Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I Fought The Chicken and I Eventually Won

Working full time means having to cut some corners at dinner while providing a picture-perfect home cooked meal that the family will fawn over while they take seconds and thirds. One of my favorite things to make is crock pot chicken cacciatore, which plates beautifully and pairs nicely with jasmine rice and a side salad. My secret to making this dish is to add the frozen pieces of chicken into the crockpot so that there is no lengthy defrost time. Four to six hours simmering in the crockpot, bathing in tomato sauce is enough for the chicken to cook perfectly.

Yesterday, though, the chicken acted like a big baby fighting me tooth and nail getting into that nice warm bath.  I had two packages of thighs that I had bought fresh two days before and promptly stuffed into the freezer, right next to some leftover containers of I-Can't-Even-Recognize-It-Anymore. I took them out and started my usual, hassle free, cook-blog-worthy prep.  I pulled the plastic wrap off the chicken, and started to pull the styrofoam packaging off the chicken but that crap wouldn't budge. I ran the frozen rectangle of protein and foam under some cool water and finally, I was able to claw chunks of the perimeter of the bedding off.  I still couldn't get a big portion of the container off the bottom of the thighs, which were also still stuck together. Water and chicken juice had become frozen glue.

After ten minutes of scraping, I decided to dunk the chickenberg into a bowl of water in the hopes of everything just coming apart.  That worked for the remainder of the styrofoam, but the chicken maxi-pad was still stuck to the bottom! I tugged at it, and pulled at it, and clawed at it. I was not Martha Stewart anymore. My hair had come out of it's neat ponytail and was flying around my face. I was grunting and growling.  It was becoming a fight to the death.  OK, maybe not that dramatic, but it took me what seemed forever to pull the top plastic layer of the maxi-pad off of that chicken along with some skin (not sure if it was mine or the chicken). Once that was over, I started washing off the spongy layer. I felt good. I felt like I was getting somewhere. OMG, what in hell is that?  My sink stopped draining and started filling up with water.  I fished for the drain net thing and pulled it out!  It was filled with a ton of clear pink goop. It was absolutely horrifying. Here, I'll share the horror with you.

What the hell is that????

Then I remembered, it's kind of like the stuff in a diaper that gets all big and swollen and makes your baby look like he's been riding a motorcycle all day. This chicken wasn't wearing a maxi pad! It was wearing a DIAPER!  Well, I had to get the rest of that diaper off this chicken because, damn it, I had a beautiful family to feed in six hours and a bunch of emails were waiting to be answered!  But, the chicken wasn't done with me yet: the top layer of diaper plastic was stuck underneath folds of frozen chicken.  It took me another ten minutes to pull that bad boy off, during which time, I broke three fingernails.

I was FINALLY able to get the chicken into the crockpot, wipe my hands on my lovely apron and let the crockpot work its magic!


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Upcoming Week: School's Still Out Edition

The upcoming week is free of appointments until Wednesday, when I have a professional organizer coming for a consultation.  I'm still hoping she won't find a goat or other barnyard animal behind my office desk. I will make sure to clear the dog bed and flip flops from underneath before she arrives.

I have found some pretty funny things during office clean outs. The weirdest item was a jigsaw. I got this crazy notion that I could cut a hole out of the back of my desk to access an electrical outlet. Um, no.  That didn't happen until a neighbor armed with a Dremel and circular saw came to my rescue. Now I can add even more shit to my desk, like extension cords and laptops. 

                                                     Fancy schmancy desk hole.

The jigsaw? It was thrown on a shelf in the garage.  If the organizer doesn't run from the office screaming, I may let her go nuts in there. More about the organizer after her visit. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A little Jewish Girl's Tribute to Santa

My eleven and a half year old daughter figured it out.  I'm not sure when she did, and she's not really letting on that she knows. I'm happy she hasn't made any loud proclamation, because Santa is alive and well as far as I'm concerned.

I was probably about six years old.  We lived in New Jersey and would visit my grandparents' red brick row house in Brooklyn on a regular basis, but especially on holidays when school was out.  I don't remember much detail about the visits at that age. I do, however have fond memories of being a baby and taking baths in my grandma's huge sink. I remember their really cool gas oven where bagels were toasted to perfection. I remember a Murano glass chandelier in the kitchen and pretending to play the upright piano in the living room with the crinkly plastic covers on the couches.

So, I was six. We were at Nona and Papou's house for a regular visit during winter school break.  I knew all about Hanukkah and was aware of Christmas. Very aware of Christmas, in fact, because my friend, Valerie had the whole megilla at her house. Huge tree, decorations, and lots and lots of gifts. Mind you, she had a large family, so you can imagine the amount of gifts under the tree.  I would visit Valerie's house wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and a little green with envy as I took it all in.

Ok, back to my grandparents' house.  It was Christmas Eve and I remember going to sleep in Nona's huge bed with my sister.  I woke up hearing my mom and Papou announcing that Santa had stopped by. Santa? This house?  We didn't have a fireplace. How'd he get in?  We were Jewish. What would make him stop here?

My next memory is walking up to the kitchen table and seeing four wrapped gifts there. Santa had come! We had no tree, no Yule log, no boughs of holly, but Santa had come?  "How did he get in the house, Papou?"  "He came in through the kitchen window. I saw him leave!"  I couldn't believe it.  They were such simple gifts: a big set of Magic markers and coloring books, but Santa came!

I remember Santa coming to our house again the next year, this time in New Jersey.  My Nona and Papou were visiting that Christmas.  I remember receiving a train that blew real steam and lit up. It was fantastic!

A week later, I remember being woken up, in the back seat of the car on the Belt Parkway at night, and my mom sniffling and trying to stifle her crying.  I remember being in my grandparents' kitchen and then for some reason I was sleeping over at a neighbors' house.  I was really, really confused.

We were at my grandparents' house for what seemed like forever, with no sign of Papou.  Mirrors were covered with cloth and soap and there was a lot of crying. No one told me what happened. It wasn't until we were on the way home that I said aloud, "Papou is dead."

And Santa stopped coming to the house on Christmas.

It wouldn't be for another seven years that I would learn that my Papou took his own life, in his own house. My cousin told me, in secrecy, because no one ever talked about Papou's death.

When I was sixteen, I bought a three-foot-tall Christmas tree, some crappy decorations and put it up in my room. After all, we were Jewish and I doubt my parents would want to have a tree in the middle of the house.  To my surprise, my mom took one look at it and took me shopping for beautiful ornaments, and we started a tradition of exchanging small gifts on Christmas Day.

Over the years, I have collected dozens of Santa ornaments, dolls and statues.  And now that I have my own family, Santa lives on in this household. It's still extremely painful for me to talk about Papou, who died when I was too young to fully appreciate him.  The greatest gifts he gave me, however, is my love of Santa Claus, the spirit of giving and knowing that every time I think of Santa, the image of my Papou appears in my mind.

What better Christmas gift is that?