in search of clear ice, experiment


We tried different things already taking icicle formation for example.

In the First grade in Pennsylvania the most outrageous icicles formed on eaves on the entire side of the house. They were huge knobby, sometimes all bent the same way by wind but mostly perfectly straight and pointed like dangerous weapons and surprisingly clear.

We thought the clearness had to do with the way the water is deposited built up in layers, the same way commercial ice cube makers work.  

A few days ago the weather channel reported on a lake with the clearest ice on Earth. It really is weird walking on top of it. The rocks show below through glass as if the person is walking on air. The solution to the conundrum was slow freezing just below freezing temperature that allows time for impurities to sink and for air bubbles to rise.

It didn't occur to us the icicles are formed at higher (than freezer) temperature too, just below freezing or else they could not drip at all. They need to be liquid water to form, but just so, just at that precise point of freezing before dripping off, so, cold nearly freezing sluggish water. It's another of those phenomenon that occur right at a borderline, this border being the precise line where water freezes.

That's the theory.




At 12 hours the ice has not completed freezing. The tray is bundled again and returned. 

12 hours later, 24 hours total, the ice is frozen. And partially clear.


Status: Fail. They each have a patch of opacity. This is the closest I've come. The bundles might be wrapped insufficiently on the sides. 

I'll pick up a tiny styrofoam ice box, one designed for a six pack and put that inside the freezer and see if that slows down the process on all sides sufficiently. 

For now, new bundles are prepared with filtered water. It's a ten-stage filter. 

Why do I want clear ice?

I don't know. It's a bizarre challenge.




chicken and dumplings, Pennsylvania Dutch style



Found this. I don't know why I'd bother making noodles with whole wheat flour in it. They're always too fragile. I know better.

And the whole time I thinking, wow, this is really good. I wonder why these things don't occur to me now. Just get a chicken and do this. Even Tony's right down the street, how simple, I could bring one home, I can't go wrong. They have the best chicken of all. It's always good. Mum would place the whole chicken in boiling water and let it go until it falls away from the bone then vegetables and fat broad egg noodles go in, their conceptualization of dumplings.

Why she didn't roast the chicken to concentrate instead of dilute flavor I don't know, and why she didn't then roast the bones for double Maillard insistence I do not know, except perhaps that she just didn't know.



And they had the best chickens back then too. It wasn't the gargantuan battery chicken operations of today, rather, it was more personally knowing the farmers or having live chickens yourself. Those kinds of chicken running around all over the place taste much more gamey, more like pheasant, where modern chicken are blank slates.

The chicken down the street at Tony's are the same as the chickens up the other street a few more blocks at Whole Foods, still large production, more carefully cared for and that translates to tastier chicken and much better, significantly and noticeably better broth. More like the old days. The very old days. A dish like this, when roasted, is where those whole chickens shine.

One thinks of adding wine for depth, sophistication and warmth.  With a hearty chicken like that, even red wine, and boom, now we're in coq au vin territory, the same idea using chicken as beef bourguignon.

breakfast burrito, chicken avocado,


The lad behind the counter seems a Central American version of a clean-cut well groomed and exceedingly well mannered all-American teen. His mother, I take it, a gracious woman. Their restaurant simple and spotlessly clean their work area visible with people at work preparing orders behind the counter in a space built for pizza at least twice as large as needed at full capacity presently and with large metal work tables mostly unused surface. 

So far the customers I encountered behave like they're caught doing something. Not doing anything actually, their vibes are off kilter. Like I walked into their den but that is their own insecurity ringing through. One woman, yesterday I'd like to have complemented her on her shoes, gave her back to me the whole time we both waited. Quite rude. Quite insecure. Even when conversing with another, even moving around the whole space, checking out photos and everything printed.  I saw nothing but her back and the backs of her outstanding shoes. Others just look up from their table like, "caught me." So far, it's been odd vibes from customers and genuine glowing warmth from the mother, I take it, and son. 

They also parece muy autentico. Written on a chalkboard yesterday special was ceviche and squid tacos. Daring. Unusual for these Western parts. I should have bought some. 







split chicken breast, corn on the cob


Like buttuh, this chicken. 







I used an oblong stone, gave the knife a few swipes and it went through like buttuh. 




Unrelated photo just sticking right in here. I'm eating these things since I'm near them and they sure are good in this form. They just are. This size and form are perfect for chocolate because you must have the whole thing at once and deal with a mouthful. They say that about sushi, but who can do that? Who's got such a capacious mouth they can shove a whole sushi in it? Apparently Japanese people do. It's the same idea. You have this thing in your mouth and you're feeling it take time to melt. It's an experience. I ate a whole box today. That's six. Six teaspoons of white chocolate. 

I might not give all these away. I like them too much. I might eat the whole pound of white chocolate myself. I deserve it. Cocoa butter. You could rub it on your body. Smell like a candy bar. Get a tan.


Lazy. The foil that wrapped the chicken so I don't have to clean a plate. Plus, I hate using  aluminum foil. It makes me feel like such a creep. We can't keep doing this. For you see, *strikes an oratorial pose* I am a child of the universe no less than the tress and the stars and I have right to be here...unfolding... wait. I'm sorry. That's was something else. What I meant to say every time I have a brand new box of aluminum foil I think, and I think this really hard not just regular superficial think, "Man, look at all that aluminum! And they got it so flat! And so perfectly rolled." The industrial precision of it blows my mind that the impressive effort is all for household use seems to me, a born ecologist as are we all, sinful. Like each piece of foil should be precious. Should be treated as precious. Or something. It's an emotional response to brand new rolls of aluminum foil that feels like a big clunk of metal. It' bad for the Erf. To be so precise about exploiting its treasures.

So the more foil that is used the closer I get to a brand new shiny heavy impressively tight and flat roll and that feeling of wasting natural resources for household convenience and doing that with industrial precision. God, it's great to be 1st World Western Culture American but the burdens of social guilt are unbearable. 

So. Double duty for the tin foil, plate for the dry ingredients or lid for the pan.



Nah, Brah, just wad it up and throw it out. 




Salisbury steak, fresh corn with jalapeño and cheddar


¿No parece muy delicioso? They don't fake steaks like this in Salisbury. 







Well it is. Muy delicioso. And you wouldn't know by looking at it. I told the guy I ignored them at first because they look weird. 

You know, honest feedback and everything. An honest decision-making value expressed, not just hazing a guy on the job. The first one was better. Rosemary with lemon really stood out, more so than this one and that is a great combination. A great discovery. Fresh rosemary and fresh lemon, no taking shortcuts, and those two things together jazz it up nicely with sophistication. But this one is overpowered by my double whammy jalapeño corn. It also has chipotle which is smoked and dried jalapeño. 

popcorn, butter, Parmigiano, curry



I wasn't even sure this corn would work anymore but in the end there were only a few old maids.

How rude. 

Ever since I read in Harold McGee's book, the cooks bible actually, that popcorn is best heated slowly not quickly as I had been doing and with an open lid not a closed lid as I had been doing, and incorporated those two changes my popcorn has improved immeasurably. It's crunchy now. I'll be giving away that 80's hair-dryer popcorn maker. 

This popcorn is heavy with oil and butter, the seeds cooked coated in oil with a little extra slopping around, oil that can take the eventual high heat. I used olive oil, not the best kind of oil for this but I like it and it works. The seeds stirred around as a machine would while they are heating. A screen is placed over the pot when they start popping. Then, it's on. The pot shaken for the seeds to make their way down and have contact with the pot. Listening for the sound of seeds shaking. The pot turned out as the last pops space too far apart to go any longer without burning. 

Popcorn dumped.

Butter goes into the hot pot and melts and bubbles, lots and lots of glorious butter, this whole effort is all carrier for wonderful butter. 

And other things. 

Whatever you like. The butter will help  it stick. 

When the popcorn is gone and all that remains are the kernels and the unstuck dregs. Lots and lots of glorious dregs. This whole effort is to get at those wonderful rich fatty spiced up intense cheesy butter-soaked dregs.


Not just regular butter, butter from cows. Not just regular cows. Cows that eat grass. Not just regular grass, super green lush happy densely full of chlorophyll grass. Grass in France! Or maybe England or somewhere. I don't know. It's the only butter they had.


What is curry? It is a billion possible combinations of untold number of spices. Every household in India has their own rather complex favorite mixtures. What is in this little bag? Curry.

Cooks use the elements that go into their mixture, not buy the whole mixture pre-mixed like this. That cedes control. The cook will have all the elements already. They bring out their little masala daba, their spice tin, and get to mixing. This sack labeled curry is yellow with turmeric and that would be one spice in the masala daba added to cooking at the end. Not dumped in all at once. And not on popcorn like this. But hey, what the heck. The spices have five seconds to bloom in the hot bubbling butter. 

white chocolate hieroglyphic discs, boxes for chocolate


Ib, a heart, a cow heart not a human heart, F-34, Parts of Mammals and not D Parts of Human body. It is a determinative sign meaning an actual heart and also meaning mind, will, desire, mood, wish. It looks like a vase with handles and with a lid. 

I must make little gift boxes. 

A new design just for this white chocolate.










The butter is melted, the temperature attained, this is seed chocolate placed in at the end as the mass begins cooling. It gives the liquid a structure to start the process of molecule formation during cooling. Otherwise it's an out of temper disorganized mess that goes melty too easily. It cannot hold its shape at room temperature without organized crystalline structure.

These are my earliest molds when I hadn't a clue what I was doing.

I carved the images myself in positive relief and glued them onto proper candy wafers except made of plaster instead of chocolate, squares and discs. Then created eight of each and then created a negative food-safe silicon mold of all eight together in a set. The second set came out a lot better.



Chipotle smoked jalapeño pepper powder sprinkled into a few of the molds. The heat is not bad at all. It changes the cocoa butter slightly and then the faint smokey heat lingers forever.







Cocoa powder eye. "Ir", in that language. D-4 Parts of the Human body.




Most are blank cocoa butter. Red ones have chipotle powder, black ones have cocoa powder. There is a red one in each box.




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