Category Archives: Thou shalt not waste

What’s the secret to a great city?

I wish I knew.

(A real-life city) is a malleable and teeming landscape, where ever-changing populations put our buildings and spaces to their own desired use. Some sights are familiar; others come and go. The thing they all share is the ground beneath our feet.

–John King, San Francisco Chronicle

Some say this the Golden Era of the Golden city of San Francisco. Other says the soul of the city is in danger of being lost forever.

Most of us who live here, know both to be true. What we don’t know is exactly how to pull from the best of these tremendous forces of change to unlock the secret of a truly great city that embraces all of its inhabitants.  In the abstract we know what a great city looks like. But in the real life sweat and swings of San Francisco, few of us are ready to admit, we have know idea.

We wish we knew.

The slow crawl to suburbia that defined the 20th century now has swerved and turned and headed straight back into the pulse of urban life. Our cities are dramatically changing, as is the expectation of what life can be like within them. Our commitment to city life has never been greater and for all the best reasons.

So we all moved back, but to what? That remains the central issue.

We know every city has a pulse. Each evolves in its own way. Decisions and investments will chart that course for better or worse. Building a sustainable, vibrant city for the vast swath of diverse people who call it home takes intentional effort. A city’s change doesn’t just “happen” though, for many of us, it may seem that way. We have a role to play. It’s an inspiring role, one with a passionate call to help define the place we call home.

We believe in the priority of home, of putting our expertise to work in shaping cities that work for all. We all have a responsibility to the ground beneath our feet.

  • To help those in need.
  • To be a source of care for those around us, by being polite, by paying attention to others, by doing what we can to spread the energy of joy.
  • To advocate for what we believe in and push for solutions.
  • To pay it forward.

Once upon a time, people identified strongly with a sense of place. They represented their hometowns and they lived in a manner cognizant of their impact on others. Today, such things are out of step with an epidemic of focus on self.

But for a truly great city to be the type of place we take pride in calling home, it takes more than self-interest. It takes a renovation of a long-lost priority of community.

Whether this is San Francisco’s Golden Age or the season of loss remains to be seen. The answer will likely be found in a basic approach of how we live with one another.

 

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A tiny, distant, thrilling part of humanity’s turning point

I can’t help but think humanity saved the planet today.

Earth To Paris community — 

There is reason for celebration.  At the COP21 United Nations conference in Paris today, officials from nearly 200 countries reached a new agreement to address the threat of global climate change.  

The phrase “the world is watching” was used by everyone. The Secretary-General, the hosts, nation states, activists, experts, scientists. They watched because a new reality of digital connectivity and social media and global public engagement made that possible. That is at the heart of the #EarthToParis coalition and what each of you made possible. A connected, social world lets the entire planet be part of a summit moment and a Paris discussion.

The afternoon has been filled with hugs, tears, and standing ovations at Le Bourget as French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius gaveled in the agreement with an appropriately green gavel: “It’s a small gavel, but I think it has a big impact.”

We know this agreement alone will not meet the threat of climate change; that will require continued ambitious action from governments, the private sector, and all of us to limit the global rise in temperature and move more rapidly toward a clean energy future with net zero emissions.

But after decades of debate, the battle over the reality of climate change is over. Countries from every region of the world and every stage of development have committed to act because they recognize that it is in their self-interest and in humanity’s common interest.

Thank you for all your efforts and being part of the turning point on climate change.  

Aaron Sherinian and Zain Habboo

United Nations Foundation

When CEO and Founder of Amplifier Strategies Allison Duncan sent this email a few minutes ago that noted the agreement of nearly 200 countries at the COP21 United Nations Conference in Paris, I felt the smallest twinge of … what exactly? Community.

Community is what turned this. Countries with nothing in common except a growing reality that the course we’ve chosen would eventually ruin the miraculous one-in-a-galaxy, hospitable-to-humanity planet called Earth.

We’ve known this for decades, but only now do we admit to being responsible and capable of correcting the course. We can– and will–save Planet Earth.

As part of Amplifier’s team, I worked remotely in support of our conference in Paris on Dec. 9 called Climate & Capital. This one-day, invitation-only event brought together a community of global investment leaders who represent about $1 trillion in managed assets. The conference laid out a compelling case for a new lens for viewing investment risk and opportunity–opportunities in low-carbon energy and growing risk with planet-killing fossil fuels. Former Vice President Al Gore attended its reception. This conference was on the leading edge of what is to come and couples perfectly with the COP21 agreement. Finance has been the missing piece of climate change, but that has already begun to change. My colleagues inspire me with their vision, work and commitment to this cause for the past year.

I’m thrilled to have played this minuscule part in a critical moment in the human story. When we look back at this day and talk of the time when the death of planet turned back toward life, I can say I had this tiny, thrilling part to play.

As I said, I can’t help but think humanity saved the planet today.

But more importantly, I wonder, what we humans will do with a saved planet now to make it a better place for all?

Seriously, what is wrong with us? Bully no more

Bullies suck.

Bullies are over-compensating kids who express hurt, sadness, fear, need for control or some combination of all of the above by punishing those they don’t like or who are physically inferior to them. They pick on unsuspecting and undeserving victims to make themselves feel better about their Effed up life. And while I’d like to feel compassion for them, they make it really, really hard. Mostly, I want to give them a taste of their own medicine.

Bullies start out as children, but they rarely evolve. They trample their way through life. Few things are as sad as an adult bully. God forbid their children. Something about bullying stunts that better part of us that values other humans and pets and places and in the latest news, robots.

Some bullies happened across a defenseless robot who did nothing but hitchhike and spread cheer. They promptly beat it into disrepair, according to various news reports. The robot was the size of a child. It’s creators could track where it went. The robot sent back photos every 20 minutes. It moved only by the kindness of strangers, who’d then leave it for the next Good Samaritan to give it a ride.

The robot had crossed Canada and parts of Europe when it set out from the East Coast with a sign on it reading “San Francisco or Bust.” Can you imagine how this city would have greeted that little dudess? Bat shit. Just nutty insane.

Instead, it didn’t make it past some bullies in Philly, who beat the robot into oblivion and then sent a picture of its demise. The tracking device was broken so the robot’s owners can’t even go pick it up.

Like I said, bullies suck.

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I was nearly a bully. For some reason in the second or third grade I had it out for a guy named Keith Klump, who, as I recall, did absolutely nothing to nobody. But I decided I was going to beat him up. I let it be known around the school yard, just as bullies do, that I was going to beat him up. Keith responded as most innocent victims do. He ran.

Turns out he was fast. Day after day, he’d bolt from the classroom at the end of th day and sprint home. The class bell was like a starter’s pistol. Day after day, I vowed to get him until one day I did. I think I made an excuse of needing to go the bathroom so I could be outside, waiting to pounce. I caught him in some bushes near the school and a small crowd gathered to watch the attack. I sat on his chest and waved a fist and noticed something strange. Keith never once fought back. He just laid there, limp as a dog, waiting. I yelled at him to fight back, and he ignored me. I cursed at him, and he ignored me. I fake punched him, and he ignored me.

In the end I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hit someone that defenseless. Furious, I climbed off him and had a slew of choice words for him, but inside I was a dark knot of ugliness that I couldn’t tolerate. It took me awhile, but I realized I would never be a bully. I never forgot the courage of Keith Klump. It changed me. I’ve never apologized to Keith, but I have fought my inner bully ever since.

I have also fought bullies. I tend to seek them out. Most conflicts in my life circle back to this theme. When a bully does his thing, I bully right back. At times this may have seemed noble, but in the end it was just a continuation of the bully creed: violence, ugliness and hurt. At times I didn’t notice when the tables turned and I slipped into the bully role.

Peace is the greatest power in the world. It takes the real courage and makes the more lasting impact.

The robot may have met its demise, but the story has spread even further today because of it. For every American bully that gives us yet another black eye for our violent nature, our love of guns, our hate of those difference than us, our culture of bullying, a dozen Good Samaritans will rise up.

Somehow, I think a hitchhiking robot will ride again and this time when it makes it to San Francisco they bullies will know they never, ever, win.

Building a SF Dynasty: don’t re-sign the panda

Let’s just get the bad news out there first: Pablo Sandoval, beloved, chubby, enigmatic, playoff heroic third baseman for the World Champion San Francisco Giants should not be re-signed this off-season.

It will be a disastrously unpopular move if the Giants, but it is the correct one. This will feel like John Lennon leaving the Beatles or Joe Montana in Kansas City Chiefs uniform. But it still needs to be done.

The ticker tape is over, the billion-dollar debacle that is Levi’s Stadium is now open and our beloved AT&T Park closed for the winter. The love remains, but if we want to celebrate at City Hall again anytime soon, the tough love part of the thankless job of general manager must begin now.

Yet I know it likely won’t. GM Brian Sabean will likely overpay the Panda out of loyalty and love. For the next six years we will have a ginormous dead weight on the books that will rival Barry Zito’s awful deal. (Note: Barry Zito is a true member of the Giant. He is a better person. He saved us in 2012. His grace under fire proved him a true role model. I love the guy, but his contract remains one of the worst in baseball).

Because that’s what Sabes does. He overpays for veteran talent, even when it’s not ours. Remember Edgar Renteria’s $18 million?

Bill Simmons of ESPN did when he wrote simply of the Renteria signing, “Does Brian Sabean even watch baseball?”

Old, disinterested and slow are not what you pay over-market for a shortshop, but Sabes did and it was disaster right up until the 2010 World Series where Renteria made his last stand as a clutch ballplayer and led the Giants to a historic first championship. $18 million for a World Series is a steal. But toss in Barry Zito’s nine-figure albatross and Marco Scutaro’s millions not to play, Angel Pagan’s $40 million for part-time work and Tim Lincecum’s $35 million for long relief and well, you get the picture. Loyalty pays a dear price, which may just explain why the Giants can only win every other year.

Pablo Sandoval

Of course it sounds ridiculous to expect better than three World Series in five years. It’s astounding and nearly historic. But I’ll say what most everyone really believes: The Giants overachieve and win unlikely championships despite Sabean and his obvious problems in the roster because of sure-fire Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochey.

The reason the Giants are always underachievers? Because of those loyalty contracts weighing down the roster every single year. The team has a $150 million payroll that in reality is like a small-market $90 million payroll because of the dead wood contracts.

Sandoval is a charismatic talent and a great playoff player. During the season, he is prone to huge slumps, excessive weight gain, up and down years and a decided lack of power for a guy so… robust. Those Octobers makes you see what you miss during most of the season except for a few hot streaks when he single-handily carries the team. We love Sandoval because his energy is terrific, he is a model team player, he comes to play every single day and plays through pain. He loves baseball and plays like it.

He has vastly improved his defense, but remained a guy Bochey subbed for in the late innings. He couldn’t hit left-handers this year. He was a platoon player in disguise. You don’t pay $100 million for a platoon?

But what happens when he turns 30, gains another 30, and his love for other life’s pleasures tips the delicate scales of his unique talent toward debauchery?

Sandoval hitting .330 when he was a spry, agile catcher who had to train to stay in the lineup was a budding superstar. But since moving to 3B, he’s added weight, become a .270 hitter who never really did have much consistent power.  Now he wants — and some fool team like the Yankees will pay him — superstar dollars in excess of $100 million guaranteed. This is a man who ate his way out of the lineup in 2010 and couldn’t keep the weight of this season with a huge contract on the line. Do we really think he’ll stay in shape with $100 million bucks?

Just think of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth years of this deal? For a guy with a clearly neurotic compulsion to avoid waste, the thought makes me anxiously scan Google for a shrink.

I love the Giants. I love Pablo and the Panda hats. I’d hate to see him go, and knowing Sabean’s past I suspect I won’t. Instead I’ll see his contract become dead wood over a painfully long period that will cost the Panda all the love he’s stored up over his wonderful time here in San Francisco. Some good things must come to an end. This is one and it likely won’t and there won’t be much good to come of it.

A door of opportunity there if you look for it

I was jogging recently at a pretty snail-like pace, not really feeling it, when I came across a bare lot that had recently demolished the house that once resided there. All around it were lots with some fairly broken down places. It wasn’t felony flats, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere a real estate agent would purposefully drive by to show off the neighborhood.

Then the middle of the barren lot caught my eye and I actually stopped my run.

Someone had torn down everything else on the lot. Every weed, board, stick, broken glass, you name it.. except, a single red door.

I took its picture and ruminated about that door for the rest of my run.

How many times in life have I looked around at the fine mess my addiction and/or recklessness has caused and saw a stripped-to-the-dirt, empty-slate of a life that has so little left to show for it?

But each time, every time,  I also found the equivalent of that red door. I found something I could reach out, turn the knob, walk through and start again.

I call it grace. The red door is grace. And its there waiting. Every time.

It may have seemed like a joke at the time. By opening the door to the same empty barren lot of a life what really changes?

As it turned out, everything. Walking through those doors of opportunity that life afforded me even at my worst has made all the difference.

Nearly five years ago, life literally picked me up and chucked me through the door of recovery that seemed more barren, hopeless and desolate than anything I’d ever known before. I couldn’t fathom a life without alcohol. I envisioned perpetual grief over the loss, a constant feeling of absence and withdrawal.

Instead, as that blessed five year anniversary fast approaches, I know it’s anything but. I went through that red door of grace into a room of seeming nothingness and found instead a life I never knew could exist that had been waiting there for me all along.

Those red doors are there. Right in front of you. No matter how bleak the surrounding area, look for it. And when you find it, turn the knob, pass through to the other side and though it may feel very much like the same old thing, believe it isn’t. Because you’ve taken a first step into a new life that has been waiting for you all along.

Dry Earth gets pleasant drink on Earth Day

It’s raining here on Earth Day, which I know probably blows for the event organizers. But our beloved diamond in the rough planet really needed a drink today in this little corner of it. As I went out backpacking for a couple of days last week, I trudged over trails that should have been snow covered and crossed spring-runs that ran nothing, absent of water at a time when they should be abundant.

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As the rain hits my skylight, it drums a little beat of praise, which makes me glad.

What a strange world we’ve created through global warming, a world where winter didn’t come to the West Coast and yet a prolonged brutal one tortured the East. We’ve seen the droughts and the wildfires and the destroyed crops and closed ski resorts and empty lakes and yet we still seem more concerned with denying we’ve played a part with our billions of gallons of gas and wasteful consumption. We deny it exists like RJ Reynolds on trial against millions of smokers. When we do admit global warming is actually a “thing,” and not something Al Gore invented to sell some books and force us all to buy new appliances, we say “it’s not our fault” — “we” meaning humanity, as if something else is out there to blame — and go right on defending our right to destroy this blue/green celestial miracle. We are the collective reincarnation of Nero, fiddling while Rome burns.

I am forever grateful for those visionaries of Earth Day. Way back when, it seemed gimmicky. It took nearly 20 years for me to pay attention to it. Now, it’s importance cannot be understated. If they hadn’t pushed so hard, my ignorance would surely remain.

This past week we’ve read news of astronomers scanning the vastness of God’s universe in faint hope of finding a similar little planetary miracle like Earth that could actually sustain life. They are 500,000 light years away and have just a couple of candidates. I’m not sure how far that really is, but I know it’s not on Google maps in my lifetime. I’m stuck with this Earth — this beautiful, incredible, artistic Mona Lisa of creation — and I’m grateful of those who force its care into our attention.

I’m going to dance a little in the rain today to remind myself that each day I make a choice: to care for what God has blessed us with or to destroy it by my thousands of little choices. This year, this Earth Day, join me in a desire to make a few better ones this year than we did the year before.

What type of choices? Well, there’s so many that are so easy. Perhaps we can make a great long list here in the comments. I’ll start.

  • Drink water from the local tap instead of from plastic bottles hauled across the country.
  • Bike or walk locally to limit short car trips.
  • Plant a garden and eat local vegetables.

And… the list could go on endlessly as small steps to honor the Earth, care for it and keep protecting it for generations to come.

News from The Test Kitchen: Juiced up

In today’s age of debating everything, I mean everything, I found a topic that while it can still stir the pot really doesn’t have fierce opposition.

The statement: I need to eat more vegetables.

Nobody in the right mind would really argue this as vegetables have no down side. The totally bankrupt idea of the government’s food pyramid agrees few people in our country eat enough vegetables. Vegetarians are with me, without a doubt, “Can I get an Amen, Sister?!” Fadish Paleo-ites still value whole vegetables with all their carnivorous chowing down. Moms love this as “Eat your vegetables!” (did you ever notice how Mom didn’t eat a lot of vegetables and she never told Dad to eat his even though he mostly ignored them?) remains standard dinner conversation.

We all agree we need to eat more vegetables.

So the simple deduction is we must not like vegetables very much if we have such a universal under-consumption of them.

Not so fast (stay with me my veggie friends). What we really don’t like is the godawful way a lot vegetables are prepared, relegated for decades to the corners (side dish) of our plates, served in routinely bland after-thought methods, and often terribly over-cooked into some type of disgusting mash.

Also, compared to addictive, processed food, loaded with sugars, additives and salt that send our brain centers zipping around like a tweaker looking for the next high, veggies are too tame to garner much attention.

Thankfully, I’m rethinking this. I go back to the simple philosophy of Michael Pollan, who urged people to move proteins to the side dish and plant-based foods to the main course.

Suddenly vegetables never looked (smelled, tasted, made you feel) so good.

Even so, with vegetables crowding out our plates on most meals, I knew I could benefit from more vegetables in my diet. I studied up on the benefits of massive-nutrition levels from large quantities of vegetable consumption (Do I hear a Wheat and Chaff coming soon Joel Furhman? Can I get an Amen Brother?!) and wanted more.

The next logical step was juicing, which brings us (“at long last you wordy SOB,” you think to yourself) this week’s test kitchen: Juicing.

Doesn’t quite have the drumroll-effect of “CRONUTS!” does it? I know… but it sure does have a far better health effect.

So let’s first dispense with the problems of juicing that in my reading and experimenting I discovered are all-too-often whitewashed while proponents (I’m looking at you my veggie friends… fess up…) rush to sing about the merits. If juicing was so easy… say it with me now… “Everybody would do it!” (thank you Jimmy Dugan).

The problems:

  • Juicing is messy to make
  • Veggie juices don’t always taste too great, certainly compared to fruit juices and smoothies
  • Clean up is a pain in the arse
  • It’s expensive

True or false?

Sadly, true. All true, as we discovered in the Test Kitchen.

BUT…

Each is manageable and I’m here to tell you how. Can I get an Amen?

Amen! (Sometimes a preacher has to help out his own cause especially when 800 words in to a 400-word blog no readers are left to shout with me… sigh). The pitfalls are real, but with some planning they are manageable and worth it. Consuming these glasses of nutrition-loaded health bombs are very, very worth it and virtually immediately noticeable from a health perspective.

In the Test Kitchen this week we started with a basic idea of juicing the shit out of a bunch of stuff and seeing how it would taste.  So I took some beets, some carrots, some celery, some kale and tossed in some grapefruits and apples and even a whole fresh pineapple for flavor (and for the fun of breaking that bad boy down) and made a concoction.

It was… earthy. The Bride smelled it and tasted it and said (with 60% approval and 40% nose curling distaste) “It smells like a garden.” Translation: Dirt.

I realized the beets were both very, very strong and not so very clean. So for all future recipes be careful with the beets — they make a lot of juice, whereas kale, while strong, makes next to nothing — and go ahead and peel them, because their skin adds a lot of dirt.

The good news is my concoction worked. We used it in smoothies with plain yogurt and protein powder to make the healthiest, lowest-sugar content smoothies I’ve ever made and they tasted good. Not great, but good. We used all the juice.

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So the next step, now that I discovered both how the juicer would work and what to expect was to look for some actual recipes.

Frankly, I was disappointed. I read through a book on juicing and the recipes mostly took a couple of vegetables, tossed them in and said, “drink this and like it.” I felt the same rising anger I once did as a kid stuck alone at the dinner table unable to get up until I ate my vegetables. Surely if you’re producing a book on the merit of juicing it’s not too much to ask to put some thought and care into the actual taste of the drinks?

Unfortunately online really wasn’t much better. After a couple of hours I thought to myself, “ATTENTION MUST BE PAID!”

I resolved to craft some specific, planned, tried and tested, tasty juice recipes.

Then I stumbled on a “copycat” version of V-8.

I love V-8. I’m constantly thinking (bop to the head) “I should have had a V-8!”

So another trip to the store for another (expensive, more on that soon) grocery purchase and I was back in the test kitchen making my copycat V-8 juice from what appeared to be a very specific, very thought-out recipe.

It looked a little pale to me as I served it to my taste-testing Bride. She winced as she drank it.

“My god that’s spicy,” she said.

I took a drink and suddenly felt triggered for a Bloody Mary with a Mimosa chaser. Can I hear a “Grey Goose!?” Uh… no. Those days are gone. Sigh.

Vegetable juices should not make me want to relapse.

I blame myself because I have never… not once… found a copycat recipe that actually taste’s like the original dating back to the days when copycats swore they could bake like Mrs. Fields.

I ended up going back to the store for more tomatoes and ended up with a HUGE pitcher of still very strong (it’s the onion… way too much onion) and now only marginally tasty.

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So, the test kitchen continued (and I’m still slamming those virgin Bloody Mary’s like a frat boy with Jaigermeister on Friday night, because I’ll be damned if all that produce is going to waste).

Let’s talk briefly about the mess.

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Juice flies everywhere! I even got some on a cabinet about two feet above my head. Don’t ask me how. I figured out that like Jimmy Dugan who perhaps chastised too vehemently, I perhaps, shoved the veggies through the grinder too aggressively, causing the juice to spray too powerfully into a mess on my counter.

Over time I got a feel for it and it’s not too bad. It’s messy, make no mistake, but it’s not mopping the ceiling messy.

The cleanup of the machine itself take a few minutes. It’s not bad on a Sunday when I make juice for the week, but this whole idea of getting up and bada bing fresh juice and off to work is poppycock. I can’t see anyone wanting to mess with this when in a hurry and before their morning coffee:

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But in the scheme of things, the parts come apart pretty easily, they clean up quick enough and it’s really not out of the ordinary of a typical kitchen mess. So don’t let the mess scare you off, just plan when you want to make your juice.

As for the expense… vegetables cost more than processed shit. It’s just the way it is in our industrialized food economy that is bent on making you fat and killing you. If you want to fight back, stay healthy and eat right, it’s going to cost more. So I’m tackling this two ways:

I’ll buy into a CSA that will bring me a box of local produce regularly that I can budget into my monthly expense. I love the farmers market and will still go, but knowing a box of stuff picked for me will expand both my cooking and my juicing experiments, pump those vegetables into my system and support local farmers.

Also, I’m adding even more to my garden this year. If I can offset the costs with my very inexpensively grown produce and even learn to can these juices for winter then my produce bill will decline dramatically over time. It’s not unlike my steer “Dinner” who cost a bundle up front but has been so wonderful to both eat and to see the impact on my food budget over time that I’ll never go without a wonderfully locally raised steer in my freezer, God Willing.

And FINALLY, (hey.. that Amen was uncalled for buster!) let’s deal with the most important part of this whole exercise: taste. This stuff should (and soon will) taste EFFin DELICIOUS. IT should not and will not be for long “Ok.” The ingredients are fresh and pure and the healthiest things on the planet you can eat. They are colorful and exotic. It’s everything a true culinary artist should enjoy playing with.

So… once my first shipment of CSA produce arrives I’m going to do another Test Kitchen dedicated to recipes. And I have a simple plan you can do yourself right now if you are motivated: Mix all the various juices separately and then slowly combine in various amounts and combinations to find the most flavorful balance. Then add in the spices and flavors — a dash of this, a splash of that — until Effin Artistry of Juice results.

Sounds fun huh?

At long last, EFFin ARTIST is… out!

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Still playing hide the leftovers

I’ve written previously of The Bride’s finicky eating habits. For the most part we’ve resolved these differences.

I eat anything. Anything. I see any food as good if you find a good way to prepare it or pair it. Even my least favorite food, raisins, I’ve learned to like in certain things. The Bride simply doesn’t like a lot of things no matter what you do with them, like onions and fish, which really cramps my style.

Cramped style or not, we manage… with one notable exception: leftovers.

I’m ridiculously neurotic about waste. Waste pains me. It pains me so much that if you go back through my blogs, the longest, ranting, neurotic-filled posts fall under the category of “Thou Shalt Not Waste.

The Bride could care less. Before we married she thought a doggie bag was a designer purse for poodles. And all these years together has done very little to help us cross the deep, deep divide.

To be fair, all the movement… all of it… has been hers. I’m more nutty about waste now than I used to be. Much worse. She’s become very conscientious and aware in many areas of waste. But the gap remains, particularly around food.

Try as she might, that girl just doesn’t like leftovers. I can’t imagine not eating them. You eat a great dinner and, thrill of thrills, you know you can have it again for lunch real soon! This is largely why I eat lunch alone most days.

So what do I do? I hide the leftovers. Just like when our kids were little. I sneak in the things she won’t eat.

For awhile the Bride was catching on… and starting dubiously cutting into many “fresh” dinners looking for stealth leftovers. Eventually I think she figured out that if she kept pushing this she ran a real risk of starvation. She’s less inquisitive these days. As I said, all the movement on this issue is hers. It is one area I’m oddly, weirdly, rarely, intractable. I don’t even know why, but it’s beyond me.

The one upside in this whole thing is I’ve gotten really really good at hiding leftovers. Whatever I cook one day, gets a new outfit of pasta or rice or tortillas the next day, all dressed up and looking brand new. Steak one day is fajitas the next. Chicken breast becomes chicken stir fry becomes chicken salad. Leftovers aren’t static, they evolve.

And you know what… some really good shit results.

An experimental coffee pizza soon became coffee-flavored chicken, which ended up in a pasta lunch. Three meals from one experimental sauce. I look back at that one fondly.

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Let me ask you, Does this look like leftovers to you?

Well, the pasta was extra from a big plate of Alfredo. I tossed it in the freezer. The vegetables were the ones not used the day before in a stir-fry. I needed a quickie meal. Poof… pasta primavera.

The Bride loved it and never suspected the pasta was leftover.

I call that progress.

Eat gold, fret for the poor–You can’t do both

My daughter and her significant other were out for a fancy night on the town in our beloved City by the Bay recently. They went to a Michelin Star-rated restaurant to take in the best of culinary offerings in a city loaded with them. Toward the end of the many exotic and extravagantly prepared courses, she texted me a photo. It was dessert, sprinkled with gold.

“I’m not sure how I feel about eating gold,” she wrote.

Thank God, I thought. Because when it gets right down to it, if you say you care about the poor and want to make a difference, you really can’t eat gold. The idea has to bring you up short, just as it did my daughter.

Not that I want to make a bunch of rules here, but the absurdity reaches a point that once you become immune, you lose empathy. Soon, all those good deeds and humanitarian efforts become more about you and less about those in need.

Gold can’t taste good. So this restaurant that built its hefty reputation on taste, goes further into the presentation (the artistry, which obviously I respect and admire) and adds something of real value that drives up the costs but actually diminishes the taste. (my daughter says its not very noticeable). That’s counter to art in my mind.

People of wealth who use it for good should be commended. Philanthropy has long been essential to alleviating the suffering of those on society’s margins. But so much of modern altruism keeps the issues at bay. To be blunt, we like to help the homeless if we don’t have to smell them. We love to text $10 to the Red Cross far more than spend $10 on a couple cups of coffee to listen to the problems of someone who is scared shitless because they are on society’s margins.

I love San Francisco. I love the people and the liberal ethos that truly believes society as a whole can do a better job. Incredible movements of social change have been cultivated in San Francisco, from gay marriage to local food to religious tolerance to homeless activism. But too often my fellow San Franciscans want to cultivate a lifestyle of consumption, wealth and status with a healthy dose of altruism sprinkled into the stew.

For example, they’ll preach a good game about how we vote with our dollars when it comes to food, suggesting that anyone who doesn’t pay top dollar for local, organic, healthy food is contributing to the industrialized food economy that makes us sick and kills us. But then they think nothing of paying hundreds of dollars for a single meal with dessert dusted in gold.

The hypocrisy never hits home; their message of change is lost on those who need it most. The industrialized food system is killing the poor most of all. But they are also the least able to afford to vote with their dollars. Perhaps one less gold-dusted dessert instead spent on three bags of groceries for a family in need would send a bit more of a message for change.

Gold on dessert is a waste, simple as that. Until the wealthy recognize their own wasteful consumption and extravagance, they mute their own voice that advocates for those on society’s margins.

I told my daughter next time ask for the gold on the side and then give that to the panhandler on the walk home. Now that would be a vote for change.

Waste-not focus brings double-dip delight

I eat leftovers. The Bride doesn’t.

We’ve gone round and round about this. Waste not, I tell her. She smiles. I offer leftovers. She mulls it over and says, “No… not today. I think I’ll just have…”

Now I just refashion the leftovers into something new, which The Bride usually eats and enjoys. But just taking something out, opening the Tupperware, heating it up and serving it… well, that doesn’t fly for The Bride, which is funny, because The Bride doesn’t cook. I often think, “beggars can’t be choosers.” I have learned to think before I speak, so it remains a thought, not words and The Bride and I remain happy.

But everyone now and then karma wins. This weekend, with The Bride away, karma won.

For Christmas I made a delicious prime rib from our organically grown local steer. It was simply stunning:

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When it came time for clean up I knew I wanted to do something with the bones. I tossed them in the freezer for a later date. That later date came in February on a cold Saturday when I was home alone. I pulled out the bones and began researching ideas.

It’s sad really how little creativity the “professional” kitchen and cooking web sites offer. The vast majority of a Google search basically said, “make soup” or “make stock.”

Finally I found an idea to convert those bones into what they really are: ribs.

I made a batch of Effin Artist Barbecue Sauce. Then I poured some sauce and water in a Dutch Oven and put the bones in there. Two hours  later, I served myself a platter of excellence as pictured at the top of this post.

The cabbage is a brilliant rip-off from The North Woods Inn in Southern California, a place I’ve been going to for birthday dinners since I was about seven and my dad told me the snow on the roof was real, the bear in the lobby could spring back to life and yes, we really could throw peanuts on the floor.

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When I get around to making a list of my favorite restaurants, The North Woods Inn will be on it. Forty years later and I still can’t wait to go there on my birthday.

As I ate, I kept pausing to simply lick my fingers and RELISH the food I was eating. Food makes me happy, but this was different. It was memorable.  And it was from leftovers.

And The Bride missed out. Karma.

But I have to admit, even as I ate, I thought about saving a couple for her when she got home. They were that good. I thought about it.. and thought about it… until:

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Nope. This was one for the guy who eats the leftovers.

Like I said, Karma.