Fuckin’ enough with the coronavirus already. I’m tired of reading it. Tired of hearing it. Tired of broadcasting it. Tired of living it.
So let’s talk about flies.
This actually happened last year, but since I didn’t get any pictures of it then I didn’t write about it. I thought I’d wait til it happened again this year, as it’s an annual event, but this time I’d have my Nikon ready.
But I’m tired of coronavirus. So I’m not gonna wait that long.
Here’s what happened. Last year NewWifey(tm) invited a very nice, very Southern lady to stay with us for a weekend. There was a 2-day stitching event that weekend just down the road from us, and they were both scheduled to vend at it. NewWifey(tm) made the offer so her friend wouldn’t have to shell out weekend rates at a hotel. The lady took her up on it gladly.
This didn’t affect me at all. She arrived Friday night after I’d gone to bed, and they left for the show Saturday morning before I woke up. Same thing Saturday into Sunday. Right after the show NewWifey(tm) was to drive her to the airport to catch a flight home.
But NewWifey(tm) being NewWifey(tm) instead said “Why don’t you stay stay for a few more days? I can take you to Manhattan, I’ll teach you how to ride a motorcycle, you’ll probably see a bear, and my husband can cook whatever you want. Waddaya say?”
She say “yes”.
Of course, I wasn’t consulted. But to be fair I almost never am, and I’m ok with that. Although usually I’m given a little lead time so I can stock up on provisions. Instead, I woke up on Monday morning for work and found this note tacked to the fridge:
“Baby, on your way home today could you pick up a whole tenderloin of beef, 4 or 5 eggplants, stuff to make ice cream, stuff for pastry cream, a couple of Belgian endive, a few basil plants, stuff to make demi-glace, 3 pounds of green beans, 4 pounds of butter, 2 chickens, a pork tenderloin, mushrooms, leeks, stuff to make baguettes, some lamb shoulder chops, ground beef, a case of cabernet sauvignon, a couple of pounds of cheese, a case of pinot noir, a case of sauvignon blanc, some medium grain rice, red bliss potatoes, a tub of duck fat, a duck, a case of beer (not dark!), stuff to make salad, stuff to make madeleines, and a box of tampons? Thanks!”
Mind you, I had no idea Ms. Grits was still domiciled under our roof. As far as I knew she was already back on her verandah, sipping juleps while looking out at the darkies working daddy’s plantation.
I walked back to the bedroom and shook NewWifey(tm) awake. “Honey, what the hell kind of shopping list is this? Did you invite the French national women’s rugby team to stay with us or something? And what’s with the tampons? I haven’t had to hide my face and pick them up for you since you had that hysterectomy in 2008!”
She filled me in. The lady was staying with us for the entire week, and with no stitching shows to go to she’d be dining with us every night. And because once NewWifey(tm) found out that Ms. Stars-and-Bars actually grew up in France before moving here in her teens she bragged about how good a French cook I was. I was now expected to prove her right.
Now, my work life generally takes up between 10 and 12 hours of my day, what with an hour commute each way and doing all the shopping for DangerHouse on my trips home. It’s not really a hardship, nor is the cooking I normally do for the two of us when I get home. I can whip up pretty intricate dishes in the time it takes most people to start a flame war on Facebook (“Waddaya mean the Hanseatic League did not technically constitute a monopoly? You’re an asshole!“) But…demiglace? Duck confit? Mille-feuille? That night?
To be clear here, this was all NewWifey(tm)’s idea. I’m sure our guest, good Southern Belle that she was, would never think to impose on her host by demanding a week-long Caligula-level banquet on short notice. So I didn’t feel bad when I threw the list out. She’d get good French food, but more in the steak-frites line of bistro fare than La Grande Cuisine. Gimme a few day’s notice, and yeah, you got it. But that night? Thomas Keller would throw her out.
After work I picked up enough provisions to make a week’s worth of nice dishes, and a case of mixed wines. I did get the duck fat, but to simmer potatoes in, not confit. And I also laid in enough eggs and dairy to whip up crème anglaise for ice cream, and for pastry cream. Plus wheat flour for a couple of loaves of regular ol’ Pain de Campagne, since I already had some rye flour on hand.
The one thing that stumped me was the tampons. I’d neglected to ask what size the lady required, and lacking a cell phone I was left to my own imagination. From what I’ve seen on PornHub, the bigger it is down there the more the ladies seem to feign pleasure. I got the XXL’s.
Things were pretty uneventful for the first couple of days. The ladies took day trips, and they stayed out long enough each time that when they got home I had dinner on the table. There was enough wine. The ice cream was ice cream. The tampons fit.
Then on Saturday NewWifey(tm) took Dixie Chick out for her first taste of the Big Apple. When NewWifey(tm) takes anyone to Manhattan she revels in wearing the Tour Guide hat, so I knew I’d have the place to myself for at several hours. I fired up PornHub on one screen, Animal Crossing on the other, and opened the first of nine bags of BBQ flavored pork rinds. I’d have plenty of time to start dinner later.
Ok, so I’m going to give my excuse right up front: I couldn’t hear anything over the crunch of the pork rinds, the moans of Bridget the Midget as she doggedly tried to stay mounted on a Sybian twice her size, and the muzak inside Tom Nook’s shop where I was selling turnips for a tidy profit.
Back up a second. I forgot the mention this: before she left, NewWifey(tm) warned me that our guest was a bit of a neat freak and if I wanted any more conjugal visits for the duration of our marriage she’d better not return to find our living room looked like the Exxon Valdiz cracked up in there. As has happened. I told her I was just gonna watch porn, so at most there’d only be a tablespoon or two to clean up before they returned. She looked skeptical, but didn’t say anything. They left.
Fast forward again to Bridget and Nook. I was sitting there absorbed in both, munching rinds, and it was all I ever wanted in life. So much so that I didn’t even notice that the room around me was getting gradually darker and darker.
And louder. At first I thought either Bridget’s Sybian had just kicked into overdrive or my stereo amp was overheating, because the background hum of electronics had steadily risen to an ear splitting buzz. I hated to do it, since I was at a critical point in each, but I paused both the video and the game to see what was up. But I didn’t find the cause, so I shut everything down. Yet still the buzzing.
That’s when I noticed it was also getting harder to see. And suddenly it all clicked.
Aw, shit. Why now??
Every year, like clockwork, there is one day in late spring or early summer when some entomological alarm clock goes off and every single fly egg that was laid somewhere deep in the recesses of DangerHouse the previous winter hatches. Then every single one of the millions upon millions of tiny vermin cycle through from larvae to pupae in perfect lockstep, until they simultaneously reach adulthood literally the same minute…and fly into my living room. Then it’s the same scene every year: the flies think our bay window is the way out, and they fly right into it en masse. Did you ever see the old film, The Amityville Horror? Yeah, it’s like that scene, but more. Lots more. Our window looks like it has a shimmering black black blanket thrown over it on that day, a blanket that also emits a 120 Hz buzz.
Normally I love this day. I grab the two fly swatters I keep tucked away in the hall closet and immediately go into a full-on Street Fighter two fisted orgy of swat! punch! twirl! swat! jump! swat! swatswatswatswatswatswat! until the entire window is one giant smear of fly guts and puke, with the sill below a charnel mat of the dead and dying. It’s very cathartic.
NewWifey(tm) hates this day. Why? Guess who has to clean up the guts, puke, and tiny, tiny corpses? You’re right! Yeah, yeah, I know. “You sexist bastard, why does the woman have to clean up? You made the mess, you fucking deal with it!” Trust me, I would like nothing better. Gloating over my victims as I trowel their smashed and broken bodies into the pauper’s grave/trash can is icing on the gory cake. But after the first year where I basically just wiped two portholes in the window goo so we could see out, and left it like that for a month, NewWifey(tm) insisted on taking over that chore.
But this year, death was not an option. At least, not death by fly swatter. Remembering NewWifey(tm)’s promise to curtail all boink activities if she arrived home to a mess, and knowing how inadequate my crime scene cleanup skills are, I left the swatters in the closet. But I still had to get the flies out of there. I mean, a pestilence plague still constitutes a “mess”, right?
My first idea was pretty good, I thought. I opened the front door. Even flies, with their fly sized brains, would see the advantage an open door would have over a closed window, right? Especially since it was less than 10 feet away, easily discerned with their multi-faceted fly eyes.
Nope. They kept hurling themselves against the glass, not one of them realizing that sweet freedom was a mere 5 second flight to the left.
Next brainstorm. I ran down to the garage and grabbed our big shop fan and an extension cord. I set it up to the right of the window, pointed towards the door on the left, with the raft of flies in between. I flipped the switch, and blades big enough to power an Everglades tour boat instantly created a gale force windstorm in my living room. Magazines went flying out the door, along with the remains of my breakfast, my sneakers, and the TV remote.
The flies stayed put.
How...? Did flies evolve to have epoxy on their feet, or something? Not one of them was displaced. I mean, even my coffee table got shifted two inches to the left, and it’s solid osmium!
Than I had my real brainstorm: Sir James Dyson OM, CBE, FRS, FREng.
I have one of his vacuums! And it really sucks!
If you’re not familiar with the Dyson vacuum cleaner (I’m looking at you, men), it’s one of those bagless jobs. Stuff gets sucked up and shot into a canister, and when the canister is full you detach it from the machine, hover it over the bin, and pull the release trigger. The bottom of the canister swings open, the contents drop into the bin, and you pop the now empty canister back on the machine to start again. It’s great!
Plus, it’s got a wand feature that lets you vacuum stuff off walls and sofas and anything else that’s higher than floor level.
I ran and got the Dyson.
Can anybody see the flaw in my plan? I couldn’t.
I checked the canister. It was about half full from the previous carpet cleaning, so there was plenty of room left. I plugged it in and pressed the button.
It worked! Running the wand up and down left nothing but window behind. No blood! No guts! No flies! They were one and all sucked at nearly the speed of sound into the waiting pile of dust, toenail clippings, pork rinds, and rodent hair inside the canister. In about 10 minutes every last one of them disappeared into the vortex, and I could see my outside lawn from inside again. Thank you, Sir James!
I could also see that the canister was now full. I detached it and brought it to the kitchen trash bin.
I pulled the release trigger.
The bottom trap opened.
And WHOOOOOOOOOOOSH!, out flew 728,533,201 flies.
GAAAHHHH! They survived!
And every one of those 728,533,201 flies was covered in a thin layer of dust, toenail clippings, pork rinds, and rodent hair, which then all became a fine aerosol as their beating wings shook everything free. Within seconds I was standing in the middle of a whirling cloud of grey filth that gradually spread throughout the house. Not only that, but all the flies instantly flew back to the living room and covered the window again.
And of course, as happens in all good sitcoms, that was the exact moment NewWifey(tm) and Mrs. Clean arrived home. NewWifey(tm) opened the door to see me standing in the middle of the living room frantically waving an open Dyson canister at a blanket of flies on the bay window, a volcanic plume of dust and mouse hair rising to the ceiling, a running video of a midget riding a sex toy on the laptop, and pork rinds all over the floor.
She didn’t say a word, just turned and closed the door behind her. Through a break in the flies I could see her push Ms. Grits down the stairs and back into the car. Thankfully our guest must not have seen the maelstrom that NewWifey(tm) witnessed because I could see her expression of confusion as she got back in the Nissan.
I knew what I had to do. I reassembled the Dyson, and once again sucked all the little buggers off the window. But THIS time I carried the canister a good half a mile into the woods and let them out there. If they found their way back to my bay window from there I was just gonna move. But they didn’t, so I got to work on the rest of the cleanup.
I opened all the windows and doors in the house and carried that 50 pound shop fan through every room and hall, blowing as much of the fetid cloud of dust and mouse poop that I could out every available exit. Then I emptied two full bottles of Fabreze to cover the rest.
After that it was easy. Vacuum the floor, rub one out to the remaining 5 minutes of Bridget, sponge up the ensuing stain, grab a shower, and then –
Make a kick-ass dinner. It was the one thing I knew from experience would defuse NewWifey(tm) following one of my, ah, escapades. This was a big one though, so I had to pull out all the stops. At least I knew NewWifey(tm) was smart enough to realize I’d need a couple of hours to get the place presentable. I had time.
Off to the store.
A half hour later I was back. Out of the sack came a full tenderloin of beef, Belgian endive, a bundle of leeks, a pint of (godhelpme) pre-made demiglace, two pounds of shell-on shrimp, 3 bottles of sauvignon blanc, 3 bottles of pinot noir, and one bottle of Sauternes. And another box of tampons, just in case. You really can’t sweet talk women enough.
4 hours later the pair returned. I saw the front door crack ever so slightly open, then one of NewWifey(tm)’s eyes carefully scanning the scene before daring to usher Ms. Grits in. As she looked around further I saw color, which was previously absent, start returning to her face.
15 minutes later we were all seated at the table, which was already set with a tureen of shrimp bisque, a basket of rolls, and glasses of sauvignon blanc. After clearing that course I set out the Châteaubriand surrounded by braised endive and grilled leeks, along with a boat of Béarnaise sauce and gratin dauphinois, and opened the pinot noirs. Finall,y out came a platter of pastries and the Sauternes.
It worked. I got laid.
Thank you, Sir James. You’re pretty fly, for a white guy.
Ok, since this entry hasn’t gone on long enough, I thought I’d pad it out with a “What I Did During Quarantine” entry. Yes, after having said up top how much I wasn’t going to. It’s ok though. It’s about food.
1. NewWifey(tm) has taken the “SHELTER IN PLACE OR DIE!” warnings very seriously, and for one solid month neither of us ventured out of DangerHouse. At all. Fortunately I keep our kitchen stocked with all sorts of non-perishable provisions, so while a diet of dried beans and lentils would certainly get boring after a while, at least we wouldn’t starve.
Before it got to that point though, there were things we had to eat first. Like, all the stuff that would go bad if we didn’t. So the meat drawer was empty after 3 days, veggies after 6. A few days after that all I had left was one lone apple. I’m really, really good at stretching ingredients, but one slightly shrivelled apple was gonna be a tough one.
To the internet, Batman!
I’ve been on a bit of a rural Chinese cooking kick lately, so I flipped through some of the YouTube channels I’ve been following to see if any of them had a “What To Do With One Apple When The Pandemic Descends” video. And one did! Thanks to it, and some helpful translations in the Comments section, I was able to extend that lone Red Delicious into this:
That was three breakfast’s worth of Chinese steamed apple and raisin buns (I actually flavored them with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves for a more traditional western flavor). If all you have left in your kitchen is a single Macoun, I highly recommend you give this a whirl. They were easy, and delicious. They were also fucking HUGE, which of course is the quality you probably value the most during famine times.
2. I finally did leave the house last week to go to the grocery store because a certain wife of mine, who shall remain nameless, will die, absolutely die!, if she does not have cream in her coffee. And we were out of cream. So I donned a full Fukushima Cleanup Team hazmat suit, complete with diving bell helmet, and drove down to Price Chopper. While I was there I figured I’d get a few other things we were either out of – veggies, meat – or were low on – flour, sugar, paper napkins, sock garters.
I was able to score some fresh veg, and even a few packs of chicken and beef. But all the other stuff was loooooong gone. No flour, no sugar, nuthin’. Gone.
Along the way I noticed they were also out of yeast packets, which really surprised me. Normally every yeast display looks untouched, almost to the point of gathering dust. Suddenly everyone seems to have learned how to bake though, and they’ve stripped the yeast shelf clean in their mania to do it.
This didn’t really affect me, personally. As luck would have it, earlier this year I found several jars – not envelopes – of yeast on the Clearance shelf of the store, marked down to a dollar apiece. I bought every one they had. I now have enough yeast to last me til the coming plague of 2034.
But here’s the thing. If YOU can’t find yeast, but you want (or need) to make bread, you still can. Despite what you may have read about a “yeast shortage”, you will have no problem at all. You see, there IS no yeast shortage. There is yeast everywhere. Yeast is probably the most prevalent organism on the planet, after ignorance. There’s yeast in the air. There’s yeast on plants. There’s yeast on you (and not just the women).
All you need to do is throw approximately equal amounts of water and flour into a jar, stir it up into a slurry, and…well, at it’s most basic, that’s it. Yeast from the air will eventually create a starter, which you can then mix with more flour and form a loaf. But unless you have literally nothing else in the house, you might want to do something to hurry the process along. For instance, if you have one pack of yeast left and you know you won’t be able to get more, just adding a few grains to the slurry will do the trick. You can extend that one pack to dozens of loaves. If you have a little sugar, that speeds it up a bit also. Just screw a lid on the jar and set it aside. Check it the next day to see if it’s bubbling. If it is, you have starter. If it’s not, you don’t. Yet. Put it back for another day and check again.
You know what works really well for this? Fruit. Have you ever seen a white film on the outside of your grapes, cherries, etc? That’s a yeast film. Pop a few of those into your slurry and stand back, as the rising dough might engulf you. Augh! It’s alive!
If you don’t have fresh fruit, or if you’re being extra cautious and washing your fruit carefully when you get it home, an excellent variation is to use dried fruit. Toss in a couple of raisins or dried apricots, and be amazed.
ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: if you open the lid and see bubbles, but it smells like your elderly aunt’s Depends, you’ve got a problem. A strain of yeast called “Leuconostoc” got to your slurry before the bread yeast did. Leuconostoc is famous not only for smelling like your aunt’s Depends, but also for making bread that tastes like your aunt’s Depends.
If this happens to you, don’t despair. There’s actually a cure: acid. Leuconostoc cannot tolerate going very far down the pH scale, so adding a few drops of white vinegar or lemon juice will kill it. And that’s not all. The good yeasts can survive in a slightly more acidic environment, so they’ll now take over the neighborhood. You’ve got your starter back, and you’re now good to loaf.
Finally, should you need a good, basic white sandwich bread recipe, I posted this tutorial a while back just for you. This recipe is about as simple as it gets, and it’s absolutely foolproof. But if you need it even simpler than that, perhaps because your own Price Chopper is out of milk and butter, you can still make bread. Follow the basic procedure I laid out, but just use flour, water, any kind of sugar, and either yeast or your new homemade starter. It will still work. It will just be a “rustic” loaf, not classic sandwich bread.
I think that’s about it for this episode. I was going to post some more tips on how to stretch small amounts of ingredients into several meals, but I think you’ve suffered long enough. Besides, I’m getting hungry. So…time to fly!
Ciao, kids. Don’t forget to wash your grapes.