Archive for April 2003

What I’m Listening To

Afrocelt - Seed

Massive Attack - 100th Window, Mezzanine

Anyone besides me concerned by the inability of our military to a) plant and b) ‘discover’ weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?  If they can’t even wiggle this puppy a bit, how are they ever going to be able to wag the kind of dogs they’ll encounter trying to re-culture Iraq into the kind of militarily quiescent and economically compliant Middle East ally that we desperately seek?

What is it about motion that loosens our tongues, our thoughts?  While I sat in Seattle I blogged in fitful and uninspired tropes.  Put me on a plane, into a strange city and the anonymity of a rental car that I almost immediately lose in a mall parking lot, and all of a sudden the synapses are firing like, well, like a crow that immolates itself on a high-voltage transformer.  With as much coherence.

Struggle in a Residence Inn Kitchen (apologies to Leah )

How does the Boomer-age road warrior spend his evenings?  Even in his youth, he might have gone to a club only to gaze wistfully at the action.  In Boomer-time, though, this would be not even vaguely attractive, and may even lead to expulsion or arrest. 

If you’re working out of town, but not part of a team of consultants with a built-in social dynamic, the evening meal becomes a confusing social problem, sort of like asking yourself out for a date, but hesitating because you fear being rejected.  Eating alone in a restaurant, after one or two outings, starts to feel fidgety instead of luxurious, a public display of social failure and a waste of time that could be spent working, cruising the Internet or sleeping.

I quickly tired of the hotel/motels that had a microwave and small fridge, and trying to buy stuff I could nosh on within those constraints.  Maybe I’m just not as creative as the generation that grew up with a microwave as ubiquitously convenient as a water faucet.  When I formed my own company, I ventured to negotiate a comparable rate with the Residence Inn near where I’d been staying, and that’s where I hole up now when I travel to Milwaukee.

The cool thing about Residence Inns is that they have nearly complete kitchens.  No matter what room you are assigned, the kitchens are configured so that the silverware, hotpads, cooking utensils, dinnerware, etc are always in the same drawer or cupboard.

So now, the first thing I do when I hit town is to visit the grocery store.  I almost always purchase the following:

First is the produce section.  4 - 5 apples, either Fuji or Braeburn.  Despite having a stovetop and an oven, there’s no chance I’m going to cook raw vegetables.  In summer, I like to grab blueberries or strawberries of they’re selling for less than  a dollar a berry. 

I check out the seafood section, which in Milwaukee is kinda dicey.  If there’s some decent looking salmon or tuna, I’ll buy it.

Lately, there have been bags of frozen IQF shrimp.  It’s a product of Vietnam and, even though I’ve read what environmental degradation is committed to farm shrimp in 3rd world places like Texas and Vietnam, I might buy some, telling myself that hell! it’s already dead.

Then on to meat.  Either Tyson or some local outfit has packaged boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I buy the smallest package I can find, which is usually more than I can eat in two sittings.

On to starches.  My latest favorite is Marrakesh Express couscous, of various flavors, which you can prepare in about 10 minutes.  Like most foods you can quickly prepare, its flavor probably owes too much to an overdose of sodium, but my blood pressure has never been a problem, and I promise myself to drink more water to compensate.

Dairy products.  Wisconsin is the Cheese State, but there really isn’t any more stuff available than anywhere else.  I’ve found, however, a goat gouda cheese at Kohl’s that I like.  In the chiller, I try to find a quart of Dannon vanilla yogurt.  It passes for ice cream if you use your imagination, and goes well with any seasonal fruit.

Condiments.  I buy soy sauce, some olive oil to use for sauteeing, etc, and, if I buy the shrimp, some kind of horseradish-based cocktail sauce.

Finally, I head for the wine aisle.  In Milwaukee, you have to purchase any alcoholic stuff prior to 9 pm due to some little-known Catholic precept, and this is sometimes a problem if I arrive on a late Sunday night flight.  If, however, I’m early, I look for a bottle of representative white (sauvignon blanc is a favorite) and something red, either a merlot or a syrah.  This is not the time or place for persnickety shopping, but I try to spend $10 per bottle.  This is done with the presumption that I’ll be drinking all alone by myself in a hotel room, and we can engage, if necessary, in efforts at intervention in comments if you are so impolitic as to bring it up.  I have reservations, but two bottles still always find their way into my basket.

Checkout.  Even though, as a Seattle resident, I’m sort of an impostor, I present my Kohl’s preferred customer card, and accrue whatever discounts result.  I bill my clients a per-diem amount for food and incidentals that’s a couple ticks below the allowed federal-employee amount for Milwaukee, and my grocery bill is generally about half of what I bill for the week, leaving a few bucks to compensate for ‘pain and suffering’.

Preparation is also fraught with ritual.  I shortcut the instructions on the frozen shrimp bag, which call for a byzantine process of boiling water, pouring it over the frozen shrimp, etc.,  by storing it in the regular fridge area instead the freezer.  When I return from work the first day, the shrimp is thawed but not spoiled.  I can consume it as an appetizer or as a complete meal, depending on my level of ambition.

The second night, if I found some fish that had some promise, I will broil it and prepare a batch of the Marrakesh Express couscous, humming the old Crosby, Stills & Nash song unconsciously as I do so. 

If there wasn’t a slab of fish for grilling, I’ll cut up the chicken breast instead.  Residence Inn kitchens always have a plastic cutting board sort of thing, and a set of 2 - 3 knives that, truth be told, are sharper and more useful than the 20 or so knives that lurk preposterously in the kitchen drawer at home.

The chicken breasts seem to have a white integument running through them, with something like a pull tab at the end.   I use the excellent knife to peel the meat away from this thing and cut it into stir-fryable chunks.  It’s an effort to tell myself that, although they call it a ‘breast’, it’s nothing like that object of desire that is its namesake.

Using the frying pan, always found in the center island under the silverware drawer, and a little of the olive oil, I stir-fry the chicken chunks.  I know from experience that they are about 2/3 done when the smoke alarm goes off, but this time I anticipate this gentle reminder by opening the door to the room.

I pour a glass of the white, sprinkle soy sauce on the chicken and couscous, and sit down to my laptop to read email, catch up on the Seattle Times and P-I, and read the blogs of other folks with interesting lives.