Friday, March 30, 2007

Walmart and kosher Broccoli

I only made one trip to Walmart today. I usually make two runs during the day and yesterday I actually made three, so I guess it evens out more or less. The thing is, I have no cell phone reception here at camp so my daily trips to Walmart are the only times I really have communication with the outside world.

So today it's been just me and the students cooking for Shabbat. They spent all day in the kitchen. But really, it's not so much cooking as it is assembling. Pasta salad, veggie stir fry, honey/cinnamon carrots, tuna and egg salad, instant mashed potatoes with fried onions (really good), and broccoli.

Our mashgiach has never supervised a kitchen that's made frozen broccoli before (he's a student). After many calls to the great rabbis (no clue who, but I assume that's who they were). It turns out that he needed to boil the green stuff for two minutes, then put it in cold water and agitate each individual spear to check for bugs. We had a case of broccoli and this took a good hour. By the end of the hour we were all agitated and the broccoli lookes pathetic. Oh well.

Most of our menu has been dictated by the over buying from he last two weeks. There are still 15 pounds of baby carrots that we'll never use and cases and cases of bagels and the accompanying cream cheese packets. Plus, there are more industrial size cans of tuna than I knew what to do with. At least they ordred hard boiled eggs already peeled....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chili for 100

How many pounds of dried beans do you need to make chili for 100 people? If the answer is about 12 pounds of assorted beans, then we're on the right track. Plus we added about 10 bags of Morningstar Farms crumbled "meat". Some diced tomatoes, onions and spices and hopefully it will be done in the next 30 minutes.

I say (and mean) hopefully because despite soaking the beans overnight and even changing the water once, they are still a bit "crunchy", and that's after simmering with everything else for almost 2.5 hours.

I hope the cornbread is ok...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Katrina, 18 months later and counting

This week I'm staying at a very rustic (emphasis on the "very rustic" part) camp in Kiln, Mississippi, just north of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. The house that was the main office of campu was flooded to about the 5 foot mark. I have no cell phone reception there and rare email access.

The devastation is so much more than one might imagine so long after the hurricane. Not only are the houses boarded up or undergoing gutting or rehab, but so many of the businesses are closed and it doesn't appear that they're going to reopen anytime soon. Everything seems to be for sale.

Our students are working on houses in Chalmette, Louisiana in St. Bernard Parish right outside of New Orleans. They're gutting houses, sorting out the valuables to save for the homeowners and pulling out appliances, drywall, floor tiles, carpeting, and whatever else is between them and the frame of the house. If the homeowners decide to rebuild, it's there for them, if not, the houses are leveled to the ground. I haven't seen it, but they say that takes about 30 minutes to go from a standing house to the bare concrete foundation.

Today they heard from Colonel David Dysart, the person in charge of recovery efforts for St. Bernard Parish. According to him, FEMA has basically abandoned the parish and its people. The houses aren't even close to being ready, but FEMA is already asking for their trailers back. Because the hospital there was private and FEMA won't fund private enterprise, they have been unable to rebuild the hospital. The process to get a Right of Entry to start gutting a house is a long and complicated one and that's compounded by the fact that the parish doesn't have the information they need to communicate with the property owners. FEMA has it but won't share it because of privacy concerns. He also told us that the budget for the parish comes from two primary sources, sales tax and real estate tax. There is very, very little real estate tax income coming in, and since so many business are still closed and unlikely to reopne, not so much sales tax either.

I've been out at the work sites with the students yesterday and today. They're really working hard. I've been running the kitchen, which means telling the students what to do to set up breakfast, supervise the students making dinner, and get the lunch-making students set up at night so I can finally go to sleep.

I've seen some really, really big bugs here. I think that they might be considered a new species if anyone bothered to come study them. And I've spent a lot of time at Wal-Mart stocking up on supplied. The kitchen people from last week ordered way, way too much food, but unless we're going to eat bagels all week, I've got to do some shopping. The kitchen we're using to cook for 90 people is small, by the best comparisons. there's one small oven, 4 burners, but only 2 of which can be used at any time, and a scant amount of counter space. And there's no where to really put the pots and metal pans we've been using.

Did I mention the really big bugs?

We were supposed to be staying in Slidell, Louisiana. We went by there on Monday to pick up some of the things left behind when we moved to the Mississippi camp. The place there was formerly a furniture warehouse and the activity and food tents are in the parking lot. The dorms are in the warehouse and the lights are never turned off. And the security guard was wearing a holstered gun. We're not sure why. Rustic beats industrial any day.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Laverne & Shirley, Lenny & Squiggy

I think we saw one of their apartments this weekend while we were looking at duplexes in Milwaukee. It's a common Milwaukee thing, but evidently not so much in the rest of the country. What we saw ranged from "frat boy chic" (and I used the term "chic"extremely liberally) to uber-modern.

We learned several things:
  • Living closer to campus might be nice for students, but isn't so nice if you want to be a landlords.
  • Polka dots all over the walls leading up to the second floor entrance may only be a nice idea if it's not the owner's apartment.
  • There are many versions of the alcohol periodic table that also tells you how to contruct various drinks.
  • Pool tables and ping pong tables are popular in dining rooms of college students.
  • Too many people paint over wood trim for no good reason.
  • A queen-size bed will take up most of the space in the largest bedroom in nearly all the apartments we saw.
  • A house that costs $125,000 more than another, really is a lot nicer than its less expensive counterpart.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beware the Ides of March

Well, once again we're at the Ides of March. A lot of people don't know that every month has an "Ides". The ides of March, May, July and October fall on the 15th of the month, and on all the other months, it's the 13th.

It's also my half-birthday, just in case you were interested.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

From 20.75 to 83 in no time

I was in St. Louis last week for my father's 20.75 birthday, or 83 if in human years. He celebrates in leap years, so next year he'll finally be old enough to buy a beer his doctor won't let him drink.

Friday afternoon we went driving. About a year ago, we went driving for the first time in a long time. We were in a big, empty parking lot and it wasn't easy for him to shift his right leg enough to cover the brake and stop quickly if he needed to, but I think it was good for him to get back behind the wheel. A few weeks later, still in the parking lot, he was definitely better but not quite ready to drive in case of any emergency (not that any were expected). And last Thanksgiving, we went out on "real" streets really early on Thanksgiving days without many cars. But this past Friday my dad pulled out of the driveway and took us around the subdivision, onto the main roads, through a parking lot, back up through the neighborhood, around the corner into the next subdivision, back onto the main roads and then back to the house. Definitely an improvement. Maybe highways next time?