Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the category “Podunk Gourmet”

Forced Family Fun 2016.2

There is no denying that I sullied my reputation as a Forced Family Fun leader last week, when I caused my family to over-extend their skill level and their fun threshhold on cross-country skis. This week, however, I am tasting the mother’s sweet, molten hot fudge of redemption.

Her Royal Highness is on extended college break. I gave her an early and inappropriate birthday present to help her fill her down time in Podunk. The Thug Kitchen‘s Eat Like You Give a F*ck is vegetarian and a tad edgy. I mean plant-based. I think vegetarian is now a political party and plant-based indicates a diet. I think.


When HRH put Mother F*cking Kale on our shopping list, I decided to peruse the book more closely.

“The first rule of Thug Kitchen is: Read the recipe. Second rule of Thug Kitchen? READ THE GODDAMN RECIPE. Be sure you read that shit all the way through before you cook.”

The inappropriate part? We’re not quite sure what to do with a vegetarian, er, a plant-baser, in Podunk.

paella_spreadClearly, Thug Kitchen improved my status with HRH. But there was still one kid with fresh memories of death march on skis.

Odd Number likes a good argument. He’s fortunate to have an English teacher who assigns current events blogging to the kids, and he gets rewarded with extra points for argumentative responses in the comment block. That is pure money for Odd.

So, I was delighted to share a blog post with Odd I had written for High Country News in which I was able to offend animal rightsers, Confederates, the literati, wolf haters, the Unabomber, and lichen — all in 750 words or less. Better yet, one of my gentle readers used the term “homo rapiens” in the comment box. Short of getting Sidney Crosby to autograph a puck for Odd, this constituted some pretty damned good redemption.

We finished the enchanted day with a rousing round of Scrabble. Odd shouted Thug-like profanity when he could not convince Her Royal Highness and I of the validity of the word “Qadi,” while HRH destroyed our dreams with a triple word score for “Curvy.”


All is right with the world.


He Said Beer, She Said Wine, and Then the Kids Started Yammering

When we headed to the Oregon Coast for a family drive-cation, I thought we might pay proper respects to Oregon’s fabulous wine industry. Pinot Noir country should almost require its own passport and I was hurtling towards its deep, smoky purple underbelly. Unbeknownst to me, the beer world had already made a deal with the Devil, and more specifically, the Devil’s agent — Iron Chef.

This is the part where you might fairly ask, “What in the hell are you talking about, Podunk?”

The answer is clear: beer vs. wine.

He said beer, she said wine.

He said beer, she said wine.

Divide by two and then multiply by FAMILY VALUES. That’s right, wine lovers. Beer enthusiasts have corked us. Big time. Let me tell you about it.

Our family shuttled towards the Oregon Coast in December.  Podunk to Oregon Coast Equation = Many miles of travel and — in a strange acknowledgement of geography and weird wilderness inconveniences — journeying through 4 Pacific Northwest states.

Our layover was in Hood River, Oregon, a highly calculated move by Iron Chef given the number of breweries within walking distance of our hotel. To be fair, there are many wineries in the Hood River area. To be clear, none of them care to see you in the winter, and if they do, they hope that you leave children and pets in the car. They don’t want to feed you, but if you beg, some of them, but not all, will give you oyster crackers. oyster_crackerMeanwhile, the breweries have discovered a magical elixir that includes homemade macaroni and cheese and artisan root beer. Under this guise, in one night, children in tow, we visited Hood River’s Big Horse Brew Pub, Double Mountain Brewery, and Full Sail.

In Portland, we found ourselves at the newly opened Ecliptic Brewery. In my opinion, Ecliptic had the appeal of a freshly hosed-down and modern airport lobby. Even so, their stainless steel and concrete hospitality out-competed any of the magnificent wineries in the area. Mediocre finger steaks and soda pop — advantage brewery.

With my heart heavy, we drove past vineyard after vineyard, finally to arrive on the Coast where expert sorcerers like the Pelican Brewing Company in Pacific City, Oregon and the infamous Rogue Brewery in Newport reminded children why McDonald’s PlayLand really was for chumps. The Pelican boasts not just beach front, but actual sand dunes, sand dollars AND world-class pizza. For years, the Rogue has served kids’ meals on frisbees, for god’s sake. We finished up what I believe was a family-friendly trip of 8 breweries back in Hood River at a fairly young establishment called Pfriem Brewery. It is called Pfriem not because that is the sound you make when clearing your throat but because people who work there and possibly own the brewery are actually named Pfriem. But this is not the remarkable thing.

So seriously, this child begged his parents to go have a pint at Pfriem Brewery, directly across the street, so he could enjoy his young life climbing rocks next to the Columbia River.

So seriously, this child begged his parents to go have a pint at Pfriem Brewery, directly across the street, so he could enjoy his young life climbing rocks next to the Columbia River.

The remarkable thing is: first, the beer; and second, the fact that as young parents themselves, the Pfriems recognized that being across the street from a totally groovy kids’ park might actually be really relaxing to the parent who would just like a frosty cold one, and oh by the way, an artisan root beer and homemade macaroni and cheese for the kids who are playing in the park kind of close to the Columbia River, but not really that close when you think of it. And especially when you think of how close to the river those oyster cracker-smacking wineries would let the kids play.


Iron Chef and I celebrated our anniversary last week in our typical fashion — we headed out to hunt for mushrooms. Morels or oysters, we didn’t care; it’s just nice to go home and saute the bounty and sip a little vino fino. morel_mushroom
The outing was lovely, the wildflowers around Podunk spectacular — but we found nary a shroom. I’m not a greedy girl — I didn’t need a truckload — but zero mushrooms? That seemed sad.
So I harkened back to an unusual soup a foraging friend introduced us to last spring. The delicious and healthful concoction was centered on the ingredient of stinging nettle.
The mushrooms may have eluded us, but certainly we could find stinging nettle! I made the suggestion to Chef.
He pointed out that we didn’t have gloves, which might prove to be a problem, but then wondered aloud if perhaps the tender young stinging nettle shoots had not yet developed their pricklies.
I quickly tested this theory on a handsome patch, carefully grabbing the stem. Wrong. My hand felt like fireants were crawling over it.
Iron Chef shrugged.
Determined not to fail, I made mittens out of 2 ziplock bags that formerly housed salami and cheese. I gathered a pleasing bundle of the nettles with only minor inflammatory peril.
Back at home, Chef was busy working his magic. To the best of my knowledge I have not tested this assumption, but sometimes I believe the Iron Chef could make a dog turd taste fine.
As he cooked and blended, Her Royal Highness came home and spotted the greenery in the sink. “What’s that?” We explained our project.
“Didn’t you get stung?” HRH inquired.
I confessed that I had quite a few times, in hopes that she would understand how special our forthcoming meal would be.
“That’s idiotic,” she proclaimed. “I’m not eating that.”
Her brother, the Odd Number, heard the exchange and saw a chance to shine.
“I’ll try some,” he said, bravely.
The soup was vibrant green — an exact reflection of spring. My mouth watered at the same time my satisfaction of being so freaking self-sufficient blossomed.
We tasted it. Hmmm. Perhaps an acquired taste. I couldn’t quite remember the delicious nettle soup we’d had last spring tasting like this at the onset, but then again, that was a year ago.
Her Highness ate a yogurt and eyed the three of us with amusement. Which caused Odd to spoon more of the soup into his mouth.
“It kind of tastes like fish,” Odd declared.
Iron Chef and I nodded in agreement, tasting a tiny bit more to see if we could expound on the flavor.
But Odd was on a roll. “Like green, slimy, pureed fish.”
We pushed our bowls away and chased HRH around the house with stalks of the remaining stinging nettle.
Happy Anniversary, darling.

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