Tuesday, November 24, 2009

...and we're back

It's been a while.  I know, baby, I missed you too.  So much.  I missed your golden-lit macaronis, the velvet creaminess of your coffee-based beverage products, your good time tumblr reposts.  I want to laugh, baby, I want to take a bite so good I have to close my eyes for a whole minute, I want to get back into the things we love to do together, but it's hard.

See, we've been away.  In town, but away from the kitchen, away from the keyboard, away from the camera.  It's been a busy couple weeks, and not in a good way. My grandfather has died.  We've been at the hospital, the funeral home, we've been holding hands, and yes, we've been weeping.

His name was Sidney William Huffman and he was my mother's father, a man of 89 years and until his last day still fit, still plugged like a wire into his boots, still caring for the family--and the lawn--that he loved.  He was my last surviving grandparent and though I've had nearly thirty years to get to know him, I didn't know him well enough.  I guess this is always the way it goes, that you don't truly appreciate how much you care for someone until they're gone, but knowing that's how it goes doesn't make it any easier to face.

I keep thinking about the things I didn't know.  Looking through old pictures the night after he died gave me some specific gaps. I found out that he, like me, was a great fan of hats.  I never knew we had this in common.  I saw him in his youth in fedoras, in driving caps, decked out in double-breasted suits with his arms around brothers who have since grown old and preceded him into eternity.  And maybe it's a waste of energy, but I can't help think I should have known.  Not just this but all of it.  Everything. His life's stories.  He was always so readily available, his house only a mile or so from mine while I lived here, but I knew him as a child knows an adult.  Incompletely, with the assumptions and unquestioned discrepancies of youth.  I knew he went to war in 1942 but simultaneously also thought he was on Hawaii during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  I know he worked for Gallo Glass, but I confess I haven't the slightest idea what he did there.  This is just trivia, I know, just the stuff that makes up our days not what makes up our lives, but what we are as people must be written in what we leave behind us, the memories of our family and friends are the marks we make on the world.  I fear that the memories I have of my grandfather are not a good enough legacy for the man he was.

Since he passed, my cousins have been collecting, scanning, and distributing old pictures of him.  Though he was born in 1920, he lived his life in the time of the camera so we have pictures all the way back to him and his siblings as children.  I thought it would be a fitting tribute to share a couple of the pictures from his vibrant youth including a photo booth series of he and my grandma, and then what might be the last picture of the two of us together, from our welcome home party in July.  Here is what Sidney Huffman was, a soldier, a good father, grandfather, and great-grandfather and as you can see below, totally awesome.  It's hard to imagine the world without him.

Goodbye Grandpa.  I didn't know you well enough, but I love you.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bonus Pictures: Halloween

Here are a couple more pictures of our Evil League of Evil Halloween party. I don't usually commentate these posts kind of on purpose but I have to point out the ectoplasm in the second to last picture.

Superstitious poppycock you say?

Lens flare you say?




Trying to look half serious as Velocirapture. And failing.

A soldier of the Foot Clan

A quick skirmish between Doctor Scalpel and MerMaid

Ectoplasm! You guys! I'm telling you.

We'll get you next time, Halloween! {evil laughter}

Friday, November 6, 2009

Persimmon Pancakes

Moving back to California from upstate New York has obviously meant a lot of changes for us. The weather's different, the people are different, and the variety of food that's available is much larger. I mean, it's November, and we can still get tomatoes from the farmer's market. How awesome is that? And even though the sheer variety of fruits and vegetables can be a bit overwhelming at times, I've gotten to experiment with all sorts of things that I haven't used before, like persimmons.

I started by making this persimmon bread, which was tasty and pretty, but didn't taste at all like persimmons. If you're looking for a quickbread and have persimmons on hand, it's a good option, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

I don't know if it's the kind of persimmon that I'm using or if this is true of persimmons in general, but when Justin and I cut open our mushy little fruits and scooped the insides out with a spoon, the mush had a pretty subtle taste. It's nice - I've heard it compared to apricot - but it's not overpowering. And the problem I've been having with the recipes I've found is that they all call for a huge amount of spices, which means you don't taste the persimmons at all, and might as well be using pumpkin, or applesauce, or banana. Call me crazy, but I want it to actually taste like what it is.

So I've been tinkering with recipes that will showcase the persimmon taste a bit better, and came up with this one, based loosely on the pumpkin pancake post from earlier this week, that fits the bill.

Persimmon Pancakes
(serves 2-3 people)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons Hachiya persimmon pulp (1-2 fruits)
1 egg
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine milk, persimmon pulp, egg and melted butter.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ones, stirring until mixture is mostly smooth, but still has a few clumps.
4. Using an ice cream scoop, pour even amounts of batter onto griddle and cook first side until pancake batter is bubbling on top, and brown on the bottom. Flip, cook until done, and serve with butter and maple syrup.

The pancakes had a more distinct persimmon flavor than the really spice-heavy quickbread I made, and were delicious with maple syrup. Mmm, persimmony... that's just exactly what I was going for.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween housewarming, pumpkin pancakes

This weekend, in honor of Halloween--one of our very favorite holidays--Dana and I threw our first party in our new place. As it doubled as a housewarming and Evil League of Evil shindig (see here if you can't place the name), we got a pretty wide ranging group of invitees: a parade of family and friends ranging from high school, college, grad school, and the working world. With the candy handed out to trick or treaters (we got a grand total of 5 kids traveling in two bunches) and our frightening pun-laden costumes woven from the fabric of free and cheaply obtained materials, we warmed this house like crazy.

Speaking of the costumes, way back in early October--in the very beginnings of our preparation for the party--Dana and I made a pact with our best friends, Jack and Nicole: if we could costume them, they could costume us. Anything that didn't involve nudity was fair game, no questions asked. The result of this was that Dana joined the party as Mer-Maid (a mermaid maid), and I became Velocirapture (basically a dinosaur pope). Jack was Doctor Scalpel, meanwhile, and Nicole went as Night Mare (an evil unicorn. We toyed with the rather droll Bad unicorn but just couldn't resist this name). Obviously, we are well matched in awful terrible puns.

Here are Jack and Nicole. Look for our costumes in a bonus pictures post in a couple of days!
It was good times, but that's not what I want to tell you about. This is:

Since we had friends coming from all over the state, our afterparty activity was setting up a bunch of makeshift beds for people to crash on and the next morning we got to do something that's still pretty new to us. We got to cook for a crowd.

For the occasion, we went with a topical choice, a double batch of Martha Stewart's simple pumpkin pancakes. This with some strong coffee, a hefty dose of water, and a huge slab of fatty hangover-clearing bacon really hit the spot.

Pumpkin Pancakes (double recipe, makes 16-20 3-inch pancakes which serves about 6)
from MarthaStewart.com
  • 2-1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 cups milk
  • 12 Tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 eggs
Sift together the dry ingredients in a largish bowl. In a separate medium bowl combine wet ingredients well and then fold into dry. Let sit for a couple of minutes while you melt butter into a skillet over medium heat and then measure into pan in 1/4 cup increments. You know how to do the rest, they're pancakes for God's sake.
As we were making these entirely too early in the morning after a big party (I'm talking like 10am), I didn't stray too far from the recipe. But if I make them again--and I think I will, they were really tasty and even the double batch went entirely too fast--I'd add another 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and possibly go for cake flour instead of the AP for a bit of a lighter crumb. As it was though, I was definitely happy with the lightness of the cakes and the pumpkin was subtle enough to blend but still forward enough to stand out while smothered in warm syrup.
Now that I've extolled our embarrassing costumes and our next-morning dish, it's your turn. What did you dress up as this Halloween?