compressed novel of misery
Saturday, April 2 2011
location: five miles south of Staunton, rural Augusta County, Virginia
One of the things I like to do when I'm at Creekside, cut off from the world, is watch whatever movies I've stocked up on my netbook. Today I watched The Green Hornet, a perfect combination of both the things I love and hate in movies. It had my favorite actors and some of their lines were good, but it ended up bing something of a cliché superhero movie, and some of the lines were terrible. "I like my women with big balls." Really?
Meanwhile my brother Don was being completely absorbed by his new computer, stocked as it was with movies and documentaries I'd downloaded specifically for him. These tended to be about either Hitler or dinosurs. But he'd recently seen all of Walking With Dinosaurs, so the only thing that commanded his interest was World at War, the early-1970s BBC World War II documentary megaseries that we'd been banned from watching nearly 40 years ago when it had originally been telecasted. Don's desire to watch gave him the motivation necessary to learn a number of important computer skills: scroll bars, double-click, right-click, and even the one that only computer gurus use: drag-and-drop. Usually when I'm at Creekside, Don continually pesters me with his proprietary dinosaur and Hitler theories, but not this time. All his time was being devoted to waching World at War, something he does behind a closed door. (He's worried that if dust should get into his Creekside room it will spoil his extensive library of dinosaur and dictator books.)
At some point I drove into Staunton for some internet connectivity. On the way, I heard the cellphone ring (though I don't have one myself, I carry Gretchen's phone when I travel), so I pulled over in one of the most depressing spots south of Staunton, the place where Route 269 crosses Middlebrook Road, the former site of the Joe Furr Cattle Stockyard. Mountains have been dumped into valleys to make an acceptable grade for a sparsely-traveled four lane bypass around the south end of Staunton, and then a huge twenty acre cloverleaf was installed, a particularly blightful form of land use from which there can be no recovery while oil is less than $150 per barrel. With the cattle stockyard and the interchange piled in above it, it's a compressed James Michener novel of misery. I checked the cellphone to see who had called, and, finding it was from Gretchen, called her back.
Tonight I stepped back into my role as vegan chef, cooking up a chunky red sauce using mushrooms, eggplants, and extra-firm tofu and serving it with a box of Ronzoni rotini. I don't have a lot of experience cooking with eggplant, but I'm finding that it behaves a lot like extra-firm tofu, happily absorbing whatever sauces it is cooked in. Cubed pieces feel just like chunks of sponge.
Don appears to have an unsatiable appetite for pasta (vegan or otherwise) and eventually we had to tell him to leave me a little for breakfast tomorrow, causing him to go fix himself a second dinner across Stingy Hollow Road. While my mother Hoagie and Don have been semi-covertly eating cheese, fish, and perhaps even fried chicken, I have been successfully maintaining my strict vegan diet. Part of what makes that easy is being able to eat leftover dinner for breakfast.
I should also touch, for a moment, on the subject of salt. Hoagie has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and has been told to observe a low-sodium diet. Consequently, the beans and sauces she buys are all flavorlessly salt-free. It's difficult to jazz up food with salt by adding it once it's been completely prepared; food always tastes better if the salt is cooked in. When cooking for Hoagie, of course, my inclination had originally been not to add any salt to anything she might be eating, only adding it to my own portion as a seasoning. But on this trip it occurred to me that it's a lot easier to keep salt out of vegan food than it is to keep it out of food containing animal products (particularly salt water fish, which my mother loves). It's just too easy to produce bland, flavorless vegan food, and then people wonder why anyone would want to eat that way. When it comes to salt, vegans are working at a disadvantage. So I've decided to use salt in my cooking even when cooking for Hoagie. I don't use as much as I normally would, but I use enough to give it flavor comparable to the non-vegan dishes I know she makes for herself.
The Middlebrook Road-US 262 interchange on top of the site of the old Joe Furr Stockyard. Somewhat appropriately, the red sign reads "Wrong Way." (38.131991N, 79.094739W).
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