Adventures in Cooking: Part 6

Years after leaving Olga’s I find myself to be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to restaurants. There are many things that I look for and some I can overlook, but what I have the most trouble getting over is the quality of the food. As a cook you had to learn how to juggle and learn it quickly. However, the quality of a meal isn’t just up to the cook, there are also those that are responsible for what the cook has to work with, the prep cooks.
Prepping food was a meditation, a mindless task that looked like anyone could do. In my own kitchen at home there are steps in preparing a meal that I watch people try to skip and usually some form of verbal back and forth takes place. Let’s start with the basics, wash the food! Nobody wants celery with dirt still on it. Bugs love to hide in lettuce. Spinach is known for E-coli poisoning. The list goes on and on, wash the damn food.
There are tools that every kitchen should have just for prepping. We had small “coring scoops” for tomatoes. These were tiny spoons with a spiked rim that would dig out the core of the tomato with the stem so that the rough material wasn’t served with the food. Don’t be a cheep skate by skipping this, nobody will love you for it.
Just about every weekend my wife and I go out to dinner and enjoy ourselves for a bit before the week with no sleep starts all over again. She has been on a health kick lately and orders the salad where ever we are. Almost 50% of the time she receives a plate or bowl with lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens. When she digs the fork in, she will find chunks of lettuce core hidden under the roughage. This doesn’t upset me, this pisses me off. I can’t tell you how many hours I stood at the counter and slammed heads of lettuce into the steal surface to twist the core out and throw it away. It takes less than two seconds and these little shits are too lazy to offer their guests a good meal. It’s lettuce, you don’t cook it, it’s not fried, it’s up there with serving wine. You pull it out, throw it on a plate, and serve. There is literally nothing to serving a salad so to skip a step is to show what kind of lazy asshole you really are.
I will never be jealous of the poor bastard who is stuck with the job of slicing onions. In such kitchens like Olga’s this wasn’t done by knife as one would think from seeing too much television, instead it is with some kind of hand powered economic slicer. You place it on top of a plastic pan and slice away until the pan it full, then you move onto the next. There is nothing enjoyable about standing above a container filled with twenty sliced onions. Your eyes water, nose starts to run, heaven forbid that some snot drips into the pan, and before you know it you can’t see a damn thing. If there is anyone who deserves higher pay or tips at the end of the night it’s that guy but you will never see him.
We had a crew that came in early in the morning to do our prepping. They were from a local home for the developmentally challenged and worked part time doing many of the task I have just described above. They were quiet, didn’t want to be disturbed, and when their shift was over, they were huddled out of the kitchen to a full-size van that brought them. They were the mysterious A-team that kept the place going. To their credit if we ran out of stuff during the shift they couldn’t be yelled at and the insults went around the kitchen until someone took out a cutting board and sliced some tomatoes or onions for whatever we were short on.
The grill is the one place where a person should not be multitasking but it happens anyway. I recently went to a local brewery to give it a second chance after not being impressed the first time with their beer. I kept hearing that the food was amazing but the beer was still so-so. My wife and I went and I was encouraged to get a burger that was on special only that week. A large group of people sat at a table next to us and before we knew it, we were ordering another round of beers because the food was not out yet. The place was packed. I should have known things would slow down. The table behind us, who ordered after us, received their food while we looked at one another with that “what the fuck” look on our faces. A minute later our food arrived. The burger looked good but after waiting forty minutes and added another $12 to our bill what wouldn’t look good? I ate some of the fries first waiting for the burger to cool for a minute then bit in. The first bite tasted like carbon, I didn’t think much of it until I took another bite and it tasted like it had been dipped in charcoal with a little bit of ash sprinkled on top. I peeled the bun open to find the bottom of the burger was black beyond burnt. Whatever toppings I had on the burger that made it special I could not taste. The waitress disappeared and instead of tracking somebody down to complain and risking waiting another forty minutes for food, I ate the damn thing. At least I knew it was sterile.
These are the things that can go wrong at any time in a kitchen. At Olga’s we would scrape the carbon off the bottom of the burger and move on. Normally there wasn’t a complaint and other times the Motherfucker didn’t do a good job. I didn’t, I was responsible, it was my fault, words you will never hear from our generation Z people coming into the work place. I find these things happening more often as we go out to different places. When there is no accountability there is no motivation to do better and you will continue to deliver the same shitty service. That brewery had several complaints about their burgers being burnt before we went there and a few afterwards. Management did their best to help us by taking some drinks off the order but never fixed the problem. Somebody needs to go back to being the dish bitch for a few weeks until they figure out what they had done wrong.
There are a few tools you should consider having in your kitchen. If you cook a lot of meat a bacon press is essential for cooking steaks and burgers in a fast and even way. Ever notice those hand made paddies rise up into round balls over time. This is where the bacon press steps in and makes your burgers fit on the bun and appear more professional.
If you sauté vegetables for fajitas, or maybe some onion and peppers with fried liver, you may want to get a cheese melting dome. This holds the steam in cooking the onions and pepper faster. Once you become accustomed to using the dome you can cut the time down on serving and enjoy a meal without over doing the vegetables.
A good knife is the most important part of your kitchen, skip the copper pots and pans, don’t become a member of pampered chef until you have an all in one knife. I’m not talking about those monstrosities that slice tin cans in half, those are for suckers with extra cash in their wallets and poor taste in television. Those people deserve what they get. No, I’m talking about the traditional chef’s knife, that if you spend the time and learn properly, will be the only one you need to do almost any job in the kitchen. Those blocks of knives that people get as wedding presents, that’s your family saying you don’t know how to cook, never will, you suck, here you go. The sharpening rods in those sets destroy the blade and before you know it half of the knives are missing because odds are someone in the house doesn’t know how to put shit back where it belongs. Have one knife, there are many like it, but that one is yours.
Always use a cutting board. If I have to explain why then you should stay out of the kitchen. Hell, maybe you should just go back into the woods and live off the land like the filthy animal that you are. Counter tops were not meant for cutting on. The surface will be destroyed and the edge of your blade with suffer as well. Seriously, if you think you don’t need a cutting board go back to whatever primitive Neanderthal land you emerged from.
Things to stay away from include copper pans, you will burn anything you try to cook in these things. The copper heats up fast and you can not judge when to adjust the heat before it’s too late. They look nice in the kitchen but that is it. Skip copper altogether, you should only be surrounded by useful tools that won’t distract you.
Electric gadgets will grow and take up space over time. Unless there is a meal that you make often and need one of these things for the process, I say stay away from them.
Anything from Pampered Chef. Cheaply made, only serves one purpose, and over priced you are not doing yourself any favors by buying from them. I never met a professional that uses any of their products.
If you can, make sure you have a gas stove. Some people prefer electric and hey if you want to travel down that road to hell that’s your choice, go ahead and have fun. Gas is easy to measure and adjust by looking at the flame. It is the way people have cooked for tens of thousands of years, with a flame. That glowing top in the grill I don’t know what that is but its not natural and figuring out the right temperature was never easy. Its up there with using a microwave to cook and there is a special level in hell for that.
Microwaves, see the paragraph above.
To Be Continued….


Notes from St. Patrick’s Day

I was surprised to find that St. Patrick’s Day had come early this year. My first encounter with someone celebrating the holiday was on a Wednesday, five days before the actual event. I was on my lunch break, lunting through downtown with my pipe and spotted a man with a green cowboy hat sporting flashing lights along the rim. I could have assumed that this was the man’s usual attire but it was safe to say with the drunken smirk on his face as he stepped into his car, that he was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, in the middle of the week.
This wasn’t the last early spotting of St. Patrick’s Day debauchery. Let’s remind ourselves what St. Patrick’s Day is all about. This catholic priest comes to the island of Ireland and converts the locals after performing the miracle of running the snakes away. Years later historians would translate the use of snakes to mean prostitutes. Who knows what is true or why this person has their own day? From what I’m told the day isn’t celebrated in Ireland, and if it is, they don’t do it anyway close to how we celebrate it. I was walking to my car on Thursday night and in a completely lit alley between a shitty dive bar and the local State Theater I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. I thought for a moment that maybe a bum was being attacked or someone was hurt, but no, instead it was a couple who was in the middle of a full-blown fuck fest. The alley was lit up with LED lights and there wasn’t a dumpster or corner to hide behind. They were out in the open and from what I could tell in those few seconds they had no inhibitions of what they were doing. As I walked by and tried to ignore what was happening the young man looked over at me, he wasn’t mortified or ashamed of what was happening, instead he smiled a creepy smirk of satisfaction that said “oh ya,” and continued on as if he didn’t have a care in the world. That was Thursday night.
Friday night was the official start for St. Patrick’s Day for some local bars and clubs and it brought out the lowest of the low from all around town. Kalamazoo isn’t a large city and while we have some good things going for us, we are in no way in short supply of our own degenerates and retards. Unable to move my car earlier that night I found myself walking the same path where I spotted the couple the night before and found the streets were busy. The local brewery that I work at on the side was filled and the front of Harvey’s on the Mall was packed with local smokers enjoying their cancer sticks. The alley was being used to unload the band Tab Benoit who had just performed a show that night.
On the corner of the Blue Dolphin I noticed several people lingering outside and flashing lights protruding into the streets. The restaurant had been turned into a nightclub/ rave and the nearby parking lots were packed with cars. In the lot where I park my car, the same spot I pay for every month, I found myself surrounded by cars who failed the parking portion of their driving course and didn’t give a shit about the other people around them. Then there was the guy that was pretending to be on his cell phone. How did I know he was pretending, because he never shut up. He was having a conversation with himself and never let the other person speak, but was responding as if they had given him a full paragraph sized answer to reply to. Not to mention he was looking into the window of a car that he immediately walked away from and weaved in and out of the cars as if he was lost. He kept working his way closer to me and I waited to see if I would have to use my windshield scraper on his face as I cleaned off the inch layer of snow. More people arrived and the man moved towards the back of the lot and disappeared. I own a small car and having said that I expect to not have problems pulling out of parking spots but of course I had to do some insane defensive driving through the clusterfuck of handicapped parkers I was surrounded by. It’s not the handicapped drivers I have a problem with, it’s the people who haven’t figured out over the years what the damn lines are for.
Saturday had us visiting the local brewery and enjoying a pint or two while watching the slew of pretend Irish people stumble through the streets and almost fall on their faces as they climbed down the stairs to the restrooms. People wore beads and the only one I thought might have earned them was the girl from Wednesday night. I saw some Connor McGregor shirts, kiss me I’m Irish, green shirt referring to Irish pot leaves, Fuck me I’m Irish, I’m only Irish for the day, and Soccer jerseys with the Irish flag. Groups of people crossed streets without reading the sign causing cars to screech to a halt and almost run them over. Vomit covered the toilet in the basement with chunks of Lucky Charms stuck to the rim of the bowl. The menu special of the day was a corned beef and sour kraut pizza with thousand island dressing.
I found out three years ago that I am part Irish although the percentage is in debate. Even before I learned this, I never had an inkling to pretend to be Irish or prove how much of a badass I could be by drinking myself into a vomiting fit. St. Patrick’s Day is the one day where responsibility is thrown out the window along with the baby and the bathwater and nobody gives a fuck about anything. They might as well change the name to Irish Mardi Gras. We had our two beers and went home practically sober. My wife who is 100% German could likely drink half of these Irish wannabes under the table. As for myself I have had my share of hung-over mornings and have nothing to prove to anyone. On the way home we stopped at another brewery called Brite Eyes and ended the evening with a night cap in an empty bar. The location might have been the problem for the people who were crawling around downtown. Across the street is the main police station in full view of the windows. Not the place to become fucked up even during a holiday.
We woke up Sunday morning and while it really was St. Patrick’s Day, we had no ambition to go out and have another drink. Instead we worked on the house, make lunch for the rest for the rest of the week, did some shopping, and later I took my daughter for a walk. I walked by Brite Eyes to find the bar dead, completely empty, there wasn’t a single soul in the place except for the bartender. I heard the same thing on YouTube from Chicago. The city was dead, likely all the assholes who partied on Saturday were too hung over to have another go of it. The river was green. People would be shitting green for a week from the crappy green colored beer they ingested all day. Restaurants and bars were over staffed and people were sent home breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t have to attend to drunk assholes who wouldn’t tip them. I have no links to my Irish roots. I don’t know who in my family was Irish or when they came here. After trying a handful of different single malt whiskeys, I have to say that while I’m not opposed to the drink and think it taste “okay” it really isn’t for me. I don’t enjoy soccer and I can’t watch Irish movies due to not understand a single person in those damn things. I have never been attracted to red heads and Connor McGregor is a great showman but not a good fighter. I don’t care who will be offended by this. The only day that the Irish are celebrated in this country is the same day that everyone acts like an asshole stereotype and make the Irish look like a bunch of degenerate fucks. Maybe if you want to celebrate your Irish roots you should sit down and read Ulysses or drink a real Irish beverage like whiskey instead of green shitty beer. Don’t want to be insulted than don’t be an ass. If your feelings are hurt than find a copy of the Crying Game and have a few shots, cut out the middle man of fake fun and drinking and move on to being depressed, isn’t that what being Irish is all about?


The Last Rhino

I feel like I have been here before. Looking at the news and thinking we are next. The last male white rhino died earlier this week and I find myself thinking about it over and over again. What does it take for the planet to wake up to what we are doing?

I went on a walk with my daughter today. We climbed Westnedge hill and looked over the city. I thought about the flood that happened a few weeks earlier. Places like the north east and Denmark are seeing record lows as the arctic tries to figure out what to do without any ice to hold the cold polar vortex at bay. The jet stream has shifted, no longer assisting jets on their travels. This is a lot to take in.

Since i finished the Self Authoring program I have seen some changes in myself that i thought I should share. In the past 3 weeks i have had 1 beer. for those that know me that will come as a shock. also, while i have been debating on when to enjoy my pipe, I came to the conclusion that the pipe and my tobacco cellar should be retired until a moment comes my way when I can relax and enjoy the hobby again. So what the hell do I do for fun? I guess I will have to figure it out.

I pulled an old Remington portable model 1 typewriter from my basement, a project I picked up a few months back but set aside due to time restraints. The black body and well preserved case caught my eye when i first saw it. Usually i prefer the Royal desktops but I thought having the portable would encourage me to write in public again. I had to sand down some of the rubber rollers that had flattened out and was keeping the paper from working over the platen. There are several books I would like to write, adventures and characters that are becoming impatient as they run around in my head.

The more I listen to the news the harder it is to comprehend everything that is happening. I looked up climate change podcast and found myself disappointed in what i found. One in particular that was recorded in Michigan ended up being a denial show where the host spit out free market rhetoric and how renewable energy was a fraud that would hurt poor people. Having said all of that, I am seriously considering bring back my old podcast. It won’t be the same podcast exactly, but a revised version that I get to run. the last podcast I ran was on American Prepper Radio and as far as I know you can still find the show and episodes on there, but I don’t recommend it since it is outdated by a few years and the content no longer applies. I was thinking of doing a shorter show, three days a week, 15-20 minutes covering the latest in climate change, economics, and societal collapse. i don’t know when it will start but the idea is there and I already know how to start and record a podcast having do that two years ago. i can’t be the only one needing to talk about this. There has to be others out there hearing what I’m hearing and wondering what the hell is going on? The collapse experiment was a nice test run, I liked the idea, maybe it’s time to improve it now and create something worth sharing.


Retiring my pipe

Smoking a pipe has been an on again off again hobby/ habit for the last twenty years. granted the majority of those years I didn’t smoke. there were several years in between where a pipe was lost or willingly thrown out thinking it was done with it. a little over a year ago i picked up the hobby again. The big difference this time was that i had learned about the difference between pharmacy tobacco and higher quality tobacco. I was only familiar with Captain Black until that point and wasn’t well versed in the other pharmacy tobaccos. I thought Half and Half was the next best thing the first time i tried it, then I found a whole new world through YouTube. Companies i had never heard of before were selling styles and blends i had never heard of before. there were English, orientals, aromatics, and vapor tobaccos. I searched through reviews trying to find something that sounded good and a year later i have a cellar filled with all kinds of blends I am waiting to try, and wait i will.

Pipe smoking doesn’t fit into my life these days. Having a little one at home leaves little room to enjoy a few minutes in solitude. I tried using my lunch break to enjoy a smoke only to have people asking “who was smoking a cigar?” No, that wasn’t a good blend. Weekends i want to spend as much time with my family as I can therefore getting the pipe out is usually not on the list of things to do. Instead of getting frustrated I have decided that it is a good time for the pipe to join the rest of the cellar and age gracefully until they are dug up a few years from now. Maybe when the little one starts school? There isn’t going to be a big loss in taking a break, hell half of the tobacco in the cellar isn’t being made anymore. the only thing I really want to do in the meantime is make a last order for a few blends that might not be around when i take the old pipe back out again. Wild Hare by Lane Limited has become a personal favorite. Founding Fathers is an enjoyable blend that might find itself on the chopping block with the way things are going. I know there will be a few that I haven’t tried yet that i will wish i had more of later but such is life.

The pipe will be cleaned one last time and the rest of the opened tobacco will find itself in mason jars to spent a few years aging. This appears to be a repeating trend in my life. today i noticed that in the past two and a half weeks I have had one beer, one. I was sick with the flue two weeks ago and since then i had one drink on St. Patrick’s Day. i wasn’t that excited about it either. Who knows, maybe that will be tossed to the wayside as well. Couldn’t hurt, i could lose a few pounds.