WND – The Little Things in Life

May 6, 2010

Saturday morning started with a water main in one of the western suburbs rupturing. This doesn’t sound like a big deal until someone tells you that it was a 10’ wide water main that connects the Western Mass water supply to the water supply for the greater Boston area. The practical upshot of this was that from Saturday morning through Tuesday morning all of the Boston area – 30 communities, 700,000 homes and 2 million people were under a boil water order.

Now, in the greater scheme of things this could have been so much worse. They switched over to a back up system fairly fast so it wasn’t as if we didn’t have any water. The water we did have was safe for washing and flushing and doing pretty much everything except drinking and cooking, and if you lacked a dishwasher washing your dishes. Frankly, from what I’ve read what we were getting was maybe 5% unfiltered lake water that was being pumped full of chlorine to kill any unwary bacteria so even if you somehow missed the reverse 911 call that was made to all land lines, or the flashing signs on the highway, or the signs on the door of pretty much every coffee shop, or the newspaper headlines and drank some tap water you were probably going to be fine. I mean, I boiled my drinking water and boiled water to wash my dishes because it’s not the kind of thing you really want to take a chance on, but I also didn’t get super fussy about washing my hands in boiled water. It felt particularly redundant since the water that comes out of our taps on an ordinary day could give the unwary second degree burns.

However let me tell you, boiling water to wash your dishes is a pain in the ass. I like to read about long ago times, but realistically I don’t really want to live in any era that didn’t have penicillin, hot and cold running water, central heating and about 1,000 other modern conveniences that we take for granted (also, aspirin, advil, and general anesthetic). Not even when I played Little House on the Prairie incessantly did I really want to have to haul water from the creek or take a bath once a week (in the same water everyone else in the family had bathed in – ewwww). Having to boil my water to wash my dishes for three days did nothing to change my mind about this. I will say that washing dishes the night we got clean water back was almost joyful. Nothing like a little inconvenience to make you appreciate the little things in life.

The real problem, of course, didn’t even occur to me until I tried to find somewhere to buy coffee on Monday morning. Dunkin’ Donuts wasn’t selling. Starbucks closed down a lot of its stores. Some stores were trucking their coffee in from beyond where the water main broke – and had signs up to reassure people that their water was safe. It was almost comically dire – there were online lists circulating of where you could buy a cup of coffee. My favorite café was actually making some coffee, and as I walked through the office with my prized cup of coffee I got stopped by five different people asking me where I’d gotten it.

If I was feeling exceptionally cynical I’d say the speed with which we got drinkable water back had something to do with this being an election year for our Governor. But realistically, he lives here too, along with all the state senators and a third of the rest of the population of the state so probably we’d have gotten water back fast no matter what year it was. Either way, I’ve never been so grateful for running water as I am this week.

Curried Chicken Salad
Buttermilk Biscuits (w/ ham)
Hard Boiled Eggs
Tomatoes & Mozzarella
Baked Lime-Tequila Pineapple

Chocolate Pudding

Curried Chicken Salad
It’s a little early in the year for this dinner, although the weather is cooperating nicely with some lovely sunshine this week – but it was a birthday request.

Recipe previously given:   Farewell to Summer Dinner

Buttermilk Biscuits w/ Ham

Recipe previously given:  Farewell to Summer Dinner

Hard Boiled Eggs

Tomatoes & Mozzarella

Baked Lime-Tequila Pineapple
Tonight the role of fresh cantaloupe and watermelon will be played by baked boozy pineapple.

Recipe previously given:   Your Logic is Not Like Our Earth Logic

Chocolate Pudding
(makes 6 individual servings)
Originally I was going to make chocolate pudding cake, but I realized that really what I wanted was the pudding part of the pie, plus I really hate making/blind baking pie crusts so just making the pudding was a win/win for me. Also, I got to put the pudding in the beautiful tea cups that I have and almost never use. I was going to make little coconut shortbreads to balance on the rim of the saucer, but then my oven burned everything I put in it on Saturday and I decided the cookies didn’t matter enough to the aesthetics of the presentation for me to make them all over again.

¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups milk (original recipe calls for whole milk, I used 2%)
6 oz semisweet chocolate (62%), coarsely chopped*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler**. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients.

Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form.

After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

Gently press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 days.

Serve with a small dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

* You can use chocolate chips, although I’d recommend bar chocolate instead. Chocolate chips have something added to them that helps them hold their shape even when they bake, which is great for cookies but less great when you’re actually trying to melt them.

** You don’t really need a double boiler – a large bowl balanced in a pan with some water works just fine.  The only thing you want to be careful about is that the bottom of the bowl is sitting over the water and not in it.



  1. I love the chocolate pud served in the teacups. Makes me want to go out to buy pretty teacups to do the same.

    • You could do a smaller serving in the umpteen dozen porcelain coffee cups that you have – they’d probably hold a 1/4-1/3 of a cup and you could make delicate little cookies to balance on the rim of the saucer, and use one of the seven sets of silver coffee/tea spoons you’ve inherited to eat them (which is what I used – although I only have the two sets so far).

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