Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

1. I love fresh flowers.
2. I am afraid of the dark and always have been.
3. My grandmothers have been some of the most influential people in my life.
4. My husband and I have a daschund named Rex, a cat named Shadow and a 55 gallon fish tank.
5. If I say I am going to do something, it gets done if I die, you die and the whole world dies.
6. I learn life lessons the hard way usually.
7. I HATE CARROTS both raw and cooked.
8. I am a much more private person than most people realize.
9. I got to have the exact wedding I wanted to my best friend last year even though not everyone understood.
10. If we had unlimited finances, I would want to travel a lot and do lots of volunteer work for church and the opera and the arts generally.
11. My friends are very important to me and I work hard at friendships. They are worth it.
12. I am a bloodthirsty ice hockey fan.
13. I do not suffer fools gladly or patiently.
14. I have extraordinary and wonderful parents.
15. My sister and I have always been very close despite a 5 year age difference.
16. I hope to eventually read everything Terry Pratchett has written.
17. I am always looking for the fastest and easiest way to do a task because I am lazy. I am always looking for the best way because I am a perfectionist as well.
18. I am closer to my extended family in England than to my extended family in America.
19. The beach (especially on San Juan Island) is our favorite place to be.
20. Cooking isn't a chore for me. I enjoy it and it is more like a hobby.
21. I am not happy about my weight but I am okay with it.
22. My niece can melt my heart with just a look.
23. My husband has made me a better me.
24. I can be hideously sarcastic and cynical and caustic but I try to resist the urge most of the time.
25. Sunshine on my shoulders DOES make me happy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Evolution of Cooking

I have been pondering lately how much cooking has changed through the years. I made shrimp curry today. It is not something my grandmothers or great-grandmothers would have made. Could they have even found the ingredients? Not likely. But now, I can go to my local grocery store and buy a pretty good Thai red curry paste. Add a can of coconut milk (99 cents at Trader Joe's), some fish sauce ($1.49 a bottle at the local Chinese grocery) and some brown sugar and you have a curry sauce for the ages. Throw in some onions, peppers and shrimp and you have a really excellent meal.

My mother talks about going to help her grandmother with the cooking during the threshing season in Iowa in the 50's. They would start the day early by setting the bread before fixing a huge breakfast including biscuits and sausage gravy. Then there would be sweet rolls and coffee mid-morning and at lunch would be a big hot meal like fried chicken, creamed peas & new potatoes and more biscuits and gravy (evidently my great-grandfather had to have that at every meal). Then someone would be sent out with cold drinks and sandwiches in the afternoon and then a big meal at supper too like ham hock and beans and biscuits with tomato gravy. It was long days of cooking and washing dishes.

My grandmother had ten children so every meal included enough food to feed an army. My father recalls when he was dating my mother that whenever he stayed for supper at her house, it felt like a party because there was so much food and so many people. My grandma was well known for her home cooking and she was a master hand at many of the dishes I mentioned in the above paragraph. She didn't do a lot of experimenting because she had a big family to feed and couldn't afford to waste food. She did make some Italian food and when my grandfather became a diabetic she worked on keeping sugars and starches out of their diet. She is also a great source for recipes and I regularly ask her for a recipe of something she has made that I remember fondly such as her oatmeal cookies.

My mother, being the wife of a pastor for forty years, has had to do a lot of entertaining. She has always done a lot of cooking, canning, pickling, baking and experimenting in the kitchen generally. Every year she throws a big Christmas party for the church people and she does all the food. It always includes some particularly impressive finger foods. This year there was a cheese ball that had been shaped and decorated to look like a snow man. She had a cream puff Christmas tree sprinkled with powdered sugar. People come every year just to enjoy looking at and eating her food.

Now we come to me. About a year ago, I came to realize how much I really love to cook and that it was more than a chore for me -- it was a hobby. I love to talk to other people about their cooking and eating experiences. One of the judges at the court where I work loves to bake and we hold quite serious conversations on the merits of various baking methods. At a family reunion, I discovered that one of my cousins shares my passion for cooking (see the Julie Jams blog) and we have become much closer in talking about food in general and organic foods and community supported agriculture in particular. I pour over cookbooks and websites and the Food Network. I subscribe to Bon Apetit and actually make some of their recipes from time to time. I have even made some of Martha Stewart's hideously complicated recipes a few times. (My dad refers to any recipe that dirties half the dishes in the kitchen as a Martha Stewart recipe.) As my husband says, I love to cook and he loves to eat so its the perfect match.

And it was all this that got me thinking about what a tremendous time it is for cooks particularly in America. We can get all kinds of unusual and exotic ingredients and spices. We can make Indian curry, Filipino lumpia, Greek baklava, Spanish paella and a host of other ethnic foods. I can get fresh fruit, fish, meat and veggies year round. I have access to Hungarian paprika and Creole seasoning and fresh ground pepper. In other words, the world is my oyster!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mr. Sudsy Car Washes

The NO CHANGE light had been blinking on the lobby copier for two days. After finally eking out some time to investigate, she opened up the change dispenser and jiggled it about for a bit. What appeared to be a Canadian Toonie dropped onto the floor, she picked it up to examine the coin more closely. She looked down at the Mr. Sudsy Car Washes token in her hand. The logo on the center of it showed a man made of bubbles carrying a bucket in his right hand. He wore a drum major’s hat and in his left hand, raised like a baton, was a tiny mop.

It was always nice to have one’s faith in human nature confirmed.

Seriously, some person plugged a car wash token in the Washington State Court of Appeals lobby machine copier. The same copier that is there for the use and convenience of the public and charges an exorbitant fifteen cents per page. Due to the Mr. Sudsy token, Xerox had to be called to come and restore function to the copier because the change ended up all over the place and in the wrong slots.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Birthday Boy

I come from a family that CELEBRATES birthdays. Your birthday is your day and you should have things just as you want them for your birthday. My husband's birthday is the second of January but because of various circumstances beyond our control, we have been celebrating for almost 2 weeks now.

December 31st -- let him open present, only the one but it was an XBOX 360 Elite which he has been melding with ever since.

January 1st -- made him breakfast in bed, went to see his aunt & uncle and exchange Christmas and receive birthday gifts, pick up his very special order birthday cake (marzipan), went to the Museum of History and Industry, to Ivar's Salmon House for lunch and to the Sci Fi Museum (whoopee).

January 2nd -- went shopping for XBOX 360 games, an extra controller and to the hobby store so he could spend a gift card on 2 box cars for his train set and a collector's edition model of the Starship Enterprise.

January 3rd -- he played XBOX for several hours.

January 4th -- had his mom, step-dad and half-siblings over for the remaining cake and ice cream and to open the gifts from them.

January 5th -- more XBOX.

January 6th -- dinner at The Keg so he could have his free birthday prime rib.

And the celebration continues this Friday night when we go to the Red Robin for his free birthday burger. Now some may find this all to be excessive but remember, my husband is a twin and his birthday falls right on the heels of Christmas. I figure he deserves to have his birthday celebrated with style for a change.

Plus for the next six months he is only four years younger than me instead of five.