Random Pandemic-Related Thoughts

When this is all over, I suspect that what most people who weren’t directly hit by COVID-19 are going to remember isn’t the virus, it’s going to be The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020.

Also, what a whole lot of primary-school kids are going to remember is The Spring When There Wasn’t Any School and We Got to Watch All the TV and Play All the Video Games We Wanted.

My younger daughter adds, “And a whole lot of Millennials are going to turn into the kind of grandparents who end up ranting at their grandkids about how Nobody Washes Their Hands Properly Anymore, Dammit!”

****

There’s also been some speculation around here about what kind of fiction is going to be popular in the next year or so. My own theory is that dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories are going to see a decline in popularity – that shoe we were waiting for while we were reading those has dropped, and people are going to be ready for something more upbeat. Remember, the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977, just two years after the end of the Viet Nam war and all the other awfulness of the late sixties and early seventies.

So maybe swashbuckling space opera will come around again. I’d like that.

A Celebratory Dinner

Because today is Jim Macdonald’s birthday, we drove down to Littleton, NH, to the Little Grill, a Brazilian restaurant whose food Jim – who’s been to Brazil, because during his youth his dad worked there for several years – vouches for. (One of the co-owners has Brazilian roots; how he or she ended up in Coös County, NH, I don’t know, but the oddest people sometimes do.)

Anyhow, on Fridays and Saturdays they have Brazilian Barbecue Night. This is “barbecue” in the Australian, or “things cooked on a grill,” sense of the word, not the American “things smoked or slow-cooked in a pit” sense. The way it works is like this: For a flat price you get your choice of sides from a buffet, and then the waiters keep coming around to your table with grilled meats of all kinds on skewers until you tell them to stop.

The grilled meats tonight were slices of lamb, slices of beef, slices of pork, chunks of steak wrapped in bacon, chunks of chicken wrapped in bacon, chunks of chicken covered in herbs and garlic, chunks of pork covered in herbs and garlic, grilled pork sausages, and also slices of grilled pineapple. Also grilled beef short ribs, but only Himself had those, because by then I had cried “Hold, enough!”

If you’re ever in Littleton, NH,on a Friday or a Saturday night, give it a try. But not if there are any vegetarians or vegans in your crowd, because this is not a place for them.

Kitchen Archaeology; or, The Return of the Lost Recipe

In our current quest to organize the kitchen, the other day I ordered a baker’s rack from Amazon†, and today we moved it into place. This involved relocating the bookshelf full of cookbooks about a foot and a half to the right, which in turn involved first taking all of the cookery books and magazines off of the shelf.

In the course of the relocation, we found the old black-and-white composition book that I first started recording recipes in, right after Jim Macdonald and I set up housekeeping. To our delight, among the recipes was the caramel apple recipe of Macdonald’s childhood, which I had carefully copied into the notebook from the index card I got it on.  We eventually lost the index card, to our sorrow, and after that there were no more caramel apples any more, because the black-and-white composition book was buried under a decade or more of other cookbooks and cooking magazines.

But now we have the recipe again, and I have entered it into my computer’s recipe folder and passed it along to all of our offspring, and now I’m passing it along to you.

Caramel Apples

(from Sister Mary Rose of Our Lady of Good Counsel, via Mrs. W. D. Macdonald)

Combine in sauce pan:
1 and 1/3 cups sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar

Stir constantly until 234 degrees F over medium heat, or until mixture forms soft ball when dropped into very cold water.

Remove from heat and stir in:
1 T butter
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla

Dip apples; does 8 medium apples. If mixture thickens too fast, place sauce pan over hot water. Be sure apples are washed — a waxy coating makes the caramel slip off sometimes.

(Blogger’s note: skewer the apples on thick wooden skewers or popsicle sticks before dipping them.)

Amazon may be an Evil Empire, but at least it’s an evil empire that provides goods to the north country that would otherwise require a visit to a specialty store down below.

Questions I Have Asked My Cats, to No Avail

Me: Why, O Cat, when I have gone to the trouble of providing you with a perfectly cromulent catbox and high-quality kitty litter, do you nevertheless persist in using, instead, the floor directly adjacent to same?

Cat: Meow. (If you really understood me, you wouldn’t have to ask.)

Me: Why, O Cat, when I have gone to the trouble of acquiring for you a warm, high-sided, fleece-lined cat bed, which last winter pleased you entirely, do you this winter insist on once again ignoring it in favor of sleeping draped across my forearms while I’m trying to type?

Cat: Meow. (That was last year. Now it’s this year. Get with the program, human.)

Me: Why, O Cat, do you complain vociferously if you do not get your daily ration of wet cat food along with your dry, and then ignore it until it dries out from the winter cold?

Cat: Meow. (Have you considered microwaving it? You don’t eat your food cold, do you?)

And so it goes. I tell myself that they are transitioning from middle-aged cats to older cats, and getting crotchety in their later years.

An Unsolicited Endorsement

Breathe easy . . . it’s not political.

We live in an old house, by American standards; the core of it — the part where the basement has a dirt floor and the basement walls are granite rocks that probably came out of the ground the basement was dug in, and the support beams are essentially whole logs — was built sometime around 1850, and is, ah, somewhat more permeable to the world outside than your standard suburban no-basement house set on a concrete pad. This means that over the years we’ve played temporary hosts to a variety of local wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks, and — one memorable winter — an ermine.†

And of course, we always have mice. Most of the time, our cats keep the local rodent population within acceptable limits, but this year, between the long winter and the wet summer and — for all I know — the Trump administration (because lord knows, the orange-haired vulgarian is responsible for most of the rest of this year’s horrors), the numbers have gone beyond what two hard-working cats could be expected to handle.

This isn’t just a problem, we said to ourselves; this is an infestation. Time to call in reinforcements.
12065
So we’ve gone high-tech. Not for us the cheapie spring traps, or the glue traps . . . we’ve laid out serious money for a Victor Multi-Kill Electronic Mouse Trap. Because damn, this thing works. We’ve had it in place for around a week now, and the score currently stands at Victor Multi-Kill 21, Mice 0.

Highly recommended.


We only saw him once, heading across the kitchen floor at speed and disappearing under the closed basement door, but our house was remarkably free of other vermin while he was in residence.