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Thoughts from dishpan hands

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I wash a lot of dishes by hand wine glasses, knives, larger items that don't fit so well in the dishwasher. It's a menial task, but it allows the mind to wander. So here are some random thoughts from a guy with dishpan hands and water on the brain.

* When dining alone, I enjoy eating at the bar. I just wish restaurants wouldn't cram so many bar stools together. If you have to disturb the guy next to you to sit down, the stools are too close together.

* Actually, I wish there would be an open space reserved for those who just need to grab a drink while waiting for a table on a crowded night. I hate having to squeeze between the shoulders of people already seated to get a drink. It just seems uncivilized.

* There is nothing like a baked potato cooked for an hour on the grill. It has a fluffy texture and a bit of a smoky flavor. There's no way you're going to get that from a microwave. It's more than worth the 60-minute investment.

* Cooking shows, like home improvement shows, have "jumped the shark." I haven't seen anything new in the past few years. About the only food shows that hold my interest are the food-and-travel shows. There, you can find some interesting people and dishes.

* I listen to probably three hours of sports talk radio a day. But since the Super Bowl, the last round of the British Open was the last sporting event I watched from start to finish. We live in a highlight world.

* Pork chops are an underrated cut of meat. Buy them thick and make a paste rub of a teaspoon of olive oil and any combination of spices such as cinnamon, allspice, sage, coriander, cumin or paprika (about 1 1/2 teaspoon each) with a couple of cloves of minced garlic. Grill them about 5 minutes per side on high heat and you have a flavorful entree at a fraction of the cost of a rib-eye or New York strip.

* When we put in the new, deeper sink, I didn't count on having to reach down lower to get stuff out of the sink. A big load of hand washables will put a knot in your lower back.

* Rip on cigarette smokers all you want, but you have to say they are an honest bunch. Bar owners I have talked to haven't reported a problem with smokers ordering dinner or drinks and skipping out on the tab when they go outside to smoke.

* If you haven't grilled fruit this summer, do it. You can take bananas and cut them in half lengthwise, leaving the skins on. Combine a cup of sugar with a few tablespoons of cinnamon. Dip the flesh part into a tray of cinnamon and sugar. Brush off the excess. Brush oil on the grill and then grill the bananas flesh side down. Once grill marks have formed, turn the bananas skin side down to warm through. Remove skin and serve with ice cream.

* If you have a favorite Mom and Pop place that you haven't been to in more than six weeks, make plans to go there this week. We all seem to say the same thing in astonishment when these places close "We went there all the time." "All the time" is more than four times a year.

* I'm on vacation this week. Hopefully by now I have finished "The Tender Bar," a memoir by J.R. Moehringer. If you grew up in a Northeastern town where the neighborhood tavern is a special place, you'll love this book. It has taken me so long to read because I find myself re-reading the same page three times. Moehringer is a wordsmith.

Dan Macdonald can be reached at dan.macdonald@morris.com.

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