Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
The View from Harbal
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
We all love that cuppa joe first thing in the morning, or several, and maybe throughout the day. That was me when I was working. But for the past 3 and a half years caffeine has been just a pleasant occasional distraction. Maybe that job wasn’t so stimulating after all.
But nowadays a simple cuppa just isn’t enough. Ever since Howard Schultz started rolling Starbucks over us in ’87 (1), that brew’s gotta swim with some fuzzy milk. Never mind his coffee is swill, overpriced and overroasted – burn, baby, burn! – with way too many preciously named varieties to choose from. The die is cast: latté or cappuccino, please! And if you’re tried to order one of the latter in a proper coffee shop, you’ll realize ol’ Howard has supersized that drink from the dainty cup of dessert beverage those monks intended. You can’t get a cup of coffee for a dime anymore, maybe a buck. But count on wasting the better part of a 5-spot for one of those milky numbers. It can add up. Every list I’ve seen from a financial counselor advising ways to save money lists cutting out, or cutting back on, Starbucks.
But I love my lattés, a lot! Well, it’s just coffee – anyone can make that – and milk – easily foamed with some simple equipment. In my house, we’re on our second espresso maker/frother. The first, a Krups, set us back ~$200 and served us well for many years. For Valentine’s Day 2008, I was looking for something special for my cappuccino loving sweetheart. I splurged and bought a Rancilio Silvia M. You can get one on Whole Latte Love (WLL) for less than 900 bucks (2). It’s been well worth it. It’s still going strong, needing only a little tinkering now and then. I get my sweetie out of bed every morning by carrying to her the nice big triple cappuccino I’ve just made.
She loves it and I swear the practice lets me get away with all sorts of other stuff. I like ‘em too, making myself one maybe once a week. If that model’s not to your liking, Whole Latte Love has 371 others from 21 manufacturers ranging from Bezzera to Rocket Espresso. Prices run from $49 to $9400, with many on sale (3)! If you want to take a flyer on slightly used, there’s e-Bay, with over 9500 listings (4).
The other good coffee capital investment is a proper grinder. We’re on our 4th or 5th, finally graduating from Krups when we got one when we bought our Rancilio. I know you can buy coffee already ground, or ground at the store, but you can’t beat the freshly ground bean, its many freshly jagged edges having minimal time to hydrate. We love our Baraza Virtuoso. If you’re noticing something about the names so far, you’ll know which country takes their coffee molto seriamente. . The machine is very simple, just a hopper, adjustable burr grinder, and the spilt ground tray.
The burr has needed attention a time or two, but WLL has helped Kathy diagnose the problem, sent her the necessary part, and talked her through the repair process. Today’s Virtuoso has added a timer and will run you 250 bucks (5). As with espresso machines, WLL offers variety, with 193 models from 20 different manufacturers, ranging from Baratza to Yama, costing from 170 to 900 bucks (6). Of course, once you’ve set up your fancy expensive home coffee shop operation, you’ll not want just any beans. Best to identify a local roaster and get those beans as fresh as possible. We’re fortunate to have two of those in Tree Town, and we are friends with the owners of both. Dave and wife Nic’s Mighty Good Coffee has been at it since 2006 (7). Nic was an AA in my Division for a while as Dave was getting things off the ground. Tall, pretty, and funny, I was sad when she left. John started RoosRoast a year before Dave (8). Both also run coffee shops in town. We prefer Dave’s Espresso 46 and David’s Dark Decaf for espresso drinks and John’s rotating Small Batch single origin varieties for regular coffee.
The stuff is not cheap, with Dave’s 12 oz bags running $14.69 and 12 ounces of John’s running $14-$17 depending on variety. But well worth it. Neither Kathy nor I are the coffee hounds we were when we were working. One maybe two preparations a day, tops, but always pure pleasure from first smell to last sip.
We decided to run the numbers recently. Figuring five bucks a pop on the capp, conservatively estimating 6/week, 50 weeks a year (we don’t take our machine on the road), we’d be spending $1500/year for an equivalent amount of cappuccino from a coffee shop. By this past Valentine’s day, we’d been doing this 15 years. That’s $22,500, excluding interest. With the Rancilio and grinder costing a little over a grand total, how’s that for ROI? Of course, there are materials costs for each preparation. I use 23 grams of beans to make 3 shots (all at once) for Kathy’s triple capp. With 28.349521 grams/ounce, that’s 0.81 oz per preparation. With Dave’s beans costing $14.69/12 oz, that’s $1.22/oz, or 99¢/capp. Call it a buck to make it easier. Then there’s the milk, of course. At my last trip to Busch’s, a gallon of skim cost $4.49. I half-fill the frother pitcher, strictly by eyeball. I measured it today for the first time, just for this piece. Comes to a full cup, almost exactly. With 16 cups to a gallon, I’m spending 28¢ for the frothy component of Kathy’s capp. So the materials cost of a triple capp is $1.28. How much did you pay for that last Starbuck’s again? Taking it back to that ROI calculation, the 4500 triple caps brewed from Valentine’s Day 2008 to Valentine’s Day this year, if we’d paid Biden ’23 era prices, cost $5700, or $16,800 less than store bought. That Rancilio and Virtuoso are still looking like a pretty good investment.
There are 2 other – much less expensive – pieces of equipment that I find essential to the way I brew coffee. Actually, now 3. The first is a digital scale. Now, I’ve been accused of being an anal retentive chef (9). But I took to measuring beans as I was getting tired of struggling with the portafilter. That’s the device that holds the basket that holds the grounds that you screw onto the espresso machine for it to pump steam and water through to make that shot. Somehow, the scoop would often give me just a little too much, begetting the portafilter struggle dance, cursing the machine , scraping off some grounds, trying again, repeating until I finally got the damned thing on. I found that scoop and beans weighing 32 grams gave me a perfect fit. The scoop weighs 9 grams, but I don’t go through the tare process. You can get a decent scale for less than 12 bucks on Amazon (10). With many other kitchen and postal applications, you’ll be glad you bought one. Then there’s the water kettle. C’mon, you say, how hard can it be to boil water? But if you’re pouring boiling water over grounds, you’re burning them a bit. Do you want your coffee to taste like Starbucks? I know, we’ve been talking about espresso machines, which handle all that heating automatically, but if you’re doing regular old drip coffee, or using the neat little apparatus I’ll be telling you about shortly, you’re in charge of the water going over the grounds. The Coffee Brewing Handbook published by the Specialty Coffee Association states that a water extraction temperature of 92–96 °C (1980F-2050F) is optimal for drip coffee (11). However, scientists in the department of Food Science at UC Davis assessed coffee qualities drip brewed with water at 870C (1890F), 900C(1940F), and 930C(1990F) and found that coffee brewed at 870C retained all the qualities of coffee brewed at higher temperatures, recommending using the coolest temperature as the resultant cuppa is less likely to scald (12). I actually heat the water only to 1750F. Tea should be brewed at even lower temperatures, varying according to type of tea (13). So having an apparatus to heat water to a selected temperature, rather than just boiling is, is advantageous to the meticulous brewer. Amazon has 6 pages at 48/page and 22 on the last page (there were some dupes, you do the math) ranging from a little more than 20 bucks to some high end numbers well into 4 figures (14). I like my minimalist Consori just fine, which set me back a little over 50 bucks (15).
A late addition to my coffee side gadgets is my hand tamper. I made plenty of espresso without one, but what I make now using my tamper is better and much more consistent batch-to-batch. There are many forms of hand tampers – WLL has 136 tamping tools from 21 different manufactures arranging from Asso Coffee to WLL itself, priced 224 to 190 bucks (16). My little Espro cost me 90 bucks, perfectly fits my 58 mm basket, has some nice heft, and clicks once pressure applied to the grounds reaches 30#/PSI. Not all tamping tools have this feature. Why do this? Tamping removes gaps and air pockets between the coffee grinds, creates a tight seal around the edges of the portafilter and when done correctly, creates a flat and even bed of coffee for the water to through, promoting an even extraction of flavor (17). With the pressure feedback, you do it the same every time. Whether you. uy a tamper with or without the pressure option, be sure it will fit sungly in the diameter of the basket in your portfilter. A single press on the grinds is what you want, not multiple daubs. Espresso makers often come with cheap simple tampers, but they tend to fit.
If you want to get real cheap, here’s what you do. Buy yourself an AeroPress, a simple apparatus that makes a shot of coffee by having you pour the ground coffee in a cylinder, followed by hot water, stirring, then pushing a plunger down that forces that mix through a paper filter (18). Not exactly a shot of espresso, but pretty darn close. I’ve been making triple capps for my sweetie by grinding those 23 grams of beans that would have one into the
portafilter basket and dumping them into the AeroPress cylinder. Then you get yourself a frother, whose spinning blades whip up some foamy milk. Combine the two and there’s your latte, or cappuccino if you really whip up the milk. An AeroPress costs about 35 bucks, and frothers can be had for less than that (19). Take care shopping for milk frothers, as there are hand-held stirrers that also list in that category, but really don’t do the trick and are messy.
One beauty of this system is you can take it into the office, where if you’ve got a way to boil water and keep milk cool, you’ve got all your ingredients. It’s what my sweetie did for years, although in place of the AeroPress she had a Keurig.
As Thomas Jefferson said “Coffee is the favorite drink of the civilized world” (20). I hope my calculations and demonstrations have shown you a way to stay civilized without going broke.
1. About Us. Strabucks.com. https://www.starbucks.com/about-us/
2. Rancilio Silvia M Espresso Machine. Whole Latte Love. https://www.wholelattelove.com/collections/all-espresso-machines/products/rancilio-silvia-m-espresso-machine
3. Espresso machines. Whole Latte Love. https://www.wholelattelove.com/collections/all-espresso-machines
4. ebay. Espresso machine. https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2380057.m570.l1311&_nkw=espresso+machine&_sacat=0
5. Baratza Virtuoso + Coffee Grinder. Whole Latte Love. https://www.wholelattelove.com/collections/all-grinders/products/baratza-virtuoso-coffee-grinder
6. Whole Latte Love. Coffee and espresso grinders. https://www.wholelattelove.com/collections/all-grinders
9. Anal Retentive Chef -Saturday Night Live. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDGTCULn6P0
10. Etekcity Food Kitchen Scale, Digital Grams and Ounces for Weight Loss, Baking, Cooking, Keto and Meal Prep, LCD Display, Medium, 304 Stainless Steel. Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Etekcity-Multifunction-Stainless-Batteries-Included/dp/B0113UZJE2/ref=sr_1_5?crid=2XB8IIQUQOQPF&keywords=digital+kitchen+scale&qid=1678645348&sprefix=digital+kitchen+scale%2Caps%2C148&sr=8-5
11. Lingle TR. The Coffee Brewing Handbook: A Systematic Guide to Coffee Preparation. Santa Ana: Specialty Coffee Association of America, 2011.
12. Batali ME, Ristenpart WD, & Guinard JX. Brew temperature, at fixed brew strength and extraction, has little impact on the sensory profile of drip brew coffee. Sci Rep 10, 16450 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73341-4
13. Why Water Temperature is Important When Brewing Tea. RISHI TEA AND BOTANICALS. https://journal.rishi-tea.com/why-is-water-temperature-important-when-brewing-tea/
14. water kettle temperature control. Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=water+kettle+temperature+control&crid=VYSMEP6Y5YM6&qid=1678647562&sprefix=water+kettle+%2Caps%2C150&ref=sr_pg_1
15. COSORI Electric Kettle Temperature Control with 6 Presets, 60min Keep Warm 1.7L Electric Tea Kettle & Hot Water Boiler, 304 Stainless Steel Filter, Auto-Off & Boil-Dry Protection, BPA Free, Black. Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/COSORI-Electric-Temperature-Stainless-Protection/dp/B08BFMV68M/ref=sr_1_6?crid=VYSMEP6Y5YM6&keywords=water+kettle+temperature+control&qid=1678647823&sprefix=water+kettle+%2Caps%2C150&sr=8-6&ufe=app_do%3Aamzn1.fos.006c50ae-5d4c-4777-9bc0-4513d670b6bc
16. Espresso Tampers. Whole Latte Love. https://www.wholelattelove.com/collections/tampers?_=pf&pf_v_brand=Whole%20Latte%20Love&pf_v_brand=Saint%20Anthony%20Industries
17. Tamping Coffee. Zando. https://zandocoffee.com.au/tamping-coffee-tutorial-and-tamping-meaning/#:~:text=Tamping%20removes%20gaps%20and%20air,an%20even%20extraction%20of%20flavour.
18. AeroPress Original Coffee Maker. https://aeropress.com/products/aeropress-coffee-maker
19. Bodum 11870-01US Bistro Electric Milk Frother, 10 Ounce, Black. Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Bodum-11870-01US-Bistro-Electric-Frother/dp/B07CNG6RM7/ref=sr_1_7?crid=3F3947VCNCJ67&keywords=milk%2Bfrother&qid=1671431573&sprefix=milk%2Bforther%2Caps%2C85&sr=8-7&th=1
20. Carter M. How the Boston Tea Party Turned Americans into Coffee Drinkers. Behind the Cup 7/7/22. https://blog.greenwellfarms.com/how-the-boston-tea-party-turned-americans-into-coffee-drinkers/#:~:text=By%201824%2C%20coffee%20consumption%20in,party%20did%20not%20go%20unanswered.
Is it March already? Seems like only yesterday that Kathy and I were ushering in the New Year in a basement bar in Edinburgh. We’d made the trip mainly to take in Hogemany, the Scots’ New Year’s Eve blowout that’s been going on for over 450 years (1). But as we awaited the trip, Jimmy Harbaugh’s boys beat Ohio State, won the Big 10 Championship, and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff, all for the 2nd year in a row. A big part of our last minute pre-trip planning became a frantic search for a bar there that would be showing our Fiesta Bowl contest with the Horned Frogs of TCU. Chris, owner of the Globe Bar on Niddry (2), assured me that if they could not find a channel showing the game that he’d stream it and put it on a big screen for us. He apologized that he wouldn’t be putting the sound on, as the rest of the patrons would have other priorities. Fine for us, so we packed in a much less anxious mood.
We were supposed to make the trip last year, booking in January 2021 after I first learned about Hogemanay as I was researching the 12 days of Christmas (3).
The fėte grew up after Mary Queen of Scots, in 1561, forbid her subjects from celebrating Christmas, as she deemed it too pagan. We took in a little of that celebration, drinking and chatting with strangers in one of the many outdoor booze, food, and music outfits set up for the night. But we had to break and get ready for the 10 PM game, finding the little alley of Niddry. Looked pretty great when we found it. They’d even painted it maize-and-blue for us!
Chris was magnanimous, happy to see us, bearing a beard and wearing a kilt over his well-earned (I’m sure) gut. He showed us to our table by a nice big screen. We raised the average age in the bar considerably, but the Scottish kids were all friendly and inquisitive. Some of them even cheered along with us. It was a silly game, with the team making many uncharacteristic mistakes but almost digging themselves out of a big hole at the end, falling just short. They played their best ball when we stepped outside at midnight to see the fireworks and hear the bag pipes, somehow having 14 more points on the board when we finally sat back down.
Chris had made arrangements for a taxi to take us back to our place north of town, so we hung around with the kids till 2 AM, when our taxi was supposed to arrive. Chris was evidently safety-minded, as he protected his patrons from hangovers and alcohol poisoning but putting a minimum amount in his drinks. We’d have bought a bottle of champagne had Michigan won, but dodged another bullet there. The 2 AM taxi never showed, so we joined the line on High Street and waited in the rain for over an hour till it became out turn to get to South Queensferry. Between the excitement of the game and the fact our biological clocks were still on Eastern time, we weren’t tired. But we each paid for that soaking by coming down with a cold the next day, which lingered so long and racked our chests so much I’m pretty sure it was COVID. Neither of us had been vaxxed, as if that would have made a difference! The cabbie managed to find the bat-cave alley to our place, easy to find as the owners still had their Christmas lights up. South Queensferry is so called as Saint Margaret of Scotland is believed to have established a ferry at this point for pilgrims on their way north to St Andrews. It stands at the Firth of Forth, the Firth a finger of a fjord that comes in from the North Sea. The River Forth is one of several that feeds it. Lovely bridges traverse it, viewed beautifully from our digs.
We woke up early enough the next day to see from our living room window locals gathering on the beach for Loony Dook (4). This ritual allows intrepid Scots to dive into the frigid waters of the Firth to prove their mettle. Announced by a gun blast and bagpipes, the start was no mystery. Fortunately, no ambulances announced themselves thereafter. Walking to breakfast, we ran into a few of the participants along the road, and none seemed the worse for wear. Tough people, these Scots.
South Queensferry is the charming neighborhood around it. Trails, once mastered, lead right to the local pub and adjacent restaurants. Such were the charms of this place we found little reason to venture back to downtown Edinburgh.
It all starts with a great pub, and there we were
We scarfed down a shephard’s pie and were happy. Later, we wandered through on a Sunday and were surprised to find the place packed. They weren’t citing the catechism. They had one of those exquisite urinals of which I am so taken
We were later rewarded by excellent breakfasts (including haggis with our “full Scottish”):
That speckled patty to the lower left is haggis. Quite good when you ignore its offal and sheep’s stomach origins.
There was excellent Indian to be had at Queen’s Spice (5) and up the street and down a bit was superb seafood at The Boat House (6).
Not that we neglected Edinburgh. We trekked in by bus (trains were on strike) and took in Edinburgh Castle. Perched high on a rock, getting there is quite a climb. But it’s huge and impressive, and you can imagine the advantage of all the guns pointed down. A memorial to their war dead was moving, and a glance at the royal jewels – guarded by an armed uniformed officer – was worth the look.
Then based on recommendations from several, we set out to see the Queen’s Yacht. The Britannia has sank anchor in Leith since it was decommissioned 12/11/97 (7). It’s been maintained shipshape and I’m told they still hold state dinners there suitable to the Queen’s standards. Afterwards, I asked my high finance buddy in London if he could get me into one of those parties.
After our tour, we moseyed up and found a bar suited to the lugs dragging up stuff from the docks. We had a fine time, and no one asked us for our teamster card. Thank you Jimmy Hoffa.
Home after that was gathering together for the return trip. It was an exhausting trip. We didn’t do much last day but pack, and stare out the window. We were pleased our Uber driver could find us up our cul-de-sac. Our driver was from the area and regaled us with local tales.
Our flight home through Newark was pretty smooth, and we slept through days once home. 10 days was barely enough rest as we pushed off for Florida on the 16th. Such are the travails of the retired.
1. Ike B. Hogmanay! WordPress 12/31/21. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/12/31/hogmanay/
2. Old Town Pub. The Globe Edinburgh. https://www.oldtownpubco.com/our-bars/the-globe-bar/
3. Ike B. Dandy Dozen. WordPress 12/25/20. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2020/12/25/dandy-doze
4. Norah L. The Loony Dook 2024. Everything you need to know, including + alternatives. Finding the Universe. https://www.findingtheuniverse.com/loony-dook-edinburgh-hogmanay-scotland/
5. Queen’s Spice Indian Restaurant. https://www.queensspice.co.uk/
6. The Boat House . https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-boat-house-queensferry?osq=south+queensferry+Scotland
7. Liebman L. The Royal Yacht Britannia: A History of Queen Elizabeth II’s Favorite Palace. AD 11/21/22 https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/the-royal-yacht-britannia-a-history-queen-elizabeth-ii#:~:text=The%20Royal%20Family-,The%20Royal%20Yacht%20Britannia%3A%20A%20History%20of%20Queen%20Elizabeth%20II’s,season%20opener%20to%20The%20Crown.
Those tiny bubbles sure make a beverage a treat, don’t they? Carbonation’s a big part of the appeal of many favorites, but you can only drink so much beer, Coke, 7-Up and champagne. You can even put those bubbles in plain water and make a product. LaCroix, a brand of the National Beverage Company (did you know their NASDAQ symbol is FIZZ?), in the 52 weeks ending 5/15/22, sold $549,444,493 of the stuff (1). LaCroix’s been around since’ 81, launched by a beer company (G. Heileman of LaCrosse WI, brewers of Old Style and Blatz), showing what an artsy-fartsy logo can do for brand consciousness (2). However, despite its place on the sales perch, LaCroix may not be America’s favorite sparkling water any more, with Pellegrino (from the Alps!), besting it in a recent survey (3). Turns out they don’t even have the #1 spot on the sales perch, as they were outsold by Sparkling Ice and Private Label.
You won’t find any “Private Label” on the shelves. They affix a label they design according to the customer’s suggestion (4). Remember that for your next party!
There are many others in this game now (5). We Americans aren’t the only suckers for fuzzy water, with the global sparkling water industry expected to reach a value of $67 billion by 2030.
At our Busch’s on Plymouth in Ann Arbor, a 12 pack of unflavored LaCroix will run you $6.49. With 72 oz in a 6-pack, that’s 9¢/oz. Then you’ve got that can to get rid of. Gretch neither takes nor gives a dime for those. When I lived in St. Louis in the early 80s and emptied many a can (not sparkling water), there was no container deposit law. There was, however, a place that would buy aluminum scrap, so I’d take over a garbage bag full periodically and come home with a few bucks. Right now, the average price for aluminum pop can scrap is $0.23/pound (6). A pop can (same as a LaCroix can) weighs half an ounce, thus netting you 23/32 = 0.72¢/can. So, to get a buck, you’ll have to drain 139 cans, almost 6 cases.
So, that love for fuzzy water comes at a cost. Might there be a way around it? Living in a desert, the Israelis have always found clever things to do with water. They draw and desalinate 75% of their drinking water from the Mediterranean Sea (7). When it came to having some fun with the water they’d got, they didn’t turn off those big brains.
With SodaStream, it was the case of those brains recognizing a good invention, buying it, and moving production to Israel, where it now does over a billion dollars a year in worldwide business (8). The device was invented in 1903 by a Brit, George Gilbey, who made most of his fortune distilling gin, and was sold as a plaything for the upper class. In ’55 a household model was introduced and became very popular in England. The design is very simple: CO2 from a pressurized cannister is fed through a control valve to a sturdy water bottle screwed onto the machine. Adequacy of the fill is marked when a “grunt” replaces the “fizz”. A tight cap assures pressure is maintained and the water remains fizzy in the fridge. Those wishing some flavor in their fizz can chose from an array of syrups (9). The only cost after buying the machine is refilling or replacing the CO2 cannister. Many hardware stores have exchange programs, and mail in service is available. SodaStream helpfully has provided a directory to both (10). SodaStream machines can had for about 90 bucks on Amazon (11), cheaper on eBay, of course. Here’s ours:
The 130L cannister, which means half as many trips to the hardware store, is no longer vended directly by SodaStream, but is available on Amazon (12).
A 60L cannister will carbonate 15 gallons of water. That’s 160 cans of LaCroix. SodaStream will sell you a new full cannister for 15 bucks then tack on another 15 for shipping. After that, you mail in your empty and they send you a full. Hardware store exchange costs are much less. But even at the top end, you’re getting 160 cans of fuzzy water for 30 bucks, a little over a nickel a can, 32¢ a 6-pack, $1.28 a case. With a new SodaStream going for about 90 bucks on Amazon (10), it’ll take 90 fills of their special 1L carbonating bottles to make back your purchase price, based on highest end CO2 replacement costs. The bottles are another cost. We rotate 4 through our refrigerator as we go through the stuff so fast. They’re not cheap – see this deal of 2 for 25 bucks (13) – but don’t try to use something else. It’ll neither handle the pressure nor hold the charge.
It’s a slow process, good for an overnight, and of course it eventually empties the large cannister, which holds 5# of CO2, 1215 L, equivalent to 20 ¼ 60L cannisters. So, each 5# cannister will carbonate the equivalent of 3,240 cans of LaCroix. Since each 5# cannister has its tare weight etched on the side, you can use your bathroom scale to determine how close you are to empty.
We “refill” ours at the welding supply place south of town, actually just a swap out. Costs $28.32 after taxes. Figuring SodaStream will charge almost 30 buck to refill their little 60L cannister, it’s quite a deal. If you want some more math, that 5# cannister holds 20 ¼ 60L aliquots, so $1.40 for each 60L. The setup is a little cumbersome, but it gives the sunroom off the kitchen a little “industrial” look, and that’s always cool. Foreground and right in the crate is the 130L cannister, with the 60L in the background.
And now for the final exam. Here at Busch’s today were the prices on 3 popular fuzzy waters (actually, they were all on sale, but those never last).
LaCroix: $6.49/12 pack 12 oz cans)
Polar Ice: $1.59/L
Let’s start by converting them to 12oz equivalents.
Polar Ice: 56.4¢
Given that a 60L cannister of SodaStream CO2 will carbonate 160 12oz can equivalents, what would you spend at the store for this amount? As you compare, remember that 60L of CO2 will cost as much as $30 from SodaStream or as little as $1.40 if you use the 5# cannister refill system.
Polar Ice: $90.24
With the high-end CO2 cost at 30 bucks, and with homemade welding supply refill at $1.40, I think you can see the advantage. The capital costs ($90 for the SodaStream, $20 for the CO2 charger hookup) can be recouped quickly. Once again, math wins out. So, get yourself a SodaStream and watch FIZZ plummet on the NASDAQ!
Don Ho knew the score (15).
1. 2022 State of the Beverage Industry | Sparkling water shines in bottled water category. Beverage Industry 7/6/22. https://www.bevindustry.com/articles/95137-2022-state-of-the-beverage-industry-sparkling-water-shines-in-bottled-water-category
2. Halpern A. The Secret History of the LaCroix Label. Bon apétit 1/24/17. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/the-secret-history-of-the-lacroix-label#:~:text=LaCroix%20was%20founded%20in%201981,acquired%20by%20National%20Beverage%20Corp.
3. La Croix Is Not America’s Top Sparkling Water, According To A New Survey. Mashed 7/25/22. https://www.mashed.com/934021/la-croix-is-not-americas-top-sparkling-water-according-to-a-new-survey/
4. My Private Label. Sparkling and Spring Water. https://myprivatelabelbeverages.com/water-regular-sparkling-alkaline
5. Sparkling Water at Retail: Category Growth Decelerated Late in 2021 as Pricing Jumped. Beverage Digest 3/30/22. https://www.beverage-digest.com/articles/654-sparkling-water-at-retail-category-growth-decelerated-late-in-2021-as-pricing-jumped
6. Scrap Monster. Aluminum Scrap Prices Paid by Scrap Yards in Michigan, United States. https://www.scrapmonster.com/scrap-yard/price/aluminum-scrap/michigan/1/3387
7. Lindell R. A closer look at how Israel manages its precious water resources. Northwestern Now 10/19/22. https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2022/10/global-engineering-trek-israel-water/#:~:text=The%20country%20now%20draws%20and,Israel%20repurposes%20nearly%2090%20percent.
8. White G. SodaStream: The Story Behind The $1 Billion Do-It-Yourself Seltzer Phenomenon. Business Insider 5/18/11. https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-sodastream-2011-5
9. sodastream Bubly Drops 6 Flavor, Original Variety Pack, 1.36 Fl Oz ( Pack of 6). Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/sodastream-Bubly-Flavor-Original-Variety/dp/B08MB245WZ/ref=sr_1_5?crid=1GJF2ZYDJESH7&keywords=sodastream+flavorings&qid=1677683611&sprefix=sodastream+flavorings%2Caps%2C133&sr=8-5
10. SodaStream. Refill and Exchange CO2 Gas Cylinders. https://sodastream.com/pages/refill-exchange
11. SodaStream Fizzi, Sparkling Water Maker, Black. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/SodaStream-Touch-Sparkling-Water-Starter/dp/B07GBJ9NYR/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2WBBNACVTHPW5&keywords=sodastream+fizzi+one+touch+sparkling+water+maker&qid=1677683869&sprefix=sodastream+fizzi%2Caps%2C137&sr=8-3&ufe=app_do%3Aamzn1.fos.08f69ac3-fd3d-4b88-bca2-8997e41410bb
12. SodaStream Co2 Spare, 130-Liter Carbonator. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/SodaStream-Co2-Spare-130-Liter-Carbonator/dp/B004ILOE4A?th=1
13. Sodastream 1L Carbonating Bottles – Fit to Source/Genesis deluxe Makers (Twin Pack) (White). Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Sodastream-1l-Carbonating-Bottles-Genesis/dp/B00HYJCVKC/ref=sr_1_4?crid=20RJ029TZJ2NY&keywords=sodastream&qid=1677598000&sprefix=soda%2Caps%2C118&sr=8-4
14. CO2 Cylinder Refill Adapter with Ball Valve for Sodastream CO2 Tank Connector. Amazon. https://www.ebay.com/itm/175471176551?hash=item28dae5ab67:g:NbUAAOSwLfxjX40U&amdata=enc%3AAQAHAAAA4Jd983Wul2l597l9nak4ECHFf42nMAH2zSsJLMZtr%2FGe2QlELpeL35GYeRy1POVsg6NP%2FS%2FNQfgja7GZnWbvz%2FbFnj4wGTPTlcONPeNHtP8TgiYtTkOGMDvOSv9c6Z9MeNdfd%2FjIJadmQC0iowdL2Gm73k8lNIBJqcdTcfPMRLCM4zUEMz77d4eTy9sGmV39Smu88tdBBG0CcCB%2BkZR0AyGQDkBAphzDUTK8ELnTHFsEe8z%2BHUF8w2e7x%2Bo2foXWBBbNZVseVBaK%2FYkgtjkeBm3HcCgSdy30SFCreuo%2BTFiJ%7Ctkp%3ABFBM-JzAi9Nh
15. Don Ho sings “Tiny Bubbles”. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muEFD_odvUg
I swore I’d stopped blogging about Mr. Corona. After all, I’d written enough to fill a book (1) and even Uncle Joe said the thing was over (2). But COVID lingers with us, alas, from ongoing calls for more vaxx and boosters, even of children, needed port-mortems about mitigation efforts, and mounting consequences of infection and “vaccination”. But who isn’t tired about reading about this stuff? Maybe because it’s all dry, sad, and infuriating, and our “give-a-damn’s busted” (3). So I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Dr. Pierre Kory sent me this extended bit. of verse by Jenna McCarthy, an internationally published writer, corporate speaker, screenwriter, podcaster, two-time TED presenter, former radio personality and the author of more than twenty books for kids and adults (4). Like G.K. Chesterton once wrote “Humor can get under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the knob.” For those not on Dr. Kory’s mailing list, I paste it in below. I think you’ll like it, especially those of you who, like me, grew up on Dr. Seuss.
“MORTON SUES THE WHO”
By Jenna McCarthy
The fifteenth of March seemed a nondescript day,
although something was festering far, far away.
It may or may not have escaped from a lab,
(but make no mistake; it would end in a jab).
Morton was working a job he could stand.
“That’s odd,” he said plainly. “My throat feels like sand.”
It was prickly and tickly and surely quite mild.
“It is the cold season,” Morton said, and he smiled.
Then he went back to doing the things you could do
before things were decided for you by the WHO.
But he made a mistake, and a grave one at that:
He turned on the telly. There was talk of a bat.
Lots of them! Dead ones! For sale on the street!
“They’re teeming with germs,” POTUS said in a tweet.
“Oh dear,” muttered Morton, clutching his neck.
All of a sudden, he was feeling a wreck.
The telly-man said he should not go outside,
he should not go to Target or get his hairs dyed.
‘Twould be good if he could shun the whole human race,
and he abso-must-lutely start covering his face.
He listened intently; did as he was told,
because Morton very much wanted to grow old.
That bat-bug was nasty, the whole world could see.
It was hell-bent on wiping out humanity!
So, Morton masked up and he cancelled his plans,
and got extra obsessive about washing his hands.
The telly-man told him that good things were coming;
around the whole world, you could hear a faint humming.
It rumbled and rattled, then turned to a roar;
why hadn’t somebody done this before?
They’d made a vaccine, he could get it for free!
Now he would be protected from sure misery!
What’s more, with a shot, he could unwrap his face.
He could see other people, he could go anyplace!
He could have Christmas dinner with Bob and his wife
and visit with Grams without risking her life!
So, he covered his mug and he rolled up his sleeve,
for himself and his dog and his fat old Aunt Eve.
“Getting a jab is the right thing to do,”
he’d shout at his neighbors, his face turning blue.
When Morton heard folks were refusing the shot,
he basically told them he hoped they would rot.
“You’re mean and you’re selfish and dumb as a stump
and I know for a fact that you voted for Trump!”
One day, the telly-man had some bad news.
“One shot is as good as a badly-burnt fuse.
Without two, you’re risky; a threat to mankind.
We’ll give you a donut—or two—for your time!”
The orders came down from a doctor named Ouchie;
If anyone scorned his demands, he’d get grouchy.
Again, Morton did what he needed to do,
and his arm turned a perfectly purplish hue.
“I got it, you guys! I got number two!”
he boasted on Facebook. “And you all should, too!”
The next day, a freakishly weird thing occurred:
All Morton’s words began coming out slurred.
His face was half frozen, half all-falling-down;
his lips seemed to be stuck in a misshapen frown.
I certainly wonder what could be the cause?
he mused as he noticed the rash on his paws.
And his head—it was splitting, a deafening pain.
He felt quite as if he’d been hit by a train!
But Morton had no time to dwell on his ills;
the telly-man’s words had him covered in chills.
“Two shots, don’t you know, are as useless as one.
You must get a third; do not walk, soldiers. RUN!”
Some people were saying the shots might be bad—
might even be causing the symptoms he had!
Nonsense like that really made Morton crabby.
There was nothing but magic inside of that jabby!
He was positive, sure of it, down to his bones,
there was nothing in there messing with his hormones.
Sure, young kids were suddenly dropping from strokes.
But safe-and-effective! You can trust science, folks!
What else could he do? There was no other answer.
So what if it tripled his chances of cancer?
Morton was part of the poked-and-proud crowd.
Changing your mind simply wasn’t allowed.
Somewhere around jab four or jab six,
the telly-man dropped a new shit-ton of bricks.
“Whether sixteen-times-poked or not prodded at all,
you still need a mask to buy crap at the mall.
And maybe this holiday folks shouldn’t gather;
If you do, you could die. Is that what you’d rather?”
For a second year running, Morton holidayed alone.
He wished Merry Christmas to his family by phone.
He woke up one morning not feeling too well,
and realized he’d lost all his taste and his smell.
He’d gotten the virus! The deadly disease!
He crawled into bed with a feverish wheeze.
From there Morton fell into a pit of despair.
“I did all the things! This just isn’t fair!
They told me those jabs would keep everyone well.
And you, Dr. Ouchie? You can go straight to hell!”
It’s true that poor Morton was falling apart;
the slurring had turned to some pains in his heart.
“It’s just inflammation, no biggie,” Doc said.
“Now roll up your sleeve and lay down on this bed.
It’s booster day, son. It won’t cost you a dime!
It’s painless and safe, you’ll be done in no time.”
“You know what?” cried Morton, his voice fiery mad.
“I’m sick of this bullshit! The whole world’s gone mad!
These vaccines of yours, they simply don’t work.
I know ‘cuz I took them. I feel like a jerk!
You bribed and you lied. It was all a big scam!
You’ve raked in your billions. You don’t give a damn
that people are dying and getting quite sick
from your unconstitutionally mandated prick.
I’m not taking another! You hear me? Not one!
You couldn’t convince me if you pointed a gun
at the tip of my temple and threatened to shoot it.
You’re corrupt to the core and you cannot refute it!”
Some folks down the street couldn’t miss Morton’s shouting.
And most of them, frankly, had already been doubting
the lies that the telly and Ouchie had told
about a virus that for most was as mild as a cold.
They rushed to high-five their courageous new leader,
each promising to be Morton’s loudest cheerleader.
They made signs and t-shirts: “I call my own shots!”
“My body, my choice!” “They’re not ‘just’ blood clots!”
Morton was happy but still suffering a lot
of the horrible side-effects caused by that shot.
He heard of a lawyer who was suing the WHO
and he whipped off a two-worded letter: Me too!
“Not safe, not effective,” the court finally said.
“Quite frankly, you’re lucky that you aren’t dead!”
Morton went home with a big pile of cash,
and waited for the rest of the narrative to crash.
It didn’t take long; that thing was quite frail.
Best of all, Ouchie was going to jail!
As the world bid adieu to the king of the liars,
people danced in the streets and burned masks in great fires.
The pandemic was over! They could live without fear!
They could go to a bar! They could order a beer!
They could do all the things that free people can do
when they’re no longer being controlled by the WHO.
1. Ike R. Musing through a Pandemic. My year and a half with Mr. Corona. Volume I. about Mr. Corona. Amazon (Kindle) 2021. https://www.amazon.com/Musing-through-Pandemic-Year-Corona/dp/B098GV14KY/ref=sr_1_4?crid=174I0HYV5409&keywords=%22Robert+Ike%22&qid=1677420961&sprefix=robert+ike+%2Caps%2C103&sr=8-4
2. President Biden: “The Pandemic is Over” | 60 Minutes. YouTube. 9/19/22. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIQz0fsX38U
3. Curb Records. Jo Dee Messina – My Give A Damn’s Busted (Official Music Video). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o40fwZgSFPI
4. You can follow her Substack or check out her books and her blog at www.jennamccarthy.com.
The first clue was when the internet went out. About that same time, Kathy looked out the window and saw a green plume flash with flames from the side down in the valley by corner of Traver and Plymouth. Something terrible had happened in our neighborhood, and firetrucks came by shortly. Of course, our electricity was out, so we commenced on our pioneer evening. It wouldn’t be silent, as Spotify fed Oontz through my phone, which would own the day. We were treated by streams from the Mary Chapin Carpenter channel. Making dinner was a challenge, to be sure. Thank God we got one o’ them gas stoves. I’d had in mind something to use up the aging mushrooms perched on top of the garage refrigerator. Kathy pitched in, grating “rice” from a cauliflower head by hand, just as her ancestors had done. No Cuisinart tonight, sweetheart. This “rice” cooks up in an iron skillet, no steam please. It made a perfect bed for my mushroom gravy, and that bottle of 2019 Meerlust Red (South African!) washed everything down just fine. With candles and a fire in the fireplace, we still had some light and even a little heat. A couple extra layers and we had all the hygge we wanted. Dino knows the score (1).
This would probably taste good even if you didn’t make it in a blackout:
Coda: Earlier today, DTE informed us we were 2 of the 4,000 customers without power, which had a 95% chance of being restored by Sunday night (today’s Thursday). We bundled up and hunkered down. The evening’s basketball game was a chance to get out and get warm. When we returned from the ballgame – our girls won handily – we were surprised to see the streetlights and houselights all up Broadway shining brightly. Left on Leaird and on to Harbal, they didn’t shut off. Hooray! A warm and bright house greeted us. We restarted the fire and put the candlesticks back on the shelf. They’ll live to light another day.
My wife and I have just returned from a 3-day Christmas party, held in the rustic Cowboy Creek Lodge in Onstead, on the edge of the Irish Hills (1). Present were the spawn of my late birth father Dick Spei, who taught his kids to approach every meal as if it were their last. There’s a picture and paragraph about them here (2). We’re out to great-grandchildren now and the crowd totaled about 40. The family does this to avoid all the conflicts of Christmas season that might provide excuses not to attend. The food is terrific, of course, driven by a bit of competition, and there are still presents, delivered mainly by sister Suzanne’s chimney (3).
They’re a varied bunch, with a couple of truck drivers, a retired telecommunications mogul couple, a nutraceutical entrepreneur, an artist/sculptor, an entertainment lawyer, some tech guys, and us. There’s zero boasting or self-promotion, although all are welcome to specific queries that impinge on their areas.
This year, we welcomed a new doctor to our fold. Ben, youngest son of my oldest brother Nick (by 10 months, Dick wasted no time), successfully defended his PhD thesis in Environmental Science at the University of Idaho last August, marrying his chef-girlfriend Liz shortly thereafter. He took a post-doc at the same institution and is very happy. He’d worked his way through Wayne State tending bar in Ferndale, and really enjoyed the teaching that came with his master’s program.
Nick fathered some great young men. Jake followed in his dad’s footsteps, operates his own truck with time left for a complex garden and science fiction. Alex became a helicopter mechanic in the military, returning after some civilian time to provide them with some pretty intricate services related to helicopters. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a pic of the three together. But I do have one of Ben, showing he got his share of his bon vivant grandad’s character:
Good lookin’ guy, eh? Family resemblence?
As Kathy and I sat with him and Liz to discuss his situation, he spoke of his respect and admiration for late University of Michigan botanist Burton Barnes, including how he was seeking to model his career along similar lines. I vowed that once we got home, I’d look up the guy and see what he was all about. One thing Ben was inspired to do was dig into some old stuff that he could apply to what he was doing now. This resonated with me, as I used to do a lot of the same thing. So, once I was done reading (4), I wrote Ben an e-mail.
Sure was great to see you, Dr. Spei, and your charming bride Liz. I’ve been reading about this Professor Burton, the Michigan man you said you admired and wished to emulate. You are surely on the right track, grasshopper. I’ve just read through the attached and am both impressed and moved. Too damned bad I never got to meet the guy. Even if he hadn’t been a very accomplished botanist, he’d have had me for playing trombone under William D. Revelli! I love his overarching philosophy, believing “that biota cannot live on their own but are conferred life from the Earth, such that Earth itself is Life. In terms of his research, this meant that ecological science should focus on the study of whole, volumetric, air-biota-land systems (ecosystems) rather than simply the species they contain.” This reminded me so much of the concept in medicine we call the “whole patient”, in that a sick person is more than a collection of ailing organ systems and that docs overlook those interactions at their (and the patient’s) peril. With reductionism fueled by advances in molecular biology that make no understanding respected unless it’s down to the atomic level, those taking the broader view can come up short on the respect front. I suspect botany saw, and is still seeing, the same thing. For all the accolades they garner, such discoveries are ultimately unsatisfying unless you can see how it all fits together.
And knowing some old things can help you advance in academia. Since most strivers don’t know much more than the last 5 years of the literature, wisdom from decades past can seem like a fresh revelation. Of course, you just acknowledge the original source, but it will be from your lips everyone heard it. I always enjoyed digging up old references that pertained to thorny clinical situations I was facing, then bringing those up in discussions of the patient in question. It helped that two of my mentors – Bill Castor and Giles Bole – were already old guys with great memories when I first got there, and they showed me the way.
So, I must lean on others to sum up.
First, there’s ol’ George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
To which I must add my corollary: “Those who don’t remember the past must hear about it from those who do.”
And on a lighter note, from Peter Allen’s “All That Jazz”(’74) (5).
And for all Professor Burton accomplished over his career, he only had 97 publications. That might not even make fool professor in my department!
But keep writing!
1. Pure Michigan. Cowboy Creek Lodge at Stagecoach Stop Western Resort. Pure Michigan. Cowboy Creek Lodge at Stagecoach Stop Western Resort. https://www.michigan.org/property/cowboy-creek-lodge-stagecoach-stop-western-resort
2. Ike B. Fam. WordPress 1/29/21. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/01/29/fam/
3. Ike B. Chimney! WordPress 3/8/22. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/03/08/chimney/
4. Kashian DM. Burton V. Barnes (1930-2014). The Michigan Botanist (2015) 54:2-19. file:///Users/bob/Downloads/burton-v-barnes-19302014%20(7).pdf
5. MOR Music Clips. Peter Allen “Everything Old is New Again” with Rocketts. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkYtZ6fV2CU
One advantage of living in Tree Town, with all of its great University of Michigan sports, is the chance to come up in face and personal with the players and coaches. That’s the appeal of the Coaches’ Luncheons put on every Monday at Weber’s Inn during football and basketball seasons. Besides the “big players”, a coach from one of the “non-revenue” sports also shows up (1). During basketball season, Brian Boesch, voice of Michigan basketball, broadcasts his radio show “Inside Michigan Basketball” Mondays from the back room of the Pretzel Bell on Main Street. Usually there are head coaches Juwan Howard (men’s) and Kim Barnes Arico (women’s). Brian’s assisted by Terry Mills, one of the key players on the 1989 National Championship team, also a big fellow. When circumstances take head coaches away, Brian has to improvise, like tonight. Maybe he couldn’t get Juwan, but he got his sons, Jace and Jett, both members of the current team. Jace is a junior, born in Chicago and a member of the Florida state champion University School under former Wolverine Ron Oliver. He made the Academic All-Big 10 team in 2022. Jett is bigger and the better player. He’s a freshman and has started every game at shooting guard, an all-around player who can shoot, defend, and score. He also started in Chicago, had a stellar prep career first at University School with his brother then at IMG academy, emerging as a top 100 prospect. He interviewed at 5 other schools, but his heart was at Michigan. The NBA is already salivating over him, with Michigan fans hoping he’ll stick around with Dad for awhile.
Brian let them talk through what it’s like to be a Big-10 basketball player and son of a famous head coach. Each said their mom was their biggest influence and that they purposely did not go “home” on their days off!
I’d met them briefly as they walked in earlier. As tall men tend to size up each other, I took satisfaction that I was looking down a bit at each. That wasn’t the case when I met their dad a couple years ago, although the photo record suggests this retired doc may have a skosh on this one-time All American and NBA All-star (2). But Jace and Jett were up for a pic with the tall old guy. The U of M roster lists Jace at 6’7” and Jett 6’8”. My doctor’s statiometer puts me at 6’5 ½”. In my playing days, they listed me at 6’9”. Without the thick double socks, it was probably 6’8. Regardless, I’m not getting on a court with those kids, unlike their 50 year old dad whom I’m told still suits up and mixes it up with his players.
I love sharing sunsets. Started doing it during my La Jolla sabbatical in the winter of 2017. Kathy and I would end each day walking the 4 blocks to Windnsea Beach carrying a bag with some bread and cheese plus a bottle of wine (or 2) to wash it all down. We’d sit on a rock, mingle with the revelers and watch the waves, listening to them crash on the rocks. This being California, ol’ Sol was almost always up there, and we’d watch him take his dip for the day. No two sunsets were the same, with a few clouds here and there changing the palette. How can you not take a picture of something like that? I had a wide-angle lens I could clip to my phone, making each pic a little more spectacular. I didn’t take long to figure out what I could do with the pictures. It felt like a wonderful tease to email those California sunsets to all my shivering friends back in Michigan. Once I found out how easy it was to populate that “to” e-mail line, more and more folks ended up on the receiving end. It was nice to get some responses, usually just a single word comment, but sometimes a little more. As I was out there for 3 months and seldom missed a night at the beach, perhaps a little boredom set in for some. But I never got tired of it. And I’ve kept doing it. Whenever Kathy and I find ourselves by a body of water facing westward, I reach for my phone come sunset time.
We’ve been back to Windnsea many times and are getting to make a habit of the Gulf, watching the day-ending event from the porch of our Madeira Beach house. Then there’s Lake Michigan, and our Harbal aerie has a nice northwest view from our deck, even if the only water in the distance is in the Huron River and Traver Creek. Here’s some examples:
The latest one (Madiera 1/18/23) brought a response from a friend I hadn’t seen for years. Vanika was a fellow in my Division back in the 90s. As smart as she was pretty, she had a quiet impish wit that made her a delight on rounds and in clinic. I was pleased when they hired her on faculty then shocked and saddened when she left to help in her husband’s business (1).
Vanika’s husband Ahbi’s an architect and designer and had a hot product, something that can bring sunlight into a room through the roof without having to cut a whole skylight. In the few times I’d talked to her since, she seemed happy with her decision. So, it might have been a week after that last Gulf sunset that I got an e-mail from her, commenting how beautiful it was then asking into my wellbeing and doings. Our back and forth turned into a notion we should get together. Although going to her place, just a few miles away, would have meant some interesting surroundings and a fine home-cooked Indian meal, I offered up our surroundings and my cooking, which she thought was a great idea. I immediately set my mind on a menu, but had to change course after her next e-mail. Seeking some details, she mentioned in passing that she and her husband were vegetarians. I guess I’ll leave that lovely rack of lamb in the freezer, a whole half of the rib cage of some cute creature who just last year frolicked on EMMA Acres (2). I love to cook ‘em up in my Pit Barrel smoker (3). They taste as great as they look. But no easy carnivore out for me this time. I do know how to make some things that don’t have meat in them, and I’m pretty happy with the menus I’ve come up with.
But my first stab was a false start. A soup course is always nice, and I had 2 monster butternut squashes I’d bought at the farmers’ market a couple months back. So “explodey soup” it would be, a delightful squash soup that got its name from a kitchen incident the first time I made it, now a timeless family Thanksgiving tale (4).
Here’s the recipe:
It went from oven to pot to Cuisinart to jar without incident. Then I realized the morning of the dinner that I’d made the soup with chicken stock, as I always do. That’s o.k. Kathy and I will snarf up that squash soup in no time.
Of course, tales of these failures and missteps peppered our pre-dinner conversation. Our guests’ enthusiasm seemed in no way diminished as we gathered for the for the feast.
I have enough curried parsnip soup in the fridge to provide a soup course. No animal products were used in its manufacture. I had vowed to shy away from any Indian recipes, but this was an English recipe.
The English appropriated “curry” early in their subjugation of the subcontinent, even though there’s no such spice in an Indian kitchen (5).
But before the soup, there’s the appetizer! Not that I want to fill up my guests too quickly. Maybe they’ll not get any of that squash soup, but they can eat the seeds! Kathy toasted those up with a little oil and garlic, trying out a twist by first boiling the seeds in water salted with Jorge’s habanero salt (6).
Then there’s the marinated mushrooms, so easy and good and always a winner (7).
After the soup come the rest of the vegetable dishes.
Simplest is my peppers and onions dish. I dressed ‘em up with a little hoisin/basil glaze. Recipe first, then picture.
The recipe for the next course calls it a “salad”, but it’s warm and pretty hearty. Had to learn how to shred Brussels sprouts with my Cuisinart. The morning after I made it, it looked kinda dull, so I chopped a red pepper. Color and crunch.
One staple whenever my vegetarian brother-in-law and family come for Thanksgiving is mujadara, a Middle eastern dish to which we were introduced at the nearby Syrian Bakery (8) . Lentils, rice, carmelized onions, cumin, garlic with maybe some yogurt on top. Who needs meat? But one of my other diners is presenting me with some dietary restrictions that have me modifying this recipe. Kathy has signed on to this coached nutritional program. What they offer sounds pretty keto to me, though they claim that’s not their focus. Anyway, she doesn’t want to eat all that rice. One of my first benefits of her plunge was an introduction to cauliflower rice (9). Buzz a headful of florets in the Cuisinart – sure looks like rice – then throw it in a hot skillet with a little oil. Very tasty. That little nuttiness makes it more flavorful than regular rice. Making this dish, I followed my on-line recipe’s suggestion to slice the onions with a mandoline (10). Kathy bought me this super-sharp finger-slicing precision chef’s tool a couple years ago and I’ve used it with trepidation. It’s gleaming chrome blades always look hungry for a body part. But I’ve always been pleased at the precision sliced products it produces, like its potato sticks for French fries (11). But I bit the bullet and put each peeled onion into its holder – with its own sharp protuberances to hold the object to be sliced. What emerged were things of beauty: perfect 1/8 inch thick rounds of onions. Satisfaction to anal-retentive chefs everywhere (12).
Now I’m trying to think of some compliment-fishing question to ask my guests: “Did you notice how all the onions in the mudjarrah were uniformly thick?”. Now, if either of them was an engineer, I’d get an “amen”. For now, I’m happy I didn’t have to reach for the band-aids.
Here’s what emerged, for this and the rest:
Here’s the recipe:
And here’s my original recipe, if you’re still a real rice afficionado:
I could stop here, as I didn’t serve any more vegetables. Vanika brought some food over as she had threatened, so I should probably include those dishes. We never touched them, and they sit in our fridge for another day. There was no room at the table. But my own last entry was to be a fruit based dessert! Little peach cobblers I spiced up with some blueberries I had laying around. As we got on, the remnants of the parsnip soup seemed dessert enough. It is kinda sweet. The cobblers will await another day.
Call it feng shui or hygge, with a fire roaring in the fireplace, and friends (Ray (13), Paul (14), and Jon-Erik (15)) spinning us some good-ol-jazz on the stereo, the winter evening vibe was sublime.
While I hope that many of you will enjoy this lengthy treatise, it goes out especially to one of my most loyal readers, my African-American friend Rajiv. Born and raised in Kenya of Indian parents, Rajiv clawed his way to Barnes Hospital where we met and both survived the ordeal. Rajiv, as he will tell you without being asked, is a strict vegetarian. He seldom misses a chance to chide me about eating the flesh of sentient beings, suggesting I consider doing otherwise. With this post, I hope he’ll realize I can indeed do such a thing, if pressed. But don’t look for me to cross over any time soon.
1. Sensitile. https://www.sensitile.com/
2. Local Harvest. EMMA Acres Farm. 9/21/21. https://www.localharvest.org/emma-acres-farm-M51437
3. Pit Barrel Cooker Co. RACK OF LAMB. 8/24/20. https://pitbarrelcooker.com/blogs/food/rack-of-lamb
4. Ike B. explodey! WordPress 2/6/22. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/02/06/explodey/
5. Uyehara M. The real story of curry. Food & Wine 9/14/22. https://www.foodandwine.com/cooking-techniques/real-story-of-curry
6. Jorge’shabit. http://jorgeshabit.com/
7. Ike B. ‘shrooms!. WordPress 3/15/21. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/03/15/shrooms/
9. Love and Lemons. How to Make Cauliflower Rice. https://www.loveandlemons.com/how-to-make-cauliflower-rice/
10. Wahn M and Chung Fegan M. A Mandoline Does Things No Knife Can Do Knife Can Do. bon appétit 6/1/22. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/best-mandoline-slicer
11. Ike B. want fries with that? WordPress 7/15/21 https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/07/15/want-fries-with-that/
12. Saturday Night Live. Anal Retentive Chef – Saturday Night Live. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDGTCULn6P0
13. Ray Kamalay http://www.raykamalay.com/
14. LeLievre R. Paul Klinger’s Easy Street Jazz Band marks 40 years of Dixieland. The Ann Arbor News 7/11/10. https://www.annarbor.com/entertainment/easy-street-jazz-band/
15. Jon-Erik Kelso. https://www.facebook.com/JEKellso/
When Kathy and I joined the U of M Club of Ann Arbor several years ago, I’m sure we brought down the average age. With their flagship event being the weekly Coaches’ Luncheon, a nice wholesome Weber’s lunch followed by a talk by a football or basketball coach followed by one from a coach of one of the “Olympic” sports teams (the disparaging might employ the adjective “non-revenue”), to attend requires a couple hours of free time around Monday lunch. A friend of ours already in that crowd had been entertaining us for years with stuff he heard at the Coaches’ Luncheon. Press are not allowed and attendants are sworn to secrecy, so the coaches tend to speak freely. A great thing. So once my schedule freed up Mondays, I signed right up. Even while teaching, Kathy would sometimes be free to join me. It quickly became evident why this club has been a going concern since starting up in 1957. Jimmy and Juwan both kick off their respective seasons with rousing talks, and the rest of the time we’re entertained by their assistants, impressive to a man, even if some look like they’d just gotten out of high school. The others often talked about sports with which we weren’t always familiar, even firing us up enough to go see their team play. There are a lot of spontaneous rousing choruses of “The Victors”.
Today was one of those days. I wasn’t even going to go. The same time I might leave the house to get to Weber’s, she was boarding the limo to catch a plane to Houston for her week-long space medicine meeting in Galveston, joined by 4,000 other similarly interested. I had a two-sided to do list and was looking forward to some uninterrupted time.
But when Kathy said the basketball coach would be Juwan’s right-hand man, Philadelphia’s bald, acerbic, funny Phil Martelli, I knew I had to go. With 24 years as a head coach himself, at St. Joseph, Juwan hired him to show him the college coaching ropes, and he pays attention to what Phil says.
Once there, we heard as we finished eating that Phil was running late. Mark Rothstein, women’s rowing coach here for the past 32 years, was there with two female guests and willingly got things rolling.
A gentleman, he started by introducing his companions. First was Jessica, his daughter skipping her 8th grade class that day as her dad thought this lecture would be more educational. Her preferred sport was soccer, but dad had bought her a single just before COVID, and she’s shown some rowing talent there. His assistant coach, Lauren Schmetterling, definitely had some rowing talent.
An All-American at Colgate, she graduated to the National Team, winning gold at the ’16 Olympics (1). She’d come to Michigan as a grad assistant last year and became a full-fledged coach when a spot opened up.
Mark was kind to our cross-state rivals. Asked early to size up the Big 10 in rowing, he said that U of M and OSU have shared the top spot for the past several years. On the tier below us, he placed Wisconsin, Rutgers, Iowa, and MSU.
The U has built lavish facilities for its Olympic sports teams. Mark said we have “the best rowing training facility in the whole world”. The rowing team already had some nice digs with their very own boathouse on Belleville Lake, about 16 miles east of main campus, where they have their meets. Occupied since 2000, with 6,000 square feet, it was pretty cramped for workouts, as so much of that space was taken up by – well – boats!
But Stephen Ross’s $100 million check in 2017 went a long way to solving that problem (2). The U shook down $68 mill from other sources and now there’s 280,000 square feet of new space. I couldn’t exactly tell here they put the rowers, but Mark describes a palace. On one floor are 80 conventional rowing machines. Below that is their RP3, a state-of-the-art machine that modulates and records multiple aspects of rowing, including cameras from every angle. The rower even gets to feel what the paddles act like hitting water moving at different speeds.
The black “T” is the newer model and can be had for about 3200 bucks. The silver “S” runs a little less.
Then below that are the two rowing tanks, big enough to accept a real boat placed into water stirred by blades into any characteristics the coach desires.
Who signs up for this sport? Mark says he has around 100 on his roster, in two tiers. 40-50 are on the varsity roster while 30-40 are freshman or “novices”. Quite a bit of training is often in store for those freshman. Many have never rowed before. Mark recruits many “out-of-sport” girls, seeking athletes who are tall and have good endurance. Strength is nice, too, but endurance tops strength. Hence, a lot of his recruits have excelled at basketball, volleyball, track, and swimming. However, he says his best rower on the current team played soccer. He has 21 full scholarships to parse out (NCAA guidelines), and some of his players are swinging NIL (Name Image Likeness) deals. But he turns out champions, finishing first or second in 11 of the past 12 seasons, with 3 Big 10 championships. The last 2 Olympics have seen 2 U of M alums rowing.
Mark said about women’s rowing “it’s a beautiful sport”. Although I’ve never seen a rowing meet, I can imagine it is. All that rhythmic, coordinated movement by the lithe, long female bodies, all to propel that slender bullet in which they sit smoothly and swiftly through the water. He got into the weeds about meets, saying 7 boats go out, carrying either 4 or 7 rowers (he didn’t mention cockswains, except to say early on that in the NCAA women’s rowing they must be female). And I don’t know how long they’re rowing. Mark averred that rowing may be one of those sports more exciting on TV as in person you can only see the first and last 500 meters of the race. But I’m going to go watch sometime, as admission is free, and I imagine the meets don’t feature any obnoxious piped in music like the “revenue” sports do. It’s a Spring sport, and first meet is coming right up: March 4th (my friend Eric’s favorite calendar day). You can check out their doings here (3). But as with other UofM spring sports, rowing must work its way up the temperature isobars. So, this first one’s in Caryville, Tennessee, where they’ll take on Louisville. They’ll hit Charlottesville, Sarasota and Austin before their home opener April 30, with Louisville. I’ll have to get some side bets going with my friend Deb in StL, a Cardinal girl. I’ve probably cast enough Rick Pitino shade her way by now. I don’t see Michigan State on their schedule, although I’m sure they’ll encounter them in the Big 10s. This team rowed a bit last fall, and concluded their schedule with MSU October 30th. But that was a “novice” meet (freshman) and they didn’t keep score. But no doubt the Spartoon faithful are claiming victory. So go check out those lady rowers sometime! And if you’ve got a tall athletic daughter, consider sticking a paddle in her hand!
For the joys of travel many obstacles must be endured. Most are trivial and the overcoming of them contributes to the satisfaction of a good trip. One that looms large over most voyages is finding a way to get around in one’s destination. Unless that spot is discreetly walkable or served by excellent public transportation (think Chicago, NYC, Paris, London), that means renting a car. While purveyors are numerous and the booking easily completed on line, finding the car you actually want and securing it once you get there, standing in for an extended grilling at the counter worthy of the stasi, make the whole thing a less than pleasant experience. For the Florida trip I’m currently completing, I stumbled into another way to do this thatI heartily recommend. As an owner of Jeeps since 1990, I love it when I can happen upon one for a rental. Few companies even offer them at all, and for those that do they’re often out of stock for the destination sought. We love a big Jeep Wrangler 4 door whenever we hit Tampa Bay. Popping those roof panels to let in the Florida sunshine and hitting the causeway is a joy. It was actually an experience with one of those rental Wranglers a few years back that convinced us that’s what we wanted for our next car. But trying to make arrangements earlier this month found that the usual suspects didn’t have any Jeeps. It might have been a Google search, but I found a company – Turo (1) – that had plenty of Jeeps around TPA. Turo is what they call a “ride sharing service”, sort of an AirBnB for cars. The website coordinates your interactions, but you make your deals with the actual owners of the vehicles. There were at least 5 Jeep Wranglers displayed on their page that would be available in the time I specified. One was a gen-you-wine soft top, just like the one we own. I clicked that and entered the same sort of queries that any rent-a-car site would ask. Completing them, my car was secured. I received a confirmatory e-mail from the owner with instructions of how to meet up once I hit TPA. It cost a little extra to hook up at the airport. For free I could find my way to the owner’s house. The overall cost was about 20% less than what I’d been paying for similar cars from the big guys. As we touched down, I had some trepidation how’d we complete the exchange. The owner texted me to meet him in the parking garage, and as we walked in, there was our big yellow taxi looking for us. He walked over, shook my hand, pointed out some features on the vehicle, and handed me the keys. No questions, no 20 minute reiteration of everything I’d provided already to some agent behind a screen, no nothing. Yeah, I liked this. Our Wrangler was a beast. The “Hella Yella” paint job would make it easy to find in a parking lot.
The 35X12.50R20 LT tires set it several inches higher above the ground than what we were used to (ours are P225/75R16; R is diameter of wheel, so there’s 4”). It was an automatic, and Kathy loves to grind through the gears on ours, but she adjusted. There were some personal touches, like a collection of little plastic animals on the dashboard, like you just don’t see in rentals from the big guys. It performed flawlessly, not moving much from our driveway as we sat on the porch of our Madeira Beach house until we took it up to Crystal River and the manitees then Ocala for my high school buddy and finally back to TPA. The handoff there was as smooth as the pickup, with me texting the owner on the way and meeting him in the departure zone. It was this exchange that had me most concerned. One thing the big boys do o.k. is the dropoff, usually a painless pull up. Any hitch here and you start to get antsy about missing your flight. Facing our departure from TPA, our owner offered meeting us at departure to minimize our haulage. So here, looks like no problem.
Even before we assured ourselves that start-to-finish Turo was a good deal, we booked another car through them for our California trip in April. Snagged another Jeep Wrangler from several available around San Jose Mineta, the dinkiest airport in the Bay Area. As Bogie says to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” (2)