November 13, 2012

Spiders are the 47%
( + Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote)

There's a spider on my laptop.  Like, right now.  As I'm typing.

I have protocols in place for dealing with this sort of thing.  Well...I have wadded-up Kleenex.  Same diff.  But this guy isn't skittering around.  He's just sitting there being leggy.  And violence in the face of such passivity seems sort of rude.  

But that doesn't mean I'm not concerned about his agenda.  In fact, given his behavior over the last couple of weeks, I think this might be the spider version of being on strike.  So far he hasn't made any demands, but I feel like this prolonged lurking must be a prelude to some kind of extortion.  If I start offering up recipes for cardamom-fly smoothies, please come save me.

Mr. Lurky here isn't our only houseguest.  Since the fall weather showed up, there's been a slow but noticeable shift in the ratio of Tiny Creatures Living In Our House to Tiny Creatures Living Outside Our House.  Osmosis might be involved.  Or something about phytoplankton?  I'm not sure.  Science isn't really my strong point.  Either way, the phenomenon isn't limited to spiders.  In fact, it started with herbs.  Here's a simple chronology:

1.   Maintenance comes to powerwash our balcony.
2.   Post-powerwashing, with all rust deposits washed away, it becomes apparent that the only 
       thing previously connecting the balcony to the building was two inches of iron oxide and a 
       prayer.  Comforting.
3.   I spend a hyperventilatey afternoon calculating the number of times I've stood on said 
       balcony in the last year, the exact distance to the ground, and the estimated recovery time 
       for compound leg fractures.  (Answers: too many, too far, too long.)
4.   Maintenance barricades the doorwall until such a time (2016?) as they get around to replacing 
       the balcony.  Four pots of herbs in varying states of deadness are moved into the living room 
       to keep them from falling to their (blessedly final) doom.
5.   An important scientific discovery is made: potted herbs harbor colonies of gnatty bugs that 
       are just nearly-invisibly-tiny enough to make you look like a crazy person as you flail while 
       they endlessly circle your head.
6.   I conduct intensive internet research (i.e. Google) regarding the possibility of a magnetic
       bond between gnats and human faces.  Results inconclusive.

7.    A host of spiders, hot on the trail of the all-you-can-eat gnat buffet, appear one day and set
        up camp in my living room.

8.   In a calculated maneuver, I come to a detente with the spiders.  Their presence, as long as
       it is unobtrusive, is accepted on the condition that they eat the gnats.  And the resulting
       webs mean I don't have to decorate for Halloween.  Score.
9.   The sudden appearance of beetles, earwigs, too-many-legged critters, and one very confused
       praying mantis results in the suspicion that my apartment is the Florida of bugs.  Also the
       suspicion that spiders were not as altruistic as originally thought, and are just trying to
       avoid the fall cold.
10. Suspect, given the ever-growing number of insects, that spiders are not fulfilling the
        terms of the treaty.  They might even be vegetarians.
11. Spend ten minutes being deeply and irrationally offended about having been taken advantage
        of by spiders.
12. Snap back into reality.  Albeit grudgingly.  Look: it's a great big apartment, and the cathedral
        ceilings are high enough that I can't see the webs from down here anyway.  Maybe they'll be
        hungrier next week.  And even if not, you know what?  With Mr. Lurky sitting here, it's been
        a whole 10 minutes since a gnat flew up my nose.  I think that's a record.

Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote
very slightly adapted from Gourmet Magazine

I know this might sound strange, but don't let that divert you.  It's irrationally delicious.  The apples, onion and wine come together in a not-too-sweet sauce that has to be tasted to be believed.  And then you add some cream to it. know... cream.  Der.

This is amazingly easy to throw together after work, especially if you make up the compote ahead of time.  And more importantly, it's a perfect, warming and comforting meal for those evenings when the dark comes earlier and everyone, even the spiders, is looking for a little amnesty from the fall chill.

Unsalted Butter  [ 2 tablespoons]
Vegetable Oil  [ 1 tablespoon ]
Onion  [ 1 medium, sliced]
Golden Delicious Apples  [ 2, peeled, cored and cut into 8 pieces ]
Bay Leaf  [ 1 if Turkish; 1/2 if California ]
Salt  [ 1/2 teaspoon ]
Black Pepper  [ 1/4 teaspoon ]
Bratwurst  [ 8, cooked, split lengthwise ]
Dry White Wine  [ 1 cup ]
Heavy Cream  [ 2/3 cup ]
Cider Vinegar  [ 1 tablespoon ]
Brown Sugar  [ packed, 1 tablespoon ]

1.   Heat broiler.
2.   In a 12-inch pan over Medium-High heat, heat Butter and Oil.
3.   When mixture stops foaming, add Onion, Apples, Bay Leaf, Salt and Pepper.
4.   Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
5.   Add Wine, cover, and simmer until Apples are tender [about 6-8 minutes].
6.   Uncover pan and bring mixture to a brisk simmer.
7.   Simmer until mixture reduces by about 1/3 [about 2 minutes].
8.   Meanwhile, broil Bratwurst, cut sides up, until surface is browned [about 6 minutes].
7.   Once Apple Mixture is reduced, stir in Cream, Vinegar, and Brown Sugar.
8.   Simmer until thickened slightly (about 2 minutes).
9.   Remove Bay Leaf from Apple Mixture and serve spooned over broiled Bratwurst.


  1. I protect you from the spider.

  2. But what about the beetles? I'm not sure there's any protection from the beetles. :)

  3. I'd love to say that I just made your bratwurst and that it was life-altering, but I'm a vegetarian. I've just been rummaging around your site and finally felt compelled to profess my love. Your writing makes me happy. For the life of me, I can't remember how I landed on this site...I've decided to attribute it to the stars. Being a bit of an introvert myself, I'll probably refrain from commenting too much, but I'll likely be lurking (certainly less obtrusively than your spider friend, though). Thanks for keeping me up an extra hour and a half or so. I'll be slightly less grateful when my boys wake me up in five hours. p.s. The spiders and I share a truce as well.