Now that I've got it...

Sometime last year, one of the cooking channels I follow on YouTube featured Harissa paste in a couple of their videos. When we were assembling a grocery list for our next delivery, I noticed that the store listed it on their web site, so I tossed it into our order. It was only $1.29, so my reasoning was that if it didn't work out, at least I was only out about the cost of a fast food coffee. I had a definite plan for it at the time.

When our food order arrived, this item was crossed out and listed as "not in stock".

I was a bit disappointed because their website had shown it as available.

So I added it to the next order.

And it was out of stock.

I added it again.

Same result.


Eventually, I forgot why I even wanted it, and I started adding it to the order out of principle. I felt a bit like the character in Monty Python who was trying to order cheese at a cheese shop that did not appear to sell actual cheese. My reasoning was that if the product was not in stock, the website should have reflected that.

It showed up with today's food order.

I have a tube of Harissa paste in my possession, even as I type this.

I have forgotten what I planned to do with it.

But it's mine, now.

  • Current Music
    Rush - Roll The Bones
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Innocent mood

Spicing up life

I ordered some spices from a specialty merchant yesterday to replenish a few on which we were low. While I was ordering I tossed "Sumac" and "Grains of Paradise" into the mix because they are both spices that I've been wanting to try.

Sumac is slightly tart, and I can see using it in something where I want to offset the salty or sweet components a bit while adding a slightly earthy component. The Grains of Paradise, meanwhile, gives the vibes of mild black pepper crossed with cardamom.

I used some of the latter in the rice I cooked up to go with the masoor dahl tadka I made for dinner this evening and the results were pleasing - though subtle. I added very little because I wanted to err on the side of caution the first time I used it.

On tasting the new spices individually, it occurred to me that they might pair well, so this evening I sprinkled a bit of each into my palm and tried it. The result was very good ... and strangely familiar.

I tried the experiment again, but this time I also added a pinch of sugar. As soon as I tossed it into my mouth, my brain went, "Wait ... did I just reinvent tamarind?"

It's been a long time since I've had tamarind, so my memory of its flavour might be a bit off, but this sure triggered the memory of it.

Pop-up Salon?
I saw this while I was out riding yesterday. A pop-up, COVID-friendly hair salon?

This was one of the other spices I ordered yesterday (asafoetida). We weren't out, but the stuff we had was ancient and had lost all of its potency.
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    Radiohead - Creep
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Bork Bork Bork

Lip balm mystery

A bit of back story first: Until we had some plumbers out recently to replace the pipes, we had issues with our bathroom drains. The sink had stopped flowing for a few months already, and the bathtub slowly came to a standstill as well more recently. I'd tried the usual plunging and drain cleaner, but they had both become less and less effective over the years until it all finally stopped. We'd been planning to call out a plumber for the sink once we were both fully vaccinated, but bailing the tub after each shower got old very quickly and it forced our hand. Also, the drain had been dripping into the basement for some time.

Our work-around for the sink was to use the kitchen sink for hand-washing and teeth-brushing. atara continued doing that until we got the bathroom fixed, but I ended up migrating to the basement bathroom. The basement bathroom is a tiny half-bath tucked in under the stairs, with just enough room for a toilet and sink. I cleaned it up and started heading down there to brush and clean up at the end of the day, or for a quick sponge-bath when I didn't feel like dealing with the plugged bathtub.

Even after we got the upstairs plumbing fixed, I've continued using the downstairs bathroom because I like having a private little space, and I want to keep it clean and functioning after letting it fall into years of disuse.

I have a variety of necessities down there: soap, wash cloth, towel, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, electric trimmers, chap-stick, etc. It's the last item that was the subject of this little mystery.

This past winter and (so far) spring have been extraordinarily dry, so one of the last things I do before heading up to bed is to apply chapstick, and then moisturise my dry hands. I'd noticed a few times that the stick was not sticking as far out of the tube as I remembered, but I just assumed that I'd been going through it faster than I thought.

I started making a point of ensuring it was advanced a couple of millimetres before I capped it. The next night I would remove the cap and find it retracted back into the tube. The first couple of times this happened, I attributed it to poor memory, assuming that I had meant to leave it extruded and forgot. After awhile, though, I concluded that my my memory was not that bad. Somehow the lip balm was cranking itself back into the tube during the day. It's one of those tubes that has the twister on the end to extrude/retract the balm, and I was standing it on the shelf with the rotating end face down. It occurred to me that with the weight of the stick pressing down on the twisting end, it was slowly turning itself and retracting over the course of the day. That would also explain why this didn't happen every day - it would vary with temperature and humidity.

Mystery solved.

To stop this, I started storing it cap-end down so that it would not retract under its own weight. That solved the problem completely. For two days.

Three days after I made this change, I removed the cap to find it retracted into the tube again. I knew that it was not my memory at fault, and I had now ruled out that it was the weight of the tube. My brain started heading into strange territory then. I ruled that it was either a) atara was subtly trolling me, b) a ghost, or c) we had a stranger living in one of our underused closets who was sneaking out when we left the house to help themself to our food, and mess with my lip balm.

I became very careful with the lip balm after that. When I put it on the shelf, I made sure to leave it in a very specific spot and facing to try and catch the perpetrator in the act. Each night, I would find it in exactly the same same place and orientation where I had left it, but randomly extruded or retracted. There was no apparent pattern to it.

About a week ago, I had just finished using it when I noticed something as I was putting on the cap. I was holding the tube at the middle, and as I pushed the cap into place, the extruder spun. I pulled off the cap and, sure enough, it was retracted. It turns out that the cap is such a tight fit that the air pressure was pushing the balm back down into the tube. The deciding factor on whether I found it extruded or retracted the next day was on how I was holding it when I put on the cap the night before. If I held it in such a way as to stop the retractor from spinning, I'd find it properly extruded the next night.

Mystery solved for real this time. It was definitely a bit of a brain-bender, though.

I've been varying my route when I got for (almost) daily walks in our neighbourhood lately, and one of the things I've been doing while I walk is to take pictures of interesting street art that I pass. This one has all the markings that suggest it's a gang hangout. Given the part of town, I'd not be surprised.
Judgmental Mood

House AstraZeneca

It has been just over two months since I got my first vaccine shot, which means that I am about 4 weeks away from being due for my second.

Normally I would just assume that the second shot would be the same vaccine as the first, but our AZ supply up here is short, and much of it is set to expire at the end of this month.

On the other hand, we have truckloads of the Pfizer vaccine arriving over the next few weeks. To that end, at the prompting of the federal government, many of the provincial agencies are starting to move in the direction of giving people Pfizer for their second shot, even if they received the AZ adenovirus vaccine as their first.

Studies coming out of the UK and Spain indicate that it is not only safe, but extremely effective. Eh. Sign me up. It's not like they ask me which flu vaccine I got the previous year when I go in for my next shot.

Also, the cobra-chickens are out in force these days. I wanted to cross the concrete bridge, but I didn't feel like paying the goose tax.
Dandelions are underrated

I noticed as soon as I posted this that I linked the wrong picture. This is the one I was addressing:
Canadian Cobrachickens
Kinda bleah mood

Remind me

I have started to rely a lot on reminders. I set notifications for everything from doctors appointments to taking a daily picture (I'll add today's to this post). I set them up on my Google calender so that they get shared between my desktop computer, my surface and my phone. It's great, and it has really helped me stay organized.

The downside is that I tend to be a bit forgetful when I don't get a reminder. But I don't know if that's because I'm getting older, or if I'm getting so used to having machines tell me when to do things that my brain has stopped bothering to expend the effort of remembering stuff once I set a reminder for it.

I'll need to set myself a reminder to disable reminders for a week and see what happens.

I made gnocchi for dinner last night to use up some old potatoes in the fridge. After some debate, I ended up just serving it with spaghetti sauce.

I warmed up the leftovers for lunch today, but I fancied it up a bit by cutting up and rendering a couple of slices of bacon and de-glazing with red wine before I stirred in the gnocchi and sauce.
The red wine added a nice flavour, and it really brought out the colour.

On another front, I just had a brush with crazy people on Facebook. Somebody posted a meme about Canada Geese to a FB community, and it got taken down.

They immediately blamed the government.

I said, "Uh, no. The law you are citing doesn't exist, and in this case it was either the community moderators that took the post down, or some of their friends reported it to Facebook and they took it down."

This person was not convinced.

Then some of their friends started weighing in about how even with no law in place, Trudeau is personally going to Facebook and ordering them to take down memes that he doesn't like.

These folks are serious.

These folks are bat-shit crazy.

Time to un-follow the crazy.
  • Current Music
    Jethro Tull - Aqualung
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Judgmental Mood

Wow, I hadn't heard that one.

I snapped a picture of myself in the Volkswagen today because it was finally warm enough to put down the top. I posted it to FB and Twitter, knowing that I would get comments on the beard.

I just wish people would spare a second or so to come up with moderately original comments. I got the equivalent of, "It didn't scan, so that means it's free, right?" Or perhaps that scene from The Simpsons. "Do you come with the car?"

Convertible Weather

Every comment: [noun] [verb] ZZ top.
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    Styx - Miss America
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Kinda bleah mood

Musical Crustacean

The song Rock Lobster by The B-52's just came up in my Spotify playlist this morning. I was working on something else while it was playing, but in the back of my mind I couldn't shake off the realization that I find the song a bit irritating, and always have. I don't hate the song, but it's one of those ones for which I would not stop the radio if I had it scanning stations to find an interesting one.

I remember adding it to my playlist, and even at the time I acknowledged to myself that I was only doing so for nostalgic reasons. The song was popular among some crowds when I was in high school, and I guess we are supposed to feel nostalgic for those times.

I wasn't part of the crowd with whom this song was popular, though. The folks who listened to Rock Lobster tended to be the clean-cut, gregarious, cliquish, cool kids who would chill together in the auditorium and dance to quirky music and then go do whatever those kids did after school. I was one of the moody, long-haired kids who listened to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, hung around in the computer lab, and played D&D in our spare time.

I actually had friends in the popular group, but I had to separate them from the pack in order to hang out with them. I still keep touch with some of them on Facebook.

And here I am, almost forty years later, listening to a song that I never really liked back in the day. And I'll leave it in my playlist, so it will likely pop up again sometime in a few weeks. Because ... nostalgia ... I guess?

When I was grilling burgers on Friday, we tossed some bacon onto the grill so that we could make bacon-cheeseburgers. Obviously this was far too much bacon for the burgers, but we threw the rest in the fridge to have with breakfast the next day.
Grilled bacon

The following day we nuked it and had it with pancakes. I'd already eaten one slice before I decided to keep the second one for a picture.
Sunday Repast

It was atara's suggestion to cook the bacon on the grill, and having done so, I am sold on this method. It came out darned near perfect, and as much as I like the smell of cooked bacon, it gets a bit old when the house still smells like it five hours after breakfast.
  • Current Music
    Type O Negative - Christian Woman
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Entertain Me


One of the things we have changed since the start of the pandemic is that we waste far less food. It's not that we have some kind of renewed appreciation for food, but that we're eating at home much more than we used to (no dining out), so we tend to use things before they get a chance to spoil. Also, since we don't just go shopping on a whim now, we are more prone to using that last bit of stale bread rather than binning it when we pick up a fresh loaf.

Obviously, I have never considered throwing away the inedible parts of food to be waste. I typically don't eat apple cores and banana peels.

Note my use of the word "typically"...

I was watching a British cooking channel on YouTube recently where one of the chefs created a curry using banana peels for the base. Prior to that video, the thought of banana peels belonging anywhere but the compost bin had never crossed my mind. The recipe they used seemed a bit fiddly, so I found a simpler one and replicated their technique. I tossed the peels into a pot of water along with a good helping of turmeric, brought it too a boil and then let it slowly cool for about an hour before I removed the peels, pared them to about 3cm lengths and then cut them into strips.

I threw them into a wok along with some sliced onions and other fixings of a curry, serving the result over rice that I had coloured with turmeric.
Because I Can

It was really good. A bit spicier than I had intended, but I'll adjust that on my next try. Both the flavour and texture were quite pleasant. If I hadn't known what went into this curry, I'd never have guessed that it was a tasty vegetarian curry of some kind, but I'd never have figured out what was being used as the base. This is on my list of things to try again.

Also on the subject of experimental foods that I am going to make again...

I've been itching to try making vegan pulled-pork ever since I learned that it was a thing. I've had mixed luck with vegan recipes in the past, so I approached this with tempered expectations.

The result was astounding. If I hadn't known what went into this, one could have fooled me if they served this to me as the real thing. As a bonus, it was no more work than making the genuine product.

There was still a bit left in the fridge this morning, so I tossed a bagel in the toaster and used the last of the "pork" to make a breakfast sandwich.
Pulled "Pork"

This recipe shared a thing in common with the banana-peel curry in that it was hotter than I'd intended. The recipe called for cayenne, but I substituted an equal amount of hot paprika. It turns out that the latter is hotter than the former would have been, and this stuff packs a bite. Since it could have used a hint more smoke anyway, the next time I make it, I will substitute smoked paprika for the cayenne. More smoke, less fire.
  • Current Music
    Steve Hackett - The Court of the Crimson King
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Judgmental Mood

He did his research!

I had the radio on in the background while I was making breakfast this morning and caught a segment on vaccine hesitancy in some of the southern rural towns. The bible belt runs through those towns, and I know from interviews with town officials that this is one of the prime causes of hesitancy. People who actually get a shot are often shunned by their neighbours, and accused of lacking faith in Jesus to protect them. Of all the reasons to avoid getting a shot, that's probably one of the most ignorant and depressing.

Then there was the guy they cornered for an interview this morning.

He started with the usual excuses. "Well, I'm pretty sure I already had it. Also, I'm young so it's not a big deal if I catch it. Also, in my job I don't interact with a lot of people."

I think he had enough self-awareness to realize that none of those were particularly good excuses, and you could almost hear him shift gears in the middle of the interview. He switched to a more pontifical tone of somebody who obviously believes that he's done all of the research and needs to explain things to the interviewer.

"I don't think there's been enough testing. These vaccines are all new technology, and we don't know enough about their long-term effects for me to feel comfortable getting one. I just don't feel that I'm ready to let myself be used as a test subject for an unproven technology. I might get a booster when those are offered, though, because boosters are a long established technology."

Like ... dude ...

Coffee two ways
I found the old coffee carafe that somehow ended up in my luggage when I did a stint working on a cruise ship back in the mid-80s. Long story.
  • Current Music
    Out Hud - The L Train Is a Swell Train and I Don't Want to Hear You Indies Complain
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Just Chillin

Adventures in wine

My adventures in sub-$10 wines continued today. This evening's fare was an estate wine I'd never heard of which I decided would be a nice companion to go with grilling burgers.

The first surprise was when I discovered that this blended beauty came in a 1L format, rather than the usual 750mL to which I was accustomed. Even as I cracked the seal on its screw top, I knew that I would be in for something special.

First, I need to stress that there is nothing wrong with this wine. It is a perfectly palatable beverage in spite of its low cost per mL. At 13% alcohol by volume, it more than compensates for any lack of nuances in its flavour profile.

After my first few sips, I realized that this was a very familiar wine, and I am sure that you would all recognize the taste if I poured you a tankard of it to try. If you have ever ordered the "house" wine in any middling family restaurant, this is it.

As I said earlier, it's fine. Generic restaurants carry it because it's a wine that can stand on its own. By that, I mean that it probably wouldn't pair well with anything. It's a wine that you drink for the wine's sake. This is one of those "wineglass optional" blends that would taste as good out of a tin mug as it would directly from the bottle hidden in the wrappings of an unmarked paper bag.

Three tumblers of this will cure depression as well as vintages that sell for many times the price. I give it two shaky thumbs up.
  • Current Music
    The Police - De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
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