Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Unicorns for Sale

Raquelita had an awesome post today about her mystical unicorns—the goals she dreams of achieving, the ones that are particularly elusive.  Her post was so cool that I’m totally stealing the idea.  I’ve got mystical unicorns too.

* A career in teaching, writing, editing, or all three.  I am one of those rare science PhDs who has known all along that I would eventually transition out of full-time research and into something else.  I started my PhD knowing this to be true about my career aspirations, and it is still true, 8+ years later.  I’ve been in my first postdoc position for about two years and five months.  Depending on how funding goes this year, I will stay in this position for another six months or longer.  But no matter what happens with funding, this much I know: at some point, I must begin applying for teaching or editing jobs.  My long-term career satisfaction is dependent on this.  For now, I am committed to my postdoc position, applying for funding and working toward a new publication.  Devotion, remember?

* A home in a great town or city.  As much as I’m trying to make the best of College Station, I can’t see myself staying in this town.  I really can’t.  I miss cities with a downtown area, a great farmers’ market, and wonderfully walkable neighborhoods.  These things are hard to find in my area.  Also, I’d really prefer to live in or near a city with a big airport.  Between my family living in Michigan and Matt living in Texas, one way or another I will be flying to visit my loves.  Living in College Station adds 3-5 hours to my travel days when I’m flying, and for what?  I’m not wild about the town, and my job is a temporary position by definition.  I do like Texas, so I’m open to the possibility of moving to one of the larger cities here, like Austin or San Antonio, but I can’t stay in College Station much longer.

* Home ownership.  Because I don’t plan to be in College Station longer than 2-3 more years, I plan to rent an apartment until I move away.  But I’d really like to own my own little house, or maybe a condo.  Right now, I’m squirreling money away for a home, but it can be hard at times being patient with myself and my career.

Got any mystical unicorns of your own?  Tell me about them in the comments, or write about them on your blog and share the link—I’d love to hear!  And a big thank you to my dear blog friend Raquelita for the inspiration—she never fails to inspire me, whether in research, writing, running, or friendship.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Am I Buying Happiness? The Results of a Self-Scored Test

I know it’s not in good taste to discuss money, so I won’t start throwing numbers around.  But the truth is that this year, I am making less money than I was when I started my current job.  There are two reasons for this: one is that I haven’t received a raise in this position, which I can accept without too much complaint.  The other is that I am now paying more for my health insurance, which frankly, I find incredibly annoying because I live a very healthy lifestyle and I think I ought to be rewarded for it by paying less for my health insurance.  Instead, I’m paying more because of institutional changes to the health insurance plans, which means that my take-home pay is less than it was last year.  Bummer.

Anyway, on a deeper level, I find the relationship between money and happiness fascinating.  It’s hard to analyze, too, at least it is for me in my life.  Am I happier now, with my bigger paycheck, than I was in graduate school?  I don’t know—there are so many things that changed when I made the transition from PhD candidate to PhD.  A new job, a new home, a new city, a new state—all on top of the fact that I’m older, wiser, and more self-accepting than I was in my twenties.  So am I happier?  I don’t know.  I think I’m happy enough—and that works for me.

I came across a post over at The Happiness Project, Eight tips for how money CAN buy you happiness, and I immediately loved it.  While reading the tips, I thought about whether I implement that advice in my own life, and I was pleased to see how well my own money practices line up with Gretchen’s observations.  In the interest of sharing, I thought I’d post my own responses to her tips. 

“Spend money to…”

1)  Strengthen bonds with family and friends.  Yes, I absolutely do this!  Plane tickets to Michigan, lunch and coffee dates with friends, the occasional romantic getaway with my favorite gentleman—these items are substantial parts of my budget.  I also on occasion talk too much on the phone and have to pay for the extra minutes, but it seems like a minor cost to nurture important relationships.

2)  End marital conflict.  Hmm.  Since I’m not married, I have to be fair and say that I do not do this.

3)  Upgrade your exercise. Yes, I did this last month!  I bought new running shoes and registered for my half-marathon in March.  I also spend about $150 a year to maintain my bike, which I think is money well spent.

4)  Think about fun.  Oh, boy, do I.  My cookbook collection is a good example of me spending money on stuff I don’t need.  But I get so much pleasure and inspiration from those shelves of books.  I think it’s good to spend some money on stuff we want but don’t need.

5)  Serenity and security.  This phrase is referring to paying debt and building savings.  I’ve been fortunate enough not to accumulate any debt, thanks to my parents (for college), science graduate school (which paid for itself), and some frugal living.  Over the last year, I’ve been taking charge of my long-term financial future, opening a retirement account and moving my money into different investments.  Now, I really hate money chores and investment banking puts me to sleep, but I do feel relieved to have taken care of my long-term interests.

6)  Pay more for healthy food.  Oh, yes.  I love a kitchen stocked with gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables.

7)  Spend the money on someone else.  Yes, absolutely.  Giving presents is a pleasure, and I’ve tiptoed into the realm of giving money to worthy causes.

8)  Think about YOUR priorities.  I try to follow this advice generally, especially when I start feeling lost or when my life is spinning out of my control.  For example, in December when my computer required that I reinstall the operating system, I didn’t hesitate to buy an external hard drive so that I could keep all my old files.  I could have let go of podcasts and my photos, or the offline files for my blog posts, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my files just to save some money.  So I asked a tech-savvy colleague for a brand recommendation and bought myself a new hard drive.  (I bought one from Western Digital and love it—so sleek, yet so much memory!)  I knew that it was a priority to get my computer working again, so I prioritized the time and money necessary to get the job done.  Sometimes you really can throw money at a problem to solve it—or at least to buy yourself the tools to fix it.

On the whole, I feel really encouraged by this thought exercise!  While I’m disappointed that my take-home paycheck appears to be shrinking, at least I am spending that money in ways that matter to me.  And that, I think, is more important than the size of your paycheck any day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dog Poop Days

Breathe a sigh of relief, folks: I shall spare you the photo of dog poop!

I try hard to find the beauty in my surroundings—the sunsets, the wildflowers, the birds, the pretty buildings and brick paths on campus—but some days, all I can see is the dog poop.  In my neighborhood, many people have dogs, and many of these people do not clean up after their dogs.  This is disgusting.  And it’s not just a problem in my Texas neighborhood.  It was a big problem in my Evanston neighborhood too, and I hated it just as much then.  This week, the melancholy grey skies, frequent rain, and my dwindling patience mean that all I can see is the dog poop, around my neighborhood and metaphorically.

There’s no one thing that’s really driving me up the wall.  It’s a combination of little things.  I haven’t been able to really move anything forward at work this week for two reasons, both of which are actually good things when viewed through a bigger lens.  The first is that I’ve come to the end of a few experiments, one with good (publishable!) results and one with useful results.  I am now prepping for new experiments, but I feel very impatient for more data.  The second is that I’ve been waiting to meet with my boss about our grant, which I finished revising almost two weeks ago.  I wrote to Matt this week, “It’s hard to remember sometimes that your top priority may be someone else’s seventh or eighth item on a long to-do list.”

I should be pleased that I am on top of things at work, that things are getting done, but again: dog poop.  All I’m seeing is what needs to be done and what’s not happening right now.

On top of that, I’ve been missing Matt a lot this month.  I haven’t seen him since our San Antonio trip back in November, and if it hadn’t been for my grant deadline, we may have scheduled an earlier visit.  But he’s visiting me in about a week, and I will be so happy to see him.  Most of the time I feel fine about the logistics of our relationship, but sometimes there is too much time between visits and I get really sad and frustrated by the distance.  It seems like we saw each other more regularly when we were hundreds of miles apart.  The demands of my postdoc work have taken their toll on our schedule, even though we are so much closer, geographically, than we were when I was in graduate school.

It hasn’t been all bad this week.  There’s been a really delicious batch of lentil and rice soup, and I baked cookies last night.  It’s been raining a lot, which is good, because we’ve been in drought conditions for a long time down here.  And this morning, I waffled on whether to ride my bike to work.  I decided to go for it, thinking the ride would lift my funky mood.  I was so right: the sun peeped out from between the clouds and my legs felt strong and well-rested as they pedaled me forward.  Forward motion!  Sometimes it is, quite literally, exactly what I need.

And in response to my impatience, I’ve decided to take charge of what I can get done.  This morning, I called my leasing office to request a repair, and I e-mailed my boss to ask for a meeting.  At home, I’ve decided to organize and clean in anticipation of Matt’s visit (and for my own peace of mind).  I’m also looking forward to buying the last part of his Christmas present, and I’m very proud of myself that I haven’t dropped any spoilers to him about his other presents.  (It’s very difficult, as I am very excited about his presents.)

These may be dog poop days, but at least they won’t last forever.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Second That Suggestion!

Lunch Part One

During one of her podcasts, the esteemed Colleen Patrick-Goudreau asked a very profound question:

Why is meat-containing food the standard fare?

Indeed, I would also like to know the answer to this question.  Why, when vegetarian food is tasty, healthful, and cheaper than its meaty counterpart, is the meat-containing option the default setting?  Colleen offered an alternative which makes me so happy to contemplate:

What if the vegetarian option were the standard fare?

Seriously, think about it.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve ordered a vegetarian meal, even going off the menu to do so if necessary, and seen my tablemates look at my food with envy.  Texas has forced me to become more assertive and upfront about my vegetarianism, and it’s a good thing.  When we learn to ask for what we need, we learn how to make ourselves happy.  Though I have to say, sometimes when Matt and I are in a nice restaurant and I mention that the vegetarian options are slim pickings, he will tell our server about me, and I melt a little bit.  It is nice to be taken care of from time to time.  Also nice: the terrific vegetarian food that the kitchen whips up for me, like the plate of enchiladas that I ate at Christopher’s a few years ago.  There were no enchiladas on the menu, but damn, they were fine.  I love being a vegetarian.

Back to the questions at hand.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, for once, the meat-eaters had to make a request for meat in their meal?  I’m not even suggesting that they (gasp) go without meat at, for example, work events where food is served.  I just think that if more vegetarian food was offered as a matter of course, people would eat it.  If it tastes good, they won’t complain that it’s vegetarian, not unless they are total ingrates.

I realize that in a way, this argument is a slippery slope.  What about food allergies?  I have a friend who has allergies to dairy and tomatoes.  I have other friends with celiac disease.  Does that mean all food at work events that we attend should be dairy-, tomato-, and gluten-free?  (Oh, and vegetarian, of course.)  What could we eat?  How about salads, soups, fruit or veggie platters, rice, hummus, and for dessert, chocolate?  We could even have sandwiches if they were served on gluten-free bread.  And how wonderful would it be for everyone to be able to eat everything?

It would be amazing.  The hard part would be assembling the menu, not the cooking.  Cooking for dietary restrictions is not hard; it just requires some forethought and some creativity.  I’m still learning how to put together tomato-free vegan meals for my friend with the allergies.  I’m learning, and she forgives me when the meal is less than perfect.  She loved the chocolate-raspberry thumbprints, and I sent her home with a big baggie of cookies.  But sometimes I burn the rice, or the curry isn’t quite as good as I had hoped.  That’s how it goes sometimes.

I dream of a world in which I can say yes to food more often than I say no.  That would be amazing.  Until then, I keep speaking up, loud and clear, and speaking my truth, as Colleen puts it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Get Your Hands a Little Sticky

Once upon a time, this blog was filled with recipes and stories about food.  It was, in the classical sense, a food blog.  Lately, I have meandered off the beaten path into other topics, but today, I’d like to talk about food again.  Specifically, these delightful little chocolate-raspberry thumbprint cookies.  I meant to tell you about them a year ago, but the days go by so fast.


Which is a damn shame, because these cookies are awesome!  Vegan, a little nutty, and not too sweet, to my mind, they are perfect lunchbox or afternoon snack cookies.  I think of them like a decadent version of fruit and nuts: the fruit from the jammy filling and the nuts from the almond flour.  They’re a snap to put together, too—no creaming of butter and sugar or cracking of eggs.  Just measure, whisk, stir, and get your hands a little sticky when you form the dough into balls, make a thumbprint, and fill them with chocolate and jam.

I modified the recipe slightly to make them more of a straight-out-of-the-cupboard job.  The original recipe calls for apple juice, but I don’t usually have that on hand.  (Hard cider, though, is a different story.  Maybe I’ll try this recipe with some hard cider and report back!)  Instead of the apple juice, I use some sugar and water and it works just fine.

Happy baking! 

Thumbprints in Progress

Raspberry-Chocolate Thumbprints

Adapted slightly from EatingWell (December 2006 issue)

Makes about 2 dozen cookies (and they freeze well, too, at least for a week or two)

1 cup almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)

1 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup oat flour (I make this at home by whirling rolled oats in a food processor)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 cup chocolate chips (vegan chips if you want these cookies to be safe for vegans or dairy-free folks)

2 tbsp. raspberry jam or preserves

1)  Put a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.

2)  Prep a baking sheet or two by spraying with nonstick spray or lining them with a Silpat or parchment paper.

3)  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the three flours, baking powder, and salt.  In a second bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, sugar, water, and two extracts.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix together.  You can use your hands to help the dough come together if that’s easier than mixing with a spoon.  The original recipe says to add another 1-2 tbsp. of apple juice if the dough seems crumbly, but I never have this problem.  It seems like useful advice to pass along to you, though.

4)  To shape the cookies, form about a tablespoon of dough into a ball and place it on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the rest of the dough, leaving about 2 inches between dough balls.  Flatten the balls into discs, then make a thumbprint by pressing down in the center with your thumb to make a little well.  Fill the well with 3 chocolate chips and about 1/4 tsp. jam.

5)  Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 15-17 minutes.  My cookies never seem to change color, so I just time them and they bake beautifully.  Allow cookies to cool on their sheet for a few minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Share with your favorite people.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Splendid Table Notebook

For those of us who cook, Lynn Rossetto Kasper is our fairy godmother, and The Splendid Table is her magic wand.  I adore Lynn’s food and cooking radio program, complete with phoned-in questions from listeners.  In fact, I get so many ideas from listening to The Splendid Table that I decided I really needed a way to keep track of those ideas.  And that, my friends, is what blog posts are for.  This page is my notebook of ideas I’d like to try/remember/share from Splendid Table episodes.  It’s going to look like a notebook too—more casual and work-in-progress than most of my blog posts.

I’m going to update this page frequently, adding ideas and links as I find them.  If I really love something, I’ll try to write a separate recipe post, and I’ll provide the link to the new post as well.

Oh, and if you aren’t listening to the downloadable podcasts of The Splendid Table, you should be.  They’re just terrific.

Happy listening, and happy cooking! 

* This book sounds fascinating to me: The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn from Newcomers to America about Health, Happiness, and Hope by Claudia Kolker.  Interviewed by Lynn on the May 19, 2012 episode.

* An interview about extra-virgin olive oil with Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virgin.  I found it fascinating, and having spent some time sniffing and tasting different olive oils because of Project Olive Oil, I felt well prepared for this episode  From the January 7, 2012 episode.

* This sounds really cool: a mail-order knife-sharpening company that even sends you a before-and-after picture of your knife!  From the December 29, 2007 episode.

* Lynn’s off-the-cuff recipe for German-roasted nuts, which you make on the stovetop.  These sound perfect for steamy Texas days, when only a fool like me turns on the oven.  But more importantly, they sound really, really delicious.  I’m thinking about making a batch to take on the road to San Antonio next weekend.  From the December 29, 2007 episode.

* Roasted pears with fried sage leaves.  I am currently looking (listening) high and low to find the episode where Lynn describes how she would make these…

* Lynn’s red lentil soup with (lots of) cilantro and fresh orange, or more officially: Coriander-Orange-Scented Red Lentil Soup.  Mentioned on a 2008 episode, I think?

* Just for fun: Talking about Faygo pop, a local treat for us Michiganders.  I grew up drinking Faygo!  My favorite flavors were Rock ‘n’ Rye and Peach.  I love how they describe it as “the beloved quirky beverage from Motown” (January 26, 2008).

* The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm and Neela Paniz.  This book sounds fun, and we have a really cute little Indian grocery store in town (January 19, 2008).  I wouldn’t mind a little hand-holding when it comes to Indian ingredients! 

Update: my sister bought me this little book as a gift, and I wrote about it here.

* All of Diana Henry’s ideas for what to do with a bag of potatoes (November 13, 2010).

Herbivore Inspiration

Hello Peach

I listen to a lot of podcasts these days.  At work, at home, while cooking, while washing dishes—I love a good podcast.  Recently, thanks to a thread on Get Off My Internets, I discovered Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast, Vegetarian Food for Thought, and in a word, it’s wonderful.  (See, Raquelita, GOMI isn’t all snarking and insults!  Good things can be hidden among all the catfighting.)

I listen to several foodie podcasts, but Vegetarian Food for Thought is the first and only vegetarian podcast I’ve enjoyed.  It’s refreshing to listen to a show where the host never talks about food that I can’t eat for ethical reasons.  As a vegetarian, you get used to living in a world where many things are off-limits to you, food-wise, and it’s a relief when those barriers are removed.  It’s like eating at a vegetarian restaurant and being overwhelmed with delight at seeing a menu where everything is an option.  I have become resigned to eating out and seeing a handful of choices, at most, that I can eat.  It’s really exciting when that’s not the case.  It’s also really exciting to take carnivores to a vegetarian restaurant and seeing them eat happily.

I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time now, and I feel pretty set in my ways.  Listening to Colleen’s podcast has inspired me to revisit the reasons behind my vegetarianism.  I originally stopped eating meat because I was horrified to learn how factory-farmed meat is really processed.  I felt I could not support an industry that was so damaging to the environment and so brutal to its animal and human participants.  But I never stopped eating all animal products; I never gave up cheese or eggs.  I suppose I struck a compromise between my ethics and my appetite: I won’t eat meat, but I’m not giving up my dairy or my eggs.

I consider myself an environmental vegetarian, which means I do it because it’s a more sustainable option.  Colleen is a vegan for compassionate reasons—compassion for animals and a belief that it is wrong for humans to exploit animals for their bodies.  On principle, I don’t think it’s wrong for humans to exploit animals, but I admit that it’s a relief to know that animals are not being killed so that I can eat them.  For me, the fact that vegetarianism is more compassionate than eating meat is a sweet bonus.  

Lentil Dish in Progress

Making Rachel’s lentil dish, an easy and very tasty favorite of mine.  And it’s vegan!

Despite my lacto-ovo ways, I’ve put Colleen’s book Vegan’s Daily Companion on my Amazon wishlist.  It’s a cool idea: “365 days of inspiration for cooking, eating, and living compassionately” says the extended title.  Can’t we all use a little more compassion in our days?  And this book seems like my favorite kind of cookbook, the kind with lots of stories and tidbits in addition to some recipes.

I know I’m rambling a bit today, but I wanted to mention a few things in particular that have stuck with me from the podcasts.  Consider them points of interest, whether or not you agree.

* I’m glad she took Michael Pollan to task about his meat-eating.  It’s been a long time since I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but I remember finding his discussion of vegetarianism profoundly unsatisfying.  Seriously, it’s not that hard to be vegetarian.  Really, it’s not.  If you want to eat meat because you like the taste and texture of meat, then just admit that your meat-eating is about pleasure and familiarity and not some lofty ideal about our evolutionary history or family traditions.  And about the latter: I think you can call yourself vegetarian even if at holidays, you eat brisket or turkey or whatever.  I don’t think fear of family holiday meals is a good reason to cling to meat-eating if vegetarianism appeals to you for ethical or health reasons.

* Also, Michael Pollan is the not the Messiah of food.  He’s a good journalist, but he’s no god.

* I loved her episode “The Lethal Gifts of Livestock,” in which Colleen discusses our long history of acquiring pathogens because of our animal husbandry.  She also talks about the recent food contamination scares and influenza outbreaks and expresses her rage that the media never seems to mention the fact that these pathogens exist because of animal husbandry.  And let’s not forget all the cases of food poisoning from tainted meat.  Afterward, officials tell us to cook our beef thoroughly, but do they ever offer another solution: don’t eat beef?

* As an aside, the scientist in me wants to point out that even though we acquired smallpox from cattle (first came cowpox, then smallpox), cowpox also inspired the first vaccine.  Benjamin Jesty, an English farmer, noted that milkmaids who contracted cowpox seemed to be immune to smallpox.  This observation prompted him to use cowpox as a crude vaccine against smallpox; his work was later repeated by Dr. Edward Jenner, who is much more famous than Jesty for his work on smallpox vaccinations.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)  So from the source comes the solution, at least for smallpox.

* I like how Colleen tells her story about feeding her pet cats in “What do Vegetarians Feed Their Cats and Dogs?”  It’s a serious issue, as cats are obligate carnivores who do not thrive on a vegetarian diet.  That, at least, seems to be the consensus opinion.  Colleen admits to feeding her beloved cats meat, citing some of the health problems they experienced while on a vegetarian diet.  I admire her honesty here, as this is a tough subject, especially for compassionate vegans.

* Colleen claims we like butter, cheese, and meat because fat and salt taste good.  Period!  No other reasons!  I completely disagree.  Cheese and meat in particular are incredibly complex, flavor-wise.  There is a lot more going on in them than just fat and salt.  Umami, anyone?  But I think it’s even more than just the umami factor.  I can tell you, as a vegetarian who occasionally tastes meat from someone else’s plate: there are things about meat that are not replicated in plant-based foods, with the exception of some of the crazy fake meats that Alice & Friends Vegetarian Cafe, a Chicago restaurant, serves up.  Fake duck?  Fake rabbit?  It’s kind of mind-blowing.  The popularity of fake meats and cheeses and the sheer variety of vegan milks available indicates that our cravings and our pleasure are much more than just fat, salt, and sugar.

Food for thought indeed.

Two last things before I go:

1)  The Michael Pollan-inspired episodes include “The Rise of the Excuse-itarians,” “The Fall of the Excuse-itarians,” and “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies.”  I found all three of these episodes fascinating and recommend them highly.  Even if you don’t agree with Colleen’s position, she argues so eloquently that it’s worth listening.

2)  All the Vegetarian Food for Thought episodes can be downloaded for free through iTunes. It’s a listener-supported program.  I’m thinking about making a donation. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

No, really, it was!

I left work on Friday night, and outside a ferocious storm was throwing lightning strikes across the sky and buckets of rain down to the ground.  It was fearsome and awe-inspiring.  It was also a challenge to my plans to ride my bike home at 6 PM.

My first thought was that this is Texas, and the storm may stop in five minutes.  I decided to wait it out, first by just staring into the sky, which was a welcome break from staring at my computer screen.  Then my shoulder got tired from holding my heavy bag, so I retreated inside to read my book while I continued to wait out the storm.

The storm, however, had enough ammunition to keep going…and going.  I decided that if I was going to get home that night, I’d have to give up my bike-riding plans and take the bus.  The rain let up a tiny bit, so I headed out to catch the bus, giving up my hair and dry clothes to the rain.  I made it home, wet but unharmed, and was flooded with gratitude for my little apartment, with its peace and quiet, a shelter from the rain which pounded the roof.  While waiting out the storm, I had started to fantasize about dinner.  Fried chickpea patties, seasoned with green onions and cumin, sounded tantalizing; I might even have the ingredients to make a yogurt-tahini sauce.  All of this was on my mind when a crash of thunder startled me so badly that I think my soul jumped out of my body.  Then the lights went dark.

Kitchen by Candlelight

And with the darkness came an end to my chickpea patty fantasy.  I have an electric stove, so no electricity means no cooking.  At that point, I was too hungry not to eat something, and with the storm raging outside, there was no way I was leaving my apartment.  It didn’t occur to me to order take-out (and I’m really too frugal for that sort of behavior anyway), so a kitchen raid for a picnic dinner would have to suffice.

In the freezer, I found some good pumpernickel bread, thinly sliced, which meant thawing time would be short.  In the fridge I found a handful of chickpeas, which I mashed with some yogurt, salt, and pepper into a sort of hummus.  I also found cheese and mustard, so I put together a sandwich of strong-tasting flavors: hummus, cheese, and mustard.  (I like potent flavors.)  I also had an open bottle of muscat wine, which seemed like a good antidote to my deflated dinner dreams.

Candlelit Dinner

I assembled and ate my dinner by candlelight, only to realize that I really, seriously needed more calories than a sandwich and a glass of wine (and some pretzels and peanut butter that I’d snarfed before dinner).  I ate the last of Sunday night’s kale salad.  Then I reached for the yogurt container again and made a bowl of chocolate yogurt, studded with dried cherries.  It hit the spot.

Eventually, the power came back on, went out again, and came on.  It was an exciting, exhausting evening, not at all what I had in mind for my Friday night.  But it got me thinking: what would you eat for dinner if the power went off suddenly and you had no access to a stove, oven, or microwave?  Would you find enough provisions to feed your hunger?  Or would you just eat pretzels and cheese, wash it down with wine, and call it dinner?  I have to say, I was rather pleased that even on a Friday night, when my supply of good leftovers is rather meager after a long week of work, I was able to make something for dinner.  Resourcefulness never fails to please me.