Private Places

Vandeventer Place Gate

Well, I did a weeks worth of “cooking” on Sunday and except for breakfast, I didn’t use the stove. Breakfast was eggs and bacon, but I already told you about them. After breakfast and after our walk, I got to work in the kitchen. Using the Cuisinart, I first made pesto, which I promptly froze. It became one of the blocks of ice that we’ll be hauling up to the cabin next month. Next up was gazpacho, which I also mainly froze, but we will be having some of that this week. Finally, I made tabbouleh, which will be our base course this week, including both grain and veggies, but wait there is more. Bill and Mary invited us over to their house for an outdoor happy hour, the one that we were going to enjoy yesterday. Anne was feeling well today, so I packaged two sets of chips, dip (French onion and pup cheese) and veggies (celery and carrots). This way we could share our dish with our hosts in a socially responsible manner.

Bill and Mary live closer to Forest Park than we do, almost kitty-corner to its most northwest point. Last night, while we were having wine and snacks on their back porch, a little more than a mile east of us a drama was unfolding. I learned of it this morning, when I checked Twitter and saw that St. Louis was trending. Never a good thing. A Black Lives Matter protest had begun a march to the city mayor’s house, to protest the doxing that she had done earlier of other protesters. They were marching to her home to demand her resignation. There were several hundred protesters, They were loud and apparently they broke down a gate (or maybe not) and entered a private street called Portland Place. 

Starting in the late 19th-century these private places became popular in Saint Louis among the well to do. More akin to a neighborhood association than a gated community, they were formed to address the problems that arose from a lack of any zoning regulations in the city at the time. The photo with this post is of one of the gates for a private place that didn’t make it, called Vandeventer Place. The gate is purely decorative and was not meant as an impediment to access. This gate somehow made it to Forest Park, where it is still on display.

Anyway, two white homeowners hearing the commotion of the passing protest, took matters into their own hands, when they appeared in their front yard and confronted the protesters with their guns. A brief standoff between the 1st and 2nd amendment ensued, until cooler heads prevailed and the protesters moved along. Photos and video of the two homeowners went viral and the Twitterati were not kind, pointing out that neither person knew how to handle their gun and asking why had both of them shown up to a gunfight while barefoot?

According to reports, the homeowners are both personal injury lawyers. Their truly elegant home was featured in St. Louis Magazine. Built in the 19th-century, as an Italian palazzo, by a scion of the Busch dynasty, it is purported to be the most beautiful home in Saint Louis. It wasn’t so nice, when this couple first acquired the place, but 30 years of work has transformed it back to its former aristocratic splendor. All of that accomplishment has now been tarnished, by one evening’s rash decision to brandish firearms. Maybe if they had taken the time to put on their shoes first, none of this would have happened?

Four-Eyed Frog

Four-Eyed Frog

I made the maque choux last night for dinner and it turned out well. I followed the recipe, until I didn’t. Wanting to make a meal out of it and not just the side dish that the recipe called for, I added some Trader Joe’s soy chorizo, keeping the dish veggie. I think that it is a keeper, although I did have one little problem. The dish calls for a variety of peppers, from sweet bell to the spicy serrano chile. It was with the later that I had my problem. After cutting it up, I touched my face, which on its own wouldn’t have been a problem, but I then decided to wash my face. This only spread the pepper’s oil around and some got in my eyes. It really stung, but what was worse is that the skin around my eyes also felt burnt. Later, my hands also felt burnt. I ended up tossing half of that chile, for being too hot, which turned out to be a good idea.

A full mouth never stops eating

Cone Flower Closeup

Yesterday, I talked the culinary talk, but today I walked into the kitchen. After I put away yesterday’s Instacart delivery, I realized that we still had some of the last batch of panko chicken left over, along with some garlic bread and a lonely looking zucchini that needed to be eaten first. I tried to make zucchini chips, but that didn’t really workout. Now, with space available in the refrigerator again, I set about reducing the popup vegetable stand that landed on our kitchen counter.

One annoying thing about Instacart is that it is way too easy to fat finger the quantity of an item and order more than you wanted. It is almost as if this is by design? I’ve done this often enough that I am extra wary now of this feature and review my order before submitting it. Still, I ended up with four pounds of tomatoes, instead of the desired two. A double batch of gazpacho made quick work of most of them though.

I haven’t tackled the maque choux yet that I mentioned, because I found another recipe that I wanted to try first. It appeared on the NYT website, as spicy pork kabobs. Maque choux is French for makeup cabbage, which is interesting in that the only thing that is even close to cabbage in the recipe is a little bit of celery.

There is another shift in the Instacart service. When I first began using it back in March, they were so swamped that I could only scheduled a delivery, days in advance. Now it is the complete opposite. I had scheduled my delivery for mid-afternoon, so there should have been time for me to add the few items that I would need for this new dish, but I discovered that someone was already doing the shopping and they ended up dropping off my groceries at the very beginning of the delivery window. Technically, I could have asked the shopper to still add these extra items, but I figure that their job is hard enough, without the likes of me messing with them. So, I was missing a couple of items, but I decided to wing it anyway. Some old habits are hard to break. For the recipe’s fish sauce, I substituted Worcestershire sauce. For the pork I’ll use beef, which I have tons of and need to use. I made the called for marinade and I’ll broil the kabobs tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle the maque choux. I also have ingredients for another batch of pesto, but that can be frozen. With all this cooking and the subsequent eating, it is amazing that I haven’t put on a quarantine fifteen. The walking must help. 

Food Glorious Food

The Last Supper, Andy Warhol, 1986

I have yet to explore the art of making a Quarantini, but before this pandemic is over I’ll likely get there. With Anne and I living home alone now and not getting out much, our new Coronavirus lifestyle has had a silver lining of sorts. It has begot a culinary renaissance in our kitchen. I’ve been doing the cooking around here since even before the plague struck. Back before, I would shop daily, for whatever, I felt like eating that day. It was all very spur of the moment. The amount of planning involved in designing a meal might boil down to sighting something new and scrumptious looking in the grocery aisles that very day, but I have not ventured into those aisles since March.

Instead I have switched to Instacart for my grocery shopping needs. Sometimes, especially in the early days, this kind of remote shopping led to both surprises and disappointments. I have yet to figure out how we were gifted a gallon of vinegar. It wasn’t ordered or paid for, at least not by me and even still while unpacking the latest order, I find ordered items missing, because they were out-of-stock. This was especially prevalent in those chaotic first weeks of the lockdown. Now though, things seem to be back to normal or at least the new normal and through use I have become more adept at using Instacart’s website.

The one thing that this remote shopping regimen has forced me to do is to plan ahead and surprise-surprise one tried and true tool for this endeavor is the lowly recipe. While anathema to my winging-it food prep philosophy, I have come to see the wisdom of finding and following a recipe. To date this month I have followed a NYT recipe for crispy sour cream and onion chicken, twice, what I have taken to calling panko chicken. With each iteration it get better and easier to prepare. I’ve ordered ingredients for a third try which should be better than the last. This is like my avocado toast recipe that I have made so many times that I can almost make in my sleep now and it comes out perfect every time.

Likewise, I’ve made gazpacho and pesto following recipes that I’ve found online. I’ve also ordered ingredients to make each of these again. Practice makes perfect. It being officially summertime, produce is as fine as it will every be now. Today, I’ve found a another NYT recipe to try, maque choux. It is a Cajun creole dish with Native American roots. Corn based with plenty of peppers and other vegetables, I looking forward to trying it today, after Instacart arrives.  


Brilliant Royal Poinciana (Flamboyant)

Picture sour cream and onion dip, but instead of dipping with potato chips, imagine chicken cutlets flattened and broiled to the consistency and shape of crispy thick homestyle chips. Snack food served up as the main course. To aid with this delicious deception the thoroughly hammered chicken is covered with panko, but not just any old panko, but a spicy barbecue variety. Anne found this recipe from the New York Times, printed it and then handed it off to me. It really was quite easy to fix and made for a new and unusual dish and let’s face it, my cooking repertoire could use some shaking up from time-to-time.

Our marching campaign has continued unabated, walking daily to get us some exercise and also to get us out of the house, at least for a little while. This being the short weekend, more people are also out and about. Making social distancing more of a challenge than on those long weekend days. Not to worry though, we just switch sides of the street or if both sides are already taken, we then walk down the middle of the road. Add to this almost drunken wobble is our search for shade. June is warm enough that crossing the street for better shade is a thing to do. In the end, we ping-pong back and forth adding dozens of extra steps to what would have been the straight and narrow.

We watched the new murder mystery Knives Out. This somewhat tongue-in-cheek whodunit sports an all star cast, all wrapped up in a Victorian mansion. It features Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc, with his atrocious attempt at a southern accent that makes him come across more like an Inspector Clouseau rather than a Hercule Poirot. In the end the movie is less an exercise in guessing who the guilty party is, not the least because during its theatrical release earlier this year its director Rian Johnson let loose with a major spoiler or two. Not only did he let loose with a clue on his own movie, but he also outed what had been an unofficial trade secret of the film industry. It turns out that Apple has no problem with movies using their products as props, so long as the characters who are using them are good people. Apple doesn’t want baddies being seen with their iPhones. To this end, I kept scanning the movie, looking for anytime a cell phone was used. As it turned out that wasn’t really necessary at all.