August 2001

Culinary Summit

I’ve just reached a culinary summit so high that I need supplementary oxygen.

Then again, that lightheadedness may just be another manifestation of my increasing madness. You be the judge:

1. Place a perfect, vine ripened Brandywine tomato 4 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter into the small clear glass bowl that came with your Sunbeam Mixmaster, which I’m sure you’re taking good care of now that there’ll be no more of them since Sunbeam has been conglomerated, spun off, shredded, and its value applied to the golden parachutes.

2. Fill the bowl to within 3/4 inch of the top with filtered and lightly chlorinated Hetch Hetchy water or a reasonable substitute.

3. Remove the tomato, put salad plates beneath and atop the bowl, place this assembly in the microwave, and punch in 8 minutes.

4. Peel a medium Haas or Gwen avocado (or if you must, a Reed) and cut it in small bites into a soup bowl.

5. When the water is boiling vigorously (less than 8 minutes unless you have a really wimpy microwave), remove the plate and bowl assembly by the still cool lower plate and place it on the counter. Gently lower the tomato into the boiling water and recover the bowl. Let stand thirty seconds. Remove the tomato (I prefer using a slotted spoon, but Julia, who has told us to just get used to burning ourselves in the kitchen, would probably snatch it out with her bare hands), re-cover the Sunbeam bowl, skin the tomato, and chop it into bites atop the avocado.

6. Drizzle just the right amounts of balsamic vinegar, chipotle chile oil, and salt into the bowl and mix well.

7. Enjoy.

8. Use the still-hot water in the Sunbeam bowl to rinse the soup bowl and flatware before placing them in the dishwasher. You re-covered the Sunbeam bowl to keep the water hotter longer.

You ask, “Why the microwave?”

My rental unit is heated by an antique gravity flow gas furnace, which I just love. Having no fan, it requires only enough electricity to operate the thermostat. Its only downside is that since it lacks that noisy and intrusive fan, the floor is always cold. Not a problem for those who don’t need to run around barefoot.

Well, actually, it has another downside. It has a non-adjustable pilot light that is a wide tongue of flame… a big wide tongue of flame that is during warm weather a grotesque waste of energy and, OK, PG&E bill dollars. But I had solved this problem by turning the pilot off during the summer months when the baseline allotment is miniscule. And yes, during our fog season in July and August, there were sometimes days when I needed to relight the pilot, but I would go for weeks and weeks at a time without relighting it.

Compulsive behavior, actually, and in any case I had to give it up, being informed by the landlord that turning the pilot off was harmful to the furnace.

So now I have a gas bills that prove beyond doubt that a good deal of precious natural gas is being squandered in the basement. I really did perform the ludicrous microwave experiment described above. I had to find some way to hysterically conserve gas to compensate, even for a day, for all that senseless waste.

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