My first meal in a box is Meatballs and Tomato sauce with Asparagus and Creamy Rice
It seemed straight forward for an all thumbs cook. What could go wrong? As I said in my earlier piece, I was a bit concerned with the portions, but in this first meal, the plates were about as filled as most of our meals. Here is a webshot of the menu.
I started off half an hour earlier than the preparation time by washing the produce, then cutting the asparagus into 1” pieces after trimming off the woody ends. Then I fried the pieces in olive oil. I have never prepared asparagus that way. In my family, we ‘bile’ everything until it is limp. But I fried ‘em gently ‘till they were tender, and dumped them into a bowl to wait.
Next, I learned to pit the olives by smashing them and pulling out the pits. A little video was included to show me how to smash garlic to remove the skins. Geesh! All the years of peeling garlic when all I had to do was smack them hard with the flat of a knife and toss the skins. Who knew. But two cloves looked a bit skimpy, so I added one more just to make sure I had enough.
Then I squished the free-range egg into the hamburger along with panko, (bread crumbs) like you make meat loaf, and rolled them into eight balls. I think I should have taken the time to make ten balls, but eight worked out better mathematically, and put them into the same skillet I used for the asparagus, and began frying the meat balls.
Brown rice went into a saucepan with a couple of cups of water and a big pinch of salt. When the rice began to boil, I turned the heat down to simmer, put a lid on it, set the timer for 30 minutes, then went back and turned the meat balls over with a pair of tongs before dumping in a small can of tomato paste and half the garlic, and let that simmer for a bit.
When the timer went off, I checked the rice … I over cooked it a tad, but it wasn’t bad. In went a couple of tablespoons of white cheese. It was about the consistency of yogurt. I suppose cream cheese thinned with half and half would substitute, but what the hey! It came in the package. That was followed by the smashed olives, the fried asparagus, and the juice of one lime. I think if I ever do rice like this again, I’ll go with capers and skip the lime, but I faithfully followed the directions.
It all came together half an hour before dinnertime. I should have heeded the times in the stiff sheet with the recipe on it. My concerns about portions vanished. It looked good on the plate, and tasted pretty darn good. I was pleasantly surprised.
Value wise, it is expensive for a home cooked meal. Without the discount, it would have been around $10 a plate. With the discount, it came to about $6 a plate. The only people I can see going this route would be those who are very busy, but want to prepare a meal at home without a huge amount of menu planning. And I really hate meal planning, so I suspect that I will be doing this every two or three weeks.
I can’t see real foodies who live in their kitchens buying into this, however. As good as the meal was, it wasn’t gourmet.
I still have two more meals, and will chronicle them as I prepare them.
Fort Logan National Cemetery
My parents are here, my father’s name and rank on one side of the headstone, and my mother’s name on the reverse. 2005 was my last visit there, and I don’t suppose that I will visit the site again now that I have moved so very far away.
Like most, I miss my parents, and that sense of loss comes at very odd times. Usually when my soul is quiet and my mind at rest. I am now steeled with the loss, and the last time I was there, the tears had dried, with only a lonely hole in my psyche where they once stood.
What did cause me to weep was a small band of Viet Nam vets who walked through the headstones, unerringly going from one grave of a fallen comrade to another, all clad in tattered black vests with unit patches and the black flag of MIA’s affixed to them. They silently stood at each stone with heads bowed for what seemed to be an eternity, then moved on through the sea of white stones to the next grave.
I am not a Viet Nam vet. I am a Viet Nam *era* vet. A big difference. But I knew so many of them, and grew up with a few of them. A sizable number of them came home in metal caskets. A few more were missing. Those of them who did come home came to the catcalls of an ungrateful political faction that I have not forgiven to this very day.
I wept. Not the tears of grief and sorrow, however. But the tears of impotent rage …
I was still sitting in my PJ’s sipping coffee when FedEx dropped off the box with three unprepared dinners inside it. Boldly emblazoned on the side was “Everything tastes better when it is made from scratch”. Yeah, I got sucked in by great marketing once again. But the idea that I could prepare a fresh, nutritious meal and not have to devote a lot of time meal planning was an inviting one.
I waited at the door until the traffic cleared, then dashed out to retrieve the box, and dashed back in. Only one speeding car going by caught me in flagrante delecto, so that is a plus. Usually when I try that something goes wrong, like tripping over a dog as I try to scramble back in. But I am sure the neighbors already think I am crazy, so it hardly surprises them.
I carried my prize in triumphantly and sat it down on the table and invited Snooks to have a look. She was a bit underwhelmed, saying “you are going to get three meals out of that?”.
Yeah, there wasn’t much there for three meals. We eat pretty good sized portions at dinner.
“Well, the rice will swell up a little when it’s cooked.” I lamely offered.
“Does this mean you are cooking the next three dinners?” She asked, brightening.
“You don’t want to try one of these? Look at the pretty recipe cards!” I asked. She didn’t say anything, but I think the answer was no.
Anyway, I unpacked everything. There were little packages of cilantro, scallions, Asian mushrooms. A potato and a cucumber sat side by side. Two little pulp cartons each held an organic ranch egg. Each recipe had a ‘knick-knack’ package that I didn’t open. I think they contain salt, pepper and such.
Three frozen packages contained ground beef, chicken breasts, and cod fillets. Our main courses ..
I think I will do dinner tonight. It will be meatballs and tomato sauce with asparagus and creamy rice.
I can see it now. A romantic candle lit dinner with an Italian tenor singing in the background. Think Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp. Sans spaghetti.
I’ll let you know how it went.
W.R. “Peacock” Peacock.
Yelp said that he was open today so I load my three push mowers into Bucephalus, my ancient Dodge Grand Caravan. Yeah, I drive a mommy van. I didn’t winterize them properly and they will all need carburetor work, and one has a broken blade bolt will need to have the broken end extracted. The Yelp comments were mostly positive, with only one negative comment.
I find the address off the highway and down a steep gravel embankment. A mobile home and a shed full of broken mowers sit behind a padlocked chain link fence. Lawn mowers of various types and makes litter the yard. I pull up to the gate, and wait, hoping to see some activity.
Finally, the trailer house door opens, and a hairy giant emerges, walks to the gate and unlocks it.
“I wasn’t sure you were open” I said, trying to start a conversation.
“I wasn’t” he replied. “What’cha got?”
“Three mowers, one with a bolt broken off in the crank.”
He helped me get the mowers out of the back and push them into the yard, then beckoned inside to his hugely littered home.
“What’s your phone number?” he asked.
He fished around the papers on his desk, and pulled out an advertising circular, and wrote my phone number down in the margin.
“I need at least one of the mowers soon” I explained. “I need to get around the edges of the yard”.
“I hate mowing” he replied gruffly, and walked me back to the car. “Peacock is the name” he said as we shook hands.
I drove off a bit uneasy. Only one of the mowers could be considered an expensive one, and sometimes cheap mowers are easier to replace than fix. But I sure wasn’t feeling all that secure. But the Yelp comments were generally positive, with only one negative. Peacock replied to it, saying that if he didn’t buy such cheap *ssed lawnmowers, he wouldn’t need so many repairs.
You got to trust a mechanic that will speak his mind, and I wasn’t judging a beauty contest, just getting lawnmowers repaired. Still, I am a bit uneasy …
I let a bit more than a week go by before checking on the mowers. He answered my call with “Peacock here”.
“Hello. I left three mowers with you a bit over a week ago, and I was just checking on them.”
“They will be ready sometime this week.” he replied.
“OK … no hurry. Thank you.” I lamely surrendered.
I either found a great mechanic, or I am going to be out a lot of money …
I do not write well when my soul is not quiet, and I have had strings pulling at me in several directions lately. I really don’t write for myself. I always have someone or a group of someone’s in mind when I set out to put something down.
A lot of writers tell me that they only write for themselves, but I am not too inclined to believe them. Why pen something publicly in that case? File your little missives away in an encrypted password file and be done with it.
I write either to be understood, or to entertain. But a problem arises when I only want to be understood by some, or wish to entertain some, but not others. I only have one site left that a very select few know where it is and have the password to get into it. But I haven’t posted there in a very long time because the audience is so restricted.
Posting here gets more views, but then there are some reading this that I am unwilling to share certain topics with, so my style gets cramped. I end up in paralysis, unable to write for either faction. Yet I love each group.
I want to break the mold, sometimes, but that isn’t possible. So I continue to live two lives. And now I am considering a new online identity, one that can write risqué material, that can use foul language, that can plumb the limits of primal instincts, and do so in a wide forum.
In short, I want to go back to being a phony. Or maybe I am a phony who wants to get real. It doesn’t matter.
And I think I just solved my dilemma. Thank you for listening …
Some time back I wrote a few vignettes of my days as a Brujo’s apprentice. Some of you reading this may remember them. It is a somewhat true tale, though much my recollections of those days were spent in a psychotic haze, a sort of PTSD fueled by street drugs and bad ideas. It can’t be a true tale, because people need to be protected and, of course, the daze brought on by psychedelic compounds doesn’t lend itself to strict timelines. I lived in a timeless void of vignettes then.
It oddly mirrors Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan”, though my mentor wasn’t quite as accomplished or noble as Castaneda’s. Ben was more of a huckster and a drunk than he was a spiritual man, a medicine man more than a Brujo, but there were times when I shared uncomfortable visions with him of the many native-indian sprites and deities. And Ben read me with an unnerving accuracy.
Most of spiritual entities that surrounded me were hardly benign, and Jews and Christians might rightly see them as out and out demonic. They had all the attributes of demons. If the sorcerer wasn’t accomplished, the demon could and did turn on him. It is not an exercise for the dilatant, nor the careless. I was nearly destroyed, and an inner voice not intervened at the very last moment, I certainly would have been.
Winter had come to the high New Mexico mountains, and I had returned to the kiva/hogan in Ranchos de Taos. I sensed that the end was near, and it wasn’t going to be a pretty one. I walked with the gaze of a dead man, and many of my friends did not recognize me when I went into town. Not that I wanted to be recognized. I was isolated in my mind and life, and was merely going through the motions of a living person.
Oddly enough, though, one evening I washed up and went to town, and with my few remaining dollars, bought a beer at the La Cocina, a restaurant and local watering hole in Taos. Several months earlier while visiting a nearby commune and consuming a number of peyote buttons, one of the residents looked at me and said, “Do not go to Denver!”.
It didn’t make a lot of sense to me as I had no intention of going anywhere at that moment. But this night, I met a tourist who lived in Denver who offered me a ride, and I agreed. I knew that was a decision to die, and I didn’t want any friends around me when that happened. Denver seemed to be the best place to go.
I knew the shabby parts of town, and knew how to survive there. My intention was to get a ‘flop’ and a nothing job, and wait for death.
I don’t remember much of that ride, other than I spent the arrival night in the hosts home in a residential part of Denver, and arising early that morning to walk into town.
In time, I might chronical the miracle and transformation that occurred during that time, or as much of it as I can recall, but for this morning, all I remember is the walk in the aching morning sunshine to meet my anonymous doom in the inner city. Time briefly appeared on that walk, and I remember the passing landmarks as I plodded down the sidewalks. Oddly, I cannot see people or traffic in that remembrance, though surely there must have been many. But the texture of the asphalt, the cracks in the sidewalk, the mason’s marks in the cement, the crumbling curbstones stand out in sharp relief in my mind.
I often go back to that man in my musings. He is almost incomprehensible to me today. I remember snaps of the ten-year walk back to sanity that started that morning. A minor miracle here, a minor miracle there dots the landscape, each one arriving at a nexus between life and death. Just for my own curiosity, I would like to lay it out in some sort of cohesive way.
Teshuva, and the Art of Not Dying
A blog friend wrote recently of narrowly avoiding a killer because she payed heed to a moment of clarity in a bar, and fled when he went into the bathroom to smoke a joint with a friend. That got me to thinking of my life back when I was living on the edges. I was with bad people in a bad era, but an inner voice always alerted me when things were about to go wrong, and I would instinctively flee, sometimes with mere seconds to spare.
I don’t know if all people have that inner voice, or even if they need it. The old saw goes; God looks after fools and drunks, and I certainly qualified under both categories. I needed that voice. But one bitterly cold January morning I awoke in second-floor hovel in a decrepit neighborhood in Denver. That inner voice that protected me all those years was gone, and I became easy prey to evil. That mental house I lived in was not a very pleasant place to dwell.
There is a concept in Judaism called teshuva. It means to turn, return, or to turn back. The thought was that when you are lost, you go back. A long time ago I was teaching two young people how to drive a semi truck. The mechanics of driving a truck are really quite easily learned, but the ‘smarts’ you need are a bit more difficult to master. Getting lost is a given when you are driving, and you need to know what to do when things go bad. Novices will invariably think that if they just keep going, they will eventually become unlost. Of course, that doesn’t work. What you need to do is find a place to turn around, and go back to a point where you knew where you know where you are. That is the concept of teshuva.
But the point where I became lost in life was long before I started living on my own. I couldn’t hardly go back to the sixth grade and start over, as attractive as the concept was. But I could stop, and I did. In surveying my life, it became apparent that my life was like the aftermath of a tornado, when you step outside after it has passed, and find your world is just strewed piles of building materials. You really can’t do much rebuilding with that, but you do have to clear the debris.
I did need help, though, and a mentor appeared who carefully kept me on track in clearing the rubble, as well as introducing me to the source of that missing inner voice. I didn’t know it was going to be a decade or more before I could even be marginally considered sane. Had I known, I would have quit. But I persisted in clearing the debris, board by board, scrap by scrap, boards over here, scrap over there. I was still homeless, however, both mentally and physically. Meaningless jobs came and went, disastrous loves sored and fell, artificial religious constructions toppled with distressing regularity. And all I had to guide me was a voice that reassured me I was doing the right thing.
Not too long ago, that heard that voice again. It wasn’t so much a voice telling me to flee, but rather telling me that I had placed my confidence in the wrong place, and it was time to turn back to that point where I knew where I was. Again, there was the wreckage, and again there was the rebuilding, but this time the voice stayed with me. I am not so confident this time that the new house is a lasting structure, but maybe that is a good awareness to have at this late stage of life.