Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Embarrassment of Riches

EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

The food is getting low. Outta milk, eggs, cheese, all fresh vegetables but for a wrinkled tomato and lone onion bulb. Oh, but there’s a garlic bulb in the cupboard above the fridge. A spotted banana and two apples on top of fridge. Four slices of bread. Four hot dog buns, stale as hell, but mold free in fridge. Knew a guy once who wouldn’t eat refrigerated bread. Said the change in texture brought on by refrigeration bothered him. I hadn’t noticed any difference until he mentioned it, and I now keep the bread out a week before conceding to the change. Refrigerated bread’s heavier and, because it breathes in such a closed space, takes on the flavor of the fridge. I combat smells with baking soda, but, inevitably, flavor is subtly compromised..

Speaking of the baking soda box, its become more visible in the near-empty fridge. The action’s gone to the door, where a plethora of dressings and sauces still hold sway. In lidded, pent-up secrecy, a lone stick of butter lies amid a bed of taco and soy sauce packets. Other hidden nutrition includes about four pounds of potatoes in the bottom drawer.

Now that I catalog my stores, I have more than I thought. Being out of key staples gives me a sense of impoverishment. I could probably eat well for another week or nine days on what I have. For dinner I cooked stuffing mix with a can of creamed corn and frozen corn and peas. Which reminds me, I have an abundance of powdered potatoes. Got five or six cans of soup. About 2.5 pounds of flour, two pounds sugar, enough pasta for a couple big meals and leftovers: organic corn spaghetti (Ray Jardine would be proud), Soba organic Oriental noodles, and about a cup of elbow macaroni.

In the freezer a pound of hamburger, a tub of broth and meat from the last time I cooked a whole chicken, one burrito, one pot pie, 12 oz. salmon (two filets lonely vacuum sealed), one chicken breast, frozen blackberries (ancient, they moved with me over a year ago), 10 bananas (for banana bread, such is the fate of the overripe), and a tub of cranberry sauce from last Thanksgiving.

One of those unrealistic goals that I never live up is to eat everything I have in my possession before buying more. My friend Okaka, who lives at the Country Acres rooming house where I once lived, buys food every couple days or so, just enough until he runs out. I also had some Mormon friends a few years ago who kept a year’s supply of stores in the their basement.

I like the idea of using up all the food I have on hand. I also get a strange sense of pride making good, palatable food out of what looks like very limited stores. One of my cooking strengths is adaptability, looking at what’s available and throwing things together in flavorful ways. I have a variety of spice and sauces on-hand, but my taste lately has veered away from them for the simplicity of fresh ground salt and pepper, or one of my favorites, Louisiana hot sauce.

Hell, sometimes I look at the water tap in amazement. Fresh water. Right here. When I want it. Healthy. Tasty chlorine. Yum. It doesn’t take much to impress me. Flat spots. Warm showers. I’ll even eat refrigerated bread.
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I got to skip a faculty meeting after school today. That gave me an hour of extra life to be thankful for. I was planning to attend, but Mrs. F said I didn’t need to go and that there was nothing interesting on the agenda. “You went to a couple already, so you know what it’s like.” That was nice. I took her up on the suggestion.

Later, I thought, skipping a staff meeting goes against a few basic rules I have set for myself as a new teacher. One thing I will strive to do my first few years teaching (at least until I get tenured), is to attend each and every meeting I can or that I have even any remote connection to. Attending meetings, while boring as hell most of the time, keeps me informed, but, more importantly, lets the important people, like the principle, who, if he/she is a good principle, is a total meeting hound, know that I attend the meetings.
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Tonight’s walk was windy, gray scuttling clouds, the undersides of colored leaves clinging to last life or getting blown free. I skirted the northeast portion of NIU’s campus, which is a big open, gentle hill rolling field down to the irrigated channel of the not-so-mighty Kish. I’d previously walked the outskirts of Annie’s Woods, forgetting the time, remembrance come up, the bubbling stew of the past, the tree abiding, guarded by sentry. But it’s a cold day, coming so quickly and violently on the heels of a string of near 90-degree days. Hunker down. Face into the wind. The eyes water, cheeks redden. Wind wreaks symptoms of sadness. But they're not real tears. Memories fade, but forever abide.

Crossing the bridge at First Street, looking westward to the sun, dipping below the cloud cover, a late, fall, soft light hits the tops of trees, colors, reds and oranges and bright yellows, lit and golden against a backdrop of scuttling gray. Later, crossing the tracks, almost home, a pink haze, a crazy octopus cloud, with windblown AND puffy tendrils, dusk a tendril monster on the march. Good light show.
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More about the Arizona Trail trip

The trip will take me over the Santa Catalina mountains northeast of Tucson down to Oracle. Then I will do a “some trail/ some bushwackin’” hike over the Tortilla Mountains to the town of Kearny, where I will cross the Gila River and do more ‘schwackin’ (jeep road walking, most likely) across Sonoran desert-like terrain, before re-joining bonafide Arizona Trail a few miles south of Picketpost Mountain and Hwy. 60, the end of my trip. 10 days. 140 miles. Not too bad, considering I’m packing light. The carrot on the stick, like I said, weather, time, and stamina permitting, would be to push on 50-plus more miles through the Superstitions to Roosevelt Lake. This would not only be a cool hike, but would push me close to the halfway point of the Trail.

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