pretzel bites.

pretzel bites.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

camp food. and chocolate fudge cake.

we’re at camp. like, for real. sleepaway camp. in a place called kunkletown, PA. which might sound weird, but it’s a thing for rabbis to go to reform summer camps for a couple weeks on faculty. we’ve been here for six days. we actually got really lucky and were placed in a lovely little cabin called the green house, which even has a kitchen. with this stove.

 i haven't been doing much cooking.

so here we are at camp. 
eating camp food.

we do what we can. josh has turned into a carb. i’ve been eating a lot of cereal and really weird salad concoctions from the “salad bar.” yesterday it was lettuce, three bean salad, babaganouj, and sliced tomato with some coleslaw on top. for good measure. rapha has taken to hoarding little packets of the most sticky, sickeningly sweet jelly i’ve ever had the misfortune of touching, and straight up licking it out of the container when he thinks i'm not watching. i'm always watching. i don’t blame him. like i said, we do what we can. the only one who seems unaffected is maya, who basically eats whatever is in front of her all day long. 

two days ago, after 20 straight hours of cold rain, we left camp and went out for chinese food. call me an optimist, but sometimes the absolute worst chinese food is the best. or maybe all the canned pineapple and cottage cheese i've been eating at breakfast has turned my palate to mush. 

the above scene might be confusing to you. it was confusing to me. this was the entirety of the decor at the chinese restaurant. (yes, that is a bottle of wine, some red peppers, cabbage, potatoes, numerous other vegetables, and a basket of raw fish...)

anyway, it wasn’t the first time we left camp. we’ve now twice been to the shop rite about 15 minutes away, which is one of the most wonderful grocery stores i’ve ever set foot in. they even have a thomas the train on a track suspended above the store. everyone was happy there. the other day i even took rapha and maya for ice cream in a town called effort. EFFORT. rapha ordered a swedish fish flavored ice.
long before we came here, the rabbi josh works for, who came to this very camp for some 20 years as faculty rabbi, gave me a charge. he is a very wise and kind man and i respect him deeply. so when he told me about the diner down the road called cherry’s, and said i’d have to order the chocolate cake despite the fact it would disappoint every time, and never taste as good as it looks, as good as you want it to, i took him seriously. because, you see, to me, chocolate cake is a very serious matter. 
i think about it a lot. want it all the time. in almost any combination or form. dessert isn't dessert unless chocolate is involved. desperate for chocolate, i've been known to whip up a chocolate chip laden mug cake despite josh's insistence that it can't be good. it's good. or it's good enough. and sometimes all you need is good enough. like when your dessert option has been brownies that taste like passover.
so after the 30 somethingeth hour of cold rain, and after breakfast and staff-brat day camp for rapha and a harry belafonte dance party for maya and me, and after lunch and a good nap for the three of us while josh was off doing various rabbinical things like playing basketball, the four of us climbed into the car and headed for cherry's. we ordered two pieces of chocolate cake to go. one piece of chocolate fudge cake and one piece of chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. (i do a lot of things for good measure.)


i'm not going to talk about the chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. it's not worth it. maya is the only one who ate it, anyway. even rapha turned away after eating the sprinkles off the top. 

josh took a few bites and said he thought the chocolate fudge cake was delicious and challenged me to say anything different. but i am going to say something different. it was not actually delicious. it was wonderful the way even bad chinese food is wonderful because sometimes your heart and soul just need something rich and sweet and indulgent. but delicious is a stretch. the cake itself wasn't dry, so i'll give it that, but i think that has little to do with the actual crumb and more to do with the generosity of the fudge. on its own the cake would be nearing the camp dining hall brownie situation, but the fudge elevates it to entenmann's worthy goodness. this is a compliment. my mom and i used to eat those little boxes of cake together. inch by inch i'd scrape the frosting with a (preferably small) spoon while she ate the cake i'd revealed below. this does not embarrass me. it was a perfect system. that the cherry's fudge from the fudge cake reminded me of an entenmann's cake is no small thing. i went for it, separating out the cake part from the frosting part. it's okay to know what you like. 
the point is, if a chocolate fudge cake is truly delicious, it doesn't look like this when i'm through with it. like i said, the rabbi josh works for is a very wise man. 
maybe i'll head back to the grocery store today and buy an entenmann's cake. i know i can count on maya to eat the cake part. 







Monday, June 22, 2015

the problem with buttermilk

here’s the problem with buttermilk: there’s too much of it.

i don’t mean existentially, in the world. i just mean in the carton. or bottle. they're too big. who needs a whole big container of buttermilk? i don’t. and i love buttermilk. but i’ve never seen a small container of it. ever.  and i spend a lot of time in grocery stores.

there are only so many things you can do with buttermilk before it goes bad, and you’ve got to be committed.

here are the things i made with one carton of buttermilk:
ice cream
cornbread cake
scones
cornbread muffins
we went strawberry picking with friends and i imagined us in lovely hats in a giant field of plump fruit falling off the plant into our stained hands and then tumbling merrily into a giant bucket. 
i pictured my children with strawberry juice dripping from their mouths as they skipped along the endless rows. not so much. there weren’t so many ripe strawberries, it turned out, i forgot my lovely hat and both my children immediately removed theirs, my three year old ate all the best looking strawberries and the ones that were left weren’t exactly sweet, so the only thing to do with them was to roast them. and add sugar. and cream. and buttermilk. and turn them into ice cream.


our neighbors just had twins! a boy and a girl! so i had to bake for them, something quick they could just cut and shove in their mouths in two seconds because that’s all you have when you have new baby. and they have two new babies. i thought about cornbread because who doesn’t love cornbread? also i had buttermilk and blueberries. (a really good thing is that this recipe makes TWO cakes, so we got to eat one, too. it doesn't call for blueberries, but the batter was screaming for some. also, i skipped the frosting, though it looked utterly delicious)

my friend elly made strawberry rhubarb scones AND LEFT THEM AT MY DOOR AS A SURPRISE BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT SHE IS LIKE and they were delicious but i ate them all and then i needed more scones so i had to make more. and it’s almost a sin to not make scones when you have an abundance of buttermilk. either scones or biscuits. and then i ate all of those scones. because that's what happens. i didn't even take any pictures. so there's this one, instead.

my three-year-old has a friend who’s been sick recently with some scary stuff so we offered to make dinner for her lovely family and i thought COMFORT FOOD. obviously. i spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to make. lasagna, mac ‘n cheese, baked ziti, etc. but then i thought maybe they’ve had their fill of pasta and i made a kind of improvised vegetarian cassoulet with veggies, beans, quinoa, and a panko parsley parmesan topping. protein, right? and then i made these happy little kabobs with cucumber, watermelon, and mozzarella, because everyone knows eating food off a stick is better than eating food that’s not on a stick. josh told me he thought they were weird but i was still so proud of them. and for dessert i made peaches and cream and wondered all the while why i don’t make peaches and cream every day. and, of course, buttermilk cornbread muffins. because that’s comfort in the palm of your hand.
the truth is, my mom made the most delicious cornbread i’ve ever had and i can’t find the recipe. i know it had tons of butter and tons of sugar in it because there is simply no way it could have tasted that good without tons of butter and tons of sugar, but even knowing this i still haven’t been able to even get close. i'll keep trying though.  come to think of it, it probably didn’t even have a drop buttermilk in it…

anyway, that’s a lot of buttermilk baking, if you ask me.

AND THERE IS STILL SOME LEFT IN THE FRIDGE.