Temperance

After finishing up yesterday’s card/collage, I drew Temperance. Unable to recall which creature I had chosen, I consulted my notebook. As I did, I sensed motion out of the corner of my eye, turning just in time to spot a tiny blue dragonfly.

“Don, have you seen any dragonflies since we moved here?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, I just saw one and you won’t believe what the next card is supposed to be.”

Yeah well, that’s pretty much how this project has unfolded.

Anyway, temperance is often associated with the rabid alcohol abstinence movement that led to Prohibition. But I’m a cook, and tempering eggs is where my mind prefers to go. As it did last night, when there was leftover rice. I doused the rice with milk and nuked it in the microwave for a minute or two (although it would have worked as well on the stove). Then I separated an egg, spooned the raw yolk in half, and stirred in a bit of vanilla extract, sugar and cream (the egg white and remaining half yolk got saved for scrambled eggs another day).

Stirring in one hot milky spoon-full of rice at a time, I brought up the temper-ature of the egg yolk … then folded the tempered mixture into the rest of the hot rice. I was careful to check with an instant read thermometer to be sure it got up to 160 degrees (food safety, you know). Then spooned the rice pudding into little bowls with a sploosh of cream and a dusting of cinnamon sugar …

Yum.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, Temperance …

  • 78 Degrees: the ability to combine spontaneity with knowledge … a true and proper response to all situations as they arise … handling life’s problems with a joy that appears a magical … doing the correct thing … which may be doing nothing (another Covid reference)
  • Kitchen Table Tarot: one foot on land, one on water
  • The Creative Tarot: finding a middle way

The “joy that appears magical” was a perfect fit with Dragonfly, but I did go ahead and do a little research to be sure I was on the right track. Turns out that dragonflies spend much of their lives in water, then become flying creatures when it’s time to mate. A fitting analog to the Smith-Waite depiction of a winged being with one foot in the water and one on land …

Since it is near impossible to capture a dragonfly on camera, I chose to use Don’s assemblage dragonfly from here

dragonfly 1

Along with part of a De Kooning bookcover …

No need to overthink this one …

I’m already gone …

The Knight of Pentacles + Addendum

This Texas Tarot journey has taken an interesting turn, triggering memories of latter days. This time, it was the Knight of Pentacles that drew me in, coming in the guise of a grey fox that dared to come close to our Hill Country house last fall. Driven, no doubt, by thirst … drawn by the promise of water …

grey fox

And therein lies a story.

When we were kids, our summer vacations on Shelter Island bore a striking resemblance to the current shelter-in-place orders. The cottage we stayed in each August was tiny, with no heat save a wood-burning potbelly stove, no air conditioning, no indoor shower, and no television …

My mom, who was left alone with us for the first of four weeks while my dad high-tailed it back to work, had to get us through the TV-deprivation stage. Cards and board games, puzzles and coloring books ruled. Granted we spent long days at the beach, but like perfectly normal kids, we argued in direct proportion to how tired and sunburned we were.

So Mom kept an ace up her sleeve. After the dinner dishes were washed and left to air dry, we would go to Neville’s, a six-stool lunch counter that presaged modern day 7-11 stores, but better known to us as a comic book purveyor and ice cream cone mecca. As I recall, my brother and I would each settle on a flavor for the summer … mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, pistachio, fudge ripple … each year different. One scoop in a waffle cone, 25 cents.

Then Mom would take us out to one of the beaches to watch the sun set, until mosquitoes and no-see-ums forced us back into the car …

Sunset beach

And driving home, we would shout out if we spotted a deer coming out to graze in the dusk … or better yet, on very very rare occasions, a fox.

  • 78 Degrees: The Knight of Pentacles is deeply rooted to the outer world and simplicity
  • Kitchen Table Tarot: he’s a bit shy and feels best when at home … he’s smart, thoughtful, and grounded … eyes straight ahead
  • The Creative Tarot: the goal is to have the strength to endure a long battle … make sure that you’re going to be able to stick it out

The foxes of my youth were red, but their Texas kin are grey, the better to blend in with the limestone I suppose. So, I looked through the bookcover box for rusty reds and found circles leading me there and back again …

And cloth in sunset hues, always the very definition of home for me …

Addendum

So what could be more home-y than bread? My grandmother was a storied bread baker, memorialized in this post from the early days of the blog.

Fast forward to yesterday, when there was no bread in my first-ever grocery delivery. No matter … a recipe for English muffin bread had shown up earlier in the day, which I modified, of course.

It looked great …

and tasted even better toasted in my nifty see-thru Dash toaster …

Best of all, it took a mere two hours start to finish.

You want the recipe? Sure thing!

English Muffin Bread (one loaf)

  • Grease a loaf pan with butter or baking spray. Coat with cornmeal or semolina if you have any on hand.
  • Mix 1 Tbs yeast and 1 Tbs sugar in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (just barely warm on your wrist). Let it work for about ten minutes while you tend to the next two steps
  • Combine 1 cup flour (bread flour if you have it, or all purpose), 1/8 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp kosher salt in a food processor or stand mixer.
  • Warm 1 cup of milk to 115 degrees (1 minute in a microwave on high should do it), then stir in 1 Tbs butter cut into slivers (which will cool the milk down if you overshot 115 degrees)
  • Pour the milk and yeast mixtures into the flour and mix everything together. Add 1 cup flour and mix some more. Finish by mixing in another 1/4 cup or so of flour to make a very soft, sticky batter.
  • Pour into the greased loaf pan and set in a warm spot to rise for 45 minutes (I tend to stash rising bread in the oven with the door cracked, so the light warms the space). However, don’t make the mistake I made of putting a damp towel over the batter … mine stuck to the towel as it rose, making a real mess.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 (being sure to take your rising dough out first if that’s where it’s been for the last 45 minutes). Bake 20-25 minutes … or a little longer if you want a super crusty loaf.
  • Turn it out of the pan onto a wire rack. Don’t be too alarmed if it collapses a bit, but do be sure to let it cool completely before trying to slice it with a serrated knife. Of course, if a bit of the crust happens to get stuck on the pan, you can try it out to be sure it tastes okay (or break a piece off the edge of the loaf … because who would notice, right?)

A beautiful racket

This year’s chocolate train was made with black cocoa (yes, that’s a thing) …

Which, it turns out, doesn’t photograph well as last year’s train, but boy does it taste good!

The icing recipe has been modified, too. Coconut oil and half-and-half mixed with confectioners sugar. The one constant is lots and lots of candies …

The wonderful cacophony that comes of having six grandchildren and assorted parental units all gathered together …

A beautiful racket for sure …

but it all goes too fast.