Wednesday, November 01, 2006



Here's a fun economic indicator for you. This spotlight was running last night during First Thursday in the Pearl District, trying to grab attention for yet another new condo tower. In past years you didn't have to do this. All you had to do was wander around the Pearl looking vaguely like a real estate developer (hint: riding a Segway helps. Seriously.), and people would stop you in the street and give you suitcases full of cash, begging you for a few square feet of precious Pearl real estate. It could be 50 feet underground, with knee-deep murky water, but so long as it was 50 feet underground in the Pearl, potential buyers would form a line stretching all the way from the California border.


[Note to prospective condo buyers from California. See those little streaky bits in the top photo? That is the substance we call 'rain'. It's cold, and wet, and falls from the sky. It tends to happen a great deal in Oregon. But no worries; usually July and August are (mostly) sunny, and sometimes parts of September can be nice, and occasionally a few days in June, too, if it's a drought year.]

So now they at least have to advertise the things a little, as you can see here. The downside of this is that the Pearl still isn't built out, so they'll keep doing this once you've moved in, and then that damn spotlight's shining through your loft windows, as seen (sort of) in photo #2. Photo #2 is the Marshall Wells Lofts building, a former warehouse renovated a few years back. The building isn't quite as illuminated as I'd like, but the spotlight was rotating, and the camera itself has a split-second lag when you're trying to take a photo, so getting everything timed right is an art I haven't quite mastered.

That's about all I've got on the First Thursday front. I've been really busy this week, as you might be able to tell from the lack of posts since Tuesday. I'd managed to collect a few photos and links about echidnas and I was going to do a mini-post about that, but I didn't even have time for a mini-post. I got a couple of SNR posts out, but those don't take as much time or effort; it's mostly a matter of checking Google News and making snarky and cynical remarks about the latest batch of stuff I run across.

So first, a big pile of Flickr photos of echidnas: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7].

Also, some bits about a visit to the Australia Zoo (also with a bonus wombat photo); your questions answered about how echidnas do it; an echidna wildlife encounter. Oh, and echidnas were recently named Animal of the Day over at TheWebsiteOfEverything. So now you know.

That pretty much uses up the echidna material I had, so on another utterly unrelated note, here's a great video on YouTube about the latest innovation in Texas cuisine: Chicken Fried Bacon. No lie. It's on YouTube, so it must be true. In a remarkable coincidence, not a single thin person appears in the video.

I actually do have something I can segue into from that, believe it or not. Here's yet another ooky recipe from the Baker County paper, from the same little old lady who did the Mock Chow Mein and "Different" Carrot recipes I wrote about previously.

Today's taste sensation is Easy Shrimp, Potato Soup, for which you will need the following:

1 cup hash brown potatoes
1 cup tiny salad shrimps
1 tbsp. cornstarch, mixed in
1/2 cup water
1 quart milk
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the liquids and cornstarch [I assume this means the cornstarch water, milk, and Worcestershire sauce] in a large pot and bring to a boil until thickened, about 5 min., add the shrimp and potatoes [she doesn't specify how long to cook after this, or at what temperature.] and serve with toast.

As with most of her recipes, there's a kernel of an idea here, so that you could in theory create something edible if you depart far enough from the recipe as given here. There's a long, rich tradition of dairy+seafood soups out there, and these often incorporate potatoes as well, as in most common clam chowder recipes, for instance. Since this is a long and rich tradition, in this modern era one can visit the local grocery store and buy a can of clam chowder, or salmon chowder if you want to be fancy. Yes, even in Eastern Oregon. I don't know that you can get canned shrimp chowder, but you could get a can of Cream of Potato soup and add shrimp to that, if you absolutely must have shrimp in your soup. Any of these options would be easier than this allegedly "Easy" recipe. What's really puzzling is that this is the first recipe from the old bag that doesn't include any canned soup. The one time it could be employed to maximum effect, and she suddenly goes all DIY. I don't get it.

But as always, our focus is still on how to make something from scratch that's vaguely like this recipe, and have it not totally suck. Personally, I have no trouble boiling a pot of "liquids" for a few minutes and then tossing in a few basic ingredients. My big stumbling block is the shrimp. I can't stand shrimp, especially those rubbery pink little larva-like shrimp you see all the time. So let's take a more generic approach and just say "catch of the day" instead. It could be shrimp, if you're insane, or clams, or fish. If you like smoked oysters, they'd go well here. My aversion to shrimp is a big reason my wife clipped this out of the paper for me. That, and the recipe's gratuitous abuse of poor, innocent hash brown potatoes. They deserve better. Much better.

As for the rest of the recipe, just go out on the net and find a from-scratch chowder recipe and glean what you can from it. There's tons of them out there, and they're often the product of much deep thinking and meticulous research. Lesson #1 is that the recipe as given is sorely lacking in saturated fats. Some portion of that quart of milk will need to be replaced with cream, maybe heavy cream. And you're also going to need to add bacon, at minimum. You'll probably want butter, too. Please note we aren't making health food here. If you make the soup base rich and tasty enough, maybe you can just dispense with the seafood element entirely and just have a nice bowl of Bacon Chowder. Doesn't that sound nice? I'd totally eat that. And this way it's earth-friendly, too, since you won't be contributing to the global overfishing crisis. So you can eat your bacon with a clear conscience. It doesn't get any better than that.

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