Thursday, February 6, 2014

Actually, Everyone Abhors the Vacuum

Here is some parenting advice I have taken to heart: Kids like to feel useful, so give them meaningful things to do.

In fact, I have really, really taken this to heart. So much so that Medium Fry is arguably the single most useful child on the face of the planet. (Okay, here's some other advice I know to be true: I can't actually take credit for this. The formula is something like, I attempt some parenting business x her highly agreeable nature = hey, so far so good.)

Medium Fry is so useful that when she goes away for any length of time the entire household pretty much goes to hell. Nature abhors the vacuum of her absence so something fills the void, but it is an anarchic sort of something wherein her long list of chores simply doesn't get done. It's a real tragedy of the commons, of the sort one might typically encounter in a college residence:

- The recycling bin, the compost pail and the kitchen garbage resemble Jenga assemblages in their twilight moments - the unspoken understanding being that if it is your piece of trash that causes the tenuous pile to collapse, or even if you happen to be geographically proximal to it when it blows, you are the one stuck taking the mess out to the blue/green/black bin.

- The dishwasher ran twenty hours ago, but only when some poor sucker cracks and reaches in for a clean utensil will it be emptied.

- You wanna puke into a clean toilet? Have fun scrubbing it.

However, we are not in Res - not by a long shot. We are sprouting greys and making mortgage payments on a quiet suburban street in northwest Calgary. And Medium Fry goes away roughly every second weekend. How is it we seem unable to reach a sensible solution to this ongoing, rather trivial, problem?

Welp, I for one dig in my heels on pure principle: I do enough housework and damned if I'm willingly taking on any bloody more of it. Since the rules of the game state that acknowledging there is slack to be picked up would alert other participants that I noticed the slack and beg the question of why I hadn't been picking it up myself if it's so important to me, I've never exactly asked DH why he is digging in his heels on the matter. I basically figure it's because he's a damn man, and Small Fry does because - well, he's a damn five-year-old. (He's also legitimately too short, young and/or insane to safely do many of the things Medium Fry does around the house, even if he were capable of noticing they needed doing.) (But DH? No excuse.)

Medium Fry looks at us like we are the most useless humans on Earth when she invariably comes home to our Jenga-piles and cupboards devoid of clean dishes. I have a feeling she'll be the best roomie ever one day for some lucky college students, but we sure will miss her.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Year of the Cow

We bought our first cow at Christmastime - or rather, a quarter of one. (I find the fraction changes the mental picture in a hurry, doesn't it?) We bought it from my good friends Tara and Ross down at Davidson Lonesome Dove Ranch, in case you're ever in the market for your very own large fraction of a bovine one day and don't know where to turn.

I found navigating the ins and outs of the beef-buying process to be quite an adventure, primarily because I had zero idea of what all the different cuts of meat were. Okay, I was pretty sure that I didn't want any kidneys or eyeballs but beyond that, zero. If DH puts steak on the grocery list I just pick up whatever is really expensive - it seems like that usually works out to be something he likes. Plus cow pieces aren't named quite as intuitively as, say, chicken pieces: breasts, legs, backs - makes sense to me! But if you don't already know what 'sirloin' or 'brisket' points to or what meaty characteristics that segment possesses, you're pretty much hooped.

Fortunately, Tara patiently walked me thorough it all, and just after Christmas phoned me up to say my quarter-cow had been hacked and packaged to specifications and was waiting for me in her sales barn.

"It's about 160 pounds all told. Do you have room for all that in your deep freeze?"

Have I ever mentioned that I have excellent spatial perception? It seems to work best at low speeds, which lends itself rather poorly to team sports but works beautifully for things like deciding which Tupperware to put leftovers in, packing suitcases, and...

I ran downstairs to find DH, looked him up and down, and told Tara, "Yep. It'll fit."

We hung up.

"What was THAT about?" asked DH.

"Oh, nothing, dear. Just seeing if you'd fit in the deep freeze."

(I like to keep him on his toes a little. It's good for the relationship.)

Naturally, I was correct, and the beef fit nicely into our deep freeze. Again, if you're ever in the market for a quarter cow but don't happen to be blessed with a suitably-sized reference husband, he it takes up about a third of a full-sized chest freezer.

Unbeknownst to me, the best bulk bovine adventure was yet to come: now we get to eat it. The funny thing is - and don't ask me how it was I didn't consider this when I decided to buy 160 pounds of it - we don't really eat a lot of beef. If we did, I probably would have osmosified at least some idea of what the different cuts mean over time, and I surely wouldn't have been quite so accepting of DH's expensive steak habit.

What I did consider was that Tara and Ross love and take good care of their native prairie and their bovines, and since those things (and the Davidsons themselves!) mean a lot to me I wanted to take what small action I could to support them. However, now I'm looking at the deep freeze every week and thinking, Huh. What the hell am I going to do with all of this?

But if you know me you will know I love making Resolutions, and one of my (many) Resolutions every year is related to trying out new recipes, so the timing of this adventure couldn't have been better: I have solemnly Resolved to put beef on the menu two times a week, for the rest of the year or until it runs out, whichever comes first. So if you happen to have a favourite beef recipe that you wouldn't mind passing my way, it would be much appreciated - I need the help!