Monthly Archives: November 2011

Washington State Voters Pass a Law that Ends State-Run Liquor Stores, Allows for Private Liquor Shops

I used to manage a tavern in Washington state.  A tavern is a specific designation that means a bar that serves only beer and wine—no hard alcohol.  In order to serve the hard stuff, you had to be a restaurant, meaning that all real bars served food, although you might never know it.  They were required to keep stock and a menu of about 10 entrees on hand at all times, and offer food during most of the hours they were open.  The laws in Washington were old and antiquated, and I think it’s a good thing for the state’s residents that this law was passed.

The state liquor control board had moved in recent years to modify some of the laws.  One change was the nightclub license that allowed bars to serve alcohol without serving food.  But it was too little, too late, in this case.

People in other states don’t really understand what it means to have to buy alcohol from the state.  It meant that all liquor stores were the same, with the same prices, and they had pretty much the same stock.  The employees were state employees, and the stores were run like a clean, brightly lit cafeteria.  To say they were uninviting would be an understatement.  In California, people are used to walking into Safeway or Walgreens and buying their vodka and whiskey.  In Texas, you can’t buy liquor at a regular grocery store, but there are plenty of private retailers with a wide variety of styles, from fancy boutique shops, to neighborhood liquor stores, to giant wal-mart-like mega stores (Spec’s Liquors).

The way the initiative came to pass is an interesting story, and it could certainly be unsettling, except for the fact that I am in total agreement with the need to get rid of the old laws.  Costco, which is based in Washington, simply bought the election.  They spent $20 million dollars of their own money (meaning they spent something like $4 for each and every likely voter in the state) to get this law passed.  Similar laws had been defeated because of the specters of teenage drinking and increased drunk driving.  This time, with Costco’s strong financial backing, the retailers won.

By June 1st, Washington will close all of its state-run liquor stores, and the citizens of Washington will be able to go to Costco or Safeway to buy their liquor.  They are likely to see much cheaper prices, because part of the law allows retailers to deal directly with the distilleries, whereas before, all alcohol had to go through a liquor distributorship, which added one more level of profit that needed to be passed along.  Costco has enough power that it can get great deals, so I imagine that many people will be seeing a 35-to-40% decrease in prices.

Is it OK for a corporation to buy an election? No.  I don’t think it is, really.  In this case, however, I applaud the result.

My Favorite Recipe from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook: Cabbage and Sausage!

It may strike you as funny or a bit odd that I would say this was my favorite recipe from the excellent The Primal Blueprint Cookbook by Mark Sisson and Jennifer Meier.  It would have struck me as pretty funny about nine months ago, too.  I grew up in a family that simply didn’t eat cabbage.  I knew people who did, and I remember jokes from my childhood about how boiled cabbage smells (it can smell sulphurous, a bit like a rotten egg), but nobody in my family ever cooked it, on either side, from my great grandparents on down.  It just wasn’t part of our diet.Primal Blueprint Cookbook

I’d always assumed that my family avoided cabbage because it was simply no good.  I remember having it at a friend’s house when I was young, and it was terrible—her mother had boiled it to mush.

That’s why this recipe was such a revelation to me!  It is so simple that I thought it was kind of a throw-away, just something added because they were trying to meet a minimum recipe quota.  Still, the simplicity of the recipe (it only has four ingredients) appealed to me, so I gave it a try, and it’s now one of my regular recipes.  I’m so glad cool weather has finally come back to Austin so that I can turn my oven on and make cabbage and sausage again!

This could be called a two ingredient recipe, since the only two required ingredients are cabbage and sausage.  The other ingredients are optional.  They are butter and salt.  If you want a more Paleo friendly recipe, you could leave out the butter and go with a lowfat sausage, but I prefer mine primal—I add dabs of butter all over the top!  I do go for an excellent sausage, though.  I’ve tried making it with pork Andouille, and I liked it a lot, but my favorite sausage for this recipe is one that I get at Whole Foods.  It’s called Pederson’s Sweet German Sausage, and it tastes great!  It’s lightly smoked, and, despite being called “sweet”, it has less than one gram of carbohydrates per serving, so it’s a low carb sausage as well (I should point out here that my boyfriend Michael prefers the Pederson’s Smoked Jalapeno sausage, so we usually go back and forth between that one and the Sweet German for the sake of variety).

It turns out that I love cabbage, which is great, because cabbage is full of nutrition.  And when cooked this way (roasted in the oven), it doesn’t give off that stinky sulfur smell.  The recipe takes me between 45 minutes and an hour to finish, but the actual work time is truly only about five minutes, so most of the time is simply spent waiting for the oven to do its job.  Here’s my version of the recipe, which might vary slightly from the book version.

Primal Cabbage and Sausage Recipe

  • 1 Head of Cabbage (I prefer a cabbage that is on the “looser” side—not quite so densely packed—so if it feels like a bowling ball, choose a different one)
  • 1 sausage, approximately 12 ounces to 1 pound in weight—I go for fully cooked sausages only for this recipe
  • Salt to taste (varies depending on the sausage you choose)
  • Butter—about 4 tablespoons, cut into pats

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

cabbage and sausage

To assemble the dish, cut the cabbage in half by bisecting it through the core, so that it comes apart into two halves.  This will allow you to see how deeply the hard core runs.  Take a paring knife and cut away the core and discard (I save this and give it to my backyard hens).  Next, take a large chef’s knife and cut each cabbage half into strips about ½ inch to ¾ inch wide.  Chop the other half in the same way.

Take a large baking dish such as a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish and butter the bottom and sides.  Add the chopped cabbage to the dish.  Sprinkle it with salt.

Next, chop your sausage into rounds about ½ inch thick.  You can do this on the bias or straight through the length, depending on your preference.  Sprinkle the sausage over the top of the cabbage.  Sprinkle the butter (if using) evenly over the top of everything else.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place the dish in the oven and cook for 40 minutes.

cabbage and sausage with butter

After 40 minutes, remove the foil carefully by lifting it away from you, so the escaping steam doesn’t burn you.  Discard the foil.  Toss the cabbage and sausage with some tongs.  Put it back in the oven, uncovered, for 10 more minutes.

This next step requires you to use your judgment.  When the 10 minutes has passed, take a look at the dish and see if it looks done.  Some cabbages are more watery, so if it’s too watery you can put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.  If it looks done to you, it’s good to go.  Whether you want to cook it more at this point is truly a matter of preference.  If you want the cabbage to be very soft, you can continue cooking it.  If you prefer it with a bit of crunch, you can stop cooking as soon as it looks done.  I have tried it all different ways, and I prefer it somewhere in the middle—I like it cooked all the way through so it is soft, but not to the point where it starts to become browned.

cabbage and sausage cooked

Once it’s done to your satisfaction, toss it again and serve!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.  If you are starting out on the Primal Method, then I think The Primal Blueprint Cookbook is a must-have.  It is filled with simple and delicious recipes like this one.

Sister: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton is Crippled by Its Own Artifice

I just finished reading Sister: A Novel, by Rosamund Lupton.  The book has gotten generally very good reviews, but I found it to be a pretty big disappointment.  The book has a very specific literary device that it relies on for its structure, and I found the device to be both confusing and annoying.  This could be because I read ebooks on my iPhone, and perhaps the font was too small to pick up on the all-important quotation marks.Sister A Novel by Rosamund Lupton

The device is this: the story is told in the first person as if it is being spoken or written (it is not made clear which).  The main character, Beatrice, is speaking to her recently-deceased sister, Tess.  She is telling Tess the story of how Tess’s body was discovered, and how the police believed that she had committed suicide.  Beatrice is the only person who believes that her sister was murdered.

The novel suffers terribly from a form of past/present/future tense vertigo.  Beatrice talks to her dead sister about the distant past and the recent past in one sentence, and in the next sentence, she is speaking in her own voice in the present tense.  She “speaks” one sentence to Tess in her head, and then the next sentence is spoken aloud to another character, and the only cue that she is now actually speaking aloud is those pesky quotation marks.  If you happen to miss the begin quotations, you will find yourself reading along, thinking Beatrice is “speaking” in her head to Tess, only to realize that she is actually in a conversation with another character.  This happened to me throughout the book.

If the plot device sounds confusing or convoluted, please realize that it is even more convoluted than it sounds here.  To hold any sense of mystery, it is necessary for the story to unfold at a certain pace, and for details to come to light.  Of course, since it is being told in the past tense, it is clear that the speaker already knows the details, and is speaking to a close relative who has been murdered, and who would therefore probably know who her own murderer was, so for it to be held back as a “secret” to be revealed at the end is simply gimmicky.

And that’s not the only gimmick up Rosamund Lupton’s sleeve.  The ending of the book throws everything out the window and rewrites the entire story.  I’m not saying it’s as annoying or fake as “and then I woke up and realized it was all a dream,” but it’s awfully close.  It comes out of pretty much nowhere and makes no sense at all.  And while “Sister: A Novel” is not a traditional mystery novel, it does play on the tropes of that genre, and one of the basic tenets of successful mystery writing is to have a great ending—to wrap things up in a way that pays off on the reader’s investment in the story up to that point.  The “finish” of this book does just the opposite—it not only goes out with a whimper, the “reveal” actually makes what has come before less interesting.

I do give the author credit for taking a risk.  I appreciate the effort to do something interesting or unusual.  As my old acting teacher Shirley Kaplan would have said, “At least she tried something! At least she had an idea!”  And Rosamund Lupton did have an idea, she did try something…and she failed.  I guess that makes this an “A” for effort, but “C-“ for execution.