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August 10, 2001
a year ago
three years ago

Shopping In Boulder

I'm so glad it's Friday. I spent my work time today cleaning up after all the meetings of this last week, getting done the small things that I hadn't been able to get done with nearly all my time spent in meetings. There was quite a lot of it, and I spent my two hours happily ensconced and when Jet got back, ate, and promptly fell asleep for his middle of the day nap, I worked my other two hours, no problem and got lunch in besides.

John used the last of the leftover salad, piled refried beans and taco meat on top and added a grating of cheddar and a handful of crushed Doritos and we had quick taco salad. It was very good.

So by mid-afternoon I was completely done, and John had put enough extra time in that the three of us took off for Boulder to get brewing stuff for John and then just putz around town a little bit. The first stop was the brewing store, and John busied himself getting two batches worth of beer's worth of Stuff. The Stuff included cracked grains, flaked grains, various types of malt in both liquid and powdered form, hops of various varieties and yeast. I got some root beer and ginger beer extracts as the ginger beer had worked out so well for the pre-wedding party that I wanted to make more.

Safeway's pop was on sale for sixty nine cents a six pack and while one can't argue the price is good, the quality of the stuff leaves something to be desired. I don't really want to just drink carbonated sugar water with just a bit of flavor. I'd rather have stronger flavor and less sugar, and I figure the only real way to do that is to do it myself. The price for the extract is $4 for 4 gallons' worth, and two gallons is a case of 24, so that's eight six packs for $4, or fifty cents a six pack for something that tastes a whole lot better. I guess I should really count the bottle caps as well, but when they're $4 for a pound and I've yet to use the first pound of caps we ever bought after doing some dozen batches of pop, I don't think they'd be more than ten cents per six pack.

There is time, too, but then I guess the French bread I make for us takes time and a lot less money than the marshmallow loaves available at Safeway. It's pleasant time, too, washing, filling, and capping all the bottles. Mixing up the brew and then waiting and taste testing the bottles as they get fizzier and fizzier. It's also nice to balance it so that when they're what I really want, they get to be pulled and stored and the whole process is stopped. I think I really enjoy the amount of control I can get, and that makes a big difference in how I regard the work required to make them.

After that we went next door because I remembered, from mornings of sitting outside Dot's waiting for a table, a middle Eastern market right there, and I'd wanted to see what was in it. When we walked over, however, there was no Middle Eastern market to be seen. Instead, there was a Mexican market and bakery. We went all the way to the end of the strip mall and on the way back we wandered through the Mexican market. They had the usual Mexican bakery goods, sugar donuts, thick and creamy iced buns, jelly cookies, cinnamon twists, and, of course, the gingerbread pigs. I had to get one of the gingerbread pig. They're thick, molasses rich, deep brown biscuits shaped like pigs. They aren't very sweet, they do have just a trace of ginger to them, and they're just really good. I like them a lot. John got a cinnamon twist.

As I wandered about the store I happened upon packets of dried horchata. Horchata is a Mexican drink that Kathy introduced me to, and it's a drink that's made with dried milk, ground rice, and cinnamon. It's thick and has body to it and it's milky and sweet and rich with cinnamon. I never really thought about how people make it on a regular basis, I only ever got it when I went to Mexican restaurants in San Diego, and one shop in Seattle had a big jar of it regularly available. They would take a big ladle, stir the whole jar, and then ladle the portion out onto a lot of ice. The San Diego place had one of those constantly mixing drink dispensers, so it would be the right consistency every time.

So it turns out that it comes in packets of dried powder. The powder is just mixed with water, and then one adds ice. I was really happy I found it, so I bought a packet to try and see how it comes out at home. I don't know if the restaurants I had it at made it themselves, but this would do in the meantime.

It was fun to shop both there and at the brewing store. The car smelled of molasses and cinnamon, sweet grain malt and the bitter tang of hops as we drove into town to walk up and down the Pearl Street Mall. On the way there I thought it would be fu to stop by the Peppercorn to shop for the grinder I hadn't bought the previous time and that I wanted for cinnamon as well as for the peppercorns I did have it for. That seemed a good enough reason to be there, if not just for the walk and the weather itself. It was a pretty hot day, but we could see the thunderheads building over the Flatirons, looming over Boulder. It was still sunny, though, when we started from one end and walked towards the other.

The Peppercorn was relatively quiet, as it wasn't quite five, yet. We had plenty of time to wander through the shop and look at everything. They didn't have the grinders. They did have, however, a whole basket of the add-ons, which were jars of herbs or spices that could be used to store the herbs and spices with an air-tight lid when it wasn't on the grinder itself. This way someone could have multiple jars of stuff, and just pop the grinder on when they needed that particular thing. I thought it really vexing that they only had the add-ons and didn't carry the grinder that the add-ons were made to add on to. That just perplexed me mightily.

We went out of the store, started walking down the mall, talking about how vexing that was and then I suddenly slapped my forehead and went, "Duh!"

Uhm. Here I was looking for another grinder so that I could grind my cinnamon bark as well as the peppercorns that my grinder was presently using as grist. And right in front of me were these perplexing bottles whose only use was to hold things for... well... the grinder I already had!! So I could, instead of buying a whole extra grinder, just buy a bottle to hold the cinnamon so that it could be ground when I needed it. It was funny to find myself so set on a single track I hadn't been able to figure this out until we were well out of the store.

We did our walk all the way to the far end and came back and bought a bottle filled with oregano, since I use oregano fairly frequently anyway. Possibly more frequently than I use cinnamon. I might just have the secondary bottle left empty, so that I can put into it anything I like when I want to grind it. Then keep everything in a baby food jars, including whatever mixes of dried herbs and spices I want to make to grind together over certain foods. That was one thing that Oxo sold as well, and I was intrigued by the idea of being able to grind dried basil, oregano, and parsley together into something right when I wanted them. Even dried herbs taste better if they're crushed just before they're added to food. The oils that get lost with air, light, and time still lurk under the surface of the leaves. So they're best crushed just as they're added to release those oils that are still in the dried leaf.

On the way back to the car we happened by a shoe place with Birkenstocks on sale, even the plain Arizonas. So we both bought a pair. Mine are nearly fifteen years old, they've been retreaded twice, and now the foot bed was completely broken. So I didn't think they could do it again. So it was time to get a new pair. I'll throw the old ones out when I actually finish breaking the new ones in. It may be a while. New Birches feel like nothing more than a flat board when I first put them on, and it takes a while for them to get comfortable.

We headed home after that, and I thought about dinner on the way home and managed to make a fairly low fat version of spaghetti carbonate. In the original recipe it's bacon with a bit of flavoring and cheese and then usually egg and egg yolks added right at the end and cooked by the residual heat in the pasta. So I used turkey bacon instead of 'real' bacon, used less than a sixth the olive oil to cook onion, garlic, and sweet, frozen peas, and then only used one whole egg and a good deal of parmesan cheese for flavor and salt. I also peppered it all very generously, and that really enhanced all the flavors thoroughly. The turkey bacon I cooked first, crumbled and added at the last second and it kept it's crunch and sweet, smoky flavor. The single egg did lend richness and the white helped bind things a bit more tightly, so it was okay to use less egg in the whole dish. It really worked out well as a blend of textures and tastes.

We took a walk after dinner, just up and down the block, and I wore my new Birkies to do the gradual breaking in. I could really feel the straps eating into my feet and the bottoms were pretty hard. I was glad that I only did the relatively short walk in them, and it's a start. By the end of it, I was glad to be out of them, but they were also starting to bend a little better where the ball of the foot was.

The sky was very impressive when we started out. The passing rain clouds had covered most of the eastern part of the sky, but there was clearing to the west, so the light fell on the mountains like it was one of those layered Japanese pictures, with each layer of mountains getting fainter and fainter with distance. Longs Peak was a giant ghost of pale pink behind lavender, then purple and finally black foothills. The cloud also dispersed the light enough to send rays down like a veil of light before the mountains. It was really gorgeous, and totally transient, by the time John found the digital camera, it was gone, the edge to the light against the mountains had faded.

I may well miss the mountains when we leave here. Though more for those mountains set against the infinity of sky, then for themselves. That along with even having multiple varieties of Mexican food here, not to mention molasses pigs and horchata mix. Okay, okay, I'm finding things I can love here, is that so bad? <grin>

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Copyright 2001 Liralen Li. All Rights Reserved.