Mardi Dahm

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What the hell is Mardi Dahm, you ask? Mardi Dahm was a majestic party celebrating my dear friends Andrea and Brandon Dahm’s entrance into the Catholic Church the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. (Yes, we all know that Mardi Dahm technically means Tuesday Dahm and we don’t care; it’s still awesome.) Andrea and Brandon had been seriously considering conversion for two years and reading and learning about the Catholic faith even before that. So, when they finally made the decision and received the Sacrament of Confirmation, everyone was already over it. Wait, just kidding. Everyone was ecstatic and could not wait to celebrate this fulfillment of years’ worth of prayer and study and discernment and struggle and hope and obedience all day long. So that’s what we did.

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The foreheads of people being confirmed are anointed with chrism (which is a holy oil).

The Dahms were confirmed at a high Latin Mass, so there was incense and chant and much reference to the Council of Trent. After that joyous (and long and Latin) consummation, we all drove out to a winery for a reception with snacks and cake and, you know, wine.

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If it was not apparent, a lot of people love the Dahms.

Friends and family had come from all over to celebrate and support the Dahms—primarily non-Catholics, which is pretty cool. And by “pretty cool” I mean a moving testament to how open and thoughtful Andrea and Brandon have been throughout their long path to the Church. Before their conversion, Andrea and I talked numerous times about how deciding to join the Church was very much like deciding to marry someone (Brandon irritatingly pretends to prefer the analogy of deciding to buy a car…which is absurd); and like a good couple (which, incidentally, they are), both of them had discussed their potential commitment to the Church with the people they love and worked towards that commitment in transparent and intentional ways. This was not an impulsive decision that friends and family had no way of understanding. Thus, their Confirmation was not like one of those weddings when people look nervously at each other and say “I hope this works oooooouuuuuuut.” Andrea and Brandon know what they’re getting into; it’s going to work out.

I left the reception a little early to prepare for Mardi Dahm, which was a slightly more intimate gathering later that night, primarily consisting of our Catechism reading group. Clearly, this party was Mardi Gras themed, so that did some of the planning for me—I already happened to have both mustard and purple colored table cloths (except that the purple one is just a big piece of fabric I bought for a craft that I never followed through on). I got some purple and green plates and napkins, made bacon wrapped apricots with sage, grabbed a bottle of bourbon, and of course we knew we’d need a King’s Cake. The Dahms love France and French food so I decided to make the French Galette des Rois (a puff pastry cake with almond filling). Easy.

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Gallette des Rois

The party was held at friend Ryan’s house, which is spacious and ready for a party. I realized after the tables were all set up with food and drink that I had totally forgotten to make a Mardi Dahm sign. It was one of those moments when you would throw a fit out of incongruously extreme frustration if it was at all socially acceptable. To compensate I sent my friend DeAnn a wholly unnecessary text expressing disappointment in myself for not making a sign. This is what friends are for. Luckily, Ryan saved the day with some cards and scissors, and I had just enough time to create a (perfect) Mardi Dahm sign, which Ryan then improved with the addition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s face. Nothing like MLK’s face for a Confirmation party.

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“Mardi Dahm!” -Martin Luther King Junior

After everyone had arrived and milled about and gotten a drink, a few of us offered toasts to the happy converts and expressed how lucky we are to know them and be a part of their conversion.

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Toastin’.

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According to my claw hands, this is when I was talking about monsters.

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Enthralled by Mardi Dahm toasts.

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And this is TB@MD: The Burn at Mardi Dahm, when Andrea’s lovely sponsor Alexandra hilariously called out Ryan during her toast. Sorry Ryan.

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Cheers! (With an MLK photobomb)

We then weirdly forced them to cut the King’s Cake together and passed pieces around.

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“This is weird. Why are we doing this?” -Dahms

And so that was Mardi Dahm: one of the best days of 2013. If you’re interested in the Gallette des Rois, I recommend this recipe. It is fluffy and rich and delicious. If you’re interested in bacon wrapped apricots with sage, then use your common sense. Just kidding, here’s the (probably unnecessary) recipe:

Bacon Wrapped Apricots with Sage

Ingredients

  • Bacon
  • Dried apricots
  • Fresh sage leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Cut bacon strips into thirds.
  3. Wrap a dried apricot or apricot half and one medium sage leaf in slices you have sliced until you run out of bacon or apricots.
  4. Place them all on a cookie sheet and bake until brown (about 20 minutes). I turn them halfway so they’re browned evenly.
  5. Cool/drain on some paper towels.
  6. Try not to eat them all.
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On Lent: The Difference Between Self-Hate and Compunction and Other Uplifting Topics

Blog, we have a lot of catching up to do. February is almost over and I haven’t told you about various friends’ birthday dinners, Mediterranean toga Valentine’s Day party, Mardi Dahm, one of the best birthday weekends of my life, and various food and drink adventures. The tension between living a full life and trying to write a stupid blog about it (necessitating taking photos and actually writing down recipes) has never been more apparent. But first thing’s first: it’s Lent. My birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day, which happened to be the day after Ash Wednesday this year. It’s been a confusing time. I still don’t know if I’m supposed to be happy or sad or eating lots of cake or never eating. Lent is a weird time to have birthday parties, but Lent is also just a weird time in general. I used to look forward to it; in college I’d probably have said it was my favorite season. I don’t feel that way anymore.

I think I used to look forward to Lent as an outlet for the more morose qualities of my personality. I understood Lent, I thought, and I could really engage with it; I’m bad, people are bad, God’s good, let’s all get real about all that for a minute. But now I sort of dread Lent and just try to at least try to do my best while getting through it. I’ve learned that being morose is not at all the same thing as being contrite or repentant. I can drum up some self-hate whenever, wherever; easy. I find it much harder, however, to muster what St. John Climacus called the “blessed joy-grief of holy compunction.”

The difference between self-hate and compunction is something I’ve only recently started to recognize. It can be a tricky distinction, especially in regard to ascetic practices (ie: certain Saints refusing to eat anything but the Eucharist can look a lot like anorexia to people). But the thing about self-hate is that it’s still totally under your own control. True compunction involves a surrender of your will because you not only feel bad about things you’ve done (the grief), but you use that as a door to change—which involves accepting God’s graceful forgiveness (the joy) and working to conform your will to his. That change takes a hell of a lot of work, but it’s not something that you get to determine the direction of. Self-hate says, “I suck,” period. Compunction says, “I suck because I’ve gotten off track from something good that I’m supposed to be.” Self-hate can’t see beyond the negative self and thus does nothing and takes you nowhere. Compunction works with a fuller vision of who we are—people made to be in a relationship with God—so that even our sin becomes peripheral to the bigger, better story of our redemption. Thus, felix culpa.

Many people view the demands that the Catholic Church makes of its members as encouraging self-hate. I’ve made as many jokes about Catholic guilt as the next guy, but there is more than one kind of guilt. Guilt can bog you down and do unjust violence to your self-conception, OR guilt can lead you to true compunction and the joy of change. Sure Lent can be misrepresented and misused and generally messed up, but I very emphatically believe that Lenten restrictions lead to the good kind of guilt—partly even because they are so out of our control. So, if Lent’s so great, why don’t I like it anymore? Well, probably because those restrictions are so out of my control. Basically: I’m bad at it.

We’re encouraged to take on personal fasts and commitments during Lent, but Catholics at least are straight up not allowed to eat certain things or eat in certain ways on specific days. We don’t eat meat on the Fridays of Lent, and there are two required fasting days—Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) and Good Friday (the day of Christ’s Crucifixion). On those days, adults between the ages of 18-60 are only supposed to eat one meal and two small snacks (that add up to less than one full meal) with no meat and no anything between meals. If you’re sick or pregnant or whatever there can be exceptions.

These rules sometimes seem too specific and not specific enough at the same time. But, I’m also starting to realize that every moral instruction seems that way to me. I either want to be told exactly what to do, or just left alone—and that fluctuates depending on my mood. But Lent doesn’t depend on my mood at all, and it always requires some level of moral discernment. That’s why I don’t like it. (In a way. Yes, I’m being a lil’ hyperbolic.) Even the personal fasts I’ve taken on this year are goading the hell out of me. I guess you can take that literally. I find myself wanting the things I’ve given up (sweets, for one) all the time; not just because I have a sweet tooth, but simply because I know I’m not allowed to have them. Seriously. Like a child. Like one of my favorite babies, Evelyn, who really, really likes electric sockets, clearly only because she’s not allowed to touch them.

On Ash Wednesday my priest compared Lent to the experience of cleaning up an old apartment before moving out. You have to get rid of stuff, find a place for everything, create order out of hidden nests of chaos (like my desk drawers…geeze). You have to deal with the consequences of your own messy habits if you really want to make a fresh start. So, yeah, Lent’s good. Think about how awesome it is to have a totally organized, clean home. Deeply engaging the season is something I should do and need to do and ultimately want to do…but who looks forward to moving or spring cleaning? Weird type A people, that’s who. Not lazies like me. And that’s one of the graces of the season, I suppose: that we’re all forced to do it. And so I try. And sometimes I have a better attitude than others. Like when I got all zealous and wrote this. Back when I at least pretended to be blog-relevant when writing these kinds of posts.

If you’re interested in a less downer discussion of Lent specifically, I wrote an article for the Lent issue of Christian Reflection (the publication I work for). It’s called Keeping Vigil; it’s about becoming attentive to God’s presence in our world and lives during Lent. I don’t think I even sound lazy in it; very positive.

Anyway, I hope Lent is treating you all not too harshly. There are always Sundays. And there will always be Sundays, thank God. Tune in soon for a post on those halcyon pre-Lenten days when I threw some parties. Then also some Lenten parties. And I promise there will be recipes and little-to-no moralizing.

Singing Hinnies

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Have you ever heard of Burns Night? I am shocked that I only heard about this two weeks ago. Apparently, Scotland, Scottish people, and weird English-major types celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns (Scotland’s favorite poet; he wrote “Auld Lang Syne”) with a well-structured dinner of pageantry, whiskey, Burns poetry, and haggis. As a weird English major-type, this is right up my alley…you know, except the haggis. I can’t believe I hadn’t come across it before. What else am I missing!? The world never ceases to amaze.

I heard of this strange phenomenon by being invited to a loose adaptation—with the Scotch and some of the foods, but less haggis and more dancing. We celebrated a week late and just read one Burns poem; so it was more of a normal party with a nod to quirky tradition. I wanted to bring something Scottish, but the only traditional Scottish foods I’m familiar with are haggis (the garbage of meat stuffed into the garbage bag of meat…no thank you) and bannock (oat bread). Apparently every food in Scotland sounds like a dirty euphemism. Someone made neeps and tatties. They were not as alarming as you’d think. I was going make bannock, but decided to Google around to see if there were any funnier names with simple recipes. That’s how I found out about Singin’ Hinnies.

A Singin’ Hinny is like a griddle-fried biscuit. (‘Singing’ for the sizzle they make when cooking and ‘hinny’ for honey—the term of endearment rather than the food, which isn’t traditionally included.) They’re supposed to be made with lard, but that grossed me out. I looked at several recipes and did what you’re never supposed to do: created my own recipe, without a trial run, and no time to spare before the party. In such desperate times: add more butter. They were delicious. They got compared to fast-food biscuits, so I had to have done something terribly wrong right.

Heather’s Singing Hinnies

Ingredients

  • 1 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ C butter (cold)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ C currants
  • 1/3-1/2 C milk
  • A splash of vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal.
  3. Stir in the honey and currants.
  4. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, until the dough comes together and is tacky.
  5. Roll or pat out on a floured surface to about ¼ inch thickness.
  6. Cut into rounds (I used a pint glass. Classy.).
  7. Heat a heavy skillet with a splash of vegetable oil and fry the hinnies on each side until brown. It will take about 4-5 on each side, over low-med/low heat.
  8. Serve warm.

This recipe makes about 6, flakey, buttery, slightly salty, slightly sweet hinnies. Delicious. To be honest, they would probably be great with a little less butter. They would also be really easy to adapt with different flavors. You could add cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. Or go savory with green onions and pepper. When I made these I thought it was a weird party-theme-food moment that I’d forget, but I’m holding onto this recipe for a last minute breakfast treat or quick dessert (aka: a new Nutella canvas, as if I needed one) that won’t require a trip to the store.

Waffle Night

So, several weeks ago I saw this on The Pinterest (as my mother would call it):

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That’s a stout waffle. A waffle made with beer.

It sent me spiraling into uncontrollable waffle daydreams. It became a problem. It made me think of waffles and it made me think of waffles as I never had before—recognizing their creative potential. Sometime after college I came to the realization that pancakes do not equal Bisquick, and became very enthusiastic about making them with oats, whole wheat flour, spices, yogurt, all sorts of fruit, etc. Somehow this never translated to waffles, which I have continued to see exclusively as icky Bisquick territory.

To be clear, I have had a pretty serious relationship with waffles in the past, but I shut down our on-again-off-again after college. I’ve never really been back. When I was in high school I asked for a Belgian waffle maker for my birthday and I got one. I’ve been told that this is not normal. I proceeded, as I remember it, to eat waffles breakfast, lunch, and dinner for months. (So, probably weeks, when I was allowed.) I’m sure Bisquick and high fructose corn syrup did not give me the nutrition that I needed as a girl. I didn’t care even a little.

My second most distinct waffle memory dates to my senior year in college. We had an ice day that winter and the DUP got to stay home and watch Little Women all day in our pajamas. It was one of those perfect days when no one wants to leave each others’ company and it’s a constant joy that no one has to. We ate so many waffles—waffles made in that same old Belgian waffle maker I lugged down to Texas when I was nineteen.

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High tech; with a cord and a light.

After that, no significant waffle memories. I’ve moved my resentful waffle maker from house to house and it has seen no love. Until now.

After weeks of pining, I confessed to my friend Andrea that I had developed a Waffle Problem. She was a true friend, supporting me in my time of need. No one wants to waffle alone, so we decided to have Waffle Night with a group at her and her husband’s house. It was better even then it sounds.

We listened to Weezer and did a blind vodka taste-test before making greyhounds. Brandon made hollandaise a few minutes too early and all was almost lost before we looked up how to save it and it worked. Everyone was involved with the cooking and getting in each others’ way and generally making a commotion. There is a very special kind of closeness that develops when you cook with people. You can’t be formal or particularly polite when you need another hand now or the hollandaise is ruined, don’t know where the flour is and need to yell over laughter, are dirtying an unreasonably number of other people’s dishes, or accidentally break too many eggs and swear about it.

We made a savory Whole Wheat Bacon Waffle for our first course, topped with bacon (yes, more bacon), a fried egg, and hollandaise sauce.

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So much to smile about.

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With hollandaise. Bacon and whiskey in the background. Let’s do this again right now.

For dessert we made a Stout Spice Waffle topped with blackberries and fresh whipped cream.

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Making waffles, bacon, hollandaise, whipped cream, and drinks with five cooks in a small kitchen at relatively the same time is kind of insane; but insane in a good way, like driving for hours with six people in a four-and-a-half seat car, or the person who added cayenne pepper to hot chocolate for the first time. Everything was remarkably delicious. OBVIOUSLY. I mean, look at those pictures.

If you’d like to make the stout waffle click on that Pinterest photo up there. I added more spice and had no regrets. Also, it was a little too crispy for my taste. Not that I won’t make it again! But I’ll probably make some creative adjustments.

Whole Wheat Bacon Waffles

Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 1 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter
  • 4 strips of bacon

Directions

  1. Heat waffle iron, duh.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Beat the egg with the buttermilk, then mix into the dry ingredients.
  4. Add butter and mix until smooth.
  5. Crumble the bacon and fold into the batter.
  6. Make waffles.
  7. Eat waffles.

This makes about three giant waffles. All of the recipes I looked at made way too many waffles. Small groups are best for Waffle Nights, as it is difficult to serve waffles to a bunch of people at the same time. Since we were making two kinds, we split the waffles in half and everyone got to enjoy both.

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