Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Comfort Foods and the Financial Crisis of 2008

Yesterday, when the markets were in a death spiral, I wrote about Chicken Pot Pie. Well, it appears that I was on to something. Charlie Gibson did a segment on the nightly news tonight about comfort food. It appears there is not only an economic reason that people turn to basic foods in a financial crisis, but a biological one as well. Scientists have found that fatty-carbohydrate-laden dishes reduce stress--that in times like these, the "bad" foods are actually good for us! He didn't cite authoritative sources on the air--but if Charlie says it, its good enough for me.

The other interesting point mentioned in the segment was that amid the massive stock declines yesterday, one major company's stock actually went up--Campbell's.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Comfort Food for Crazy Times --Chicken Pot Pie

When the Dow falls almost 800 points, its a good day to focus on comfort food--specifically Chicken Pot Pie. What do you need to prepare this delicacy?
*Leftover chicken carcass, with some meat on the bones
*Leftover gravy
*One onion
*One box frozen mixed vegetables
*Pie crust
*Seasonings--I use fresh garlic, cardamom pods, pepper and rosemary.

Step 1: Prepare your crust. This can be as simple as taking it out of the box, or making your own. Place the bottom crust in a pie plate and set the top crust aside. If your kitchen is warm, put them both in the refrigerator.

Step 2: Chop the onion, and start it sautéing in one tablespoon of butter on medium-low heat.

Step 3: Take the meat off the chicken carcass, and set aside. You're aiming for about 2 cups. If you have less, you can add a few more vegetables.

Step 4: Measure your leftover gravy. Do you have 2 cups? Awesome! If not, add water or broth until you do have 2 cups of liquid.

Step 5: Turn your attention back to the onions. They should be soft, and maybe a little brown by now. If you needed to add liquid to the gravy, add 2 Tablespoons of flour to the pan, and sauté for a minute or so, then add the liquid-gravy mixture and cook until it starts to thicken.

Step 6: Season. I add 2 cardamom pods, a pinch of rosemary, 1 clove of garlic, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

Step 7: Add frozen mixed vegetables to the sauce, and cook until thawed.

Step 8: Add chicken to the vegetables and sauce and mix well.

Step 9: Assemble. Place chicken-vegetable-sauce mix in bottom crust. Cover with top crust, and crimp edges. Brush top crust with milk or egg yolk, if desired. Cut vents in crust.

Step 10: Bake for about an hour at 375.

Enjoy! This is one dish that comforts your wallet as well as your soul.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who Will Buy the Boomers' Houses?

During the debate at the University of Mississippi last Thursday, John McCain said, "This isn't the beginning of the end of financial crisis, this is the end of the beginning." The comment itself didn't spark controversy, and the candidates moved on to other topics, but it resonated with me.

I see another perfect storm brewing in a few years. At some point, the baby boomers will begin attempting to sell their houses -- whether because of infirmity, the desire to simplify or the need for cash. Whatever the reason, a fair number of four bedroom colonials will hit the market.

At the same time, college tuitions are spiraling out of control, with more students graduating with large amounts of student debt. When they marry, they'll combine two student loan portfolios. For many of them, the level of debt they've assumed will preclude a house purchase.

So who will buy all the baby boomers' houses?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Butch Thompson, Piano Man

Driving home after dinner tonight, we happened to hear Butch Thompson playing piano on "A Prairie Home Companion". Butch had been a regular on the show a while ago, but he's moved on and is only an occasional guest these days.

When I got home, I went searching (that's what I do, after all!) to see if any of Butch's performances were online. I found this recording of him playing "A Solas", the piece we'd heard on the radio:
I also was able to find a few pieces of him playing in various ensembles. Although his solo piano is awesome, he's also quite an asset to a band -- we were fortunate enough to have him at one of our Blue Tent Parties a few years ago.

In addition to his performing skills, he writes frequently about jazz. He's considered a Jelly Roll Morton expert, and was a consultant for the Broadway show "Jelly’s Last Jam".

Friday, September 26, 2008

Far Above Cayuga's Waters

One of the advantages of parenthood is that your children's experiences help you cycle back and reconnect with parts of yourself that you thought were left behind. I had the opportunity to go back to Ithaca, NY twice over the past few months, thanks to my daughter's college search. This was a particularly poignant journey, as I had been away from my alma mater for longer than it took Odysseus to find his way back to his Ithaca. While there I was struck not only by the changes, but also by how much things had not changed. Cornell University is still one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

BlueTent Party Online

I had an odd experience last week. I found myself on YouTube.

We have a party every year towards the end of August. (The kids always called it the "Blue Tent Party", because for years we put up a giant blue tarp in lieu of an actual tent. As of last year, we now have a real tent--but its still the "Blue Tent Party") Anyway, we hire a trad jazz band, everyone brings a culinary contribution, and we relax, kick back, and enjoy ourselves.

The guest list is as eclectic as the food. Friends from all phases of our lives--and friends bring friends. Well, this year, unbeknown to us, one of the friends of a friend recorded the party and posted it on YouTube. I was pretty shocked at first, but it is a great way to expose people to a niche music genre. There are 14 videos, and while not professional grade, viewing them will give those of you who missed this year's soiree a taste of what you missed!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


We have a garden.

I suppose I should clarify that. My beloved spouse has a garden. He rototills, plants, weeds, and tends to a variety of vegetables. I'm tasked with preparing what he produces. For years, we(he) have planted zucchini, without success. They grow, we get a few, the vines get infected with something...and die. Every September we hear zucchini jokes--people leave them on doorsteps and run away--almost like the fruitcake that gets passed around at Christmas--and we never quite understood the problem.

Well, this year--while the rest of the country is suffering with droughts--or hurricanes--or other natural disasters--the weather pattern here in New England has produced zucchini. Baseball-bat-sized-enormous-zucchini. ALOT of them. And they're still growing.