Friday, March 10, 2017

Everybody Needs An Old Cookbook

A mid-twentieth century American cookbook is a gold mine of food economy. Fast food had not yet been invented, deli convenience was as good as today, and rural electrification was far from complete. Menus were geared to consuming every bit of the food that was so precious during the Depression and even more so during the war.

Simple menus composed of good quality basic ingredients produce small amounts of tasty leftovers. An old cookbook will have ways of using cooked meat, cold vegetables, and small amounts of pasta to best advantage. A few forays into the world of improv will reveal the thinking behind classic dishes that seem to require unreasonable amounts of preparation. To make the most of a nine dollar a week food budget, I spent my first year at the stove mining "Lunch, Brunch, and Supper Dishes" in The Joy of Cooking.

Running that lean still makes sense for this small household. I prefer food that is as fresh as possible, so the refrigerator is small and trips to vendors relatively frequent. Check the USDA's listings of safe shelf life for food.

One legacy of child-rearing is our habit of eating nutritionally correct junk food on Saturday. Last week I revived a blockbuster-simple mommy menu from 1952: hot dogs with sauerkraut, potato salad, and green salad on the side. With genuine franks, pretzel buns, and "salat" from the South German deli at the market, total prep time was five minutes. By the time the coffee had dripped, dinner was on the table -30-

More after the jump.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Practical Extravagence

Sticky tape does not age well. Get the most out of the finest by using low-tack drafting tape and no-residue gaffer's tape for ordinary applications. It will cost more per unit of tape but save space and the cost of acquisition -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Five dollars will get you a sewing device that can be stored in a coin purse. That's two dollars for a packet of needles and three for a spool of thread. Upgrade with an extra two dollars for a thimble and four dollars for beeswax to condition the thread.

A brief surf revealed the world of high-end imported needles designed for various applications like embroidery and quilting. It appears that I no longer have to count on inheriting fine equipment. Hand sewing needles were one of the first products of the industrial revolution -30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Intake Desk

Shipping materials are the mortal enemies of woodwork. Much of the inventory in the house comes by mail. I finally set up an unpacking station close to the entry. The disruptive thrash of getting into stoutly sealed parcels now happens where boots are pulled off and the recycling bin is closest -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Heart Of Housekeeping

Several weeks of encountering a mystery stench on entering the dining room at dawn led to nervous speculation. Had a rodent died inside a wall? Was the new organic matting composting in place? Were transients using the garden at night?

Housekeeping is a discipline of the nose. I voiced my concerns to the in-house science person, who volunteered a sniff by sniff search of the premises after he got home from work. In the meantime, we lofted a few theories over coffee and oatmeal.

I had been unaware that electronic equipment can deteriorate and generate soul-searing odors. Lurking on the floor was a salvaged boom box with a splendid voice and a solvent scar on the cover of the CD player. I isolated the boom box on the back porch, and the next morning's interior air was clear.

Now I can exercise my one electronic repair skill. A specialist pointed out his tool of last resort: a hammer. He used it on gear that was salvageable but too time consuming to bother with. Prudence dictates disabling suspect equipment -30-

More after the jump.