It wasn’t long ago that Sister Madly, after several gastronomical no-no’s which included the Great Ham and Banana Hollandaise Debacle, was indefinitely banned from the culinary process of party-planning. But this did not preclude her from being recruited to run essential errands, such as “picking up a couple of Swedes.”
Why Swedes specifically? Is not Sister Madly’s own Scandinavian heritage, as slight as it may be, enough of a cultural contribution to the party? Is it even possible to tell a Swede from a Norwegian? If she should bring home a Finn, would she be horribly punished?
Then again, just what kind of girl do you think she is? Do you think she routinely struts about in stilettos and a feathered boa down at the local Ikea? Sure, Sister Madly recently required that every single one of you be her Valentine– some of whom even had the audacity to question her technique- but there is a world of difference between demanding your companionship and wooing you with her dubious charm.
Besides, if Sister Madly was any good at wooing, would she resort to demanding?*
* Yes, actually. Sister Madly is lazy.
Naturally, her friends anticipated her childish tirade, and followed up with a clarifying text: Studebakers.
Well, maybe the Swede would be driving one.
Rutabagas are a funny thing. Sister Madly has a hard time believing that the fool who first dug one up said, “Well, Son-of-a-Biscuit! What a delicious-looking thingamabob!” No doubt its history is more complicated, perhaps even stemming back to biblical times. It’s quite possible that something was lost in translating the Torah, that Eve was not tempted with the Forbidden Fruit, but the Forbidden Root.
But let’s face it: it would take an awful lot of sweet-talking on the part of the Snake to get Eve to chow down on a straight-from-the-dirt Rutabaga. Perhaps a verse was omitted from the original text in which God cursed the Forbidden Fruit by upping its carb count and reducing it to a Root, much like how the Walking-Talking Serpent was reduced to a slithering, hiss-happy Danger Noodle.
From a divine viewpoint, a Fruit-to-Root curse would have been absolutely necessary. No doubt the Forbidden Fruit would devastate the future of humanity by being a hit at the Farmer’s Market- why, just think of the incredible smoothies one could concoct, or all the lovely jams. Forbidden Fruit on a lightly-toasted rye would, without a doubt, be a most unholy way to start the weekend.
Being the cheeky little moppet that she is, Sister Madly brought up the subject to a Seminary Student later on at the party, one who got his kicks from taking himself much too seriously. She was curious as to what he had to say about her most excellent Rutabaga Theory.
He did not think it most excellent.
“If you consider the region and the climate of the Garden of Eden at the time, the Forbidden Fruit would have been similar to an Olive.”
And just what is so tempting about an Olive? It’s the only thing on this planet that can further contaminate a perfectly ghastly loaf of bologna! Olives have their place in the culinary world, make no mistake; but to bring about the downfall of all mankind- quite frankly, that tasty little wart just did not have the gumption. There is simply no way that a Serpent could seduce Eve with a beady-eyed little olive.
Unless it was in a martini.
Then again, who can say it wasn’t in a martini? How do we know that the Serpent wasn’t the local mixologist, wooing Eve with a posh cocktail? Savvy barkeeps have been making the same moves for generations- they must have picked it up from somewhere.
Speaking of which- would you like a drink, Soon-To-Be-Reverend No-Fun?
“There’s a reason they’re called spirits: being drunk with liquor is like being possessed by the devil.”
Spoken like a true fart.
5-SPICE APRICOT CHICKEN
- 6-8 chicken drums/thighs
- 3 TBSP soy sauce ~ or ~ coconut aminos
- 2 TBSP sesame oil
- 2 TBSP garlic, minced
- 1 TBSP ginger, grated
- 2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
- 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
- 3-4 TBSP olive oil, or as needed
- 1 cup apricot jam
- 3-4 TBSP soy sauce ~ or ~ coconut aminos
- 3 TBSP rice vinegar
- 2 tsp garlic, minced
- 2 tsp ginger, minced
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp Sriracha, or to taste
- salt/pepper, to taste
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Refrigerate 30min – 24hrs
Mix together glaze ingredients
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer to reduce (glaze will coat spoon)
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken on greased baking rack in tray
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining glaze straight from oven
THEME SONG: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly
During the time Sister Madly spent in their employ, Utopia obtained a reputation of small-time intrigue, from back alley business deals to Kinder Egg transactions, to smuggling contraband inside of Russian Nesting Dolls. In spite of these rumors,* Utopia decided to venture into the seedy underworld of Alpaca Sweaters.
* Sister Madly might have been responsible for spreading those rumors.
Now Sister Madly knows that there are certain risks one takes when fraternizing with the Knitting Demimonde, from products of questionable origin (i.e., “Made in the Hinterlands”) to defects in the sweater itself:
As with all art, beauty is in the mind of the beholder. Clearly this was not a Backwards Flag; this was something deeper: a masterpiece of hypoallergenic fleece symbolizing the all the hardships a weary Knitter endures during a strong, eastern wind in the Hinterlands.
Eastern winds contribute to sweater-wearing, after all.
But Management, bereft of soul as is their wont, cast aside Sister Madly’s magnificent critique in favor of a far greater concern over why the whole of West Michigan refused to show their patriotism with a Backwards American Flag Sweater in the middle of July.
After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, Management concluded that the only way to rectify this horrible situation was to bundle the American Flag Sweaters with matching American Flag Mukluks, thus revolutionizing the fashion industry, winning a Nobel Prize, and retiring to a luxury hut in the Maldives. And no doubt they would have done just that, had it not been for a slight deficiency in Old Glory.
Let’s see if you can spot the error:
This sent Management into the throes of an existential crisis.
* Sister Madly apologizes for the graphic language.
While nobody could deny that the Flag had American roots, it would have, perhaps, behooved Management to have been a bit more specific when placing the order.
Upon being promoted to Marketing Director a few seconds prior, Sister Madly was enlisted to find a way to promote the Confederate Mukluks in a positive light, as Utopia would rather utilize the errant Mukluks than complain about the product- Knitters, as you know, can be particularly cutthroat.
Not wishing to be shish-kabobbed on the nearest knitting needle, Sister Madly pitched her usual poppycock: Sweetest Day was just around the corner, after all, and what better gift for your sweetheart than this knitted ensemble depicting America’s Civil War?
Then again, why not bundle the Sweaters with a full-length mirror (gilded frame optional) as the Flag would no longer appear reversed in this reflective apparatus? As for the Mukluks, they could easily be marketed to some disgruntled butler as cheeky little dusting cloths- knitted Mukluks clean up dust almost as efficiently as they create it.
Sister Madly even enlisted herself as visual aid, modelling the lovely* ensemble in a beam of sunlight.
* In marketing, even the most hideous of products becomes ‘lovely.’
But even as Sister Madly pitched this most excellent campaign, the sight of her posing most artistically in the latest Civil War Couture*- thus violating every city ordinance in the process- was enough to convince Management to donate the ensemble to the local shelter down the street. Utopia, despite its questionable reputation, was nonetheless generous with its clutter.
* Sister Madly also apologizes to the lady passing by the window during this unfortunate exhibition: you didn’t deserve to witness that.
WILD MUSHROOM STEW
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 16oz wild mushrooms
- rainbow carrots, chopped
- pearl onions, peeled
- baby potatoes, quartered
- 3 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 cup Marsala wine
- 3-4 cups veg or mushroom broth
- 2 TBSP Worcestershire (vegan substitutes here)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp marjoram
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- salt/pepper, to taste
- oil, for sautéing
Sauté chopped onion until translucent
Add garlic; sauté 1-2 min
Add spices; sauté 30 sec
Deglaze with Marsala Wine; 2-3 minutes
Add tomato paste; mix
Add potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms; stir to coat
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; cover
Simmer until veggies are almost tender, stirring occasionally
Uncover; simmer to reduce/thicken
Add Worcestershire; mix
Adjust seasonings to taste
THEME SONG: Quiet Americans, Shearwater
It was another Saturday night, and another encounter with the Happy Phlebotomist, a human mosquito known for his fanatical devotion to the job and a happiness borders upon sinister. That night he was feeling particularly highbrow, lamenting about the one time he attended a Book Club, the evening ended in a conga line.
Now that’s an affair Sister Madly would consider! Book Clubs these days are bogged down by the most ridiculous of frills- such as cucumber sandwiches and, you know, books- that they have forgotten their humble roots in Cuban dance.
The Happy Phlebotomist (HP) however, was so devastated by the incident that he made an unusually bold declaration: yes, somewhere between depleting people of their life source and pushing natural supplements, he was going to start a book club of his own- a respectable book club, a proper book club. You see, he just loves the smell of books!
You’re not suppose to smell books, Sunshine, you’re suppose to read them; that’s what books are for! No doubt you know there are books which have been banned due to their content- suppose you should happen to huff one of those?
Sure, it’s just a snort here and there, but soon you’ll be wearing thick-rimmed glasses and tying your hair up in a bun, and in no time flat you’re insisting that Oreos are vegan while listening to music on ‘vinyl…’ it’s the gateway drug to hardcore hipsterdom!
It was of no use; soon they will all be card-carrying members of Book Club Phlebotomy, extracting blood and smelling books by candlelight. But even worse than this was that HP was determined to take Sister Madly along with them, handing over the book list and asking her to choose which should be their first:
- Interview with an Exorcist
- The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
- The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants
- Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
- Atlas Shrugged
What Frankenstein stitched together this literary goulash? It’s enough to reduce anyone to a fetal position in a padded cell- even her spirit animal* is undergoing therapy for the trauma! And though Sister Madly admits that The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants would come in handy when landscaping the backyard, it’s hardly a book she would curl up with at the local coffee shop (mostly because she doesn’t like coffee.)
* Cookie Monster.
HP didn’t understand the fuss. After all, Sister Madly has been known to eat cod now and then- has she ever wondered about its heartbreaking journey from dreamy-eyed minnow to delicious fish ‘n chips? As for the Encyclopedia- why, it’s shorter than War and Peace by a few hundred pages! And just think of all the pointers she’d pick up from the Exorcist…
Exactly what pointers would those be, Sunshine? How to make your own holy water? A DIY crucifix out of dust bunnies and lemon peels? And what makes you think that Sister Madly needs pointers in the first place? Maybe she’s happy with her demons, ever think of that?!?
HP, however, was most accommodating. If Sister Madly didn’t find the list suitable, she- and her demons- were free to add to it.
And that’s just what they did:
- The Doubtful Debutante
- All of Them Witches
- Higgins’ Universal Language
- Blood on Their Hands: The Crime of It All, A Study of Some Selected Abuses in Sixteenth Century Europe
- The Isle of Naboombu
- To Serve Man*
* In the original Kanamit, of course.
HP was absolutely delighted; finally, Sister Madly was showing some enthusiasm for the project! He even went so far as to buy her a pint- that is, until one of the Professors put that PhD- and smart phone thingy- to good use.
“None of these books exist!”
What can she say, Professor? Her devils made her do it.
SWEET POTATO LAMB SAMOSAS
- 2 sheets Puff Pastry, thawed
- Egg, beaten
- 1 sweet potato, peeled, cooked, and cubed
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1-2 chili peppers, chopped (or cayenne to taste)
- 1/2 cup fresh peas
- 1 LB minced lamb
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp ginger
- 1 1/4 tsp cumin
- 3/4 tsp sumac
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- fresh mint leaves, chopped
- salt/pepper, to taste
* ~ * FILLING PREPARATION * ~ *
~ SWEET POTATO ~
Heat oil/ghee in pan
Add mustard seeds; roast until seeds start popping all over the kitchen
Add sliced onion; saute until translucent; 5 min
Add turmeric and chilies/cayenne; saute
Add potatoes and peas; stir to coat; approx 2 min
Remove from heat and set aside
~ LAMB ~
Saute chopped onions in oil; 5 min
Add garlic and ginger; saute 2 min
Add cumin, sumac, garam masala, salt/pepper; mix 30 secs
Add lamb; saute until cooked through
Add sweet potato preparation; mix thoroughly
Add stock; simmer until thickened
Stir in mint; remove from heat
Preheat the oven to 400*
Roll out pastry sheets and cut into 9 squares (approx 4”x4”ea)
Place a tablespoon of mixture at the center of each square
Fold the pastry over filling to form a triangle
Brush egg wash the top of each samosa
Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden
Book of Longing, Leonard Cohen w/Philip Glass