In celebration of a perfectly good day or to chase away those ten-grey-days-in-a-row blues, here’s John Phillips Sousa. Thanks, Ginny. (Don’t know how those musicians can avoid the urge to march around!)
Last time we were at Costco, I watched a 40-something woman unload her purchases into the trunk of her Lexus, push her shopping cart around to the front of her car, get in, and drive away—the cart corral was two cars away. What’s up with that? Almost as bad are the scofflaws who push their cart into the front position of an empty corral and leave it there. Where’s the community spirit, where’s the “We’re all in this together” mentality? Houston wins the award for The Worst Cart Wranglers Ever. There were shopping carts in the middle of parking spots, carts with two wheels over the concrete parking stop, carts left on sidewalks and highway medians, and carts running loose, wily nily. The problem became so thorny that the Houston city council created an official board to deal with the issue—meetings were held, resolutions written, directions issued—and yet disobedient carts still run free.
I recently read a reference on Buzzfeed to an “Are You A Jerk” quiz, so I had to look it up. Yes, I did take the quiz, yes, parking lot courtesy showed up, and no, I did not rank at the top of the jerk meter. Near the top of the quiz was, do you wear a mask in public? Come on now, we can wear masks for the good of the community—just like we don’t drive drunk, we cover our mouths when we sneeze, we diaper our babies when they swim, we leave one cookie on the plate, we shovel the sidewalks in front of our house, and we push the darn cart as far into the corral as it will go!
Another annoying public trait is the compulsion to herd into a conveyance—elevator, bus, airport shuttle—before the arrivers can get off. I once railed on about that in a blog post while we were staying in a hotel—the nerve, the rudeness! That same day, I barged into an up elevator carrying a load of nachos, crashing into a family, spilling salsa and cheese down the front of a father and his startled two-year old. When getting on a city bus, I have to snap my wrist to keep me from following the urge to walk over whoever is trying to get out. So much for my community spirit.
Then there are those dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets. On the walking trail behind our house I see lots of dog walkers, most are non-offenders. The large, gruff men who patiently wait for fluffy white yappers on a string always make me smile. Then there are those dogs who think an oncoming walker will enjoy a cold doggie snout thrust into their crotch—“Oh look, he likes you!”
Last rant—waiting in line. If I were a resolution maker, I would vow to have more patience this year. No more beeping when the driver in front of me appears to have dosed off at a red light or drives 15 mph in a 25 mph zone, no more eye-rolling when that shopper with the overfull cart waits until the last second to rummage through her purse for the checkbook and then asks to borrow a pen, no more heavy sighs when snackers clog up the aisles at Costco. After all, what exactly of great importance do I have to attend to and, we’re all in this together, right?
On Cook’s Country the other night, Bridget and Julia made this one. Haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my list.
Cook’s Country Kung Pao Chicken
Chicken and Sauce:
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup soy sauce, divided
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
- ½ cup dry-roasted peanuts
- 10 – 15 dried arbol chiles, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, ground coarse
- 2 celery ribs, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 5 scallions, white and light green parts only, cut into ½-inch pieces
BEFORE YOU BEGIN:
“Kung pao chicken should be quite spicy. To adjust the heat level, use more or fewer chiles, depending on the size (we used 2-inch-long chiles) and your taste. Have your ingredients prepared and your equipment in place before you begin to cook. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to coarsely grind the Sichuan peppercorns. If Chinese black vinegar is unavailable, substitute sherry vinegar. Serve with white rice and a simple vegetable such as broccoli or bok choy. Do not eat the chiles!”
Chicken and Sauce:
Combine chicken, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine, and white pepper in medium bowl and set aside. Stir vinegar, sugar, oil, and remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce together in small bowl and set aside.
For the Stir-Fry:
Stir garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon oil together in second small bowl. Combine peanuts and 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until peanuts just begin to darken, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer peanuts to plate and spread into even layer to cool. Return now-empty skillet to medium-low heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, arbols, and peppercorns and cook, stirring constantly, until arbols begin to darken, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until all clumps are broken up and mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add chicken and spread into even layer. Cover skillet, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, without stirring, for 1 minute. Stir chicken and spread into even layer. Cover and cook, without stirring, for 1 minute. Add celery and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until chickenis cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and shiny and coats chicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and peanuts. Transfer to platter and serve.