Monday, December 31, 2007

greetings from the temple of smoked meats

As you may have guessed, we're absorbed with holiday shenanigans and then some -- and on top of it all, I leave tomorrow for 10 days up in the holler to see my mother through surgery. Yes, I'm from Appalachia, and we pronounce that Apple-LATCHa, thankyouverymuch.

At the moment, in fact, we are in beautiful sunny northeastern Ohio. Not so much with the sunny.

K and I volunteered to cook supper for the family tonight (latkes, smoked sausage, and blintzes with cherry sauce for dessert), so we headed off the supermarket ("the Click") -- and that's what I'm here to write about.

You know I have elaborate opinions about grocery shopping around Pomona, and I don't exactly suspend judgment when I'm away from home. And shopping at the Click was an eye-opening experience: Don't tell me that modern communications have smoothed out geographical differences.

Our list: Lemon, a fresh veg for dinner, smoked sausage, beer, snacks, and ice cream.

Grab a basket
I now remember that when we moved to California 13 years ago, I found the grocery aisles awfully cramped, and the horizontal aisle (the cashier-line overflow lane) most of all. I had forgotten about that, but the Click reminded me in a big way. Such vast expanses! I felt like I was strolling a linoleum prairie.

Pick up a lemon
Then there are the differences dictated by climate -- otherwise known as the produce section. It's just inside the door, like at the Von's and Albertson's on Foothill, but keep an eye out, because if you blink, you'll miss it. There's a decent supply of apples, but the citrus section was almost exactly the same size as the trunk of a Miata -- and it contained peaches (at $5.29/lb.) as well as oranges, limes, and lemons. What's that you say -- you want grapefruit? Tough luck. Here, have a single lime for $1.99. Welcome to the Frozen North!

What veg do you want for dinner, honey?
The green veg display was a mixed bag. The zucchini looked pretty good ($1.99/lb.), as did the green beans ($2.99), although there was only a mixing-bowl's worth of them. I spotted two, count 'em, TWO crowns (not bunches) of broccoli, to K's relief -- he does not share my adoration of the broccoli (rhymes with "Adoration of the Magi," of course).

Arugula, to my surprise, was well represented -- on the herb rack, in one-ounce blister-packs, as if we would need no more than a tablespoon, minced finely. And one ounce was $1.99, just like the 14-oz. bags we buy for salad at Trader Joe's.

Where do you think smoked sausage would be?
Other differences are dictated by demographics, and things look considerably brighter here. As you probably know, northeastern Ohio is dominated by Slavs of various nationalities, and boy howdy does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny.

Back in Cali, smoked sausage resides in between the bacon and the hot dogs in the run-down suburbs of the meat counter. But in Slavlandia, cured meat products have the whole back of the store, with separate signs in giant letters reading BACON and FRANKS and SMOKED SAUSAGE, the way that our stores have signs that read "Produce" and "Dairy." As K marveled, "We truly are in the temple of smoked meats."

Hey, we need beer!
We moved to Cali from Georgia, where we couldn't buy beer on sunday or after 11pm, so we thought we'd died and gone to heaven when it came to beer. Anchor Steam! Pete's Wicked! Imports in every store!

But in fact we don't know from beer compared to northeastern Ohio. They have such an amazing selection of local beers here, I almost passed out. When I mentioned it to K's mother, she scoffed and told me that the other store has a much better selection.

Your mom wanted snacks
We did get potato chips as commanded, but while wandering the aisles, we saw a container of sauerkraut balls. Both K and I are krautophiles -- we looked at one another, and no one even needed to say, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?" Into the basket they went. (In the event, they weren't half as good as the sauerkraut cakes I make from scratch.)

Um, don't need wine
On the other hand, this ain't no wine heaven. Barefoot Red was $10.99, I kid you not. There's no Trader Joe's around here, but if there was, I bet they'd sell Eight-Buck Chuck.

We should get the ice cream last
Just as one outer wall was devoted to smoked meats, the whole right wall of the store was lined with ice cream coolers. Slavlandia clearly loves its ice cream, because each brand had several sizable cases and a big sign overhead -- and a dozen brands we'd never heard of, many of which are local premium creameries. (We still got Haagen Dazs, to be safe.)

All done
After having checked out, we passed a large table of marked-down Christmas items. I think we both deserve voluminous praise from all quarters for having resisted the temptation to buy My First Drumkit for the niece and neph -- but every child we know gets a drum from us sooner or later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

keeping up with the pomones

Everyone else has been blogging about last night's city council meeting and the fracas between Mayor Norma Torres and Police Chief Joe Romero, and I refuse to be left out.

Not that I went to the council meeting. I wanted to, I tried to, but a bottle of wine with a colleague was too tempting, especially as I won't be seeing her for a good long while. Go ahead, mock me.

But I do have something to say. When the fracas first came to our attention, I wrote to Mayor Torres expressing my disappointment -- an actual paper letter, since those tend to carry more weight with elected officials than emails that take 30 seconds to dash off. Supposedly, anyway; I have yet to receive any reply at all (surprise, surprise).

Yesterday morning, I sent email to each of our city council members, saying this:
Just a quick note to express my strong support for Joe Romero. I'll do
my best to come to tonight's council meeting, but in case I don't make
it, I wanted to let you know how disappointed I am in the Mayor's recent
behavior in this matter, including her letter to the *Daily Bulletin*

Please join me in supporting the police chief!

Thanks very much -- and keep on doing a great job!
I got a nice reply from Paula Lantz within the hour. She can't possibly remember me from our brief meeting back in august, but she certainly wrote a nice personal letter -- matching my rhetoric and responding directly to my note.

Then, this afternoon, I got email from George Hunter, reporting on what happened last night. Without his permission, I won't post his reply, but it was personal and specific, and I was generally quite satisfied.

No word from the other council members with published email addresses (one doesn't have email, it appears).

For some reason, the first hit I got on the phrase "city council" was for Lubbock, Texas, where I was conceived (so I am told). I wonder why Lubbock tops the list, above the councils of larger and flashier municipalities?

Friday, December 7, 2007

animal planet

I spent enough time in Central and South American in my wayward youth to recognize the sound of a flock of parakeets before I saw the 100+ green bellies overhead. It's quite a racket, and full of menace, like some flying threat out of Harry Potter. All the cats ran for cover the moment they heard it.

My neighbor says that the flock of parakeets hangs out in the LP every year about this time, for a couple of weeks. She thinks they spend the rest of their time in Arcadia. Does anyone know more about them?

It is amazing to me that such a bizarre animal -- garish, noisy, and cheeky -- does so well in the non-native wild. There are escapee flocks in Austin and San Francisco, and probably plenty of other places as well.

Switching from the avidae to the felidae, the stray-cat situation is I think pretty much under control. Yesterday morning I trapped Wombat (the stray mom) and took her to the vet for spaying. Goodbye, $125. In the afternoon, I trapped the friendliest of the kittens and took her in for similar treatment when I picked mom up. Luckily, my neighbor is going to pay when she picks it up and takes it home this afternoon.

We still need to catch and spay the last two kittens, but my most serious cat concern is taken care of: After seeing me put Mom in a box and then Sister in a box, the kittens want nothing to do with me, our porch, or Voiceover. For his part, Voiceover is much, much calmer.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

mid-week update

So, I called the city this morning about a composting program. The person on the phone was quite friendly and gave me the phone number of the head honcho, except that she is out with the flu or a bad cold (interlocutor wasn't sure which but said that boss was really miserable yesterday). More info to come.

I never did find a home for the kittens, although I found a home for the mom. They are now at the obnoxious-teenager stage, which is starting to annoy Voiceover (our cat). In order to avoid dealing with them, Voiceover either wants to stay indoors or lights out for the frontier across the street (where he scraps with various adult cats).

Clearly, this cannot be borne; the kittens must go, and before they start spawning. I called six different pet-rescue places this morning, and none of them have space. I have advertised at work, twisted friends' arms, put ads in the Recycler and Craigslist, and been generally obnoxious to everyone. The only thing I haven't done is take them to the Farmers Market and sit next to the bouncy house and the coloring-book station, and I'm afraid that if I do that, my friends with kids will never speak to me again.

Do I take them to the pound and hope for the best? Call animal control? What's a meg to do?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

give us our daily bread

I haven't yet managed to call the city to find out if they'd be interested in some help to get a composting program off the gound, but I'll report back when I have.

In the meantime, it must be time for a food post, since M-M-M-My Pomona seems to oscillate back and forth between neighborhood agitation and dining reports.

For this dining report, we head back to Claremont, and indeed, the new mall, as I have been to le Pain Quotidien twice this week. As you may know, it is a chain, based in Belgium and with outlets in France, Kuwait, Lebanon, Russia, the UK, and NYC. I'd give it pretty good odds of lasting, although it's imperfect. (I refer here to an anonymous comment a few months ago hypothesizing that 60% of the businesses in the new mall will be closed in a year.)

The main thing you must know about le Pain Quotidien is that it is PRRRRRRRICY. Most of the things I had were good, but it was still a bit of a rip-off. The coffee is good (not quite as good as Some Crust's, but better than Starbuck's), but it is $2.85 for 11 oz. The hot chocolate is tasty, but a small will run you $4.15. The pastries are $3.75, and you'll drop $5 for a cup of soup and $7 for a bowl. Meanwhile, the service is friendly but inexperienced, which I know will come as an enormous surprise to you. (There are a couple of exceptions: You'll see waiters moonlighting from the Press and Casablanca.)

In general, le PainQuot seems to be imposing a preciousness surcharge, and judging by the custom this week, it looks like they can get away with it. I was pretty disappointed in the Jambon de Paris sandwich, but everything else I had was good, and I've had good reports from friends. In the late afternoon, it's a nice place to read or write Christmas cards, and I don't mind paying a salubrious-environment surcharge, so I'll go back. But it won't be often, unless my employer gives me a 10% COCLA (Cost of Café Living Allowance).