Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 11th, 2012

Having lunch with the Barefoot Contessa

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We all love Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa” cookbooks: very good recipes and very sensible outlook in general. The Eldest just pointed out this very nice anecdote in the blog CharmCityCook (One of Baltimore’s nicknames is “Charm City”):

I love having parties. It’s so much fun to get people together to share great food and drink. It doesn’t have to be fancy. For me, it’s about the people, not just what’s on the plate. Whether it’s a barbeque, dinner party or holiday soiree, I’m in. So, years ago when I saw Ina Garten’s book, Parties, I snatched it right up.

In the cookbook, she describes a terrible party she gave early on – a sort of cautionary tale of what of how not to do it. She tried to do too much and everything just fell apart. Not many people would put their mistakes out there for the world to see, so naturally I liked her right away.

She gives great advice for folks who might be new to cooking or intimidated by entertaining. For example, she recommends buying some simple hors d’ouvres like tapenade, pate, cheeses, nuts, olives, etc. Don’t make things that are too complicated and prepare as much as you can ahead of time. You should be with your guests having fun, not working in the kitchen while they’re noshing. After cooking from the Parties book, I began buying the rest of her cookbooks over the next few years.

Then, something really fun happened.

My best friend of 30 years is an architect in Paris and she often works with American clients who have homes there. She told me she was designing an apartment for Ina and her husband Jeffrey. I must admit, I was thrilled. Like, silly giddy, actually. When she came home for the holidays, she took my Parties book back to Paris and had Ina sign it for me. Oh, how I love my bestie.

Fast forward a few years: I took an amazing trip to London and Paris for my 40th birthday – the trip of a lifetime for sure. Before I left London for Paris, my friend called to say that Ina was going to be there at the same time as me and that we might have lunch with her. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2012 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Food, Recipes

Slant-bar razors through the 20th century

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The Slant Bar razor was invented by Merkur in 1916. I have no idea of what led to it, but I like the comparison of the Scottish Maiden and the Guillotine, the latter cutting much more cleanly and efficiently—in effect the Guillotine sliced off the head in contrast to the Scottish Maiden’s chopping it off (and, quite often, not even achieving that but simply crushing the neck).

The idea may have been bruited about, because look at this array of variations on the them of a slanted razor blade. (Page is in German, but Google will translate.)

I discovered this site via this post on Wicked_Edge.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2012 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Shaving

Tasty Vietnamese-influenced shrimp salad

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This recipe caught my eye. Ingredients:

For the dressing:

  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil [I’ll use true EVOO, of course]
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more if desired

For the salad:

  • 1/2 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (or pre-washed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin bite-sized strips
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

I think I’ll make it. Not enough greens, of course, but that’s easily fixed. I’m thinking I’ll steam a bunch of (red) dandelion greens, then drain, chop, chill, and add to the salad. Alterntely, I can take 1/4-1/2 head Napa cabbage and shred that.

I will also bulk it out by adding (in addition to the red bell pepper) a yellow bell pepper and an orange bell pepper, cut up like the red bell pepper, and also a bulb of fennel, cored and sliced thinly (on my Swiss Borner V-Slicer, for example).

With the greater bulk, this becomes four meals instead of two. See how I did that?

UPDATE: Salad has been made. Dressing used 8 Tbsp lime juice and 3 Tbsp true EVOO, and just 1 tsp sugar. I did use the red pepper flakes—just shook in some.

Salad ingredients that I used:

1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (or pre-washed), cooked (w/ 1 c water) and chilled day before
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin bite-sized squares
1 orange bell pepper, cored and cut into thin bite-sized squares
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into thin bite-sized squares
1/2 English cucumber, finely diced (no reason to peel or seed this type)
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 bulb fresh fennel, quartered, cored, and sliced thinly
1/2 head Napa cabbage, cored and chopped
1 can hearts of palm (salad cut), drained
2 jalapeños, chopped fine
2 Tbsp sliced almonds

Basically, as you see, I add lots of fresh vegetables to increase bulk. Now it’s four meals easily. I should have used the entire English cucumber. I’ll add the rest now. I skipped the carrot.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2012 at 11:31 am

Mark Bittman asks, “Why are we eating less meat?”

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I’ve noticed, of course, that my own meat consumption has fallen off significantly, but then my consumption of food in general is less than it was (250 lbs then, 173 lbs now). But, even so, the proportion of my meal that is meat has gone down a lot, and I frequently eat completely meatless meals, with the protein source being tofu or tempeh or beans+rice or eggs. I’m not sure the role of fish/meat (they’re both animals, right?), but when I do include animal protein, quite often it’s fish rather than chicken, pork, beef, or lamb (the main meats I eat, though I also enjoy bison, duck, goose, and so on).

Mark Bittman in the NY Times takes a look at the diminishing amount of meat Americans eat:

Americans eat more meat than any other population in the world; about one-sixth of the total, though we’re less than one-twentieth of the population.

But that’s changing.

Until recently, almost everyone considered their dinner plate naked without a big old hunk of meat on it. (You remember “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” of course. How could you forget?) And we could afford it: our production methods and the denial of their true costs have kept meat cheap beyond all credibility. (American hamburger is arguably the cheapest convenience food there is.) This, in part, is why we spend a smaller percentage of our money on food than any other country, and much of that goes toward the roughly half-pound of meat each of us eats, on average, every day.

But that’s changing, and considering the fairly steady climb in meat consumption over the last half-century, you might say the numbers are plummeting. The Department of Agriculture projects that our meat and poultry consumption will fall again this year, to about 12.2 percent less in 2012 than it was in 2007. Beef consumption has been in decline for about 20 years; the drop in chicken is even more dramatic, over the last five years or so; pork also has been steadily slipping for about five years.

Holy cow. What’s up?
It’s easy enough to round up the usual suspects, which is what a story in the Daily Livestock Report did last month. It blames the decline on growing exports, which make less meat available for Americans to buy. It blames it on ethanol, which has caused feed costs to rise, production to drop and prices to go up so producers can cover their increasing costs. It blames drought. It doesn’t blame recession, which is surprising, because that’s a factor also.

All of which makes some sense. The report then goes on to blame the federal government for “wag[ing] war on meat protein consumption” over the last 30-40 years.

Is this like the war on drugs? The war in Afghanistan? The war against cancer? Because what I see here is:

  • a history of subsidies for the corn and soy that’s fed to livestock
  • a nearly free pass on environmental degradation and animal abuse
  • an unwillingness to meaningfully limit the use of antibiotics in animal feed
  • a failure to curb the stifling power that corporate meatpackerswield over smaller ranchers
  • and what amounts to a refusal — despite the advice of real, disinterested experts, true scientists in fact —  to unequivocally tell American consumers that they should be eating less meat

Or is the occasional environmental protection regulation and whisper that unlimited meat at every meal might not be ideal the equivalent of war? Is the U.S.D.A. buying $40 million worth of chicken products to reduce the surplus and raise retail prices the equivalent of war?

No. It’s not the non-existent federal War on Meat that’s making a difference. And even if availability is down, it’s not as if we’re going to the supermarket and finding empty meat cases and deli counters filled with coleslaw. The flaw in the report is that it treats American consumers as passive actors who are victims of diminishing supplies, rising costs and government bias against the meat industry. Nowhere does it mention that we’re eating less meat because we want to eat less meat.

Yet conscious decisions are being made by consumers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2012 at 10:58 am

Very interesting take on the OWS movement

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Chris Hedges, who I found quite impressive in this (lengthy) video I blogged earlier, here is more succinct but equally interesting in comparing the US Occupy Wall Street movement with popular uprisings in other countries in which the power structure was corrupt, mendacious, greedy, and exploitative. I came across this clip from a post Zaine Ridling made on Google+ and thought more should see it. It’s less than 7 minutes.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2012 at 10:33 am

Posted in Business, Government, Video

Interesting: Article on two alleged terrorist never uses the word

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For some reason, reporters in the US seem to restrict the word “terrorist” to cases in which the miscreant’s skin color is brown (preferably) or at least not white. If a person who kills random civilians in support of his ideology happens to be white, he is never called a “terrorist,” but simply some sort of criminal—in this case, a “serial bomber.” While I suppose it’s a good thing to be so careful about injuring the feelings of white folk, I really do think it is not beyond the bounds of good practice to refer to terrorists as “terrorists” (and, of course, to alleged terrorists as “alleged terrorst”, though in this case the allegation seems pretty solid).

At the link above, an article by Nick Martin in TPM Muckraker, which begins:

In a small trailer park in Catoosa, Okla., in 2005, an aging white supremacist made a startling claim to a woman he had met only earlier that day.

He told her he was a serial bomber.

According to federal court records, Dennis Mahon, was thumbing through an album of old pictures for the woman, showing off his Ku Klux Klan robe and other artifacts of his life when he began to tick off a list of places he claimed to have bombed since the early 1980s.

There was an abortion clinic, a Jewish community center and offices of the IRS and immigration authorities. He told the woman he liked to use a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. He said he added powdered sugar to the mix for an extra bang. He would set off the bombs at 2 a.m., he said, so that no one was hurt but a message was still sent.

What Mahon didn’t know was that the woman he was bragging to was an informant working for federal law enforcement. And the trailer she was staying in was rigged with hidden cameras and microphones to catch every word.

Today, the former KKK leader and his twin brother, Daniel, are scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Phoenix, thanks to the conversations they had with that informant, Rebecca Williams, over four years. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Sort of humorous follow-up: terrorist leader warns his followers to beware of women. (That seems unnecessarily specific: he is really warning them to beware of law-abiding people.)

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2012 at 10:26 am

Posted in Government, Law

My name is Leisureguy, and I play Go

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I play multiple games at a time via DragonGoServer.net. You make a move and go on to other things. After a certain amount of time, if your opponent has not moved, DragonGoServer will send an email to him/her to say that you’ve moved. Etc. And then I saw this FREE app in the App Store for my MacBook:

It works like a charm. Maybe I’ll start more games there now.

I suppose it’s possible that some of my readers have not yet learned Go. If you have an iPad, let me point out SmartGo Kifu, a very attractive program that has me leaning toward iPad acquisition at some distant point.

It’s good to learn from a player, who can help explain what’s going on. The first 10 games are a confused mystery for most players, who can’t tell what’s happening at all. But if you persist, I promise you a wonderful game experience. The key thing, other than the minimalist beauties of the game itself, is the handicapping system, that allows for very close contests between players of very different abilities—and the handicapping system does not in any way detract from the play or pleasure of the game. In practice, this means that a couple who have very different abilities can play close and enjoyable games with each other, or a parent and child can play exciting, close contests.

The handicap is that the weaker player starts with more stones on the board (i.e., it’s as if he had already played several stones, so is sort of ahead). If the weaker player loses three games in a row, he gets an additional handicap stone in subsequent games; if he wins three games in a row, he gets one fewer handicap stones in subsequent games. Each stone turns out to be worth about 10 score points in the final outcome, so games (generally) are decided by fewer than 10 points: close games.

Let me direct you to the American Go Association for further information and links. On DragonGoServer.net, I am “Leisureguy” and I’d enjoy a game if you want.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2012 at 10:11 am

Posted in Games, Go

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