No, absolutely nothing
No, I regret nothing
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
—Paul Anka as sung by Frank Sinatra
Several weeks ago I gave a speech at Toastmasters about regrets. At the end of the speech I made clear that I was very happy with most aspects of my life and my varied career choices. I said I was certainly very happy with my life and marriage today. But in the body of the speech I wanted to make clear that while my complaints are few, I am not of the “I have no regrets” philosophy. I listed several.
One regret that I did not mention, but which I should have, is giving my KitchenAid tilt-head stand mixer to my sister-in-law Julie, Terry’s sister. I had owned the mixer since 1977, when my parents bought it for me before I headed off to open up the new B. Dalton Bookseller in Laredo, Texas. It was about 2003 or 2004, I suppose, when I saw the larger capacity KitchenAid bowl-lift mixer on sale at our new Lowe’s in Gilroy and decided that I had to have it.
What I failed to take into account was the fact that in 1986 Hobart Corporation, those folks that make the industrial-grade mixers for pizzerias and bakeries, sold KitchenAid to Whirlpool. The mixer I bought was not nearly as well made or sturdy as the one I gave to Julie.
The bowl-lift mixer has performed well over the years, nonetheless. However, last week it came to the end of its useful life. It still mixes, but no longer kneads dough. It just sits there making a high-pitched squeaking noise that sends Tasha outside. With our new oven and the bread baking I am doing once again, kneading dough is a central mission for my KitchenAid.
I ought not complain given that the mixer has lasted fifteen-plus years. But the KitchenAid I gave Julie is still going strong, as far as I know, and she makes good use of it. She would not be willing, nor would I even consider asking her, to give it back. So Terry and I had to begin the quest for a replacement.
We went to our local Bed Bath & Beyond, but they didn’t have want we wanted. We came home and pulled up Amazon (of course). We settled on a 5-quart tilt-head Artisan model. It is not without reason, after all, that that is the model you often see on Food Network.
It is scheduled to arrive today. I am looking forward to a long and productive relationship. And I will, of course, keep you updated.
It wasn’t our intent to go on an appliance buying binge. Really it wasn’t.
Our oven gave out. The cost to repair it was fully one-third the cost of getting a new stove. So we got a new stove and we have been delighted.
The refrigerator that came with the house was nine years old and gave out six months after our arrival in 2015. The thermostat quit, which meant it was running all the time. Replacement part not available. So we bought a new side-by side.
The new refrigerator was a pain in the rear from the beginning. The bracket that held one of the baskets in the freezer came out from the refrigerator wall, so whenever we tried to pull it out it would fall off of its rails. One of the two crisper drawers on the refrigerator side never opened smoothly. The ice dispenser misbehaved from the very beginning and replacing the control panel did nothing to fix that. Then, finally, the ice maker got out of whack. Either it was leaking, or, as my brother suggested, the valve was not shutting off in time and it was overflowing.
We went to our locally-owned appliance shop and explained our plight. The only side-by-sides were Frigidaire, same as what we had. So we checked out the top-bottom models and decided we liked the Whirlpool version. It had more storage space. In the freezer we can stack our frozen lunches horizontally rather than vertically, making it much easier to make a selection at lunch time. The ice maker is well behaved. And we can see what we have in the deli drawer without even having to open it.
It was more money than we planned to spend, but it was worth it. We haven’t done a kitchen remodel, but with our new stove and new refrigerator we don’t need one. We’re pleased with what we have.
Generally when I cook I pull out a recipe – usually from my Living Cookbook database. I may not follow the recipe exactly, I generally don’t follow the recipe exactly, but I have it there. Sometimes, though, I don’t feel like selecting a recipe and I don’t feel like shopping for ingredients.
I was in that kind of mood last week. Add to that the fact that I’m still supposed to be avoiding red meat and I ended up doing some vegetarian improvisation. On Thursday I made my own macaroni and cheese. I cooked the shells, threw them in a casserole dish along with two remaining slices of pepper jack, added shredded cheddar, and topped it all with panko drizzled with garlic butter. I baked it for fifteen minutes. It turned out well.
For Friday dinner, we had some spinach and mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used before they went bad. I cooked a cup brown rice, threw in the spinach along with mushrooms which I had sliced, added to that shredded cheddar and there was dinner.
Not elegant or fancy, but nutritious, easy, and inexpensive. As the tagline from the old Smooth Jazz TV program (I hate smooth jazz!) used to say, “Life is like jazz. It’s best when you improvise.”
Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street
Skyhorse Publishing; August 15, 2012, 385 pages
KIndle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $11.91
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $1.99
I have a long history with Route 66. My family lived in Barstow during the years I was in first through fourth grade. Route 66 ran through Main Street in the town before the Interstate was built. When I attended Pitzer College the northern border of the campus was Foothill Boulevard, which was the old Route 66 in the area. During my years in Oklahoma my first wife Ruth and I, on one trip from Tulsa back to Oklahoma City, abandoned the turnpike, an Interstate highway, and traveled Route 66 through the old towns that the turnpike bypassed.
When I saw that the Kindle edition of this book was on sale for $1.99 I of course immediately bought it. And what a delight it was.
Rick Antonson got a bee under his bonnet and decided that he wanted to drive as much of the old Route 66 as possible. He recruited a friend, Peter, and they rented a Mustang in Chicago for their trip. They discovered that much of the old highway was hard to find, but it was findable nonetheless. They took risks, sometimes venturing down unpaved parts of the road. They seemed to have an aversion to shaving and to Laundromats. They met interesting people and they ate good food. Mixed in with all this was some fascinating history of people, places, and of the highway itself. Not to mention a detailed discussion of that iconic Nat King Cole song.
If Route 66 and its history resonate with you, you will find this book a kick.
I am as guilty as anyone: I order a lot of things through Amazon. It’s simple, convenient, and the prices are good. But sometimes I like to see what I am buying, and for kitchen-related merchandise Terry and I are big fans of Bed Bath & Beyond. We really liked the Gilroy store, and we spent a lot of time (and money) there. The store here in Hemet is smaller, but still not bad.
Now the retailer (Terry and I call it BBY) has been struggling and has announced that they are closing stores this year. So far the Hemet store has remained open, but I wonder how long that will last.
We recently needed a few things, and headed over there armed with their famous 20% off one item coupons. I needed a new 4-cup measuring cup. I hated tossing the Pyrex one I’d had for decades, but it was chipping and you don’t really want to mess around with glass in the kitchen. We were out of food-grade mineral oil for our cutting board and we needed candles.
The candles we found. The only measuring cups they had were cheap plastic ones. Really? Are you kidding me? They didn’t have the mineral oil even though I’d bought it there a year ago. I found a quality glass measuring cup at Target. It’s Anchor Hocking rather than Pyrex, but still quite serviceable. I had to use Amazon for the mineral oil.
I suppose it’s a Catch-22. If BBY doesn’t have the business they don’t have the cash flow to stock the merchandise. But if they don’t have the merchandise they’re not going to get the business – even from people like Terry and me who want to shop there.
The world of retail is not what it once was.
Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ballantine Books (March 5, 2019), 368 pages
Amazon hardcover $15.99, Kindle edition $11.99
I actually read this book in hardcover, not as a Kindle e-book. Terry and I both read the review in the New York Times Book Review and thought it would be a fun read. She picked up the hardcover at Barnes & Noble and I read it when she was done. We were right. It was a fun read.
The book is presented as an oral history of a seventies rock band, with each member of the band presenting his or her perspective of events. The band’s supposed songs are even printed at the end of the book. There might be a tendency to view this as a fictionalized history of Fleetwood Mac, although there are probably more differences than similarities to that band’s history. Daisy Jones herself is something of a Stevie Nicks, although even here there are as many differences as similarities.
The book is a fast, enjoyable, and engaging read. There is something of a surprise near the end of the novel when we learn who the supposed interviewer and author is. And at the book’s conclusion I had tears in my eyes. I don’t cry at the end of novels. I did this time.
If you are a fan of seventies pop music you will find Daisy Jones & The Six well worth your time.
I continue to be impressed by the work that the good folks at Beyond Meat are doing.
I have now tried two more of their grocery store products.
The Beyond Beef Crumbles, feisty flavor, is a frozen product. I used it to make tacos. It’s very tasty. From my perspective it requires no additional seasoning. It’s perhaps just a tad rubbery, but it’s really not bad at all.
I had been wanting to try the fresh Beyond Sausage for some time. I finally had the occassion to do so recently. There are two flavors; I bought the Brat Original. I used it on spaghetti and it was quite tasty. Terry really liked it as well. We both agreed that it was a hell of a lot more flavorful than the turkey sausage we’ve purchased.
The other sausage flavor is Italian. I’m looking forward to trying that one. These people are doing a marvelous job.
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
narrated by the author
Random House Audio, 2019
$19.60 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit
I read My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl’s memoir cum cookbook, when it came out in 2015, so I was keen on reading, well, listening to, her latest book. My Kitchen Year is Reichl’s story about her life in the year after Gourmet magazine, of which she was editor-in-chief, was shut down, and in it she included a number of recipes that helped her make it through that year. Save Me the Plums is her narrative about her decade at Gourmet.
This is one of those audiobooks that is made far better by being read by the author. Reichl describes being lured to the Condé Nast publication from her job as food critic for The New York Times. She describes how she helped revitalize the magazine, which had become staid and stale. She talks about the lavish expense accounts and other perquisites that came with being part of Condé Nast. She talks about the politics of publishing and the idiosyncrasies of Condé Nast owner S.I. Newhouse. She describes the belt-tightening that came with the Great Recession and Newhouse’s decision, sudden and unexpected, to shut down the magazine. Throughout it all Reichl offers a variety of recipes.
This book will appeal to a variety of audiences: foodies, lovers of food writing, and those with an interest in the magazine publishing business. Enjoyable, engaging listening.