July 26, 2010

Ivo Soldo, RIP

Doreen’s Uncle Ivo passed away last night in Hannover. He and his wife, Doreen’s mother’s sister Helga have been living in a small town outside of Hannover (Gro√üburgwedel) for many years.

He was about 70. He was trimming a branch in one of his fruit trees when the ladder fell, and he was badly hurt in the accident. He was taken to the hospital, but never regained consciousness.

I had the good fortune to meet Ivo in 2000 when Doreen and I were in Germany. At that time he was already retired from his job as a high school English teacher.


All the time that Doreen was growing up Ivo was a Yugoslavian. But after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1990 he turned into a Croatian. After the return of democracy to Croatia he and Helga returned to Mostar several times. I can remember looking at their travel photos, where he was standing in front of a heap of rubble saying that was the Church where they got married. It was hard looking at photos of the famous bridge in Mostar that was destroyed, and then rebuilt. He was very laconic about the whole Croatian/Serbian war.



Posted by Picasa

Ivo studied Kafka while in college, and taught English and Literature in the equivalent of High School near Hannover. When we came to visit it was like attending a class. Ivo was a very interesting and well-read man, and liked to explore different ideas with people. When we sat down to lunch, he would look at us and say, “I am going to give you a topic. The Death Penalty.” and then we would have to discuss that topic. Conversation would often drift to literature. I had (luckily) read some Kafka not too long before out trip, so I was very familiar with several of his stories when we sat down. Ivo seemed amazed that any American would have read any Kafka. It made for a lively conversation.


One evening Ivo asked if either of us had read The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. We owned the book, but neither Doreen nor I had read it at the time. Ivo started talking about it (which was fine) and Doreen mentioned that we did not want to hear the plot (there is a twist) because we both wanted to read the book. Ivo though this meant that we did not want to talk about the book at all. He said, “OK, Fine. We won’t talk about books. What do you want to talk about? The weather?” after we assured him that we DID want to talk about books, we got back on track.




Ivo and Helga had been married many years. They had two daughters (Judith and Jana) and three grandbabies (the only one I met was Louis. A beautiful little boy who must be about 17 now). Judith lives and works nearby (she is a teacher as well, if I remember correctly) and Jana is a psychiatrist living in Berlin.


While visiting Ivo and Helga, they took us to many interesting sites in the area. We went to Hamlin (of pied piper fame) as well as Celle, a town untouched by Allied Bombers in WWII. In Hamlin Ivo explained that the Pied Piper story was a legend, not a myth or a fairy tale. That meant that it had its basis in fact. And indeed, if you look up The Pied Piper, you will see that the children of Hamlin did seem to disappear sometime in the 16th century. Hamlin had an old cathedral that was destroyed in WWII. While in the church, we must have seemed a little upset by that fact. In order to make us feel better, Ivo said he was pretty sure that it was British, not American bombers that destroyed the church. I am not sure how much better we felt, but I am glad he said that.


When we dropped us off at the train station for our trip back we chatted as we waited for the train. As the train came, he smiled and told us how much he enjoyed the trip. “You have amused me” is how he left us.


Ivo, you have amused us as well. We will miss you.



July 18, 2010

Grilled Sardines

A couple of years ago we took a vacation in Lisbon. We had a great time, and loved the food. Especially the grilled sardines. We hadn't really thought about them for a while, but Doreen bought me a cookbook for my birthday, which had a nod (not really a recipe, since the recipe is pretty much "Take sardines. Grill until done" - honestly a little more than that as you can see below, but that is not the point) to grilled sardines.

Then, yesterday, when we were at Whole Foods getting meat for our terrine (but that is another story) we noticed that the fish counter had fresh sardines! They were pretty cheap - about $7/lb or so. We bought four of them for dinner. (That was just about a pound of fish) We had them clean the little fellows for us, and then went home to our chores.

The terrine was more complicated than we had though, so we had time to think about the sardines.

We also got some vegetables for grilling (nothing better than grilled vegetables) and did a quick Google search on grilling sardines.

From Terraine and Sardines


These purple potatoes were a gift from the Dairy Maids:

From Terraine and Sardines


Most recipes said to let the fish sit in coarse sale for an hour or so:
From Terraine and Sardines

They sat in the salt for about an hour, then we rinsed and oiled them:
From Terraine and Sardines

Sadly, it started to pour down rain before I started grilling:

From Terraine and Sardines


From Terraine and Sardines

But that did not stop us. We grilled the vegetables and the fish:

From Terraine and Sardines

And then we ate them:

From Terraine and Sardines


They were delicious!

From Terraine and Sardines
(note the pink wine and the cats. They really wanted those fish!)

July 14, 2010

The Billion Dollar-o-Gram 2009

The Billion Dollar-o-Gram 2009

30 Years Ago Today

30 years ago today I started working at my first post-college job. I was a Mining Engineer for Exxon Minerals. I was working on a small copper/zinc deposit in New Mexico near Silver City. (Near the ghost town of Pinos Altos)

Our offices were in downtown Houston, in what was then called Dresser Tower, which is now called KBR tower. I started off in a window office (until they found a suitable inside office for me - I did not have enough experience to rate a window office) and we were on something like the 22nd floor. The view was spectacular.

I was staying in the Whitehall Hotel (now a Crowne Plaza) because Minerals said that they were going to be moving out of downtown, and wanted me to wait before I rented an apartment. They didn't move until a year later, but I stayed in that hotel for about six weeks.

The first day I showed up, my manager saw me in the hall and said "Christmas came early this year!" Very nice. His name was Jim Grenias, and was probably about 45, and had worked in what seemed to be dozens of different mines. (A tramp miner, we called folks like that). They had about three new engineers like me, and about a dozen very experienced miners. My boss's boss was named Rich Hughes (He sure loved to drink. Hell, all those miners loved to drink!) and had worked everything from placer gold in Alaska (to whence he returned) to hard rock (ie, non-coal) underground in Idaho.

A few of the other people's names I remember are Dave Mann, Goetz (I can't dredge up his first name, but he always wore a short sleeve shirt and a tie (with a clip) than never went below his sternum.) Wayne was our ventilation guy. Walter Davis (who became a very close friend of mine, and has since passed away) was our metallurgist. Shortly after I arrived Shen Yu and Hal Edwin joined the team. I still have lunch with Shen and Hal on a regular basis.

The project (there was no mine) was canceled within a year. I then moved to Colorado and worked on the Colony Oil Shale Project. It, too was canceled within a year.

That ended my experiment of working for a large company.

I have many fond memories of Exxon (now ExxonMobil) though. I would not have traded those two years in for anything.

July 12, 2010

Cooking Revival Meats Pork Chops

I like to eat meat. I know that Michael Pollen says that we should "Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much" but I love the mouth feel of a cook piece of pork with fat slippery and oozing down my chin. I also love animals. I agree with Peter Singer that we should try to minimize the amount of suffering in the world.

Which is why I was excited when I found out about Revival Meats (see previous post) and the fact that they were coming to Houston to sell some pork.

I bought bacon and pork chops:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

and I wanted to honor the pig by making him delicious.

I decided that I would grill the Chops, and accompany them with grill corn on the cob

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


and grilled peaches:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

But before we get to cooking, I wanted to brine the pork. I send Morgan a text just to make sure it still made sense to bring pork of this quality, and he said that it was fine. So I made a simple brine of kosher salt (about 1/2 c) and sugar (about 3T) in about a quart of water:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

I let the chops brine for about an hour, and then let them sit at room temperature for another hour or so. Aren't they beautiful?

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

I then started the grill,

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


Peppered the pork,

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

and started grilling

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

Look at these beautiful peaches!

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

I wanted to make sure that the pork didn't overcook, so I got out my trusty thermo-pen:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures
but the battery was dead.

So we grilled the pork and corn

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

Until they were done. (Pork to about 135 degrees F, corn until it was blackened)

This is what it looks like plated:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


The pork was great:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


(it was a little pinker than that photo shows)

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


Man, it was good!

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


This is the wine we had with it:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


and THAT was a winner! I love those Burgundy Wines.

Finally, the roasted peaches with ice cream and caramel sauce, sprinkled with malt:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures


It was a delicious meal.

Revival Meats

I have been reading about Revival Meats since I first stumbled across them from someone's twitter feed. So last week Friday, when I read that they (read that as Morgan Weber, the owner of Revival) would be at the Dairy Maid's warehouse from 3:00 to 6:30, I was thrilled. I figured this would be a great time to get some real pork, and also to support a local farm about which I had heard such great things.

I had a meeting at the Empire Cafe late that afternoon, so I was not too far away from the warehouse. I got up there about 4:00, but Morgan had not yet arrived.

I was worried that he may have sold out of all his pork, but the truth was a little more prosaic. He had a meeting with Brennan's restaurant that went long. (Coincidentally, we ate at Brennan's Saturday evening - the first time since they reopened. It was great) We are good with that, as we want good pork at Brennan's and we want Revival meat to become famous.

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

DairyMaid's Warehouse

Morgan got to the warehouse about 4:30 or so, and had two big coolers with some nice looking pieces of meat.

I was second in line (to @FoodPrincess. Nice meeting you, by the way!) and picked out some nice looking bacon:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures

and a couple of pork chops:

From Revival Meats and other backyard pleasures
They were all frozen, so I took them home to thaw.

Oh, and of course I bought some Cheese from the DairyMaid's stash. We had the cheese that evening for supper (very healthy!) and prepared the Pork Chops Sunday night.

I will write more about that later.