Today I attended a mandatory parenting class. Normally I'm in favor of less government but I learned a lot from the class so in this case I'm glad the State of Wisconsin realizes how valuable my children are. At first my instructor went through the legal terminology. When we came back from our break we started going through what our children might be thinking, feeling and some of the things we might expect to see in terms of behavior from them as they go through this time of transition. One of the things I found interesting was how children will try to protect their parents from pain. I've experienced this a couple of times with my own children. The other day I took the girls shopping for some back to school supplies. The school my children attend requires students to leave a pair of athletic shoes at school which I feel is an unecessary expense because for the most part my children are already wearing shoes they can wear to gym class.

Later that afternoon we were at the optometrist getting my oldest daughter's eyes examined. While we was waiting for her my youngest daughter told me she no longer wanted the clogs I had bought for her. Annoyed with her I asked why she didn't want them as a couple hours ago she had lobbied for them. I told her I would be happy to take her clogs back, reluctantly she handed them back to me explaining that I would be able to save some money if I took her shoes back. Not knowing what else to say I gave Jane a hug, I thanked her for thinking of me even as I explained that I had planned on buying her shoes and knowing that she had a practical pair of well made shoes made me happier than having the money would. I'm still going to return her shoes as I think she needs a larger size but it's conversations like that which make me question the way I'm discussing money in front of my kids.

Deciding what to share with my children hasn't been easy. I want to be able to discuss what's happening which is difficult given the emotionally charged nature of a legal separation. I want them to be secure and happy. I need to have discussions about money and finance with them as I see a lot of people who were never taught how to handle money. All of this and more was going through my head as I drove home from my parenting class. When I got home I placed some calls to physicians that my father sees. He recently lost his job, part of it is the economy but the larger problem is he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. My siblings and I don't always get along. We're a very diverse group of people and we are all stubborn, strong willed and opinionated. Today my sister Susan and I put through a conference call to my dad. Currently he's living in a two bedroom apartment and we had the thankless job of informing him that he was going to have to move.

Mental health issues run through both sides of my family. Years ago my paternal grandmother was treated for depression after a failed suicide attempt. I don't worry about my father killing himself but I do know that he is very depressed and if you could see the junk he has stashed in his apartment you would have him signing power of attorney forms just like we are. A recent E2 poll was interested in how many books people have. It's funny how little things like a harmless poll can really set me off. I've never counted my father's books but in his office are seven floor to ceiling bookcases that are filled beyond capacity. He gives books to me and my children whenever he sees us, my father has always been thrifty but even used books add up especially when you are buying twenty or thirty of them each time you visit the store. I know my dad is trying to share something he loves with us. When my mother remarried she got rid of most of her books. Now she has about three shelves of books. I think it's sad that she doesn't read anymore because it used to be something she really enjoyed.

Lately I've been on an emotional roller coaster. My father was denied unemployment, he might not qualify for disability, from what I've read at least two limbs must be affected for him to qualify. Currently my dad's right hand shakes uncontrollably but so far his left remains fairly steady. Knowing that my father lives in a book filled world of his own has given me some issues to deal with. I can't stand clutter laying around. Even realizing that I don't have as much lying around as I think I do is hard for me to admit. Being in control is very important to me. Listening to the social worker who led the parenting class gave me some insights about the way I was raised. Part of me lives in daily terror of having a house filled with as many possessions as my parents have. Later on my sister was unexpectedly  reassuring, she told me that my house wasn't as disorganized as I think it is. That helped me because the minute I walk into a place I start thinking of it in terms of what I would get rid of mainly because I feel as if the room is closing in around me whenever I spot piles of rogue clutter.

My living room has a nine foot long couch, one chair, a coffee table, two bookcases and a lamp for my two paintings yet irrationally I focus in on whatever people have strewn about the floor. When I was in college my parents stuffed a queen sized bed, mirrored dresser, chest of drawers, desk, nightstand and bookcase into my bedroom. Claustrophobia was my constant companion. I could barely walk in my room and consequently spent almost no time in there. On top of my dining room table is my green bamboo fruit bowl. Above the table is a lamp, I have a painting my neighbor gave to me up on the wall but the table and chairs are the only pieces of furniture in the room. Typically I sit as close to the window as I can and I'm not a real outdoors person but I can never get enough sunshine. Anyways, I feel better having gotten some of this off of my chest. Today is my husband's birthday. We had a good talk after I came home from the parenting class and I still want a legal separation for financial reasons but at least we were able to sit down and discuss how we could put the interests of our children first which is the way I think things should be.

I can't believe school is going to start so soon. I think I've set a record for being pessimistic; this time school hasn't even started yet and I know the year is going to suck. I'm not sure if I'm thinking ahead or falling behind but either way past experiences back me up on my views.

Most of the kids are assholes or dumbasses. Often both. Call me biased and I probably am, but I usually don't like people in general. I don't know why. Spending an entire day with people without ample time alone literally gives me a headache; And that's with people I like. 7 hours with people I don't like (save a few I do like who rarely have my classes) in some of the most boring classes possible (there's usually at least one where we pretty much sit and do nothing) and I have no idea how anyone could possibly enjoy it. The common idea that high school is the best part of your life is either horribly wrong or horribly depressing.

or Emulsional Instability

Last month Shaogo posted a recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Aioli, and it caught my fancy. Some years ago I managed to make a little mayonnaise from scratch a couple of times and had actually wanted, in the back of my mind, to find a reason to try it again. It's just me and my spare-tire these days, so I don't do much exotic cooking and I avoid the richer frills even more (fairly easily). But I've roasted a pepper or two before and the rest of it sounded good, so I gave it a whirl. (uh huh huh huh)

I used the Black & Decker food processor for the first batch, roasting the red pepper on the gas stove, mellowing the 8-10 garlic cloves over a low flame, etc., following Shaogo's clear instructions to the best of my ability. I ended up with a runny orangish liquid that tasted pretty good but wasn't the intended result. I chilled the concoction while I searched on the web for ways to rescue a broken sauce, for that is what I had. I opted for starting with another egg yolk and some lemon juice in the powerful blender on hand and SLOWLY adding the broken sauce. Shaogo later /msg'd with the same advice. The sauce emulsified and the blender went from a shrill whine to a resonant whirr as the mayonnaise-like mixture flowed in the blender in an altogether stately fashion.

I felt redeemed, plus, it tasted fantastic. I crossed out 'food processor' in my printout of the recipe, leaving 'or blender'. I diligently tasted and retasted over many hours as the flavors developed. For the next few days I had all kinds of ideas for what to try it with. They were all good.

A few days after the inaugural batch was gone I decided to make it again. When the mood struck I didn't want to go to the store for a pepper and was thinking that I wanted to give it a little more kick anyway. I have these cubes of Chipotle Pepper seasoning that I buy at the Carniceria down the street. They're basically like bullion cubes except they count as a couple of Chipotle chiles instead of a cup of beef broth or whatever. Very convenient, especially for altering the flavor of a standard recipe. I decided to make Chipotle Aioli.

I did all as before, using my plastic egg separator to separate 3 medium eggs (instead of the 2 large in the recipe). The medium eggs had enough body that I used a fork to tease the whites down into the little bowl to 'reserve for other uses'. I actually have a few of those 2-3 oz. glass bowls you see on cooking shows, for holding portioned ingredients prior to assembly, and I have to say using them makes a big difference. Also, three egg whites plus one whole egg makes a damn fine omelet, if you put enough cheese, avocado, or other fatty stuff inside. When I mashed the slightly cooked garlic cloves into the few tablespoons of oil they'd cooked in, I added two Chipotle cubes and mashed further.

I started out with the blender this time and the process was very similar to the first time - no emulsion from the start, cooling the broken sauce (for a couple of hours, in the blender container, in the fridge, so less washing) and a couple of egg yolks and acid to rescue it later. Again that audible change that was so satisfying when it emulsified, early on, and the patient addition of the broken sauce in a thin stream. The blender is somewhat heavy-duty, but I'm not sure it is really meant for the duty cycle of adding 1.5 cups of olive oil in a thin stream. Whatever.

This Chipotle Ailoi was even more amazing! Not 'hot' by any stretch, but piquant to just the right degree. Again, I sampled diligently and brainstormed, with restraint. I'll admit to having it with a beef frank rolled in a flour tortilla and a couple of jalapeno slices.

But I was troubled by how solitary this pleasure was. A little. I considered giving some to someone who'd appreciate it. But I didn't have enough.

Then came the news early this week that a hang gliding / paragliding friend's wife had caught a 100 lb. Mako Shark in the ocean off of Oceanside (she's done that before, fishing with her Dad). Earlier this year some pilots started a 'Wednesday Glass-Off' flying gathering, where pilots meet in the LZ late Wednesday afternoon and carpool up the mountain to fly in the very smooth late-day air and then have an informal pot-luck with snacks and beverages as the sun goes down. This was instigated by a pilot couple who live up the mountain and happened to both be working (he's a contractor) in the valley for a while, so they both had to go up the mountain at the end of the day anyway. This means a bunch of trucks full of pilots and gliders can go up the mountain and the owners are assured of a ride back up to get their vehicles after all is said and done. It has turned into quite a thing, what with flexible schedules and reduced work demands in this economy. Plus, most hang glider and paraglider pilots are over 40 these days, so we know the value of stopping and smelling the roses. I still like to fly in the earlier air, which is rougher and more interesting, but I've hung around or gone back out to the LZ (I live a few miles away) a number of times for the banter and a nibble. I haven't eaten or drank much because I haven't brought out anything.

I decided that Chipotle Aioli would be great as a vegetable dip, might go well with shark, and enough of the wives were semi-foodie enough to appreciate it, so I'd make some to take out there, this time. I know 'the wives' sounds sexist but the truth is that there are few female hang glider pilots. Very few. I used to be married to one, but we won't go there. There's a very slightly higher percentage of female paraglider pilots, but again, we're talking 3 out of 20 instead of 1 out of 30. Not to say my male cohorts can't appreciate a good sauce; they're beer guzzlers but they can tell a fricasee from a flambe. But still. How the hell do I get out of this...

So Wednesday came and I decided I'd do this for sure. I flew in the middle of the day because my Dad wanted to come to town to have lunch and volunteered to drive for me and take some pictures. It's been at least 15 years since he's seen me fly, so it was cool. There was, unusually, almost no lift at 1 PM on an August day, so I landed before he got back down the mountain. Three times in 24 years he's been out and he hasn't seen me land yet. Oh well. We had lunch at the Thai Place and parted at 2:30. I left my glider on my truck, planning to make the Chipotle Aioli, throw it in the ice chest, take a big bowl from home and stop at the supermarket for celery sticks etc., then fly with the crowd before unveiling the sauce from heaven. Presentation would be the sauce in a bowl in an ice-bath in the steel bowl (raw egg yolks and SoCal summer heat, don'cha'know) with dipping veggies around it, plus the suggestion to take some to try with the shark. I killed some time; meet-up at the LZ is typically 4:30, landing between 6 and 7, then food and socializing. So I read and stuff until 3:15 or so.

One modification this time was that I would cook the garlic well beforehand and chill it, to lessen the chance it would break the sauce when added. I started that cooking, separated eggs, poured out 1.5 cups of olive oil, measured mustard, etc. I fired up the blender with egg yolks, mustard and vinegar in it and started adding oil in the thinnest, most interminable stream I could manage. Really, drop drop drop stream drop drop, and so on. It was still a loose fluid down in there, and peering down in I kept getting droplets of vinegar and egg yolk in my eye. Slowly slowly slowly. Finally, with about 2/3 cup of oil in, that heavenly tonal shift rang out and the liquid became this smooth emulsion with a hole in the middle that you could just perceive to be flowing from outside-in. I felt a profound satisfaction that you just don't get in simple assemble-stir-time cooking.

I got to having about half the olive oil in, which is time to add the 4 tbsp. oil with the cooked garlic and mashed Chipotle. I kind of dumped it in and the sauce promptly shattered, rough garlic bits flying in and out of view, mocking the earlier smoothness. I think I heard angels weeping.

I threw in my last egg yolk. No joy. I decided to chill the blender container in ice water and run to the store for more eggs. It was about 4:15. I could have just abandoned the whole idea and gone flying, since I'd told no one of my plans. But I wasn't going to let this sauce beat me. I opted to emulsify instead of fly.

At the carniceria I bought a dozen large eggs (instead of the mediums I usually buy) because, dammit, needs more yolk! When I got home I thought I'd start with that one egg yolk and some lemon juice, drizzle some olive oil in, and into that emulsion add the chilled broken sauce. The broken sauce hadn't actually chilled much, but the very thick blender glass had, so I poured the contents into a thin-walled container and dropped IT into the ice water and washed the blender container. The fresh-start sauce didn't emulsify. I broke the largest remaining egg and opened it onto the egg separator. The whole thing fell through like water. Same with the second largest egg. I had a brief salmonella fright, then decided pilots are tougher than that. The third-choice egg I cracked and opened carefully, opting for the in-the-shell yolk separation technique. No dice. A sharp edge of the shell pierced the yolk and all was lost. I must say that at this point there was no reserving of egg white for other uses; straight down the drain. The fourth egg cracked cleanly and the white poured off. I fired up the blender and poised the egg-half over the large opening in the lid, peeking in to assess the situation. The egg slipped from my fingers and fell into the gaping maw, shell and all. I uttered an oath, then powered down the blender.

This was disaster. Another 2/3 cup of virgin olive oil needlessly defiled. I poured it all out and cleaned the blender for the second time in 35 minutes.

I managed to separate 2 eggs, more or less, added lemon juice, and started the blender again. The metal base was rather warm to the touch. I added a little oil, dripping it from a spoon instead of the big measuring cup. Droplets. When the depth got above the blades it made that nice deep sonic shift and I held my breath (and blinked due to splatters). A tad more oil and all held together. I grabbed the chilled Mason Jar and dared a thin stream. Bliss! That little pool of oil sat on the surface and got sucked down to the blades and all was uniform again. Over and over. Time stood still.

Then the surface no longer seemed to be moving, though the blender was screaming. The oil pool just sat there on top. I dabbed the rubber spatula down through the blender lid and it disrupted the surface just enough that things flowed again. Here was a new cycle that went on for another 2/3 cup oil, at which time I decided it was all getting too thick, the blender was getting hot enough to blow out, or cook the yolks, or something. It was almost 5 PM.

The Chipotle Aioli tased great, but I had to scoop it out with the rubber spatula - it most definitely would not pour. We're talking, what, six egg yolks? Seven? Can you say rich? Can you say cardio-pulmonary thrombosis? Never mind.

At the first supermarket they no longer had bags of pre-cut celery, carrots, etc. They used to have bags that were about two-handfuls, but now they had only little half-handful portions for several dollars a pop. The second supermarket had 'veggie trays' for ten bucks that were celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli, plus a tub of Ranch Dressing. That would have to do.

So I got to the landing zone when pilots were about to start landing, the BBQ was being set up, and generally timing was good and atmosphere was gelling. I told Kathy, the shark-catcher, what I'd brought and etc. and she was very pleased. I shot the shit with the landing pilots, emphasizing that I'd flown earlier, and as the buffet was set up got in there and arranged the veggies over the ice and gave out some samples. The shark was awesome, there were salads and even a little sushi, plus one guy brought his wife and kids and a pot of Chile Verde that was a real treat. I had a number of people sincerely compliment the Chipotle Aioli and one (married) girl requested a vat of it to bathe in.

A hard-won success. I've never worked so hard over food, even in that year working at the steakhouse when I was 17.

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