Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Housekeeping Is Time Management

Photo courtesy Flickr user Ella's Dad
It’s hard to stay on top of the filing while trying to meet the ordinary rush of day to day demands. By filing I mean returning each artifact to its home position after it is no longer needed. The home position is that closest to where a thing is used first. A tea kettle, for example, has a parking place close to the water source.

If I maintain my concentration and move deliberately through a sequence of daily tasks, getting the most important thing completed before eleven, the day has a decent flow that flow carries over into evening. There are no nutso peaks and hassles in the work load.

It takes constant attention to the small details of arranging things in space to sustain the flow. The payoff is huge: a calm stomach and no more than twenty minutes spent looking for things-over the course of a year. The Shakers argued that "if you can put it down you can put it away”. The practice works as well for a family of two as it apparently did for hundreds of people living communally.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Old School Dessert

Photo courtesy Flickr user Andy Titcomb
The simple practice of poaching fresh fruit in a heavy sugar syrup deserves more attention than it gets. Syrup gets very hot. Cooking in it is not unlike frying in deep fat. A gentle minute or two firms raw fruit, transforms it into a confection, and yields a first-rate syrup.

Served with a bit of cream and small cookie on the side, a compote is a refreshing and unusual end to a simple meal of good ingredients. In a pedestrian neighborhood with dozens of competing restaurants, I leave noisy, smelly preparations to the cooks with industrial hoods.

More after the jump.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Photo courtesy Flickr user milantram
In 1978, a friend who had lived in many countries mentioned that her current situation was in a very old city that had no shopping malls or grocery stores. The place was full of tiny shops that sold only one item-thread was the example she cited. Alice was conditioned to assume that a mall with an anchor store and generous parking was the model for convenience and good value. She was accustomed to shopping for third-world American cuisine in a big car with a picnic cooler and three rambunctious children in the back.

I have had little reason to practice that kind of procurement, although I do know my way around the Great Big Discount Warehouse. It was a surprise to learn that a friend who is raising her family in a Parisian suburb shops once a week in the local version of the mall safari. She patronizes a monster one-stop that wears her out and confuses her with its layout and choice. I know the feeling. That’s why I shop on foot at small, long-established Seattle venues that never rearrange their stock.

Bussing downtown, I can find first-rate chow at the Pike Place Market. I know it’s a tourist venue now but I like being able to whip through the stalls with a shopping list and small roll of cash, check favorite kitchen and clothing boutiques, and stop in at the department stores for a fast pass through the racks. I can get home on one of several busses in less time than it used to take to wrangle the car out of the garage and fight traffic to a one-stop that never had the quality that is the best value.

Even though the peaches may cost more per pound, the cost of acquisition is far smaller when I shop in the central city. Talking to my Parisian buddy, I was flabbergasted to realize that old and new world shopping venues have flipped. 

More after the jump.