Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One Step Closer

Some of the Baking Day ladies were a little...bothered...that I refer to them (and our other neighbors) as The Mountain People.

"That makes us sound like Red Necks or something!"  groused one.

"Oh're not red necks.  I know Red Necks and Mountain People are a whole other thing entirely,"  I told her. 

Red Necks welcome one and all with wide open arms and wide gaped smiles.  Mountain People are friendly but more recluse.  Red Necks are a little rough around the edges.  Mountain People are tough around the edges.

I am not a Mountain Woman and I have been good with that though, lately I have been recognizing that it may do me well to have some of that Mountain People "know how."  Caren has recognized it too. 

When it snows here life goes on.  Schools are opened, appointments are kept and parties are still held.  I am not so ready for that yet.  Last week they did close school because of the sub zero temperatures but there was only an inch of snow on the ground. 

Upon moving here I had started the weekly Pizza Night that my family has enjoyed with friends in Texas, here with our Colorado friends.  On the day that school was closed, I let that weeks host know that I would not be coming to Pizza Night.

"It's just too cold, Kathy.  I think we are going to just hunker down and stay in."

Not five minutes later, Caren arrives at my door with my produce box from our organic co-op.

"By the way," she said as she dropped my box off on my table,  "I talked to Kathy and you are absolutely coming to Pizza Night tonight.  The roads are not bad and you can ride with me and Aaron can meet you guys there.  I won't hear anything contrary."

"Um...OK..." I said as she turned to run out the door.

"Sorry!  I gotta run because I don't want my fruits and veggies to freeze!"

I IM'd Aaron about it and he responded: " Of course, we're not missing Pizza Night!"

Of course.  Produce won't last two minutes out there but we are forging on people!

Last week I was nervous about running errands because of the snow on the roads.  Caren offered to take me to run errands but first I had to let her give me a driving lesson.  She took ice driving lessons when she first moved here.  There is a school where they take you out in an SUV onto a frozen lake.  I kid you not.

"You can't hole up in your house the entire snow season.  You'll be in there for months!"

We took her truck.  I felt down on the side of her seat and raaaaaaaaised that puppy up.  Then I moooooved it forward.

"Would you like me to grab the booster seat for you?"  Caren laughed.


So the rules are that you go down the hills in Neutral or a low gear if it's a very long hill.  Caren first had me go down in Drive so I could feel the difference.  While in D she had me slam the breaks to force the car to slide on the ice. 

"Now lift off the break and gently break this time.  Good.  Again.  Gently.  If you start to slide do not slam on your breaks.  Always ease into it.  I know the instinct is to hit the break but that will make you slide more.  And don't rely on anti-lock breaks to save you.  They won't."

The next lesson was to go down the hill in N and see how that felt.  Again she had me force a slide and regain control.  You can still slide in N but the car responds much better to the breaks.  In D the car still wants to go forward (and a little side ways).

Caren had me drive our loop because you can encounter pretty much every type of road condition on it.  It was very scary which she said it was good for me to be scared.  Much better to be scared then to drive with false confidence.  That's good because I was on the verge of tears a few times.

"You can cry if you need to.  Now slam on the breaks again."


So now I have some knowledge of how to drive on the ice and snow.  I can build a fire.  I am cooking from scratch.  I made these for Valentines:

The details for making these are on my recipe page.  Click tab above.

Now I don't do it all from scratch and not all of the Mountain People do.  Caren over achiever.  One day I walk into Caren's house and she beckons me to her stove.

"Come here!  I want to show you this."

I peeked into her pot and saw a white, thick...something.  She took a knife and started cutting long slices through it.

"It's curds and whey.  I always thought it was like a porridge or something but it's actually a part of the cheese making process."

Caren makes her own cheese.  (And yogurt. And she's slaughtered a hog.)  On several occasions I have come to her home and found these white discs floating in a pan of water.  It's cheese.  I don't know what kind of cheese she makes but I love it!  Kevin and I ate almost a whole wheel one day.  One recent afternoon Caren offered me her cheese to eat with a pear.  She set the wheel in front of me and handed me a knife. 

"That's the cheese you helped me with that one day.  Tell me what you think."

I am not quite sure how I helped but the wheel looked a little funky so I must have.  I took the knife and cut a slice.  It was good but sort of crunchy.

"It's good but...and please don't be offended's sort of like...the texture is like eating plastic," I said with a mouthful of cheese.

"Um...Michal, that's because you have to cut off the rind."

Ah!  Of course.

At least I keep Caren laughing.  She has been showing me the ropes to mountain living.  Invaluable!  Whenever I do something "mountainy" she says: "You're one step closer..."  I feign horror and we both laugh.

The other day at the bus stop she said, "look at you!  You look like a Coloradan!"

"I do?"

"Yeah, you've got your boots on and even though it's cold you aren't all bundled up."

"'re right!"

The other thing about Coloradans is they do not really "do" hair and make up.  It's more about practicality here and maybe a bit about being "one with nature."  Fashionable shoes are set aside for something better suited for the terrain.  (The other day I snowshoed over to Caren's.)  Big woolly socks are donned rather then a cute knit pair.  I had a cute knit pair but they did not keep my feet warm.  Probably acrylic.  It's gotta be wool.

Today Caren and I did some baking to prepare for Valentines Day.  All from scratch.  Frenchy foods with Frenchy names and cookies hand dipped in an espresso ganache.  Three times I had to go back to my house to get an ingredient or tool that we did not have.  Upon one of my arrivals Caren burst into laughter.

"I have got to take a picture!"

"What?  Why?"

"Look at you!  Your jeans are stuffed into wool socks, stuffed into snow boots.  You have yak tracks on and your Valentine apron is hanging out of your coat!  Oh Michal, you are one step closer...!"


  1. I am so proud, so proud. And I need details on the chocolatey heart treats that you posted... what are they and are they easy or Caren-complex?? Holy moly - curds and whey? I am always intrigued by the things you are learning from that sweet mountain lady!! And, no, not all Coloradans make their own cheese and slaughter hogs...

    Sarah :)

  2. Here is the cookie recipe:

    I used to make them as is (before kids) with this little rapberry preserve window. I just cut them in small hearts this time.

    To make the ganache cook 1/2 cup of whipping cream in a saucepan until it bubbles. (You can cook it with 3/4 tsp instant espresso if you'd like). Take off the heat. Whisk in 4 oz of mini semi sweet chocolate chips. Then dip your cookies as you'd like. I did halves. Caren dipped her chocolate heart cookies all the way in and then drizzled them with pink and white icing. (Always gotta one up ya...) ;)