Try This At Home!

I invented it, influenced by the Food Network, which I got to see in Regina.

Put pasta water on.
Skin and fry up some Italian sausage. Mild or spicy, your choice. Squish it around a lot. Really break the sausage up. Use a big pan.
Throw in some diced onions and mushrooms. Fry it all till it looks good. Take it out and set it aside.
Put pasta in the water. (I used fusili and it worked really well!)
Melt 2tbsps butter and stick some flour in the sausage pan. Make a roux.
Add some chicken stock and some milk. Stir it around, deglazing the pan as you go.
Add a chopped tomato and the sausage mix again. Season with whatever. (I used chili powder and oregano.)
Add about 1/2 a cup of shredded Asiago cheese and three or four heaping teaspoons of parmesan. Keep stirring.
Drain the pasta. Throw it in the pan. Mix it up well.
Put it in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle Asiago on top and throw it in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes.



In the year 2006 I resolve to:

Sleep my way to the top.

Get your resolution here

I feel very positive about 2006.

Oh, Happy

New Year, everyone.

Regina For Christmas

Pull up a chair. Pour some coffee. This is a long one.

My in-laws are not bad people. They are nice, decent, helpful, middle-class citizens who were delighted to have E and me at their house in Regina for Christmas. They are wonderful people. I repeat that, lest it should seem that I am less than grateful for their kind hospitality. But whatever their worldview is, it’s certainly different to E’s, mine, or anyone else’s I’ve ever known.

I suspect they read a book about life on Earth before beaming down from their spaceship. It was certainly more thorough than The Hitchhiker’s Guide, but lacked the overall thoroughness of Earth for Dummies, if they even make that, which they ought to. Whatever the book, I can conclude that it was published about fifty years ago, since nothing my in-laws say, do, or think was concieved of much after 1955.

First, there was the bed thing. E and I have cohabited together quite happily for a few years now. We sleep in the same bed (shocker), and live much as a man and wife do, complete with reliance on one another for emotional backup and making sure to leave enough milk for the other’s morning coffee or tea. So it was a bit strange to see that E’s mom had set up the double bed in the guest room, then carefully detatched the halves from one another and put them on opposite sides of the room. “To give you more room,” she explained.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: She didn’t want us sullying our virtue on the rock-hard surface of her spare bed. This cold be true, but she may also actually have thought that she was giving us more space. She’s funny that way. So why not give us the hide-a-bed in the TV room? E’s brother got that, and four luxurious down-filled pillows, to himself. (Apparently he needed them all) E’s mom remembered that we’d thought the bed in the TV room was uncomfortable. But that was three years ago, when what they had in there was a lumpy futon, not a state-of-the-art hide-a-bed. She’s just really good at selectively remembering, I suppose. Result: A week of backaches.

So we went to bed. E shifted this way and I shifted that, but whatever position, both the futon (his bed) and the under-mattress (my bed) seemed to get harder as the night wore on. Our pillows were throw pillows covered in a kind of polyester jacquard upholstery fabric. They didn’t dent when we put our heads on them. Mine made my face itch, so I covered it with a t-shirt.

Also, as I mentioned above, we have slept in the same bed for some time. We are used to each other’s presence in the night. We almost cracked our heads open a few times, rolling toward the other one and realizing in the nick of time that there was a two-foot gap between our beds. Fun times.

My in-laws are very, very helpful. This became apparent the next morning, when I wandered into the kitchen. I am not a morning person. I do not think fast or move fast. I need to start slowly. I start even more slowly after a restless night in a strange and uncomfortable bed, having caught myself three times just before rolling off the bed.

When she caught sight of me, E’s mom bounded out of her chair:
“Good Morning! I see you’re up and refreshed! What would you like for breakfast? We have coffee, oh, no, you like tea, don’t you? It’s here, see, where I showed you last night? So what would you like? I’ll just put the kettle on and we can-there. Now, we have orange pekoe and peppermint, and sleepytime, but, ha! I guess you won’t want that, and we have this one we got from our South African cousins, it’s a kind of herbal one, I don’t know, and we also have this nice vanilla one..”
I managed to croak that I’d like orange pekoe. But there was more. What did I want for breakfast? There were eggs, and cereal, look, wheaties and cornflakes and granola, and here we keep the milk (In the fridge? Really?) And here’s the bread, and the stollen and there’s the butter and you must try some of this delicious coconut spread, Peggy brought it back from Hawaii, it’s just lovely…

Again with the helpful: If you want to use a pot to boil some water, they will helpfully pull out all the pots and have a long discussion to decide what might be exactly the best pot for the job. They will even mull over the usefulness of pots they used to have, but sold in the church sale, or left in St. Anne de Bellevue approximately forty years ago. When we decided we’d have roast beef, to showcase E’s skills as a saucier, they helpfully talked about how they make gravy and helpfully suggested that E do it their way. His mom hovered for the entire operation, suggesting that it needed more flour or stock, and fretting about what to use to strain it. When I offered to make Yorkshire pudding to go with the beef, E’s mom helpfully adjusted my recipe in the morning before I woke up, after looking at five other Yorkshire pudding recipes to check the amounts. Her reason? “I don’t trust three eggs.” Huh? What does that mean?

Along with being helpful, they also like to plan. Okay, I know I am guilty of wanting to have a plan sometimes. I like to know what’s coming. But if something changes these people’s plans, they are tailspun. Just one example: The restaurant they wanted to go to was closed, but the adjacent bistro (same owners, cooks, and menu, but more casual decor) was open. They had to mull it over all afternooon, wondering if maybe Earl’s would be better, or there was that place downtown, you know, Bill, where you got the squid, but it might not be open. But what about that little plaace on Albert St? ...Etc. As per my predictions, we went to the little bistro anyway, and it was all fine, but it took several hours of earnest brainpower to change the plan. It was quite hard to listen to.

They live in a quiet, upper-middle class enclave of lovely houses and white people. Their social life is confined to the neighbours and their various church choirs. When they describe a situation where they had fun, it was “an absolute hoot”. A person who is not exactly like them in some respect (Say, someone who suggests singing a Jacobean carol in the Elizabethan choir) is “quite a character”. When E or I said something that didn’t compute with their little worldview, there would be a beat of awkward silence and then they’d change the subject, as though we had farted audibly or something. Just one example: E told them he’d got a promotion at work and was now fourth on the list in seniority for his section. He’s justifiably proud of this. Their reaction: (pause) “Mieka and Ed went to the ballet last week. They said it was just a hoot.” I am not even kidding a little bit here! E tells them he got promoted and it’s something to ignore?

Then there were the photos. How they love the photos! Especially the photos of their trip to Holland last summer. They took one of those package tours where they see tulips and eat chocolate, and then are shepherded in a glass-bottomed bus to see some windmills and the Rijksmuseum. They made a scrapbook of the trip, complete with collages to show, look, bicycles. And here was that funny little man we asked for directions, wasn’t it? Yes, he was quite a character… The scrapbook takes about an hour to go through because of all the explaining (And this is where we met that girl who was from Spain. She was really very nice, even if she didn’t speak English very well. Oh, almost everyone in Holland speaks English, it’s lovely….)

Then there was the hot water. Their hot water tank is approximately the size of two Jack Russel terriers, and apparently just as useful as a way to create hot water. E and I took turns each morning. One would have three inches of hot water in the bathtub one day, and the other would have three inches of tepid, even if we waited for an hour between baths. The next day, the other would have three inches of hot water. No, I am not exaggerating to elicit pity.

It could have been a reality TV show. There were times when E and I clung together, whispering, “We’ll go home soon, it’s okay,” to each other.

It was the right thing to do. And now it’s done.

Mexico looks nice for next Christmas.

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