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We Are Eating Well

Although some of our belongings are still in boxes and the house is still missing some important pieces of furniture, worry not, we have been eating well. One has to have priorities after all. Being in a bigger and more diverse area has unlocked many recipes that were previously off-limits because of hard to find ingredients. I have been able to make new recipes every week since we've been here and I'm just scratching the surface. Here's a few of the highlights of the past month or so. Why? In the hopes that your salivating will inspire you to fire up the grill this weekend.

August 1st: Grilled Spiny Lobster with Basil Butter (French West Indies). The inaugural Sunday grill had to be a big one and Stew Leonard's $4.99 lobster fit the bill. Grilling pastries still elude me (polenta was the huge embarrassing failure this time) but the dignity of the meal was upheld by the aperitif (Strega) and digestif (Fernet).

August 8th: Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches with Basil Aioli (U.S.A.). Pairing grilled mushrooms with any type of garlic or herb butter is a sure hit but more importantly, I made an entire delicious meal that did not include the slaughter of any innocent animals.

August 22nd: Brazilian Swordfish Kebabs with Coconut Milk (Brazil). The Brazilian food was an obvious choice but the swordfish was a pleasant surprise as we discovered it's actually affordable out here. It is a delicious and meaty fish and I recommend it highly with charred vegetables.

August 24th: Provençal Dagwood (France). What's this? Not only a grilled meal during the week but the second meal within a month that did not contain meat and yet maintained my standards of tastiness (or so I'm told). Our vegetarian guests inspired these French sandwiches of goat cheese, grilled eggplant, squash, zucchini and red peppers on some crusty bread. Sounds great--I had a pastrami sandwich.

At this point you may be concerned about the complete lack of red meat in our diet. This is mostly due to the ridiculous Brazilian churrascaria just down the street that charges by the pound and has an indoor grill with about twenty spits of beef, pork and chicken rotating at all times. You point to the meat, they slice it from the outside until you say "when," and then return the spit to the fire with a fresh basting of oil. Saying "when" is the hard part. The beef is among the best I've had and the price is just right.

Even if difficult times, we're managing to find ways to maintain our waistlines.

August 25, 2004 | Comments (1)

Heterogeneity Matters

A typical day (perhaps) in our new city in Western Connecticut:

Finding such diverse and vibrant communities in small-city Connecticut has been a wonderful surprise. More importantly, these are not small token "ethnic" groups that the people from the suburbs drive in to "experience" but rather they are large and integral pieces of the fabric of the area. Being surrounded by so many different cultures and being able to take part in them is a good thing.

August 16, 2004

The Ballad of Peter Tosh

Peter, in a rare candid photo

Once upon a time in the winter of 1998, a very special fish came into my life. At that time, I was a freshman in college and as one of many attempts to make my dorm room feel like home, I decided to revive my old 10-gallon aquarium and bring it down to school after returning from a break. When I got down to the local pet store and checked out the selection, it was immediately obvious which type of fish I was going to get: piranha. I am not the type of person that necessarily enjoys aggressive pets that need to be fed live prey but the piranha just seemed the most intriguing of all the fish. I was not going to have a tank of pretty angelfish and neons. So I headed home with two piranha less than an inch long and some cubes of frozen bloodworms for food.

The two piranha got along fairly well, or at least I like to think that they did. Piranha are actually very shy and paranoid fish, preferring to hide when possible and, at least in my case, eat under the cover of darkness, so I rarely saw them. They kept eating, progressing from frozen food to tiny feeder fish, and at the end of the academic year, I moved them back to Wisconsin in big plastic bags, which they promptly bit through, bringing them perilously close to their demise. Back in my parents' basement, they also got an upgrade in living conditions by way of a new 55-gallon tank. I worked two jobs that summer and only saw the fish every couple of weeks when I would replenish their supply of feeder goldfish. One afternoon I returned to a terrible sight--the piranha that had always been the bigger of the two had eaten the entire back half of the other and had left him to die. From then on, there was only one.

The remaining piranha and his 55-gallon tank made the trip back to school with me in the fall to occupy an even smaller dorm room. Once I had moved in, my roommate and I realized that our lone fish did not even have a name (we had not named him earlier because of our superstitious belief that fish named too early would die). By way of a piranha at the same university thirty years earlier named Pete (who, incidentally, would not bite the hand that fed him) and a late-night episode of VH1's Behind the Music, the piranha was christened Peter Tosh, for his embodiment of the militant and proud spirit of the underappreciated reggae artist.

It was in that room in Brandt Hall that Peter and I forged a truly special bond. The tank was the centerpiece of the entire room and he appreciated the ample surroundings, often swimming laps to build endurance. We kept the tank stocked with the biggest feeder goldfish and whenever we saw him eat one, we would play "Legalize It" in honor of him. Whenever I was up late on my computer, he would always hover right by the glass on my side of the tank, keeping me company through many late nights. In fact, when I was using my roommate's computer for a week or so after my early Linux experiments rendered my laptop useless, he would swim to the other side of the tank while I was there, which is a touching display of loyalty if I've ever known one.

Peter stayed with me through every move since then, although his tank was never again so close to my computer or bed. You can imagine the heartbreak I felt when I learned that we were moving to Connecticut. Since he could have never survived the move out here (plus piranha are illegal here), my only option was to find a good home for him and I think I did. He is now living with a young family in a new 55-gallon tank back in Indiana and I am told he is doing well (I have the email address of the new owner, just to check in on him). I expect that he has a long life ahead of him and I hope that our time together will always remain in his heart.

Take care, Peter. Legalize it.

August 11, 2004