Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Ballard Bridge

That was me in the chic black jacket and beret on the Ballard Bridge yesterday during the afternoon commute. It was surprisingly enjoyable, considering that the rain was pouring and the wind howling, not to mention the occasional flash of lightning, roll of thunder. I was counting bikers and walkers for Cascade Bicycle Club's annual non-motorized transportation tally. Luckily, I was able to view my bridge from the bus shelter. And I was wearing my longies for the first time since, oh, April?

I now know, better than ever, how bikes and pedestrians look to drivers, since I had to peer through rain-spotted shelter-panels in all the confusion of merging traffic, rain-reflected lights, and howling weather. And it's not good. I was praying those bikers home, 71 of them northbound, 21 going south.

But here's my more important conclusion: Get yellow. More than lights, more than other colors, way more than the surprising number of riders wearing black, the ones I could see were the ones in that luminous greeny yellow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Farming Seattle

I’m doing a favor for a friend who’s away for 10 days: I’m picking her garden. What I pick, I get to eat, except for the beans she’s drying for winter. True, veggies stop producing if you stop picking them, and I do turn the watering system on while I’m there, but I’m under no illusions as to who is doing a favor for whom.

I had friends over for a simple supper last night. For an hors d’oeuvres, I served green beans roasted with olive oil and garlic, with just a hint of balsamic vinegar. For the main course, I combined the ideas of the southern scalloped yellow squash casserole I love and a French gratinee: I sauteed chopped onion and the squash in my 12-inch saute pan, covered and steamed it tender, then topped it with a bechamel sauce and lightly sprinkled grated Cabot’s sharp white cheddar over it all. When my guests were ready to eat, I ran it under the broiler until it was golden.

The salad was arugula and nasturtium blossoms, sliced fresh peach, and toasted pecans with a garlic vinaigrette.

Things are fine here at harvest time on the farm in Seattle. There’s a tiny snail crawling up the wall over my sink. I’m letting it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Possibly Dirty Dancing

I posted on Facebook recently a link to a hot hot hot bachata dance performance. I said, This is my next dance.

My dancer friends love the video. I wonder if my other friends think I’m crazy. Or maybe they hope I’m kidding. Mom hasn’t said a word.

I was going to just let it slide, but the truth is, I do want to dance sort of like that. These dancers are performing; they’re laying all their hot moves on each other in a deliberately over-the-top way. So I won’t do that. But the basic dance isn’t honestly that different from what we’re doing already in zydeco and blues dancing.

I’m thinking about how a woman like me -- my ex called me Miss Prim -- a woman who doesn’t like vulgar language and hates to miss church, can be so attracted to dancing that looks fairly slutty to a large portion of the population.

Well, it’s not a bump and grind; we don’t do that. It’s sexy, but it’s stylized. It feels good to move your body that way. It feels romantic, the relationship you have with your partner for the few minutes of the dance. Sometimes I get home and lie awake for an hour, replaying the tender moments of unconditional positive regard I’ve experienced in the arms of men who love to dance with me.

I like the attention. A dance is something two people create together, and it can’t be done without paying attention, and your body as well as your mind is paying the attention. It’s deep, and it’s good.

Sometimes I worry that dancing is a substitute for the work a real relationship involves. But maybe it’s practice.

And, oh yeah, there's bachata tonight at Century Ballroom in Seattle. 8:30. I'll be there.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I finally read Maureen Dowd’s recent column, Blue is the New Black, which has been on the New York Times’ most-popular list for days. (I thought it was something red state/blue state, and I couldn’t face it.)

But no! It’s about women. Dowd says having the blues has become the new universal -- the new black -- for women. One problem, Dowd says, is too many choices. But I choose, and I feel great. And I think I know why.

My theory is, we get blue when we think we’re not as happy as everybody else. And if you tune in to television -- I don’t -- you’ll pretty much always feel less happy than the people portrayed there who find lasting elation in buying new cars, miracle shampoos, and shoes.

Deep down, we know that’s not life, but we’re too busy to remember it. Let me help you.

Psychiatrist David Burns, who wrote Feeling Good, proposes this, in a nutshell: If it doesn’t feel good, stop doing it. If it does, do it again.

You’re thinking, Wait a minute! Wasn’t that the idea of that other national expert, “If it feels good, do it” Janis Joplin? Right idea, faulty application.

Dr. Burns suggests you make charts. I especially like the Pleasure-Predicting Sheet. Column One: A list of activities with potential for enjoyment or satisfaction. Say, Cleaning the house. A 30-minute walk after dinner. Six hours of TV. An hour of reading. Three hours of zydeco dancing. In three additional columns, you schedule the activities you’ve chosen, predict how satisfying each will be, from zero to 100 percent, and then when you do them, rate how satisfying they actually are.

I do this for things I dread, too, like changing a bike tube. I chart the expected and the actual time it will take. It usually turns out less time and more satisfaction. And sometimes the longer it takes, the more triumphant I feel when I finally achieve it.

In her book about families, The Shelter of Each Other, Mary Pipher (my heroine and author of Reviving Ophelia) says she encourages families to discuss together the pros and cons of changes that affect family life. Will a new car mean Mom has to put in more hours at work? Will driving the kids to school mean more hectic mornings for everyone? If you’d all work together on simple dinners at home instead of buying take-out, could you afford a weekend of camping?

I love this idea, but then, I have the luxury of being a grammy, not a mom. Still, I believe we need to model for kids the reality that nobody gets everything. Choices must be made, and you can learn what choices work for you, instead of for some made-up Hollywood culture that is, at base, about selling us stuff we don’t need or even want, until they suggest we do.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Advertisement for My Blog

National Singles Week begins today, September 20. It includes a celebratory “blog crawl,” with invitations to visit some of the best singles blogs. Mine is not included. I thought I’d better write an ad for why it should be.

Sixty and Single in Seattle is less a lament or an apologia for the singles life than a demonstration of how to live it. In fact, author Mary Davies seems to be living out on the “page” what so many singles proclaim today: “I love my life, and I’d like to share it.”

If there’s a big man-shaped hole in her life, it’s hard to find. She’ll make waffles for one on a Saturday morning -- and share the recipe with her readers. She likes a bike buddy when she can get one, but if not, she’ll cycle over to the locks anyway, and tour English Garden. One recent day she arrived alone at Upper Crust Bakery in Magnolia to discover an unprecedented half a sticky bun for sale; she ate it. But her eyes are open. She’s alert. She believes one day the man who is looking for her will be looking right back.

We also learn in her blog what this one single woman is reading -- recently, Jill Ciment and Lionel Shriver -- and what political causes she supports -- health care reform, for one. You’ll find out who she’s meeting at bus stops and hearing at Town Hall. Reading Davies is like a conversation with someone who likes to think. And if you don’t know Seattle, you’ll feel you do, as you bike and bus and walk a life there with Mary.

Sometimes she muses directly on the nature of singleness: that you miss out on the challenges and achievements of building a life together. For Davies, a dancer, it’s a lot like the difference between hip-hopping on your own and dancing blues with a partner. Both good, but Davies loves the blues.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reading Jill Ciment

I love Adler and Van Doren’s idea, in How to Read a Book, that before people discuss a book, each should say, in 25 words or less, what it’s about. And what does that question mean, “what is a book about?” For one reader, it could be, “what’s the set-up? who and what and where and when?” Or maybe it’s “what is the author trying to make us experience or think about?” Maybe it’s “how does this writer see nature/man/relationships/God?”

Here’s my stab at it, for three Ciment novels I’ve read in the last few weeks.

My first was her latest book, a new one, called Heroic Measures. It’s about what it’s like to get old, how hard it is and how much you have to lose, even when you’re accomplished and privileged. How everybody else’s lives busily go on around you anyway.

Set-Up: Manhattan, open-house to sell the lifelong apartment. Beloved dog gets sick. Gasoline truck has jack-knifed in a New York City tunnel: by a terrorist?

Then, The Teeth of the Dog. It reads like a bad dream, where you’re lost, and the man you love is dying, and someone who ought to help is a useless druggie, and all night long the dreamer is trying to get home.

Set-Up: Aging anthropologist, dying of cancer, is taken off to primitive island by his desperate young wife, hoping for some revivifying experience. Everything goes dangerously wrong.

And then, The Tattoo Artist. What is man? Where is home? What is art? How does art help us make sense of life, and if it isn’t doing that, what is it for?

Set-Up: 1930s Bohemian artist couple goes to primitive South Sea island to collect art; they are prevented from leaving. Thirty years later, the tattoo artist is found by Life magazine, every inch of her tattooed.

These novels are all short, 200 pages or so, and absorbing enough for beach or airplane travel.

[“Ciment”? Pronounced like cement? Or like Simmons, only with a t on the end? Wish I knew.]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hours of Happiness

Until a month ago, I’d never been to a happy hour. I thought they were for drinkers, and my idea of hard-drinking is two glasses of wine with dinner instead of one. (Except for champagne, irresistible day or night.)

But I had such a fine, affordable experience at The Brooklyn in August, I decided to try another venue. A couple of women friends and I met at Maximilien’s in the Market a week ago Tuesday. A glass of house wine is $4, a big bowl of mussels steamed in white wine and garlic is $3, a cornet of pommes frites with two French sauces is even less. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the views of the Olympics, the waterfront, and the ferries. Lovely.

On Wednesday, I was headed for a thing at 6 pm at my church, St. Paul’s Queen Anne, near the Seattle Center. But my president was speaking about health care at 5; I needed a happy hour with a television. I tried five places, all loud with on-screen sports events, then finally poked my head into T.S. McHugh’s and asked the handsome young man at the door if by any chance they had a TV tuned to the President. He pointed at one. I said, and I admit this was excessive, but I was so relieved, I said, “I love you.”

He said, surprisingly fervently, “I love you too.” Well, that was certainly a good start. I sat at the bar and watched my president while I had a glass of Fat Tire and a plate of banger and mash, all for under $5!

So Thursday night, on the way to Town Hall again for a lecture, I met other friends at Cafe Campagne. I’ve had memorable brunches there twice, memorable for the wonderful poached eggs and sauce -- balsamic vinegar butter, maybe? -- but a glass of wine to accompany anything struck me as prohibitively expensive.

However! At happy hour -- 4 to 6 pm -- you get three-ounce wine tastes for as little as $2 (for the pink champagne). You get little juicy hot lamb burgers on gougere for $2 each, and the same gougere rounds filled with pate de campagne for $1.

There are lots more happy hours to try! The Sorrento has happy hour twice a day, from 4 to 6, and again at 9 pm, when Town Hall lectures end. So that’s next on my list.

Just one caveat: eat your veggies at lunch. The only place that offered anything green was Cafe Campagne with a salad of haricots verts for $5. I believe this costed out at 25 cents a green bean. Pommes frites though? Potatoes are a vegetable....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If I'm Elected...

I found it rather depressing reading the New York Times this morning, despite the sunshine streaming into my windows and the fragrance of my bread baking and the taste of my peaches in the bowl. The big world out there seems so complicated, when here at home in Seattle, it all seems so simple.

To fix health care, allow people under age 65 to buy non-profit, non-government-subsidized Medicare policies. Make Medicare the national laboratory for efficiency reforms to slow cost inflation. And start taxing employer-based health insurance benefits, to gradually untie that connection so everybody has an incentive to shop for cost-effective insurance, and to free funds for health care for those who can't find work.

To deal with unemployment, make the changes Thomas Friedman proposes today in the NYT in solar policy: make it legal and financially advantageous for homeowners to generate solar on their rooftops, as China and Germany and other countries are doing around the world, resulting in big demand, manufacturing booms, reduced emissions, and ultimately, energy independence. Hire some unemployed folks to process loans and deal with the unbelievable lag in getting home-loan and refinance approvals; lend out the money the banks repaid the US for bailing them out. To stimulate smart infrastructure development and modification, as well as a smart auto industry, change tax policy to assure Americans that gasoline will never again be cheaper than it is today, and that, in fact, gas prices will maintain a slow, steady increase.

Make education free and voluntary. Right down to elementary school level, if kids and parents don't value school, don't make them. Mandated benefits lose their luster. Maybe if kids had to apply for first grade, they'd value it again. By the same token, schools wouldn't have to retain students who weren't there to learn. But maybe they'd want to get educated for exciting new jobs in health care for people who at last could get some, and in green technology, and even in teaching.

And while we're at it, maybe we should resurrect the old across-the-board ten percent income tax proposal. Because everything is too darn complicated!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

East is East...

So I got on the #358 at Fifth and Jackson, after a visit to the Wing Luke Museum -- what a guy, Mr. Wing Luke, and what an interesting place of history and art and political statement! -- with a container of sliced barbecue pork, which I'll be eating tonight for dinner in a salad of arugula and sliced nectarines (here at the home of Peaches/Nectarines R Us).

The bus was pretty empty at that point, so I got to watch everybody get on. A young Hispanic-looking family with about five kids, two moms, one dad, and two giant strollers took over most of the front bench seats. The dad sat down near me and turned on his phone or iPod or whatever, and started listening to fairly loud raucous music.

A young black guy had sat down beside me by then, in the first front-facing row. He finished up his small bag of barbecued potato chips. I said, "Greasy fingers." We discussed that problem a bit, then I told him I don't eat that kind of food, but they smell so good, he was making me want some. "Moderation," he said.

The other guy kept listening to his loud music. My seatmate leaned over and handed him a CD, called him "Bro." Soon the family all got off, but my guy stayed on, so obviously he wasn't technically a "bro" of that family. So I said, "You a musician?"

"Yeah," he said, "I'm a scribe. I write down what's going on, and my feelings, and put it to a beat."

I thought about that, then I said, "I write a blog. I write about what's going on and my feelings, about moving to Seattle from a small town and being single and sixty."

"Oh yeah?" he said. "You listen to rap music?"

"Well, I'm not really sure," I said. He handed me a CD, said, Listen to it, pass it on if you don't like it. He stuck out his hand and told me his name is East, and I shook hands and said, I'm Mary. He said his MySpace info is on the disk, to let him know what I think, and send him a link to my blog.

I'm playing it right now. It's really listenable, musically varied. I'm interested in what East thinks; the words are important (though, honestly, I'm needing to overlook the n-words and s-words and f-words, but it could be a lot worse).

Thanks, East.

And thanks, Metro Transit. Because where else am I likely to have run into East?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Throwing A Little Happiness Around

Clive Thompson wrote the recent New York Times story, Is Happiness Catching? focusing largely on the work of social scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. Their studies suggest you can catch not only happiness, but possibly obesity and smoking, or their healthy antitheses.

Thompson concludes his article with this:
...if you want to improve the world with your good behavior, math is on your side. For most of us, within three degrees we are connected to more than 1,000 people — all of whom we can theoretically help make healthier, fitter and happier just by our contagious example. “If someone tells you that you can influence 1,000 people,” Fowler said, “it changes your way of seeing the world.”

There is some debate. The chief question is, just because we see, for example, that if one friend gets fat, others may too, do we know that the friendship "causes" the change? What about the new McDonald's in the neighborhood?

Scientists who agree it's difficult to prove the point still have a hunch it's true.

And so do we, don't we? We all know that a friendly salesclerk can make your day, while a surly one can drag you down.

One reason I like Seattle so much is that I find pleasant people everywhere. Yesterday I saw a Zodiac rescue a small sailboat having trouble tacking its way out of the ship canal in Fremont. The organic fruit guy at Fremont Market not only gave me a great deal on my peaches -- yes, third box this summer! -- but also arranged to phone me when he was heading home so he could drop off the heavy box in my neighborhood, since no way could I hump 24 pounds of peaches up the Fremont hill. And then he piled on some extra free stuff, like blueberries.

I guess I'd have to say, not everybody is as ready to smile first as I am, but they're almost all ready to smile back. So obviously, smiling is contagious.

For a semi-retired person like me, whose chief existential daily question is whether I'm doing enough to earn my place in the world, this is great news. Happiness is my work. (Along with inviting a buddy over last night for Scrabble and peach shortcake. Geez, I hope I'm not going to have a McDonald's-like impact in my neighborhood.)

But since people are already so nice in Seattle, am I needed here? Well, there was that guy, on Saturday, where you have to skinny along the tightly enclosed sidewalk to get across the Ballard Bridge, who wouldn't even turn his shoulders to let me pass on my bike, so my shoulder slammed into his shoulder, and then my bike and I slammed into the wall, and he never even stopped to look at me. What was that about? Obviously, that guy needs a better social circle.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yappy Hour?

A week ago I was on the #44 heading for Ballard and a dance at Leif Erickson Hall. A man and a woman, each with wavy gray hair, each carrying a dog with wavy dirty white hair (which looks a lot like gray hair), got on.

People are really friendly on buses, especially the ones who are liquored up, so they asked the pair where they were going. They said they were on their way to Yappy Hour at some pet place.

Me, I can’t fathom this. A nice [quiet] dog is a delight, but going on purpose to an enclosed space full of people and dogs? Honestly, I give the leash-free area at Woodland Park a wide berth. I’m having enough trouble sharing my buses with all the dogs that are riding lately. What is that?

It’s got me thinking I’m a cat person. Of course I am allowed neither dog nor cat in my apartment in Fremont. So what I mean is not the kind of pet I want, but the kind of person I am. For example, if you lived with me, I wouldn’t be showing up at the door with a friendly bark when you got home. I wouldn’t be jumping up and licking your face. But I’d be hoping you’d end up at the couch with me once you’d leafed through your mail and loosened your tie. I like that subtle, boneless way cats have of getting close. I purr easy.

Year of the Dog

Mary wrote this column for the Port Townsend Leader in 2006. It came to mind during her recent musings on dogs and cats.

A recent column of mine involved in part the encounter of a friend with a handsome man at the Food Co-op, and how exciting she found it. When another friend read it, she said, “You shouldn’t write that stuff. That guy’s going to know who you’re writing about.”

“And?” I said.

“Well, why should he get that satisfaction?”

And there, I’m thinking, is the pitiful situation of the sexes. But not for me, not this year. Because if it’s the Year of the Dog in China, and it is, there’s no reason we can’t make it the Year of the Dog in Port Townsend.

What has this to do with gender relationships? Stick with me. But I warn you, if you’re a woman, you may not like it. And if you’re a man, you may not like it either.

I just read a book that says, yes, it’s true that men are from another planet, as we all now know so well from that other book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. But how helpful is that? You don’t put down the book with a sigh of relief and say, “Now I get it! I’ll treat Joe just like the aliens I know!” However, this new author says we do know how to relate to another species men resemble: men, he says, are pretty much like dogs. In a good way. He says women are much more complicated and difficult, and should be thankful and relieved at how easy men are.

Communication is the issue, of course. Think how simple it is to know what dogs want, even though they don’t speak any human language. We know when dogs want to go out, to play, to eat, to be rubbed on their bellies, and to be left alone. You pay attention, you get a few basic things down, and you and your dog will have a long and fulfilling relationship on both sides. You don’t want him peeing on the rug all the time, but if it happens once, you’re not going to take it personally and hold it against him for the rest of his life. (Incidentally, the toilet seat thing? Why is it that men are expected to put it back down? Why aren’t women expected to put it back up? But I digress.)

I love helpful relationship info. I was thrilled when I read the Mars/Venus list of easy things men can do to please their women (page 180). The author is so right, and I figured once men saw how easy it is, they would be eager to please. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my ex to read through the list without falling asleep on the couch. But am I expecting too much? Would my dog read that list? Of course not.

So you see how taken I am with the dog analogy. I’m not sure how the men I know will like it, though. I’d hate it if they thought it was demeaning or condescending. But hey, do I feel condescended to just because what I want from a man is written down in a bestseller you can get at any library? Heck, no!

Even my friend Amy was not as excited by the dog thing as I was. All she would say was, “I have a dog.” Yes, okay, I see her point. There are definitely things I hope for from a man that I would not expect of a dog. But I just keep thinking how happy a dog is when you get home, and he starts barking before you even get the door open, and then he comes straight to you, and you grab his face and rub his ears and keep saying, “Oh you’re such a good dog!” Just for this year, I’d like to see how it goes with the men in my life -- my nephews, my mailman, my dance partners -- when I make a point of paying fond attention to them. My own personal Year of the Dog.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cooking for One, Again

As I have mentioned, I may eat for one, but I definitely cook for way more. And usually, it’s just fine.

But weekend morning waffles. That’s a little lonely.

And who you gonna call at 8:30 on a Saturday morning? They’ve either already eaten and jumped on their bikes, or you’ll be waking them from a sound sleep, or they live so far away and poke along so slowly you’ll be tired of the whole idea by the time they get there.

And if you plan it ahead of time, what if it turns out you want to sleep in instead? What if you want to wear your PJs all day?

But all week I was thinking how delicious my lovely peaches would be, sliced and lightly sugared on glorious waffles!

I’m fortunate enough to have a vintage waffler; true, you have to jiggle the cord where it plugs into the prongs, and the “done” light functions erratically, but that baby cooks a waffle in three minutes or less!

So I made them this morning. On my own, I could only eat half a waffle. (Two whole peaches, though.)

But they’re even better toasted out of the freezer. I’m looking forward to eating them all week.

Mary’s Waffles

(Simple, but so good. The buttermilk and the cornmeal are key.)

In a mixing bowl, combine 1/4 c oil, 1 egg, and 1 1/2 c buttermilk. In a large measuring cup, measure 1 1/2 c flour, 1/4 c cornmeal, 2 t baking powder, 1/2 t baking soda, and 1/4 t salt. Plunge your dry whisk in carefully and mix it a little, then add to wet ingredients and stir just to combine; overstirring is bad!

Makes four big round waffles.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Brooks on Obama

I would so love to believe that my President Obama has spent the morning as I have, reading David Brooks in the NYT. For one thing, Brooks references the Goldhill article in the current Atlantic, which is a superb analysis of what's wrong with health care and how to fix it. But basically Brooks is saying, if he had an hour with the pres to work on his upcoming health reform speech, he'd say, "Do it. You promised change; show me."

One of the commenters on Brooks' piece says, essentially, 'I voted for you because you're smart and brave. So be smart and brave. Stop conceding.' My view exactly.

And -- is this racist? I quake to think it, let alone to write it -- but can there be something going on based in the awful experience of being African-American in this country, that makes our dear president believe that if he does everything possible to get along, the bullies will finally be won over?

I don't think they will. Time to kick some butt, Mr. President.

Oh, are you wondering what all this has to do with being sixty and single in Seattle? It's a brainful life here, full of stimulation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Little Learning...

I guess you could say my reading has sunk to a new low. I propose here to record something of a review of a serious work of nonfiction, on the basis of a look at its first three pages. The book is The Alphabet versus the Goddess, the author, Leonard Shlain. It was recommended to me by a guy at a dance Sunday night, which is when the entire Seattle Public Library closed for a solid week due to budget cuts. So I went to Amazon, which gave me those first pages for free.

Shlain's idea is that, though literacy has brought enormous and undeniable benefits to the world, it came, as so many things do, with an inherent curse. "Writing subliminally fosters a patriarchal outlook;" it is inherently masculine. He says, oh so helpfully on page two, his focus will be, "how did the invention of the alphabet affect the balance of power between men and women?"

So what does he mean, "masculine"?

"For now," he says, "I propose that a wholistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete view of the world are the essential characteristics of a feminine outlook; linear, sequential, reductionist, and abstract thinking defines the masculine." Okay, for the sake of the argument, I'll go along with that.

Ever the good student, I'm raising my hand now. "So you mean, Mr. Shlain, feminine is like that lady yesterday?"

Yesterday was my first Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class of the season. Our prof seemed a most impressive woman, on-time, in-charge, direct. But she had invited a friend to address us for this first session, a public arts administrator. She looked the part: professional, with an artsy edge. Charcoal gray pleated skirt, matching vest that laced up the back like a backwards corset. Red high heels. Red bag that probably cost as much as my monthly rent.

She was supposed to talk for an hour, including a PowerPoint presentation, but once she started, she couldn't stop. She spoke warmly and informally and knowledgeably, but I think you could definitely say her approach was, as Shlain would have it, wholistic, simultaneous, and concrete (I'm not sure what he means by 'synthetic.') It was like being invited on a tour of the city, and instead of having a map and a route, or even a destination, somebody just grabs your hand and starts running, and you're up one stair and down another, and back across the street, and then jumping on a bus, then hey, I'll bet that guy will give us a ride!, and on and on.

Which makes me appreciate Mr. Shlain, who, aware as he is of its deficiencies, nevertheless gives us a masculine approach to his study. He tells us where he intends to go, with that question on page two.

I'm enjoying pondering his question in this interim before I get a look at his full argument. I'm wondering how the alphabet could have worked to the detriment of women, except that, duh, it was denied them. (Still is, by the Taliban.)

I have an even more basic question. He says, after his list of masculine/feminine characteristics, "Although these represent opposite perceptual modes, every individual is generously endowed with all the features of both." (And I can give you a masculine example, another OLLI prof, another wholistic simultaneous concrete meanderer, but with this difference: he seemed to be checking at every stage for our consent, a quality I might have considered feminine.) So hasn't Shlain thereby delivered the knockout punch to his own argument? If we all have all the characteristics, why would just one gender bear the consequences of the introduction of the alphabet?

I'm not going to find out until the library comes back to life. (I'm picturing the sleeping princess, and the intrepid prince, awakening her with a kiss. Come, sweet prince.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cooking for One

Frankly, those cookbooks with recipes for one person have always mystified me: Why would anyone go to all that work for a single serving of anything?

Tonight, for example, I oven-poached a whole, wild-caught Coho salmon -- just four pounds, but still, a whole fish. Pieces cost $7.99 a pound, while the whole fish was just $20. I can’t pass up that sort of thing. Plus, now this baby is poached, I can eat it for, oh, four days, perhaps.

I made a coleslaw to go along, and a cheater peach salsa: I minced a fresh peach with some fresh cilantro and stirred in a bit of my favorite Safeway chipotle salsa. If I’d had an avocado, it would have been the perfect addition. (Maybe I’ll get one for tomorrow night.)

About the peaches? I bought a box of 24 pounds, organic, at the farmer’s market on Sunday for $25. I had to do it; the day before, I spent nearly $5 for three peaches at PCC! A single gal can’t afford to throw away money like that.

The Salmon

Wash the salmon, and place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Lay some thinly sliced onion and dried basil inside the fish. Salt lightly and splash on a bit of white wine. Then cover the foil with another piece and seal it up. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until just flakeable. Move the fish to a warm platter to sit a moment, while you fold the foil into a funnel, drain the juices into a saute pan, and quickly reduce them into a sauce to pour over the fish. (Or forget that last bit and just let the juices turn into aspic and enjoy them tomorrow on your cold salmon plate.)

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies