Sunday, February 28, 2010

Put 'Em Under Pressure And You Watch

So I'm - like - frigging civic minded. Last month, I went to a well-attended meeting about sustainability and didn't punch anyone in the face, though the topic did come up. Last week, I went to a second and - fortunately for me - the face I wanted to punch didn't put in an appearance and a mustachioed man at the other end of the table became visibly excited every time I blurted something blunt and sensible. Perhaps he was happy that someone else was interested in tasks and not subcommittees; it's also possible he was tired and my peppery language burned a bit. Anyway, his bouncing was no doubt aerobic: I made many remarks that ended with a growled, "...why the hell not?"

It wasn't a question. I'm colorful like that!

A member of the committee said the tiny town was interested in setting up a recipe exchange.

Tata: Go one better: make the recipes feed a family of four for $10.
Committee Member: Is that even possible?
Tata: Of course it is.
Another Committee Member: With actual food?
Tata: I double dog dare you.

Yes! I did it! I double dog dared the committee to try something tougher than talking, party throwing and meeting attending-ing. Fortunately, other people are working on this very proposition.
USA TODAY asked four dietitians who blog at to come up with creative ways to feed a family of four for under $10 — as healthful alternatives to the meal advertised on a new KFC commercial. The company is selling seven pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits and a large side, such as mashed potatoes, for $9.99 and is challenging people to make this meal without going over that amount.

This inspiration SUCKS. Is there good news?
Cooking a meal for a family of four for under 10 bucks is a piece of cake. You can make hearty soups, sub sandwiches, chicken dishes, Sloppy Joes, large salads with leftovers, omelets and other egg dishes, nutritionists say.

USA TODAY is not the only entity interested in the challenge, but some responses are more awesome than others.

You're saying to yourself, "No sweat, I can make you six months of recipes with one ladle tied behind my back." Yeah, but you have to do better than a plate and a block of cheddar. That's the caveat: that dinner for four for less than $10 must be nutritious. Don't be shy.

Speak up. I double dog dare you.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Just Relax Just Relax Just Go To Sleep

Get a load of this Facebook crap:

Some tips on weathering the 2010 Classic-Era Melody Reunion on February 27, 2010:

Remember, it starts early and peaks early. This is good - basically, this soiree is aligned to Manchester time (UK, not NJ) starting at 7pm and going to 1am. There'll be the customary nod to our hosts' formalities at 11pm, when the power officially dies for sixty seconds in deference to Elks who've passed to the great beyond, and then the party continues until the clock strikes midnight and our coaches turn into pumpkins. (And if your coach doesn't do that, read on.) Note that last year, this happened a bit earlier because WE DRANK THE ELKS' CLUB DRY. (They expect to provision a bit more of those libations for this year's event.)

Because it starts early - and I can't emphasize this enough - you need to get there early. Fire codes dictate a certain occupancy, and we meet that every year; when we do, that's when we really start to get picky about who gets in. Recognizable faces get recognized; others not so much. If you think you're recognizable, that's great, but if you demand to be recognized, the folks at the door may want to recognize someone else. Be cool, be courteous, be there early.

For some, midnight's about as late as they're prepared to stay out. For others, the night is young...and for those folks, the party will continue at the corner of Somerset and Easton...a.k.a. The Corner Tavern. Remember, that's CORNER. The Corner Tavern's also there for you earlier if you can't get in to the main reunion for whatever reason - if you're too young, or if you're tired of standing in the line you were too late to avoid. They're open 'til 2 AM.

Wherever you are, I'll see you there, and I'm sure another slew of vaguely disconcerting pictures will make it onto Facebook. Enjoy!

"Recognizable faces get recognized; others not so much." My sister Daria, recognizable in her Melody Bar days as the cocktail waitress who arrived after hotel bar closing time in heels and a mini skirt, read me this over the phone and steam shot out of my ears. I was broke with a baby in the mid-eighties so I dressed in a leotard, off-black stockings and a few silk scarves. It was that kind of art/biker bar, ruled by armed hairdressers. Nobody was looking at our faces. I can't gussy up to look 22 again, and neither would I give that fool's errand a try.

All kinds of people have been after Pete and me to go to this thing and now that they're there and we're here, it's perfectly safe to be blunt: the bar closed, we're not kids anymore and the past is gone. Nostalgia is for people who think the best parts of their lives are behind them, and we won't live that way.

Spring is coming. Today, I have wild ideas. The future's so bright, etc., etc.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sound Of Voices Three

Tata: You're jealous of this dinner Pete made and you're not eating.
Daria: I am?
Tata: You are. Listen to this gravy!
Daria: That gravy does sound delicious! And you're just the bitch to tell me I'm not having that!
Tata: It seemed important to tell you. You can't go around not knowing!

Ignorance was indeed bliss until a moment later when Daria discovered her middle child was not playing on her front lawn and I hung up on her efforts to get me to drive 35 miles in a snow storm to find her kid who is plainly sitting up in his room in dripping boots, duh. Don't ask me how I know that, but I'm as sure of it as I am that kid will never graduate college and his parents should put bail bondsmen on speed dial.

Recently, I've noticed that even though we're under surveillance pretty much all the time, people are pretty stupid about covering up their petty crimes. Like, by not even covering them up. Several people of my acquaintance had this conversation in a public space with witnesses two weeks ago.

Guy: I know this guy. He gets movies before they come out. You just can't care about where they came from or the condition of the movie and I have to get them back to him before the movie's in theaters.
Dumb Person: I want to borrow movies!
Guy: Make a list. I'll ask if he can get them.
Dumb Person: Here's my list.
Guy: (Making his next startling admission...)

Meanwhile, I'm emailing Siobhan.

Tata: I can't believe it. They're talking about this like they don't know some of the people around them are rule-following halfwits!
Siobhan: Maybe they want to get caught!
Tata: They're bad at crime!
Siobhan: Why don't you go explain it to them? Maybe they're learn something.
Tata: What, and give them the confidence to do something else truly stupid? No thanks!

Today, I got a letter from the cable company indicating that someone had pirated a movie via my wireless account. Personally, I don't care who steals from NBC, just that they be good enough at crime to leave me out of it. I explained that I had certainly never seen the stolen movie and was frankly too much of a glamorous doofus to steal The Forty Year Old Virgin. What I did not say was that if I were doing something like that, I certainly wouldn't be stupid enough to steal it on my own wireless account. But then, no one has to be bad at crime.

Since I have a good idea who might've done it, it helps me that people are.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

She Gets It While She Can

How To Use A Potato Bin

Potato bins and grow bags are used to grow the earliest potatoes. They are also used along with raised beds to grow prize winning potatoes for the garden show bench.

Potato bins, bags, and potato barrels fit on any hard surface or small piece of ground open to full light. Try them on your patio or balcony. They give you a convenient way to harvest fresh spuds.

Here you'll discover how you can grow the earliest potatoes for summer salads and the latest 'new' potatoes to eat fresh and roasted for Christmas dinner.

They might be easy to grow.

I feel better already.
SELECTING POTATOES - make certain that you choose only certified seed potatoes for planting in the garden. Certification means the potatoes are free of insect or disease problems and that they have not been treated with a growth retardant. Garden centers; nurseries; garden outlets and hardware stores generally feature certified seed potatoes during the spring planting season.

SOIL PREPARATION - potatoes grow in just average soil, so a great deal of soil preparation is not really needed. However the addition of some compost or a little peat moss is beneficial. Avoid using fresh manure or lime in the soil where potatoes are to be grown, as it tends to cause scab on the potatoes. The addition of either 5-10-10 or 10-20-20 fertilizer is beneficial. Mix the fertilizer into the planting soil, prior to planting. Till or spade the soil to a depth of ten or twelve inches.

CUTTING POTATOES - if the seed potatoes are small to medium sized, plant the whole potato. If they are large sized, you can cut them in half, or quarter them. Each section should have two or three 'growth eyes'. After cutting, let the cut surface callus-over before planting them.

SPACING - potatoes can be grown in many different ways. If you have lots of room the cut pieces can be spaced about a foot apart in rows which are spaced two to three feet apart. Then cover with about an inch of soil. Pull in additional soil as the plants develop. Always be certain the surface tubers are covered with soil.

Hilling or mounding is another method of growing potatoes. Three or four pieces of potatoes are planted on a mound of soil, pulling in additional soil as the potatoes develop.

You can grow potatoes in the ground, in stacks of straw or mulch, in black plastic bags, in garbage cans or to stacks of tires. Potatoes can be a fun and easy crop to grow.

Field growing: This is the conventional way most potatoes are grown. Generally, the seed potatoes are planted about 12 inches apart in rows that are spaced 2 to 3 feet apart. The seed pieces' are planted about 1 inch deep, then covered with additional soil as the sprouts develop.

Straw: For centuries, Scandinavians have grown potatoes in stacks of straw or other mulching material. Potatoes are planted above ground in the straw, and as the vines begin to grow, additional straw` or mulch is mounded up around the base of the plants. This results in a yield of very clean potatoes. New potatoes can be harvested easily even before the potato vines mature completely.

Under plastic or in plastic garbage bags: Garden soil or a commercial potting soil can be used to grow the potatoes in the bags, Fold over the top half of the bag, fill with soil, and plant a certified seed potato that has been cut in half. The plastic bag can be set above ground wherever it's convenient. Punch holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage.

You also can plant potatoes under black plastic. Cut open a piece of the black plastic, and plant a potato piece. The potato tubers will develop as they would in the open ground. However, the tubers that develop close to the surface of the soil are shaded by the black plastic and should not develop the green inedible portions that often are found on other tubers. The black plastic also will aid in controlling weeds.

Garbage cans or containers: Old garbage cans, or wooden or fiberboard-type containers are suitable for growing potatoes, if they have adequate drainage. You can conserve space by growing them in this manner. A word of caution, though: The plants tend to dry out more rapidly when grown in containers, so additional watering will be needed. Otherwise, you're likely to end up with misshapen tubers.

WATERING - Black or hollow centers on potatoes is often caused by over-watering. Irregular watering causes irregular shaped or knobby potatoes. As a guideline, water potatoes (thoroughly) weekly during warmer summer weather.

HARVESTING - New young potatoes are harvested when peas are ripe or as the potato plants begin to flower. For storage of full sized potatoes harvest them when the vines turn yellow or have died-back.

STORAGE - Keep them in the dark, in a spot where temperatures are about 40 degrees.

I'm giving it a whirl. You might give it some thought.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

With Well-Oiled Precision

Hey! Siobhan cleverly added comments to PIC, meaning now you can add your own bon mots. The unique visitors numbers are way up. Unique visitors: enter and sign in, please!

I'm - uh - the one in the marabou overalls. Howdy!


Monday, February 22, 2010

You Always Were Two Steps Ahead

Miss Sasha let slip that in North Dakota she can get fresh lingonberries, long a staple of Swedish food. Here in New Jersey, lingonberries are generally only available after a lengthy traipse through IKEA, though recently, Pete and I found them canned in the grocery store. Thus, I have informed Miss Sasha she will be jarring lingonberries because I want to eat those, and isn't that what's important in life? Sure. So let's talk about banana bread. I started with a recipe from a famous cookbook, which was okay but not great. Gradually, I made it healthier, moister real food. I'd pat myself on the back but - would you get that for me?

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients:

1-1/3 c whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder


1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a separate mixing bowl, cream together:

5 generous tablespoons butter
2/3 c brown sugar

Slowly add dry ingredients, then add:

2 lightly beaten eggs

Fold in:

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or toasted pignoli nuts
5 mashed bananas

Grease a loaf pan and dump in the gloppy batter. Bake 50 minutes. Test for doneness with a butter knife. If batter sticks, bake and test in five minute increments. When finished, the bake will be moist and very dense. Serve slices toasted with cream cheese.

Banana bread is often a way to use leftovers, but I think it's a simple way to get more fruit into our diets in the winter. Tonight, I made a whole cranberry bread based on the same recipe, adding some minced tropical I'd bought dried and reconstituted plus a little orange juice. The flavor is sweet and tangy; Pete is looking forward to eating a couple of slices toasted with butter for breakfast.

The thought occurs that super ripe platanos could substitute for bananas. Think I'll try that. And you?


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Down From These Heights

Beautiful Sweetpea. She would nibble on the squirrels if she could. From here, the neighbors look so tasty.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Collar To the Cold

Here at Poor Impulse Control, we're all about It, whatever It is, so long as It is funny, and nothing is funnier than talking about food. Why? Because I get stage fright making rice pudding and half my family went to cooking school without so much as sending a postcard. To recap somewhat, then, I have several different projects going and your bag's packed.

1. Dad died and left cookbooks to study, mysterious gear and problems to solve;

2. Dagnabbit: jarring, canning and preserving;

3. Inspired by Pete's wonky digestive tract, he and I are exploring better food for better health including organics, reducing meat consumption and expanding our vegetable and grain options;

4. Gardening. It's better to grow one's own food than to rely on outside sources wherever possible;

5. Affordable, nutritious eating. If we can get dinner on the table every night for $10, we might have enough money to pay our fucking bills.

These topics overlap somewhat. For instance: remember our friend, Dad's dehydrator? Instructions for the mothership here are hard to come by in book form and online recipes are full of slippery adjustments. Example: every direction I found ended with store in a cool, dry place and last summer, New Jersey did not provide any of those; in time, everything I dehydrated and stored in the basement turned a lovely blue. Pete and I picked up a vacuum sealer, thereafter sealed everything and stored it in the fridge. This degree of caution still did not guarantee success: sometimes dehydrated vegetables are sharp and pierce the plastic and appear sealed anyhow. They are not and will turn a lovely blue in the fridge, which like the rest of New Jersey is slightly damp.

Ta, dahhhhhlink, you're saying, Can we take a connecting flight to the point? How about you return your tray to the upright and locked position and not be so critical, hmm? As lessons in home economics go, learning dehydrating without a teacher proved tricky, expensive and frustrating. In practice, dehydrating works best for us with fruit like peaches, pears and apples. Reconstituted, these sturdy fruit add nice flavor and the texture is familiar if you, as I did, grew up eating dried apples; I also learned the hard way that peeling apples and pears before drying is worth it. A second preparation has been very successful: combinations of leeks, young carrots and fennel - loosely speaking, a form of mirepois. Rehydrated and minced, one of these packages adds a jolt of kickass richness to soups, stews and sauces.

The next thing I wanted to road test was fingerling potatoes. I know. No, really. I know. You can buy potatoes all year round, there's no point in drying them, right? There is, actually. I bought these potatoes from local organic farmers with excellent tattoos. When I bought them in September, I parboiled them, sliced them lengthwise and dehydrated them overnight at the highest setting on the dehydrator: 175 degrees. Two nights ago, I opened the package and poured boiling water over the potatoes, and when they cooled, I refrigerated them until this morning, when I drained off the water, mixed in about a cup and a half of homemade yogurt, half a cup of grated cheddar, salt, pepper, cumin, dried sage and minced rosemary. I poured this into two small casseroles, dotted the surfaces with a bit of butter, covered with foil and baked at 425 for an aromatic eternity. For the last fifteen minutes, the potatoes baked with foil off to develop a nice crust. Result: a filling breakfast gratin that tasted like summer.

Pete was hesitant before the first bite but enthusiastic thereafter. He offered that the potato flavor was good but next time, instead of long rehydration, we might try boiling the potatoes. It will save time. We decided that in the future we wouldn't dehydrate other kinds of potatoes, just fingerlings, and the initial storage failures, while discouraging, had taught us enough to be worth the price.

This is a picture of dinner at our house: Pete makes something almost miraculously delicious, I make a yogurt or a fruit sauce, and Drusy drinks water out of a plastic goblet. We have all accepted that at dinnertime, Drusy will be joining us for drinks. Believe me, this is a civilized alternative to what might have become our routine had the other two cats decided they wanted to fight us for our dinners. Pete and I are okay, though, until one of the cats learns how to operate a spatula.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

We're Still On Our Way Home

Oh bloody hell:

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Hey Texans! Wanna buy half a bridge in Brooklyn?
About the same numbers of Democrats and Republicans — 43 percent — disagree with the idea that dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time. Republicans were slightly more likely to agree with the idea (31 percent to 27 percent). Perry had more voters in each group on the GOP side, but Kay Bailey Hutchison had the largest share of voters who believe in that coexistence.

Prindle says the results recall a line from comedian Lewis Black. "He did a standup routine a few years back in which he said that a significant proportion of the American people think that the 'The Flintstones' is a documentary," Prindle says. "Turns out he was right. Thirty percent of Texans agree that humans and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time."

Putting aside for the moment that the poll presents a dispute about an objective reality, let's take this fundy talking point to its extreme conclusion. Suppose for just a moment dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time: what would oil be made of? If you believed, as some of these death cults do, that human remains must be buried and left whole or the soul has no body to inhabit on Judgment Day, what are you doing to your ancestors as you tool around Texas in your SUV?

If my brain was stewing in this sulphurous marinade I'd be nailing solar panels to every outdoor surface I owned.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hope That Holds Us Together


Your current products permit users to bend at the hip a mere 90 degrees. A generation of athletes, sex fiends and Shriners will be arriving at your door any day now for whom 90 degrees simply will not cut it.

Plan accordingly.


Princess Ta


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More Of This I Can Take

Sarah Palin:
A lot of people, I guess this New York Times reporter, they just don't like that message of we being taxed enough and wanting to remind our elected officials of their constitutional limitations of big government, and just kind of get government back on the side of the people.

Grammar schools everywhere have found their cautionary tale.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Line Of Cars Drove Down Real Slow

Sometimes you bumble through life - dum dee dum dee dee - doing your own thing and stumble on proof that thing you're doing? You're doing it at an advanced level. There's no other explanation for this:
When you accept everything you're told without question, you open the door to being manipulated. If you want to avoid being someone else's puppet, follow these steps.

Think for yourself - like me!

Step 1:
Ask questions, particularly the question "why?". Ask everyone (not just the so-called experts), and try to answer your own questions as well. When you get an answer, try to think of exceptions, and then ask yourself why those exceptions exist. Never be satisfied until you arrive at an answer that has very few exceptions.

Three-year-olds get to ask "Why?" all the time. Everyone else who asks a second time better duck.

Step 2:
Look for selfish motives. Some people will become very annoyed, and perhaps even offended, that you're questioning something they accept without question. Whenever people want you to think a certain way, it's because it benefits them in some way. But that benefit is not always obvious or direct. Many times, people want you to adopt their perspective because it makes them feel more comfortable and secure (safety in numbers). Sometimes, people's beliefs make it easier for them to feel like a good person. These people don't want those beliefs challenged because it's as if you were challenging them personally - it seems to them that you are questioning their "good-person-hood". Sometimes, people are trying to look out for your best interest, and truly want you to be in step with their beliefs without looking into their statements any further. And sometimes, people just want to be seen as authoritative and trusted, so they're personally invested in whether or not you buy into the things they say. That's why they take it personally if you don't automatically buy in.

One of my sisters has internalized the lessons of Dr. Phil without mulling them over even a little. This means when I say, "Fuck that guy," my sister's eyes spin in her head like a cheap slot machine. She'd like to think this makes me a bad, bad person but her default thinking is Dr. Phil's: anyone who doesn't agree with him is dumber than a dumb bunny and lower than a tick on a snake's belly. I can only stare when she says this with a Weehawken accent.

Step 3:
Stop being a people pleaser. People who don't think for themselves are often scared of disagreeing with others, and scared of "rocking the boat". A freethinker, on the other hand, bases their self worth on something other than what people think of them. These people may still experience rejection, discomfort, and anguish, but they will continue to think for themselves.
In cases where someone says he "just wants the best for you," you may be accused of distrust, and it could make you feel guilty. But keep in mind that anyone who truly cares for you will be willing to explain their point of view and why they feel that way, and allow you to decide for yourself whether that is enough evidence for you.

In my book, that makes him a controlling dipshit, but don't take my word for it. What do you think, desperate people pleaser?

Step 4:
Do the research. Look into the statements made by others. You'll be amazed at how many times you'll find lots of evidence to contradict the statements of others. Yet, these people spout this erroneous information as if it were the Gospels, never questioning the accuracy or truth of what they're saying. Use Google or go to the library, and search for information to prove or disprove the statements made. Remember where you get the "evidence" from. Be aware that, just because you saw it in a book or on the internet, that alone does not make it the truth. Once you've found evidence, one way or the other, you can speak up about it. "Yes, you know after we talked last time, I was so interested that I looked that up. That's amazing, isn't it, hard to believe, but true!" Or conversely, you can say, "I know that sounds amazing, and I hate to burst the bubble because it's fun to believe that could be true, but I looked it up, and it looks like it isn't true. I feel bad to be the bearer of bad news, but I just don't think that's true. You can look at ____________ (wherever you found your disproving evidence) and see for yourself." When you're breaking the news that your friend is passing along a false tale, let them know in a humble and compassionate way - don't just come in crowing and congratulating yourself for debunking a myth. You may look smart to others for a minute, but to your friend, you look like a jerk.

Miss Manners frowns on telling your friends they're lying halfwits, but sometimes you can't help yourself. Because sometimes they're lying halfwits. How can you help yourself when you finally figure out that you're sitting at the world's largest encyclopedia and you can look up facts? Because you're smart!

Step 5:
Live outside your comfort zone. Not only will some people be very perturbed by your refusal to take their statements at face value, but you will also learn to question your own assumptions, and that can make you feel lost and confused, like walking into a dark room. It takes courage to face uncertainty. Be Bold.

If you're boring - be interesting! If you're dull - be weird! But not too weird. Then you'd challenge my idea of you.

Step 6:
Beware paralysis by analysis. When you're thinking for yourself, you're taking full responsibility for your life and your actions, because you can't say you were trusting someone else's judgment. This can be very nerve-wracking, and lead to excessive self-doubt. Remember that thinking for yourself doesn't mean being sure. It means making decisions based on your own analysis, rather than someone else's. There will always be some degree of uncertainty, no matter what, that you must learn to accept and cope with.

Wax on = wax off!

Look, someone can teach you how to think like they do, but only you can teach you to think for yourself. And if you're just learning, it's about fucking time.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Out To Capture A Moment Everyone Knows

Lovely Drusy on the mantel, beneath the Picasso print dated 2.14.58.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yearn Admits You're Outside

Etienne appeared - POOF! - in a cloud of dust, tossing off flaming emails - IN NJ UNTIL TOMORROW COME AND FUCKING SEE ME. I laughed the whole six blocks Pete and I drove to his aunt and uncle's house, which was filled with cats and other people surprised to see me. Etienne squeezed the stuffing out of me and raced to the car, anxious to meet Pete, whom I'd described as "my shiny new husband." Pete managed to drive the car to the diner we call simply The Diner, though in this part of New Jersey, diners dot the landscape, while jet-lagged Etienne described his flight back from London where he served as his grandmother's sister's man Friday. Lunch conversation limped and loped along until Pete and I decided we had to get home and get ready for work at the family store, and somewhere about then, I remarked that I couldn't remember where Etienne's grandparents' house was. On our way back to Etienne's, we decided to find it.

Tata: Pete, turn left here, go to the second stop sign and make a right.
Etienne: At the light, make a right.
Pete: Make a left here?
Etienne: At the light -
Tata: Make a left at the light and we'll be in front of the grocery store and the family store.

Pete turned left. Etienne suddenly recognized where he was.

Etienne: Turn right.
Tata: Go up one block and turn left!

Pete made a straight.

Tata: Okay, turn left.

Pete made another straight.

Tata: Any time now, you can turn left and turn left a second time.
Pete: Was I actually supposed to turn or keep averaging out your directions?

Pete turned left and left again.

Tata: Etienne, what was the name of the street?
Etienne: Garner.
Tata: There it is. What number?
Etienne: Number 16. It's that one!

Etienne's grandfather designed the house and built it in the Modernist 1950s, and the family moved in in 1958. It is a study of small windows and odd angles. The enormous and yet graceful carport sits at a 45 degree angle to the front of the house and the front door was a honey color I remembered from distant childhood. We sat in the car, staring at the house for a long time. Then Etienne said, "Guess I better tell them I'm here," and bolted from the car. Pete and I sunk down in our seats and waited for the police to arrive, but Etienne, though buffeted by life in ways you and I wouldn't wish on our enemies, is special. We saw the door open and Etienne disappeared inside. A minute passed, then Etienne waved to us to park the car and come inside.

Pete: No, no, we can't go in there.
Tata: I'm going!

Pete beached the car in a snow bank. I stomped my feet clean of snow and Pete followed. We'd walked into a foyer with an observant Jewish family on the sabbath and they were smiling. I couldn't believe they let us in - I mean, would you? The foyer had been renovated to add windows and change the shape of the ceiling. Etienne could see that right away, but I recognized nothing until we came to the living room, which I remember filled floor to ceiling with Etienne's grandmother's paintings and sculptures, and the back window wall that overlooked a creek and what in summer looks like a small forest. We turned toward the kitchen and both Etienne and I became confused. The renovation had removed part of a wall, but once we were in the kitchen we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the cabinetry and the odd, odd angles. In the renovation, another wall at the side of the house had been removed and an addition had been added that was so respectful of the original design that at first my eye passed over it. Through a doorway, I could see the rest of the family still sitting at the lunch table, so I made a few excuses to leave, but the family was genuinely happy to walk Etienne around and show him one last treasure: a painting on the wall of the stairs to the basement. Etienne's grandmother's art was still in the house. We were overjoyed.

I laughed all the way back to Etienne's aunt and uncle's house.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Like the Deadly Hands Of the Radium Clock

Tata: Is Lois there and is she good and surly?
Anya: Lois, are you good and surly?
Lois: Who is it?
Anya: Auntie Ta. Get over here!
Lois: Hello?
Tata: I have all the ingredients for tempeh dumplings laid out on the counter. Wanna come over and teach me how to make them, since you've made dumplings and I haven't?
Lois: I can't. I'm going out to play in the snow with my friends.
Tata: I don't blame you. That sounds like more fun than calling Poison Control.
Lois: Sorry about that.
Tata: Talk to you later when you visit me in the hospital!

Since I was in my house and happy, I thought I'd try out something new. We had wonton wrappers because this day was going to come eventually, vegetables because I was betting on the snowstorm and tempeh because why the hell not? I cooked everything that needed cooking, drained everything and minced the whole mishegas. So I brushed each wrapper with water, filled it, pinched it closed and laid each little dumpling on parchment paper. It was a lot like working with phyllo dough in that the wrappers dried out quickly, but it was also very satisfying to fill up trays and freeze them. Vegetable dumplings are my favorite breakfast. I'm psyched!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When My Cup's Already Overfilled

Resulting braciole.

Indeed, Central New Jersey is experiencing the kind of snowfall I have only seen a few times in my adult life, forcing me to face the hilarious contradiction of my current life. On one hand, I shoveled mountains of snow several times today to protect Pete from straining his back because I am strong and capable; on the other hand, there's no way I'm leaving the house until sidewalk and road surfaces are clear because if I slip I could significantly damage my hip. As Valkyries go, I've corralled a cranky horse. Never mind! From the stationary bike tonight, I watched the fox hunt scene in Auntie Mame, bolstering my confidence that things end well for the woman with the magnificent seat. If I do say so myself.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Fly Through the Revolution

The logo says Feeding the World Two Cups At A Time. What's the big idea?
Here at Soup Kitchen, Inc. we place purpose above profit, and our purpose is simple.

We are here to end world hunger.

Here's how it works:
For every portion of Soup Kitchen Soups sold, we donate an equal portion to someone in need through local and regional food banks. Sales are tracked by area / zip code. We like the idea of people being able to help in their own community.

Holy crap! I LOVE these people! Wait, who are they?
Jamie Klein
Chef / Owner

After more than 25 years of kitchen experience, in every level of restaurant, catering, private chef, movie and television production, my most memorable meals are the ones I've given away.


Besides absorbing a love for food and feeding, I've enjoyed defining my career goals by the process of elimination. It has been a terrific run of feeding people in every way from delis, to the finest restaurants, to the grandest homes and some incredible Hollywood sets around the world (well, the western hemisphere anyway). Now it's time to heed that inner voice that just wants to feed those who are simply hungry.

Omigod, little red hearts are popping up over my cartoon head! Soup Kitchen, Inc. is a website of few words, but they pack a punch: you buy soup and a soup kitchen or food pantry in our area gets an equal donation. So. You can order soup online, which sounds awkward - or! or! or! Or: ask a retailer in your area to carry this product and the donations go to the soup kitchen or food pantry. It's really that simple. See? To stock canned soup, you don't even have to be a food store!

It's a brilliant idea. You gotta eat, right? Soup's on!

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Let's Discuss This Man To Man

We're expecting a snowstorm tomorrow, which means that my neighbors and co-workers are still slathered in minty BenGay from the last one. I can't wait! By lunchtime tomorrow, every eye in my office will glance furtively at the tiny windows through which we in the basement observe weather and feet walking by. By mid-afternoon no one will compose a sentence that does not involve the word snow. By rush hour, the peaceable folk will beating each other senseless over bread and milk because grocery shopping before the Super Bowl was two more thoughts than any mind can hold - or so weather forecasters suggest. Don't listen to them! You're prepared and ready to roll out or stay in, whichever plan your brainy brain brain conjures up. Make tomorrow's dinner tonight, dress in layers and watch out for your elderly neighbors. It's all in your hands, cozy in fuzzy mittens.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

This Monkey Wants A Word

The library at the unnamed university has always offered slightly odd folk a little leeway with social conventions. It seems likely that if I worked somewhere conformity was key I'd be tied up in a closet by now. Look, I'm just not like the other humans, I have a problem mitigated by heat and my workplace is chilly. It would be spiffy if I could heal up without sticking out like a sore thumb. Today, I bought a Sunbeam electric blanket to add to a pillow, several sporty fleeces and a soft throw. My cubicle is starting to resemble a nest.

Fortunately, most of my co-workers will consider this another antic. I turn up for meetings wrapped up from the nose down. We'll see how an electrified crimson toga goes over.

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that the Spanish language channels must carry cooking shows and what could be more natural than for me to watch people cook and understand everything? I found one finally this morning, but I was immediately confused. The host was describing a trip along the Amalfi Coast and I still have enough Italian that I grasped his story and what he was cooking. He kept calling it polpettone, though I could see clearly it was a braciola. In Italian, a polpettone is a giant stuffed meatball. This guy was working with a flank steak. I looked at the program description again, which was in Spanish. The commercials were in Spanish. Then I realized I had everything I wanted: a chef, a storyteller, Italian ingredients, Spanish I could understand. His cooking technique was sloppy. Pete sat down to watch and listen and said, "Oh. Guess I'll make braciole."

Tonight, Auntie Mame made time on the stationary bike simply disappear. I'd forgotten how much I loved even the opening credits and how closely my grandmother Gladys resembled Rosalind Russell, which means I will. Watch, as the future arrives, shimmering softly and gliding down stairs.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Two Kinds Of Ice Cream

We were all so cozy. If you can believe it, outside a horn honked twice and Drusy, dressed like Audrey Hepburn, sailed down the stairs and sweetly warned us all not to wait up.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

If the Door Wasn't Closed

Usually, original pictures on Poor Impulse Control are taken by Pete, though sometimes I take them. Those are often pictures I crop thumbs out of and adjust for dumb darkness. These pictures were taken by the intrepid Darla at Lake Erie, near her house. Dad's third wife is Canadian, you know. You'd never guess but she looks just like a normal person. For example, if this were my neighbor's house, I'd be using some exceedingly piquant verbiage. Darla called it a mishap. Crazy Canadians don't know when to get excited. The house is about to fall into an inland ocean. Now might be the time to employ a modifier.

Haloscan's magical transformation into another monthly bill proved curiously timed: I wasn't writing well. Sorry about that. I often write blog posts while people are talking to me; when posts have nouns and verbs I feel like I got away with something. Anyway, I had to give some thought to whether or not blogging was my metier anymore and if I was going to put the time and effort into Poor Impulse Control to make it vibrant, quirky and full of interesting crazy. I thought about it long and hard. Finally, I decided if there was anything I was willing to add some elbow grease to it's poor impulse control. My ennui can bite me. Haloscan's gone. I'm still here, rededicated to thinking the funny thoughts.

In New Jersey, we call that a breezeway.

The thought occurs: what if rowing camp, on which I have focused what we laughingly refer to as my attention, requires that participants arrive with a clean bill of health in July? That would give me five months to exercise, stretch, get massage and plunk myself down in the bathtub. Shouting, "LOOK! SOMEONE FAMOUS!" and switching xrays isn't going to cut it when the doctor for the U.S. Crew Team shares an office with my sports medicine doc, so I'm working a new plan. I've ordered new exercise videos and quit bothering to remove the ski pants in my office anymore, keeping the hip warm. We've changed our diets to reduce the amount meat on every plate relative to the amount of vegetable. In a few weeks, it'll be warm enough for me to bicycle to work again. I am going to push as hard as I can; if I can go, I'll go. If not, then not, but not for lack of trying. When I find myself limping, my best defense is to tighten up my abs and walk evenly. In related news: I walk like Charles Atlas in ski pants - only, you know, smaller, rounder and better-smelling.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Brown Rice, Black Beans To Be Free

If there's anything that can be gleaned from a thoughtful survey of the public discourse it's that the word freedom cannot be defined one way for all people.

A bit less than twenty years ago, the then-boyfriend and I and two friends went to an exhibit of fledgeling virtual reality technology, considered at the time so far out there that the exhibit station was gathering dust until we arrived. The artists had long since gotten bored and wandered away; there was no one to question about possible uses for VR. The guys I was with tried on the helmet and glasses and futzed around with different movements. I chose not to try walking and leaping because I could already walk and leap, but what I really liked were the ideas I had immediately for what could be done with VR tech. Right off the bat: wouldn't it be fantastic if heterosexuals could switch bodies and learn what it was like to get sexy in - as opposed to against - the bodies of their lovers? Wouldn't we learn everything worth knowing if we could learn to feel what other people feel?

What if men could feel for themselves what pregnancy and childbirth feel like? What if doctors could feel what patients feel? What if wealthy legislators could feel the anguish and helplessness of children who go to bed hungry? How different would we be if we could see life through other people's eyes and could learn from their experiences?

As time passed and commercial technology developed, mostly it's been used for video games in which white alpha males kill brown people. Indifference to suffering is desirable; nothing useful has been learned. Nothing has been contributed to the Common Good.

It's shitty timing to refer to a big blogger, seeing as how it's Blogroll Amnesty Day, but Digby posted this video that set me off this morning.

One way to define freedom is to learn who you are and what you stand for. I want you to suspend for a moment your political cynicism and try out a new idea: what would happen if every Sunday talk show, every campaign stop and every speech included someone - maybe you - asking the question, "What does your proposal contribute to the Common Good?" What if you expected someone to ask this question, and what if you expected an answer? What if we all expected an answer? What if consideration the Common Good were what we expected from public discourse?

No one stands up on Sunday mornings and asks the audience why it's watching Bill Kristol talk about endless war instead of the Common Good, but someone should. The pundits have lost their minds about deficit reduction, which will do nothing for the Common Good, but no one says mentions it. But what if you could? Because you can. Picture yourself standing up at a speech, standing up to say, "You keep talking about cutting domestic spending, but that will detract from the Common Good. What do you have to say for yourself?" Or: "This Pentagon budget fattens the wallets of defense contractors but contributes nothing to the Common Good. You will have to rewrite it." What a day that would be!

Picture reporters asking questions about the Common Good because it matters and when we forget that, bridges fall down, hospitals fall apart, garbage collection fails, children don't learn to read, fire departments close, neighborhoods empty and fall to ruin, food banks and soup kitchens close, homeless people sleep in the streets. The politics of selfishness have brought us to the brink of ruin as a country; poverty is what happens when we fail to consider the Common Good. Give this some thought, then: what if you asked politicians, "What does this proposal contribute to the Common Good?"

What if you deserved an answer? Consider this: you do.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

It Stands For Knife

Today, I went back to the physical therapy building for an appointment with the massage therapist. Massage on my right hip is like lemon-scented Hell on Earth, so I lay on the table, laughing to keep from screaming for just over half an hour. He was working on one blindingly painful spot, moved to the other side and asked how that side felt. I allowed as how it was uncomfortable but not like the other side, where I wanted to slap his ancestors. He laughed nervously, probably because he was twice my size and I have another appointment next week.


Monday, February 01, 2010

When A Flaming Stealth Banana Split the Sky

A few years ago, my friend Trout had a CSA share with the unnamed university's agricultural extension's wacky farmer training program. The whole idea was new to me when she called one Friday from a business trip to ask if I could go pick up her weekly share. I drove out to the farm, rumbled across the PVC cow catcher and crept along the farm road about a half mile past a house and a sign threatening visitors with dire consequences if one of the resident children or varmints had an accident to the outbuildings in the back. In a small, awkward parking lot, I beached my car when it became completely obvious that 130 sharers were planning their weekly rumble over a two-hour window for pickup and 12 parking spaces; good thing we're all peaceful and organic!

Inside, agricultural students had brought in vegetables, herbs, gourds and decorative plants, counted each and divided by the number of shareholders to formulate a list of what each shareholder should collect. This part of the process was really mysterious at first as I shuffled between ancient supermarket refrigerator bins, trying to figure out what the hell I was looking at and whether or not I recognized it as food. One aspect of the CSA experience is education: the aggies learn how to grow a wide variety of plants and shareholders learn how to prepare tasty stuff they've never heard of. It works great. In fact, it works so well that a couple of years ago, my sister Daria shared a share with Trout and learned to like, then love, sorrel. Daria's sorrel problem was so bad she found herself staring into her reusable treehugger grocery bag, shouting, "WHERE THE FUCK IS MY SORREL?"

(Note: though Daria would rather chew off her French manicure than touch dirt I'm planting sorrel for her in a planter sorrel will like and her homeowners' association will surely disparage. I would bet my shoes the association has not seen anything like full-metal Daria on a sorrel-inspired rampage, and I will laugh and laugh. And have bail money.)

CSA shares aren't cheap. We're looking into them because supporting local farmers is crucial, supporting agricultural students learning organic growing techniques is an investment in a healthy future for us all and because, dang it, I have a lot to learn and can't wait to give new things a try. A CSA share, if we were lucky enough to get one, would be on the outer, pointiest edge of what Pete and I could afford if we pinched a few pennies and watched black and white TV. That could be funny. Plus: we're going to learn to grow sorrel in a hostile environment.