February 7th, 2008


Writer's Block: Cooking Lessons

Who taught you how to cook?
My grandfather was a baker in the Marine Corps and was eventually in charge of the bakery at Camp Pendleton.  Although he wasn't supposed to, in Korea he would often use the bakery's ovens for preparing other items, like ham or pizza.  One of his favorite stories was about how when he was Officer of the Day, he would drive through the ration dump and the ingredients to make pizza "would just jump into the jeep."  Another time he had traded some bread to the mess sergeant for a ham and was baking it in one of the bakery's ovens when the battalion commander, a Lt. Colonel, came by for an inspection.  The CO said he could smell ham and started checking inside the ovens.  He stopped just before he got to the oven with the ham.

Even after he left the Marines, my grandfather still enjoyed baking.  His favorite recipe (and mine) was for cream puffs.  He'd take over the entire kitchen and make up a huge batch.  There would be cream puffs everywhere.

When I was in Junior High, I had a year of Home-Ec classes.  I did adequately on the sewing part, but I had the highest grade in the class in cooking, straight A's.
Tea bunnies

Writer's Block: Coffee Or Tea?

What method do you use to prepare your coffee or tea?
On the extremely rare occasion that I drink coffee, I usually have instant.  I don't own a coffee maker because I drink coffee so very rarely.

Tea, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.  First I boil the water using an electric tea kettle.  For most teas, I use a glass teapot with a gold mesh basket.  I fill the basket with loose leaf tea, then add water and let it infuse for an appropriate length of time.  I then remove the basket, and the tea is ready to drink.

For white tea, however, I have a special Yixing teapot.  The unique clay used to make the pot gives the tea a very interesting flavor, which improves as you use it.  I place the tea leaves in the pot, then add water.  I then have to pour the tea through a mesh strainer spoon because the pot doesn't have a filter.  You can never wash a Yixing teapot, because the clay would absorb a soapy flavor; you merely rinse it out with warm water when you're done.

If I'm in a hurry, or I want an herbal tea, I'll sometimes use teabags, but they're really evil things.  The flavor of whole tea leaves is incomparable to chopped, ground, mangled tea stuffed into constrictive paper bags.

Did you get my letter? I forgot to stamp it!

About 3 or 4 years ago, I bought a roll of one hundred 37¢ stamps.  By 2006, I had not yet even opened the roll when they raised postal rates to 39¢, so I had to buy one hundred 2¢ stamps to make up the difference.  When they changed the rates again last year, I still had about 1/4 of the stamps remaining, so I had to buy a bunch more 2¢ stamps.

After having to affix 3 stamps to every letter I mailed for the past 7 or 8 months, I finally ran out of 37¢ stamps.

I think I'll stick to Forever stamps from now on.
Grandfather Marine

Nearing the end of an era.

The second to the last American WWI veterans died yesterday.  Harry Richard Landis of Tampa, FL died at age 108.

The last German WWI vet, Erich Kaestner, died New Years Day at age 107.

The final remaining US WWI vet is Frank Buckles of Charles Town, WV, age 107.  The last remaining Canadian WWI vet is John Babcock, now living in Spokane, WA, also age 107.  There is also one remaining Austro-Hungarian vet, Franz Kunstler, age 107, and one Ottoman vet, Yakup Satar, age 109.  There is one Australian vet, John Campbell Ross, 108,  one French vet, Lazare Ponticelli, age 110, and two Italians, Delfino Borroni and Francesco Chiarello, both 109.   There are six British WWI vets still alive, Claude Choules, 106, Sydney Lucas and William Stone, both 107, Gladys Powers (also the only surviving female WWI vet), 108, Harry Patch, 109 and Henry Allingham, 111.

There are only 14 people still alive who served in the War the End All Wars.
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