Treat your cast-iron right…

and it will be kind to you.

Sheryl Canter has “a very specific technique for seasoning cast iron cookware”: that is supposed to produce amazing results. Like all the best techniques, it’s grounded in science rather than hearsay.

But don’t take her word for it–Americas Test Kitchen tried her technique, and found that after treating a cast-iron skillet based on her technique, you could send it through a commercial wash cycle–with degreasing agent–and the finish was undamaged.

Our three cast iron skillets–one of which belonged to my great grandmother–are used so consistently they live on top of the stove; we basically never put them away. We use our stainless steel pots for soups, basically, but cast iron for everything else. This does present me with the small problem of taking them out of circulation to season them well.

Mind you, I have my eye on a Le Creuset Dutch Oven some day. Enameled, but still cast iron.

Our new coffee grinder

An Ascaso i-1 in the cow print paint job.

The old grinder broke. It probably wasn’t more than a year old, but what do you expect when the most abused part of the machine (the doser lever) is plastic? Just another reason I will never buy anything with the name Gaggia on it again (the espresso machine being the other).

I did a quick check on the web, and no one would admit to having the parts I’d need to repair it, so I did a little modification with a Dremel to make it usable for a while, until I could figure out what to replace it with. Of course, a friend who has the same model and had the same breakage later told me that he was able to get replacement parts. Oh, well.

I spent several hours researching on I can no longer find the gigantic head-to-head comparison series one of the founders of the site did from a couple of years ago, but I read it last Friday, and was all set to buy a $900 Macap grinder…when I stumbled across a message from the same guy suggesting that if you were doing low-volume work but wanted a good grinder–noisy, messy and slow, but with very consistent, very good results–you should consider one of a trio of low-cost grinders all using the same conical burr system.

Not many places seem to carry them, but I found a place that had the Ascaso/Innova I-2 grinder. When I showed Anne the one with the cow pattern paint job, well, we figured that if it was only _decent_, for $255, we had done OK.

I am pleased to say it is far more than decent. It is certainly better than the Gaggia MDF it is replacing. It took a while to dial in the grind, and the burrs will certainly become more seasoned over time, but even so, it is already pulling better shots, and the doserless form factor makes for less waste and less mess for a household that has *maybe* five shots pulled in a day.

I don’t pretend to be a super-taster or even particularly sophisticated about my espresso making, but even if this is only taking us to an “above-average” place, well, it’s definitely taken us up the scale. I now do believe it when the serious espresso guys talk about the grinder being the single biggest variable you can control in the quality of the coffee that you get from a particular bean.

Our new yoga room!

So, nearly a year ago, I moved out of my office above the garage–our “bonus room”–and took over the bedroom that had previously been Anne’s office. This fairly torturous process happenned because we were going to make the room over the garage a dedicated yoga space.

Well, after much foot-dragging and slow-moving, it’s done. Thanks to my parents, who (in April) got us over the initial hump of doing *something*–specifically, taking down the hideous wallpaper.

Thanks to our friends Deb and Toby, who helped us scrape a substantial portion of the hideous, ghastly, wretched textured wallpaper that had been put on the ceiling. When we realized that it was wallpaper, Anne and I both agreed, “It’s got to go.”

And finally, thanks to Al and Enrique, who we finally hired to finish the job. They worked tirelessly (but quickly) and transformed it from the modest-at-best space that you can kind of discern in the first picture into the beautiful, peaceful space that it is now.

Sometimes I miss Miami

While it’s true that I love where we live, sometimes I feel a burst of nostalgia for Miami. It’s especially true when I read about a an “exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s sculpted glass”: at the “Fairchild Tropical Garden”: (we have the map of the FTG that we got when we joined hanging up on one of our walls.

Fortunately, GNOME guy Luis Villa was there “and he took a lot of pictures”:

Why I love living in Durham

Without wanting to seem disrespectful of the upbringing I was given, I think it’s reasonable to say that my parents attitudes towards food while I was growing up were fairly conventional, and maybe a bit shy on the vegetables.

Not that I envy any parent trying to get their child to eat vegetables–there just seems to be too much substance to the cliche. Maybe it’s just their bodies telling them what they need to grow, and protein is higher on the list, and fats are just tastier, making kids natural Atkins followers.

Anyway, it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really internalized the idea that food doesn’t come from supermarkets, with its corollary that the tastiest meals on earth begin with the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find–and may not, in fact, really require anything else.

With this realization, shopping has become both easier and harder.

Easier, in that the starting point every Saturday morning is a stop by the “Carrboro Farmer’s Market”:, and you grab what looks incredibly fresh and luscious (often from “Maple Spring Gardens”: or “Maple Spring Gardens”: Organics).

Harder, in that once you’ve gotten home, you may find yourself wondering, “What do I do with two large eggplant?”. Thanks to the web, though, this is generally an easily solvable problem. Or you may have staple recipes–like, say, pizza every week while the tomatoes are fresh (it’s not tomato season, it’s pizza season).

Or, as tonight, steamed green beans, roasted potatoes and butternut squash and sauteed kale.

It can’t be beat.

Spring is coming

The view from our driveway up the street.

A couple of weeks ago, Anne cut back all the grasses on the patch of our lot up near the street. I’m really just posting this picture in order to be able to make a comparison a few months from now–by say, September, this will be a veritable riot of vegetation.

No real damage

Lots of limbs down, and I understand a lot of people are without power (half a million being the figure I heard), but we came out pretty much unscathed. There was one tree behind our house that didn’t really make it through.

Here’s a thought experiment.

If you want to have an idea what it’s like to have your house subjected to relatively high winds–such as we’re seeing right now–think of it this way:

How well would your house drive down the highway?

When you think about it that way, or, at least, when _I_ think about it that way, it’s a little harder to be entirely sanguine.