Friday, August 9, 2013

By Virtue of Profanity

If the amount of time I spent cussin' is used as our index of measurement, it would seem that yesterday was not as "beautiful" as the two previous days had been.

I confess, I envy people who don't curse.  People who can just say "oh, drat!" and move on with their day.

Meanwhile I'm over there spewing out some kind of visceral verbiage that might well make a sailor blush and that leaves friends wondering, "Where on earth did you learn that, Dr. English Professor?"

I've gone through phases in my life where I cursed far less--when I was a nanny, for example.

There's nothing cute to me about small children--or children in general--who have picked up a foul mouth from their elders.  Not cool, parents.  We should all spend at least a decade to a decade-and-a-half of our lives not using words like that.

So I go through phases where I long to return to a simpler time. 

I become aware of myself on days like yesterday, because although I was cussin' a blue streak right and left, in the end, things turned out pretty well.  So perhaps there's no need to curse after all?

It all started because I tried to make pasta using my pasta machine, and it clogged.

I don't know if you've ever dealt with a clogged pasta machine, but if you have, you'll know that "oh, drat!" and "well, gosh darn it all!" just isn't going to cut it.  I opened with, "Oh my god, you filthy little..." and it went downhill from there.

When I finally got the machine cleaned out, I started over, only to have the dough I was working with fight me constantly.  I couldn't get the pasta sheets wide enough and thin enough to work with my ravioli press, and the dough itself was too sticky.

And then, when I finally, finally, finally got a sheet that was wide enough and thin enough, I put it in the ravioli maker and the dough ripped.  It was too thin.

At this point, whole wheat pasta dough was thrown out the door of my kitchen and into the sunroom.  I won't say by whom (since that's probably a bit obvious), but I will say that foul language came spewing out of my mouth until I realized that the windows were open and the neighbors could probably hear me.

I was beside myself.

I haven't been so enraged since the day several years ago when I made an awesome bundt cake using my fancy Williams Sonoma cake pan--greased and floured it, just like they said--and the cake wouldn't come out of the pan when it was done.  There was no way to get it out, and when I finally dislodged it, the cake broke into a million pieces.

So much for fancy and pretty. The bundt pan almost went flying out the back door on that occasion, but again, the thought of what the neighbors might think stopped me.

The pasta-making episode wasn't quite that bad, but it was a close second.  I had really just wanted to use the machine to make the whole process faster, and that was clearly not happening.

So yes, I flung dough and yes, I SHRIEKED--I won't tell you what.  It was not the kind of commentary that reflected well on the character of the dough or myself.

But then, I got determined, and I made a new batch, and by golly, I got that blessed pasta machine to work for me.

My first step on the road to recovery was to seek out the wisdom of Lidia Bastianich.

Whenever I have a cooking-based meltdown, I run to Lidia.  She has never steered me wrong.  To this day, I can work with fillo dough only because of Lidia.  And of course, Lidia had a recipe for whole-wheat pasta dough that worked far, far better with my pasta machine than the recipe I had been using (when you work with whole-grain flour, you have to add more water, because the grain absorbs it, but too much water in a pasta dough will make it sticky--and clog your pasta machine, bless its wee rollers).

So that ended well, because I eventually ended up with a couple of pounds of fettucine that looks great (better than any I've made before) and I got my ravioli after all.

I conquered the pasta machine.

Yesterday, I also discovered what has been ailing my garden this year.  It began to look like my tomatoes had the same "blight" that they came down with last year, but then I thought, "This doesn't seem right..." (insert profanity in and around this observation).

It turns out, the black walnut tree in my neighbor's yard is the culprit.  Black walnuts release "juglone" into the soil, and this is toxic to all kinds of plants.  Over the past year, we've had a TON of black walnuts--more than in previous years--and the squirrels, drat their bushy little tails, have taken to burying them in my raised beds over the winter. 

So, once I realized this, I came up with a gardening plan for next year.  It's too late for this year, but we'll see how things do--I haven't lost all hope--and at least now I know.

I also managed to write up the syllabus for the totally new course I'll be teaching in the fall, and then I began grappling with the new course software I need to learn in order to put everything online.  So there was some cursing involved in that process.

But the syllabus is up and the course is ready to go, and it doesn't look all that terrible, which was my fear.  Of course, it may all collapse like an electronic house of cards on the first (or, more likely, the second) day, but we'll hope not.

I then tried to work on the sleeve for the sweater I'm currently knitting (okay, I mean for one of the sweaters I'm currently knitting because, let's face it, there's never just one), and I forgot to decrease the stitches on one side.

Luckily, I discovered this before I got too far along, so I was able to rip it out and fix it.  But once again, words were spoken. 

I also discovered that the latest batch of deodorant I made was grainy.  This might not seem like a big deal, but it won't spread evenly on your underarm if it's grainy.  It will clump.  It makes a mess, actually, and that could provoke even the most even-tempered, honey-tongued girl you've ever known to speak her mind in terms that are less than endearing.

I discovered that this happens because, when you melt shea butter, it needs to cool down relatively quickly, or else the fat in it will begin to crystallize.  This is what makes it grainy and why those grains don't spread once they've formed.

So I ended up re-melting my batch of deodorant.  This time, after it was melted, I poured it into the container and popped it into the freezer for about a half-hour or so.

No grains.  Success.  Again.

So yesterday was a day of stumbles and false starts and do-overs and do-over do-overs.  But in the end, by virtue of profanity--or in spite of it--it turned out to be a pretty good day after all.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."