improvising with bread

By the time we left Gilroy in May of 2015 I was a pretty confident bread baker. I didn’t need to follow a recipe: I knew the proportions required for a decent loaf and could play it by ear.

When we moved down here I stopped baking bread. In part I wasn’t confident that the oven that came with the house could produce a decent loaf. And part of it, if I’m being honest with myself, was sour grapes at having to give up my beloved convection oven in Gilroy.

This spring here in Hemet we bought a new stove with convection oven. We had to. The old oven was dead and the cost of repairing it was half the cost of buying a whole new unit. But the purchase made me a happy guy and all of a sudden King Arthur Flour had my business again.

Super 10 blend bread loafIt had been four years since I had baked bread, so I went back to my recipes. But once I regained my stride I started leaving those recipes on the shelf and making what inspired me.

I love sourdough bread, but Terry enjoys whole wheat and multi-grain breads, so I mix it up. King Arthur changes their multi-grain flour mixtures depending on what ingredients are available to them. The most recent formulation that I bought was their Super 10 Blend. Last week I made a loaf with 25% Super 10, 25% whole wheat, and 50% bread flour (along with a good measure of vital wheat gluten). It turned out quite well. That’s the loaf pictured here. I like the Super 10 blend; next time I’ll make a loaf with 50% Super 10.

This week, however, it’s sourdough French bread.

The journey continues.


The Dictionary Wars

Dictionary Wars coverThe Dictionary Wars: The American Fight over the English Language
Peter Martin
Princeton University Press (May 28, 2019)
368 pages
Kindle edition $9.88, Amazon Hardcover $19.03

Noah Webster is known, obviously, for his dictionary of American English. He was, however, not a skilled lexicographer, he was rather thin-skinned, and inserted his religious and moral beliefs into his dictionary entries. The Dictionary Wars describes this complex man and his lexicographical legacy.

It turns out that Webster was highly inconsistent in his original dictionary and was really bad at etymology. He also had some odd ideas about Americanizing spelling to distinguish American English from British. Some of his reforms caught on (“theater” rather than “theatre”), but many of his proposals were just weird, and were reversed in later editions.

The dictionary process became quite the family affair as he recruited his sons-in-law to assist in revisions and abridgements (he had three daughters). All of this was rather interesting, but the descriptions of ongoing battles after Webster’s death over ownership of various editions and whether competing dictionaries had plagiarized Webster became tedious while occupying something like the last third of the book. Those battles ended only with the deaths of those involved in the disputes.

There is some engaging material here, but one has to be a real language nerd to make it all the way through this book. As it was I skimmed the last several chapters.


Tasha: still surprising

Today is November 1st, and for me there are always two things of note on this day. It is All Saints’ Day on the Episcopal calendar, and it is the day in 2005 on which we brought Tasha home from the shelter.

When we first brought Tasha home she had a lot of puppy in her, and when we were away she would go through the trash cans in the house. We bought multiple covered trash cans to deal with that. It eventually became something that we didn’t worry about too much.

TashaWhen we moved south in 2015, without even thinking too much about it, we put an uncovered trash basket in the laundry room. That wasn’t an issue until a couple of months ago, when, on two instances, Tasha tore into that trash basket. She still has the puppy in her when the urge arises. I went to Target and bought a covered trash can for the laundry room.

At her age, however, she is still adaptable. Her afternoon walk has always been mid-afternoon, around 2:00 p.m. or so. But this summer it was just too hot, so we shifted her walk to early evening, around six-ish. She was happy with that. She seemed to agree about the heat.

Tasha is our amazing child who still keeps us surprised after all these years,


losing our go-to propane supplier

When we left Gilroy in 2015 our outdoor gas grill was one of the things that didn’t make the cut. We were here in Hemet for two years before we bought a new gas grill. When we did my brother asked me whether we were going to own our own propane tank or use the swap-out system. As I wrote back then, I didn’t know we had a choice. For us and our neighbors on Arbor St. in Gilroy, all we knew was that you picked up a full tank at Orchard Supply or Home Depot and swapped it out when it was empty. I quickly discovered that it was much less expensive to buy your own tank and refill it as needed.

Trailer SupplySince we have been doing that here in Hemet there has only been one place that we have gotten our refills: Trailer Supply. It was a mom and pop shop where it was easy to get the task done. And I mean literally “mom and pop.” A husband and wife ran it without any additional help that I ever saw. The husband filled my tank and wrote down on a post-it the amount of propane he had dispensed. I went inside and paid the wife. Simple and easy.

And now they are gone. Closed. Just like that. The store is on my route home from church so the closure caught my eye. I realize that we did not use our grill once this year, as I wrote. But we expect to be back in the grilling business next spring. We’ll have to find another source for our propane. A couple of the big gas stations in town sell propane, but that I would expect to be a hassle. With customers coming and going, filling up their vehicles and paying at the counter, getting someone to leave their post behind said counter to refill your propane could be difficult. There is a farm supply store in the tiny town of Winchester, just a few miles from us, which has a sign saying that they sell propane. I think we’ll give them a try.

But we won’t have to worry about that until next spring.


What is Real?

What is Real?What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics
Adam Becker
Narrated by Greg Tremblay
Blackstone Audio, Inc., March 20, 2018
$13.99 for Audible members, more for non-members

Adam Becker is a science writer with a PhD in astrophysics and a B.A. in philosophy and physics. As such, he is well qualified to write this book, which discusses both theories in quantum physics and the lives of those involved in developing those theories. He goes back to the beginning, with a lot of attention being given to Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Bohr was one of the originators of quantum theory, while Einstein questioned it. Becker takes us through the twentieth century, documenting Hitler and his anti-Jewish policies (which robbed Germany of many brilliant physicists), the creation of the atom bomb, and the effect that military spending and the cold war had on the direction taken by physics.

Becker discusses the Stockholm interpretation of quantum theory, which essentially says that the quantum subatomic world behaves differently from the physical world that we perceive with our senses, and we shouldn’t worry about why. He talks about those who developed alternatives to the Stockholm interpretation and the poor reception they got. David Bohm was blacklisted due to his activities with the Communist party in his younger days and ended up teaching in Brazil. Hugh Everett left academia for the Pentagon and industry because he preferred fine dining and sexual affairs to debating theoretical physics. At the end of the book Becker wonders how these debates might have turned out differently had these two remained in the conversation.

The book is capably narrated by Greg Tremblay. His convention of changing the tone and pitch of his voice when reading quotations was slightly annoying, but, I suppose, necessary to distinguish that material from the the author’s narrative. In some respects I might have been better off with a print or Kindle edition so I could flip back and review certain material, but for the most part this was enjoyable and educational listening.


on not throwing the baby out with the bath water

I have written quite a bit recently about plant-based meat substitutes. For six months after my surgery in February I was not allowed red meat, and those products helped satisfy my cravings. I am once again allowed to eat red meat, but those products are still a part of my diet and cooking habits.

Beyond Meat Burger packageThere has, however, been something of a backlash against the Beyond Meat, Impossible, and LightLife products. I see items pop up on social media and in suggested stories on my Google iOS app. My good friend Farrell has railed against them on Facebook. In one CNBC article, John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, said that these products are highly processed and not terribly healthy. The Impossible product has been criticized for being made with highly processed soy.

LightLife BurgerBut let’s back up a minute. Beyond Meats says its burger product contains a blend of pea, mung bean, and rice proteins. The LightLife product is somewhat similar. Processed, yes, but healthy vegetable products. And these products are far healthier for the environment, as Mackey admits. The CNBC article states, “According to a study commissioned by Beyond Meat with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, a plant-based burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 45% less energy, has 99% less impact on water scarcity, and 93% less impact on land use than a ¼ pound of traditional U.S. beef.”

Duh.

It was back in 1971 that Frances Moore Lappé, in her groundbreaking Diet for a Small Planet, pointed out that animal products are a highly inefficient way of getting protein. And within that realm, beef is far and away the most inefficient. Folks, one reason (among many) that the Amazon is burning is our insatiable desire for beef. Getting our protein from plant-based sources is far easier on the planet. These products will continue to evolve and improve. If people can shed their lust for beef by eating these products then we ought to give them a fair shake.

Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.


sacrificing quality for price

old razorIt was a year ago at this time that we were getting ready for Terry’s Knee surgery. At the same time I needed to get a new set of blades for my Norelco electric razor. When I checked the prices on Amazon I was taken aback by cost of replacement blades. I could buy a new razor for that price, I thought. So I did. I bought a low-end model.new razor

Big mistake. I never liked the feel of the razor in my hand and the shaves I got were not all that great.

Now here it is a year later. I went to Amazon to buy replacement blades. No Norelco blades came up for that razor. What did come up was a third-party set of blades with really poor ratings. So I checked the Norelco web site. No blades for that razor on the Norelco web site either. Really? Really.

So I took the opposite approach. I ordered a mid-range Norelco razor. Not the cheapest, but not the most expensive. Something right in the middle. I’m quite happy with it. It gives me a close, smooth save.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to sacrifice quality for price.