Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I've only been here a year now (this is the 1-year anniversary this week, now that I think of it) and I usually have on hand the following ingredients, probably still difficult to find in Canada. You could do most of it quite well in Chicago, though I never went this far there.

  • corn-syrup-free Coke imported from Mexico
  • iced tea
  • Shiner Bock beer
  • proper top-shelf margarita fixin's, i.e., good tequila, triple sec,
  • fresh limes (ten for a dollar in season)
  • proper barbeque sauce
  • red salsa
  • pico de gallo (marinated vegetables with tomato, for tacos)
  • green salsa
  • escabeche (hot pickled onions and carrots)
  • ground ancho chile (dark red, smoky, mild)
  • ground guajillo chiles (red, spicy)
  • ground chipotle chiles (red, smoky and tangy)
  • ground jalapeno (green, hot)
  • if there's company I will spring for some queso, which resembles Velveeta until you taste it (served hot in a crock pot)
  • mole' sauce
  • mexican sour cream
  • green chiles, preferably Hatch, anaheim acceptable
  • (also poblano and serrano green chiles on occasion)
  • tomatillos (a.k.a. "Mexican green tomatoes", close relative of the tomato but has a paperlike husk)
  • I always have onions, regular peppers, on hand. sometimes mushrooms, zucchini and celery
  • fresh corn tortillas, coarse grind, strong preference for El Milagro brand
  • fresh flour tortillas, strong preference for lard-free house-made from Central Market
  • if there's company I will spring for some tortilla chips for the queso
  • pecans are essentially free in Texas, though they do require some work to shell them. Real Mexicans put ground nuts in everything. Not so much the Texans, who save them for sweets and chop them. Either way, roast em in a cast iron pan for a few minutes as soon as they are out of their shells. Watch carefully and stir constantly. Don't burn 'em.
  • I don't eat beef except when in a restaurant and essentially forced to as a social obligation, this happens in Texas. Also non-beef at rural restaurants is usually unpalatable compared to the barbecue or the burgers.
  • I mostly get quality fish, shrimp (very cheap! $5/lb.), chicken, pork, or non-beef sausage at Central Market and grill it and refrigerate it, then throw it in a stew when dinner comes around
  • I always have some low-fat refried pintos available from cans. Served with every meal including breakfast
  • Mexican chorizo is nice for breakfast, I found a turkey based one at H.E.B.


Prepping ingredients weekly:
  • roast and freeze some chiles. When frozen, peel and seed them, chop
  • and refrigerate.
  • grill some meats
  • boil some shrimp
  • cut up some peppers and onions and sautee slowly in garlic and salt
Typical breakfast:
  • Heat and crumble chorizo (NB, Spanish chorizo is not the same stuff), and scramble into an egg with some chopped roasted green chiles
  • Heat up a flour tortilla in a cast iron pan. Wrap around the scramble.
  • Serve with reheated refried beans.
Typical lunch:
  • Microwave a grilled sausage.
  • Heat up a flour tortilla in a cast iron pan.
  • Wrap, add good barbecue sauce.
  • Serve with salad
Typical dinner:
  • chop grilled meat, some sauteed vegetables, and a sauce, add spices to taste and cook long enough to blend spices
  • offer rice and refried beans
  • Optionally sour cream, and pico could be available, depending on the filling. Grated cheese and shredded lettuce possible if you're leaning more Tex than Mex.
  • for company, start with a tortilla soup
Recipes? We don't need no steenking recipes.

OK, here's a tortilla soup recipe:

Tex and Mex both tend to excessive sweetness with their desserts though I'll enjoy a tres leches or a chess pie on occasion. When we don't have company we settle for a square of chocolate. If the occasion calls for dessert and we don't have time to bake something I will pick up something at Dolce Vita on Duval Street. Not really thematically unified but yummm!

We are also close enough to Lousiana to make a difference. Between all the good food and the lousy walking and bicycling, it's really a treacherous place for the likes of me.

It's striking how differently I have treated my kitchen since coming down here, though. If I ever go back to Canada I will need a tortilla press of my own.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Urgent Information Regarding Mortgage Holder!

I must be in a low IQ zipcode.

Apparently buying a house in a middle-class neighborhood in America these days makes you a target for various scam artists intimating that they are your lender or your government. I have here the six offers from this week:


1) "It has been brought to our attention that you are not yet participating in the Mortgage Cancellation Program to which you are entitled". (OK, at least it looks optional. This is an assume-your-mortgage-in-case-of-death offer. If I ever plan to off myself I will certainly look them up.)

2) Attention: Time Sensitive Material. Complete and Return.

LENDER: Supreme Lending
Michael Tobis

(This is an offer of life and disability insurance)

3) Important Notice to Michael Tobis. Please Complete and Return.

Travis County.

(life and disability. AT least they said "please". This one is especially creepy because it seems to claim to be from the county.)

4) IMPORTANT NOTICE from Mortgage Protection Services. Complete and Return.

Supreme Lending
To Borrower:
Mr. & Mrs. Michael Tobis

(Cleverly dressed up to look like it's FROM the lender. Of course, they sold me off to Wells Fargo inside a week. Maybe the U of T thinks I'm marginal but the banks think I'm golden...)

5) Attention: Time Sensitive Material. Complete and Return.

Lender: Supreme Lending
Record Date: 01/22/2008 (huh?)
Loan Amount: [amount]

6) Notice of Interest Overpayment

(This one is the best. Apparently if you pay off your loan early you will pay less interest! Who knew? Anyway these people will kindly collect payments biweekly and pay your mortgage down monthly for a modest fee.)


I wonder how many people fill out everything marked "Complete and Return" and end up with twenty life insurance policies...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ethical Society, Unitarianism, Trinitarianism

Irene and I have applied to join the Ethical Society, which is sort of an engineers' religion.

"Deed before creed" is the motto; what we believe is less important to us than our actions and their consequences in the world.
...each of those religions, these value systems, have two principles they share in common: tzedakah and tikkun olam, and the two principles started with monotheism and the Jews. Tzedakah means generally that we must treat each other as brother and sister. We should show one another respect and dignity because we are like things; we are human beings in a world that has nothing else like us, and we ought to treat each other with love, charity, use your own words. And the second principle is, "Well, what do you do with this relationship?" Well, we don't know exactly how we got here and why we are here, etc. etc.; that's for minds larger than our own. But we do know that we are like kinds, and we should work together to make this as good an experience as possible: tikkun olam -"let us repair the universe." Now, Islam believes that, and Buddhism that has no god believes it. Every Ethical Humanist I ever met believes it. Those two principles: We're supposed to love one another and we're supposed to work together to make the experience better. That's all the religion you need, really, to make a success of this planet...

-Mario Cuomo
That said, today's meeting was all about comparing the ethical society to other comparable groups. It's sort of droll to consider myself an apostate Unitarian. Garrison Keillor has many jokes about Unitarians but I only remember this one. Forgive me if you;ve heard it before.

"Did you hear about the Jehovah's Witness who converted to Unitarianism? He went around the neighborhood ringing doorbells for no particular reason." I myself have written a Unitarian hymn. It's called "To Whom It May Concern". What I like about the ethicists is that they don't feel compelled to pretend to be protestants during their meetings. The superficial resemblance to a protestant service does nothing at all for me.

The discussion of the history of Unitarianism showed that it arose as an alternative to Trinitarianism. We also discussed atheism and agnosticism and the fine distinctions between them. Most of us feel that agreeing on what you disbelieve is almost as bad as agreeing on what you pretend to believe as an organizing model for a community.

When it comes to Trinitarianism, though, agnostic doesn't begin to capture my philosophical response. I simply don't get it. I have never had the slightes clue who the Holy Ghost was supposed to be. Everyone I've asked has failed to come up with a coherent answer. I am certainly Unitarian as opposed to atheistic or agnostic, myself. I can't begin to express an opinion on the Trinity though. It simply baffles me who the third guy is. I am not so much atheistic or agnostic when it comes to the trinity as baffled. Call me an acomprehensive.

I've been hearing this stuff all my life and I just don't get it. Somehow polytheism is heresy unless the number of gods is three? Three shall be the number of gods, not two nor four? Five is right out? I'm still waiting for something to wrap my head around. I sort of understand the savior thing though it doesn't ring true for me but I just don't get it about the ghost.

Anyway I am down with the unity of the universe, and perfectly comfortable with calling it God and taking an attitude of deep gratitude to that God for what seems to me the astonishing miracle of life.

The only reason I'm a Unitarian apostate is because the services are silly.

Good night and God bless.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Grownups in Government

A valentine widget seen on GOP.com .

Would it be too much to ask for some grownups to run the country?

Unlike traditional Valentine's messages, the GOP-grams are perhaps better sent to people you dislike. The Valentine site launched Monday without a privacy policy. After an inquiry by Wired.com on Wednesday, the RNC added a link to the GOP.com privacy policy, which allows it to share any information it collects with "like-minded" organizations "committed to the principles or candidates of the Republican party." How romantic.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yiddish Radio Project

Better late than never. Here.

Hmm, it doesn't actually rock. It does sort of swing in a schmaltzdikke sort of a way.

Related resources here. So click, why don't you? Go. Click, click.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


In a comment on "In It", Hank R points to a very interesting observation by Greg Palast.

It starts with the observation that the number of millionaires in the US is comparable to the number of poor children, and then compares the benefits offerred to each class by the Bush administration.

Read it.

This is why we need numeracy. Fear of big numbers prevents people from thinking clearly.