What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bagged salad. I need a steady supply of fresh “exotic” greens to keep the resident tortoise healthy and happy. The most convenient way to procure these greens is usually by picking up a bag-o-salad since I’m more focused on variety than buying in bulk. What I end up with half the time, though is a slimy gelatinous mass in my crisper drawer – often before I’ve even opened the bag. There’s got to be a better way to package this stuff that doesn’t leave it turned into a bag of green, foul smelling water the minute it leaves the supermarket.

2. The next question. Most people are OK at asking the question. What they generally suck at is asking the next question or the one after that. Most people are crap when it comes to really drilling down through an issue and getting at real causes. The surface answer is usually the easy one – the one that doesn’t offend anyone or hurt any feelings. Drilling down into the what and why tends to be invasive and means putting more noses out of joint and occasionally making life uncomfortable. Go ahead and be the person who make things uncomfortable now and then. You’ll be amazed at what you can find out.

3. Leftovers. I usually like leftovers but I’m in a rut at the moment. The last few weeks I’ve made my traditional big Sunday dinner and then a pot of soup on Monday. My logic was that it would give me plenty enough to ensure non-sandwich lunches and minimal cooking the rest of the week. I’m coming to the unhappy realization that even as much of a creature of habit as I am, I can’t eat the same two meals four four days in a row. It’s really kind of a disappointment, because it was a wonderful time saving plan… which seems to have lots a lot of points in execution.

Just a taste…

In a lot of ways I’m a simple guy. In a world where celebrity chefs and experimental cuisine are a thing, I’m sure some of my more sophisticated friends would find my taste in food horribly pedestrian. Cooking here at Fortress Jeff tends largely towards traditional – shocking, I’m sure. For most meals there’s a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. With a few exceptions, perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday, my table wine is tap water over ice.

While my menus are not as limited as they once were, there are a few favorites that appear regularly in the rotation. I can make a roast that’s a dead ringer for the traditional Sunday meal at my grandparent’s house. My lasagna tastes like it came straight out of my aunt’s kitchen. I like the tastes, smells, and textures I grew up enjoying. I may not be passing them to the next generation, but keeping them alive in this one is important to me.

Some tastes – mountain bologna from B&B Meats, cheese steak subs from D’Atri’s, and cheeseburgers from Scotty’s – I’ve given up on ever being able to recreate. There are, however, a few tastes of home that I’ve been working for years to replicate. The longest running effort in my kitchen has been the effort to put together a basic ham salad that gets close to the taste I remember coming out of Love’s Grocery in Lonaconing. Finding that flavor has been something of an obsession of mine… and I think I’ve finally managed to crack the code.

I would never claim to have the ingredient list right, but I’ve finally got the flavor – or at least something close to the flavor I remember. The internet is thick with recipes that try to raise simple ham salad to an art form – but simplicity is the soul of the whole “salad” family. It’s a food specifically designed to stretch the budget from an era when people of necessity made use of every scrap of meat in their kitchen. To me, ham salad on white bread is the taste of summer, ranking right alongside the BLT and corn on the cob.

So what’s the big secret? Apparently in my incarnation the missing ingredient was Miracle Whip. Being a Hellman’s household I never considered it before, but switching between the two changed the entire “flavor profile” of my ground ham concoction. I can’t imagine that any scientist anywhere has ever had a more joyful eureka moment.

So this Sunday morning I’ve got that going for me. If I don’t manage to get anything else accomplished today, I’ll still consider the day a wild success.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Policy. As a young intern many years ago I cut my teeth as a policy guy. I know how to read them, how to write them, and how to interpret them to mean pretty much anything I want them to mean. That’s why I always enjoy it when someone decides to try “selling” me on the virtues of one particular policy or another. It’s pretty easy to spot a blatantly one sided policy when I read it and no amount of talking around it is going to convince me that it’s really a good thing or beneficial to me in any meaningful way. Conveniently, I don’t have to like it or even agree with it, I just have to comply it… and I’ve been doing that for years.

2. Roadside Produce. When it comes to fresh produce from the roadside there’s a fine line between perfectly ripe and apt to go bad somewhere between the point of purchase and the time I get it home. As much as I appreciate the three cantaloupes for $5 deal you’re making me, I’d appreciate it more if the bottom half of your melons weren’t, you know, squishy. Same with the $10 a dozen ears of corn. While I appreciate a bargain as much as anyone, I’m not feeding an Amish family with this purchase, so how about sizing some deals that are more appropriate for meals involving fewer than 10 people?

3. Salad. In an effort to be slightly less heart attack prone, I’ve been eating a lot of salad over the last two years. In that time, I’ve really only noted one thing with any consistency – That no matter how many different kinds of dressing you have, at the end of the day you’re still eating a bowl of weeds. Sure, sometimes the weeds are topped with bacon or chicken or eggs or croutons, but regardless of what you add on, it’s all built on a foundation of weeds. I’ll get plenty excited over a well-cooked steak or even a barbeque chicken, but I just can’t seem to get myself revved up for salad any more. It seems to me that life is entirely too short to spend 1/3 of your meal times face to face with food that only tastes good when you slather it in 101 different toppings.

What Annoys Jeff This Week?

Medical Experts. Watch the news long enough and you’re going to find out a few simple medical truths. Eggs are good for your or possibly bad for you. Coffee is good for your brain, but bad for your heart. Exercise keeps your cardiovascular system in tip top shape, but can damage your heart and skeletal system. Everything from radishes to ordinary tap water apparently causes cancer in mice. I think doctors are pretty good at the micro level of telling us what’s wrong with us individually, but I’m not sure they’ve got the sense God gave the common rooster when it comes to figuring anything out at the macro level. When it comes to what’s good or bad across an entire population, it doesn’t seem like they have a clue.

Jerry Sandusky. Hasn’t the news cycle moved far enough away from this that it’s not really a story anymore? Seriously, can’t a Kardashian get knocked up and spare us all from another three months of Jerry’s kid touching extravaganza?

Hopped-up Meth Heads Eating People. Zombie lore is clear on one point. The only immediately effective method of stopping a impending undead attack on your person is detaching the zombie’s head from its body. This is traditionally accomplished in one of two ways, using a shotgun or a two-handed long sword. In a pinch, a fire axe might also get the job done, but its sweet spot is much smaller than the other methods and is therefore not recommended except when other options are not available. As they did in the Wild West, the answer to the latest rash of face eating is clearly to deputize the citizenry, arm them with shotguns and long swords, and send them out to roam the streets to defend the living. At least this way, stories of the impending zombie apocalypse would reflect both sides of the ongoing battle between good and evil.

WaWa. Usually I can count on WaWa to sell me a pre-packaged salad, a bottle of water, and a bag of chips a couple of times a week. I’ve been in twice this week looking for lunch and both times their “salad chiller” was blowing hot air. Sure, lettuce and assorted other greens might stand up to that for a while, but diced ham and chicken will probably not respond quite as well. I watched a few people pick up a lukewarm salad and walk away happy enough with their decision, but there’s something about trusting glorified gas station attendants to know when a food item has gone off makes me more than a little nervous. I think I’m going to have to pass for a while. Keeping perishable items chilled doesn’t seem like it should be too much to ask.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for the next installment of “From the Mailbag.”

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Yeah, I know it’s a day early this week, but after not griping and complaining last week, I was feeling a little edgy. As always, in no particular order, here’s what annoys Jeff this week:

Christmas Carols. There, I said it. I don’t like them. I’ll grudgingly accept them in the week or two before Christmas, but at any time before that, they make me want to punt kittens. Singing them in October? Well, those people are just a special kind of crazy.

Salad. Since January, I’ve been eating salad almost exclusively for lunch, and you know what? I hate salad. There aren’t enough dressings, croutons, cheese, or varieties of chopped meat available to make them appetizing anymore. Sure, real food will probably end up putting me on the fast track to an early death, but that sounds infinitely better than the slow lingering death I’m suffering from boredom and general lack of tastiness.

The five day work week. Who’s the unmitigated jackass that decided 5:2 was a good work to non-work ratio? Don’t take that the wrong way, because I’m still deliriously happy to be bringing home a paycheck and to be doing it in Maryland, but all things considered there are plenty of other things I’d like to spend some time doing.

Proselytizers. I get it, you found Jesus, or Vishnu, or Buddha, or, Zoroaster and you’re really excited about that. Good on you. As a rule, other random people aren’t nearly as interested as you think they are in your discovery. Believe me when I say I have my own notions about what’s what in the hereafter and let’s leave it at that, shall we? That would be fantastic.