Thursday, February 16 2012
It being my 44th birthday, today was officially a holiday, allowing me to bend some of my iron-clad substance consumption rules. The first such rule bent was the one prohibiting me from drinking caffeine. I made a quart-sized carafe of coffee, which I shared with Gretchen. (At this point she is almost as into coffee as I am.) Meanwhile, she'd made me my customary birthday cake, which for me is always a pizza. She was also making me a real birthday cake as well, but it would prove too chocolately for my tastes, but it was more for our friends than it was for me.
After Gretchen went off to work, I prepared some soybeans I'd been soaking overnight for incubation into tempeh. I'd put them through a burr mill to crack them in half and soaked them overnight. Today I skimmed off the skins and boiled them for a half hour with vinegar so as to soften up their proteins and kill off any microbes that might taint my culture. Then I mixed in the started, parceled the wet beans into two separate batches (contained, for lack of sterile plastic bags, in sandwiches of parchment paper). For an incubator, I'd set up a wooden frame bottomed by a wire mesh above my Zojirushi hot water pot. Normally I can fold this frame out of the way, but when I lower it down, it rests an inch above the top of the pot, which continually vents a small amount of warm, humid air. Once my proto-tempehs were set on the wire mesh of this frame, I could cover them with a panel of metalized bubblewrap to trap the heat. Even with this cover, though, a thermometer indicated that the temperature was ten degrees too cold. So I made a skirt of more metalized bubblewrap to go all the way around the hot water pot, better trapping the heat. Depending on how much of this skirt I deployed (and how tightly I clipped it in place), I could make the temperature as much as ten degrees too warm for the incubation of tempeh. The Goldilocks temperature, by the way, is about 89 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite predictions of rain, a snow had fallen for most of the day, and by late this afternoon there was enough on the ground for Gretchen to consider abandoning the Honda Civic Hybrid at the bus turn around (about half way up Dug Hill Road to our house). But I convinced her that the road was okay further up, and, after some spinning, she was able to make it home.
This evening Sarah the Vegan picked up Gretchen and me and then picked up Ray and Nancy at their place. The five of us met up with our friends Michæl (from KMOCA) and Paul (the guy with the church), and Deborah at Mole Mole, the Mexican place on the Rondout, where I'd decided to have my birthday meal. We ordered a large pitcher of Jose Cuervo margarita ($50, ouch!) and people gave me presents (which, given that I am no longer ten years old, is always a bit uncalled for). You can tell from your gifts what people think of you. Michæl got me a four pack of Gubna IPA in cans. Paul got me a 750mL jar of hopefully-bootleg Kentucky moonshine, and Sarah got me an IOU of some unyet-specified IPA. Those are the people who must think I'm a drunk. Ray, on the other hand, got me a perfectly-fitting Dickey jacket, filling a gaping hole in my wardrobe. And Deborah, who thinks of me more as a blocked artist, got me several tiny artist canvases. As for Gretchen, she'd bought me a place in a blacksmithing class, which was considerably cheaper than the Makerbot I'd semi-seriously asked for. The best present of all, though, was the fact that we managed to have a whole meal during which TMI (the local personal storytelling workshop) was never mentioned even once. Regarding the food, most of us got various forms of burrito. Michæl ate his nearly as fast as I devoured mine. As for Paul, he ordered a large plate of beef nachos, of which he only eight about five percent. The rest ended up in the garbage; he didn't take it to go (can one even take nachos to go?). That sort of wastefulness wouldn't even occur to me as a possibility.
After dinner, all of us went to Paul's church, where it was considerably colder than it had been on New Year's Eve. This time we went back into the room where the pipe organ's mechanism and its wooden (as opposed to its lead) pipes rise from its manifolds. On the walls back there is a bunch of ancient graffiti dating to a time when people commonly drew serifs on their characters. Some of it dated to the mid-19th Century, and a lot of it had been done in chalk and was very fragile (I had to be careful not to rub it out with my jacket).
While we were there at the church, some of us rang the bell, which, because of Paul's bell rights, he can do any time.
Paul is not a big fan of dogs, but he nevertheless tolerated Michæl's dog Penny and Deborah's dog Al-Lou, both of whom ran around the place and continuously played as though jacked up on anti-Ritalin, behaving precisely in the way that confirmed most of Paul's worst prejudices about the species.
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