Monday, January 25, 2021

Still Nothing

      I'd like to write about politics.  It's still all too crazy to write much about.  A good many of the Republican-leaning bloggers are still living in fantasy-land, and a lot of The Usual Dem-Leaning sources seem to have found opium dreams of their own.  Those are not good places to be.

      The pandemic is still raging, and still killing off the elderly in significant numbers -- it's as if we'd fought WWII by filling the enlisted ranks with seniors.  But we've already lost more Americans to the coronavirus than we did soldiers in that war.  That's not a fantasy -- it's a nightmare.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Just Tired Of It

      Tired of crazy, tired of stupid, tired of the pandemic, tired of pseudoscience.  People didn't used to be this badly askew.

Friday, January 22, 2021

It's Another Sunny Day

      Better yet, the pulmonologist says I'm not developing COPD.  She doesn't see any big masses in my lungs or airways, either.

      That does mean we still don't know why I get short of breath sometimes, but it does explain why the inhaler isn't a whole lot of help.  "Old, overweight and out of shape" is the prime contender for the cause at present, so perhaps I'll have a nice walk this afternoon.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Sun Is Shining

      ...But I find I have no idea what to write about.

      Fight quietly amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Day Of Pomp And Ceremony

      It is my greatest hope that today is as routine and even dull as all of the Inauguration Days that have preceded it, or at least as much so as possible during this damn pandemic.

      If you are serious about politics and not a Party-line Democrat, the next four years will be something of a hard slog at the Federal level.  With a majority in the House and a scant majority in the Senate, while Mr. Biden's Administration probably won't get everything on their wish list, they'll get quite a lot.  That's likely to include gun control and well-intentioned (but ill thought-out) social engineering.

      People who have decided they prefer apocalyptic fantasy to workaday reality aren't going to be any help in trying to restrain the worst excesses.  That includes at least a third of the Republican Senators and Congressbeings, and a far higher share of the active voting base.  That latter group is where political parties get their envelope-stuffers, phone-callers and all of the other hundred and one little jobs it takes to move the pointer.

      It's going to be an interesting few years.  I'm just hoping for the more routine kind of "interesting" and not unmitigated disaster.  I'm hoping President Biden will focus on what we used to call "good governance," the shared issues that cut across Party and political philosophy,  and dealing with the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus pandemic before he goes after partisan and divisive issues.

      And I'm hoping people calm the hell down and grow the hell up over the next six months.  The country needs less face-paint and fantasy, less window-breaking and rock-throwing (both Right and Left-handed!) and more normal civic engagement by sober, shirt-wearing adults.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Overheard This Morning

      "As the HAL 900 computer might have said, 'There is some bacon for you.'"

      "There's a range of mountains in Albania called the Accursed Mountains."

      [Medium-sized pause]  "And that explains what's wrong with Albania?  They're named after George Accursed.  It's a common family name out there.  The place hasn't been right since they ran out King Zog."

      "What?  He was the only king Albania ever had, and he only reigned for eleven years!"

      "You know, that's what I like about our household.  How many people can mention King Zog without having to explain?"

Monday, January 18, 2021

Microwave Cornbread?

      Yep.  Microwave cornbread.  As good as the oven-baked kind, too.

     You see, I had bought a package of N. K. Hurst's 15 Bean Soup dried-bean mix, having found myself waxing nostalgic for the home-made ham and bean soup of my childhood.  It's not quite the recipe on the package; Mom left out the tomatoes and lemon juice near the end, added some celery early, and served it with raw diced onion and celery on the side.

      Do they sell those mixes where you live?  N. K. Hurst is local to me, so while I'd like to assume the general sort of thing is available all over, if not, the basic mix contains beans (pinto, white Navy, kidney, etc.)* and pulses (lentils, green and yellow split peas), though Wikipedia assures me all beans are pulses.  There's a packet of seasoning mix, too, which I rarely use.  You rinse off the beans, sort through them for ringers (uncommon these days) and soak them overnight in plenty of water.  Pour off the water the next day, add fresh water plus a pound or so of ham, a little garlic, a couple of bay leaves, a diced onion and a couple of stalks of celery, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and let it simmer for two or three hours or more.

      Pretty simple, as long as the soup doesn't boil over on you.  You stir it every so often, and keep an eye on it.

      The traditional family side with bean soup is fresh-baked cornbread.  The store-bought stuff is like cake and I'm not a fan. There's at least one good mix, but the oven in the old stove here at Roseholme Cottage isn't great.  I try not to run it.  So that was a challenge: how to make cornbread without the oven. There are some stovetop versions but they're tricky.

      Microwave "mug" cake is a neat stunt.  It was all over YouTube several years ago.  Not the greatest cake in the world, but it mixes up quickly and cooks in even faster.  A few weeks ago, I'd tried a commercial microwave blueberry muffin mix, the same "nuke in a mug" gimmick, and it was pretty good.  There's a cornbread mix, too, but the reviews for it are, well, mixed.

      But there are plenty of microwave cornbread recipes on the web, and in more than mug-sized quantity, too.  Most of them use ordinary staple ingredients.  I looked at a couple and combined them, ending up with this one, minus the sugar† and with half again as much salt.  I added a half-teaspoon of Cajun spice mix, too -- YMMV.  I mixed the dry ingredients in a 6-cup Pyrex bowl, beat the eggs and milk, added the oil‡ and stirred that up, then mixed the liquids into the dry.  The resulting batter is very thick.  I gave it several minutes to rest, then popped it into the microwave.

     The recipe called for three minutes and then testing with a toothpick.  My microwave is a little underpowered, so I gave it four minutes and the toothpick pulled out globs.  Another minute helped and thirty seconds more did the trick.  You do have to feel your way here.

      The end result is cornbread as good as any I have baked -- except there's no crust on the bottom!  It just ends.  The top has a decent crust and the texture is excellent.  It doesn't crumble to bits, even at the points when cut into wedges.  And it tasted great!

      You can microwave cornbread just fine.  It'll sop up home-made bean soup just as good as the oven-baked stuff.  Maybe even better.
________________________
* The mix I remember had black beans, too, and the end result was a very gray soup.  It tasted great -- and so does the modern version, which is a more appealing hue.  According to their website, the modern formulation dates back to the 1980s.  So what were we eating in the 1960s and 70s? 
† Cornbread is not cake, and I see no need for sugar in it.
‡ There's a trick here: just about anything in the general fats and oils category works.  I used light olive oil; that's what I usually have handy.  But you can use bacon grease.  Get it liquid and add it in -- and cut way down on the salt in the dry ingredients.  Melted butter works, too.  But those are not heart-healthy variations.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Relative....

      I might not feel so hot -- but the first traffic light in London blew up after not quite two months of operation.

     So there are levels of failure.  It's all relative.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Not My Most Productive Day

      Spent most of the day in bed and much of that asleep, after having done the same yesterday,  No energy at all and sometimes I'm short of breath -- I can cook a simple meal or do dishes, but not cook, eat and do dishes right after; I have to rest up.  

     Maybe it's just stress.  The last couple of weeks have been a nasty capper to an ugly ten or eleven months.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Dizzy

      Got up, made breakfast, didn't feel too great.  It kept getting worse.  I laid down and realized the room wouldn't stop spinning.

     So I think I'll just deal with that.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

I'd Rather Write About Food

      Made the pork stuff last night.  It turned out unusually well.

      Our local grocer's often has "boneless country-style ribs," a cut with a bit more flavor than the usual pork chop. I'd had a couple in the freezer since December (it keeps) and marinated them overnight in a mixture of mostly soy sauce and a little balsamic vinegar, with powdered ginger, garlic powder, onion powder.  I use a gallon-size, press-to-seal freezer bag for marinating; it lays flat in the bottom of the refrigerator meat drawer with the sealed opening turned up (just in case) and the meat just barely awash in marinade.

      To start dinner, I snipped the meat into 1" or smaller pieces over my deep Always skillet, and poured the marinade in after them.  Once it was sizzling away over medium heat, I sliced, peeled and chopped up a large apple* and added the pieces as I chopped them, giving the dish a good stir afterward.  I sprinkled a little ginger on it, too -- but be wary, a little goes a long way.

      Onion next -- a nice, big yellow onion.  I took my time rinsing and peeling it.  There's a trick to all this, getting the pork fully cooked and all of the vegetables just cooked enough: you want to be working steadily the whole time.  I quartered the onion and added pieces as I chopped them into some section, then gave it a stir.  Carrots followed, cut for variety into thin pieces a bit more than an inch long. Same deal. add and stir.

      Celery next.  It was a new bunch, so after dicing a couple of stalks into the pan and stirring, I wrapped it tightly in aluminum foil.  It keeps much longer that way.  By then the pork was pretty done and there was a good quarter-inch of liquid in the pan, so I had a taste.  Nice -- the flavors had blended well and it wasn't overly sweet.

      I diced a red bell pepper and added it, then some really good button mushrooms.  They grow in tight clumps, with small to medium caps on long stems, and don't take much prep.  A quick rinse, slice off the bottom where they come together, and they break into individuals.  I put them on top of the contents of the pan, covered it, and spent five minutes chatting with Tam wile we set up TV trays, got out silverware and beverages, and got the TV on the right streaming service to watch the final episode of The Queen's Gambit† as we ate.

      The mushrooms were done by then; I mixed up a little cornstarch and cold water, added a teaspoon or so of soy and a dab of balsamic vinegar, poured that into the pan and turned up the heat for a minute while stirring to thicken the sauce.

      The end result was delicious, a thick stew or ragout vaguely akin to old fashioned Americanized Chinese food.
_________________________________
* Any apple works.  The different varieties will make the finished dish taste different, slightly more tart or sweeter, but I have never had one that did not not work well.
† The series holds up remarkably well on second viewing.  I read the book after the first time I saw it, and the TV version hews very close to the book.  The changes they have made are, remarkably, all improvements, which tighten up the story line and help the overall arc.