Monday, March 14, 2011

cake or death

A little bit more than a week ago, I was sitting at the dining table, constructing the menu and Mister walked by just as my eyes had fallen on a recipe for a Sweet and Sour Stirfry in The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook.  I looked up from my scheming and asked him, "would you like to have a sweet-n-sour stirfry?"  He responded with a relatively enthusiastic, "sure!" so I put it on the menu.  Since I completely forgot to buy tofu and cashews, it sat on the menu, unmade all week.  Today, I finally got the ingredients I needed to prepare the recipe, so I figured I would do so before the other ingredients got bored of sitting in the fridge for a week and grew legs (or other things that don't belong on vegetables).

I love colorful dishes, especially when the colors are as vibrant as these!  I think I had the reddest pepper ever on sale at Whole Foods (maybe not, but that's how I felt) and despite the Pavlovian Christmas association of red and green, I just love the way the colors look together.  Add into that the sunny yellow of pineapple chunks against snow white cubes of tofu and you have a very nice little stirfry to bid farewell to winter (yes, I know there's still a week left).

I am continually amazed by the way a simple sauce can make the difference between hippie-dippy steamed veggies and a take-out emulating stirfry, served over basmati rice to absorb any extra gloop.  If only the reason I usually turn to take-out was purely because I love the way Chinese take-out tastes, rather than my lack of desire to cook, this would save me a ton of money.

Except for one small thing.  Apparently, sometime in the last 8 days, Mister came down with schizophrenia or some kind of dissociative disorder.  He ate his stirfry and rice, and he didn't push his food around too much with the chopsticks, but when I asked what he thought, this was his response:
You made it well.  I would just never actually, on purpose, eat something sweet-n-sour.

What?  When I reminded him of the encounter recounted above, he had no recollection of it, and asked if I had posed the question to him with another choice.  I said no, I just asked if he wanted the stirfry, and that seemed to "explain" things in Mister's head.  Apparently, if he had said "No," we simply would not have had dinner.  He seems to have missed the part where I was sitting with a pile of cookbooks and a grocery list...

This reminds me of [edit: an Eddie Izzard routinea Monty Python routine he and I watched together at the beginning of our relationship.  I'm not actually a big Monty Python fan - I think it's more of a guy thing, kind of like the 3 Stooges or the Marx Brothers, except smarter and more English.  Regardless, one sketch I did always find amusing was when three men were given a choice: Cake or Death?  For obvious reasons, the first two men chose cake.  When it is the third man's turn, he also chooses cake, but is informed that they have just run out.  His response?  So my choices are, or Death?

That was as good of a segue as I'll ever have to the bonus round of our post today...

I have been wanting to bake since we moved in, for two reasons.  First, nothing says "home" like the scent of freshly baked something.  Second, and possibly more importantly, I have seriously shirked my responsibilities as a recipe tester for Dynise's upcoming cookbook, and I believe the deadline is looming.  So, out of guilt as well as privilege (because I really am very lucky to be able to "test-drive" these awesome recipes), I baked Rue des Rosiers Pain d'Epice, a nice dark spice loaf.

If the goal was to make the entire apartment smell like where I want to go once I've left this world, then Mission Accomplished!  The loaf bakes for nearly an hour and fills as much space as it can with the most amazing scent.  I'm not sure there is a better smell for baked goods than the smell of something loaded with "winter" spices - cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, for example.  Even chocolate cake or brownies cannot compete with the molasses-rich scent of this dark bread.

It has incredible texture and both Angst and Mister were enthusiastic taste-testers with me.  It was nearly impossible to wait for the loaf to cool enough to cut it without man-handling it.  I just kept walking over to sniff it and at one point I tried to convince Angst that if we both blew on it, it would cool down faster.  The sliced almonds made it very pretty, but definitely made it a little more difficult to cut without marring the top.

Dynise introduced the pain d'epice by painting a lovely Euro-urban scene of a breakfast made up of tea and a slice of this spice loaf slathered with Earth Balance and marmalade.  Although it is very possible there are flavors of marmalade besides orange, I am not aware of them and I'm not big fan of anything orange which is not the raw fruit itself.  However, I can agree that a few pats of EB, spread across the still warm bread and allowed to melt a bit took this bread from quite tasty to absolutely heavenly.

I'll leave you with confirmation of my previously expressed "fears."  Although it seems the entire month of March is an opportunity for people to drink (Mardi Gras and St. Patty's day), it seems today was the big celebration, since we had the parade earlier in the day.  While I was out buying food for our cupboards, I had the incredible misfortune to miss a big band of bagpipers playing outside the Irish bar across the street.  Since they woke Mister from his slumber, he decided I should at least get to see what I missed:

Nope, definitely not sorry I was several blocks away when this was happening.  I am glad Mister got a picture, though.  We have some great from-the-window pictures from our years living in this area.  We'll add this one to the cyber-pile.


  1. My husband does the exact same kind of thing! I'll be in the process of doing the meal planning (which is obvious), ask him if he would like to try a certain meal, and he's all "yeah!". Then when it comes down to it, he acts like we never had that conversation and he has never actually liked whatever it was. UGH!

    Also, I hate to be nit-picky, but cake or death isn't a Monty Python thing. It's actually a bit that Eddie Izzard did in one of his stand-up routines:

  2. You are absolutely right - I can't believe I messed that up. We LOVE Eddie Izzard and that definitely explains why I thought it was funny.

    Thanks for pointing that out - and for reminding me that it is high time Mister and I locate/unpack that video and watch it again!