Tag Archive | Indoors

A Legume By Any Other Name…OR…Poe’s Adventures With Beans…

Thoughtful Readers… 
 
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As if someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
(…..”Tis some memory” I muttered “tapping fully at mind’s door;
Only this and nothing more.”…..)

(…..Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak November,
As I tried that eve to tender, words to paper, sow the seed,
Here I sit now almost sleeping, softly silently composing,
Intent upon the task before me lest my eyes should fail to heed,
The silent nature of the passage, here for all to see and read;
Only this and nothing more…..) 
 
While in the midst of this most stately of Edgar Allan’s works my mind wandered off to the kitchen and to a subject close to my heart—food. Having a small get-together to attend in a few days, I was trapped in a plethora of ideas about what food dish I would throw together for everyone’s pleasure. Examining my pantry produced little in the way of answers….largely because there was little in the way of contents. Picking up a lonely can of green beans, which happened to be on a shelf right next to a lonely can of chick peas, I started down memory lane intent on arriving at a perfectly acceptable solution. But like so many ventures of this kind, I quickly lost focus on the task at hand, turning instead to random thoughts of Poe and blogging. (How those two thoughts intertwine, I have NO idea!!…).

In any event, my stroll through memories almost forgotten led me to thinking about legumes and how many varieties were in stock at my local grocery. After about five minutes of intense introspection I had arrived at a list that I was fairly certain could be documented easily.

Here’s your challenge…..While sitting in front of your computer (like me..!), make a list of all the different varieties of legumes (okay, lets make it just beans..) you can think of that are in stock at YOUR local grocery…Remember, beans only..(that means no garden peas, or snow peas, or sugar snaps, or lentils..). Please don’t force me to try to describe the differences between beans and peas. It has something to do with hollow stems vs. solid stems and tendrils on leaves, etc., etc. I can’t begin to recite the taxonomy involved and never will…because I just don’t care.!!! For this exercise….fresh beans, canned beans, dry beans, frozen beans….doesn’t matter. Oh, one other thing. I said varieties of beans. That means BBQ Beans, or Pork and Beans, or Baked Beans, or Chili Beans don’t count…..

Okay then, Ready, Set, Go…………..You still here.?? Come on get busy.!! Shouldn’t take more than two or three minutes to write them down. No peeking at my list either.!!

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List finished.?? I would guess that you should have no problem coming up with seven or eight different beans, maybe more. Vegans or Vegetarians could probably come up with at least twice that many.

This is my list the way I wrote them down along with my thoughts as I was working:

Green Beans (various cuts and styles)
Wax Beans (variation on green bean..??)
Kidney Beans (at least two variations–dark red, light..)
Pinto Beans
Black Beans
Cannellini Beans
Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas) (These could be peas, not beans..??)
Navy Beans
Great Northern Beans
Lima Beans
Butter Beans (Related to Lima Beans, but different..??)
Fava Beans
Soy Beans (Edamame) (pea vs. bean..?)
Mung Beans
Cranberry Beans
Black Eyed Peas (really a bean..?? not like a garden pea)
Field Peas (really a bean, like black eyes..??)
Crowder Peas (bean..??) (I think Crowder Peas and Field Peas are essentially the same bean..)

How did you do?? I feel certain that some of you have varieties in your market that I don’t have…and some of you have a lot more varieties than I do. That’s okay. This isn’t about winning or losing..!! And it isn’t about right or wrong, or how good your memory is….or whether you wrote down a pea instead of a bean for that matter. It is about thinking outside of the bean box. There are a tremendous number of bean varieties available to us….and most of us have not tried a lot of them. I was surprised at how many different varieties I found in my local area and how many more I did not find. My list is not an exhaustive one by any means. Looking around the Internet there are dozens of varieties out there that are not available to me where I live.

I can see the questions coming now. “What were you thinking??” Me?? I was thinking that if I did this, maybe you should too.. “Why was this exercise important??” Ah, that IS the question!! And the subject of my next post…..

Be well,

Howard

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Book Lovers—Unite!!!

Thoughtful Reader…

I guess I could set up a poll to answer these questions, but why bother… It is so much simpler to just write up this latest post and let you chime in if you want to.

So, here’s the deal. I like to read. You have probably figured that out by now. I don’t own a Kindle or other e-reader, so that means my appetite must be sated by real books…real, bound, printed books. I think I mentioned previously that I counted over 150 actual titles read last year. So, I think you can start to see the enormity of this problem. Every year, usually in the fall, I gather up my books and start boxing up the ones that I feel obligated to part with. I have to do this, really I do. In moments of clarity I find myself looking in horror at the rising mound of printed paper stored in every available nook (yes, I know…), in my house. If a fire were to break out, the resulting conflagration would be awesome to behold.!!! So, not wishing to incur the wrath of the local fire gendarmes, I sadly (sometimes almost tearfully..) gather up my current stash and head out with all good intentions of parting company with the least treasured of my collection.

My first stop is at the local library where they see me coming, and when my shadow crosses their threshold there is never anyone there to help relieve me of my treasures. I think they hide from me. I really do. I usually manage to convince them that they need some of these epics of literature to add to their collection. Funny, they don’t seem to recognize most of these monumental works. Wonder why that is.?? After lightening my load (by two or three volumes…), I continue my trek to the local thrift store. They make up for the library…they love me here. I think it has something to do with my donating. No matter how hard I try, they always end up with my books and I end up with nothing.

Except sometimes…..and here we come to the gist of this story. After my latest sojurn to the seedy underworld of thrift stores and musty used books, I recouped some of my lost honor. Please don’t misunderstand. They still got my books…for free. But this time I got some books back.!!! Well, yes. I did have to pay for them. No, they weren’t new. Okay, I see where you are going with this. You are thinking, “I thought you were trying to get rid of some books…” And that would be a correct observation on your part. However, and this is important, books seem to have a life of their own…maybe a soul too. So when I came across a small collection in the midst of this shabby thrift store, it seemed imperative that I should save them. Save them from what.?? That is a good question. An ugly demise most probably. And almost assuredly each of them would suffer the ignominy of being separated from their siblings…sold one at a time to someone who couldn’t possibly treasure them as much as I do. So, squealing with delight (if it’s possible for a grown man to squeal with delight…or squeal with anything for that matter..), I grabbed them all up and saved them from who knows what….

So, what did I end up with?? What captured my enthusiasm?? Okay, I will tell you. There were two small collections or series’ of hard bound works. The first is a set of four by William Faulkner. Judging by the copyright dates, I will place them in the late 1950’s. Well taken care of. Pages are starting to yellow, but none torn that I can find. Red cloth bindings are solid. Faulkner’s name impressed into the front cover and gold filled. I have read two of the four….The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. The other two, Sanctuary and Light in August are now on my reading list.

The second series is a collection of fourteen books most of which would be classified as literature. There are a couple in the series that might seem to deviate from the “literature” standard but all are noteworthy. This series dates from the 1930’s. Pages are yellowing (some worse than others..) but blue cloth bindings are in good condition. Remarkably so, really. Most of this style book I have seen over the years exhibit fraying on the bindings and loose threads etc. These titles range from a collection of Ibsen’s plays, to Voltaire, to Bret Harte and George Elliot, to a book of the worlds great speeches and a translation of Tales From the Decameron.

*****
So, you be the judge. Worth saving..???

Be well…
Howard

Tomes, Quill Pens and Parchment…

AKA…What to do when it’s raining…Vol. 2

Thoughtful Reader…

I hasten to point out that the following paragraph is a remake of one in “What to do when it’s raining…Vol.1“…..with the blanks filled in to represent the ideas coursing along for this post (Vol.2)

In my recent analytical style of self-introspection (yes, I realize that “self-introspection” is redundant–I could have said “self-observation” or “self-evaluation”, but I just like the sound of “self-introspection,” so sue me…), I have discovered a possible cure for these blues, and blahs. Did you know that cooking feeds the soul? Did you know that ——-(Reading..?) allows us to escape the reality of our poor misbegotten lives? And ——-(Writing..??) Did you know that ——-(Writing..??) reinforces our memory? Which is a good thing as long as you are aware of this particular idiosyncrasy and welcome it. I mean, you know, repressed memories and all that… Anyway,  it’s true. It’s all true.

I often wonder how many memories are hiding, repressed, in the deepest reaches of my not so nimble mind. With apologies to Billy Joel, When I wore a younger man’s clothes I remembered everything. These days I am somewhat more refined and have lower expectations. I think that is what happens as you age. You get a little more haughty (refined..??) as you realize that there are fewer and fewer folks out there who can match your experience level. This level of refinement is often characterized by walking around with your chest out and your nose in the air just a little (of course it could be because my back is so da** stiff that I can’t move anymore). Then you think for a moment, and, coming back down to earth, realize, that the folks around you don’t really care anyway. They know you are getting older (and therefore senile..???) and they don’t really expect you to “produce” or “remember” like you did some years back. Hence the lowered expectations.

So, if no one else expects you to be on point or live out on the edge, why should you bother.?? Another rhetorical question, but for this one I have an answer. You should bother because it is good for you. Because it stretches the mind and the understanding. Because now, after living quite a while as an adult, you may finally have the resources to do something worthwhile with your life. And because you can still make a contribution and others may benefit from your understanding. Producers, contributions…..More on that another time…….

Of Tomes, Quill Pens and Parchment…

Reading….the best use of any available minutes not already allocated to other endeavors….and the second indoor thing that occupies me today. As a youngster I grabbed my fun and adventure where I could find it. That was usually in books. Readily available in libraries at no cost, they were the perfect source of adventure and mental stimulation for a boy with no money and no family life. There were stories of adventure in far off lands, and stories of travel that led to adventure. Train trips to danger filled destinations as depicted on the “Orient Express,” and safaris to the “Dark Continent” chasing wild beasts. The swashbuckling men of the French Foreign Legion were always good for an imaginative story, and of course there were the “Khyber Rifles” and other titles by Mundy as well as Zane Grey’s westerns and Mark Twain’s stories of middle America. Stories of heroes and villains and stories of fortunes and fortunes lost were plentiful too. To add variety there were many, many outdoor magazines and various encyclopedic tomes full of “how to” instruction sprinkled liberally throughout those early years.

Today, I read various genre. Historical fiction is a particular interest because the underlying tenets can be worth recalling. Some of the political savagery is also of interest, as well as some biographical works and historical treatises…particularly the U.S. founding period. Reading was, and is, a favored thing. I think I would dry up mentally and spiritually if forced to abandon it. And if you read some things other than fiction, you may find yourself contributing to the understanding of someone else. And that is worth doing.

Writing goes hand in hand with reading. Once captivated by the written word, there is an almost insatiable desire to produce something meaningful…a printed legacy to show others and to look upon with pride. I have been somewhat fortunate in my endeavors to produce acceptable narrative. I say acceptable because at various points one person or another has felt it was “good enough” to occupy some space in print. Now, today, I am here knocking on the door of this new medium. I have a lot to say. Some of it may provoke consternation among the élite and cause great soul-searching, hand-wringing, and gnashing of teeth among the masses. Gosh, I hope so.!! Will it be “good enough.??” Only time will tell….

“Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success”…………..Dale Carnegie

One thing is certain….I refuse to accept the loss of my remaining brain cells without a fight.

Be well…

Howard

Post Script….

Thoughtful Reader

For those who read the blog post about my dessert adventure in “Indoor Sports or “What to do when it’s raining…” Vol. 1, this is the ending.

I left all of you with the opportunity to jump up and down on my foolishness. To your credit, you were nice about it. No one said anything ugly about my parentage, or laughed in my face (although I deserved a little ridicule..).

If you remember, I was trying to hasten the preparation of a desert sauce to be used as an ice cream topping. I started with the slightly softened peach in the bottom of a bowl, topped with French Vanilla ice cream, then drizzled with the sauce.

Photo courtesy of DAXTER at desktopnexus.com


 
 
 
This is what the topping sauce was supposed to look like—-well, at least something very close to this. A little bit lighter in color and a little clearer, but essentially like this.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Topping Sauce
 
 
 
This is what I ended up with. This is what happens when you cook sugar too long or to a high temperature. I could have avoided this by using my candy thermometer. Instead, I chose to visually watch sheeting on the spoon and counted on the bourbon to halt or slow down this process……Which it did…partially.
 
 
 
The topping ended up tasting wonderful and looking beautiful, but it was much too thick for a topping. At least it did not harden off like brittle.!!! The lesson to be learned here (or reinforced..) is to always think about the relationships between ingredients….Oh, and watch those temperatures!!!

Howard

Indoor Sports or “What to do when it’s raining…” Vol. 1

Photo courtesy of: public-domain-image.com

Thoughtful Reader…

Have you ever…

1) Wanted to smell the roses…..but it was raining..?

2) Wanted to lay out in the sun…..but it was raining..?

3) Wanted to go to the ballgame…..but it was raining..?

4) Substitute here any other outdoor thing in which you are interested…..but it was STILL raining.

In my recent analytical style of self-introspection (yes, I realize that “self-introspection” is redundant–I could have said “self-observation” or “self-evaluation”, but I just like the sound of “self-introspection,” so sue me…), I have discovered a possible cure for these blues, and blahs. Did you know that cooking feeds the soul? Did you know that ——- allows us to escape the reality of our poor misbegotten lives? And ——- ?? Did you know that ——- reinforces our memory? Which is a good thing as long as you are aware of this particular idiosyncrasy and welcome it. I mean, you know, repressed memories and all that… Anyway,  it’s true. It’s all true.

Ambrosia, Nectar of the….Common Folk??…

I am basically an outdoorsman at heart. I well remember when I was growing up dreaming of adventure in far off lands and exploring the woods and hills of nearby “wild places.” I am still that same person.  However, there are still some indoor things that occupy my interest as well. The first of which is food. That’s right, food. And the proper and skilled preparation thereof. I exhibit no hesitancy in saying that I enjoy good food and I enjoy preparing it. I consider myself to be somewhat skilled in the kitchen and willing and able to prepare meals for anyone who risks trespass into my domain. I started cooking when I was about ten years old I guess…through necessity of course. But it is only in the last fifteen years or so that I have started to take it seriously. I study the science and practice the art….

That really is the truth, so what happened a few days ago caused more than just a little consternation on my part. I was preparing a little something for a couple of folks, when I realized that I really could use a dessert of some sort. Well, lets back up a minute…..I started my prep work the evening prior.  I prepped a pork loin and set up a mild brine, peeled and prepped three nice apples for applesauce, prepped some potatoes and soaked to wash away some starch, and prepped and lightly blanched some green beans for a quick sauté. Everything went swimmingly. The following day while finishing up the pan sauce for the pork, and toasting some sesame seed for the green beans, the realization hit me. Dessert..! No dessert.!!! Oh, crap….What to do?

Well, as you, gentle reader, have come to know (maybe..???), I am nothing if not nimble. Or as one of my readers was recently want to say, “I forgot.! You are a Thoughtful poster.” (the sarcasm was not lost on me…). I had in my possession a few almost ripe peaches and some French Vanilla ice cream; so I said to myself, I said “Self,” “Problem solved.!” Quickly blanching the peaches and slipping the peels, and pitting them required only moments. I started a light syrup and softened the peaches in the syrup for about four or five minutes. Like I said, they were just a little on the hard side. Setting them aside in the cold box to chill, I started to build a sauce for a topping. Here is where things started to go awry. I planned a caramel-like sauce, only different. I loved the flavors of peaches and bourbon together. I also wanted a clearer sauce, a little more transparent. The only way I could accomplish that was to clarify the butter first, and leave out the cream. So, here are the steps: First, reduce the peach simple syrup some as a base ingredient. I wanted to retain the peach flavor. In a separate pan, I clarified the butter, then added raw sugar. I like raw sugar both for its taste and color. I added a little honey and peach nectar for flavor. I then added the reduced peach simple syrup, and continued cooking/reducing. The color was right.! I had it made.! Well, maybe not…….

The observant among you will realize that my “sauce” mixture was sadly lacking in one base ingredient, the fats and solids that the cream normally adds to a sauce. I knew I would have to be careful with it. I cooked it down slowly, stirring and watching. Never even considering the temperature of the almost pure sugar “sauce,” I added the bourbon and burned off the alcohol. The consistency was good. The taste was almost spectacular.

So, what went wrong? Who among you would like to venture a guess? Who would like to be the first to tell the world how stupid I was? I have given you all the hints you need. Go ahead, serve me up another dish of humble pie!! Answer……later.

Be well…

Howard