Saturday, October 23, 2010

How does a duck know what direction south is? And how to tell his wife from all the other ducks?*

We interrupt this story of grief and loss (and coffee drinking and international adoption) to talk about...agriculture and baking.

You're glued to the screen, aren't you?

There are occasionally some distinct advantages to being married to a guy who teaches teenagers whose parents are farmers.

For example, downstairs in my freezer there is 1/4 of what used to be a very happy cow. Well, I suppose, since it was a boy, it's the remains of what used to be a very happy steer? A very happy bull?

I'm pretty sure it was a steer. It was one of Husband's student's 4-H projects. It had a name and grazed openly and generally led a the blissful life of a cow (er, steer) that wanders around a open pasture. It wasn't locked in a barn with a thousand other cows being administered massive doses of antibiotics and goodness only knows what else.

And it was reasonably priced, all things considered. (Of course, buying part of a carefully raised 4-H steer does require that one has room to store a side of beef. And probably, if everyone decided they wanted a side of beef from a happy 4-H project, there wouldn't be enough to go around.) But, from my perspective, it's tasty, convenient, and I feel much better about it than I do buying meat from the supermarket.

We also have a line on some happy chickens and some happy pork. (Well, I suppose the pork won't be happy. The pig it used to be? It was happy.)

But, actually, this post isn't about community supported agriculture or happy cows.

This post is about ducks.

Duck eggs, in particular.

Recently, we obtained a dozen duck eggs from one of Husband's students.

I was dubious at first.

I wasn't sure what to do with them, and so I googled, "cooking with duck eggs".

And the Internet responded with enthusiasm - BAKE WITH THEM!!!

And while I will be the first to concede that the Internet isn't always right, today I am here to tell you - baking with duck eggs is the bomb.

In the past 24 hours, I've made muffins, cookies, and french toast. The french toast, in particular, was amazing. The muffins and cookies have a really rich taste and the muffins rose really well. (I understand this is because duck eggs are higher in both fat and protein.)

I was so impressed that I asked Husband to get MORE duck eggs from his student.

And then I made the mistake of googling, "buying duck eggs" - and, apparently, duck eggs can be crazy expensive.

So, while I would not say that it would be worth paying $50 for 18 eggs...I would say that, should anyone ever offer you duck eggs at roughly the same cost as chicken eggs? But them. And bake something delicious.

One caveat - the shell of a duck egg is much harder than the shell of a chicken egg - break them into a separate bowl rather than breaking them over the rest of your ingredients, or you will find yourself with a lot of shell in your muffin mix.

Bon Appetit.


* Crash Test Dummies, How Does a Duck Know?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Days I'm Bursting at the Seams With All My Half-Remembered Dreams*

I've been having the most vivid dreams lately.


I dream the ponds behind our house are flooding, flooding our pool and subsequently our home. Gigantic catfish, bigger than actual cats, float through my living room.


I dream that I am running, faster and faster. The ground beneath my feet is the softest grass, and I am barefoot and I feel exhilarated, like I could run forever, like I want to run forever, barefoot on this silky meadow.


I dream that J- walks into my office, wearing his burgundy sweater and khaki pants. "Hey," he says. "How ya' doin'?"

I spin in my chair, surprised to see him. I have one of those moments of spooky clarity, where I know I'm dreaming. I have not dreamed of J- since before his death.

"You died," I say. "And it SUCKED. Don't do that again."

"Yeah," he agrees. "That sucked."


The next night I dream of J- again. He is sitting in my living room, which, in reality, now holds J-s last beloved leather lazy boy, recently moved from my J- and my aunt's home**.

In my dream, the lazy boy is conspicuously absent, and he sits in the chair he always sat in, when he sat in my living room.

He is holding our ancient orange cat on his lap, stroking his back, scratching his ears.

Again, he is wearing his burgundy sweater. Again, with the spooky moment of clarity, the realization of a dream state.

I want to ask him why he keeps wearing this burgundy sweater. I want to ask him where he is now. I say nothing.

He keeps petting the cat. "I'm going to have to take him with me when I go," he says.

"I know," I say.


When I woke up that morning, I went searching for the cat. He was hard to find, and his breathing was shallow. He was curled beneath one of the couches in the living room.

That was four days ago. Every day since I have been shocked to find him still with us.

He is (probably) 18, perhaps 19. He's been with us since 1994. His days are dwindling down. I am comforted by the idea that J- will take him to the other side...which is probably where the dream came from. Probably.


*David Gray, Ain't No Love
** Having the chair in her living room was too painful for my aunt, and she asked us to take it.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A door that leads to light and grace, But the keys are in the darkest place*

At the library the other day I ran into an old friend browsing through the mystery stacks.

Lavender** is old enough to be my grandmother, but once upon a time we were close. Our church had matched us up together in a small dinner group called "Tables of 8", and she and I hit it off, the way friends of wholly disparate ages sometimes do.

I was not lacking in grandmotherly attention, but I liked Lavender and I enjoyed her company. I also was a devotee of her baked goods, particularly an item she called "Chocolate Sin Pie."

About five years ago Lavender's husband passed away, and I hadn't seen her since.

I'll admit that we have not made it to church very often since we brought Lana home. (Lana, a child who loves to sleep, is never awake on Sundays in time to make the family service. It's a completely alien concept to me, to wake a sleeping child, and I'll admit that I love to sleep in on Sundays as well, and dawdle over coffee and the paper. But I do miss the comfort of our church services*** and I'm trying to find a solution.)

At any rate, I approached her and said, "Lavender? I haven't seen you in years!" and she blushed.

"I've been going to St. Tim's," she said.

I laughed at the idea that she thought I might be questioning her about her absence from the pews at St. Paul's when I have so rarely been found sitting in them myself.

"How are you?" she asked me. And for reasons I don't entirely understand, I told her that I was sad, that I was not dealing with "a situation of grieving" very well.

"Do you want to sit down?" she asked me.

We found two comfy chairs in a corner of the library, and we talked for almost an hour. About grief. About J~. About her late husband. About how important it is to let the tears out.

We talked about how, the spring that Gabe was a tiny, sleepless baby, I would find myself at our church's Lenten potluck dinners, exhausted and worn to pieces. Lavender would come and hold him, so that I could eat something and drink a cup of coffee and talk to grown-ups. We talked about how those hours meant so much to me, and how it was comforting for her, to hold a tiny happy baby for a while. Lavender called it "mutually beneficial baby wrangling".

As it happens, since her husband's death, Lavender has been volunteering as a hospice bereavement counselor.

After that hour spent talking with her, I felt...well, I felt exhausted, but I also felt a real sense of peace. A sense of peace I haven't found in all the time I've spent talking to my grief counselor.

Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with my grief counselor...I think it's probably a matter of there being a real value in having real, meaningful conversations with people who know your history, and who understand where you've come from, and who simply "get" you.

Or maybe it was just Lavender herself. Some people are just special that way.


* Pat Green, I'm Trying to Find It
The whole lyric I wanted to use (although it was too long for the title) was:

A door that leads to light and grace
But the keys are in the darkest place
Though it feels like I've been there before
Though I don't know what I'm looking for
And I'm trying to find it

** Not her actual name, although her actual name is equally unique

*** Let us not delve, at this moment, into the complexities that arise when one is the daughter of a clergy person from one denomination who has chosen to (albeit sporadically) attend services at the church of another denomination. Suffice it to say my clergy mother (mostly) understands our decision.

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