Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cheap Bastid's Steak Tartare on a Budget

It’s been a while since we’ve gone out to dinner (for all of 2009 I can count once and that was a free buffet at Valley Center Casino on my birthday in August). But, I dearly love my wife and have been wanting to do something special for her.

So I did a bit of research and decided to fix Steak Tartare on Saturday night. And, her favorite, shrimp cocktail. What a combination!

But, how would Cheap Bastid manage to do it? The goal is good food that’s inexpensive. Well, it’s possible.

Most of the recipes I checked call for either tenderloin or sirloin. Well, tenderloin can cost anywhere from $6 to $12 a pound depending on the store and on the meat grade. And sirloin can cost anywhere from $2 to $5 depending on the store and grade. So, I knew that I was going to use sirloin and it was on special at my grocer last week for $1.97 a pound and that grocer will grind it for free.

Another thing that pushes the cost up is that most recipes call for either capers, anchovy fillets or both. But, Cheap Bastid knows that these kind of narrow-niche ingredients are both a bit pricey and would take a long time to use up. I mean, if it were something I use regularly, I wouldn’t have a problem buying it. That’s $5 saved right there.

A lot of recipes called for cognac. No. Same rationale as for capers and anchovies. Now, if you want to make your own and use these ingredients, be my guest. Yeah, it would probably taste better or richer with these but I decided to take a pass.

Cheap Bastid’s Steak Tartare for 2
1 lb sirloin steak—ground
½ cup diced red or Bermuda onion
1 diced fresh jalapeno pepper
1 egg
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste
Basically, take all that and mix it together real good with your hands or with a spoon. Form it into a ball and put it in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

Some people like to have a bit of crumbled hard boiled egg to put on top or more onion. Use a table knife or fork to put a bite of the mixture on top of saltines or Ritz or other cracker. Or you can take some thin slices of French bread and a bit of oil on top and toast it lightly in the oven. What I did was to take some flat bread and put a light coat of oil on it and then popped it into a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Then I cut each into 8 wedges. Using either French bread or flat bread makes it just a bit “fancier”.

Carolyn really didn’t care for the raw egg too much so the next time I make it, I won’t use egg. Maybe a tablespoon or so of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) to bind it and flavor it a bit.

To finish the dinner, I made a platter of shrimp cocktail. No cooking at all on this. I buy it “IQF” (individually quick frozen) at the store when it’s on special (31-40 count buy one get one free for $8). And I’ll use it up over time the Cheap Bastid way. Carolyn loves shrimp cocktail (so do I) and she deserves a treat. But I also use it for stir-frying and shrimp salad and shrimp and grits and shrimp scampi.

So did the Steak Tartare meet the Cheap Bastid test? Yep. I spent about $2 on the meat (oh, and by the way there was enough left for a light lunch and it tasted even better the 2nd day when the flavors had a chance to marry in the meat). The egg, onion and jalapeno cost maybe $.50 and the flat bread about a quarter. Total for Steak Tartare: $2.75. In a restaurant, Steak Tartare made from sirloin would cost about 10 times that for 2 people.

So that’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Feeding the Birds--Hummingbird Don't Fly Away

We’ve been feeding hummingbirds on our balcony for about 4 years now. For some reason, they’ve gotten a lot more interesting the last month or so.

We’re used to these miniscule critters zooming up to the feeder, spreading their tail feathers at the last second and putting the brakes on to a hover right at their perch. And we’re used to watching the dominant male try to protect the feeder and keep any other bird except himself from getting access.

There’s a social dynamic at play. And right now I can hear about the 23rd squabble of the day of several hummies arguing over who gets to sit where.

Lately we’ve had a couple of interesting dominant males. First was Squatter. (We tend to try to give the ones we can identify interesting or descriptive names which have ranged from Durante to Miss Peeps to Butthead). Squatter seemed to think that the feeder belonged to him and him alone. The only time this changed was one day when a Rufous hummingbird (the smallest but most aggressive) came by and spent about an hour kicking his ass!

He would hang out and chase any and all other hummies away. He would grip the wire holding the feeder and keep a watch out pretty much all day—changing position seemingly to keep his legs from getting too tired. He wasn't all that bright though. He was clever enough to find a nail sticking out of a rafter and perch on it but, whenever he'd leave it to "guard" the feeder, he wouldn't be able to find it again. Any hummie that came by got chased away and suddenly there was little nectar being drunk. This went on for over a month and we got to the point where we were really hoping for him to move on.

And after him there was Bomber. Bomber was cool. He would do exactly what his name implies. He would sit on a phone wire about 40 feet away from the feeder and wait. As soon as 3 hummies sat on the perches (not 2 or 4 but 3) he’d launch himself. He’d zoom full speed at the feeder and put the brakes on the last couple of feet scattering the feeding hummies. I watched him do the same thing dozens of times. It was like watching a bowling ball going down the alley and smacking dead solid into the 1-3 pocket exploding pins in all different directions (OK, get that sound going in your head! That’s what always went through mine whenever he’d do that).

It seemed as though he loved doing that. Then he’d chase the birds away. Sometimes the birds would get smart and wait for him to chase the others away and sneak back for a quick chug-a-lug until he reversed course and smacked into the lone hold-out. And, as the photo shows, he also got so he liked to sit on the top of a succulent plant just a couple of feet from the feeder waiting for the dumb birds to try to land on the feeder and drink. Then he only had to fly 2 feet rather than 40.

Bomber only lasted a couple of weeks. Now we’ve got a new bunch. This is the most raucous, obnoxious group of birds yet. They’re incredibly entertaining—and thirsty. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant male so chaos rules the day. And, they’re greedy!

There have been times when it would take 3-4 days for the birds to empty a feeder. We know they’re hungry and that there’s a bunch of them if they empty it in 1 day. Lately they’ve been emptying it twice a day! That’s mainly because there’s 8 birds around and no one’s trying to hog the feeder and chase the rest away.

We’ve got what we call the “follies” every evening right at sundown. That’s when all the birds try to get their last “feeding” of the day. When Squatter and Bomber were around, they’d try to keep the other birds away even during the follies. The best follies we’ve ever had was one night with 10 birds zooming around the 4-perch feeder and the same night when there were actually 7 birds sitting at the feeder at once (yep, 3 of the perches had 2 birds each).

Now, we’re getting the follies pretty much all day long where there are anywhere from 6-8 birds hovering around—rotating around the feeder like it’s some kind of merry-go-round. These little critters are slurping, pooping machines. And they’re incredibly fun to watch.

A sociologist might have a great time trying to make sense of the dynamic of these birds. I love it when the females decide to fight back against the dominant male. Or when a 2nd male decides he wants to be the ruler. They’ll fight, slapping each other with their wings, pecking their long beaks at each other and sometimes tumble all the way to the ground. A lot of the time they’re more entertaining than anything on TV.

But, I have to go now. It’s 10:30 a.m. and there’s less than a half inch of nectar left so I have to make some more or else they’ll be mad and chewing me out. By the way, if you want to feed hummies, get a feeder with perches for them to sit—they cost less than $10. And, the “Cheap Bastid” recipe for the nectar is ¼ cup of sugar to 1 cup of water plus you can add a drop or so of food color if you want.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday SoCal Weather--Hot, Damn Hot!

Hot, dry and windy. That’s what has been predicted by local TV weather forecasters for most of the last week here in Southern California. Kind of like this blurb from the trailer of the movie “Good Morning VietNam”

And yep, they were right. About an hour ago what had been a typical morning—marine layer burning off about 9 a.m., sunny and nice, changed in about 5 minutes. First I noticed the vertical blinds starting to move in a breeze and then I went out on the balcony. It was like any humidity had been sucked out of the air and the breeze was bone-dry. Dry and hot.

My wife has a term for it. The absolute perfect term. The “correct term” is Santa Ana wind. It’s what makes for such dangerous wildfire conditions this time of year. But she has a better term. Check this short video out for a clue:

Yep, her term for it is “cornflake boogers”. And that’s what happens. Great, big, flat, dry boogers that act like a lid on your nostrils. OK, now we’re into TMI (Too Much Information).

Suffice it to say, it’s going to be like this for the next couple of days. Our apartment isn’t air conditioned but we’ve got fans. And for us, this is the hottest time of the year. It could be worse, I guess. I can remember the misery of 95 degree days with 95% humidity in August in Iowa in a non-air conditioned house.

So, last but not least is this video which is one of my all-time favorite mid-60’s “British Invasion” songs about summer:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cheap Bastid's Maid-Rites

A couple of weeks ago I saw mention of MaidRites in a blog post and vowed to provide my version of the recipe for “back to school” time. Well, today’s the day.

MaidRite is actually a small chain of restaurants in the Midwest. The original was in Muscatine, Iowa and opened in 1929. There are only about 70 or so of the restaurants left in a half dozen states. Those of us who have lived in communities where you can get MaidRites usually swear by them as an alternative to the usual “fast food fare”. And there are some places with MaidRite franchises where there are no MickyDs, BKs, Wendys or other fast food offerings.

If you remember the old “Roseann” TV show and Roseann Barr’s marriage to Tom Arnold, you may also remember their plans to build the “Big Food CafĂ©” near Ottumwa, Iowa which would feature “loose meat” sandwiches. That’s a MaidRite but without the copywrited name.
Here’s what MaidRites aren’t: They’re not sloppy joes or barbeque sandwiches. What they are is a uniquely tasty “loose meat” sandwich—browned hamburger simmered in a broth and seasonings—notable for their simplicity and flavor. There are all kinds of recipes for them (just Google Maidrite) but the one I use and share today is the version of the recipe I got from a WHO radio talk show in Des Moines nearly 20 years ago.
You’ll find recipes which use water and brown sugar, vinegar, cola and other liquids for simmering the ground beef. Give it a try if you want but I’ve found this recipe to come really close to the taste and is really easy to make.

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
Garlic powder
Pickle slices
Hamburger buns
Cooking Directions:
Heat skillet over medium heat. Add cooking oil and onion. Cook, stirring with wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes (until onions start to soften). Crumble in the ground beef and brown. Add about ¾ of the chicken broth, a few generous shakes of garlic powder and several shakes of pepper (I also like to pour in a tablespoon or so of the pickle juice for a hint of acid). Simmer until the mix is “clumpy” not “sloppy” or wet. Taste and add salt if needed. If the mix gets too “dry” from simmering too long, add remainder of broth. Spoon on buns, add some pickle slices and a bit of mustard.

This is a great “quick” meal and is a departure from burgers or sloppy joes. It’s minimalist. If you want, use dinner rolls or find smaller “cocktail” rolls to use rather than hamburger buns. Because this is a “loose meat” sandwich without a clumpy sauce, your going to have a bit of spillage from the bun so have forks or spoons available. And, for a bit more fun, put some shredded cheese or a slice of American cheese on it. Plus, pickles and mustard are great on Maid-Rites but never, ever put ketchup on one!

(Please excuse the photo, I had my aperture set wrong). And if you like the tray, go to EBay and look up TexasWare tray. We love them and I also have a set of TexasWare mixing bowls too.

Does this meet the Cheap Bastid test? Oh yeah. The meat is less than $2, buns or rolls are $1 (at the dollar store!—same bun, cheaper price than the grocery store). So for $3 you’ve got dinner. I made homemade oven fries at a cost of about $.30 (check out just how much you’re paying for frozen fries and you’ll go to making your own oven fries which take about 3 minutes to cut and toss with oil and a bit of salt and pepper and take the same amount of time in a 400 degree oven as frozen!).

That’s the Cheap Bastid way: Eat well. Eat cheap. Be grateful.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Latch-On Services--Sometimes What You Say Really Sucks

To quote Dave Berry, “I’m not making this up.” You couldn’t make this one up if you tried. It’s just too embarrassing. But to also quote Mark Twain, “Man is the only beast that gets embarrassed, or who needs to.”

In the mid-nineties, as part of one of my multiple career transitions, I sold advertising for a small, twice weekly newspaper in Iowa. On this particular day, I got a phone call from a new business in town asking me to stop by about advertising in the paper. I was only too glad to stop in a visit with the owner.

It turns out that the owner was a new resident who, along with her husband, had recently moved from Southern California. With roots in Iowa and Missouri, they had selected our small town. The lady, who’s name I can’t remember, had a small consulting business that she had also operated in SoCali where, of course, there were many more people.

She was a lactation consultant. Now, I wasn’t entirely sure what a lactation consultant does, but I also knew that Iowa was a major state for pork and beef cattle but not for dairy cattle. Of course, she meant in the human sense. She taught new mothers about breast feeding, helped them get started, fitted them for appropriate undergarments and sold them and so forth.

The name of her business was Latch On Services. OK, I thought, that’s catchy. We were close to Des Moines with many more people (nearly half a million at last count). I was taking notes on the nature of the business, their name and address and phone number, all preparatory to building an ad that would serve their interest and help build their business.

Pulling out a piece of paper she showed me a drawing her daughter had done (her daughter and mine were actually the same age and in the same classes we discovered). It was a wonderful piece of line art that showed a stylized mother and child nursing.

“You don’t think that this will be misconstrued or considered in bad taste do you?” she asked.

And, in my best newspaper advertising consultant voice I responded, “No, it’s delightful.”

Now, I could have left it at that. But Nooooooooo. As an official newspaper advertising consultant, thoroughly in command of the English language, I offered further explanation. “It’s very appropriate and subtle,” I commented. “Although some people might……”

Let’s take a break here. I could have said laugh, chuckle, giggle, guffaw or any number of other synonyms but instead, like a total buffoon, I reached way, way down into my newspaper advertising consultant Thesaurus to come up with an entirely different word.

“Although some people might titter,” is what I actually said, immediately tasting my own shoe leather from getting my foot so far in my mouth.

I stopped, mouth open, stuttering, sounding like Porky Pig at the end of the cartoon. “I don’t believe I just said that,” I spluttered.
Her husband, sitting across the room and drinking iced tea, performed what a San Diego radio station talk show terms an ASNR for “Acute Spontaneous Nasal Reflex”. In other words, he started to laugh so hard that he blew iced tea out of his nose.

Now, when I think back to the psychology courses I took in college, there has to be a “Freudian” connection here. Who knows. Who cares! It was just one of those many times in life where the Dufus Fairy stepped up and slapped me upside the head causing me to utter one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said.

I got the sale though and we became friends. And my face gets red each time I think of this little anecdote.

There’s no moral to this story. No great life lesson that I can think of. Just an example of being a human being, saying something dumb when you’re trying to be cool (not a whole lot different than a 14 year old pimple faced boy trying to impress a girl). But being old enough and wise enough to realize that it’s not the first time something like that has happened to me. And it won’t be the last time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wuss Shows Beware, "Sons of Anarchy" will Kick Your Ass!

I normally wouldn’t try to write a post about a TV show. There are others who are far more articulate about TV reviews (well, to be honest “articulate” is the word I would normally use. The word I would normally use is pretentious).

But, I just watched the 2nd episode of a show which is now in its 2nd season on FX and noticing that no one else has commented on it, I thought I would.

The show I’m referring to is Sons of Anarchy which is aired on FX on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. Here’s what the show’s website has to say about it:

Sons of Anarchy, is an adrenalized drama with darkly comedic undertones that explores a notorious outlaw motorcycle club's (MC) desire to protect its livelihood while ensuring that their simple, sheltered town of Charming, California remains exactly that, Charming. The MC must confront threats from drug dealers, corporate developers, and overzealous law officers. Behind the MC's familial lifestyle and legally thriving automotive shop is a ruthless and illegally thriving arms business. The seduction of money, power, and blood.

This season Jax and the club deal with the fallout from Donna's death, bringing internal tensions to an all-time high while a new enemy takes root in Charming. LOAN, or League of American Nationalists, is a white separatist organization headed by Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin) with help from his lieutenant, AJ Weston (Henry Rollins). Zobelle, who opens a cigar shop on Main Street intent on ingratiating himself with the community and forcing SAMCRO out.

Sons of Anarchy features an ensemble cast headed by Ron Perlman as the patriarch/President of the Club, Katey Sagal who plays his wife and de facto matriarch and Charlie Nunnam who plays Sagal’s son, Perlman’s stepson and the Vice President of the Club. These are 3 terrific actors who are joined by an interesting group of members of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club.

This show is raw. As the weapons selling and delivery business has dried up from Federal pressure and as selling drugs is becoming a thing of the past for the Club (a sense of conscious in which Katey Sagal has a large role), the Club is taking on a new cottage industry—pornographic movies. They are rescuing a porn producer who was being driven out of business by a producer with heavy-handed methods played by Tom Arnold.

The Club has to vote on all enterprises and Perlman asks “We don’t really need to vote on this do we?” as the other members laugh and guffaw about the prospects of setting up a studio in a warehouse owned by the group. “OK, everyone in favor of pussy, raise your hands.” The result is predictable. (There goes one of Carlin’s famous 7 words down the drain).

The Club is part Animal House, part gang and a lot family. As 2 of the members are assembling AK47s for sale to the “Mayans” gang, one member is down because his wife was recently murdered. The member assisting him gently tells him, “We’re family. We’ve got each other. I’m here for you whenever you need to talk.” Sounds kind of touchy feely doesn’t it?

Well, so far in 2 shows there has been a contract murder, a confrontation with "aryan" extremists, a gang shoot-out, a violent rape, a "beatdown" with baseball bats and other assorted mayhem. But, family is family. These folks have more in common with the Sopranos than with the Brady bunch.

This show is edgy, violent, profane, well written, well acted and pulls you in with eyes wide open in surprise, shock, a bit of revulsion and identification with the characters. Give it a watch. I bet you’ll get hooked like me.

Here's the link to the show's website:

Monday, September 14, 2009

J.D. and Turk "Rock the Vote" for Healthcare Reform

While channel surfing Saturday, I saw a quick “blip” on MTV that caught my attention. I backed my surfing thumb up to see what it was (nope it wasn’t big bootied, cleavage flashing hip-hop dancers strutting their stuff to the newest rap).

Zach Braff and Donald Faison (J.D. and Turk from “Scrubs”) were doing a stand-up in a hospital room and I didn’t know if it was a promo or a new episode because they didn’t look quite like their normal characters from “Scrubs”. The few seconds I saw was a plug for healthcare reform. Wow!

This “PSA” type ad is from “Rock the Vote”. Now, it’s just a bit too “edgy” for my taste but it’s in a style and vernacular which will, hopefully, reach out to the generation that watches MTV—they’re especially targeting 18-29 year olds with the message. Here’s the spot:

We need a lot more messages like this—maybe some even targeted at my generation. (What would happen if Rock the Vote did one of these with Wilford Brimley, spokesperson for Liberty Medical who used to do commercials for healthy cereals and who got famous for the line “because it’s the right thing to do”). Or how about an ESPN Rock the Vote spot featuring Tony Gwynn and Joe Montana? Maybe even a Rock the Vote Spot on Lifetime with Jamie Lee Curtis and C.C.H. Pounder?

This is a strong message. Spread it around! Here’s the URL for it too:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Is 9/11 the "New" Memorial Day? "Counting Flowers on the Wall" & Joe Wilson's Caput in Recto Award

Things have been too heavy this week. First a bunch of folks got their shorts twisted up into knots at the audacity of a black President wanting to give a speech to school kids about hope and goals.

Then some jackass has to holler out “You Lie” at that same President when he was talking about healthcare and how we can do better for the 15% of Americans who don’t have any health insurance. And now that cracker is being made out to be some kind of hero in his home state. That’s something I just don’t get.

And today. It’s as if 9/11 has become our actual Memorial Day. The one at the end of May is just a holiday anymore—a day off work—but the 9/11 Memorial Day is one where people actually reflect on our nation and honor those who have sacrificed. It’s become a day where we are more introspective, where we actually appreciate those who are so diligent on our behalf. And that’s a good thing. What do you think? Has 9/11 become our “true” Memorial Day?

So, the weekend is upon us. Those are pretty much just a couple of more days to me. When you’re not working and your days seem to be increasingly endless; when you’re afraid to spend a dollar because you don’t know when that dollar might be the last one you’ve got; when those things are in your life, you don’t look forward to the weekend too much.

With that out of the way, how about a little bit of music. There’s been some stuff about music here on OS lately. And, I was thinking about being “idle” this morning and thought that maybe I could share this old Statler Brothers song with you:

Enjoy and have a great weekend--kick back, relax and let go of the crap. What's the old saying? "Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff." Hopefully this provided you with just a bit of a break from all the too serious stuff we’ve got going on.

And last but certainly not least, Congressman Joe Wilson, Rep, S.C. this award is for you: "The Caput in Recto" Award.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheap Bastid's Pizza Chicken!

Last week’s Top Chef Las Vegas is on for about the umpteenth time and it reminded me that today is Foodie Tuesday. I was going to start doing some things this week on school night dinners.

You know, it’s totally possible to have a family meal together every night. There’s no need to call Chili’s for carry-out or troop over to Quiznos. With just a bit of planning you can have a meal ready to go in a half hour pretty much every night. You’ve got to plan your meals in advance and do things like taking things out to thaw the night before and put them in the fridge. You’ve got to do your grocery buying with menus either in mind or in hand to make sure that you have the ingredients on hand.

At all times, my freezer contains 4-5 lbs. of ground beef in 1 lb (or less) bags, bottom round roasts, boneless loin chops (2 to a bag with some individually wrapped), pork shoulder roast, chicken legs & thighs broken out in bags with about 4 pieces each, boneless/skinless chicken breasts, Italian sausage, a couple of pounds of bacon and a frozen pizza. That’s my basic load and I keep it replenished when the meat is on sale. Is this giving YOU any ideas of what you might be able to cook using some of the meat in my freezer?

One other thing before a recipe—try starting this school year with 2 new rules at dinner time:
#1 Lose the bottles or cans of beverage at the table. Go to milk, juice or water poured in a glass. It’s healthier. We all drink too much soda.

#2 Everybody eats the same thing. Not chicken breast for Mom & Dad and mac & cheese for one kid and SpaghettiO’s for the other kid. If a kid just won’t eat something they can either leave the table without dinner (don’t worry they won’t starve) or they can go and fix their own PB&J and clean up after themselves.

Sermon’s over. Let’s cook something. Today, I’ll give you a super simple recipe that I “invented” for what we always called “Pizza Chicken”. It’s always been a favorite of my kids and my daughter reports that she makes this at least every couple of weeks at her home. Why did I call it “Pizza Chicken”? Simple, kids love pizza! It made them totally willing to try it and once they did, they loved it. Obviously, this was a “required” recipe in “Dad’s Cookbook and Kitchen Survival Guide”.

Pizza Chicken
2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 can tomato sauce
4 oz. Shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano

Put 2 tablespoons cooking oil into a medium skillet and heat on medium high. Add the chicken breasts to pan, season with salt, pepper and garlic and let brown on both sides (should take about 4 minutes per side). Season the breasts as they cook with salt, pepper and garlic.
Pre-heat oven to 375. Put tomato sauce in a bowl and add garlic, oregano, basil and salt and pepper. When breasts are browned, transfer to a baking dish, pour tomato sauce over them. Cover with mozzarella and then sprinkle parmesan on top of that. Bake in 375 oven until cheese it turning golden (about 20 minutes or so). Remove and serve on bed of spaghetti or fettucine. It’s that simple. If you want, add some chopped onion and bell peppers while you’re browning the chicken to give some additional depth of flavor.

Wow, isn’t that easy! And, it’s a 30 minute meal if you’ve made sure to thaw out your chicken breasts ahead of time. This sounds like one of the super easy recipes you get out of a magazine but it’s something I “invented” almost 25 years ago when my kids were young. It’s good, tasty and with the mozzarella, just a bit gooey. Add the parmesan for just a bit more flavor.

What’s this going to cost? About $3 for the chicken, about $1 for the tomato sauce and
About another $1 for the cheese. Total for 4 people is about $1.25 each.

That’s the Cheap Bastid way—Eat Good, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful

Friday, September 4, 2009

These Gun-Toting Folks Have to be Looney

Recently there seems to be a movement afoot to encourage people to “exercise their 2nd Amendment rights” and carry unloaded firearms in public. And, there were some pictures in our local paper yesterday of some folks doing just that.

North County Times photo
A columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune this morning called their reasoning just a bit suspect. Basically, who would want to carry an unloaded gun in public? Columnist Logan Jenkins wrote, “If the thrust of the Second Amendment is to bless the public bearing of arms for purposes of self-defense, then what’s the point of carrying unloaded guns?” Think about it. People (whether they’re regular “citizens” or bad guys) are going to assume that they’re loaded.

What can you do with an unloaded gun? Look like Magnum P.I. but without bullets? Hammer a nail?

They know they’re going to get stopped by cops who are going to check and make sure that the guns are unloaded. Just like if I drove down the street drinking from a pint Jim Beam bottle filled with ice tea. Why would I do that? To get attention? To get stopped by the cops? It doesn’t make sense.

North County Times photo

It’s kind of like a woman who wears a low cut top showing lots of cleavage and then gets offended when you look at the advertised “merchandise”. Come on, who’s kidding who?

So these gun-toters, ostensibly to make a point, are using their guns as the “newest bling”. I think I’d give them a wide berth and have someone make sure that they’re taking their meds.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Small Town Vasectomy, Where Everybody Knows Your Pain

Shortly after my daughter Susan was born, I decided that with 2 kids in 2 years it was time for me to get “fixed”. I figured, magnanimously, that seeing as how my wife was the one who had given birth, and it was my “equipment” that caused it, that maybe I was the one who should get “taken care of”.

Anyway, the surgery was outpatient, at the Kossuth County Hospital and only took about a half hour. It was scheduled for a Friday afternoon so that I could rest up over the weekend and be “back to normal” on Monday.

Kossuth County Hospital

At the appointed time, I checked in and was shown where the surgery would take place, changed into a gown and climbed onto the table. An orderly came in (male) and gave me a bit of a rundown on what was going to happen. Basically, 2 tiny incisions, snipping, stretching and tying. Didn’t sound too bad. Then he shaved me “down there”. Still no big problem.

A few minutes later the surgeon came in. I knew him pretty well from around town and my job running the local chamber of commerce. He was smoking a cigarette (that was when you could still do stuff like that). “Hey,” I exclaimed, “If you can have a cigarette why can’t I have one?”

So he gave me one of his, I lit up and we smoked. I think that he was just making sure that I was relaxed. Then, he had me lay down again, put on a mask, picked up a syringe and pulled the gown up to my waist, asking “are you ready for this?” To make this long story a bit shorter, it only took about 20 minutes and he was done. But I did discover that LaMaze breathing techniques help when you’ve got something going on that gets you a bit nervous and threatens hyperventilation.
Not quite the way it's done, but....

So I headed home, walking just a bit gingerly because the local anesthetic was starting to wear off. Everything went OK that evening although I mainly just sat in my recliner taking it easy. My wife helped out making sure that 2 year old Mike didn’t hop on my lap.

Obviously, this story isn’t quite told. Saturday was grocery store day. I had taken some ibuprofen and felt good. So, I took off for the local HyVee grocery store with Mikey, my 2 year old. I figured I’d only have to lift him up once to get in the cart and once to get back out and that there’d be no problem. Yeah, right!
Hy Vee, the main grocery chain in Iowa

We’re in the store, picking up the things on our list. Mike and I are carrying on a conversation like we always do in the store. I’m not moving really fast but I’m moving.

Have you ever noticed where a 2 year old’s feet hang when they’re sitting in a grocery cart? And have you ever noticed how they kind of like to swing their feet back and forth? Oh, yeah. He got me. Right where I was sore and tender. I saw it coming too. You know, in slow motion like in movie action scenes. I was like Jean Claude Van Damme when he’s fighting in slow motion and saying “Yeeee-Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh”.

And all of a sudden, I’m doubled over right in the middle of the aisle in HyVee. It was the freezer section. The kind where the freezers are waist high and open. I ended up boosting myself up and hanging my butt over it into the freezer just to try to cool off the pain. People were walking by me looking at me like I’m some kind of weirdo. Mikey thought it was funny and was laughing. All I could do is scrunch up my face and groan.
Please note the relative position of the kid's feet to the Dad's "groin"

Someone helped me out of the freezer. I stood with my hands on my knees panting like someone who’s just finished running a 440. Mikey reached out to me offering to share a well gummed, half eaten cookie. I smile and croaked out, “no thanks”.

I slowly, slowly like an octogenarian finished the last little bit of shopping pushing the cart with my arms extended as far in front of myself as possible to stay clear of the little guy's deadly feet.

We checked out, the bagger helped load the car and I drove home.

As soon as I pulled into the driveway, my wife came out of the house. “Are you all right,” she asked? “Sure, why?” was my response as we let Mike out of the car and went inside, groceries temporarily ignored. (They walked inside, I shuffled).

“Well, I’ve had 3 phone calls in the last 10 minutes from people asking me if you’re all right and saying that you had some kind of accident at HyVee.” (Bear in mind that this was before cell phones).

Looking up, I said, “Well, Mikey got me.”

“What do you mean he got you?”

“He accidentally kicked me and I ended up hanging my balls over the edge of a freezer,” was my response.

By now she’s trying not to laugh. The phone rang. She picked it up listened for a few seconds and said, “Here, it’s for you”.

“Walt, this is Al.” was what greeted me. Al was the general manager of HyVee in Algona. “Heard you had a problem in the store today, are you OK?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I just got kicked by my son while he was in the cart.”

“Oh, that’s right. You had your vasectomy yesterday. Doc told me about it…..”

So, I spent the rest of the weekend resting up my “parts”. Skipped church the next morning and got ready to hear about my “incident” at HyVee incessantly on Monday. The only thing I could do was laugh!

And that’s life in a small town. Everybody knows you. Everybody knows your business. You know, if I had to choose, I guess I’d choose that rather than the impersonal anonymity that seems to be the norm today where no one knows you, or cares to know you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cheap Bastid's School, Slaw & Sliders

Once again, Cheap Bastid got either too hungry or too spontaneous and I didn’t take out my trusty digital camera often enough.

But I’ve been thinking about good, cheap food a lot (or is that cheap, good food?) because I like to eat. For some reason lately I’ve been on a cole slaw kick. (OK, I already know that another Foodie Tuesday poster did cole slaw this week but mine’s simpler and doesn’t use mayo which can be an advantage for a picnic).

When it’s hot (like it has been around here for the last couple of weeks—try several days in a row of 95-100 in an apartment with no A/C) a bowl of slaw can be a welcome treat. The bite of the cabbage combined with whatever other ingredients you put in it can wake up your mouth and help cool you off for a bit. And cabbage is inexpensive $.49 a lb at Frasiers where I go for produce. With just the 2 of us I find that half a head is the right amount and will make a couple of bowls of slaw.

So here’s my take on slaw (and it only takes about 5 minutes to make):
Cheap Bastid’s Southern Slaw (for 2)
¼ head of cabbage (more or less—about 3-4 cups)
Red onion (about 1/3 cup)
Juice from 2 small limes (to taste)
Salt & pepper
And, your choice:
1 roma tomato or tomato and ½ cup cucumber or 1 granny smith apple

Chop the cabbage (it doesn’t matter if you cut it in strips or chop it—whichever you prefer just cut everything the same general shape and size). Cut up the onion and whatever other ingredients you’re using (tomato, cuke or apple). Put them all into a medium bowl. Add the lime juice, salt, pepper and sugar (about a teaspoon of sugar). TASTE IT! Then adjust the seasoning if needed.

This tastes great with its touch of sweet and sour plus just a hint of pepper bite. It’s refreshing and goes great with pretty much any meal. And, even better, it’s cheap!


Now let’s turn our attention to Sliders. It seems as though every fast food joint on the planet has jumped on the slider bandwagon. Midwesterners have been doing sliders forever! It’s the perfect size for a pot luck when you want to offer sloppy joes or MaidRites but want it sized so that people can eat them one-handed while balancing a plate. I used to be able to buy “mini-buns” at HyVee in Iowa but can’t find them in SoCal. But I’ve found that good old fashioned dinner rolls work just fine—and I can pick up a dozen at the dollar store for a buck (no need to spend $2-$2.50 on ‘em for crying out loud.
I cooked sliders on the grill last night. It’s simple. I usually make about a 6 oz. burger patty each. So, I made 3 small, thin hamburger patties each. One advantage is that they only took about half the time to cook. And I convinced Carolyn that it would actually seem like we were eating less and we would actually eat a bit more lettuce and tomato than usual (healthier!). That’s a hell of a rationale for trying the same old thing just a bit differently isn’t it?

Anyway, I did come up with one advantage. Usually with a nice thick burger, the meat dominates and it’s messy. These are smaller and less mess (think school night dinner!). Even better is that the flavor was a lot more balanced. With each bite I could taste meat, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese, a bit of onion, and a hint of mustard. MORE FLAVOR!

Give it a try, and maybe you can cut it back to 2 sliders for a total of about 4 ounces of beef and both save money and calories! It’s a great school night meal and can be done on the grill or on the stove really quickly.

So, that’s the Cheap Bastid story for this week. Next week I’m going to start with some school night recipes. Just because the kids are back in school, you’re working all day, etc. doesn’t mean that you can’t cook a good, cheap, nutritious meal in less than a half hour and sit down to eat as a family!

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way. Eat Good! Eat Cheap! Be Grateful!