Archive for the 'Food & drink' Category

Life lesson: over-tip breakfast waitresses.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

In fact, over-tip them handsomely. If you’re dining alone and paying diner prices, it’s not amiss to tip them as much as your meal cost.

My father taught me this when I was young. He also taught me to make steady eye contact with breakfast servers, and to strike up friendly conversation with them when they have the time.

Why go to this trouble?

  • They don’t make much money. Their wages are low, and — unlike your server when you sit down to a fancy dinner — they can’t expect a lot of large tickets that will call for large tips at 15%.
  • It’s often the best job they can get. Think about how you’d make ends meet if you lived off of tips from breakfast patrons.
  • They get up early. By the time you roll into the diner, they’ve already gotten up, maybe taken care of their kids, cleaned up, traveled to work, and served however many patrons got there before you.
  • You’re a perfect sweetheart, but some of their patrons aren’t.

When I was traveling earlier this week, I had a kind waitress who kept a smile on her face while she did the work of a couple of people. I had the cashier add a $10.00 tip to the cost of my food.

I’m hoping it put a smile on her face when she found out. She deserved it.

(Photo by Sarah Gilbert, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

On the underrated virtues of a steambath.

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Who knows how long it had been since I had had one? For that matter, how long has it been since YOU had one? To quote an old chili commercial: “Well, partner, that’s too long.”

For several days now I’ve been wrestling with a case of sinus/cough crud that may have started as allergies, but has morphed into something much more dire, not to say bordering on the eldritch. At least, I think of ancient wizards and mummies when I hear my own raspy voice.

Remedies abound, and I’ve tried several: lots of fluids, lots of rest, hot tea, cough syrup, and so on. Though whatever this is has never given me a fever, I felt bad enough on Friday that I stayed home from work — my first sick day in ages. (The two-hour nap in the afternoon was priceless.)

This morning, I woke up before six a.m. coughing like an elderly emphysematic, and with a new twist: my left eye and temple ached from sinus pressure. I’ve had worse, but it wasn’t pleasant, and although I plied myself with lots of hot drinks, a nap (sitting nearly upright), and later a long, hot shower, nothing really took the pressure away.

(Cue two friends of mine who have recommended that I use a neti pot for these occasions. I’m sure they’re right — I just haven’t gotten my act together to acquire one yet.)

So, this afternoon I headed to my gym for a proper old-fashioned steam. I don’t know why I haven’t used the steamroom there more often. The whole place is kept extremely clean, and the pool / hot tub / steamroom area especially so. Anyway, today I finally wised up.

The experience was simple — I sat for a good while in the steam, then soaked in the hot tub, then went back to the steam — and remarkably effective. My sinuses, throat, and lungs felt much better, but so did my skin and muscles. (I’ve missed most of a week of weightlifting sessions because of this crud.) It felt . . . elemental to sit there in the heat, sweating and breathing and thinking of nothing in particular.

My agenda for tomorrow is still pretty loose, but I’ve already inked in one thing: steambath.


(Photo by essers.)

Three recommended beers . . .

Friday, January 4th, 2008

. . . all three of which, as it happens, come from northern California.

First, from the estimable North Coast Brewing Co. . . . Blue Star.


This has been a fave around our house (just for the grownups!) for several months now. Crisp and refreshing! (If you want fancier reviews than that, may I recommend Beer Advocate? ‘Cause I’m hardly a specialist.)

Second, also from the estimable North Coast Brewing Co. . . . PranQster:


I’ve only tried this Belgian-style ale once, but I really liked it.

Finally, from the apparently fine folks at Lagunitas Brewing Co. . . . Lagunitas Pale Ale:


It’s a pale ale, it’s yummy, it has a cute dog on the label and a matching cute dog on the cap. An excellent potable.

And if you’re trying these out in Austin, you can do no better than to buy them from my friends at . . . Grape Vine Market. That’s where I buy mine.

A happy weekend to you all!

Kris would appear to make excellent fudge.

Friday, December 21st, 2007

That, at least, is what I’ve surmised from reading this post on her blog.

Kris was kind enough to post the recipe, but I’m a lousy cook, so I’m afraid that I will be at the mercy of those around me who aren’t lousy cooks to come up with a sample batch for me to taste.

(Hint, hint!)

Kudos to Jimmy!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

My pal Jimmy (i.e. Dr. James McWilliams of Texas State Univ.) has an op-ed piece about the “Slow Food” movement in the New York Times.

Food That Travels Well

When he’s not busy writing excellent books like A Revolution in Eating, Jimmy writes excellent reviews and essays for the Texas Observer, and, you know, teaches at Texas State ‘n’ stuff.  Good, good guy, and a heck of a writer.

There’s a longer version of his food essay here:

Moveable Feast: Eating Local Isn’t Always the Greenest Option


Friday links roundup.

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Brace yourselves, people. Talkin’ about some serious clearing of decks here.

First, a couple of follow-ups:

–> A couple of months ago I wrote a post on the “ethic of waste” that pervades too much of our consumer culture. As far as I recall I came up with that particular phrasing, but the idea has much wider currency. This TreeHugger item quotes extensively from a Sierra magazine piece that talks about “an economy of waste.” Well worth reading, as it reminds us that it wasn’t so long ago — World War II — that our grandparents willingly changed their ways to take on a societal threat. We need to do the same thing again now.

–> A couple of weeks ago, I linked to a New York Times piece in which Michael Pollan talks about how our “farm” policy (which is really food policy) helps to foster the widespread obesity from which the nation suffers. The other day I got an e-mail from the estimable Dan Markovitz — he of the lean-management expertise — pointing to a post of his in the same vein: “The Obesity Epidemic, Part II”. Well worth reading. (Actually, just take that as a summary verdict for Dan’s blog in general.)

Now for the roundup of new stuff:

–> Part of the reason I like Dan M.’s blog so much is that he so often writes posts that make me say, “Man, I wish I had written that.” Case in point . . .

You Have Too Much Time On Your Hands. Really.

I agree with this article so much it hurts me. Physical pain, I tell you! Honestly, I don’t know anyone for whom this article doesn’t apply — either because they’ve already acted upon the reality of Parkinson’s Law and reduced their own suffering, or because they still haven’t internalized the Law and therefore they continue to suffer from work overwhelm. Dan’s article is suggestive rather than exhaustive — you could go into much more detail on the subject if you cared to — but it does a great job of getting at the essence of the problem.

I’ll be writing more about this topic in a series of posts I’ve been drafting on information overload, the besetting sin of the modern workplace. But for now let me say that you could do far worse than to start with Dan’s post, accept it on faith even if you don’t yet admit all the details of it, and then proceed here (if I do say so myself). You might just change your life.

–> “The Best Climate Change Websites” Thank you, Alex — simple and useful. (Particularly good: “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic” from Grist.)

–> A great idea for presentations and beyond: Hara hachi bu.

–> Do yourself a favor: unclutter your life. Here’s the short version.

–> But whatever you do, don’t hurry.

Food, uh, for thought.

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Two months ago, the NYT published this fascinating Michael Pollan essay on the way that farm subsidies support our national obesity epidemic.

You Are What You Grow

The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.

The piece goes far beyond this. It’s sobering stuff, well worth reading and pondering. Makes me want to go out and eat a salad.

(Why yes, I am clearing the decks of a reading backlog in advance of my vacation. Why do you ask?)