ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Feb 19, 2019

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Live chat with Alexandra Petri at 11 a.m. ET. Submit questions and comments for her to respond to now.

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Connect on Twitter: @petridishes And catch up with the blog here!

Happy Tuesday, all! Hope you are feeling fit and rested! 

What are your plans if tomorrow is a snow day? I'm going to make biscuits and gravy!

I don’t know, but I got a text from my dentist to let me know they followed standard snow day procedures, which was confusing since I am not due there until July. I guess I know what my dentist will be doing: following standard snow day procedures.

Alexandra, there's no time for CHATTING! It's an EMERGENCY! With...emergency GOLF, and emergency...tweets about SNL! Run! Hide! Ramble! Help! Narcissism is on the loose! EMERGENCY!

Everything is SO DIFFERENT in this state of emergency! I can tell it is an emergency because he almost did not decide that it was happening at all, always a sign that an emergency is serious. 

I already have a pot of beans soaking for tomorrow, and am going out to find a ham bone after this chat (and Weingarten's and Robinson's and Bonior's).

Out of curiosity, where does one find a ham bone? Do you have to get a whole ham?

Take out your crystal ball, please. (I'll wait.) I read today that the Proud Boys chairman got to sit behind the speaker at a presidential rally wearing a shirt that said, "Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong". Now he is hawking them online. I have also seen "Build the wall and Crime will Fall". Wanda Sykes' reply was, "Just resign and we'll be fine." Can you or the chatters offer other slogans that might catch on?

I like the classic “Roger Stone did *something* wrong.” Chatters?

I heard that the omelet bar has run out of bacon, so the only meat choice is ham! Oh, the horror!

Even worse, the ham is boneless!

I'll be in my PJs pretending to telework while I veg out on TV!

Ah, pretending to telework! 

Well, one can find smoked ham hocks at the supermarket meat counter, or smoked turkey necks if you want to die healthy, as Julia Child said, but I'd gladly buy a ham and cut it up to freeze in portions, then use the bone.

Oh, good to know!

Maybe the omelet chef can be persuaded to saute the ham in the bacon fat?

Crisis averted!

Here near Kennett Square, PA, I am making puff pastry with shallots and cheese, and salmon with mustard and maple syrup glaze. WaPo recipes, of course. The kitchen will smell great, the house will be warm, AND dinner will be FABULOUS!

I am really enjoying how every chat contributes to the glorious legend of Kennett Square, PA — where the salmon is cooked in maple syrup according to WaPo recipes, and the puff pastry overflows with shallots and cheese.

I have to make sure I have enough yarn and the right size knitting needles.

And milk for hot chocolate! I guess that falls under food.

Maybe you could get one from a lawyer -- you know, pro bone-o.

Post hock, ergo propter hock!

How many of Trump's people have been arrested before dawn, wearing their PJ's? (I think Manafort, Stone, ...). The nightgown that I sleep in these days is pretty worn out, it has a lot of holes in it. But I don't work for trump, so I don't think I'll have to do a perp walk in it anytime soon.

I guess being one of his crowd would be a good incentive to invest in a set of pajamas that photographs well in low light. Or just go to sleep in a suit.

And chocolate for hot chocolate! And a microplane for grating the chocolate.

whoa, someone is doing hot chocolate RIGHT!

form an ad hock committee.

But does it meat the burden of proof? (Hang on, let me see if I can find a lawyer to ask for more puns.)

That caused me to let out a plaintiff wail.

Don’t... judge.

Devoted readers of this chat know that Kennett Square, PA, is home of the Mushroom Festival, and thus, the preceding recipe for maple syrup glazed salmon must surely be the work of Russian hackers, since it omitted the mandatory mushrooms. Alert the authorities.

The plot is thickening!!

You can never, ever run out of yarn on a Saturday night. It's worse than running out of heroin.

Suddenly, a shivering, sweaty wreck, you are trying to knit together things that don’t even make sense — curtain cords, stray bits of string, USB cables. By 2 am you have started unraveling old sweaters in your desperation. 

I am inclined to give you a straight answer, but I am afraid I would only butcher it.

Any minute now we'll be hearing from the Morel Majority.

Actually, I will add them to the puff pastry. I will serve the salmon with asparagus tips and mushrooms, so it's all good!! There's always room for mushrooms!

For a second I thought there was truffle in paradise, but I am relieved.

I just want to say that I got eviscerated in moot court for saying that "post hoc ergo propter hoc" was an informal fallacy and therefore one action following another action was not adequate proof of causation. The alums acting as judges basically said that despite all the lingo, Latin (especially Latin the judges don't understand) is totally unacceptable in an appellate argument. I had been a TA in the Logic and Language class as an undergrad and it honestly hadn't occurred to me that I was being a snob or something. Sigh....

I hope you overturned a tiny table and said “your honors, it was on the West Wing!”

Gravy is a combination of animal fat and flour (called “roux”), and liquid. Oh, and salt and pepper, too. The nature of the fat and liquid determine the color and flavor of the gravy. As a service to all, here are instructions on how to make proper white, sausage gravy. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add a pound of mild breakfast sausage, breaking it up into small chunks, then, using the end or edge of a spatula, chop it into smaller and smaller pieces as it cooks. Stir frequently and allow it to brown. Don’t stop too soon: the sausage will turn gray as it gives up its water, but it won’t brown until all the water has evaporated, leaving only the fat. When the sausage has browned, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon, and place in a bowl for use later. It helps to tilt the skillet so the fat runs to the lower part while pushing the sausage to the upper part. If you don’t end up with at least ¼ cup of fat, you’re using the wrong brand of sausage. (I prefer Jamestown Mild, myself.) Pour the fat into a clean metal container. (An empty tuna can is ideal, because it has shallow sides and you can get a measuring spoon into it without tipping it over.) Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add 3 to 5 tablespoons of fat. (Obviously, the more fat, the more flour and liquid). For each tablespoon of fat, add one tablespoon of flour. (3 tablespoons of fat; 3 tablespoons of flour – and so on) For every tablespoon of fat, you will (later) add up to 1 cup of liquid Stir the flour into the fat using the end of the spatula, making sure that all the fat is absorbed into the flour as it cooks. Keep stirring until the flour actually turns brownish – but don’t let it burn. After the flour is browned, CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY add a cup of water (it sizzles and steams and splashes), stirring constantly to ensure that the roux absorbs the liquid without forming lumps. It helps to use a slotted spatula to “smash” the roux and water to keep it smooth. As the gravy simmers, gradually add whole milk (not 2% and certainly NOT skim!). If you started with 3 tablespoons of fat, use up to 2 cups of milk – you already added 1 cup of water. Stir and smash continuously as you add the milk, to ensure even cooking and to keep lumps from forming as the gravy thickens. Let the gravy simmer (keep stirring, scraping the bottom of the skillet, and smashing any lumps) until it is about the consistency of thickish pancake batter (oozy, not drippy). Add salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the cooked sausage. Serve with the most marvelous biscuits you can manage.

If you don’t serve it with the most marvelous biscuits, you will have made a gravy mistake! (Booo. But seriously, thank you for the gravy recipe! I’ll roux the day I make it any other way.)

on mushroom puns?

Not in MYcelial network!

I am an ignoramus when it comes to knitting, so I'm afraid the knitting comments are casting purls before swine. But at least the swine have hocks.

Purls before swine left me in stitches!

So now you've gotten your gravy training?

I have gravytas.

Only in an appellate argument? What about the ...non-appellate ones?

Those are less appealing.

Was this chat just high jacked by the writers from the Food Section who seldom receive many comments to their recipes?

If being given a detailed gravy recipe is hijacking, I am going to have to revise my previously staunch anti-hijacking stance. 

You've always been a good spore.

Aw, we’re having fun, guys!

Just some examples: mens rea, actus rea, pro se, pro bono, amicus curiae, certiorari, ex parte, habeas corpus, in camera, nunc pro tunc (the meaning of which I can never remember), parens patriae, per se, sua sponte. All of these, and many more, are regularly used in court. Moot court judges are (often) full of it. (I know; I've been one.)

There should be a Latin term for a Moot court judge who is full of it. 

I think this one shows there isn't mushroom for improvement.

These jokes are clearly all from the same mold.

They are to my lichen. (I feel like lichen is something different, so I guess I am breaking the mold.)

... but they kind of grew on me.

It couldn’t be helped. You were in a dark place. 

The National Gallery is offering a tour entitled “Oh, Give me a Braque!” Have I been mispronouncing Braque for decades? Or is their pun just wrong?

Give me a Brock? If you’re wrong, I’m wrong too! 

I learned from a lawyer that the redundancies in legalese stem from the practice in Olde Englande of putting terms in all three languages in use at the time to avoid any argument over meaning, as in "I give, devise, and bequeathe" -- terms from Latin, French, and Angle-ish.

Oh, cool! That makes sense!

Very ferny. (Ferns reproduce via spores so they count as mushrooms.)

A quick Google search reveals that "nunc pro tunc" is usually used in a retroactive ruling that is intended to correct a prior error. But I like "that was then, this is now" better as a translation.

Nunc pro tunc is also just fun to say. It sounds like a comic book sound effect. 

Sure, it starts with gravy, but soon leads to detailed instruction about each of the classic five mother sauces: béchamel, veloute, Espagnole, Sauc Tomat, and Hollandaise. Then once you think you've got those mastered, along comes someone who insists that you also need to know the "new mother sauces," yogurt sauce, pepper sauce, herb sauce, tahini sauce and pesto. Little wonder Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup continues to sell.

We are heading towards a big sauce fight — a gravy bowl, if you will.

Too much straining after a pun is always a mistake. And please delete that URL because it's screwing up the chat page format.

On it! One moment!

The pun post broke the formatting! The lines, they go on forever, past the coloumn bounds and my screen!

I recommend Raymond Sokolov's excellent cookbook "The Saucier's Apprentice," which has all the classic Mother Sauces and variations (published before yogurt and tahini, of course).

I appreciate how pun-heavy today’s chat has been! I will have to look into this saucy text. 

That's where they got the song from - "One Joke Over the Line".

And with that stuck in my head, I am going to start wrapping up! Speak now, or forever hold your peace!

OMG, have you been watching me covertly for the Trump administration??? Has my netflix been hacked?

Yes, it is I! Stop watching the Fyre Festival documentary!

Just don't book where I want to go.

I’ll try not to! Have a good week (snow day?) All and see you next week! In the interim, I’ll be on the blog ( and Twitter (@petridishes)!

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Alexandra Petri
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