Cookbook

Yesterday when I went out the front door to take the dog for a walk I found on the porch several ponderous piles of cooking magazines, looking like a box of kittens in need of a home. The Lovely Neighbor had brought them over during the night. Since her mother died she is cleaning house for a sale. I didn’t think she had any left. Spo-fans may recall a few years ago she brought over in a wheelbarrow several years issues of Bon Appetit and Gourmet for my hobby of collecting recipes for dishes I will allegedly someday make. Now I have a fresh bunch. A large bunch. They sit on the dining room table looking in need of inventory. In the past, whenever we went somewhere in the car, I would bring a few issues and skim them for attractive recipes. I would tear out the potentials and put them into my accordion file of ‘some day to try’ recipes.

This fresh pile of Cooks Illustrated and what not reminds me I’ve made little any progress making the recipes already established. I kid myself these are ‘for my retirement’. Even if I were to live long enough to achieve such nirvana I probably will be too decrepit to cook, or The Good Doctor will tell me I can’t have them in my old-man lo-cholesterol lo-fat lo-sodium lo-palatable diet.

The solution of course is to make them now. I should structure one day a week when I vow despite it being late and I’m too tired and gee doesn’t take-out sound good I will make a properly cooked dish. So be it.

They don’t have to be complicated, just new, tasty, and exciting – like my men.

Meanwhile, Urs Truly is working on making a cookbook of my own favorite recipes. These war-horses are scattered throughout my cookbook collection. I thought it would be convenient to have them all in one tome . Perhaps I can give copies of my culinary creation to my nearest and dearest who don’t cook anyway and when they do they look up recipes they do it on-line which is what we do ourselves.

Speaking of attempts at cooking, a few years ago I gave Someone a Great Course lecture series on such, which is mostly about how to dice things and manage not to overcook the fish and cutlets. It remains unwatched but I may dust them off and take a look-see myself. Perhaps I would be less timorous to cook if I knew how to handle knives and pans properly.

Sunday seems to be ‘crockpot’ day which I find nice for it feels a) like cooking and b) hardly any effort. You throw things in the pot and wait for 6-8 hours. Today’s endeavor is crockpot-chili, made with black beans and corn (Someone’s favorites). We will be eating off of this creation all week for I’ve managed to make enough to feed an army.  Still, there is a quiet satisfaction we are not just ordering Pei Wei and be done with it all.

Walking the dog

Harper has a lot more to sniff these days on our walks. Last week we had a some rain that combined with 20-30C temperature to produce a desert viridity that is seen at no other time. Alas, what came up and out were mostly weeds. You have to admire their cheek. They appear literally overnight and they are everywhere, including in cracks and high places one thinks not possible to support plant life.  Harper is not particularly interested in plants as she is in posts. If dogs have such keen olfactory systems why on earth does she have to bury her snout-deep into bushes and what not? She stands transfixed for a apparently in rapture about whatever scent is there.

The season is turning so our morning walks are now in twilight rather than darkness; long pants and jacket are no longer required (by me, not Harper). This makes for longer walks, which is good. The vet says Harper’s weight is steady, correlated with frequent exercise.  My weight is not so steady, so dog walks are more imperative for Urs Truly than for Princess Pooch.

Saturday dog walks are thwarted by Someone and I first going to Einstein Bagels. You try explaining to an excited dog we are not dressing to go for a walk but to go out for breakfast. I think she understands she is next in line for upon our return she is quite excited, circling the drawer in which is kept the leash and poop-bags. Saturday walks often involve going to the park, where, for a brief time, she can run around off leash. She tends to run around me in wide circles as I slowly tread across the field from one end to the other. A drone looking down on us would think we were a model for a Hydrogen atom.

Alas, it may be better weather for walking but it is allergy season again, especially for tree pollen. My nose is running and the allergy medication does nothing. While I type this through watery eyes and sniffles I see Harper on the bed. She is on her back with four legs up and out, looking like a plastic toy cow tipped over on its side. She is fast asleep. It is a dog’s life.

Yesterday at the Mesa office I wrote a brilliant entry only to forget to post it before I left for the day. I seem to be doing this lot lately. Last weekend I had to drive to the Mesa office to pick up a file I had forgotten there, only to leave behind my glasses and phone charger cord. Oh the embarrassment.  It’s a rare day when I get to work having all my daily items. When this happens I blame it on my early-onset Alzheimers but Someone doesn’t buy it. He points out I was this way twenty years ago and it is no different. I guess being a ditz is better than having dementia.

This morning before leaving work I recalled it is Symphony Night (Beethoven #3) so I got out the proper tickets, pleased as punch. Not trusting my luck, I am now scrutinizing my things for was forgotten that balances my universe. So far I haven’t discovered what’s missing but it’s just a matter of time. Someone is ushering this evening at same symphony so if the lost or forgotten object is important enough I could contact him bring it. He is quite used to these types of emails, which start with “Could you be a muffin and bring my…….”

My cousin once upon a time sent me a pretty poem about forgetfulness but I can’t find it. Oh the irony. I’ve rummaged through my blog without success although I did find some other poems I had quite forgotten. I was dismayed to see I’ve blogged on forgetfulness before, many times. More irony.

It is a wonder I manage to accomplish anything.

On the postive I’ve managed to get to the age of fifty without horrible consequences of hummingbird brains. Someone should have asked a few logical questions when he met me. Now we are married and it is too late.

I am happy to report I have not lost my wedding ring.

P.S. I just realized I forgot to pack a lunch. I am disappointed and relieved. I feel an idiot but the consequence is I can order Chinese. The kung pao is especially good.

In a few weeks I fly to MI to visit my parents to take inventory of their possessions. For decades Mother has been meaning to write down their stories  but she never gets around to it. Last Christmas, after she dropped a few bombshells about their knickknacks, I decided to take charge and fly home and do it myself.  I plan to take lots of photos and write down as many memories they can muster. Father started doing this already. He calls periodically to tell me what they have found rummaging around the drawers in the dining room and packed away in boxes. These telephone conversations resemble Bob Newhart sketches as I slowly drag out of them the details of this or that bricolage.

The biggest shocker so far was in the last phone call: Mother announced she was pleased as punch to have finally found the family opium pipe. It had been in the sugar bowl all this time.  After a pregnant pause in which I took a deep breath and my gathered my composure  I started playing twenty questions with her to discover I had an ancestor aunt who went to China on a mission during the Boxer Rebellion. Mother recalls this aunt was ejected out of the country, probably for being a foreign devil and a pest. That explains her hasty exit but what’s up with the opium pipe? Did she use it?  Maybe auntie wasn’t exiled by the Empress Dowager but by the mission pastor for opium smoking and reprobate living. Mother says of course not, but I smell a rat. Back home in MI it would have been quite the scandal to have a relation lounging around smoking opium.  Telling the neighbors auntie has a drug problem doesn’t sound so good, not as good being a Christian martyr.

The inventory is of course a preparation for the parents’ passing. I will know what has no value and what should be kept as precious objects. Goodness knows what I will do with the opium pipe. Putting it out in a garage sale with the unwanted utensils sounds just wrong, yet having it around the house would cause talk. I suppose I could try taking up opium myself if I can find a dealer of fine Chinese opium no rubbish.

Unknown  I have a simple screening question for possible a drug or alcohol problem. I ask “Have you lost control of your drinking?” Applying this to myself makes me worry I am close to an addiction of podcasts.

Urs Truly has an insatiable penchant for learning. It started in my youth and has never let up. Somewhere in the penetralia of my cranium lurks a network of neurons continuously on and never satisfied. [1]  Podcasts are my drug of choice. They are cheap, numerous, and oh so satisfactory – like my men.  I have subscriptions to nearly thirty. [2] They cover a variety of learning topics such as grammar, history, philosophy, the bible, politics, sexual advice, and psychology.[3]  Like pistachio nuts I find it impossible to have just one. I feel like Lucy and the chocolate wrapping sketch. They continually put out and I can’t seem to keep up. Podcast episodes are like that last piece of pizza: you know you are full and you don’t want it but you eat it anyway as it is simply there.

The continual listening to podcasts doesn’t sound as detrimental as some other habits I could mention, but they do interfere with some activities that are neglected. My free reading takes a hit, as does sitting in silence. Perhaps it is my inner-Protestant that finds not learning a sign of indolence and leading to temptation.  Alas, I don’t seem to retain much content other than the basic ‘gist’ or each podcast episode. Perhaps this is because i am over 50 or maybe my cortex decides it ain’t having any more thank you.

Mrs Reagan advised just say no but I haven’t had success with that. It is very hard to delete podcasts or their episodes for I feel obliged to hear all of them, even when Ted-talks is again going on about world politics. If I were to delete one I may miss something crucial. Next weekend at happy hour someone will bring up quantum mechanics or The Trail of Tears and I won’t have enough to keep up. Oh the horror; oh the embarrassment.

The first step to treating an addiction is admitting you have a problem. The second step: eliminating podcasts and episodes you are realize you are hearing just for the sake I feeling obliged to finish it. The third step is stop asking friends for ‘new and fabulous podcasts”. [4].  The forth step may be eliminating The Tim Ferriss Show.  I forget what step #5 is but I think The Art of Charm did a podcast episode on this a few weeks ago.

I can think of worse problems than attempting to cram as much learning as I can into my craw. Someone once pointed out there isn’t much need or point to knowing every thing there is to know about the thirty years war or the origin of the term “sanctuary cities” as one can just pull all this stuff up on the cellphone.

I guess my metanoia into a mentat or a walking Wiki isn’t appreciated by anyone but myself.

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[1] I suspect my nucleus accumbens, the Messalina of the mind.

[2] Names given upon request. There is not a dull one among them.

[3] Not all of my thirty podcasts are educational. A few of them are just jolly good fun.

[4] I will make an exception for Spo-fans who know of any fabulous podcasts. Please pass them onto me !

Leave it to The Board of Directors Here At Spo-reflections to turn a wonderful post into a problem. They were pleased with my last entry, but now they are in a swivet over what the next one will entail viz. how to keep up the momentum and comments. I say nerts to them. I don’t see blog-writing having the same goal as the gross national product. Some entries will be mawkish and even dull. It’s just that once in a while it pays off like a slot machine, that’s all.  I suspect the next few to be p.71.

It was certainly a dull and mawkish day here in The House of Spo. I  cleared out the pantry of things past their prime. I made crock-pot chicken Parisienne.[1] My Duolingo app informs me I am now 4% proficient in Spanish although I haven’t yet uttered a word to anyone other than to seek consultation with Maria and Lupe at the office if I have something right. [2]

All my dictation and prior authorization papers are complete. I ironed all the Spo-shirts from Palm Springs. I lead a dull life.

Did I tell you at work I finally got approved to write electronic prescriptions for controlled substances? This may not sound like much but it is a major milestone and a cause for celebration. Controlled Rx require patients continually calling for their next prescriptions and coming in to pick them up paper. Now I can wiz them over the ether to Walgreens. No paper! Patients don’t have to drive in each month!  Hurrah for our side!

Mind! Sending one of these suckers requires more passwords and numbers than a Dan Brown novel. But it will be worth it. I am looking forward to seeing if this frees up some time – or merely accelerates things like Lucy and the chocolates on the conveyor belt. [3]

I think something major happens this week but I can’t recall what it is. If it is important I suspect it will announce itself.

I need to contact Hector, who is Lawn-Master, to ask him to cut down the agave growing outside the garage. It is the size of Audrey II and just as inimical. I haven’t yet learned Spanish for hack that bastard to death. I fear I will come home from work to find the agave intact and the rest of the yard looking like it had been visited by a general who was given the green light on a scorched earth policy.  At least that would be a good blog entry, the type to assuage The Board.

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[1] It lacked eclat.

[2] Usually no.

[3] My next project is figuring out how The Wonder Receptionist can do them too. As I am the only one with the token to complete the transaction, all these Rx have become my job, not hers. This may be a case of be careful what you wish for.

A few Spo-fans have asked for stories and details about the wedding. There were the usual things: we held hands and made promises. Pictures were taken. Afterwards well-wishers came up with outstretched hands and congratulations were given.

What I thought I would write about was something that happened that was unexpected and wonderful.

We got married by a California County justice of the peace. This required having an appointment and ‘standing in line’ as it were. Before our appointment was a young couple, eloquently dressed in nice white and black satin suits. They had a wedding party of four or five people, probably friends and family. Our coterie consisted of Someone and Urs Truly – dressed in smart jackets with flower corsages – and our acolytes who were mostly in Spo-shirts.

Just before our turn to say I do, while I was at the glass window registering my information, I felt a finger tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a young man of about twenty. He introduced himself as Oscar; his bride was Adrianna. Oscar was dressed in a red T-shirt and khaki pants. In broken English he asked would I witness his wedding registration. They could not get married without a witness; they had no one to do so. A lot rushed through my mind in the five second pause before I said yes. Where were their friends and family? Why were they alone? What was their story? Adrianna explained they had a 3yo was ‘she was at home’.  Apparently they were on break from their restaurant jobs to come to city hall to get hitched. Oscar tried to give me twenty dollars but Adrianna told him that would be insulting to me. What I didn’t say at the time was they had just made my wedding day into something marvelous beyond measure.

After Someone and I got hitched it was their turn. There they stood, alone, facing each other, both wearing nice but inexpensive clothing so unlike the first couple mentioned. I was glad our wedding separated the two couples, lest O and A felt bad by the finery of the first couple (or worse, made fun of). In the brief ceremony, Mr. Oscar struggled a bit with the English; Ms. Adriana struggled a bit to hold back tears. Where was Urs Truly? He was running around with her camera, taking as many photos as he could muster. I wondered: if I hadn’t said yes, would they had been with no one to take any photos?

Someone et. al. waited for me out in the hall. Afterwards, we came out and the two wedding parties combined for a permutation of photos and all shook hands and kissed the bride (although some of us I suspect wanted to kiss the groom rather). They assured me I would be always welcome at the restaurant where they worked; they would make sure I was treated well.

I never got their names. I probably won’t ever see them again.

That night Someone and I took our friends to eat at a very fancy Palm Springs restaurant. The wine flowed as they say. While we dined I saw young Hispanic types running around busing tables and pouring water and waiting on rich white folks. Throughout dinner I thought of Oscar and Adrianna, also now married and probably eating on break at the restaurant. I compared the couples in my mind. Someone and I are well off and we solidified twenty years together – about the same time as the ages of Adrianna and Oscar. They were just starting off; they have their lives ahead of them. I sense they will struggle with funds, free time, and a raising a child (born out of wedlock).  I also thought of that awful man in the White House, who wants to vilify people like this hardworking couple.

I thank The Fates for arranging these crossed threads for the lessons they provided me.

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Last week when we got married we gave each other matching gold rings. We had them made by a Pacific Northwest Native American artist in Vancouver. On them is engraved “Raven Stealing the Light”. I am thrilled to have it of course, but it frightens the dickens out of me as I may lose it.  This fear is not unfounded. I tend to lose everything in time. I’ve had several rings in my life and they all have disappeared. Someone is quite severe with me about this; I am to mind my ring’s whereabouts. They were quite expensive and would not be easily replaced.

A week later it is still around. So far so good.

I have always worn a hematite ring on my left hand, so wearing a ring is old hat. Ironically it is Someone who is having troubles keeping it on (he’s worn a ring for awhile but on the right hand rather). Today he misplaced his for an hour but I said nothing.

I suppose I could keep it on 24-7 but I find I don’t like to shower with it on, lest the soapy water loosen it from my person. I take it off at night and I always place it in the shallow ring bowl on the dresser.

I went to the gym to lift weights. Fearing it would be scratched or marred from handing the barbells, I took it off and put it in the zipped pocket pouch of my gym bag. I was rather nervous to do so; after a week it felt odd to be without it.

Today I discovered my golden band has writing on the inside. I suspect it is the signature of the goldsmith but I wonder if the fine script is Haida for “One ring to rule them all” or something sinister. Perhaps it wants to slip off my finger and find its way back to Vancouver.  It’s a morbid thought but it could happen. Funny how my golden ring doesn’t conjure up emotions of wedded bliss so much as visions of Mordor.

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I like to think I am a gentleman. One of the criteria of such is self-composure under trying circumstances. This is even more challenging when there is name-calling happening. Miss Manners’ advice is never return rudeness with rudeness. This is called ‘setting a good example’ or ‘not stooping’.

On the other hand when I am in a sordid situation my mind immediately comes up with nasty comebacks and back talking. It makes my eyes cross to discover how readily and quickly acrimony arises from the recesses of my brain.

Spo-slights and insults and name calling have grandiloquence to them. I am less likely to call someone a bastard as a slobberdegullion. These gems puzzle the recipient and makes him pause to ponder whether or not he’s been actually insulted.  It also shows a bit of superiority and sophistication.*

Shakespeare has some lovelies. Here are some of my favorites:

A fusty nut with no kernel

The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans

Highly fed and lowly taught

(and possibly my favorite)

I do desire we may be better strangers.

If I think these won’t work, I can always use my fustian lexicon:

virago; harridan; rampallian; snollygoster; pettifogger; strige; lespawg; troglobite.

Try using one in an email today.

But my favorite seems to be “toadsucker”. When the shadow-side of my psyche wants a vile word it pops up as first in line. Sucking toads implies the suckee has sucked all the vitriol and bitterness out of said toad, not unlike a vampire or as a parasite.  “Toad sucker” is an indirect speech act for the recipient to hear between the words the implication he sucks something worse than a toad but I am too high-class to say what out loud.

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*This is not nice but there it is.

 

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Urs Truly has a lot of cookbooks. I surmise there must be about 3-4 dozen of them sitting on the top shelves of the food pantry. They range in style from fancy gourmet types to plastic-bound Church women’s basement cookbooks. Once upon a time I continually consulted them for old favorites and new adventures in cooking. It was a pleasure to see them all in their rows, arranged in bulk. Then the internet came along and put them all out of business. Nowadays when I see my collection it elicits not pleasure but guilt. Alas it is much easier to open the Epicurious or Betty Crocker app, or just google search the titles of the desired dishes. These get recipes quick as a quarter note and it is far easier than rummaging through the cookbooks in a trial and error search through indexes, hoping to find what you have in mind.

Someone once proposed I get rid of them as they are obsolete as typewriters, but I haven’t the heart to do so. There is something comforting and pleasurable about running my fingers over the printed pages with their lovely photos. The favorite recipes are often dog-eared and having cooking stains. Some of them were gifts.

I have a box of TV recipe cards (thanks Annette Fabry!) and a series of Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks from the late 60s and early 70s (oh those photos!)   Then there are the lovely Ruby Anne Boxcar Trailer Park Cookbooks which are rubbing elbows with Julia Child’s French cookbooks. Oh the joy! How on earth can I give up these lovelies, I ask you.

I recently heard in a podcast about some clever woman who put all her cookbooks in a database so she only has to type key words and hey presto! the programme tells her which cookbooks to pull down and where in them to find what she is looking for. What a find, if this is true. I would be blithe to have this. Anyone know of such?

All the same I feel sad about the cook books sitting up there, untouched and gathering dust. I sense they sit up there holding their breath, hoping someday I will close my eyes, reach up, and randomly pick out one of them and make something delicious, something I haven’t had in ages or (better yet) something new and adventuresome.*

Spo-fans are invited to tell me about their favorite cookbooks. I have a gift card from Amazon.com to use!

 

*I have just returned from the pantry where I did said ritual. He is what I pulled down:

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Hot puppies! I can’t wait to make Chinese Orzo Vegetable Salad !

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