Wow. It is so great to be home, with a cellphone, internet access, my own cooking, a good mattress, the ability to turn off the lights, an absence of lesbian love triangles, friends who aren’t trying to shank me and no evil guards watching my every move.
I spent the last six weeks in prison, and it was harrowing.
Oh wait. Don’t get the wrong idea. I wasn’t tried and sent up the river. And I didn’t break any laws (at least none they caught me for, though I confess I did go through a yellow light last month).
I was in Netflix prison, binge-watching “Orange is the New Black.”
Yes, I know, I’m hopelessly behind the curve. The show started in 2013 and I’m only now catching up to it. But I’ve been busy. Plus, until recently, I only had “dumb” TVs, and I was too lazy to go through whatever small steps it would have taken me to watch non-cable shows on my computer.
That all changed with the final phase of my renovation, which included reconfiguring my fireplace wall to lower the mantle so I could finally hang a big, new, smart TV in my living room.
Even then, I resisted Netflix. I was already paying for Prime (I know, Amazon is evil and trying to take over the world, and killing small businesses, etc., etc., but renovations require a whole lot of shopping), so I spent the first few post-renovation months working my way through the offerings there.
I binge-watched every British detective series they had. Then I went on to the barrister ones. I am now such an expert on the British legal system that I could put on a wig and try a case. Plus, after that, I watched Bosch, so I could also write a dissertation comparing and contrasting homicide detective procedures in Manchester and Los Angeles.
I went on such a binge that I outran Prime’s ability to add new shows. There was nothing left but old movies and sitcoms. None of them appealed to me, so, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for Netflix.
I started slowly, continuing my fascination with British detectives by watching a series set in Wales. But when that ended, I needed a new distraction — preferably one that didn’t require me to turn on the closed captioning. (I know they claim to speak English in the British Isles, but have you heard it? They speak far too fast, and just butcher the pronunciation.)
I went browsing for an American series and came across “Orange is the New Black.” I remembered the buzz that it created when it first came out, and how uncool I felt at not knowing what it was about, so I thought I’d check it out. I only intended to watch one or two shows, but then I got completely hooked.
Netflix kept queueing up the next episode, and I just couldn’t stop watching. I have spent so much time in Litchfield prison in the past six weeks that I might as well have put on a jumpsuit and started to eat my meals off a tray. Though I’m glad it was a virtual experience, so I didn’t really have to eat horrid prison food.
Ugh. The institutional cooking at the beginning was wretched enough. Things got slightly better while there was a garden (at least until the body parts got buried in it). But when the prison went for-profit and switched to bags full of what can only be described as glop, it really went downhill. I was ready to riot along with my fellow inmates.
It’s one thing to take away your freedom and lock you up. But to be forced to eat reheated mystery stew is unconscionable. Nobody, no matter what the crime, should be treated to that kind of cruel and unusual punishment.
Though I admit, it would work on me as a deterrent. Now that I’m on the outside, I’m keeping my nose clean so I won’t get sent back. I’m practically stopping at green lights, just in case they might turn yellow.
I feel bad about turning my back on my friends who are still incarcerated, and I’ll happily support the cause of better food inside prisons. But for my own health and taste buds, I am moving on from my life of crime.
I just cued up my next Netflix series.
Double-crusted peach cobbler
One of the things I would really miss if I were in prison in the summer is the freedom to visit the farmers market. Even though I think some of the vendors should be arrested for highway robbery, I still can’t stay away, and I always buy too much.
With gorgeous stone fruit available right now, I was looking for a good cobbler recipe to use up some ripe peaches. My sister Judy sent me my mother’s old one, but it didn’t excite me (and the fact that I don’t have fond memories of eating it as a kid tells me it was probably as so-so as the recipe looked to me).
When I mentioned my quest to my friend Maria (who is an excellent, trained chef, and really knows food), she sent me hers, which looked lots better.
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Her streusel topping features pecans (a great choice with peaches), and her cobbler is extra good because she creates a bottom crust with the streusel in addition to the top layer. For me, streusel is the main reason to make a cobbler, so having two layers makes this recipe extra special. But if that is too much for you, you can always just cut the amount in half and only use it on top.
Serves about 8
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter
1 cup flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
3-4 large, ripe peaches
3/4 cup peach (or other) preserves
Grated zest of 1 orange or lemon (optional)
Vanilla ice cream for serving
Spray the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray (or rub with butter). Set aside
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pulse the pecans in a food processor until chopped into smallish pieces (but not ground). Transfer to a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces, place it in the food processor with the flour and a pinch of salt and pulse a couple times. Then add the brown sugar and pulse some more until the butter pieces are pea-sized. Transfer to the bowl with the pecans. Add the oats and use your hands to mix everything together.
Put about half the streusel mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and spread it out evenly in a 1/2-inch layer.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
While the bottom crust is baking, slice the fruit and toss it with the jam and orange zest.
Once the crust is baked, remove it from the oven and add the fruit, arranging it in an even layer about 1-1/2 inches deep. Place the remaining streusel on top, spreading it out evenly. Compress the cobbler slightly by pressing down with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Cool about 10-15 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. The cobbler should stand on its own and you can cut it like a cake.
Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by vanilla ice cream.