Friday, May 11, 2012

Junk Food

Photo courtesy Flickr

When my son was small, I made a separate peace with fast food and declared Saturday junk food day: there was sugary cereal for breakfast and crisp grease later on for lunch or dinner.
Now there’s a new burger place on Broadway whose motto is, “Making the best of bad choices. That’s what we do.” The place is hard to resist, even though I learned that it takes roughly sixteen hours of exertion to metabolize a burger, fries, and soda.  I can finesse the impact of a take-out order by splitting a burger that’s on a whole-grain bun, skipping the fries and soda, and adding a side salad that comes with the dressing in a separate cup.
I won’t mention the onion rings.
The other day, chicken looked like a good choice to accompany leftover minestrone. I can only take so much bland in one week, and as I gazed at the package of boneless thighs, I realized I could deep-fry them one at a time in the same amount of oil I would use to saute the whole batch at once. This is wok-think in action. I let the meat come to room temperature, dusted it with flour, and cooked it hot and fast in olive oil.
As the pieces came out of the oil, I set them into the small rectangular glass baking dishes that I use to store leftovers, gave them a good grind of black pepper, and parked them in the oven that was set on “Keep Warm”. I did something else for an hour and a half and then sliced and served the chicken alongside the warmed-over soup. It was delicious: long, slow baking generated an especially savory flavor in the meat and amplified the oils in the pepper.
There’s a principle at work here: configure the ingredients for a healthy meal to get a traditionally junky result and lose nothing in the process.
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Good Wardrobe, Good Riddance

Photo courtesy Flickr

A simple pair of travel trousers in a difficult color cost me days of shopping and more dollars than I care to admit trying to match them. I hope the next time I cut my losses sooner. Sooner as in the first time I realize the color’s going to be a problem.
A couple of weeks ago the week-end wardrobe sort turned up a pile of dysfunctional threads. Since I keep a very small closet, a pile of rejects represents a significant proportion of the total. The trousers didn’t quite work with anything I had on hand and generated the acquisition of a third-rate cotton knit sweater in heavy ribbing. After three gentle line-dried washings, it was a miserable rag. No loss, cotton knits are useless anyway. The trou had attracted a small collection of cheap and useless clothing, an example of bad currency driving out the good, I suppose.
A wise older friend once advised me to buy clothing with travel in mind. It took a long time to catch on. Back when I tried to sew, the Vogue Pattern Book  featured five-piece collections. That’s a useful strategy. If I were to start fresh, I’d pick up the following in winter and summer neutrals: a tank top, sleeveless jewel-neck shell, cardigan, and turtleneck knits, with the tank in cheap cotton, the shell in silk and/or cashmere, and the rest in cashmere. Bottoms would be travel trousers, pencil, and long skirts. I’d supplement with a set of fine wool long underwear, a top of the line parka, and a long black nylon raincoat with a detachable hood.
With the basics on hand, dressing is trivial. This approach is the least expensive, although the initial prices may be relatively high. The most important item in my wardrobe is the weight room at the Y. Health and fitness are what count, and I wear what I’ve been eating as surely, or as unsurely, as any experiment from a downtown inventory.
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bright, Shiny Things

Photo courtesy Flickr

A few days ago I sat in a cafe next to friends who were discussing their respective weddings. The fellow described a trip to the Midwest with his fiancee. They went to his family’s longtime jeweler to buy rings and were gently amused when the saleswoman thought it was sweet that the two men had come in to shop together for rings for their girlfriends.
The woman, a field scientist, was puzzled about how to integrate a Big Name Diamond solitaire into her life in the woods. She assumed major jewelry was for administrators.
Later that day I heard a second hand story about a woman who found a juvenile crow trapped in a tennis net. She carefully disentangled the bird and was surprised that it spent several minutes sitting on her hand. It stayed close to her for several years and from time to time would present her with bright, shiny things.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dinner Grew Itself


Half of last night’s light meal was gathered in the garden from plants that require no attention. The chard has been making itself happy for ten months on a sunny compost heap mulched with complete organic fertilizer. I planted the rhubarb as an ornamental in 1987.
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Monday, May 7, 2012

$10 a Year for Gas

Photo courtesy Flickr

Not counting fuel oil and what the bus consumes, that’s our total now that the car has been recycled. It all goes into the lawn mower.
-30-  More after the jump.