Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pounding in the kitchen

File this one in the "learn something new every day" drawer. For years, I've had a mortar and pestle in the kitchen, first a little one and these days a nice big stone device I got for pennies at an Asia grocery. I have dutifully used it many times to mash and mix and I've always thought it was a heck of a lot of work for so little payback.

I have a cookbook by Mai Pham, who apparently has a Vietnamese restaurant in Sacramento. Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table has some great recipes in it, most of them based on her research among street vendors on annual trips to Vietnam. Tonight I stumbled on her description of the mortar and pestle as the "one thing" to buy for a Vietnamese kitchen. And I ran across this: "When using the pestle, pound it freely in an up-and-down motion. Many novices make the mistake of pressing (as opposed to pounding) the pestle into the mortar, which tends to make the job harder and longer." (emphasis added) So, a novice, huh?

Since I was just busily stirring some garlic, bird peppers and sugar in what would certainly prove a pointless exercise, I gave it a try. Amazing. I could easily have gone through the rest of my life ineptly using one of the oldest tools in human culture. Thank you, Mai Pham!

Random Photo of the Day

Several of my co-workers have bought Smart Cars recently, and I have seen a couple of the cars around town in this particular color scheme. I'm obviously not the only person who was struck by the resemblance to a bumblebee. The license plate has a special joke, though, once you know that the owner is a bus driver.

Monday, December 1, 2008

OK, new rule

New Rule: no running out of Irish whiskey. More to the point, no running out of Powers Gold Label. There are clearly evenings in which nothing else will do, for sipping quietly after dinner, while watching a movie or reading a book, or when battling a nasty cold. Or all of the above.

Rant all you want about Scotch whisky and the superiority of peat monsters over the gentle Irish version, but there are times when a hairy single malt is just too much work to enjoy. Some times, one might crave "red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme" (thank you, Richard Thompson) but at others only a soft voice and a cool hand on the brow will do.

Powers is subtle, quiet and smooth. In fact, it perfectly defines "smooth" while studiously avoiding "bland." And they practically give the stuff away. Even in Oregon, land of the State monopoly, it's $21 a bottle. So there is no excuse for running out.

And if someone wants to give me a bottle of the 12 Year Old Reserve, I promise not to complain.

No mo' blow!

There's nothing that could solidify my hatred of leaf blowers more than having one screaming away outside while I'm home sick. The groundskeeper is just cleaning off sidewalks by blasting leaves and needles into the surrounding shrubbery as far as I can tell. This could just as easily be done with a good push broom and some sweat--much more quietly and with none of the unnecessary exhaust filling the air.

The facilities staff at work use these all the time to clear the parking lot and sidewalks, always very politely turning it away when I walk past. Get a broom!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Random Photo of the Day

Part of the charm of the new apartment, at least to date, is that there are a lot of trees on the grounds, mostly conifers. Since the building dates back to the 1970s, I'm guessing many of the trees do as well, and the height of some of them certainly lends itself to that idea.

We finally have a break (probably brief) from the constant gray skies of a Portland autumn, and this fellow appeared to be enjoying the warmth of the sun as much as I am. I shot this through one of my bedroom windows (a bedroom, I might add, easily three times the size of my old one) after I spotted him dozing on a limb. Even the sound of the blinds going up and the window sliding open wasn't enough to rouse him. I'm mellowing toward squirrels now that I no longer have to worry about an attic under constant attack by the rodents.