Monthly Archives: April 2020

The fascinating world of laundromats

I have an assortment of vivid memories from laundromats. The earliest is of the slatted frosted glass windows at the laundry my mom used when I was about five years old. The window slats tilted back and forth to open, like a Venetian blind. The half-obscured oblong glimpses of the parking lot and road in front of the building remains in my memory. I, like many kids that age, loved to kneel on a seat and look over the back of it, rather than sit in it and look frontwards. It was at that same laundry that I remember learning to fold sheets with my mom. This is a nice dance when done with another person, giggles when one of you turns your end upside down. In my adult life, though, I usually fold sheets alone, and use the “fold, fold, fold….arg…roll the darn thing up and stuff it in the closet” method.

The next memorable laundromat had that lovely hot-clothes smell and two intriguing ‘bullet holes’ in one of the large windows. I don’t know if they were actually made by a BB gun, or a pebble tossed up by a passing car, but our town was far too small to have a ‘rough side’ and people rarely if never rode around shooting out their car windows in any case, so it seems unlikely that the two dings in the big window were caused by any real drama.

I was older now, perhaps in junior high, and memories of the laundry are accompanied by a vague irritable stress. The Tastee Freez was right across the street, which provided excuses to go get nasty industrialized snack products. I also remember using the wringer once in a while, though probably just to entertain myself. And I remember one amazing day where I went to change dollars for dimes at the machine in the corner, and instead of regular dimes, the machine discharged antique real silver Liberty Head dimes. I knew my coins from my dad, who liked to stash bags of silver coins in the garden in case of Zombie Apocalypse. I begged my mom for more dollars, making change until no more silver dimes came out. I remember ending up with a good 50 or so of the precious coins, plus enough regular dimes to finish drying the clothes.

Quarantine these days features the washing of enormous amounts of laundry, mostly because we are washing things more frequently than usual, and because being at home all day I am washing things that normally don’t get washed often, like cotton blankets, throw rugs, and the covers from the sofa pillows. Here in Brazil there is no dryer, just racks suspended from the ceiling near a breezy window, and the warm dry sunny climate to turn out load after load of fresh clothes. We hang gym clothes and towels directly in the sun to dry, to get that extra sanitizing effect. The rest dry well enough in the laundry room.

My mom has always kept me up to date on her laundry – she gets to hang it on a real line in a sunny yard, which is cozy and nostalgic. I would do the same in a minute if I had a place. The laundry is like a living creature then, like fire in a fireplace. It becomes a member of the household.

Risotto cheat

I discovered one can make ‘fake risotto’ with leftover rice or other leftover grains. I used quinoa. Since it is already cooked, one doesn’t need to cook it in broth for a long time the way one would with proper risotto. Instead, one makes a mini-broth, then adds the already cooked grains at the end.

The sauce I made was: 2 tablespoons of butter (or a bit more, I don’t measure), 1/2 a cup of water with a small piece of bouillon cube stirred into it (broth substitute), and a minced shallot. I sauteed the shallot in the butter, then added the broth. When it was nice and boily I added two tablespoons of lemon juice. I then scooped out the pieces of shallot, just so as not to have the texture of the in the dish. Then I added a huge heaping tablespoon of chopped artichoke from a jar (finely chopped, supposed to be for spreading on toast, but you could also use those pickled artichokes that are for salads), and 1/2 a cup (or a bit more) of grated parmesan cheese. When it was nice and smoothly blended, and the cheese all melted evenly into the sauce, I dumped in four cups of cooked quinoa, turned off the heat, and stirred for a bit to mix well. It was amazingly delicious and took only a few minutes.

I think the same or a similar sauce could be used with peas, green beans, lima beans, or even as a kind of warm salad dressing on endive or arugula? Anyway, I’m thrilled to have discovered something besides stir-fry to do with leftover rice!

I used this Lemon-Artichoke Risotto recipe as an inspiration for the mixture of ingredients:

Who cut the cheese?

An ash-covered Tropeiro cheese from Minas Gerais, after suffering an unhappy week in shipping.

A cheese arrived by mail yesterday. It had spent a week in transit due to virus-related transportation delays. It was gray and moldy and wrinkled, and the strong cheesy smell of it easily escaped the thick layers of plastic wrap and cardboard which secured it, growing stronger as I cut them away.

Following cheesecare instructions I gently scraped away the white patches of mold with a bread knife. Then, not following cheesecare instructions, but personal experience, I put it on a plate in the fridge with a ventilated cover over it. Last time we had one of these cheeses we kept it in the cheese cage, but the temperatures here are quite warm and it sweated oil from the cut side. The texture was less than appealing with it being warm and oily like that. So this one will stay chilled.

I remembered a childhood expression while cutting this cheese. “Who cut the cheese??” was giggled on the schoolbus if someone farted, or when we passed a farm and a waft of manure-scented air came in. But I remember clearly that until high school I only ate Kraft American Cheese, the kind that came in a brick in a cardboard box. It had no smell. I don’t remember ever encountering a cheese with a cheesy smell in childhood. So the reference in the reaction to stinkiness was rote, learned from some generation who had known farmhouse cheese, perhaps?

When our high school French teacher decided to have a French Culture Day in class, she brought in brie cheese, a baguette, and perhaps some other things I have forgotten. She played a famous song on a tape recorder and sang along with it, embarrassing us. She was actually French and I think we all found her a bit intriguing and startling, though she was well-liked. Anyway, I remember everyone in class trying the cheese and most being rather horrified by the strange bitter taste, fungus-covered exterior, and rank smell. After high school I think I moved up to eating cheddar, but not much else. It took me decades more to attempt gorgonzola and other strong or moldy cheeses.

Dear friends

Now and then I catch up on Facebook, and a few posts down comes that showcase of People I May Know. I spent a while browsing them tonight, and they are an interesting assortment.

I know her…I think. High school? No. But the name is familiar, even if the face is not.

I know that face. From where? But the name…doesn’t ring a bell.

Oh! There she is! I haven’t seen her in ages. But should I friend her? We were never very close and don’t have much in common.

Um. I knew him, but he seems to have taken a turn for the weird. Not interested in reconnecting.

Oh my! She was one of the kids I made videos for when I had a horse show video business. Now grown up.

Hm. Same last name as my cousin…but I don’t know them. Must be in-laws of cousins?

It’s surprising how many people stick with one focus or job or activity all their lives (still riding horses! still playing with that band! still working in IT!), and how many go from one thing to another. I admire the former a bit, but I’m one of the latter a bit.

Well, I didn’t add more friends. Trying to keep the information stream under control. But it was fun seeing so many people I might know.

Slowly slowly

I’m trying to clear out some took-a-year-to-finish drawings and paintings. Here are two I finished yesterday. The one of the Assumption of Mary took well over a year, I think. Drawing and painting always get set aside when I have obligatory work to do. Thanks to the quarantine there is more time for art!