Regardless of The Heat and Humidity

Growing up, my family and I resided on the second floor of a three-story apartment building without benefit of a fan or air-conditioning.

Sleep was challenging, to say the least.

“My Childhood Home”

As a child, in what seemed like many hours of trying to fall asleep in a puddle of my own sweat, I finally fell into a sweltering, unsettled sleep.

During those times, in my young life, I didn’t think about how people in the past lived or survived the summer months.

However, as time progresses and we get a little older, we start to wonder about things. I wondered about people throughout history and how they were able to sleep or cook their meals during the stifling heat of summer.

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates

Regardless of the heat and humidity, they still had to sleep and eat.  For sustenance, they cooked stews, roasted meat, and baked bread, etc.

So how did they endure cooking and baking in the extreme heat of summer?

I learned that meals were cooked and baking was done outdoors until the introduction of the wood-burning cook stove which took preparing meals indoors. Great during the colder months, but in the summer-NOT SO MUCH!

To beat the nagging heat already in the house, some erected “Summer Kitchens”. These structures were detached buildings from the main house where all the baking and cooking took place.

1820 summer kitchenBuilt about 1820-Summer kitchen at the Mordecai Lincoln Farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania. 

Which brings me to yesterday’s supper. We cooked and ate fried ravioli, mini Italian meatballs, a quick-pan marinara and we even baked an Olive & Thyme focaccia.

saturday's supper

While I still reflect upon the distant and not so distant past, I gratefully acknowledged that today we can bake bread and cook meals in air-conditioned comfort or outside on our modern grills, spits, or pits.

Extravagance and Minimalism

As aforementioned, in my postings, I wrote about downsizing, decluttering and purging our accumulated possessions. As retirees, we are striving to live a simpler, basic life.

I cannot say, and I refuse to say, that we are striving towards a “Minimalistic Lifestyle”. Minimalism today, has a different meaning then it did during the time of Henry David Thoreauthe original minimalist.

replica thoreau's cabin
Replica of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts.

In 1885, Thoreau wrote the book “Walden”. A book reflecting upon simple living in natural surroundings.  One of his accomplished goals was to-

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!”

I perceive Minimalism as a multi-billion dollar enterprise. My search to confirm my observations on the excesses of Minimalism, took me to many articles.  One particular article in the New York times, The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’, written by

Minimalism traps us into excessive consumerism!

unnecessary purchasing blog

From tiny houses to microapartments to monochromatic clothing to interior-decorating trends — picture white walls interrupted only by succulents — less now goes further than ever. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the minimalism glut, as the word can be applied to just about anything. The nearly four million images tagged #minimalism on Instagram include white sneakers, clouds, the works of Mondrian, neon signs, crumbling brick walls and grassy fields. So long as it’s stylishly austere, it seems, it’s minimalist.

Minimalism attracts the “wealthy, global elites”.  The products sold to today’s ‘wannnabe’ Minimalist are extravagant, nonessential products.

We misinterpret material renunciation, austere aesthetics and blank, emptied spaces as symbols of capitalist absolution, when these trends really just provide us with further ways to serve our impulse to consume more, not less.

On Minimalism-

Two things to keep in mind:

  1.  We are being sold a “lifestyle” by greedy Capitalist preying on our feelings  of inadequacy.
  2.  Minimalism should be perceived though your eyes and thoughts, not  through the eyes or thoughts of some elitist trendsetter.

Quoted from: The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’

Gentrification and Obesity

On History Bites, a captioned response to a 1911 *video from the Museum of Modern Art asks,  “And is anybody overweight?

I asked myself,  “Why are the obesity rates higher today then they were back then.”

I concluded that most of the blame to the explosive obesity rates, here in the US, rests on gentrification and greedy capitalist.

“When ‘urban renewal’ of lower class neighbourhoods with condos attracts yuppie tenants, driving up rents and driving out long time, lower income residents. It often begins with influxes of local artists looking for a cheap place to live, giving the neighbourhood a bohemian flair. This hip reputation attracts yuppies who want to live in such an atmosphere, driving out the lower income artists and lower income residents, often ethnic/racial minorities, changing the social character of the neighbourhood.”

“It also involves the ‘yuppification’ of local businesses; shops catering to yuppie tastes like sushi restaurants, Starbucks, etc… come to replace local businesses displaced by higher rents.”

The gentrified areas refuse to build affordable housing.  “As a result, local residents—and neighborhood renters in particular—may feel pressured to move to more affordable locations” farther away then their places of employment and roots.

With no ties to the area, professional and gluttonous capitalist have no problem uprooting families who have lived in these areas for generations. Residents are widely dispersed and many neighborhoods are/were decimated.

The United States, as a whole, lacks public transportation and we have to rely heavily on cars.  The working class/lower income residents have to drive long distances to schools and to their, paltry waged, jobs.

Because of these low wages, the working class/lower income individuals rely on the less expensive fast and processed foods for their and their families sustenance.

Jobs are scare in these areas leaving people stranded with little or nothing to do except live a sedentary lifestyle. Hopelessness and boredom kicks-in with a vengeance. It stands to reason why we are a nation of obese people.

Gentrification unites more liberal and progressive beliefs where capitalist glut the expansion into the city. It becomes a class of professional, lacking in affordable housing for the working class/lower income people and longer and longer commutes.

I know from whence I speak.  As I watch, from a vast distance, my hometown (and the surrounding areas) has become a liberal, progressive paradise without remorse for those they plundered and ignored.

“WATCH: Rare and STUNNING footage of New York City in the summer of 1911– newly found video from the Museum of Modern Art.
The way people dressed back then…nearly every man in a suit!  And is anybody overweight?”   —History Bites

*MoMA NEW YORK 1911

This Is What Happens 
A Class Offensive

When You’re Up Against Your Memories

When you’re up against your memories, remember: You’re simplifying your life, not erasing your past.

We are still decluttering and purging our needless things. It’s taking longer than I had anticipated, but we are slowly proceeding. In our garage, we have amassed a large pile of accumulated possessions that we need to get rid of before we continue. We are donating these things to a worthy cause. I am going to place it all, neatly, into empty bins before I call them. I am delighted to say, we only have the kitchen left to do.

decluttering purging happy

In the meantime, I have deleted and cleaned up computer files. I have saved a few pictures that I had taken of (you guessed it) our meals. To keep a visual record and for future reference, I am posting them here then deleting them from my files.

meals
Pork Cutlet & Scalloped Potatoes – Chicken & Sundried Tomatoes  
Steak & Cheese Subs/Cottage Fries – Homemade Sub Rolls
lemon curd and cream pastry
Lemon Curd & (stabilized) Whipped Cream Pastries
meatloaf
Meatloaf
tagliatelle_salad
Iceburg Mixed Salad – Tagliatelle with Prosciutto & Peas
keylime cond milk
Homemade Condensed Milk – Keylime Pie
soups
Cream of Potato Soup – Italian Sausage & Vegetable Soup

Tomorrow, it’s back to the task of organizing and purging.

Good bye, clutter!

Just Stuff

The Mister and I have been downsizing our ‘stuff’.

Weeding, and sorting through all this stuff is gut-wrenching.  Letting go isn’t easy.  It’s a long process that will be achieved over many, many days. Actually, it has been ongoing for over a year.  It is just recently that I finally decided that enough is enough.

couple

Being retired baby-boomers, we have accumulated too many things over the years. Not hoarder type stuff, just needless stuff!

I now find things to be a burden. Things that are just sitting around waiting to be used.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

stuff

I tell yeah, as one gets older the less things we need or want. As one gets older, the less people we have around to share these things.  Besides each other, there’s no one else to share dinner who will eat from your pretty plates and drink from your crystal goblets. Besides each other, there’s no one else to share a cup of coffee in those vast numbers of coffee mugs.

There were many, empty, days just waiting.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

The table was set with the finest linens and holiday china. The house displayed pretty and interesting geegaws, knickknacks and what-nots.  

However, as time marched on and days turned to years and years to decades, the very idea of company  (besides each other) is troublesome to me.  One gets used to a routine and breaking that routine becomes a disruption of sorts.

Things do not change; we change.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

We hang on to things just in case we might need them at a later time. Some have memories attached to them.  Memories that refuses to be shared with anyone but you.  My things will not be my legacy.  My things will become a burden to others.

I want to clear my mind and the house of clutter and useless things.  I want to let go of this chapter of life and start a new chapter.  In doing so, I don’t want to worry about and lug around stuff.  I no longer want to accommodate all this stuff.  All this stuff weighs me down.  It weighs heavy on my mind.

Who needs that kind of stress in our autumn years?

Tick-tock!

time

Maple Almond Butter Cookies

It’s doubtful that one could improve on the delectable, simple, well-known Peanut Butter Cookie. To some, a homemade peanut butter cookie can bring back childhood memories.

As the old cliché proclaims, memories from “simpler times”.

Not having enough peanut butter and a jar of maple-almond butter on hand, I adapted the well-known Peanut Butter Cookie and baked “Maple Almond Butter Cookies.”

maple almond butter cookies

*Maple Almond Butter Cookies
Yield: about 30 cookies
Ingredients:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup maple almond butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
• Mix sugars, almond butter, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.
• Heat oven to 375ºF.
• Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet. (Do not flatten as you would with peanut butter cookies).
• Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

maple almond butter

*Adapted from this recipe: “Peanut Butter Cookie

These cookies were delicious.  They have a taste of their own and cannot be compared to a peanut butter cookie.  Both are equally tasty.

So, I will sit back and take in the day over a cup of espresso and a few of these cookies.

Dolce far Niente.”

What Brings Us Together

When children grow, leave home and move more than a thousand miles, you find yourself looking back to the past.

The solitude leaves me alone with my thoughts.

As you ponder on ago, you find yourself in a near trance, in your own little world where you shut out the present moment and dreamily stroll through the sights and sounds of an ordinary home where each got excited about holidays, birthdays, milestones, celebrations or just being together.

heart9

You recall how the smells of a cooking meal, or how bread baking could make the home feel comfy and cozy.

dill bread

You remember the laughter, the joy, and how we comforted each other through tears, and heartaches.

As I abruptly come back to real-time, I sigh.

Reminiscing can either bring a smile to your face or a gut-wrenching, empty feeling.

sunflowers

On any given day, looking around the dinner table, you find only one plus you. More times than not, I forget to remember how thankful I am to be with that “one” with whom I can share a meal.

necklace heart1

For now, quickly setting the bygone days aside and sharing a meal with the “one”,  I am consoled by the thought that food is a celebration of life, it’s what brings all or “one” of us together.

“One” and One (Tom and Me)-1990 or 1991.

Sunday Supper For Two

Saturday, I was thinking about what to have for supper on Sunday with what I have on hand around the kitchen.

As they say, “willful waste makes woeful want.”

What to do with 2 potatoes, garlic, a shallot, a carrot, a stalk of celery, ground coriander, nutmeg, a small bay leaf, some pistachios, olive oil, unsalted butter and a can of chicken broth?

veggies & pistachios

I thought, “soup!”

First, I blanched the pistachios to loosen up the brown skins. Then rubbed the pistachio in a paper towel to remove the brown skins. Next, I softened the sliced shallot in a small amount of olive oil and a bit of unsalted butter, cut up the veggies and threw them into the pot along with pistachios and all of the other ingredients omitting the coriander and nutmeg. The addition for those spices were added in the next step.

pistachios and soup

When the veggies were cooked and cooled down for about 10 minutes, I put this all into a blender (along with the coriander, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste) and pureed it into a potage.

After reheating the soup, about a couple tablespoon of heavy cream was stirred into the soup.

For service, a dollop of homemade crème fraîche (made the day before) and crushed pistachios were added to the center of the potage.

crème fraîche

I am calling this, “Creamy Pistachio & Potato Potage”.

This potage/soup would, also, make a wonderful cold soup for Summer.

potage

Then, with 3 leftover campari tomatoes, a half a sheet of puff pastry, some fig infused balsamic vinegar, small amount of sugar, pepper, oregano, basil and Gruyere cheese…

tomatoes1

…I made two “Tomato Tartlettes”.

tartlettes

Voilà!

A Sunday supper for two.