Friday, March 13, 2015

Salad Dressing

Mesclun photo courtesy Flickr user cristymagnus
Writing about the convenience of bottled dressing is a little like cheering the discovery of sliced bread. I learn slowly in certain areas. Domestic systems evolve. Introducing a new element can yield interesting changes over time. About five years ago, advice to store food in glass brought a collection of identical small shallow rectangular heat-proof trays into the kitchen. I chose shallow models to accelerate the cooling of cooked leftovers. The trays have snap-on plastic lids and are ideal for setting up MREs. 

Older news stories about lethal strains of salmonella triggered a change in salad preps: I rinse commercial produce in successive baths of diluted peroxide and (last for flavor) vinegar. The rinses change the texture of foliage. It becomes firmer and crisper, and it lasts for days without wilting. Topped with a few leftovers, a tray of salad greens becomes an instant main event with a generous teaspoon of bottled dressing laced on top. Keep one in the office refrigerator.

Strawberries benefit from the same rinses. I intend to experiment with storing other produce this way as soon as I get it into the house. By the way, in my book, chopsticks are the only sane way to eat a green salad.

More after the jump.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Slipper Chair

Photo courtesy Flickr user moirabot
A chat with a cousin brought the news that she had inherited a lovely small Victorian chair upholstered in velvet. My command of antique terminology is feeble, but I think the piece could be described as having a balloon back. The seat is quite low. It’s a ladies’ chair designed for voluminous skirts. 

I have an old chair that serves a similar function as a place to don shoes without having to teeter on one foot. An aunt on the other side of the family preserved an even older piece of woodworking art at her bedside. Since my side bag holds all the necessities of daily life, I can park it on the slipper chair and call the assembly a bed table.

There’s always room for one family treasure besides the treasures of DNA.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Photo courtesy Flickr user Washington State DNR
An on-line source recently interviewed a canny home buyer who remarked that she was selective about soil quality. Not a bad idea, and one that would be easy to research. Soils are defined as closely as textiles, and the internet makes the maps accessible. A freestanding house was meant to be self-sufficient in produce and poultry. Be careful about heavy metal contamination, since even a new building can be sited on an old farmstead.

I’ve been gazing out on the same lot for thirty-five years. The neighborhood is developing at warp speed, and it’s been challenging to protect the tender outlook of historic preservation from the rigid geometries of new construction. Seattle experienced a building boom in the early Sixties as apartment buildings were thrown up on urban lots to house the countless visitors expected for the Seattle World’s Fair. The original Euro-American buildings that survived were mostly rentals that slowly deteriorated during the Boeing Depression of the early Seventies. 

Blight is in the eye of the beholder. Even a building in good condition looks shabby compared to spanking new cement and metal siding, but an unrecognized and subtle factor is at play. Houses built when men with shovels did the excavation retain original soil contours on their lots. I checked with the in-house archaeologist about whether natural soil contours are an historic resource, and he assured me that indeed they are.

I might not move heaven and earth to strike agricultural gold in the back yard, but should I house-hunt again, I will surely keep an eye peeled for natural contours on the property.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Proof Of Concept

Sorry, photo unavailable this morning.
A Metropolitan welded-wire storage rack on industrial castors fitted with legally acquired dairy crates and/or flap-lid plastic bins is the most efficient storage system I know for managing small furnishings. The other day, I helped someone move a seven foot by four foot unit from one room to another in under five minutes. If the rack had been more lightly loaded, the move would have taken less than one minute. The process shifted thousands of small artifacts in a couple of swoops.

More after the jump.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Forty Years, Nine Bucks

Better than nothing-sharp is safe. Photo courtesy Flickr
Repeated stompings of domestic inventory have left but one blade in the kitchen, well, one blade and a paring knife. The blade is a traditional Asian cleaver from an old-line American manufacturer whose mat cutters I have used. The in-house grandson of a messerschmidt bought it when he stopped living in a tent like the other archaeologists.

Routine hand sharpening kept an edge on this blade until the in-house fool nicked the thing. A few long months of sawing through raw chicken precipitated a run to the cutler at the Market. The in-house fool had been contemplating replacing the cleaver with newer, more sanitary cutting technology. The go-fer returned with a razor-sharp jewel and the news that several customers at the cutler’s had gathered to ooh and aah at the quality of the knife.

It is, at the moment, spectacular. I can check my lipstick with it. Concerns about salmonella on the wooden handle will be managed with alcohol. The person who called to tell me the cleaver was ready had a thick Japanese accent. I like to think that it may have been fashioned from the reject sword steel Nippon uses for kitchen ware. It assuredly is a two-sandwich blade.

I should read my own advice more often. $1.50 an inch bought us many day/minutes shaved off prep time and a spectacular improvement in meal quality.

More after the jump.