Rest in peace, Julia Child

Bloomberg (and others): Julia Child, TV’s Gourmet ‘French Chef’ of ’60s, Dies. Thanks, Julia, for teaching us all that it was OK to have fun while cooking insanely complex and luxurious dishes—and to drink wine while doing it.

Update: Beautiful reaction from Julie Powell: “… she created feisty, buttery, adventurous cooks, always diving in to the next possible disaster, because goddammit, if Julia did it, so could we.”

A cappella charity

Boston Globe: With one voice, they sing for a cause: A cappella groups seek aid for school music programs. Six local groups are using their a cappella vocal powers for good, raising money to support Boston-area school music programs.

The story also provides a really good example of the side effects of unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind. With no curricular time or money remaining for music lessons, kids never get to experience high school band or orchestra programs. Even choruses, which require little more than sheet music and a rehearsal piano, get left in the dust.

I learned to sing in a church choir, rather than a high school chorus. In fact, it wasn’t until almost my senior year that I admitted to anyone at school that I sang. But it would be a shame to see music totally disappear from the curriculum, especially when, properly taught, it can reinforce math and physics instruction.

Goofus rides again: one-man kitchen cabinet removal

who knows what evil lurks behind the kitchen cabinets?

There was one last piece of demolition to do before the fridge could fit in the kitchen. For some reason, the cabinet over the refrigerator cupboard was about two inches closer to the floor than needed for the fridge to fit. Solution? Rip that sucker down!

This turns out to be a stupid demolition to do by yourself. Most wooden kitchen wall cabinets are attached or otherwise connected to the wall by the following means:

  1. screws
  2. molding
  3. paint

And that’s about it. So if you break the paint seal with a putty knife, pry the top molding loose, and then start removing screws, there’s a very good chance the thing is going to drop on your fool head. Or foot. Or make a big hole in the kitchen floor.

Fortunately for me, our cabinet was held in as well by d. friction. So when I removed the last screw, it still stayed wedged in place, even when I foolishly tugged on the front of the cabinet. I ended up bracing the front of the cabinet with one arm and using the prybar to lever the cabinet away from the back wall. It obligingly rotated itself around an axis formed by the topmost front contact points and the wall cavity, where I could get both hands under it and gently tug it free.

And what a wonderland of joy lay revealed! Unpainted walls, and big holes in the plaster ceiling where someone had done some quick work on the upstairs plumbing. Guess I need to learn to patch fist-sized holes (and bigger!) in plaster ceilings now. But hey, our fridge is going to fit! If it ever gets here (ETA: 12:45 to 2:45 PM today.)

Special bonus! By popular request following the original story, before, during and after pictures from the doorjamb removal.

To fish or not bluefish

New York Times: With a Bit of Love, the Blues are Just Fine. Discusses the fine art of handling and cooking bluefish, which are in abundance on the east coast in summer but which tend to, erm, get really stanky unless handled properly and cooked quickly.

Reading the level of precautions needed to get good bluefish (for instance, plunge fish into icy brine immediately upon capture), I start to wonder about other fish. For instance, when we were living in Cambridge I bought a bag of mussels at Whole Foods and cooked them in gueze (Belgian lambic, which doesn’t mean fruit flavored, just naturally fermented). Unlike the delicately-flavored wonders that I’ve had in so many restaurants, these were unpalatable. After three years I don’t remember the details, but it was definitely a taste problem, not a texture problem (which I would have written off as overcooking). It makes me wonder how one actually finds a good fish market other than by trial and error. Any Boston area readers have recommendations?

(Incidentally, this article showed up in my aggregator three days in a row. I’m grateful that the Dining and Wine RSS feed is back, but less happy if it keeps re-posting old content as new.)