Useful Kitchen Stuff

A couple of months ago, a friend on Facebook asked for advice on upping their kitchen game. I failed to respond, because my brain immediately went into overdrive. I did make a note in my to-do list, but we all know how that goes.[1]

Today, though, I am stuck at Southtowne Chevrolet while they figure out why my 2012 Equinox is making weird little beoop noises and claiming that the engine is overheating, so I might as well get this one off my list. Here are my suggestions for bumping up your efficiency and overall coolness in making your meals.

I’m going to presume that you already have decent knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. I also presume you have a few whisks, a ladle or two, all the basic stuff.

Here’s more.

First up: a grapefruit spoon. You may already have one of these as part of your flatware set, but if not, go to your nearest kitchen outlet and buy one. It’s the easiest way to de-seed tomatoes, peppers, etc.

Prep bowls. You may think these are just trendy affectations, but your life will change if you start using them. I have a set of smaller glass ones, but you may also find slightly larger ones useful. These are especially good if you don’t have counter space; you can do all your chopping and measuring and set your materials aside without having to keep shoving the bits around your chopping board.

You may already have a chopper/scoop, but if not, it’s dead useful for corralling all that stuff you chopped up to put in your prep  bowls.

If you ever have to roll out dough, then go to Home Depot and Michael’s and buy yourself some pieces of wood or metal. I have 1/8″ strips of aluminum, 1/4″ strips of lath, and pieces of craft wood that are 1/2″ x 3/4″. With my flat rolling pin, all I have to do is set these down on either side of my dough and roll away. Pro tip: They’re also handy for slicing bread like focaccia by sliding your bread knife along your guides and for rolling out hamburgers. Use freezer paper to keep the meat from contaminating your wooden roller.

(I know you can buy rolling pins with interchangeable disks that do the same thing, but those arrived on the scene after I figured out this solution.)

Silicone mats are ubiquitous these days, but when I first bought ours we were trendsetters, I tell you. Very useful for cookies. I just recently bought the copper ones to use on the grill. Very nice.

Tiny spatulas and whisks are more useful than you might think.

You can find wooden tongs in a lot of places, and they’re great at retrieving toast or muffins from the toaster. I also have more than a few wooden spatulas for sautéing and shoving stuff around in the pan.

I found this long-handled spoon/fork thing at some chi-chi kitchen store (in Greenville, SC, I think) and I thought I would use it at burns for dining, but it has proven to be ace at scooping out the last of the mayonnaise.

This last one is fairly niche, but if you need it, you’ll know. These long tweezers are for cocktailologists to smugly retrieve cocktail cherries or other garnishes from their jars and plop them in your craft cocktail, probably with a flourish. But I have found that they are also excellent for manipulating food items in your fryer: I have begun frying my own tortilla chips and these are primo for stirring and keeping apart the little buggers as they frolic in the oil, and for retrieving any items that have finished before the rest of their cohort.

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[1] Cras melior est and all that.

Empty calendars, feelings about that

This morning, my to-do app presented me with today’s tasks, and one of them was to “email TCOs of the past two burns” — which means that I needed to open up the placement databases for Alchemy 2018 and Alchemy 2019 and send an email to the Theme Camp Organizers to let them know that registration for placement at Alchemy 2020 would soon be upon them.

Of course, that’s moot, because the burn is canceled —all burns are canceled — for 2020, so that depressed me.

But then my eye fell on a notebook on my shelf that I truly couldn’t remember being there; it was full of morning pages that I had started writing in September of 2013, right after I was retired from GHP by the vindictive Governor Nathan Deal (whose actual target was Dr. John Barge, Supt. of the DOE). All my pain and grief were there for me to revisit (along with some positive things like the cross country trip and the composition of Five Easier Pieces).

And there on one of the last pages I bothered to write (12/2/13) was this:

For some reason, I began thinking about Burning Man and what my cadre might have to offer.
Here’s the image that came to me:
Three Old Men — loin cloths — gas masks — large walking sticks — single file — in sync — slow motion dance with the walking sticks.

Well.

When I went back to my to-do list, suddenly the placement task was not so depressing, because unlike GHP, the burn will be back in my life. This is only temporary.

A parable

The people came to a wise man and asked, “Tell us, who is good?”

The wise man said:

There were three men, each of whom was building a fire.

The first man has enough wood to build his fire, plus enough to keep it going until bedtime. His fire starts slowly, but soon it is crackling merrily. He is sure to be warm.

Sometimes the flame is high and hot; other times it flickers and is warm. The man makes adjustments as needed, moving logs and adding more to keep the fire going.

He knows that eventually it will be bedtime — should he add an other log to keep it warm, or should he let it die down? He knows there is an end to the fire and to the evening.

The second man has a very large woodpile, enough for months of fires. He uses lighter fluid to start his fire — his father gave him that — so his fire starts explosively, high and hot, and he expects it to stay that way.

He adds logs to the fire constantly, piling on even when the logs beneath have barely started to burn. He will always have more logs.

The third man, alas, has only two or three logs and not very much to start his fire with —some twigs, perhaps some cardboard. His fire starts slowly, oh so slowly, and it never becomes what you would call high or hot. In any case, it will not burn for very long.

The wise man turned to the people and asked — “Which of these men is good?”

Please hold…

DATELINE 7/3/19: There will be a short pause of about a day in the thrilling tale of our travels to the Grand Canyon: we were on the road both yesterday and today on day trips here and yon.

Your regular amusement will resume tomorrow. Probably.

Life’s small pleasures

A simple task in my to-do app: Call Medicare. This is my prompt to call Anthem/Blue Cross to double-check on my Medicare coverage, which kicked in on May 1.

Why? Because I continue to receive mailings from Anthem asking me to sign up for Medicare coverage as well as mailings confirming my coverage. I want to know exactly what I am signed up for, especially whether I’m signed up for Part D, which covers prescriptions.

No, I’m not explaining Medicare coverage to you. You have to go through that dark period all on your own.

So I call the number on the latest flyer I got. The first thing I did was to ask the nice lady to turn up the volume on her mic, because I couldn’t hear her—and no, it wasn’t because I was old.

I explained what I needed. She said I should talk to Medicare. I asked why, if I needed to talk to Medicare, was I holding an Anthem/Blue Cross coverage card in my hand that said they were handling my Medicare Preferred (PPO) coverage?

Fine, she said; she’d connect me with the PPO customer service. Please hold.

Dee dee deet: the number you are trying to call is not available from your calling zone. (WTH?)

Hang up.

Call again.

This time it’s a young man who understands what I’m asking. He offers to hook me up with the correct people. I ask for the number just in case. He gives it to me.

This time the transfer works, and I get another young man. We’ll call him Nathan.

Nathan understands what I’m asking about, so he asks for my Member ID number. I give it to him.

He can’t find me in the database. I give him my name, birthdate, and the Member ID again.

Nathan says he needs to look in another database. Nathan says he needs to transfer me to someone who can actually answer my question. Please hold.

I hold.

I order those nifty Celtic cloak pins for 3 Old Men to use when the ambient temperature is a little chilly during our rituals.

I order more copies of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Tao te ching to give as graduation presents.

Nathan comes back on, and they’re having a fire. (I can hear the alarm.) He’ll have to call me back. I wish him luck.

And scene.

New Cocktail: the Hot & Sour

This is a beauty: the Hot & Sour

The Hot & Sour

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
  • 1.75 oz Oleo Saccharum sour mix
  • 2 dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Dandelion & Burdock Bitters

Shake with ice, pour into cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel.

Very very nice.


Oleo Saccharum Sour Mix

There are multiple versions of this recipe online. This is the one I’ve settled on, but you can do all lemons, or any variety of orange instead of grapefruit.

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 large lemon
  • .4–.5 cup sugar
  • .5 cup lemon juice

Peel the grapefruit and the lemon. Place the peels in a medium bowl; add the sugar.  Muddle the peels with the sugar about a minute.

Leave for 4–6 hours.  The oils from the peels will puddle at the bottom of the bowl.

Add the lemon juice and stir to dissolve all the sugar.

Strain into a container. Refrigerate and enjoy!

In other news…

I’m double-posting here, because that’s what us self-marketers do.

From Lichtenbergianism.com:

It’s almost here! On Friday, November 17, you will be able to give me money via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other venues!

In return, of course, you will be receive your very own copy of Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, first edition!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

As a special promotional deal, anyone who buys the book from Amazon on launch day will receive a couple of bonus gifts. From me, you will receive an autographed Official Lichtenbergianism Precepts Bookmark and an invitation to join the Lichtenbergianism: Doing the Work group on Facebook, where you will have access to my advice and guidance on any of your ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS.

Also, several of my friends are offering freebies of their own: things like chapters from one of their books and other goodies.  You’ll have the opportunity to request one of these.  (A page listing these goodies is forthcoming.)

How do you avail yourself of this treasure trove?

  1. Buy the book on Friday, November 17, on Amazon.
  2. Email your purchase receipt or a screenshot of same to dale@Lichtenbergianism.com.
  3. I’ll send you a link to the form to claim your bonus items. Easy!

This is so exciting! Start spreading the news.

A memory

We’re rearranging about half the house and in doing so are coming to those decisions one comes to when one has a metric tonne of stuff.

You know what I’m talking about: those tubs of t-shirts and sweatshirts that commemorate things like shows you were in or GHP summers or (now) burns.  I understand completely that I have not worn any of them in probably a decade and I am not likely to wear them ever again.  Even I understand that they need to go, even if it means — to me — cutting the ties to that event.[1] 

But that’s a discussion for another day.  Today let’s look at this sweatshirt, which we made to advertise the Newnan Community Theatre Company’s production of Comedy of Errors, back in 1993.

First of all, I am still delighted when I see my tagline: deadpan hyperbole of obvious truths that say nothing about the quality of the show itself. (One of the younger cast members asked, quite sincerely, “How many twins does Macbeth have?”)

We had done Tartuffe back in the spring of that year.  Jeff Bishop directed, and he wanted to do it in straight-up period style, so we built a raked stage with wings and all those costumes.  I love costumes, I love period costumes, but these got to me for some reason, and one day as we were all furiously cutting and sewing, the subject of Comedy of Errors came up: would we do Elizabethan costumes for it?

Aghast, I joked that no, we would put everyone in sweatpants and be done with it.

And then I thought: why not?

In a play about identity, what could be more appropriate than a mise en scene where all the characters are identical? So I decided that everyone would wear grey sweatpants and sweatshirts, and that each character would have a different color of facepaint.  The twins, of course, would have the same color as each other.  (We came to refer to the show as “the Smurfs do Shakespeare.”)

This concept had the advantage of being astoundingly cheap, of course, but it came with a cost.  As I explained to the cast as we began work, the facepaint would obliterate any but the wildest facial expressions.  They were not going to be able to rely on subtle glances or grimaces.  This was going to have to be the broadest slapstick ever, with Shakespeare.

This was the first time that I auditioned a show and didn’t cast it right away.  The actors and I spent a couple of weeks working with the text, playing with it, and developing a physical language, a shorthand that we could call on when we began putting the show together.  Finally, the actors began to panic and demanded that I assign roles, mostly so they could start learning lines. Fair enough.

Somehow it all worked.  The actors all became extremely free in their physical work, and that spilled over into their ability to interpret the text as well.  One night I had to leave rehearsal for a short meeting, and I told them to play around with the scene in II.2 in which poor abused Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, confronts the wrong man in the marketplace with her complaints.  When I got back I was presented with the astounding spectacle of Judy (Adriana) doing the entire long speech pursuing Mary (Ant. of Syracuse) as if they were in a professional wrestling match, ending with both on the floor.  Mary dragged herself free, panting, stood, and barely gasped out, “Plead you to me, fair dame? I… know… you… not.”  Brought the house down.

More: Blue (Pinch) being flipped on his back by Jeff (Ant. of Eph) in a cloud of white hair powder.

More: the performance when Jeff, refused entry into his own home, hurled himself at the door three times during his long speech (with the elders of Ephesus nodding complacently behind him)—only this performance, on the third run he suddenly grabbed Brady (Dromio of Eph.) and hurled him at the door.  Brilliant.

So yes: the sweatshirt is a physical reminder that we did good work.  But it has to go.  If nothing else, I’ll need to make room for my Peter & the Starcatcher sweatshirt, won’t I?

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[1] Yes, yes, I know: make a quilt. Now I have a quilt I have no use for and have to store. But that’s what I’ll probably do.

Unsilent Night!

It’s official—the Newnan City Council has approved my request to stage Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night in downtown Newnan on Friday, December 1.

Here’s what you need to know:

Background

  • Composer Phil Kline composed Unsilent Night in NYC back in the 90s, and it has become a holiday tradition ever since.  He wrote four separate tracks of new age music—people obtained one of the four tracks (on cassette tape in the old days, downloadable mp3s now) and brought their boomboxes to Washington Square on the designated night.
  • On the command, everyone started their boomboxes and then strolled around Washington Square Park.  The four different tracks played against each other in an evanescent cloud of chimes and angelic choirs.
  • After 45 minutes, everyone gathered back and waited for all the music to die away.

Simple, right?

How to take part

  • Go to unsilentnight.com/participate.html and download one of the four tracks.  Don’t everybody download Track 1!
  • Rig up some way to broadcast your sound:
    • Burn the track to a CD and bring your old school boombox.
    • Download the mp3 to your phone or tablet, then hook it up to a portable sound system.
    • Wagons are cool!

When/where

  • Friday, December 1
  • 7:00–7:30, gather in Greenville St Park.  Do not plan to park at Newnan Theatre Company—they have a performance that night!
  • 7:30, we start our music and begin moseying up to the Square.  You may head up either Greenville St or LaGrange St, on either side.  Stay on the sidewalk and obey traffic signals—this is not a parade, it’s a promenade.
  • 8:00, when the Courthouse chimes the hour, begin to mosey back to the park
  • 8:15, we stand until all the music has died away
  • 8:16, we whoop and holler for a job well done

But wait, there’s more!

  • On the first three Wednesdays of November, Backstreet Arts will host a lantern decorating workshop.  Come and make a lantern to go with the music! Details to follow.

All ages are welcome—let’s make this the first of a new annual tradition!