Summer 2003

more cooking

Friday, June 6, 2003, 10:44 p.m.

Garlic Beef Stir-Fry with Peppers and Snow Peas

12 oz. beef (or venison) filet
1 onion
2 sweet peppers: one green, one orange
3 cups snow peas
can of water chestnuts
can of bamboo shoots
red wine vinegar
beef boullion
lemon juice
soy sauce
~1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
vegetable or peanut oil

Let's start with a marinade, shall we? In a bowl large enough to hold the meat, mix a splash - about a quarter cup - of red wine vinegar, a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, and the juice of one lemon. Mince around 5 medium cloves of garlic and add it to the marinade, along with a little black pepper. Now slice the beef or venison into thin strips and slosh it around in there. Let it sit and get all nice and tender while you get the veggies ready. Remember to stir it every once in a while.

Rinse the snow peas and snip off the ends. Set them aside. Wash the peppers and slice them very thinly lengthwise. Enjoy slicing, and admire how the knife cuts cleanly through the bright skin of the peppers. Peel the onion and mince it.

Get a sauce ready for the stir-fry, so it will be all set when the meat and veggies are all cooked. Mix together a dash (tablespoon or two) of soy sauce, a beef boullion cube, 1/2 - 3/4 cup water (if you heat it, the boullion will dissolve more readily), some freshly grated ginger (just a bit), pepper, and four minced cloves of garlic. Hollis suggested that some some hot sauce would go nicely in there, too, but there's a dearth of that around my house. Also, dig around in the back of your pantry and find your cornstarch. Put it somewhere handy, but don't do anything with it just yet. Now might be a good time to start thinking about some rice.

Aside: in my house, there is a debate about the right way to cook rice. My dad prefers it cooked like pasta, in an excess of boiling water, and then drained. My mother prefers cooking 2 cups of rice in 3 cups of water, so all the water is absorbed. In either case, it'll probably take about 20 minutes to cook. Don't go with the time estimate, though - just taste it.

Now we're ready to go pro. Heat the wok up and drizzle some oil in it. (I suppose this could be done in a big cast iron or non-stick pan instead of in a wok, but again the best bet is probably to cook in small batches so it all gets quickly seared.) Cook the meat first, so the juices are leftover in the pan to flavor the vegetables. Cook it in small batches - it took me 3 or 4 to do it all. Each batch cooks very quickly, though, so this isn't as time-consuming as it sounds. Set it aside in a big bowl. Cook the veggies in a similar fashion. To aid their cooking, steam them quickly: pour a small (tablespoon-ish) amount of water into the wok, then immediately cover it. The water will boil upon contact with the wok surface and the steam will cook the vegetables. As you cook them, set them aside with the meat.

Don't bother taking the last batch out of the wok, though: instead, add the (drained) cans of water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, cook briefly, and dump all the other veggies and the meat back in. Mix it all up and let it heat a bit. Now pour most (a bit more than half?) of the sauce over it all and mix again. Stir several teaspoons of cornstarch into the remaining (still cold) sauce and blend until smooth - no lumps! Add this at the last minute to the stirfry.

Serve over rice. This recipe makes a lot of food - dinner for three or four, at least.


Friday, June 13, 2003, 6:45 p.m.

I think I'm settling, too, like Rabi. I'm not sure what it will take to make me feel settled... perhaps I won't, until I get back to Swarthmore in the fall. And then a little while longer while I figure out how the pieces fit together when someone's traded my boyfriend and dormmates for a lot of freshmen.

I have been in Potsdam, living in a strange boxy dorm room with metal venitian blinds that go clik-clik-clik-clik when the wind blows in my window, and only one small greenish fluorescent light above the door. Once I'd plugged in a lamp or two, though, and spread my purple blanket across the bed, I felt almost more at ease there than I do in my room at home. I've grown accustomed to the feeling of a dorm, I suppose, while at home I'm surrounded by eighteen years of outgrown decorations and confusing memorabilia. I keep the memories dear - I won't trade my faded pink curtains covered with teddy bears for something more adult - but for now it's also easier to keep them at arm's length. While I settle, while I figure out how the pieces fit together...

Yesterday afternoon, as soon as class ended, I threw a bag and a few books into the backseat of my car and sped down the road again, southward again. I'm getting rather familiar with the route, though I still took a wrong turn in Canton, but I'd never driven it so quickly. Normally I dawdle a bit, buying cheese curd in Pulaski or lingering in the McDonald's near Watertown, enjoying the air conditioning while reading whatever book I currently am unable to ignore for even five hours while I drive to my boyfriend's house.

But I digress. I made it home in only a little over four hours, even with the wrong turn and the rain that started up on Rt. 81, and so I only missed about fifteen minutes of the graduation ceremony. I parked, leapt from the car, and sprinted across the parking lot. I slipped in the back of the darkened theatre, trying to keep from panting so loudly that the whole auditorium could hear me, and scanned the stage and my program. For a moment I panicked - they already had their diplomas; I'd missed it all. Then I calmed down and realized that they were only music folders.

It was like other Harley graduations - which did not diminish its importance but instead emphasized just how time keeps cycling, plodding on while I'm off paying attention to someone else. There was Zac, and Kathryn, and Betsy's (little?) brother Colin. Cliches: when did they get so big, wasn't it just yesterday that... But I felt oddly at peace, almost distant - miles away, in the back of the balcony, in the dark. I sobbed when Ben graduated, and Laurel and Ross, but if I almost cried last night it was for Harley itself, and the life I can never return to there. There are thousands of familiarities that I can never get back, only remember more and more hazily.

...but I am trying to figure out how the pieces fit together, until one day I may get it; I am still settling.


Thursday, July 31, 2003, 1:45 a.m.

Hollis pointed out that I hadn't written in here in over a month. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but it has something to do with vacations and summer laziness and lots of thinking about the imminent departure of aforementioned boy.

Big words are good for shielding your emotions.

I can't say just what the future will hold for this journal. I won't make promises about how I'll immediately start writing every day. In fact, I expect things to be quite irregular for a while. I bet I'll come back here in force eventually, though, so don't give up on me entirely.

So there's at least something for you to read. Walk in peace.


Tuesday, August 5, 2003, 9:03 a.m.

I like the Bo Kaspers Orkester, which Santtu introduced to me while he was living with us, but which I was too inattentive to notice until last semester. They've got a smooth, easy sound, but I didn't get into it because I've always been fond of lyrics - and theirs are in Swedish.

But, lately, that's kind of cool... it means I'm not limited by what the artist meant to say. I like "hearing" my own lyrics over their songs. I have only the vaguest idea what these songs are about - nowhere on the great WWW have I found translations, and the free software I found was about as good as free translation software normally is.

So they say,

vi har ett eget hus på landet
dit ingen telefon kan nå
ett glas som klirrar grogg i handen
och radion står på
och det här är nog så nära
himlen som vi kommer nå

but I hear,

I wanna take your tears to London
Deep in your telephone canoe
A glass of clear and grokky highlands
The radio's still closed
Oh, they had enough, Senara
Him and somni come along.

Pretty surreal... but I kinda like it. All I really know about this song is that it's "about being on holiday." Good enough.

fun with the post office

Monday, August 18, 2003, 11:55 p.m.

Here is a partial list of things which I am prohibited from sending to Hollis while he is in the United Kingdom:

* Cards decorated with mica or ground glass or similar materials unless they are placed in envelopes. (I'm having difficulty imagining how one would decorate a card with mica.)
* Goods made in foreign prisons, except those imported for a non-commercial purpose or of a kind not manufactured in the UK.
* Horror comics and matrices. (Anyone know what these are?)
* Perishable infectious biological substances. (Oh, so non-perishable infectious biological substances are all right?)
* Seal skins except those from an accepted source. (Drat.)

Also, there is a restriction on live queen bees. They must be "accompanied by an import license issued by a UK Government Agricultural Department and a health certificate issued by the appropriate Government Department of the country of origin stating that the bees are free of disease." Oh, is that all? Sorry, Hollis. I guess I'll have to wait until you're back in the states to present you with that anniversary gift of bees that I was planning.

Missing you, love. It's not the same with you gone. I love you.

Days of Beauty
Copyright Elizabeth McDonald 2003

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