January 21st, 2006

Making Do

In an effort to reign in spending and reduce the amount we waste, I've been trying to do a better job of eating what we already have instead of buying new comestibles or going out. Sometimes, though, what we have is not in optimal condition. For example, we had some TJ's greens that, while not hopelessly slimy, were well on their way to lassitude.

In the summer I'd put them out for the tortoises. At this time of year, though, I would once have simply tossed them out. I mean, who wants uncrisp lettuce? But then it struck me. Why not treat the greens the same way that I'd treat "real" greens of the Southern sort?

I washed them off, sorted out the leaves that were too far gone, and heated them in a non-stick pan until they were reduced to a heap of limpness. Then I got out the cast-iron pan and started heating it on low. I then tossed in a cut-up onion and two turkey andouille sausages sliced into rounds, waited until the edges of the onion pieces started to brown, added a little olive oil and a couple frozen Israeli garlic cubes -- also from TJ's -- and simmered the mixture until the onion pieces started to separate into transparent scallops.

At this point, I poured in a little white wine to deglaze the pan, then let most of the liquid evaporate before adding the greens. While the cast-iron pan continued simmering, I used the non-stick pan to fry up some sunny-side up eggs. When the yolks were firm enough on top to permit me to transfer the eggs to my plate without having the still runny interior spill out, I scooped the greens-sausage-and-onion mixture out of the cast-iron pan and slid the eggs on top.

The result was much better than I'd expected. And I was expecting the dish to be pretty good based on smell alone. The greens had enough residual bitterness to taste like "real" greens. The andouille and onions were the perfect flavor partners. And the yolks, once punctured, seeped into the bed of dark pseudo-Southern goodness with aplomb. Total cost? About $5. But when you figure that I would have thrown the greens out otherwise, it feels like a bigger savings.

A Child Can Dream

Skylar just told me that she had a strange dream last night. "I was in a desert landscape. Except it was like outer space so there wasn't air. I needed to get out. There were double doors, but I thought I wasn't allowed to open them. Eventually I opened them anyway. Once I was outside I could breathe normally. The dream made me very thirsty." I asked her whether she woke up wanting a glass of water. "No, I had a drink in the dream after I walked through those doors." Needless to say, I'm finding it hard not to read this narrative for my own allegorical ends. If nothing else, that impulse serves to distract me from wondering why a seven-year-old is having such an existential nightlife.

Game Day

Skylar woke up extraordinarily late today -- after 11am -- which was a boon, since she was underslept from the previous two evenings' dad-deferred bedtimes. When she did finally stir from her slumber on the sofa, she already had games on the brain.

First she worked on an amusement park ride for the hermit crabs she is slated to bring home tomorrow. Then she spent hours designing a new game while Bob Dylan's Greates Hits played four times through on auto-repeat.

As we were getting ready to drive down to campus for the Cal-Arizona contest, she let me on her invention. "It's called, 'Separated.' There are two houses. A white girl lives in one and an Asian girl in the other. The point is for them to end up together." Apparently, all the talk they devoted to MLK Jr. and Civil Rights Day, coupled with the content of songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," had her thinking long and hard about the problem of segregation.

That made for an interesting prelude to the basketball game. Thanks to my former student -- one of the most thoughtful, wise people you're ever going to meet and a better endorsement of the Arizona program than any publicist could dream up -- we had seats behind the Wildcats' basket, alongside the family and friends -- as well as present and future girlfriends -- of the Arizona players. This meant that we had to wait in a special line for our tickets.

It also meant that, unlike almost everyone else in the McKale center, we were surrounded by the sort of diversity I associate with the East Bay or central Los Angeles. As was the case in previous trips to see the Bears lose to the Cats, I was ever so glad not to be surrounded by red-clad senior citizens whining over every play that goes against their team like senior citizens who complain about paying taxes to educate other people's children. Being in the special section where we were made it a lot easier to concentrate on the action

Still, there were times when the crowd got to me. Like when an Arizona player accidentally elbowed a Cal player in the head, leaving him nearly motionless on the court for several minutes. Protocol at sporting events is to cheer for any injured player, whether on your team or your team's opponent. Not only did the bulk of the red-clad horde vociferously boo the foul call that resulted from the play, they also had the nerve to boo even louder when the Cal player finally got to his feet. That was the only time I broke out of the mellow mode I was carefully inhabiting for Bean's sake. After shouting a few expletive-free barbs at the 14,000 Arizona fans around me, I explained to her that you should always treat people with respect and wish them well if they get hurt.

There was an eery moment of convergence when the P.A. started blasting The Offspring's signature song during a timeout. "This song is about the same problem as the game you invented today," I explained to Skylar, "They're trying to say that it's wrong to keep people separated because of how they look or what they believe." I've never really been into So-Cal surf punk, but that reminder of the Rodney King-beating and the uprising that followed the verdict from his abusers' trial sounded far better to me today than it ever did before. Clearly, the stars were properly aligned today for a constellation that would make Walter Benjamin beam.

The game itself was considerably better than the AP write-up suggests. There were too many turnovers. Cal was especially bad on that score. And the shooting percentages weren't too hot. But there were many excellent plays from both sides. Arizona freshman Marcus Williams is clearly destined for greatness -- and only a two-year stay with the Wildcats, I suspect -- demonstrating that he was the Wildcats' most talented player on numerous occasions, despite shooting poorly. Hassan Adams didn't have his best game, but did enough to help his team win, as he has done so many other times during his four years in Tucson.

Although I was glad to finally watch Cal play a close contest at McKale, I couldn't help but feel that they bungled away a win. If Richard Midgely could regain even half his confidence, the Bears would become a very tough out indeed. Ayinde Ubaka made some beautiful moves. Leon Powe lived up to his advance billing and led a break to boot. DeVon Hardin showed why NBA scouts are getting hip to him by blocking several shots and throwing in a soft half-hook over everyone. Omar Wilkes showed off his fine genes by looking as smooth as his dad used to. And freshman Theo Robertson proved that his performance against ASU Thursday was no fluke.

Yet Cal still managed to lose. Frankly, though, I was so delighted to be watching the game with Skylar and to have it be a close, exciting affair for her benefit, that I came out of the arena feeling like a winner regardless. When you have a chance to tie with five seconds left and your best three-point shooter has a clean look go halfway down before rimming out, well, that's close enough in conjunction with feeling overwhelming love for your family to slot basketball into the same category as horseshoes and hand grenades.

I should add, in closing, that Bean was an even better basketball buddy than I'd imagined. She spent a lot of time worrying about whether Leon Powe was getting in foul trouble, as any Cal fan must. "That wasn't on 44, was it?" She commented on the Arizona fans' penchant for turning the sweetest grapes sour. "You could see that was a foul. What's their problem?" And she managed to root for the Bears while still showing affection for her hometown team. "The only team we really have to not like is Stanford. That tree is ridiculous." As rewards for her superb companionship, she walked home with a stuffed "Wilbur Wildcat;" a belly full of pink lemonade, kettle corn, and the peanuts you have to shell yourself; and a cheek that had been repeatedly covered in kisses. "Let's shout, 'Go Bears,' dad. Come on!"