An open letter to the deer who stalks my garden..

I’ve debated over whether or not to even post this, because I’m sure some people will be offended by my blatant disregard for deer life, but the reality is that this is a work of fiction. A preemptive catharsis. I love animals and my kids find deer fascinating. I also love my vegetable garden, so instead of committing an act of backyard hunting, I’ll reenforce the fences and let the thing live. I’ll probably also plant something along the fence line to keep them away (cactus?), or feed them…

Let me just start by saying that I’ve never much preferred the taste of deer. I think the first and only time I ever tried you was when I was about 10 and was tricked into eating some venison sausage. Because of course I wanted to try some homemade sausage. And not only did I get to taste it once, but I got to try that shit again on the way up. It made me so literally sick to my stomach, the thought of eating poor baby Bambi, that I wretched that sausage right up in a strangers house. And that was that. It wasn’t some life changing, “I’ll never eat meat again” experience, but I realized I preferred it neatly packaged atop a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. I was 10 and having grown up in the land of a quarter million cows, it’s what I was used to. There were no deer prancing around the middle of the baron landscape, so when I did see one it was romanticized on TV or something. The first time I saw a “major deer crossing” sign, I thought, this shit must be a joke, right? Someone came out here and put this sign up for my amusement, nice. But I soon realized it was a fair warning to heed. Though being the naturally talented driver I am, I have only thus far clipped a single one of you.

Then there was last year. The year we decided to plant some new roots, literally, by putting in some lovely fruit trees. The apricots and peaches were a gift to me, from my family for Mother’s Day. Ooh was I so happy to see that the peaches had five happy little stone fruits all green and waiting to be nourished to goodness until we could each have one to ourselves. And two for me. Parker wasn’t born yet and even if he had been he would be too young to eat fruit, so I get two. But I digress. As the next few weeks progressed my little green fruits began to turn a peachy color and swell in size, almost ready. Almost. Ready. And then there was you. You who came in my yard, probably with a couple friends, maybe not if you’re anything like me when I’m stalking a snack I want all to myself, and you gobbled that shit up, to death. To death. I’m serious you little fucker you killed my tree. And all that was left was the pit of two of my lovely peaches. Distraught, I buried the pits in the place where they fell and left it alone to become a dried up, dead little stick protruding vertically from a landscaped ring on the ground.

Over the fall and winter we constructed a “proper” gate made of lengths of different sizes and types of fencing, and proceeded to move the garden boxes to the front from the side yard. We gopher proofed the undersides of our boxes, because you weren’t our only problem last year, and talked about even making a spot on the property where we could put food out for you. I was like “fucks that!” But Tucker’s father used to do it, and after a few years, he bagged himself a big ol’ fat deer right in his back yard.

If you recall, I don’t really remember enjoying the flavor of deer. But I’m also no longer 10 years old. In the couple decades plus that have passed since then, I’ve kind of taken a new approach to food. Like I would rather know where it comes from and what it has been eating before I put it in my own body. And you my friend are no factory made, styrofoam packaged piece of beef. I know where you’ve been. I’ve looked you dead in the eye as you walked the tiny ledge behind my sunflowers looking for a good bite at 1 a.m. while I was up with a baby. I’ve nourished the watermelon plants and carefully trellised them up a fence, only to walk out in the morning to a plant destroyed. I watched as my peaches went from almost ready for pickin’, to nothing but a stone pit. I also watched that pit I buried next to that dead stick sprout and become a whole new tree this spring (or as my father pointed out, it may have been a sucker). And the watermelons came back even more prolific than before. But what I’m getting at here is that I know where you’ve been. I know what you’ve been eating. My palette has become more refined with age. I live to eat. And cook. I have a garden full of herbs and aromatics, roots and bulbs to make a variety of pastes, pesto’s, rubs, marinades, sauces and stocks with which to accompany a gamey piece of meat. I no longer eat red meat with the frequency I used to, so you would feed my family well for an extended period of time.

What I’m trying to get at here, deer, is that when I walked out front last morning and saw that you had made yourself a snack out of my beautiful, vigorous tromboncino, I had had it. I text Tucker with a line that went something along the lines of: I’m gonna fucking kill me a deer.. Accompanied by a photograph of said squash. Now I know it may seem a little harsh, the life of a deer for a few squash leaves, but the irony here is, when I eat you, I will be returning all the fruits of my labor back to myself, in the form of deer protein. I planted them, you ate them, I ate you, cycle complete.

So in closing I would just like to once again point out that your meat is not something I desire. Slaughtering, skinning and butchering an animal is not a task I am willing to head on myself any time soon, and having the mobile butcher come out and handle it for me would be pricey. You would most likely be succeeded by one of your overgrown rodent offspring, vindictively stalking the same grounds you preceded him in destroying. So for now, I’ll retreat. You live to see another day. Touché you son of a bitch. Touché.


The case of the faulty temperature regulator..

It’s been a long time now that I’ve been tossing around the idea of documenting my successes and total failures for the world (or no one?) to see. I’ve made many a meal in this crappy little area of my home designated for food production and now when I’ve decided to use it to aid me in producing something more than just the daily bread, the oven decides to crap out on me! It happened a few weeks ago while I was baking a batch of blueberry cream cheese muffins. I flipped on the oven light to give them a peek and the switch popped and threw the breaker.

My first reaction, based on the fear of pizza and cookie-less nights, was that I had completely broken the stove! Leave it to me to jump to the worst case scenario. I’m not always such a pessimist, more of a be prepared kind of gal. But after a text to the better half who was able to calm my nerves, because seriously there’s a lot I can accomplish on the barbecue but pastries are not one of them, I head outside to flip the breaker back on. Oh happy day it worked! Or so I thought. See these muffins only had 5 minutes left, so I never really got a chance to see the underlying problem. Like a real smarty pants though I tried to flip the light back on, forgetting that is what caused the whole debacle in the first place and bam, flipped it again. I decided to let them sit in the oven for a little residual heat blast and when they were done I pulled them out and we enjoyed us some delicious muffins. The entire batch. 16 whole muffins between four of us and my two kids had 2 a piece. I’m no mathematician so I’ll let you work that equation.

Cut to a couple days later and I’m throwing together a batch of apricot pepita granola. As I preheat to 350 I think to myself, boy that oven sure is taking it’s sweet time getting to temperature, but I stick the pan in, blazing red element and all as there’s an infant to be nursed, and set a timer. Not 10 minutes into the 45 minute baking time I smell something burning. So what do I do? I flip the light switch on to see and cue the fireworks. I mean this time it really blew, sparks and all. The switch even melted itself together so when I tried to flip the breaker back on it just kept popping. Revert back into panic mode.

This time even my phone call to the man of the house was fruitless, so I scraped the burned bits off the top of my granola, stuck it on some yogurt and had a pity party on the couch. But, in my oven-loathing moment I remembered that my daddy didn’t raise no fool. I made sure the breaker was off so I didn’t barbecue myself in the process and I took a flathead to that switch and pried that shit right off the stove. I then proceeded to detach the wires, wrap them in some electrical tape and shoved them back inside their hole and taped off the top. Boom. Problem fixed, right? Well the oven can back on this time so I puffed my chest out and thought about what I was going to stick in my facehole next.

The next couple days flew by as I made pancakes, peach BBQ sauce, grilled chicken, pasta, even grilled pizza, thanks to my first encounter with the faulty oven for that lightbulb. See all these things require no oven usage whatsoever so I was still oblivious to the problem. Then came the day of the golf tournament. I’ve been trying to get these people where my husband works to let me cater their tournaments, or at least provide the desserts as a way to get my foot in the door. Today was the day I was gonna pop in with a couple dozen freshly baked muffins for him and the staff to sample as a way to win their hearts through their tummies. These were the same muffins as in which first broke the oven. Blueberry cream cheese with a crumble toppling. We decided that since we murdered them
with our faces the first time that these would be perfect. I got up early, even before the kids and started going to work. As I’m sifting my dry, whisking my wet, combining the two and tumbling in some blueberries and cream cheese pieces I’m not even aware of the disaster that is about to happen. I scoop and plop two dozen of these bitches into their respective wells and stick them in the oven and set a timer. This time I didn’t check or even notice whether the oven had reached temp and the light gone off. I’ve got an infant and two toddlers and honestly, ain’t nobody got time for that! It was plenty of time for it to have reached 375. And reach 375 it had. Then it surpassed and continued climbing until five minutes later I smell burned sugar.

“Oh my stars!” Or some other perhaps more colorful language that I so badly wanted to use, though not in the presence of my precious babies and their innocent ears. I flip the door open and reach for the light, haha, duh, and see a mess of burned topping and raw batter. What the shit!! This is when it all came flooding into a lake of realization. The reason everything was burning was because the oven was taking the liberty of heating itself to kiln temperatures. Okay maybe that’s an over exaggeration. Maybe an electric oven can’t even get that hot. I don’t know, I’m no engineer. But I now know that it wasn’t just my lackadaisical attitude and exhaustion from being up all night with a little babe that had me slacking. It was the damn temperature regulator in my faulty oven. And it only took a huge batch of granola and 2 dozen burned muffins to get me there. But like the clever young lady I am I turned off the oven, let off some of the heat, and continued baking them bitches for my own consumption. They really weren’t bad if you just scooped out the middles.

So, ladies and gents, if your breaker be poppin’, let this be a lesson to you. And don’t get caught scooping out the middles of the muffins and sticking them in your face because you’re cheap. It’s just embarrassing.

Blueberry cream cheese streusel muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk*
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries
4 oz cream cheese, cubed**
Zest of 1 lemon
Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cubed

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, lemon zest and melted butter. Add the sugar and whisk to combine. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and cream cheese. Divide the batter among the muffin tin cups, filling each about 2/3 full. (I use a red vollrath #24 disher)

To make the streusel topping, in a small bowl, cut in the cold butter with fork or fingers until incorporated.

Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the crumb mixture over the top of each muffin. Bake until a tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit in the muffin tin for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving.

*in place of buttermilk, use juice of half a lemon and the remainder whole milk. combine and let sit a few minutes to curdle

**place cream cheese in the freezer for half an hour or so to firm up before cubing