Feb 04

Monopoly ‘ Lord of the Rings Edition

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Monopoly ‘ Lord of the Rings Edition

A few weeks ago Mark Sinker wondered “Are there any board games which are actually IMPROVED or AT ALL CHANGED – as opposed to momentarily coloured – by having their own classic scenarios recast to conform to some TV programme or other?” Monopoly’s LOTR edition has a couple of optional variations from S.O.P. The “1” pip on one, not both, of the dice is replaced by the Eye of Sauron, and there’s an extra marker ‘ the Ring, obviously. Every time the Eye turns up on a roll to move by any player, the Ring moves around the board, but only on the color-coded properties. If a player lands on the property that the Ring is on and it hasn’t been bought yet, the player gets it for free. If it’s owned by another player, rent is doubled. And as soon as the Ring reaches Mount Doom/Park Place, the game is over ‘ the person who rolled last doesn’t even get to finish his or her turn. Everybody add up and determine a winner. This last bit is especially welcome in my household, where we think Monopoly is grebt but four-hour games are rub. Since the Eye started popping up, we’ve had games that lasted from 35 minutes to 2 hours.

No need to spend money on another set ‘ just mark one of the dice on the appropriate face, and find an extra marker to act as the Ring ‘ an unwanted Super Pirato, maybe.

Feb 04

Two important facts about peanut brittle:

Pumpkin Publog1 comment • 2,705 views

Two important facts about peanut brittle: 1.) It is easy to make great peanut brittle. 2) It is easy to make terrible peanut brittle.

To make the great stuff, boil together three cups of sugar, one cup of light corn syrup, and one-half cup water. USE A CANDY THERMOMETER. While it’s heating up, butter a one-half sheet pan. At 230 degrees F (soft ball), add three cups of raw peanuts and a generous pinch of salt, and stir the mixture constantly as it cooks. At 300F (hard crack), add three tablespoons of room-temperature butter and turn off the heat. Quickly stir in a generous tablespoon of vanilla extract, then three teaspoons of baking soda. When the soda is mixed in and the whole thing is a big foamy mass, quickly turn it out onto the buttered sheet pan and tilt the pan so the corners fill in. Let it cool, and all that’s left is the breaking up and the eating.

To make terrible peanut brittle, follow the above directions exactly during humid weather. The sugar crystals will seize all available water vapor right out of the air, and you’ll be left with a nasty product that is sticky to the touch, not entirely brittle, and guaranteed to get in your teeth and never go away. Make this during clear, cloudless days and you’ll have a great candy that will melt in your mouth after the first crunch with caramelly, roasty-peanutty, buttery goodness. The perfect sweet for chocolate-haters.

Feb 04

What meat-eater hasn’t had a revelation

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 374 views

What meat-eater hasn’t had a revelation along the lines of: “If all vegetarian food were this good, I’d give up meat today”? I’ve had a few over the years, the most recent being a vegetable stock I discovered when looking for a good mushroom soup recipe.

In a large roasting pan, put three onions (unpeeled, quartered), a few carrots (washed put not peeled, split lengthwise), a handful of celery ribs (broken in half) and their leaves, and two unpeeled heads of garlic, sliced sidewise to expose all the cloves. Toss all these goodies to coat with three tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1/4 cup of Tamari soy sauce, and roast for one hour at 350F. The smell of roasting onions and garlic will drive you mad with desire, ditto anyone you live with. Turn the veggies into stock: 2-3 quarts of water, 1/4 cup whole peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, salt to taste. Don’t forget to deglaze the roasting pan with some of the water and get all the stuck bits. Bring to a boil, back down to a simmer for 30 minutes, cool, strain, voila. The soup itself was anticlimactic after the amazing stock.

Feb 04

Thirty years ago the most commonly found sort of restaurant here in Northeastern Mississippi was the catfish and steak house

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Thirty years ago the most commonly found sort of restaurant here in Northeastern Mississippi was the catfish and steak house. A half-dozen in every county, all pretty much identical right down to the menu: burgers and fried shrimp for the kids, four or five steak choices, a pitiful salad bar, and the real reason everyone was there, catfish ‘ whole or fillet, deep fried. The quality of the steaks could vary wildly, but the restaurant lived or died by its fish and its hushpuppies.

In these simpler years before fast food and pizza chains got the foothold they now enjoy, when the matriarch of the family couldn’t stand to look one more blackeyed pea or pan of cornbread in the face without thoughts of killing her husband, everybody loaded up and headed for their favorite fish house. The County Barn, The Friendship House, Lackey’s, The Country Squire ‘ these stood in for local pubs, which didn’t and still don’t exist here. It was at Lackey’s in 1969 that I got my start on the path of gluttony or gourmandism, depending on your viewpoint: I ate seven whole catfish (and french fries, hushpuppies and cole slaw) while owner Iladean Lackey and my alarmed/amused parents watched. I was five years old.

The fish houses are still there, I’m happy to report, but something else is starting to dot the local landscape: the Chinese buffet. From about 1978, when the House of Kong first opened in Tupelo, we foothill folk have been crazy about our Americanized Chinese food. In the experimental early years, oddities like Seafood Birds Nest were available, but the menus have settled into easy predictability ‘ General Tso’s Chicken, Beef with Broccoli, Hot and Sour Soup that’s not as hot as you used to be able to get it ‘ served buffet style on line after line of steam tables, along with pizza, french fries and macaroni and cheese for the oldtimers who don’t go for that furrin stuff.

The fact that Amory, Mississippi, a town of 6500 mostly-conservative souls, can support two Chinese buffets marks a real sea-change in the region’s eating habits. The extent of it hit home two nights ago when my mother, almighty sick of peas and cornbread, called up and said, “We’re going to Hunan, want to meet us there?”