Philcon actually happened November 18-20th, but I’m only just getting around to my report!
I had quite a good time, despite my lingering cold, which I soothed with hot tea and cough suppressants. I met several new people (without really meaning to!) and had fun chats with them, as well as talking with people I already knew, and even doing some business (I met with my tax preparer, and was invited to speak at an event next June).
Here are the things I learned from this year’s convention:
1. If you meet someone new, and would like to remember them, and they don’t have a business card, write down their name and contact information in your notebook or your program guide or somewhere. If you’re me, you won’t remember it, otherwise.
I gave four people my card. One of them had a bookmark with her name; none of the others had cards or anything. Of the four, how many names did I remember the next day? Two. One because I had a bookmark, the second because I misheard her name at first, which made us both laugh, which made it stick in my memory.
2. There is a point, when you are moderating a panel, in which moderation just isn’t going to happen.
When it’s getting on for 10 pm, and there’s a large enthusiastic crowd, and the moderator is losing her voice, and then two of the panelists start giggling and can’t stop…just let it go, and don’t hate yourself the next day. Everybody appeared to be having fun. That’s the point.
3. Sometimes you’re better off skipping the parties.
Yes, networking, yes, fun, yes, free booze…but if you’re recovering from a cold, and the subsequent lack of sleep? Finish your panels, and go sit quietly in your room, and then get some sleep. You’ll be happier the next day.
Canada to England
Great names of thy great captains gone before
Beat with our blood, who have that blood of thee:
Raleigh and Grenville, Wolfe, and all the free
Fine souls who dared to front a world in war.
Such only may outreach the envious years
Where feebler crowns and fainter stars remove,
Nurtured in one remembrance and one love
Too high for passion and too stern for tears.
O little isle our fathers held for home,
Not, not alone thy standards and thy hosts
Lead where thy sons shall follow, Mother Land:
Quick as the north wind, ardent as the foam,
Behold, behold the invulnerable ghosts
Of all past greatnesses about thee stand.
–Marjorie L. C. Pickthall
Wait for a chilly day so the oven will keep your kitchen warm.
–oil, salt, pepper, minced or pressed garlic
–a raw chicken
–rosemary and/or sage, fresh
Also, a meat thermometer helps a lot.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a small bowl, mix a couple tablespoons grapeseed oil or low-grade olive oil with crushed sea salt, a pinch of cayenne, freshly-ground black pepper, and a clove or two of crushed garlic.
Remove giblets from interior of chicken, rinse chicken, pat dry. If desired or necessary, trim excess fat from chicken.
Fill interior of chicken with chunks of peeled onion, peeled cloves of garlic, and fresh sage leaves (or rosemary. Or a mix of the two.) Burrow your fingers under the skin of the breast and smear the meat with some of the oil/salt/pepper/garlic mixture, then shove more fresh sage leaves under the skin. Rub exterior of chicken all over with remainder of oil/seasoning mixture.
Close up cavity of chicken with small skewers or cooking string. Stick the spike of a meat thermometer into thickest part of chicken’s thigh. Put in baking dish–make sure the size is close, since an oversize dish means more juices will boil away. I usually use an iron Dutch Oven with the top left off, and sit the chicken on a little round meat rack. A spiral made of rolled-up aluminium foil also works.
Bake the chiken at 325 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes per pound of meat, but check on it about an hour from your estimated done time. The thermometer in the thigh should read 170 degrees F when it’s done.
Remove chicken from oven. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes before slicing. The oil mix gives a very crispy, flavorful skin.
Poor chicken. Lucky you.
I’m traveling today, on my way to celebrate Thanksgiving – here’s a dessert recipe, from my aunt!
Pumpkin Swirl Bread
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup margarine, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup water
optional: 1 cup pecans
1. Combine cream cheese, sugar, and egg, mixing until well blended. Set aside.
2. Combine dry ingredients. Combine pumpkin, margarine, egg, and water, mixing just until moistened. Add dry ingredients. Reserve 2 cups pumpkin batter.
3. Pour remaining batter into greased and floured 9″X5″ loaf pan. Pour cream cheese mixture over pumpkin batter. Top with reserved pumpkin batter.
4. Cut through batters with knife several times for swirl effect. Bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pan.
In honor of American Thanksgiving, I give to you a week of receipes.
Basic Chicken Stock
One really needs a stock pot to make stock. If you use smaller quantities of everything, you can get away with a large saucepan. However, stock takes so long that the time spent isn’t usually worth it, unless you’re making a large amount. Or you have nothing to do but cook.
–1 stripped chicken carcass (i.e., you’ve removed the skin and as much meat and fat as you can). This can be the fate of chickens one has baked or roasted or even fried. You can use meat to make stock, but why not make it into chicken salad instead?
–A couple of large carrots or 3-4 small ones, cut into 2-3 pieces and with the stems cut off. Don’t peel them.
–At least one onion, more if you like onions. You can leave the papery skin on, but cut them into quarters so it’s easier for the juice to express. Leaving the skin on adds more color to the stock, as well.
–A head or two of garlic, sliced in half horizontally to expose the inner parts and let the juice express more easily. You don’t have to peel the garlic, though I usually hack off any papery bits that look dirty.
–A couple stalks of celery if you like celery (I don’t). The tops can stay on. Hack each stem into 2-3 pieces.
–Any other root vegetables you want to use, like turnips or parsnips or even potatoes. I don’t know if they make a lot of difference, but if you’re cleaning out that drawer, go ahead!
–Seasonings, needed later in the process:
-Dried oregano, rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, tarragon
-I’ve also used fresh sage and/or rosemary, left over from making baked chicken.
The herbs can be wrapped in muslin and tied, or put into a tea ball, or just thrown in.
Put the chicken carcass into cold water that fills the pot about 3/4 of the way–room temperature is okay, I just mean don’t heat the water first.
Using low heat, bring water to simmering point (just before it boils). Keep it simmering for about 4 hours, less if you can’t manage to hang around that long.
Stock-making is good for long afternoons at home while you’re doing other things; the purpose of simmering so long is so the gelatin will be extracted from the bones and mingle with the water, which is why stock has that, well, gelatinous quality. Every half-hour or hour or so, use a skimmer or a spoon to skim off the fat accumulating on the surface of the water, and discard the fat. You can also use a paper towel to skim, but that’s sort of asking to burn your fingers (wonder how I know that?). Do not stir the stock.
After about four hours, add the vegetables and seasonings. Do not stir, just slide it all in. Simmer for another hour, or even two if you want. Skim off fat as you go.
When the stock is done (or you run out of time), strain it. My method is to put a colander into a big bowl and (carefully) pour the hot stock in. Then I dump out the colander–the solid material has no useful food value remaining. I put the bowl on the counter to cool off.
The stock has to cool off before you can put it into the refrigerator, or you risk bacteria proliferating like the heroines of historical romance series. Also, hot liquids in a lidded container make the air inside expand and can pop off the lid.
If there’s a lot of fat lingering on top at this point, which usually there isn’t, skim it off now and then go do something else, because the stock takes a while to cool.
Once the stock is cooled, pour it into several jars. A funnel is of inestimable help here. Smaller jars are a good choice, because you can use the stock up one jar at a time, leaving the rest frozen.
Put the jars into the refrigerator overnight; what little fat remains in the stock will rise to the top and harden. Leave that fat on until you use the stock, because it provides a seal and helps the stock to last longer. You can just scoop it off when you’re ready to make soup or whatever else needs a stock base. Or leave the fat on and let it melt, if you want more fat in your soup.
If you freeze the jars, the stock will last about six months. I checked this online: refrigerated, unfrozen chicken stock is supposed to last two days.
Use your stock instead of water when you make soup. You won’t look back.
Here lies a clerk who half his life had spent
Toiling at ledgers in a city grey,
Thinking that so his days would drift away
With no lance broken in life’s tournament:
Yet ever ’twixt the books and his bright eyes
The gleaming eagles of the legions came,
And horsemen, charging under phantom skies,
Went thundering past beneath the oriflamme.
And now those waiting dreams are satisfied;
From twilight to the halls of dawn he went;
His lance is broken; but he lies content
With that high hour, in which he lived and died.
And falling thus he wants no recompense,
Who found his battle in the last resort;
Nor needs he any hearse to bear him hence,
Who goes to join the men of Agincourt.