My Clever Cat Earns Her Keep

Merricat knows how to open cabinets.

She’s quite good at it. She paws at the bottom corner, careful not to scratch the finish (she’s very considerate that way). As soon as the door opens just a bit, she sticks her paw in and pulls.

It’s marvelous really, how clever she is.

But her real talent – the one I’ve yet to capture on video – is how she opens kitchen drawers.

Now I confess, for the first few weeks we lived in this house I had no idea it was the cat opening the drawers. I thought it was Husband, who for some reason – looking for a screwdriver in the utensil drawer, perhaps? – would open two or three drawers in his quest and then leave. Not closing said drawers. Every day, multiple times a day.

I meant to ask him why. “What are you looking for?” I’d say. “Shall I show you how they close?”

Then one day I walked into the room and saw Merricat in action, exonerating Husband.

You see, what she does is stand or, depending on the height, leap up and land her front paws on the upper part of the drawer. At the same time she pushes her back paws against the cabinet below, creating a momentum that – along with the smooth working mechanism of the hardware – slides the drawer open. With Merricat swinging along.

Merricat on drawer

I marvel at my cat’s ingenuity. Truly, she is a marvel.

She is also a superior bug and vermin hunter. So when she began showing an inordinate amount of interest in one particular drawer, when she continually crawled behind it and made rustling, scratching sounds, I confess, my courage failed me. While I was curious as to what was happening in the deepest bowels of my kitchen cabinets, I decided I wasn’t curious enough.

Then our belongings finally caught up with us. I was laying Contact paper on the shelves and drawers; Merricat came to help, as she so often does. When I pulled out that drawer, she leaped in, crawled behind it, and turned to me with her big green eyes.

As if to say, “Trust me. You’ll want to see this.”

Gathering up my strength – and finding my flashlight – I pulled the drawer all the way out and looked where Merricat was sitting. On top of a pile of papers.
Old newspaper clippings, note cards, appliance manuals, an opened economy sized pack of batteries, and a cassette tape of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest hits.

Recipes in cabinet

The expiration date on the batteries was 2005. Most of the newspaper clippings were earlier than that.

The part that thrilled me most? All of the newspaper clippings and note cards were recipes.

The previous owner collected recipes!

We’ve learned a few things about the owner while living here. Her son told us she’d been widowed for over 40 years, raised her three children by herself, and in her last few years, in declining health, spent nearly every day in her sun room.

From the number of built-in bookshelves, we can assume she enjoyed reading. Safe to say she was a fan of show tunes, possibly theater in general. She was organized enough to keep appliance manuals, but wasn’t always able to find them.

She had a habit of losing batteries. (I can see her now: “I know I bought batteries — where on earth could they be?”)

Also, she was a school secretary. (Those of you who have been following along know that was my previous job.)

It’s kismet!

And if all that wasn’t enough, we now learn she collected recipes and put them in this drawer. The drawer Merricat found so interesting.

Thank you, Merricat. The pooping incident has been forgiven.

Merricat and Freckles

I’m sure you’re wondering what sort of recipes they are, right? After careful study and reflection, I would say they all lean heavily toward “what-should-I-bring-to-this-week’s-potluck” fare.

Which shouldn’t surprise any of us, right?

Oddly enough — or perhaps not, given your understanding of Minnesota culture — there’s a potluck at my church this Sunday.

what to bring… what to bring…

Say, how about you help me decide? There are two here that look promising.

Two recipes

One is a Canned Corn Casserole, which normally I wouldn’t find interesting but it has an option of using fresh corn instead of canned. I’m not sure if the local farmer’s market will have corn yet, but it’s possible.

The other possibility is Rocky Road Cake. To its credit, it’s a chocolate cake with marshmallows, nuts and chocolate fudge sauce. The downside is that it uses a cake mix and normally I never buy those because I’m a food snob. And yet! The recipe has this intriguing notion of using coffee rather than water when blending it. Doesn’t that sound fascinating?

(I need to get out more.)

In any case, we have these two contenders for my first Minnesota potluck. Shall I make a side dish or a dessert?

Choose your selection carefully. My future as a Minnesotan may depend upon it.

Okay, not really. But please help me out anyway. I’m terribly indecisive about these things, and for some reason Merricat is showing little interest in the whole affair.

Merricat drawer

Three Word Challenge in Text: My Thematic Response Using Untoward Reasoning

A few weeks ago, a certain blogger by the name of Brian of Bonnywood issued a challenge. He’d give me three words, and I’d write a story with said words.

Seemed easy at the time. Then I saw the words: Thematic, Untoward, and Reasoning.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am. I mean, I don’t know what I did to the guy, but clearly he had it in for me.

What’s more — now get this — he added, “And I challenge you even further by suggesting that a recipe and/or Norwegian kinfolk be involved in some way… ”

Honestly!

I decided I needed to have a chat with the guy. I sent him a text:

Brian 1

Brian 2

Brian 2 and a half

Brian 3Brian 4

Two hours later…

Brian 5Brian 6Brian 7Brian 8Brian 9

You can read about Brian’s challenge here.

(Hint: he’ll accept your response in text.)

Ratatouille in 5 Minutes, With Help From Trader Joe’s and No Help From My Cat

Plus, a brief history on the founding of Feeding on Folly…

Recently we dined at Macaroni Grill. I won’t say it’s my favorite Italian restaurant, but their complimentary herb bread is lovely and they know how to grill salmon right.

bread

However this time, not being in a salmon frame of mind, I ordered their Ratatouille instead. Have you tried it? They serve it over grilled polenta, which I find inspired. (I don’t get out much.)

Anyway, the other day at Trader Joe’s, I saw they have polenta and *angels singing* I was inspired! For less than $10, I had all the ingredients needed to make a copycat recipe of Macaroni Grill’s Ratatouille.

And given how I hadn’t shared a recipe with you all in… let’s see… going on a year now? Unsure. It’s been awhile, I know that.

Funny how it used to be such a regular feature of this here blog, and now it’s but a distant memory.

Anyway, I gathered together the ingredients and prepared for the picture. Merricat rushed over to help.

Merricat 1

I swear this cat knows when I’m holding a camera.

Merricat 2

So the main ingredient to look for, the one that makes this recipe so darn easy peasy, is in Trader Joe’s frozen food section. It’s called Misto Alla Griglia, and it contains grilled eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers.

Now of course you could buy fresh eggplant, zucchini and red peppers, or pick them from your garden should you be so lucky, but that would add on extra minutes and then this wouldn’t be 5-minute Ratatouille, would it?

Oh, Merricat walked behind the ingredients! Quick, take a picture!!!

Merricat 3

So now you see what the Misto Alla Griglia looks like. Also, you’ll need their polenta which you slice in thick rounds, and a can of their Organic Tomatoes “diced in tomato sauce”. I already had the fresh basil, onion, garlic, and jar of capers. (You can skip the capers if you don’t like them; I think they add a nice peppery taste.)

Back when I was regularly sharing recipes on this blog, I learned how to write some code so the recipe would appear in a nice little box with its own print button. But I don’t remember the code and I’m too lazy to look it up, so you’re out of luck. Sorry.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: the reason I added recipes when I first started blogging had nothing to do with the name “Feeding on Folly” and everything to do with my insecurities as a writer. I believed that if I didn’t offer something helpful – such as recipes – no one would stick around and read my little stories.

Okay, so you’ll want to let the Misto Alla Griglia thaw a little. The veggies are in large pieces, but they’re easy to chop once they’re partially thawed. While they thaw, chop half the onion and mince three to four garlic cloves. Saute in olive oil until softened.

Merricat monitored the thawing for me.

Merricat 4Once the onion and garlic are softened, add the can of tomatoes, the chopped Misto Alla Griglia, and two tablespoons capers. Add some Italian seasoning — maybe a couple teaspoons? — and salt to taste. Keep over medium heat until hot, a few minutes or so. As it cooks, fry or grill the slices of polenta.

I bet you’re wondering how I came up with Feeding on Folly for my blog name, am I right? Glad you asked.

About the time I was puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler was sore over what to name my blog, I was reading a collection of James Thurber’s essays called Lanterns & Lances. In the forward, he explained his main purpose in writing:

“Much of what follows, therefore, is my own attempt, in my own little corner of the struggle, to throw a few lantern beams here and there. But I also cast a few lances at the people and the ideas that have disturbed me, and I make no apologies for their seriousness.”

I rather liked that. You might say I was inspired. And I was particularly fond of the alliteration with Lanterns & Lances.

Alliteration is something that tantalizes my thoughts and sustains my soul.

I set out to find my own and spent an inordinate amount of time doing so. Eventually, in a moment of happy luck, I landed on Feeding on Folly. Nervously, I did a quick internet search to see if it was taken. It wasn’t, but I found this:

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. — Proverbs 15:14 NIV

So there you go. Bible approved.

Also, cat approved.

Merricat 6

To serve (the Ratatouille, not the cat), put two fried slices of polenta on a plate, spoon the ratatouille over them, top with fresh basil and shredded Parmesan if desired and serve with garlic toast.

Ratatouille

To recap, I may from time to time, as the mood strikes me, continue to share recipes with you. But as dropping their weekly inclusion hasn’t seemed to adversely affect my readership, and no angry mob has appeared at the Feeding on Folly doorstep, we’ll just let that ship sail.

As for dear Thurber, I don’t know how many lantern beams I’ve thrown and I’m terrible at casting lances, but the folly I’ve witnessed has fed this blog well. Thank you for the inspiration, good sir.

For the record, this Sunday — April 1st — marks my 3rd year blogging.
So there, person who told me I couldn’t do it!

Oh, wait… that was me. 😜

Cooking with Ignorance, Incompetence, and a Little T&A

Saturday morning, while seeking a recipe for salt-free scrambled eggs, I found myself caught in the eternal autoplay loop of YouTube, over which I had no control whatsoever. To my knowledge it may be playing still. I’ll check later.

(Yes, I know there’s a cancel button, but for reasons that shall soon be made clear, I was not in full possession of my faculties to hit said cancel button.)

Here’s an interesting fact I learned last Saturday: There are many, many cooking videos on YouTube, most done by people with absolutely no idea how to cook.

Now please don’t get me wrong; it is not my intent to shame them. I mean, hey, if they’re willing to make a video for all to see, more power to them. Were I not so camera shy, I might join them. But for now at least, I’ll leave them to it.

Dr. Sylvia something-or-other shall not be challenged by me.

This was the first video I watched, and I must say, I was intrigued. For Dr. Sylvia — just what she’s doctor of, I know not — claimed she would show me how to make zero salt, zero fat, and zero calorie eggs. Sounds tricky, right? Especially as I’m fairly certain eggs contain calories. But the beauty of Dr. Sylvia’s video is that she doesn’t give a damn.

The first thing Dr. Sylvia tells us to do is to melt butter in the pan. As in actual butter.

After that’s good and melted, she instructs us to add two thick slices of cheese.

Zero calorie eggs

There were other things she added, but I think at this point I blacked out.

You know how it is when you’re reading an essay on grammar and the first sentence has a grammatical error? You keep staring at it and staring at it until you’re weeping softly and questioning your will to live?

Before I knew it, autoplay brought me to Geoff from Canada. I had high hopes for Geoff. First of all, his name is Geoff. And second, he’s from Vancouver.

I mean, if you can’t trust a man from Vancouver, who can you trust?

On the other hand, one would think if you’re making a cooking video, you might tidy up your kitchen a bit. Or at least tuck in your shirt?

Geoff

But maybe that’s just me. In any case, my faith in Geoff did not falter. I was certain he would lead me to scrambled egg nirvana.

Then he dropped the bombshell: “I feel I should warn you I haven’t made scrambled eggs for several years.”

What the hell?

Again, maybe it’s just me, but If you haven’t made scrambled eggs for several years, shouldn’t you practice a few times before hitting the record button? Seems reasonable.

Nevertheless, if my YouTube selections are any indication, practice rounds are not the norm. I saw more burned eggs and fishing eggshells out of bowls than any one woman should have to see.

After awhile, YouTube sensed my interest in scrambled eggs was waning and led me to other breakfast options. It was here that I was treated to the culinary skills of one Alexis Ren.

Do you know who Alexis Ren is? Neither did I.

Turns out she is what is known as an “internet celebrity.” She has 11.8 million followers on Instagram and 393,000 subscribers on YouTube.

(Just between you and me, she didn’t get these followers based on her culinary skills.)

First thing Alexis does is get a mixing bowl out of the cupboard. 

Again, this seems pretty basic. If you’re making a cooking video, shouldn’t you have the items you need in front of you? I mean, my gosh, even slovenly Geoff from Vancouver managed that!

Ah, but had Alexis Ren gotten the bowl out of the cupboard ahead of time, we would have missed this:

Alexis Ren makes pancakes!

And now we know why she has 11.8 million followers on Instagram.

(Her pancakes looked positively awful, by the way. But I got the feeling no one cared.)

Her video brought to mind another one I saw about a year ago. A couple of young, very fit looking women were making butternut squash soup in their Vitamix. Or at least I think it was butternut squash soup. Honestly, I’m not real sure because… well, the fact is they were wearing bikinis. They call themselves Blender Babes.

You know, it’s an interesting thing. I like men. Always have. Yet even for me, boring ol’ hereo that I am, sitting there watching those bikini-clad chicks? I could have cared less what they were putting in that damn blender.

All this leads me to believe that what my blog has been lacking is a little T&A.

Now the T, well, I can’t do anything about that. I’m of the mind you deal with what you were given and I wasn’t given much. But the A — ah, the A, my friends! I’ll have you know that in my younger days, I heard comments about my A fairly often. Mostly from construction workers who felt moved to inform me that it was a “fine piece” of A.

I have been led to believe that among a certain class of male individuals, this is considered a compliment. No doubt it is the sort of compliment to which Alexis Ren and the Blender Babes aspire, and I dearly hope they find happiness in their quest.

As for me, if I should cast off my camera-shy tendencies and seek “internet celebrity” status, is my A “fine” enough for cooking videos?

Alas, I fear two children, time, and an ardent love of pie have taken their toll.

Shame, that.

But I long to help others who seek YouTube glory. Therefore, I’m thinking of sending a few tips to Geoff in Vancouver: Tidy the kitchen and ditch the shirt. 

That should help him out big time, don’t you think?

Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Holidays and Family Dinners

In honor of the Season, and all the accompanying stress it brings, I hunted through M.A.’s journal hoping to find something that could help us. (In case you missed it, our discovery of M.A. was first mentioned HERE.)
Sure enough, we found something! Not only that, we found a most intriguing recipe for apple pie that includes… wait for it… wine! (Gasp!)

MA 2

From M.A.’s Journal

The holidays bring mixed feelings: Joy, for what we hope they will be, Dread, for what we fear they will be. We place so much importance on these days, wanting everything to be perfect, only to be tired by the end of them.
Remember that holidays are made by humankind, for humankind. No more than that. They are what you make of them. Resolve now to make them what you need, not what you imagine you want.

Family is coming. Why does that make us nervous? Are these not the people with whom you shared your childhood?
Yes. Perhaps that explains it.
When apart, we choose to think of our past as we want. When together, we’re forced to see things as they really are. No matter what we want to believe of ourselves, these are the people to whom we belong.
Are we shamed for not living up to their standards, or for they not living up to ours?
No matter, for both are folly.
If it is your actions, then change them. If it is theirs, accept. It is all you can do. That, and love. Love the quirkiness, the eccentricities, the pain. Yes, even the pain, for all of it is what made you who you are today.
Therefore, the Noble Woman has three tasks before her with regard to others:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Love

With regard to herself, a fourth task is added to these:

4. Resolve to do better

Also, make a pie. Families who eat pie together, smile together. No one argues. No one fights. The world is a happier place when people eat pie.

This is truth.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

Tipsy Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy with cheats
  • Print

There's not enough alcohol in this pie to qualify as tipsy, but the wine helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. If you'd rather not use it, I suggest a tart fruit juice such as cranberry.

Apple Pie

Ingredients

  • basic pie pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie*
  • 6 to 7 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used the Golden Delicious variety)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine (I used a Zinfandel)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Egg wash and raw sugar for top of crust

Directions

Heat oven to 425°. Roll out pastry for bottom of pie, line 9″ pie plate. Roll out top crust; cover with a clean towel as you make the filling. (See note below for alternative to using crust.)

In a large bowl, combine apples and lemon juice. In another bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to apples, along with wine, and stir. Fill pie plate with fruit, top with bits of butter. Cover with top crust, cut and flute the edges. Cut a few vents on top of crust; brush on egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower oven to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes. Test to see if the fruit is tender by inserting a knife through a vent.

Note: You can use pre-made pie crusts to make this easier, or skip the crust altogether and make an Apple Crumble: Pour fruit filling into a greased 9″ baking pan or casserole dish. For crumble topping, mix together: 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and a pinch of salt. Bake as directed above. 

Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Clothing and Fashion Mishaps

We have an interesting development in our mysterious M.A.’s diary (first discussed here): it looks like she gave considerable thought into how she presented herself, clothing-wise.

How many philosophers can you name spent time thinking of such things?

Yeah, same here.

And yet, it can be argued, it is hardly a trivial pursuit. How you dress makes a difference in how people see you, and perhaps in how you perform.

But as M.A. points out, there is a dark side to taking such matters seriously, that being, feeling yourself superior as a result.

And personally? I love how she struggles with it!

Just see for yourself:

MA 2

Do not think that because you choose your attire with care that you are somehow better than she who does not.
Such as the woman you saw at the store this morning.
What was she thinking? For goodness sake, what would her mother say?
What would my mother say?
No! Stop it!
All women are your sisters – remember this. No matter how they are dressed, they are your equals.
Do not judge them because their slip is showing; you’ve been there too.
Never laugh at their fashion choices; you’ve taken questionable paths as well.
However scandalous the hemlines – oh dear, they are scandalous…
No! Don’t think it! Instead, repeat to yourself:

Clothing is not Morality
Clothing is not Intelligence
Clothing is not Kindness

And if in finding a woman who thinks as you do, who shares your fashion sense, if together you show contempt for a younger woman’s clothing, what does that accomplish except cause division among your sex? Will it cause the younger woman to change her attire? Of course not! She will see you and your friend as obnoxious prudes. For that is what you are.
So stop it!
Nay, keep your thoughts to yourself. Instead, let your own mode of dress speak for you and be kind.
In all things, be kind.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

All Dressed Up with No Place to Go Egg Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy breezy
  • Print

An egg salad elegant enough for company, whether elegantly attired or not.

Egg salad with smoked salmon

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 4 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon finely snipped, fresh dill
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Mayonnaise

Directions

Mix first ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, add enough mayonnaise to bind together.

Use as a sandwich filling or to serve with crackers.
Another option: Make deviled eggs! Slice hardboiled eggs in half and remove yolks, chop and mix with other ingredients. Spoon a generous mound of salmon-yolk filling into each egg half. Place a bit of dill or chives on each for serving.

Thoughts From a Noble Woman: M.A.’s First Entries

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been hard at work deciphering the scribblings of our mysterious M.A., and I’m happy to report I have a few entries to present today.

I’m giving you the first two I found, therefore I’m calling them the First Two Entries. (Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)

Please keep in mind nothing was dated, so let’s not get too concerned whether they were actually M.A.’s first writings, hmm?

In the same way, don’t worry about whether I’m making all this up or not. There’s much to be said for losing yourself in story.

There are far worse places you could find yourself.

Continue reading “Thoughts From a Noble Woman: M.A.’s First Entries”

Recent Discovery: the Diary of a Noble Woman

In a previous post, I lamented the lack of philosophical writings for women. A collection of ideas where the chief goal was to empower, embolden, and other em-words like that there.

But was it true? Did we really lack such writings, or was I falling into a “poor me” mentality, as satisfying as it is lazy? I had to find out.

My trip to the library produced mixed results. The reading materials were plentiful and the cold brew coffee sold in their cafe (only $3.95) was lovely. The problem, as I saw it, was that the writings focused too much on what was wrong with women. They came from a premise that we were broken. Battered down and weakened.

After two hours of disheartening research, I bought another cold brew and headed home.

That was when my trip took an interesting turn. Continue reading “Recent Discovery: the Diary of a Noble Woman”

Community News With Pancakes

magazineThis last Sunday at church, a woman handed me a magazine to give Husband, who is currently out-of-town.

It was one of those freebie publications you might see at a doctor’s office or hair salon, with a ridiculous number of ads and one or two articles on local interests.

The reason she was giving it to Husband is that he sings in the same group as the couple on the cover, so she figured he knew them. (He very well may, but beings how he’s out-of-town, I can’t say for sure.)

What I can say is that somewhere in the 85086 zip code, there is a woman who may or may not be in dire need of medical attention. Also, whoever Mama G is, her pancakes look damn fine.
Continue reading “Community News With Pancakes”