Saturday, April 21, 2012

Past Deadline: Gastronomical Epic Milestones

I love egg salad.

I really do. I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t. That goes for devilled eggs, too, which are basically egg salad without the bread.

When my kids were toddlers, I used to try to convince them egg salad was the cat’s pyjamas. I was almost personally offended when they refused to eat it.

Kids have this amazing tendency to wear you down about food. And other things. But we’re going to talk about food today.

When confronted with a new, untested food, a friend of ours used to tell her kids that they would have to try it 10 times before they would like it. We adopted the idea around our house, too. Sometimes it worked. I think I gave up after five or six tries with egg salad, though.

One day back in March, I made myself an egg salad sandwich. This doesn’t happen very often because I am the only one in the house who likes it. (Groom-boy will eat devilled eggs, but not egg salad. Go figure.)

On a whim, I kept a little aside and when the kids got home from school I said, “Here. Try this. I want to know if you like it.” It had been a couple of years since the last tasting.

Lo and behold, they not only liked it, they loved it! They licked the dishes clean and wanted more. I was shocked, surprised and thrilled. I made egg salad sandwiches for school lunches the next day.

This was an Epic Milestone™ in School Lunch Choices, but I warned myself not to overdo it because then they would get sick of it. Too much of a good thing, you know.

When Girlchild asked me to make egg salad sandwiches for lunch this past week, it got me to thinking about how much our relationship with food evolves over time.

I remember as a kid that it took me a long time to grow into my palate for some foods, but now I’ll eat pretty much anything that is put in front of me (which is a problem to cover another day). I still have a bit of trouble with Brussels sprouts – they have to be done just so, usually with maple syrup.

As I continue navigating this wonderful (sarcasm) era of being in my 40s, I am starting to realize that just because one’s palate has grown and evolved, doesn’t mean the rest of the body appreciates the flavour.

For instance, I love French onion soup, but if I eat it, I should plan to stay home the next day.

I am learning a lot of new and interesting things about soluble and insoluble fibres, and how the flesh of a fruit can be kinder than its skin. I think about bran.

I had a delicious meal recently that included rapini – something I don’t have very often. I immediately thought of my friend who has trouble with kidney stones and how she eats rapini to help.

Yes, I am perusing the menu and thinking about kidney stones. I look at an apple and wonder if the skin has too much insoluble fibre.


Life was easier when all you had to remember was that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I miss being able to eat anything and everything and not gain an ounce and not worry about all the sinister things food might be doing to my body.

That was a long day ago.

One night a week Girlchild has dance lessons right around suppertime, so it has become our tradition to have some sort of quick pasta casserole – usually macaroni and cheese.

Mmmm. Mac and cheese (the way Mom made it) has always been comfort food for me.

Unfortunately, it was on the menu around the time back in February or March when our household was afflicted by the barfies. Now I can barely stand to make it, let alone it eat it. It’s another Epic Milestone™, but I’m not so thrilled about this one.

Fortunately, we can turn to egg salad for comfort now.

Published in The Perth Courier, April 12/12

Past Deadline: Saving Pennies for the Moon Condo

Jeepers. I feel as if I am becoming a fogey.

I think it is because I am slowly – or rather quickly – accumulating an “in my day” list. (“In my day” mostly refers to those wild and crazy formative years – from kid to twenty-something.)

In my day we didn’t have Velcro. We had laces and learned to tie our shoes when we were two. Okay, maybe four. And we liked it. We loved it!

In my day computers didn’t have jump keys or CDs or 3.5-inch floppies or even 5-inch ones. We had cassette decks and the monitors were old black and white televisions. And we liked it. We loved it!

In my day we used a technique called “paste up” – not computers – to lay out newspapers. The “paste” was wax and we cut the story strips with Exacto knives and stuck them to the newspaper template page to send it for printing. And we liked it. We loved it!

In my day we didn’t Google something when we needed information, we looked in an encyclopedia or phoned someone. And we liked it. We loved it! (Actually, we just didn’t know any better on this one. I would have killed for the Interwebs when I was still at the paper. Marvellous thing, that World Wide Net.)

In my day, you could buy loads of candy with pennies. It was called penny candy. And we liked it. We loved it!

And we liked the pennies, too.

Not no more, though.

Seems the penny will soon be relegated to my “in my day” list. It is “the currency without currency,” a casualty of modern budgets because it costs more to produce (1.6 cents) than it is worth. Killing it later this year will save about $11 million annually.

I understand this from a financial point of view, but I really do like counting by ones. Of course with 30 billion pennies in circulation (or hiding in jars, fountains, piggy banks and under beds), it will take a kazillion years for it to disappear, at which point we will have to count our change by fives.

That’s okay, I guess. Easier than counting by sevens or thirteens.

Then there is the question of who eats the cost at the cash register. Despite the power of the PMO, it’s unlikely the feds will be able to orchestrate all mathematical calculations to end in fives or zeros, especially considering that 13 per cent HST.

Sure, there will be “guidelines” about rounding up and rounding down for cash transactions, but do you s’pose some people might cheat?

I would say that it makes a case for paying for everything (where possible) using a debit or credit card because those will still be calculated to the cent but, on the other hand, there exists the possibility that the consumer will come out ahead.

This is where that statistics stuff I took in high school would come in handy. What is the probability one would get ahead with the round-down game and gather many cents over time?

Math teachers – on your mark, get set, go!

Of course some people will bypass the rounding up by just rounding their prices up to the nearest five. Then we are officially not ahead.

What all of this boils down to, though, is that I have to get busy and finish my penny collection.

When I was a kid (in my day), one of my elders, I can’t remember which one, bought me one of those little coin-collecting books with the plastic sleeves to protect the pennies.

I was always searching for old pennies when I wasn’t busy writing down random licence plate numbers (weird little kid). My booklet has a penny for every year from 1930-something to sometime within the last decade.

Of course I recently put the book “somewhere safe,” so I can’t check.

Nevertheless, I’ll have to get the kids to sort through our pennies to fill in the current blanks and maybe snag some extra old ones. And then in 150 years they will be worth so much we will sell them to buy a condo on the moon. Right?

Published in The Perth Courier, April 5/12

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Past Deadline: By Way of Update

This week I had to choose between imparting my great wisdom and in-depth analyses upon the masses regarding the provincial and federal budgets or updating you about my fish tank and my car.

I chose the latter because the budget one would have been – uh – very budgetty. Besides, I left everyone hanging with last week’s aquarium birth stories and I would hate to think of you waiting by the door for your newspaper and wringing your hands with worry.

My previous column chronicled the great fertility in the tank – there were baby snails and peppered cory eggs.

I am pleased to report we still have some baby snails, but not so many as to have it deemed an infestation – so far. That means I don’t have to invoke the Hanging Lettuce Trap or any other form of snail elimination at this point. Phew!

As for the corys, well, hmm. Last week I guessed at three possible scenarios on how this would end: 1. The corys or some other tank inhabitant would eat the eggs. 2. The eggs would get all fuzzy and fungal and wouldn’t hatch. 3. The eggs would hatch, but the babies would be so tiny we wouldn’t see them no matter how obsessive I am. And then someone would eat them.

Boychild and I kept a suitably obsessive eye on things, but those corys are cagey. Some of the eggs went fungal. In my inexperienced opinion, none developed quite the way the Interwebs said they would, but after the requisite three to five days it really did look as if the eggs had hatched because there were a lot of empty casings clinging to the glass.

At least that’s what we found in the mornings. All the action – whether it was hatching or becoming dinner – happened while we slept.

I looked and looked for tiny cory fry. I studied online, but never did I see anything that looked like a tiny baby cory.

One of Boychild’s friends came over and swears he saw one squiggle by, which makes me envious.

I continue to check, thinking that if some did survive and are hiding, then eventually they will be bigger and will reveal themselves, but deep down I know that at some stage or another, they were dinner (see No. 3, above).

Nevertheless, it was a cool experiment.

It was almost as cool as having a car.

I am experiencing bliss!

Now that we are a two-car family, life is a little less painful. I hate to dredge it up again, but I have to tell you that not having to walk everywhere has made my Stupid Foot feel pretty darned good.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it turns out my foot only hurts when I walk. (Shh! I know this is quite obviously a good news/bad news thing, but I’m going to stick to the car-bliss theme right now.)

Did you know there are some really funky songs on the radio right now? See, in my world, Working in the Office Music is muuuuch different than Driving Around in the Car Music. For one thing, the latter is much louder.

Admittedly, there are occasions when I need a blast of motivation to get a job done and opt for loud, funky music in the office. One advantage to that over the car is that people can’t see me chair dancing in the home office, but they can see me in my car.

It’s true! People can see you when you are in your car, even though it seems as if you are in a private moving bubble. So if you say bad words to another driver, he or she may be able to read your lips. And don’t pick your nose or be otherwise gross because you are not invisible.

Even with these incredible, alarming risks, I have to say that having a car at my whim and fancy has been absolutely freeing.

Let’s see how I feel after paying for the car and its gas for a few more months. I guess I could sell the snails....

Published in The Perth Courier, April 5/12