The simple things…

A wise old Prussian told us that “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult.” Of course every strategist’s favorite general was talking about war, but I’ve found that in application it is a truism in nearly every field of endeavor. I mention it because that’s precisely the kind of week it has been so far. At first blush everything has looked so bloody easy, but has turned out to be harder to get done than anyone could ever imagine.

For the last two months the powers at echelons higher than reality have promised that during the most current reorganization, construction, and office move, everyone would be keeping their old phone numbers. It was the one thing that was supposed to be seamless and allow the other changes to happen without disruption to anyone outside who was unaware of the internal organizational churn. This afternoon, moving those numbers was proclaimed too hard to do and instructions came down from Olympus to turn off all the call forwarding and “fall in” on the phone number already associated with our new desks. That too should have been easy enough, except for the part where some numbers had already been moved – which allows the old “ghost” numbers to exist and continue forwarding calls indefinitely.

The only solution was asking the help desk to open a trouble ticket to have it corrected centrally. Anyone who has ever talked to the help desk knows with that one call, we’ve thrown simple or easy directly out the window. Then of course there’s the “new” number we’ve been assigned, which hasn’t actually been assigned to us… and requires a second call to the helpdesk so they can have someone open a new voicemail box and assign our name to the number.

That’s only supposed to take three work days. Honestly. Three days is the estimate. It takes AT&T about 3 minutes to do it when I upgrade cell phones, but it takes the single largest employer in the world three damned days. It appears there’s nothing about this week that isn’t going to be absolutely exhausting, especially the simple things… because they’re the very hardest things to do.

Buy American…

I was about to start this post by saying “I’m a simple man…” and then of course realized that despite my powers of written persuasion, not even I would buy that particular argument. I’m mostly an enigma even to myself, but that isn’t the point. At least that isn’t the point this evening. What I started this whole post to say is that it’s possible I’ve gotten entirely too accustomed to ordering something online and then having it show up at my door 24-48 hours later… or maybe 72 if I’m ordering from overseas. That fact that it happens so consistently is really a remarkable feat of logistics. It’s so remarkable that I’ve started taking it utterly for granted.

That is to say I took it for granted right up to the point where I’ve had a package sitting in Philadelphia waiting to clear customs since Wednesday of last week. Apparently because it’s “imported goods,” it now requires an FDA release prior to being released by Customs. Just one release use to be good enough to satisfy good old Uncle Sam, but in the best traditions of government, where one is good, two must be better.

What all that means, as far as I can tell is that instead of the 72 hours turn around I’ve grown accustomed to, getting something into the country now takes God knows how long. All things considered there are easier ways to convince people to buy American. As is now all you’ve really managed to do is set me thinking about ways to subvert the official process and still do what I want to do without technically being in violation of the law.

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.

Roast…

I’m pretty sure I’ve covered this before, but it bears repeating – Roast beef is my favorite Sunday dinner. Of course it’s convenient, too. Seared on cast iron, laced with almost an entire garlic clove, plopped in the crock pot and surrounded by mushroom soup and dry italian dressing mix, dinner prep is basically finished by 8AM. Then there’s the smell. I love the way a roasting beef fills that house with that smell. And then, of course, there are the memories of long ago and far away family dinners. For me, roast beef is the working definition of comfort food. It’s something to savor.

I can’t really claim to be a foodie. I don’t rush off to try the great new restaurants or seek out a dining adventure. I’m sure I could cook just about anything, but dinner here at the Rental Casa de Jeff is always about simple home cooking. I can’t imagine anyone is shocked to find that I consider myself the quintessential meat and potatoes kind of guy. I don’t need or really want ostrich burgers, chilled monkey brains, or snake surprise. Keep the larder stocked with herbs and spices, carrots, celery, onions, and the basic cuts of chicken, pork, and beef and I’m both a happy cook and a happy diner.