Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cooking for Bachelors

Calmer Half and I have a housemate who is a good friend and confirmed bachelor. Like many bachelors, he's perfectly happy to go reload .44 special and 20 gauge and many other different things, and leave the cooking to us. I really like cooking - I like the challenge, the blend of art and science, history, economics, and tasty delicious reward when it goes on the table. Unfortunately, that means if I cook every day, the leftovers in the fridge and freezer threaten to take over the available space and possibly go bad.

Fortunately, I have another bachelor friend, only a few miles away, who's often focused more on his projects and work than on food. Cooking at his house is often akin to a game - given these random ingredients, these random cooking utensils and pans, and a very interested black cat that will try to steal whatever he thinks is most delicious, what dish can I create? It's a game that requires skill, dexterity, creativity, internet access to search for recipes and substitutions, and situational awareness. (Did I just shut Gremlin in a cupboard?)

Of course, I cheat - I sometimes go grocery shopping with him, or for him, so staples are usually present, and the spices are fairly diverse. Still, there's no telling what I might get up to, from cinnamon-raisin bread from scratch to poached orange roughy with tomatoes and onions in a garlic-mustard sauce on lemon-flavored rice. I like feeding healthy food to him. The best outcome is to come up with a meal that is healthy, tasty, and with at least three extra portions that freeze well.

Today I poked my head in the fridge, saw a half-pack of sad-looking mushrooms, and in the freezer saw a half-bag of shrimp. I should be thinking Scampi, or similar - but for no good reason, the brain is stuck on one of those lots-of-work-for-little-reward dishes... shrimp-stuffed mushrooms!

When asked, yes, I'm up to chaos and mayhem in the kitchen - but it's not murder and mayhem, as the shrimp are already dead. And I'm not quite annoyed enough at furball to cook him into a sauce. Yet. Mayb... Get Out Of That!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There's newer, and then there's better.

Via Adaptive Curmudgeon, I've just found 365 Days of A - a gentleman who is driving a 1930 Model A Ford as his daily commuter for a year. Quite fun!

Adaptive Curmudgeon has a series himself on working with older technology - specifically, heating his house with wood for a year between the old furnace's death and getting it replaced. Parts: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven.

I have a little knowledge in the same vein, having restored my pre-WWII airplane and having my heart set on 1930's-1950's rag and tube aircraft.

The older machines and ways we keep running are not terrible things that should be abandoned at the first sign of progress - and they can be downright fun! For the negatives, they involve more work, from stacking firewood to soldering a gas tank leak to cutting open every filter at an oil change to inspect the engine health. They involve more care, from making sure the fire is banked each night to inspecting the machine before and after every use. They take more time, and greater knowledge of the thing that you are using.

On the other hand, they teach you a lot more, and by slowing you down, and let you appreciate what you have as you think about what you get for how you work. They also can handle things surprisingly well compared to modern machines, with greater redundancy. When something goes wrong on a system I know well, I can diagnose the problem, take corrective action, or fix it - if my modern computer-controlled econo-car decided to have things go wrong, there are very few fixes I can diagnose, much less do. And then there's the unquantifiable, but very real grin that comes of flying something with the windows open, or doors off, low enough to hear the sound of the creek burbling over the rocks and the laughter of children, smelling the camp smoke and the freshly grilled fish, and waving the wings back at the children as they squeal with glee and wave with both arms as they see you overhead. You can't get that at 35,000 feet and 240 knots. The feeling of work well done, of sitting in a warm house that you split the wood to heat, of flying a plane you restored, of driving a car you just changed the oil and fixed the bumper on, or eating a dish with vegetables you grew, or chowder made with milk you got out of the goat that morning... This is something a credit card cannot buy.

I would rather fly in my plane 1500 miles than drive - I know how to care for my plane, but if my car doesn't turn over, I'm stuck. Which is better?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Relevant Zoological Information

One of the keys to exercise is to make it fun and interesting. So after days of walking around our block together, Calmer Half and I have started walking at the zoo. This is far more fun than a treadmill or elliptical, and the uphills and downhills are far more rewarding. The sights are far more interesting, too - we get to count how many of the dads herding their kids around are packing heat, and try to figure which kids in the swarm belong to which mothers lagging behind with their strollers.

You'd think taking a real live African man to the zoo might result in more information on the African animals exhibited there. You'd be right - but it's a rather, ah, different viewpoint than the signboards. He notes, in this order:

1. How tasty the animal is.
2. How dangerous the animal is.
3. How fat these examples are.
4. How relaxed these examples are.

So while the mom next to us is pointing to the Red River Hogs and going "Look! Piggies!", Calmer Half's stomach is growling as he says, "Oooh, look how fat those are - they haven't had to run from any predators in years! Mmmm, mmmm, those would be some damn fine eating!"

Related note: he can eyeball the giraffe baby and estimate its age correctly to within two weeks. He also points out, to the dismay of some mothers and amusement of some fathers, the, ah, current air of randiness of the giraffe male, and the cold shoulder he's getting from the childless female. It certainly is more educational!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Life is Good.

The snow has melted even from the shadows as the temperature climbs toward the sixties this week, and I woke from a doze beneath warm blankets by the sound of the garbage truck. I dashed outside just to check, and dragged the garbage can to the curb as the truck advanced down the street with two houses to spare before my driveway. The concrete and tar was cool under my bare feet, sun shining, birds singing, and the garbage truck driver honked back to my cheery wave.

It didn't hurt. My knees cooperated, my twisted ankle has healed so sudden use only produces the most minor of ignorable twinges. It didn't hurt from ice underfoot. It didn't hurt to gasp for breath or the slap of ice fog-laden air against my skin sucking moisture away. The old shoulder injuries are so well healed they didn't even think of protesting at jerking the can from its position at rest and hauling it up the driveway.

I've eleven interviews down, and if I am nervously watching the bank account and the phone, hoping for callbacks, if my plane is still stranded far from me - it matters not. I can run when I need to, I can still afford to feed my household, and spring is coming.

I came back inside, and started the tea kettle, called a cheery good morning to my love, and pulled the tea pot that was a lovely present from friends from under the flowers on the kitchen table, and set about spooning in tea leaves. Calmer Half appeared up the stairs to give me a hug, take the teasing about forgetting the garbage in stride, and wish a happy valentines day to me.

My husband loves me. I can run when I want to, and lift and move the things I want. I have tea, a roof over my head, and good friends. It's a wonderful day, and I hope every one of you find joy in it.