Fat Chicken

where fitness and farming and fandom collide

SEEDZILLAS!

My gardening season officially opened this past Friday with a seed purchase that included winter squash (Waltham butternut) bush beans (Contender) pumpkin (sugar pie) cukes (Marketmore and Homemade Pickles) Romaine (Cos and Garnet Rose), popcorn (Robust) stevia and Quinoa (Brightest Brilliant Rainbow).

The quinoa – impulse buy. I have no idea if it’ll grow in CT but it’s pretty, so I’m gonna try. Usually there are about ten impulse buys in the seed section, especially if my beloved isn’t there to have an intervention on me, which generally amounts to him actively removing seed packs from my hands. He wasn’t there but I promised I’d behave. And I did. Except for the quinoa. Have I mentioned it’s pretty?

The stevia was not an impulse buy. It is however, more of a pain in the tush than I realized. See, I have this habit of not reading things through completely, like recipes and seed packets. It’s why I’m constantly in the middle of cooking going “Whaaaat???! I need Cognac and stinky tofu to make this?!” or in my greenhouse (read: the living room) going, “Whaaat?! I need to start stevia indoors?!” For those of you out there who may not be of a gardening mind, some seeds, like pumpkin or cucumber, can be directly planted into the soil once it’s warm enough. Others are Seedzillas and need constant care and attention weeks before you dump them off – sorry, gently place them – into the warm ground. Tomatoes and peppers fall into this category, as does stevia apparently. Normally this isn’t an issue, as I tend to do a ton of seedlings, and could just lump the stevia in with the others. Here’s what the start of my gardening season generally looks like in March:

Tomatoes, peppers, and a whole lot more.

Tomatoes, peppers, and a whole lot more.

What you’re looking at here are tomatoes, peppers and a bunch of other stuff getting their start under grow-lights and on top of heating pads. Growing plants from seeds is time-consuming; as the seeds grow they need to be watered and rotated, thinned and up-potted, hardened-off (the process of acclimatizing them to outside light and temps) and eventually planted. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as eating a late-August tomato from a seed you planted yourself in April but it is a task that takes time. It’s a task I normally love. But this year I am positively buried under a number of other projects, some of which might actually make me some dough, so I had to make the reluctant decision to forgo my own seeds in favor of direct sow and getting seed “starts” from a reputable nursery.

That was the plan until the stevia. I have zero experience with stevia, so I have no idea why I thought I could just fling the seeds into the ground come the end of May, and am just chalking it up to yet another misguided case of “I reject your (stevia) reality and insert my own.” I have a lot of those moments. Not just with seeds. Anyhooo….yesterday I got the stevia seedzillas going and thought I’d share the process, complete with pictures. A wordy blog AND photos! Do we live in amazing technical times or what? Hah. Okay here we go. It’s simple.

Step One: Get your seeds, seed starting mix, a bowl, something to plant in, and a cat. The cat’s optional.

001 (2)

Step Two: Keep your cat out of the starting mix. I failed on this count.

002 (2)

Step Three: Mix your starting soil with water. Don’t soak it. You want it to be the texture of a wet sponge, more or less.

004 (2)

Step Four: Place your soil in whatever container you’re planting in. I use all kinds, from actual seedling trays with dividers to yogurt cups to old produce containers. That’s what this is, an old “Olivia’s Organic Spinach” container with holes poked in the bottom for drainage. Repurposing at its best! =)

005 (2)

Step Five: Plant your seeds. How you do this depends on the seed and what kind of container you’re using. Also, how long it generally takes you to go from peacefully potting and humming “you are my sunshine” to tearing out you’re hair and shouting, “FRAAAAACK.” For me it’s about 1.3 seconds when dealing with tiny little seeds like stevia. I didn’t plant them so much as I sprinkled them like sugar on top of the soil, and then covered them with a little more soil. You can barely see them in this picture. I apologize for the quality of the picture AND my hand; I seem to have channeled the wrinkly (though no doubt ever-wise!) hand of a 7,000 year old Tibetan sage here.

006 (2)

Step Six: Keep your other cat out of the seeds. Cats are cool, but pesty.

008 (2)

Step Seven: Again, what you do next depends on what you’re growing. I did a bunch of quickie research on stevia – did I mention I really have no idea how to grow it? – and it needs to be covered until the plants emerge. So, once again, my handy-dandy spinach container comes into play: I just closed the lid.

009 (2)

Step Eight: Now the seeds need to be kept warm and moist. Normally I’d have all my seeds under grow lights on one giant table and lamp set up constructed by my love (see above pic) but this year, with only one container, it’s the old-fashioned way: in front of the wood stove.

015 (2)

Okay, there’s a light as well. =)  Stevia needs to be at 70-75 degrees but I’m the lazy gardener and can’t be bothered to keep that good a track of things, so I just plunked it in front of the stove and under the light and left it at that. I figure nature finds a way (name the movie!)

017 (2)

Step Nine: Keep track of planting date, and germination date, and of transplanting date, and any bugs or pests that impacted the plant. Basically, write down all the stevia happenings from birth. It’s like a baby book for buds. I’ll be super conscientious about maintaining my garden notes for about ten minutes or so. Like I said, the lazy gardener.

013 (2)

And that’s it. Now we wait. Takes about one – two weeks for stevia seedlings to emerge, and in that time I’ll be watering and warming and turning and fretting. My readings tell me stevia is not particularly easy to grow from seed; even the official stevia website has a “yeah, good luck with that” attitude going on. We shall see. If there’s one thing gardening teaches you it’s that it’s possible to do everything right and still fail, and that the best you can do when faced with the small sadness of unrealized plants is to remember why you wanted to garden in the first place: for that delicious moment when a little green shoots pokes its head through the dirt and says, “I’m here.”

BOOK IT, DANNO

1. The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse RayFour-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman

2. Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman

3. The FEDCO seed catalog. (FCN:the gardener’s porn! Thousands of quality seeds, organics, conventional, heirloom. If you haven’t checked them out yet, DO!!)

10 Comments »

TIME FOR A TIME-SAVING FAT CHICKEN “TOP TEN”

Greetings, Earthling Readers.

I have no blog for you this week. Yes, I know, I’m lame. LAME.My blogging goal for the Fat Chicken is once a week WITHOUT FAIL but this week, well, I failed. I had a spectacular time management crash and burn, and had to temporarily remove my fingers from certain pies, blogging being one of them. That said, nature and social media abhor a vacuum, and so instead of the long, drawn-out love affair of a blog post I normally do, this week I present you with a quickie list.

Yes. A list. Don’t look at me like that. It’s not just ANY list, it’s not just some “milk, butter, eggs, toothpaste” snoozefest, it’s a TV TOP TEN list, for frack’s sake, and I’ll thank you to be a little grateful. I swear, some people.

Personally, I enjoy a list, and I found the process of including one in the blog to be such a handy-dandy time-saving thing I may just employ them here as a regular “too many pies, not enough fingers” event. You’re excited, I know.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Fat Chicken’s Top Ten TV Shows of All Time

But first!

A bit of info on what the Fat Chicken likes and doesn’t like in a show. A mini-list before the macro-list, if you will.

  1. No shows detailing the lives, loves or pimply setbacks of high school students. Angsty teen drama gets on my last nerve. Really, I don’t care. Put some Clearisil on it and get to class.
  1. No shows featuring the seemingly spontaneous yet somehow beautifully choreographed public boogie.Seriously, it just flings me right the hell out of the drama when otherwise sane individuals suddenly leap up in the diner or beauty salon or (God help us) police station and commence to sing and dance around the pie wedges and perm chemicals and pistolas. Flashmobs not withstanding, this just.doesn’t.happen in real life, and the willing suspension of disbelief I happily employ while watching my shows can only be stretched so far before it snaps back and cracks me in the eye. The “pie wedge two-step” cracks me in the peepers every time. That’s the sound of me holding my eye and changing the channel.
  2. Shows must feature somebody hot. Do not ask me to sit there for 40 minutes watching homely dudes. For real.

So, if all that leads you to conclude that I have never sat through an episode of “Glee” you’re right. No offense to the Gleeks, though, if you love the show, more power to you, feel free to spring up and sing about it once I’ve exited the building.

Now, onto it! I mean it this time. I present to you, in no particular order:

The Fat Chicken’s Top Ten TV Shows of All Time!

  1.  Battlestar Galactic
  2. Friday Night Lights
  3. Northern Exposure
  4. Breaking Bad
  5. Firefly
  6. The Andy Griffith Show
  7. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  8. Sherlock (Fat Chicken Note: relatively new, absolutely brilliant)
  9. Deadwood (FCN: I like Westerns. If there’s a horse and a ten gallon hat I’m in, as a general rule, as long as nobody’s singing, and this was one of the best to come along, even though it saddled [heh] the absolutely gorgeous Timothy Olyphant with a hugely stupid mustache.)
  10. I’ll Fly Away (FCN: I think I may be the only person on the planet who watched this show. Actually I’m beginning to wonder if I imagined the whole thing, seeing as the show is not listed on either Amazon or Netflix and, bizarrely, entering it into the Netflix search engine took me to a Willie Nelson, Live! DVD. It’s possible I’ve dreamt the whole thing up, and am standing in a shower somewhere waiting for Victoria Principle to open the door.)

So that’s the list. Crikey, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to limit the list to a mere ten shows. I’ve watched a lot of great shows in my day (and also some crap, truth be told. Anyone remember that USA show “Silk Stalkings” ? Gawd, I loved that show.) Anyhoo, Let me sneak in one more list of shows that just missed being included:

Honorable Mention OR I Coulda Been a Fat Chicken Contender

  1. Doctor Who
  2. The Waltons (FCN: YES The Waltons. Look past the twee elements;from a writing perspective there’s a whole lot of fantastic dialogue going on there, you just don’t notice it at first because it’s beautifully appointed and quiet and no one ever yells, “What the fuck, John-Boy?!” while slinging back a Miller Lite and putting out a cigarette on the closest available arm. Now I’m not opposed to that happening in my shows it just not, you know, required.)
  3. Mad Men
  4. The Sopranos
  5. Walking Dead
  6. St. Elsewhere
  7. Homicide
  8. The West Wing
  9. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  10. Hill Street Blues

So there you go. My TV lists, apropos of absolutely nothing. Enjoy the irrelevant goofy while you can, next week I intend to get all serious up in this piece.

Oh, and let me know your shows…the Fat Chicken is nothing if not insanely curious.

3 Comments »

THE CRABBY GARDENER’S ALPHABET (Now With Added Snark!)

The start of gardening season is upon us, what with all the seed catalogs arriving in the mail, and my first thought was to do a blog entry detailing the passion, the power, the ecstasy that is gardening. And then I thought, “meh.” See, I do a relatively big garden every year – cukes, lettuce, winter squash, popcorn, beans, peas, black-eyed peas, several varieties of tomatoes – and for the last couple of years my results have been less than stellar. I’ve been hit with the god-awful tomato blight two – nay, THREE – years in a row, and last year even my old standbys, beans and cukes, turned in a shabby performance. So I’m not really feeling the gardening thing right now, or at least not feeling it as much as I usually do. This does not mean I plan to throw in the pitchfork, however. We are a stubborn, “hup hup chin up!” lot, we organic gardeners, and when things go wrong in the beds we tend not to give in but to don our gloves and overalls and press on into full-contact gardening mode. Now for organic gardeners this means a whole lot more than simply spraying the plants with Diazhapenpufflef or Chromdingsnisifhly, pesticides I’ve just made up on the spot, in case you couldn’t tell. For us it means scouring Organic Gardening magazine for ideas, Googling gardening tips till our fingertips go numb, and prying secrets and stories of gardens gone by from old-timers and farmers alike. We’re willing to try just about anything on the off chance that it might work. To date, I have stacked garlic cloves around cucurbits, tossed tomato dirt with cornmeal, and covered various vines in so much tinfoil it looked like I hoped to make First Contact from my backyard (presumably while sporting a tin-foil hat of my own.) This year I’ll be employing molasses to spruce up the dirt in general, and pennies, which will star in this summer’s “Loopy Long-shot to Defeat the Blight.” These ideas may work, they may not. But the experienced gardener knows that whatever happens, it’s all part of nature’s cycle, all part of the ups and downs that come with growing pretty much anything, from kids to crops to animals, and that at the end of the day it’s not about how much you manage to grow but that you choose to walk the gardening path with patience and maturity and….

Bwaahaahaahaaaahaaaha!

Yeah right. Like hell. What gardeners want is YIELD. We can’t turn patience into pickles, or serve maturity with mozzarella and basil. We want the GOODS, people, we want the CROPS!

And who says gardeners are mature, anyway?

We’re playing in the dirt, for god’s sake.

The Crabby Gardener’s Alphabet

A is for total AGGRAVATION from start to finish. Why the frack do I garden, anyway?!

B is for BUGS of.every.kind. Organic gardeners have the fantasy that our respect for nature means nature will appreciate us in the form of the bugs choosing to party elsewhere but no…all the bugs will come to your yard and bring a date.

C is for accidentally CANNING a CATERPILLAR. I have done this and, yes, briefly toyed with the idea of passing it off as a kissing cousin to the Tequila worm. “It’s the latest thing is trendy salsa flavoring!” There’s a hipster somewhere who’d believe it.

D is for powdery white pest-control using DIAMATACEOUS EARTH, I spread so much of it around each year it looks like a Columbian drug lord exploded in my garden.

E is for EVERY DAMN TIME I get in the garden the phone rings. Seriously people, don’t call me in the summer. Actually don’t call me ever, I hate talking on the phone. Heh.

F is for FOREVER AND A DAY, which is how long it will take for New England-grown peppers to turn from green to red, which in turn often leads to another “F,” this one uttered by the Northeastern gardener as September turns to October and there’s nary a red pepper in sight…

G is for GROW, ya bastard.

H is for (tomato) HORN WORMS, big, fat, green, garden nastiness from HELL. I invite you to Google them, and suffer the nightmares.

I is for the INFRARED you will employ as you creep around the garden at 1am trying to determine what in the HOLY HELL is eating your lettuce. It’s either slugs or your neighbor. A toss up, really.

J is for foaming with JEALOUSY when you see the size and ease with which non-organic gardeners grow stuff. Remain strong, and take comfort in the fact that the ingredients in Miracle Grow will eventually kill them. I kid. Heh.

That said:

K is for KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! As I’ve said, we organic gardeners like to take the gentle approach to pest control – “This way to exit, all bugs and critters please exit the garden this way…” – but there comes that moment when you are DONE with the beetles, the worms, the aphids, the slugs, the gophers, the deer, and find yourself either drifting dreamily through the pesticide aisle at Home Depot or wondering where you can get your hands on a few grenades.

L is for LESS IS MORE, this year’s planting mantra. Really, it is. I do not need to sow broom straw, a field of oats, or 15 different varieties of tomato. Less is more, less is more, less is more. Lather, rinse, repeat till gardening season is over.

M is for MIRACLE, which is what it feels like every year when the beans pop up through the dirt or that first cucumber appears on the vine. Wait, that’s not crabby at all, is it? Okay, M is for MASSACRE by WeedWhacker, which is what my beloved did to overflow beans last year. (Beloved’s Note: Feel free to tell me when you’re planting things OUTSIDE THE GARDEN. When I’m armed it’s all weeds to me.)

N is for NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM from Harry Potter. Have you SEEN how kind puberty has been to this kid? Seriously, Google before and after pictures. But I digress….

O is for ORGANIZED garden plan, I don’t have one.

P is for I’m going to PUNCH the next PERSON who says gardening will teach me PATIENCE. Patient people make patient gardeners. Impatient people are constitutionally unsuited to gardening and therefore end up swearing a lot. (Editor’s Note: See also G and F.)

Q is for pretending that you care about QUALITY over QUANTITY. Who cares if you only got one good tomato off of twenty plants? That’s a sexy red rock star right there, so slice that sucker up, throw on some basil, and boldly carry it to the BBQ with your Jello mold and beer. Practice saying, “Yes! But what a tomato it is!” beforehand.

R is for late-August REVISIONISM of your June statement that “it’s going to be a great gardening year!” You have one effing tomato. Loser.

S is for STUBBY little pepper plants that have grown 1/100 of an inch in three months because you thought you were Super Gardener, able to leap planting guidelines in a single bound, and went ahead and planted those peppers in partial shade. “Hot! Hot! Hot! That’s the way we, emmhmm, like it,” chant the STUBBY little peppers, as they freeze their stubby little asses off in the aforementioned partial shade.

T is for TEENY TINY impossible to plant lettuce seeds sticking to my fingers and driving me batshit crazy as I try to get them in the dirt. I always end up with ten heads shoved up against one another while other heads have ten feet between them. Gah!

U is for the UGLY CRY you’re gonna have right there in the garden when you discover blight spots on your tomatoes AGAIN.

V is for VESTIGES of your gardening sanity. If you have any left by the time October rolls around, you aren’t doing it right.

W is for WHACKALOON, which is what the non-gardening types will consider you as you stand there sobbing over your “on its last legs” French bean crop. (Editor’s Note: Also see “ugly cry.”)

X is for XENOSCAPING, my expensive landscaping dream. Who wants to fund this for me? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller…..?

Y is for YAMS. Hard to grow in the Northeast. I’ve got nothing beyond that. The elusive yam joke strikes once again.

Z is for forty pounds of ZUCCHINI grown from a mere seven plants, and the desperate attempt to rid yourself of them throughout the summer by handing them out to strangers at the county fair, – “Hi! You don’t know me but – zucchini?” – or attempting to stash them in oddball recipes. “It’s zucchini tiramisu! I found the recipe on Pinterest!” Ain’t nobody that hungry.

BOOK ‘EM, DANNO

1. The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch

2. Keeping the Harvest: Discover the Homegrown Goodness of Putting Up Your Own Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs by Nancy Chioffi and Gretchen Mead

3. All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space by Mel Bartholomew

3 Comments »

20 Things We Need to Bring Back!

In no particular order except maybe #1! Hah.

1.Common sense. I’ve checked everywhere, even under the cosmic couch cushions, and it’s just not there.

2.Firefly. Shiny.

3.Kids walking or biking to school. No, not because they need more exercise but because I hate the rolling yellow roadblocks known as school buses. Does traffic really have to a screeching halt for 6 miles in each direction every time a bus lumbers over the horizon?! Let my people go!

4. A living wage. For real.

5.Art patronage. I need some rich fool to pay the bills while I stow away in my cold drafty attic and write. Likely I will also be thin and pale and coughing weakly into a hankie due to the creeping tuberculosis that will soon kill me.

6.The 10th Doctor. Whovians join me in a moment of silence. Also feel free to sob, I know I do. Heathens, er, those who don’t watch Doctor Who, please shuffle on to #7.

7. Sunday as a full-on, no questions asked, chillin’-and-spirituality-go-ahead-and-park- that-behind-on-the-couch kind of day. Also, some frowning Puritan Fathers and their sin-sniffin’ noses to go along with it, because I’m going to have a hell of a time relaxing all day unless there’s some sort of “to the stockade with you, you incapable of relaxing woman you!” threat behind it.

8.Easy-open packages. How many time do I have to end up on the floor twisting a box of crackers into a half-nelson and shrieking, “tap out! tap out!” before food manufacturers go,”hmmm, perhaps our Kevlar-lined packaging and titanium lids are frustrating to the consumer.”

9.Friendly debate. Yes, Virginia, there was a time when we could talk politics without it turning ugly, or into a personal attack on someone’s intelligence and character. Sigh.

10.BJ and The Bear. A slightly sketchy dude and his diapered, just as sketchy chimp roaming the country in an 18-wheeler. Televisual GOLD. By the way, I NEVER believed that line he had in the opening credits, you know, the one where he says he’ll haul anything in his truck “as long as it isn’t illegal.” Child, please. You know he was fencing all kinds of shit out of the back of that trailer. And nothing says “traveling whorehouse” like the crowd of scantily clad women he always seemed to have milling around his chimp, no matter how remote the location. (Really, there’s only so many times I’m going to be believe you “just happened” to come across a stranded band of sorority sisters, my friend.) The guy’d be stopped at some blazing hot, godforsaken rest area in the middle of the Mojave desert, speaking his equally godforsaken dialogue – “Boy it sure is quiet and hot out here in this abandoned rest area in the middle of this desert who no people around, isn’t it Bear?” – and JUST when something interesting was about to happen – “hey do you need a diaper change?” – a gaggle of jiggly women would come giggling out from behind a cactus to fawn over the monkey and ask for a ride back to the mainland. Even at the tender age of 8 I couldn’t help but wonder how they managed to squeeze all that breast tissue behind one spiky plant.

11. Corn Diggers, my absolute favorite snack of the late 70s,that glorious time also known as the days of ignorance and bliss, when I could eat an entire bag of chips and not have one junk food care about it AT ALL. I have no idea what was in these things but they resembled wee pilgrim hats and basically functioned as crack in my life.

12.Privacy. Not in the “Facebook owns your life” kind of way but in the “is it really necessary to talk about that ON Facebook?” kind of way. Rethink that status update, friends.

13. Gas at $1.25 a gallon. I’m homicidal every time I fuel up.

14.Sinus Excedrin. Discontinued because there was something in it meth-heads could use to “cook,” and I don’t mean roast chicken and veg. Apparently the el-cheapo folks at Excedrin just evicted the entire product from the shelves rather than shell out the bucks to reformulate it. A pox – and sinus infection – on all their houses!

15. Fifteen dollar concert tickets (this contribution courtesy of my honey).

16. Lemon Twist. Anyone else remember this toy? Black rubber circle and long tube, big fat plastic yellow lemon at the end – you’d place the circle around your unsuspecting ankle, then spin the rubber and lemon around on the ground at top speed while jumping over them as fast as possible, desperate to keep that momentum going because slowing down meant the black tubing would get some slack, and the whizzing citrus would then whack you in the ankle and damned if that didn’t HURT. Did seventies toys rock that fine line between fun and death or what? Related, this toy was also useful as a makeshift mace of sorts when one’s siblings insisted on being pesty. Very effective weaponry, especially when accompanied by a running start and a fully-committed “hi-YA!” or two.

17. The Bionic Woman. Oh, wait…

18. Riding in the back of pick-up trucks. Some things are worth the risk.

19. Fisher Price Little People. If I still had the plastic people and the plastic camper I’d get on the floor and arrange them around the plastic table with the plastic hot dogs and plastic beans painted on the plastic top just like I did as a kid. My sister had the house-boat but that wasn’t as much fun, in my opinion. Campers are cool.

20.Santa Claus and Christmas. Okay technically they’re still around but not like when we were kids. I miss the excitement, and the sense of wonder, and the fluttery-in-the- belly feeling that something magical could happen at any moment. I miss creeping down the stairs with my sis at 2am just to have a peek and make sure the old guy actually made it. I miss seeing the tree lit up against the night. I miss the stuffed stockings and the piles of presents (thanks mom and dad!) and Santa’s cookie plate with just a few crumbs and the stub end of a carrot his reindeer left behind next to them. I miss not questioning how a freaking reindeer got down the chimney in the first place. I miss believing.

Okay gather round boys and girls, it’s sharing time! What would you bring back if you could?

BOOK IT, DANNO

(TODAY’S BOOK LIST BEING 3 BOOKS I WISH I COULD READ AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shrive

3. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

5 Comments »

FAST, CHEAP, AND EASY

So, bizarrely, suddenly, I hate to cook. I’ve always loved cooking, and have prided myself on making healthy, tasty meals that were also fast, cheap and easy (Hah! Not what you were expecting from that title, am I right?) I’ve loved shopping for “the goods,” loved pouring a glass of wine and putting on some Loretta Lynn and losing myself in the meditation that is washing, chopping, prepping, and putting together. I’ve loved that magic moment when the parts become a whole, and dinner is ON.

Now, I face the kitchen with an overwhelming sense of “meh” and a good bit of mental foot-stomping. I don’t wanna cook, I don’t wanna! This started about six months ago; maybe a little earlier, actually, when I was working that absolutely dreadful newspaper gig, which was such a complete suck of both time and soul that I had about 20 minutes and three functioning brain cells left at the end of the day to think about cooking. I figured once I quit the gig and got my life back I’d be into it again but nope. Cooking mojo gone, perhaps never to return. To be sure, my love is MORE than willing to do his share of the cooking, and in fact takes over a few nights a week when I teach late classes. But I’ve always happily claimed home and hearth as my space in our lives, and it’s a little bit depressing to suddenly feel so fatigued by the whole thing. I wish I were a “let’s-go -for-Chinese-tonight” kind of girl. Or a “Yay! Hot Pockets!” kind of girl. Worst luck, I know too much about the evils of these type of foods, and just can’t bring myself to eat them. Not on a regular basis anyway. But don’t think I haven’t been tempted to serve Campbell’s Tomato Soup with a side of Cheez-Its*, many’s the night lately.

So I must settle for being a “lordy-I-hope-my-mom-sends-food-tonight” kind of girl. (Which she does. A lot. Thanks mom!)

You know what else I miss – this is kind of goofy so brace yourself – I miss feeling connected to the generations of cooking women who came before me. Male chefs may have ruled the restaurants but home-cooking has always belonged to us, the women of the big wide world, and whether we are right now women keeping it together in the kitchen after a long day at work, or turn-of-the-century immigrant women in New York buying vegetables from street vendors, or exhausted slave women in run-down shacks making something out of nothing more than grits, greens and pride, I imagine the thought process has always been the same: What have I got, how long will it take to make and, Lord Jesus, can I get these picky-ass people to eat it?

I also owe an apology to those who have lamented to me in the past how much they hate facing “the dinner question” every night. I wasn’t rolling my eyes at you, honestly, I just didn’t get it and couldn’t figure out what in the heck was the big deal. Throw this in the pan, add a little of that, squeeze the other on top, chuck in the garlic, and away we go. Now I get it. I GET IT. I really, really do. That said, I haven’t completely thrown in the kitchen towel. I’m taking a hybrid approach, keeping meals fairly simple but also making myself cook a few times a week, under the theory that I can behave my way back to success, damn it. I’m also working REALLY HARD to not yell “shit!” more than three times per cooking cycle. I’m a little distracted these days and more often than not get halfway through cooking only to realize I forgot to buy something I need, or have skipped a fairly crucial step such as “cook the rice.”  Admittedly, I’m not doing so well with the whole “shit” thing – I can tell by the pinched look my husband gets every time I head into the kitchen. That and the fact that he hands me a glass of wine the size of a hiking boot. Make of that what you will, intrepid readers.

So let me hear from you, bloggy friends. Do you love to cook? Hate it? How do you battle the kitchen blues? Share your thoughts and ideas, I can surely use them!

*Cheez-Its rock. That is all.

BOOK IT, DANNO!

1. A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances (editor’s note: FREAKING good book! Go read it! Lots of pictures too!)

2. Little House on the Prairie: The Complete Series (editor’s note the sequel: I’ve read these books a hundred times and still find myself captivated by the descriptions of gardening, food selection, food prep, and how the women made do with what they had, often in less than ideal circumstances, and with no whiny blog to turn to either!)

3. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (editor’s note, one too many: hands down, the bible of traditional cooking and nutrition.

HONORABLE MENTION! Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. (Had my first meals and dessert cooked out of this while in NYC [thanks J and J!]and they were DIVINE yet simple and earthy: a chicken/olive dish whose name escapes me, a glorious mushroom tart and a bourbon/banana tart that was so good you’d slap your granny for a second piece. Also peeped at the other recipes and they all looked just as good and granny-slapping! Already added this to my Amazon wishlist.)

10 Comments »

Well, Poo

Good grief. Last week I talked vagina art in my blog post and this week we’re discussing poo. Sad to say, this is probably a pretty good indication of how things are going to roll, blog-wise, from here on in. I weep for the classy broad I could have been. Ah well.

Yeah, so anyway, poo. Yesterday I strolled out my back door to kick the question “what the heck should I blog about?” around the yard for a while – being outside helps me think – and immediately trod in a big plop of chicken poo left on the steps courtesy of my hens. I looked down at my besmirched boot and thought “poo. I should blog about chicken poo.”  I like chicken poo. I’m a fan.

Now, to be sure, when I say I’m a fan of chicken poo what I mean is that it doesn’t totally freak me out like every other form of poo on planet earth. Seriously, peeps, I have a penetrating horror of all things poo-related. One of the major reasons I don’t own a dog is because of the poo factor. I mean, how the heck would I eject it from my yard? (The poo not the dog). There’s just no way I’m going to voluntarily approach a poo, and the mere thought of the piles languishing in my yard waiting to ambush my unsuspecting feet makes my toes go all numb and wobbly. Nor will you ever see me trotting gaily behind a dog picking up The Remains of Sparky’s Day with one of those plastic poo bags – a SERIOUSLY flimsy apparatus if you ask me, given the task at hand.

So you begin to see my problem with owning a dog.

I’m also not one of those people who’s EVER going to tell you about any of my own personal southern troubles that might be going on (seriously what is with people who feel the need to fill you in?) and please can we agree right here, right now that you won’t tell me about yours either? Cheers. If you do insist on sharing, outwardly I might cluck in sympathy but rest assured that mentally I have recoiled in horror and fled the room. That said, I’m nothing if not a pragmatist, and I fully accept that there might be times when, say, we have plans, and your “issues” mean you’ll have to let me know you can’t make it. So if you MUST mention it, all I ask is that you please channel an uptight Victorian in a high collar and refer to the unpleasantness in as vague a terms as possible. “My stomach is off” is GREAT, because it allows me to pretend you’re talking about vomiting, which I can TOTALLY handle over poo. “It’s my IBS” will also suffice, as acronyms are sufficiently sanitized so as to not send me disappearing even further into the emotionally-scarred hills.”Gastrointestinal difficulties” is pushing it however because now you’ve said “intestinal” and I’m upset about that. And NEVER EVER EVER EVER EEVVVVVEEEER say the hideous “d” word in front of me. Not unless you want me to curl up on the floor in the fetal position and start sucking my thumb. Just so we’re clear.

And so at long last we arrive back at chicken poo which, read above, I quite like. See, chicken poo is not just some lazy, cluttering up the place poo. No no no, chicken poo is manure,thank you very much, which means it is WORKING poo. Utility poo. Poo with a purpose. Okay I’m done. Basically, chicken MANURE is fantastic for your garden, and that’s really at the heart of why I’m a fan. All manure provides the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) gardens need to thrive but chicken manure is the richest in this compound cocktail. Be warned though, you can’t just dump (heh) fresh chicken manure in your garden, and then plant a couple days or weeks later. In garden parlance, the manure will have too much nitrogen, and be too “hot” for the plants, which will “burn” and die. You need compost manure, manure that’s been sitting around for six months or so while the nitrogen level slowly decreases. I just pile most of mine into our compost, and let it rot down for ages. The only exception to this is in the fall, before I close down my beds for the winter I load them up with fresh manure, and let it slowly break down during the cold months. In the spring your soil should be rich and full of lovely microbes to help your veggies grow big and strong and tasty.

So there you have it. All hail the chicken poo. Er, manure. At any rate, go forth and compost.

BOOK IT, DANNO!

1. THE CHICKEN HEALTH HANDBOOK BY GAIL DAMEROW

2. KEEPING CHICKENS, THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE BY JEREMY HOBSON

3. EVERYBODY POOPS BY TARO GOMI (editor’s note: so what? it’s still gross!)

8 Comments »

Live from New York it’s the Fat Chicken blog!

My suitcases and I are firmly ensconced at a lovely apartment in Brooklyn and we’re looking forward to a weekend of both work and pleasure (well I am at any rate, the suitcases will have to speak for themselves.) New York is truly the most magnificent city on the planet. I lived here for ten years, give or take, back in my previous incarnation as a single woman, and while I’m content where I am now, there are still a number of things I miss about the city. I miss taking the subway. I miss having breakfast delivered to my front door. I miss bialys. I miss dropping my laundry off before work and picking it up after work washed, dried and folded. All for a mere $13. Most of all, I miss the diversity, the daily smash up against that great big gorgeous heaving mess known as humanity. I miss the human texture.

I do not miss the expense, however, or apartment hunting. Riding in this morning I’m reminded of both, and how naïve I was about what it would take to “make it” in the city. Three of us – Me, Jess and Cheryl – decided to move to New York in our early twenties to pursue our goals of working in film and television. Jess and Cheryl blazed ahead, securing a sublet in Long Island City (Queens) and I soon followed. After contributing my portion of the rent I had a mere $300 in my pocket. I guess I was delusional at the time, thinking it 1893 not 1993, because this seemed a princely sum and I was confident I could make it last till I found a job. Pfffffft. Two weeks later I still had no work, rent was soon due, the fridge contained a jar of mayonnaise, half an exhausted-looking tomato and a whole lot of empty space – perhaps my delusion was caused by impending starvation – and it became painfully clear that I could pinch a penny till Old Abe screamed but $300 was not going to last beyond “blink and you miss it” in NYC.

Let us now pause to sing songs in honor of those parents who send checks because they’d rather not have their children living in cardboard boxes in Central Park, thank you very much, even if those children are rather goofy and creative and think the “practical” choice was to abandon an acting career in favor of a writing career. Or maybe they just didn’t want me moving back in with them. Whatever, the check was appreciated. OKAY. Checks, plural. Jeesh.

Anyhoo, enough about the Bleak House that was my finances. Let’s talk apartments. Our first sublet in LIC was a nifty little place, despite the five story walk-up and the crabby landlady and her daughter who was either afflicted with some unfortunate mood disorder or just a bitch, we never quite figured it out. She swept the hallway a lot and gave us the hairy-eyeball whenever we passed her on the stairs. The apartment itself was temporarily abandoned by a European couple – an artist and her husband – who for reasons unknown to me headed back to Europe for a few months. I never actually met them but her art was everywhere in that apartment. Normally this is not a problem if one paints or sculpts or decoupages say, flowers, or beach scenes or fruit. Her specialty was vaginas. No, I didn’t misspell Virginia, friends, she wasn’t doing portraits of the Founding Fathers. VAGINAS. Now you may be thinking why in the holy hell would you rent a place with girl parts everywhere but honestly we didn’t know! We were young and naïve and into movies, with limited vagina art exposure. Plus, she didn’t do realism, these were interpretive vaginas and so you can understand why it took a while for it to dawn on us. I think it was Cheryl who finally said one day, while eyeballing an oversize triangle-shaped piece of buffed tin hanging on the wall, (complete with a large number of thin black rods sticking out of it, use your imagination as to what those represented) “you know, I think that’s supposed to be a vagina. And that too. And that’s one over there as well!” Suddenly, everywhere we looked, vaginas.

So we moved out of there after five months.

Next up, we rented a two-bedroom place on the Upper East Side. Don’t let the “two-bedroom” fool you, the place was a postage stamp. Two itsy-bitsy bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen so small when you opened the elfin dishwasher no one else could get in, and getting out of the kitchen required leaping over the open dishwasher door into the hallway. We never tried to have a party in that place because we’d have had to stack the guests like cord-wood to fit them all in. We also had a (surprisingly nice) couch left by the previous tenants. We just assumed it was human generosity on their part – “Oh go ahead, keep the couch! We’ll get another one!” Yeah, right, ain’t nobody that generous. A year later we decided to move again, and discovered the real reason they left the couch: there was no freaking way to get it out of the apartment, the hallway and the front door being far too narrow. Indeed, we couldn’t figure out how they got the couch in in the first place, though we suspected the windows were involved in some capacity. Jess actually suggested employing this method in reverse. You know, couch, window, shove. I, being less adventurous and more fearful of a lawsuit in those days, just wasn’t willing to push a couch out of a second story window. Nope. At least not without ropes and a physicist on hand. (Technically we DID have a physicist on hand, Jessica’s dad – Hi Tom! – and he probably would have been more than happy to provide some rope as well, but he was proctoring an exam on moving day and couldn’t provide much in the way of assistance when it came to successfully exiting a couch out a window.) We also toyed with the idea of sawing the legs off the couch, and trying to squeeze it down the hall to the front door that way but we didn’t have a saw so that plan too was abandoned.

We moved. The couch stayed.

Next stop, back to Long Island City. Cheryl moved out of the city at that point, so it was just double trouble, Yours Truly and Jess. This next place was truly sweet, a newly remodeled, proper two bedroom with plenty of room to roam around. Okay, there was the emerald green shag carpet and mirrored closet doors that gave the impression a hairy-chested porn star might wander in at any point and say, “is this where we’re shooting?” but no matter, one overlooks these things when the rental planets align in the form of big space/affordable rent. Our landlord was nice too, if a bit quirky. (SIDEBAR: I sincerely hope our tenants don’t say that about us. “Oh they’re nice but a little quirky. They have CHICKENS, can you imagine?) Jess and I signed the lease papers at his lavish apartment, which had an Early Liberace Whorehouse flair to the decorating: there were nekkid Greek statues and bordello-red lamps everywhere, which kind of makes sense given the green shag carpeting and mirrors at our place. But I digress. So we’re standing there signing the papers, when all of a sudden he reaches up and whizzes this framed picture of a buffed and bronze young man in a microscopic Speedo into our faces. “That’s my nephew,” he says. “What do you think of HIM?” I think I’m not a fan of muscle dudes, my friend, so how about you shift him and his banana hammock back a couple of inches, thanks. Jess too had that “WTF?” look about her. Honestly, I think he was just trying to find out if we were gay because two single women renting an apartment together must be lesbians, right? (NOTE: he was gay himself so I don’t think he was offended by the idea, just nosy by nature.) Anyhooo…naturally we didn’t SAY any of this to him, because we hadn’t finished signing the lease papers yet and couldn’t risk irritating him, so we cooed and fawned and said “oh yes, very good-looking!” and “Wow look at him” and “Is he taken?” Shameless. SHAMELESS. Whatever. We wanted the apartment.

And rightly so, because it turned out that I loved living there. We were in what was then an industrial part of LIC so it was quiet but also just one stop out of Grand Central so convenient as well. The super lived close by, and there was a nice little health food place owned by a Palestinian family just around the block. Jess and I stayed in LIC for a number of years, till we both moved on, got married, grew up into the next part of our lives. It’s been years now but I know the imprint of our lives must still be floating around in that apartment somewhere, the human energy hand-print of laughter and friendship and stress and jobs and a thousand meals cooked and a hundred late nights, and the heartbreak of one particular day when we stood on the street outside the building and watched the Twin Towers burn.

BOOK IT, DANNO!

1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Haven’t read it? You should. That is all.)

2. The WPA Guide to New York City: The Federal Writer’s Project Guide to 1930s New York. (Confession! I’ve never read this but many moons ago I gave it as a birthday present to the man who was willing to give me my first real writing shot. This is my shout-out to him. =)

3.The All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor (Fantastic children’s series sharing the lives of a Jewish family living on the Upper East Side in the early 1900s)

8 Comments »

Hi-diddly-ho, Neighborino

(OK what’s with the freaking font here? I don’t like this font at all.)

Welcome to my blog!! Yes, I’ve started a blog, and can now count myself both late to the blogging party AND ridiculously trendy. Now, I know you’re all thinking, “thank god you’ve arrived on this barren scene, because there just.aren’t.enough random blogs in the world” but keep in mind this is MY blog, so it’s awesomeness is foretold.  So say we all. And while I’d love to give you some deep, “Little Ol’ Me Shall Save the World” reason as to why I’ve decided to blog the reality is just that I’m hugely self-absorbed, and love the sound of my own fingers typing, and have quite a lot to say, and Facebook has started to bore me – is it me or are there more loooooons hanging about the Facebook place these days? – and so there you go: out of boredom, verbosity, and a vast and ghastly ego, the Fat Chicken blog is born.

Why Fat Chicken? Because chickens are freaking funny. INHERENTLY funny, like bananas, and wigs.

The blog’s not about chickens. Not really.

Here’s the 411 about me:  wife, writer, reformed chubby girl, certified fitness instructor, bookworm, auntie, sci-fi geek, real food devotee, organic gardener, 40-something Buddhist-lite, chicken and bee-keeping backyard farmer. Oh and I have a blog too! =P That’s current. My future plans are to sell more of my fiction writing, become a yoga teacher, and decide what to watch next now that my darling man and I have killed seven seasons of Doctor Who in embarrassingly short order. We live in the country, and don’t get out much.

Also, I need to figure out not only all the blog bells and whistles (be patient with me there, please!) but also what I’m going to say in this blog.  Oh it’ll be a little bit of everything, from gardening and fitness and fandom to writing and marriage and life in general on this third rock from the sun known as planet Earth but the specifics, well, they remain to be seen. Stay tuned!

Until tomorrow then, toodles and metta. <—- that’s groovy Buddha speak for the unconditional friendlies one could, in theory, have for all humanity. I’m not quite there yet but you know, working on it, etc.  Be a lot easier to love people if there weren’t so many in need of a good slapping.

On that “up with people” note, I’m out. Oh wait, PS! Because I’m a word nerd, at the end of each blog post I will offer three books of interest having to do with the topic at hand. Because this is the first post with no real subject other than the impending Fat Chicken awesomeness, I leave you with this very first, brand new, factory model:

BOOK IT, DANNO

Starring three books whose awesomeness is already proclaimed throughout the land. =)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

3. Gone With the Wind (editor’s note: it’s not a romance novel people!! It’s about survival, dammit, and why some people survive while others curl up in sniveling little balls and expect the rest of us to do the heavy lifting in troubled times. If you snivel while I’m around trying to crisis-manage rest assured I will kick you in the ribs a few times while you’re lying there whinging. On your feet, maggot.)

OK I’m gone for reals this time! Feel free to add your favorite books in the comments section!! Just remember to PLAY NICE. DO NOT make me come over there.

13 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: