October 11, 2013


These days, with the economy in the state it’s in (Rhode Island, I think), I am doing my level best to find multiple uses for everyday items in the home in order to save money and make my husband, Stij, realize what a clever wife he has and how lucky he is.
And you know, I think I’m doing pretty well at it.
For instance—homemade jam.  I grow grapes in the back yard and this past season I was able to put up a quart and a half of grape jam.  I’m sure it’s delicious, but I managed to overcook it to the point where the seven packets of pectin I added just said, “Oh, fuck it,” and vulcanized the entire batch.
However, being the inventive person that I am, after scraping it out of the pot with a crowbar, I discovered a myriad (don’t you love that word?) of other uses.  For example, after a mere hour of blowtorching, I found that I could reshape the jam into intriguing sculptural forms; that is, until Stij came in, demanding to know “…what that horrific smell is and why are there 127,000 fire ants on the counter?” just prior to his donning oven mitts and chucking the whole thing into a trash can--which he then threw over the wall into our neighbor’s yard.
“He’ll never know where it came from,” Stij said confidently.
 "Oh, I wouldn't take bets on that," I muttered.
 All right, so the multi-use jam didn’t work out too well.  But how about brownies?  Brownies can be used for a lot of different things, too.
Recently, I made a quadruple batch of them, but forgot to add the eggs.  After employing the crowbar previously used in the jam, and cutting the hardened sheets into pieces on Stij’s band saw, there were enough of them to glue to the concrete slab by the front door in a really attractive herringbone pattern.  While debating whether or not to paint them, Stij walked by and told me that if I put any more of my failed baked goods outside, the fire ants have threatened to eat the tires on his truck—just to get rid of the taste.
So much for that.
Well, how about taffy, then?  See?  I don’t even need to write anything; you’re already laughing.  Why bother?
So since I screwed up the stuff anybody can make, I reasoned, “I guess they’re just too simple—maybe I should try something more challenging.”
Oh, don’t ask ME where I get this logic—just roll with it.
I tried baklava, which ended up tasting like a balaclava.  However, if carefully sanded and polished to a high gloss, it makes a really interesting sound when it hits the garbage can—ask my husband.
Another thing I made that had multiple purposes, which was the original premise of this column—remember?—was pancake syrup.  I figured, no problem, I’ll go outside, tap a tree, and do it the old fashioned way.  So out I went with my peg and bucket and my drill.  I drilled an appropriately sized hole, affixed the bucket hanger and adjourned indoors to watch “Jeopardy.” 
When I went back out, the bucket was full of milky white sap.  I hauled it in and dumped it into a pot on the stove to begin boiling it down.
It didn’t boil down.
It boiled over the pot, ran down the side of the oven, and onto the linoleum floor, where it proceeded to eat right through to the foundation.  The fumes alone were removing the paint, sheetrock, and framing.
It is to Stij’s credit that when he walked in on Armageddon he didn’t just kill me and toss me over the wall to keep the garbage can company.

        When we finally got everything back under control, we assessed the wreckage.  We had exactly half a house left.  Why it stopped at half, I’ll never know.  Maybe the doorknobs gave it indigestion.  All I know is that Stij managed to stuff it all into his refuse trailer and drove it off to the landfill, after first saying a Novena that they would take it when he got there. 
He was underwhelmed upon his return three hours later.
“What happened?  Did they take it?”
“Eventually,” he said.  “When they asked me what it was, I said, ‘pancake syrup,’ then they got all pissed off because they thought I was being a smartass.”
“So what happened?”
“I explained your culinary exploits.  Two of them have wives who cook just like you do.  We cracked a couple of beers and traded stories, and here I am.  What I want to ask you is this—which tree did you tap?”
“That huge Rubber Tree out back.”
“That is NOT the kind of tree you tap for syrup.  You tap a MAPLE tree.”
 “Oh, I know that.  I just thought I’d add some maple flavoring to it after it was boiled down.  Sap is sap, right?  Your face is really red—are you having blood pressure problems again?”
“High blood pressure is the least of my worries lately.” 
“Well, then, what do you want for dinner?”
“A paid-up life insurance policy.  Since we only have half a kitchen left, we’ll be eating out—for the next five months, probably.”
Now see that?  Multiple uses.  Beyond its usual use, my pancake syrup can also be used to get your house remodeled, give your husband the opportunity to make new friends, and get you taken out to dinner.  It also makes a great fire ant killer.
I’ll be releasing a cook book later this year, dear reader, so watch this page!


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