August 9, 2012

Three Things We’re Going to Fix Today
[Participation Mandatory]

(+ Pickled Ninja Cherries)

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at Chez Bear, with a pile of disappointments of the “As it turns out, that dream of yours will definitely not be coming true” variety.  There was some numb household puttering, then some mopey under-covers hibernation, and finally some dull-eyed marathon TV-staring.  Now we’re regrouping.

The hardest bit was dealing with the fact that some of these disasters were entirely our fault.  We made mistakes, and they cost us dearly.  And for a perfectionist like myself, the idea that some mistakes can never be remedied, that sometimes doors are closed forever and no amount of determination and hard work can open them again, is just shy of maddening.

So I’m dealing with my frustration in what I hope is a positive way, by fixing the things that can be fixed.  Squeaky hinges have been oiled.  Lost buttons have been replaced.  And now I’m moving on to bigger challenges.  That’s where you come in.  I’ve found, to my great astonishment, that there are people who read this blog.  People who aren’t related to me.  People from all around the world.  Setting aside my shock for a moment, imagine what we could accomplish with our combined resources.   Well, you don’t technically have to imagine.  If you’ll look at the title again, you’ll see that it’s mandatory. Congratulations.  You’re my minion now.  But don’t worry.  I’ve only chosen three targets, and I took care of the third already.  The other two should be a snap.

1.   Chapstick Tracking Devices

In my lifetime, I have spent approximately eight million dollars on Chapstick.  You buy one, you use it approximately four times, just long enough to wear down that sharp edge around the top, and BAM, it’s gone.  At this moment, I have no less than six Chapstick stashes in the house: favorite purse, fancy purse, bookbag, bathroom, random bag of toiletries in the linen closet, and bedside table.  You know how many tubes I actually found when I went to look right now?  One.  One.  

 I don’t know where they go.  I don’t know if there’s some secret underground Chapstick rave scene.  Maybe they feel the call to mate and find themselves tumbling mindlessly, cap over end, to join the others at the spawning grounds.  I don’t know.  But if we could just attach some sort of beep-ey tracking device to each tube, like you can for your keys or your remote, I would have eight million extra dollars and a lot less worry about what happens when the transmission finally goes on the truck.  I’m sure there are some scientists among you.  Get started on this, would you?

2.  Fixing the English Language

Let’s make a word that means “No I’m not okay.  Yes, I’ll recover eventually.  Please drop the subject until I bring it up on my own.”  This word will benefit both the concerned bystander and the sad person.  My suggestion?  “Kexit.”  It sounds equally good when sobbed, hissed, or bitterly spat.  Plus, it has an “x,” so the kids will think it’s awesome.  It’ll go viral.  We’re all gonna be famous.  Look how well it works:

Without Kexit:
A.      Person A is sad.
B.      Person B notes sadness.
C.      Person B recognizes social imperative to acknowledge the sadness of others.  Since laughing and pointing is inappropriate in this situation, he instead asks if Person A is okay.  Person A is not okay.  No one who has ever been asked if they are okay has been okay.  That’s why you ask.   The question, therefore, is inane.  Know what no upset person has ever been in the mood for?  Inanity.
D.     Person A, though recognizing the inanity, knows the social imperative to appreciate it insofar as it implies concern about his own well-being.  He answers “Yes, I’m fine.”  Or he tells the truth.  Either way, the conversation progresses in an identical fashion:
E.      Person B asks what’s wrong.  Odds are that Person B doesn’t actually care about the details, but he understands how this is supposed to play out.
F.      Person A tells him the story.  Odds are that he may not actually want to recount details of his personal tragedy to a stranger/coworker/copier repairman, but it seems rude to refuse to answer him.
G.     Person A cries a lot and Person B makes soothing noises and thinks about how he’d rather gnaw his own leg off than be doing this.

With Kexit:
A.      Person A is sad.
B.      Person B Notes Sadness
C.      Person B: “Are you okay?” [ Note that I don’t expect to be able to root out this particular piece of verbal silliness.  You pick your battles.]
D.      Person A: “Kexit.”
E.       Person B: “Okay.”  [Shoulder pat.  Shoulder pat.]  “Let me know if you need anything.”

DONE.  Do you see how that works?  Person B is saved three hours of hearing about Kevin and his once-in-a-lifetime summer internship as Lady Gaga’s nipple-glitter technician that’s going to take him away for Three. Whole. Months.  And Person A is saved from having to relive, out of politeness, every detail of the event that has caused them so much distress.  Look how much better the world is.  Go us.

3.   Proper Appreciation of Pickled Cherries 

No one appreciates pickled cherries as much as they should.  This is a simple fact.  The skeptical look that is probably on your face right now is as much proof as you should need of this.  I grew up in a place where we don’t pickle things willy-nilly.  You know what we pickle?  Pickles.  Anything else?  A little out of our comfort zone.  Watermelon rind?  That’s basically composting material, is it not?  Eggs?  It doesn’t bear speaking of.

But you know what?  As with so many things, we were wrong.  Some things are sublime when pickled, something utterly new and unexpected and, oh, did I mention, easy.  That bit’s important.  No canning required here.  No hot water baths.  Just a bit of boiling and simmering, and you come off looking all fancy and brilliant.  And some days, you need that boost.  Give this a shot.  Write a comment and tell me what you thought.   I’ll be looking for my Chapstick.

Pickled Ninja Cherries

Bon Appetit doesn't call these "Ninja Cherries," of course.  They're too classy for that.  But I do, and you probably should too.  Not because you're not classy, but because it will remind you to be ready for the surprise.  The trick is to think of them as pickles, not as cherries.  If you think “cherry,” your response will be “What the heck happened to this cherry???”  But if you think “pickle,”  your response will be “Why have pickles never been this awesome before???”  See the difference?  It’s important.  These cherries are quick-brined in a solution of vinegar and spices, heavy on the coriander and with just enough of a spicy bite.  Aside from the pitting, the recipe comes together in about 10 minutes.  Serve with some crackers and cheese and enjoy your new-found fame and adoration.

White Vinegar  [ ¾ cup ]
Sugar  [ ¼ cup ]
Whole Black Peppercorns  [ 2 teaspoons ]
Whole Coriander Seeds  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes  [ ½ teaspoon ]
Fresh Cherries  [ 1 pound, stemmed and pitted ]
Fresh Rosemary  [ 1 large sprig ]

1.   In a medium pot, mix Vinegar, Sugar, Peppercorns, Coriander Seeds, and Pepper Flakes, along with ¾ cup Water. 

2.   Bring to a boil.  Stir occasionally to make sure that Sugar dissolves.

3.   Lower heat to Medium and simmer for 5 minutes.

4.   Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl to remove spices.

5.   Return liquid to pot and add Cherries and Rosemary.

6.   Simmer mixture over Low heat until cherries are tender (this will take 3-5 minutes).

7.   With a slotted spoon, place Cherries and Rosemary in a 1-quart mason jar or other container.  Top with enough pickling liquid to cover.  Cover and chill.

Makes 2 ½ - 3 cups.  Keeps in refrigerator, covered by liquid, for up to a month.

[Note:  I couldn't for the life of me find whole coriander, so I substituted a teaspoon of ground coriander.  Then, when pouring the cherries and brine into the jars, I carefully left the last tablespoon or two of brine in the pot, where the sodden coriander was lurking.  No harm, no foul.]


  1. Whole coriander easily found in any Indian spice suppliers - along with truckloads of interesting other spices! I am in a rural area and mainly buy spices via internet. Always useful as a pickling spice and as many other things! I suspect I have one of the world's best spice etc collections!
    I enjoy your humour and have a short list of your recipes to try - *loves new things and new old things* Best of all, you gave me a good adapted pasty recipe!

  2. Hi, Deborah! Thankfully, my local grocery store has taken to carrying whole coriander. I'm with you on buying spices online, though - so convenient!