Category: SFH Food Talk & Recipes

Windfall Okra

C’est une situation très grave. The final piece of the renovation of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen was to have taken place yesterday. But that did not happen. Non, instead, two days ago the vendor called to inform us that the new electric stove had not yet arrived at the warehouse. The delivery date is now uncertain, but certainly no sooner than this coming Wednesday. – – There was indeed a mood of great disappointment amongst the members of the highly dedicated SFH TK staff.

But I, the indomitable Pierre LeChat, was able to restore the spirits of the staff and renew their sense of mission. And I was able to do that with the help of recourse to the SFH TK secret ingredient – ‘serendipity. In this case it was the ‘serendipity of ‘Windfall Okra’. – And you might ask, just what is ‘Windfall Okra’?

Mon amis, in this case, ‘Windfall Okra’ is the unexpected ringing of the telephone with the news of a serendipitous event. And that event was that a class at the Rappahannock County High School had planted okra earlier this year and the okra was ready for harvest – ready for harvest, but no one really knew what to do with that harvest. The caller, however, knew that the SFH TK was always willing to take in any stray or unwanted harvest and turn it into a gastronomic delight. (Perhaps this blog should refer to itself as a “Homeless Harvest Rescue Site”.)

Within minutes, the homeless harvest found itself in the safety and security of the caring hands of the Test Kitchen staff. I immediately devised a plan to transform this abandoned okra into a gourmet snack – it would soon become crunchy pickled okra for snacks and dinner side dishes. (See the recipe we used below.)

It will be a week or so before we perform a taste test. We suspect that this will be a test with mixed results. Pourquoi? The poor abandoned okra pods we received were somewhat past their prime (6-7 inches). When okra pods grow beyond 3-4 inches in length, they tend to become stringy and fibrous. We anticipate that some of our crunchy, pickled okra will be well beyond crunchy. If that is the case, then we will let the neighborhood dogs use them for chewing exercise. I, for one, am quite hopeful though that ‘serendipity‘ will continue to prevail, and that at least some pickled okra will become the tasty and crunchy delight for which we hope.

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Crunchy Pickled Okra

This is a crunchy dill-style, vinegar-based pickled okra recipe. It is a refrigerator pickle to preserve a summer harvest without canning. It is based on a recipe by John Amato in The Culinary Garden.
For step-by-step instructions refer to the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NIyVdJHQ6M

Ingredients
  

Ingredients for Mason Jar

  • 4-6 sprigs fresh dill Note #1
  • 12 oz 1 QT washed and trimmed okra
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 small hot pepper Serrano or Fresno - Note #2

Brine Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon whole coriander seed Note #3
  • 1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns Note #3
  • 1 3/4 Cups white distilled vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pickling salt - Add same time as sugar
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Notes

Note #1 - Our homegrown dill was at a perfect stage for use.
Note #2 - All we had available was a small homegrown jalapeno. We sliced it lengthwise and removed the seeds to avoid excess heat.
Note #3 - We had no coriander seeds, so we resorted to using mrs. wages Mixed Pickling Spice 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

The sun rose a little over an hour ago. Here at Serendipity Farmhouse this is our time for prayer and reflection. On this great national holiday, my mind comes naturally to these words.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This year, the meaning of these words has been restored and renewed – at least in part. Here are two shining examples:

Life Prevails

Liberty Triumphs

As the sun continues to rise, there remains a quiet and peaceful calm. My beautiful Spouse has declared “holiday routine” for the entire SFH staff. For all of us, today will provide a special opportunity to enjoy that third enumerated right which the Declaration states was endowed by our Creator –

“the pursuit of Happiness”

Pierre LeChat has buried himself in a pile of cookbooks looking for new recipes for the soon-to-be-world-famous, recently renovated SFH Test Kitchen. The ever-vigilant Mr. Monte has made his morning security rounds and is taking a well-deserved nap. In a short while, Blondie and I will start preparations for today’s holiday Feast. And that feast, as it is every year on this day, will be festive, filling, and flavorful. Behold! Here is the traditional SFH 4th of July menu.

Although today will be relaxed and restful, the latter part of June and the first few days of July were filled with a multitude of chores related to completion of the SFH TK renovation. There has been organizing, cleaning, ordering a new stove, and preparing for the 2022 preserving and canning season. In fact, the harvest has already begun. So far, we have picked over two pounds of green beans, several jalapeno peppers and tomatoes, and the first pods of okra.

Because our green bean harvest is the largest ever, we have had a chance to freeze the surplus beans (three bags so far). We’ve never done that before, but it turned out to be quite simple. We used freezing advice provided at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. For green beans, we used the instructions listed here.

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The SFH TK renovation, although not complete, is already making life better here. Several years ago, we had to store away our Breville juicer and have not had the opportunity to partake of the wonderful “green juice” we used to make. The art of juicing was introduced to our daily routine by our friends Rob and Carol Hoffman. Now that we have easy access to the juicer, and because many vegetables are available to us from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, we have once again been able to make “green juice” a morning standard.

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Neither the Declaration of Independence nor our Creator gives us a right to “Happiness”. Rather we are endowed with the right of “pursuit of Happiness”. Here at SFH, we always try to remember that distinction. Sometimes, things other than “Happiness” come our way. For example, when we came home one day last week, we found that a storm had caused some destruction to our vast SFH gardens and arboreal treasures. Compared to what happened to our neighbors’ house two weeks ago, when a large Maple tree crushed a portion of their roof, the damage we had was entirely insignificant. – –

It’s at times like this, that our “Liberty” and the right to pray when and where we want becomes so important. In other countries, that is not the case. We must remember that the rights we celebrate today were won for us by brave men who were inspired by “divine Providence” to say:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Happy 4th of July!!!

 

Jacques’ Lentil Salad – SFH TK Test

If you have not had the good fortune to meet me and experience my fascinating wit and charm, I am Pierre LeChat, gourmand and expert on all that is food. Recently, I have been most graciously invited by the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH TK) to host this series of posts called SFH Food Talk. (See: Gourmet KetchupJulia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case, & French Cuisine & GRITS)

This particular adventure in French cuisine was inspired by an encounter with Jacques Pepin and Julia Child in the cookbook Cooking at Home. Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face had recently received the book as gift. I myself found it to be most interesting and recommended that the SFH TK test some of the recipes therein. Of course, the wisdom of my advice was immediately recognized and this last Wednesday the entire SFH TK staff moved into action. Their testing criteria would be in accord with my personally developed – Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence:

1. Level of the challenge
2. Selection of good-quality ingredients
3. Use of cooking techniques
4. Development of superior taste and flavor
5. Presentation

To most of you, it stands to reason that something that is soon-to-be-world-famous is not already world-famous. That, of course, would imply that the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen does not possess all the financial and test equipment resources that are available to already world-famous test kitchens. Consequently, the SFH TK staff often has to make on-the-spot substitutions and adjustment to recipes when a particular resource is lacking. For example, in this test, chives were not available to be added as garnish. So, without a moment’s hesitation, Blondie made the excellent decision to go immediately to SFH Herb Garden #1 and pick a bunch of fresh parsley. – – Problem solved!

All of that said above is merely to highlight that the grand purpose of the SFH TK is to test a recipe under the same conditions and with the same challenges that confront any amateur home chef. The only difference being, the SFH TK staff is scientific and methodical, recording each step of the recipe process and analyzing the results. The end goal is to have a failproof, go-to recipe that can be listed on your weekly menu with the highest confidence. – – It works for the SFH TK and it will work for you. 

Test Results & Commentary

First, let me say Jacques Pepin has developed a marvelous salad recipe and Chef Blondie has penned on her printed copy “Excellent!”. But, let me go further. Although it is called a ‘salad’, this dish can stand alone as a meal or a main course. And so it did at Serendipity Farmhouse on two nights this past week. The point to be taken here is that this dish can survive refrigerator time and be used as tasty leftovers. – – The secret of the recipe is in the burst of flavor produced by the ensemble of ingredients, especially in the choice of shallots and herbs.

1. Level of the challenge: For a salad, this recipe presents a moderate challenge. Should you decide to presoak the lentils, that will increase your prep time. If you do not presoak, then you will have to monitor the cooking of the lentils to ensure they are fully cooked. – The choice is up to you.
2. Selection of good-quality ingredients: Quality of ingredients does make a difference in this recipe, but, even with lower quality ingredients, the flavor in this salad is superior. Jacques recommends lentilles du Puy, which have a greenish color. These were not readily available, and the SFH TK used less-preferred Walmart generic lentils. Currently, the SFH TK is awaiting the arrival of a package of lentilles du Puy for use in future testing.
3. Use of cooking techniques: The SFH TK staff encountered little difficulty in preparation of this recipe. The techniques used are simple and straightforward.
4. Development of superior taste and flavor: Here is the key to the success of this recipe. Jacques has assembled just the right ingredients to add zing to the taste and aroma of this dish. The unusual characteristic of this salad, however, is that the flavor does not diminish as you eat. The last bite is just as tasty and refreshing as the first.
5. Presentation: Be careful in presenting this dish. An SFH TK staff member, probably Ol’ Fuzz Face, selected the worst possible dish for showing off the charm of this delightful salad. Willow Pattern China tends to detract from the visual appeal. I strongly encourage Fuzzy to use a simple white plate or bowl when displaying similar dishes.

So, without further ado, here are pictures of the process keyed to the two primary instructions listed in the recipe. Enjoy!

Step 1 – Preparing the Lentils

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Step 2 – Preparing the Dressing

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Jacques' Lentil Salad

Course Salad
Cuisine French
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

To cook the lentils:

  • cups French green lentils rinsed and picked over
  • cups water
  • cups vegetable broth optional, see Note 1
  • 1 cup chopped onion about 4 ounces
  • 1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme optional
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pinch of ground cloves optional

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbs white-wine vinegar plus more to taste
  • 4 Tbs virgin olive oil plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp salt plus more to taste
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
  • 1 Tbs Dijon-style mustard or to taste (optional)
  • Drops of Tabasco to taste (optional)
  • 1 large ripe tomato cored and seeded, chopped into /2-inch pieces (about 1/4 cups)
  • cup finely chopped shallots scallions, or onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic about 3 cloves
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh chives for garnish, see Note 2

Instructions
 

  • Put the lentils, water, chopped onion, optional thyme, bay leaf, salt, and optional cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes or longer, until the lentils are cooked through but still hold their shape. (See Note 3.) Cool to lukewarm; at that point drain off any remaining liquid. Pour the lentils into a mixing bowl and discard the herbs.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper (and mustard and Tabasco, if using). Stir in the chopped tomato, shallots (or scallions or onion), and garlic. Pour the dressing over the warm lentils and fold in gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped chives before serving. (See Note 2.)

Notes

Note 1: Vegetable broth used instead of water to enhance flavor
Note 2: Chives were not in season, so we used our own parsley.
Note 3: We opted to presoak the lentils. Consequently, the lentils require less time for cooking, perhaps 15-20 minutes.
Recipe from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Knopf, 1999, p.128, as adapted by the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen

French Cuisine & GRITS

My dear new friends, today, I Pierre LeChat, the official fine food connoisseur in residence at the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen, will amaze you with a most edifying discussion and review of a world-class French dinner prepared and served in the most unlikely of places. This review will shatter long-standing myths and, hopefully, transport you to a new level of confidence in your ability to take on any culinary challenge, no matter how difficult it may seem. – Before you embark on this journey, it would be considered wise for you to refer to “Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence” as outlined in my last post: Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case

Let Us Set the Table – The Story Behind the Story

It is common knowledge that Mme. Blondie, my employer and culinary collaborator, was born and raised in the South, that beautiful and enchanting region of your United States, where women possess great charm and a strong attachment to traditional ways. While reading through past posts on this excellent blog, I came across a most interesting post, a post that showed me how Mme. Blondie has made it her task and her duty to pass on her traditions in the style of the South. That post was How to Host a Tea Party – SFH Style, a truly marvelous description of how a wise and knowledgeable grandmother can influence the future and enrich the lives of the ones she loves most. Mme. Blondie can proudly say that she and her daughters and her granddaughters are truly Girls Raised In The South (GRITS).

And that brings us to Mme. Blondie’s Daughter #2, a most remarkable woman of strong character and, I say this with firm conviction, a woman of great culinary courage. She currently lives in the majestic Shenandoah Valley, once known as the breadbasket of the South. In the Valley, food of all types surrounds you. Beef, poultry, dairy, and a vast assortment of crops – good food is plentiful and the folks there know how to make a great meal. But Daughter #2 is a woman made for culinary adventure; she’s a woman ready to step out of familiar everyday meals. Like her Momma, she possesses the gift of a mind open to new possibilities, a mind that does not fear to explore.

The Challenge: An Ina Garten French Dinner

Now that you know something of the character of Daughter #2, let us discuss the nature of the challenge. Recently, Daughter #2 has been studying French cuisine through the eyes of Ina Garten and her cookbook Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home. She knew well how strongly her Momma had been influenced by Julia Child and her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I and she thought it would be a grand idea for Mme. Blondie and her to bring what they had learned together in a semi-formal sit-down dinner party. The plans were made, the menu was decided, and the date was set – January 23, 2022, would be the day for French Cuisine & GRITS.

Both chefs started preparations early, actually days in advance. In the post Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case, you saw how Mme. Blondie prepared Julia’s Tartlets. At noon that day, I was chauffeured by Monsieur Fuzz Face to Daughter #2’s residence. Fortunately, I was able to sit in the back seat with Mme. Blondie and was not subjected to Fuzzy’s foolish prattle. When we arrived at Daughter #2’s home, just a short distance from the beautiful North Fork of the Shenandoah, I quietly walked into the kitchen. Daughter #2 was quite busy, and it took a moment or two for her to turn in my direction. When she saw me, dressed as I was in my usual dapper way, her mouth fell open and she uttered a most surprised yet sincere welcome. Recognizing me, perhaps the world’s most distinguished gourmet, she immediately dropped everything and hugged me lovingly, kissing each cheek in the customary French way. I was most flattered and I’m certain that I blushed with the attention she showered upon me.

I knew that my presence would increase the pressure on her to make the perfect meal. I did my best to let her know that she could continue without worry about me. I was here to enjoy the food and to make a new friend. – This is, after all, the way it should be in the world of fine food.

Le Menu

There are those that foolhardily say that a typical French dinner consists of this or that number of courses. Of course, they seldom take into account the customs in different regions, nor do they even consider that perhaps there is room for variation. In but a few minutes of searching, you can find any number of discordant answers to the question of “How many and what are the courses in a typical French Dinner?” I mock these so-called experts. Here, see for yourself how they never can agree:

The 7 Courses of a Formal French Meal
Formal Dinner Party Courses
What are the Courses in a French Dinner?

Here in a loose form is what Daughter #2 served her guests and yours truly, Persnickety Pierre, on this day of days in her culinary life:

  • L’Aperitif: Serendipity Cocktail – This drink was chosen for its name and significance to all associated with Serendipity Farmhouse. For the history of the drink and a recipe see: Serendipity, a Paris Cocktail from the World’s Greatest Bartender
  • L’Entree: Julia’s Tartlets – The background on this appetizer is described in the post Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case.
  • La Soupe: Winter Squash Soup – Taken from Ina Garten’s recipe. See: Winter Squash Soup (Recipe here; Barefoot in Parish (BIP), p. 81)
  • Le Plat Principal: Beef Bourguignon – Taken from Ina Garten’s recipe. See: Beef Bourguignon (Recipe here; BIP, p. 121)
  • Salad: Green Salad Vinaigrette – Taken from Ina Garten’s recipe. See: Green Salad Vinaigrette (Recipe here; BIP, p. 102)
  • Le Fromage: Cheese Plate – This plate featured an assortment of Spanish & French cheeses, from cow, goat, and sheep milk. An appropriate bread was used as the base for the Beef Bourguignon and eating separately.
  • Le Dessert: Mixed Fruit Tart – See: Wegmans Large Mixed Fruit Tart
  • Dinner Wine: Côtes du Rhône – A moderately priced red wine and an excellent pairing with Beef Bourguignon

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My Flawless Professional Review

Among my first impressions was the fact that at various points during meal preparation there were as many as six people in the kitchen. Daughter #2, of course, was the primary chef. She received some minor assistance from Son-in-Law #2 and Granddaughter #4, but, for the most part, Daughter #2 had to prepare the meal with a horde of bystanders in a very small kitchen. – To her very great credit, Daughter #2 maintained her composure throughout. Now, let us examine her meal from the perspective of Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence:

  1. Level of the challenge: I am happily compelled to score Daughter #2 very highly on this criterion. In fact, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that she has earned the coveted Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence (PPPE). Not only was her menu exceedingly ambitious, filled with many potential pitfalls, but each item was artfully chosen with the intent to please her dinner guests. Daughter #2 also had to deal with the totally unexpected arrival of Persnickety Pierre and remain calm and focused while under his intense scrutiny.  Oui, truly a remarkable performance worthy of a PPPE!
  2. Selection of good-quality ingredients: I have come to learn that Daughter #2 spent several days shopping for the ingredients to be served in her dinner. She carefully studied several cookbooks to enlighten herself concerning the right foods for an authentic French-style cuisine. She also sought advice from those whom she regards as knowledgeable. There were several calls to Mme. Blondie concerning selection of ingredients. She even called upon the assistance of M. Fuzz Face concerning selection of wines and European cheeses. Rather atypically, M. Fuzzy actually provided worthwhile advice.
  3. Use of cooking techniques: There are two reasons why I have chosen to award Daughter #2 an unprecedented second PPPE. As you can see from the featured image at the top of this post, when I first entered the kitchen, I was both amazed and delighted to see several courses in the midst of simultaneous preparation. My picture shows the blue pot containing the main course. Off to the left, preparation of the soup has begun. At the other side of the kitchen, Daughter was describing the history and ingredients of the aperitif to her guests. My picture also shows the second reason for awarding the PPPE. You will see in the foreground a very large pot containing a rendition of Ina Garten’s Homemade Chicken Stock (Recipe here; BIP, p. 84). Oui, Daughter #2 had elected to make her own chicken stock for use in the Winter Squash soup. Mon Dieu, what a great undertaking! Yet, Daughter #2 desired to make the extra effort.
  4. Development of superior taste and flavor: It goes without saying yet it is necessary that I say it. Daughter #2, due to her advance study, selection of fine ingredients, and diligent adherence to proper technique, was able to bring together in her masterpiece meal a symphony of tastes, flavors, and aromas. There were no sour notes. This music for the palate would render any audience breathless. The reason I have chosen not to award a PPPE is because I think it only right to allow this amazing amateur chef room to grow. I firmly believe that she should, when the time is right, depart from the recipe and explore her own native ability to experiment with herbs, spices, and techniques that will expand her repertoire.
  5. Presentation: Great care was taken to present the meal in a manner that was authentic but not overly formal. This was, after all, a meal for the family to enjoy. Interestingly, Daughter #2 called upon Granddaughter #4 to assist in setting the table. My earlier picture of the table setting shows that was done quite well. The attention to detail is evident. Daughter #2 personally served all guests. She did so with the charm, efficiency, and professional quality that would be worthy of a large tip, had this been a fine restaurant. I must point out that, in the future, Daughter #2 might be well-advised to consider portion size. This was a multi-course meal and use of a smaller bowl for the soup would have been more appropriate. That being said, I found myself happily pleased by the flavor of the soup and consumed all of it.

And there it is! Two amateur chefs, both Girls Raised in the South, a mother and daughter working together to prepare a memorable French dinner. The mother was awarded Persnickety Pierre’s first Paw of Excellence. The daughter won Pierre’s heart with her unusually challenging and most assuredly successful effort to bring fine French cuisine to the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, the breadbasket of the South. Indeed, it is without question that Daughter #2 deserves two PPPEs for her remarkable achievement of bringing together French Cuisine & GRITS!

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2021- December

2022- January

2022- February

Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case

My dear new friends, as you learned in the recent post Gourmet Ketchup, I am Pierre LeChat, gourmand and expert on all that is food. As you can tell by my name, I am French, but my love of good food extends to all points on the globe.

It is not my way to attempt to impress you by resorting to food snobbery. After all, it goes without saying that the enjoyment of any food is a matter of personal taste. Yet now that I have said that which goes without saying, I will tell you that I have met food critics who would want you to think that all food must be judged by their own narrowly defined personal tastes. Critics like these have no place in my world and they will never be acknowledged by me so long as I am a staff member of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen.

Nevertheless, there must be some standard criteria by which to judge the labors of an amateur chef or team of chefs. Throughout my career, I have pondered this most important question: What are the appropriate criteria for judgement? Although, my notes concerning this question fill multiple volumes, for the sake of simplicity, I have settled upon five criteria that are critical to the success for any amateur chef. Here they are.

Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence

1. Level of the challenge
2. Selection of good-quality ingredients
3. Use of cooking techniques
4. Development of superior taste and flavor
5. Presentation

My Test Case – Julia’s Tartlets by SFH TK

Now that you know my general philosophy, criteria, and approach to evaluation, let us quickly observe how I will go about my task of revealing the talents of some of the world’s finest amateur chefs. The obvious best place to begin, of course, is right here at my new place of employment, the almost world-renowned Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH TK). My dear employer, Mme. Blondie graciously offered the services of SFH TK and a select cooking team to undergo the scrutiny of Persnickety Pierre. She knew that I would be brutally honest and that I would not withhold criticism – it would be her challenge and she willingly accepted. – Let us move on to the review.

  1. Level of the challenge: Although Mme. Blondie was only preparing an appetizer, barely a moderate technical challenge, she knew that the whole world would be watching. She knew the golden reputation of the SFH TK was at stake. She accepted this added pressure and managed to maintain her composure throughout this test case. – High marks here for Mme. Blondie
  2. Selection of good-quality ingredients: Both Mme. Blondie and her somewhat less capable assistant M. Fuzz Face seek to prepare high-quality meals on a tightly controlled budget. After all, SFH is not the house of their dreams; it is the house of their realities. I see this as an excellent objective. In our test, I was not displeased nor offended by any choice of individual ingredients. This chef team hit the mark on quality while remaining well within their allotted budget.
  3. Use of cooking techniques: This, most unfortunately, was where the SFH TK team stumbled. While Mme. Blondie displayed outstanding ability in cleanliness, selection of proper tools, and use of high-standard process and procedure, her junior partner was not so well disposed. It was my observation that M. Fuzz Face is clumsy, lazy, and lacking in proper respect for food and its preparation. His particularly disturbing blunder during this test was the way in which he clumsily employed the tart tamper, breaking the bottoms of the tartlet shells. His shaping of the shells in the cups was crude and uneven. And to add to those failures, he departed from proper procedure by stabbing the base of the tartlet shells multiple times, rather than lightly pricking the shell just once. Please view for yourself the slovenly work of M. Fuzz Face.
  4. Development of superior taste and flavor: Mme. Blondie is a most creative chef. She has an innate sense of what will lift the taste and flavor of a dish from the merely superb to the heavenly sublime. If you compare the original recipe to Mme. Blondie’s adaptation, you will find that she does not fear to experiment and innovate. Later in the day of this test case, the tartlets were presented at a family gathering. There were no leftovers! That is the highest form of praise.
  5. Presentation: I had to score Mme. Blondie a little lower on this criterion. But that was not due to any failure on her part. Her appetizer only made it to the kitchen at the family gathering – it was totally consumed before there was a chance for it to make it to the dinner table. In this test case, the aroma, taste, and flavor outweighed all other criteria; final presentation could not be judged due to the rush by all to engage Mme. Blondie’s tartlets in a first-hand taste test.

And after review of the pictures, reference to my notes, and, of course, my personal evaluation of taste and flavor, I can now inform the world that the SFH TK has won the first ever Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence. It would have been two paws, but the inept and bungling preparation of the tartlet cups by M. Fuzz Face made it impossible for me to award a highly coveted second paw.

 

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18-inch French Rolling Pin

With regard to the blunders made by M. Fuzz Face, Mme. Blondie was more than ready to provide some rather enthusiastic and dramatic remedial action. The French rolling pin you see in her hands was going to be the instrument used to deliver the remedial action. M. Fuzz Face, recognizing that his goose had been cooked, offered to administer penitential remedial action to himself using a 6-inch tart tamper. Mme. Blondie mercifully accepted his compromise and now the blundering chef wears the marks of his self-chastisement. – As M. Monte had informed me, M. Fuzzy definitely “is not the sharpest claw on the paw.”

6-inch Tart M. Fuzzy Tamper

Julia’s Cheese Tartlets the SFH TK Way

Blondie
This is the Serendipity Farmhouse adaptation of Jackie DeKnock's version of
JuliaChild’s Cheese Tartlets at Gourmet Safari.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine French

Equipment

  • Chicago Metallic Professional Mini-Pie Pan with Cutting Tool, 13.8-Inch-by-10.6-Inch
  • Baking Dual-Sided Pastry Dough Tart Tamper, Hardwood, 6-Inches

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp Cultured buttermilk - Original uses 1 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 Large egg
  • 1 dash Hot pepper sauce
  • 1 Frozen, ready-to-bake pie crust - Original uses pre-made tart shells or your own pie dough
  • 12 3-inch tartlet shells
  • ½ cup Cheddar, Fontina, Gruyère or Swiss Cheese - A good melting cheese
  • cup Creme fraiche - Recipe below

Instructions
 

Creme Fraiche Recipe:

  • In saucepan over very low heat, combine heavy cream and buttermilk, warm, stirring constantly, just until mixture reaches body temperature. Pour into metal or glass bowl; cover with plastic and place in warm spot. Let thicken for 24-48 hours. It should look like yogurt. Refrigerate until ready to use (it will thicken more in the refrigerator).

Tartlet Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (Original uses 425 degrees)
  • If you make your own small tart shells, roll out pie dough to ⅛-inch thickness and cut into circles a little bigger than the tops of the cups in the tartlet pan. Press pie dough circles into cups, with piecrusts coming to the tops of the cup. (We use a tart tamper to do this.) Prick bottom of shell with fork.
  • Place grated cheese in each tart shell, filling almost to top.
  • Mix egg and hot pepper sauce into creme fraiche. Then, pour a little of this mixture into each tart shell, filling almost to top of each shell. (NOTE: You can add a sprinkle of dried herbs on top, such as thyme or herbes de Provence, as a garnish if you like). Place filled tartlet pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned and set in centers.
  • ** Salt may not be needed if a salty cheese is used. Taste your cheese before deciding how much salt to add.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2021- December

2022- January

2022- February

Gourmet Ketchup

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, absolutely nothing would get done at SFH if I weren’t here to do it. No, I don’t mean I do all the physical labor. That would be beneath my dignity. What it means is, I am the one with the real initiative and creativity in this multifaceted enterprise we call Serendipity Farmhouse. For example, here I am writing this post, when, by all rights, Ol’ Fuzz Face should be performing this task. But, as you can see, Fuzzy is absent without leave once again. – How he ever made it in this world, I’ll never understand.

Alas, there’s no need to continue in this vein of thought. After all, Fuzzy and Blondie are the humans they are, and I have to make the most of it. – – So, I’ll just have to continue on to the ‘meet’ of this post. So, here it is:

‘Meet’ SFH TK’s Distinguished New Staff Member

For years, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen has endeavored to prepare some of the finest meals imaginable. With my guidance and amazing sense of taste, I have conducted Fuzzy and Blondie through some of the most extraordinary adventures in the culinary arts. Yet, with all that we have accomplished, I knew deep down inside that the SFH TK is capable of so much more. That is why, in a recent staff meeting, I broached the idea of hiring a freelance gourmet and food critic. The new hire would bring the professional touch to our already high level of food writing. I let the staff know I had someone special in mind.

As usual, Fuzzy was a little slow on the intake and questioned the prospects of such a venture. Blondie, on the other hand, immediately fell in love with the idea. In fact, she had ideas of her own that would add color and interest to this type of food writing project. – Fuzzy, somewhat bewildered by the whole thing, finally agreed to the venture when he realized he was once again outnumbered.

As you might suspect, I keep myself abreast of all that is important in the world of food. In my extensive reading, some years back, I came across the mysterious food critic known as Pierre LeChat. Though his talent and experience were legendary, there were no pictures of Pierre to be had anywhere. – There were no pictures until this day, in this post, in this blog, authored by this cat.

For anyone else it would be difficult to make contact with such an elusive celebrity. But for me, it only took a few minutes online to make the acquaintance of Monsieur LeChat. Another few minutes were spent in minor chitchat, and in that short period, we recognized that we hold so very much in common. And the most important thing I learned from our chat was, true to his name, M. LeChat loves cats to an extent seldom seen among those of the unfortunate human persuasion. – So, without further ado, here’s our newest staff member, M. Pierre LeChat.

Bonjour to all of you! For nearly five decades, I have worked virtually unseen and unnoticed in my relentless pursuit of the exquisite meal, the artfully prepared dish that has no equal, the blending of taste and flavor that leaves one speechless. On rare occasions, I have found that meal. But more often I have found seemingly artificial concoctions, prepared by so-called chefs who possess great pride but no talent. – Those misbegotten chefs are only deserving of disdain and derision. And in my reviews, that is what I have given them – a meal of truth served on a bitter platter. That is why they have dubbed me ‘Persnickety Pierre.’ – I wear that title as a badge of honor.

Now, after all those years hiding my true identity, I come to the esteemed Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. It is here that I will bring honor and tribute to the chefs who really matter, the amateur chefs who strive to do what many professional chefs will never learn, to prepare the exquisite meal for the ones they cherish most – their families and friends. I will seek out these gifted ones, the ones who take on great culinary challenges simply because they love to cook, and because they love those for whom they cook.

But of course, I will continue to be persnickety. After all, that is who I am. Yet, I will be truthful in gentle ways. I will always keep in mind the difficulty of the challenge undertaken and give recognition to the effort made to please. For those who meet their self-made goals, for those who reach a new level of excellence, there will be the soon-to-be-highly-coveted award known as ‘Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence’ (PPPE).

If you fail to see the symbolism in the PPPE, allow me to explain. The forepaw of a polydactyl cat, such as my new-found protégé, Monsieur Monte, has two extra toes, which some call thumbs. The PPPE is my way of saying that I give a particular dish or meal two thumbs up.

That is enough for now. I will present to you more of my persnickety personal views on the art of cooking in the future. Until then, if you would like to have your special meal judged by a real expert, give the SFH TK a call, and I will be there to join you for a most memorable tasting experience.   

SFH Journal: 2022-01 – Winter Ketchup

What need is there to ketchup on this January’s events? It’s been snowy and cold. Blondie makes that quite clear.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Last Week: 

SFH WX 2022-01-17 through 01-23

Report – Last Two Months

2021- December

2022- January

 

Garlic & Hackers

Garlic

There is a day dreaded by every caretaker of God’s greatest gift to the practice of the culinary arts. And that day came most unfortunately to Serendipity Farmhouse late in December 2021. That was the day when Blondie walked into our well-stocked pantry and let out a most terrible and mournful shriek. Despite the pain caused by four broken ribs, I dashed for the pantry at a full run. – There must be something dreadfully wrong. – And there was!

Yes, it was worse than I could have ever imagined. The wondrous pantry of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen had become something worse than the “bog of eternal stench” from the movie Labyrinth. The smell was beyond description by any words from any language devised by man – it was the smell of decomposing garlic.

If you read our post SFH Journal: 2020-06-30 through 07-05 – Happy 4th of July!! you will be instantly aware of the tender love and care that we lavish upon our yearly harvest of garlic. We take every precaution to ensure that our precious crop is dried and stored to ensure freshness from the first to the last clove of the year. So, how could it be that our crop could be going bad this early. – – The answer was, and this makes me most proud to say, it was not our crop that was going bad. No, we had done everything correctly. Our crop was still good. But this year we had purchased a large number of garlic heads from the CSA across the road from us as a backup to our supply. Apparently, they had not dried or stored their crop with as much care as we had. It was their garlic that was causing the obnoxious odor in our pantry.

Upon close inspection, we determined that only some of the heads were beyond salvaging. The remainder needed to be either consumed immediately or preserved in some way. So, we searched for various alternatives for preserving. That is when we the read the post Storing Garlic in Wine or Vinegar and Refrigerating on the Garlic Blog. – – We decided to give it a try. We also decided to do the same with the remainder of our own crop. After all, this is the SFH Test Kitchen! We are always ready to try something new if it looks like it has promise.

Below are some pictures from our latest experiment. We will post results on how well this technique works in the coming weeks.

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&

Hackers

Self-respecting bloggers never want to admit that a blog they run has been hacked. Yet here I am with no alternative other than to say that the SFH blog was hacked by a very cunning, devious, and malicious hacker.

I came to this realization this week when I saw that a post entitled Access Granted to 黑客猫 had been published from our site. I knew that I hadn’t posted anything. When asked, Blondie said that she hadn’t put out anything. But there it was, Access Granted to 黑客猫. I quickly checked out our site statistics and found that there had been 23,417 views of that particular post.

However, when I tried to open the post to read it myself, there was no post. All that was there on my screen was just this picture providing indisputable proof that we had been hacked.

I really don’t know what to make of it. Somehow though, there is something about this photo that seems vaguely familiar to me. I just wish I could figure out what is. – – If anyone has any ideas about this, please let me know.

 

SFH Journal: 2021-11-22 through 28 – Thanksgiving

We here at Serendipity Farmhouse hold Thanksgiving Day to be most precious. It speaks to our hearts and souls of a lofty ideal, yet it resides with us in the realm of reality and common sense. Indeed, to celebrate Thanksgiving Day properly, one must answer two important questions:

For what are we thankful?

To whom are we thankful?

President Abraham Lincoln, in his 1863 Proclamation of Thanksgiving, spoke to both questions when he wrote:

“To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Yes, even in the midst of the Civil War, he could say, “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” And he attributed all those “bounties” to “Almighty God”.

We here at SFH, like you and many whom we know, have been touched by the sickness and evils of these most uncertain times of pandemic and social upheaval. Nevertheless, we can also see the many gifts we have been given throughout this year and, without any doubt, we know to Whom we are to give our thanks. Along with Lincoln, we can affirm:

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

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At Serendipity Farmhouse, there is no thanks to be given for the great bounty we enjoy, if it is not thanksgiving to Almighty God.

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Sometimes, even though it might seem contrary to what one might think, five chefs in a small kitchen isn’t necessarily a pending catastrophe. Nope! Sometimes, five chefs in a small kitchen might be the harmonious prelude to a most memorable Thanksgiving dinner. And so it was on Thursday when we assembled in that unnamed, but soon-to-be-world-famous kitchen somewhere in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

It would take far too much time to describe all that took place in that small kitchen. Nevertheless, I will attempt to summarize as follows, listing each chef and their particular specialties for the day.

Executive Chef – Daughter #2: This up-and-coming young chef extended her already expansive repertoire to include the following masterworks:

Asparagus & Prosciutto Bundles – Working with the basic recipe by Ina Garten, D#2 added her own variations and made this the centerpiece of the dinner plate.
Cranberry Sauce – It wasn’t from a can, it came from a creative hand, and it was oh so tasty.
Turkey Gravy – This was another first for D#2. Never again will she have to rely on some pre-made gravy from a jar or a bag.
Appetizer Tray – Here was an excellent assortment of cheeses and other flavorful morsels.
Sangria – This delightful punch consisted of rosé wine, chopped fruit, and other ingredients and spirits.

Deputy Executive Chef – Son-in-Law #2: Here is an unsung master, who quietly plied his craft and produced two flavorful staples for this traditional meal.

The Turkey – Even if everything else is superb, when the turkey is a failure, the entire Thanksgiving dinner falls flat. SIL#2 did not let us down. The turkey was completed on time and cooked to perfection.
Yeast Rolls – These were a must to accompany the meal. What can be better than to add a little butter, then clean the gravy off your plate with these wondrous little rolls?

SFH Test Kitchen Executive Chef – Dearest Wife: A great joy in the life of a mother is watching a daughter accept the challenge of the kitchen and to master the cooking skills. On this particular day, Dearest Wife assisted D#2 when needed. The day before, she did prepare something that would make the dinner complete.

The Pumpkin Pie – What would Thanksgiving Dinner be without this scrumptious dessert? All agreed that it was the very best they had ever tasted.

Rank Amateur – Yours Truly: Based on his amazing ability to break or damage just about anything, this guy was assigned the duty of mashing defenseless roots.

Mashed Potatoes – Despite his best efforts, this guy was unable to bring about any type of culinary disaster. There were actually some fairly good mashed potatoes on each plate, ready to soak up D#2’s good gravy.

Junior Chef – Granddaughter #4: The Deputy Executive Chef was aided and assisted in several tasks by able and willing Granddaughter #4. Her eagerness to help and apparent joy in joining in with the more senior chefs suggests she is at the beginning of a lifelong culinary adventure.

For this love-filled day, for this time in the kitchen, for this enjoyable meal, for this family we have been given, Dear Wife and I say, “Thank you, Lord!”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-22 through 11-28

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-30

SFH Heatwave Chicken

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, this has been and continues to be a very hot and dry Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. (Please refer to Ol’ Fuzz Face’s comments on the matter in his post SFH Journal: 2021-07-26 through 08-01 – Hot & Spicy.) As you can see by this candid photo of me, I have taken the appropriate feline approach to ensure that I remain cool and comfortable.

Blondie and Fuzzy, on the other hand, see things in an different way and have chosen to make a period of what should be a time for rest and relaxation into an unnecessarily frustrating time of tension, and drama. Rather than try to make sense of their heat-induced delirium, I will turn the writing of this post over to Fuzzy while I resume my nap.

——————————————————————-

Despite Mr. Monte’s less than flattering remarks, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen had a remarkable and noteworthy week. No, I wouldn’t say it was our best week ever, but I would say it demonstrates our unique ability to bounce back from an apparent failure and turn it into a resounding success. Here’s the story.

On August 5th, our weekly menu called for us to use our Sun Oven to prepare Barbecued Chicken according to a recipe in the Solar Chef cookbook by Rose Marie Kern. But my most perceptive Wife noted that tomatoes harvested over the past few days had reached their prime and had to be canned immediately. So, we changed our plans and spent the day preparing a “new and improved” (N&I) version of our long-time favorite SFH Pasta Sauce.

All went well with the initial stage of canning of our “SFH N&I Pasta Sauce.” To our basic recipe we added homegrown garlic, Italian spice and a couple of other twists. The wonderful aroma of the simmering pasta sauce filled the house. Then we performed the required processing of the five pint jars of sauce. We retrieved the jars from the boiling water at the 40-minute mark and waited for the five pings from the cooling jars. Within seconds, we had ping numbers one, two, and three. Number four took a little longer. … … Unfortunately, ping number five never came – the jar had failed to seal. – – Dang!

Then, simultaneously, resourceful Wife and I stumbled across the same idea. – – Tomorrow, we shall use the un-pinged jar of N&I Pasta Sauce in an entirely new SFH Test Kitchen creation – “SFH Heatwave Chicken”! (Providing there is sunshine …)

Background

We purchased our Sun Oven in Idaho. We only used it once, but that was a great success because we lived in high desert with virtually no trees nearby. More often than not, the sky was very clear and our home sat on a point that was nearly a mile high. – With these perfect conditions for solar cooking, we could get that Sun Oven up to over 400°.

A couple of years ago, we attempted to use the Sun Oven to make a pot roast here at SFH. For many reasons, that was an abysmal failure. Virginia has trees and many of them reside right here on our vast estate. Even when the rare sunny day comes, those trees are dedicated to a single cause – – blocking the Sun Oven. There is one Sycamore tree that is particularly nasty and vicious because it knows it commands access to the precious southern exposure. It is a bully of a tree and I have often thought of having our local tree service remove it.

Day of Reckoning

On August 6th, the sun rose and there was some haze in the sky. The forecast indicated that clouds would move in later in the day. Our chances of success were diminishing rapidly and we knew we wouldn’t be free to start cooking until nearly 1 PM. Nevertheless, Blondie and I were committed – we were going to make this work. So, at about 12:10 I set up the oven and began preheating it. By 12:31 it had reached 275°.

Blondie took charge of preparing the chicken by adding some salt and pepper and then the layering the chicken in our untested, untried, and untasted, brand new “N&I Pasta Sauce. When she finished, I carefully took the pot to the oven and placed it on the leveling rack. The glass door was closed and sealed at 12:51 – this cooking game was now afoot.

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The red arrow in the graphic taken from the official SFH Weather Station shows that, when we began cooking our SFH Heatwave Chicken, we were already past the prime conditions we had earlier in the day. We decided we would let the chicken cook for four hours at about 325°. The question was would that work? Would we be able to get to the desired 180° internal temperature required for poultry? Only time – four full hours – would tell.

The picture above answers that big question. When the picture was taken, the gauge was still climbing and we knew our chicken was fully cooked. Later, when we sat down to eat. We found that it was not only fully cooked, but it was at the point where the meat just fell off the bone; we didn’t even need our knives to cut the meat.

So, on this 92°+ day, we sat down inside the cool SFH dining room and ate a wonderful meal of solar oven cooked SFH Heatwave Chicken, which was resting on a layer of couscous that readily absorbed the savory flavor of our own SFH New & Improved Pasta Sauce.

There are few failures in the SFH Test Kitchen, but there many ways to find paths to new successes!

 

RV Trip 2021-02: I Wanna Go Home!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, there are clearly defined limits to my ability to tolerate trips in my Class-C RV “El Camino Del Monte” (ECMD). You would think getting out of the hot city and relaxing in a cool woodland setting would be the goal of most intelligent humans.

Obviously, I don’t have two of those. No, I have the kind of humans that think that is fun to go someplace hotter and far less comfortable than Serendipity Farmhouse. Rather than listening to calming classical music, my humans would rather listen to the cacophonous, nerve-shattering noise of an air conditioner running 24/7. – It is my considered opinion that any common sense they may have ever had was baked out of their brains by overexposure to the infernal heat of Virginia in July.

We arrived at Shenandoah River State Park at 2:25 PM. Fuzzy completed setup in record time. By 3:12 PM, he had the weather station assembled, revealing the severity of our situation. The temperatures at the park had climbed into the mid-90s, so all windows and doors had to be shut and the sound of that miserable AC began to numb my mind. You can see for yourself that my humans had made another marvelous choice of camping dates. – What were they thinking, if they were capable of thinking at all?

Of course, the heat was followed by rain, a torrential downpour that crashed down on the roof of ECMD. The splattering of raindrops the size of golf balls shattered my inner peace and grated on every neuron of my highly tuned feline nervous system. By 8 PM, I was a useless, shivering pile of fur, incapable of reacting in any normal way. It was then that I first heard myself say, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Dinner No. 1: Texas Hash

My humans apparently took no notice of my distress. Their only concern was pleasing their belly and their gut, preparing another “gourmet” meal. Granted, they prepared it to a human standard of perfection, nevertheless, its aroma and presentation aroused no interest whatsoever in my feline appetite. Yet, as the author of this post, I am required to give you details that might help those humans among my readers to recreate this culinary delight. So, here you go. The dish is called Texas Hash. The original recipe appeared in the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, 1950. Currently, the recipe can be found in the book Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes for Today’s Kitchen.

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As an interesting sidelight. In a moment of weakness, Ol’ Fuzz Face confessed to me that, when he was young, he thought that Betty Crocker was a real person and was devastated when he found out otherwise. Poor guy, he never learned the real truth, but I did after doing some internet searches. It turns out that Betty Crocker was a shapeshifter. Her true persona was Mamagon (ママゴン) the lovely kaiju (怪獣) of Japanese fame. You can find out more about her at the Ultraman Wiki.

As you can see below, Betty Crocker/Mamagon had nothing at all to do with the meals I was served on this trip. For me, it’s always the same old stuff. Nope, nothing gourmet quality or special for me. Nope, no ice cream or tasty treats, just the same old swill.

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The Case of the Obnoxious Fly

The second day of this misadventure was just as hot and steamy as the first. Fuzzy and Blondie attempted to humor themselves and enjoy their outing as if the weather was perfectly pleasant. It was apparent that they had spent too much time in the sun and were delusional. Blondie went so far as to pose for pictures to prove that she was having a delightful time. But, it wasn’t even a half hour later at lunch when she lost all of her composure.

Let me tell you what happened and what I saw through the kitchen window. At lunchtime, Blondie proclaimed that lunch would be served in her beloved screen tent. She opined that it would be ever so pleasant to dine outside and enjoy the sounds of nature and the gentle breeze. Blondie and Fuzzy carried all the fixings for lunch to the tent. They carefully zipped up the doorway screen and sat down to eat their midday repast. Simultaneously, two things began to happen. First, both of those “nature lovers” began to sweat profusely. They smiled at each other attempting to hide their discomfort, but moisture oozing from beneath their garments betrayed them. Second, it became apparent that the screen tent, when closed, does two things: it locks flies out and it locks flies in. In the case of my two humans, they had locked in with them the single most obnoxious fly in the entire Shenandoah Valley. It landed on their food. It landed on their beverage glasses. It did pirouettes on their ears and their noses. It caused them to swat and flail about, feverishly attempting to smush the intruder. And the obnoxious little fellow would not cease.

It wasn’t long after lunch before Fuzzy, at the bidding of Blondie, was taking the tent down, folding it up, and storing it away for the remainder of our misbegotten RV trip. Once again, I could be heard to say, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Dinner No. 2: Persian Shish Kabob

There’s no real need to go into detail about dinner on the second day. Sure, the smell of the meat used for the shish kabobs was somewhat pleasant, but what cat can eat meat that was soaked in lime juice, garlic, and onion for 24 hours. Anyway, Blondie and Fuzzy exclaimed that the allrecipes Persian Shish Kabob recipe was really good and, of course, their cooking skills exceeded that of most mortals.

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Radicalized!!!

My dear feline friends, the second night was just as hot as the first. The air conditioner kept running, and running, and running. One could not hear oneself think. Of course that meant nothing to my humans because, obviously, they weren’t thinking. I mistakenly thought that it could get no worse. That was when Fuzzy and Blondie decided to add to the noise by watching a horrid British detective show. Because they couldn’t understand the British accents, they cranked the volume up to an intolerable setting. I was in pain. I was in agony. I had finally reached the point where I could stand no more. And that is when I devised my radical solution – there would be no sleep for anyone in ECMD until this cat was returned to his rightful place in the most peaceful and tranquil Serendipity Farmhouse.

I won’t burden you with the details of my actions, but you can be certain that all of the following tactics were employed: nudging, bumping, nibbling, biting, scratching, jumping, endless meowing, and repeatedly exclaiming, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Let me emphasize that point by showing you how I expressed my feelings to those two insensitive humans: “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Despite all that, Fuzzy and Blondie continued to act as if they didn’t understand. Finally at 2 AM, out of desperation, I went to the corner where the metal door to my carrier was stored. I clawed at it and dislodged it. I dragged it out to where Fuzzy could see what I had. Then I jumped into my carrier and looked at him and bellowed, “Meoowww! Listen you jerk, Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

But it was all to no avail. Even though they could not sleep, they insisted on ignoring my pleas. It wasn’t until the sun had risen and they drank their coffee, that they would begin preparing for the trip home. Meanwhile, I was sleepless and a wreck from my encounter with their ignorant behavior. I rolled over in front of my carrier, feet up in the air, and played dead. And so I remained until Fuzzy said I should get into the carrier. I immediately did as he said, all the time wanting to take a pound of his flesh, but I didn’t want to delay our departure. Forty-five minutes later, we were home. I quietly flopped on the floor in front of the fan and refused to interact with either of them for the remainder of the day. – May it ever be so humble there’s no place like Serendipity Farmhouse!