Archive for August, 2008

I Heart Kale

August 30th, 2008 by Reinder

While I'm on the topic of food, I heart Kale looks like an excellent resource if you like the bitter winter vegetable, kale, and want to do something other to it than use it in a mash. I like kale mash, or stamppot boerenkool but I always end up buying more of the vegetable than I need.

The blog has a lovely, upbeat tone, simple recipes and photos of the finished product as made. I'll forgive them their occasional adulterous escapades with other seasonal vegetables.

In Defense of Food and my shopping list

August 30th, 2008 by Reinder

I have broken down and bought a copy of In Defense of Food: A Eater's Manifesto. I'll take it off my Amazon wish list in a minute; in the event that someone's bought it as a birthday gift for me as suggested earlier: thanks - I'll make sure it finds a good home.

On first reading, there are some things in the book that I'm skeptical about, particularly when it comes to his own unexamined assumptions regarding the so-called obesity epidemic. I also noticed that writer Michael Pollan's working relationship with nutritionism is much more ambivalent than you can tell from the summaries, reviews and promotional excerpts. Still, on the whole, it's a valuable, mostly well-argued book with some practical tips for enjoying food and staying healthy (beyond the big one: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants).

One of Pollan's tips is to shop the periphery of the supermarket, and another is to avoid the supermarket alltogether. I'm going to try that last one for a week, to see if it's possible to get everything I need just from the farmer's market in Groningen. Note that while I say "Farmer's market", the stalls located on the Vismarkt do not form a true farmer's market: about a third of them are fishmongers and many of the others are run by grocery and dairy merchants, not farmers. But a lot of the produce on offer is local, and there are some farm-oriented businesses selling their wears there every day the market is open.

As part of the experiment, I'm going to bore you with my shopping list, because I need to write it down somewhere and then be able to find it again later. Here's what I got:
2 kilograms of tomatoes, from the organic produce stall, for snacking on and cooking with. These are a bit pricy but well worth it for their flavour.
1 cauliflower, also from the organic produce stall.
1 kg potatoes (cultivar Andijker Muizen) from the potato farmer.
1 sliced Waldkorn bread from a bakery stall;
1 1/2 kg bag of gingerbread drops (kruidnoten) from the same bakery stall. These are strongly associated with St. Nicolas' Day (December 5) in the Netherlands and people will grumble about them being on sale so early. I don't care - I'd eat them year-round.
3 bananas from one of the fruit sellers.
1 1/2 kg box of strawberries from the same fruit seller. This time around, I managed to get them home undamaged, which was partly due to this lot being better quality to start with.
1 250-gram box of wasabi peanuts from a nut stall.
1 1/2 kg bag of party mix (peanuts, cashews, raisins and some other things) from another nut stall.
2 bell peppers from a vegetable seller.
1 broccoli from the same vegetable seller.
200 grams of sun-dried tomatoes from Moritz the food snob (easily the priciest indulgence on the list, but worth every penny)
1 liter of buttermilk from a dairy stall.
1 liter of yoghurt from same.
1 kg red peppers, to snack on.

Total budget: € 40. Still in my wallet after the visit: €10. Clearly, if frugality was my only motivation to shop at the market, I might as well not bother. I do save money on stapels (and would save more if I were buying for a household of more than one person) but it gets canceled out by upgrades to organic produce or pricy yum-yums. Also, the large number of separate transactions makes budgeting more difficult.

I did get all my shopping done reasonably fast and with money left over to get more bread later in the week. I could get nearly everything I wanted: the only exceptions were milk, durable crispbread and potato chips, and I don't really need the latter two anyway. Because I was puzzled by the absense of milk, I asked at the dairy stall; they said they do offer it early in the week, but there's little demand and no structural supply chain as everyone gets it from the supermarket. That's why I got the buttermilk instead, but the lack of milk may turn out to be the factor driving me back into the supermarket later this week.

Invasion update for August 29

August 29th, 2008 by Reinder

There's a new update for Invasion in which Messenger Witch Agni suddenly finds that today's daily "walkies" are taking her to an unexpected place!

Update: As of today, the comic has a two-week buffer. Hopefully, Calvin, DFG and I will be able to make good use of that.

Pop-sci meme: what books have you read?

August 29th, 2008 by Reinder

Via PZ "I bought you a sacred host but I trasheded it" Myers comes this book meme: from the list of popular science books below, highlight which ones you've read. It's making me feel like an ignoramus; even with the expanded list suggested by PZ, I don't get very far at all:

1. Micrographia, Robert Hooke
2. The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin
3. Never at Rest, Richard Westfall
4. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman
5. Tesla: Man Out of Time, Margaret Cheney
6. The Devil's Doctor, Philip Ball
7. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes
8. Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye
9. Physics for Entertainment, Yakov Perelman
10. 1-2-3 Infinity, George Gamow
11. The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
12. Warmth Disperses, Time Passes, Hans Christian von Bayer
13. Alice in Quantumland, Robert Gilmore
14. Where Does the Weirdness Go? David Lindley
15. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
16. A Force of Nature, Richard Rhodes
17. Black Holes and Time Warps, Kip Thorne
18. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
19. Universal Foam, Sidney Perkowitz
20. Vermeer's Camera, Philip Steadman
21. The Code Book, Simon Singh
22. The Elements of Murder, John Emsley
23. Soul Made Flesh, Carl Zimmer
24. Time's Arrow, Martin Amis
25. The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, George Johnson
26. Einstein's Dreams, Alan Lightman
27. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter
28. The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, Lisa Jardine
29. A Matter of Degrees, Gino Segre
30. The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence Krauss
31. E=mc2, David Bodanis
32. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, Charles Seife
33. Absolute Zero: The Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman
34. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, Janna Levin
35. Warped Passages, Lisa Randall
36. Apollo's Fire, Michael Sims
37. Flatland, Edward Abbott
38. Fermat's Last Theorem, Amir Aczel
39. Stiff, Mary Roach
40. Astroturf, M.G. Lord
41. The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
42. Longitude, Dava Sobel
43. The First Three Minutes, Steven Weinberg
44. The Mummy Congress, Heather Pringle
45. The Accelerating Universe, Mario Livio
46. Math and the Mona Lisa, Bulent Atalay
47. This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin
48. The Executioner's Current, Richard Moran
49. Krakatoa, Simon Winchester
50. Pythagorus' Trousers, Margaret Wertheim
51. Neuromancer, William Gibson
52. The Physics of Superheroes, James Kakalios
53. The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump, Sandra Hempel
54. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, Katrina Firlik
55. Einstein's Clocks and Poincare's Maps, Peter Galison
56. The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan
57. The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins
58. The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker
59. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
60. Consilience, E.O. Wilson
61. Wonderful Life, Stephen J. Gould
62. Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard
63. Fire in the Brain, Ronald K. Siegel
64. The Life of a Cell, Lewis Thomas
65. Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris
66. Storm World, Chris Mooney
67. The Carbon Age, Eric Roston
68. The Black Hole Wars, Leonard Susskind
69. Copenhagen, Michael Frayn
70. From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne
71. Gut Symmetries, Jeanette Winterson
72. Chaos, James Gleick
73. Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos
74. The Physics of NASCAR, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
75. Subtle is the Lord, Abraham Pais

76. Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski
77. Basin and Range, John McPhee
78. Beak of the Finch, Jonathan Weiner
79. Chance and Necessity, Jacques Monod
80. Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, Olivia Judson
81. Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Sean Carroll
82. Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, Carl Zimmer
83. Genome, Matt Ridley
84. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
85. It Ain't Necessarily So, Richard Lewontin
86. On Growth and Form, D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson
87. Phantoms in the Brain, VS Ramachandran
88. The Ancestor's Tale, Richard Dawkins
89. The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, Elisabeth Lloyd
90. The Eighth Day of Creation, Horace Freeland Judson
91. The Great Devonian Controversy, Martin Rudwick
92. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks
93. The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould
94. The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment, Richard Lewontin
95. Time, Love, Memory, Jonathan Weiner
96. Voyaging and The Power of Place, Janet Browne
97. Woman: An Intimate Geography, Natalie Angier

I have read several of the books suggested in the comment thread, though, including Steve Jones' Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated and several other Dawkins books. Still, this makes me feel like I should work harder on this reading thing.

Xenozoo by Adrian Fleming

August 26th, 2008 by Reinder

Xenozoo is an interesting, so far wordless webcomic about a space traveling animal collector. Neat style, though there's still several gaps to be bridged between the realism with which the alien bunnies are rendered, the gangling, cartoony shape of the human character and the cute, children's animation look of the same character in the header. One to watch.

The one-year rule is all wet, part II

August 26th, 2008 by Reinder

More proof that "If you haven't used it in a year, throw it out" would be a very bad rule for me to follow in my decluttering efforts: three albums that are in heavy rotation at home right now are Klaar by Doe Maar, and The Dream Society and An Introduction by Roy Harper. I hadn't listened to any of those albums in five or six years, maybe longer. I particularly enjoy The Dream Society a lot more than I did when I bought it. Of course, they are all in heavy rotation in my iTunes playlist, so I don't technically need the CD's anymore.

Meanwhile, I gave away a good A4 scanner that I was still using until a month or so ago, because I now have the big scanner at home. My Epson Photo Perfection 1660 served me well for years and in fact offers higher optical resolution than the A3 scanner, but the A3 scanner is what I actually use. I don't miss the 1660, in fact I rather enjoy looking at the empty spot on my desk where it used to stand.

Michael Pollan, my time sink of the past 24 hours.

August 24th, 2008 by Reinder

I've spent far too much time in thepast day reading the website of journalist Michael Pollan, writer of In Defense of Food and a range of books, essays and journalism about the food (mostly) Americans eat. I particularly recommend his piece on Animal rights, which despite the obnoxious provocation at the top is one of the best-written pieces on the issue I've read.

I've added In Defense of Food to my Amazon Wish List in case any of my readers here want to give me something nice for my birthday on Sep. 14. Pollan's website has the introduction online for free.

What not to skimp on

August 23rd, 2008 by Reinder

Garbage bags/bin liners.

Now that we've got the underground garbage containers in Groningen, my garbage no longer gets put out on the street on a fixed day - I just toss a bag in the container when it's full. However, rugged garbage bags are still a necessity if I want to avoid, say, a brown, ammonium-smelling stain on my carpet after parking the bag in my hallway for five minutes before leaving the house to dump the bag update: and another one in the big chair where I don't even remember parking the bag, but must have done. And while shopping for a birthday present today, I couldn't help thinking that the outside smelled of garbage, or worse, that maybe I did. I'm double-bagging the next batch of garbage now, and if that doesn't work, I'll just go back to the stronger KOMO bags.

Other quick frugality tips: when you go to the farmer's market, strawberries should not be the first thing you buy. Wait until you've got everything else, so that your strawberries won't get crushed and leak strawberry juice over your italian herbs, Feta cheese, potatoes and mixed nuts.

August 29 Update: See also Aggie's version of what not to skimp on - it's much longer and more thorough than this off-the-cuff post.

Invasion update, August 22, 2008

August 22nd, 2008 by Reinder

It's Friday again already, so there's an update for Invasion in which we get the answer to the questions raised last week and see what's become of the messenger witch.

Lamb vindaloo

August 16th, 2008 by Reinder

I lost all my bookmarks over the course of not one, but two emergency software migrations. So I'm going to post more interesting links on the blog again. This is how I made lamb vindaloo during my stay in Tennessee, only I added tomatos and potatos to it. There's apparently some kind of factional schism about whether adding those ingredients is the One True Way to make vindaloo; I'm on the side of adding them because it makes the meal tastier and more nutritious.

I should find a vegetarian alternative though. I love lamb (and it's just not the same with any other meat), but lamb is pricy and in any case I don't like eating meat every day. Keeping the dead-body-eating down to once a week makes me appreciate it more, especially when I buy really good meat.

Edited to add: Just remember that this is a two-day recipe, because the meat has to marinade. I had to improvise something else to eat tonight while the meat was soaking up the tamarind and vinegar..