LET’S TALK TRASH

snow crab

My husband and I were  dining at an all you could eat Seafood Buffet in Reno, California.  This was the most delicious fresh, snow crab we had eaten in years. We aggressively cracked the crab and ate every delicious morsel of this outstanding crustacean.  I wasn’t always successful and became quite entertainingly frustrated – just couldn’t get the crab quick enough.  A waitress took pity on me and gave me a different set of “crab crackers” to speed up the process.  My husband’s shirt was saturated with hot butter and peppered with crab shards. Bits and pieces of crab were scattered on our booth and the floor beneath us. As we brushed off our dinner from our clothing, the sweet smell of butter and crab remained with us.  We gave that particular waitress a special tip.  She earned it.

“This isn’t the depression.  Stop worrying about getting every little piece.  Just grab another” my husband stated with a full mouth of crab.

Have you ever noticed the difference between people who are born to working class, or adults who were born to parents who survived the Great Depression, or people who immigrated to the US?

I was raised in a home where food did not go to waste.  My parents were raised during the depression.  Their parents grew up in Europe and immigrated to the United States.  They were all involved in WWI, WWII, Vietnam and the Korean Wars, in one way or another.  Two of my grandparents had 10 brothers and sisters.  No food ever went to waste in those households.  Nothing went to waste in their households.

We, as Americans, have a history of recycling going back to the 1700s.  The colonists collected rags to make paper money.  In WWI, people ate “meatless and wheat less”  before the words, vegan and gluten free, became the trend it is today.  Unfortunately, by the the 1920s, recycling was considered low class.  ( Star Tribune.  Star Tribune.com has an interesting timeline.)

As a result, we learned to conserve before recycling became the “thing” to do to protect the environment.  It was part of their survival and became part of our every day life. We bought fresh milk and bread daily or just enough food to eat so nothing would go bad.  This was a waste of money we did not have.  We also ate all the food on our plates because we always thought of the hungry children in Africa who didn’t have any food.  By the way no one in my family is overweight.

We had cloth napkins and table clothes; some of which still survive today. I remember seeing balls of rubber bands and string in my grandparents’ drawer. They threw nothing away.

When we received gifts, we carefully removed the wrapping paper, peeled off the tape, smoothed the wrinkles, and folded the paper.  We reused to wrap another gift in the future or to make collages.

Ah, my favorite memory was Christmas cards.  We would receive dozens of Christmas cards each year.  Now I get ten, maybe.  We would read the poetry and then string the cards up around the entrance to our living room.  When the season was over, we would save and cut the cards up and make as collages or make new cards.

When Reynolds foil was introduced into our household, it was used more than once.  I think silver foil came first and then the plastic containers.  Recall the one word Mr. McGuire told Benjamin to think of in “The Graduate” in 1967 — “Plastics”.  We wrapped the item up in foil or covered a glass bowl of food and placed it in the frig.  We cleaned and folded the foil and used it for another time.

Simple things, like we turned off the water when we brushed our teeth.  We had been through several droughts and water was and is precious. It was also expensive. In a family of six with one bathroom, we learned to take showers quickly and efficiently.  There was always a line to get in. We were conserving although we didn’t know it.

Grandma used tea bags more than once as I do now.  I noticed my Japanese daughter in law doing the same.

We didn’t have lunch bags, we had lunch boxes.  Sadly, I have seen some of them for sale in antique shops.

We didn’t have a clothes dryer – we hung our clothes up.  This was a challenge during  the east coast winter months.  It is the also the one habit I do not follow.

We also lived in a suburban area close to all transportation, delis and grocery stores.  We had one car and my father took it to work. My mother did not drive, she didn’t have to.  I did not get my license until I was 20 and moved away.  Imagine, we walked everywhere.  The gas we saved; the cars we saved; the money we saved by not going to the gym.

Most of these habits I followed until I became a working, single mother with two boys.  The hectic and complex life led to paper napkins, lunch bags, fast dinners, two bathrooms.  Living in California suburbia, each one of us had a car.  Who had time for tea?   We did the best we could under the circumstances.  Our mantra when cleaning up after dinner was “We recycle”.

Life has changed and money is short,  we are returning to the basics.  Our recycling is at least three times larger than our garbage.  While our garbage is picked up, we drive to the recycling center to drop off.  Since we are living in a California rural area with little or no public transportation, we drive everywhere.  So we make weekly runs to do errands, recycling, buy groceries and then enjoy a nice lunch together.

This all makes a difference, you make a difference.

   How long does it take things to break down when sent to the landfill?

GARBAGE DUMPTin – 100 years

Aluminum – 500 years

Glass – 1 million years.

                                  REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

 FUN FACTS ABOUT RECYCLING

  1.      In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage.  This means that each adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs. of trash for his or her children.

2.      Each of us generates on an average 4.4 pounds of waste per day per person.

3.      Enough energy is saved by recycling one aluminum can to run a TV set for three hours or to light one 100 watt bulb for 20 hours.

4.      Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.

5.      Annually, enough energy is saved by recycling steel to supply Los Angeles with electricity for almost 10 years.

6.      You can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one new one.

7.      Five recycled plastic bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.

8.      Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates 1 job, land filling the same amount creates 6 jobs, recycling the same 10,000 tons creates 36 jobs.

9.      Every Sunday, the US wastes nearly 90% of the recyclable newspapers.  This wastes about 500,000 trees.

10.   American’s throw away enough office and writing paper annually to build a wall 12 feet high stretching from Los Angeles to New York City.

11.   If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 94 were laid end to end, they’d reach the moon and half way back to earth.

12.   Recycled steel cans are used to make new steel products including cars, bridges, lawnmowers, stoves, and construction materials.

13.   Every time a ton of steel is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1000 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestone are preserved.

14.   We throw away enough iron and steel to continuously supply all the nation’s automakers.

15.   Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them from raw materials.

16.   Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day. Every minute of the day, more than 9,000 tin cans are recovered from the trash with magnets.

17.   The average American throws out about 61 pounds of tin cans every month.

18.   Glass containers recycled in 94 would fill 103,333 tractor trailers. Bumper to bumper, they’d stretch from Dallas to Los Angeles.

19.   Each year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups.

20.   Even 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill.

21.   It takes 2 plastic soft drink bottles to make enough polyester fiber to make a baseball cap.

From:  www.indstate.edu/facilities/recycle/docs/funrecyclefact

LAND OF THE UNKNOWN

VIEW FROM SCREENED BACK PORCH

VIEW FROM SCREENED BACK PORCH

After all the dishes are cleared and washed, I walk out onto my screened porch. I breathe in the quiet, peacefulness and exhale the frustrations of the day; listen to the hum of the wind whistling through the trees; the low music of our wind chimes; the cacophony of the toads and crickets singing and the occasional squawk of the turkeys.

And then my eyes open to the total blackness. There is no light, not even a moon beam. My neighbors are acres away in this rural part of Northern California. At times I seek solace in the glimpse of their lights shining in the windows. Tonight there is no glow.

The silence and heavenly peacefulness I cherished moments ago have been replaced with overwhelming fear and intense angst in the blink of an eye. The calm breathing quickly transitions into hyperventilation. The once peaceful heart is pounding at record speed.

Why am I afraid of the dark? The majority of children have a fear of the dark and then they grow up. As an independent adult woman, this fear remains with me to this day. Unlike Mack in “Where the Wild Things Are”, I am unable to conquer my demons. Being one of the 5% of adults who admit they are afraid of the dark, I do suffer terribly from insomnia. There is even a name for this condition: achluophopia or nyctophobia. It is “a phobia characterized by an acute fear of the darkness; it is triggered by the minds disfigured perception of what would or could happen in a dark environment” (definition from Wikipedia).

Some scientists believe this phobia is coded in our DNA. Remember the movie where the lions enter the African village and take their human prey willy-nilly? Freud believed fear of darkness is linked to separation anxiety or absence of our mothers converted to fear of darkness.

Personally as a youth, when I had nightmares, Supergirl (the brave me) would fly through the air, hair and blue cape flapping in the wind, and save the day. It was around the time of Super Man reruns on TV.

On business trips I sleep with the lights on. After I have locked the door, I place a chair under the doorknob. Never do I watch “Law and Order” or “Twilight Zone” alone.

Warm baths, glow in the dark stars, night lights, classical music and other tools to eliminate this fear and insomnia leave me restless and irritable. I’ve counted up to 1000 sheep jump that fence. My brain never stops thinking.

But I do know where this adult insomnia stems from. Nine years ago I stoically and heroically conquered breast cancer. The doctor gave me a sleep enhancer because sleeping is imperative to maintaining a healthy immune system.

Fortunately for me, there have been no side effects even when I have stopped taking them for periods of time. However, attempts to not use this medication, leave me bumping into Freddy Krueger in the middle of the night or waking up to Hannibal Lecter sleeping next to me licking his lips “Well Clarice have the lambs stopped screaming” or “How about some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.

My last thought as I leave the porch and prepare for bed is a scene in the book and movie, “The Road” by Carmac McCarthy. Charlize Theron is tearfully saying goodbye to her husband and slowly walks into the darkness. Unable to deal with this new apocalyptic world, she chooses to walk into the cold dark night, the land of no light, the land of cannibalism, and the land of the unknown.

So I take my pill and sleep like a baby. I do not want to be Charlize.

Eating My Way Through Kyoto

Second Stage

Japanese cuisine is very much underestimated. I recently revisited Kyoto and, as with all of my travels, “ate my way through the city”. Never did I walk away from any restaurant or cafe saying: “We don’t have to come here again”. Susan F Stirn, U S Embassy Tokyo 1983, states: “It is said French food appeals to the tongue, Chinese food to the stomach and Japanese food pleases the eye, the palate and stomach.” She is absolutely correct. There is such a wide diversity of foods. All were prepared and served with immense pride.

First one has to open their mind when traveling and enjoy that country’s specialties and subtle differences. In Japan, the food is fresh – be it vegetables, noodles or fish. There is an obvious lack of obese children and adults. Whether we were dining at high end authentic Japanese cuisine or a Raman house in Kyoto station, the service was always excellent. Always upon seeing my twenty two month old granddaughter with us, we were provided (without asking), a high chair with baby utensils – plate, fork, spoon and even “training chopsticks”. Seeing I placed my purse on the floor, the staff immediately provided a chair or bench so it would be kept clean. Like my experiences in Italy, eating is a social event and we were never rushed. However, I learned to carry my own towelettes. Napkins are not always provided.  A moist cloth or a bagged towelette is provided once you are seated. Usually at the end of the meal it is presented again.

The ultimate pleasure here is no tipping. Tipping is neither given nor expected.  Larger hotel meals might add a 10 -15% charge, but we did not run across this in our day to day meals.

At each restaurant or cafe, we were greeted at the door with a welcoming bow and a smile.  After we removed our shoes and placed them in a cubicle or left them neatly on the rock floor, we were shown to our tables.  More traditional meals were served on a tatami floor around a low seating table.

For an authentic, totally fresh dining experience go to Manzaratei in Central Kyoto on Kawaramachi Street.  The coziness and warmth of this Japanese restaurant cannot be overstated. Leave your shoes on the paved rocks before you step onto the hardwood floors. Inside a warm, welcoming glow leads you down the narrow hallway surrounded by smaller eating rooms, to your own private room.  Our group of seven adults and two children were seated in the traditional style as several geisha dressed waitresses entered with our preordered dishes.

We all whispered “itadakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”) before eating and gochisosama (deshita)” (“Thank you for the meal”) after finishing the meal.

All in all I counted at least thirteen petite sized individual servings.  All served in the exquisitely decorated small plates or bowls. The dishes were delicately prepared. Foods I would not have selected such a radishes, daikon and pickled vegetables were slowly devoured, and I relished every morsel.

My favorite here was a clear broth with a small abalone. This was perfectly prepared tender abalone in a clear delicious broth.  It was a refreshing change from the abalone steak we eat in California – when we can get it.

The second eatery is in the Sanjo area.  It is known for Tonkatsu, a pork cutlet, breaded and fried. We sat at the bar while two – three chefs prepared the preordered feast of Tonkatsu. I lost count of the delicious entrees but there was not one I didn’t eat or like.  Each serving was individually presented to the diner along with a side dish with three dipping sauces: One for the fish; one for the meat and one that was a bit spicy. Thinly stripped vegetables were provided as another side dish of various salts (not Morton’s).

My favorite here was two clams in a tasty, sweet broth. I also enjoyed the various “fried dishes” which were neither greasy nor deeply fried for a long time.  No gastronomic catastrophes here.

I cannot neglect mentioning sushi or sashimi. Raw fish is not for everybody but we have been eating it for years and have no qualms about eating it at restaurants we know or are highly recommended. My son’s favorite is Sushi-at-uosh.  We entered this energetic environment with shoes on and were seated at a booth.  We could see three chefs preparing the food and laughing, joking amongst each other or with people seated at the bar.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW BOCK

PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW BOCK

The maguro, yellowtail, salmon, mackerel and ebi were the freshest of the fresh and prepared to perfection.  When we were seated, a highly excited waiter came immediately to our table and showed us a morsel food placed on a plate.  I followed my son and daughter-in-law’s lead by nodding my head up and down, smile on my face and said “ooh and hah”. My son asked if I knew what it was – of course, I didn’t.  It must be good because everyone was smiling. He went on to explain that it was the heart of a tuna freshly caught.  They were showing this to us to demonstrate how fresh their fish is.  I don’t know if my son was playing with me (very possible), but he asked me if I noticed it was still beating.

%d bloggers like this: