Wow, it is hard to believe that nearly a month (well, actually the entire month of Feb) has past since I posted last. I used to be really good about posting, but we’ve been having some balance issues for the computer. We rock out an old (seriously? like 6 years old) Powerbook G4 laptop* and a larger iMac. The Shu has been getting a bit more photography work, which means that I only get to use the computer in spurts.
So, what have you been up to? Oh don’t worry – I haven’t gone luddite on you. Instead, I’ve been working on constructing a point of sale (POS is apparently their common name, which never ceases to make me laugh). Turns out, the systems can be really expensive. So, I had a grand idea that I could probably put something together for our small market that wouldn’t have us going through licensing fees or complex systems.
My search for a program lead me to Unicenta, which has been exactly what we want (that is, as far as I can tell without a massive customer load currently). The only ‘drawback’ is that you have to go into resource files and rewrite certain things to do what you need/want. I ran into a weird printing issue with our receipt printer, another with getting the cash register to open before the change window vanished, another with trying to get X, Y, Z to happen or not happen. Thankfully, there is a pretty helpful message board where I managed to find answers to everything I wanted.
That said, you still have to be creative and problem solve a bit. I was working on something and Shu said, “Um, I have no idea what you are doing. How do you know this?” And then, I remembered: I used to write little silly programs on a Commodore Plus/4 and I had some version of an old Tandy. I think they were old even when we got them, but I remember learning basic little codes that drew lines, flashed colors, wrote little messages to you, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, there is SO much with Unicenta/programming/computers that I simply am glad it just works for us. AND, things that I’m sure should take 2 minutes take me about an hour. But, there is something really satisfying about being able to do it at all. So, I’ve been enjoying the little technological knowledge growth in my life. I wouldn’t want to be a programmer or have this be my everyday, but it’s fun to stick a toe in the water. Plus, it seems that my tech skills only blossom in specific environments or incidents and are entirely unreliable.
(*) Which brings us to our little Powerbook G4, which I still love despite its power issues and apparently the fact that the world thinks it is too old to support or allow me to watch YouTube videos. I’ve read that Linux works great on the G4, but, despite all my efforts while reading message boards and such, I simply can’t get it to load onto the little fellow.
This is probably for the best since Linux (which my dad has recently become very excited about) eludes me. I like it, but I simply can’t get certain things to happen on it. Hopefully, that branch will blossom in the future.
It is remarkable how “easy” something can become. Two or three years ago, I butchered a turkey. Carving it, with beautiful slices, was out of the question. Instead, it was a chunked mess – tasty, but a weirdly sliced behemoth. Fast forward to today, and I can do a serviceable job of removing all of the parts and slicing them up.
Sunday, I used those skills to carve up a whole chicken. I used the bones to make a stock and turned one of the breasts into this:
Don’t misunderstand, we don’t do this all the time. I don’t make everything from scratch; I’m a fan of packaged things that make life more convenient and allow for people to feed their families with ease. That said, I find that I’ve become much more comfortable with the whole versions of foods (particularly meats) – to a point that I almost prefer to work with them when I can.
At the end of the preparation when we sat to enjoy the comfort of chicken noodle soup, the Shu asked how I got the vegetables so crunchy but got their flavor into the broth. I said that I boiled half the vegetables before (to the point of mush) and then removed them and replaced them with newer vegetables. Our conversation turned to how nice it was that we could enjoy this – that we both feel comfortable enough with foods to create things like this on a random night. And that it didn’t feel like much extra effort to carve an entire chicken for the meal.
Somerset Maugham gets trotted out for his quotable thoughts on how every shave has a philosophy and how the mundane can become meditative. Food critics and writers talk about how food and its preparation represents a certain philosophy. Years back, I read an article [link here when you find it again] about how our satisfaction per calorie has decreased since the 1950′s.
In short, to make french fries before you had to peel potatoes, cut them, fry them, and then enjoy them. Now, if you haven’t run out to the nearest fast food joint, you open a bag and dump them out. And don’t get me wrong, they are delicious. The author argued, though, that part of the obesity issue was a lack of satisfaction in each calorie consumed. I have mixed feelings about the conclusions s/he drew at the end of the article, but the general idea that making something from scratch provides more pleasure/satisfaction per calorie seems valid to me.
All I know is that soup was pretty satisfying. On another quick note, dinner simply takes an hour (at least). That hour doesn’t have to be on the same day, but overall – it’s at least an hour it seems. And you can’t caramelize onions in 10 minutes. I think that part of being comfortable with all of this has been recognizing that. To eat well takes a few extra minutes.* And that’s ok.
*The next day, I had no extra minutes. Burger King sated my food desires. While delicious, I’m not posting about that burger today. In a week, I’ll still remember this chicken noodle soup. Perhaps the burger too?
The Shu and I are huge fans of Wagon Wheel Country Cafe here in Springdale. Their fried pickles are heavenly – the pickle is still crispy and the batter has a fun kick – and they have just the right amount of fried and home goodness mixed together. I also can’t ever decide if I want brown or white gravy (go brown!). Oh, and they have pie.
For Christmas, I got Shu a copy of Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State. My wife loves pie so much that we forewent the traditional wedding cake for a variety of pies from Wagon Wheel and Spring Street Grill.
But, back to Arkansas Pie. First, Kat Robinson relates a story that I remember really well in her introduction: “Jelly pie. The heck is jelly pie?” In 2011, Serious Eats had picked up a map of the fifty states that featured a popular dish in that state. Arkansas was listed as jelly pie. At the time I saw it, I thought to myself – yeesh, I guess I’m not that Arkansan. I’ve never heard of a jelly pie. Apparently, Kat Robinson felt the same way and contacted all of her friends who never had heard of it either. I won’t take her introduction entirely – it is fun read and you should check out the book.
Suffice to say, because of my Christmas purchase, I’ll be eating a lot of pie this year. Which brings us back to Wagon Wheel -
Robinson has a chapter on a Wagon Wheel Restaurant (Greenbrier). I’m not sure if ours in Springdale is a second location or if the one in Greenbrier moved up here. BUT, if they aren’t related in some way, I’d be shocked. The Springdale location even has the whiteboard Robinson describes listing the specials. On pie, she lists the meringue pies as the best – among which the coconut meringue is called “extra-fine.” Tonight, I had me some extra-fine indeed. There was some love in that pie, and now that love is in me. I’m looking forward to more pie-ventures.
Over the past year, my in-law family and I have been laying the ground work for a new business venture – Tang’s Asian Market. Yesterday, we launched our digital presence on WordPress and Facebook. It is pretty cool to already have 50 likes in just the first 24 hours. That might not be ‘big’ to some businesses or people, but it kinda made my day yesterday.
We hope to post some cooking videos, product information (how to), and to keep people aware of what is going on at the new grocery with these digital venues. Of course, if you are in the area and you’d like to see something at the market, let us know through those venues too. Most often, this blog will by my personal life/etc but, as family businesses go, don’t be surprised to see a few announcements here and there about Tang’s.
Here’s also hoping I can keep up with all my digital selves.
A necessary shout out – Eric Benton did the illustrations for our mascots: The General and Kung Pao (chickens). He’s a cool dude, a talented illustrator, and a magician to boot. A real, bonifide magician. In other words, he rocks in all spheres. Check out his work at Eric’s Margins.
Today’s comic from XKCD* is the inspiration for my post today. First, on that topic – I once heard/read/experienced an article/radiopost/mediathing that talked about how fast germs and bacteria reproduce. And so, the killing of 99.9% of germs always has seemed like the perfect way to ensure that the strongest, most resistant germs survive to reproduce and eventually develop major resistances. Granted, my thought is based in only anecdotal evidence and isn’t science founded at all – but it seems like a decent premise to a sci-fi horror film coming in 2013.
Speaking of germs and things coming in 2013 – the seeds of blogging and putting stuff out there are always trying to find root in my daily schedule. When I was overseas, the blog seemed like the perfect mass communication tool and chronicle of my daily life. Here in common place (for me) AR, it seems silly to report from the natural state about my clearly natural and boring adventures. But, I like the idea of chronicle and I like the fact that the blog makes me focus down on something of my day (usually a good thing/event) and try to be witty (even when I fail).
So, here’s hoping something blooms in 2013.
*Always check out the scroll overs on their comics. They are pretty funny. It doesn’t seem to work when you embed their images, but on readers and their sites it works. This one reads “Hipster CDC Reports Flu Epidemic Peaked Years Ago”
The field of linguistics has only recently appeared on my radar, but I increasingly find it fascinating (though, honestly, I’m often confused by it as well). Recently, Language Log has done a set of posts about the frequency of altered (and even fabricated) quotations in journalistic reporting. One of their last posts (by Mark Liberman) detailed an analysis of quotations in an article by Jared Diamond, which illustrate that it is highly unlikey those quotations were ever uttered by the speaker. I simply find it fascinating that someone can look at grammatical features of a snippet and illustrate how that sentence most likely was never uttered by the speaker.
Also, I can’t seem to find the post now (but I believe it was by Language Log as well), but a linguist also lent a hand with a cold murder case by analyzing some ransom letters. Based on characteristics, s/he determined that the killer was most likely from this one city and was educated. It turned out that they had a suspect who matched that description and when they questioned him, he confessed. (if I locate the post, I’ll link it here).
Linguists have super powers, I believe.
BTW: If you aren’t reading Language Log, you probably should be.
Liverwurst is linked in my mind to British schoolchildren who are disappointed about lunch (or tea time?). Childhood books lamented liverwurst as the ‘worst’ thing that could happen to a little person. My experience of the meat was so limited that I had imagined it to be something akin to some pet food with gravy and cheeses. On top of that, I’ve never been a *huge* liver fan, so I’ve never really sought it out.
Recently, a Fresh Market came to our area; so, the Shu and I thought we’d go and check it out. Amid the daunting myriad of foods (honestly, how do so many products exist?), it sat in the deli section between ‘organic buffalo sauce chicken’ and ‘peppered turkey’: LIVERWURST (the label was a bit more complicated probably). With glee, I said to the Shu that I wanted to try it and she thought it would be fun. With probably far too much enthusiasm and a ridiculous smile, I asked the teller for a small amount.
British children throughout literature are a lot of whiney babies. Liverwurst is delightful! As I munched down on it in the car, I said ‘it tastes like a high-class baloney’ (yeah, I know, ‘bologna.’ But if you grew up eating the high quality ‘bologna’ I ate as a child, you’d spell it baloney too). The internets suggested eating it with mustard and onions (my onion was a bit too powerful, so I enjoyed it more without an onion).
My tastebuds are still singing. I wound up splitting the sandwich into an open face joy-witch, so that the flavors of liver and onions (which seem to be in the wurst) wouldn’t be too overwhelmed by the bread.