Friday, June 29, 2012

Salad On The Cusp

What do you serve on a day that dawns bright and sunny a few days after the solstice, but is still breezy with a slight chill to the air?  The calendar says it's summer, but the air is still spring. I looked into the fridge and found two distinctly different sets of ingredients - lettuce, cherry tomatoes and avocado that wanted to be a salad, and broccoli, spicy Italian sausage, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots that suggested a more wintry meal.

So, I figured, "What the heck!"

In a wide pan, I sautéed the sausage in a little olive oil, then added sliced mushrooms, chunked carrot, broccoli florets and cubes of slightly stale sourdough bread, one after the other, giving each just a few minutes to cook in the pan before adding the next. 

When the bread had gotten a nice brown crisp on, I served it all on plates, topping it with fresh Romaine, cherry tomatoes and slices of avocado. Dribbled just a tad of balsamic vinaigrette over the whole schmear and sat down to the perfect meal for a day on the cusp between spring and summer.

Who says we can't have it all?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Green, Leafy Pizza

Back when God was a child, pizza was simple. Dough on the bottom, tomato sauce over that, then cheese, mushrooms and, sometimes, pepperoni. Satisfying, filling and fun to eat with the fingers. Right?

Now, pizza has gotten a lot more complicated.

And, happily, a lot more interesting.

Witness the pizza I had a few days ago at the Left Bank in Larkspur when my friend Maria and I had a girls' day out. We caught up on each other's lives, shared photos and stories, poked through a few little shops, and had a splendid lunch.

An inspired combination, my pizza had sweet onion, salty bacon, slightly bitter arugula, earthy mushrooms, unexpected artichoke, and rich, slightly sour creme fraiche with a very thin, crisp crust. The hot ingredients were slowly wilting the greens and gently melting the creme fraiche as I ate. 

When I was a kid, had I been presented with a green, leafy pizza, I'd have turned my nose up at it. Luckily, I have grown up - this time, I just ordered a nice glass of sparkling wine to go with the pizza and leaned forward to hear more of Maria's stories.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Killer Dinner Salad

About a week ago, My Beloved took me to a new-to-us restaurant in touristy Sausalito that I had heard good things about. Our expectations were high, as we had driven past a number of times and observed that, even from the street, the atmosphere was most welcoming. We finally decided to see what the buzz was about.

Poggio is charming, from the helpful wait staff to the beautiful decor, the first impression is of a lovely, leisurely place.  There are little sidewalk tables that beckoned, but since it was a chilly evening, we opted to sit indoors. The food was as good as the rumors had hinted - My Beloved had ravioli stuffed with chicken livers that was out-of-this-world good, as was my cod with tiny spring vegetables but, to my mind, the absolute standout was the butter lettuce salad with rock shrimp, cara cara orange sections, and green goddess dressing.

I had never tasted green goddess dressing before, and that's partly why I ordered the salad. I vaguely remembered that it was invented in San Francisco, so it seemed fitting, too. It was so amazingly good, and complemented the shrimp and citrus so well, that I decided on the spot that I wanted to learn how to make that dressing.

Some online research showed that it's really not all that complicated, but also that it's pretty rich. I finally settled on a recipe that compromised between the full-fat and the low-fat concoctions. I made a similar salad last evening for dinner - My Beloved and I agreed that it was plenty for dinner all by itself - and it was just as good as I remembered. I think the chef at Poggio must have taken the extra step the strain out the dark green flecks of parsley for a more refined appearance but, over all, it was the same dressing. Next time, I will add even more lemon juice to make more of that distinctive tang, but I was quite pleased with my first attempt.

We didn't have rock shrimp, so I used salad shrimp, and they were fine. As we ate, we speculated about what other shellfish combinations would work well in this dish. Dungeness crab would make it even more special, although crab's season is winter and we don't think salads are fuel enough for a winter meal; we did think it would make a great starter salad in winter, if a smaller portion were offered, say at a special dinner party. We rolled our eyes in delight at the idea of adding lobster meat instead of the shrimp - true luxury!

If you're in the neighborhood, get thee to Poggio but, if you can't, try the green goddess dressing on your shrimp salad. I promise you it is swoon-worthy.

Buttermilk Green Goddess Dressing, from

1/2 cup mayonaise (I used the stuff in the jar with the blue lid)
1/3 cup buttermilk (I used Greek yogurt instead)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil (drained, chopped)
1 chopped garlic clove until smooth
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a processor, purée all ingredients except salt and pepper. Season to taste. Can be made 2 hours ahead; cover and chill. Makes about 1 cup.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Food Truck Fashion

The food truck craze has hit Marin and it's a big hit. We used to have to go to San Franciso or to Oakland to find foodie trucks (as opposed to roach coaches, which can be found everywhre), but now these mobile purveyors of fashionable food delights have come to us. We live just across the bridge from Marin county, where Off The Grid has set up at Larkspur Landing a big tent with tables, a long line of black folding chairs, and six or seven food trucks offering everything from barbecued ribs to Indian cuisine.

We were headed over for a swim afternoon at Jack and Janie's condo complex pool, so we offered to stop at the food trucks and pick up lunch. The scene was one that captured a modern Californian food trend in microcosm - a line of well-made, carefully sourced, and delicious but essentially convenient fast food vendors. Brilliant sunshine. Customers in casual clothes and liberal tattoos. My Beloved on his cell phone, relaying an order from our friends to the cooks in the truck.

This day, we chose the taco truck - The Taco Guys - and it was a fine choice. We sampled five of their tacos - fish, shrimp, beef, kahlua pork, and chicken - and all had tasty combinations of ingredients. The chicken taco was the only really spicy one, leaving a hum of heat on my lips afterwards. The hands-down favorite was the shrimp taco, filled with sweet, tender little shrimps with veggies that enhanced rather than competed. My Beloved's beef taco was hearty and filled with big chunks of meat, something he likes very much. Jack reports that the fish taco was fresh and well cooked. The kahlua pork was embellished with mildly pickled mango strips that added a nice crunch and a little tang.

We ate our tacos on Janie and Jack's shady, flowery deck then alternated between the swimming pool, the hot tub and the deck chairs where we gathered some of those dangerous UV rays. As the summer advances, I hope there are more days of food truck lunches and leisurely swims in our future. It's a fashion I can get behind.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Into The Wild

How do you get a sleepyhead out of bed? Entice him with bacon!  

My Beloved had had a long, emotional day saying a final farewell to his first wife, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer a couple of weeks ago. There was a full day of services, first spreading her ashes on Ring Mountain in the morning, then a church service in the afternoon, followed by a dinner at her house with all the family and several close friends. When we fell into bed that evening, I knew he'd be out for the count.

We were lucky. So often in cases of divorce, there is bitterness between the former partners, and even the kids get dragged into the emotional quagmire. Somehow, we all found not only peace within ourselves but we even forged a cordial friendship in which we were all able to share in the family fun. I guess I'd have to admit the road to our friendship wasn't without its bumps and potholes, but we all were determined to make a go of it, and we did. We shared adorable grandchildren pictures, laughed over family stories together, and generally got on with our lives.

So, when we lost her, it was a blow to My Beloved, who had shared 25 years and two children with her, and to me, who had shared graduations, Christmases and weddings with her over the past 15 years. 

The next morning after her memorials, I awoke earlier than My Beloved and left him still snuggled down in the covers with only his head showing. I read my email, checked my blogs, and looked at Facebook, and he was still asleep. I had purchased some wild boar bacon on a whim last time we went to Baron's, and decided to cook it as a treat for him. He came out of the bedroom just a few minutes later, saying that the scent of frying bacon had tickled him awake, even with the bedroom door closed.

This bacon was leaner than most, leaving just a thin film of grease in the bottom of the pan. It was quite salty, not very smoky, not at all sweet, and very meaty. Because it was hand sliced, the pieces varied in thickness, but none of it got crisp.  Lucky thing, as My Beloved likes his bacon soft. 

I can't say there was any particular wildness to the taste, it was more of a textural difference, similar to the difference between pastured chicken and chickens raised in coops. It was chewier and a little tougher, more of a mouthful, and utterly delicious. Well, duh... it's bacon, and bacon is always delicious.

Hunt some up.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lifelong Friends

Annie and I have been friends since we were both 13 years old. I met her when my family was stationed at Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia - she was one of a whole gaggle of teens who all hung out together filling out slam books and trying to figure out the whole confusing dating thing. Inevitably, orders to a new duty station separated us and we lost touch for a while. We met again about 10 years later, both stationed in Hawaii, and picked up our friendship as if there had never been a gap. She stayed with our family for a while when her young husband was out at sea during her pregnancy, Chief Banks bringing her a big glass of milk with every meal and the rest of us trying in our own ways to spoil her rotten. 

Annie has taught me lots of things through the years, including how to shave my legs when we were 13, and she's still teaching me stuff.  A couple of months ago, she emailed me this recipe that she found in Sunset magazine, and I finally got around to trying it.

As she said, this one's a keeper. The tangy, lemony sauce really points up the richness of the chicken thighs. My Beloved wolfed down his portion and I was a close second.

I did make a few changes. Because I didn't have frozen artichoke hearts, I added a small jar of the marinated ones (minus the marinade) and they were perfect in the recipe; I didn't have capers, so I figured the marinade in the artichokes would take that place. I added a big pinch of Herbes de Provence to my pot, not because I didn't have faith in Annie's taste but just because I think most things are improved by a big pinch of Herbes de Provence; it's the bacon of the herb world, in my view. I used picholine olives (with pits - beware!) and they were perfect in the dish.

Either way, this makes an unusual dinner and a lovely one. Because it's a stew, if you live in a hot climate you might want to revisit this in the fall, but here in Point Richmond where it's rarely really warm, it works in the summer, too.

The best friends are the lifelong friends - especially when they are also killer cooks!

Monday, June 18, 2012


Now that my own Dad is in heaven, I can safely say that My Beloved is the best Dad on earth. He is always there for his daughters, and always has been. It was he who arose at zero-dark-thirty to take Sarah to crew practice. It was he who packed their lunches when they were young, and woke them gently with back rubs on school day mornings. He taught them both to drive a stick shift. He cheered when they graduated, wept at their weddings, and was always there with his big, warm bear hugs when they were needed.

Yesterday morning, on the Sunday morning program we heard about how men are having a tough time redefining themselves now that "breadwinner" isn't the only category. I'd have to disagree. I don't think men's roles are shrinking, I think they are expanding to include things like nurturing and other activities that were once thought to be the sole province of women. Likewise, I think women's roles are expanding, too, to include CEOs and Presidents. In other words, I think people's roles are growing and changing to include rather than exclude, and to take best advantage of the skills of each person. 

When I was a girl, the jobs allotted to women outside the home were pretty limited - secretary, nurse, librarian, teacher, florist and, sometimes, Personnel (what we used to call Human Resources). In my day, it was unusual for a woman to aspire to the law or to medicine or to business management. There were some trailblazers, to be sure, who spearheaded the Women's Lib movement, but they were few and far between. Today, things are evening up - and it's all good.

So, rather than mourn the shrinking of men's traditional roles, let's celebrate the expansion of everyone's horizons. My Beloved's daughters were lucky to have such an involved and emotional Dad - won't it be great when he's the rule rather than the exception?

I made him a fine dinner for Father's Day and even snuck in a present or two to augment the one his daughters found and wrapped for him even during the turmoil of their mother's memorial service and estate worries. The highlight of the meal was this cauliflower gratin with goat cheese. It was a fitting accompaniment to grilled tri-tip and fresh green beans and a nice way to thank a great Dad.

Cauliflower Gratin with Goat Cheese

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup half-and-half or milk
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small head cauliflower

Optional: garlic crouton crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a gratin dish or shallow baking dish. Break the cauliflower into bite-size florets; add them to the buttered baking dish and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes, but don't let it brown. Add the cream in splashes, whisking after each addition as the sauce thickens and smoothes. Add the goat cheese and the Parmesan cheese and whisk until smooth. Add the nutmeg and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and slide the dish into the oven. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the top is browned. 

If adding the croutons, while the dish is in the oven, put a small handful of garlic croutons into a small plastic bag with sealable top. Using a rolling pin, crush the croutons to crumbs. When the dish emerges from the oven, sprinkle the crouton crumbs over the gratin.

The sauce will be too hot to eat - let stand 10 minutes on the counter before serving.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Niçoise Season

It's the season again for cold, composed salads - my favorites! And this year, thanks to the steeping technique, I had absolutely perfect salmon to enjoy in my first Salade Niçoise of the year.  

I had purchased two kinds of fresh fish last week, only to have life intervene in my plans, so I didn't use them as soon as I thought I would. When I was starting to feel uneasy about how long they had been in the fridge, I happened upon the recipe for steeping and was saved.

I steeped the halibut for dinner that very night. I steeped the salmon and chilled it overnight for use the next day. Such a win-win, as I only cooked once but we ate like kings twice.

The only mistake I made was discarding the steeping liquid before I realized I had just thrown away a lovely, delicate fish stock. Well, phooey!  But there will be other steepings and next time I'll be smarter.

Niçoise Vinaigrette for the potato salad portion of Salade Niçoise.

3 Tablespoons fresh, bright olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice (you can also use white wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard (I prefer Edmond Fallot brand)
1 healthy pinch of Herbes de Provence

4 medium sized red skin potatoes, boiled, cooled and sliced.

In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice and mustard together with Herbes de Provence until well blended. Drizzle in the olive oil a little a time, whisking like mad, until all the oil is incorporated into the sauce. The sauce should taste sharper than you want the finished potato salad to taste - the spuds will gentle it down - so taste and add more lemon juice if it seems too bland. Add salt and pepper to taste but be careful with the salt - the mustard will be fairly salty so you may not need too much.

Pour over sliced potatoes and toss gently to mix and coat each slice.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Steeping, Volume 2

My experiment with steeping salmon was such a hit that I tried it with halibut, too. Also perfectly cooked. The halibut was a little thicker, so I added a few more minutes to the steeping time for a lovely result.

I topped the fish with a little salsa that I have used for years. It originated at, using swordfish, but I can't in all conscience eat what used to be my favorite fish any more, so instead I use it over halibut. It's very light and spring-y, perfect for this season when fresh peas are also available.

Mint-Cucumber Salsa

3/4 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber
6 Tbs. chopped red onion
3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1Tbs. white wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar (I often use a bit less)

Combine cucumber, onion, mint, vinegar, 1-1/2 tsps oil and sugar in a medium bowl; toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper (Can be made two hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


While I was researching the use of my new bamboo steamer, I came across a new-to-me Chinese technique for cooking fish or chicken - steeping. The only steeping I had previously heard of was either tea bags in hot water or people relaxing in bath tubs.

Intrigued, I followed the recipe adding leeks, lemon slices and carrot tops as flavoring to a large pot of water (you can use any veggies you like to flavor the water - I just happened to have these in the fridge), brought it to a rolling boil, moved the pot off the heat, and slipped in a couple of salmon steaks. 

The directions said to be sure to cover the fish by at least 1 inch with the steeping liquid and to steep the fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

The steaks steeped for just 10 minutes before I fished them out, removed the skins and bones (which slipped right out). That's literally all there was to it. The fish was perfectly cooked, just exactly right - separating beautifully along the muscle lines but still moist and delicate. Salmon can become sadly grainy when overcooked - this was succulent and smooth on the tongue.

This is my new go-to way to cook fish and I can't wait to try it with chicken breasts for a salad; I'm sure they will be tender and juicy. Big success!  Try it, I think you'll be impressed by the good things that happen to steeped tea bags, people in deep, hot tubs, and food.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Entrepreneurial Spirits

The memorial services for Tina were held in a pretty church in Marin county, the place she loved more than any other in the world. That's saying something, too, because she loved Boston where her grandchildren live, and Paris where she took her niece as a graduation present, and even Oklahoma City, where her twin sister lives. But Marin county was her heart's home, so it was fitting that we all gathered there to say goodbye.

There was a program with a stunning picture of her on the cover and helpful information inside about which hymns we were to sing and who was doing the scripture readings. It all seemed a little unreal until her daughter Sarah spoke so movingly about the lessons she had learned from her mother about balancing life and family - all the while she herself was balancing a wriggling, fussy toddler on her hip. It was gently humorous and the audience loved it.

At the reception afterwards, the congregation surged into the room to tell us stories about Tina's kindness and strength. I hugged people whose names and faces were not familiar to me but who had a pressing need to tell someone, anyone, what a good friend she had been to them. The room was full of loving stories while a jazz trio played softly in the adjoining courtyard.

Tina's grandchildren, released from the confines of the pews, raced around the courtyard on the prettiest day of the year. The courtyard had little flowers sprinkled around in raised beds along the edges. Tina's granddaughter, aged five, and her great nephew, aged seven, had the idea to make little flower arrangements from the contents of those raised beds. They brought the first one to me, knowing that I'm a sucker for our granddaughter, and offered it for sale at $1. When that sale was a success, they ran back out to make more. The pastor of that church will wonder whatever happened to all her flowers.

I took it home afterwards and enjoyed it for several days until, like all living things, it quietly gave up its spirit.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

More Than A Snack

I have always known that freshly-picked, local fruit is the best. It stands to reason when you figure that it can be at its best when it isn't picked slightly (or even completely) unripe to withstand shipment. So, when one of our adorable neighborhood kids, who just graduated from college (Congratulations, Jamie!), went to visit her boyfriend's family cherry ranch in Brentwood and returned with a huge sack of Bing cherries picked the same day, I knew we were in for a treat.

The Bloomfield Cherries ranch is one of several in Brentwood, CA that grow cherries and allow people to come and pick their own. It's a healthy and delightful outing to drive out to the orchards where Mother Nature - and the Bloomfield family - are making sweet, dark miracles. They also sell picked cherries, but wouldn't picking your own be more fun? 

And Bing cherries are not their only offering - you could choose more unusual varieties that rarely make it to the supermarkets, like Coral, Brooks, Utah Giant, Rainier, Sweetheart or Lapin.

We put a handful of the cherries next to some almonds, a piece of brie and some crackers - more than a snack, more like a feast - while we watched the evening news. Everything was fine but the standouts on the board were definitely the cherries. Sweet and so juicy that we had cherry stains on our fingers and the bedspread, they were the essence of spring.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


See the lady on the right? In the brown dress? She was extraordinary.

She could trace her lineage on her mother's side back to Charles Martel, Charlemagne's grandfather, for Pete's sake. 

She was one of seven children, an extraordinary family in which there were four children all the same age, two sets of twins very close together. She and her identical twin sister were one of those pairs. She moved to California from Baltimore when she was quite young with her other sister, two extraordinary young women off on a lark that lasted the rest of her life. 

She met the guy in the picture, the one I call My Beloved (yes, she was his first wife) in California and they had twenty-five years together before deciding to go their separate ways.

She worked for an extraordinary family of great wealth and huge philanthropy. 

She experienced extraordinary losses in her life - a favorite brother to AIDS, a dear sister and her Dad to cancer all within a four year span then, later, her mother and one of her brothers. She gave comfort to other grieving people as she found her way through her own sorrow, and became an extraordinary volunteer for the Center for Attitudinal Healing. In fact, she was named California State Volunteer of the Year for her work there.

She and My Beloved raised two extraordinary daughters, and she was a beloved aunt to her nieces and nephew, and was busy with the next generation when she was diagnosed with a vicious cancer. 

She was a dear friend to so many people who knew her and many of her friendships were lifelong. During her illness, her Caring Bridge website was inundated with messages from well wishers. 

It doesn't seem possible that, just last summer, she was laughing and healthy as I photographed her and My Beloved escorting their daughter down a sunny slope to be married. Of course, she lives on in her daughters and her grandchildren, and in the memories of her family and many friends, but she will be extraordinarily missed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Looking East

My fellow food blogger and amazing ceramic artist, Peter, made some little Asian dumplings the other day and blogged about them so convincingly that I was inspired. I had just scored a brand new bamboo steamer at the garage sale to benefit the Sailfish, our local youth swim program, and voilà! here was inspiration for using it.

I lined the baskets with parchment paper as he recommended, went online to look up a bunch of recipes, none of which I copied but all of which I learned from, then went to the grocery store for supplies of Asian-style ingredients and wonton wrappers.

I made two kinds - pork shu-mai with ground pork, ginger, mustard, chili sauce, sesame oil, green onion and green peas (the rest of Chilebrown's peas), plus shrimp dim sum with ground shrimp, celery, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil, topped with green onion.

Stuffing the little wrappers was actually fun - about a heaping teaspoon of filling went into each wrapper, then I folded the wonton skin up partially around the filling, lightly crimped them and topped with the green stuff. They looked so pretty going in that I took a picture at that point. I put some broccoli florets and another veggie (can't recall) in the top basket to round out the meal and set the steamer over boiling water.

Within minutes, the steam had worked its way up through the baskets and was pouring out of the top.  The recipes recommended 10 minutes for the steaming, so I timed it exactly and pulled it off on the dot.

I wish I could say it was a huge success, but it was surely a learning experience. 

First of all, I didn't crimp tightly enough - the wrappers unwound in the steam and opened like little flowers. Sadly, they also stuck to each other, so removing them destroyed the pretty look. Next time, serious crimping and bigger spaces between each dumpling.

Second, 10 minutes is about 6 minutes too long for such small foods. Like many Asian dishes, the time consuming part is the construction - cooking is very quick. I should have remembered that maxim. 

The pork dumplings could have been used for racquet balls and the shrimp ones actually squeaked between our teeth, they were so rubbery. The flavors might have been good but the textures were so badly overcooked that flavors were kinda lost. We used some extra soy sauce to give them some moisture, but it didn't really help all that much. Even the broccoli on the top layer (where, ostensibly, the temperature is cooler) was army green rather than kelly green, as it should have been.

So, back to the drawing boards!  The whole experiment was a kick and I'll definitely use the steamer again for such meals, after a suitable period of mourning and further online instruction in the use of bamboo steamers. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Big Bang Experiments

Beware the power of food and drink. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the pétillance in my wine blew the top off the bottle as I unscrewed it. There have been other explosive incidents in my long history, as well.

Like the time my first husband and I visited his relatives in Pennsylvania and his cousin, the delightful Clara Esherick, gave us a bottle of her elderberry wine.  She had made that wine for most of her 92 years and she assured us it carried a kick.  Little did she know - when we got it home to California and put it in the cupboard, it continued to ferment. I don't know if the joggling in our ancient VW beetle as we drove it across country started it up again, or what.  All I know is that one evening as I was cooking dinner, there was a loud BANG! in the cupboard over my head, and a flood of purple juice poured out of the cabinet.  If the cabinet had been open, I might actually have been seriously hurt. As it was, I was just startled and had a mess to clean up. Worst of all, it also took out our bottle of gin.

My friend Wenirs tells me about the time her mother, Bobbie, was making catsup in a pressure cooker back in the '50s. In those days, pressure cookers had a heavy little weight that you placed over the steaming vent once the contents had come to a boil - it was the safety valve that kept the whole pot from exploding if things got too hot inside, and you timed the cooking based on when you put the weight in place. That late summer day, the contents apparently got too hot, as the weight was shot up so hard that it dented the ceiling and there was a hot geyser of sweet, red goo everywhere.

Not to mention the time I made my own root beer, back in New York state. I followed the instructions and used a little capper to cap my dozen bottles, then set them in the cellar to become fizzy. Several weeks later, my first husband and I were watching TV, when we heard a series of explosions, like distant firecrackers. Following our ears, we discovered the sticky river of root beer running toward the basement drain. One of the bottles had exploded with such force that it broke two or three of its companions, too. My gallant first huz refused to carry the rest of the bottles outside, for fear they would explode in his hands. He watched from an upstairs window while I summoned my courage and took them outside to uncap each one, the contents spewing about ten feet out, so great was the pressure behind the caps.

Making stuff at home is fun, as long as you approach it with caution and, sometimes, with riot gear.