April 26, 2012

Reusable Containers at the Seafood / Meat Counter

Last week I finally got rid of my last use of plastic bags at the grocery store - for purchasing seafood.  In previous posts I noted how we eliminated trash bags, plastic shopping bags, and plastic produce bags.  Big thanks to Sprouts Market for the help in cutting the cord on ending this disposable habit.  If you have a Sprouts in your area I highly recommend them for their great selection of produce, bulk items, and organic products.



A couple of years ago Amelia purchased a set of glass containers to use for packing lunches for work.  I had an old set that were plastic, but we were in the process of reducing the use of plastic in our home (especially in the kitchen) and wanted something that worked better.  The plastic set had become discolored over time and had picked up some smells from past uses.  We've had the glass set for over two years and they have been awesome.  Easy to clean, haven't retained any odor or colors, and have a snap-lock lid that seals really well.  Other than washing in the sink as with other dishes, the only extra cleaning step has been to boil the lids every 6 months or so since they are a bit harder to clean in the lid grooves.
Makin it happen - one fish at a time

I'd been encouraged by how easy it was to stop our use of disposable grocery and produce bags while shopping but had been stuck on how to end our use of the paper and plastic wrappings for our seafood purchases.  Then a few months ago I read about using containers at the meat counter and was excited to give it a try.  I took in our largest size glass container (about a half-gallon size) and asked the gentleman behind the counter if I could use it to make a purchase of 1 pound of haddock.  He responded that was no problem and put the container on the scale to measure the empty weight, then added my fish and totaled the cost.  He even cut the 1 pound into four smaller portions so it was ready for cooking without additional prep.  I asked if a lot of people brought in their own containers and he said I was the first in over a year he'd worked there.  So I suppose that's not very encouraging but maybe I can start a trend.  (Hint, hint . . .)

It was really easy and quick to use my container, and my car (and trash can) didn't pick up the smell from the fish and wrappings.  I take Eva to the San Diego Zoo on the way home from the weekly grocery trip since it's on the way home, so this could sometimes be an issue depending on how warm the day was and my particular selection.

As always, I'm excited to make our lives a little less disposable and do our little part to help make the planet a little greener.

Suggested action steps:

1)  Purchase a set of glass containers with tight, snap-lock lids
2)  Put one or two with your reusable grocery and produce bags in bicycle basket or vehicle trunk
3)  At grocery store, ask seafood / meat counter attendant to place your order in your container
4)  Enjoy the lack of odor in refrigerator, ease of cleaning, and reduced impact on the environment

In related news: 

Solana Beach became the first city in San Diego County to pass a plastic bag ban with a unanimous City Council vote on April 25, 2012. Cheers on helping to reduce the 100 billion plastic bags (Wall Street Journal estimate) Americans produce every year, many of which end up in the oceans.  Please consider supporting similar measures in your community to make our country and planet a more healthy place to live.

After all, if Rwanda has had a national plastic bag ban for years already can't we make a similar effort with our ample resources?

April 18, 2012

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks

I'm a bit of a bibliophile and am constantly purchasing used books at garage sales, sidewalk sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.  This habit kicked into high gear when we were expecting Eva, since I had read Freakonomics a few years ago and remembered that the amount of books in the home is a strong indicator of the future intelligence of children.  The book doesn't theorize that books are the source of intelligence, likely intelligence primarily stems from having educated parents or other factors, but I figured for a quarter per book it couldn't hurt to add a few (hundred) to our house.  Just to be on the safe side.

One book I picked up along the way, although not specifically for Eva, was The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Enbury.  Apparently this book is something of a classic on cocktails and worth some decent money.  I have the 1958 hardback edition it isn't quite as valuable as the original from 1948.  I was in a weird mood yesterday and am not very experienced with making cocktails or other mixed drinks and thought it would be fun to try making something new with Amelia.  I picked up a jigger and cocktail shaker at one of my favorite San Diego stores - San Diego Restaurant Supply.  Always friendly, and usually have what I need at great prices.  With my new hardware, and reading material, I met Amelia after work to select a recipe and pick up the necessary ingredients.

We decided to try making a Gin Cocktail or Gin 'N' Bitters.  The recipe we used is:
  1. Put large cubes or cracked ice in an Old-Fashioned glass
  2. Pour gin to fill within 3/8" of top of glass
  3. Add Angostura bitters (3 to 5 dashes)
  4. Stir and serve
Suffice to say that the name Gin 'N' Bitters is very appropriate for this drink.  We'll probably try something more sweet next time.  

Although our recipe choice wasn't a smashing success, I read some other portions of the book which I found very interesting.  There are a lot of anecdotes on the history of liquors, specific drink recipes, and societal norms about cocktails.  One passage I particularly enjoyed, undering the heading of "Jiffy Quick Junk", I thought was worth sharing.  

Today, Milady brings home from the market her precooked dinner of filet mignon, French-friend potatoes, and asparagus Hollandaise, all on an aluminum plate which she pops under the boiler for fifteen minutes and her dinner is ready.  With it she drinks her decaffeinized instant coffee, sweetened with calory-free saccharin.  While waiting for her dinner to heat, she decides to have a Daiquiri.  No time to squeeze limes, so she takes a can of frozen lime juice (or, perhaps, lemon juice), shakes it up with her rum, and maybe a bit of sugar, and there is her synthetic Daiquiri.  Ugh!!  Ye shades of Constante Ribalagua!  Perhaps it is as well that he died in time to escape this final insult to a noble drink.  And, believe it or not, there are at least two rum manufacturers who, in the interest of promoting the sale of their products among those who are too lazy to make a real drink, recommend this short cut in their advertising.

At this point I suggest that you reread what I have said on pages 89-90 about using only fresh fruit, freshly squeezed.  And along the same lines, perhaps I should warn against trying to keep cocktails in the icebox.  One writer once said that you can no more keep a Martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss in the refrigerator.  He might well have expanded this to include all cocktails - at least all that are made with aromatic wines, such as vermouth, or with fruit juices.  An Old-Fashioned can, perhaps, be kept in the refrigerator for a reasonable length of time but not a Manhattan or a Daiquiri, or a White Lady or a Jack Rose.  To my admonition (page 90) regarding fruits to buy 'em fresh, squeeze 'em fresh, and use 'em fresh, I might well have added, as to the resultant cocktails, "Drink 'em fresh."

Although this passage may be dated in language and the particular ingredients or tools noted I think the broader message is surprisingly as appropriate today as in 1948.  The rush to convenience and/or low-cost at the cost of quality or taste is a narrative that continues to be prevalent in many places. The emergence in recent years of craft breweries and 'old style' cocktail bars with a focus on quality ingredients and products is truly something to raise a glass to and often a rebuke of these trends.  Cheers to those with a focus on educating customers and offering more than cheap, cold, fast drinks for the masses.