Tuesday, June 28, 2005


• We have one of those gravity-operated water dishes for our pets--like a hamster bottle, sort of, or an office water cooler. As they drink from the bowl, more water glugs down from the bottle above. Last night I walked into the room to find that the bottle and the bowl were empty, and Taxi the cat was hitting the bottle repeatedly with her paw. This struck me as a very human impulse: GIMME BACK MY 50 CENTS, YOU STUPID MACHINE!

• No more donating blood for me, I fear. I went in to the Red Cross yesterday to give a pint and had a pretty bad time of it. I fainted in the chair and the whole "crash team" descended on me with fans, cold compresses, and juice. Half an hour later I was finally allowed to stand up and go to the cookie table, but once I was there the combination of the juice and the Nutter Butters started to nauseate me and I nearly fainted again. At one point I was trying to fill out a raffle form and had to stop halfway through because it was too difficult and my hands wouldn't stop shaking and the blackness kept closing in. It was a really long time before I was deemed safe to drive home. The only mitigating circumstance was that I had finished giving the entire pint before I went under, so they will be able to use the blood. (If you don't finish, they throw it out.)

I don't understand why I had so little trouble last time and so much difficulty this time. I ate a big lunch before I went into town: a turkey pita sandwich and a hearty serving of roasted sweet potatoes. I drank lots of water, too. But now I've been poking around on the internet and I've found that other branches of the Red Cross--not ours in the U.S., but elsewhere--recommend that you not give blood if you have low blood pressure and tend to become faint when you stand up too quickly. That would be me: Miss Ninety Over Sixty.

• Big jackpot at the Goodwill store. As some of you may recall, I've slowly been collecting the classic Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook series, both the hardback picture books and the little spiralbound recipe books that go with them.* There are 28 volumes, and they're revered by chefs everywhere (and plagiarized by a surprising number of cookbook authors). The recipes are authentic, and they work. Before I went into town yesterday, I was in possession of two of the hardbacks (China and India) and a stack of about 16 spirals (China and India again, plus a host of others including Great Britain, Provincial France, Spain and Portugal, Middle Eastern, etc.).

So before my "draining" experience, I stopped in at the thrift store and was overjoyed to find 12 of the hardbacks. Some of the covers were pretty rough, and the Japan volume's pages were loose. But they were by and large in excellent condition and cost me $2 apiece. Included in the stash are all of the American regional volumes (my favorites, if forced to choose, are probably Northwest--which has berry and fish indices--and Melting Pot--which has Sicilian pizza and cannoli and which visits the Greek immigrants in Tarpon Springs, Fla.!), as well as some picture books that match spiralbounds I already have.

Now if I can just find that elusive Africa volume! Taking it out of the library was just a teaser. I want my own.

• Blackberry season is going into full swing, just as the blueberries are starting to tail off (amazing how that works, isn't it?). We've already had a truly divine batch of blackberry pork ribs and a lovely blackberry-apple cobbler. But I can tell we're not even at the halfway point. And the s.o. has found the motherlode on one of his fishing expeditions. Bring 'em on!

* The spiralbound books have more recipes in them than the hardbacks do, but the hardbacks give you all the cultural background to know what you're making. To get the whole experience, you really need both. Oh, and yes, I know I can get them on eBay, but in the name of frugality I'm waiting for them to pop up in thrift stores. They can be found there surprisingly often.