Observing whatever tickles my fancy

Archive for March, 2012

The Future of the Tooth Fairy

I’ve been reading the book “What-the-Dickens” by Gregory Maguire.  It’s a book for older kids, I’d say the 8-12 year old set.  As a kids books it’s a fairly fun read.  The gist of the story is this: a cousin is watching his three much younger cousins through a hurricane.  While the cousins ride out the storm he tells the kids a tale about an orphan Skibberee named What-the-Dickens.  The cousin weaves a tale of the orphan and how tooth procurement fits into his life.

In the book the skibbereen, aka tooth fairies, trade cold cash (coins) for the lost tooth.  In my days it was only a quarter.  I’ve no idea what children are given these days but I’m certain they are overpaid for their baby teeth.  Anyway, as I’ve been reading this book I’ve been wondering what the tooth fairies are going to use in the future for trade.  Eventually we are not going to use money.  Even now the Canadians are phasing out their penny.  Soon it will be their nickels.  And most of us are using debit cards to make purchases.  I don’t remember the last time I used cash.

In the future what happens when Junior loses his tooth and puts it under his pillow?  What will he expect to find in the morning?  Will he recognize currency?  Coins?

What’s the option for the tooth fairy?  Debit cards for 5-year olds?  Gifts like the future version of I-Pods?  I-Pads? Bicycles?  Will they go simple and hand out candy?  They can hardly do that.  That would horn in on the Easter Bunny’s gig.

Whatever happens, I hope the tooth fairies figure out what their new trading item will be otherwise they will go the way of fairy tales themselves and live on the edge of extinction.

(Somewhere deep within the Black Forest of Germany there lives a lonely fairy tale.  It spends its days seeking a partner to procreate with and replenish the species. Godspeed tooth fairies and fairy tales of all kinds.)

Ravioli Riot

A few weeks ago my brain was possessed by a rogue Italian gene.  How it happened is unknown since I am a descendent of Norse Vikings and Germanic tribes.   It is possible that one of Caesar’s goons, with the broom-topped helmet and short metal skirt, had his way with a Barbarian wench when the Roman hordes swept into parts of Europe.  Or is it possible a Viking stole a Roman woman and brought her to snow covered Norway?  Either way, this rogue Italian gene survived the millennia and possessed me.

What happened?  Rogueinius, the name I’ve given this Italian gene, convinced my brain that it could make ravioli from scratch.  One more time folks: make ravioli from scratch!

You’ve seen the recipes, right?  You’ve watched the chefs on TV dump a pile of flour on the table, make a well in the center, crack an egg in the center of said well, add some water and then gradually mix it all together into something resembling a “smooth elastic ball”.   They make it all look so easy on TV but let me tell you, it is one messy chore.   When the dough is stuck in chunks on your hands you wonder if it is ever going to mix together at all. 

The German-Norwegian genes curse the gene, Rogueinius, but with their combined stubbornness the G-N genes fight on.  That Roman gene will not get the best of them!  Cursing in languages unknown to me they fight through the mangle of what looks like a failed grade school craft project.   Eventually this mess of flour, egg and water does form into an “elastic” ball.  Step one is done! It’s a downright miracle.

This beaten mound of dough is supposed to rest so I tuck it into plastic wrap, dim the lights and sing it a lullaby (in German, of course).

While it naps I work on the filling.  I looked up recipes online and in the Italian cook book I have but ignored most of those and did my own thing:  garlic (freshly crushed – best thing in the world), onions, mushrooms and the dreaded chard.  Why do I call chard dreaded?  Because I dislike it.  Chard is a tough mean green but I get what seems like truckloads of it over the growing season so I freeze it and use it throughout the year.  (Sure, the rainbow stuff is pretty, but it’s still nasty.)  So I sauté it in garlic and olive oil which helps somewhat but not enough to make me like it.  So, that’s my filling, sautéed garlic, onions, mushrooms, chard and cheese.  After that it’s on to the tricky ravioli making bit.

Take a rolling pin….roll dough ‘til paper thin.   Yikes!  Do you know how hard that is?  How do you handle paper thin dough?  It doesn’t really matter in this case because I never quite succeeded at getting it that thin.  It looked more like that homemade paper you make from dryer lint only it wasn’t blue or red.

The evil Rogueinius forced me on.  Roll out the dough, as thin as possible.  Cut the dough into strips.  Put spoonful amounts of filling x-distance from each other and the edge of the dough. Fold the dough over and join together.  What a sloppy mess.  Chard was sticking out of the edges, onions poking out of the other side.  So it’s all “filled” and stuck together.  Now, cut strips with little crimpy roller thing.  What?  Crimpy roller thing?  Apparently there is a tool out there that creates those fancy little ridgy ravioli edges.  No, I did not rush out to buy one.  I used my pastry knife…is it a pastry knife?  I don’t even know its official name but it’s the thing the TV chefs use to cut dough and scoop things up with.  I suppose I could have used the pizza cutter. 

Anyway, I cut the ravioli into squares.  They were ugly but I wasn’t going to stop and throw them away.  I boiled some water and tossed them in. 

 Once they were done I put them in a baking dish and covered them with tomato sauce and more cheese.  Then to the oven! 

15 – 20 minutes later the ravioli was done.  Stunned at my accomplishment I stared at the steaming dish of ravioli.  Was it edible?  It smelled like it.  It resembled an edible dish of food.  The Italian gene Rogueinius taunted the German-Norwegian genes.   Mangiare.  Eat.

And they did.  And they survived.

But when Rogueinius offered more ravioli and wine the German stepped back and said “Nein, gib mier bier und bratwurst.”


Addendum:   I have been asked if the ravioli was any good.  Yes it was quite tasty.   The Norske within said “Det er bedre enn rømmegrøt”.  If you know what rømmegrøt is, you’ll understand.

A Wednesday Night in March

From my chair on the porch this evening I see that the neighbors across the street are grilling out.  That is not necessarily odd in March in the northern climes.   A hint of warm weather (anything over 40 degrees F) and folks stoke the grills to cook up burgers, brats, steaks, and the occasional chicken.  What is odd is that everyone is in t-shirts.  T-shirts….in March….grilling out.

Oh, look at that.  There’s a new arrival.  It’s great grandma carrying an envelope and … a yellow wrapped package!  (Is it a dinosaur?  Is it a Mrs. Potato Head?)

It’s a birthday party.  A birthday party. Outside. In March.  How often does that happen up here?  Wonder if the moon is blue tonight.

The Robins Have Returned

The robins have returned to this little corner of the upper midwest. The sight of the first robin brings a flicker of giddy warmth to the soul of a northerner. Spring is coming.

Unlike the furry creature from Pennsylvania that is snatched from its’ winter slumber to “predict” the coming of spring, the robin is the real deal. Robins, not groundhogs, are the harbingers of spring. The return of the robin doesn’t bring in the media hoopla of that prophetic sleepy rodent nor the clock-watching flock from Capistrano. Robins are unassuming. Modest. They show up when they’re ready and are quite content to avoid media attention.

I will admit that I did not have visual confirmation of the robins.  It was snowing.  The wind was blowing.  My hat was tugged low on my head.  Had I looked up a snowflake would have been hurled into my eye causing permanent blindness.  Mock me if you will but snowflakes are ice crystals and crystal is sharp. But I digress.

It was the robin song that I heard.  Of course I doubted it at first but it continued and I was pleased.  I don’t need to see the robin to know it is present.  Like all birds, robins have their distinctive song, plus it was early morning.  Robins are the first birds to rise in the morning and the last to the nest at night.  Modest and hard working.

“Hey, Marge, feels like it’s warming up.  What say we head north and see if the worms are wiggling?”

Upon arrival: “Doesn’t look like the worms are warm yet, Phil.  There are some lovely berries still clinging to the trees and bushes.  Let’s stay and set up shop.”

The human, standing at the kitchen window with a cup of coffee in hand, says, “Hey Phil, the robins are back.”