Archive for the ‘ramble and prattle’ Category

Cucumber Season

September 9, 2011

The box from the CSA we joined showed up this morning as we all bustled to get out of the house. It is now a mad dash to get the veggies into the fridge and out the door in record time.
I love opening the box because although we pick what we get; I have often forgotten the details by Friday.

Looking into the box this morning I was pleased to see a gigantic cucumber; if it was not organic I would swear that it was a genetic pairing of a cucumber and an elephant. Often these gigantic cucumbers are bitter or tasteless, but we got a similar specimen last week. It was delicious and refreshing, crisp and cucumbery (Check out the quiz show from BBC radio The Unbelievable Truth with host David Mitchell).

So what to do with a cucumber this size? A quick prep time salad is my favorite way to eat good fresh cucumbers.


-One or two fresh cucumbers peeled and sliced into thin rounds (I like the slices paper thin, but do what your knuckles and patience can stand).

– Fresh pepper to taste

– Salt to taste

– A 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar; there should be enough to thoroughly coat the cucumbers, but they should not be floating in the vinegat.

– One teaspoon of sesame oil (I sometimes add a little hot sauce for a kicker)


Throw everything in a ceramic or glass bowl. Chill for half hour. Serve.

This is a really easy side salad and I have not an adult or child who has not liked it. I think the recipe is ultimately my approximation of something I had in a little teriyaki shop a few years ago.



Picking up where I left off

March 28, 2011

So you pulled out all the stops and created a masterpiece of soup goodness from the residuals in your fridge. You have been thrifty and have minimized your waste stream. Now you want to bring it to work and flaunt your bad ass lunch prowess, but you remember the last time. You carefully poured your soup into a nice airtight container, you put the container into a leftover plastic grocery bag and you sailed out to work. Just knowing that lunch would be warm hearty soup with a bit of crusty bread made you feel mega wholesome with a tinge of warm fuzzy.

You arrived at work and settled down to the business of the day. The knowledge of your soup might even have added to your efficiency.

As you all knew it would, disaster struck when you opened your away bag. It was well marinated in a fragrant bath of soup stock and expertly minced veggies and food bits. You winced as you pulled your laptop from its protective sleeve, hoping that it was not moist, and that for the next six months you wouldn’t get a faint scent of rotting tomato every time you hit the a key. You tossed the paper work which had hidden in the darkest corners of your bag for days (you should not have taken that home anyway if you were practicing good life/work balance). Perhaps worst of all you peaked into the plastic grocery bag and see that the lid is still securely fastened and has protected your now meager lunch.

How did this happen? Honestly it can only be expressed as the workings of dark and ancient magic. To make it worse, the universe just did not take a shine to you today. It will pass. The smell of your bag and belongings may be forever altered, but your luck will change for the better. I am certain of it.

Is the solution to abstain from soup goodness? My answer is a defiant no. I recently tried an experiment which is so profoundly simple that it brings up the image of Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High with the slip on Vans.

1. Fill your container almost all the way to the top, leave a little room for expansion (especially if it is glass) and freeze the soup the night before.

2. Pack your container of block hard soup in a bag and stow it in your bag.

3. Let it thaw at your desk and heat at lunch time.

The added benefit of not having to carry a cold pack is an added bonus.

Note: Pasta can do strange things when frozen so you can always add before heating if desired.

Soup recipes to follow in future posts.



September 27, 2010

As mentioned thoughts about lunch weigh heavy on my mind these days. It is not that there is nothing else going on. Work life is busy, home life is busy, scrabbling to find time for personal fun and projects is a constant. Certain that I am not alone in these feelings I wanted to share a personal finding. No job is important enough to cause you to forego a decent lunch and lunch is a point in the day when it is critical to stop, reflect, eat and enjoy.

An important piece of this equation is the container in which you are packing your food stuffs. Nothing is more of a bummer than opening your pack, laptop case, brief case, lunch bag and finding your ipod  coated in a thick coating of minestrone or discovering a stray piece of cheese weeks later in a dark corner of your away bag. Choose well, choose size appropriate, choose well sealed and well fabricated. Do not save money here. Spend money on your tools and they will serve you well.


Do you have access to a fridge?

What do you most often bring for lunch?

How much do you need to be sated and how much space will you need to be placated?

How easy is the container to clean?

How easy is it to assemble and pack?

How light and easy to carry is your lunch setup?

I am sure I have missed some details, but this gave me the fundamentals for making good choices which have served me well and saved me a ton of cash.

My top picks for non refrigerator scenarios are as follows listed from most costly to least.

Modern Bento boxes like Zojirushi’s Mr. and Ms. Bento line or Tiger’s thermal are great. They keep food cool or hot or both for around 6 hours and require a little planning. If you are waiting more than 6 hours you need to establish a stealth snacking strategy at work or call the labor board.

A great site to get stoked:

Stanley and Thermos are making some great new containers which are reasonable, functional and well made.

The soft pack insulated lunch bag is the new stand in for the lunch box of yesteryear, but keep it clean. Just because it starts out the year clean, shiny and sterile looking does not mean that after a few weeks it will remain so. Take a peek into any kids lunch bag by the end of September and behold the corners and crevices; remember it wasn’t so long ago that the eating process for the little ones was a full contact sport. In short, buy well made and easy to clean. Additionally, get containers which fit in the bag you chose. The plastic type with a gasket work well and will save you a ton on plastic bags.

For those of us with a provided workplace refrigerator the container possibilities are virtually endless. I personally do not like microwaving food in plastic containers so I love the glass containers with a good solid lid. I also like a container that is not so cramped that you feel like a dog while you are sitting down to lunch. If you can; bring a plate and some cutlery, heat your food, and plate your lunch. I have found that it is almost a foreign concept to sit down with a plate and cutlery and eat a proper meal. I guarantee that your day will change if you sit down and eat a semi civilized meal at lunch instead of gulping down food and pretending to work in front of your computer. Honestly, no one is impressed at your diligence, work ethic or productivity. On the other hand, sitting down calmly and eating a nice hand-made meal on a plate will make you calmer, more productive and at least give the appearance that you are not a ulcer candidate.

Go out and have some lunch. Stay in and have some lunch. Just get up and stroll away from your cube, office or workspace and stretch your legs.

another Italian film and a “borrowed” blood orange recipe

June 21, 2010

I watched another remarkable Italian film last night. The film “Il Divo” by Paolo Sorrentino was historically fascinating, visually striking and the acting was great. I am not normally a huge fan of docudramas but this story of the Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti was wonderful, dark, exciting, and disturbing. I would definitely recommend this one.

The Recipe

This is a small appetizer or snack which I have made a few times. I found it in a small Italian cookbook I found in Goodwill; the dust sleeve was missing so the title is escaping me. I will circle back and give credit where credit is due although I think this is a fairly common recipe. It is incredibly easy to make.


3 or more naval or blood oranges (I like the blood oranges for taste and visual)

Olive oil

Dry or fresh chopped oregano

Dry or fresh chopped basil

Dry red pepper flakes

A large colorful serving plate


1. I like to roll the oranges with a slight amount of pressure on a table for a few seconds to get the juices going, but this is not mandatory. It really depends on the season and the oranges.

2. Wash the oranges under cold water for a few seconds.

3. Slice the oranges into 1/4 inch rounds and arrange on your plate.

4. Sprinkle each slice with your herbs.

5. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, but don’t drown them.

6. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Do not place in fridge or the olive oil might start to congeal.

7. Serve with small forks and a nice crusty bread.

8. Enjoy.

so, Netflix in the dark

June 18, 2010

Not having much  time to watch films these days I have taken to watching old films and television shows on a tiny netbook. It reminds me of my early childhood when we only had a small black and white set in the house. It was a long while before I realized that many of the programs I loved as a kid were actually shot in color. On that note, I always have a warm feeling when watching a well made vintage black and white film.

I watched a great one last night called “Bicycle Thieves” (Ladri di biciclette) directed by Vittorio De Sica.

The film is available as an instant download on Netflix.

monday mornings are not optional

June 14, 2010

I awoke to a loud bang early this morning. It is remarkable only because it was a loud bang and not stress or an over active chain of thoughts which woke me. The last time an explosion rocked the neighborhood a neighbor down the street was having their door blown in by an ATF concussion device. No, I live in a fairly quiet neighborhood. I found it almost eerily quiet when we first moved from the Bronx. I have acclimated and sleep fairly well without the constant rattling of the elevated line, the symphony of car alarms and ridiculously wired car audio systems.

“Did you hear that?” a voice from the darkness. “Yes, did you hear that?” another voice from the darkness.

“What time is it?” dim shadow. “I don’t know; it looks like the power is out.” another dim shadow.

“Go outside and see what it was!?” sleepy wife. “It was probably a transformer; we have no power. I’ll go look.” me.

As I walk through the house there are beeps and chirps as the electronics begin to realize they are cut off from their lifelines. The clocks all blink; all of them are wrong. It is light out. I open the door. Blinding light and a caucophony of crows shrieking. As my eyes adjust I see a single black lump lying motionless on the sidewalk not far from the front door. I do not see smoke; I imagine the dead crow to be smoldering. I can only guess at what happened.

“What is it?” wide awake wife. “I think a crow short circuited the transformer on the street.” me.

“Should we call someone?” wide awake wife.

After listening to the electric companies “We are experiencing temporary outages in Northern parts of the city.” I reach a human. “I think A crow took out a transformer in my neighborhood.” I relay the address; the representative says a crew is out already; they are investigating. I relay the address again. Perhaps they do not have to investigate. Maybe they can come to where the transformer is blown. It then dawns on me…we are under attack. Crows have orchestrated a full scale attack on the neighborhood and are systematically taking out transformers all over the city. “Thank you for your concern sir, the shortage should be temporary.” I hang up.

“When will the power come back on?” wide awake. “I don’t know.” me.

“How will we wake up on time?”  We both laugh.

I try not to think about the last thoughts of the crow as I try to get back to sleep.

I think they went like this…

Warm. Food. Warm. Breeze. Warm. Buddies. Family. Warm. Shiny. Nice Click. Click. Click. POP.

haven’t posted about food in a bit

May 24, 2010

I must admit I am fascinated and appalled by the train wreck of corporate shame happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now. Who isn’t?

Found an interesting video post by an outraged booming expert (oil spill cleanup) which I wanted to share.

There is some strong language, but if your small children sitting in the back seat blurt out “F**K BP F**KING F**KERS,” while on a summer road trip is that really so bad?


Oh wait, it’s not 5,000 barrels per day

May 21, 2010

Oh wait, it’s not 5,000 barrels per day it’s between 76,000 and 104,000 barrels per day.

Oh, and it won’t ever reach the coastline…except when it does.

Get ’em while you can…

Question: Is that more than beluga caviar from the furthest reaches…?

Nice green logo though. When I first saw it, I thought it was a flower.
Perhaps it was meant to be an environmental detonation of some sort.

Just saying.

BP made somewhere in the neighborhood of 5.6 Billion in the first quarter of this year.

in honor of earth day we are releasing a new round of GMOs

April 22, 2010

There should be so many disclaimers on this story I can only list the most important ones.

1. I am not, nor have ever been a scientist.

2. I am not, nor have ever been a lawyer.

3. I am not, nor have ever been anti government (although I wonder some times if the big they always have “We the peoples…” best interests in mind…).

4. I am not a farmer and can’t even begin to express how much respect and gratitude I have for the people raising our food.

5. I like corn, and eat a good amount of corn product although I have recently given up drinking Coca Cola something I did every day for over 20 years. Honestly, I am pretty sure I have consumed a small ponds worth of High Fructose corn syrup. I’ll tell you about the soda cessation once I stop flickering back and forth between psychotic episodes and paralytic malaise (completely unrelated I am sure).

The Scoop

The USDA deregulated a new type of GMO corn yesterday. Today is earth day. I am sure no thought was given to this by anyone involved, but I think it is wonderful in its level of irony.

Wall Street Journal online article

Agriculture Online article

Syngenta started their petition for deregulation status of this new corn trait in August 2007

The USDA petitions pending and granted url (you can read the petitions and the USDA recommendations here)

Once the USDA reviewed Syngenta’s 1125 page petition the USDA allows for a 60 day public review before posting its final recommendation (as far as I can tell).

Here is a screen capture of the petition site with the document highlighted in yellow below:

During the 60 day review only 35 comments were received from interested parties (the breakdown is interesting).

Below is a quote pulled from the USDAs final 91 page recommendation as well as another screen capture of the USDAs document highlighted in yellow:

On January 13, 2010, APHIS published a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 1749- 1751, Docket No. APHIS-2009-0072) announcing the availability of the Syngenta petition and the APHIS PPRA and EA for a 60-day public review and comment period. This comment period ended on March 15, 2010. APHIS received a total of 35 comments from various groups and individuals. Nineteen comments supported deregulation, while 16 comments generally opposed the development and use of genetically engineered foods.

Those supporting a determination of nonregulated status included six academicians, six individuals from the corn industry, four corn trade groups, and three corn growers. Those opposing a determination of nonregulated status included a corn grower, two Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) (supplied four comments), and 11 individual consumers.

-USDA Recommendation (see below screen capture for location of the document)

We can’t cry over spilled milk if there are only 16 comments opposed to a new GMO being introduced.


Now I don’t know if this new GMO corn is bad, but I do know from reading some of the USDA recommendation that it does cross pollinate with other corn strains. I think this is about midway down the page on page 17 of the USDA recommendation. Again I am not a scientist but I think there is a mention of lessening the possibility of cross pollination by creating buffer zones:

Methods of spatial and temporal isolation are widely used when seed producers are seeking to minimize the influx of pollen from outside a seed production field.

-USDA Recommendation (see above screen capture for location of the document)

Humor me, but in the event of an all out nuclear conflict I keep one of those laminate topped metal sided school desks in my basement, don’t you.

A brief history:

So here are some sensationalistic snippets of fact taken out of context and posted for the sole purpose of sparking a teeny amount of interest.

Syngenta has two parent companies, AstraZeneca and Novartis and is one of Monsantos, Dupont and Bayer’s chief competitors in the GMO market.

interesting overview

AstraZeneca had been a Swedish company called Astra and Zeneca was originally part of Imperial Chemical Industries. One early project which they worked on a few years back was a rival to Monsantos “terminator” seeds which make seed saving impossible. The seeds of these GMO plants produce genetically sterile seeds. AstraZeneca’s version was called (by detractors) the “Verminator” because it contained fat genes from a rats genome. I think I read somewhere that AstraZeneca had stopped work on this project.

A series of thoughts and top of mind questions:

Can we call any corn raised in the United States organic?

Where is this non-GMO corn raised, and how can non-contamination be guaranteed?

If it is not possible to guarantee no cross pollination why should anyone pay extra dough at Whole Foods or elsewhere for “non GMO” corn products?

How as a culture that relies so heavily; and has such faith in the use of science and technology, can we move forward in a way which leaves a good legacy for our children?

In summary:

It is never my intention to overtly target or slander any company, AstraZeneca has many products which do amazing things for people who rely on there medicines for survival. However, as I become more aware of food topics I am having a hard time not becoming angry. It is the opinion of many in the scientific community that there is not enough long term testing on these crops, and that live field testing is dangerous. I guess we (or our children) will find out.

bad religion kicks off its tour in Anaheim, CA tonight April 15th, 2010

April 15, 2010

30 years

Check out their site for a nice walk down memory lane and take a peek at the new album.

You can listen to the songs in the album section with lyrics and track info (slick; yeah I said slick and Bad Religion in the same paragraph)

2 notable songs which stand out and show the continuing power of the band:

Grains of Wrath and Requiem for Dissent on the New Maps of Hell album.

More than anything else I am happy that there are still crusty old school farts with huevos enough to get out on the road and stir the pot from time to time.

Good luck; and to those of you lucky enough to be in cities with tour stops, go see the band. I saw them several years back and they were great.