November 2006
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Month November 2006

I Underestimated the Snow…

OK, so living down here at sea level, on the water, I kind of underestimated the snow a little bit.Dsc_0039
Little of it is sticking to my driveway and road, although there’s a little bit on the roof.  But I just tried to go to town for groceries and the hardware store, and man…just getting to the main road required 4WD up the steep road, and when I got up to Roche Harbor Road, I discovered that it’s been snowing a bit longer than I’d thought.  There’s at least an inch, if not closer to two, and the road is treacherously icy, with ice coating the ponds and the fringes of Egg and Sportsman’s Lakes.  No snowplows have come this way yet today.  After the slowest quarter-mile ever, I turned around and headed home.  I have food for at least a week, a couple of pounds of coffee beans, and dry firewood. 

So, as I write this, fire stoked in the stove, limbs coated with snow are cracking off the trees all around and I’m hunkering down for the day.  Guess it’s time for a turkey sandwich and some hot tea. 

Snow and Thanksgiving

Well, it’s snowing.  More accurately, the snow seems to be mixed in with heavy amounts of soggy rain and pretty strong winds, at least up here on the north end of San Juan Island.  But I hear it’s snowing in Seattle too, at least on top of Queen Anne and other high spots.  For readers outside the Pacific Northwest, this is fairly unusual for us — typical after-Thanksgiving weather is either crisp-cold-dry or (more usually) soggy-wet.  But we’ll see if it sticks.  Whatever happens, the driveway (I live on a private unpaved road) is definitely making the transition from "soggy" to "swampy."  Thank goodness for the Land Rover – my other car would just sink and wallow. 

I’m recovering from Thanksgiving and a two week cold/flu which leaves me oddly uninterested in food, so this is also the first Thanksgiving on record where I actually lost weight.  But it’s time to start making turkey sandwiches before the shelves in the fridge bow under the strain of all the leftovers.  Friends and family came up for a first island Thanksgiving this year, bringing an accompanying dish or making one here.  But somehow none of them took leftovers with them on the exodus south. 

The turkey was a nice 15 pound free range bird, which I was able to find locally – a nice surprise.  I shortened the brining interval this year; not quite as much as Alton Brown’s six-hour brine, but I started it late the night before this year and gave it a good 12 hours in the brine.  The brine, as with last year, was two gallons of straight salt/water, with another gallon of apple cider added and a cup of bourbon.  To this I added black peppercorns, star anise, a couple of juniper berries, red pepper flakes, and a few bay leaves.  It seems to work quite nicely, and given the temperatures lately, I kept it out on the deck in a cooler and it worked well.Dsc_0026_2

Earlier in the week, I’d made a double chicken stock, and reduced by 3/4s this formed the basis of our gravy, seasoned and slightly thickened via the slurry method.  I’d also made a cranberry orange sauce (with lots of fresh ginger), as well as a cranberry-tomato chutney.  The latter was everyone’s favorite, and I’m kind of wondering why I bother with a sweet version every year.  The chutney (which came  from Allrecipes), also makes a great turkey sandwich later on, so I quadrupled the recipe and made several pint jars’ worth. 

My friends brought garden potatoes, cole slaw, roasted garlic mashed sweet potatoes, and a north African sauteed carrot dish, and Scott made a cranberry sausage cornbread dressing for the turkey (no stuffing the turkey!).  I complemented this with a salad of sliced golden and red beets, marinated in sherry vinegar & walnut oil, with blue cheese crumbles and Beth’s glazed spicy walnuts.  Served with 1998 Dom Perignon (this marked the end of my "month of Champagne" birthday) and the 2000 Mon Coeur from J.L. Chave, the dinner was spectacular and very tasty.  A very nice holiday at the new place. 

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

It’s Morning Again in America

I just can’t help myself, this just seems appropriate today.

“It’s morning again in America. Today, more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates and inflation down, more people are buying new homes, and our new families can have confidence in the future. America today is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we want to return to where we were….?” (Reagan campaign ad, 1984)

Political rhetoric often cuts both ways, doesn’t it?

What next (if the Democrats win in November)?

Like many of my fellow Democrats, I follow the midterm election prospects quite closely these days.  This is probably the first midterm election of my life for which I’ve been quite this interested.  Perhaps like many of my generation, nearly every election I can remember either being involved and interested was a Presidential one, even back in school.  I can remember even the strange third party candidacies of my younger life — John Anderson’s strangely Naderesque performance against Carter and Reagan in 1980, for example.  But I don’t remember most midterm elections directly: it seems that all of my knowledge of 1994’s key midterm, for example, comes from reading done well after the fact. 

So this midterm election is quite different, in my experience.  Although I follow near-daily right now, I still think it’s too early to say whether Democrats will retake either house of Congress (either that, or I just don’t want to jinx it by admitting optimism in writing…).  I’ll repeat the mantra one reads so often this week:  turnout is everything.  So rather than talking about how we are going to win, I’d like to say a few things about what happens if we were to win one or both houses. 

There has been a lot of punditry lately on this subject, so I’m not going to repeat the usual things about investigations, impeachments, and the like.  Impeachment is not going to happen and arguably the Democrats shouldn’t be within 100 yards of anyone saying it should.  Much as a serious attack on President Bush might serve as catharsis for many committed Democrats, it doesn’t really deliver the one thing Americans actually want:  effective, efficient government that doesn’t overstep its bounds or become embroiled in scandal.  Believe it or not, Democrats want this as much as do Republicans.  And we always have (we just differ on what we think is included in the scope of "effective" and what goals are "within legitimate bounds").  Investigation will likely occur, and should, but arguably it must be focused on policy, not people; achieving results, not holding witch hunts.  Not only will witch hunts play into the hands of Republicans for the 2008 election cycle, but they would merely demonstrate that we’re no different than the politicians we oppose.

So let’s talk substance instead of revenge.  Let’s talk about the things that matter not over an election cycle or two, but for decades.  If — maybe just if — the Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress this November, what should dominate our agenda, and shape our discourse?