how to open things / mushroom gravy

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Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to open things? So difficult in fact, that sometimes it seems like the manufacturers are purposefully trying to make it a challenge to get into whatever the product is, like a raccoon trying to open the lid to a garbage pail? Take an aseptic carton of soy milk…narrow spout on top of package with even narrower flimsy piece of silver plastic, and you’re supposed to open it by grabbing hold of a 1/2 inch piece of plastic that’s about as wide as a paperclip?!? Unless you have freakishly small hands or a chimpanzee friend, there is almost no way you’ll be successful at opening this container. It will eventually open, of course, just not in the way the manufacturer hoped: a quick and satisfying stab with a knife will split that sucker right open, and even though the milk will pour out the wrong way and end up all over you instead of in your tea, you will have won the battle against the container. Because that’s all that really matters. It’s like opening a jar of pasta sauce. You have to prepare yourself for the exertion, and even though there are hundreds of jars filled with edible things, it’s always the damn pasta sauce jar that doesn’t want to open. You can try the “tap, tap, tap” maneuver on the side of a counter (which apparently allows air to escape the jar or something, but I’m fairly certain someone just made that up), or you can use a grippy thing to prevent your hands from slipping, or you can be mature about it and whack the top of the jar with a knife a thousand times while screaming obscenities, then hand it to your unicorn friend with a sarcastic grin (and feel better about your inability to open the jar as he hopelessly knocks it around between his hooves). And then there are chip bags. This kind of packaging really irks me because it looks so simple: “grab either side of bag and open” or “tear here”. The first one is the worst because when you pull on either side of the bag, the pressure inside builds and you suddenly become nervous and begin to doubt yourself, thinking: is this bag going to explode?. You decide to flip the bag over and try the other end. Same problem. Ultimately, you either wimp out and grab a pair of scissors or pretend to be tough and end up with chips all over you. The “tear here” bag is significantly easier because when you follow the instructions (gasp!) it does actually open, but it usually tears a hole that starts at the top and goes directly down to the bottom of the bag so that all the chips fall out the side. I recommend scissors in both cases.
Let’s move on to my favorite kind of packaging…the old “pull and twist” tab that lies beneath countless screw off lids from lotions to ketchup to shampoo. This devilish packaging never, and I mean never, opens. The smallest film of plastic beckons you to fail as the harmless looking directions simply say “pull and twist”. After you manage to grab hold of the 1/8 inch long tab, you twist with your index finger and thumb, and find yourself holding nothing at all. Again, I recommend the knife solution here. Do you see a pattern forming? When you need to open something, grab a knife or pair of scissors, let out a high-pitched “I’ve completely lost my mind” laugh, and attack!
When I was in middle school, we had to drink milk during lunch (this by itself is bizarre for reasons I will not go into at the moment). They were served in mini paper cartons, and although we had small hands on our sides, we weren’t rocket scientists: peel glued together paper backwards, then somehow push forward into a spout shape and pour. What?!? said the girl with the unicorn trapper-keeper. Our success rate with these little guys was mediocre. I usually opened the wrong end (why does it matter which end you open?) and the milk would splash all over my oshkosh b’gosh jumper (what was my mother thinking?). Or I’d try to open both ends and neither one would miraculously turn into a perfect spout, and I’d end up with a large opening like a trough. The worst part was, when you’re a kid you can’t just pull out a knife and stab your milk carton open (because that will mean that you’re going to become a serial killer). All I can say is, thank god I’m an adult now and can open packages however the hell I want.

I’m giving you a gravy recipe because I love gravy.  The reason it’s standing all by itself and not acting as the finishing touch on some vegan masterpiece is because it’s a masterpiece in itself, and I put in on everything from panfried tempeh to sandwiches to crostini to pasta (or I just eat it with a spoon).

Mushroom Gravy

1 yellow onion, diced
1 package button mushrooms, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine or 1/4 cup mirin (if you want a sweeter gravy…I like it both ways)
1/2 cup stock (Imagine No-Chicken stock or homemade)
1 heaping T of freshly minced thyme
1 tsp. arrowroot (this is a thickener like corn starch, but not GMO and processed…you can find it at Whole Foods)
1 T tamari (naturally brewed soy sauce)
black pepper to taste

In a deep saute pan, heat oil and add onions over a medium flame. Allow onions to brown and carmelize (translation: put down the spoon!), then add garlic and mushrooms. Allow to cook until brown and sticking to the bottom of the pan, then deglaze with wine, loosen the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon, and allow the mixture to absorb the liquid until almost dry. Now add stock, thyme, and shoyu and turn down flame to low, and simmer for several minutes. Add arrowroot and stir to incorporate, allowing mixture to thicken. Remove from flame and allow to cool, then place in a blender (I use a Vita-Mix blender = the best blender on the planet) or use an immersion blender to puree briefly, just a few seconds is enough. Gently reheat if necessary and add freshly cracked black pepper. Serve to a few unicorns still hoping to open a jar of pasta sauce.

One thought on “how to open things / mushroom gravy

    Anonymous said:
    October 16, 2011 at 2:33 am

    Great recipe! Those unicorns sure can cook and write!!

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