"Some calls it madness...I calls it HiDeeHo." - Cab Calloway
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Thursday, January 16, 2003


Apparently, I'm more cockney than mockney.

I'm also apparently a nearly genuine eastender.

I would never have guessed that about myself.

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/16/2003 10:58:00 PM


QUESTION: What gives genuine parmigiano-reggiano cheese those little crunchy granulations?

MY INITIAL ANSWER: "Uuh...calcium, or something? I don't know..."
JOSH'S ANSWER: "Rice Krispies. What do I win?"
CHEESE EXPERT'S ANSWER: "The milk protein in the cheese breaks down into separate components--peptones, peptides and free amino acids--which crystallize and become granular and shiny. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese contains 19 of the 21 amino acids the human body needs. The cheese is also virtually free of lactose because of its long aging process."

And we all know, grits are just polenta with a southern accent. Y'all.

ADDENDUM: That last line was said in all sarcasm; however, according to Mario Batali and Floria Parmiani, presumably reliable sources, polenta used to refer to any grain mush because maize as we know it didn't make it to Italy until after 1492. So...logically...polenta is yallah grits like the Eye-tal-yuns do 'em. Y'all.

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/16/2003 09:28:00 PM


After the jaunt to my parent's house to caulk and stuff and seal, I took a side trip to The Elegant Farmer, a mere stone's throw away. I was in pursuit of the region's best honey.

It is a well-established fact that I LOVE honey. I love honey the way Winnie-the-Pooh loves honey. I also have a good foundation in apiary lore and general bee-ness. I thoroughly thank the bees mentally whenever I partake of their ambrosia.

So. Mo and I are cruising the aisles, looking at the various products they have for sale at this cold bleak time of year (free-range chickens, artisanal sausages and cheese, on-site bakery, garde-manger, etc.) when we come to the honey display. There...on the end of the shelf...the BUCKWHEAT honey.

Buckwheat honey is the darkest, gunkiest, most fragrant, most intense honey in the whole world, more than mid-Euro chestnut or wildflower even. It looks like red-tinged molasses in the jar, nearly opaque. This honey is too good to put on white bread with peanut butter, the way Mo likes it best. This is the stuff from which osculatory fantasies are made. This is the honey that would go in a love potion that works.

This is the honey that gets licked off other people. Smirk, smirk.

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/16/2003 03:27:00 PM


I had an interesting morning.

It started out like any other, waking up at 5:30 a.m. to the sweet sounds of As It Happens on my local public radio station, logging on at 6:00, discovering there were no reports to be typed as yet, showering, getting Mo ready for school, sending her off...and then I get a phone call. It's my mother. She is crying and trying not to scream into the phone.

"There's a mouse in here. I have to leave." Click

Oh boy.

Here's a thing about my mom that's common knowledge; she is afraid of mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, anything small, furry, whiskery and rodential. What's not common knowledge is the extent to which she is afraid of them. Let it suffice to say that she'd rather face a heavily armed maniacal human than a mouse in her kitchen drawer. She is also a fairly jumpy and high-strung person to begin with, so add a phobia trigger into that and you have a recipe for disaster.

She and my dad live in an old house with an attic that is the perfect winter shelter for mice. They live on the edges of agricultural lands that have great winter forage for mice. They live in an area where all of the cats seem to be indoor cats, and all of the coyotes can eat roadkilled deer, so the mice have only death-from-above as hawks and owls to fear.

She did have the presence of mind to call a friend who lives nearer to her than I do and have her son come over to lay some traps and investigate where the little sod came in and whatnot. This son is a college student and has absolutely nothing else to do before the spring term begins. My dad, bless his heart, was at work and could not be reached for further comment.

It is a character flaw of my dad's that he scoffs at phobias, not having any himself. He particularly scoffs at this one, having had pet rodents as a child and having a generally benign attitude towards animals overall. He makes twitchity mouse noises and laughs when my mom jumps and hollers. Come to think of it, he used to tease me cruelly about my childhood fondness for sub-Saharan bushman culture..."Julie's gonna marry a pygmy!" Mean sense of humor, that one has. Hope it doesn't run in the genes.

Mom comes to my place, all in a tizzy and still crying and panicking to the point of hyperventilation, nausea and damn near loss of consciousness. How did she drive? It's a strange thing to see your own mother in this state. Strange enough to trigger something clinical, cold and distancing in me. Certainly, I offered her a hug and a place to lie down that's not crawling with imaginary mice...but what I really wanted to do was what a triage nurse would do with someone so obviously upset - pop her a small Valium and stick her in a dimly lit room to trank it out. For a full-blown panic attack, medical attention is not unwarranted. Alas, I have no Valium, not being a panicky person myself. She says she's not going back to the house until she knows no more mice are coming in and the one that was in is dead. Um. That's a tall order, given the previously mentioned location and structure.

First I outlined my plan of action to demouseify and attempt to mouseproof the house. This involves steel wool, humane traps and cleaning the attic. I tried to distract her after that with talk of Mo and Josh and even of Denver and what a poopyhead he is. It worked. The distraction technique worked.

I brought my mom down from a phobia-induced panic attack drug-free by bashing my ex.

I sent her off to work in relatively stable condition.

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/16/2003 11:26:00 AM

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


Today is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Here is a part of his legacy of civil rights activism: The King Center. Coretta (that's Mrs. King to me) has kept on keepin' on.

When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama, I went to the Civil Rights Institute. It was moving, to say the least. I was teased about my middle-class-Yankee-white-girl-ness up and down the halls. I reminded my teasers (some acquaintences of mine, we were a fine mixed bag of race that day, African-, Euro- and Asian-Americans, all over the map) that my family was poor white trash, common as muck and we never oppressed anyone. Some youngsters there on a field trip heard me say that and snorted derisively. Ah well. I guess that wasn't the point.

Birmingham has some of the most obviously drawn lines of socioeconomics and race still left in this country that I've ever seen. The cities I've lived in have all been in the deep south, so my perspective may be a little skewed regarding these things. I hear tell Milwaukee is still more or less divided up along class and race lines too. I can't say I'm optimistic that this will change, but that's no excuse not to do your part. Nowadays, though, it's hard to say what my part would be. Um...

How about this. In the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, I'll continue to make a point of liking or disliking people on some other basis besides race. Where I live, that's about all I can do. Mukwonago is slowly, slowly, slowly becoming more ethnically diverse. It's still about 95% Eurotrash like me, though. There are some Asian families and more Hispanic families and a small handful of black families around here, but we have a long way to go.

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/15/2003 04:36:00 PM


I ask you, is it the act of a reasoned, intelligent man to suddenly sign his ex-wife up for all the nasty porn spam and pyramid scheme inbox filler he possibly can? No, I don't think so either. I think I'll stop checking my old email altogether.

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/15/2003 02:01:00 PM

Tuesday, January 14, 2003


One's lucky,
Two's unlucky,
Three is health,
Four is wealth,
Five is sickness
And six is death

This from Mother Goose. Hm...

Two huge crows been circling and swooping, cawing and squawking within 5 to 10 feet of my living room and bedroom windows. I came to the window to watch them, and they immediately swept down to the handicapped parking spot and sat there flapping at each other. I left the window, and they're up and at it again, caw caw, swoop swoop. This has been going on all morning.

Is someone trying to tell me something?

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/14/2003 11:43:00 AM

Monday, January 13, 2003


I see my code has gone strange. Oh, what to do?

UPDATE: I am better at futzing with HTML than I thought. I fixed it. Whee!

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/13/2003 10:05:00 PM


Morgan had a milestone moment tonight; she ate with chopsticks for the first time ever and succeeded. She did very very well with her veggie lo mein (which is going to be recycled as leftovers with chicken and a peanut-chili-garlic sauce for me), and only resorted to the fork and fingers at the end of the meal. Of course, she was rewarded for her efforts with high praise and a fortune cookie which told her, "A good home is happiness." Indeed.

Credit to Caillou (the episode where he eats at his Chinese friend Sarah's house and discovers he likes veggies a la Chinois), and Iron Chef for further inspiring Mo to cross cultures and try something new.

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/13/2003 07:29:00 PM


As of 2:15 this afternoon, I am officially divorced. Who wants to buy me a drink?

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/13/2003 03:28:00 PM

Sunday, January 12, 2003


Morgan and I often find ourselves watching the Food Network together now that I no longer have Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. She has, as previously mentioned, become childishly enamored of Emeril Lagasse. He's not my type physically, but dang if his recipes don't just kick ass. The man knows what tastes good, and he never fails to bring back memories of my all-too-brief sojourn in that mysterious port of call, New Orleans. Besides, you think he doesn't know that people make fun of him? Takes guts to go on being yourself in the face of derision and parody, so I can respect that. He goes in the same "entertaining and talented but unbeddable" category as the late Justin Wilson, Julia Child and Paul Prudhomme.

On a slightly more naughty note, Josh was recently introduced to Nigella Lawson's show on Style and has expressed a liking for her prettiness, voluptuousness, methodology of seeming carelessness and self-deprecatingly referring to her "considerable body weight" when crushing garlic to peel it. Heh. It's well-distributed to say the least, so I can't say I blame him about that. My mom made one of her recipes not too long ago, Clementine cake, and Oh My Goodness was it deeeeelicious. If you like orange marmalade, you'll love this. In a nutshell, she knows what's she's doing and loves it, and you can tell. She also goes in my "beddable chef" category, along with Jamie Oliver and Aaron Sanchez. Heehee.

To my mind, Mo and Josh are responding to the same joie de vivre these celeb cooks seem to have, but on quite different levels. I both envy that joie de vivre and already possess it to a certain degree. I'd love to have some tutelage under them, or Mario Batali, or Madhur Jaffrey, or Anthony Bourdain, or Julia Child, or the late James Beard, or any of the Iron Chefs. They all have that feeling for their work/art and I kind of aspire to that level; not celebrity status necessarily, but that mastery of the sensory indulgence we call cooking.

I am indeed an honest-to-goodness foodie. I appreciate food on a nearly spiritual level; the agriculture, the giving of lives that others may partake, the artistry of preparation and the sheer sensuality of eating. I'll toot my own horn for a moment and say I am already an amateur (untrained and unpaid) of Olympic standard. I am a messy, vehement and experimental cook, though; I too throw things around, will abuse ingredients as necessary, will futz with recipes and sometimes go without altogether. Mo will recount the time I fought with a coconut with a hammer and big flat-blade screwdriver on the kitchen floor. I can be heavy-handed with the spices, and will mix ethnicities in my pots and pans with careless abandon to exquisite effect. If I find I don't have something in the recipe, I forge boldly ahead and improvise. Yesterday I made brownies, very simple Baker's chocolate brownies, that had Josh staggering and swaying (they were underbaked by 10 minutes, made with salted butter and had no vanilla because I ran out). When I use a lighter hand on the spices and make things like spaghetti carbonara, quesadillas or pot au feu for Morgan, she too has the child's equivalent of high praise; "You're the best cook in the world, Mom." Music to my ears. I put forth special effort in cooking for Mo and Josh, or for my parents, as an expression of affection. Sure, there are days when I will run to Culver's for dinner or order pizza; for the most part, though, holidays with the family or a day when Josh is here are inextricably linked with "what should I make?"

Food is love. Yes, yes, yes. Pretty good for someone with that big long history of an eating disorder, huh?

posted by Julie Neff  # 1/12/2003 02:38:00 PM


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