Friday, March 31, 2006

Hollywood Mythology

Thanks for the Memory to Tales of a Wandering Mind.

Quick, a bit of word association. Which mythological character springs to mind?

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Yeah, I thought "Medusa" too.


A while back I mentioned that Clear Creek Distillery's pear Eau-de-Vie had inspired me to start working on a dessert recipe. Well, last night I got my first try at it, and may I say, with all modesty, WOW! I think I have a winner here.

As usual, I was going for something that highlighted the food products of Oregon. I wanted a thematic dish -- I wanted the name and cooking method to reflect something about the state as mucvh as the ingredients. I decided to go with a flambe dish, something along the lines of Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster.

What I came up with was "Pears Mazama". Mount Mazama is the mountain in whose crater Crater Lake resides. It's a big mountain, but was much much bigger before that eruption some 7,000 years ago -- she went from 11k or 12k to just over 8k today. Pears are one of Oregon's top crops -- our largest tree-produced crop, #10 of all our crops, and we are #3 in US pear production, #2 in fresh pears (not canned). So it seemed a perfect match.

Pears Mazama
Serves 2

2 red bartlett or red d'anjou pears
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar (I use fructose from the bulk food section -- not because of any health claims, but because its flavor matchs better with the honey)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pear eau-de-vie
vanilla bean ice cream
1/4 cup chopped roasted filberts
unsalted butter
fresh mint sprigs
lemon juice

Tools you will need:
vegetable peeler
coring device (a melon baller will do)
shallow glass baking dish
medium skillet
ice cream scoop
ignition source (especially if, like me, you are stuck with an electric stove)
Fire Extinguisher (SERIOUSLY, folks. Don't dink around when it comes to flaming alcohol!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Ever so lightly butter the bottom of a glass baking dish. Peel the pears, and with a corer or melon baller, core them. Not: Do not halve the pears, cut them, slice them, etc. They should be whole with the exception of the "tunnel" where the core used to be. Place upright in the baking dish and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pears are soft all the way through. Place each pear in the center of a plate (for the suggested presentation, a dinner plate gives the nicest effect). Place 1 scoop of vanilla bean ice cream next to the pear. Dust the entire plate with cinnamon. If you take care to dust from directly above, the pear will create a slight "shadow" around its base that gives a nice effect.

In a medium skillet combine the honey, sugar, water, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium heat, allowing the water to boil off. When the remaining mixture begins to caramelize, stir in the pear brandy. As soon as it comes to a boil, ignite it and pour over the pear, making sure as much of the sauce as possible gets into the core hole. when the fire dies out, sprinkle the pear and ice cream with chopped filberts and garnish with a mint sprig.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration Quote Quiz

Who said this"

"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile…We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
(Bold text added by me)

If you want to cheat, the answer is at Stix Blog, but I challenge you to give it the college try first.


Thanks for the Memory to Blogfather Rusty via Naked Villainy.

Could it be true? Could Fidel Castro be dead?

If he is, I think we should lift the embargo before his body cools. Send a message to the people of Cuba: You aren't our enemy, he was.

A Public Self-Serving Announcement

The Feared Redhead has worked in the spa industry since before we were married. She started as an esthetician, she was a massage therapist. Throughout her career, one of the thorny issues has been tipping. Both jobs provide services that are traditionally tipped. But in recent years, the popularity of giving gift certificates to spas has put a dent in this.

So ladies (and gents -- you never know), here's a , well, tip, if you'll pardon the pun:

Massage therapists, estheticians, hair stylists, and cosmetologists should be tipped. Apply the same standards you would for a meal in a restaurant -- a percentage of the cost of the service, adjusted for the quality of service received. A three dollar tip on a service that takes an hour of intensive work, and requires a license that must be studied for, sometimes for years, just ain't gonna cut it, and furthermore communicates the wrong message -- either that you don't know what you're doing, or you thought the facial sucked. And no, effusive praise is not an acceptable substitute. In fact, when you gush about the facial and THEN stiff her, that actually hurts WORSE. And if you're receiving the service courtesy of a gift certificate, don't assume the cost of the certificate included gratuity. It probably didn't, and what's more, the front desk staff are usually not even allowed to broach the subject -- with you OR with the purchaser of the certificate. So ask. And if the answer is, "No, it did not", well, then...

Thanks for listening.

Above and Beyond

Thanks for the Memory toLMC at The Llama Butchers.

The first Medal of Honor of the Iraq war, and in fact the first for any conflict since Somalia, has been awarded posthumously to Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith. The Wall Street Journal Opinion Page has an excellent account of the action for which he received the Medal. Here is the official citation:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith
United States Arm

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of the Marne,” and the United States Army.

Get on your knees tonight, thank God for men like Sgt. Smith, and then ask Him to comfort this hero's family.

Another Attack of the Clones

Back in my high school and early college days, I was a huge fan of a Christian musician named Steve Taylor. Steve was a former Youth Pastor whose music was a blend of terchno-pop, with some early attempts at rap (very bad from a rap point of view, but very clever for the day). Taylor's forte, especially early on, was satire, and he was unafraid to poke fun at hypocrisy within the church as well as at secular society. The title song from his first album, I Want to be a Clone, challenged the idea that Christians had to conform to the expectations of their peers in order to be good Christians, and included the line, "If you wanna be one of His, you gotta act like one of us!"

Over the years, he did mellow a BIT, and turned his critical eye toward the mirror, producing much deeper and more thoughtfulk lyrics on albums like I Predict 1990, Squint, and the collaborative effort under the band name Chagall Guevara and their album of the same name.

Lately I've been reflecting on some of his earlier, more biting work, and have been surprised when I realized that while the music is severely dated, the lyrics are frighteningly timely some 25 years after they were release. Three in particular have come to mind, so I'd thought I'd share them here (Lyrics found at Leo's Lyrics):

Whatcha gonna do when your number's up?
From the album "I Want To Be A Clone"

Sally's into knowledge
spent her years in college
just to find out nothing is true

She can hardly speak now
words are not unique now
'cause they can't say anything new

You say humanist philosophy is what it's all about?
You're so open-minded that your brains leaked out

Whatcha gonna do when your number's up?
time to lay diplomas down
(time to lay your money down)
whatcha gonna do when your number's up?
and you're buried six feet underground
spent your life looking out for number one
pride'll come before a fall
whatcha gonna do when your number's up?
were you thinking
that was the end of it all?

Harry's a civilian
wants to make a million
so he keeps on pluggin' away

Money is eternal
like the Wall Street Journal
yes they're gonna make him happy someday

Grabbin' for the gusto
gonna hit paydirt or bust
where's it gonna get you
when you bite the dust?


Buried in your psyche is the shadow of a doubt
You're so open minded that your brains leaked out

Bad Rap (Who you tryin' to kid, kid?)
From the album "I Want To Be A Clone"

Now L.A. hip and N.Y. chic
been dancin' lately cheek to cheek
while Midwest good ole boys like me
should all be playing catch-up, see

Subscribe to the Village Voice in throngs
and guess who gigs at Madame Wong's
well drop your pens and pant designs
and drop six words in your open minds

Who you tryin' to kid, kid?
to the Hollywood school
teaching everything's cool
who you tryin' to kid, kid?
to the Greenwich mockingbird
who has gotta have the last word
got your head together now?
got a way that's better now?
who you tryin' to kid, kid?
(say what, bad rap, uh huh)

You save the whales
you save the seals
you save whatever's cute and squeals
but you kill "that thing" that's in the womb
would not want no baby boom

Good, bad, laugh and scorn
blame yourself for kiddie porn
convenience is the law you keep
and your compassion's ankle deep

Who you tryin' to kid, kid?
wrap it in a fine philosophy
who you tryin' to kid, kid?
but your bottom line still says "me me me"
got your head together now?
got a way that's better now?
who you tryin' to kid, kid?

You'll march if all the streets are full
a two bit closet radical
no time to check the end result
expedience is your catapult

Convictions make your skin to crawl
you act like you're above it all
you say faith is a crutch for a mind that's closed
you guzzle your crutch and shove it up your nose

Who you tryin' to kid, kid?
to my left wing band with their head in the sand
who you tryin' to kid, kid?
to the "might makes right" playin' chicken (delight)
got your head together now?
got a way that's better now?
who you tryin' to kid, kid?

Can't understand those Christians
so you type us all in stereo
they're hypocrites
they're such a bore
well come on in
there's room for one more

So now you're mad
who is this guy
to bake us all in one big pie?
you think I care
forget it, hon
you've just been shot
with your own gun

Meat the Press
From the album "Meltdown"

Meat the Press

In a ninety-floor Manhattan address
lives a watchdog called the National Press
and around his collar's written the line
"The Protector Of Our Hearts And Minds"

Hark! Hark! The dog will bark
and we believe this hierarch
but read between the lines and see
this dog's been barking up the wrong tree

Meat The Press

When the ratings point the camera's eye
They can state the facts while telling a lie
and then watchdog shows to the viewers at ten
he's a bloodhound with a pad and pen
can't pin the blame--he's out of reach
just call the dog "His Royal Leech"
we held the rights for heaven's sake
'til we gave this sucker an even break

Meat The Press

When the godless chair the judgment seat
we can thank the godless media elite
they can silence those who fall from their grace
with a note that says "we haven't the space"
well lookee there--the dog's asleep
whenever we march or say a peep
A Christian can't get equal time
Unless he's a looney committing a crime
listen up if you've got ears
I'm tired of condescending sneers
I've got a dog who smells a fight
and he still believes in wrong and right

Meat The Press


Good News

Thanks for the Memory to Blogfather Rusty. American hostage Jill Carroll has been released. More over at The Jawa Report.

Crossing Fingers

I received a postcasrd acknowledging the receipt of my application to culinary school and informing me I meet minimum requirements. My application is under review and I may be called in for an interview.

I'm excited that the ball is rolling, but a bit nervous. I got my hair cut last night, trying to prepare to make a good impression. The waiting is the worst part.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mr. Bush, Build Up This Wall!

I got a little Linky-Love from the Nakedly Villainous Maximum Leader today. He offered his perspective on our immigration conversation. I'm one hundred per cent in agreement with everything he says in the post. But we did disagree on one topic, one neither of us mentioned in our posts -- the importance of a border fence/wall.

I'm all for it. As Maximum Leader points out, the debate over immigration reform is moot if we cannot enforce any present or future immigration laws. The current debate on immigration is too focused on what to do with illegals already here, and not enough on how to keep them out in the first place. To control immigration, we must control our borders. A physical barrier to the unfettered crossing of the border is a good start.

Not everyone agrees. Kathy the Cakeater went so far as to call it a "B.C. tactic", comparing it to Hadrian's Wall or the Great Wall of China. She goes on to say that such a wall "won't do anything to actually solve the problem of WHY Mexicans want to cross the border, but will only force the illegals to find another way to get across...."

But as I argued in the earlier post, yes, to a certain extent, it will. The title of that post was an allusion to an amusing children's song, one I hoped someone besides Maximum Leader would catch. The song presents a conundrum similar to the one we face with illegal immigration -- a series of problems where the solution to each one presents another, until the solution to the last problem presents the singer with the first problem. And again, that's what we're facing with immigration. Kathy argues, and I acknowledge, that we need to solve the problem of WHY Mexicans (and others, for that matter) want to cross the border". But that problem will never BE addressed so long as they are able to do so with relative ease. At least not where it needs to be addressed -- in Mexico. Why fix what's broken when you can just move north where things still work (for now)? Mexico has discarded its poor, and now they are discarding Mexico. The only way they will ever fix Mexico is if they STAY in Mexico, and the only way that will happen is if we make it easier and more worthwhile to do so than to simply jump ship and head north.

Maximum Leader did raise one objection that is valid and important enough to address. But I believe it is more of a caution than a deal-breaker. And that is the pitfall of assuming that a wall is sufficient to secure our border alone. And on this we are in agreement. Like him, I believe that it is also vital that we beef up the Border patrol: more personnel; better training; better equipment; better "Watching Their Six" policies; robust, response to any physical attack on Border Patrol Personnel; and an immigration policy that is a bit stiffer that the current revolving door that is a source of so much frustrartion to BP agents.

Comparing a modern border wall to Hadrian's Wall or the Great Wall is as superficial as comparing Iraq to Vietnam, or worse. For a far more recent example of a wall, Kathy might have looked to Israel. Since the construction of their wall, suicide attacks in Israel have dropped sharply. If done right, a wall is still a valuable tool in providing security to a nation.

Pop Quiz

Eight questions, open book -- all answers can be found in Johnny Cash's music.

Name that person:

1. Who broke jail about a dozen times?
2. Who grew restless on the farm?
3. Who's with the sherrif every day?
4. Who won't answer any more?
5. Who would join right in there?
6. Who was swinging a laughing little girl?
7. Who's quite a lady?
8. Who's faces were gaunt?

Mike Check

Hmmm.... yup, comments seem to be working fine.

Just checking.


Thanks for the Memory to Mean Mr. Mustard.

To those who would have us believe that all the protestors marching against the Immigration bill in Congress are just civic-minded patriots, I say:

You're too late. THIS:

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Is already burned into our heads.

Captain Ed puts it even more eloquently.

Mister Priapus provides additional quality insight.

More Stupidity from Sharon Stone: Advocating Giving In to Date Rape?

Thanks for the Memory to GroovyVic at Fiddle Dee Dee.

In my earlier post regarding Sharon Stone's comments about Hillary Clinton, I overlooked a link to another comment by Stone, which Vic pointed out to me. But this one isn't laughable, it's maddening. In talking about advocationg safe sex to teens, she said:

"Young people talk to me about what to do if they're being pressed for sex? I tell them (what I believe): oral sex is a hundred times safer than vaginal or anal sex. "If you're in a situation where you cannot get out of sex, offer a blow job. I'm not embarrassed to tell them."

Well, you should be embarassed, Sharon. In fact, you should be ashamed. What you SHOULD be telling teens to do if they're being pressed for sex is to call their parents or the police or a trusted adult, and instead of breaking out the condoms, they should be breaking out the pepper spray. Because when you "cannot get out of sex", that's called RAPE!

Look, it's pretty obvious to anyone who knows me what our first line of defense with The Lad and any of his possible future siblings will be: We will be teaching abstinence. And while people may not always agree with that philosophy, I would hope everyone can agree that whether our children heed our teachings about when and with whom to have sex or not, this much is not open to debate: It will not be forced ON them, and they will not force it on anyone else.

No means NO. Even Sharon Stone should understand that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Condoleezza Rice, returning from her Sunday interview on “Meet the Press” and preparing for a trip to Great Britain later this week, could not be reached for comment."

-- Mr. Atoz at Agent Bedhead, in response to a comment from Madonna stating that “…In America, men are still afraid. And I don’t think women are too comfortable with the idea of a female in charge. I find that really amazing.”

We now have a tie. As Mr. Atoz pointed out, the Madonna quote was a bookend to a comment from Sharon Stone: “Hillary still has sexual power and I don’t think people will accept that,” explained the former sex symbol. “It’s too threatening.”

Gullyborg decided that if Madonna could bookend Sharon, he could bookend Mr. Atoz:

"Monica Lewinsky was unavailable for comment."

(Original post was at 2:30 PM PDT, Mar 27 2006)

I'm Honored

I learn the coolest things from my Sitemeter visitors. Apparently I'm the #2 result if you Google stupid greenpeace (sic).

Rest in Peace

Thanks for the Memory to Gullyborg at Resistance is Futile.

Caspar Weinberger has passed away. May he rest in peace. He deserves it -- he helped Reagan make sure we all live in peace.

There's a Hole in My Bucket, Vincente, Vincente!

This morning I had an interesting conversation via the internet with The Maximum Leader. I expressed to him my displeasure over our inability to control our borders. He pointed out, quite rightly, that we've NEVER really controlled our borders. In fact, almost exactly 100 years ago, one of the biggest issues facing the US government was Pancho Villa and his incursions from Mexico into the United States. A century later, our immigration problems are being caused by a different type of incursion, but while they're still mostly from Mexico, the ones that are scarier still are the possible incursions by terrorist cells from other parts of the world. The importance of stopping these incursions and securing our borders are more important now than even in the days of Pancho Villa.

We began discussing what we think are the steps needed to secure our borders. We disagreed on the importance of a secure system of walls and fences, but agreed on the need to increase Border Patrol Personnel, and to equip them with the tools and the legal clout to really enforce our borders. I am convinced that this is essential for stopping the influx of illegal immigrants. It isn't the only thing that needs to be done, but any other efforts at curtailing illegal immigration are useless without a strong, secure border.

I proposed another measure, with which The Maximum Leader disagreed, and I see his point. Earlier in the morning I had commented over at Mean Mr. Mustard in a post on Immigration Reform. In it I suggested that diplomatic and economic pressure on the countries from which the majority of the illegal immigrants come. Mike again had to remind me that the largest source of illegals is Mexico, and there is not amount of pressure we could put on Mexico that would outweigh the economic benefits they gain from all the money sent back to Mexico by the illegals. He argued that the only thing that will stop the flow is economic development in Mexico. For starters, he advocated more investment in Mexico by US Corporations.

There was a time when I was much more sympathetic towards illegal immigrants, I made a similar argument, and to a certain extent, I still agree, though now I'm more inclined to side with Mike in advocating investment than I am to go back to believing, as I did then, in Federal aid to Mexico. But I have one big caveat: While living in San Diego, I had occasion to talk to MExicans quite often, including discussions of Mexican politics. To anyone living near the border, it wqas obvious that corruption is rampant in Mexican politics, at every level. And we're talking about a degree of corruption that our worst Scandals in the US can't even come CLOSE to matching. As things stand in Mexico, any economic development is highly likely to end up doing little more than further enrichening and empoweirng those in Mexico who are already rich and powerful. Without some real reform at all levels of government, things won't get that much better in Mexico. And until they get better, illegal immigration to the United States will still be an attractive option. And it's a vicious cycle, because as long as the United States lies waiting as an attractive destination for illegal aliens, as long as they know they can seek a better life by crossing the border, there is little incentive to reform Mexico. Why do the hard work of improving Mexico when going Norte is so easy?

Which places the burden squarely on our shoulders. If our borders are to be secure, we must secure them. If illegal immigration is to be curtailed, we must curtail it. In the long run, not only is this the sane and necessary policy for the United States to follow, it will provide the impetus for the citizens of Latin America, especially of Mexico, to take the initiative and clean their own houses. And that way leads to the opportunity for real economic development, for jobs and opportunities at home in Mexico. The only real losers in such a plan are those in Mexico already getting rich off the suffering of their people.

Is it any wonder that some of the loudest voices coming from Mexico in opposition to US immigration reform are from those in power?

Quote of the Week: Rock and a Hard Place Edition

"[I]f this thing passes on the floor, the Republicans deserve to lose. That much is obvious.

I'm still unsure, however, whether I want them to. "

-- Mean Mr. Mustard

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thanks For Asking

Yes, as a matter of fact, I AM So.Freaking.Ready.For.Summer.

It's not just about the weather for me. It's about the fact that I haven't had a real summer since before the last Olympics. Last summer, The Lad was barely of his apnea/Bradi monitor, was needing to be fed every 2 hours at the LONGEST, and The Feared Redhead was pumping -- this limited our travel range AND our time away from the house (or other source of electricity and privacy). The summer before THAT, it was job hunting as a result of the pending layoff, and dealing with TFR's hyperemesis. Most of my time was spent by the bedside of a very sick pregnant woman.

So for both of us, this summer is being looked forward to quite expectantly. The Lad is old enough to take camping, and for drives in the country. We're already thinking about where we want to go camping, and I'm starting to get the Itch.

And yes, the weather has been part of the problem. But not because it's miserable. Au contraire, we're having quite a pleasant early spring. Today, despite a bit of chill in the air, the sun is shining brightly. Yesterday was similar, and warmer, and we enjoyed a lovely walk through Alton Baker Park. But it's still too cold for camping and other TRULY Summer activities, so the fact that it's pleasant enough to hint at what's to come, but still cool enough to make me wait is driving me CRAZY.

In fact, Saturday I was singing along with THomas the Tank Engine's theme music, but changed the lyrics to "They're 2, they're 4, they're 6, they're 8, shunting trucks and hauling freight. Watch daddy go 'round the bend, Thomas and his friends."

I do need to get out.

I'm It!

Thanks for the Memory to GroovyVic at Fiddle Dee Dee.

You Are Coke

A true original and classic, you represent the best of everything you can offer.
Just the right amount of sweet, just the right amount of energy... you're the life of the party.

Your best soda match: Mountain Dew

Stay away from:Dr Pepper

Honey Bee Mine

Last week I mentioned Terroir, the idea that due to factors like soil composition, location has an effect on the way wine, and indeed food in general, tastes. One of the most common foodstuffs of which this is true, yet often is overlooked, is honey. Interestingly, when I opened my email this morning, I had received a link to an online culinary publication that highlights honey this month. That's right -- the type of flower from which the bees extract nectar has an effect on the flavor of the honey. And bees being the little energy conservationists they are, if you place hives near a large source of one particular flower, odds are strongly in favor of that flower predominating the honey produced.

As the article alludes to but does not state, the most common honey in the United States is clover and/or alfalfa honey. There are a few regional favorites of which I'm aware -- in California, Orange Blossom honey is popular. In some other western states, sagebrush honey is. Here in the Northwest, it's blackberry honey.

But as the article also mentions, wildflowers make a dark, sharp-tasting honey. And growing up in Southern Oregon, I developed a taste for honey from an all-too-common local variety of, ahem, "wlidflower". It' s a local secret that not many people even here in Oregon know about, but for those of us raised rurally, especially in the southern end of the state, it can be a passion. The wildflower in question?

Poison Oak.

You heard me right. Poison oak is indeed a flowering plant, and there is SCADS of the stuff all over Southwestern Oregon. And yes, bees produce honey from its flowers. The honey is, like most wildflower honey, darker and sharper than clover honey. It's also a bit stronger, with a wilder flavor, almost spicy or musky. It's an acquired taste, but once acquired, it will haunt you, because it can be hard to find.

But over the weekend I discovered that Market of Choice is stocking it. Glory Bee, a local honey company, produces it, and I knew this, but not many stores will stiock it. MoC has taken a chance, and from what the clerk was telling me, it's getting the same "I've found the Grail!" reaction from other shoppers that it got from me yesterday.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wine Whine

As mentioned in previous posts, we have a local market chain here in the Eugene-Springfield area called Market of Choice which is a hybrid between a regular small grocery chain and a whole Foods-type store. It carries a large selection of organic produce, free range meat, aned other health foods, as well as homeopathic remedies, etc.

It also, as I've said, has one of the best wine sections around, and a fantastic cheese department. Every store has a cheese steward and a wine steward on staff to assist customers in selecting the right wine or cheese for a given occcasion or meal. One of the things I appreciate about them is that they are happy to bear your budget in mind, and will try to find the right selection within your stated price range -- not to push the most expensive wine or cheese they can on you.

The wine steward at the location nearest our house (the MoC on Franklin, for my local readers) is a young man named Will. and when I say young man, I mean young even compared to my not-that-old age -- he's probably in his late 20's (bobgirrl, I'm looking at you). But despite his youth, the kid knows what the hell he's talking about when it comes to wine. He has recommended numerous wines to me, and not once have I regretted taking his advice. And calling the position wine steward may be a bit restrictive -- he's actually the assistant beverage department manager, and he is just as good at picking beer. If we were ancient Greeks, he'd be favored by both Ceres AND Dyonisius. That's a pretty happy subset of the Pantheon to have on your side.

This past Monday I was in another part of town, and had a limited amount of time to shop, so I stopped at another Market of Choice. One of the things I needed to pick up was a bottle of wine. I intended it to go with the Shrimp Campeche, but we went with margaritas instead, so I ended up serving it with another Mexican meal last night. I spoke to the wine person at this other store, and explained my dilemma: I needed a white wine that would go well with a spicy meal, and my wife thinks Gewurtztraminer (which I consider ideal with spicy food) is too sweet. He recommended a White Burgundy, which he said is essentially a Chardonnay. I told him I try to pick Oregon wines as much as possible, but he assured me that this French wine was superior.

Now, I try to avoid buying French products as much as possible -- I come as close to boycotting France as you can get without actually actively boycotting France. I respect French cuisine, but I believe their government is intentionally charting a policy course to set itself as a foil to US interests, and I am disinclined to financially patronize a semi-hostile nation. But I occasionally relent, and he was adamant that this was the right wine for me, so I bought it. Last night I served it. We had blue corn nachos with black beans, white cheddar, and a Mexican-spiced chicken sausage. I made sure I tried the wine both before and after eating any of the food.

I was unimpressed. It lacked the mellow richness I'm used to from Oregon and California Chardonnays. All I tasted was tartness and up front acid, with maybe a little bit of fruit trying to fight its way through to my taste buds. There was no depth, no complexity. It was boring, and the only redeeming feature was that it contained alchohol. It wasn't even that thirst quenching.

I should have listened to the warning signals in my head when I noticed that he thought it would be better simply because it was French. Look, the French make some great wine, but that doesn't exempt them from occasionally making swill.

Lesson learned: If I'm going to take someone's advice on somehting like wine, I want them to have proven to me their ability in this regard.

My goal in going to culinary school is not only to become a chef, but one day to own my own restaurant. In the past couple of years, as my home cooking has blossomed, I've recognized the importance of serving the right wine with a meal. Hence, I have reached the conclusion that one of my priorities if I ever do have my own restaurant will be to find the right Sommelier -- someone with not only a good knowledge of wine and food, but also someone with whom I establish a rapport, and who shares my vision for the cuisine of the restaurant. And yes, in this case, it will be someone who understands how good Oregon wines can be, and is willing to give them preference.

Why, you ask?

One of the oenological concepts that the French established is terroir, the idea that "the special characteristics of geography tbestowed individuality upon the food product" (to paraphrase from Wikipedia). I used to dismiss the idea, but the more I drink wine, the more apparent it becomes. And I've become convinced that the concept applies to other foodstuffs, not just wine. This has led me to believe that the best wine to pair with food from a given region is wine from that same region. And since my goal is to highlight Oregon food ingredients in my menu, it only makes sense to pair them with Oregon wines. It's not that French wines or California wines or australian wines suck (they don't), it's that they'd be better paired with French or California or Australian foods.

The short term lesson learned is that when I need help picking a wine, I'm going back to the MoC on Franklin and talking to Will.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another Wine Heaven

I got into a discussion of wine regions in the comments to this post over at the Llama Butchers, and it got me thinking about all of the wineries right here in the Eugene area. There are some good ones, and so I decided to list them and see which ones I've been to. I've italicized those:

Briggs Hill
Chateau Lorane
Eugene Wine Celllars
High Pass
Iris Hill
King Estate
Saginaw Vineyards
Secret House
Sweet Cheeks
Sylvan Ridge/Hinman

What do you think, folks? Was I being oversensitive?

Fuzzy Furry Logic

Thanks for the Memory to Courtney at Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association and MJ at Several Moving Cars.

Mostly Calvin

You are 70% Calvin and 30% Hobbes
Your inner Calvin often prevails, but, as in the image below, you have a significant Hobbesian component. I'm going to try to stretch the visual metaphor here: you have a good head on your shoulders, but when you don't use it, your crazy body gets you in trouble? Does that work? Odds are you're impulsive and imaginative, but it's possible you've collected just enough wisdom to hold your most anti-social urges in check. Most of the time. It's a precarious balance, like a boy on one foot with a tiger head.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 89% on calvin
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 3% on hobbes
Link: The Calvin Or Hobbes Test written by gwendolynbooks on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

A Little Bit About Me

Recently one of my favorite bloggers, Theresa of This Mom Blogs, underwent surgery, and admitted to some nerves. One of the things that she mentioned was the fact that the surgery was being done at a teaching hospital. I commented in order to reassure her, telling her that two of my childhood surgeries were done at a teaching hospital, and my care was excellent.

The interaction got me thinking, and I decided to share with er my medical history. And since I'm going to be sharing anyway, it might as well be with my entire blog audience. I've alluded to it in the past, so now I'll come clean. My mother reads my blog, she can correct any discrepancies in my recollection of events.

As I said in that previous post, I was a very sick child. Over the course of the first six or seven years of my life, I was in and out of the hospital numerous times. I contracted just about every childhood disease then known to man, including some that aren't that common. I had mumps, measles, and rubella. I contracted a croup that caused my throat to swell so badly that a tracheotomy and an oxygen tent were necessary. Another time when my mother took me to the emergency room, the doctor who examined me called over a group of residents, showed them my symptoms, and told them how rare it was for such new residents to get to see a classic case of scarlet fever so early in their careers. We have somewhere a photograph of me as a boy, barely older than a toddler, standing in a hallway and looking back at my own butt, bare because I've lost so much weight, my pants won't stay on. My family was not entirely sure they weren't going to lose me.

Time and time again, they would take me to the doctors, and the doctors would treat whatever ailment I currently had. But it wasn't until I was almost ten that one of the doctors, a "Young Turk", just out of residency and feeling his oats, decided to ask "Why is this kid always sick?" He ordered a battery of tests (some more unpleasant than others -- more on that later), and the results revealed something most interesting. My left kidney was severely underdeveloped, and there were problems with the valves leading from my kidneys to my bladder. The doctors deduced that this was reducing my body's ability to flush toxins out of my system, and that this was weakening my immune system. It was decided that the defective kidney would have to be removed, and the valve between my right kidney and my bladder repaired.

As providence (or luck, for you agnostics & atheists) would have it, the man who was at that time the world's leading nephrologist, an Egyptian doctor named Tanaka (I think), was in the United States for an extended stay, and agreed to take my case.

The surgeries would be performed at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. To this day, despite the politics of that town, this fact alone retains for it a special place in my heart. They took place a couple of months apart. The first surgery would correct the valve, the second would remove the bad left kidney.

The staff at the hospital was fantastic. They went to a lot of trouble on a daily basis to make sure we were as comfortable, or at least comforted, as possible. The hospital was a research hospital as well as teaching, and almost all of the other children in the pediatric ward were terminal. Of course, I didn't realize it at the time. The nurses in particular were amazingle compassionate and professional. Two stick out in my mind -- Dave, the first male nurse I ever met, and Jackie, a large African American woman who exuded motherliness that could be seen from space. The doctors explained each procedure to me and my parents ahead of time so that nothing would be unexpected -- it was all frightening enough, adding surprise to the mix would have been awful. We were allowed to raid the kitchen for anything our doctors said was ok to eat. The day I left after my second surgery, one of the nurses offered to make me a milkshake, and I told her I'd have it later, only to be rerleased before I had it.

The surgeries went well, and I have few memories of the days of the surgeries themselves, but the two I do have are vivid: I remember my anesthesiologist, a Samoan mountain named Tony, putting the mask on me and having me breathe deep and count dwon from ten. I never made it to 1 as he began spinning above me, then dissapearing at the end of a tunnel into a technicolor psychedelia. But I wasn't scared -- when a man who looks like he could play linebacker in the NFL tells you you're going to be OK, you know you're going to be ok.

But when I awoke, that's when I got scared -- I was in the ICU post-op, but I didn't know where I was, and I was a wake for quite some time before anyone noticed I'd come to.

After the surgeries, I had to have a catheter interted into my lower abdomen to drain fluid. My body didn't appreciate this procedure, and tried to reject the catheter throughout my recovery. The doctors told my parents that what their 10-year-old was experiencing every 10-15 minutes for a week or so was almost identical in location and intensity to severe labor contractions (no wonder then that I was all for TFR getting an epidural when she had The Lad), and there was only one drug that was effective in easing my pain. That's how we discovered that I'm allergic to codeine. At one point in my recovery, I was placed in a wheelchair and taken to a classroom where a tutor tried to help me keep up on my schoolwork. She sent me back to my room after one of my contractions freaked her out -- apparently I reacted to it so violently that I had all four wheels of the wheelchair in the air at once.

Eventually I did recover, and my health has been normal ever since. I did have to go back for some follow-up tests a couple of years later, and was supposed to continue to do so until adolescence, but they were the most unpleasant of the tests I mentioned before. Remember, this was in the days before MRI, and the only way to look inside me was by using old-fashioned X-rays. The problem was that they needed to dye my bladder and kidneys. The dye couldn't be injected intraveninously, and it couldn't be ingested, or it would not concentrate in my kidneys. It had to be BACKED into me -- I'll leave it at that. The experience was so traumatic that my mother decided I was not going through THAT again.

And so that is my medical past. You can see why I am a fan of teaching hospitals, and why to this day I adore nurses.

My mom came through, check out the comments.

Solomon I Ain't

*sigh* I knew this day would come, but I never expected it so soon in The Lad's young life. And now that it has, I don't know what to do. So I'm seeking the wisdom of other, more experienced parents.

A little background may be in order.

At almost 14 months, The Lad is almost entirely up to speed on normal development for his age -- the only thing that reflects the fact that he was a preemie is that he's a little behind with his Gross Motor Skills (he's not quite walking yet, but he crawls like a bat turtle out of hell). At this point his little personality is well-developed, as is his repertoire of facial expressions, body language, and pre-talking verbal cues (he can also say a few words, including his name), and he's showing signs of being quite bright -- he's curious, and has already done some problem-solving, including how to keep a ball away from the dog.

So we have a child who is self-propelled, inquisitive, and has a strong personality. I think the parents out there know where this is going. That's right, he's already finding that most cherished of childhood treasures, "trouble". At this point it mostly consists of trying to open drawers he is not supposed to, and coming into possession of things mommy and daddy SHOULD have been able to prevent (like TV remotes, etc.) and discipline consists of "no" and tutting, replacing the offfending item with a toy, and the occasional flick on the hand (not hard enough to hurt, just enough to startle). You can imagine, he does not enjoy it, and expresses this displeasure.

So that brings me to the dilemma, and I will present it as a question to my elders:

How do you deal with a situation where your child has done/is doing something you know they shouldn't, and must be corrected, but they're being so damned cute and funny while doing it that you can't look at them with a straight face, let alone a stern one?

From: The Meme-Mental Moron
To: The Llama Butchers
Re: Parental Advice
Uh, thanks for the anecdote, Robert. Like things weren't bad enough without that stark glimpse of what the future holds.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Too Close to Home

Thanks for the Memory to Daniel at Daniel's Political Musings.

Not long after I posted on Hillary Rodham Clinton and Immigration, I hopped over to Daniel's blog and read the following:

Finnish man headed home because of fraud

3/22/2006, 1:08 a.m. PT
The Associated Press

Pentii Reino Tuomi, 58, used at least 16 aliases and false Social Security numbers as he hopped from one state to another performing a variety of jobs. He was Danny Cole; he was Dan Savage. He was a bouncer, a bartender and even a bodyguard for Walter Mondale when the senator ran for president in 1984.

Now it has come to an end.

Tuomi is scheduled to be arraigned in Eugene this week on charges of felony fraud and accepting more than $50,000 in public assistance benefits under a false identity during the dozen or so years he's lived in the Eugene area. Federal charges were filed against him in Portland last summer, accusing him of illegally receiving $68,835 in Social Security benefits.

Authorities told the Register-Guard newspaper that Tuomi will probably be given 30 days to leave the country and will not receive jail time because of his cooperation. Arrangements will likely be made for him to send the money he owes back to Oregon.

"I just wanted to make things right," Tuomi said recently while sitting in the Hosanna Christian Fellowship church in Eugene. "It bothered my conscience."

I know this man, who actually goes by his middle name, Reino. The Feared Redhead and I used to attend the church he still attends and on whose property he lives.

My heart breaks for Reino. He's a broken man, and is truly contrite. He knows what he did is wrong, and I admire him for turning himself in and trying to make things right. As a Christian, I believe there is forgiveness for sin when there is repentance. Despite his past, I consider Reino a brother.

But he and I also know that there are connsequences for our actions. It is just that he face those consequences, and right that the government uphold the law.

I agree with his deportation, but I'll miss him, and I'll pray for him.

Sooper Seekrit Message to Bobgirrl

Confession Time

OK, we all have our secret shames. Mine is this: I occasionally find some of the performances by American Idol contestants enjoyable, and the show in general entertaining. The Feared Redhead loves the show overall. I get a twisted pleasure from the train wreck with a laugh track that is the auditions, and while Seacrest, Randy and Paula annoy the hell out of me, Simon Cowell is delightfully. Yet I appreciate him most when a performer actually does well and he is equally blunt in his praise.

Last night the theme was music from the 50's. I was pleased that two of the performers chose country songs from the era. And what blew me away was Chris Daughtry's rendition of Johnny Cash's I Walk the Line. He performed a hard rock ballad version of it that was driving and passionate and, while off key in a place or two, was powerful (sounds familiar when discussing Johnny Cash's music). I think the Man in Black would have approved.

You Were Saying?

Thanks for the Memory to The LlamaButchers and Newsbusters.

Back in September of last year, I posted on a case in the Netherlands where a polygamous civil union was legalized. I argued that this was a logical extension of same sex marriage. As I said then, "the most commonly used and accepted arguments against limiting Marriage to heterosexual monogamy are just as valid as arguments against limiting Marriage to monogamy AT ALL." My point was and remains that once we establish that marriage is not solely a union between one man and one woman, we have undercut any argument that marriage be solely between only two individuals at all.

At the time, one of my readers -- I think I rememeber who, but am not certain *cough cough Smallholder cough cough* -- presented a couple of arguments against polygamy and in support of gay marriage that, while valid, are NOT the arguments that are commonly used. He further went on to argue, if I remember correctly, that polygamy would NOT become a "cause" the way gay marriage has, and would NOT become a popular cause celebrite the way gay marriage has.

Well, I suppose he's right, as long as you don't consider coverage on the Today Show and MSNBC/Newsweek, and sympathetic treatment in an HBO Series to be the beginning of a cause celebrite.

At the time I made the argument, I tried to keep my predictions pretty reasonable. I didn't make any wild predictions like, say, "Next, people will be marrying other species!" or anything absurd like that. But once you accept the argument that marriage is nothing more than an expression of love, the lid's off Pandora's box.

Second Verse, Same as the First.

Quick quiz. It's easy, only two questions:

1. Which Democratic Senator called in 2003 for a national ID card in order to help combat illegal immigration?

2. Which other Democratic Senator gave a speech last week accusing Republicans of wanting to create a "Police State" in their opposition to illegal immigration?

OK, put down your pencils. What did you put down? For question #1, the answer is Hillary Rodham Clinton. No big surprise there -- this is the woman who once said "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." Her position is that big government, intrusive government, nanny state government, is a good thing.

But while that view of government is common on the left, it's not as popular among liberals when applied to immigration reform -- as evidenced by that second quote.

So who made that second comment, the one so sharply in contrast with Hillary's view? It was none other than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a speech made last week to supporters of the legalization of illegal immigrants.

I seem to recall that this was one of the very traits the GOP was able to use against Senator Kerry (D- France) in the last presidential race -- the ability to pick a side to an issue, take a stand on it, and then pick the other side when THAT is convenient. Apparently Hillary didn't learn from that.

And she should be even more aware of the danger in making such flip flops -- Kerry was one of a herd of Democratic hopefuls who only emerged as the front-runner after a very lively primary race. People have been watching Clinton, speculating on her candidacy, since before her husband left office. She should know that everything she says is going to be very closely scritinized.

You can't have it both ways, Hillary. Establishing a national ID would be far more intrusive and "Police State" than anything that serious conservatives are advocating to secure our borders. By making these conflicting comments, you are revealing yourself as a two-faced political hack, and at the same time, revealing that you have more concern for helping people violate our laws to come here than for protecting the rights of those of us who are here legally.

The Dangers of Dressing in the Dark

I get up somewhere between 5:00 and 5:00 every morning so that I can be at work by 5:45. I try to keep the turning on of lights to a minimum so that TFR can sleep intil The Lad wakes her up between 6 and 7.

This morning I got up and realized I had forgotten to lay out my clotyhes last night. No problem -- there's a load of clean laundry in the dryer. I grabbed a shirt from the dryer and headed backinto the house to dress -- the laundry is in the garage and it's colder than Hillary out there. I got dressed in the dark and came in to work.

Where I removed my coat and discovered that this is one of muy work-around-the-house shirts -- you know, the ones so dingy and stained that you've seen nicer clothes on the people holding cardboard signs at intersections? Yeah, one of THOSE shirts.

Today is going to be just freaking splendid, I can already tell.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I'm Baaaaack......

Comments should be back up now.


The double roster for the Blogs for Atkinson Blogroll is corrected, and Day by Day is also back up. Also, I've backed up the entire database and template (Thanks for the Memory to Sadie, that dead sexy lady, for instructions on how).

Culinary Compromise

Saturday evening, The Feared Redhead got off work early, so we decided to go shopping for dinner together. We decided on shrimp. I wanted to make Scampi, she wanted something with a Mexican twist. I came up with a compromise.

There is already a trational Mexican dish that combines shrimp with butter, called Camarones al Mojo de Ajo. It's delicious, one of my favorite Mexican dishes, but it positively swims in butter, and since TFR and I are both dealing with serious weight issues, I wanted something with just a hint of butter. Recalling my earlier grilled recipe for Mexican flavored shrimp, I decided to combine the idea of Scampi, Camarones Al Mojo de Ajo, and Tequila Lime Shrimp. The recipe I came up with, I call Shrimp Campeche, since Campeche is a Mexican seaport, and sounds a little like Scampi.

Usually, when TFR wants to compliment me on my success with a new recipe, she'll teasingly give me "permission" to cook it again. This time, she demanded I do so -- and soon. I believe her exact words were, "Like, Monday."

Here's the recipe, expanded to be cooked for four instead of 2.

Shrimp Campeche

1 lb. raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tbsp butter
2-4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup tequila
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp powdered Mexican oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
3 fresh limes
chopped fresh cilantro

You will need:

medium glass bowl
12 inch skillet
slotted spoon
chef's knife

In a glass bowl, combine the shrimp and all of the dry seasonings, mix thoroughly.

Place the butter in a skillet and melt over medium high heat. Add the garlic, sautee until clear, then add the shrimp, stir . Immediately pour in the tequila. As soon as the tequila begins to boil, light with a match. Allow to burn until the shrimp is pink. Douse by squeezing the limes over the skillet (be careful to do this from a sufficient height to avoid burning yourself), drop the squeezed lime halves into the skillet. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp to a plate. Reduce the liquid in the skillet by half, remove from heat, stir the shrimp back in. The shrimp can be served on a plate like scampi or served on corn tortillas. Sprinkle with a little chopped cilantro as a garnish.

Serves 4

Bad News

I spoke with my mom on the phone last night. My grandmother is far worse, and probably has days to live. It breaks my heart that she never got to meet her eldest grandson's firstborn. And I'm sorry he'll never meet the lady who was so special to his father.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Lorica

Thanks for the Memory to MJ at Several Moving Cars.

Morning Prayer of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)


I ask you. Isn't this a beautiful bottle?

Image hosting by Photobucket

The seal was real sealing wax, done so prettily, it broke my heart to have to remove it.

Although I did take comfort in the snifter I poured myself.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

If You have to Explain It, It Isn't Funny.

So my good friend Vulture Six thinks I need to explain the name of my blog. Or at least the temporary name. You see, he's under the impression that I actually get new readers, not just the faithful dozen or so who visit me regularly. How special.

For my faithful readers, you get it, and it was for you I did it.

For those who might be new here, or accidentally stumbled upon my blog while googling for naked pictures of Giada De Laurentis (I have none, sorry. Giada's not that kind of girl.), the blog is usually called Memento Moron, and is a play on the old MEmento Mori. The Mement O'Moron is in celebration of St. PAtrick's Day, since I am part Irish.

Sooper Seekrit message to Vulture Six: Happy now?

Pity the Dog

Poor Little Big Dog. For the past few months, since The Lad began to crawl, she's enjoyed the numerical parity between the qudrupeds and bipeds in our household.

Her days of whine and roses are nearing an end. The Lad can now pull himself up to a standing-propped position, and will soon be a full-fledged member of the "erecter set".


Dang it!

I made some changes to my blog template to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and lost all of my customizations. I meant to save the old template, but lost it.

So no, I did not intentionally de-link anyone, and no, I did not withdraw my support for Jason Atkinson.

Getting there. Haloscan's back up (sorry to those who commented in blogger itself), but the spacing isn't right between the comments and the post below. I'll get there.

Top Shelf

Just got back to the office after grabbing lunch. Next to the Subway shop (don't act so horrified, it's quick, cheap, and it's a work lunch) is a liquor store, so I decided to splurge on a bottle of Clear Creek Distillery brandy. Good stuff. But I also want to eventually stock up on their other spirits. I'm working on a pear dessert I call Pears Mazama, after the mountain on which Crater Lake sits. I'm thinking their pear brandy would be a perfect ingredient in it. And either their Framboise or Kirschwasser or both would be great in a Sangria-style drink with a Northwest twist.

I've had their apple brandy, and it's excellent. Seriously, if you see anyhting by Clear Creek in your local purveyor of spirits' establishment, I highly recommend it.

Note To Vonski: Close, but not quite. Wait and seel, I think you'll like it. Don't want to spoil the surprise.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Og Good

One of my new favorite blogs to read is This Mom Blogs. I don't always agree with Theresa on every topic (especially abortion), but I appreciate the humor and candor of her writing, and her love for her family and the graciousness with which she treats her readers. Plus she has a damned sexy logo.

The other day she posted her husband's response to her comments on the effects her menopause is having on him. In his response, he makes reference to Og, and she expressed both amusement and bemusement over the identity of this "Og". In her comments, I expressed surprise that she'd never heard of Og. Apparently, according to her email in response, no, Og is commonly known to only us guys. So, for all you ladies out there, I shall answer the important question, "Who is Og?"

Og is that caveman ancestor who explains so many of those mail behavior traits you ladies find at times endearing, at times maddening, but always mystifying. All men have a little Og in him, down deep somewhere. He is the instinctive male response to any situation.

Adam was the first man, father of us all. Og was the first guy, crazy-but-cool uncle of us all.

Prometheus gave man fire. Og first used it to barbecue, and first employed it in a practical joke.

In the Bible, Nimrod was the Mighty Hunter. Og was the inventor of the story of The One That Got Away.

The ancient Mesopotamians invented the Cuneiform Alphabet. Og invented writing your name in the snow.

Og is the hunter focused on his prey who explains why men go to the store for something, not go shopping.

Og is the inventor of the tried-and-true "Give it a good whack" school of equipment repair.

Og, contrary to popular belief, did not woo women by whacking them over the head with a club and dragging them into his cave. He wooed women by dragging a mammoth carcass to their cave, whence they would cook it, and while he ate, hit him over the head with his own club and drag him into THEIR cave. To this day, this is the way men prefer it.

And Og, for all that we chuckle at his alleged social ineptness, is the primal man whose drive is to protect and provide, who stands, spear in hand, between his clan and the dire wolves and cave bears, who treks across the ice for miles in search of meat, who stays awake at night, vigilant against the dangers in the darkness.

Og Good.

It' Hard To Enjoy Wine's Bouquet With Your Nose In The Air

In recounting the festivities surrounding the 27th anniversary of her birth, Bobgirrl over at 1 Girl, 4 Martinis describes an unpleasant experinece at one California winery, A. Rafanelli, and a pleasant one at another winery, Unti. The crux of the difference between the two is what she calls the "Snootiness Factor".

It caught my eye because the "Snootiness Factor" is the main reason that it took me so long to become a wine drinker. My father was a pastor and a staunch teetotaller, so I didn't start drinking alcohol at all until my mid-20's, but it wasn't until I was almost 30 that I began to drink wine. Part of the reason was that I was intimidated by wine and wine culture. I would try a wine that was supposed to be good, and hate it, and feel like I just wasn't getting it. So I just stopped trying.

Then one day I had a wine at a wedding rehearsal dinner that I liked -- a Lambrusco. It was sweet, and semi-sparkling, and very refreshing, and I liked it. I also knew from comments I'd heard that it wasn't highly regarded as a "serious" wine. My dalliance with wine may have stayed limited to closet Lambrusco drinking if it hadn't been for a trip I took back here to Oregon (I was living in San Diego at the time). While stopped in my old home town, I made a visit to the Winery of Phillipe Girardet. Phillipe and his family had attended my father's church, and were family friends. I also knew from my interactions with the family in the past that their "Snootiness Factor" was so low as to possible be measured in negative numbers. These people were and are about as down-to-Earth as is humanly possible.

Phillipe and Bonnie met in college, where they were both students in a very demanding scientific discipline (which escapes me) at a very prestigious university (I'm inclined to say UC Berkeley or Caltech, but I'm not certain) when they decided to get into the wine making business. Phillipe pored over topography maps, geological surveys, and meterological studies to find a region with as close to identical an average daily temperature, rainfall, and soil composition as his home region in Switzerland as possible, and ended up in humble little Tenmile, Oregon. Over the years they've established a name for themselves, especially in local circles. But they and their kids still work in the tasting room, they still hire local teens to help harvest the grapes, and you can still see Phillipe out on his tractor or walking among the vines. The tasting room is small and rustic, and I suspect Bobgirrl would be at least vaguely reminded of George Unti if she ever met Phillipe Girardet.

It's also obvious, at least to me, that Phillipe engages in a very hands-on approach to monitoring the quality of his wines. His cheeks and nose are ruddy (and a bit weathered from the sun), and he is always smiling.

So on this gorgeous June day some time in the 90's, I decided to stop by and visit the Girardet's, and to give their wines another try. I figured that if anyone would be able and graciously willing to help me expand my palate, it would be the Girardets. I approached the subject after a few minutes of small talk and catching up on old times. I explained that I'd started drinking wine, but didn't know what to try next. I knew what I'd liked so far, and was hoping they could point me towards others I'd like to. I prefaced my naming of Lambrusco with an apologetic, "I know it's not the best wine, but..." Phillipe got a sly grin oin his face, leaned in to me, and in a conspiratory tone of voice said, (in that charming French Swiss Accent) "You know, Brian, the best wine is the one you like!" and winked.

Well, hell. Why hadn't I thought of that? It was the best piece of advice I've ever received about wine, and probably one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received period. It has informed my exploration into wine ever since. If I like a wine, I like it, and if I don't, I dont, and I refuse to be apologetic or feel inferior because of my subjective preference.

Now, to be sure, as time has passed, my tastes have changed -- my preferences have become drier, yet broader, my palate more discriminating, my ability to note complexity greater, and my understanding of things like pairing, etc. more advanced. But to this day, I abhor snootiness. The difference is, now, instead of letting it intimidate me, I blow off the snobs, raise my glass, and enjoy the wine.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I've Been Cooking on the Railroad

Welcome to all the Carnival of the Recipes readers. I've altered the recipe a bit based on the results of the stew I made friday. Half of a head of cabbage and 1 leek is sufficient, and the slurry is unnecessary, but it's best to add a full pint of beef broth.

Somewhere between the original solemn holiday and the modern excuse to get drunk, Saint Patrick's day is still, for many Irish Americans, a day to celebrate our heritage. While my family has been in America for so long that my exact ethnic makeup is unclear, we do know for certain that it includes Scots Irish. So I'm excited about this coming Friday.

In preparation for it, I plan to make an Irish meal, and have decided to give it the same treatment I've given other dishes -- give them an Oregon/Western US twist, to express my pride in THAT part of my heritage. But how to do that without rendering it no longer Irish?

It was The Feared Redhead who provided me with the inspiration. We were watching Food Nation with Bobby Flay, and she commented that an Irish Stew he was highlighting looked delicious, but she doesn't like lamb, so she wondered if we could make it using our favorite red meat, buffalo.


Along with the Chinese, the Irish comprised the majority of the laborers who built the transcontinental railroad. We Irish Americans are proud of the significant amount of this country that was built on our backs. And while they were building the railroad, I have to surmise that they were fed buffalo, since it was so plentiful. And while the railroads would eventually lead to the decline of the bison population, I think that it's a fitting meat to use to combine both my Irish and Western heritages.

Irish American Railroad Builder Stew

2 lbs buffalo skirt steak
4 oz. bacon (Irish or American)
1 small yellow onion
1 leek
1 lb carrots
1/2 cup Jameson's Irish Whisky
1 bottle beer (I know, it's usually Guinness these days, but here's where I add an Oregon twist: I'm using a 22 oz. bottle of Rogue Brewery's Kells Irish Style Lager -- TFR hates Guinness)
1 pint beef broth
1 bunch celery
1/2 head cabbage
4 large russet potatos
1 lb carrots

Wash leeks, cut to separate the white bulbs from the green stalks. Cop the leek bulbs, the onion, and the bacon. Cut the buffalo into 1-inch cubes. Cut the carrots into 1-inch long pieces. Cut the cabbage head into quarters, slice each quarter into 1-inch wide strips. Cut the potatos into 1-inch cubes, DO NOT PEEL. Chop the parsley fine.

Place the bacon into a cast iron Dutch oven and heat over medium hih heat. when the bacon is beginning to brown, add the onion and leek bulbs. Sautee intil the onions are clear, add the buffalo cubes, salt and pepper lightly and brown. Degalze with Jameson's and light to burn off the alcohol. Pour in the beer and broth, add the leek stalks, cabbage, carrots, potatos, and parsley. Salt and pepper lightly, bring to a boild. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Stir in the slurry, bring the stew back to a boil, then remove from heat and serve with Irish soda bread or American Baking Powder Biscuits.

The Worst Cuts Are The Cheapest

Last night I made my Beef Oregon, A variation on Boef Bourgognon that highlights the ingredients of my home state. As usual with my recipes, I modified it a bit -- honestly, I usually just go with what I know about a dish in my head, I only commint them to paper/electrons so that I can share them. I left out the rosemary, added parsley, and used a water/flour slurry instead of the butter/flower mix (not quite a roux since it isn't heated) in order to make it leaner, but it still came out really damned good.

One of the things I LOVE about this dish is that it can take the toughest cut of meat, and after cooking it for several hours in an acidic wine-base broth, it will be as tender and succulent as possible -- oh, yes, very tender indeed.

Last night was the first time I made it since The Lad started eating solid foods (and will probably be the last batch until fall -- it's a cool weather dish in my book). He went nuts for it, especially the meat.

The Feared Redhead jokes that our son will have the most discriminating palate of any child around. She teasingly postulated the following conversation:

Other Little Kid: My sandwich is a Peanut Butter and Jelly with the crust cut off! What's yours?
The Lad: Grill-Seared Flank Steak with crimini mushrooms, blue cheese, baby greens, and a mustard vinaigrette on rustic Ciabatta.
Other Little Kid: ........ Want to trade?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Rewind My Spring!

Yesterday I blogged on the signs of Spring I've been seeing.

Today, those budding trees, daffodils, and I awoke to this:

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Yes, that's snow on top of my car. Big, heavy, wet, snow. Only an inch, and it melted with the sunrise, but snow nonetheless.

In Oregon, March may come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but in the interim, it reels about like a drunken mental patient.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tiny Monkey Wrenches

I just got off the phone with the two childcare centers at the local Community College. At one, the minimum age they accept is 2 1/2, at the other, it's 3. At the first, I'll have to wait until this time next year, then apply to have The Lad cared for there for my last year of the culinary program. For the first year, I'm on my own.

Pray we can find affordable daycare, without it, I can forget about school.

Feeling Crabby

Well, I made the crab ravioli last night, and it was delicious. There were only a couple of kinks in the whole thing, but try as they might, they didn't ruin the meal. The first was that I made the ravioli a day ahead of time to save me some time last night. TFR has the Lad with her until 5:30 or later on monday nights, and last night I took over childcare duties at 3:30, so it was a good idea -- in theory. The problem was that the ravioli stuck together, and about a third of them tore apart when I tried to separate them. I refuse to let that good crab meat go to waste, so tonight I'll probably make some sort of crab dumpling soup. So let that be a warning to you -- make the raviolis and IMMEDIATELY cook them. The second bit of advice is to make sure you roll the ravioli dough as thin as humanly possible -- use a pasta press if you have one. My dough was a wee bit thick, and that made for very doughy ravioli. But the filling and the pesto were both excellent. The wine was disappointing -- we had the Eversham Wood 2004 Blanc du Puits Sec. It was too acidic, and strong -- there was no complexity to it, no subtelty. It was VERY disappointing. The salad went over well. I started with fresh baby greens, and added cucumber, heirloom tomatos, and watermelon radishes.

So while the dinner was a bit disappointing because of some of the goof-ups, I'd have to say the recipe itself was a success. The romano held the crab together well without stealing the show -- you really tasted the dingeness. and the pesto was the perfect complement to it -- fresh but subtle. So without further ado, the recipe:

Dungeness Crab Ravioli with Filbert Pesto


Pasta Dough
1 1/2 cups semolina
1/2 tbsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cold water

Crab Filling
1 packed cup (approximately 1/2 lb.) chopped Dungeness crab meat
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 tbsp grated fresh Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1 cup grated fresh Romano cheese
1 pinch salt

Filbert Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and lightly packed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup filberts, roasted and with skins removed
1/2 cup hazelnut oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparing the pasta:
In a small glass bowl, mix the salt and semolina. Stir in the eggs, oil, and water. Remove from bowl onto a lightly floured (with semolina) board and knead until elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. While dough is resting, prepare filling and pesto.

Preparing the filling:
In a bowl, combine the crab, cheese, and parsley (the finer the parsley is chopped the better). Add just a pinch of salt, and mix thoroughly.

Preparing the pesto:
Place the basil, garlic, and hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse 3-5 times to start the chopping process. Turn the machine on and drizzle in the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper.

Making the ravioli:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place the dough on a lightly floured flat surface, and roll flat, as thin as possible. It should be thin enough that you can see through it if the surface beneath is highly contrasted. Use a medium ravioli press to cut out your raviolis. Using a spoon, scoop out 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of crab filling, press together, and place one scoop each on half of the ravioli cutouts. Place the other cutouts on top, pinch together, and roll the sides. Once all ravioli are assembled, drop into the boiling water. Cook until the ravioli float, about 5-10 minutes. Pasta should be al dente. Strain the ravioli in a colander, move them to a bowl, and stir in the pesto. Garnish with fresh parsley or basil.

Makes about 20 ravioli, serves 2.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Passion and Necessity

Today I downloaded and completed the application for the Culinary Arts program at Lane Community College. I'm taking the first steps towards making the best of the situation I'm in. I noticed that part of the application process is an interview. In anticipation of the kinds of things they may ask me if I make it to the interview stage, I have been pondering my love of cooking and cuisine, and the path I took to reach apoint where I knew it was something I'd want to pursue as a career.

I've known how to cook almost my whole life. Both of my parents were (and my mother still is) excellent cooks, and they not only allowed my sister and I to help in the kitchen, they encouraged it. They taught us the basics -- safety, cleaning up, measuring, controlling temperature, how different ingredients and different methods of cooking effected the outcome of the dish. I think that's why I'm such a huge Alton Brown fan -- his show is about HOW to cook, not just WHAT to cook.

But for a very long time, cooking was, shall we say, a pleasant necessity. You have to eat, you might as well eat something that tastes good. Sure, I enjoyed it, took pride in having a couple of dishes that were pretty good (I was once threatened with bodily harm if I showed up at a particular event WITHOUT my homemade Butterscotch Skor Bar Crunch ice cream), and enjoyed contributing to cookouts for friends, etc. But it was still just food.

I remember the day I was awakened to the idea that there was more to food than just eating. Well, I don't remember the exact date, but I remember the evening. I was living in San Diego, California, and had several circles of friends with whom I associated. One of these was a group of gaming geeks (guilty as charged). Among our various activities, we often hung out at a place called Gelato Vero, on the corner of Washington Avenue and India Street. We would usually smoke our pipes on the outdoor patio, drink coffee, eat gelato, and play Hearts. Often we would be joined by a young man named Davide and his girlfriend (wife?). Davide was a pleasant young man, and best of all, he owned a restaurant, All' Italiana in La Mesa. So when I wanted to go out to eat with my friend Shawn and his wife (from another circle of friends), I decided to go give Davide our business.

I don't know if he's moved since then, but back in those days, Davide's place was tiny. Ten tables rops. Davide was the chef, he had one sous chef, his girlfriend bussed/did dishes, and his sister was the waitress. The place was decorated with your stereotypical Italian Restaurant theme -- posters of Italy, candles, roped chanti bottles. At least the linen was white, not checkered. But what it lacked in originality, it more than made up for in warmth and intimacy.

And the food! Davide learned to cook at his family's resort restyaurant on Italy's adriatic coast, and he learned well. We started with his Tomato Basil Soup. I've never tasted its equal. Then I had his linguini with clams in red sauce (yes, RED sauce!). In those days my wine palate was sweeter than now, so I had a glass (or two) of Lambrusco Amabile. We spent the evening talking and laughing and eating. And for the first time, as the meal ended, I realized that not only had it made me full, it had made me happy. My mood was visibly improved by the meal, and by the experience surrounding the meal. I'm sure I'd had many such evenings before, but this was the first time I'd become consciously aware of the power of cuisine -- not just food, but cuisine -- to affect people on a level beyond just sating hunger. This was the moment I fell in love with cuisine. Eventually I honored Davide by choosing his restaurant as the place where I proposed to The Feared Redhead.

But while I was waking up to the enjoyment of cuisine, and dabbled a bit in making it myself, I still was nowhere near the place where I had a desire or the skills to pursue it as a career, or even a serious hobby, for that matter. Several events had to transpire before that would become a reality.

The first was my marriage to The Feared Redhead. This helped in several ways. First, it got me out of my parents' house. I was one of those twenty-somethings that had moved back in with my parents. And while I contributed to the household, my parents did a significant portion of the cooking. Second, it gave me an audience. Even during the times when I had moved out on my own as a single adult, I didn't often do much serious cooking, because I was the only one who would be eating it. I call this the bachelor syndrome -- the only reason to go to the trouble of cooking seriously was to entertain friends or impress women. Surprisingly, even after marriage, the "impress women" motivation stuck -- I wanted TFR to be impressed, to be pleased by what I cooked for her, to lust after me for my culinary skills. Sadly, I did not always succeed as dazzlingly as I desired. But this led to the third benefit that marriage provided for my cooking skills -- a resident food critic. The Feared Redhead is not feared without good reason, and as a typical redhead, she is not averse to expressing her opinion. When she likes my food, she will praise me. But when she doesn't, she'll communicate that as well, and in detail -- not just "ick", but "too salty", "too sweet", "too dry", etc. Her candor regarding my efforts has taught me how to take constructive criticism, and has provided the additional benefit of refining both my skills and my recipes. I can list several recipes that left her far less than impressed the first time I tried them, but that are among her favorites now.

The second event was our return to Oregon. As previous posts have made apparent, I am fiercely proud of this state. It is the only place I've ever felt at home, and I have embraced everything about it I can. Part of my development as a cook has been specifically to develop recipes that highlight as many Oregon ingredients as possible.

And the third major event was when I took up blogging. This blog has afforded me an outlet for the expression of my passion beyond cooking for TFR and occasionally for friends. Here I can share my recipes, here I can read the praise of gracious readers, and here I pick up tips and insightes that further hone my skills.

That's how I find myself where I am. By sharing with others -- those I love, those I respect, those I admire -- and my receiving in return love, admiration, and respect, and by developing a sense of what I like, and what fires my passions, I have realized that this is what I want to do with my life. I've taken what was at first a "pleasant necessity", that then progressed into a passion, and am ready to turn it into a passionate necessity. I must work to provide a living for myself and my family. I might as well make a living by working at my passion.