Thursday, September 1, 2016


Control tabletop clutter on the front end by defining the number of place settings you want to maintain before reaching for paper plates or calling a party supplier.
Choose a simple, undecorated basic form and add glasses and flatware that are harmonious. The on-line replacement service located in the southeast is a good place to window-shop. 

Buy all the serving pieces of the flatware and at least twice as many glasses, bowls, teaspoons, and salad forks as your defined inventory. Buy one or two back-up units of each place setting in case it goes out of production. Doing so will double or quadruple the usable life of the pattern, and make the most of one irreplaceable cost of acquisition, your time and attention.

Scout thrift stores and on-line resources to develop an eye for inexpensive catchy, stylish table accessories that quickly pall. Cost per use is the real price of an item, along with the cost of acquisition. Three hundred dollar's worth of Swedish glass ends up a better value than a pretentious two-bit design from a big box chain. Use a canning jar, perhaps covered with a brown lunch bag tied with a bow, in lieu of a hollow forgery of style. -30-

More after the jump.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Birches

A busy neighbor brought three birch trees in ten-gallon paper pots home from the nursery, set them down in a damp area of her back yard, and promptly forgot about them for several years. By the time she had a moment to catch up, the trees had rooted and grown into an obliging clump.  -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hot Weather Special

Any version of any ingredient works well in this San Francisco classic. The better the ham hock, the better the result, but a pre-fab slice of ham will do. So will the vegan equivalent of drops of smoke seasoning and pinches of the pie spice and brown sugar that are used to cure pork.

To garbanzo beans, add a ham hock, tomatoes, rosemary, onion, garlic, olive oil, and a large pat of butter. Simmer until the flavors blend.

An electronically controlled pressure cooker is ideal for working with dry beans. For one large ham hock, check two cups of beans for pebbles and rinse them well. Add about a quart of water and process on high for twenty minutes. Cover the steam vent with a towel to control spray, then drain and rinse the beans. This procedure controls beans' gassy potential.

Return the beans to the cooker and add half a cup of dried onion flakes, a teaspoon of powdered garlic, a tuft of rosemary, a can of crushed tomatoes. a generous slug of olive oil, a piece of butter, and water you judge to be adequate. Steam on high for half an hour and slow cook for two or three more.

This is a good way to start Saturday morning. When the yard work is finished, lunch will be ready. Cook on the back porch to keep the house cool and sweet-smelling. Pull the ham hock out of the pot and trim off the bone. Trim off the fat. Cut across the grain into half inch lengths and then bite-sized pieces. Top with minced flat-leaf parsley and fresh-ground black pepper.

This is delicious with sour cream cucumber salad. Peel and slice a cucumber, salt it, weigh it down until the tissues give up excess water (sugar works as a dessicant, too), rinse, drain, and pat dry. Dress with sour cream and freshly ground black pepper.

My friendly local south German deli at the Pike Place Market sells an old-school ham hock that is a dynamite flavoring agent. The next time I make this dish, I will probably simmer the hock for a few minutes to modify the sodium content. Slow-cooking produces a truly soulful dish.  -30- More after the jump.

Monday, August 29, 2016


Clean, unscented neutral alcohol in a spray bottle degreases cooktops and sanitizes handles, work tops, and sinks. The spray format slashes long seconds off setting the kitchen in order. -30-

More after the jump.