The French Farmhouse Report for 1/22/20

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

 Two consecutive weekends of storms with freezing rain as the headliner and a couple of days of pretty cold weather kind of took the stuffings out of me. At least last year’s polar vortex event featured clear skies and snow that a person and a dog could walk on without crampons.

Liberal use of a paw- and grass-friendly ice melter kept the back step cleared and a path open to a patch where Oakley could tend to those most personal forms of business. Otherwise, we stayed inside. Oakley played with his holiday puzzles and napped. I read, napped, and succumbed to the lure of the TV.

As I flipped around, I saw a teaser for a show featuring unusual Chicago area restaurants, such as one near the Northwestern University campus that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. They certainly had my undivided attention.

After some five minutes of ads, the show started. Interview with the chef/owner, shots of the funky/cozy/brick walled interior with hand-lettered chalk board menus. Tour complete, it was down to business in the kitchen. Texas toast slices (the ones at least double the thickness of a regular slice of bread, usually involved in making diner-style French toast) were brushed with what may or may not have been melted butter, topped with some sort of cheese, then passed through a broiler like the ones in chain burger joints for a preliminary browning and melting.

Then came a filling of delicacies such as French fries or macaroni and cheese before the two slices were assembled into a sandwich and given a final browning in a buttered frying pan.

Now, the Mystery She knows that I have consumed my fair share and someone else’s of carbs and fats, especially back in the day when I may or may not have ingested adult beverages and more so when my hormones dragged me to the store and demanded potato chips. But this was so totally over the top that it didn’t even look good. To me, anyway.

Maybe it’s because I’ve developed discernment as I’ve matured; maybe it’s because of the lessons learned during my trip to France and subsequent readings about their cultural attitudes towards food. In any event, I would take a pass on it, thank you. OK, maybe I would split it with someone, but it’s not something I’d order on my own.

This over the top type of grilled cheese wouldn’t fly in France, except as a novelty, maybe.  A diner would get a much smaller sandwich consisting of two conventionally-sized slices of bread with cheese or a cheese sauce and some ham, turkey, or chicken in the middle. That would be baked for about 15 minutes, then perhaps served with a fried egg on top. There would be a small side salad. (Fries are usually served with steak.)  And that would be it. Except for some fruit for dessert. And don’t forget a small cup of coffee or tea to conclude the meal.

My own hankerings for grilled cheese get satisfied here at home with two slices of whole wheat bread, an unprocessed cheese in the middle, and the twist courtesy of one of my friends: instead of buttering the outside, spread with mayonnaise and sprinkle Parmesan  cheese for a crunchy brown crust. I won’t say it’s life changing, but I will say it makes the next fifteen or so minutes pretty tolerable, indeed.

If I have an urge while I’m out, I stop at Belladonna, the local point of refuge for artists, Bohemians, and people who appreciate the art of really good food, coffee, and tea. One of the grilled cheese paninis with a cup of the homemade soup always elevates the day.

It’s just enough, and a little more (I usually take half home for dinner), and that’s just right for me.

 

 

Monday Mashup: Media Edition

No, we do not have cable, nor do we have a dish. We never will, either.

Despite our distance from Chicago proper, some 50 miles, the elevated antenna and converter box built into our DVD/BluRay player pulls in the signals from the four major networks, providing us with hours of amusement, or at least background noise. We have Netflix. We have DVDs. We have access to two PBS stations and their respective substations. Make that three under certain weather conditions.

That’s all I want or need. Except for the monthly Netflix bill, donations a couple of times a year to the PBS stations, and a few shekels to NPR and another public station, it’s free.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age, or taste, or growing consciousness, but the last few times I tried to watch network TV (“Big Bang Theory” reruns the one exception), disturbed me. The quality or lack of was bad enough, but I started wondering if there was some validity to the conspiracy theory that mass media is being used by the Rothchilds to keep the masses down. Do viewers really know what they’re watching?

Comedies routinely present verbal abuse as strength, continue with varying shades of sexism and racism, and involve verbally castrating men or portraying them as weak and inept. News flash: we will not settle the patriarchy score by female characters ripping male characters. The last couple of seasons of BBT have started the slide down this slope.

I can’t really comment on dramas because nothing has held my attention long enough in years.

Reality TV is a plague upon the soul of the planet. Back in medieval times, the nobles had a rather nasty form of entertainment called “dwarf parades.” Little people and other subjects who were differently abled would get trotted out at court occasions for the amusement of the lords and ladies. That people give a precious hour of their lives to shows like “19 Kids and Counting” or “Here Comes Honey BooBoo” or one of the countless court or “talk” shows glorifying intense shades of dysfunction proves that we haven’t grown very much as a species.

One notable exception: ABC’s “The Quest,” a replacement from last summer. Ten contestants were chosen to defend Everealm from a villain. The show focused on teamwork and ability, and eliminations were based on evaluating the participants’ strength and weaknesses, not on arguments that sounded like the spewing of sugared up eighth graders.

Ironically, a TV character said it best: Mr. Spock once informed a subordinate that “there are always alternatives.”

What will it take to get the world at large to see that and maybe start picking up books again?