Hello! I know, I started writing weekly(ish) again and then I didn’t write last week, disappointing my legions of fans (read: my father). I apologize. In my defense, our washing machine died, because of course it did! And then I had to deal with that! And that meant I also had to admit that sometimes I don’t do my laundry for weeks on end (pro tip: have lots of socks and underwear, and you too can be incredibly lazy). It stands to reason that the washing machine would croak on the very day I realized my hamper was overflowing and I was nearly out of underwear.
So, last week I was busy doing exciting things like… washing my underwear BY HAND like some kind of peasant. And researching washing machines. And buying a new washing machine, and deciding we should swap the positioning of the washer and dryer, and then panicking that I’d bought the WRONG washing machine, and THEN trying to figure out the new machine, and trying to move the dryer back into the laundry nook and hook it up all on my own as a lovely surprise for Otto. Great idea, yes? He works so hard. But this led to the not-even-a-little-surprising scenario whereby I ended up sending him a string of indignant texts about how the dryer vent extension was too long but once I took it off, the vent line was just a smidge too short, and so I cut the extension piece (hey, all those years of watching This Old House with him have paid off) and had spent an hour trying to refit it and the main vent line together and I give up, everything is terrible, both pieces are both mangled beyond recognition and still don’t fit together, I HATE EVERYTHING, I’m going to rehearsal, Godspeed.
It was fixed when I got home. God bless Otto.
So: we have a new washer that works great, although I still have no earthly idea how it’s cleaning our clothes. When Otto and I got married, we both owned conventional top-loading washers. I sold my machines before I moved, and we began married life with his. Then we got a fancy-dancy high efficiency front loader washer as part of a work campaign (we, uh, know how that turned out in terms of appliance turnover…), and I really loved it, save for the fact that—like every front-loader in the world—despite our best efforts, it always smelled a little funny. Anyway. A conventional top-loader washing machine has an agitator in the center of the drum (or if you prefer, a “pointy stick thing” as I referred to it yesterday when we were having a scintillating washing machine discussion and I was having a brain fart), and a front-loader washing machine turns the drum and gravity causes your clothes to fwap-fwap-fwap around and get clean. The new washing machine is a high-efficiency top loader without an agitator. It also has a clear glass lid, so sometimes I stand there and watch it during the wash cycle. HOW ARE THE CLOTHES GETTING CLEAN? I can’t figure it out. They don’t appear to be agitating all that much. And yet, everything comes out clean. DARK MAGIC.
Also: the new washer plays all sorts of cheerful songs (I suspect it’s communicating with the new oven, which also enjoys singing to alert you to various events), and apparently I can download an app to operate it remotely. THANK GOODNESS, because I so often find myself out of the house, thinking, “Gosh, I threw all that laundry into the washing machine along with detergent, but then I FORGOT TO TURN IT ON. If only I could tell it to start!” I love that someone came up with that functionality but we still don’t know how to cure cancer. Mankind is AWESOME.
Okay, the stupid washer was not even what I wanted to tell you about. Haaaaaaaaahahahaha.
Here is what I wanted to tell you: It is well-established by now that I am a dedicated hobby baker, yes? Baking is good therapy for me. [Sidebar: Thank goodness it is, because real therapy doesn’t happen nearly often enough to tame the metaphorical hyperactive ferrets inhabiting my brain. I mean, the good news is that I went to therapy this very morning! But the bad news is that my appointment is tomorrow. SAD TROMBONE. Perhaps more therapy would enable me to read my calendar better?] I love baking for other people. So. I’m helping with a show right now, and I made cookies for the first rehearsal. The director made some crack about how he would expect baked goods every time, and I said maybe not EVERY time, but for sure I would bring more goodies, and then he mentioned that he would be having a landmark birthday the weekend of the show.
Well, the show is this weekend. I have asked the director a few times what kind of cake he would like for his birthday, and he’s never given me a straight answer. The only time he even sort of responded in a useful way was to tell me the story of how when he lived in San Francisco looooong ago there was this amazing bakery within walking distance and he used to go there every Sunday morning to pick up lemon currant scones, and although he’s tried scones other places over the years, he’s never found any as good, and lemon currant is a super unusual flavor, anyway. OH, I said. I CAN WORK WITH THAT. I WILL MAKE YOU LEMON CURRANT SCONES. FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Nothing tastes as good as nostalgia, right? I got him to describe the scones to me, and I’m pretty good at making scones, so I felt confident this would be a slam-dunk.
But! (You knew there was a “but” coming, right?) First I needed to do some research. When I looked for currants at my usual grocery store, there were none to be found. And when I went to the OTHER big chain grocery store, they had boxes of “Zante currants” in by the raisins, but what the hell is that? Are there different KINDS of currants? Have I ever even HAD a currant? WHAT THE HECK IS A CURRANT??
Down the rabbit hole I fell. It turns out that “Zante currants” are what you typically find in the U.S., and they’re simply… tiny raisins. The appellation stems from a long-ago importer translation snafu and the fact that they’re about the same size/shape as ACTUAL currants, which aren’t grapes at all, but a kind of berry. But—my research assured me—true currants taste TOTALLY different than these tiny raisins masquerading as currants. Ohhh. Hmmmm.
I didn’t stop to wonder if these legendary scones the birthday boy is remembering so fondly contained Zante currants or true currants, which I NOW realize might’ve been a useful thing to explore. Currants are hard to find in the U.S., and logic suggests that even in the free-love-hippie-crunchy San Francisco of the 70s, they were probably those stupid raisins and not real currants. Somehow I got it into my head that they must’ve been real ones, though, so I was on a quest to find them.
This led me to our small local Whole Foods-wannabe grocery store, which is not particularly close by, so I called them, first. “Do you carry dried currants?” I asked the nice lady on the phone.
“Yes ma’am,” she responded.
“Okay, but are they REAL currants, or are they Zante currants?” I pressed. There was a pause. I can only assume that—much as every hospital has a 10-point pain scale patients are asked to use to describe their pain level—she was consulting the health-food-store analog of a similar chart used to judge the relative level of crazy of the person calling.
“They’re… real currants,” she said.
“Great!” I said. “Thank you very much!”
Today—with extra time on my hands, owing to the fact that I drove to therapy when I did not, in fact, have an appointment—I finally made it to the store in question. I grabbed one of my reusable grocery bags and headed inside. I cased the entire store (I thought) and did not find the currants. I did, however, end up with a bunch of other items in my basket. Remember how in college, if you went to the store for tampons or condoms, you always ended up buying an assortment of other items as well, just to make it seem a little more casual? “We need condoms, and clearly three boxes of macaroni and cheese and some celery and an oven mitt are just part of this totally normal shopping trip, fa la la,” etc. I didn’t really think I was doing that, but maybe I was. Like, I didn’t want anyone to think I was JUST there for currants! That would be silly.
By the time I gave up and asked an employee for assistance, I had apples, two kinds of crunchy edamame snacks (I dunno, man; they were on sale), and organic whipping cream. And of course the currants—excuse me, the ORGANIC currants—were in the very first aisle I’d gone down, but in my defense they were somewhat hidden from view. I grabbed a container and headed to checkout, where my total was just under seven thousand dollars.
Oh, I kid! The currants were actually the cheapest thing in my basket, and the total was only about $20. Meanwhile, the checkout girl asked me how I was doing today, and I said I was fine and asked how she was, and she said she was doing pretty well, and it was all very pleasant. Then she said, “Thanks so much for bringing your reusable bag!”
“Oh, always,” I responded. I am a responsible steward of the planet, after all. And goodness, so much pleasant smalltalk! Look at me adulting! And then, unbidden, my mouth opened a second time, and I added, “Well, always unless I forget to bring my own bags, I guess. Sometimes I forget to put them back in my car.” I don’t want to brag, but there was a pretty spectacular awkward pause after that while I wondered what the hell is wrong with me and the clerk tried to pretend I wasn’t a giant weirdo.
In spite of that, on the drive home I felt slightly giddy, having done my research and located the magic ingredient. I am really looking forward to making these scones this weekend and hopefully making my friend happy. Besides, I mused, as I pulled into the driveway, I don’t think I’ve ever actually HAD a currant. My research told me that while raisins are sweet, currants are “bright and tart.” How interesting!
Back in the house, I greeted the dogs, put the cream in the fridge, and popped the lid off the currants. I pinched a few off the top (they’re so teeny) and popped them into my mouth.
THEY’RE FUCKING RAISINS.
I’m so glad to get to read you more regularly again! Maybe I should get back to blogging one day. Also now I am going to go down the rabbit hole of currants vs raisins.
Oh my gosh, I may be slightly tiiirrrrreeeedddd, but I am laughing so hard. Much love. <3
Some years back (10? 20?) my grandmother had current bushes in her garden, so I can tell you that fresh currents at least do not taste like raisins, or indeed like grapes, but are different. Perhaps closer to raspberries? Delicious, that I remember for sure! She used to make raspberry-current jam, and now I’m all nostalgic for that. Thanks, I think.
Of COURSE they’re fucking raisins, lol!!!!! xoxo
NO! They ended up tasting like raisins? How disappointing!
This whole story is so relatable. I would have done exactly the same thing in your position. Well. I hope the scones are AMAZING.
They ARE raisins, or the weirdly-named Zante currants. Not real currants.
Lol!! That is hilarious!! Do post an update on how they tasted & how they were received…
Of course they were raisins. OF COURSE!
Somehow I have missed the fact that you’ve been blogging semi-regularly again. Forgive me?
Well. You can always assume that it’s been so long since he had his San Francisco scones, he won’t remember exactly what they tasted like. Yours will likely be much better, anyway.
I laughed out loud!!!!
Well jeez, I had to google. It seems the main difference between raisins and currants is raisins hold the flavor of other ingredients better than currants do. Or something.
We used to have gooseberries and red currants in our garden when I was growing up (along with strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and a bunch of fruit trees). I read the entirety of your post thinking you meant gooseberries, because the only currants I remembered were red. Add in the need to translate words from native language into English, words I mainly used as a kid and not an English-fluent adult, and the berries are giving me a headspin. Thanks for that, pretty lady. :D
Apparently there are black, red and white currants! I can confirm that red currants taste nothing like raisins, although I haven’t tried the Zante raisin kind. I actually had no idea currants were sold dry, I thought that was only cranberries (let’s see how many different berries I can reference here, haha). Un-dried red currants are fairly tart and sour, you don’t want to eat them before they’ve fully ripened. But they have more sweetness than cranberries, which I dislike.
Look at you, getting us all edumacated! My parents have a berry bush they’ve been calling currants, and I thought “Ha, silly, those are obviously tiny red gooseberries.”. But I guess they ARE currants and the things I thought were currants are actually tiny raisins. If only we’d known we could have just used chopped-up craisins all this time!
I have the same washing machine! I think the bottom of the drum looks like a jet engine. And it is kind of amazing that is cleans stuff, although there are some random things it doesnâ€™t do well. Anything where stuff has become embedded in the fabric (mud, washable paint, pancake batter), you have to soak first and sometimes even rewash. Maybe because it doesnâ€™t beat the heck out of the clothes the way an agitator will. Which is mostly
good because it is easier on the fabrics, but still kind of a nuisance when you pull stuff out of the dryer and the grunge is still there. Also, the delicate cycle is a big fat lie. Otherwise, I love it.
I got nothing on currants for you.
Okay, here’s the thing. I totally get why you were trying so hard to find true currants so that you could make the most authentic lemon currant scones possible.
Just the fact that you were going out of your way to make scones! of a certain variety! for the director’s birthday! is really really really really really nice of you. And if he doesn’t appreciate it, well, just send ’em on over to me and I will be appropriately grateful.
I’m still using the washer that came with my house and is older than I am (I have a little difficulty replacing things that are still functional…reference my old tube TV, bedside lamp circa 1990, etc). I was looking after friends’ kids at their place while they were away for a few weeks and needed to throw in a load of laundry (or several dozen…I live alone…holy smokes, 4 kids produce a lot of laundry!). I had no idea there were such things as top-loading washers without agitators! But, whenever I marvel over the technology aloud, everyone laughs and looks for the rock I’ve been living under. Thanks for being one of the amazed!
I need a new washer for I am intrigued that people are going back to top loader (i had been coveting the fancy front ones for a while). But my boiler had a colossal failure (on 8 degrees real feel holiday weekend no less) so we need the washer to hold out for ideally another year.
That means it will likely break next week I realize..
My scientist husband was right and the funk in our front-loader (our first one) was coming from liquid laundry detergent. Switching to a powder laundry detergent (how old fashioned!) has completely erased the funk!
Well of course they are!
I’m tired, stressed and that post made me laugh alone in my office… thank you…
AND I love that I learned something about currants. I didn’t know that in English, currants meant both dried grapes and… well… currants.
I didn’t know either that there existed a dried version of “real” currants, because I have only tasted plenty of fresh ones. They’re quite common in my neck of the woods, also, I am very surprised they aren’t in the US.
Actually, I don’t see how you could mistake a dried grape with a currant… because they don’t really look alike. And dried, a currant must be super tiny compared to a “zante currant”… unless it is a gooseberry…
Having said that, are you sure your birthday guy didn’t mean gooseberries instead of currants? because here, in France, we tend to use the same word for currants and gooseberries…
Ha… more food for thought…
Fortunately it turned out that he meant the raisin kind, which I shouldâ€™ve known because thatâ€™s pretty much all we can get here in the U.S. I did finally ask him to make sure I wasnâ€™t messing it up!
I didn’t know I needed this update, but yes, I needed this update. Thank you. xD
I am echoing the other commenter who said it’s already awesome of you to even try to make the right scones!
Should it ever come up again, http://www.currantc.com/ I must admit after all this I’m tempted to order some just to see what real currants are like. ;)
They don’t even sell dried currants!!! (Okay, except chocolate-covered ones, which are nearly $20/pound.) I think I’ll stick to my tiny stupid raisins.
Best. Last. Line. Ever.
(This message was sent from the great beyond because you fucking KILLED ME with the currant story.)
I snorted out loud at the fucking raisins. Because, of course they are. Maybe your washer can tell you where to find proper currants?
The trick with front-loaders is to leave the door open between loads. Learned that from someone who worked at a laundromat — or washateria, as my grandmother used to call it.
Of course, I don’t have small animals in my house. That could be problematic. Might look like a nice hidey-hole to them.
We always left the door open. Didn’t help.