WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Long time, no see. No new update has been posted in this space for a few weeks, so allow me to jump around and offer a brief recap. I cannot claim to have been busy or social, but I am a bit backed up and now have a handful of minutiae to fill your evening. Allow me to bounce around and offer a few short bursts as we look forward to the end of a short work week…

The folks visited Long Beach for the first time since the cross-country road trip. When I initially moved in, we stayed Sunday night at a nearby hotel and drove over Monday morning to the building to get my keys and tour. Upon first seeing the apartment, I think Mom was less than pleased with what I had settled for online. We spent our remaining time together shopping at Target and getting the necessary supplies to scrub the place down and make it livable until my furniture arrived. Hopefully this recent one-night stopover and quick tour of my estate calmed their feelings and gave the impression that I have a new home on the West Coast after all. We took a scenic drive around the neighborhood before eating dinner on the patio at Gladstone’s during sunset. The tropical cocktails with our seafood dinner encouraged us to stay out just a bit later and we walked down Pine to Bo-Beau and closer to their hotel for a nightcap at James Republic. They continued the rest of their trip in Nevada while I peeled myself out of bed Tuesday morning to go to the office.

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The very next day was Saint Patrick’s Day… Wear green and drink Guinness and shoot Jameson and pass out in the street; Good times had by all in Chicago. Those customs aren’t as popular on the West Coast. While the Irish bars were more crowded than usual for a Tuesday night, others I came across weren’t sure what day St. Patrick’s Day actually was. (Pro-Tip: It fell on March 17th this year, as it does every year. And St Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo always fall on the same day of the week.) I celebrated with Paddy at H&R Block, turning green in frustration as the incompetent tax professional stumbled through the “new” system interface. In the near future, I should be refunded some green to help supplement this lavish California lifestyle. I chose to celebrate this Irish-American holiday the best way I knew how: TACO TUESDAY. Unfortunately, the taco buffet set-up at El Torito was as awful as it sounds and I returned to my quarters with a half empty stomach and grumpy, sober attitude.

Thankfully St Paddy’s Week was a short one as March Madness tipped off Thursday morning. I’ll never get used to the idea that sporting events begin at 9am West Coast time. I filled out a bracket, then changed my mind against a handful of first impressions that were correct before the white out was applied; lesson learned. It is a yearly tradition to take off work Friday to lounge around and enjoy a full cornucopia of amateur basketball action. That idea was slightly limited by the lack of cable TV access in my ancient high-rise, but I was able to watch all CBS games and stream the balance online.

I ventured out for the evening session of games all weekend, but it was a constant struggle to A.) Find a tavern showing the games; B.) Find a bartender to change the channel after each game completed; C.) Finding a bartender who knew how to change the channel and/or discovering what channel TRUTV was on the dial; D.) Dealing with Super Fan of Team X who couldn’t wait to share his opinion of how well-coached and disciplined his side was and how these college kids play for the love of the game, not those jerky professional players who hold out for more money and dunk all the time. Hopefully by the time March Madness rolls around next year, I’ll have another friend or two willing to lend his couch and remote for the afternoon.

Speaking of the old-fashioned high rise I call home, its lately been a place where I can roam the halls and play Name That Smell. There may or may not be natural gas emanating from somewhere on the seventh floor thanks to a faulty pilot light. There probably is someone beginning and ending their day by smoking contraband substances. And there is certainly someone who enjoys re-heating seafood in the microwave. Just because I live on Ocean Avenue doesn’t mean the whole building must smell like fish. Thankfully I’m able to retreat to the rooftop for fresh air and views of downtown and beyond.

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Weekends are free time and used for exploration to escape from the Long Beach routine. That is especially true when afternoons are spent laid back in the old man recliner, eating snacks, or hosting solo house-cleaning parties. This leaves evenings to view more of the surrounding area. I took a drive across the Vincent Thomas Bridge to San Pedro to see the USS Iowa Battleship and Ports ‘o’ Call. The battleship is an awe-inspiring site of steel rising from the harbor and will be worth a return trip for full tour. The Ports ‘o’ Call are a poor man’s Navy Pier with various vendors hawking t-shirts and postcards and funnel cakes.

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Recent Sunday Pizza Extravaganza was at Doppio Zero in Huntington Beach. Once I commandeered a parking spot and admired the sunset with the other surfer bums, I ventured down Main Street to DZ for an authentic slice of Neapolitan-style pizza. I munched on yogurt and granola at home, but hadn’t eaten anything of substance all day. Not even the over-served youngster spewing her vodka on the corner of Main and Second could ruin my appetite.

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Will there be pizza available on Easter Sunday? How will I calibrate my week if I don’t get my regular slice? Stay Tuned.

Why is Ham Traditionally Eaten on Easter?

Under Jewish dietary laws (called kashrut), eating pork in any form is strictly forbidden. Jesus Christ was Jewish. So why, on the anniversary of his resurrection, do people traditionally serve ham? You’ll often read it’s because ham is supposedly a “Christian” meat, able to be consumed by Christians but not certain other prominent religious groups.  However, the real reason is simply because it’s in season.

While modern food storage techniques and supermarkets with efficient and worldwide supply chains shield us from this fact somewhat, like fruits and vegetables, different meats also have seasons, and these depend on a variety of factors including what the animals were eating and when, where they were in their growth cycle, and the availability (or lack) of refrigeration.

With pigs and cows, before refrigeration, it simply made sense to slaughter them in the fall. Since it takes a fair amount of time to butcher a beast as large as a hog or steer, the cold temperatures helped keep the meat from going bad before it could be properly prepared.

Another consideration was taste. Shortly before slaughter in the fall, hogs would be fed things like apples and acorns that would greatly improve the flavor of the meat they would ultimately provide. As one specialty pork producer noted:

The tradition of acorn-fed pork goes back millennia . . . . The oak nut was a diet staple because the pigs roamed and rooted about for acorns in the forests of Italy and Spain. An acorn diet is today best known as what makes the prized and pricey Jamón Ibérico of Spain so succulent.

Butchered in the fall, most hams were prepared and allowed to properly cure over the winter to further develop their flavor. This was a particularly important food source this time of year in some parts of the world where the rest of the stored meat would have already been eaten, with little other meat of any real quality available. This was the case in North America where the other traditional spring meat, lamb, was (and still is) less in vogue, which is also why eating ham on Easter in North America is much more popular than other regions where Easter is celebrated.

Conversely, in Europe, lamb is commonly served at Easter, and the tradition actually traces its origins to Jewish Passover feasts. This is also certainly fitting for Easter, with Jesus as the “lamb of God.” Born shortly before the holiday, young lamb may be slaughtered within 6 to 8 weeks, and thus offer a fresh, as opposed to cured, option for Easter protein when historically other such protein sources were scarce at this time of year.

(via Today I Found Out)


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