Dog's Dinner

"You're not loved because you're lovable, you're lovable 'cause you're loved."

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Dark Meat, Bag Technicians, and Other Unsung Joys

Let us now thank the Small Man, and look forward to further
contributions from the noted poet, scholar, and all
around Jolly Good Fellow.

Hope everybody had a Happy Thanksgiving. It was a day of
considerable pain, worry and unpleasantness for some of my family back
home, but it looks like everything is going to be OK, so that's
something to be thankful for.

Didn't do much celebrating on Thursday except for having a pot-luck breakfast (mostly cakes, pies, and fruit; I brought the cheez&crackers) with my first class that morning.

Then Friday morning before class I brunched on a
turkey cutlet with a generous portion of steamed potatoes at my
favorite of the local "milk bars" (a milk bar in Poland means a
cafeteria that doesn't serve alcohol, a "bar" in Polish being a
cafeteria that serves wholesome, simple foodstuffs to students and
working people; "restaurant" ("restauracja") connotes something imposingly grand and
hifalutin). Actually for some of us the best part of "Turkey Day"
generally falls on Friday, or late Thursday night-- if you've had
Thanksgiving at home that is-- when you sneak to the fridge for the
leftovers while watching movies on the VCR.

One reason I like the "Viennese Bar" so much is that they have these trays you can use, if you have a large order, to carry the food to your table (they only have two, so you then must return them straightaway). The reason I like the trays so much is they have these pictures of food on a blue sky background with words in German and English floating around the pictures: "Baked Eggs," "Bier," "Kaffee und Kuchen," "Hot Dog with Sauerkraut," "Eggs and Bacon," and more. The whole thing reminds me of this pamphlet-sized 1950s Good Housekeeping cookbook I used to have called "Eggs & Cheese, Spaghetti & Rice," featuring such dishes as "Hi-Yi Sandwiches" and "Quick-Hoppin' John." Some sort of innocence that really never existed is evoked.

While eating the delicious breaded cutlet, I remembered the lament
of R. Burdik (my boss at the wine store where I worked in the late
nineties, mentioned in an earlier post), one day sometime around Thanksgiving 1999 probably: "I like dark meat. Most Americans don't like dark meat, 'cause it's got all
these interesting flavors. Everybody wants to keep it bland." If what I've heard is true, non-free-range turkeys are in fact bred in such a way as to maximize the ratio of white to dark meat, so he was on to something there. He also eschewed eating in restaurants because the chefs oversalted the food, depriving him of the meat and vegetables' inner potentialities of personality which he so passionately sought. I don't know about that-- I think if you're not the kind of culinary genius he claimed to be, and most of us aren't, a lot of New York restaurants have fun, sometimes profound experiences to offer. But I agree with him about the dark meat being the best part of the turkey. And you don't get that in a turkey cutlet at the Viennese Bar.

Early this morning I bought some mineral water and eggs at the PLUS
supermarket (a Germain chain). I would have bought a few other
items, but I only had ten zloty. I decided while walking home,
however, that this was a blessing, and resolved from now on to go
to the supermarket only when I'm a bit short on cash. The reason is
that the German chain is too hard up or too tight-fisted to employ
baggers to bag your groceries for you, so that you have to pop your
groceries into the bag at a breakneck pace, and you're still engaged
in the business of doing that as you fumble for your cash, pay the
cashier, answer any questions or comments, etc., and you're
probably still doing it while the next customer begins their
bagging frenzy, creating a crowded and farcical contretemps. I know
this must sound like the ne plus ultra in imbecilic whining and
self-indulgent foppery; some of you may jest that I probably need
to employ my own personal umbrella-holder, like P. Diddy; but in
fact the lack of baggers can be a highly irritating, uncomfortable, and humiliating experience, as I suggest you confirm for yourselves if you ever have a chance. At
first I thought I must be deficient in the art of bagging: a matter
of speed, poise and aplomb, I thought. But I've strategized in line,
I've hopped up the pace of my bagging, and nothing seems to help.
The only thing would be to plop the groceries from the counter back
into the shopping cart and then bag elsewhere, but even then you're
always in somebody's way. Perhaps if they constructed a counter
with more space at the end... I guess you can glean from reading
this that my worries in life are few at the moment, and for that I'm truly
thankful.

***

E.B. White, in his essay "On a Florida Key," describing the contents of the refrigerator in the beach cottage where he stayed while visiting in February, 1941:

This refrigerator contains the milk, the butter, and the eggs for tomorrow's breakfast. More milk will arrive in the morning, but I will save it for use on the morrow, so that every day I shall use the milk of the previous day, never taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy perfectly fresh milk. This is a situation which could be avoided if I had the guts to throw away a whole bottle of milk, but nobody has that much courage in the world today. It is a sin to throw away milk and we know it.

Or, I thought as I read, it could be avoided if you had the guts to drink the whole bottle of milk in one go, which is what I would probably do. But more than anything I thought of how delicious the milk must have been, perfectly fresh or next day, since I feel sure as I'm alive that it came in a glass bottle.

I wish I could tell you that all milk in Poland comes in glass bottles, but if I did, that would be a lie.

I'm off to celebrate Saint Andrew's Eve (actually on Tuesday: an orgy of fortune-telling and other devilment; but many celebrate on Saturday) by drinking a well-earned beer with my friend Tadek (I worked three hours today, he worked seven).

3 Comments:

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Small Man said...

At the Supermarket I visited regularly in Japan, "Sunny," they made you bag your own groceries, but also provided a spacious shelf behind the checkout that allowed you to take your time doing it. I would actually prefer that to what happens at the Safeway where I live now. A stressed-out, exhausted clerk, with a line of at least four or five rowdy college students waiting, tosses your groceries into plastic bags without a semblance of consideration for their varying degrees of fragility.

Thanks for the generous welcome!

 
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