FANDANGO’S ONE WORD CHALLENGE – THE SETTING : DOCTORS! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Setting

Yesterday’s setting was Garry’s first post-surgical checkup at UMass Memorial. Today’s setting is going to be (in an hour from now) our regular family guy to see if we can get his blood pressure a little lower

Doctor’s office in Douglas

Mostly, it’s good news.

We discovered that he has residual hearing in his right ear and more of it than we expected. This is a good thing because it will make getting “natural” sounds in his “implanted” ear easier. The device with his own hearing will give him better highs and lows.

He won’t get all his super-high-tech equipment until August 24th, but the doctor is pretty sure he’s going to have good hearing fast. Like maybe immediately.

A sunny day in the backyard while the temperature is almost 100.

No one can explain how in the world he got Blue-Tooth from my speaker without external equipment, but he did. My speaker also has a small transmitter and Garry was wearing powered headphones, so something happened. But regardless, once he has all the rest of the gear, it won’t happen without special equipment.

Definitely the right shirt for the season. Do you think the extreme heat may have something to do with being tired? It’s really hot out there!

The incision is healed and all the wires and magnets and coils are in the right places in his head. Neat and clean. I’m trying to get him to send me a photograph of it, but we haven’t figured out how to turn the x-ray into a photograph. Yet. But I’ll keep trying. It’s really interesting.

Garry is very tired. He thinks it’s because he’s a “right-side” sleeper and that’s the ear that had the surgery. He hasn’t been able to sleep in a comfortable position since the surgery, but he can at this point if he wants to since everything is nicely healed.

He also looks sleepy all the time. I think he’s still got a bit of hangover from the anesthesia. He also needs to get back to doing normal stuff, including exercise. Sitting around all the time isn’t his most healthy choice.

Now, we wait another 18 days and then — magic.

He’s ready to go now and I don’t blame him, but they won’t put the technology in place until everything is 100% healed, so they always let it go slightly over a full month. Just to be sure.

Meanwhile, to keep him sane, the Red Sox are winning and it keeps him from watching the news and getting completely crazy.

BRIAN WILSON, NO PIER PRESSURE – Rich Paschall

Young Voices and The Old Master, Rich Paschall

On the Brian Wilson “solo album,” as most seem to be calling it, Brian is only going solo on four of the 16 tracks,  When you consider that he is backed by a chorus of singers on those, then you may think he has more of a “Beach Boys” album than a solo affair.  The author of most of the Beach Boys hits, however, can not call it a Beach Boys album.  He doesn’t own the name.

The first guest performer has a song that was not well received by most critics.  “Runaway Dancer,” featuring Sebu (part of the duo Capital Cities), is nothing like the other tracks.  It has a heavy dance beat that screams “pop record.” Yes, it is laden with Wilson vocal work.  Wilson’s own voice can clearly be heard throughout.  Perhaps the new direction can be attributed to the work of Sebu Simonian off-site.  Wilson’s demo was titled “Talk of the Town,” when it was sent to Sebu, who recorded his vocals at another studio.  Sebu is also credited with “Additional production,” which could mean a lot of things.  If critics wanted just another Beach Boys tune, they didn’t get it.

“On the Island” brings an almost Bosa Nova beat and some sun and sand to the album.  The song features the work of “She and Him,” which would be Zooey Deschanel on vocals and M. Ward on electric guitar.  Deschanel’s vocal is perfect for the tune about being “lost in this island nation.”

One track is given over to an instrumental, well sort of anyway.  A mellow piece of jazz shows up as the fifth track of the deluxe album.  The very sounds suggest sunset over “Half Moon Bay.”  The work features Mark Isham on horn, but the Wilson touch is there too.  Voices are blended throughout to create harmonies giving this a soft and warm feeling.  It is a break from the other type of soft harmonies Wilson has layered throughout the album.

In case you think I loved every bit of this album, I must confess to be mystified by the song “Our Special Love.”  The track may have been the one slated to go to Frank Ocean. Wilson canceled him out, explaining that Ocean wanted to rap his performance.  If you think a driving dance tune was not well received by hard-core Beach Boys fans, just imagine a rap tune.  Peter Hollens, a You Tube generation performer if ever there was one, shows up instead.  Little of Hollens can be heard on the track as Wilson takes the lead on the chorus and the overproduced harmonies just about drown out much of Hollens work.  I am not even convinced the verses fit well with the chorus.  The music, uncharacteristic of a Wilson song, does not blend as you come to expect.

On the other hand, the light-hearted “Guess You Had To Be There,” featuring Kacey Musgraves on the verses with Wilson leading the Chorus is a perfect mix. The happy sounding tune is not as layered or overproduced.  A banjo mixed into the song seems to go with Musgraves work and one wonders if that is indeed her touch.  The lyric could easily be a commentary by Wilson on the ending of the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary tour.  Anyway, it all seems to fit.

The most energetic and contemporary sounding track features Nate Ruess of Fun.  Just like he does with the work in his own group, Ruess energizes “Saturday Night” and turns in a spirited performance.  Given author and composer credit along with Wilson and Joe Bennett, Ruess has a spirited contribution for the album.  Here is the live Soundstage performance:

The final track of the album, “The Last Song,” was originally scheduled to go to Lana Del Ray.  When the list of songs finally came out, her name was not to be found.  At first, Wilson told interviewers that Del Ray had canceled them, but it turns out that she actually recorded the vocal the previous year.  It was ultimately decided that the nostalgic piece about looking back on a career seemed to suit Brian Wilson much more than Lana Del Ray.  Was it the swan song of the music master?  No, Wilson never seems to run out of tunes.

Don’t be sad
There was a time and place for
what we had

If there was just another chance
for me to sing to you…

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER – Marilyn Armstrong

A long chatty recipe with notes

I cook dinner every night, but my usual efforts are sleek little dinners that are easy to cook and even easier to clean up. Every once in a while, I get a buzz and decide I need to try something new.

Last week, I bought some frozen New England clam chowder. It wasn’t bad. I added a bit of extra half-and-half (that would be a 50-50 combination of milk and cream) and some za’atar and it was pretty good. But it wasn’t great and for $5.99 for a pint, I figured I could do that. Better and a lot cheaper.

Today we went to the grocery store. We picked up all the stuff I was supposed to buy the last time I shopped but forgot. Then I bought what I needed for the clam chowder.

Let me start by saying — there isn’t a recipe for New England clam chowder. There is a recipe for each person who ever cooked it. Sometimes two or three. After reviewing a dozen or so, I realized that they all included the same ingredients in various amounts which didn’t seem particularly precise:

Chopped onions  I diced up one-and-a-half big onions.

Chopped celery About a cup or a bit more.

Bacon (cut into small pieces) It was whatever I had left over from the last time I made a big breakfast … about 6 slices.

3 cups (more or less) of clams with clam juice *

* Long note: All the recipes I found used canned clams. I don’t like canned clams. They taste like the tin they came in. I used frozen, pre-cooked clams. Canned clams come in clam juice. Frozen clams don’t. And I forgot to buy clam broth. To create something liquid and clammy, I defrosted the frozen clams in chicken broth. I figured that soaking the clams in the broth was bound to make it taste clammy. It worked.

2 cups of half-and-half  OR cream. Most people use half-and-half to keep from everyone from getting sick from all that fat. Full cream? I wasn’t sure we’d live through the experience, though we would die happy.

An undesignated amount of potatoes, cooked, peeled, and diced. The recipes called for you to boil the potatoes in the clam broth — followed by a lot of comments from people complaining the potatoes were insufficiently cooked.

I hate it when the potatoes are hard. I cooked the potatoes separately, peeled them after they were cooked. This is usually easier than peeling them before cooking, though this time because I was using small golden potatoes, not so much. Then I cut them into cubes.

At this point, I had a big bowl of chopped celery and onions, a bowl of chopped up raw bacon, a bowl of defrosted cooked clams soaking in chicken broth. A jar of chopped garlic. A bottle of za’atar. Sea salt. White pepper. Butter.

I put the pot on the heat, threw in the bacon, added a lump of butter and waited for the bacon to brown, which it didn’t seem interested in doing. I got tired of waiting, so I added the onions and celery. Stirred and waited. More waiting. More stirring.

I turned down the heat to medium. Stirred some more. Eventually, I got tired of standing there so I turned up the heat and added the potatoes and clams. Stirred some more.

The phone rang. Did I know how to clear a used (my used) Roku so my granddaughter could use it? No, I didn’t, but they probably would have instructions on the Roku website.

I took the phone with me to the kitchen making a quick stop to rinse the potatoes off my fingers. Peeling the potatoes was messy.

The phone rang again. Kaity thought she’d found the information on the box in which the Roku came. It sounded right to me and I wasn’t in a good place to start googling how to reboot a Roku.

Meanwhile, I decided to use cornstarch instead of flour as a thickener. I have not had good results using flour as a thickener. Maybe it’s me, but it always turns into a gloppy, lumpy mess. But I’m great with cornstarch. I put a couple of tablespoons of starch into a cup, added a bit of cold water and stirred it. I set it aside for when I would need it.

I added half the clammy chicken broth to barely cover the vegetables, clams, and potatoes. That was when I tripped over Bonnie and knocked the liquid starch all over the kitchen. Not her fault, but still, there was cornstarch everywhere. Cabinets, floor, dishwasher, me.

Garry wiped. I appreciated his wiping.

When everything seemed to be barely boiling, I added the two cups of half-and-half, salt, pepper, and za’atar.

I stirred it and left it to simmer. I put together another batch of starch and water (two tablespoons cornstarch and just enough cold water to mix it). I did not knock this one on the floor.

This was also when I realized I needed to heat up the rolls (nice crusty ones) and I needed Garry to come and taste. He came. He tasted. He said: “Hey, that’s good.” Great praise indeed, though to be fair, Garry is a really good eater as long as it doesn’t contain peas, lima beans, oatmeal, or cut corn.

So I tasted it too. It was good. It is rare for me to make something from scratch without a real go-to recipe and have it come out better than I expected. Usually, my first try is disastrous or at least, not quite right.

I turned up the heat and when the liquid was thinking about boiling, I added the starch and it thickened up. The toaster bell went off. Dinner! I had created some better than average New England clam chowder. We ate. We ate more than we usually eat and it was delicious. A bit heavy. And there’s enough for another meal. I’m not going to do that much cooking for one little meal, after all. But tomorrow night? Frozen pizza. I don’t think my stomach could handle two days in a row of chowder.

We have to make choices, don’t we? Sometimes, the price of something especially yummy is a borborygmus tummy.

Don’t you love that word?

Editorial addition:

I think I’m going to try and find a non-cream-based shrimp bisque. Shrimp is always available frozen and usually pre-cooked and relatively inexpensive. if I can keep the cream out of it, Garry’s gut won’t explode and I won’t feel like a blimp after dinner.

So far, though, all the bisque recipes are as full of cream as the chowder. There’s gotta be another way! More research!