the bottle and filled his to the brim.

“You want a bigger glass?” I said. “Just a straw?”

He shook his head and downed it.

He poured another. Downed it.

I’m a girl” he said. He poured another.

I grabbed the bottle. Was it Everclear?

“Dude” I said. “You’re a lightweight. Two drinks and you’re already telling stupid jokes.”

I’m not joking”  he said. “I’m a girl.

“Do tell” I said.

And he did. I got the entire story of how he always felt “different” as a kid. How in adolescence he thought maybe he was gay, but…no, that wasn’t quite it. Nor was he just a cross-dresser…sorta. Maybe.

Thinking it was a phase he did the overcompensation thing. Dated chicks. Bought a sports car. Took up cock fighting (er, the animal kind).

Then he joined the Army and went to war. Served on a mobile rocket launcher team in Iraq, then as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist once the main fighting was over. When he was rotated back to the States he made chief armorer at his base.

He had biceps. He pooped into a can out in the field. He jerked off into his “special” sock at least twice a day. He ate Spam.

In short, he did everything every soldier does. Like a man.

Except he wasn’t.

Four years of fighting, pooping, jerking, eating rubber lunch meat, and doing every other stereotypical he-man thing on the planet did nothing to stop him feeling “different”. A week after being discharged he knew. He knew he was a girl.

It was a riveting story.

Or it would have been if I hadn’t fallen asleep 15 minutes in. Seriously, what is it with chicks and their need to recount every event in real time? Do none of them even know what “synopsis” is? *

That sold me.

“Ok, you’re a girl” I said. “Did you tell your folks?”

Yeah. My mom gave me a hug and said she loves me no matter what. But then she went to the store and bought a bottle of Everclear.”

“She loved her soldier boy” I nodded. “What about dad?”

He stared at me a minute, then saidYeah, I always figured. Just don’t come home pregnant one day.'”

“He always was pretty perceptive” I said.  “So Buggles, is there anything I can do to help you out here?”

Yeah. First of all” he said. “My name isn’t Buggles H. M. Worthington-McGee III any more. It’s Bunny H. M. Worthington-McGee III.”

“Ok. Um..so, Bunny, what can I do for you? I mean, I don’t know what girls are even into these days. Wanna go, I dunno, chintz shopping or something? Find a salad bar? Do you need to buy maxi pads?”

She shot out a fist before I could duck and caught me flush in the sternum. I barely managed to keep my chair upright.

“Jesus, Buggles! You don’t have to – OWW!

She caught me with her other fist, in the forehead this time. “It’sBUNNY‘! I will seriously fuck you up if you forget that again. And if I hear ‘do you wanna buy chintz and tampons’  even one more time I swear I’ll ram my dick so far up your ass you’ll see it when you brush your teeth. I’m a fucking GIRL, dammit, and you better start treating me like one. NOW.”

“I said ‘maxi pads’, not tampons. There’s a difference.”

She cocked her fist again.

I quickly waved my hands. “Fine, fine! So then, Bunny, what DO you want to do?”

Drink.”

She stood up and grabbed the back of my collar, lifting me out of my chair with one arm til my feet were a foot above the floor. I weigh 220 pounds. We went to a bar and drank.

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The next several years were kind of interesting. Apparently you can’t just walk into a doctor’s office and ask to have your dick cut off, then go get fitted for a training bra. Bunny had to undergo a psych evaluation to determine if wanting to get her dick cut off was just a phase. Y’know, like all us guys go through. (Usually after nailing our nads on the top bar of a bicycle.)

When they determined that, yes, she did suffer from genuine gender dysphoria…they still didn’t cut her dick off. She was required to live like a girl to see if she could handle it first. She was put on hormone therapy which gave her both tiny little boobs and, for a few months, the emotional disposition of a 14 year old girl. She called me a few times literally sobbing into the phone that we don’t understand her, and she hates us! Hates us! I never felt like punching a girl before – especially one with 15 inch biceps – but let’s just say she’s lucky she lives over an hour away.

Once that initial tsunami of hormone tides simmered down though she became much more pleasant, and it was at this point that NewWifey(tm) took over. Bunny now needed things like dresses and heels and makeup and curling wands and earrings and other shit that I know as much about as I do tact.

I have to say, NewWifey(tm) was in her element. For all her motorcycle racing, general contracting, auto mechanic ways, she still has a real soft spot for girly-girl trappings. So once a week or so she drove from New Jersey across lower Manhattan, through the Battery Tunnel, and a mile into Brooklyn so she could ferry Bunny around to various estrogen-themed stores. After shopping they usually hit up a salad bar, drank mimosas with little umbrellas in them, and talked about boys. I assume.

But once Bunny’s wardrobe was filled and her bathroom was stocked and she stopped falling in heels and she got used to being paid 25% less than what she made for doing the same job as when she was a man, we lost contact with her for a while. She had to get on with her life, after all.

Then last spring she phoned us up again.

“Yo Bunny, good to hear from you! What’s new?”

Not much. Got some new curtains for my place. Chintz.”

I knew it.

“Great! Er…did you want to talk to NewWifey(tm)? Need help with eyelash extensions or something?”

Nah, I got that down” she said. “I need to talk to you. I’ve got a favor to ask.”

“Shoot.”

It’s a big one.”

“Can’t be any worse than when you asked me to hold your purse while you tried on training bras. Fire away.”

She took a deep breath. “I’m getting my dick cut off in a few weeks and I need a place to stay while I recover from the surgery.

“Is that all? Sure. We’ve got a pull-out bed in our computer room. How long do you think you’ll need?”

“….. 12 weeks.”

“Twelve WEEKS? As in, 3 months? As in, all summer??”

“………….yeah.”

I sighed. What could I do? The poor guy needed help. Besides, maybe when it was all over and he was…she was….healed up, she’d throw me one.

“Ok, you can stay. But I’m not putting up chintz curtains.”

Deal.”

A few weeks later Bunny got lopped (I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of a funny name for the surgery, but I can only come up with one for the female-to-male version: an “addadictomy”. Thank you, thank you.)

Three days later she was released and NewWifey(tm) drove out to pick her up. Bunny wasn’t allowed to sit upright, so for the drive home we stuffed the back of the Rogue with yoga pads and cushions and bolsters so she could lie flat and in relative comfort til we got her home. It was just like my college van.

I, meanwhile, stayed home and prepped the hand truck.

Yes, the hand truck. Aside from not being able to sit upright for the first several weeks, Bunny was also not allowed to climb stairs.

From the driveway to the front door of DangerHouse requires climbing two flights of stairs.

So…hand truck. I got out our big green 2-wheeled fridge mover and duct taped a bunch of cushions up the inside. Then I threaded a series of motorcycle tie-downs along the rungs, and after that tried to jury-rig a ramp for the stairs so the wheels could roll up instead of bounce. That’s when I discovered I suck at jury rigging ramps for stairs. After my fourth failed attempt I gave up. She was gonna have to bounce.

For all my ineptitude at ramp building though, the modified fridge mover was an unqualified success. When NewWifey(tm) pulled up with the Rogue and popped the back lid, I was able to slide Bunny out feet-first like a 2X4 right onto the bottom lip of the cart. We made sure she was aligned dead center, then I strapped her in with the motorcycle tie-downs from forehead to ankle. Except for the face guard, and a few more straps, she looked exactly like

17299_large.

We had to be mindful of the two catheters that Bunny had inserted, the tubes of which snaked out from under her hospital gown and were emptying into seperate bags. One tube emptied her bladder, the other the fluid buildup inside her newly constructed tunnel. Both were almost full. I slung one over each of Bunny’s shoulders and told her to stay as still as possible since I was wearing new sneakers.

Then came the stairs. Brilliant design or no brilliant design, lack of ramp meant that Bunny’s new lady bits were going to get their first pounding. I wondered if the surgeons crafted her a cherry. If so, I had a funny feeling I was about to pop it.

However, NewWifey(tm) to the maidenhead’s rescue! At the last second, as we each grabbed a handle and prepared to lift/hoist/bang Bunny over the first step, NewWifey(tm) said, “I got an idea” and disappeared into the garage for a moment. She came back with a long, broad, woven nylon strap that she looped through the bottom rung of the hand truck, then across her own back, where she tied it off while hunched over. By straightening up she was able to lift the bottom portion of the cart with her back and shoulders, and when done in synchrony with my pulling the top handles it made for a smooth transition from one step to  the next. Brilliant!

It took a while but eventually we made it to the top, most importantly with Bunny still a virgin. We got her through the front door, unstrapped her, and gingerly fireman carried her to the bed we’d prepared. We laid her down on the wedge pillow the hospital sent her home with, and that’s when she said it.

Wanna see my vagina?

“No” I said.

YES!” said NewWifey(tm).

I left the room while NewWifey(tm) took the tour.

You can come back in now” she called after a few minutes.

Bunny was fast asleep on pain meds.

“So what did it look like?”

Like a family sized pack of ground beef” she said. “The entire area is swollen like an Easter ham, and there’s mats of dried blood everywhere. You would not want to fuck it. Not yet, anyway.

“You underestimate me.”

Suit yourself.” She paused a minute. “I wonder if they gave her a cherry...”

The next week was pretty uneventful, if somewhat disgusting. Bunny couldn’t do much other than lie there and take pills, so NewWifey(tm) and I took it in shifts to bring her food and empty her bags. NewWifey(tm) was solely responsible for changing clothes and spot-cleaning matted genitals. Carefully.

After a week Bunny had her catheters taken out, and that’s when things got exciting. A nurse arrived that morning to do the deed, carefully sliding each out and inspecting the area for signs of infection. After giving the thumbs up and some advice about cleaning procedures, she left. Bunny was very relieved at having them out, and immediately fell asleep.

Then she woke up.

I have to pee” she said.

I was the only one in the room. NewWifey(tm) had left for a beer run as soon as Bunny zonked out.

“Fine” I said. “Second door on the left.”

You don’t understand” she said. “This is the first time I’ll be peeing as a woman. I’m not sure what to do.

I looked at her. “Apparently you’ve forgotten my backstory” I said. “Allow me to refresh your memory: I’ve never peed like a girl either. You’re on your own, sport.”

Yeah, but -”

“C’mon, how hard can it be? You sit, and relax. Boom, done. Just don’t forget to wipe now. I heard that’s important.”

She still looked anxious, but apparently the urge was great enough that she couldn’t waste time arguing about it any more. She waved me over. I helped her to her feet, then down the hall to the bathroom. As I closed the door the last thing I saw was her looking down at the toilet with an expression of extreme concentration and…just for a second…fear.

I went back to the living room and resumed my game of Animal Crossing. Tom Nook, the racoon proprietor of Nookington’s Department Store, was offering to buy turnips for the almost unheard of price of 674 Bells apiece. I had only paid 92 Bells per turnip when Joan the wart hog came through selling them the previous Sunday. I was gonna make a killing! I started loading up my sack.

But before I could tote my first load back to Nookington’s and claim my booty, Bunny screamed. Loud.

I ran down the hall and banged on the door. “You ok in there??”

Help! Help!” Bunny screamed. “Get in here! Help!

I threw open the door. Bunny was standing in the middle of the floor, ghost white, holding the bottom of her nightgown up around her knees.

There was pee everywhere.

Everywhere.

“What the hell happened?!” I said.

I don’t know!” Bunny started sobbing. “I sat down and relaxed my pee muscles, and pee just started shooting everywhere. The first stream went straight up in front of me! It almost hit me in the head! Then I leaned over to try to get it in the bowl and it started coming out sideways! I stood up and tried to stop it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop peeing! I COULDN’T STOP PEEING!

I reached over to pat her shoulder, but stopped. It was soaked with pee.

“Don’t worry about it” I said. “NewWifey(tm) will clean this up when she gets home. She’s a woman, they’re good at dealing with this kind of stuff.”

Bunny shot me a hard look, and I realized what I just said. “I mean…ah….NewWifey(tm) is better at dealing with this kind of thing than I am. I’m a real girl when it comes to…”  Shit. Did it again.

Bunny started sobbing again. “Oh my god” she said. “What if they put my pee-hole in wrong? What if it’s sideways? Backwards? Danger, you have to check it for me.”

“I…what?”

You have to look down there and tell me if my urethra is coming out the front or is pointing sideways or something. This is important!

“Why do I have to look?” I said. “Can’t I just get a hand mirror and YOU look? That’s what they do in porn movies.”

She sobbed harder. “What kind of friend are you? I’m asking you, my buddy, to look at my vagina! Why would you -”

The door opened.

It was NewWifey(tm). She stood in the bathroom doorway holding a 6-pack of beer, her mouth open as she took in the scene in front of her.

To her credit, she immediately figured out what was going on.

“Oh, honey” she said to Bunny. “Did you try peeing all by yourself the first time?”

Bunny nodded, eyes closed.

NewWifey(tm) sighed. “This is why we always hover over the seat when we pee in ladies rooms” she said. “It’s impossible to aim these things. Pee just hits folds and hair and all kinds of stuff on the way out and ends up ricocheting all over everything. C’mon, let me show you a few ways to make it easier.”

With that she handed me the beer and motioned me to leave. I was happy to comply. NewWifey(tm) must have been a good teacher. I never heard a bathroom scream again.

After that there really isn’t too much to tell. It surprised me that a guy who just had his dick cut off and a vagina drilled into him required so little care. Bunny gradually got stronger, and every day was able to walk around a little more. After a few weeks she could sit upright in a chair, although on a special donut pad so her new pudendum didn’t get mashed. And…that’s about it.

Oh – except for the dildos.

This was something I wasn’t expecting. Apparently when you drill a hole in someone, that someone’s body tries to close the hole. Y’know, to keep things like germs and small rodents out. If you accidentally drive a nail through your thumb, a week later you’re not still looking through the hole, right? It scars over.

Same thing with a manufactured vagina. The body doesn’t go, “Oh look, I have a new vagina. Sweet!” It goes, “OHMYGOD THERE’S A BIG HOLE DOWN THERE! CLOSE IT, QUICK!!!” And it tries to. Every. Day. By scarring the hole over until it’s air tight.

Bunny, like (I assume) every other girl who’s had this surgery, doesn’t want an air tight vagina. She wants a vagina.

So to make sure she has one, every day she has to insert a medical grade dildo and work it back and forth for several minutes to break up any internal scar tissue that might be forming. The surgeon sent her home with a selection of 4 dildos, color coded by diameter. She started with basically a drinking straw sized one, and every two weeks or so was instructed to increase to the next larger one until she got to the largest. At that point she had to stick with it for the rest of her life.

She named all her dildos (chicks!). Purple was “Barney”, blue “Big Blue”, green “The Incredible Hulk”, and finally….

“The Great Pumpkin”. Of course:

Great Pumpkin

After a while we got used to hearing her say, “Excuse me, I have to go meet the Incredible Hulk” after dinner, then come back a half hour later with a huge smile. It didn’t bother us…but I threw her bed sheets out after she left. The Hulk was never the most sanitary member of the Fantastic Four, you know? Best not to take chances.

I suppose the only other thing worth mentioning is the surgeon’s preoccupation with orgasms. As in, he was determined that Bunny have one. At least once a week NewWifey(tm) had to take Bunny back to the hospital for a follow-up exam. And every single time, once the exam was over the surgeon would have Bunny lie on her back while they diddled her clit. First they did it for her, then they had Bunny do it herself.

It was a longer process than you would imagine. Apparently there’s a trick to just finding the thing, if you’re new to it. Then, once she got a handle on the geography, there was the small matter of tolerating what felt like a bolt of fire shooting from her groin to her uvula from even the slightest stroke. Rather startling, I was told, and not exactly what she considered “pleasurable”. At least not at first.

But then, finally, about two months in, she came home from the hospital, threw open the front door, and screamed, “I CAME!!

If only I hadn’t had company over at the time. Oh well. I’m sure they’ll come back someday.

That’s about it.

Just…um….

On her last day, the very last day, before she went home, she said to me, “You’ve done so much for me. I’ll never be able to thank you. But I have one last favor to ask. Dozens of people have seen my vagina over the past three months. But not you. You’re one of my oldest friends. PLEASE. It would mean so much to me. Just take a peak. I went through so much to get it, and I’m so proud of it. I want you to be proud of it too...”

So…I looked at my Army buddy’s vagina.

Yup.

It’s a girl!

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* He said, noting the irony of a statement like that placed in the middle of a “Paradise Lost” length entry.

The Birds and the Bees

For the past three weeks I have been completely consumed by (as opposed to consuming) vagina. Vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina. I think I’ve heard, said, and seen more vagina in the past week than I’ve heard, said, or seen vagina in the last 4 decades. It’s actually kept me from updating, I’ve been so immersed in vagina. Allow me to explain why.

Oh wait! First I have to update everything mentioned in my last report:

1. Two bees, or not two bees:

B-Team

Yup. I went to the needlework shindig in a beekeeper costume. It was painful and humiliating and I cried when she put it on me. NewWifey(tm) on the other hand was joyous and empowered and left a trail of honey everywhere she went. I think it was honey.

2. Hotel food sucks. I made my own:

Risotto mis en place

Rice Cooker Risotto

(Crappy picture of asparagus and shrimp risotto, using stock made by simmering the shrimp shells and asparagus trimmings. Other guests were beating down our door to get some once the smell leaked out.)

3. NewWifey(tm)’s products sold well, so we were able to afford gas to get home.

4. After a long, heartfelt, and at times contentious phone call, I convinced NewWifey(tm)’s friend to ditch her stupid plan to have me make filet mignon while they were putting us up. She agreed to Châteaubriand. But when I arrived I found she’d instructed her butcher to cut it into four individual portions, thus negating the entire reason for serving Châteaubriand in the first place. Oh well. I made them perfectly anyway. Of course. That, despite the fact that I was still mostly drunk following our adult beverage tour.

5. In addition to the distillery crawl we’d also hopped the border into North Carolina to take the EIGHTY FUCKING DOLLARS PER HEAD tour of the largest private residence in these United States. Eighty dollars per rube! No wonder they could afford it.

We didn’t pay the 80 bucks, though. In addition to not having 80 dollars between us, let alone each, it turns out our hosts have season tickets which allows them to bring two guests along gratis, and we were it. Take that, wealthy rail tycoon scions! That’s one less egg in your caviar ration this week.

(Two bits of trivia I learned on the tour, and I suspect they’re interconnected: none of the 43 bathrooms in the estate have sinks, and the average lifespan back then was 51.)

6. After the needlework show we drove to NewWifey(tm)’s mom’s house in Ozarkistan for a 3 day visit. Her mom fills a 2-gallon hanging bird feeder every morning, and every morning every cardinal within a 50 mile radius lines up on the fence waiting for her to go back inside:

Lots of cardinals

It was easy to tell the married couples:

Married Cardinals

These birds may look dainty, but don’t let the little bastards fool you. They do not suffer interlopers:

x Cardinal and interloper

Unless the interloper is bigger than them:

Woodpecker 2

I’m called woodpecker for a reason, small beaks. Scram.”

They scrammed:

Woodpecker 3

It was a pretty windy morning the day I shot these (from inside the kitchen, through a door screen, hand-holding a zoom with the fastest shutter speed I could manage, thankyouverymuch) and some of the smaller birds were struggling to maintain their perch, not to mention their dignity:

x chickadee and cardinal

Hang on, Chickadee!

Birds with larger craniums opted for more secure structures:

x Cardinal on iron rail

The jig was up when one of their lookouts spotted me and alerted the flock:

x Cardinal peering between slats

And so ended my one and only foray into avian voyeurism.

It did remind me of a great joke, though: Did you hear the Pope came down with Bird Flu? He got it from a cardinal….

Thangu. Thangu verra much.

7. This tiny little town at the top of Arkansas is apparently known as one of the best trout fishing spots in the country. Not being a fisherman myself though, I basically spent my three days there listening to Mom tell stories about her cat and eating BBQ (it was worth it for the BBQ).

For a town that probably has fewer people than I have teeth, they do for some reason have two rather large thrift stores. On my last day there, in a lull between “Adventures of Fluffy” chapters, I walked over to one to check out their wares. The first thing I saw when I walked in was – I kid you not – a wall of 8-track tapes, flanked on one side by a wall of Playstation-2 games, and on the other side by a wall of 8-bit NES games. Five bucks each.

Pretty much everything else in the store was contemporary to those. Lots of home canning gear, farming implements, checked polyester bell bottoms (’70’s?), etc. But not seeing anything appropriate for someone who resides in this century, I headed for the door.

Right at the exit though there was a small glass case that held their stock of “jewelry”, the majority of which seemed to be those plastic rosaries the Sisters of the Perpetual Fist throw into their envelopes along with the donation request. But off to the side there was a bucket – a literal bucket – that was filled almost to the brim with watches. And next to the bucket was a pile of watch straps. The sign in front said, “All Watches $5, Straps $1“.

I asked the clerk if I could see the bucket, and when she handed it over I dumped the contents onto the counter. I sifted through a ton of all womens watches, almost all of which were junky cheap fashion dreck – the kind with the word “Quartz” on the face, and nothing else. There was an exception though. One of the last watches to drop from the pail was a dark grey number, and to my surprise when I picked it up found it was a ladies Skagen 4SSS. A recently discontinued style, but it looked in near mint condition with only a small scuff on the back (probably from being tossed into a bucket).

I know this wasn’t on the order of finding a Faberge Egg or anything, but still. Seeing something of that quality buried among watches most people wouldn’t pay 5 dollars for new was quite a surprise. The only thing that might have startled me more would have been if I’d seen a “Vote Bernie!” bumper sticker on one of the pickup trucks in town. Or anything other than a pickup truck in town. And for that matter, an American pickup truck. They don’t even allow foreign phrases in that part of the country. Y’all.

Anyway, needless to say, I forked over a fiver. While I was at it I also grabbed one of the mens watch bands, an unmarked reddish leather job that had obviously never been worn. It didn’t have a brand name or even the size number on the back, but I decided to be a maniac and throw caution to the wind for once and take THE BIGGEST CHANCE OF MY LIFE. I paid the dollar.

As luck would have it NewWifey(tm) needs a watch. But she doesn’t want a watch that she has to wind or shake or even worry about the battery going dead. I was actually planning on ordering either a Seiko Solar or a Citizen Eco Drive for her once we got home, as both run off solar cells and never need attention for as long as there is a sun.

However once she saw the Danish designed and Swiss made Skagen, her adamant objection to quartz power evaporated faster than my pride did when I first put on that beekeeper getup. Score! A hundred fifty bucks saved.

On the ride home we stopped and got a battery for it – cost twice as much as the watch itself, dammit – and she hasn’t taken it off her wrist since.

Skagen face

And hey – the $1 mystery watch band turned out to fit my blingtastic Seiko “Cocktail Time” dress watch perfectly!

Check out the happy couple:

Seiko and Skagen 2

8. After three days we said goodbye to Mom and spent the next three days driving home.

For 2 days and 21 hours of the trip it was sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows…never mind, that was a stupid song. But yeah, from Arkansas to Missouri to Tennessee to West Virginia to Virginia to Pennsylvania it was clear sailing. Blue skies overhead, fields covered with new grass, trees starting to bud.

Then on Saturday we crossed into New Jersey.

What the HELL??

Is that….snow??

My god!

This is what I get for ordering NewWifey(tm) to adhere to a strict media blackout for the duration of the trip. Neither of us had any idea that in our absence the eastern seaboard of the United States had been slammed by not one, but two Level 7 Armageddon Snowpocalypse Death Matches. The last weather forecast I saw when we’d left on our little jaunt two weeks prior showed nothing but cheery little sun emojis over every day of the week. After that, nada.

The last hour of that 8 hour trip we grew increasingly tense, as every mile seemed to be buried an inch deeper under snow than the last. By the time we reached the top of Mt. Crumpit and pulled up to DangerHouse you couldn’t tell ground features anymore. I actually thought someone had built a shed in our driveway while we were gone until I realized it was drifting snow that had piled against and over our Subaru Forester to the height of our second floor window.

And guess what? Our snow shovels were in the garage. In the garage that our now 20-foot tall Subaru Forester was parked right up against so no thieves could break in that way.

I was wearing chinos and a polo shirt. Sneakers. NewWifey(tm) was in leggings and a sweatshirt. Open toe sandals.

I got out of the Nissan and started snow-swimming up the driveway.

It took 3 hours to get to the Subaru, tunnel down to the driver’s side door, back it up far enough to open the garage, grab boots, coats, and shovels, swim back to the Nissan where NewWifey(tm) was listening to the Harry Potter audio book series (Dumbledore dies, sorry), then both shovel enough of the drive to get the Nissan off the street. We couldn’t use the snow blower because 1. the snow had already compacted down enough that it was the consistency of wet clay, and 2. it was still two feet over the top of the blower. It had to be shovels.

On Sunday we drank three bottles of wine and ate Entenmann’s chocolate covered donuts all day. We dunked.

9. The next day I went back to work. And that’s when vagina happened.

But this post is already too long. Sorry, but vagina will have to wait. Clam up. If you will. But don’t worry, I’ll get to that story more quickly this time. Trust me, it’s worth it. Vagina always is.

Ciao!

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Meat and Greet

But first, a cautionary tale:

YinYang Cake 1

See that? That’s what happens when someone who was apprenticed for years to a CMC until becoming sous chef at a fancy French restaurant drinks half a bottle of The Glenlivet single malt on a dare. He suddenly realizes the cake he made for use in a trifle the next day had better be eaten RIGHT NOW. Wait – but with frosting! Wait – with frosting dyed black and white and shaped into a yin yang! That would be sooooo deep! Wait – I don’t have black dye. Wait – if I mix every color in the box together I bet it’ll turn black. It’s not like it’s gonna turn out some sickly shade of goat vomit green or anything. And hey! NewWifey(tm) has a box of tiny sugared donuts! I bet if I stick some mini chocolate chips in them they’ll look like faces. Hmmmm. They don’t. Wait – they will if I add noses! Ummmmm….aha! Baby carrots! No – CANDIED baby carrots. Yes! It’s beautiful!

Kids, don’t drink. You’ll just end up dyeing.

You know what the worst thing about that whole fiasco was? I don’t remember how it tasted! Going down or coming up. I’m sure it was good. I made the cake while I was still sober, after all. (This is in sharp contrast to the bread I made on Ambien: I remembered eating it, but not making it.)

So here’s the scoop. NewWifey(tm) is shooting out to her annual industry shindig next week, me in tow. While there she’ll try to sell enough stuff to afford gas to get home. She’s pretty chuffed about her prospects this year, as last fall she released a new product and it got a lot of good press in industry rags over the winter. Shop owners will probably mob her booth to get their arthritic mitts on this Latest Greatest Gadget.

Without going into detail, the Gadget is a thread waxer. NewWifey(tm) did a smart thing. Last year the maker of a popular synthetic thread waxer decided to stop making their product, leaving a lot of beehive hairdo’s who stitch very unhappy.

NewWifey(tm) decided to step in and fill the gap, but with a natural thread waxer. She already has a line of 100% beeswax decorative waxers. Packaging them in a more industrial form to capture the market looking for a substitute was a no brainer. So that’s what she did, adopting a honey bee theme to emphasize the “all natural” aspect.

It took about 5 weeks of constant work down in her basement office designing the thing, melting all the wax (thankfully without repeating her previous waxing disaster), printing off labels and card stock, forming packaging, etc.

Finally she emerged from the basement with this:

Beeswax Bliss Combo 2

Yep. That thing is why I didn’t get sex for 5 weeks (with her, anyway).

That aside, I was very proud of my funny little honey. And I told her so.

“I’m very proud of you, my funny little honey” I said. “You worked hard, and it looks great.” (Guys: if you can fake sincerity, you can fake anything. Practice.)

Funny you should mention ‘honey‘” she said. “I’ve decided to deck my entire booth out in bee stuff to help promote this thing. I’ve got black and yellow table coverings, plastic novelty bees to hang up all over the place, and I’m handing out honey sticks to everyone who passes by. And I’ll be wearing this.”

And she pulled out a plastic bag with a black and yellow blob inside. Which looked like this when un-blobbed:

Bumble Bee Outfit

I laughed. “That’s too cute! I love it.”

I’m glad to hear you say that” she said, “because you’re wearing this.”

She pulled out another plastic bag, this one with a beige blob inside. She gave the blob a shake and held it out.”

Ohhhhhhhh no. No. I am NOT wearing that.”

“Ohhhhhhhhh yes you are” she said.

“Nuh-uh. No way. It’s enough that I’m going to this stupid thing with you in the first place. I’m not dressing up in some demeaning outfit on top of that. I’m a star – I have to consider my image.”

A ‘star‘, huh? Well, star, I’m gonna kick your astral if you don’t play along. I put a lot of time and effort into this thing, and I want everything to be perfect when the curtain goes up on opening night. That means all cast members in costume.”

“No.”

Remember those 5 weeks without sex? How’d you like it to be 5 years?

Beekeeper

Eh. Stardom’s overrated.

So I’m going to the national gathering of needlework professionals this year dressed as a beekeeper.

NewWifey(tm) better come across with that honey.

(BTW, a word of advice should you ever be tempted to impersonate the proprietor of an apiary yourself. That “one size fits all!” suit was made in China, where there IS only one size: small. I’m a regular manly-man sized American. I can’t breathe. Just get an American sized beige shirt and write “The Beekeeper” in Sharpie on one breast. You’ll be much happier. You can order the hat, though. Chinese people apparently have morbidly obese heads just like ours.)

That solved, we moved on to discussing the trip itself. I’m taking a couple of extra days off so NewWifey(tm) and I can do a little sightseeing after the event, maybe try some nice restaurants, and fuck on clean sheets for once. That sort of thing.

Hey, my friend “B” and her husband live not far from there” said NewWifey(tm). “Can we go visit if they say yes?

“Yeah, sure.” (“B” came to visit us without her husband while she was on a business trip last year. She stayed for a few days, and I enjoyed her company immensely. She complimented my cooking. That’s all it takes.)

NewWifey(tm) called her friend, and stayed on the phone for about an hour.

When she hung up she said, “We’re welcome to come, but on one condition. You have to cook dinner. She’s been telling her husband about the Châteaubriand you made while she was at our place, and he wants in on that action.”

I groaned. I hate working vacations.

But…fine. This isn’t the first time a good deed has come back to sting me in the astral.

“Oh, alright” I said. “So she wants me to make that Châteaubriand?”

Not quite. She wants filet mignon. They don’t want to buy a full $100 tenderloin just for one meal.”

GAAAAHHHH!

I hate making filet mignon. You know why? Because butchers. As in, there are none. When you buy filet mignon in those plastic covered trays in the supermarket, you’re buying the product of some sleepy $14/hour corporate wonk with a knife who came in at 4 in the morning to put as many trays on the shelves as he could before the store opened. Do you think he cares if all 4 of the meat discs in any given tray are a different thickness? Pfffff. He has a quota to meet, and caring takes time!

That’s a real problem. Different thicknesses mean different degrees of doneness if you cook them all together. And with tender, lean cuts like filet mignon, there’s little margin for error. They transmit interior heat more readily than fatty cuts, so they’ll over-cook much more quickly if you don’t pull them off the heat at the right time. If you have 4 rounds of meat on the heat, each just *slightly* thicker than the next, and pull them off the heat at the same time, you run the risk of having the thickest one practically raw, the next thickest medium rare, the next medium well, and the thinnest a briquette.

Unless you’re a foursome where one likes bleeding, another likes pink, another brown, and another carbon, you’ve gotta stand there and pull each off in turn. Which then presents another problem: unless you want everyone to eat at different times, you have to keep the thinnest ones warm until the thicker ones cook. Setting aside the fact that most home kitchens are not equipped with warming lights, filet mignon is so finicky that even warming lights can throw things off.

Wow. I just wrote three paragraphs about something probably no one cares about.

Woo hoo, I rock!

Anyway, what could I do? I’m a guest who’s being asked to do a favor for his host. I’ve gotta suck it up and just do the best I can.

“Ok” I said to NewWifey(tm). “Tell her filet mignon is fine.”

Oh, one other thing” said NewWifey(tm). “They’re taking us sightseeing first. And they know how much we like wine, so for lunch we’re going to a place with an extensive cellar. After that – get this – there’s a distillery just a few miles away that gives tours and samples! How cool is that? We’re gonna be absolutely plowed by the time we get back and you have to start cooking!

Cook.

Filet mignon. For four people.

Drunk.

Please, somebody, email this picture to my host:

YinYang Cake 1

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Ciao, kids! I probably won’t be able to update from Beehive Central for a few days, so play nice while I’m gone. Or I’ll kick your astral when I get back.

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Oscar

This is the story of the “The Joke”,  the longest joke I ever undertook. In fact, The Joke would still be going on if my intended target hadn’t come down with some sort of ridiculous cancer and died. I swear, the inconsideration of some people.

If you scroll down through my entries, all the way down, down past the owl penis envy…the pussy hat….the pussy…the elbow surgery…the other elbow surgery…the flute confession…the “Fuck You Scalia” eulogy…

Oh never mind. Just click this.

That was my very first Dangerspouse entry on WordPress.

But it wasn’t written by me. And that’s not a picture of me (most days). It was written and posted by Poolagirl.

Poolagirl first accosted me on my original Diaryland blog, back in the days when blogging was actually cool (ie: before MySpace/Facebook). I was boppin’ along posting my usual crap when all of the sudden I started getting all these comments from some chick claiming to be a pirate captain. And she wouldn’t. stop. insulting. me. Even the most innocuous “Woke up. Went to work. Came home.” entry was met with a blistering put-down.

So of course I fell in love with her.

(At one point she wanted to hear my voice so she badgered me and badgered me until I for godsake stop badgering me! gave in and called her. During the conversation I mentioned that one of my radio stations made me use the pseudonym “Rick Forrest”. Right after we hung up she left this note at my blog:

Rick Forest? Who thought up that lame ass name? It sounds like something from “The Young and the Restless” – something that Fabio would use. *puke* You’re right about one thing (probably many things but let’s just stick to one) – when you get too good at something they can HANG you with stupid shit. I’ve heard your voice, and you’re a heart melter. You called me and I was ironing my pants. What a sweet moment for me to remember for the rest of my life.

Ten minutes later she left a follow-up note:

“…‘ironing’ is a euphemism for ‘creaming’.”)

She had a thing for hats, and invariably any selfie she posted featured some garish upturned flower pot or something on her head. One day she had a bunch of baseball caps custom made with a sailing ship and “HMS Pie Rat” embroidered on the front. She signed one and mailed it to me. I still have it.

After that we corresponded regularly by email, continuing even after she left Diaryland and opened a WordPress account. She was constantly trying to get me to join her here, but I resisted because I’m fat, lazy, and stupid (according to her).

Finally she had enough of my obstinance. She set up a WordPress account in my name without my permission, aided by cohort-in-crime and webmistress supreme, Poundy. Then she wrote that initial entry, added the pic of what she imagined I look like, and sent me an email with the link. I can’t say I was surprised when I got the email, as I’d learned early on that that’s how Poolie did things. If you didn’t yield, she just ran over you.

Wow, I almost lost track of what I was writing about! Sorry, this is supposed to be about The Joke…

One of the few things I was able to eviscerate Poolie about on a regular basis was her self-proclaimed inability to cook. Which, of course, I later found out was a lie. She just liked when I insulted her. I would write scathing notes telling her she didn’t deserve love because she was using her oven as a clothes hamper. In turn she would barrage me with photos of herself gleefully eating crappy vegetarian take-out. It was a standoff.

Then one day she wrote an entire entry about how she has all these Meyer lemon trees cluttering up her yard, and other than making lemonade from them she didn’t know what they were good for. She was just gonna throw them out.

I hit the roof. “If you throw those Meyer lemons out I will never insult you to your face again” I wrote. “You better send them to me, or else.”

She did.

And I wrote this entry about it (lifted from my old blog):

The Lemon Grab

I’ve had a sour taste in my mouth for the better part of 4 days now.

One of my oldest D-Land friends is the dread pirate Poolagirl. At the time I started blogging she really WAS a full fledged pirate, a guide on a historical replica pirate ship with the eye patch and mustache and everything. She then did the same thing at a car museum (just bleach the mustache, and voila: Car Guide!), and then left museums behind altogether to write Tony Award winning plays. Which means she now looks down on me and my “Internet Humor Award”.

Before that snub though, NewWifey(tm) and I flew out to California one summer to see her. It was pretty cool. It was the exact opposite of New Jersey: no snow, and lots of Mexicans. I liked both.

Poolie was a hostess par excellence. She laid out her finest yoga mat for us to sleep on, and unscrewed the best cooking Sherry that Costco sells to serve with our take-out. Which we had every. Single. Night.

Her hospitality extended beyond domestic concerns, too. A few days after we arrived, Poolie took us on a private after-hours tour of the auto museum, which was un-freakin-believable.

At one point NewWifey(tm) excused herself to use the Ladies Room, which was two floors down in the lobby. When she got back Poolie was on the phone.

Did I miss anything?” NewWifey(tm) said.

“I got to second base with her behind the Talbot-Lago.”

Big deal” she said. “I got to third. Last night, while we were making dinner.

That really shocked me. “You cooked?”

That’s how close we were.

I honestly didn’t think it could get any closer than that. But a week and a half ago I read on Poolie’s blog that she was suffering a surfeit of Meyer lemons. She’s got, like, an entire grove of them on her estate. But there are only so many Lemon Martinis she can drink in a year, so she was bitching about having to once again drop them surreptitiously into every Salvation Army kettle at every WalMart between her house and the Oregon line.

New Jersey has a lot of things, but one thing we don’t have is Meyer lemons. In fact, we don’t have Meyer lemons so much that I’ve never even tasted one. Over the last decade I’ve seen them for sale maybe twice in the local grocery store, but they were hideously expensive – about a dollar a lemon. I pulled back each time.

So after reading her little “Woe is me! I have too much!!” First World diatribe, I wrote and generously offered to lighten her awful burden. She fell for it, and immediately shipped out a box of 12 Meyer lemons by 2nd Day Air.

This is how I felt when I saw them.

Then I saw the postage stamp. She paid 23 dollars and 94 cents to rid herself of those monsters.

That’s 2 dollars a lemon.

How did I feel when I saw that? Terrible. I mentioned in my initial e-mail that I’d pay the shipping costs if she sent them out. But I assumed she’d send them Ground and I’d be on the hook for 4 or 5 dollars. 6, tops.

I decided to weasel.

Hey listen Poolie,” I wrote, “you know that getting that 24 bucks out to you is #1 on my To-Do list, and because you mean so much to me I’d like to send you back double that amount. But, see, NewWifey(tm) is battling some “Breast AIDS Scofula Lyme Ebola Syndrome” thing that’s going around and even though getting the money out to you is much more important than staying home and giving my wife comfort and making sure she takes life saving medicines, she doesn’t feel that way. Can you find it in your pseudo-Christian heart this Christmas season to let me pay you back a few months from now when her physical and mental scars start to heal and I’m not on suicide watch any more?”

She fell for it again. “Ah, don’t worry about it” she wrote. “Merry Christmas. Keep the change.

Woo hoo!

Guilt free, I ripped into the box of lemon scented…er, lemons, and pulled two out. The first thing I made was avgalemono soup, that Greek sunshine-in-a-bowl that so many people fuck up because they forget to temper the eggs and end up with “Lemon Clot Soup”. I served it alongside a platter of pork piccata, the classic Italian lemon caper treatment.

They were awful.

What the hell was I thinking? I took lemons renowned for their sweetness and put them into highly spiced savory dishes that needed sweetness like JFK needed a hole in the head. Prepared that way there was no distinction between those Meyers and the 33-cents-per-lemon lemons I usually get.

Ok. Lesson learned. Stick to desserts.

So that’s what I did.

But first, I had to worship them. If you don’t know that you must worship your ingredients before you use them then you know nothing about food and don’t deserve to eat.

Behold:

(I’m the penguin there in the upper left, btw.)
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That done, I zested the remaining lemons and divided the pile into three mounds. The first mound I simmered in milk, which became a creme anglaise, which then became lemon ice cream. The second pile got dumped into a thermal carafe with a bottle of vodka. In the weeks ahead, with the addition of a simple syrup, it will magically transform into Meyer limoncello.

The third mound, with the addition of lemon juice, became lemon curd. Most of which got turned into this:

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That, my friends, is The Best Lemon Tart in the World(tm). I’m glad none of you were able to taste it because then you’d never be satisfied with any lemon tart ever again. And that would be just too sad. (For you baking geeks: the crust is a pate sucre with an extra yolk, a little more sugar, and instead of ice water I mixed ice water and vodka 1:1 to reduce the gluten production. It was sweeter and more tender that the usual pate sucre, which countered the tartness of the lemons.)

I have to say, the zest is where I really saw a difference with these lemons. Meyer zest is so fragrant and so pronounced that my hands smelled like furniture spray polish for two days after cooking with it. The juice is great too, but the real thing that makes those puppies worth a dollar apiece (*cough*ortwoifyou’reasucker*cough*) is that oily, golden, outer layer. In fact, it might even be worth it to rekindle my friendship with Poolie just so I can get invited out there again. This time I’ll cart home a case of lemons instead of burritos.

I’ll also make sure NewWifey(tm) isn’t the only one to get to third base this time.

Ciao, kids. And THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU POOLAGIRL! (For the lemons, too.)

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You ever gonna get to The Joke, Danger?

Chill. Here it is:

After Poolie airlifted me out those lemons at a cost of 24 dollars and told me it was on her, I hatched a plan. This was back in 2013. First thing I did was write her a brief note telling her that regardless of her Christmas largess, I was going to mail her back a package of equal value. Eventually.

And I planned to. Eventually.

This is what I did. After I got done making the picatta and the avgalemono and the tart and the limoncello, I saved a couple of the lemon seeds and shoved them into a bucket of dirt.

I was gonna grow my own Meyer lemon tree, and when it bore fruit I was going to mail them (or something made from them, probably more appreciated) back to her. It was brilliant! Hilarious! So like me!

I figured the whole joke would take about a decade. Decade and a half, tops. In the meantime, every few months I would mention in one of our email exchanges that I hadn’t forgotten her package, and would be mailing it out shortly. “The Joke” was a running one.

In the meantime, on the homefront, NewWifey(tm) and my good buddy Doc both poo-pooed the idea. “It’ll never work” they told me. “Lemon trees don’t sprout from seed.”

Several weeks later one of the seeds DID sprout.

This time they said, “It’ll never work. Lemon trees grown from seed don’t bear fruit.”

“You just wait” I said.

So we waited. And waited. A year. Two years.

By year three it had grown so large we could no longer keep it in our bay window. For Christmas that year NewWifey(tm) got me a portable greenhouse, and we moved it out to the back porch:

Oscar resized

It’s still not gonna give you lemons” NewWifey(tm) said.

“You just don’t have enough faith” I said.

Then, one day that summer, I went out onto the back porch to water it….and saw this:

Oscar Lemon 1

OH MY GOD!

I ran inside, grabbed my little PlaySkool point-n-hope, and took that photo. Then I ran downstairs to where NewWifey(tm) and one of her stitching buddies were working on a project in her office.

“Honey! Honey! LOOK!” I shoved the camera in her face.

She took the camera, showed her friend, and they both started laughing.

“Why are you laughing?” I said. “My tree grew a lemon, just like I said it would! So there!”

She patted me on the hand. “That’s nice, honey. Now go upstairs and start planning recipes for it.”

What kind of reaction was that? I just got a lemon from the lemon tree I grew from a goddam seed! The least she could have said was, “Gee, I guess you were right. For once.” I walked back upstairs. I heard them giggling behind me as I left.

Fine. I would start planning recipes. It was just one lemon now, but more were bound to burst forth any day now. In fact….

I went back out on the porch to see if there were any tiny little lemon-ettes I missed in my excitement.

And that’s when I saw it.

I mean…you saw it already, right? That seam down the side of the lemon? The seam down the side of that PLASTIC lemon?

I’m sure when my nose was only 3 inches away as I was taking the picture I must have seen it too. But mania is a funny thing. I wanted a lemon so badly that my brain would not accept evidence that it wasn’t a real lemon. I was duped.

I turned to walk back inside, but as soon I did NewWifey and Co. started laughing again. They had snuck upstairs behind me and were gleefully watching as the dawning realization that I had been duped turned my ears fuchsia.

Sucker!” they said in unison.

Shit.

Two more years passed. The tree got bigger and bigger, but still no fruit. I still wasn’t worried, though. I’d allotted at least 10 years for The Joke to come to fruition, so this was only the halfway point. Poolie was gonna practically die laughing when I finally mailed her back those lemons! I couldn’t wait….

Neither could she, it turned out.

Last year Poolie wrote and told me she had cancer. Lymphoma. “But don’t worry” she said, “I’m gonna beat this thing!” She sent me out a green Lymphoma Awareness pin, which I pinned to my microphone at work and took a picture of (that’s her wearing the custom hat she sent out):

Poolie Radio resize

In return she sent me back this:

Poolie Blue Eyes.JPG

Apparently radiation treatments have some side effects.

Over the next several months we kept in constant contact, and if it weren’t for the pictures and flip, almost offhand, remarks about horrific physical symptoms she was dealing with, you’d never know she was battling a life threatening illness. She sent me an electric juicer when I told her I was jealous of hers, and for Christmas I got a barrel of artisan salted almonds. I sent her pictures of my Spongebob collection. She sent me pics of her in her hospital gown with titles like, “Check out the cleavage, big boy. Hubba!

Then one day the lighthearted tone stopped.

After her first round of treatment the tests showed her cancer was in remission. We whooped and hollered and swore we’d get together – she was going to fly out to NJ and finally have a DangerMeal(tm), and we’d take her into Manhattan where one day she was gonna put on that Tony Award winning play, and we’d all laugh about how tough she was that she even beat cancer. It was gonna be great!

But the cancer came back. It came back hard. Masses had re-formed on her spine and in her brain. It didn’t look good.

I decided I had to end The Joke.

“Poolie, meet Oscar” I wrote, and included the pic of the greenhouse.

Oscar?” she wrote, “Why ‘Oscar’?

“It’s a Meyer lemon. You know – Oscar Meyer! It’s a mnemonic device so I can remember what the hell I’m growing.” Then I explained the whole plan. I told her she’d better hang on at least another five years so that I didn’t go through all that trouble for nothing. She laughed and said she’d do her best.

But she couldn’t hang on. In the middle of January she sent me an email headlined, “Scared out of my wits”. All it said was, “Cancer is back. They are running lots of tests. Does not look good for me. I am really scared.”

Through all the months of tests and raised hopes and dashed hopes and pain and debilitating side effects, I’d never heard Poolie say she was scared. Never. I started writing some crappy “buck up babe, you’re gonna lick this thing yet!” response, but then I realized that stupid platitudes were the last thing she wanted from me. So I told her that she had to at least hang on long enough for me to fly out there and grab one last cheap feel before she went. She wrote back, “Crazy Man, I will never let you go.”

But last Sunday, February 4, exactly two years and one day after she posted my very first Dangerspouse entry on WordPress, Poolie – Paula Brandes – did let me go. And everyone else, too. 

In a few days her family is going to take her ashes out to sea and scatter them in the Pacific. She’ll finally and forever be the pirate she always wanted to be.

It’s taken me a week to write this stupid entry. I’ve known Poolie longer than I’ve known my wife. I was so upset by her passing that I couldn’t even acknowledge it at first. Then when I decided to write something here, I knew I couldn’t do it, or her, justice. And re-reading what I just wrote, I didn’t. I know she wouldn’t have wanted somber, not from me anyway. But…all I feel is somber.

I can’t write any more.

Farewell, Captain Poolie. Thanks for the love, and the lemons. Both were sweet, and gone too soon. And that’s no Joke….

Spongebob Poolie Hat

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Loafing

I had fully intended to post some ribald bit of fluff today as an antidote to yesterday’s stultifying tl:dr pudding episode. But some odious creature over at my other blog took me to task for not first posting the bread recipe I apparently promised I would. God, I hate people with functioning memories.

Fine. Here’s your stupid bread post.

Ok first, let’s get one thing straight. The recipe I’m posting here is not for some artisan loaf that “Chez Boulanger” would be proud to serve for $17 a slice. It’s for a no-frills everyday white sandwich loaf, commonly known as “American bread”, ~ $.03/slice.

If you ARE looking to make the kind of bread that would make even a Frenchman like you, you want to head over to Bewitching Kitchen. SallyBR (aka “The Iron Uptake Chef”) is an actual, bona fide, no kidding, “just like Dexter’s Lab!” working research scientist. And she applies her anal-retentive mania for exactness – necessary in her profession – to her cooking passion as well. Her breads  particularly. She’s one of those obsessed nuts ardent perfectionists who owns a proofing box, measures percent hydration, uses a CRISPR-Cas9 to genetically engineer her own strains of bacteria for sourdough (I don’t even know what that means), and writes her own recipe code. All so she can have the best damn peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the planet. So yeah, if that’s your goal, head there.

(BTW, I’ve been making her ‘Bolo de Fuba’ on a regular basis since she first printed the recipe seven years ago. That’s a record for me. It is – she is – that good.)

Enough brown nosing. Here we go.

I did something this time that I rarely do when making bread: I measured the ingredients. I normally just pour some flour and yeast into a bowl, then enough add liquid and some kind of sugary stuff til it feels like dough (sorry, Sally). But that doesn’t translate very well to internet instruction, so I went back and looked for the notes I made when I first started making this recipe around 20 years ago.

I also timed everything out. When I last harangued people to start making their own bread I noted it could be done in two hours start to finish. That was a guess. This time it’s not. I did this in just under a deuce. You can too.

See for yourself:

Basic American White Bread

Mise en place:

1 c. Milk (yes, that’s a bottle of buttermilk in the picture. I was out of milk so I used what I had: 2/3 buttermilk, 1/3 half and half. You can just use milk.)

3 1/2 c. flour (any kind will do, other than perhaps cake flour. Don’t sweat it.)

salt (er, forgot to measure this…maybe two teaspoons? Something like that.)

3 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup water

and RAPID RISE yeast. That’s crucial here if you wanna meet the time schedule. Rapid rise, not “active”. Also, make sure it’s a pretty recent pack you got there. Dead yeast means no bread.

Bread 1

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Prep:

Stir the flour, salt, and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer.

In a microwaveable measuring cup place the milk, water, honey, and butter and nuke it on high for around a minute. Long enough to get it between 110 and 120 degrees. Stir it til the butter melts completely. (No microwave? Do it on the stove. Do I really have to tell you that?)

Bread 2

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Slowly pour the liquid into the running mixer fixed with a dough hook (my KA is set on Speed 2). Little tip I discovered that helps a lot: lightly grease the dough hook before you start. That’ll help keep the dough from “climbing” to the top, an annoyance that used to almost keep me from using the thing:

Bread 3

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Let it spin for 10 minutes. Don’t go longer than that if you can help it. Over-kneading is something that will ruin a loaf faster than almost anything else. Other than the other stuff that will ruin a loaf quickly also, I mean:

Bread 4

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After your stand mixer has been stand mixing for 5 minutes do this: put a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup in the microwave and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Don’t open the door when it dings. Congrats – you just made a highly inaccurate, but effective, proofing box! Or at least, I think you did:

Bread 5

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After 10 minutes dump the dough onto a floured surface (and set the mixing bowl to the side – you’re gonna use it again in just a minute). Using your impressively masculine hand, knead the ball a few times. Really, just 10 – 15 good down-and-away pushes with the heel of your hand is all you need.

Bread 6

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After 10 – 15 massages of your doughy ball, form it into more of a ball. Doesn’t have to be exact, and don’t worry that it looks like a brain, or the bottom has a bunch of seams that didn’t stick together. It’s fine, bub:

Bread 7

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Now take the dough brain and dump it back into the mixer bowl. The bowl you have lightly oiled/greased/sprayed even though I forgot to mention it. Then cover with plastic wrap:

Bread 8

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NOW open the microwave door, and quickly put the bowl in (leave the container of hot water in with it). Close the door, and leave it closed for the next 45 minutes. This is your “first rise”.

** A WORD OF SERIOUS WARNING **

Whatever you do, and I’m not kidding around here, do not stick anything – a fork, a whisk, your finger, your wife’s finger, a tribble – into the water you just microwaved. There is the possibility, however slight, that superheated (ie: heated above the boiling point) water could explode out once you introduce what’s called a “nucleation site”. If you want to learn more about it, here’s the Snopes page, with links to the FDA warnings, engineering sites talking about it, etc. Seriously, take this one seriously:

Bread 9

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After 45 minutes, my ball got huge. That’s what you want. A huge ball.

If yours is not huge, it may be because of things like an unexpectedly colder temperature, half-dead yeast, or some other things that are still a mystery to me.  Whatever. If your ball isn’t big enough, re-heat the water for a minute or two and stick the ball back in. Check it every 15 minutes or so until it meets your size requirement. Which is “big”. Go listen to that AC/DC song for inspiration.

Here’s my big ball:

Bread 10

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You ever heard the advice to “punch the dough down” after the first rise?

Don’t.

Dough balls, like all other balls, don’t like being punched. Just press the ball down gently. Balls like that much, much more. Seriously, don’t punch your ball. Aside from the double entendre thing, you could actually cause the dough to stiffen if you slam into it here.

Just remove the dough ball to a floured surface again, and start pressing down, spreading it out. You can tug it and pull it, too (yes, back to double entendres):

Bread 11

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This is your goal. You want to push, tug, and pull the dough into a rough rectangle as wide as your loaf pan is long. My own trick is to put the loaf pan right there so I can tell easily. (A note here: I am using a long loaf pan, which as the name implies, is longer than your usual department store loaf pan. If all you have is one of the smaller jobs, your loaf will be shorter but higher. I prefer making longer loafs that aren’t quite as tall. But don’t worry, yours will be fine. Just taller. And stubbier. Stubby.):

Bread 12

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By the way, before I forget again: lightly oil/spray the loaf pan all over the inside. Don’t forget the top rim and handles, because sometimes the dough rises over the rim and can stick to those surfaces.

Now start rolling the dough into a tight log. If the edges start ballooning out, just pat them back towards the center. Try to make it pretty damn tight, not just two or three rotations:

Bread 13

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Make yours look like this. If it doesn’t, leave me a note and I’ll mail you out one of mine. (BTW, if it’s not obvious: this is seam-side down, the end pieces folded over so it doesn’t look like an open jelly roll):

Bread 14

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Put the log in the loaf pan. If you used the pan as a guide while you rolled, it should fit in perfectly:

Bread 15

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Now comes the second (and last) rise. No microwave this time. See what I did here? I’ve got two pots of water set on a low simmer, with the loaf pan on a trivet between them. The oven is on, pre-heating to 350(f). This gives a good temp for the second rise, which take around 20 minutes. Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap. (BTW, do use a trivet here. The stovetop can get warm enough from the oven pre-heating to start cooking the bottom of the loaf.):

Bread 16

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This was what I saw when my timer went off after exactly 20 minutes. It’s what you want to see as well:

Bread 17

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You’re now ready for the final lap. Soon, all those carbs will be yours!

Now take a good, sharp, thin bladed knife (or a bread “lame” if you have one, but unless you’re Sally I know you don’t) and hold it menacingly against the throat of the dough until it gives up the dough:

Bread 18

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The stupid dough refused to hand over the dough!

You know what that means:

Bread 19

So sad. Send a bouquet of flours to the widow.

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Ok, now comes the cookin’. Place the loaf onto the bottom rack of your 350-degree oven, towards the back. In front, place one of those pots of simmering water you had on the stove. That will give off some moisture as the loaf cooks, and through some kind of science-y magic I don’t understand, help the crust. Or something. I dunno. Just do it:

Bread 20

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Set your timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes rotate the bread pan around, so the front side now faces the back. Set your timer for 15 minutes again.

When you timer goes off, check the temperature. You want the internal temp to be around 190-ish. A bit more won’t hurt, but don’t go under or you risk having spots of raw dough in your loaf.

Like rising times, baking times can also vary a bit. Normally 30 minutes does it for me with this recipe, but this time it took 38 minutes to hit the target:

Bread 21

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Now just turn it out onto a rack – anything that will keep the bottom elevated so it’s not sitting on a flat surface and steaming will do – and then…wait.

You gotta wait because…wait for it…more science! As the temperature slowly comes down some chemical reactions take place inside the loaf forming various flavor compounds. If you cut into the loaf too quickly, the internal temperature will drop fast enough that it will keep those reactions from happening. It’s true, I read it in a book! Anyway, just hold your horses for a few minutes, bucko. That loaf ain’t goin’ nowhere:

Bread 22

You see my loaf came out very cleanly. If yours is sticking, don’t force it out by pulling the top, spraying it with WD-40, or doing anything else stupid. Just run a thin bladed knife, like a boning knife, gently along each side between the bread and the pan. I will say that with the modern non-stick pans that you can get anywhere this is hardly ever a problem, and the dark coloring makes an excellent loaf on top of that. But I like using my cobalt blue stoneware Le Creuset because…shut up. I just like it, ok? I mean c’mon – cobalt blue!

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Finally enough time has passed. The loaf is still warm, but not TOO warm. So….

CANNON BALL!!!

Yup. Dive in.

Butter and salt is the only music your bread needs to sing:

Bread 23

I want to call your attention to that nice even crumb for a second. That’s from rolling the dough log very tightly back there. If you do it loosely, well, you’ll just end up in tears. In tears and eating bread with a loose crumb. So again: tight.

Now let’s see if my time prediction in that previous post held up, or do I suck:

1 minute 15 seconds heating the liquid ingredients.

10 minutes machine kneading.

30 seconds hand kneading.

45 minutes first rise.

2 minutes rolling into a (tight!) log.

20 minutes second rise.

38 minutes baking.

Equals……..

116 minutes, 45 seconds.

1 hour, 56 minutes, 45 seconds.

That’s…that’s less than two hours, right?

It is! Yes!

I DON’T SUCK!

Take THAT, SallyBR! You think you’re so smart just because you’re so smart. HA!

Finally, just to wrap things up (before I go have more carbs…mmmm….), those of you who’ve been reading me for a while know I’ve had this ongoing “bread experiment”. See, I have this theory that any liquid which doesn’t kill yeast can be turned into bread by adding flour and yeast to it. If you go back through my archives you’ll see loaves I’ve turned out using melted ice cream, various soups, Earl Grey tea, Korean ginger-cinnamon drink, sauerkraut, etc. So far, I have not had one failure. And this is the base recipe I use. So if you want to try your own bread experiment, follow along with what I did here, but substitute your own insane liquid choice for the water/milk combo. And let me know how brilliant I am in the comments (or how much I suck, depending).

There ya go, fellow blogger who shrilly requested this. I hope you’re happy. Or at least, shut up for a while.

NOW the next time I come back, it’ll be with stories and jocularity. Unless somebody harangues me for something else again. Please don’t. Just loaf contentedly until I get back.

Ciao!

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