Monday, October 18, 2010

And the unexpected time off runs short

...'bout bloody time. Let's just say the wheels ground slowly, but ground exceeding small. Regular employment to return next week and everything's fine. But enough about's by you?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Three meals in stages


A belated celebration for a friend's 40th birthday. "Come for dinner. I'll give you a steak."

- Consider the steak. Some sirloins triple-wrapped in the downstairs freezer, bought on a trip to Costco while on a buy-in-bulk-save-money binge. The idea of barbecuing them doesn't appeal and the standard bistro browned-in-butter, while tasty, has been done. This is a birthday. And we all live in a city. Gravy is usually something that comes out of a can, why not make something with sufficient gravy that it becomes an occasion rather than a $6.99 lunch special?

- Remember the Swiss Steak recipe from a Mennonite cookbook read at the in-laws while out of town. Remember also that Swiss Steak was something often served as a TV dinner in the 70s. But Mennonites don't watch TV and maybe the mealy, tough, buried in overly sweet tomato sauce variation never made it to them. Or from them. Vaguely recall that the Mennonite variation involved beating a cut of round (or marinating or simmering steak) thin, dredging it in flour, browning it in butter and cooking it in stock for...well, awhile.

- Rescind the original steak offer, slightly: "Still steak. But with lots of gravy."

- Receive reply: "Steak with gravy? Ye gods. Can it get any better?"

- Start looking for a decent recipe for simmered steak or Swiss Steak or something that doesn't involve an envelope of Lipton French Onion Soup mix tossed in at the last second. Come across a website of a nice Roman Catholic lady and remember that you've done all this a few months before when craving the gravy-rich meals that your nice German aunt made when you were a kid. Ignore most of the nice Catholic lady's tips except for the volume of stock and the cooking time.

- The night before the birthday meal, thaw two sirloins, beat thin with a mallet. This probably isn't necessary, the cut's tender enough not to need it, and you could probably have just cut them in half width-wise, but do it anyhow.

- Head out to a job interview the next day. Be confident that there's a frozen container of homemade dark chicken stock downstairs to provide a base for the gravy later that evening. Yeah, chicken and beef playing footsie in an enamel frying pan, there's probably something unholy happening here. Ignore any apprehensions.

- Get home, heat some unsalted butter in the pan, dredge the steaks in flour and pepper as the butter browns. Toss in one steak, brown both sides in the brown butter. Withdraw, toss in some minced green onion and mushrooms. When they look nice and soft, add the second steak and head downstairs to fetch the homemade stock from the freezer.

- Find instead, a small container of three bean chili. Tasty, but impractical for the situation at hand.

- Raid the pantry. Find a can of Cambell's beef stock held for just such emergencies. Cut the stock with 2/3rds water and 1/3rd red wine and pour over the browned steaks, mushrooms and onions. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer covered for 2 and a half hours. Take the steaks out at the end and boil down the gravy for a few minutes until it's thick.

- Feed hungry friend tender steak covered in very rich gravy. And a splendid time is guaranteed for all. Hide leftover gravy in the fridge for future use.


- Thanksgiving Sunday. Drive to a small town on Lake Erie for a family dinner and a large turkey. Devour said bird and take your son for a long walk on the streets you walked with your grandfather when you were five years old. Try not to find yourself in 1973. More importantly, pay attention to the fact your son's minor cough is becoming a significant one.

- Drive back to Toronto with leftover turkey in tinfoil, salad in a cup and the beast's bones in a bag. Plan on replacing the dark stock you were sure was in the freezer.

- Make it home and steal away to a local and still open grocery while your wife gives the boy a steamy hot bath to clear his head. Stock up on enough celery, onions, garlic, and carrots to provide for a decent stock and decent soup the next day.

- Grab a poundof fresh ground beef for part three, but ignore for the time being other than putting it in the fridge.

- As for the bones, cut the half-standing carcass into sections, drop in a roasting pan with chopped celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Toss it all with a bit of oil and put it in a 400 degree oven for an hour. Flip them around once, then put back in for another hour. It all comes out vaguely caramelized and frighteningly dark. Divide the spoils between two stock pots, cover with water and let simmer until it's food, rather than simply burnt stuff in water.

- Cook down until it's good food and freeze most of it. Save some for the morning and give it to a sick little boy who needs something homemade.


- Remember the leftover gravy in the fridge awaiting your appetite.

- Toast two slices of whole wheat bread, spread a very small amount of butter on each warm slice. Very small. Maybe a teaspoon.

- Divide the ground beef into two thin patties drop them on a hot pan with a very small amount of oil (half a teaspoon) and two shallots. Forget about them until you see red blood rising on the raw side, flip them over and find beautifully browned, almost crispy (but not burnt) meat looking at you. Make it happen on both sides.

- Find the leftover gravy in the fridge, it's a bit thick and cold. Add a drop of red wine and heat quickly in a small pan until it's warm and rich.

- Drop the now-cooked almost-crispy patties on the toast, cover with the gravy.

- The hot hamburger sandwich (call it chopped steak at a stretch) shared between you and your wife and a cold beer and a few potato chips as the scent of wine and stock and warm cooking fills the house. Another instance that's more than the sum of it's $6.99 lunch special parts.

- Consider your present situation. Dignified grey at the temples spreading to the rest of the scalp. Job interviews. And don't forget all the free-floating anxiety. But really, try not to worry so much. After all, everyone's gotta eat.

October, 2010.

Bold statement

An admission of mild kleptomania; letter received at some time in the late 80s. She did stop stealing chemistry equipment, I believe, and eschewed the political affiliations.

Friday, October 08, 2010

More on that Ford fellow who's supposed to be the antichrist or a saviour...

Unmitigated Drivel

"At the end of one council session a few months ago, I followed Ford out of the chamber. We hadn’t been introduced, and he didn’t know who I was. ...Ford, lost in his own thoughts, paid them no mind. He was looking at himself in the mirrored wall of the elevator, tilting his head from side to side, stroking his cheek in that caressingly feline way he touches himself, smiling approvingly. He likes what he sees. He believes Toronto loves him, believes Toronto can’t wait to be annexed into Ford Country. He may be right. I could almost hear him purr."

The end of Gerald Hannon's incomplete and occasionally bizarre Ford profile in Toronto Life (he brings up the feline angle twice, benefiting nobody other than cat fetishists). Granted, it's Toronto Life. You shouldn't have expected much. Hannon points out a few inconsistencies in Ford's council attendance (quoting only Adam Vaughan and Kyle Rae, not exactly Ford fans) and tax schemes (the math won't work), but primarily seems inordinately interested in Ford's family history and drops as much lurid information as possible with some excuse about Ford facing 'tabloid fodder.'

I care far less about Ford's family life than I do about his habit of skipping the truth, something Hannon doesn't look at too closely. He calls a 'model of transparency' but misses the fact that still lists his charity as having raised $100,000 for charity when the charity's administrator's revealed the number is actually $37,294.68 as of August, 2010.

Ford's site still claims $100,000 as of Oct 8th, 2010. I'll leave it to the reader to decide if the number actually matters, or if something's getting spun a wee bit thin, or if our potential Mayor or his best and brightest don't know how to call their webmaster. I just think it's more important that Gerald Hannon's kittycat fixation with everybody's favourite Rob.

Mitigated Drivel
Margaret Wente giveth and taketh away her true Ford sentiments in the Globe and Mail. She lists his pros and cons, often in the same sentence:

"Rob Ford is not nearly as smart as George Smitherman. But maybe that’s a good thing."

"The large and solid Mr. Ford has all the flair, intellect and vision of a block of concrete. He’s also the only candidate who seems to get what’s wrong at City Hall."

"Mr. Ford may be as dumb as a bag full of hammers, but the last guy was a Harvard economics graduate, and look what good it did..."

Ford's team is probably at the 'with friends like these...' stage in their relationship with Peg. They might want to read her piece about impulse control before firing off any missives. Peg might want to review it before using the term 'bag full of hammers' in print again.

"(Ford's) success is a reaction to frustration with current Mayor David Miller’s hopeful rhetoric and the failure of visible change. Rob Ford won’t change things, in fact he promises to unchange them. He’s The Unchanger. He’ll stop the patronizing jabber. ('He talks like us,' said a voter. 'He doesn’t use words like partnerships and enhance.')"

Rick Salutin's 'Rob Ford and the Loss of Hope' also in the Globe and Mail. It's actually not quite as grim as all that, and makes an interesting point about the wild rhetoric of hope or fear. I deeply fear anyone who feels words like 'partnerships' and 'enhance' are offensive on a spiritual level, but maybe that's just me.

It was loss, not death, dude
"In the media, Ford has been described as everything from the death of hope to a one-night stand you immediately regret after getting drunk at a bar. That Ford’s opponents routinely employ such furious rhetoric to portray not just Ford, but his supporters, as 'angry,' isn’t just ironic. It’s hilarious."

Lorrie Goldstein in the Sun, pointing out some of the aforementioned wild rhetoric. He has a point. And yes, this is coming from the Sun. Make all the pot/kettle comments you need to, just keep them in your interior monologue.

I wasn't paying much attention

"When the subject turns to the havoc wreaked by amalgamation and his late father’s role in that debacle as an MPP in the Harris government, Ford plays the sympathy card, painting his mayoral competitors as unjust attackers of dear dead Dad. Groans fill the chamber. Someone calls him a crybaby. Ford sits stunned."

Enzo Di Matteo in Now Magazine, taking an evening's worth of debate and transforming it into over 790 words that lack details about what was actually said over the evening. It ends on what might pass as a 'zinger' in some circles; me, I just wanted the rest of the damn story.

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