Creature’s Cookbook series now out in print

Creature’s Cookbook series now out in print

As of today you can purchase all the Creature’s Cookbook series, which includes two novels (Let us be honest, the first book is the length of two novels) and a collection of short stories. They are available in every format.

It’s appropriate that these came today:

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As I can now begin mailing out your prizes to you–those who won the Halloween challenges!

I hadn’t forgotten, but was merely waiting…

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Let them eat…not this cake. It’s not finished yet

Today I spent literally all day baking cakes and fondant and icing and nonsense. I’ve been on my feet since about 8, in my kitchen. I’m not even finished yet. Why, you ask? Because it’s devilishly tricky to time everything out, and I had to eat often, and then there was the fact that both cakes have several tiers.

What I’m trying to say is that I am feeling very drained, but if I must bleed into something, I’m glad it was a cake.

If you’re wondering, two children’s birthday cakes. I’ll likely have them finished tomorrow. I have to assemble them which require dowels and platforms and all that rubbish. I was going to make sugar paste animals too, but the molds didn’t arrive, so the little dear is getting plastic figurines. At least then they can play with those while the adults inhale the cake.

I have to say I don’t care if I ever see buttercream again. Ever. Powdered sugar can sard off. For all eternity. I’ve been through five bags today. Five 2lb bags. Why? Because I make my own fondant and my own icing and they both take nothing but powdered sugar.

I don’t think I’ll even end up eating the cake I’ll be so annoyed with everything.

Fondant:

1 ½ bag of small marshmallows

2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted

Cris o vegetable shortening

Melt the marshmallows in the microwave in thirty second intervals. Fold in about ¾ of the sugar. When mostly a firm lump, turn out on the table and knees, working more sugar in as you go. Keep your hands clean by rubbing them in the shortening. The fondant should stretch about two inches before it breaks. Form into a ball, smear with cris o in a thin sheen, then wrap in plastic wrap for at least 8 hours in the fridge. To color, merely work the dye into the segment you’re using. I use gel based dye. Again, shortening for the hands, powdered sugar for the table.

Buttercream:

Two sticks of butter (1 cup)

5 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

A few TBSP milk

Vanilla extract (or some other)

Dye (if you like)

Allow the butter to come to room temp and soften, dump into standing mixer and cream it for five minutes. Add the powdered sugar in one cup at a time, incorporating the sugar at low speed, then putting up to highest speed for two minutes between each cup. Add a bit of milk and the extract as you go, using the milk to turn it creamy every time it begins to clump up too much. Add dye or leave white. This will pipe, or go beneath fondant nicely.

Thai/Vietnamese Fusion Chicken Soup, a recipe

I was hungry for something spicy, and had a few odds an ends lying around, so I decided to make this soup. It is very spicy, but can be made less so by diminishing or leaving out the chili.

I’ll admit this is a bit difficult to write up, because I wasn’t measuring and had to guess how much of what to add, but I think that if you follow the approximate measurements and then adjust to your tastes, you’ll have something very nice.

Tools:

  • cutting board and several size knives
  • large soup pot
  • small pot
  • colander

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 qt chicken stock
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 bundle spring onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bundle cilantro
  • 1 bundle basil
  • 5 kefir lime leaves
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass, or about 2 Tbsp minced, preserved lemongrass (found in tiny jars)
  • a large ginger lobe, about 2 inches square or larger
  • red and green Thai chili (I’d get about 10 of each, looking for the ones that are fat on one end, but curled and shriveled on the other. If you’re not able to tolerate that much, cut it back to two in the pot and about six in the oil. If you want more and are tickled at the notion of the punishment, add several ghost chilies.)
  • baby corn
  • 2 heads of bok choi
  • button mushrooms, about 1 c.
  • 1 tomato
  • 5 limes
  • bean sprouts
  • fish sauce
  • a little olive oil
  • Vermicelli noodles

Instructions:

  1. Mince 1/2 the onion, the garlic, ginger. Chop up the cilantro, especially the stems. Pluck the leaves off the Basil. Cut about 1/2 the leek into ringlets. Bisect two of each color chili, discard the seeds, and mince the meat. Pound the lemongrass to release the aromatics, then chop into segments. Cut the tomato into quarters.
  2. In the large pot, place the chopped onion, leek, garlic, ginger, 1/2 the basil leaves, kefir lime leaves, 1/2 the minced cilantro (stems and leaves), lemongrass, and the chopped chilies. Drizzle with oil and then toss this over medium heat until you can really smell the elements.
  3. Add chicken stock and chicken breasts. Toss in the tomato. Add the juice of 3 limes. add about a quarter cup of fish sauce.
  4. When this is boiling, add the mushrooms, corn, and the leaves of the bok choi.
  5. Allow to boil until the chicken is cooked, then remove the chicken. On the cutting board, shred the chicken and return it to the soup. This will be your opportunity to taste the soup and determine what it needs. It should have a tangy, citrus flavor, but be spicy and richly savory too. If it appears to be missing anything, add more ginger, lemongrass, or fish sauce.You can also add stock cubes or bouillon.  Then allow the thing to boil a little longer
  6. While this is boiling, put the vermicelli noodles in the small pot. Add whatever you like to the water (I usually put a bit of lemongrass and some lime in) and cook through. When done boiling, it’s best to shock the noodles with cold water as they drain in the colander, in order to stop the cooking process.
  7. While everything is cooking, prepare your condiments. Remove and discard the seeds from all but two of the chilies and mince the meat. Place these into a small dish. Mince the last two chilies whole and add to the same dish. Smother this in about a cup of fish sauce and set aside
  8. Quarter the remaining limes, mince the green onion and remaining cilantro. On a plate, arrange the lime segments, bean sprouts, cilantro, the remaining basil leaves, and the green onion.

To serve, put a lump of noodles into each bowl. Fill with soup. garnish with a lime segment, a few basil leaves, green onion, cilantro, and been sprouts. Each person can add the chili-infused fish sauce (by spooning out only the oil) to their bowl if they wish. It also keeps very well and becomes hotter as it sits. I also have a lovely jar of Tom Yum Chili Oil that I add to this. This soup can easily be adapted to shrimp, or even thinly sliced pork.

 

Dill Pickles, a recipe

This recipe is a tip of the hat to those who’ve been paying attention to my Tumblr blog. You may have seen my recent bit of humor concerning my Decade Dills, called “Decadills” by one reader, and I like the name well as it’s the word for a beggar, and people beg for these pickles. In truth, it’s not wise for humans to eat a decade-old pickle, and I seldom leave them that long. You can certainly try, if the seals are all still good, the acid levels right, the canning lid still intact, but that is a very rare occurrence, indeed. I make them for me — which is why I hide them, but…it seems wrong to tease and never give the humans a chance to experience my pickles for themselves. So here you have my recipe.

Tools:

  • medium sauce pan
  • 1 qt. mason jar with ring and lid
  • pot large enough to submerge the jar, up to the ring
  • mortar and pestle

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 c water
  • 4 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (if you add more chilis, you may prefer the white, if you want more tang, add the apple cider.)
  • 1 lb cucumbers (I know many people use a specific type of cucumber, but I just use whatever I have handy. I usually have quite a variety, because I like to add them to all sorts of things. I believe the brand most often used is called Kirby)
  • half a dozen garlic cloves (I’m sassy, but you can get away with 2-3)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flake (you can substitute whole tiny chili if you like, simply omit the red pepper flake from the dry spices and pack five or six peppers into the jar as you do the garlic cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Yellow and brown mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp.allspice
  • 5 sprigs of a dill plant, cleaned, or 2 tsp dill seed
  • 1/4 tsp of anise
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 5-10 dried bay leaves
  • 1 large grape leaf

Instructions:

  1. Sterilize the jars by boiling them and their lids. If setting them aside for a time, set the lids on to keep them covered.
  2. In the medium saucepan, heat the water, vinegar, sugar and salt until boiling. Stir until the salt dissolves completely then set aside to cool
  3. Peel and mince each garlic clove
  4. In the mortar, combine the dry spices and grind together until you have at least a coarse powder
  5. Wash the cucumbers thoroughly and snip off the very ends, not just the stems. This can keep them crispy longer. You can also cut the pickles into spears, if you prefer. It’s up to you.
  6. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, adding in dashes of the spice mix (aim to use half to all, but this is what makes the recipe unique to you, so do a few test batches to see what your tastes are), sprigs of dill (or pinches of dill seed), garlic cloves, and pieces of the grape leaf evenly distributed. Pack tightly, but be sure to leave s bit of space at the mouth of the jar, so that it can vacuum seal.
  7. When the liquid is completely cool, pour this over the cucumbers. Shake the jar gently to get out any air bubbles, and continue to fill, leaving the space in the neck of the jar.
  8. Place the lid and ring on tightly.
  9. Submerge the jar into the large pot and fill up to the neck with water. Boil this for about 20 minutes to seal the jar and perform low grade pasteurization. If you want a crispier pickle, then try to measure and keep the temperature between 180-185 for 30 minutes without going under or over.
  10. Remove this carefully from the pot and allow it to cool completely before you store it away. Be sure to test the lid to make certain the seal has firmly depressed.

These must cure for at least a month to become pickles. After that, they can sit on a shelf for a few years in a cool, dry place. If opened, you should refrigerate them to keep fresh.  You can try leaving them for a decade, as I always do, but you’re not a monster, so I wouldn’t recommend it. However, so long as the seal is unbroken and the food smells fine, it is usually fine to eat. Just remember, the longer they sit, the more rubbery they become, so I’d recommend that you eat them within a few years, and that you serve them chilled.

Egg Nog, a history in several recipes

Eggnog is far older than most suspect.  It wasn’t invented recently. It has many forms, and many, many names. Historians and Etymologists bandy back and forth about the name, wondering if it originates from one of about ten different sources from Germany to Scotland, to the colonies. The simple truth is, that it is all and none. “Noggin” or “nugge” is a very old word, and it refers to the glass in which hot drinks were served, a “mug”. You may listen to men of science, debating when the exact word “eggnog” must have come about, but that would be silly, in my opinion, because it came about through constant reintroduction of old memories, old ways, and old languages, then was jumbled up again and again in the slang culture of the early Americas.

Warm eggs and alcohol have been a standard since antiquity. They were drunk in the colder months for obvious reasons. Their types range from drinks made with wine, to biersuppe, a German warm soup made from beer, to very loose custards, to curled concoctions that are strange to the modern eye. Here, I will give you a long history of my favorites. You will see the spices shift as the spice trade with he east died and then was reforged with sea power, you will see the introduction of fine white sugar and rum from the Americas. You may wish to make them all, and watch the progress of time through one single food.

Please assume that for all the following recipes, you will need the following:

  • a mixer (hand held works fine in this case)
  • a saucepan
  • egg separator
  • fine grater
  • a whisk

Caudell, a recipe

Very few cook books have survived the eras to mark the existence of the great variety of dishes and their countless preparations, and so no source exists for this recipe. You will have to take my word that it was a drink of choice, particularly for the ill. Saffron was seen to have mystical qualities to the Medieval mind, and it was used in almost everything. Keep in mind that this saffron was not the sort you see today in your grocer’s spice aisle. This was the saffron that now costs hundreds of dollar per ounce — true saffron— and we worked it by the handful.

I recommend eating this with the notion that it is a semi-savory soup. It might assist the modern palette to adjust.

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 2 cups of ale or sack (white wine) I recommend ale for authenticity. The poor could
  • often not afford sack
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • i leaf of mace
  • several tablespoons of sugar to taste

Instructions

  1. Beat the yolks into the ale, and then put the pot over medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken and become frothy.
  2. Once this comes to a boil immediately drop the heat to low and beat in the other ingredients, adjusting to taste

Serve in an open, bowl-like mug

Posset, a recipe

Possets were a kind of custard, sometimes loose enough to be drunk in a mug. In my day they were used primarily as medicine for the sick, or as fortifying drinks for travelers or for the clergy.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • cinnamon
  • several blades of mace
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • 18 egg yolks, plus 8 egg whites
  • 1 pint of sack (white wine)
  • 1 1/2 c sugar

Instructions

  1. Put the milk into a pot and add some cinnamon and mace, and bring to a simmer
  2. While the milk is heating through, in another pot beat the eggs thoroughly. add the wine, a grated nutmeg, more fresh cinnamon, and the sugar
  3. Heat the eggs through and then incorporate the cream once that comes to a boil
  4. Cover and allow to simmer for a time on the lowest heat, stirring occasionally

Serve in a mug with a little sugar on top

Eierpunsch, a recipe

This was a holiday favorite all through the Holy Roman Empire, when I was living in Strasburg

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of white wine (keep in mind that Germany has an excellent tradition of sweet white wines like reisling)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 c strongly brewed tea
  • 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Brew the tea and let it cool
  2. Whisk the eggs and add in the sugar and some of the white wine until it begins to get frothy
  3. Add the rest of the wine, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon juice
  4. Put in a pot and allow to heat through, but remove immediately before boiling
  5. Fish out the cloves

Serve in a mug with a little fresh whipped cream

Milk Punch, a recipe

From the early 1700’s the British and French had forged a somewhat calm trade relationship, despite all their bickering, making sherry and brandy fairly common and accessible. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz. brandy
  • 4 tsp cream
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ground clove

Instructions

  1. Whisk the ingredients together until foamy
  2. Spice to taste, while whisking

Serve at room temperature, or turn it into something of a cocktail in these modern times by shaking over ice.

American Nog, a recipe

Trade between the colonies was largely one way for a very long time, that is to say, it was largely a circular endeavor. The British shipped goods to the entire western world, stole slaves from Africa, brought them to the Americas, and then took products from us for sale in Britain and the rest of Europe. This system was entirely focused on the wealth and excesses of England, and cared very little about the colonists. As such, it was tedious getting any items directly from Europe, which meant there was hardly ever brandy to be had. And so, the egg beverages commenced to be cut with rum from the Caribbean.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. brandy
  • 1/2 c. dark spiced rum
  • 1/2 c. sherry
  • 1/2 c. whiskey
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 qt heavy cream
  • 1 qt milk
  • a dozen eggs
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Mix the alcohols. Separate your eggs, setting the whites aside
  2. Put the yolks into your mixer and beat until the the yolks are foamy. Slowly incorporate the sugar and spices.
  3. Add the alcohol slowly
  4. Add the milk and cream
  5. Pour this mixture into a separate bowl. With a clean bowl and whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the alcohol mixture

You may serve immediately at room temperature, or warm it through as needed and top with a little whipped cream. If storing it in the refrigerator, be sure to mix it regularly so that it doesn’t separate.

Modern Eggnog, a recipe

Modern humans are terrified of raw eggs, even when pasteurized. Now they buy rubbish in a carton and microwave it, throw in a shot of bourbon and call it finished, but to me this is a crime. So, allow me to help you out a bit. Here is a modern eggnog cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 c. whole milk
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. baker’s sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c. Amaretto or Grand Marnier (I prefer Grand Marnier, as it gives a nice sweetness)
  • 1 1/2 c. brandy (I use Remy Martin VSOP as it is inexpensive, but meshes well)

Instructions

  1. Whip the egg yolks in the standing mixer, then incorporate the sugar. Then the milk and cream until the mixture is frothy and pale.
  2. Slowly incorporate the alcohol

Serve warm or shaken over ice. I would top the warm version with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg, and the cold version with a twist of candied lemon rind.

I very much hope this brief history of eggnog has pleased you. I hope you can track the similarities, and admire the variety. Perhaps you even have ideas of how to craft a new recipe that borrows from history.

If you do try any of them, please do send me a picture. I post all images of my recipes sent in by readers, as a general rule.

Tortilla Soup, a recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 frozen chicken breasts (or six tenderloins, whatever is available)
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with cilanto and lime
  • 2 4 oz. cans chopped green chile peppers (mild or spicy)
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth (we use the big boxes of broth because it makes more soup)
  • 1 tsp each cumin, chili powder and salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (or less if you like)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pkg frozen corn

*the recipe also calls for one bunch of chopped cilantro but my mom hates cilantro so that’s why we have the tomatoes with cilantro and lime
*we also use red gold tomato products because they’re quality, yummy, and readily available bc local woo!

Optional topping: 

  • lime wedges
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream (it cuts the spice)
  • avocado (i don’t like avocado personally)
  • tortilla chips

Instructions:

1) place chopped onion in the bottom of slow cooker

2) layer the frozen chicken (or human) breast on top.

3) add diced tomatoes and juice, green chiles, enchilada sauce, garlic, broth, spices and bay leaf.

4) cook on low 6-8 h. 

5) remove bay leaf. 

6) remove chicken (or human) to plate, shred with 2 forks return to crock pot. 

7) stir in corn (here’s where i turn the crock to high). 

8) continue to heat til corn is hot.

9) add a handful of chopped cilantro. 

Usually serves 6-8 but use the entire box of broth and you have leftovers for days my main

This recipe is courtesy of my Tumblr acquaintance Katy @katofthekitvariety

The BAD RECIPE Contest, And Their Prize

Several days ago, I became very bored. This is not surprising, as you might imagine, gentle reader. Social media has presented me with many things to occupy me in these moments, and it all came down to a conversation about horrifying recipes. You know them. I am certain that all of you have your own story about the casserole your aunt brings to the Thanksgiving feast with the tuna in it, or the fruitcake made with skittles. Perhaps your father is simply inexcusably bereft of culinary skill. Ramen is usually involved. Tinned tomatoes. You take my meaning.

In any event, it got me to thinking, that some of these appalling crimes really do deserve recognition for sheer audacity alone, and so, I began a friendly contest on Tumblr. In the future, I will perhaps hold more of these, and this trial run will provide the framework, but for now, I can tell you that there were many revolting entries. The winning dish?

Grandma’s “You are so ungrateful” lasagna:

@youcantseebutimmakingaface – “Lasagna noodles, cans of tomato paste, 5 lbs Italian sausage, 3 pork chops, ground beef with no fat content, FUCKING. RAISINS, 1 pinch each salt and pepper… flavorless white cheese…Burn ground beef into kitty litter like granules, inexplicably mix with raisins…Make sauce…Boil sausage, pork chops, tomato paste, and salt and pepper until flavorless and slightly burnt. Layer noodles, cheese, meat/raisin hell, using approximately a shot glass of sauce…Bake until burnt. Use…to make a firepit or decorative patio”

I found this recipe utterly irredeemable, and so of course, it must be redeemed. This, however, involved some heated debate, and resulted in a secondary competition between myself and Chef, who staunchly opposed my notions of turning the dish from an entree to a dessert.

And so, as promised, I give you my recipe, and in a secondary post, his. Make them for yourself and be the judge. Which has won? No one at this end could truly decide.


Vietnamese-inspired Cheese Course, a recipe (Or raisin lasagna done with pinache, if you prefer)

Tools:

  • Small casserole dish, about 4” square
  • Sieve
  • Food Processor
  • several pots
  • skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb ground pork (Make certain to get an even balance of fat)
  • 1 package ricotta cheese
  • 1 package of soft goat cheese
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 small package of mascarpone cheese
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. currants
  • 3 sugar dates (pitted)
  • 1 package of small cherry tomatoes (Please perform the “sniff test” and choose one with the best tomato sweetness)
  • port wine
  • balsamic vinegar
  • several large lasagna noodles (Mine were hand made, but you may purchase dried pasta, as we are going to fry them anyway)
  • olive oil
  • brown sugar
  • mint (for garnish)
  • sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to about 350
  2. Boil your tiny tomatoes, until their skins begin to split, then blanch with cold water, and gently shrug them out of their red coats.
  3. Place in a food processor with raisins, dates, currants, about 1 cup of port, several tablespoons of balsamic. Pulse until nicely blended. Pour back into the pot and boil
  4. You must achieve a thick, tangy, but sweet flavor profile, and so please add or diminish as you like. Once your sauce has cooked off all the alcohol, and is about the texture of tomato paste, run it through the sieve, by pressing it through with a spoon.
  5. Return to the put and continue to add wine, vinegar, or whatever you would like. When you believe it has achieved the proper taste, you should set about 1/3 of it aside, and then continue to reduce the other 2/3, stirring constantly, until you have created a dark syrup. Set this aside
  6. Start your noodles boiling.
  7. Brown your pork, very lightly seasoning with salt. Set aside.
  8. Once the noodles are finished, drain. Sprinkle them liberally with brown sugar. Add some oil to the pork fat in the skillet and fry the noodles lightly, until they begin to brown a little, or fold up at the edges. Lay these aside to cool.
  9. Throw your meat and the thinner sauce into the food processor, and turn into a paste
  10. Mix about 1/2 the ricotta with 1/2 the goat cheese. (You would ideally wish to have a somewhat gamey flavor.) Whisk the egg and then beat into this mixture.
  11. It is time to assemble your “lasagna”. Carefully oil the inside of the dish. put a spoonful of your stronger sauce at the bottom and work this around into a thin layer. Line the bottom with one of your fried noodles. Spread a generous layer of your goat cheese mixture until the noodle is covered. do the same with the meat mixture, and another spoonful of your stronger reduction. Repeat as many times as fills your dish or uses up your ingredients, making sure to finish with noodles.
  12. Cover in foil and bake for as long as it takes the thing to boil for about ten minutes (We are merely cooking the egg, so do not overcook your dessert simply for a little raw egg. It is a cheesecake, not a brick.) Let us say 45 minutes?
  13. Allow to cool, and then upend on a plate. It should pop free, but if not, run a knife around the sides.
  14. Cover with the sliced almonds, pipe fresh mascarpone on top as you would whipped cream, and drizzle with your stronger reduction.

Garnish with hefty amounts of mint. Serve in small cubes, and ideally, pair it with a tawny port. I do believe you will no be disappointed.

Lemon Meringue Pie, a recipek

This pie recipe has gone through several iterations, refining it for maximal citrus flavor. It is not to be taken lightly, as it employs many more difficult aspects of cooking science. I highly recommend attempting it, only if you are well-versed in baking, or pies in general. And by this, I do not mean eating pies. You may eat as many chocolate cream tarts as you like, it does not make you proficient at baking.

Tools:

  • pie pan
  • saucepan
  • several glass bowls of varying sizes
  • standing or hand held mixer/ whisk and considerable endurance
  • microplane or cheese grater
  • plastic wrap
  • fork or pastry cutter
  • metal wisk
  • silicone spatula (for scraping)

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 1 1/3 c flour
  • 1/4 c. butter flavored vegetable shortening (You may use lard if you can find it, but for most, it can be quite difficult. However, this is the ideal element.)
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp of ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 6 very large eggs
  • 1 c corn starch
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 c. lemon juice (I highly recommend Mayer lemons)
  • 1-2 Tbsp zest (You may use the zest from the lemons, or add in some more interesting zest from another citrus relative, if you wish. Buddha’s Hand has a lovely floral note.)
  • cream of tartar and extra sugar (for the egg whites)

Instructions

  1. I know this seems strange, but separate your eggs, placing the whites into a large bowl in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°
  3. Mix flour and salt for the crust in a bowl, forming a small well in the center.
  4. Cut the shortening and butter into small cubes, keeping them as cold as possible.
  5. Place these into the well, and then incorporate flour with fork or pastry cutter until mixture resembles the texture of peas. Do not use your hands as the heat from them will melt the shortening, causing the pastry to be “heavy”, not light and flaky.
  6. Once mixture is the right texture, add the ice water and combine with a fork. It may appear as if it needs more water, it does not. Quickly gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a 4-inch-wide disk. Wrap this in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  7. Remove dough disk from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable.
  8. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the disk on a lightly floured surface from the center out in each direction, forming a 12-inch circle. Please recall that if it falls to pieces, this means that the pastry will be flaky. If you wish it to hold together more, simply work it more, however, this increases its chewiness.
  9. To transfer the dough, carefully roll it around the rolling pin, lift and unroll dough, centering it in an ungreased pie plate. (Or you can fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of the pie pan and unfold, whatever is easiest for you.)
  10. Prick the dough all around with a fork. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool before filling.
  11. Gather your filling ingredients and begin by whisking the yolks in a small bowl. Set these aside.
  12. In the saucepan, combine your water, sugar, 2/3 c. corn starch, and salt. Heat this on medium until comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute or until it thickens into a translucent sludge.
  13. Ladle by ladle, add ½ of filling mixture to the bowl of egg yolks, whisking it furiously as you do so.
  14. Once incorporated, add this egg mixture back into the pot of remaining filling mixture. This is called tempering, and prevents the eggs from cooking, and turning into egg chunks
  15. Add the lemon juice, zest, butter
  16. Heat this on low heat for another 3 minutes more. If this mixture is too runny (not the texture of a thick pudding) then you may need to play with chemistry a bit more. I advise taking a tablespoon or two of corn starch and making a rue in a cup, with as little water as possible. Add this to the pie filling mixture, stirring constantly, and heat until it begins to thicken. Immediately remove from heat and stir until it is cool.
  17. Add this to your cooled pie shell and set aside
  18. In your icy bowl, or in the bowl of your standing mixer, beat the egg whites, adding spoons of sugar and pinches of cream of tartar as you go, until they form stiff peaks. What does this mean? Try turning the bowl upside down. If it falls out, it is not a stiff peak. However, you cannot magically make this happen. If you have been at this for several minutes, and the peaks simply refuse to rise, add a bit more sugar, and if this doesn’t work, resign yourself to a flat but tasty meringue.
  19. Shovel this atop your pie, being careful not to smash it down. Picture a fluffy cloud. Use the back side of the spoon to create the little points by allowing the meringue to stick and pulling upward.
  20. Place this in the oven at 375 for about 12 minutes, or until the meringue has become a toasty brown at all its highest points.
  21. Cool before serving

This pie is tart, and very lemony. I suggest plating with a sprig of mint, and pairing it with gin. It is excellent as a breakfast dish, minus the gin, of course.

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In this image, you can see that I have made the pies smaller. It is identically the same recipe, doubled, and rather than bake the pie shells in a pie pan, I have merely made them in a greased cupcake tin, paying careful attention to their condition, as they baked.

A Monstrous FAQ, Part 3 – Culinary

Here I will answer the most commonly received questions about your favorite topic, my diet. I eat people, you see. The proper term for this is “anthropophage”, but let’s just say “man-eating”. Humanity finds this terribly amusing. I can do nothing about that, but insist that you have descended into a collective mental illness.

Culinary

Does human taste like chicken?

I’m afraid I must sigh at this question — not because it has an obvious answer, but because it saddens me that this is even a question. You see, my strongest sense is olfactory. To me, nothing tastes like chicken. Except chicken, of course. There are similarities, I can admit, but chicken is the only chicken. So instead I will answer by comparing it. Human, similar to a four legged animal, has many pieces or “cuts” unique to it. I have named some of them, but that isn’t pertinent, since I am the only one who cares about the semantics. These cuts, however, range in texture and flavor. Some can be quite gamey, others less so. But if the spectrum must be quantified, I would say you have most in common with an elk. In terms of texture, it ranges from as soft as sashimi, to as stringy as stew meat.

Why don’t you eat the skin?

The answer is fairly simple. There’s really only one acceptable way to eat skin: frying. And I am not overly interested in fried foods. I do occasionally indulge, but by and large, I forego. I have tried all manner of preparation, from dehydrating, to baking, and simply do not care for the texture. Nor is it terribly caloric, which is, of course the currency of my biology.

What part of the human is the most delicious?

That has no automatic answer, I’m afraid. It always depends upon the person, their diet, their habits, their genetics. Some people have livers intense with flavor, others have diets so clean that their gaminess is enhanced. Some people have large fat content, and other very little. But if you pin me down (This is a turn of phrase. Please do not ever be so bold as to pin me down. That is a life-threatening engagement, I assure you.), I would have to say that the part I always look forward to, the morsel I seek out and inspect for perfection, is probably the heart. The close second would be the cut just proximal to the hip bones, distal to the bottom rib.

Do you prefer humans that are in shape?

It depends on the recipe. Some call for high fat content, some for less. Sedentary humans make excellent burgers, ground meats, things for which you might generally utilize more moist meats like pork. Healthy, trim individuals make lovely steaks, roasts, et cetera.

Is there a particular cooking method you prefer?

Modern science and the global culture have given me many new things to try, but I am afraid my soul always hearkens back to the fire pit and a piece of meat on a dog-wheel spit, turning endlessly. I do go in for basting and stewing, however.

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?

The meat grinder attachment to my Kitchenmaid standing mixer. I make my own sausage now, you see. I now have, thanks to modern refrigeration, the ability to keep odd bits and combine them, mashing people who might otherwise have despised one another into terribly tasty charcuterie. I find this both delicious and intellectually satisfying.

How long does human meat last in the fridge?

All natural rules and laws of thermodynamics apply. Human meat is no different than any other. I usually prepare all the meats in some way — from spice rubs to marinades, from salting to brining — before I freeze them. However, when I do freeze them, I like to wrap each piece in parchment paper, then foil, and finally, place it in a ziplock bag with the date. If you buy a ten pound batch of chicken breast, and you want it to remain frostbite-free, might I suggest you do the same?

Do you like eating fruits and vegetables?

Yes, or I would not do so; however, I do not require them. Strictly speaking, I believe we are carnivores that over time learned to incorporate variety (Please do keep in mind that I am exceedingly old, and thus our evolution is a much slower prospect, perhaps only totaling ten or so generations since the dawn of “farming”. Thusly, we are not as flexible as humanity. You are mayflies, here for a day, and your mutations are extraordinarily evident to someone with my historical knowledge). Such are my senses, that I delight in all the mingling smells and tastes. I find nothing more satisfying that to crunch my teeth through a carrot. Probably because it reminds me of bone, but why should that matter?

What is your favorite herb or spice?

Oh, my goodness. I am terribly sorry, but this is too complex a question for me to manage. Instead, let me give you the history of my interaction with same.

When I awoke, trade via the Silk Road had broken down, largely to the slow deterioration of the Islamic Mongol nations. Georgia was the last stop, and there were several terrible upheavals. Not to mention the devastation of the plague. I found myself in a precarious situation — fodder for another tale — and I lacked the sense to know about human food. However, I did manage to encounter a few of the spices from the east: cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, but again, my exposure was limited.

These days it is possible to find almost anything from any part of the world. For most of my life, no one even knew about the New World. Many herbs I now know and love are still fairly new to me, and because I have not traveled to the far east, many Asian foods impress me too. I am still experimenting, you see.

Let me reply by saying that there is a perfect spice or herb for every preparation of every dish, but I do tend to rely heavily upon old favorites: sage, rosemary, garlic, thyme, clove, chervil, basil, mace, bay, et cetera.

Is there anything you won’t eat?

Ever? Or more than once?

I will try anything once. And I do mean anything. But on a more habitual basis, when it comes to the human form, I do not consume the most calcified bone, skin, hair, digestive materials, though I have occasionally used these in preparation of other things. If this interests you, you may contact me directly. Most folk are too mild-stomached for that discussion.

I do not like certain vegetables, legumes, pungent herbs, cannot wrap my head around particular cheeses, and for the life of me, though I have made many attempts, cannot gain a taste for Thousand Year Old Egg. I am able to consume them. I simply do not like them. They bite back, as it were. Like zombies. And they are as fragrant.

I do, however, eat many things most people don’t even know are edible, from flowers, to weeds, to sour milk…yes. It’s only sour because bacteria have begun to colonize, but please allow me to point out that that is precisely what yogurt is, and because I have no experience with bacterial infection, I do not mind such things. To me, an old carton is merely the opportunity for liquid cheese.

If I send you a recipe, will you try it?

Oh, please do. I would be ecstatically happy to try it, modify it, repost it. I might even put it in a book, if you like. Please know that cooking is, quite literally, the most important thing to me.

You see, I must maintain my sanity, and that breaks down very quickly if I do not feed regularly. When the mind goes, I am a danger to everyone and everything about which I care. This is unacceptable to me. So you can see, that even should the hobby of food eventually prove boring…

Eating is what I do.

A Monstrous FAQ, Part 2 – History

These are some of the questions most commonly asked by my readers, regarding my history and life among humans. If your personal question has not been answered, please feel free to put it in a comment below, and I will answer it as soon as possible.

Historical

Where have you lived and when? / I want a timeline!

I hesitate to indulge you. While it is true that this is the subject of some discussion in my published canon…it is also a potentially dangerous thing into which we may delve.

I don’t want some eager researcher tracking down a photograph I do not know exists and waving it about like an idiot. And while I have done an exquisite job of confiscating all such materials, it is at least plausible that there remains some historical tidbit a silly person might use as a means to locate me.

But the promise, you insist. I know gentle reader. Fear not.

I awoke near the Black Sea, some time in the mid 1300’s, along the border between Georgia and the Golden Horde. I traveled west along the coast to the Byzantine, then on to Hungary, across the neck of Italy, and then onto the South of France. I arrived with the plague in Marseilles, and was driven even further west through Aragon and Navarre to Castile. This took a fair span of time as the Inquisition and Crusades were on-again-off-again the whole time. For the next two or three hundred years, I bounced around what is now Spain and France, eventually occupying a lovely patch of shite in Normandy. In the mid 1600’s, I became an Englishman. Just after the dawn of the new century, I made the perilous trek to the New World, where I stretched a bit. What I mean to say is: the land was vast and rich in the extreme. Beyond a terrible need for soap and other goods— and by this I am implying human flesh — I had no need for colonial culture. I pressed the westward bound, always, and as trade went inland, so too, did I. By the Victorian, I was already in the Rockies, and came to the west coast of the Americas with the Railroad.

Unlike most of my species, who seem to claim one territory and occupy it fiercely, I am a peripatetic soul.

Have you really lived as a woman in the past?

This is a more complicated issue than I usually let on when I post on my website, so I am glad that you asked.

As i’ve indicated in the biology section, my species seem quite genderless. If we have one, I have no idea how to discern it. Thus, I have never experienced any particular aversion or fealty to a gender identity. The truth is, humanity is not only patriarchal and misogynist, it is downright savage.

In previous centuries it did me almost no good whatsoever to move around as a woman, since the activities of women were always overseen by men. However, they were also overlooked by men. It was sometimes advantageous to hunt in that guise. When a ruffian vanishes from the path on his way home from the pub, no one suspects the poor, unfortunate scullery maid. That being said, the suspicion of witches, foreigners, odd looking sorts, was high, and there was no makeup in those days. So playing both sides was a balancing act.

There did come a time when the fairer sex was allowed to travel widely, own property, be single without the suspicion of being a witch, and yet still be seen as virtuous. When that happened, I bought myself my first real dress, and gave it a try. That was when I discovered that it was probably always better to travel as a female. Not merely because men will protect and shelter you, but because it attracts exactly the sort I like to eat. A woman at a coaching inn, alone, on her way to Canterbury or Edinburgh is a perfect lure for highwaymen. Unfortunately the limitations of my species often prevented me from undertaking actual pilgrimages, as trespassing on another monster’s territory is somewhat frowned upon. Growled upon, more like. But when I did eventually see fit to vacate my land, I did so in a skirt, and the perilous voyage across the Atlantic went very well.

There was an epidemic, but no one ever suspected me, the middle-aged widow, ill and tottering, protective of her crate of goods — her only possessions in the world. So it began, and as humanity’s love for artistry and costume advanced, so too did my characters. They became younger, prettier, more apt to step out in public.

So yes, I do live as a woman from time to time. The benefits of genderlessness.

As an aside, you can imagine my stance on the transgendered bathroom issue. I find it amusing that while a man is standing at a urinal, he is scanning those around him to make sure they are all indeed male, completely overlooking me, who is not even human. There is peril in prejudice, not simply because it teaches your children to lack compassion or discourages them from embracing their own complexity, but also because it allows me to sneak in, completely overlooked.

Shame on you, but thank you for the invitation.

What languages do you speak?

This is also a terribly interesting, but complicated question. You see, there really is no definite answer, because of when I learned to understand language, I did not speak, and I learned them so very long ago that many of the tongues I understand no longer exist. Things are also complicated by the fact that I did not learn my letters until the reign of Elizabeth, and so only learned to write English, but even that was the Early Modern English, and not the modern tongue. So please allow me a moment to specify.

I can understand (and possibly speak, though I’ve never practiced fully) Old Georgian, some dialects of old German, Archaic Hungarian, Italian, and Castilian, French, and Catalonian. I learned Latin, but it was already dead when that happened. As said before, I took up English and really never left its reaches, but did manage to converse with a few Native peoples of North America.

And now you are terribly confused, and I sympathize. Let us simplify this. Of the modern languages spoken on Earth, I am fluent (both speaking and reading) in English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese. This is by virtue of the fact that I comprehend their ancestors, and they all use the same alphabet. I also know Latin, but again,it doesn’t exactly get used often.

I prefer English. Why? Well, that is simple: it is the thieving continuity of all of these, sitting atop the others as it cannibalizes them and grows fat on their toil. A monster could not ask for a more monstrous tongue.

Simon were you ever seriously injured by one man alone, and if so how did he do it?

How clever of you to be so enterprising. You think I would simply hand you the means by which I can be destroyed? I am impressed, but excuse me for disappointing you. That has never happened, nor do I believe it can.

One man is not enough, even should he be decked out with a blunderbuss and kevlar. I do believe that when I take leave of my senses… I am unstoppable, but please do see the following question if you are so enthusiastic to have my head on a spike.

Have you ever been arrested, captured, or otherwise confined?

Yes. Upon too many occasions to count. Now, please do not misunderstand, gentle reader. As said before, this is not to imply that I am terribly easy to apprehend. That is not the case. I was taken prisoner because I allowed it. There isn’t much else to do when a crowd begins hurling rocks at you. You can either unmask yourself in full view and be crushed to death by the press of humanity, or you can let them take you to some hole in the ground, then escape later when the food runs out — and by this I mean fellow prisoners.

There are no chains that can hold me (Remember our foray into my biology). I can pull solid bars from stone. Straight jackets are a humorous diversion. I can leap about thirty feet in the air when I push myself.

So really, short of drastically injuring me, trussing me up like a fish, and burying me in a lava-filled sinkhole, there is no way to confine me.

Have you ever fought in a war?

With distinction. If you read my work, you know I have a certain lassitude that makes me less interested in morality. If you are intent to kill each other, why should I not reap the benefits? However, if I like you, if I deem your existence necessary, I will protect you. Heavens forbid, if I come to detest you…

I call those the “Fat and Sassy” times, and they ended as soon as you began photographing your soldiers. The Civil War flirted with me, but I saw those flashing boxes for what they were, and instead of being captured for posterity, invested in it. I was shot with a musket during the Revolution, ate rather well after the Whiskey Rebellion. I even made friends with a tribe of particularly blood thirsty natives who shared…well, I say shared, but I mean sacrificed their captives to me during the French-Indian War.

Jolly good fun, those bygone days. Now its all drones and ethics and backhanded economic policy. It makes me hungry just pondering.

Have you ever eaten anyone famous?

Yes. No, I will not tell you whom, but if you’re intelligent, you’ll know one when you see it. I’ve given you an approximate timeline. Cross-reference that with all mysterious disappearances of unsavory sorts. And I mean that word in the philosophical sense, not the culinary one. They are almost always quite savory.

What is the single greatest difference between the modern era and the century in which you were born?

Sewers. Clean water. These two things go hand in hand, I think. But these are the things that are meaningful to me. If I were to try and determine what would be most meaningful to a human… I should think it would be trade and the way governments operate. The modern age is a global bread basket with a penchant for democratic principles. When I was “but a lad” it was not unheard of to pass several corpses dangling from trees, tied to charred stakes. Every archway had a head on it. Every town was garrisoned. You believe I am joking, but when I moved to England, parliament had only had considerable power for a short time, and because they had a queen who refused to marry, they struggled to gain even more.

What I mean to say is, it was probably the most enlightened time that had ever been, where law and order were becoming concerns, and the rights of the people were considered. And yet… there was an incredible number of capital crimes, some as silly as eating deer. Yes. Deer were off limits. Why? Because all the land was divided by nobles. There were no “Free Parks” or “Nature Preserves”. There was only one man’s land. If you caught and ate his deer, he could come and put you down.

Nowadays, First Worlders become obnoxiously hostile when their deer hunting is limited to a certain time of year, and are free to petition their governments if they have legitimate complaints. They receive trials, they are given representation. And most importantly, they force everyone else to do the same by simple intimidation. It’s a fine kind of irony, that.

Impressive, really.

Simon with all your acquired knowledge of our kind why no real attempt to know more about your “neighbors”?

Ah. I rather thought this question would arise. I wonder if I can explain it — a difficult task, because it requires me to imagine how I think you might feel in order to compare it to my own sentiments. Imagine, if you can, that person who drives like he has no idea there are rules that govern the activity, or the people who stand at the top of the escalator even though they know quite well that disembarking pedestrians have no where else to go, or the parents who simply stand there while their children wail in the middle of a market because they have the strange notion that parenting has little to do with behaving like a parent, or the bureaucrat who insists upon asking for a form that you cannot possibly possess without having the thing which you are attempting to obtain.

Combine in a pressure cooker and bring to temp.

I feel un unyielding, unending, perpetual short-tempered fury, and when one small infraction occurs, well…it becomes rage.

That is not to say I have not crossed paths with them. I have, while traveling across another creature’s territory on my way to new patches of land. The resulting kerfuffles are…uncomfortable. I am met with hostility. I have no mercy.

You can imagine the results.

So, no. I do not often force myself to reach out to them. If anything I ignore them, and only ever think on them when I can sense that one is near. Otherwise, I treat them as you might your mother-in-law, or your boss.

What is the average area of your species’ territory? Also is it based on our population or a physical amount of land?

This is an excellent question that gives me a great deal of pause. Indeed, I am not sure I can accurately answer it. My own territory spans an approximate area of 100,000 acres, though not all of it is accessible to man. The borders are established somewhat haphazardly, by lakes and rivers, sometimes human contraptions like infrastructure. They are maintained by scent and my own senses.

When I think about the secondary question, it stirs my mind. You see, you are asking me to put into words things to which I have never given previous thought. I do not think the population matters much, as some of my kind have territories quite devoid of human life. I do believe that to some degree, all our “habitats” are largely rounded, and that we place ourselves at the center, rather like a spider in a web. I say this, because I know that when I travel to the southern reaches of my territory — which is incidentally where my home sits — my ability to discern the proximity of my northern neighbor is depleted. He is capable of sneaking up on me, and frequently does. When I purchased the warehouse, this was a point of concern, but I gave in to the notion of dwelling in such a splendid, derelict, repurposed space. I had to have it, and so I compromised location.

Now my neighbor drops in whenever he feels like it, and annoys me to no end.

Real estate is a tricky thing.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve found inside a human body?

I think, this is perhaps my most adored question. The list is quite varied, and I have made an effort to curate the collection. Yes, I kept them, because…well…how could I not?

I have found cutlery, magnets, surgical implants or pins that came loose and migrated in the blood stream, bullets, screws, nails, coins, and drugs in little carrying punches made from balloons. I have, on two occasions, found plants growing in the lungs, and once, a long long time ago, an eel in a bladder.

The strangest? I was very chipper, cutting along, hair off, skin in the bucket, “la-dee-da” as the saying goes. Then suddenly there was an organ that should not exist. It was not an organ. It was a giant, sixteen pound tumor. And suddenly, I am very put out. I do not like eating diseased flesh. Upon close examination, I determined the thing to be benign, and so carried on with eating the gentleman, but the tumor gave me pause, I must admit. I am no stranger to horror and science fiction — for reasons that probably seem obvious — and so I had visions of it being some sort of twin, curled up in a sack, feeding off his life force in an eternal calcified coma. But alas, it was just a tumor.

I ate it. Why not?

I think I’ve figured out where you live.

Good for you. May I point out the obvious: that this is not a question. It is also not terribly illustrative of your brilliance. I have scrubbed as much detail as I can from my work, but if a person is familiar with the area, they will know where to look. Do be careful though. You may actually find me.