Tuesday 24 November 2015

Hot Damn! Hot Pepper Jelly!

Well that dreaded holiday Christmas is on its way and already my family is dropping rather heavy hints as to what they want from me.

Hot.  Pepper.  Jelly.

You see just over decade ago a recipe landed in my email.  At the time I was on some kind of forum and people were sharing all kinds of recipes just before Christmas, like now.  And one of them had the title "YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS!!!"

Now usually, as a matter of principle, I hate it when my email tells me what to do.  (Fuck you. email!  You don't know my life!)  But somewhere in the title was an indication that this recipe was for some kind of preserve and I was looking for recipes just like this to make as Christmas gifts.  This recipe won out over all the others because its main ingredient was jalapeño peppers which are a lot cheaper than out of season fruits and berries.  And that was great because I had like, no money.

I had never even tasted pepper jelly before.  The results were pretty damn good!  The recipients of the jelly (mostly my family members) went nuts over it.  It has since become a tradition on Christmas for people to pretend to hide/steal each other's pepper jelly.

If you've never had pepper jelly before you are missing out on one of the most versatile condiments ever.  Great with chicken, pork, lamb, fish, cheese and eggs.  We had it with our cheese and crackers on Christmas Eve and with our scrambled eggs in the morning.  It even went well with the turkey!

Then, when I had Frack, I stopped making it for a few years.  This jelly is actually very labour intensive and hazardous to make and I just wasn't down for trying to process many dozens of hot peppers while looking after a baby.  My family went through full-on withdrawal.  My Mom started cruising local fairs and farmers markets to get her fix but none of them were good enough.

I many times offered to teach them how to make their own but no one ever took me up on the offer until recently.

A couple of years ago I was missing some pepper jelly so much I went and bought a jar.  I didn't realize there was such a difference between commercial pepper jelly and my recipe!  I ended up buying several disappointing jars and I have yet to find one that comes close so last year I started making it again.

This summer I made a batch and shared it with a co-worker.  She recently got married to a fine gentlemen of excellent taste who apparently liked the jelly so much he ate it all and is begging her for more (Thank you, Sir...I am flattered!).  And since she was kind enough to return the jar the jelly came in (AHEM, family members) I have agreed to share with her (and you readers) my recipe for Hot Pepper Jelly (hot damn!)

Hot Pepper Jelly

(In the interest of brevity I am going to be leaving out some steps that are routine for home canning.  If you are inexperienced at canning please first check out here and here for more information)

4 Cups Jalapeño and Scotch Bonnet/Habañero/Ghost peppers, seeded and chopped (about 40 peppers)

2 Teaspoons tobasco sauce
3/4 Cup cider vinegar
3 1/2 Cups sugar
3 oz pectin (about 84 grams)

rubber gloves
protective eyewear
breathing mask/.bandanna

A bunch (?) of jars (usually about 3-4 1/2 pint jars)

Don't even think about trying this without a food processor.  I did one year.  Hand chopped 40 hot peppers.  It was hell.

I always do this recipe with 40 peppers and I always have chopped pepper left over, but the amount varies, depending on the size of the peppers that year.  Sometimes there is enough to make two batches (Yay, me!) and other times there's only about a cup.  I've used those leftover bits in salsa, mixed into a bunch of cream cheese for a jalapeño spread, or just mulched it into my garden to keep the damn squirrels/deer/whatever the hell eats every damn tulip in my garden out.  It doesn't seem to work.  They probably like it.  Muy caliente!

What you don't want is to be in the middle of all this home canning and suddenly run out of your main ingredient.  This happened to me one time and I had already bought every jalapeño the closest grocery store had.  We ended up having to drive around hunting down jalapeños wherever we could in a snow storm.  So learn to live with some leftover pepper bits.

If you're worried about the heat skip the scarier peppers and just stick to jalapeños.  You'll get a sweet jelly with maybe a hint of spice on the end.  In my opinion this jelly has never been spicy enough so each year I substitute in a few of the hotter peppers.  This last batch had Scotch Bonnet (about 4) and the results were pretty good, but still not spicy enough.

Having said that, do not underestimate the jalapeño!  Just standing over that number of processed jalapeños will cause your eyes to water and your nose and throat to burn.  You need to wear all protective gear and even then there is always a chance there is hot pepper juice lurking somewhere.  Do not put in contact lenses for like, a day or two after this.  You WILL regret it.

In a large, non-reactive pan, over med-high heat, combine peppers, tobasco, vinegar and sugar.  Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in the pectin.  Return to heat and boil exactly 1 minute, then remove from heat.  Stirring frequently to prevent pepper bits from surfacing, skim off the foam (if there is any).  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, wipe, rims, seal and place on rack in deep kettle.  Cover with boiling water and boil ten minutes.  Remove from boiling water and place on rack to cool.

If you have done everything right your hands and arms will definitely not be feeling kind of warm right now.  A warmth which will gradually turn to heat which will shortly thereafter burn with the fire of a thousand suns and have you crying tears of pain to a bitch of a pharmacist who has no time for your shit.

"You're sure Solarcaine won't work?  So you're telling me nothing will work?  What do you mean, 'soak it in milk'?  Milk does nothing!  That's why I came to you!!!"

 If you do end up with a pepper juice burn you can tell that pharmacist to shove it.  Solarcaine totally works.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Bad Nurse (But Not Really....UPDATE!)

So today when I got on the bus to get home it was full of a bunch of children who were clearly part of some kind of summer day camp going on a field trip.  There were about fifteen kids between the ages of 8 and 12 and the only people in charge were a couple of kids who couldn't have been older than 18.

As far as day camp kids on a city bus go they were fine.  I am used to some pretty obnoxious noise from day camp kids because hey, they're kids riding around the city without their parents.  What do you expect?  But these kids were actually pretty well-behaved if a little bit noisy.  One of the kids bumped into me because he didn't see me behind him and his friend started giving him shit.

"Look out Josh!  You just bumped into a LADY!"

I thought this was actually pretty nice because most of the time day camp kids are kind of oblivious to others around them.  I told them not to worry about it.  Just about every one of these kids were standing so as not to take up seats for other passengers and they were all trying very hard to stay out of the way.

But the lady I ended up standing beside was.  Not.  Having.  It.

"That's the problem with kids these days.  Parents can't be bothered to be around them.  Never learn any respect.  Bratty little thugs."

And it was this comment that caught my attention because the majority of these children were black.

And we all know what kind of people like to throw around the word "thug" to describe black children lately.

So I decided to stay close to this woman in case things got...interesting.

She continued to mutter complaints to the man who was sitting with her and glaring at the children any time they made any kind of noise.  

"Look at them!  Someone ought to give them a smack and teach them respect."

I would like, at this time to point out that the woman was wearing medical scrubs.  Since she was riding a city bus I'll go ahead and assume she was a nurse.  (*It turns out I am wrong about this.  See update at the end.*)

When it was time for the kids to get off the bus the tall teenaged boy in charge of them shouted in a loud booming voice, "OKAY EVERYONE!  THIS IS OUR STOP! EVERYBODY GET OFF THE BUS!"  While the smaller teenaged girl quietly rounded everyone up.  

And oh, Ms. Nurse Lady must have found this last bit exceptionally egregious because once all the kids were safely off the bus she very bravely flipped her middle finger at this group of 8 to 12 year olds.

That was enough for me.

"Really, Lady?  They're just children!"

"Why don't you mind your own fucking business?"  Was her reply.

"And those children are your business?"

"YOU'RE part of the fucking problem!"

"I am?  What problem?  What are you even talking about?"

"You just mind your own fucking business.  Those kids need to learn respect!"

"And they're going to learn it by you flipping them the bird?  Lady, YOU are the adult.  You should be better than that."

"You just shut up and FUCK OFF!!!"

"Really?  You're going to double down on this?  Okay."

"Yeah!"  She said, looking triumphant.  "That's what I thought."  

Oh.  I realise this means she thinks she has intimidated me into backing off instead of me just deciding I was dealing with an unbalanced person who wasn't worth the argument.  But this is some pretty classy behaviour coming from a professional health care provider, I tell you what.

Another passenger asked me why she was talking to me like that and I let him know she just stuck her middle finger up at a bunch of school children.  He laughed and said, "Maybe one of them stepped on her foot." Which made me giggle, too.

A few stops later this passenger was getting off the bus.  Before he did he leaned down and whispered something at Ms. Nurse Lady.  I would have given just about anything to hear what he said because she just turned beet red and turned away from him.

I think I can understand why many people would have found these kids annoying.  Not everyone is tolerant of the noise of children.  But choosing to tell a group of children to "fuck off" and then pretending to be better than them somehow?  That says a lot more about your character than it does about them.

UPDATE:Hey y'all!  I got a response from one of my awesome Jen friends who is an honest to goodness, bona fide NURSE!  And GREAT NEWS!  There's NO WAY this lady is also an honest to goodness, bona fide nurse.

Here's what Nurse Jen says:

Ok...whoa...backup.  Not all uniforms are created equal.  There are unregulated PSW's who can run off at the mouth and don't have a governing body to keep them in line.  They enjoy the fact that wen they get on the bus you mistake them for a REgistered Nurse, a position of years of education focused primarily on how to deal with other humans.  Here's the thing...we nurses have a governing body that prevents us from going all Willy-nilly out there...even off duty.  So I will be sticking to my guns when I say she was NOT a nurse.

And no mater where she works, she should not be dealing with the vulnerable sector!!

I had no idea there was this governing body but it makes perfect sense.  Thanks for the info Nurse Jen!  You're the best!

Thursday 28 May 2015

Speak Softly and Carry a Shih-Tzu

There is a little boy who lives around the block from us and plays with the boy next door on a regular basis.  For some reason this little boy doesn't seem to like Frack very much.

Over the last year I have overheard this kid call Frack names and try to instigate games where they get to target Frack and pick on him.  One day in the winter Frack came home from school to tell me that this kid, oh let's call him Dennis, got a couple of kids to make "snow rocks" (basically rocks rolled up in snow so that they look like snowballs but have a rock hard center) and chase Frack around throwing them at him.  One of the "snow rocks" got him in the face.

I mostly let the school handle the incident although I did talk to the parents of the boy next door.  That boy is Frack's best friend and I didn't think he really meant to hurt Frack, but got caught up in the whole peer pressure thing.  He's really a nice boy with nice parents who have been good neighbours to us for about 12 years now.

I'm not exactly sure what Dennis' problem is.  I've met his mother and she seems very nice.  Frack has never done anything to him but for some reason this kid likes picking on him.

About two weeks ago I came home from work to hear Frick tell me that this Dennis kid decided to punch Frack in the stomach.  I asked him why that happened and he said he didn't know he just put a stop to it.  I marched right next door in the hopes that my neighbours had Dennis' parents' phone number.

They did.

I got Dennis' father on the phone.

"Hi, I'm so sorry to bother but I'm Frack's mum?  He's the little boy who lives next door to (name redacted because I don't feel like dreaming up another fake name)?  Anyway, I just thought you would want to know that today your son punched my son in the stomach and that to be honest he's kind of been picking on my son for a while now.  I'm sure I'm only getting one side of the story but from one parent to another I know I would want to know if my kid had hit anybody, so I thought I'd just give you this call."

He didn't seem very impressed by the information I had just given him.  And by this I mean not that he was pissed at his kid's behaviour, but that he didn't seem to be bothered very much by the fact that his kid punched my son.

"Oh.  Okay.  Thanks for letting us know."

And that was it.  He didn't ask if Frack was okay.  He never apologized for his son's behaviour.  He didn't even throw in a standard "I'll be giving him a good talking to."  Nothing.  I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't over-reacted.  But then I remembered all the times I heard this kid cry out "Let's get Frack!" and "Frack's a little baby!" and I wondered why I hadn't said something sooner.

Anyway, who knows?  Maybe I caught the guy in a bad moment.  Maybe he's just socially awkward.  I had done my job and let him know what his kid was up to.  The rest was his business.  I just knew I'd be keeping a closer eye on the boys when Dennis was around.

 So yesterday when Dennis was next door playing with (name redacted) and Frack decided to join them I made a point of working in the garden so I could watch them.

Isn't he just the cutest little muppet-dog you ever did see?
When I'm out in the garden I like to have the dog with me off leash, especially if the boys are playing because the dog loves running around and playing with them.

Fry absolutely adores children.  He knows they are a source of attention and cuddles and food.  All the kids in the neighbourhood know and love Fry.

It's kind of a fun experience taking my dog for a walk and having complete strangers know my dog's name.  Or when I take Fry with us for the walk to school and groups of school children come running to give Fry a pet.  In fact the morning walk to school is Fry's favourite time of day!

So it kind of came as a shock to me when I heard Dennis suddenly scream:


I looked up to see what all the fuss was about and I saw Dennis running and screaming for his life while Fry, not realizing the kid was terrified, just chased after him thinking it was a great game.

Then all hell broke loose.

Dennis ran even faster and screamed even louder.  This seemed like awesome great fun to Fry who responded by barking and speeding up.  Me and the Dad of the neighbour kid were begging Dennis to just calm down and stop running ("You're only making him want to chase you!  He's a nice doggy!  It's okay!  He won't hurt you!"), all the while desperately trying to catch the dog who was clearly having the time of his life.

Even after I finally caught the dog, Dennis was inconsolable.  He would not calm down until I finally got Fry into the house.

Now, I never dreamed this kid was afraid of dogs.  He lives with one of the biggest standard poodles I have ever seen.  And he has played around our yard with Fry outside before.  I don't ever recall seeing him be uncomfortable around dogs before.  And I would never, ever want to terrorize a child to this level on purpose....


Is it terrible that I kind of found the incident just a teensy, weensy bit amusing?  Am I a horrible person for hoping that Dennis might think twice before throwing snow rocks and punches at my kid knowing that my kid has Big Bad Fry to protect him?

I am probably going to hell, aren't I?

Wednesday 27 May 2015

More Passive Aggressive Agenda War: Battle of the Reading Log

As some of you may know I have recently been doing a sort of passive aggressive agenda war with Frack's teacher.

Our last bout went rather well.  Better than I expected, actually.  In fact, she was suspiciously cool about it given the tone of the note I had sent her.  She basically said "No problem!  That's certainly understandable!  And also I want to meet with you to discuss Frack's progress."

What.  The.  Fuck.


Because at that point I had already met with her three times and had also just received a report card whose purpose is to, you know, discuss his progress.  I had just informed her that I have a new job and work long hours which was why Frack's reading log wasn't being signed every day.  And her response is to suggest using up more of my free time having a carbon copy of every meeting we have ever had?

Because you know for damned sure she isn't going to bring up anything that's really bothering her.

And that is exactly what happened.  I'd hoped maybe she had something new to add.  I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt.  I thought, "Maybe she was gong to ask me to meet before I sent her that note.  Maybe she has real concerns to talk about.  Maybe this will be a productive and worthwhile parent teacher meeting."


We spent a half hour having the same conversation in person that we have always had.

Her:  I have concerns about Frack's participation in class.  Also he is falling behind in reading.  And he doesn't seem to understand how to follow instructions

Me: Yeah, Frack is incredibly shy, especially if he gets upset or is put on the spot.  Also he was very speech delayed and often has trouble processing language.  He really needs simple instructions given to him one step at a time.  And if he is upset or stressed out his understanding of any language completely shuts down.

Her:  I don't think he's shy.  He's always acting too silly.

Me:  Well he is a seven year old boy.

Her:  He needs to be at level 7 in reading by the end of the year.  He is in level 4 right now.

Me: We're working on it.

At this moment in time I have officially met with Frack's teacher four times.  FOUR TIMES!!!  Just how much of a problem is this kid?  Frack is one of the easiest to deal with children I have ever encountered.  My older son has ADHD which comes with a host of actual behavioural problems and I have never had to meet with his teachers this often in one year!

Well now this new, latest note takes the cake.

"Frack has just progressed to level 5 in reading!  But he is having difficulty with the words.  I would really like to meet with you to discuss his progress."


My kid makes PROGRESS and you need to meet with me about it?  What kind of bullshit hand-holding do you need from me, lady?  What could you possible have to say to me that you didn't say when we met TWO WEEKS AGO?

And REALLY, I am somewhat amazed at her concerns for Frack's literacy.  Frack can read and write.  He reads and writes at home all day long because he thinks it's fun.  He likes to write his own story books.  Just what exactly are her standards????

Well, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to show you a sample of level 5 reading for the first grade.

That is quite a collection of 50¢ words for Grade 1

If that is level 5 reading then what the hell are they reading for level 7?  This teacher would have me believe that Frack will grow up to be an illiterate hobo when back in my day the most challenging thing I had to read at the tender age of seven was "Look Dad!  A jet! A jet!  A jet!"  (Thank you, Mr. Mugs reading series!)

Personally, I believe that if you are assigning a child homework that they cannot do without help then you have no business assigning that homework.  Children should be able to do their homework on their own with maybe just a little guidance and advice from parents.  Furthermore, there just shouldn't be any homework for first graders, period.

This reading log business is effectively killing Frack's passion for words.  He struggled though this page with tears of frustration in his eyes.  At which point I told him he didn't have to read it anymore.  His relief was palpable.

Not the work of a child with reading problems.

I don't think I should be upset, or meeting with teachers, because my seven year old is having difficulty reading in another language at what appears to be a third grade level.

I informed Mme. That there just isn't any convenient time I could name to meet with her because of my job.  She said we could even talk over the phone if that helped and just to name a time.

I have decided to simply never name that time.

She has had enough of my free time as it is.  Five meetings?  No, thank you very much.  To continue to ask for my free time when there isn't any real problem and I have recently communicated that I have so little free time I can barely read with my child on a daily basis just seems like she is trying to punish me for thwarting her on this stupid agenda signing.

And so, I shall sit and do nothing.

Your move, Mme.

Friday 24 April 2015

Passive Aggressive Agenda War Continues...

So a while ago I blogged about Frack's teacher wanting me to  sign his agenda every day (whether there was a note from her in there or not) and her passive aggressive way of going about communicating this desire to me.

I continued not signing blank spots and she became more persistent with her circles.  So much so, that Frack started to believe that she wanted him to be drawing circles in his agenda every day.

Those circles on the right are Frack's.  He turned out to be a more consistent circle drawer than Mme.

One day Frack came home from school and told me he was afraid to go to school the next day.  When Frack is upset he doesn't communicate very well so it was difficult to understand him.  But he did say that Mme was going to show the principal his agenda and for some reason he thought this meant he was getting kicked out of first grade.

I believe his childish brain dreamed up the part about getting kicked out of first grade but I also believe she mentioned showing the agenda to the principal and I was pretty pissed off that it was now affecting Frack.

I told Frack that I would go right into the school office with him the next day and sort it all out.  The secretaries at Frack's school are awesome.  They are sweet and friendly and genuinely love all the children there.  They will tell you how awesome they think your kid is every time you visit and I fucking love them.  So when I brought Frack in and they saw how upset he was they got right to fussing over him and reassuring him that everything was fine, which brought a big smile to his face.

I told the secretaries what Frack told me and they said they would "have a talk with Mme."  After that everything was fine for a while.  She continued to draw her circles and I continued to ignore them and Frack continued to be a happy first grader.

Then finally, she put it in writing.  On March 3 she wrote:  "Please sign every day."  On that particular day I was in the middle of my work week and pretty tired.  I had been waiting for her to specifically request this behaviour and my intention was to write her a letter explaining myself.  But at this time I was tired and not in the best of moods.  I felt it was prudent to just sign the note like I sign all of her notes and then continue to ignore the empty spots, rather than go through the mental effort of writing a well worded missive.

The funny thing is we have met in person twice since all of this began (the second time was about a week after she wrote this note) and she never mentioned it.  I was all prepared for her to say, "Oh by the way, I really want you to sign this agenda every single day no matter what, even if I can't be bothered to write something in it myself."  Then I could explain myself to her in person.  But I certainly wasn't going to bring it up if she wasn't.

Well I guess she finally snapped because when I got home from work yesterday there was a message on my phone.  Ostensibly she was calling because I haven't signed his reading log since last Friday for various reasons which I will soon mention.  But the real reason, which was the bulk of the message, was to stress how much she wanted me to sign the agenda every day no matter what.  "It's the only way I know you are looking at it every day"

Well if you don't write in it every day, how do I know you are looking at it?  Oh right.  Circles.

Anyhoo, I clearly could not put off explaining this to her any longer.  And so I wrote the following letter:

Dear Mme,

Re: Frack's reading

If Frack has the same book two days in a row I don't make him read it both days and therefore do not sign the reading log.  In the past this has meant that the teacher simply forgot to give him a new one.

Also, I recently started a job with 10-12 hour workdays (plus commute).  On days that I work I may not have time to read with Frack and may not be signing the log either, although we will try.

Re: Signing the agenda

I have always promptly acknowledged any communication I have received from you.  I have not been, nor do I plan to be, in the habit of signing my name to blank spaces: something I have always been taught is a foolish thing to do.  I see no need to acknowledge a communication that did not happen.

I have been signing agendas for about nine years and this has never been a problem before.

                                                                                                Mrs.  Rotten

I just sent Frack to school with that letter and I'm not entirely sure what she will do about it.  But I'm definitely looking forward to finding out.  In the meantime there is one thing I do know for sure:


Monday 5 January 2015

The Most Amazing Soup Recipe Ever! (So Good You Will Want to Eat Its Rotting Remains)

It is fucking cold out there so let's talk soup!

I'm a sucker for soup.  It is my ultimate comfort food and pretty much the only thing that makes Winter even remotely bearable.  Every once in a Winter I host a Soupfest where we all bring our favourite soup to sample and I make a ton of home made bread to go with it.  At the end we take home the leftovers.  It is not a competition and there is no prize for "Best Soup" but a winner is generally decided (usually unanimously) by which leftovers get fought over the most.  It is a highly prestigious honour.

And this year the prestige was mine!

I take this seriously because picking a favourite at the Soupfest is no simple task.  I only invite those whose culinary skills I deem worthy of my all-time favourite comfort food.  My people cook to impress.

Some of my guests were unable to make it so this year's menu had just three soups: my brother's Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup, Mummy Dearest's Tom Yum Gai, and my Roasted Garlic and Brie.

A first sign that my soup was becoming the favourite was the fact that everybody had a second helping.  Usually there is so much soup available you have to be smart and have only a small portion of each kind of soup.  After we were all too full to eat anymore the jokes started.  My family's favourite way to compliment your cooking is to pretend to steal it, fight over it or otherwise make threats of physical violence to anyone who dares get between them and your food creation.

My mother won the joke fight by insisting she help portion out the leftovers to the guests and then keeping all of my Garlic and Brie soup for herself.

A few weeks later at Christmas dinner my mother begged me to give her a copy of the recipe for her boss.  I thought this was going to turn into a typical story of my mother bragging about her kids (as Moms do) and her boss making a vague but polite remark like "That sounds lovely, I'll have to try it sometime."

I was wrong.

I will now tell the story to you as she told it to me:

"So I stole all the leftovers of your soup - 

(Me: I figured as much)

 - and it was wonderful!  Oh my God!  I heated some up and poured it over fried mushrooms.  Amazing!  I was saving the rest to pour over some pork chops but there was no room in my fridge - 

(My mother is a self-admitted food hoarder)

- so I put it out on my balcony.  Well last week I decided to clean out my balcony because there was so much stuff out there and I came across this pot.  I had forgotten I put it out there and I opened the lid to see what it was and it was nothing but fur.  There was hair growing in it all the way up to the lid.  And I knew what it was right away not because I remembered putting it out there, but because of the smell.

It smelled delicious.  Absolutely delicious.  Maybe even better than before!  I'm not kidding.  For one very short moment I even considered eating it.  What if this was some new kind of food?  People eat all kinds of mouldy, fermented stuff...

(At this point my mother goes off on a tangent, rhapsodizing about stinky cheese)

...anyway I was telling my boss about this and now she wants the recipe.  She figures it must be the world's best soup if I was tempted to eat it in that state."

With a story like that how could I not share this recipe?  So here it is, a soup so good my mother has a Homer Simpson-esque relationship with it.

Roasted Garlic and Brie Soup

4-5 large heads of garlic
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 cup butter
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1/2 pound brie
1/2 cup cream
bouquet garni of thyme
salt and pepper 
lemon wedges
olive oil

Bake 4 heads of garlic by cutting off the tops, drizzling with olive oil and wrapping in foil (about an hour at 350).  In the meantime caramelize the onions in butter.  Add about 6-8 large cloves of garlic, finely minced, near the end.  Once everything is golden brown deglaze your pan with the white wine and then add the stock, bouquet garni, salt and pepper, and let simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour.

While the soup is simmering squeeze the roasted garlic out of their paper and into a blender.  Add some of the soup stock (being careful with the hot liquid!) and puree.  Add the puree back into the soup and let simmer a little longer.  When done remove the bouquet garni and puree in batches.  Once all the soup is pureed return to the pot and add the brie in chunks, stirring until all is melted.  Then remove from heat and stir in your cream.

Now if you taste the soup right now you will think, "This is perfect just the way it is.  I am not going to mess with such perfection by adding what is clearly an unnecessary lemon."

Go ahead and add that lemon anyway.  Trust.  Just a squeeze on top is all you'll need.

This is a soup that I originally intended to make with parmesan but I found a wheel of brie on sale for cheaper than parmesan so I went with that.  I don't know if the brie is an integral component of the strange fermentation process that resulted in my mother's furry balcony cheese but I'm sure the non-rotting version will still be pretty tasty if substituting parmesan.

This is a very rich and filling soup and will make a good meal just by itself, but is also pretty versatile as a sauce for fried mushrooms or pork chops.  Personally I might just make this again to see if I can recreate that mouth-watering penicillin, send it in to a lab and patent my new insane delicacy.  It can't possibly be any worse than Casu marzu.