Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CSA Week 9

CSA Week 9 Haul. August, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 9 Haul. August, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

More Food Tales, with Iron Supplements and More Gory Details

Hello all! Typing this Monday night this time around, not day of delivery, as tomorrow night means more CSA-post-delivery food prep and an extra-early bedtime. Have a 9 AM that was scheduled at that hour for no particularly good reason…followed by a 7 PM transvaginal pelvic ultrasound after work. That means drinking half a gallon of water one hour before the appointment, taking a cab all the fuck the way up to the far Upper West Side to the lab (while having to piss like a racehorse), and then arguing with the lab to get my own copy of the results—I never got my LAST set of results that I asked for—for both my mammogram and last TV Ultrasound, but that's another story.

But I'll get to all of that later. First,the food part, for people who are just here for the food as it were.

Not only did I get an herb, fruit, and veg share, I took another delivery of CSA dairy/meaty/poultry/bread goods. To wit:

  • 2 Bunches Cilantro
  • 1 fat bunch of Baby Fennell (think smallish bulbs; total thickness about 1" or so each)
  • 3 Peaches
  • 2 Nectarines
  • 2 Big Mutant Japanese Eggplants (shouts to SteveK—I need a tentacle/futonari reference for this one)(srsly each one is about 1" thick, 2' long, and twisted like a mutant tentacle)
  • 1.25 lbs. Summer Squash (translated into two smallish guys)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (Green)
  • 2 (very) Small Cabbages (each one the size of a flattened Wiffle Ball)
  • 1 lb. String Beans
  • 12oz Fresh, Dry Cottage Cheese (Goat Milk)
  • 1 Bag Greengage Plums (about a quart)
  • 1 Loaf 8-Grain 3-Seed Bread
  • 1 Mini Crotini of something called Sushan Snow Cheese—very good!
  • 1 Dozen Small Eggs (Pullet Sized)
  • 1 2.2 lb. Cow Tongue, Raw, Unskinned, Fresh.
and…non-CSA but came the same day (finally): Gourmet Balsamic Vinegar from wine.woot.com.

See the picture. Quite a haul!

Pickup this week had its own drama. For those not in the know, beef tongue is quite the hallmark of the Old Skool NY-Jewish table. Go to any proper real kosher fleischig (i.e. serving meat, as opposed to dairy) restaurant and in addition to the corned beef, beef pastrami, and carved flanken, you will be able to get carved fresh or smoked cooked tongue. The famous Junior's in Brooklyn includes tongue in its "carving table sandwich" collection, and in the course of my most recent trip there with The Talking Dog and his family, we both partook of sammies with said ingredient. Mine was a tongue and pastrami Reuben on rye; his was an obscene and delicious combo of tongue, chopped liver, and smoked turkey heaped on thick-cut marble rye. I actually, really DID bite my finger eating my sandwich it was so tasty. Yes I had cream soda. Yes it came with sides of sauerkraut, pickled tomatoes, and three kinds of pickles. Yes we had cheesecake afterwards but I digress. Anyway, as I was saying, it's a classic Jewish thing. So after I pick up my fruit, herbs, and veg, I go to the "cold case" area with my receipt to pick up my cold order. The young lady helping out looks at the order (which had been neatly packed into a paper bag and stapled shut with a copy of my order), looked at me, and panicked.

"OMG you don't keep kosher, do you? I'm SO sorry; I put your cheese in the same bag as the tongue…"

"It's OK, I guess you didn't catch the pork shoulder slices on my last order," I joked.

*relieved sighs all around*

Gilly would have found great humor in this, as my background/faith was never questioned or discussed before, and as noted, I look like Little Miss Viking with a Short Haircut.

Here's what I've done with it so far, or highlights thereof:

See the picture for my own take on Chinese Braised Eggplant, a takeout dish that I love but that usually has way too much salt and sugar.

CSA Week 9 Chinese Japanese Eggplant. August, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 9 Chinese Japanese Eggplant. August, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

To make this, I simply sliced both eggplants into uniform slices. They were thin, young, and tender enough so that no presoaking was needed. After a quick fry in peanut oil, I stirred in a heaping teaspoon or two of black bean sauce with garlic and a few cloves of raw chopped garlic. As it continued to fry down and get sticky, I splashed in some mirin, water, and heavy black soy sauce. As it all bubbled down, I stirred in a blob of blackstrap molasses to get in that "caramel" taste. Near the end, as the eggplant got tender and the pan got drier, I stirred in some fresh cilantro. The next day, I packed a lunch of brown Basmati rice, that, and a side salad of whatever greens I had left.

I also made home-made recaito from the cilantro—much better than the stuff in the jar! Just yesterday, I made a frittata of Italian frying peppers and that, with three of the baby pullet eggs. A few days prior, I made a frittata out of some summer squash with a few of my regular-sized eggs and some of the herbed butter that I made from Week 1.

Of course, I also had a few nights where I had my fresh bread with various cheeses, and fruit cut up and sprinkled with that amazing balsamic vinegar.

Saturday night was boil-the-tongue night. I had done almost nothing that Friday and during the day Saturday—I'm STILL bleeding and actually felt weak; I hadn't taken my iron supplements yet. I had almost collapsed in the supermarket earlier that day when I went to buy more salt and sugar. Still, around 8 PM, I got my act together and got started.

I did it Old School—big ALUMINUM pot (you want to be able to lift it when full of water, and have a fast hard boil), with a few fistfuls of salt. Yes, that much salt. I simply put the tongue in and boiled, and boiled, and managed boil-overs and added more water as the water level dropped, and boiled it…for 3.5 hours. Really. Until a fork went into the root end up past the tines like melted butter, but before the tip got tough.

Then comes the really fun part. You have to take the steaming hot tongue with tongs. And pull the outer skin off. It helps if you cut said tongue into chunks first. I cut mine into 5 portions—it shrank a lot. Still, I needed to use tongs and a fork to take off the papery, thick outer skin (ones I the supermarket come skinned already). A few second-degree steam burns later, I realized that I had only had fruit and coffee all day. Before I devoured the whole fucking thing right off of my cutting board, I put 3 sections in baggies—two in my fridge and one in my freezer for Mom.

Then I cut a chunk of that 8-grain 3 seed bread, and put two blobs on the board—one of mustard and one of the last of the home-made stone fruit chutney that I made a while ago. I had saved the root end and the tip of the tongue to eat that night.

And I opened a bottle of red wine and went to town. I DEVOURED that tongue. I also ate some of the figs I bought last week and some more stone fruit. It was amazing. I just had another chunk of tongue today in my take-to-work salad (tongue, fennel, cooked kale, the rest of the Roma beans from last week, almonds, and home-made mustard vinaigrette).

You know, I've been writing this piece for almost an hour now. I put up two eggs to boil for my salad tomorrow when I started. I guess they're done now. *Jen goes to turn off eggs, get em under cold water* Shit. Good thing I didn't burn the pot.

Anyway, I did one more Glorious Food Thing this week: I had a surplus of stone fruit, especially greengage plums. So I cracked open my old cookbook from 1945, and made…Greengage Plum Marmalade. All you have to do is take a quart of greengages and pit but don't peel. Cut into chunks. Put into a heavy pot. Add 1 cup water, not more. Simmer until fruit is tender. Dump in 3 cups of sugar. Yes, 3 cups. Boil and boil until the mix is thick and clear, or until you're afraid of burning the whole mess. Pour into heatproof jars.

Friends, this is AMAZING stuff. It set up by itself in the fridge; the plums have tons of pectin (you can do this with any high-pectin fruit). It's amber with chunks of deep golden/brown fruit. It's like someone melted down a tiger-eye gem and poured it in a jar.

I had some of this on my dry-curd goat milk cottage cheese this AM.

Tonight I fried down those pork shoulder chops from a few weeks ago—it turns out that it was 3 very, very thin cuts. Saved 2 and ate 1 (pan fried with good seasoned/smoked salt) with green beans and tortillas. Delicious.

And tomorrow, I get another whole shipment of goodies.

And that, friends, concludes the Food Part of this post. So, you can stop reading now if you want.

I do need to vent a bit though RE my medical stuff a bit more. Yes, after over a week, I am STILL bleeding. Every AM it looks like it may let up but then once I'm out of bed a few hours I start to cramp and there it goes again. The ob-gyn that I had recommended to me still needs to return my call RE an appointment; if I don't hear back from her office I'll call her OLD office off the number I have (for NYU's ob-gyn center) and just pick ANYONE at this point. I am also now taking iron supplements daily, which has evened out my energy a little bit.

In the meantime I'm still worried. This is the worst irregular bleeding I've ever had, and even though I had a Pap smear only a few weeks ago that came back normal, my current ob-gyn is so crappy that I don't necessarily trust it.

Another reason why I may just call NYU and pick one off of their roster is that I know they have on premises MRIs and ultrasound (when I lived outside of NYC for a while, at my old place, if I needed an ultrasound, they just DID it—no separate appointment or other drama).

Either way, I'm getting worried and scared over all of this. Never mind the looming danger of cancer or anything serious—it's the WEAKNESS and near-fainting spells that has me spooked. I'm a big gal—5'7" and a sturdy mix of Viking and peasant Jewish. I can only imagine what it would be like if I had less flesh to buffer the loss.

Also, I am just FUCKING SICK of having a tampon in all the damn time. In retrospect I'm lucky—I don't have to start with pads yet (which just gross me out). And the VERY heavy stuff from the start of the spell seems to have laid off thank G-d. In the meantime, thanks to the power of the Internet I have greatly expanded my descriptive vocabulary for my discharge—according to the Intertubes, what I have going on has ranged from "dog food" and "chicken guts" to "getting a cut wet under water." Either way I am just so OVER MY FUCKING BODY RIGHT NOW. I HATE feeling weak and faint.

On top of it, they just announced that they are consolidating office space in my building and I may lose my (adult, nice, grown-up, tastefully decorated, has-a-closing-door) office to a fucking CUBICLE with no privacy. Yeah, my boss will really groove on hearing my gyn issues in gory detail.

Never mind years of being fiercely underpaid, the saber-rattling, the constant management changes, and mindless policy changes; if I lose my office I am the fuck out of there all the faster.

Did I mention that I hate my body right now? Lots?

I'm tired. I know I should make my salad for tomorrow. I even know what I would put into it—more fennel, those eggs, that green pepper cut up, maybe some raw beans or a small raw summer squash, cut up, and maybe some cashews. And a vinaigrette in the little dressing cup. I KNOW it would take me 15 minutes tops. I know it would be a Good Thing for myself. And yet I can't. I'm exhausted.

My apartment is a messy wreck and I don't care. I have bales of paper recycling to bring downstairs and I just don't want to, never mind try.

In clear, stark, horrid focus, I'm starting to see how cycles of self-neglect can start (on one side of the coin) and how vacuous and fucking STUPID statements like "go get a manicure/your hair done/etc—it will help your self-esteem" sound (on the other side of the coin) when your body starts to flake out in a serious bad way.

And then there's the other stark horror that if I didn't have health insurance, I'd be homeless taking care of this shit right now.

I feel so stuck.

The good stuff (good job change, getting better, getting medical answers) is happening far too slowly, and the bad stuff (bad job change, health going downhill) is happening too fast.

Hate it all. And it's a downward spiral. Keeping my mental energy up has been the hardest thing—just keeping all the pieces together.

And having not my health but my fucking health INSURANCE be the key here is what is making me even more nuts. That has got to change somehow.