Thursday, November 23, 2006

My Kingdom for a Pie (Crust)

I made my 2nd homemade pie crust today, the morning of Thanksgiving. I am not overwhelmingly pleased.

My 1st attempt was two days ago (see photo). I made two batches of pie crust dough, as I just can't get the thing moist enough. I don't want to handle it too much, as I know it'll turn tough. I happened to use both, though, in the one pie I made (half the recipe for the filling), because I couldn't get the pie dough to stretch all the way. So I used the less moist one to fill in the gaps.

It didn't help that I had to use a wine bottle as a roller. (If you have to ask, it was red.)

In the meantime, I received my wooden roller and silicon baking sheet in the mail, and I was ready for this morning.

I tried again today, only I took a two-pronged approach. I wanted 3 pies, so I did the from-scratch dough again. Still had the same problem -- not moist enough, not enough dough, it wouldn't stretch, etc. However, I also bought some Betty Crocker pie crust mix, added cold water and worked with that. Now, that was moist enough but it still didn't spread enough for two pies. It could be that I'm not rolling it thin enough, but I don't want to handle it too much.

The pie dough stuck to the rolling pin like it was its momma. I kept putting flour on the pin, but the non-stick effect wouldn't last for long. And although the silicon sheet was supposedly non-stick, the dough stuck to the sheet and I couldn't get the enlarged disc off of it. Geez.

Man, cleaning up was tough! The dough stuck to everything -- bowl, rolling pin, fingers -- like glue. Come to think of it, I should've used some for my remodel several months ago. It's a good thing I cleaned up right away, because clumps of it would still be on the floor when I sold the place.

The truth is in the pie. I'll know this evening whether any of the experiments turned out well.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sizzlin' Sunday

At around noon I put down the two Sunday papers, stared at one of the four clocks I have in my living room, and decided it was time to get dressed and go to lunch.

I thought about where to go. I thought about going to Chili's; it's newly installed at Bay Fair Mall, right next to the movie theatre. But when I thought about the Sizzler in Washington Square/San Leandro, and the fact that they have great iced tea, I knew I wanted to go there. The Chili's menu is better, more inventive, but, well, sometimes routine is really nice.

So I grabbed the rest of the paper, mailed my shipment at the nearby post office, and sauntered into Sizzler. I had to wait behind people who don't go to Sizzler by routine and who had to think about what they wanted to eat. It's a slow process, but I know that and I have patience. Darlene, my favorite waitress, spots me, asks me where I'm going to sit, and I point to a booth on the left (as always) in front of the T.V. set. It has plenty of light for the newspaper, and the Raiders game is on T.V. She puts the cheesebread and extra napkins there before I can get to the front of the line.

I had my seat and was glancing at another pitiful come-from-ahead loss by the Raiders when Darlene came by to pick up my ticket and tray. I asked her how she was doing. She said fine, then hesitated and told me that a week ago, she fell down her stairs and cracked two ribs. It seems that there's nothing to be done much about cracked or broken ribs, so the ER people wrapped her and sent her on her way. She told me with a foolish smile on her face that she came to work the next day.

Aren't these the true heroes of our day? The women who live by themselves, and make their own lives and sometimes suffer for it? (She was moving boxes out of one of the upstairs room, and tripped on her pajamas.) And then go to work the very next day?

You don't make much money as a Sizzler waitress. I remember saying that once about a decade ago to my friend Rick, and he informed me that his daughter had done very well as a waitress at Sizzler. Perhaps it does depend on the waitress or waiter here, but think about it. There is a great opportunity not to tip at all at such a restaurant. You carry your own tray to your table. If you're only getting the salad bar, which these days costs a minimum of $10 a person if a drink is involved, there's a tendency to think you're doing all the work yourself. Never mind that, even in that case, the wait staff is bringing you extra napkins, cheese bread, extra plates, extra drinks, etc. I have seen many a table bare of change when the group leaves.

I don't tip according to price. I tip according to the type of service I get there. It's $1.00 for minimal service. It's $2 if they do something nice for me. And it's $3 or more if they go beyond, more around a holiday.

It was more today. Darlene is one of the best wait people I have ever seen. And she's serving me, making me feel good, while she's in pain. She's one of my heroes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

He had it comin'...

I have begun going back to local theatre. Oh, I'm not ready to totally embrace the genre with chest-crushing exuberance, but I have put the elbow in the water. High prices and a fairly long trip mean that I've become more selective.

Which is why I found myself at Kander & Ebb & Fosse's Chicago the Musical a week ago. This is the second production I've seen of Chicago locally. (And why do they insist on putting "the Musical" on the tail end of this donkey? Although I must admit, one friend asked me why they're still touring without Peter Cetera.) The first was only two years ago. I thoroughly loved it both times, although I admit Billy the lawyer is a bit weak in this later production. I enjoyed watching hipster Huey Lewis, but never for one minute thought he'd be able to get anybody out of a murder rap.

The set-up is a real gas. In 1920's Chicago, where ethics have been replaced by easy liquor, we find Roxie being accused (and rightly so) of murder, and it's up to Billy and the easily-swayed justice/media system (did I just link those two together?) to get her off. Lots of thrilling songs, and the spectacularly staged sequence in Cell Block Tango, about the women who been done wrong singing about the men they did wrong to, lights up the stage. I heartily recommend the stage production over the movie.

Today I entered a much more somber affair, Doubt, the local production of the Broadway play. Lest you be put off by the rather colorless and Catholic advertisements, nothing should stop you from seeing this production. First of all, it's only 90 minutes. No intermissions. No reason to get up from an hour of semi-boredom, as in the case of most theatrical productions, and wonder if you should slip out quietly. Nope, you're in it for the whole thing. It's funny, it's sparse (both in sets and cast), and it's magnificent. Cherry Jones has won two Tonys in her Broadway career; she won the latest for Sister Aloysius in Doubt last year.

The story is centralized around Sister Aloysius, who is as sure as can be about everything. She knows her role as principal of a Catholic school in 1964 in the Bronx. She knows what the young Sister James (Lisa Joyce) is going to say, cutting off her sentences before she can finish them. And she knows what she doesn't like about Father Flynn (Chris McGarry). His fingernails are too long. His sermons aren't black and white enough. He's too male.

Doubt leads us down several paths, some of them familiar and some of them uncomfortable. It should be at the top of your theatre-going list.

I also bought tickets for the City Arts & Lecture show of Linda Hunt interviewing Cherry Jones in two weeks. I had a tough time finding a seat. It might be that people were buying tickets because of Linda Hunt, as Ms. Jones is less well known. But sooner or later the world will tell of her talent. No doubt.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Pollish Joke

I hesitated to vote yesterday.

I never got my absentee ballot, or I would have voted weeks ago. It may have been because I changed my box number at my mailing address, and sent the change card in too late. At any rate, my polling place was written on the card I sent I didn't even know where to go.

But one of the ads I received in the mail, you know, the ones that tell you how to vote, told me where my polling place was. So on Tuesday morning at about 10:30, I went to a high school just north of the Oakland/San Leandro border.

The high school was easy enough to find, but there was only street parking. Curious, I thought, for a polling place. I found a place to park, and walked up to Auditorium "B". I discovered that each side of the auditorium had a table full of volunteers. I picked the one to the right...

...only to be sent to the one on the left because they couldn't find my name. When I got to the one on the left, the young man put down his ringing cell phone (that was nice of him), and tried to find my name. Again, it wasn't there. So they tried to send me to the other side of the room...

When I explained that they didn't have my name either, and that I never received my absentee ballot, the guy all the way at the end of the table took charge, and offered me a provisional ballot. All right! I thought it was interesting that I filled out the outside of the envelope but nobody asked for my driver's license to compare the information.

I went over to the voting booth, which had nothing in it. I took a ball point pen and filled in the 30 or so arrows in order to indicate my choices. I realized that, in my special circumstance, I wouldn't be using an automatic polling booth, but where were they? As I was leaving, the guy In Charge pointed to the only booth with a machine in it. "I don't think anybody's going to use that today," he said sadly. I found out later that most California precincts were using paper ballots because these electronic machines can be tampered with.

I read today about some people who voted at unusual places around San Francisco and Alameda counties. One was an actual firing range. The photo in today's paper showed some guy voting on his paper ballot with posters just above his head of how to properly hold your rifle.

I think I'll stick to the high school with no parking.