Friday, October 25, 2013

Fishin'


Photo courtesy Flickr

It’s my privilege to sit in on a weekly support group for people with a deadly, complicated disease. I’m healthy, fortunately, and the situation that brought me to this special community no longer exists. The dialogue is so rewarding, though, that I can’t stay away.

Last week a couple appeared with their twenty-year old son, who is dodging the reaper. The parents are immigrants, justly proud of their and their extended family’s achievements, and stunned by the brutality of their child’s malady. After introductions, the father mentioned that he and his son have been casting around for things to do together while the medical struggle keeps the young man at home. They settled on fishing, the father said, a sport about which they know nothing. In tears, the father said he mentioned the plan to a native born acquaintance. The fellow said he had a good friend who’s a fishing guide and arranged an outing complete with boat at no charge.

The father said he thought this country was all about competition, and a member of the group pointed out that competition is one of those words whose meaning has been turned upside down. The roots of the word mean “to strive together”.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Classics


Photo courtesy Flickr

Now and then I window-shop on-line. Within a given category, Seattle’s Own Great Northern European Fashion Chain offers more choices than a sane person can evaluate, although I don’t mind trying from time to time. Saturday’s session sent me down an endless list of dresses. By the time the laptop battery was gone, I was pleased to realize that the most enduring styles are cut from quality fabric in the purest, most graceful basic forms. They ain’t cheap, neither are they the most expensive. Eventually, I will put money into one of these designs when the need arises. I know the cost per use will be a third to a tenth, and sometimes a hundredth or a thousandth, of the cost per use of something expedient that says sad things about my judgement.

Parisian fashion writer Ines de la Fressange advises spending half one’s clothing budget on good design and half on things that are frivolous.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Midget Stove


Photo courtesy Flickr

One low-tech summer at the beach, I imprinted on a tiny yachting stove that perched on a brick plinth in a cabin, ready to turn out a meal over virtual twigs or to be shifted to the galley in the owner’s boat. Later, a friend told me she fed her version of that stove on cookies split from sawdust logs.

At the height of the Sixties, a hippie girl taught me how to wish. Some years later, the yachting stove provoked the conscious, deliberate, visualized, and vocalized wish to have something similar. A few days later, the in-house archaeologist humped home $3.50 and twenty-five pounds’ worth of cast iron tent stove, about a foot and a half wide and a foot deep, standing around fifteen inches tall on art nouveau legs.

Fired up in a non-combustible section of the back yard, that stove sears a mean stir fry over a raging cauldron of alder coals. Groomed and polished with stove blacking, it’s a rustic play on the mediocre chafing dishes that clutter the shelves of its home thrift shop. The service wall of my ancient dining area has no electrical outlet, and off-grid formalities of the past like candlesticks and a warming surface gentle the brisk pace of a productive urban live/work set-up. Real flame sweetens the atmosphere close to the cooking area and enriches the mix of carbon-filament incandescence and video screen that illuminates the room. Most of the time, the stove sits on a side table sans chimney. I fuel it with tea lights or solid alcohol on chilly winter afternoons and keep a welcoming pot of coffee or tea ready for whomever arrives at the end of the day. Caterer’s solid alcohol fuel burns hot enough to allow frying over the stove, and usually I park a rectangular cast-iron griddle on the top to add to the heat sink and pretty up the cooking surface.

I dearly love cast iron, but what I really dearly love are the carved wooden molds from which iron is cast. Some months ago, I ran across the web site of a San Juan foundry that makes elegant multi-fuel yachting stoves. $2k will get me a great deal of stove that measures about fourteen inches in each dimension. Such a stove would make a fine wedding gift, prepare a new family for any cooking exigency, and I would just about be willing to bet on its resale value. Just about.

In the meantime, the old line mom and apple pie cast iron cookware outfit is making a hibachi that’s nearly as serviceable as the thrift shop midget. The proportions are low and stable, it looks as if the griddle would fit nicely, and it’s tempting to consider whether a flyweight hiker’s butane rig could be adapted to fuel the grill. In a perfect world, the manufacturer would offer a solid top with the standardized burner plates that fit its numbered cast iron frying pans. 

The hibachi is designed for solid fuel, but I have found that tea lights and canned heat are trivial to adapt for warming. The legs look a little short to set on a wooden tabletop, but that would be easy to finesse with bricks or tiles. It’s deeply comforting to know I have something to cook on no matter what the state of the electrical or oil supply.

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More after the jump.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mist


Photo courtesy Flickr

For the last two weeks, the weather community has been promising sun. For the last two weeks, the weather itself has delivered cool, gray, intensely humid days perfectly designed to curl hair, dampen ironing and printing paper, and refresh what’s left of the garden.

Weather like this is why God made sheep. A fine wool t-shirt next to the skin and a good pair of wool socks protect body heat, morale, and cognition from the creeping damp of a foggy day. It takes very little to forestall hypothermia, but that very little can save a life.

By three in the afternoon, my work area is gasping for BTUs. Shreds of late afternoon sun are enough to start beating back the chill. A seventy-five watt horticultural sprouting mat warms the feet while one tea light and a cuppa restore courage as the day wanes.

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More after the jump.