Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Official End of The Holidays

Many people think that the holidays end after New Year's Day. Not so. The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., in addition to changing the shape of civil rights in this country forever, is a Federal holiday that eases us out of vacationland. Many people have just finished their first full week of work in about a month, and this well-placed holiday helps ease the pain of a long, dark time with no holidays to come. With the exception of President's Day next month, we don't have much to look forward to until July 4th. That is, other than three more months of cold.

Hello, delicious piggy...
We got our January summer, though. It seems that just about every year in DC comes with an unseasonably warm few days in January. Back in the day, when it used to be hot in DC, that meant we got a few days of 60 and 70 degree weather oddly placed in the dead of winter. This year, it meant we got a couple days that barely edged into the 50s. But the timing over the long weekend couldn't have been better, and I took advantage of the relative balminess to smoke a seven pound pork shoulder.

It was delicious. And will continue to be as it provides leftovers for a week. This has got to be the cheapest, most delicious way to eat imaginable. Though it takes about 8 hours, the effort is pretty minimal thanks to the invention of the propane smoker.

Some purists will revile the use of propane to make barbecue. These poor luddites, clutching on to their rusty oil-drum smokers like a shipwrecked sailor to his overturned lifeboat, are only limiting themselves with their sad devotion to an ancient religion. They are doomed to babysit their barbecue for hours, constantly adding charcoal and working hard to maintain the sweet spot of 225 degrees needed for pulled pork perfection. But with propane, you can more or less "set it and go." I'll check in every hour or so to make sure everything's still good and add more hickory chips as they are consumed, but this is as good as any barbecue cooked with dead trees. And it's dirt cheap. A seven pound pork shoulder is about 10 bucks. Throw in some buns, cabbage for cole slaw and some baked beans, and the total cost to feed about 20 people (or 2 people for a week) is about 15 bucks.

Apropos of cheap eating, I read an interesting account from an observer in the kitchen at a DC public school. Recently, DC has changed from a system of completely prepared food that's just reheated on-site, to completely on-site prep. This should result in better quality and nutrition, in theory, though in practice it doesn't sound a lot different, since it sounds like everything they are working with is processed. They didn't even have a range yet at this school. Sounds about right for a typical DC improvement. But the cost per meal is $2.68. I am not sure if that's just food or the total cost of the operation, but I say let them eat pork barbecue! Even at retail prices my cost per meal is under a buck.

Anyway, inbetween smoker check-ins, I was working on my bathroom. For those who have not followed my progress on this debacle, the project began slightly more than six months ago. That puts the timeline officially in the "ridiculous" category. When I gutted the bathroom on July 4th of last year, never in my worst ADD nightmare did I imagine that it would not be finished before calendar turned 2010. That "milestone," combined with my fiancee's gentle observation that it was getting a little silly at this point, refocused my efforts. Over the last two weekends, I finished all the tiling and grouting. The shower was used for the first time without plastic liners all around the enclosure on Saturday.

So there is a light at the end of the tunnel. All that's left is the transom over the glass-block window, which is still in the hands of the artisan but should be finished soon, and some drywall finishing/sanding and painting. Then, only then, sometime around 7 months after the first hammer swing, will the "under construction" signs shall be removed. Keep your fingers crossed.

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