Orange Marmalade & Clove Merengue Pie

This is based on my grapefruit merengue pie recipe, which I posted here a while ago, although there are more differences in the filling than just the fruit. The crust, however, is identical to that recipe, q.v. (Actually, you could use any pie crust that you like with this filling, and, come to think of it, a graham cracker crust might be interesting. But I used the shortbread, and it worked out pretty well.)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 oranges, or 2 if large
  • boiling water, divided
  • 5/2 cups granulated sugar (That's 2.5 cups, if I still remember how to convert rationals to decimal notation.)
  • 3/4 cups cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (See notes below.)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 TBSP shortening (optional)
  • orange food coloring (optional)

Prepare the dough for the crust, and place it in the refrigerator to chill.

Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a medium-large saucepan. Bring the water to a rolling boil.

Grate rind (amount to taste; I took most of the outer, dark-orange layer of rind from two oranges) into a large measuring cup and add the juice and pulp, discarding any seeds, the remaining peel, and as many of the section dividers as you can easily separate from the pulp. Add enough boiling water to bring the total volume, including the fruit pulp, to four and a half cups.

Add the water and fruit mixture to the sugar and cornstarch in the saucepan, stirring. Place over low-to-medium heat and stir as necessary until it boils gently. Add another half a cup of boiling water, the egg yolks, and the cloves. Continue stirring until it reaches a good boil. Remove from heat and stir in the food coloring and/or butter if desired.

Let it cool. Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Roll the crusts, invert onto pie pans, and prebake them. Add the filling, top with merengue right to the edges, and bake just until the merengue is lightly browned. Cool. Serve chilled.

I am of two minds about the amount of cloves in this recipe. On the one hand, the presence of the cloves is readily apparent, and a smaller quantity might create a more subtle effect, which might be better, especially if the effect you're going for is "orange pie". On the other hand, the flavor of the cloves is not as strong as the orange flavor, particularly if you use as much rind as I did, so more cloves might create more of a balance. If the effect you're going for is an even balance of clove and orange, more clove is probably wanted. I can't decide which way I'd go next time.

It may also be worth considering a bit of vanilla extract, or a bit of lemon juice in the water.

I believe I got the sugar about right, at least for the oranges I used (seedless "naval" oranges; it's what we had in the fridge, and they weren't the freshest ever either; better oranges would presumably yield better results). I wasn't sure I'd nail the sugar the first time, since I was reducing it from the amount in the grapefruit version, but I think I got it about right.

A Treatise on the Length of Handles

I am not a particularly tall man, as men go.

According to Uncle John's Monumental Bathroom Reader (a book that my sister purchased for us to keep in the bathroom because, you know, you've got to have reading material in there, and Reader's Digest these days most emphatically ain't what it used to be), 25% of American men are over six feet tall. Even if the precision of this statistic is in doubt, the general principle is undeniable: there are a lot of men out there who are taller than, you know, the short people.

Well, 25% of American men may be over six feet tall, but I'm not. I don't know my exact height, but my father, who is significantly taller than I am, is still a couple of inches shy of six feet. So presumably more than 25% of American men are taller than my father, and I can tell you for certain that a good deal more than 25% (perhaps as many as 50%) of American men are taller than I am. I'm not shrimpy short, but I'm not especially tall either.

Which brings me around to my main topic of snow shovels, and specifically, the length of snow shovel handles. Apparently the entire snow shovel industry is run by eight-year-old children and/or four-foot-tall women, because it is difficult to buy a snow shovel with a handle that comes anywhere near shoulder height on me (let alone on a tall man). Waist height is more typical. (Okay, so my waist is a little higher than average for a man my height. Still.) By the time you angle the shovel at the thirty-five degrees (from horizontal) or so that you need in order to get next to the sidewalk and separate the snow from it, this means the handle is at, approximately, knee height. (Okay, so my knees are a little higher than average for a man my height, and maybe you could make a shovel work at forty degrees, forty-five if it's got a well-angled edge in good condition. Still.) Even if we assume that twice as many women shovel snow as men (which seems unlikely to me), and that 100% of women are shorter than I am (which is definitely not true), that still means a double-digit percentage of the snow-shoveling population is WAY too tall to use the shovels that are commonly available.

WHY should I have to bend over (or, worse, kneel) until my head is barely above the level of my waist? Is there a good reason for this? (Hint: No, there is not.) I'm not yet forty years old, so I can do that for a couple of minutes, but if I have to shovel any _significant_ amount of area, the bending over gets old. Fast. My back and waist and knees get tired *way* before my arms do, even if it's heavy snow. And my arms are not exactly what you'd call the athletic sort, as anyone who knows me can attest.

And heaven forfend I should want to shovel my way *down* the stairs, starting from the top, from inside the house. (Apparently, it doesn't ever snow at night in Snow Shovel Design Land, or something.) In that case I would have to be enough of a gymnast to bend over until my elbows are level with my ankles. Haha. While that would admittedly make an amusing cartoon short, I am in practice not nearly that flexible, so I generally have to step on the snow I'm about to shovel (which, if it's the kind of warm wet snow we tend to get most of the time around here (albeit, not today), makes it rather harder to shovel afterward) to get to the bottom and work my way back up.

I can sort of understand why shovel handles, when measured from the tip of the blade, might only come to three and a half or four feet, if you were only concerned about selling the blessed things in Japan, where the idea that a man might be six feet tall is simultaneously silly and yet also somewhat terrifying. But in the Western world, where it's *common* for a man to be six feet tall or more, and we have entire chains of clothing stores that cater exclusively to men who are over six and a half feet all, why does nobody sell a snow shovel with a longer handle? I'd buy one. I bet a lot of other guys would too.

Incidentally, there are other things I'd like to have with a longer handle as well. Garden implements, leaf rakes, brooms, mops... one could imagine an entire product line based around this simple concept. But the top of the list, as far as I'm concerned, is the snow shovel.

Arbitrary Screenshot

I've been tapped. The instructions don't specify an order, so I used directory order (ls -U), which is, generally speaking, the order in which things were created. Based on that, the fourth subfolder in /b4/img (where I keep most of my images) is sshots, which as you might guess is where I generally put screenshots.

The fourth file (using directory order again) therein is this little gem.

Wow, that's old. I believe this is from the era when I was using a Windows Me system as a temporary stand-in (which ended up lasting for several months) because my Linux system had developed hardware problems. I had forgotten that Inkscape had been around that long. That was way back before I built the FreeBSD system, which I used for a couple of years, and then I upgraded/migrated it to Debian stable a good while ago, back when sarge was current IIRC, and now etch is living on borrowed time.

Anyway, I took this screenshot to show how practically all software honors the system colors (in the shot you can see, Gimp, and the web browser from the Mozilla application suite). But then you also see how Inkscape looked at the time, and how it absolutely didn't make any effort to match at all. It has since somewhat improved, incidentally. It still doesn't use automatic on-screen document colors from the system colors, like OpenOffice does (as you can see), but recent versions of Inkscape do at least paint the UI in the system colors, as you can see from this much more current screenshot:

Inkscape is still a pain to use for me, compared to other applications, because of the fact that it doesn't automatically use system colors for the document while editing. I generally end up changing the actual document background color for editing comfort (I can't work with blinding white backgrounds; it hurts my eyes and gives me a headache), and then I have to remember to change it back any time I want to print, or export a raster image, or anything along those lines. Annoying.

But at least the chrome is painted in system colors now.

Recipe for Pain

  1. Contract a minor cold, of the kind that you barely notice, except that it makes you cough at the least provocation, e.g., whenever you laugh it starts a coughing fit that takes a minute or so to stop.

  2. Take the puppy out for a romp in the snow, slip, fall, and catch yourself in a way that strains some of your rib muscles, so that they're sore and sensitive to sudden movement, such as coughing.

  3. Decide to enter the Lyttle Lytton Contest again this year.

  4. While working on your entry, be sure to do your research by reading through all the past winners, in order to compile a nice little ranked list of features that the winning entries tend to have.