Nothing ever stays the same. Changes are always happening, which is how we got here today. Not the whole pandemic thing, but where humans are as a society and technologically. The only difference today is that the change came fast, and we had to adapt quickly.
Everyone is talking about the new normal. But we never go back to the old normal anyway, do we? We constantly evolve, sometimes taking the wrong turn, and that’s OK because we learn from our mistakes. People will eventually stop driving gas-powered cars (they were a good idea at the time, so was the Industrial Revolution), and people will probably wash their hands more. I can’t remember when we were told to cough into our elbows, but I do remember that coughing into your hand was the norm at one time (Really? Yes, really.).
A few things I can do without:
There’s no normal unless constant change is considered normal. Will this happen again? Of course, it’s nature. Viruses, bacteria, germs, and the like are trying to survive, just like everything else. We just got to the top first. We win. Unfortunately, that victory comes with a lot of responsibility, that as a society, we don’t seem to be ready for yet. We will stumble and fall, like Bambi walking on ice, but we will get up and try again, and hopefully not wind up like (SPOILER ALERT!) her you know who…
I’ll end with a poem, that I wrote a few years ago:
Why us, why you, why me?
To use the world
As we please
If we were gone
Would our place be taken?
The apes, the birds, the creatures of the sea?
The food chain loses its upper floor
But does it leave an open door
For a new destroyer
Or life in harmony?
The computer was supposed to revolutionize the recipe book, so were laptops, and then tablets. Then why do I still have scrawled notes on scraps of paper and greasy flour marks on my screens?
I decided to organize (yet again) my recipes. Some I have saved on a hard drive, but most are in a binder (my favorites), plus I still have cookbooks. I like cookbooks. Especially the old ones, the classic ones. I found and old bread recipe book which has some of my go-tos. I know I’s old because: it has no cover or publishing page, the pictures are all black and white, and there are a couple of politically incorrect names for some of the breads. Not going to make those…
I used to have the Culinary Institute of America’s cookbook. Needing to compete with European Schools, this was America’s answer. From Pate a Choux to sauces and other French classics, I learned a lot of my techniques from this.
I rarely follow recipes completely. That is probably why most times it doesn’t turn out exactly as it should (Do ya think?). Don’t get me wrong, it is still quite tasty, but I’m sure it could be better. Often, I’ll use a recipe, then modify it as I see fit, depending on what I have in my fridge/cupboard. Some things I don’t mess with. My pizza dough, certain aforementioned breads, and the 2:1:1 ratio for mirepoix or the trinity.
I came across this on a piece of paper: 1 Cup flour, ¼ Cup lard, ½ tsp salt, ¼ water. I know that this is pastry, but why did I write it down? It’s not much different than the 5 other pastry recipes… Some recipes just are not meant to be written down. There is something magical about watching someone create by just dumping and handful of this, a pinch of that, and just some of that other stuff into a bowl and coming up with the most tasty delights time after time. My grandma’s rye bread comes to mind. It always tasted the same. My soups are somewhat like that, but they never turn out the same. They are always delicious (so says I), but it always differs due to what I have on hand. Fridge soup…
Cooking shows are my next favorite way to get recipes. For me it started with Emeril “BAM!”, Iron Chef (the original from Japan), then onto Alton Brown and Guy Fieri. I never had the chance to watch Julia Childs, but I did watch Julia & Julia, so I appreciate what she accomplished.
I just came across another cookie recipe that I haven’t made for awhile, so I’ll stack up the rest of the papers, cram them back into the binder, and maybe I’ll get to organizing it tomorrow.
Man, do I ever not like shopping. Grocery shopping that is. I’m not a fan of other types of shopping (clothes, electronics, whatever-I’m not much of a spender anyway i.e. cheap). If you have read my article, Maximizing Your Food Budget , you will know that I used to look forward to my weekly grocery shop. It was also nice to be able to pop in and pick up 1 or 2 items. Alas, those days are gone-for awhile at least.
My routine was to go to three or four stores (planned out to make a nice economical trip) according to the weekly sales. I’m all for the regulations that have been put in place when it comes to the safety of workers and consumers, but the new reality doesn’t make shopping very easy.
Lines/Queues*: Oh, I don’t like line-ups. Never have, never will. Going to the bank? Line. Guess not. Hello credit card. Need bananas? Nope. Waiting in queues has been a reality throughout history in many countries, for many reasons. A lot of us have had it very good for a very long time. I think back to seeing pictures of breadlines and empty shelves in other parts of the world, so I’m not going to get frustrated like the guy behind me who said, “ This is ridiculous, what are we a third world country?” Really, dude?
On the bright side, I went to my second stop (which will remain unnamed) and discovered no line-up. Whaaaa? I guess it was big enough to allow more customers into the store. No, it wasn’t Costco, although apparently there was a line-up there an hour before it opened today. Anyway, as I left (figured out which one?), there was a line of about 30 people. Score! Either I timed it just right or I went in during the senior’s time. Oops… but I don’t think so.
*This is a good hangman word. So is lynx. Are we allowed to play hangman anymore?
One-way aisles: Again, these rules are good, but it sure doubles the time in the store, having to go down one extra aisle* if you miss it the first time. Then I feel rushed if there is someone behind me, so I don’t do much comparison shopping- once I pick something up I feel bad putting it back.
*Another good hangman word
Produce: No picking, choosing, or squeezing. The hand hovers over the selection like the claw searching for the perfect stuffed toy. Hard tomato? It looked red…crap. Not even going to go near the peaches-they’re sketchy even in season.
Paper products: That initial run on TP sure decimated the shelves. Like trees after a tent caterpillar infestation, I don’t think they fully recovered.
Shopping for Two: This is what is recommended to limit people outside their homes. I don’t mind, it’s good for my cash-back credit card.
Shopping for Three: With limits on quantities, this is harder to accomplish. So, unlike team Olympic sports, where you win Gold and Bronze, but lose and get Silver, second place here is king.
So, in conclusion: I’m done for a week, I am slowly getting though the freezer food, if I run out of butter, I’m not baking, and it’s time for lunch: Grilled cheese with tomato soup. Mmmmm.
OK. We have made breads and sweets and countless other goodies. We have also sat and read books, binge watched shows and movies, and slept. Feeling a bit sluggish? Oh course, we all are. There are things that you can do to lessen the affects of having to stay at home.
I’m all for the distancing rules, but in the last two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of people walking and running. More than I have seen before. How do I know? I usually run at the same time of day, and I tend to see that same amount of people (and often the same people). You can tell people are getting a bit stir crazy because there is a lot more pedestrian traffic out there. I don’t blame them. Now, there are some people who shouldn’t be out, and I hope that you are following the guidelines, but like everyone else, fresh air is, well, it’s a breath of fresh air. If you go out, just be considerate to everyone else.
Commercial-size: I admit, I watch more television than before, but that doesn’t mean you have to be immobile the whole time. This is what I have been doing: Commercial breaks are about 3 minutes long. Can you do something for 3 minutes? Maybe not right away, but I be t you can do something for 1 minute. Then 1 ½, etc. Do what you ask? Walk in place, knee/leg raises, plank, any yoga poses, sit-ups, push-ups…you get the gist. If you are lucky to have stairs… I don’t recommend the following, but there have been news stories of people running marathons on their balconies, or mountain climbing in their living rooms. Creative? Yup. Just get up and walk around.
I read somewhere that there is a group of hunter/ gatherers that although spend much of the day doing those activities, that they do have about the same amount of sedentary time at the end of the day as the average American. The difference is that they are not sitting on a soft comfy couch or in a recliner. What are they doing? Standing, sitting on the ground, crouching, and squatting. All these positions require effort, not a lot, but if you stood for an hour vs. sitting in a chair, I bet you would feel a better type of tired. There’s a reason that more schools and offices (remember those places…?) have standing desks available.
Shivering: I heard that shivering burns calories, but I don’t like to shiver.
Interactive Games: If you are one of the many who still have a Wii system, then this is the time to pull it out. I also know that you have figured out that you can sit while doing it – So cut out that nonsense! Get up and look like a fool playing tennis in your living room. Dance, Dance, Revolution is always a good choice too. Wheel of Fortune? Not so much…
The Extra Clothes Rack: AKA The Treadmill and/or The Stationary Bike. You bought them for a reason (no, not the clothes, yeeesh!).
Cleaning: Yes, cleaning is exercise. You were going to do it anyway, right? Springtime is a great time to air out the house. We won’t be having any garage sales very soon but there will be a lot when it happens. Put on some music and vacuum, wash, sort, and soon you will have a nice smelling place!
So there you go. No excuses.
Fitter fatter, let’s get ‘at her. I know that not being able to go out as much as usual is getting to many people. Physical distancing rules are a tough pill to swallow. Many people are taking up different habits, some better that others. Here is my take.
Baking Bread: I started to bake bread because I figured out that 20 cents worth of flour makes a $1.49 loaf of bread. Which was the reason I always bought bread on sale. Plus it is sooo tasty. If you have ever pulled a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven, you know that it is hard to wait for it to cool before you cut a steamy slice from it and decorate it with a all too generous serving of butter (oh yes, you have to use butter). Then, maybe ½ hour later you realize that you need to bake more. I’ll quote myself here: “Don’t bake bread unless you are prepared to eat the whole loaf.” That was the reason that early in history, bread was baked everyday. Not the rumor that it went stale quickly.
My grandmother always made rye bread. No recipe, and bit of this, a pinch of that. Even in her 70’s she would be there with her arthritic hands, kneading away. I think that was the only time that it didn’t hurt. My mother made the same bread, but it never turned out the same. My sister wrote down the recipe when grandmother visited her one time. It’s good, but int’s not the same. I finally got the recipe. It’s good, but it’s not the same. What was her secret? We will never know, but I suspect it may have been the old farmhouse wood stove. Or the old farmhouse lard. Or the old rye flour…
There is a lot of different breads to experiment with, even a failed loaf is kind of tasty. My favorite is pizza dough. After many variations, I have it nailed. I’ll let you in on one secret. Make the dough 3 days in advance (yes, 3 days) and put it in the fridge (the one you cleaned in my last blog – you read that one, didn’t you? No?! Boooo.), covered of course. The slow rise makes for a light and crisp crust. Try to say crisp crust 5 times fast! My second favorite is a French baguette. Good with soup, as a Po’boy, or sliced with a fresh tomato. I still partake in the Parisian ritual of tearing off the heel straight away. I observed this outside a boulangerie where no heel made it out the door untorn. Oh, the humanity!
Sweets: Like a culinary earworm, I’m giving it to you, so that I’m not the only one stuffing my gob with this delight.
1/2 Cup Margarine, 1 Cup Peanut Butter, 1 pkg Butterscotch chips, Mini marshmallows. You know what I’m talking about…
Beverages: I love coffee. I started drinking it as a teen (‘cuz it was cool) with cream and sugar. Then I weened myself of cream, then sugar, so that I finally was able to enjoy the actual taste of coffee. I realized how bad some of the take-out / fast food coffees were. I won’t name any outright, but they know who they are. Once in university, I sat with my buddies and drank at least 20 cups of coffee (thank you free refills!), and subsequently was up for 24 hours after. Subsequently, the restaurant revoked the free refill policy.
It is easy to drink more coffee now, but I do limit myself to a couple of cups in the morning, and occasionally one in the afternoon. If I need a hot beverage, I’m turn to my second favorite, tea. Holding a hot cup of tea feels different than a hot cup of coffee. Can’t explain that but try it out. I didn’t know that there were so many types of tea until I had High Tea in London. A whole menu of tea there was. Don’t get me started on the sandwiches. I have a collection of teas that I delight in:
Green, White, Ginseng, Chamomile, Orange Pekoe, English Breakfast, but I’ll always return to my first love.
As a famous thespian in his greatest role once said, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”
Inverted vertices and grooves. Wonderful geometry or nature’s crud collectors?
And I quote: “Whoever invented corners and grooves should be made to clean all corners and grooves.“ Who said that? I did.
Many people now have a bit more time on their hands. What to do, what to do? Bake, cook? Clean? I know what you are thinking: I don’t want to clean. Not the most enjoyable activity, but considering two things, the focus on sanitizing during the current crisis and the fact that it is Spring (you know, the time you look forward to, to throw open the windows, air out the winter stink, and you did say, during the dead of winter, ”I can’t wait to give the place a good Spring cleaning!” I know you said that, we all did), what better time like the present?
I heard many people just now say, “Another time.”
Hear are some thoughts on cleaning.
At least once a year, I like to clean the baseboards and moldings. Wait! Did I say like? I meant I clean the baseboards and moldings. They only get really dirty if: you kick them a lot, eat pizza over them, or don’t clean them ever. If you have an older home, there is probably a lot of bits under the bottom-you know, that gap that you never notice until you get on your hands and knees to clean them and realize that there are a lot of crumbs under them. Four words: putty knife and vacuum.
Behind things: Refrigerators, ovens, couches, or anything that was meant to move that you don’t move. Pull them out from the wall and wonder how it got so hairy back there. If you have short hair, where did all the long hair come from; if you have long hair, why do I keep inviting my long-haired friends over?
The vacuum is your best friend here. Don’t forget the fridge coils. Where are the fridge coils, you ask? Behind the mullet on the back of your fridge.
Walls: That’s a lot of work. Leave it for when you re-paint. Hmmm, it would look nice with a new coat…
Tops of ceiling fans: Never looked there? Geez, they are spinning, so how the heck does it get dusty?
Cupboards and drawers: OK. You wash the dishes, put clean dishes away, and there are crumbs everywhere. What the…? It looks like a desert at the bottom of the cutlery holder!
Windows and mirrors: Isn’t glass supposed to be smooth? I understand outside, it rains, and rain isn’t clean…
“Tell us more Mr. Science!” “Well, water has to condense around a solid for it to form a raindrop, so it condenses around dust particulates in the air.” COOL!
…, bathroom mirrors (the floss flick and hairspray fog), but why are the insides soo filthy? Unless you have kids, then there is you answer-for everything.
Carpets: Watch one of those science shows about dust mites and you will be vacuuming twice a day (maybe more). If you have ever rented a carpet cleaner, you will get water that looks like Café-au-Lait (that’s a Double Double for Canadian readers).
Mattresses: (See above)
Toasters and appliances: Clean out that crumb tray, or just turn it upside down and shake, shake, shake. The microwave doesn’t need to look like it is from the staffroom at the office. Descale that coffeemaker (you did stock up on vinegar didn’t you?). And that fridge you moved? You should have cleaned it out before you moved it to make it lighter…
Finally, those aforementioned corners and grooves: Every windowsill has them, those slick sharp lines and corners that cloths and fingernails just can’t reach, pointed knives scratch, and generally store years upon years of dirt. Unless you used a vacuum on them everyday (yes, everyday) since the day they were installed (yes, that very day), you’re outta luck. But…a waterpik ™ just might do the trick – never tried because I don’t have one, but I just thought of it…
And never, ever, look through a sunbeam going across your room.