Friday 5: Food Me Once, Food Me Twice

From here.

  1. What do you like on your frozen yogurt?
    Depends on the flavor, of course, but generally I don’t like things that harden in the cold, so no bits of candy.  I make exceptions for the occasional Heath Bar smithereens (because one should always make exceptions for Heath Bars).  Usually, though, I prefer almond slivers (especially in pistachio fro-yo), graham-cracker crumbles, granola, blueberries, or strawberries.  I’ll slather on some condensed milk sometimes or even cheesecake pieces, but I seldom add more than two toppings.
  2. How do you feel about hot breakfast cereals?
    I’ve had oatmeal for breakfast almost every day for the past year.  I don’t know if that’s contributing to the drop in weight, but I don’t think it can be hurting.  I’ve found that the key for me is to eat a lot of it — a whole dry cup, with a tablespoon or so of natural peanut butter swirled in, and a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon.  That tides me over until lunch, so I almost never snack between breakfast and lunch anymore.  But my recently discovered fondness for oatmeal has me super curious about other hot cereals for breakfast.  Grits?  Cream of wheat?  I already eat lots of rice (it’s in the blood) and quinoa, but what might I do differently with them if I think of them as breakfast cereal?
  3. What did you last put brown sugar in or on?
    Oatmeal.  I didn’t have it for breakfast today (or the past few days because I’m sick and I’ve been having just one meal a day), but last Friday for sure.
  4. What’s a food item you willingly overpay for?
    Cheese.  The cheap stuff is fine, and in times when I’ve been underemployed or have had other reasons to cut costs, I’ll prefer it to no cheese at all, but it’s near the top of the list on things I’ll spend money on right up to the point of being ridiculous.  This often means that I’ll cut down on costs by buying good cheese in larger amounts, but whatever.  I’ll finish it eventually, so why not?
  5. What did you last add vinegar to?
    As I have written many times before, I am a vinegar fiend, so I add it to stuff almost on a daily basis.  Last night I made a chicken-pumpkin soup and added some coconut vinegar to that.  The night before, I made tuna sandwiches and added some rice vinegar to the tuna.  I was out of red wine vinegar, and that’s my usual go-to for tuna.

 

I Made it Through the Rain

Scraping again.

Possible new client.  Someone put out a call for a once-weekly blog situation about dining and home stuff.  I don’t know the person, but three of that person’s FB friends (friends of mine) recommended me, which was super, super flattering.  I sent my writing samples and asking price and haven’t heard back, and that was a couple of weeks ago.  I’m thinking I didn’t impress.  No responses yet to follow-up emails and FB messages.

Meanwhile, I’m having difficulty producing for m

y existing clients, although I had my most productive week in quite a while this past week.  I’m hoping this bodes well for weeks to come, especially since that’s how I get paid.  And I need to get paid.

In between stuff I get paid to write, I’ve been trying to catch up on my film reviews.  Expect a small flood of them in the next two weeks; they’re already written, but I scheduled them to post every other day, with the thinking that I would write something personal on the days in between.  Ha.

We had some amazing rain last night.  This tropical storm blew through here pretty much all day Sunday and closed the freeway, something I have never seen here in my life.  The section they closed, because of ponding and stalled vehicles and accidents caused by the ponding, is the part that goes through my neighborhood, about a mile south (I can see it from my back porch), and yeah.  That part of the freeway collects water like crazy when it rains hard, but for it to cause the havoc we saw yesterday (it’s past five in the morning Monday now, and the westbound lanes are still closed) is really unheard of.

I stayed out of it.  Thank goodness it was Sunday and not Saturday, because when Saturday — the end of my stepcount goal week — rolled around, I still owed myself about six miles walking.  I got those steps in (keeping my 2016 consecutive weeks streak alive) and spent Sunday just being safe and dry.  I took a short walk to the bottom of my hill and back (about a mile total) to drop something in the mailbox and get some fresh air about an hour ago, and the neighborhood looks pretty much intact.

One of my recent obsessions is quinoa.  I bought a huge bag of it from Costco a couple of years ago, tried it out and liked it, most of it sat in a plastic container in my freezer all this time until a couple of months ago.  Now I’m eating it every day, usually with some vegetarian chili I’ve been making.  The vegetarian thing isn’t exactly by choice; I just have to make a few choices with my spending, and it’s easier and less expensive not to deal with meat.  As a good Japanese boy, rice will always be my first love, with brown rice the go-to not because I prefer it, but because white rice is just so bad for me, but for now I’ve got a little bit of side action going with quinoa.  I even like the taste of it plain, all by itself, and preparing it is almost as easy as rice anyway.

I finally used up that first bag.   I had another (larger!) bag of quinoa waiting in the wings.  This one will definitely not last two years.

 

Roll Out the Barrels

Just for fun (inspired by a recent purchase at the local drugstore): my favorite individually wrapped hard candies (lollipops excluded), in order.

li-hing-drops

  1. Li hing mui drops (pictured)
  2. Hard ginger candy
  3. Root beer barrels
  4. Cinnamon discs / Jolly Rancher Cinnamon Fire
  5. Peppermint starlites
  6. Coffee candy
  7. Butterscotch / butter-rum discs
  8. Strawberry Jolly Rancher
  9. Strawberry hard candy in strawberry-looking wrappers
  10. Tootsie Pop Drops

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and I seldom eat candy, but when I do, this is the candy that turns me on. Did I leave anything out?

In a Cafe in Waikiki

IMG_0308.JPGKilling a little bit of time in a cafe in Waikiki. The bus ride from home to the office is long, and it helps me sometimes to get off, get some fresh air, walk around, and have a cup of coffee before jumping right back on the same line for the final fifteen minutes of the trip. I especially needed it today because my fellow riders for quite a ways were ten very noisy high-schoolers (there’s no public school on Election Day because they use the schools as polling places) and when they got off, they were replaced by a very comely young woman dressed for the beach (this bus passes right through the guts of Waikiki) who was inspiring me to think things I am better off not thinking.

By the time we got to Seaside Avenue (actually two blocks from the sea) I had to get off and clear my head. I do not ride long distances well anyway, even under the best of passenger situations.

This Starbucks, right at the bus stop, is always packed, but it’s got decent counter seating and the AC is usually blasting, which is exactly what need most of the time. There is a mid-thirties guy seated on my left, watching videos on FB on his MacBook Pro. On my right, around the corner of the counter, is a young visiting Japanese couple, just chatting and laughing over coffee. They seem nice.

I also like to get off here because there’s a むすび (musubi) place midway down Seaside, between Kuhio and Kalakaua, and the quality of the rice and うめ is excellent. It has multigrain musubi, which I appreciate (although the white rice there is also excellent). The only drawback is that it’s two bucks for one, which is slightly on the expensive side. I should really learn to make this myself, because few things make me happier than the simplicity of a well-made musubi. It almost always makes me think of my mom, who is a musubi master.

MacBook Pro guy and Japanese couple are gone. In the couple’s place is a hipster-looking dude reading an in-flight magazine.

I used to work in a cafe, and since the counter here is behind the barista, I can appreciate her technique. I have issues with the taste of Starbucks coffee (it’s one reason I almost always get a latte: to mask the taste of the roast), but the baristas here usually know what they are doing. They could do things sloppily but just about never do. Good skills. These things make a difference.

Oh, maybe that’s not an in-flight. It’s French.

I learned today that Tracy Austin is fifty-one. I’d have guessed a bit older. I’d totally go out with a fifty-one-year-old. So if you’re reading this, Tracy…

There are either rats or mice in my house. It’s super annoying.

Hipster dude left his cup on the counter and left. It irritates me when people don’t bus their trash and dishes in a cafe. I’m getting back on the bus before someone else does anything to irritate me.

edit: I threw hipster guy’s trash away as I left so others would know the counter spot was open.

Current Passions

I don’t really suppose many of my passions have changed since I last wrote about any of them, but it feels like they have, so here’s a little update.

I’ve been a fan of Bearfoot for a few years now; I was totally obsessed when the band’s 2009 Doors & Windows was released, mostly by the vocals (and appearances) of the female band members, including new lead vocalist Odessa Jorgensen. The new album sees more new members, including Jorgensen’s replacement, Nora Jane Struthers.

American Story sounds different, but I am not conversant enough in this genre to say what the difference is. I just know that it’s got really great songs, that Nora Jane’s voice is wonderful, and that this is my new favorite album of 2011. Acoustic, string-based bluegrass-inflected Americana with equal measures of fun and wistfulness, if they turn you on, should send you scurrying to get this.

That’s Angela Oudean on fiddle. I have a major thang for her.

I also really love Dan Le Batard, the terrific sports columnist for the Miami Herald. I’ve listened to his radio program for the past year and a half, and he’s my favorite fill-in on my favorite TV program, Pardon the Interruption on ESPN. Now he’s got his own show, and in its first two months it has taken over my daily viewing. My TV-watching has gone down already thanks to work and to commuting by bus; the introduction of this new show to my daily recording schedule means EVERYTHING else gets backed up because this is always the first (and sometimes the only) show I watch when I get home in the evenings.

Le Batard has been asked about doing television several times in the past, but he’s unwilling to leave his home in Miami, so the brilliant producers at PTI, knowing that the secret to that show’s success was the onscreen chemistry of its stars, set Le Batard up in a Miami-looking kitchen (designed by his artist brother) with his real-life father, a frequent guest on his radio show. Le Batard says if the show is an utter failure, it has already been worth it because he’s gotten to do this with (and for) his dad, a Cuban immigrant. The show is fantastic.

This isn’t exactly a passion, but I’ve been stopping for breakfast several mornings each week at Driver’s Diner, in the airport industrial area. It’s two blocks off Nimitz, so it’s a quick walk from the bus stop, and it’s a nice, cheap, well-made meal. It’s crazy hot and stuff in there in the mornings and I don’t even want to get into what’s up with the ketchup. However, I’m usually in at 5:35 and out before 6:00, plenty early for arriving at school as early as I feel I need.

Thirtieth Semester: A Mini Ecclesiastes

Three sections of ninth-grade computer apps. One section of yearbook. One section of video editing. This is what my line looks like in this, my thirtieth semester as a teacher.

If you’d asked me a month and a half ago how I was feeling about my choice of profession (Ha! As if it were a choice!) I’d have given you mixed-but-mostly-confused sentiments. You might have heard words like “bored” or “unsure” or “restless,” none of which would have had anything to do with my actual class time, but just the overall experience. It’s so easy to second-guess oneself in a job like this. What good am I doing? And who really cares whether I do it or not?

I’m not foolish. I know that no matter how well I do this job, I am replaceable. If I were not doing all those things we tell ourselves teachers do in the lives of young people, somebody else would. Somebody else would be in my classroom teaching wonderful things to my students and inspiring my future leaders and followers.

So none of this is really about that. It’s really about what the heck am I doing here?

I honestly don’t know how non-religious people get through life without just giving up. Without some belief in some greater purpose, all you have are the days you have, the people you know, the space you occupy. And when you die you go into the ground and what did you really accomplish? Even if you’re, say, Abraham Lincoln or J.S. Bach, you’ve only made some kind of difference for the people on the planet, but what does that mean? How valuable or meaningful is that, if it all comes crashing to a burning end thousands of years from now?

I realize this is my midlife crisis talking. I suppose I (and readers of this space) will have to get used to it, because I don’t expect really to be out of crisis for some time. Reminders every day on FB or in the Christmas photos I get in the mail point me in a million directions my life might have taken, none of which it did. My life went this way. And why?

This is why people have kids, you know. Kids are the sort of ultimate graffiti tag. I might be dead and gone in a few years, but check out what I left behind, you know? Even if you give it the most positive spin possible, the whole expression of love between two people thing, you’re really still talking about leaving something behind. A mark. Children are like the dog piss on the fire hydrant, except hopefully they grow up and have kids of their own who also leave something behind, so that while your spray painted tag might fade over time, remnants of it will remain for as long as there are kids.

That fire-hydrant thing isn’t even my own metaphor; someone once wrote a poem inspired by me when I left five bottles of beer on her kitchen counter in Tennessee after a short summer visit. The first line of the poem was something like, “A possession has taken place.” It’s a great poem. She published it. Even my expounding on my midlife crisis, you see, is dependent on imagery created by others.

But hey. It’s a new year, on the calendar and in my own chronology. It’s a sunrise. A white canvas. A blank page. A new fire hydrant. Or something. I feel an unintended optimism creeping in, as it always does at this time of year. I love my classes. I love my students. And now let the wild rumpus start, and all that.

There’s really one other huge reason for kids, and people don’t really talk about it much. Kids become the way you keep your focus off yourself. People act as if being a parent is the super-unselfish act of taking care of someone else, of putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. That’s true, but it’s not for the kids’ benefit that you do it. You do it because, as I have had occasion to tell a few students who’ve crossed my path, the surest way to be depressed about your life is to spend all your time thinking about it. If you spend that time instead focused on other people’s needs, your life is not so bad. Maybe that’s why I feel okay most days about being single. My job is a sort of built-in escape valve for my own self-centeredness. I can’t do my job well if I am focused on myself, and doing my job well (if for no other reason than pride) is important to me.

One of my gifts this Christmas was a pound of coffee from one of my favorite coffee joints. It inspired me to make more coffee at home and to indulge less in coffee at the cafes. I’ve gotten away from making coffee at home for stupid reasons. I have a standard-sized automatic-drip machine, plus an espresso machine, and I never use either of them, haven’t used them for years. I don’t know why this helped, but when the new year broke, I picked up a cheap five-cup automatic-drip machine, a small little thing by one of those appliance makers that also makes power tools and whose coffee cred is therefore suspect.

It’s doing the trick, though. I get up, I grind the beans, I start the machine, and I have a cup while I do my morning Internet reading. What’s left in the carafe is enough to fill my Thermos, which I take to work with me. While the coffee’s brewing, I also prepare my lunch for the day and get dressed. So far, so good. I’m trying to make a few other changes to my daily ritual, not to mention my daily mindset. The writing (after only eight days) continues in just about the spirit I intended, ‘though I feel I’m having to steal time for it away from things that shouldn’t be messed with, like sleep! Ugh.

I may get more detailed about that, but I may have to keep that stuff to myself.

Birthday Dining

Yay. Wednesday was my birthday so I finally got to check out a couple of places I’ve been salivating at.

First, I had lunch at Good to Grill, which Reid was unimpressed with but which he said he looked forward to trying again. I have several friends who eat here all the time, but it occurs to me that some of them might be getting paid to talk it up, which is kind of a downer on my whole eagerness. Still, at least one person who I’m pretty sure isn’t on the take goes there a lot.

I had the prime rib and garlic shrimp combo ($18) with garlic mashed potatoes and brown rice. Hey, it was my birthday, and I wanted starch. The prime rib was made nicely but tasted kind of bland. I never really thought grilling was the best treatment of prime rib anyway, but the blandness is not what I expected from a kiawe grill.

The garlic shrimps were pretty good, but I never understand why adding shrimp to a meal always costs so much. I’m not complaining (it was my birthday, so the price wasn’t that much of a concern); I just don’t get it.

I thought the potatoes and even the rice seemed strangely flavorless, too. I mixed some horseradish sauce into the potatoes and that made things more interesting, but even the au jus seemed flat and flavorless.

Still, there was something very satisfying about this meal; maybe it was the grilling, or maybe it was the quality of the food if not the preparation. It pretty much filled me up for the whole day, too.

However, several hours later, I found room for Honolulu Burger Company. Reid said the burger was slightly crumbly but fairly flavorful, if not as good as Kua Aina or Teddy’s.

Penny and I split a Korean burger (shredded Korean rib meat topped with kim chee and chili sauce on a wheat bun) and a pocho burger (a hamburger topped with Portuguese sausage and grilled onions on a wheat bun).

The Korean burger was a pleasant surprise, quite flavorful with a really nice mouthfeel. It wasn’t especially spicy, but it was tender and juicy and pretty dang good. I’m not sure the kim chee added very much (except moisture and texture), but I liked it.

The pocho burger was good. We had it prepared medium, so it wasn’t very crumbly and had a nice juiciness, and I really liked the flavor. The Portuguese sausage worked really well with the beef, something I wasn’t really expecting. My problem with meat toppings on burgers is that the topping tends to distract from the burger, but I thought in this case everything was enhanced.

We also had sweet potato fries with a honey mustard sauce. They were crisp on the outside and kind of pasty on the inside; good but not great.

I’ll agree that it’s not as good as Kua Aina or Teddy’s, but it’s different and still worth the trip. It has the advantage of being in a nice, convenient location with good street parking (at night, anyway). I’d totally go again.

Late Monday Night

They were talking about the Outdoor Classic (or whatever it’s called) on the Tony Kornheiser Show Monday morning. The Penguins will play the Capitals on Heinz Field. Non-sports fans might not know that one game a year in the National Hockey League (on New Year’s Day, I think) is played outdoors, the way most hockey players grow up playing hockey, as if on a frozen pond in the neighborhood. It has so far been wildly successful, and you can see why. The games have been great and the fans have loved it and everyone—I mean everyone—thinks it’s one of the smartest things the NHL has ever done.

Kornheiser said that he’d like to see the game played on the reflecting pool in D.C. You know the one: it’s where Forrest Gump dove in and swam toward Jenny. The discussion itself was pretty dang hilarious, but Kornheiser’s co-hosts (one of whom is David Aldridge) all think it’s a bad idea. I don’t get it! Bad idea? It’s a brilliant idea! Someone needs to listen to Tony and figure out a way to do it. Seriously.

Mochi Girl has been splitting her CSA box with me and this past week I just wasn’t on the ball. Sunday night I still had way too may veggies, all still good but showing signs of giving up hope, and the new box comes on Mondays. So I cut everything up—two kinds of kale, swiss chard, radishes, turnips, green onions, radish greens, turnip greens, and a few other green things I don’t know the names of—threw them in a pot with a half pound of pork and made a huge soup. Oh, I grated the turnips and also threw in a few grape tomatoes I had.

It was the grossest, most unappetizing soup I’ve ever seen. It didn’t taste bad, but it looked awful! So I removed the pork, added a little bit of salt and half a can of tomato paste, and took a hand-blender to the whole thing. It still looks pretty gross, kind of like a greenish-brown pea soup, but at least it looks like food now, and it tastes pretty good. I shredded up the pork and added it back, then had a bowl with some rice. The rice REALLY did the trick; I’m not sure why. Tomato paste is sort of the magic soup ingredient; I have often had totally insipid soups just spring to life with the introduction of a little bit of tomato paste. The tomato paste adds body and depth and a kind of integrity to the whole thing.

I love that stuff. I’ve mentioned in this space that I like to eat it right from the can. Yum. In fact, the reason I only added half a can to the soup (it could probably have taken a whole can) is that I’d already eaten half. Couldn’t resist.

Jennifer posted her top ten movie scores yesterday. That is a list I have to make.

I was pleased to see The Mission on her list at number three. I won’t spoil the suspense for my list before I unveil it, but I’ll say that that one’s higher up on my list than on hers.

Stuff I Almost Always Have in My Pantry

Pantry. I said Pantry.

  1. Vinegar. Usually three or for different kinds. My go-to vinegar is rice-wine vinegar, which goes on sale frequently and has a nice sweet flavor I find a lot more interesting than cider vinegar or even wine vinegar, most of the time.
  2. Honey. I prefer it to sugar as a sweetener. Very good in sauces, especially, whether cooked (as with marinara) or uncooked (as with ponzu). Also yummy on steel-cut oatmeal.
  3. Soy sauce. I’m finding myself using this less and less. I really don’t know why. Like most people who grow up in Hawaii, I don’t even think about shoyu much. It’s always there and I just about always use it, except that I don’t lately.
  4. Angel hair pasta. Only because I eat pasta so often. I buy it when the better stuff is on sale, which results in my always having some.
  5. Beans. Another item that goes frequently on sale; I buy them dried and in cans, and in lots of varieties. I’m a big fan of beans.
  6. Instant ramen. My famine food, my end-of-pay-period food. I don’t eat this terrible-for-you food as often as you might think, and as I’ve written in this space before, I usually fancy it up a bit, but it is what it is: something I eat when I’m scraping the bottom.
  7. Various herbal teas.

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