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I just finished having a yummy roasted chicken dinner. J got the chicken going while I was still trying to get back home; I made the gravy and provided expertise in doneness judging. Now that I've cleaned my plate, I have this to say: if I were a superhero, my power would be making gravy. The stuff I made out of the pan juices tonight was the kind of stuff people dream of having spooned over their chicken fried steaks. I even put some on the chicken just because it was so good. My secret? Johnny's seasoned salt. It's true what they say on the label: it's magic! (I know I used to have some kind of seasoning that was perfect "on chicken" but is also perfect as an ingredient in chicken gravy.)

FYI for Americans: the standard way of making gravy here is to mix some crystals out of a tub with hot water. This produces a transparent glop that doesn't seem to me in anyway related to actual "gravy," which I think should normally be made with milk. My gravy is apparently quite bizarre to some English people.

Today was the long awaited equine excursion with silkyraven. I got ready for it in my own special way, by stressing out most of the night, worrying that I would oversleep and miss the train that would get me there on time (rail replacement buses had turned the entire trip to Tadworth into a bit of a nightmare - only one train _per hour_, getting me there either 40 minutes early or 20 minutes late). Oddly, in addition to dreaming that my cell phone had multiple previously hidden controls that turned it into a 1) video game controller 2) fuzzy blue pillow, I also dreamed that I went for a ride in a Rolls Royce heli-taxi - as well as dreaming about werenerd, who's apparently in my thoughts right now.

All this meant I was fairly strung out by the time I got to the train station at 11 AM ... all this to be somewhere by 2 PM that wasn't even as far as Gatwich Airport! Ahhh .... the joys of public transportation on Sundays. At any rate, silkyraven and I did finally meet up in Tadworth and walked to the stables. Our ride was really fun - I was on Forrest, who was a 17 hand red gelding (Irish Draft horse?) prone to ambling and trying to steal leaves off of bushes, but with a trot that was practically a parade march in its stateliness. I realized that my time on horses now seemed long, long ago as the ride lead suggested a canter ... hey now! Fast forward motion and nothing to hold on to ... but a horse ... with my legs! Everything seemed to be going a bit wrong for me as the horse's center of gravity seemed about 10 degrees off of where the center of the saddle was aiming - and I felt like I was having to ride a bit sideways, which I was really uncomfortable doing. (I tried a mid-ride adjustment by standing in my left stirrup, but this didn't seem to cut it.) It also felt kind of like this big rangy guy had a little bit of extra kick in the hind quarters, a sort of jostle I wasn't expecting, like when his back legs were in the air, he was giving his tail an extra good swat to try to get some pesky flies off and maybe tossing a booty shake on top of it.

I felt like quite the unskilled moron that I couldn't ride this canter correctly and easily, and wasn't surprised at the end of the ride when our guide (apparently the top teacher at the stable - glad I didn't get mouthy when he told me to hold my reins in much more tightly) said I needed to take some lessons before I went out for a hack again. I mean, shit, I didn't feel like I was doing well, there's no way that could have been invisible. And it was sad, you know, cantering is a blast, but I was relieved he didn't ask us to do it any more than he did. I hope silkyraven wasn't bored, but since the countryside was gorgeous (riding down a tree-covered lane? next to rolling hills covered with wheat? or a grass covered track put down for race horses to train on? Awesome!) I think my inadequacies might perhaps not have made this an altogether bad outing. And we did sure get the great weather - just a little bit overcast, and warm enough for t-shirts to be appropriate.

So I think I kinda sucked on the riding front today. And you know what? I want to go back and take lessons. I think riding is awesome and I want to be good at it, good enough for my eventual ride on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela (inspired by reading Therapy by David Lodge, believe it or not), which I'll get to do if I keep living here since we're so flush for vacation time. Lessons are pricey, but, you know, if I get four of them babies under my belt, I'll be so much better than I am right now that I'm sure me and Forrest would be having a good time on my next ride. And you know what? Even if it was just that the saddle was sitting sideways, at least I would be able to tell - and fix it.

Note: total transportation time - left at 11 AM, got to Tadworth (on the rail replacement bus, bah!) at about 1:05, walk to stable took 20 minutes. Done riding around 3:15, had to wait for the 4:20 bus (only one an hour, bah!), then had to wait for the 5:18 train (bah again! and cold!) and finally got home around 6 PM. GAH! Fortunately if there's actually a train running this is much less of a hassle.

Rightie - I have some work to do for the convention in Leicester now, and then me and my boy are going to laze around and watch some more David Attenborough videos (courtesy of spikeylady).

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
julietk
Aug. 10th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
dogrando makes Proper Gravy (vegan variety), which involves onions, garlic, half a bottle of red wine, Marmite, & assorted other Sekrit Ingredients. Then you leave it to cook for at least an hour, ideally longer. It is bloody lovely.

If he isn't there & I make sausages-&-mash I will tend just to make stockpowder+hotwater "gravy", but I don't tell him because he will disapprove ;-)
webcowgirl
Aug. 10th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
That sounds good!
I do believe there is room for a superhero with the power of making good vegan gravy - God only knows it's a feat I have yet to master! (Ditto vegan dessert baking - six weeks at a 50% failure rate doing daily baking was really shaming.)
julietk
Aug. 10th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
Re: That sounds good!
I am sure dogrando would happily pass on his recipe! Mostly it revolves around sweating the onions gently for as long as you can bear to wait. There's probably some bayleaves involved, as well. Om nom nom.

Vegan baking is not my forte either - you want friend_of_tofu for that. Although I have an excellent vegan ginger biscuit recipe.
jhg
Aug. 11th, 2008 09:25 am (UTC)
Re: That sounds good!
Garlic, onions, red wine, cornflour, salt & pepper.

Lovely.
webcowgirl
Aug. 11th, 2008 09:26 am (UTC)
Re: That sounds good!
Now, I think this sounds good as a sauce, but to me, it doesn't sound like a gravy.
jhg
Aug. 11th, 2008 11:38 am (UTC)
Re: That sounds good!
I know what you mean, but in the context of not having some previously home-made proper stock to hand...
moriae
Aug. 11th, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)
horseback riding is an expensive hobby. it's one of my favorite things to do and eventually i'll get back in to it. i already know how to ride but there's much more i want to do with English style.

i grew up riding western and had a lot to learn even when i first tried an english saddle.

Edited at 2008-08-11 01:04 am (UTC)
dreamsewing
Aug. 11th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
If you happen to have a week off next summer and 500pounds; I'd be up for going here: http://www.ridingtours.com/horseback-riding/spain-epona.cfm

Both my wonderful riding trips in So. America have been w/equitours.
I REALLY want do do the Morrocan trip, but don't think I qualify skill /bad leg endurance wise :(

Still, I will get to do regular desert rides when we are in Dubai seeing as there nothing else to do there besides shop, which holds no appeal.
eclypse
Aug. 11th, 2008 03:48 am (UTC)
Definitely take lessons. Lessons without stirrups and reins will help you to develop your seat. Take it very slow and methodical. You will get more out of it and be better to the horse. Remember, it is always about the horse's comfort first. By becoming a better rider and developing your seat you will make sure the horse is comfortable and willing to work for you. This looks like a nice facility. You are very lucky you can take public transport there.
webcowgirl
Aug. 11th, 2008 06:53 am (UTC)
Three hours there and three hours back wasn't very good in terms of getting there on public transportation - it meant I couldn't do anything else yesterday! (It was like having it take three hours to get to Ballard from Capitol Hill - just not that far away.) But it was a top notch facility, really.

It was frustrating to have forgotten so much since ... oh, well, when I say it was 25 years ago it doesn't sound so bad, does it?
jhg
Aug. 11th, 2008 09:23 am (UTC)
Don't you tar me with the same brush!
Only for people who don't know what they're doing!

The *proper*, old-fashioned way to make gravy is to - if you're doing a roast:

- take the joint out to rest
- pour the excess fat out of the roasting pan (and keep it, it's great for taters the next time
- put the pan on the (gas) hob
- chuck some red wine in
- boil it up
- chuck some veg water in if you've been boiling veg
- chuck some flour in to thicken it
- salt & pepper
- any other seasoning if you need it, e.g. worcestershire sauce

and Bob's your uncle.
webcowgirl
Aug. 11th, 2008 09:25 am (UTC)
Re: Don't you tar me with the same brush!
I have to say, wine is not actually such a common cooking ingredient where I grew up - it was for fancy people only! I am unfamiliar with all wine-based sauces.

This does sound really nice. When are you having me over for dinner?
jhg
Aug. 11th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC)
Re: Don't you tar me with the same brush!
I might do a roast sometime in October...
eglantinedreams
Aug. 11th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)
Re: Don't you tar me with the same brush!
Never saw wine being put in british gravy till i was about 20. A spash then rather than just the wine. I've got a passion for old cooking books and most of them follow the:Pour excess fat off, add flour and scrpae the pan around, add water and boil method.

I seriously never heard of anyone using milk in it till now though, although it rings a bell about a few of the basic sauce types in french cooking, as does the wine actually!

Obvoulsly my gravy is veggie usually, but it still follows the same basic principles, just with the addition of my special herb/spice blend that makes it taste "meaty". Its the mix I put into most of my english fuds as it just fits really well. Not many people can do nice british style veggie fuds. it makes me sad. I like my roasts damnit.
jillzilla
Aug. 11th, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
Re: Don't you tar me with the same brush!
jhg, you give me faith. Glad to hear that horrible liquid stuff isn't the canonical gravy.
jhg
Aug. 11th, 2008 11:35 am (UTC)
Re: Don't you tar me with the same brush!
Hooray!
jhg
Aug. 11th, 2008 11:36 am (UTC)
Re: Don't you tar me with the same brush!
Not if you speak to anyone over 65 or, well, me!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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