Saturday, December 29, 2007

Retrospectacles One: One Day

Today was an odd day, a good day. Woke up late-ish, performed the rituals necessary to appease the resident incarnations of Bast and the other rituals that result in the appearance of hot, fresh coffee in the lower portion of the hourglass-shaped ceremonial vessel, coffee so pure it looks red and ruby-sparkling in light shone through it. I knew the clock was ticking and my week-old paycheck was ticking louder still; a visitor was likely due as well, so I blogged rapidly and proceeded to begin with ablutions when --

The Data Viking appeared at the door, bearing not axe nor horn'd helm nor shield, nor even yet a lute, but his usual arms, armor and instrument: a friendly smile. (It serves him well). With perfectly straight face and in non-committal tone, DV proceeded to describe a T-shirt image he'd like to see, one that so perfectly suited him that the only possible response was to curtsy in respect. I'll be asking his permission to share it here!* So after a short chat, I left him near some (I hope!) interesting books and got as ready as possible as fast as possible and we were out the door with thirty minutes to spare. (Who, me, slow?)

Off to the bank,** done in a flash and a day still more than half-full, he opined it was too cold to wander outside (true but unfortunate) so I, ever the hopeful hunter-gatherer, raised an inquisitive eyebrow and pointed across the way at the sole surviving example of the Old Retail Guard looming from the picturesque ruins of this city's oldest mall -- they have torn the concourse stone from stone, plowed asphalt into the ruins, and caused a Target to be erected where once stood the very temple of Moloch Mammon Commerce (though despite the presence of a Library, they have thus far refrained from burning it***) . Yet, incredibly, this one last shining example lingers on. From a distance, it's an inscrutable pile, immaculate above the rubbish-tips and bright yellow bulldozers, odd bits of scaffolding and fast-moving workers. It looks as if it might even be interesting.

Lo, a wonder: he fell for it! Truly the most patient of men, DV ambled along in my wake, while we examined the wonders of Modern Kitchen Items (psst, pot&pan designers: those rassafrassin' metal handles you're so fond of get hot!), fine furniture (some's nice but mostly? Word to the wise: buy used, refinish, re-upholster), Oriental carpets (deeeee-lightful, I want me some), modern carpets (sure, it's Art, but is it a floor covering?), a selection of men's ties I found remarkably repellent in color and pattern but was assured were hardly a patch on the worst of the worst, and, finally, to that most wonderful and dangerous of all departments: Women's Attire.

It is vast and trackless. The stylish render me mute with withering, unvoiced scorn for my all-too-obvious geekdom. There are no drinking fountains and few landmarks. Even DV lost his bearings (though not his marbles). After a few adventures, a side-trip into shoes (I now own A] superkewl retro-Chinesical tennies and B]some Decent Sunday-Go-To-Meetin' Shoes that are not even sinful patent leather or nothin'), five minutes of me looking wistfully at a tiny, nifty sequined number I so could have worn to good effect -- a decade ago and similar adventures, I found some hoodies for work an' Something for New Years and we made our escape.

Sure, it was the equivalent of a walk in the park. --Nevertheless, I challenge any of my male readers to have managed the feat with as much goodwill and grace.

Such sure and steadfast courage is to be rewarded; I suggested "a sushi joint," and drove us off to Naked Tchopstix, which is "sushi" like a SuperTarget is the five and dime. Some nice white tuna sushi with all the trimmings and green tea to start and then...

He had the "spicy vegetable." Hot, still crunchy, in a nice light, hot sauce and with plenty of veggies, I counted at least six different goodies, from celery to mushrooms to broccoli to a number of things I do not know the names of, but they looked good. He spoke highly of it and I endeavored to steal a taste myself: very nice!

I asked for Bibimbap,**** which I'd had before; the menu claims it is:
"Seasoned vegetable and beef served on top of rice with sweet and hot sauce. Fried eggs on top optional." If you count wood-ear fungus as a vegetable and understand the singular noun to be referring to more different sorts of plant life than can be easily listed, sure, it's accurate. If "sweet and hot sauce" accurately conveys that it will make you sneer at your family-recipe barbecue sauce, sure, close enough... Waitress allowed as how that was okay but on a cold day, Dolsot Bibimbab might be even better, since it's the same thing, only served in a hot stone pot! In actual fact, the dish arrived sizzling. Loudly. In a stone bowl about a half-inch thick, large enough to hold an average cantaloupe and radiating forge-like heat. Lovely fried egg on top. Sauce on the side. "Pour it over and stir," she advised, "before the rice starts to stick! I can help..." I was a bit slow to catch on but ultimately followed directions. The menu advises their cuisine is "Korean, Japanese, Chinese " and I have always thought of it as a gloriously successfully Korean colonization of the other two nation's culinary best (and who could begrudge them so delicious a revenge?); I don't know where Dolsot Bibimbab hails from but sitting in the aromatic steam and radiating heat, shoveling in tasty bits of this and that over good rice in a fine sauce as fast as chopsticks could convey them, I became utterly certain it was from a region where they have Winters as chill as any here. That stuff's good. It's comfort food in every sense of term!

And there's a fine way to wind down a day: good food, good company, pleasant surroundings. Here's to friends -- and here's to waitresses who know what entree to suggest!
* A statement which may cause the historically-hip to inquire, "Galambosian?" Thank you, but no; in my youth I appreciated the occasional fine cigar but there comes time to put away such vices.

** So why doesn't a happenin' and modern-type gal of my state-of-the-art ilk do direct-deposit and all that other modern jazz? 'Cos, well, it's more real to me if I put my grubby little hands on it. If you've never been broke, you might not understand
. Even if you have, you might not unless a fair number of your ancestors were Scots, too. Sheep, fooey, theirs is a lust for cash. Ooooo, money that clinks or folds. Oooooooo.

*** Which is how I know 'tis Carthage and not Alexandria, right?

**** Yes, two different spellings. NT's menu is...different. You move to Korea and compile a menu in the the local lingo and we'll see how well you do. Me, I just trust them to serve good food; I'm slowly working my way through the menu and appreciate how few people ever manage to be terse and vague at the same time!


Carteach said...

Not a .... horrible.... time spent. I understand his patience.
Food sounds yummy. Now it's 2am.. and I'm suddenly hungry...

Roberta X said...

You're on your own with the sauce but the rest of the dish starts with good-quality sticky rice, very tender cooked beef sliced thinly across the grain, possibly a good flank steak. Then add shredded carrot, bias-cut celery, something that looks like thin radish slices, some sweet peppers, something DV thinks might be bamboo (firm transparent yellow julienned strips of mild and unfamiliar taste), various green items and wood-ear fungus, satueeing the ingedients that need it; top with a fried egg, yolk fried out and sprinkled with some spice in the form of tiny black strips. Serve in a hot bowl with a big spoon, stir together at the table, pour sauce over, and enjoy! :)

Between that dish, sweet and sour beef from Thai Cafe, and the stunning burnt offerings from King Ribs, I live in a town where spicy beef lovers can eat high off the....hog?

Anonymous said...

Well, metal pot handles are so you can take the pot off the stove top, and stick it straight into the oven. Plus, I've seen enough broken plastic pot handles to be happy to buy a pot or pan I'll never have to replace.

Somewhat paradoxically, I've found that the "stay cool" metal handles on my Calphalon do, in fact, stay cool when on the stovetop.

-- jed

Roberta X said...

You may yet tempt me to give up my 60-year-old Revere Ware. Maybe.

Carteach said...

I'm a cast iron fan. Pans, dutch ovens, etc. You only forget ONCE to grab the handle with something.

Cast iron cooks like nothing else... but needs to be treated right.

Thanks Roberta... I just got done saying I didn't feel like cooking dinner... then I read your response... Now I am REAL hungry.

Icy roads, sleet, rain, wonder if the 4x4 will get me to the nearest Chinese restaurant? I know the Thai place is too far.... sigh.

Roberta X said...

I love cast-iron but have not had the free time to treat it right in years. :( I used to bake chocolate-chip pan cookies in my very well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and there was nothing better!

I swan, when my ship comes in, I will own a cast-iron wok, a two-burner griddle, and another giant skillet. In the meantime, it's very old copper-bottomed steel and very new nonstick for me.

Carteach said...

Mission accomplished!

To keep a big order simple, I just went with Beef Lo Mein....

Still good.

Thanks for placing the thought!

phlegmfatale said...

Sounds like a lovely day, actually, and you made the most of the time with the venues available to you. I call that clever.