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ralph robert moore
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until the cows come home and get turned into cheeseburgers
august 1, 2012
Q: Why do you have a large jar of brown rice in your pantry?
A: One of the recommendations I received from the gastroenterologist when I got my colonoscopy a month ago is that I eat more fiber. I guess it's a fairly common gastroenterologist recommendation. So I've been experimenting with that. Fiber comes mostly from whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Mary and I bought a bunch of different canned nuts, pistachios (which are my favorite), peanuts, pecans, almonds and cashews. And bag after bag of fresh fruit. Which I love to eat-that and fresh vegetables. If I didn't love meat so much, I'd be a vegetarian.
We usually use whole wheat bread for tuna and chicken salad sandwiches, but white bread for everything else. As an experiment, we began using whole wheat for BLT's, club sandwiches, ham sandwiches, etc.
It really doesn't work for us. The thing is, whole wheat bread is too neutral a flavor for most sandwiches. For something like a BLT, for example, you really need the sweetness of white bread toast to bring out the acidity of the tomato, the salty smokiness of the bacon. Whole wheat tends to bland those flavors out.
I can't imagine whole wheat being used for garlic bread, or meatball grinders. The whole wheat would muffle the flavor.
And it's the same for rice.
I've tried brown rice about a half dozen times now, but the truth is, it really is not that good an ingredient. The flavor is nondescript, the texture isn't pleasant, and it's too chewy to enjoy. White rice has a very distinct aroma. Like vanilla has a distinct, very easily identified aroma. White rice smells nothing like vanilla, of course, but they do share the luck that their scent is unique, and pleasing.
I've tried sautéing brown rice in a skillet before steaming it, to add more nuttiness; mixing it with aromatics like onion, celery and carrots; adding garlic and chills; but the end result, which is fantastic with white rice, with brown rice is blah.
So to me, eating brown rice is like, "take your medicine." And that just doesn't appeal to me.
But fresh fruits and vegetables? I can eat those until the cows come home and get turned into cheeseburgers.
Q: You've been passing out a couple of times lately.
A: Yeah, I have.
Passing out is such a weird thing. You think you're okay, you've got a head full of ideas, then suddenly that head is filled with flower blossoms, too-bright daisies, and the next moment you're conscious of-after a disconnect in consciousness-- is pain and being somewhere different.
Forgetting the first time I passed out, which I talked about in the prior Lately, and which was clearly caused by the lingering effects of the intravenous anesthetic I was administered during my colonoscopy, the next time I passed out was about three weeks later.
A weekday night. (Weekdays and weekends no longer have any meaning for us, since I retired. Every day is Saturday. An unexpected byproduct of that: I'm constantly asking people, while I'm writing a check in a store, what the date is. Because once you stop working, and no longer have to write or type the date twenty times a day, you lose track.) Anyway, we were up in our project rooms, on the second floor, working. I went downstairs at one point, and decided to unload all the cartons we had in the trunk of our Honda SUV. The garage, not air-conditioned, was hot and airless this time of year in Texas. After all that labor, I climbed the stairs, sat down at my computer and worked on a story, stood up quickly, walked towards Mary's room, saw those daisy petals blossoming, and fell on my knees. Fortunately, this time, I didn't completely lose consciousness. Mary raced out of her room, where she had caught my drop in the corner of her eye. But only my knees hit the carpet, so no damage. She was concerned I might lose consciousness going up or down the stairs, where a fall forward or backward could seriously cause hurt. I started using the stair rail, clutching and reclutching the wooden rail, lower and lower, like a white-haired man.
The next time it happened, a couple of weeks later, was a bit worse.
This Summer, Texas has gotten more rainfall than usual. Which is great. The few years prior we've had droughts. We hated seeing all the brown, cut-down trees piled by the curbs around town waiting for pick-up. But not all the storms have been gentle. Winds have been so bad some of the trees in our back yard bend backwards like fingers.
This particular Sunday, our power went out. Temperatures were close to one hundred, so it didn't take long until our clothes were sticking to our skin. And what can you do? You could get a sheet of cardboard and fan yourself, but really, at that point, you're just fanning warm air against your sweaty face.
We were upstairs again, in our project rooms. No electricity, so I pulled a book down from one of my bookshelves, James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small, and started reading in front of my blank monitor screen. And was enjoying myself. But then I stood up and those daisies came back. The bottom of my jaw hit the top of a three-step stepladder in my room, then bounced off. I went down backwards, hand out, landing on the carpet in such a way that the impact bent back three fingers on my right hand.
I came to almost immediately. Which is disorienting. One moment you're thinking about country veterinarian anecdotes, the next you're looking sideways across an expanse of carpet, thinking it's time to vacuum.
Again, though, and again fortunately, although my jaw hurt, and I had to carefully flex my three fingers to make sure they weren't broken, I suffered no damage.
But I did realize I had to do something.
The problem, I was sure, was the blood pressure medicine I was taking (because I never had this problem with fainting until I started using the medication.) That blood pressure medicine was Lisinopril, 10 mg a day, and HCTZ, which is a diuretic, 12.5 mg a day. Both drugs are combined in the same small pill.
The doctor we use has a handy feature where you can send her a question over the Internet. I wrote her, telling her the problems I was having, asking if she could switch me to a different medication.
One of the nurses in her office called me an hour later, getting more details about my fainting spells. She called back a half hour after that, having consulted with the doctor. They called in a new prescription to my pharmacy, same dosage for Lisinopril as before, but eliminating HCTZ, the diuretic.
I tried that for a week. No more passing out on my feet, but my blood pressure was back up around the 150/90 mark. Not good. So I decided to revert back to the original prescription, with the diuretic, and just be more careful.
I used to take my blood pressure medication at 4:30 pm, but now I take it at 10:00 am. I'm very cautious whenever I stand up, my conscious mind always looking left, right, for the daisies. Typically, I stand, wait a moment to see if the daisies appear, and if they don't, start walking.
So far, no further fainting spells.
And that's where I am now. So we'll see.
Incidentally, the Lisinopril by itself is a much larger pill than the Lisinopril combined with the HCTZ, even though it's the same dosage.
Why is that?
Q: Let's end on a happy note.
A: We finally went to In-N-Out Burger!
They had them while we were living in California (I think they started there in 1948), but I guess for whatever reason we just weren't aware of them at the time, so we had never had an In-N-Out burger. Although you hear about them all the time, how they're supposed to be the best fast food burger around.
About a year ago, they started opening some sites in Dallas, we'd see them from the highway, while we were going here and there in the city, but there was never a good opportunity for us to actually visit one. Recently, they opened a site about twenty minutes away from us. We decided to check them out.
Q: So how good is their burger?
A: The site itself was impressive. Very clean inside. Spotless. Wide aisles, so you're not eating right next to someone else. And the staff were the friendliest, most cheerful fast food staff we've ever seen (apparently, In-N-Out is known for excellent customer service.)
To give you an idea of how their attitude differs from most fast food places, all In-N-Outs open at 10:30 am. We pulled into their parking lot at 10:15. Noticed a couple of people going through the front doors. So we thought, Let's see. Walked across the lot to the doors. I pulled one open for Mary, went in behind her.
The woman at the counter said, May I help you?
I asked what time they open. She said, Officially at 10:30, but as long as the cook is here, we'll serve people whenever they show up. Contrast that with McDonald's, where if you pull up at their drive-through window at 10:25 (which we did recently), they'll refuse to take an order for their fish fillet sandwich, because they don't sell fish fillet sandwiches until 10:30, and apparently the fish fillet sandwiches are kept in a hydraulically-sealed bank vault that's calibrated to not open until precisely 10:30 (they probably have an atomic clock somewhere in each restaurant to make sure they don't accidently sell you a fish filet sandwich at 10:29 am.)
In-N-Out only sells burgers, fries, and some shakes. They don't sell onion rings, for example, or chicken, or fish sandwiches, or tacos, or eggrolls. When asked about this during a press conference, their representative explained, We know how to cook really good burgers and fries. So that's what we stick with. I respect that.
All their ground beef is fresh (it's never been frozen.) And all burgers are cooked to order (i.e., they don't pre-cook burgers, then keep them under a warming light until someone places an order.)
In-N-Out is known to have a rather extensive "secret menu" of different ways to have your burger or fries prepared (different ingredients, cooking methods, etc.) These options don't appear on their official menu. Although this second menu is "secret", you can go on the Internet and see what most of the options are (and a lot of the secret options are discovered just through word of mouth.)
So from the official menu we decided to order two cheeseburgers and two orders of fries. From the secret menu, I ordered a cheeseburger "animal style". Which means it comes with slightly different add-ons, and the patty itself is fried in mustard.
If you compare their regular cheeseburger to McDonald's cheeseburger, there's no competition. McDonald's cheeseburger is a sad little disc that's usually dried out from spending an hour or so under a warming lamp. The patty itself tends to stick to the bun's interior (I don't even want to speculate why.) Very little flavor. The yellow paper they wrap around the cheeseburger should have a big, flowery "Fuck You" written across the wrapper.
The In-N-Out cheeseburger, by contrast, is two or more times the size. Fresh lettuce and a slice of tomato, slice of raw onion (one secret option is to have the onion grilled.) Plus their special sauce. The beef patty itself was high quality beef. And I noticed (with some surprise) they cooked it medium-done, the way a burger should be cooked, rather than the well-done, kill all juice and flavor style used by other fast food places.
The animal-style cheeseburger was similar, although to me it had even more flavor.
The fries were also quite good, and far tastier than fries we've gotten elsewhere. We ate quite of few of them as is, without ketchup, as we drove home to enjoy our meal.
Our only quibble was that the patty itself, although it was as thick as most fast food hamburger patties, would have been better if it were thicker, just to stand up better to all the other ingredients in the sandwich. This can apparently be easily remedied by ordering a "double-double", which is two cheese-draped patties with each sandwich (you can also order three patties or four patties for each sandwich.)
What also amazed us is that our order, three cheeseburgers and two fries, came to only ten dollars plus change. If we had ordered from another fast food restaurant it would have been much more, with a lower quality.
So how good is an In-N-Out burger? Realistically?
It would be unfair to compare it with a backyard burger, because that's a whole different animal.
But in terms of burgers available through fast food franchises, I'd put it at the top. You can't really compare it to a McDonald's cheeseburger, because the McDonald's cheeseburger is the sort of minimal sustenance that's thrown out of helicopters to people on the ground below who have been displaced by a flood. It's technically food, but it's a bad burger.
The comparison to McDonald's (and I'm using McDonald's because virtually everyone has eaten one of their burgers at some point), is to the Big Mac. The In-N-Out cheeseburger is much better. The patty itself is far more flavorful, the sauce is better, the lettuce is an actual intact leaf of lettuce, rather than anonymous shredded lettuce, and you get tomato and onion slices. And the eating experience itself is much better. It's more like eating an actual burger, with all its complex flavors, biting through it like you'd bite your way through a backyard burger, rather than consuming something machine-manufactured. And the In-N-Out burger costs less! And you're waited on by happy, cheerful, intelligent people!
Q: So we ended on a happy note.
A: We did indeed.