2002 Notebook: Weak I
1 January 2002
The Same, More Better
A few minutes into the new year, I asked Allen what he thought 2002 would be like.

“The same,” he replied, paused, then added, “more better.”

“Both more and better?” I asked.

“Nope, just more better,” Allen. “It’s my new concept for a new year.”

The same, more better. I don’t think I like the “same” part, but who couldn’t love “more better?”

2 January 2002
A Beautiful Palindrome of a Year
I greeted Dr. Francis by saying “Happy 2002.”

“A beautiful palindrome of a year,” he agreed.

“I never thought about that,” I admitted. “I suppose this is the only palindrome year we’ll ever see.”

“I suppose that’s true for anyone born after 1991,” Dr. Francis replied.

Oops. I should have known better than to have tried to discuss numbers with Dr. Francis.

3 January 2002
A Father of Beer-Flavored Water is Dead
Freddy Heineken died today with three and a half billion dollars in the bank. He amassed his fortune after realizing an epiphany when he was in the United States during the second world war. Here’s what Heineken figured out: good marketing sells a lot more mediocre beer than good beer sells itself. As Heineken put it, “I don’t sell beer, I sell warmth.”

Heineken put that philosophy into practice at the company his grandfather founded in 1863. That’s why Heineken beer tastes like beer-flavored water, and that same approach is why over ninety-nine percent of beer “brewed” in the United States tastes like beer-flavored water. The corporations that concoct such weak alcoholic pablum long ago figured out that it’s cheaper to sell warmth, a “lifestyle,” snob appeal, or any other concept, than it is to make good beer.

There’s really not much more to say about a man who dedicated his life to spreading watery beer throughout the world, so I won’t.

4 January 2002
Marmite Tastes a Hundred Years Old, and Today It Is
Marmite, the British tar-like “food,” is one hundred years old today. I tried it a couple of times when I was over there; it tastes like a combination of axle grease and concentrated pond scum. I can’t understand why Marmite’s been around so long. Or perhaps the manufacturers are still selling the first batch made over a century ago; I’m pretty sure Marmite doesn’t decompose.

I read an article—actually, more of a love letter—on Marmite by Laura Barton that made me reconsider my assessment. My failure to appreciate Marmite may be a failure to understand the essentials of an aesthetically-rewarding Marmite delivery system.

    Spreading Marmite is an art form. It has to be done thinly. In fact, not just thinly, but t-h-i-n-l-y.

Although some people might believe that Barton raises an interesting point, I disagree. What’s the point of a food or drink that can’t be best enjoyed in large quantities? A towering bottle of Rainier Ale is more rewarding than the relatively diminutive liter can, two slices of pizza are more pleasing than just one, and so on.

T-h-i-n-l-y? Feh!

5 January 2002
Very Good Art, Defined
After Juliette and I went to an opening tonight, I told her I didn’t see anything very good there.

“Define ‘very good,’” she requested.

“Worth plagiarizing,” I replied without hesitation.

6 January 2002
My Retirement Plans
Some of my well-intentioned friends suggest that I’m not very good with investments. That’s when I point out that the few dollars I invest in a burrito and a chilly bottle of Rainier Ale yield an immediate return on that investment.

Since my well-intentioned friends can’t argue with that, they erroneously suggest that I have no long-term investment policy. They wouldn’t say that if they knew about Hanna and Rivka.

The twins are my retirement plan. Ever since they were born, I keep telling Hanna and Rivka the same thing whenever I see them. “Some day you’ll meet an old man named David Rinehart. You’ll let him sleep in your garage, and you’ll bring him a beer before bed every night.”

Argentina just defaulted on a hundred-and-some billion dollars of loans, a shady Texas oil company just went more or less bankrupt costing investors billions and billions of dollars, and lots of other traditional investments are in tatters. On the other hand, Hanna and Rivka are in fine fettle.

7 January 2002
Birthday Lie
My mother called to wish me a happy forty-sixth birthday.

“Mom, I’m not forty-six,” I said. “That’s a lie spread by the terrorists who would destroy our way of life.”

“Really?” she asked.

“Really,” I replied.

“Well, now you know how I feel,” she responded. “Those same vermin have been spreading the malicious rumor that I’m sixty-five!”

My mother and I agreed that we should never let the facts obscure the truth.

8 January 2002
Yummy “Outdoorsmen” Recipes
For some reason, I always seem to check my creativity at the door when I enter the kitchen. In fact, I only have two or three recipes. (I’m not sure if the third recipe qualifies as a proper recipe.)

1. Pasta and vegetables

2. Rice and vegetables

3. Order a burrito at a Mission taqueria

I’ve never felt hindered by my limited kitchen repertoire; I could happily live on my tiny menu for the rest of my life. I’m very conscious, however, that some of my guests have a higher culinary entertainment threshold, so I decided to start off the new year with a new cookbook.

I decided to avoid popular cookbooks; what’s the point of serving my guests the same things they’re eating everywhere else? That’s why I was delighted when I stumbled across Favorite Recipes of Famous Outdoorsmen, an elegantly slim volume published in 1949 American Gas Machine Company, of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

The American Gas Machine Company made “Kampkook” and “Kabinkook,” the predecessors to lightweight backpacking stoves. And what better way to sell stoves than to provide delicious, woodsy recipes?

Thanks to Favorite Recipes of Famous Outdoorsmen, I now have recipes for Braised Muskrat, Boiled Reindeer Head, Possum and Taters, Broiled Starling on Toast, Beaver-Tail Soup, Muktuk, and more.

Since a good muktuk recipe is hard to find, I’ll reprint one from the cookbook. (I tried to get proper reproduction rights, but the American Gas Machine Company seems to have vanished.) Anyway, here’s the recipe:

    Muktuk is the outer covering of the whale. It includes the white skin, approximately 1-2 inches (2 1/2 - 5cm) thick, plus a thin pinkish layer immediately underneath. After taking blocks from the whale, leave 2 days hanging to dry. Cut into pieces 6 x 6 inches (15x15cm). Have water ready to boil. Cook until it tests tender when pierced with a fork. Keep in oil in a 45 gallon (206 litre) drum after it is cooled. Store in a cool place and you will have muktuk all year. Most Inuit prefer to eat muktuk raw, as it has tender-crisp texture and tastes like fresh coconut.

Mmmm, fresh coconut! Arctic delight!

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©2002 David Glenn Rinehart