Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let's make a deal

So I recently found something pretty cool, it's called the Ark of Taste (link). Basically, what it is, is a list of endangered foods, either because of their extreme regionality, or because their production is known to a limited group that's likely to die off any day now and take their knowledge of food production with them. Now to someone like me, who takes food very very seriously, this kind of list is a godsend. There were times in my life where I would try anything once. Now that I eat kosher it does limit the things I can try, but as long as it's not pork, shellfish, or buttered beef, I'll still probably give it a go.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered there is a local source for one of the items on that list! And that source is the hardware store! That item is Jacob's Cattle Bean, something everyone here tells me is common as water. I guess, in Maine, people use JCBs all the time, but, regardless of how well known it is around these parts it's still on the list!

So here is my proposition to my readers. If you can procure for me any one item from the Ark of Taste, or, if you are feeling really adventurous, something from the International Ark of Taste (I'm not entirely sure of that list's authenticity, but I can't find the international list on the Ark's website), and then send it to me I will in turn send you a bag of rare beans.

There are three rules to this exchange:
1. There must be some indication that the product you are sending is the product you claim it to be. Now a lot of the items are manufactured so that should be easy, but for the produce and meat and herb items it might be a little bit more difficult. I don't require a lot of proof, something written on the bag will probably be enough.
2. There has to be a decent quantity of it. This will obviously depend on what, exactly, is being sent, but I think it should be easy enough to follow. No sending me one peach and expecting a few servings of beans in return (unless it's that rare peach with a ruby pit). Obviously, if you have a rare turkey you want to trade for beans I don't expect you to send me a dozen... hell something that big probably a couple of drumsticks will do. I think that there won't be any problems here.
3. As I mentioned above, I'm kosher, so what does that mean? Well, pork and shellfish go right out the window. I can only eat mammals that have cloven hooves, which pretty much limits me to cows, sheep, goats, deer, and the like. Fish and fowl are pretty much good throughout except I can't eat raptors, but I don't think anyone does so no worries. Reptiles and amphibians, no. Insects and other bugs, no. Any milk product that contains meat, no. All vegetables and fruit are A-ok. Cheeses are great. I dunno, ask me if you have any questions.

So I figure some of you might be looking at that list and thinking "Like I'm really going to send this guy some bison steaks for a bag of beans." That's fair. I see it as a way to encourage people to try something they normally would never have because they don't live in the 10 square miles where it's available, I'm not offering this to try and score some expensive goods. I would trade the beans for a packet of spices as eagerly as I would for a box of pullets.  I mean, you really gotta want to try some new beans to actually go through with this plan, but, if you're like me, the prospect of trying a food that is made exotic by it's scarcity... well maybe there's someone reading this right now who's as curious as I am about these beans.

And no, I haven't tried them yet myself, sorry, but I do plan on it. Apparently they are great to cook in "bean holes", but, probably not a lot of those right now.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The impossible happens

This morning something I never thought would happen happened: It was too cold for my dog. The weather report says it was -2 this morning, and I can attest that it was pretty darn cold. She did fine until we got to the point in our walk where we leave the asphalt and move onto the snow covered path she started to lift her paws and whine. I was worried that she had stepped on something under the snow and hurt herself. This last February she was racing around with a friend of hers and she stepped on a piece of glass and almost cut her toe off. It was pretty bad, her foot is permanently disfigured, though not enough to really affect her. Pretty quickly I realized that she hadn't hurt her feet, her feet were cold. I had to carry her off the snow back onto the asphalt and we just walked around the town instead of going off on the path.

It warmed up quick though. By the time I took her on her afternoon walk it was up in the twenties. It really reminded me of summer in Sacramento when we'd get ten/fifteen days of triple degree heat and when it dropped down to, say, 97°, people would walk around talking about how pleasant it was. All of the visitors or people who have just moved there are shocked that people think 97 is so cool. Well, when it's -2, 20 degrees is fucking balmy!

I thought I'd finally head to the Chinese restaurant today, it being Christmas and me being Jewish, but the place was closed. Not surprised, seeing as how I'm pretty much the only Jew here. So, thanks to that, my Christmas was pretty much uneventful, which is sort of how I like it. But, for the rest of my readers who celebrate the arbitrarily marked birth of Christ (son of God or not, it's not actually his birthday today), a merry Christmas to you, hope it was peaceful and joyous and full of food. Please, if you celebrate anything this season, remember it's not what you buy or where, it's not who wishes you what, and it's not about a fat man coming in your chimney, it's about miracles, perseverance, and a hope for peace and happiness for everyone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life on other planets

It was cold yesterday, the kind of cold that made you wonder who first described the Earth as a "habitable planet" and whether they had ever been anywhere outside of the Caribbean. Sure, we inhabit the Earth, but in many places only by living behind thick walls within arms distance of a heat source. By the definition, Mars is habitable. Hell, by that definition, Neptune's moon Triton, location of the lowest recorded temperature in the solar system, is habitable. And if we were on Triton, as the temperatures approached absolute zero, the dog would still demand a long walk during which she'd spend considerable time sniffing every small rock we came across, which would be impressive since Triton is so cold it's atmosphere is almost entirely frozen so there'd be very little gas for her to use to sniff but that'd bother her about as much as the temperature I'd wager.

I was hoping yesterday morning, when the temperature was around 4-6°, that she'd take a step outside, decide it was far too cold, do her business quickly, and then drag me back home. She's not the hairiest dog. In fact, she has three distinct completely bald spots; underneath both arms and on the belly, yet the cold doesn't affect her in the slightest. It might help my mood if what we did at all resembled a walk. I'm not sure how you'd best describe the drag--stop for five minutes, drag--stop for five minutes routine we have, but it's like no other walk I've ever experienced (unless you count the time when I was five and wanted to prove to my parents I could walk the dog, so, without their permission or knowledge, I leashed the dog and brought her out front where she immediately spotted a cat and proceeded to drag me down the pavement on my back while chasing after it).

In other, non-cold related news... nothing. It's all about the weather now. Well, it's the first night of Hannukah (or Channukah, for those of you who need to see a 'CH' to pronounce it with the proper volume of phlegm) so I should probably do something about that. I have a menorah... I just sort of worry about burning candles. This block already burned down once in the '20s, and I wouldn't say I've kept the place especially fire-proof (still a lot of newspaper packed moving boxes around here). Maybe just a quick light and then blow it out before I take my eyes off of it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The weather report and other annoyances

It is supposed to get cold this week, very very cold. In fact, Sunday is supposed to drop to 12°! That's 20° below freezing, or -11° for you Celsius fans. Of course, I doubt it will get that cold because the five day weather forecast out here stinks. Hell, even the right now weather is off. It's supposed to be dropping below freezing as we speak, but I just walked my dog out there and couldn't even see my breath. It's in the mid-forties for sure. I'm more then certain that it will be cold. I'm in far eastern Maine, the fact that my toes are still intact this late in December is flukey if not downright miraculous. Still, it's like this every week, I check the forecast and then toss it out the window because it's off in every sense. If it says it's gonna rain, it's sunny. If it says it's sunny, the sun has died and we are propelled into a nightmarish world of perpetual darkness.

There are some interesting behaviors around here that I'm not sure are part of a larger tradition that I am unaware of or is only local. Since Thanksgiving a large number or people and businesses have put single electric candles in each window. Normally I would take minimal notice of this kind of thing, but when it started popping up around town like a virus I couldn't help but spot it. Every window, one candle. I've never seen that before. I'm guessing it's a New England thing, something from way back that the rest of us Americans have forgotten in our haste to move West.

Another interesting thing people do around here is only live in the back of their houses. I'm serious. A lot of the houses around here are quite large and consist of three distinct parts. There is the front, original part, the back, used-to-be-a-carriage-house-but-now-converted part, and the part added later to connect the two. At night around here every house front is dark, but, if you walk around, there is a single window in the most back corner possible lit up. Just tonight I passed a house that I pass almost every night with my dog that I swore has been empty the entire time I've been here. I've never seen any signs of life from that house, no activity, no cars out front, and definitely no lights. Tonight I came upon it from a different angle then normal and sure enough, one back window lit.

The only thing I can think of is that the older parts of the houses around here are poorly insulated so people stick to the back, between the carriage house and the facade, where the newer construction might be more warm. The other idea I had was that it's possible that, since most of these houses were built before 1910, there is a sort of Victorian idea that the front of the house is for entertaining guests, while the back is more of the common family area. Whatever the case I really can't stand it. I know, it's an odd and sort of callous way to feel, but the only effect that all this rear-of-the-house living does for me is make every single building around here appear abandoned. There's just no life around here at night because, instead of having a house that looks warm and occupied, everything is dark and empty, like a dead city.

And one more callous thing I shouldn't hate but do. People around here are way to quick to stop and let you cross the street. Maybe it's all the years I spent in a city, but people are just way too polite in that regard around here. They even stop when you have no intention to cross, and then they honk at you to let you know they've stopped. I can't count the times I've been paying attention to my dog sniffing someone's yard, not even looking at the road, only to be honked at. And then I look over and the person in the car is waving me across, as if every person on a sidewalk who has stopped walking only did so to cross. My dog stops, I stop. Unless I'm looking impatient at a crosswalk I don't need anyone to let me by. I appreciate it when it's needed, like there's a huge line of cars and I won't have a chance to cross unless some kind person stops for me, but if you are the only person on the road, even if I am obviously interested in crossing, just go ahead and pass, I can wait the extra four seconds, I'm gonna wait in anyway just to make sure you plan on coming to a complete stop.

I know I know, how can these things bug me. It's always the little things with me. It doesn't bother me at all that the grant I'm supposed to get from the school still hasn't come through and my tuition remains unpaid until it does. It doesn't bother me that all this warm weather is probably the result of global warming and in five years this city will be under glacier-based water. It doesn't bother me that I've been craving (and indulging) an unhealthy amount of sugar lately. But people stopping to let me cross the street? Those bastards.