Monday, October 20, 2008

on the range of the buffalo

Last Sunday TM and I drove out to Land Between the Lakes for a romantic/snooty afternooon picnic, complete with:

-A sun-dappled patch of grass near a lake
-A rustic loaf of bread, some prosciutto, a hunk of asiago cheese, and a pocket knife with deer etched on the handle with which to hack at the cheese
-Half the contents of the Kroger olive bar (my new favorite grocery store feature, surpassing extended hours and self check-out)
-Three varieties of grapes and one spiky alien piece of fruit marketed as a "Kiwano," which claimed to have a "banana-cucumber like flavor" (this was not entirely true).
-One million gnats and flies
-A digital camera and a great deal of enthusiasm

That yellow thing in the middle is the "Kiwano." Kiwano is a copyrighted name, by the way, so don't you go trying to name your newest inedible genetically-engineered hybrid "food product" a Kiwano. Better name it a Cucunana or a Banumber or a Kimora or something.

The inside was a marvel of bright green gelatinous pods encapsulating cucumber-like seeds. These pods were impossible to separate from the seeds, impossible to chew, and very probably impossible to digest. I am pretty sure this disqualifies the Kiwano from being classified as food.

Better than cheese. Crazy but true.


After picnicking we headed back toward the Elk & Bison Prairie in hopes that we might spot a few of the beasts during their favored feeding hour, at dusk. Since there are no buffalo in either South Florida or New York City, I was nearly pissing myself with anticipation.

I decided to take an unmarked "scenic-looking" route back to the park's entrance. This sign appeared approximately four and a half miles into our trek down a rutted one-way path through the woods. We were not deterred.

We made it to the prairie, and good mother of god, did we hit the jackpot. It was incredible, they were everywhere, at times so close we could have reached out and touched their fur.

I don't know if you know this, but buffalo are awesome.

The elk were also majestic and all that, but we didn't get close enough to really appreciate their size or their beauty. You can hear this sexy guy below, though.

We filmed a rogue nature documentary on the Elk & Bison Prairie. Here it is:

Friday, October 17, 2008

I never go without my dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that.

Wrong again, Oscar Wilde!

Even though I hated the place, I used to go into the Houston's down the block from where I worked in New York, just for the strangely delicious veggie burgers and the side of pan-roasted cauliflower with capers and golden raisins. A couple of the girls I worked with were vegetarians and we got to talking about how great it would be if we could just make the Houston's veggie burger at home instead of paying fifteen bucks for it in their vapid faux-upscale corporate atmosphere. So one day I did some poking around online and found a "copycat" recipe for the veggie burgers. I've been holding onto it for about a year now, and I finally got around to making it the other day. TM and I both decided the burgers were a smashing success. I preferred mine the Houston's way, with just the cheese, some thinly sliced red onion, lettuce and sweet soy sauce; TM said he thought it would lend itself nicely to regular burger toppings like ketchup and mustard.

Here's the recipe:


1 tablespoon hickory barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium)
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

*These quantities are all approximate. I didn't actually measure anything. In the "copycat" recipe I found, the person used only barbeque sauce and molasses, but then I found a note from a guy who used to make the veggie burgers at Houston's and he said it was honey, molasses, soy, and hoisin. I just winged it and kept tasting until I decided it was right.


1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 Tablespoon oat bran (I used regular old Quaker Oats)
2 Tablespoon onions, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon finely chopped canned beets
1 teaspoon beet juice (this gives it that "rare meat" appearance)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon pickled jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 egg white (I used 2)
flour or oat bran as needed to bind (1 - 3 teaspoons)
a couple tablespoons of the soy glaze

*This is the recipe exactly as I found it online. I followed it pretty closely except for a few things; all the people who had tried it said the patties didn't hold together at all, and some had suggestions for binding them a little better which I made attempts to incorporate. As I noted, instead of oat bran I used regular Quaker Oats -- between two and three tablespoons. I also used two egg whites instead of one, and I threw in a couple teaspoons of all-purpose flour because the mixture seemed pretty wet.

Because I like things spicy I added a little extra jalapeno and onion; I also sauteed the onions first. The directions say to mash the beans in a bowl and then mix in everything else by hand, but I threw it all in the Cuisinart and it worked out fine and was a lot easier. Don't forget to add a few tablespoons of the soy glaze to the burger mix.

I formed the patties and flipped them around on a plate with some of the soy glaze to coat them, then I microwaved them for a minute and a half on medium just to help the egg start cooking (I was really paranoid about these things falling apart for some reason). Then I grilled them in a nonstick pan for about three minutes on each side, topped them with some shredded monterey jack cheese, and grilled whole-wheat hamburger buns in a little butter. While that was going on I shredded romaine lettuce and sliced some Bermuda onion as thinly as possible. I threw the burgers on the grilled buns, topped mine with onion, lettuce and a drizzle of the leftover soy glaze, and voila!

I actually had a hard time putting this thing down so I could go get my camera. Just sayin.

Some further notes: I refrigerated the leftover "burger" mixture overnight, and it was a lot easier to work with the next day -- the patties held together and didn't need to be microwaved prior to grilling. I just grilled them a bit slower. You'll need to watch the heat because the soy glaze is full of sugar and will burn like crazy. Also, I got tired of burgers so last night I cooked the burger mix with some diced peppers and onions and threw it in a tortilla with salsa, cheese and sour cream like a burrito. Turns out this stuff works pretty well as an all-around meat substitute.


As for the side dish of cauliflower with parmesan, etc.:

Pan-roast some cauliflower florets in a skillet with olive oil and minced fresh garlic until the cauliflower is browned around the edges, then add a handful of golden raisins and capers (don't skimp on these -- the flavor combination is what makes this dish), season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and top with shaved parmesan cheese. There you go.

Monday, October 13, 2008

if i had ever been here before on another time around the wheel, i would probably know just how to deal with all of you

There are thousands of songs -- dating back from the time I was eight or nine (earlier if you count my Grammy singing "Mairzey Doats" when I was just a little kid) -- that bring to life very specific moments in time. . . not just a memory, but a smell, a touch, a feeling. It's more than deja vu, I'm actually there, you know? I can't escape it, not that I'd want to anyway. Music is such an integral part of my life and has been for so long, I can't imagine not being able to put on a song and immediately recall the feel of the moist Florida Winter air on my arms as I ride my bike across the bridge to the beach ("Caught in the Rain" - Preston School of Industry). . . or the sun on my shoulders as I ride home to our little house in our little neighborhood on a crystalline Spring day ("I'm Always in Love" - Wilco).

What's strange is when it catches me by surprise -- when I'm at work in a new place, in a new town, surrounded by new people, and suddenly I'm back in Fort Pierce thanks to the Talking Heads. I didn't put this on, I didn't ask for this, not now. And always, always, I'm compelled to tell the story to whomever is with me. Tell my current boyfriend why this song reminds me of the guy who broke my heart when I was eighteen? Sure. Tell my little sister about listening to this one while waiting for the dope man? I can't help it. ("Bed for the Scraping" - Fugazi, and "Passat Dream" - Pavement, respectively) It's like I'm suddenly on The Couch, barfing up big buckets full of lurid details -- the ones nobody wants to hear, the ones beyond juicy. I've mentioned this here before; sometimes I don't realize when I've said too much until it's much too late. I suppose that doesn't only apply to music-induced memories, though; it's more a general observation on the way I approach life.

Fortunately, most of the memories I carry with me are good ones, and I feel lucky that I can instantly lift my mood with the push of a button (though I have to admit I sometimes succumb to a sort of teary nostalgia). I hear "Imaginary War" by Jawbreaker and I'm back in Trav's truck with four perfect friends, on the way to western Maryland for a crash-bang-blur of a ski trip. Pretty much anything by Band of Horses inevitably reminds me of Jesse and my first whiskey-hazy Fall in New York, all sweaters and sidewalks. Give me Mark Lanegan and I'm back at the blue box ("Ya'll remember when the drummer from Anthrax broke his leg skateboarding?"). Put on Redman or Sunny Day Real Estate and I'm eating a Schlotzky's Deluxe Original in Gainesville with Whitey, but if it's the Magnetic Fields I'll be in Kendall with Luis, who was always, always taking pictures.

Then there are the new ones. When I acquire new music I often wonder what feelings and events the songs will eventually be attached to; new situations and new friends get their own songs -- often the new songs and new experiences will become old memories together. But sometimes things overlap in surprising ways. At first Kentucky felt like My Morning Jacket, and it's true - I'll never be able to separate my first weeks here from "The Tennessee Fire." But then Band of Horses started creeping in, and Neutral Milk Hotel, and I started getting scared that new memories would replace the old familiar ones, and I'd lose those precious slices of time-travel, so I began grieving for them, like they were old friends who had slipped away. But maybe they've just gone on to a better place.

"I just can't find the time to write my mind the way I want it to read."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

time to take cover in a wishing well

Last night TM and I went to a couple art openings at the school: our adorable roommate's, and his lovely girlfriend's. Both were beautiful and impressive and obviously the work of very talented young artists. We didn't get the bunny-shaped cookies we were looking forward to, but we did get paper masks, which turned out to be the source of a lot more fun than you'd think.

Later on we met a bunch of folks at the local Mexican restaurant/bar/den of iniquity and got good-n-boozy on tequila and enormous cups of Dos Equis while a funny/bizarre girl repeatedly slapped a bunch of bewildered dudes for no apparent reason (I think TM got whacked in the face twice).

Today I feel like crap; I didn't sleep much (or well) last night, and I'm not happy about the fact that I have to go to work in forty-five minutes. In fact my desperate desire for procrastination is the only reason this post exists. Anyway, even though it was forty-four degrees yesterday morning, these guys are suddenly blooming in our front yard, so I guess life isn't all bad.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

know your enemy

Having political discussions is great, but if you're only talking to people who agree with you, it doesn't make for a very interesting conversation. And regardless of whom I'm talking with, I like to be informed on both sides so that I can at least feel like I have a fairly solid basis for my opinions.

These last few months The Man and I have been following the election pretty closely, and in an effort to provide ourselves the most complete (read: unbiased) view, we've been gathering our information from a variety of sources, including the standards (NY Times, CNN, The Daily Show), several foreign papers/sites (BBC, CBC, that Irish paper that keeps coming up in Google searches), and even some pretty right-leaning papers like the Christian Science Monitor and the Murray Times-Ledger. Until now we've stayed away from Fox News, but we thought in order to really understand the other half we ought to give it a whirl just to see what those crazy folk are saying.

Some asshole on Fox News just said, in all seriousness, that Sarah Palin has more experience than Barack Obama and that he would have no problem with her running the country should McCain suffer another bout with melanoma and disappear from the scene.

I guess that's why I don't watch Fox News.

For a totally unbiased piece that pretty much sums it all up, check out this article: Report: 60 Million People You'd Never Talk To Voting For Other Guy

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

cerebrovascular accident, part III

I don't know who wrote the song, but it is FUNKY.

i know where it came from: a bubble in a moment

Last week The Man and I woke up to find that during the night someone had placed this bizarre selection of books on our porch:

The titles included Death Reach, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, a tourist's guide to "Scenic Oregon," John Saul's The Darkness, a Canadian book on basic karate techniques, and the beloved classic White Fang. Even though waking up to a few books on one's porch probably isn't frightening by most peoples' standards, it did kind of weird us out. Once we got over that, we put our considerable forensic investigatory skills to work and came up with several half-cocked theories. Before I tell you what they were, I invite you to use the comments section and share your own insight into this baffling phenomenon.

pay attention, gremlin face.

As Part II in the new Stroke Series here at the Dinghy, here's some pretty solid advice on what to do if you're actually having a stroke:

I was rather aghast when this fella told me he was sure he'd had a stroke -- and claimed to have "enjoyed" it -- but according to the experts, over 10% of middle-aged adults examined were found to have brain injuries consistent with stroke, even though they had no recollection of the actual event. Hmm. I always thought having a stroke was a pretty big deal, I can't imagine not knowing it's happening to you. Too bad this business doesn't extend to things like childbirth and the passing of kidney stones. I guess that's where drugs come in.