Monday, December 29, 2008


Family traditions are important.

Linda and I, for instance, have a tradition of putting a little reminder on the inside of the front door each Monday morning so we don't forget to take the trash out to the curb on Monday evening. This morning we had to search for the hallowed "Trash Tonight" sign because Linda took it off the refrigerator and put it into a drawer as part of her traditional pre Christmas Eve cleanup operation which moves all sorts of things from their normal places to new surprising places. Linda thinks the "Trash Tonight" sign dates from before Aunt Mary R died,. which would make it more than ten years old. That little scrap of notebook paper has made a lot of trips from the refrigerator to the front door and back again over the years, recently accompanied by the blue Mascaro elephant refrigerator magnet. It used to travel in company with the carrot magnet that wasn't quite strong enough to secure it if you put it too close to the swinging open side of the refrigerator door; but the carrot magnet disappeared some time ago. Perhaps it will turn up again in a surprising place one of these days. I wonder if Al Gore is so careful in recycling his "trash tonight" sign so as to avoid putting stress on the planet.

Speaking of Fat Albert, we also have a tradition of eating healthy meals before we get our cholesterol tests so as not to needlessly alarm our doctors. Our blood chemistry is always at its most healthy when we go for our blood tests. We would probably live forever if they gave us blood tests every week, or perhaps if the doctors were smart enough to institute random blood testing procedures. I'll bet a lot of people would be a lot healthier if the doctors set up a system that held the threat of cholesterol tests over their heads like so many personal Swords of Damocles. I picture community service "volunteers" stopping random motorists - "Just the blood sample Ma'am." Maybe Barry will make that part of the brave new world order he hopes to implement.

On that note, the other day Jas charged me with calling President Elect Barack Hussein Obama "Barry" in imitation of Rush Limbaugh. For the record Sam is the Limbaugh fan. I'm very seldom aware of what Rush Limbaugh is saying because I use my car sound system to listen to book tapes. And, even though I tend to agree with much of what he says when I do hear him say things, I'm not a big fan of Limbaugh. He's a bit too forgiving of large corporations for my taste. Large corporations are not in favor of free markets. They are nearly as much in favor of fascist and totalitarian regulations and policies as Barry is because government intrusion in the marketplace almost always squeezes the little guys who threaten the cozy situations of the big guys. That only makes sense because the big guys are the ones who have the most money to buy folks like Barry and/or the regulators he will install to "protect the little guys". But the main point is that I wasn't aware that Rush Limbaugh was calling The One "Barry". For all I know Limbaugh's been imitating me.

But I was talking about Linda's desire to lower her cholesterol level before her blood test. So last night we had Indian food. I made Punjabi Chhole with the help of a spice packet. And I made spinach and potatoes that I made by cutting the top off the pouch it was in and microwaving the disgusting looking mixture which turned out to taste pretty good. The Chhole also turned out pretty darned good despite the fact that I kind of winged it with the proportions.

The Chhole spice packet was intended for a 30 ounce can of garbanzo beans; and it was a pretty disappointing spice packet in that the little print instructions on the back wanted fresh ginger and cilantro. Who keeps fresh ginger and cilantro on hand? And what good is a spice packet that doesn't include all the spices? So I had to go out to the market. And I had to adjust the recipe for a 19 ounce can of garbanzo beans. And I'm pretty disrespectful of recipes in the first place, let alone recipes on traitorously incomplete spice packets, so changes were made; but it turned out very good over Basmati Rice. If you haven't discovered Basmati Rice you need to get a package of it.

In addition Linda made a spinach, clementine segment and cucumber salad with a very good dressing that may never be reproducible because she used a spoonful of the honey mixture from the preserved kumquats we bought in Corfu. I'm doubly glad we took that cruise before the market collapse for a couple of reasons. First off we would definitely have thought twice about the money if we had already observed our 401Ks being ravaged. And secondly, the fact that we had already spent that dough meant that it wasn't in the market to be ravaged. The delights of the cruise are safely in our heads, completely insulated from the vagaries of the stock market. Grandpop L always said that you can't waste money on something that you put in your belly. I would add that you can't waste money on travel and new experiences as long as you don't cut into the assets you need for essentials like Basmati Rice. It's great prepared according to the package directions; but even better if you put a dribble of toasted Sesame oil and a tablespoon or so of Olive Oil in with the cooking water.

There are going to be some interesting meals around here if I remain in this semi-laid off state for a while. Linda got me an Indian cookbook for Christmas so there will soon be no more Indian cooking with spice packets and pouches and little tins of premixed curry powder. One of these days I'm going to go down to that Indian market in Trooper and outfit myself with the genuine individual spices. I may even go all the way and pick up a mortar and pestle.

Perhaps next Christmas Eve we'll have Rijsttafel instead of the traditional Italian foods. Or maybe we'll replace the angel atop the tree with a little Ganesh after New Year's day next year and have Rijsttafel on the fourth day of the next waning moon. Maybe Sam can arrange for someone to wear the Mascaro elephant suit to the party.

I've got to get going now. I need to pick up a couple of pork roasts to make for New Year's Eve, and I need to reserve a couple dozen medium kaiser rolls at Corropolese for pickup that morning. We're having Sam, Deb, Jas, Kathy, Mark and Linda over for porkette, potato salad and some other stuff. Linda's blood sample will be on the way to the lab by then, and my blood test is months away, so cholesterol is not a problem. We'll probably be pretty well behaved anyway because we're eating at 5:00 and we have to be sufficiently recovered to dance by 7:00 since that's when Deb has her church hall reserved. Have I mentioned that Linda and I have retained almost all of the intermediate Rumba moves that Jas and Kathy taught in the last series of lessons up at the Ballroom on High?


Anonymous said...

We do the same thing with the cholesterol. I have a question for you. Do you find that you can use more olive oil, because it helps to lower your cholesterol? Also, what kind of olive oil do you like to use?

Are the spices used to cook Indian food the same/similar to those used in Pakistan and Afghanistan?

I'm asking because one day a couple of friends decided to treat me to lunch at an Afghani/Pakistani restaurant.
My friends said that the food was quite authentic because the clientele from the surrounding neighborhood was quite authentic.

So, here I am having a wonderful time experimenting with this lovely buffet, when all of a sudden I started feeling warm, very warm. I went into the ladies room, where I started to have what could best be described as a non-stop hot flash. (I've had two of them, and remember them vividly.)

I walked out of the ladies room with my face flushed and my hair drenched. My friends look at me in shock and asked what happened. The waiters asked me if I was okay, and then realized it was my first time having the spices. We all started laughing.

It took about two days for the effects of the spices to completely wear off.

I now use the seasonings in a number of dishes, but quite sparingly.


Sully said...

For cooking we use whichever olive oil is cheap at the market - they tend to sell either Rosa or Berio here in 3 liter cans. We tend to buy it whenever it's priced at $12 or $14 a can, and we tend to avoid buying if possible when it's $23 or $24 a can. It varies surprisingly in price. I don't know if it lowers cholesterol but it definitely tastes different and better I think.

For salads we use extra virgin olive oil which is a lot more expensive but a one liter bottle lasts quite a while used two tablespoons at a time. You can't use extra virgin for most kinds of cooking because it smokes at a relatively low temperature.

I don't know about Afghanistan; but I think Pakistani foods are much the same as much of Indian food because the Mughals ruled the whole country until the British arrived. The Indian cookbook has sections on Hindu and Muslim foods and the spices are the same but in different combinations.

I've never experienced the symptoms you wrote about but I can tell you that in a buffet selection of Indian food in Singapore back in the day there were some dishes that were so hot/spicy I found it incredible that people could eat them even mixed with other dishes.