Friday, November 30, 2007

Mrs Yam is harder than you are

I had today off (I guess it's a day off though I have to work at the liquor store tonight and I start my week long on-call shift) so while I and the dog were pulling some hard and fast ZZZZs, me darlin' Mrs biked to work. After her fingers thawed enough to type, I got an IM stating (in an exasperated and somewhat agitated tone) the temperature and her opinion of it. As this is a family-oriented blog, I'll leave the actual message received out and allow you think about it for yourselves.

There is a round-robin heated underground parking privileges where Mrs works, and her turn for a spot comes up next month. She passed it up, telling the office manager that she intends to bike throughout the winter. Freaked 'em out good, that did.

Rock on, hon.

Rock on.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dead dog or Our Energy Future

(No dogs were harmed in the writing of this blog)

MDM and I left Black Friday for Western Minnesota and a couple of State Parks that we haven't yet hiked, in this case, the Upper Sioux Agency and Blue Mounds. We drove out on highway 212 to just about Granite Falls and then south to the Upper Sioux Agency park. This is a beautiful park where the Yellow Medicine and Minnesota River meet with bluffs from both rivers creating hills and valleys aplenty. This hike keeps you up on the bluff where the Agency once stood and then drops you down into the Minnesota River valley. Vistas of river bottom farms, old oak forests up the sides of the bluffs and the sloughs around the confluence of the two rivers make this quite scenic.

We were the only people at the park so we decided to leave Sheila off her leash and see how she behaved. Our faith in her was rewarded as she skipped in the tall grass and shuffled from behind us to ahead of us nose down. The hike is listed as 4.5 miles and I bet she must have gone six with her weaving on and off the trail and the back and forth chasing mice in the grass. We did leash her up as we descended to the river as there deer and we wanted to make sure that she stayed with us. I don't think that I can overcome several millenniums of hunter that has been ingrained into my sweet puppy.

After that, we took State Highway 23 (which reaches from Duluth in the Northeast to Southwest corner of the state where Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota meet) through the Buffalo Ridge windmills. What a sight -- it was like looking at the future. Windmills turning as far as the eye could see, and in Western Minnesota that's a long way...

We made it to Blue Mounds and hiked on the top of the ridge between the buffalo range and the cliffs themselves. The wind was, ah, noticeable. It was chilly, but it didn't stop us from walking or the dog from a repeat performance of the up and back and the tall grass bounce. She caught the scent of a herd of deer, but they were a good 500 meters from us and they sprinted out of sight as soon as they saw her leap in the grass. As we made out from the Interpretive Center at the south end of the park, we came across a fresh deer carcass -- and I mean fresh. At first Sheila didn't quite figure out what she had there, but the nose told her what to do. She's really good and when we called her away from what was surely the most tempting thing she's seen in a long, long time, she reluctantly followed us down the path.

This hike is a 6.2 miler that is deceptive in that it is two loops, the main part of the park and then the Northern loop that takes you around the dammed up stream and through the slough by the campgrounds. I had thought that we'd get the Hiking Club word and head out in the Southern loop, and when we forced to do this second loop, I started to get mad. By this time, my knees were aching (due to a 5 hour pre-Thanksgiving day stint at the liquor store) and my ankle was beginning to seize up. I was also starting to bonk. We didn't bring our fanny packs, so there was no water and Cliff bars and when I bonk, I get cranky. It was also beginning to get dark and we didn't want to be looking for the path at night. So I just did what I do on my bike; I put my head down and was gonna finish this damned trek and get to the car and the Ibuprofen. We got to the word sign and saw that we had to go around a slough to get back to the car and I was really pissy by this time.

We made it back to the car eventually, we got water, I got Ibuprofen and we noticed we hiked the entire 6.2 mile loop in two hours. We had hike this park several years earlier when we were in considerably poorer condition and it took us all day. Two hours! Mrs Yam was ecstatic. Looking back at the GPS, we were hiking at around 3.5 - 3.7 miles per hour. No wonder my knees and ankle hurt. We headed into town and the dog hopped in the rear of the wagon and curled up in the jackets. She was wiped out completely.

As a reward for our daily triumph, we had dinner at Magnolia's, an absolutely fantastic steak house in Luverne. A couple of beers, a lovely pork chop and my spirit was back and we were ready to go home. We let the dog out for one last potty break before leaving and she was so sore she could barely get out of the car and couldn't get into the car without help. We saved her half of a baked potato and the bone from the pork chop as a treat for her, but she was eating without a lot of enthusiasm.

We crossed a moonlit Minnesota on the way back -- a "Bomber's Moon" is what I think they called it. We went to Worthington on 90 and then up 60 to Mankato. They need to call State Highway 60 the Ethanol Highway since there must have been half dozen to ten "Biorefineries" on that road. I'm not sure that I think that ethanol is a good idea and I really wonder about a country that is more interested in growing crops to feed their cars than to feed their people. Big Corn isn't any better then Big Oil since you can't have corn without oil, at least the way that modern farming is done and feeding cars corn doesn't solve the problem.

Sheila spent the next couple of days going out to go potty and going back to the bed upstairs or her bed in the living room, where ever the people were. Limping and sleepy, she still looked happy and like it was worth it for her. My joints are better and I know it was worth it for me...


MDM (me darlin' Mrs) and I went to her folks' house for Thanksgiving and this is something I typically dread. MDM's mom isn't a good cook, she doesn't really enjoy preparing the meal and it shows. The most frustrating thing about this situation is the fact that Mrs Yam and I love cooking and entertaining. We volunteer to host or cook, but to no avail -- her lot is to have Thanksgiving and, like Sisyphus, she's going to do it every year. Grocery store turkey, boxed mashed potatoes, dressing made in a crock pot from a box, anything to ease the tedium of cooking.

[A little history of Brother Yam here; before my current career, I was a cook and a bartender for about a dozen years so I know my way around a kitchen. I love cooking and eating which puts us back to the present and the reason for the name of this pathetic little narrative called a blog...]

I don't care that she doesn't like cooking -- hell, most people don't -- and so I understand the reason for the ingredients. But that's the frustrating thing, I absolutely loathe convenience foods. Processed foods are the windmill I tilt against and I am glad to see the re-awakening of the real food, or slow food movements. Tasteless food is an oxymoron, and I'm thankful I don't eat it often.

The turkey that comes from the store -- 89 cents a pound or so -- is a loss leader for the supermarket. That's to get you to come in and buy the rest of the crud that they sell, the boxed mashed potatoes, the bagged stuffing, canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes in syrup. That turkey isn't a product of farming, not anymore. That turkey is a genetically-engineered product of agricultural manufacturing. The exact amount of feed at the exact time mixed with enough antibiotics and vitamins to keep it on schedule and to prevent the loss of too much inventory due to the environment in which it is created. The product reaches a deliverable mass and then is trucked off for processing.

There's nothing sentimental in the raising and slaughter of that store turkey. This is assembly line production and the goal is to get you a semblance of what you are looking for in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest cost (financially). Processed and packed and shipped to a consumer that is so conditioned that a turkey is breast meat with enough structure around it to hold it upright so that it can get food down its gullet. A "basted" or "butterball" turkey that has been injected full of water and oil and salt. You're probably paying for ten percent water on that turkey, you can see by how much "broth" is left over in the pan after roasting it.

Mrs Yam and I don't eat that way because we love animals both on the hoof and in the pan. A turkey was once a wily target but is now reduced to gibbering idiot status in overcrowded, filthy and disease-ridden houses. This is no way for something to live, at least something that will end up on a table. Remember, you are what you eat and what you eat is what it eats too, so if you are eating something that lives in shit...

Factory farming has taken the variety and flavor and delicacy out of our food and gives us nothing in return but ease of acquisition. They get machine-harvestable and uniform sizes for picking and shipping and control over the genetics. I suppose that's a bit unfair as we get fresh vegetables all year round, but they're so tasteless, I'd prefer to eat the frozen stuff that was harvested fresh and then preserved or just go without. We're seasonal eaters here in the Yam household because I'd rather eat corn on the cob fresh for three months it's local than try to choke down some frozen cobs in March. Eat it when it's the freshest and the cheapest.

So we have traded taste and nutrition for convenience, and it's not a fair trade. There was nothing fresh on the table save what Mrs Yam and I brought: Brussel Sprouts cooked in sage butter and baked squash and parsnips with maple syrup. Nobody at the table had had sprouts before, but I was happy to see that they enjoyed them. The squash was pretty much finished also (mostly by the Mrs and me). The pies were good and the company was good. I don't want anyone to think I don't care for my inlaws, I do. I love them dearly -- that's why I want to cook for them. That's how I show my love, I feed you. I toast to your health with the best I've got.

And I toast to you all. Despite the rant, I'm thankful for my family and the food and everything. And that next year, we will be hosting again and the menu will be rich and weird and really, really healthy.

I expect that I'll be writing more about food in the coming months as I'm inside more and cooking more. And hey, winter biking takes energy, no?

[This was rolling around in my head for a while and it is now complete. Sorry for the late post]

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pappataci Mustapha

The lovely Mrs Yam and I went and saw Rossinni's An Italian Girl in Algiers last night. What a treat! The ensemble as a whole performed magnificently and the tenor that had Lindoro's role was stunning. After his first aria, the crowd showed quite a bit of appreciation and even a "Bravo" was shouted. Quite the unruly crowd last night. The cast cast responded to the audience and looked like they were having fun on stage. The were "on" last night and we could tell -- quite the feedback loop.

I'm not really all that knowledgeable about opera, but I go anyway. I try to read the libretto before hand, but I should probably listen to it before I go to get more out of it. If you are in Twin Cities and need something to do this weekend, there is a show Saturday at 7:30 PM and a Sunday matinee at 2:00 PM. Go. You won't be disappointed. This is a great opera for people who've never gone to one; it's funny (trust me, you'll get the jokes), the music is easy to listen to, the performers are top-notch and, for the newbie, it's short (less than 3 hours).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Banner day...

I managed to make both of the lights down Penn, 66th and that son of a bitch light on 69th on my way to work today. I always get caught on the son of bitch light on 69th. Always. It's like Lucy with Charlie Brown's football between me and that son of a bitch light on 69th.

I made it today.

It's gonna be a good day.

I don't care about the wind.

I don't care about the cold.

I rode my bike and I made it past the son of a bitch light on 69th!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Unfortunately, that's not the Mrs. and me, but Momma Yam. Dropped her off at the airport early this morning so that she can tour China. Adventurous ol' gal, me momma. Tough as nails too. Worked as an Emergency Room Nurse at North Memorial and then retired. Got bored. Worked at the Bloomington-Lake clinic (on Bloomington and Lake -- not the best of neighborhoods) and then they transferred her to the safer confines of the Southern suburbs.

I've seen my mom put a room full of gangbangers in fear of their lives -- that's her ER and don't you forget about it. Your buddy will be taken care of, but if she has to come out here one more time and tell you people... If you have pieces in the wrong places, pieces in pieces or whatever, I'd want no one less than Momma Yam next to me. If you cross her while she's stichin' you back up, that little (5' 2") old lady is nothing but teeth and claws.

China should be okay -- if they don't mess with her too much.