Well, it’s New Year’s Eve and time to think of a realistic and achievable resolution for 2010. I’ve usually stuck to my personal favorites….Don’t smoke (never have)…Don’t gamble (never have)…and Eat more vegetables (already eat a ton). But this year I’m going to go out on a limb and actually change something I do.
A couple of nights ago I decided to make one of my wife’s favorite meals: Spaghettini with Tuna Sauce. This is an excruciatingly simple sauce recipe that calls for great olive oil, a few cloves of fresh crushed garlic, home-canned tomatoes, and a tin of flaked white tuna added at the very end (it should not cook).
While the sauce was simmering I decided to prepare my own bowl with a few extra ingredients: black olives, capers, and fresh garlic. Not a bad thing since these are the basic ingredients of a traditional Putanesca sauce. After adding the aforementioned items I happened to notice some boiled kale sitting in the fridge, so I added a few chopped-up leaves to my bowl. Then I saw the semi-sundried tomatoes sitting at the back of the fridge, so I chopped up and threw in a couple of these. A jar of hot Italian peppers caught my eye, so in went a big dollop. There was an almost-empty tube of anchovy paste sitting on a fridge shelf, so I squeezed out the last of it into my bowl. Would this be fishy enough I asked myself? Perhaps not…so in went a generous scrapping of tuna bottarga to enhance the whole thing (tuna….tuna caviar…a natural, right?). Finally I threw in some feta cheese for good measure. I had noticed some nice fresh red peppers in the vegetable tray but decided to show some restraint .
When my wife got home I served out the al-dente spaghettini, hers with the plain tuna sauce and mine with all the “enhancements”. Now, in principle, everything I added to my bowl should have been perfectly complementary; these are all ingredients that in various combinations form the basis of excellent pasta sauces. But it tasted like dung! I looked over enviously at my wife eating her meal with quiet hums of appreciation for its deliciousness. “How’s yours” she asked. “Great” I replied, afraid to tell the truth and get her withering “You do it all the time” stare of disapproval.
So my 2010 resolution is to stop f#^ing around with great traditional recipes and rather to focus on a less-is-more approach of a few excellent ingredients prepared simply and appreciated for their unique flavors. The Sasquatch is coming for dinner tonight and I’m making Rabbit Stifado as per my friend Peter’s (Kalofagas) recipe. I promise to stick to it to the letter!
I first read about this on Leisureguy’s blog a few days ago and it has really captured my imagination. This would make a great parent-child project/event if you’re a bike nut like me. Or perhaps I should say “bike-ownership nut” since, according to the Kommandant and my kids, I prefer to own them rather than actually ride them (so much for preemptive strikes). Fortunately my adult kids (it really feels good to say that, BTW – so much for empty-nest syndrome) are both bike nuts too, so I suspect it could really work as a family project.
Anyway, it turns out that it is possible to build a high-quality, long-lasting, and renewable bike from bamboo!!! No shit! And it won’t rust, to boot! You’ve really got to see this, here. I am seriously thinking of signing up for the workshop in the Spring. And I love the company’s Mission to bring bamboo-bike technology to developing nations so that everyone has access to this amazing form of transportation.
P.S. My only concern is the weight-limit of the frame. Do they grow elephant-bamboo for special applications? I can just see my bike frame with its 6 inch diameter bamboo!
I don’t usually read sports columns in the newspaper as I have no interest in competitive sports and even less in sports heroes. I am however interested in the psychology of why and how people create heroes, and their reaction when these heroes fail them.
Sports writer Jack Todd has an excellent article about Tiger Woods in the December 19th issue of the Montreal Gazette. I find it important because it deals with the consequences of parents’ efforts to create super-kids, a phenomenon that I witness daily in my contacts with people both personally and professionally. A couple of salient quotes from the article:
” Tiger Woods is what happens when you turn your child into a machine. Pity his father, Earl Woods, is no longer around to see the destruction he has wrought”
“What Tiger Woods, his father, his handlers and his sponsors failed to understand was the simplest of all truths: we are human. We are not robots”.
From the halls of elite private schools to the soccer fields and hockey arenas, I see parents, rich and poor, obsessed with their children’s success. They stick them into every conceivable activity, pressure them to excel, and stage-manage their appearance and time, until there is little left of the child but a projection of the parents’ own aspirations and dreams. Or they want their kids to have “everything” as if earning possessions was somehow a dirty word. Those who can afford it put their kids in elite private schools as if they can protect and shelter them from reality (until it turns out that these schools are breeding grounds for pedophile teachers who can deliver just that extra measure of “personal attention” the parents aren’t paying for). And parents yell, scream, and fight with each other and officials at their kids’ sports events, setting the excellent example that if you don’t get what you want, hey, just beat it out of the other guy. And then we wonder how the Tiger Woods and Conrad Blacks of the world are created!
Kids are not machines. They are not “mini-mees”. They are not here to help us re-live and rectify our own failures. It is natural to take pride in your kids’ successes and to feel sad at their failures. But they are their successes and failures. Being over-identified with your kids’ lives is a recipe for disaster and a sure way to make you persona-non-grata if and when they finally get their shit together.
What many people don’t understand is that it’s good to struggle. It’s good to experience both the pleasure of success and the pain of failure. It’s good to be told “no” on occasion. It’s good to not be handed everything on a silver platter. It’s good to be allowed to figure life out for yourself. Because in the end, the two most important foundations for happiness are, first, the ability to self-actualize – to become your own person and not a reflection of someone else – and secondly, to develop compassion for others through your own suffering. This is the root of what we call Emotional Intelligence (EI) and essential for connecting with others so that you can experience real love.
It is a truism in psychology that most psychopathology emanates from two extremes of experience: One is the extreme of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. The other is the extreme of control (both overt and subtle) whereby the individual cannot differentiate and separate himself from his parents and become his own person, thereby failing to meet his psychic needs as a unique and special entity.
Serenity now….insanity later.
My daughter and I have been crafting a new reality show to pitch to the major networks: Tackle the Pope. With a one million dollar prize, teams are encouraged to find new venues and ways to tackle the Pope to the ground. I can see it now: Disguises include fake Bishop and Cardinal outfits, black-clad hunchbacked Italian Nonnas, and dwarfs disguised as flower-girls with offerings to His Holiness. The team with the most successful tackles in a season wins the grand prize.
And think of the spin-offs: Mug the Mullah, Push the Patriarch, Wrestle the Rabbi…the options are as numerous as there are religious leaders!
Yesterday’s Christmas shave was a return to my first high-end shave cream, Trufitt & Hill’s West Indian Limes. This cream may well be credited with my serious re-entry into gourmet shaving some 4 years ago. I had dallied with DE shaving in the ’80′s, but, as hard to believe as this may be for younger shavers, there was very little access to high-end shaving gear in those days. Not that it didn’t exist, but distribution was the pits. A few specialty stores offered a limited and very expensive selection of brushes and razors. To put it in perspective, I bought a marginal Mason Pearson Super Badger brush in New York for $175 in 1986! That was a lot of money back then (hey, it’s a lot of money now!).
Then came a perfect storm of events that are often credited with the traditional shaving renewal. Many credit Corey Greenberg and his 2005 segment on NBC’s Today Show as the catalyst that sent men scrambling to find DE razors and traditional shaving concoctions. The second event was not really an event as much as a revolution, and I’m referring here of course to the internet and its ability to instantaneously spread the word, as well as provide access to just about anything you could dream of. Suddenly, small, marginal, traditional shaving gear makers were flooded with orders for their goods, and the rest is history.
The T&H West Indian Limes was such an explosion of scent it went straight to my brain-stem. It must have caused some serious re-wiring of the neurons, because before I knew it I was spending the GDP of a small developing nation on shave shit. Before long the T&H had been displaced by dozens (conservatively speaking) of other creams and soaps, gradually finding its was to the back of one of my many cabinets.
Christmas is always a time of renewal and fresh starts for me (along with new Year’s Day and Easter Sunday), so a shave with the T&H West Indian Limes seemed like a good idea (back to the beginning as it were). And it didn’t disappoint. The first sniff always causes an involuntary flow of saliva as the overpowering citrus smell hits the olfactory receptors. And the cream is a superb shaver, thick gobs of lather aplenty for 3-4 rich passes with the E.J. Chatswtorth and a fresh Shark blade.
I realize that it’s been quite some time since the last shave post (Thank God, some of you may mutter!). I’ve gone back to the badger, the boar having run its course for now. The contrast between the two types of brushes was quite pleasant though, in a Yin Yang sort of way. I have, in the past, been accused of elitist sentiments; a contention that I strongly disagree with. Elitists tend to cut a broad swath through all their interests, accoutrement, and lifestyle in general. I do not. My elitism, such as it is, is limited to a few interests, where I prefer the label “gourmet” ; I appreciate quality because in the long run it pays, and craftsmanship because it’s a link to people and traditions rather than just machines and convenience. The boar brush explorations are a perfect example. I have no difficulty in using and appreciating low-priced items, and even comparing them favorably to high-end versions. My favorite after-shaves are from the Booster line at $10 for half a liter! My all-time favorite shave cream: The J.M. Fraser at $12 for a pound jar. And the best blade: The Treet Blue Special at about a dime. Elitist? Who, me? Puh!
Now excuse me, my Rolex says its time to ride my hand-made road bike on the Tacx trainer.
Scheduling a number of people for a face-to-face meeting is getting tougher and tougher. And the cost of traveling to a client’s location to make a presentation is also on the rise. There’s little more disappointing than getting there and finding that half the people scheduled have been called away by other priorities. Of course nothing beats face-to-face for making the deal, which is why recession or not, business people continue to travel to their customers in order to close escrow. But for introductory presentations intended to gauge interest, my partners and I are finding web-based presentations are a pretty good way of making a pitch and seeing if there is interest to pursue further.
We’ve tested a number of on-line presentation services such as Go-To-Meeting, SlideRocket, and WebEx. They’re all very good with a huge portfolio of options and tools such as highlighters, cursor swapping, etc. But regular readers know that I’m a “less-is-more” kind of person, as I find that 99% of options (in anything) usually distract from the task at hand.
Up until now, the sheer complexity of setting up an on-line presentation has kept me from using such a service at anytime other than a real emergency. Not to mention the cost…all of the services named above ask for pretty hefty monthly subscription fees (around $50) regardless of frequency of use. Since we do about 6 of these types of presentations a year, an annual subscription of $600 seems rather steep.
Then there’s Glance. We’ve just started using this ultra-simple, uber-fast, and inexpensive service ($9.95 per use) and really love it. It offers virtually nothing…and that’s it’s greatest strength. You email the meeting attendees your Glance URL, they click on it and are immediately connected to your presentation. Whatever you see on your computer screen, they see. For audio, we find the simplest way is to just call in on a land-line and get put on speakerphone at the client’s location. That’s it. Worth a look if you are in a situation where you would like someone else to share your screen.
To say that I am an olive oil fanatic would be an understatement…I even own a copy of the one and only official textbook of olive oil production used in agriculture schools around the world.
There is no “best”olive oil just as there is no “best” wine. There are however good and bad olive oils, the latter usually because they are either old and oxidized, or blended with inferior oils in order to increase profitability. But apart from this crap, and so long as the oil is fresh and from a “first cold pressing” , olive oil preference is a matter of personal taste. My own favorite is Ravida olive oil from Sicily. The Discovery channel did a special some years ago on the great olive oils of the world and Ravida was featured as a particularly fine example. They were right. It is however, extremely difficult to find, although only moderately expensive around $50 per liter (there are many more expensive than this).
Natalia Ravida is President of the Ravida olive oil family estate, following in the footsteps of her father, Nicolo. We have exchanged emails over the last few years and I guess I made it to her mailing list, because last year she sent me a recipe for sunny-side up eggs. A recipe for sunny-side up eggs you say? Crazy. What could be simpler? But most good cooks will tell you that the simplest things are often the hardest to do extraordinarily well. And eggs are especially vulnerable because of their sensitivity to heat. My previous favorite method for their preparation was courtesy of chef Pol Martin in the 1970′s. He uses extremely low heat in a covered pan with a couple tablespoons of water. The water steams the egg, cooking the top without needing to flip it over. But I’ve always found the white somewhat rubbery using this method.
Natalia’s method (slightly adapted and paraphrased by me) produces the most amazing sunny-side up eggs you will ever taste. Here it is:
1. Warm a tablespoon of Ravida (or other) olive oil over medium heat in a pan.
2. Crack each egg into a small bowl so that you can pick out any errant pieces of shell that would otherwise set into the flesh of the egg if you cracked it directly into the hot pan.
3. Slide the first egg into the olive oil and repeat with each additional egg that you are using. The time in-between will allow the egg white to set and avoid the eggs from crossing into each other’s “turf”.
4. As the eggs begin to set, tip the pan and scoop some olive oil into a tablespoon. Baste the eggs with this hot oil, which will cook the tops at the same time as the pan is cooking the bottoms. Keep doing this basting until the top of each egg no longer has that slimy look. The yolks should still be clear and yellow/orange.
5. Slide the egg onto a plate, drizzle with extra oil if desired, season with a coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve with a good French baguette for dipping into the yolk.
Natalia’s cookbook Seasons of Sicily: Recipes from the South of Italy can be found on Amazon, here. I just ordered a copy.