ana left around 10:30a this morning. once again, i saw her walking in the direction of porter square. was she going to class or was she going somewhere else? i decided i wasn't going to belmont today so i could do some cooking. i wanted to use up the bacon i had in the fridge and try out the found rival-brand 4-quart crock pot i found a few weeks ago. so i decided to make slow-cooked clam chowder, which would also use up the old cans of chopped clams i have in the cupboard.
futzing around, i didn't actually leave for market basket until well after 12:30p. i ended up spending $30 even though it didn't seem like i was buying a lot. most interesting thing i saw happened at the deli counter. an old lady got so angry with waiting that she crumpled up her deli ticket and threw it at the butcher in disgust. funny thing was she had the next number. even her little tantrum i don't think anyone noticed except me. i'm surprised someone so angry and impatient can live so long.
i came home and finally made myself some lunch by around 1:30p: an english muffin sandwich stacked with a butter-fried egg, some goat milk brie cheese, and some shaved pastrami. it was so delicious i was tempted to make another one.
i set up my old linksys wireless webcam so it looks out onto the street. it used to look into my living room sort of like a security camera, but i disabled it once i had roommates. actually, i put it in my bedroom, but facing a part of the room where you couldn't really see anything. but i finally decided to put the camera to some good use. when i first heard about wireless webcams, the idea was to get one and have it look out into the front of the house while i was working in the back from my home office (AKA my bedroom). so finally after all these years, i'm finally doing what i wanted to do originally.
the linksys WVC54GCA is almost 6 years old, so it's pretty much a dinosaur at this point. unlike more modern versions, the resolution is not HD, uses old MJPEG compression, there's no night vision option, and you can't move the camera remotely. i'd love to get rid of it and upgrade to something new, but every time i upgrade i find a better use for the new camera and i end up getting stuck with the legacy webcam.
looking out the window i caught a young woman walking down my street, only to turn around an take a photo with her iphone 6 plus. it's actually quite common, i see it all the time, there must be something about my street, with the combination of houses, and the colors, and the trees, that make tourists want to take a photo. it was only later that i noticed something strange: today was a hot day (88°F) and yet here was this girl wearing a sweater and a scarf and a pair of ugg-style boots. she's obviously not from around here.
i began my clam chowder preparation around 2p. i looked at a lot of difference recipes. for some reason, celery keeps coming back, even though i don't remember ever having celery in my chowder before. a can of mushroom cream soup seems to be a common ingredient as well, which also seems old. i remember i had a can in the cupboard which i thought was unusual (who eats canned cream of mushroom soup?) and figured a past roommate must've left it behind. i ended up tossing it back in march after i cleaned out a bunch of old cans. but now that i think about it, i think i might've bought that can at one point, in anticipation of remaking clam chowder. the ingredients i came up with:
i began cooking the bacon first, chopped into little bit, with the fans running in the kitchen to blow out the bacon smoke. while the bacon was properly rendering, i began chopping up the vegetable ingredients: potatoes, onion, garlic. into the crock pot they went. i also added the frozen corn. this is a new addition to the recipe, i saw someone else with the same idea. i love clam chowder and i love corn chowder, so why not the best of both worlds? i opened up my clams, pouring the juice into the crock pot. the liquid level seemed a little low so i added another 8 oz. jar of clam juice. i saved the clams for later. into the pot went the bacon as well, and i even scooped up some more liquid bacon fat, hoping to add even more flavor. i started up the crock pot on high by around 2:30p.
i was happy that the crock pot still worked (you never know with found appliances). i have a crock pot already, a vintage rival-brand model from the 1970's in orange red. it's slightly smaller, just 3.5 quarts. it has a round ceramic bowl compared to the oval bowl of this new crock pot. there's some debate as to which shape cooks better. it seems with the oval it's easier to fit longer objects (like a chicken or a pork roast). vintage crock pots like mine can still fetch around $20 online, about the same price you'd buy for an inexpensive new crock pot (or better yet, just find one off the streets for free during moving days).
ana came home around that time. smelling the bacon, she said i must be cooking something delicious. when i told her i was making clam chowder, she got all excited and asked me for the recipe and if she could watch how i made it. she told me she was having dinner with her brother's family because it was her niece's birthday (they were going to the rainforest cafe in burlington mall).
i finally got a chance to ask her about why i always see her walking in the direction of porter square. "i go there to take the 77 bus into harvard square," she told me. i was surprised but also afraid that was her answer. "you know, we're just a 15 minute walk to harvard square," i told her. she said she mapped it out before, and google map was telling her it was 20-25 minutes. "have you ever walked back home from harvard square?" i asked. this was something she never tried, figuring the distance was far too long. even today, when she came back home, she took the subway one stop from harvard square to porter square and then walked home. "i will try walking to harvard square tomorrow," she told me.
the mail came: i finally got notification that i'm eligible for state health insurance. this was supposed to be taken care of the beginning of the year, but masshealth kept dragging and now it's almost october and i finally get my notice. it didn't stop me from going to see my doctor for the routine check-ups, but i always wondered if i actually had health insurance or not, and was afraid that one day the hospital would send me a big bill (which i've experienced and dealt with in the past).
while ana was taking her daily afternoon nap, i slipped out around 4p to deliver the boxes of jello and package of bean sprouts to the cafe. my mother had already gone home, only my father was there. i stayed until 5p then returned home. ana was awake by then, fixing herself up in the bathroom, then quickly rush out the door around 5:30p.
the house had the savory smell of slow-cooked chowder. even after a few hours of cooking the potatoes still seemed hard, but by the final hour it was finally soft. after 5 hours of cooking, it was time to add the half-and-half and clams. the recipe said to mix the milk and soup separately, but i poured the 3 cups of h-h directly into the crock pot, as well as dumping in the clam meat. that's when i noticed the thick layer of oil on top of the milky chowder. the bacon was already going to give off some oil, but then i added more melted bacon fat, which was probably a mistake. i skimmed off a little bit from the top to make the chowder less oily. it also seemed a little watery, so i added a tablespoon of corn starch. from taste tests, the chowder seemed a little bland and sweet, so i added a pinch of salt.
after an hour, the chowder was ready.
no deny this is a hearty soup, but the flavor didn't seem strong enough. any thickening came more from the potato, which had a tendency to dissolve into a starch mess. cooking the bacon for so long robbed them of their crispiness and saltiness, and they tasted like soft pieces of meat with only a hint of flavor. maybe in the future save some bacon for topping purposes. the corn was okay, but the half-and-half is already kind of sweet, and so is the clam juice, so it was another layer of sweetness. i think if i added more salt it might enhance and balance out the flavors. i'm curious about the mushroom cream soup, i may try it next time with that added: it'd provided some thickening and maybe also some saltiness.
i ate while watching thursday night football between the broncos and the chiefs. denver never lead until the very end, when they crawled back from what looked to be certain defeat and scored two touchdowns in the span of 9 seconds to win the game. ana came home around 10:30p, got a ride from her brother.