Fancy Chicken Salad Sandwiches

One of the book clubs I belong to occasionally meets for afternoon tea, and over the years, we’ve each developed a specialty of sorts. Mine is chicken salad croissants. (Though I don’t make the actual croissants myself.)

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I will not be finishing the book. I lasted all of seven paragraphs before giving up.

This time I somewhat unintentionally got a little fancy. Okay, okay, the croissants were from the grocery store (which I doubt I will be doing anymore, as their quality has really declined, and it’s not like this town doesn’t have any decent bakeries), and the chicken was from a can (which I will always do because I simply will not handle raw poultry). But I think nearly everything else I used was organic.

My recipe, if you want to call it that, is not difficult or even all that unusual, if you ask me, but I get a lot of compliments on it, so here it is.

 

I drain the canned chicken, plunk it into a bowl, and fluff it with a fork. For this, I used two of the largish (I think 12.5 ounces, but I wouldn’t swear to it) cans. Then I chop up an apple and put most of that in. (I usually end up eating a wedge or two of the apple in the process.) Then I add some chopped sweet onion, chopped nuts (in this case, pecans, but it’s often walnuts), and some sort of fruit. I prefer to use halved grapes, but this time all I had was dried cherries. I really should have chopped those cherries up, but I was in a bit of a rush. Ah, well, I’ll remember that next time.

I empty an entire 16-ounce container of sour cream (this time I used Wallaby Organic) into a separate bowl, then spoon in some mayonnaise. I never measure it. You’ll just have to engage in some trial and error to find what ratio you like best. (My advice is to start small; you can always add more.) I then season it to my liking, which is different every time I make it, but some of my favorites are garlic salt, ginger powder, herbes de Provence, and paprika. Then I do some taste testing and adjust the mayo content and the seasonings.

Then I spoon some of the goo into the chicken bowl and mix it up. Again, start small, then add more until you reach a consistency you like. Once you have it all mixed up to your liking, you can scoop some onto your croissants or rolls or whatever and enjoy!

 

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Drinking Tea Ironically

Recently I attended AnomalyCon in Denver. I think it’s one of the best sf/f cons out there, but for a raging introvert with crippling social anxiety, it’s still exhausting. As part of my recovery process, Monday morning I fixed myself a cup of tea. I selected one of my all-time Dryad favorites, ShadowCat. IMG_20160328_114948 Besides being a tea blend, ShadowCat is a member of the fabulous faeriepunk band Pandora Celtica

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At AnomalyCon 2016, we bade a fond farewell to Pandora Celtica at their final show. Though we can always hope for reunion gigs. And I totally want to copy Rubiee’s hair-color scheme.

and is also talented artist Chaz Kemp. Tuesday morning I selected Rubiee for my tea blend, but she does not pack the same ironic punch.

I should explain what I mean by that. One of the writing panels I chose to attend was titled “But Where Did This Chocolate Come From?” It was mainly about dealing with artifacts that wouldn’t normally exist in the world you’ve created for your characters. Like, say, chocolate in, say, a galaxy far, far away (not to mention long, long ago). But the topic wandered a bit (which is normal), and there was significant discussion of cultural appropriation and why it’s offensive. And since chocolate was already on the menu, talk soon turned to the inappropriate use of food words to describe the features and skin tones of people of color.

Fortunately for me, I don’t think I’ve made this particular mistake. I wish I could say it is because I am a paragon of cultural awareness, but no, it’s just that I’d always thought it was lazy writing. And it is lazy writing. I mean, if you describe a white person’s skin as being “peaches and cream” or “milky smooth,” you’ll come across as a hack who depends on clichés. (And just for the record, I sincerely doubt anybody wants their complexion described as “tofu.”) So why should “chocolate,” “café au lait,” and “caramel” be any better? But it turns out, it is so much more than that.

First of all, it’s dismissive, reductive language. It tries to describe a human being in terms of a consumable or a commodity. I think this was completely lost on a few of the audience members, one of whom staunchly defended “café au lait” as the only way to describe a certain shade of brown skin. I honestly think she felt it was better because it was in French. But it’s so not. Considering that France was a pretty big player in the colonial slave trade — which was fueled by these very commodities — the language choice just makes it that much worse.

One of the panelists, Delilah S. Dawson, also pointed out that this connection to slavery (which, I might add, is not a concept that has been completely relegated to the past) adds a layer of ick to using “almond-shaped” to describe Asian eyes. This is something I’ll admit I’d never even thought about before, so I’ll need to pay extra attention to that. Bearing this in mind, I will also pay attention to the use of wood colors (mahogany, ebony, and so forth), which is something we did not get around to discussing there. Sure, Stevie Wonder sings “Ebony and Ivory,” but that’s Stevie Wonder. He’s allowed. I’m not. And while the use of “ivory” there makes me squirm a little bit as my brain shoves mental images of mangled elephants in my face — and reminds me that my own piano does indeed have ivory keys — I understand that he is going for a specific contrast rooted in the properties of an actual physical object. Poetic license granted, Mr. Wonder.

But this also brings us back around to fetishization, this focus on a single physical aspect of somebody who should be a living, breathing character, not just some token non-white filler to tick off the diversity box on the ol’ character creation to-do list. “Oh, but I’m complimenting the character by giving him or her a desirable trait,” you might say. “Chocolate is sensuous. Coffee is stimulating. Mahogany is expensive.” But you are still talking about a person’s skin color. That’s it. Melanin content, pure and simple. It makes one wonder what happened to the days when a man sized up a woman’s intellect by staring at her boobs.

I feel I would be remiss if I did not go back to that one woman’s defense of “café au lait.” Remember how she insisted on the importance of describing that exact shade of brown? Yeah, I have a problem with that. Two problems, actually.

1. There is nothing precise about the color of café au lait. What color was the coffee before adding milk? How much milk was added? Me, I like a splash of coffee in my mug of milk. My café au lait likely differs radically from your café au lait. Other food words suffer from similar problems.

2. Why on earth do you need to describe anybody’s skin tone so precisely? Chances are that you don’t. In that case, the solution is simple: don’t do that. And if you really do need to get across the importance of a character’s skin color? Well, think long and hard about that why. That should suggest to you much more creative and germane ways to make your point. Instead of telling readers my skin is the color of birch bark or a raw chicken breast, perhaps you could explain my motivation for staying out of the sun and describe in graphic detail the horrific burns I sustained that one time, at band camp.

And if you don’t want to pause for a bit of mindfulness (NB: “mindful” and “politically correct” are not synonyms) before you proceed with your offensive descriptions, well, it’s certainly not my job to force you to do so. But Ms. Dawson summed a lot of this up well in a Twitter rant, and I encourage you to read it. TL;DR: “Write better shit.”

So, does this mean I’m going to stop drinking ShadowCat? No, but I’ll explain why. I am confident that Rubiee consulted her bandmate about his feelings as to being described as a black tea, chocolate, and raspberry beverage. And I am equally confident that Mr. Kemp was at least somewhat pleased at the thought of his drum kitty faerie persona being immortalized in this complex and flavorful blend that brings pleasure to his fans.

Simple But Tasty

This past weekend my friend Marta invited me on a little retreat to the mountains. I suppose I should have taken some photos of the mountains, but really, all we did was hole up in a condo and read and write and cook and eat. I’ll share the reading and writing at some point in the future, but here are the highlights of the cooking and eating part.

For Saturday dinner, we got some veggies and salmon and cooked those up. Marta baked the salmon with salt and pepper and olive oil, and I did a saute of sweet onion, red bell pepper, and zucchini in white truffle olive oil. For seasoning, I think I used powdered ginger, herbes de Provence, salt, and dried chives. Marta did a rice-quinoa pilaf with rosemary (Near East brand, I believe), and we stir-fried that in with the veggies.

The next morning I did a polenta crumble using up the remaining bell pepper and onion. The polenta was the kind you get in a sausage-style tube, so no fuss there, and it was already mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and some Italian-style seasonings, so I didn’t really have to do much at all. I think I added some powdered ginger and salt and fried the whole mess up in olive oil.

Yes, I have been lectured at length by an Italian shopkeeper in Wisconsin on the evils of pre-cooked polenta. But if you don’t have a gas range, it’s really the most reliable option.

Sunday dinner involved shortcuts as well. I did not have the energy required to make my own sauce for the angel hair pasta, so it came out of a jar. And the veggies came out of a bag in the freezer. I nuked them in butter (yes, real butter), salt, and herbes de Provence. And yes, I actually prefer cheap, sawdusty “Parmesan cheese” out of a can. Well, at least when it comes to basic pasta in tomato sauce. Seriously, I tried the nice stuff one time and didn’t enjoy it at all. It just didn’t seem appropriate. Anyway, super-easy meal, and we washed it down with Kon Tiki cabernet sauvignon. IMG_20160306_192254

Yesterday, I couldn’t resist the strawberries at Costco, and there are a lot of them (because Costco), so I had some for breakfast this morning. I also couldn’t resist the call of the Laughing Cow yesterday, so I spread a few wedges on some rice crackers and topped them with strawberry halves. I washed them down with a mug of “Rubiee,” an appropriately reddish tea from Dryad Tea. That’s my idea of a delicious and decadent breakfast that is also ridiculously easy. IMG_20160309_105514

 

 

The Beverage Drawer

Despite the hot cocoa mixes, I actually call this the tea drawer, as it does contain mostly tea. It was getting a little out of hand, and when I couldn’t find the infuser I wanted this morning, I decided the time had come to re-organize it. IMG_20160111_161102

Well, yes, it’s still insanely full. But I found the infuser I wanted. And I weeded out a bunch of stale teabags that I can take to Happy Lucky’s the next time they’re doing a tea exchange…so I can…um…get more tea.

You can probably tell from this pic that I am a big fan of both Happy Lucky’s and Dryad Tea, also a small Colorado business. The wooden box with the rose on it is from Dryad, but it actually contains Musicali Tea, a special blend I created exclusively for the Boulder Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota. As you might guess, it contains rose petals. And if you look closely at the infuser with the rosebud charm, you can see the little treble clef that Patty Krus (now our Region I Officer!) added to it. The rest of us were just happy to bend the wires enough to get the beads on there! Tula Roberge, our chapter president, is also pictured here with Patty last May.

I almost did an actual inventory of my teas today, but I think what I am going to do instead is start keeping track of what I drink. That way I can make a note to myself when I start to get low on a blend I really like. And then maybe I won’t end up with several packets of the same blend because I’m at the booth, sniffing away, and forgetting that yes, I know I like Strawberry Imp and that’s why I bought some at the last con.

Review: Drink The Tea

Drink The Tea
Drink The Tea by Vivian Caethe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #2 of 2015
Popsugar Challenge Criteria Met:
-A book by a female author
-A nonfiction book
-A book you started but never finished

This was not an in-depth book, but it did not claim to be. It provides an interesting look at the history of tea, most of which was new information to me, and there are numerous citations for readers who wish to delve deeper into the subject. There is also information about the various types of tea and how to prepare them. I am fortunate enough to live near a good tea shop and already knew much of this, but this is great for readers who are not so lucky. There is also a journal section that I have not yet made use of, but it is a neat idea.

I would definitely recommend this book for tea neophytes, and it makes an attractive and useful gift.

View all my reviews