Pink Cake

Hey! Looks like I've been self-therapizing at you for about ten years now! I made us a cake, to celebrate.

And by "made us a cake" I mean I made what probably would have been a perfectly respectable white cake with buttercream frosting except that I dumped watermelon Jello into both the batter and the frosting and now it is...something else. Something...nightmarishly pink. But I did hand-sculpt some Starburst into heart shapes, because I love you.

This cake is so extra it managed to garner one of the most tepid responses so far from the children, who at this point have eaten all manner of eels and snails and such. But the watermelon frosting is pushing it.


PROJECT STATUS: I think I am going to celebrate this blog's 10th anniversary by going on another hiatus, until such time as I can tolerate the sound of my own voice/sight of my own typing again. I promise that someday, I will return to you bearing Seafoam Pudding, and you will say "Oh, no thank you. No thank you at all."


Glazed Yams

Boy howdy do I not care about this project anymore, but like everything else these days (watering my Animal Crossing flowers, doom-scrolling through Twitter, compulsively baking things, wondering how long it's been since the children washed their hair, walking around my dumb boring neighborhood, observing my daily hour of anxiety paralysis) I must robotically check it off the list, so: yams!

(Just kidding, the entire basis of the above sentence is a lie, my grocery store did not have yams so these are sweet potatoes.) 

(Also, I know you read that paragraph and thought "all of these complaints are indicative of an extremely privileged lifestyle, Erica," but you are failing to take into account that Blogger updated its interface and now I can't figure out how to do anything where is the stupid alignment button how do I caption a picture this is taking forever aaaaaauuuuuggghhhh so maybe walk a mile in my shoes okay?)

I figured out the picture caption

There is an extra step now and I hate it

Why didn't I make these at Thanksgiving, when they would have been appropriate? How on earth should I know? Can you remember Thanksgiving? Quick, how many months ago was American Thanksgiving? A hundred? Are you sure you've ever even experienced a Thanksgiving meal and aren't just hearing echoes of a past life? Give me a break.

The children do not like sweet potatoes. But they have never been asked to rate them for Stardew before.

Or had them soaked in brown sugar and butter, hmm



SUMMER SQUAD: assembled



No Stardew this week, just some nice warm anti-racism link soup:

What it means to be an anti-racist. This is a helpful starter if your jumping off point is "But I'm not racist, I don't care if your skin is purple etc."

An interesting conversation about racism as a public health crisis. There are many facets of racist systems beyond over-policing that kill black Americans, and this discussion touches on one known as "John Henryism."

A list of children's books to support discussion of race, racism, and resistance. White parents! This is super important! And anecdotally, as a somewhat lackadaisical distance teacher myself, it made it much easier on my end to talk about what happened to George Floyd with my 10-year-old when her immediate response was "Oh, like Ghost Boys." Tough subject matter is less intimidating when you let authors who know what they're doing provide context.

(In terms of parental laziness, I have also been thinking a lot about how much I have depended on my children attending a diverse elementary school to do the work for me--if the majority of their classmates are not white, surely they will have a natural understanding that people are just people etc. But that only addresses half the issue--they also need to know about the reality of racial disparity in our institutions and the often-invisible-to-white-people obstacles that POC face in this country. "I don't see color" elides responsibility and allows the racist status quo to continue.)

Some black-owned independent bookstores to provide you with said context-helpers.

For my fellow Austinites who also view all of life through the lens of food, here's a list of black-owned restaurants in Austin to support. Can personally vouch for: The Rolling Rooster. There's a location right by our house and the seasoning on the chicken is incredible. It's slightly sweet, slightly spicy. Impossible to stop eating.

Plus a list of Austin restaurants donating to organizations that help support black communities and protesters. Can personally vouch for: Rosen's Bagels. Holy cow these are good bagels. Get some frozen rosemary bagels, support the Austin Justice Coalition, and then come back here and thank me for this extremely valuable food tip.

(I am also donating $5 to the Austin Justice Coalition for every candle sold in June, but if you have to pick one I frankly would go with the bagels.)



You might be wondering why I would procrastinate for so long on the Chowder entry, considering it is my favorite combination of tastes good/easy to make. It's potatoes and cream! One bite and you can practically feel yourself battening down the hatches (?) in advance of a nor'easter (?). Pleasantly foreign to this Texan, is what I'm saying.

When I was looking at the list of remaining Stardew dishes, I wondered that same thing myself, until the voice of Freddy Quimby screaming "IT'S CHOW-DAH!" interrupted my rumination and I realized "ah, maybe...maybe that's why." Turns out my very conception of chowder is haunted, not by the ghost of an old salty dog (?), but by a 26-year-old cartoon.

My children, blessedly unburdened by decades of reflexive Simpsons soundbites, approved.

You have no reason to believe me when I say this, but this child absolutely was wearing actual daytime clothes until she uncharacteristically insisted on taking a shower right before dinner

ASSESSMENT: Creamy, salty, eternally curséd by Dan Castellaneta 

PROJECT STATUS: Anna's default demeanor before I asked her to rate the dish 


Strange Bun

There are only a few recipes left rattling around at the bottom of the Stardew bucket at this point, some of which include fictional ingredients. I note this only so that you will be aware of how much heavy lifting the “Well I tried” tag is going to be doing here in the home stretch. This week, truly a foodstuff for our current times: Strange Bun.

Not only does it involve bread-baking, very hot right now, it’s also confusing, slightly unsettling and can potentially serve as any meal/snack/dessert. What’s inside these buns? Let’s just say I also could have written King Lear in quarantine with the amount of time I spent trying to figure out what to do with “periwinkle” and “void mayonnaise” as ingredients until I realized that the point of Strange Buns is that they owe you no explanation. They are strange, they are buns, they have fulfilled their destiny.

Mysterious wink

Mysterious time of day to be wearing pajamas

ASSESSMENT:  The void mayonnaise I ended up using was from a pressurized can and comprised of cream and sugar and also mixed with chocolate syrup, so...it was good.



Plum Pudding

Many, many years ago--decades, eons--when I still attempting to apply rhyme/reason to this Stardew Valley cooking project, I planned on making Plum Pudding in December in accordance with its "traditional holiday treat" designation. As it turned out, steaming something on the stovetop for half a day was too big of an ask in the midst of my busiest month, so I kicked it down the road. And what a road it was! Took some real hairpin turns, that road! Bit of a "careening over Dead Man's Curve" situation! Anyway, steaming something on the stovetop for half a day seems like an entirely reasonable thing to do at this point.

Babysitting the food: a fun quarantine activity

I followed the general method of this recipe, but as I looked around I started to realize that people just kind of put whatever they feel like putting into these things, so I threw in my own combination of prunes, heels from an old loaf of bread, a couple of shredded carrots, some frozen pineapple, molasses, cinnamon, and so on. It's a real garbage cake, y'all. It's perfect.

Were these ratings pictures taken at different times on different days? Does one feature whipped cream on top because it is functioning as "dessert" and one feature yogurt because it is functioning as "breakfast"? Do we only wear robes...ever? Yes. It is always Christmas morning now. Join us.

ASSESSMENT: Cakes that you can dump random refrigerator bits into are good. Perpetual Christmas morning is good, in part because it allows us to entirely skip things that would maybe be considered milestones in normal times, she says in an extremely youthful and vibrant 39-year-and-362-day-old voice.

PROJECT STATUS: The proof of the pudding is in the blogging, as they say.


Baked Fish

No one in our house spent any time in a hospital this week! So right there, already, things are going pretty well. Our broken furniture is still broken, but nothing *else* has broken in the interim. Overall a solid B+ of a week once you factor in global situations and whatnot.

I'm very close to running out of Stardew recipes, although I noticed that I have made Eggplant Parmesan twice and no one mentioned it, so most likely I could just repeat recipes ad infinitum and be like "boy this Stardew Valley project is going great, I am very productive." Ad infinitum is kind of...the current vibe anyhow.

I think this is the first time I've made Baked Fish.

For a minute I though that quarantine had broken down our agreeable system of giving everything a thumbs up and was strangely thrilled by the dissent:

Until I clarified that only the fish part was under review, and the Brussels sprouts could be ignored:

Anna gave it a thumbs mostly-up but eyes firmly closed. These ratings systems are complex, and I admit I haven't not fully cracked the codes. All I can say with certainty is that this resulted in the fish being eaten.

ASSESSMENT: Fine. It will be fine again when I make it in a couple months and then a couple months after that.

PROJECT STATUS: We have always lived in the castle.


Dish O' The Sea

First the good news: I got flour in my grocery order this week! Yay! What a treat. In ~these times~ it's really the little things that bring a lot of comfort.

The bad news: I realize now that I should not have muttered something about how I was kind of bored in quarantine in such close proximity to our curséd monkey's paw--truly a rookie mistake, in retrospect--because almost immediately, my living room collapsed and my child was hospitalized with pneumonia.

The predictable news, if you know me in real life or have been reading this blog for a long time: I still made everyone eat sardines, for the blog.

(The child in question is okay now, tested negative for the virus, was discharged this morning and did not have to take home her pet oxygen tank.)

American Pandemic

It didn't even affect the outrageous ratings inflation we have going on around here, as evidenced by her assessment of overnight hospitalization:

Slightly more enthusiasm than for beets

And, okay, the living room bit was an exaggeration, it was only the bookshelf that fell apart. But I felt like I underplayed 48 hours in the ICU enough to earn throwing a little rhetorical spice on the crumbling infrastructure part of my week.

It was still very loud and not...you know...great

Anyway, we are here to talk about Dish O' The Sea, which is sardines on top of hash browns. It tasted like fish. Ivy asked for extras.

ASSESSMENT: It is intended to "keep you warm in the cold sea air," which is a thing I do not currently have access to, but I guess it did fortify me against my own air conditioning.

PROJECT STATUS: Honestly after this week it's pretty hard to imagine anything derailing it You know what probably better not to speculate


Vegetable Medley

Back in early March, when going to the grocery store was still normal and easy, I speculated that I should not have wasted this privilege by buying eggplant. Anyway, grocery procurement is now highly fraught and every need/desire must be carefully vetted for worthiness and this week I bought...beets.

Compulsive blog project completionism is a need/desire

I loosely based my Vegetable Medley on this lovely salad. Mine does not look like the lovely salad in question. Mine looks like the shower scene from Psycho.

Honestly, makes me slightly prouder of it

Really thought I would finally get a definitive thumbs down, as beets taste like sweetened dirt, but no. Overly generous ratings abound. 

ASSESSMENT: I like that the Stardew version of this promises nothing beyond "very nutritious." No mention of "will make your kitchen look like a crime scene."

PROJECT STATUS: Currently wearing the same clothes I slept in, as we hurtle towards noon here. I also wasted yet another precious grocery space on an ingredient that Dan eyeballed warily and asked "Is this...for something?" So you have that to look forward to!


Stir Fry

As you know, now is the time for resourcefulness. Is it also the time for dumb blog projects? Per...haps. The time for resourcefulness within dumb blog projects though? Yes, absolutely.

I am pleased to report that I am using every part of this buffalo by remembering that I made and rejected a Stardew recipe last May, intending to retry it at some point. But that was when I lived in a world that involved easily going to the grocery store for more kale and mushrooms and seeing humans outside of my immediate family and putting my bare hands just all over everything, I mean every surface you got, I'm gonna touch it, etc. This is, clearly, no longer that world, and thus I present: my Stir Fry failure of 11 months ago.

Did I follow a recipe? Dunno. Did I make the children eat it? No evidence either way. Was the only thing wrong with it the fact that I personally do not like mushrooms? 85% chance. 

Here is the next picture of the girls in order after the picture of the stir fry. They're at a bus stop. That's going to take them away. To school

For an entire day

ASSESSMENT: Stir Fry: C-, living in a grocery store and bus stop world: A++++++++++++++

PROJECT STATUS: Might just have several weeks of trying to perfect that Triple Shot Espresso recipe ahead of us