Meal Plan: Week of 4/6/14 – 4/12/14


veggies

This past Friday, we received our first delivery from Farmhouse Delivery. After my experience at Foodways Texas, I’ve been looking for ways we can both reduce our carbon footprint and support local producers from within the kitchen. I signed us up for East Side Compost Pedallers and did some shopping around for CSAs, ultimately deciding on Farmhouse because I liked the ability to add on things like milk and cheese curds from Mill King, bread from Easy Tiger, and eggs from Pelham Lane Farms. I was hoping to get some Rockstar Bagels in our first drop off, but every time I added them to my cart, some weird $14 “cardamom bars of joy” showed up in my shopping cart instead. THAT’S FINE I DIDN’T WANT ANY BAGELS ANYWAY.

Anyhoo, I opted for the large weekly bushel and on Friday, I opened the box to find rainbow chard, spinach, strawberries, a small bunch of rainbow carrots, a huge bunch of parsley, a couple of sweet potatoes, a couple of artichokes, a gorgeous head of red leaf lettuce, and a big bunch of scallions. So, I’m faced with planning our meals around these veggies, many of which I rarely use. The chard, in particular, made my knees quake a little.

You see, when I was expecting the Little Kid, I had some, uh, food aversion issues. Meaning that I would eat food and then my body would decide it was averse to it. One day in particular, I made Eggs in a Nest for my lunch. I wanted to like it, really. But my body did not get the memo and I’ve avoided chard like the plague ever since. But now she’s five and I reckon it’s time to get over myself.

The farm box didn’t contain enough to keep me from having to go to the grocery store, but it has ensured that I’m incorporating veggies into every single meal. Plus, this gives me the opportunity to try some things I’ve not tried before, like branching out into sauces and whatnot. I already used the lettuce for dinner on Friday night (we’re not paleo, but I’ve found some really yummy recipes out there in that world, and I’m very glad there was enough of this taco salad left over for me to take some for lunch later this week).

Sunday: I ran the Cap 10K this morning and am celebrating with friends and margaritas at Maudie’s

Monday: Beef empanadas with chimichurri sauce. I might also use the sweet potatoes from the farm box to make these, but we’ll see.

Tuesday: Rainbow frittata muffins (recipe below), roasted artichokes

Wednesday: Chicken tikka masala, rice, naan

Thursday: Steak and brussels sprouts

Friday: Baked chicken wings, carrot and celery sticks, salad

Saturday: TBD. We usually dine out on Saturdays, so we’ll probably do pizza or tacos or something.

rainbowfrittatas

 

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe here, so I thought I’d do so today. Here’s a ridiculously nutritious vegetarian main that’s super easy for a weeknight. Serve with crusty bread (and a salad if you want to be super wholesome; add a chunk of cheese if you’re feeling like indulging).

Rainbow Frittata Muffins
makes 12 mini frittatas
adapted slightly from Veggiestaples.com

12 eggs
1 cup chopped rainbow chard
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cups of muffin tin with cooking spray.
Crack eggs into mixing bowl and whisk together.
Add in vegetables and cheese, add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the mixture into the muffin tins.
Bake for 20 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Foodways Texas Symposium: A Recap


chickens

This past weekend, I had the extreme privilege to attend the fourth-annual Foodways Texas Symposium. This year’s “Farm to Market” program was held at the Agrilife Center on the Texas A&M campus and provided attendees with the opportunity to explore and learn about agriculture through various lenses, from logistics to oral histories to the connections between Texas food and swing music.

The event commenced on Thursday night with a welcome dinner at The Veranda, with a “Texas Spring Picnic” dinner provided by Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods in Fort Worth. The menu included chicken-fried quail and a potent whiskey pound cake, showcasing Texas ingredients from start to finish.

oyster

Indeed, each meal over the weekend laid bare the embarrassment of Texas riches in terms of both ingredients and culinary talent. Friday morning’s breakfast, courtesy of Brian Light of Ronin Cooking, featured empanadas made with Longhorn beef (because College Station), while breakfast on Saturday was curated by Austin’s Stephanie McClenny of confituras, who paired her spring jams (including the brand-new ruby red grapefruit jelly) with irresistible rafts of grilled Texas toast from Dallas’ Empire Baking Company and goat cheese from Blue Heron Farm. Friday’s lunch, courtesy of Randy Evans of Haven in Houston, featured Gulf Coast delights including briny appellation oysters and a mouthwatering sauce piquant plump with Texas shrimp. (Our table also tore through three servings of dessert, a tipsy strawberry trifle stuffed into large mason jars.) On Saturday, Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen in San Antonio offered up a “Winter Garden Luncheon” featuring an absolutely stunning plate of roasted chicken and sweet potatoes, along with lamb shank, meaty mushrooms, and coarse yellow grits. On Friday night, dinner came courtesy of Lenoir’s Todd Duplechan, who wowed us with a smoked porchetta dish accompanied by a hearty peasant bread and refreshing end-of-season beets.

tipsy

While our bodies were nourished by Texas ingredients, our minds were nourished by the various thought-provoking topics. Friday’s program was more loosely organized, focusing on agricultural products like wine, olives and grapefruit, as well as an introduction to Robyn Metcalfe’s intriguing new project, The Miracle of Feeding Cities. I was particularly moved by Saturday’s program, though, which hewed rather more closely to a single topic: the rice industry in Texas.

First, Todd Romero, a history professor at the University of Houston, gave a talk on Saito Saibara, a turn-of-the-century ex-samurai who became a successful rice grower in South Texas before the racist immigration policies of the early-to-mid-20th century squelched his ambitions. Next, MM Pack moderated a panel dedicated to teasing out the nuances of water usage and conservation in Texas and how that relates to the rice industry.

Perhaps the most profound example of this troubled relationship came when Jack “Jacko” Garrett, a Houston-area rice farmer who founded Share the Harvest, a charitable organization that has donated millions of pounds of rice to the Houston Food Bank, accepted his Lifetime Achievement award. He explained that because water consumers in urban areas fail to conserve water in any meaningful way, this will be the first year in decades that his father’s farm will produce no rice because there simply isn’t enough water available. As a result, the Houston Food Bank will receive 800,000 fewer pounds of rice from Share the Harvest this year, which adds up to 8 million servings. It is profoundly humbling to reflect upon the connections between hunger and people’s dedication to maintaining their emerald-green lawns. It’s easy to think of water being a problem people in third-world countries have, but we can no longer deny that it’s a social justice issue here in Texas as well.

Also of note was the closing panel, moderated by Austin’s Kristi Willis, who led three urban farmers in a discussion of their operations. Max Elliott, of Urban Roots in Austin, James Jeffers of Eat the Yard in Dallas, and Colleen O’Donnell of Plant It Forward in Houston all described the ways that their farming programs yield positive change in their communities. Not only does Urban Roots teach at-risk youth critical leadership and life skills, but the farm also donates thousands of pounds of produce to the Capital Area Food Bank and Caritas each year. Eat the Yard, which was founded by two Army veterans, reaches out to veterans who are in need of immediate therapeutic interventions, and Plant It Forward helps out immigrants and refugees through its gardening programs.

In between all the eating and the learning, there was community-building to boot. There were many lively discussions floating around, from how to best manage one’s cast iron collection to what the best thing on the menu at El Patio is. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a weekend than surrounded by people who love food: the growing, preparing, and sharing of it. Here’s to many more weekends like this one.

Meal plan: Week of 3/23-3/29


pineapplecake

 

It’s spring! And pineapples were on sale for ridiculously cheap at the grocery store, so I took this opportunity to make my first-ever pineapple upside-down cake. You can see where it stuck to the edge of the pie plate when I inverted it, but look at that glaze! That caramelized edge! I’m very much looking forward to sampling this.

I went to the Foodways Texas symposium this weekend and learned so much, met some cool new people, and hung out with friends I don’t get to see very often. I’ll have a recap of it here tomorrow. There’s so much to share and process and take action on and be excited about — I can’t wait to get it all in writing.

In the meantime, here’s the meal plan for the week!

Sunday: Skillet roasted chicken from Cast Iron Nation; I’ll be testing some recipes from this new cookbook this week for a review.

Monday: Baked Spaghetti (Also from Cast Iron Nation), salad

Tuesday: Baked fish and chips, broccoli

Wednesday: LK and I will have dinner at Salvation Pizza while Husband and BK are at baseball

Thursday: Slow cooker chicken “gyros”, appropriate Mediterranean sides

Friday: Teriyaki salmon, rice, spinach

Saturday: Double date dinner out!

What’s on your menu this week?

Baked Sunday Mornings: Classic Creme Brûlée


SXSW is finally over. It feels like it’s been going on for months, maybe because I started working on it back in February. This year was a particularly weird festival, with what felt like way more crowds than usual, that horrible crash on Wednesday night, nightmare train rides, and a general sense of things being out of control. 

Naturally, my defense mechanism was to hide out at home as much as possible and do nest-y things like read a soapy novel, fold laundry, and try a new kitchen project. That’s where the creme brûlée comes in, thanks to Baked Sunday Mornings.

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I love creme brûlée. We go have dim sum once every few months and I always choose this French custard from the dessert cart. If it’s an option on the dessert menu when the husband and I are dining out, I’ll order it. It’s a special-occasion treat for me, to be sure. And that’s why it was so surprising to me that it was so easy to make. It was also my first time using a kitchen torch, which was pretty fun, although I wish I’d caramelized the tops to order instead of all at once so that I could get a bit more practice with it. Some of the sugar came out a bit more torched than I would have liked (although not scorched). 

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However, ease of preparation will probably not entice me to make this at home very often. I made five portions instead of four, and as I was eating mine, I realized that I was eating (and enjoying greatly) a half-cup of heavy whipping cream. The smaller portions made for a whopping 13-point dessert; if I’d divvied it into four portions, the Weight Watchers points value would have been 18 (!!!!), making this a serious splurge indeed. That said, this recipe was DELICIOUS, and I really loved seeing the flecks of vanilla bean in there. (And it was nice to use one of the vanilla beans I’ve had sitting in the pantry for an age.)

That said, sometimes you need to indulge in some dessert therapy, or at the very least, demystify a special treat. And now I’m curious as to whether I could develop a low-fat creme brûlée (although what would be the point of that?). 

Check out what the other bakers had to say about this recipe. 

Meal plan: Week of 2/23/14-3/1/14


Chaos is the operative word around here. Baseball practice is in full swing (ha!), plus the run-up to SXSW, which means I’m spending a lot of time in front of this machine, churning out copy like someone who doesn’t procrastinate, on top of the flurry of my regular work. Rest assured when I say that we’re doing well to get three meals a day over here. Bonus points if one of my kids chokes down a broccoli floret at least once from Sunday to Sunday.

My kids won't eat this. It confounds me.

My kids won’t eat this. It confounds me.

Sunday — We were planning a dinner out, but the LK’s asthma and related concerns resulted in scrounging for the kids and a call to Pad Thai for the grownups.

Monday — Mom 100 cheesy rice with chicken + broccoli

Tuesdaybalsamic roast beef (sandwiches?), green beans, potatoes

WednesdayMediterranean chicken, green salad

ThursdayCuban black beans + rice bowls,

Fridayoven fried fish, spinach, couscous

Saturday — something involving margaritas, if I’m lucky

Downton Abbey, episode 8


Hello, my dearest readers. So sorry to have abandoned you last week, but I was overwhelmed with deadlines and unable to make our usual Downton Abbey appointment.

Here’s what we missed:

  • LG was called to America to help get Cora’s brother out of hot water.
  • Isobel nursed an ill Violet back to health, which deepened their friendship.
  • Mary flopped around in pig filth with Mr. Blake, which means that in some countries they’re married.
  • Tony “Lord” Gillingham came back to Downton with his evil rapist valet, whom Mrs. Hughes confronted about his evil raping ways. Of course he denies it, and Anna is deeply uncomfortable.
  • Aunt Rosamund smells a rat re: Edith, and says, “you seem so préoccupé lately.” (That’s French for “rich people’s affectation.”) Edith spills the beans, goes to get an abortion, but changes her mind.

Got it? Good. Let’s proceed with Part 8. This is a pretty juicy episode, being the season finale of sorts, so strap in. [Well, the “Christmas special” is technically the season finale, but that is typically a standalone episode.]

partytimeexcellent

Turns out Cora’s brother has gotten embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal. Turns out Mr. Levinson owns one of the companies caught paying bribes to Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall to drill for oil on government land in Teapot Dome, Wyoming. Thanks, Downton Abbey, for this American history lesson! This, of course, leaves Cora to plan the church bazaar without LG’s help. Because I’m sure he’s always a huge help in every way.

Tony "Lord" Gillingham just wants to be loved by Mary. Anna just wants him to stay away, please.

Tony “Lord” Gillingham just wants to be loved by Mary. Anna just wants him to stay away, please.

Mr. Blake, with whom Mary is much more comfortable now that they’ve thrown pig shit into each other’s faces, has reached the end of his study time in Yorkshire and is headed home. And just so that we don’t forget that this is a soap opera to its very core, Mary tells Anna that Tony “Lord” Gillingham is returning to Downton to break his journey home. When Anna turns green around the gills, she’s forced to tell Mary that it was Mr. Green, the valet, who attacked her. Mary is understandably shocked and wants to tell the police, but Anna’s hell-bent for leather to keep it under wraps, and keep Bates away from Green because she knows he’ll figure it out, kill Green, then get himself hanged. Yes. We know this. You tell us this every episode since it happened. WE GET IT. (P.S. Bates can totally tell that something happened with Mr. Green, because Anna no longer jokes and laughs with him when he’s around.) (P.P.S. Tony tells Mary he plans to call off his engagement, but Mary tells him that she’s not on the market, for realsies.) Later on, Mary decides to tell Tony to dismiss his valet so that Green can’t terrorize Anna at Downton on future visits. Tony later arrives at the bazaar to report that Mr. Green is dead, having fallen into traffic in Piccadilly.

Related: Bates takes a mystery day off while Anna is in London with Mary.

Ivy receives a letter from Alfred reporting that his dad’s died and also inviting her to a.) marry him and b.) leave Downton and join him in London. She does not want. Despite sending him a letter to this effect, he plans to come to Downton anyway. Mrs. Patmore takes this opportunity to let Daisy take the day off to go see Mr. Mason, who advises Daisy to say goodbye to Alfred. “Leave nothing jagged, nothing harsh between you,” he says. Aw, he’s salt of the earth, that Mr. Mason. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, JULIAN FELLOWES. She brings back a basket of goodies for Alfred, and promises lifelong friendship to him. He leaves and dear god I’m glad to see the back of him and this tortured storyline.

On a trip into Thirsk, Branson spies Rose having tea with and stroking the face of Jack the Black American Jazz Singer. He reckons this situation will make some people unhappy. (The narrative also presents him with a potential love interest-philosophical sparring partner in Sarah Bunting, a local schoolteacher whom he met at a political meeting in the previous episode.) Anyhoo, he tells Mary what he saw; Mary confronts Rose about it and warns her not to lose control of her life. Rose fancies herself progressive and anti-imperialist in that she plans to marry Jack and have lots of progressive mixed-race babies in 1920s England and is going to tell Mummy of her plans straight away. Yep, totally in control of her life, that one. She later tells Mary that she’s engaged to Jack. Mary goes to visit Jack in London, where he tells her that he plans to break off the relationship because he is realistic about the world they live in.

edith

Meanwhile, Edith reckons she can have her baby, then adopt it out to some tenant farmers at Downton who have been trying unsuccessfully to have a child (and who are also charged with the running of the new pig operation). Aunt Rosamund thinks this is reckless and reckons Edith should have the baby abroad and adopt it out there, but Edith wants to be a part of its growing up. This gives rise to a rather hilarious scene in which Rosamund says to Cora, “I have this plan. I’ve always wanted to … speak better … French than I do. [Ha! Because her daily speech isn’t affected enough!] So I thought I’d take a few months off and go to … Switzerland … and really learn it.” She’s totally making this up on the fly, a la Jan Brady and her boyfriend George Glass.

She wants to take Edith with her because it’s cleaner than France, is void of French people, and has good hospitals. You know, in case they get ill. Cora, such a sanguine lady, is all for it, exclaiming, “Golly! Life is full of surprises!” If she suspects anything, she masks it well. Violet compares Edith’s upcoming sabbatical to Lord Gillingham “thinking his way around the Highlands.” If only it were that simple for women. (P.S. Violet totally groks what’s up with Edith and calls her and Rosamund on it at lunch. Sharp old lady is sharp.)

Speaking of women, as Mr. Baxter, Evelyn Whatsis, and Tony “Lord” Gillingham all depart from Downton, the women (Mary, Rosamund, Edith, Cora, and Rose) are lined up outside to see them off. You see that the women’s color palette is shifting from purples and mauves to shades of blue, gray, and pewter accented with creams and browns. I’m not sure if the costume designers are making these choices a la Vince Gilligan and Breaking Bad, but it is noticeable and I’m hoping someone somewhere will write a think piece about it. Anyhoo, the ladies tease Mary about the carful of suitors driving away, calling it a “desire of suitors.” Har-dee-har-har, says Mary, plus whatever the genteel version of “go eff yourselves” is.

Isobel is invited by Violet to stand in for the family at luncheon with Lord Merton, who seems interested in her. He later sends her a magnificent bouquet of flowers, and the two old-lady friends have a bit of a giggle over it. (But is Violet a wee bit jealous? Surely not.)

weknownothing

LG returns from America just in time to enjoy the bazaar. BECAUSE OF COURSE. Mr. Baxter also comes to the bazaar, under the pretense of just having come from a conference nearby, in order to make his feelings for Mary known. He, too, vows to fight for Mary’s love, which means that season 5 will invariably feature a cage match between him and Tony “Lord” Gillingham. (My money’s on Tony, mostly because he way sexier than Blake.) Tony asks Blake for a ride home to London, Mary sees them off, and LG  says, “What sort of menage has that turned into since I’ve been away?” Everyone shrugs disingenuously and we’re done here.

See you next time for the “Christmas special,” which features the triumphant return of Shirley Maclaine with bonus Paul Giamatti! Yay!

Dowager Countess Zingers: To Isobel, who enters the room saying, “It’s only me.”: “I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self-worth.” To Edith, discussing the trip to Switzerland: “Switzerland has everything to offer, except perhaps conversation, and one can learn to live without that.” Of Rosamund’s plan to act as Edith’s patron during her baby-having sojourn: “She’s done quite enough as it is. Take any more, and she’ll start exacting annual tribute.”

Meal plan: Week of 2/2/14-2/8/14


Last week was all about purging the freezer of leftovers I’d stashed over the course of January. And y’all, there was so. much. pasta. So, this week, I wrote a meal plan that is 100% pasta-free.

A crucial part of the weekly meal plan -- the fruit bowl!

A crucial part of the weekly meal plan — the fruit bowl!

Sunday: The husband and LK were both sick, so BK and I went to a Super Bowl party wherein I ate ALL THE QUESO.

Monday: Vietnamese chicken & rice soup. I had breakfast with my friend Jodi at Elizabeth Street Cafe last week and she ordered the chicken & rice soup, which was divine. So buttery and chickeny, filling yet not heavy. I’m obsessed with it now. I hope it turns out!

Tuesday: Steak salad with avocado and grapefruit (this recipe calls for shrimp)

Wednesday: Slow cooker chicken and vegetable pot pie

Thursday: Dual-language potluck at the BK’s school. I plan to bring roasted carrots and parsnips.

Friday: Black bean tostadas with pickled veggies

Saturday: Husband and I are going to a media preview dinner at a new restaurant, so the kids will probably have pizza with whomever winds up babysitting them.

What is your family having for dinner this week?

Downton Abbey: “Come to bed and dream of Ragtime”


Here it is, folks, the most boring episode of Downton Abbey that ever bored us. Onward through the slog, shall we?

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Did someone say toast?

Daisy gives Alfred first crack at the hot toast. (Not a euphemism, but should be.) Why is Alfred getting special treatment? Because he’s staying, of course. Oh, Daisy. Don’t you know the rules of Chekhov’s rejection letter? Naturally, Alfred learns that he’s gotten a spot at the Escoffier school after all, blurts an expression of gratitude to the family that embarrasses everyone, and breaks poor Daisy’s heart. Later, as Ivy moans about Jimmy having tried to make it beyond first base after a night out, saying “I suppose he was sweet-talking me so that he could have his way. All this time I thought he was so nice.” Mrs. Patmore responds drily, “I wonder how many women have said that since the Norman Conquest.” Ha! Daisy tears Ivy a new one, accusing her of having driven Alfred away through her flirtation with Jimmy. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore reckon Ivy had that one coming. 

Alfred’s departure creates a space for Mr. Molesley, who is brought on as footman despite Carson’s misgivings (he thinks Poor Molesley is ungrateful). No one knows his first name, though (duh, it’s “Poor”), make an educated guess that it’s “Joseph” (wrong), so he remains Molesley despite his reduced status. Ha-ha.

Downton as a business is expanding into agriculture in the form of raising pigs. LG is nervous. Mary is smug because Downton is doing so well, but we get some clues that maybe that’s not the case. She exchanges barbs with Mr. Blake, Evelyn Napier’s boss, so you know they’re totally going to do it. 

Anna is better, but not 100%. She and Bates decide they need a mini-break to make some good new memories together and go out for dinner at a fancy place. The maitre-d is snooty and tells them that there’s no table available for them despite their having made a reservation. Cora enters from the dining room, her face arranged into a creepy rictus meant to be a warm smile of friendship; this association convinces the maitre’d to change his tune and finds the Bateses a table. 

Violet keeps losing knick-knacks in her house. She thinks it’s the new gardener and sacks him, but they keep turning up in odd places. Either Violet is going a bit senile or someone is messing with her head (or both; I don’t trust her shifty-eyed butler, Spratt, who seems to have very conveniently found the netsuke figurine in the maid’s cleaning bucket). The previews for next week suggest that maybe she’s not well. 

Edith is sad and worried because Michael has gone incommunicado. Making matters worse, she receives a letter from her doctor informing her that the mole she had checked out is actually pregnancy, which is why it’s a good thing I’m not a medical doctor. Escandalo! Look where your feminist fantasies of having it all have gotten you now, Edith! 

Thomas pumps his spy, Miss Baxter, for dirt on the family. I’m not sure where this storyline is going. 

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Nothing bad can come of this.

Cousin Oliver Rose has secretly hired a band to play for LG’s birthday party. Surprise, it’s Jack Ross, the guy from the night club in London who is a — black American! This does lead to a funny scene wherein a scandalized Carson (first an Australian opera singer, now a black American jazz singer? What is this world coming to?) suggests that Jack visit Africa. “Why would I? I’m no more African than you are. Well not much more.” He goes on say that while his people came over from Africa in 1970, the circumstances of which are too ghastly to articulate, there’s really not more of a connection than that. Mrs. Hughes congratulates Jack on finding the one thing about the past that Carson doesn’t agree with (slavery). Har-har. Despite the initial shock of the band, LG loves his birthday surprise and offers to pay the bill for their performance. When Mary goes downstairs to pass along this information, she catches Rose and Mr. Ross smooching in the dark. Oy. Such a renegade, that Rose. 

Dowager Countess Zingers: To Isobel, who suggests Violet is too focused on material possessions rather than on justice: “I wonder you don’t just set fire to the Abbey and dance around it, painted with woad and howling.”

 

Downton Abbey: The Holy and the Broken


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Don’t worry, Anna. You’ll feel better before the hour is up.

You guys, I can’t even with this Anna’s Rape storyline, so let’s get it out of the way up front, shall we? Bates wants to know what’s gone wrong between them, and Anna continues to shut him out. He overhears Mrs. Hughes telling Anna that she needs to be honest with him, so he goes to Mrs. Hughes and offers her an ultimatum: tell me what’s up or I’m peacing out. Mrs. Hughes knows this would devastate Anna, so she spills the details, but pretends not to know the identity of Anna’s assailant. Once he finds out, he tells Anna that she’s found out. “But I’m spoiled for you now,” Anna weeps. Quite to the contrary, says Bates, “you are made higher to me and holier for the suffering you have been put through.” Oh, sweet fancy Moses, are you kidding me with this? What actor in his right mind can utter these lines without decking the dope who wrote them? Over on Salon, Daniel D’Addario argues that Downton Abbey is, at its heart, a deeply conservative show in its portrayal of “benevolent rich people caring for servants.” This particular storyline reinforces that idea for me, in that Julian Fellowes chooses to portray the servants as so noble, so pure in their suffering; the peerage would be downright monsters not to make sure these poor rubes are taken care of. Gah. 

Moving on, Miss Baxter, Cora’s new lady’s maid, is ingratiating herself nicely with the family, serving Cora orange juice for breakfast and reporting that the staff speak highly of Sybil. She’s also making friends downstairs, wowing the youngsters with her newfangled sewing machine and repairing Mrs. Patmore’s torn apron in advance of a visit from Cora. She and Thomas clearly have a history, and we see that he’s using her as his ambassador of goodwill in the house in order to consolidate his power for an inevitable coup d’etat in which he challenges LG to a duel, wins, declares himself Thomas the Lord of Yorkshire, banishes everyone but Tom and Baby Sybbie to Siberia and begins a slow march of domination across the English countryside. Or something. 

Mary is getting on with the business of running Downton with Tom and LG and receives notice that Tony “Lord” Gillingham has, as he said he would, gotten engaged to Mabel Fox, the heiress of the season. She seems unruffled, but we see when she turns away that she is stricken by the news.  Mr. Evelyn Napier, whom you might remember as Mary’s suitor from the first season (he’s the one who brought the doomed Mr. Pamuk to Downton), pops by for a visit while in Yorkshire working on a government project regarding the rural, postwar economy. Mary is quite glad indeed to see him, and Crawleys invite him to stay a while so that Mary can have a another melodramatic love plot. 

Aflred takes his cooking test at the Ritz, much to Daisy’s chagrin. While he’s away, Carson offers Poor Molesley Alfred’s job, should it come open. Poor Molesley, in a fit of hubris, gets a bit puffed up in a “don’t do me any favors, bro” kind of way. Naturally, Alfred doesn’t get in to the newly formed Escoffier school, setting the stage for an awkward encounter in which Molesley accepts a job that is no longer available. Yawn. 

Edith goes to the doctor in London, probably to get a mole checked out. Rose will help Cora throw LG a birthday party in a few weeks. Zzzzzzzz.  

I’ve lost track of the Dowager Countess Zinger Count, because every scene she had with Isobel this week was a series of parries and ripostes, meant to signify that Isobel is emerging from her own vale of shadows, post-Matthew.

52 X 2014: A People’s History of the United States (Ch. 1-5)


Well, my plan to read Good Omens fell apart when it became apparent that my husband’s copy had walked off, and I didn’t get a chance to go pick it up from the library or the bookstore. Instead, I’ve been reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, an undertaking that I will post here in installments because it is mammoth. 

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I’ve read the first 5 chapters and, while I appreciate the level of detail Zinn includes in the account of Europeans’ first contact in the Americas, plus the run-up to the Constitution, I find myself losing track of dates and significant events. I do really like the fact that he’s telling an alternative/radical history of the United States, one that departs from the “Columbus and the Founding Fathers are heroes” party line, and I look forward to seeing what he has to say about the Gilded Age, Vietnam, and the Reagan administration. 

For next week: Homeward Bound, by Emily Matchar. 

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