I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house. I have prep work for tomorrow’s tailgate party done, and I’m enjoying the hell out of this bomber of Bison Imperial Stout, from Homestead Beer Co. in Heath, Ohio.
There is an exception to the all-Ohio beer rule in place for tomorrow’s Michigan State tailgate party. Ethel’s brother-in-law Chris is in town and he usually brings along something delicious from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, where he lives. That’s totally worth making an exception.
If you’re hungry for grilled cheese sandwiches, our tailgate party tomorrow is the place to be.
As I write this post, I’m listening to a Phil Lesh and Friends show from Hershey, Pa., in 2002. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Crappy and I were there for that one — we saw Phil in Hershey several times — but that’s not really what sent me down this path. I’m suffering tinges of regret (yes, I’m sure that’s different from the neuropoahy) over not seeing Dead and Co. in Columbus last week. I know Phil’s dealing with more health problems, but I’d love to see him tour a bit more, even if it’s a last go-round. His bands were always excellent; a full show from the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh in 2001 got me nearly all the way from Pittsburgh to Columbus this afternoon.
I am missing Mrs. Crappy. And Mr. Charlie.
As of this very moment, I am four days behind in my NaBloPoMo efforts. Any bets as to whether I can catch up?
In the last week, chances are good that if I look down while doing stuff in the kitchen, that’s what I’m going to see.
Charlie watches. He studies. If he’s awake, he wants to know what we’re doing and how it might fit into his new life.
Sure, I’m aware of the thing about curiosity and the cat, but think about this: He has literally never seen any of this before.
The notes from Animal Rescue League didn’t say where he came from, but we know Charlie was picked up as a stray. In his five-ish months, has he lived inside a house? Has he lived inside at all, besides in his time at the shelter?
Let’s assume that he hasn’t. And that means everything — absolutely everything — he sees in here he is seeing for the first time. Today was a great example. I made the full production family spaghetti and meatballs, a process that actually started on Thursday night, when I made about 30 meatballs. On that night and today, Charlie frequently checked in to see what I was up to. He’s not yet as vocal as Miles was, but he’s learning to, uh, ask when he wants something; today, those requests came when wanted tastes of whatever I was working on. The verdicts: A little taste of meatball was good, as was a small piece of pasta with some sauce clinging to it. Salad? Chianti? Not so much.
But remember — this happens with everything he sees. Alarm clocks are weird. We’ve caught him watching TV several times. He has learned that heating vents equal heat … and man, that feels good. The bathroom — with not one, not two, but three sources of running water — is especially fascinating, and Charlie is wide-eyed and underfoot every single morning as we get ready for work, because he wants to watch every single thing we’re doing. He’s not uptight about any of these new things, but his big eyes and his nose are always there, taking in everything they can.
I wanted to accomplish two things with tonight’s dinner. I wanted to make something appropriate for today’s raw, snowy weather; I also wanted to make something that Mrs. Crappy, who is recovering from a root canal, could eat.
I did them both.
I made this crock pot chicken and dumplings just once before, and it was pretty good. But on my first crack at this very simple recipe, I stuck pretty closely to the instructions. This time I did a few things differently, and came up with something delicious.
What you need:
Between 1.5 and 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 medium to large yellow onion, finely diced
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 or 3 celery stalks, diced
Black pepper, cumin, parsley, seasoned salt
2 10-ounce tubes of refrigerated biscuit dough
What you do:
Toss the chicken breasts in the bottom of the crock pot. Season with the pepper, seasoned salt, cumin and parsley.
Add the diced veggies, butter and condensed soup.
Pour in enough chicken stock to cover everything.
Turn crock pot on high and cook for six to seven hours.
With 90 minutes to an hour left, add the biscuit dough in nickel-sized pieces.
Other things you should know:
I put a really fine dice on all the veggies, so Ms. Ouchy Face wouldn’t have any trouble chewing her first solid(ish) meal in about a week. A rougher dice on the carrots and celery wouldn’t hurt.
The original recipe calls for water to cover all the stuff at the outset. If you like stuff that, you know, tastes good, use stock or broth instead. Always.
Be careful, however, about how much you use. I poured on all 32 ounces of chicken stock I had on hand. The result was a little soupier than I wanted, even after the biscuit dumplings soaked up a whole bunch of liquid.
The dumplings will look weird. They’ll float at the top of the crock pot as they cook and expand. I push them down in the mix a few times, just to make sure they’re all picking up all the delicious chicken stuff underneath.
Using the biscuit dough for the dumplings is the right way to go, at least in my mind. I love the biscuit-y flavor in each bite.
I didn’t want to push too much for Mrs. Crappy’s return to (nearly) solid food; but if I wanted to go all out with this, I would have made some mashed potatoes and then ladled this all over those.
But even without the trimmings, we did pretty well. I got my comfort food. Mrs. Crappy got her first meat and veggies in several days, in a form that wouldn’t make her face hurt any more than it did already.
That’s the same map that’s been popping up all over Facebook in the last few days, courtesy of Defocus Blog. Here’s the key, based on the specs of the creator:
White: I haven’t been.
Red: A brief stop or a drive-through.
Orange: Spent a day or two.
Blue: Multiple trips.
Green: I’ve lived there, stayed there for more than a couple weeks or taken multiple multiple trips.
Naturally, I have more information:
Ohio: I was born and grew up in Columbus. Athens is my spiritual home.
Pennsylvania: Uh, I live there. Here. Whatever.
Kentucky: I lived there for just over two years, while stationed at Fort Knox. If you haven’t heard it already, ask me to tell you my Kentucky Derby story.
Wisconsin: I spent several summers at the lake houses of Dr. History’s family, on a chain of lakes between Woodruff and Minocqua. Love that area.
Florida: This is perhaps a borderline green state for me, but I’m including it because of our nearly annual trips there to spend time with my sister’s family.
It’s interesting to see how many of these are included in the list because of Grateful Dead, Phish or other miscellaneous hippie-band touring over the years. Several — Indiana, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey and probably New York — were bumped up from Oranges or Reds because of the shows I’ve seen.
Texas: The result of the residence of my mother in law and her husband, and a long family vacation that led to the discovery of the Whataburger chain. That was the same trip when I thought I’d be good an order a water at a restaurant in Nuevo Larado, Mexico; my mother quickly told the server that I would have a Coke instead, leading young me to believe that Mexico was the coolest place on the entire planet.
Colorado and Utah: Ski trips. And I need to go back soon.
Michigan: The State Up North would have made the list for several ski trips to Boyne, but there have also been football games at East Lansing — a good one — and two trips to that other college town. Those weren’t so good.
Hawaii: A family trip — the one that led to our brush with Pele, the state’s goddess of fire — and our honeymoon. The family trip also led to my only appearance in California; our flights to and from the islands both went through LAX.
Visitors make life unpleasant for Miles, who is completely relaxed with us but pretty high-strung around nearly anyone else.
He knows my parents, which helps. Some. But it took him much of the evening to decide it was OK to come up out of the basement, and even then he wouldn’t join me on the couch until my mom went to bed upstairs.
He joined us in bed for a moment but didn’t stay; house guests interrupt his daily explorations of his territory, and he had some catching up to do.
Which is why I was a little surprised when I heard him and a slightly muffled meow coming back upstairs and into our room.
And he had come with a gift.
Although he has the run of the house, there are very few things in this place that are truly his: the food and water dishes, the upstairs and downstairs cat accommodations and a few of his favorite toys. He seems pleased with his stuff, too. These are the things that are most important in his life.
So when he shares them with us — as he did just a few minutes ago when he brought his catnip banana from the kitchen upstairs to our bedroom — I am touched. I don’t know what the specific message was, because he didn’t seem interested in playing. Maybe it’s a way of reassuring himself that things are OK, even with visitors snoring away in our guest bedroom.
But for whatever reason, it was important enough to our cat at that moment that he hauled his favorite toy — the most important object in his life besides those that have to do with food or pooping — through two rooms, up a flight of stairs, across a hallway and into another room so he could share it with his people.
Cats can’t communicate? Wrong. Miles does, loud and clear.