I’m Not a Robot

I think it’s weird whenever I come across one of those CAPTCHAs designed to thwart spam and I am asked to check a box stating that I’m not a robot. Because inevitably I click the box and a few seconds later, my comment has posted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the process is so easy, but should the process really be so easy? Robots are supposed to be a million times smarter than humans, right? If a robot has the ability to solve a complex quadratic equation in nanoseconds, don’t you think he’d be artificially intelligent enough to check the box indicating he wasn’t a robot in order to bypass the system and spam the shit out of somebody? I’m pretty sure it would be easy enough to program “subterfuge” into his operating system.

Is it really wise to rely on the honor system when it comes to network security, folks?

But what do I know. I’m just a human.

Apparently, I am now in the wholesale egg distribution business.

Now that we found an egg guy who will deliver, I decided to let the entire office in on the opportunity and sent out a company-wide email yesterday. I told my coworkers we found a local guy, his eggs are great, and we’d be placing a regular order with him every two weeks. Anybody interested on getting in on the action could pay us $4 a dozen in advance. We got orders for 10 dozen this first go-around, which isn’t terrible. I actually thought there’d be more takers – I mean, who can resist farm fresh eggs, delivered for free to your workplace?

Maybe they just aren’t aware of how much better fresh eggs are compared to what you can buy in the grocery store. Oh, well. They’ll come around.

And if they do, I might need to consider a new line of work. Deb said we should be charging $5 a dozen and splitting the extra dollar as profit for our hard work in engineering this whole thing, collecting the money, placing the order, etc. It IS quite a bit of effort – I started a spreadsheet, for crying out loud! – but I’m too damn nice to try to actually profit from this. I just like the idea of supporting a local farmer.

A couple of friends expressed concern over the fact that he’s got “hundreds of chickens” and were afraid he might be cooping them up to mass produce, but that is not the case. Our egg guy promises they are, and I quote,

Farm fresh free range eggs from hens of many different breeds, so there is a good mix of colored eggs. The chickens are fed produce, germinated grain from local farmers, germinated sunflower seeds, egg and oyster shells, alfalfa hay and mealworms that I raise.

It doesn’t get any more humane or organic than that, folks.

We’re going to schedule our next delivery for the end of this week. Good thing too, as Tara and I already used up our last couple of dozen.

So, my parents are in Florida for a few weeks.

My parents have a nice gas grill. We live in an apartment complex that does not allow grills. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Tonight, we are taking advantage of their grill to cook us up some nice ribeye steaks. And we’ll take advantage of their empty sunroom to eat them in.

Might even take advantage of the chilled bottle of wine in their fridge, too. If there is one.

Mom and dad, you have been warned.

The Agony and the Egg-stacy

I feel like an extra in a Portlandia sketch, because I’ve got my own egg guy now.

This all began last week when a coworker arrived with a carton of farm fresh eggs. She said she had a supplier and might be able to hook us up, too. I was immediately interested, because fresh eggs are, shell we say, quite divine. So when she told me that her egg person did not have enough to go around, I figured that was it, my dreams had flown the coop and I was destined to continue purchasing my eggs from the grocery store like just another commoner. I did learn an important life lesson, though: don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Why, yes. I am breaking out the egg puns in earnest. What can I say? They crack me up.

Just when I thought all hope was lost, Deb said she found somebody on Craigslist who could get us farm fresh eggs. Best of all, he delivered, as long as we ordered a minimum of five dozen. He charges a mere $4 a dozen. Granted, this is more expensive than what you’ll pay in the grocery store, but about half the cost of what they charge at the farmer’s market, and the quality is far superior. I have to admit, I never would have thought to look for something like that on Craigslist! I was so proud of my coworker’s ingenuity I wanted to give her a standing ovation. I scrambled to find additional people who were interested, a task that went over easy. Before long we had a commitment for eight dozen eggs. The guy showed up at our office two days later, and I have been enjoying farm fresh eggs ever since. They are, dare I say it, eggcellent.

We are planning on opening this up to the whole office and making it a regular thing. Our egg guy has lots of chickens and can easily meet our demand. We’re thinking a delivery every two weeks should be sufficient.

Never a dull moment around here, folks.

Tara and I have new neighbors in our apartment complex. And these neighbors have dogs. Let’s just say things are off to a rocky start.

I’ve never been much of a dog person to begin with. I just prefer the no-fuss nature of cats (though I will admit I’ve known some pretty cool dogs in my day – Sadie, Lily, and Hank come to mind). Regardless, I’m a live-and-let live type of guy for the most part.

But not when your dogs bark constantly, as in incessantly, as in nonstop for hours at a time. Which these dogs do, every single moment that the humans next door are gone. Which is most evenings until 8:50 p.m.

Things got so bad, I finally broke down and called the management office to complain. They were actually sympathetic and told me they’d already received other complaints, so they were going to talk to these people and let them know if they can’t control the barking they will either have to get rid of the dogs or get rid of themselves. I was satisfied with this response.

A little while later, we were coming home from the grocery store and ran into the neighbors. First time we’d met them since they moved on. Immediately, the guy goes, “I’m sorry about our barking dogs!”

Now, I could have said, “Oh, it’s okay. No big deal.” But it is NOT okay and it is a big deal. I wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily! I might have been graded a C- on social graces, but I’m pretty sure I got an A on Telling It Like It Is 101. To his credit, that made him apologize more. I still didn’t let him off the hook – trust me, his dogs are really annoying – but I respect him for admitting they are a problem rather than getting defensive about it. The sad thing is, he seems like a nice enough guy. I really hope they can get those pups under control. Seems like their bark is worse than his bite.

Oh, you thought I only did egg puns?

No such luck…

A Feast for the Eyes

Lately, whenever we go out to eat, Tara cringes. Because it usually ends up being a party of three: me, her, and my camera. Like many people, I’m sort-of obsessed with photographing my food. This would probably be okay with my wife if I did so subtly – a quick snapshot with my phone, say – but for some reason, she gets embarrassed when I drag out the Nikon. Doubly so if I use the flash.

Admittedly, I try not to go to such extremes. I don’t want to annoy my fellow diners or draw attention to the fact that I am taking pics of my food. But even without the flash, it’s kind of hard not to notice the guy with the big red camera pointed at his plate. In my defense, I say this: food is art, and should be appreciated by both the eyes and the mouth.

There are downsides to photographing food, aside from attracting the ire of the other restaurant patrons. It takes time to position the plate just so, focus the lens, remove unnecessary items (took me a long time to start paying attention to things like straws in glasses and Stevia packets on the table). So by the time I am able to actually dig into my food, it is no longer piping hot.

Here’s the thing, though: food represents memories. I can take a look at a plate and instantly conjure up where I was and what I was doing at the exact moment I took the photo. If I were to stroll down this foodie version of Memory Lane, for instance, I would recall…

The amazing crab-stuffed salmon from the first Valentine’s Day Tara and I spent together.
My first bacon maple bar from Voodoo Doughnut.
Our annual visits to The Bite of Oregon, a foodie’s dream.
The 2-lb. burger from Big Jud’s in Boise. It was large enough for four of us to share.
The best thing about Fresno.
That time we ate snails during our celebration of national food holidays in 2013.
The first time we tried oysters. To our surprise, we loved them.
Celebrating our honeymoon at Elway’s Steakhouse in Denver.
An artfully arranged plate of snacks during an anniversary trip to the Oregon coast.

I think you get the point.

Some foods photograph better than others. Split pea soup, no matter how good it tastes, inevitably ends up looking pale and disgusting. But a hearty bowl of ramen? Much more appealing.

Or a great sandwich.

Even something simple like pork rinds.

I have love for cocktails, too.

And an entire gallery of Bloody Mary pics.

Last night, we met up with our foodie friend Kara to take advantage of Portland Dining Month. Naturally, I brought along my camera. And naturally, I embarrassed Tara.

Lumpia from Clyde Common.

But damn, was it good. And again, I say: art on a plate.

Beef tongue Spam Musubi from SuperBite.

How ’bout you? Do you take the time to photograph your food, snicker at those busting out their cameras or phones, or do you not care because you are too busy diving right in?

NNWM/6: The Color of Peanut Butter

I have no idea what inspired me to make a big pot of homemade gumbo this evening.

The short answer is: I was craving it. But I don’t know why, because I have zero ties to New Orleans. In fact, Louisiana is one of the few states I have never visited. It’s not like my mom cooked gumbo every Sunday while I was growing up. Or ever. It’s just one of those dishes that I feel like making every couple of years, usually after enough time has passed that I forget how time-consuming the whole process is.

It’s all about the roux. Making it takes patience and an unerring commitment to stirring constantly for at least 45 minutes. The recipe I was using today told me it’d be done after 20 minutes, but THEY LIED. I have never had a good roux take less than three quarters of an hour, and today was no exception. I remember once it took me 90 nonstop minutes. I’m kinda surprised I didn’t end up with a torn rotator cuff that time. Cooking can be dangerous, kids.

The roux is supposed to be the color of peanut butter, but you have to cook it over very low heat so it doesn’t burn, which translates to what feels like a million years. At one point I actually grabbed a jar of Skippy from the cupboard and held it up to the pot I was stirringstirringstirring to compare the color, and deemed it “close enough.”

FWIW, the gumbo turned out delicious. Which means I’ll be ready to make it again in another 24 to 36 months.


Word Count Today: 1,059.
Total Word Count: 16,293.

Cooking as Poetry

Cooking is like a poem.

There’s a certain rhythm and grace to the prep work. Chopping, slicing, and dicing; the alternating short and long cuts a sort of iambic pentameter in the kitchen. Baking is precision and rhyme, but all else – that which does not demand perfection – is loose, free-form.

These ideas came to me Sunday evening as I prepared dinner. We’d invited my parents over for honey-glazed salmon with a browned butter and lime sauce, a recipe I first discovered last year and one that has converted a couple of salmon-averse individuals (including my own wife, no less) into fans, at least of this one dish. To wit: it’s really good.

I found myself lost in thought during the preparation, enjoying the sense of purpose these repetitive tasks brought me. There is an undeniable pride and joy that accompanies the act of creating a dish from scratch,  an age-old satisfaction in providing sustenance. Feeding others harkens back to a tribe mentality old as the dawn of man.

Damn. How much wine did I drink, anyway?!

But seriously. I’ve always loved cooking, which explains why I was anything but the typical bachelor following my divorce. Microwave burritos and take-out pizza were never my thing; even during those kid-free weeks when it was just me (and later, just me and the cat), I found myself slaving away in the kitchen, regardless of how tired I was or how busy my work day had been. Taking the easy route wasn’t ever an option for me, at least not one that I ever seriously considered. I never really thought about the reasons why I chose to create complex meals for myself every night; only in retrospect did this seem like an awful lot of unnecessary work for a party of one when a PB&J sandwich or a bowl of Top Ramen would have sufficed. But yesterday, I realized for the first time what cooking really meant to me.



A sense of purpose.

Above all else, a blank canvas waiting to be filled.

All of which pretty much sum up everything lacking in my life at the time.

Oh, and for the record? The salmon last night was excellent. And that sums up my life these days.

Don’t Get Murdered

A few weeks ago, I stopped into my local State Farm office to steal a cup of coffee. You might recall me talking about it here. But that was merely the tip of the iceberg. Immediately afterwards, I started plotting something even more daring. What would happen if I walked past somebody dining outdoors at the restaurant around the corner, I wondered, and grabbed a tater tot off their plate? I decided that I absolutely, positively had to do this. Call me a daredevil. A prankster. A student of human nature.

I make really weird bucket lists, I know.

Because it’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something unless there is accountability, I told a whole bunch of coworkers about my plan. Even though they had witnessed me pilfering coffee firsthand, not a single one believed I would actually steal somebody’s food right off their plate. Which made me want to do it that much more.

Every day, multiple times a day, I walk around the block to stretch my legs. I go right past this restaurant, so I had plenty of time to scope things out and formulate a plan. I approached the task with the seriousness of a runner preparing for his first marathon, and considered myself “in training” for the big event. Because the weather has been so ridiculously warm this past month, there were frequently diners sitting at the outdoor tables – but for one reason or another, the situation was never ideal. Their tables were empty, or a busboy was clearing their plates, or they were eating something difficult to grab, like soup. Or they looked like they might murder me. [My one hard-and fast rule: don’t get murdered.]

And then, today happened.

I walked past the restaurant, and there were two separate tables with diners eating tater tots. I still wasn’t 100% sure I was going to do it, but then a coworker wanted to grab coffee. I told her that sounded good, but we had to walk past the restaurant so I could steal a tater tot. Naturally, she did not believe I was going to do this.

Hey, Sarah: told ya so!

We walked by, and the same two pairs of diners were still there. The first ones were paying their check, and the tots were gone. Dammit. But the second pair were still there. Deep in conversation, laughing and taking sips of water. Right there, in between them, a half-full plate of tater tots beckoned.

It’s now or never, I thought.

Previously, when I’d planned this out, I figured my safest bet would be to grab a tater tot and run. Because, remember: don’t get murdered. But in the heat of the moment, I threw sense and logic out the door. Instead, I was amazingly calm. I stopped in my tracks, casually reached over, snatched a tater tot from their plate, and held it up for them to see, acknowledging the fact that it was, indeed, right there clutched between my fingers  and not on their plate, where it belonged. I even grabbed it with my left hand, which I feel should earn me bonus points.

“Thank you,” I said politely. Then I turned and strolled away.

The looks on their faces were priceless. They stared at me, wide-eyed, caught between anger, amusement, and amazement. I think they were trying to decide whether to yell at me or burst out laughing. In fact, they never did say a word, just stared at me as I walked away with their stolen tot.

I mean, what do you say in a situation like that? If it had been me, I probably would have laughed.

Sarah, my coworker who witnessed the whole incident, was astounded by my bravado. “I never thought you’d actually do it!” she said.

“I told you I would,” I replied. And that sums me up in a nutshell. If I put my mind to something, you can take it to the bank that I am going to go through with it. My word is gold. I try not to worry what other people think, and I am not afraid to step outside my comfort zone. Even at the risk of public humiliation. I rarely back away from a dare. I’m like Marty McFly in Back To The Future. Call me “chicken” and I’ll do my very best to prove you wrong.

I figure I did those diners a favor. Now they have a great story to tell their friends and family. You’ll never believe what happened one time when we went out to lunch! We were eating tater tots when a stranger walked by and grabbed one right off our plate. Can you believe the nerve of that guy?! They’ll get mileage out of the retelling for years to come.

You’re welcome, strangers.

As for me, I’m feeling pretty immortal these days.

When I got back to the office, after showing the tater tot to my disbelieving coworkers, I ate it. It turned out to be a sweet potato tater tot, which I’d never had before. It tasted extra delicious.

And best of all, I did not get murdered.

The infamous stolen tot.
The infamous stolen tot.

Make it Snap-E!

The camaraderie with friends this past weekend was nice. We caught an amazing sunset Friday night. Enjoyed some great food and tasty beverages. Soaked our cares away in a hot tub. But the best part about our weekend getaway to Ocean Park, Washington?

I found Snap-E-Tom in a local grocery store and picked up a few cans!


OK, “a few” might be an understatement. I think 39 is a perfectly reasonable number considering this stuff is harder to find than a Muslin woman wearing a Trump 2016 button. You might remember my obsession with this product; it dates back to last summer in Park City, when I picked up a can in a grocery store on a whim. One sip and I was hooked. Unfortunately, I didn’t take that sip until after we’d gotten back home; otherwise I’d have loaded up the trunk in Utah ’cause, as great as Portland is, they are not a Snap-E-Tom-friendly town. And yet, there’s Pabst Blue Ribbon up the wazoo. Further proof that injustice runs rampant in the world.

We were able to find Snap-E-Tom in Ely over New Year’s, but Ridley’s only had 13 cans on the shelf. Naturally, I bought them all, but have been hoarding them like crazy ever since [see: Muslim woman, PBR, injustice].

What’s so great about Snap-E-Tom, you might be wondering. It’s sort of like V-8, right? And that shit’s a dime a dozen. Well, yes, it is sort of like V-8…only a bajillion times better. Must be all the sodium. It’s got a great little kick, too. I heart the stuff [but you already knew that].

Fast-forward to this weekend. We rented a beach house in Ocean Park, Washington because we had friends visiting from Sacramento (hello there, Heidi and Ross!) and Oregon (yo, Chris!) and wanted to take them to the Astoria Wine, Seafood & Crab Festival. [It might actually be the Seafood, Wine & Crab Fest. Or the Crab, Seafood & Wine Fest. Or the Wine, Crab & Seafood Fest. I’m unclear on the exact order of things. Considering all the fermented grape juice vendors there, it might actually be the Wine, Wine & Wine Fest. I’d Google it but I’m feeling lazy.] In any case, we were having a grand ol’ time. The house we rented was a beautiful remodeled older place with hardwood floors, a spacious kitchen and dining room, and a hot tub. Score! We spent a good number of hours drinking, eating, listening to music, laughing, and swapping stories. Caught a magnificent sunset Friday evening. Did the whatever-it’s-called-Festival Saturday. That evening, after a dinner of braised short ribs that were to die for (Ross: recipe? Please?), Tara ran out of beer, so I walked to the local Thriftway to grab her some more. And decided, what the hell, they won’t have it, but I might as well check the beverage aisle on the off chance that this small barely-a-bend-in-the-road coastal Washington town might sell Snap-E-Tom.

Imagine my surprise when I found the stuff on the shelf. I’m embarrassed to admit this, guys, but I actually squealed. Might have uttered something like “sweet baby Jesus!” too, drawing stares from the other late-night shoppers. I didn’t even have a cart because I was just there for a six-pack of Bud Light, but I grabbed every can I could find, piled them in my arms, and made my way to the checkout stand.

“You sell Snap-E-Tom!” I said to the cashier, my voice positively oozing excitement.

“Yeah,” she replied, oddly not sharing in my jubilation.

“You don’t understand,” I continued. “This stuff is impossible to find back home!”

“Great. Paper or plastic?”

Some people just don’t appreciate their own good fortune. I staggered back to the house (all those cans of Snap-E-Tom were heavy!) and burst through the door. “You’ll never believe what I found!” I told our guests. Heidi, Ross, and Chris were about as enthused as the Thriftway cashier, but Tara at least recognized the momentousness of the occasion. She squealed, too.

And now we can stop hoarding Snap-E-Tom, because next time we are running low, I know where we can find more!

It’s just a short 5-hour round trip away…