Category Archives: cooking

manual override

I love coffee. I love it so much I make a pot of it every morning. But, I’m at war with coffee machines. I hate most electric drip coffee makers because they are big, bulky and expensive. They never get the coffee hot enough and no matter how much money you spend on them, after two years they all either start leaking or stop working all together. Having to replace an appliance, especially an expensive appliance, every two years makes me very angry because I really dislike shopping and spending money. I hate shopping more than I hate being ripped off.  
wait. same thing.

a little historical interlude…
Growing up, my family mostly made coffee on the stove with a percolator-type coffee pot. Somehow, my mother, aunts, and grandmothers were able to make really good coffee out of these always boiling over pots and cans of stale ground supermarket coffee. Also, since I’m from an Italian family, we all had those little stovetop espresso pots that made tiny amounts of espresso, but that’s a different story and anyway, we only made espresso when important company came over.

Since we’ve lived in this house, I’ve gone through three or four coffee machines. The first expensive one was a Cuisinart, which after two years just stopped working for no reason. Got up, ground the coffee, filled the machine, turned it on and nada. Just sat there, staring at me as if I were invisible and not in great need. I cursed the machine, broke out mom’s old percolator, made coffee no where near as good as my mom’s, drank it, cursed some more, and went out and bought another coffee maker of the same brand but better (we’re talking around $200). Since the reviews for this machine were good, and it did make a good tasting cup of joe, I figured the first machine was a lemon.

Two years, almost to the day, with no warning that things were not going well, the 200 dollar machine turned it’s back on me and quit making coffee. This time I break out the french press and say, “Fuck you machine, I will not buy you again.” But then my sister came to live with us and brought her even bigger, better, and more expensive coffee machine, which was not yet two years old. Shortly afterwards, her bigger, better, more expensive, now definitely two year old machine started leaking. A lot. My sister hates french press coffee, so I went to K-Mart and bought a cheapo Mr. Coffee drip coffeemaker. Not the most cheapo one, but the middish cheapo one for just under $50.  It’s been about three or four years (cheaper lives longer) of drinking not so great coffee out of a leaky pot, but I’m too cheap to buy a better pot every two years.

But, the leakage is now so bad that I spend half the morning mopping up after the damned thing. So, that’s it — I’m done with these stupid machines that just want to suck the money and life out of me. Instead, I have decided to resurrect my mother’s old “dripolator” style coffee pot that is actually kinda retro-cool looking.  I think she got it when I was about 3 or 4 years old (hardly ever used it because, well, the percolator) so that definitely qualifies as retro. Maybe even antique. Anyway, here’s a pic:

coffee pot

My mom’s “American Stainless Kitchen Thermalloy” drip coffee pot from mid-1950s

The pot has two chambers. The top has a compartment to hold the grounds. It has a fine mesh screen and also an inner lid to keep the grounds in the chamber. You pour the water in the top which then slowly drips through the ground’s chamber and into the bottom. Because it’s all steel, it can be set on a burner set to low to keep the coffee hot.

Pictures of the innards:
drip coffee pot



This pot makes the best tasting coffee I’ve had in quite a while. And the coffee is HOT. I forgot how good HOT coffee is since the stupid drip machines can never get the coffee hot enough. The only down side to this pot is that it only can make six cups at a time. Considering the size of mugs (does anyone drink coffee in the old little coffee cups anymore?), that’s not enough for three people who habitually drink 2 mugs each in the morning.  So I’m going to need to figure out some way to make more than that without dumping and regrinding more coffee beans. Maybe just topping off the old ones after pouring a couple cups and running a bit more water through? An experiment will commence tomorrow morning.

Right now, I’m drinking tea.


if it’s friday, it’s broken

There are some things in life that I can always count on. The sun comes up every day whether I’m miserable or not. No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. I’ve tested this theory repeatedly and found it to be true. My animals only have medical emergencies on Sunday nights during inclement weather and major appliances, electrical and plumbing systems break after 5pm on Fridays.

This evening I created a new dish in order to use up some of the summer squash bounty. I set the oven to preheat and then took a large squash and two medium potatoes and sliced them thinly. Then I put a handful of fresh parsley and another handful of fresh basil, a large pinch of red pepper flakes and put them in the blender with about a 1/2 cup of olive oil and pulsed it til well blended. I put all this in one of those white, french gratin dishes (a deepish one), threw in some salt, pepper, a 1/2 cup or so of freshly grated parmesan cheese and mixed it all up with my hands. I topped that with course bread crumbs and dotted the whole thing w/butter.

Then I put the dish in a cold oven.


I saw this as an opportunity to slam the door as I left the house to feed my neighbors cat since she’s down the shore. When I came back, Brni had taken the oven apart and determined that the heating coil that triggers the ignition for the gas was dead. Gas ovens can no longer be lit with a match because we can no longer be trusted to use our ovens safely. We are still allowed to light the stovetop burners with matches, but for some reason, we are not to be trusted to light our ovens.

And it’s Friday night.

Last Friday night the kitchen sink stopped up. I thought it was the stupid garbage disposal, but apparently it was stopped up all the way down to the sewer pipe. The plumber charged me $200 to clear my sink because it was the weekend.

Luckily, I still have the microwave that came with the house. Now, I’ve never used it to cook anything before — it mostly warms up cold coffee and sometimes it melts butter or heats up frozen burritos. I had no clue as to how to cook real food in it and frankly, the idea scared me, but I had all this food in the gratin dish and no oven to cook it in. So, I set it to nuke the food for 5 minutes at 50% power. After the beep, I checked for doneness. I did this many times until the food seemed cooked. Then I put the whole thing under the broiler (yes, the broiler part of the oven works…it has it’s own ignition coil thingy). Amazingly, the dish was delicious and the tomato, pepper & basil salad I’d made was the perfect accompaniment.

The oven will remain broken until Monday.

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