Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Roughed up

Anyone bike the Rock Island Trail this year? I've been on it a few times from Alta to Dunlap. Today I drove up to Princeville and rode my bike from Princeville to Toulon and back (my @ss is killing me and yes, I was wearing padded shorts). The trail seemed in rough shape. Lots of holes from animals digging, small branches down, crabapples on the trail not to mention the bugs were the worst I've ever encountered. I just seemed like I was riding a bumpy obstacle course on a reality show or something. I even let air out of my tires twice and loosened the front shock. I'm sure the wind in my face coming back made it worse, but it was a REALLY rough ride. Think I better take my pansy @ss down to the nice paved trail by the river.

But I really needed the exercise. Usually in the summer months I drop about 20 pounds just doing yard work, etc. This year, not so. Maybe 5.

I took water with me, stopped both times in Wyoming to reload, but I'm drink water like a camel right now while I wait for the hot water heater to refill.....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Duh! What should have been your FIRST clue?

According to the New York Times:

"Sales are sizzling for Julia's cookbook. Julia Child's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" is debuting at No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list, nearly 48 years after it was originally published. Yet people who buy the book often are taken aback that the recipes are so high-fat and take so much time to make."

Well, no shit. When since have the French been known for low-fat, easy recipes? What did they think Julia Child did...open can of tuna. open can of cream of mushroom soup. open can of peas. Dump all into crockpot and stir. Cover and cook for 4 hours?

Who is this Ana Popovic?

I just happened to stumble across a female blues guitarist from the area formerly known as Yugoslavia. I was looking for an Anthony Gomes video on You Tube and saw her doing a duet with him. MY GOD! Not only can she rip her Fender Stratocaster, she can sing and is pretty hot. Damn!

I Need Some Help Understanding This...

I was reading an article on how chemically dependent our food is...from weedkillers and bugkillers for the garden and growth hormones and antibiotics in our meat (Hat tip to A Knight in Dragonland). We know this stuff most likely isn't good for us and we should be looking for products that do not contain or were not grown with these things.

But then again, I have to ask myself "Why are organic products more expensive"? If there are no antibiotics, no weed killer, no bug killer, no growth hormone expense PLUS the expense of those people salaries to apply them, where is the excess cost involved to make these organic foods even more expensive than these "junked up" foods? I've seen organic prices almost double the cost of their "juiced up" peers.

On one hand I am "being funny" as I think it is odd. On the other hand, I'd really like to know. I can think of a few. Smaller operations usually cost more to run. Smaller and more expensive distribution to smaller and fewer retail outlets. I'm sure there is some expense to removing weeds, killing bugs and keeping livestock from getting sick that I'm not aware. I'm sure their are others.

In tough economic times, it hurts to reach for that $3.29 a pound organic peach versus its $1.99 counterpart.

So, if you REALLY know why or can lead me to an article that may explain it, I would be appreciative. However, I grew up on a farm part time and our parents had a huge garden "in the city". Neither used a lot of these things so BS is easy to spot.

Monday, August 10, 2009

To Preserve or Not to Preserve, That is the question.

I was reading Billy Dennis's post about the debate of another Peoria area preserving or tearing down of local old (historic?) buildings. Frankly, I'm torn.

I get a bit grumbly when various historic preservation groups get involved and tell you that you can't tear things down. While I would rather see buildings maintained and renovated, unless these groups are going to fiscally support the owners of said building with $$, obtain grants or cheap labor or find a buyer for the property who will renovate it or find an occupant for it after it has been renovated, they need to: stay out of it or buy the property themselves, renovate it and do whatever with it. And if you happen to own such a building and have no use for it in its being or configuration (which makes me wonder why one bought it in the first place) why spend money to renovate something that can't be used for your needs? It would be like a single person who couldn't afford to do so buying, renovating and living in the old Murrays building. Guess it could be done, but..

I wonder if those preservationist have ever rehabbed an older home or building on their own dime. Have they (fixed and paid for) crumbling and leaking foundations, rotting ceiling beams causing the roof to sag and leak causing other damage and mold, new roofs, update wiring and plumbing, blow in new insulation, new windows and doors (which buying custom made to fit the building as not to modify the building are FAR more expensive than "off the rack"), cracking lathe and plaster, new sewer lines, crumbling and leaking chimneys and repairing previous owners makeshift repairs, (the list goes on) WITHOUT disturbing the integrity and look of the buliding? I say this as I'm always renovating the 85+ year old house in which I live. I've got more $$ into it than I paid for it and probably couldn't get out of it if I sold it. The bad thing? I'm not done. Lots more to do. It probably would have been cheaper in the long run to knock it over and start anew (though the workmanship, detail, product (I was told my front porch roof is all "true" 4x4) and tons of red tiger oak probably couldn't be replicated). The big difference is that I have use for this structure as it sits. If you don't have use for a 10,00, 30,000, 100,000 square foot building you own and the preservation people won't let you tear it down, what do you do? Who is going to buy it? When it falls into visual disgrace or it falls down on its own, then what?

Instead of pouring millions into hotels, Gateway buildings, Civic Center add-ons, museums and "needed" TIF districts, how about the city funnel some of those funds to those people who want to re-hab these older "historic" buildings? Yada, yada...these won't bring people to Peoria. And to that I say "Touche, look at the above".

I'm all about trying to save old buildings and renovating them; don't get me wrong. I just think it is wrong that someone prevents you from tearing it down (or maybe even modifying it beyond its historic appeal) and do little or nothing to assist you.

Julie & Julia

I don’t know why, but I’ve been waiting for this movie to come out. I’m not usually one to rush off to see movies in “the big house”, but I wanted to see this before it came out on DVD. Part of it was probably due to the fact that I did get to meet Mrs. Child for a brief several seconds while a student at the Culinary Institute of America (the converstaion was "Best Wishes on studies at The Culinary Institute of America and in your career in the culinary arts" (or something to that effect)), toured her home in Cambridge, MA before the kitchen was dismantled to be put on display at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC which I also have seen. I’m a firm believer in one of her quotes: “Dining with ones friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal. In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal." But I can’t say that I was always a fan. During her television years, some things she did, just didn’t seem practical as the time...and still do not. Once she flung a huge grouper or cod (I can’t remember) on to the counter explaining what to look for in fresh fish. Ok, that is good information, but what in the world is anyone going to do with a 20 pound grouper or find one for that matter? Another thing that played in my mind is that although many called her a chef. Maybe so, maybe not. I guess you can be a chef without REALLY working in a commercial kitchen. Regardless, she was well versed in traditonal principles of cooking and was a pioneer, champion and ambassador of the culinary arts. She took everything from the basics and traditional cuisines that one could find in a book such as Escoffier’s LeGuide Culinaire and put them in laymans terms. She lead the way for the likes of every TV Chef from Graham Kerr to Martin Yan to Jeff "The Frugal Gourmet" Smith to today's Food Network Chefs. As for Julie Powell, I remember reading her blog for a short period of time. I don’t know why I lost interest. But to recreate all of Julia’s 524 recipes from her 1961 book “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking” covering over 700 pages in 365 days is quite a daunting feat.

The movie parallels the lives of Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) and Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). Before cooking entered their lives, they both were looking for something to invigorate their daily routines. Julia bored with being a childless, stay-at-home wife of a diplomat and Julie Powell in a thankless job that had her going nowhere fast. Both find cooking as an outlet. Julia started by just wanting to be a better cook and figure out how the French (as she was in Paris at the time) created such wonderful cuisine so she enrolls in classes at Cordon Bleu. At that time, a womans cooking role was in the home kitchen, not the professional, commercial version. Powell, wanting to start a blog as she failed to complete a book she wrote, needed a subject on which to blog and inspired by her husband who loved her cooking, takes on Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and documenting her efforts for the world to see.

Both have pitfalls along the way. Julia’s Cordon Bleu president doesn’t like her and doesn’t want her to pass and graduate. After graduating, she appears to have little outlet for her new found talents until she takes on cook book writing. She also finds herself moving around Europe and eventually, the United States, with Paul. Julie becomes almost obsessive with her endeavor which causes some marital issues. Eventually, both get back on track. Julia finds a publisher for her (and co-authors) massive collection of recipes and culinary guidance. Julie gets a break after finishing her endeavor by getting coverage in the NY Times and the phone calls roll in.

The movie is lighthearted with bits of humor thrown in and a lot of witty banter between Julia and Paul (wonderfully played by Stanley Tucci). Two things of note. As far as I know, Julie & Julia never met. The movie gave the impression that Julia Child wasn’t fond of Julie’s work. Whether this is true or not, I’m not sure. I’m guessing with a lot of web research one could find this information. I would believe there could be some truth to this, however. In the movie when the Powells visited the Smithsonian to see the Julia Child exhibit, the pictures on the walls of Julia Child appeared to be Meryl Streep. Ok, I know it would be odd to constantly seeing Streep as Child and then pictures of the "real McCoy", but the "Real McCoy" are hanging there and would have to be removed and replaced for the film. HHHmmm... I know the movie can’t go on forever, but it stops before what I would consider the pinnacles of both womens careers. Most of us know Julia because of her television shows; not her cookbooks which became popular because of the shows. Powell’s life in the movie stops after getting countless phone calls from just about every food magazine, newspaper, agents, talk shows, etc. yet we have no idea what her new found fame has done to her.

If you are looking for a movie about food, this isn’t it. If you dig deep enough into it (read between the lines) the movie portrays what you can do if you are driven enough. However, what it really portrays is that a love for cooking brought these two women “together”, and how similar their lives became because of the culinary arts and food.

The Bike Path to....

I've been meaning to bit..er, I mean blog about this. Last week, I was driving up Spring Street hill. On either side of Spring Street, the city (or someone, don't want to blame the wrong people) has striped off a bike lane. However, when you get to the top of Spring Street (at Glen Oak), it ends. It doesn't go either direction on Glen Oak.

Now why develop a designated bike lane to the intersection of Spring & Glen Oak. Or start a designated bike lane from the intersection of Spring & Glen Oak?