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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chill out

Man it's been cold lately. Sunny, but cold. I guess I didn't expect it to be much different, but expecting and experiencing are two entirely different things. Still, the sun is nice, though I wouldn't mind some snow either, and I'm more the prepared for Winter, what with my many heavy coats, gloves, boots, wool socks, etc.

The cold does give me a little concern, however. Until recently my heat has come on sparingly. The grocery downstairs is kept quite warm and that leeches up to my room keeping things pleasant, but this last weekend the temperatures stayed below freezing the entire time and my heater started to kick in pretty regularly. Without that heater I'm not sure what I'd do. The reason I think about this is that although it is a gas heater the thermostat is run by electricity. During the first snow storm of my stay, that Halloween Nor'easter, the power went out almost the entire day and it got pretty cold in here. Should the power go out again this Winter I worry that it may get very cold in here. That gas heater is the only heat I have, there is no fireplace or anything like that and I feel like keeping Machias in power may not be the highest of priorities so if there is a power outage maybe it will be a long one. I guess bundling up like mad and wrapping myself up with my dog in bed might keep me warm, but miss natural-fur-coat probably won't stand for it and instead bug me about taking a bazillion walks.

This is all speculation of course. Other then that initial power outage there has been snow and rain storms without any interruption of power (interruption of internet for all of Washington county sure, but the power was still on), and no one here has given any indication that long power outages are at all to be expected. Maybe they'd let me bring my dog to a lounge at the school. Well, probably won't happen, but if it does I just hope I have enough socks.

Today I got into one of those conversations that you really don't have time for but you also have no excuse to interrupt. I needed some mint for some cacik I was making so headed downstairs. While I was purchasing the tiny amount I needed the clerk was talking about how her young daughter had been in a locally produced horror movie and she wasn't sure she wanted to let her watch her own film. I started to talk about horror films with her and an older gentleman who was in the shop. Eventually it was just me and the man talking and the conversation began to drift. Turns out he was this old hippy-ish guy who lived in Portugal and was in Machias to visit his daughter and son-in-law. He was the type of guy who had basically lived everywhere; Sonoma, Sweden, Denmark, Florida, South Carolina... Apparently he got most of the places he lived by sailing (whether he sailed from Portugal in this instance I don't know). We talked about social issues, politics, and family backgrounds. All this time I wanted to go upstairs and make my cacik so it could marinate in the fridge for awhile (can something really marinade in itself?) but despite the fact that I'm not a fan of talking politics and wasn't entirely interested in telling my whole family history, I couldn't inspire myself to make up some excuse to leave. It wasn't one of those moments where you're really uncomfortable and want to get the hell away from a person, I genuinely just wanted to make my food. I guess I wasn't so eager for my psyche to step in and shut me up cause I ended up talking to the guy for an hour until I really had to pull away because Hastur was expecting her afternoon walk.

The cacik got done when we finished out walk and is in the fridge now, and it's really good. Once again, though, I am reminded how hard it is to make garlic paste without a garlic press (THAT WAS NOT A HINT! NOBODY SEND ME A GARLIC PRESS!).

Friday, December 9, 2011

The days keep rolling

Now that I've settled in, taken care of all my school stuff until the semester starts in January, and the weather hasn't done anything bonkers lately, I'm having a hard time finding things to write about. Other then a day earlier this week when all of downeast Maine lost internet access nothing of significance, either internationally or in my apartment has happened. I guess, in a way, that's sort of what living in a place like this is about, the things that happen happen somewhere else while life here just keeps going much like it did in years past. The only difference now is that transportation eats gas not grass and we have these quaint little electronic gadgets to distract us. That is, until those gadgets go out for an entire day and I find myself trying to make a projectile point out of flint so that I might be able to hunt for food and clothing.

It wasn't that bad, it actually gave me some time to write.

So I finally got a desk delivered to me awhile back. I expected, you know, a nice little desk I could keep my laptop on with a couple of drawers so I could attempt some organization. I came home from walking the dog one night to find the box sitting at the bottom of my stairs. Now these are some steep, steep stairs. Luckily they aren't that high, but their angle is pretty extreme. In fact, one thing I find endlessly amusing is that my shower has handholds, probably to conform to some kind of Maine law demanded that apartments be accessible to the handicapped. That's great and all, but I couldn't even get up those stairs with a badly stubbed toe, let alone a condition that required handholds in my shower.

So anyway, this box is at the bottom of my stairs and after giving my dog her post-walk snack I go back down to get it wondering why the FedEx guy didn't just bring it up himself. Well, I figured that out real quick, the desk, unbuilt and in a fairly small box as it was, weighed 123 pounds. I weigh 210.The stairs are steep. I think you can see where this is going.

It was a good thing I was in my snow boots because otherwise I wouldn't have had the traction I needed. I tried dragging it up but cardboard isn't made to hold 123 pounds like that so the box started ripping. I thought about getting some help but the store I live above had closed and everyone was gone and the only other people who live in this building were not at home, and even were everyone there they'd all be small women. Sure, a group of small women could probably help quite a bit, but all together they probably weigh less they I do so I wouldn't want to put them in danger of being crushed by a mail order desk.

I finally planted my feet as firmly as I could and pushed it up the stairs. It took about twenty minutes, and a couple of times it threatened to slide back on me like some kind of lead sleigh with a cargo of ballast and plate armor. But, obviously, I managed to safely get it to the top and drag it to my room and proceeded to build the shit out of it.

Now all I needed was a chair. I popped over to a used furniture store next door and managed to overpay a bit on a shitty little chair that I figured would do until the opportunity to get a better one arose. I realized, a little bit later, that I have two chairs with my kitchen table and, seeing as I live alone, have absolutely no need for both to sit there. It wasn't much money I spent on that chair, but it was enough to do a load of laundry or try that Chinese restaurant that may or may not be edible. And then today a health and human services place down the street closed down and left a bunch of furniture and office goods out for garbage or whoever wanted them, including a bunch of chairs and a dry erase board. I went back after walking the dog but not in time to get the dry erase board, but I did find a great chair that was just perfect for what I needed. Again, I can't figure out why I spent that money.

It's been pretty cold the last couple of days after being near sixties for about a week. The one problem with the weather here, and it's not really a problem with the weather at all, is that it is impossible to predict. Just this week the weather report said it was supposed to snow on Wednesday, but then Wednesday comes around and there's not a cloud in the sky. This weekend was supposed to be sunny and fairly warm, but right now the temperatures are dipping rapidly and there are definite rain (snow?) clouds in the sky.I checked the weather this morning and there was never any mention of clouds. It's almost like I gotta lick my finger and stick it out the window to know what's going on out there.

Well, until school starts I'm just going to spend a lot of time writing I guess. My adviser/instructor has put me in an independent study class with him as the instructor with the goal of finishing a novel so... better get some practice in.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cabin fever

Before all my readers start to send me or my mother concerned emails, it's not me with the cabin fever, it's my dog.

This was her schedule today:
4:30am- Wake me up. No reason, doesn't need to go outside, no strange noises, no one coming or going in the building, just a sudden need to be up and interactive.
7:00am - Go on a walk, go bat shit crazy over every stick she passes.

She's been doing that for a couple of days now. All of a sudden sticks are more important to her then anything else in her life. She will try to drag me across traffic just to get to a stick, and then if I don't let her have it she starts to fight me. I have no idea how long this is going to last, but I hope she gets the hint that I don't approve of it soon and it stops.

10:00am- Suddenly run around the apartment whimpering like she's been badly hurt. I had to get her to sit and yell at her to get her to stop. She was fine, not a scratch on her, and before it began she was standing on "her" chair looking out the window, nothing more.
11:30- Afternoon walk. Drinks out of a puddle on the side of the road for more then a minute. She has a full bowl of fresh water at home, but much prefers road water. I forgot bags so of course she tries to poop on someone's lawn even though she pooped less then four hours ago. I dragged her away from the lawn and took her to a wilderness trail but she never attempted after that.
12 to 3:00pm- I was gone for about an hour and a half doing laundry so I missed some possible crazy time, but luckily she spent the time I was home just napping so here was a little island of sanity.
3:15pm- Late afternoon walk. Again with the sticks and puddles. She also tried to drag me across the street again, but this time there was a car right there that hit the brakes loudly skidding to a stop. She was so frightened by that that she dove the other way, hopefully that's the end of that behavior (but I doubt it).
Currently- She is sitting on her chair chewing on a giant, I assume moose (but it's impossible to tell because apparently moose anatomy is the least illustrated anatomy on the entire planet if my internet searches are any indication) vertebrae I found on our walk.

Hopefully that keeps her until further notice. Frankly, I'm getting pretty sick of her today, it's like she's been determined to ruin my day.

Other then the dog, school is starting to get noticeably close for me. As of next week  I should have my entire next semester planned out. I checked yesterday and I still don't seem to owe any money... I wonder when my tuition is due?

I also discovered tonight, when I went to the gas station across the street from me for the first time (I was in desperate need of a Coke) that they carry Aero Bars! For those of you unfamiliar with Aero Bars, it's a chocolate bar produced by Nestle that's mostly available in the UK and the EU, but very hard to get in the states. It is found in Canada, but in California the only place to get it is at Cost Plus, and yet here they are at the gas station across the street. I love Aero Bars, and I was considering driving over to St Stephen, New Brunswick (Chocolate City Canada) to try and find some, now I know I can just walk across the street! That almost completely erased how pissed off the dog has made me today.