The Discovery of Scallegged Nogtoes

fullsizeoutput_177aBarker’s vile, bone-deep, pupil-dilating hatred for scalloped potatoes was injected into his psyche early in life.  He can’t remember the first time he was served scalloped potatoes, but he is confident that after the first taste of those thin compressed cardboard disks covered in the paste of a semi-edible chemical concoction, his reaction was extreme in the worst possible way.

And so it was with eggnog.  A slower, denser, bloated form of milk, somehow related to eggs but by which way, he wasn’t sure.  Even an association with Christmas couldn’t make him like the stuff.  It was a mutant dairy product that couldn’t even be saved with generous doses of rum.

But then, everything changed for Barker.  Within one four hour window of time– a window into which shone the brilliance of culinary enlightenment, he discovered a joy which led to an infatuation with scalloped potatoes and eggnog.

It was marriage that brought him to the door of Mother-in-law Mildred for Christmas.  Upon arrival at his bride’s ancestral home, he was presented– within a matter of hours– with a plateful of scalloped potatoes and a glass of eggnog.  Knowing his long history of repulsion towards both, one might think it would make for a most awkward situation.  What would happen?  Would he force them down to be polite, and then worry about enduring the agony on every subsequent visit?  Or would he put his tongue down, refuse to consume, and offend someone who could make his life miserable for the next number of decades?

Neither happened.  A third, more unpredictable outcome ensued.  For you see, Barker failed to recognize that he was actually drinking eggnog and eating scalloped potatoes.  

The reason for this lack of recognition was simple.  Both the scalloped potatoes and the eggnog were real versions of the real thing.  Made from scratch.  Made like they were meant to be made– not mass produced in some cavernous factory in New Jersey or bought during a frenzied 50% off sale in the Walmart grocery department.

The scalloped potatoes were made with actual potatoes, actual grated cheese, actual garlic, actual flour, and all the other actual foods that went into their making.

The eggnog had real eggs, real cream, real milk, real sugar, real nutmeg and was cooked over a real stove in a real pot and stirred by a real person.

Barker’s newly discovered enjoyment of eggnog and scalloped potatoes could have been the happy ending to this story.  It wasn’t, for Barker began to wonder (as was a tendency of his):

Why does the International Food Corp. want to radically assault our culinary cultural norms by producing foods which share nothing more than a name with their original form? 

After weeks of agitation and mental anguish, he was out for a walk on a dark night– a walk in which he stepped into a pothole he’d never potholed before.  Immediately, as he lay within the broken asphalt, he was struck with a rare form of mental clarity.  He had his answer:

The minds of humanity have been tricked by a simple reality– that chasm between the idea of something and the actuality of it.  As long as we think we’re eating scalloped potatoes or drinking eggnog– providing it’s laced with salt and sugar–– we’re good with it.  Add to this the convenience of do-nothing food preparation, and you’ve got a sure-fire product.

The next time Barker went to the grocery store, in an act of profound defiance against the tidal pull of manufactured food, he bought himself a potato peeler.

Homemade Eggnog

This is the most simple recipe I have found, particularly if you are averse to raw eggs and having to wait extended periods of time before drinking the stuff.  For my first batch, I halved the recipe and ended up with plenty for four.  (It’s VERY rich, so you only really need small cups of the stuff.)

Makes 6 cups.

Ingredients

6 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup rum
Freshly grated nutmeg, for serving

What to do:

1.  Separate egg whites and yolks.
2.  In a bowl, whisk the sugar with the egg yolks into a paste.
3.  In a pot on the stove on medium heat, add the heavy cream and milk.  Warm until small bubbles form around the edge of the pot.
4.  Pour some of the milk mixture into the egg/sugar bowl.  Whisk, then pour back into pot.
5.  Keep at medium heat and stir until thickness desired. (This may take a while, depending upon the amount of heavy cream you’ve used.)
6.  Add rum.
7.  Cool outside (if winter) or in fridge.  In retrospect, I may try drinking it warm.
8.  When serving, sprinkle with nutmeg.
Note:  You can add whipped cream to thicken at the end.

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The No-Choice Choice

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So, you’re forced to make a horrible choice.  Don’t ask me to explain the circumstances that put you in this position.  Assume it involves some sort of diabolical blackmail or a mad scientist with a nuclear bomb hidden somewhere.  It doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that you have to choose between two alternatives.

Choice #1:  Host a nightly jam session for members of the Society for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Ancient Battlefield Musical Instruments.  This means bagpipes, bugles, shawms, and nakers, and it also means enough noise to loosen dental fillings, shake pictures off walls, and make the place pretty much uninhabitable for the duration of each session.

Choice #2:  Using an air popcorn popper to roast coffee beans in the basement.

Given the choice, I would take #1.  Not that I’ve hosted an Ancient Battlefield jam session, but I have roasted coffee beans in the basement. Believe me.  It’s #1 you want. 

If you’re unfamiliar with home roasting coffee beans using a popcorn popper, look here.  Normally, I roast outside, but a -20 celsius morning (in Fahrenheit that’s Freezes Nosehairs Instantly) forced me to look at alternatives.  That alternative was the confines of the basement.

The first batch of beans, roasted to a Full City Dark, went swimmingly well.  The second batch was intended to be roasted to the same degree.  Unfortunately, with the popcorn popper already warmed up, my highly scientific approach (roasting the second batch the same length of time as the first) resulted in a dark roast so dark, I would place it in a newly named coffee roasting category:  Full City Charcoal.  

I will drink the coffee from these beans, just as I’ll drink a bad batch of home-brew because it just doesn’t seem right to throw anything out I’ve made no matter how badly it tastes.  But the reminder of that coffee roasting session stayed with me and anyone else  in the house for the next number of days– kind of like living in a giant barbecue where the smell of burnt coffee beans is inescapable, and intensified every time the forced air furnace kicked into action.  It was the olfactory version of an ear-worm.  Think of Abba for the nose.

So, in short, if you find yourself hung from a rope above a pool of underfed sharks and forced to choose between #1 and #2, go with #1.  Earplugs are preferable to nose-plugs.