“Are You Comfortable in Bed?”

I’m More Comfortable Than HE Is, As I Don’t Sleep on Rocks

I’m More Comfortable Than HE Is, As I Don’t Sleep on Rocks

In my last batch of spam e-mail, I got one entitled “Are You Comfortable in Bed?” As my answer is yes, I did not see fit to open the e-mail, which probably sold vigara [sic] or cialas [sic] or something like that. Thankfully, I am not suffering from electoral dysfunction. Which is to say, I usually vote Democratic.

Getting eight hours of sleep a night is important to me. That is challenged by my massive intake of iced Baruti Assam tea this time of year, but I usually manage to sink back into sleep quickly after draining my lizard. Occasionally Martine and I make like buzz saws, but curiously it doesn’t bother us much. I actually feel reassured that Martine is asleep next to me; and she graciously refrains from kicking me when I start sawing wood.

Every once in a while, I have a difficult time dropping off to sleep because my mind is racing in an infinite loop. I find that the only way to deal with that is to get up and either a bit of a TV movie (the only time I watch TV) or read a book. That somehow closes the infinite loop and allows me to doze. The one thing that does not work in that case is to twist and turn for hours. Better not to even try!

I am appalled when I hear of people getting by on five or fewer hours a night. Sometimes Martine can’t sleep because of her back pain. Frequently she wakes at five in the morning and twists and turns until morning light (or later).

We have an extra firm mattress which helps Martine somewhat. And our living room sofa is similarly firm. These things help (and they don’t bother me at all), but I would be happier if Martine’s back pain abated to the point that she could accompany me on my travels. It’s a lot more fun having her with me.

TSF, or Starbucks Nation

The Most Emblematic Beverage Stop for the Thirty-Something Generation

The Most Emblematic Beverage Stop for the Thirty-Something Generation

It’s finally beginning to happen: The next generation is beginning to make its mark on restaurants and supermarkets/ Today, at Albertson’s Supermarket, I saw a large display of cold beverages featuring Red Bull and Starbucks drinks at $3-4 a pop. I noted to Martine that I pay about $8-10 for a pound of loose Indian black tea that will last me for upwards of eight months, for both cold and hot beverages.

Before going to Albertson’s, we had lunch at Truxton’s American Bistro. Perhaps a more appropriate name would be TSF: “Thirty-Something Food.” The new foodies love to mess around with the menu and its ingredients. Their iced tea was flavored with some chemical extract meant to imitate passion fruit—whatever that tastes like! But you better believe it was called organic, as if that made it taste like tea, which it does not. In fact, it obliterates the taste of the tea, such that I wonder why they bother adding any tea at all. The pizza had fresh basil, but I guess the chef thought it needed salt, a lot more salt. I felt that they were trying just a little too hard to appear unique.

It takes many years of experience to learn how to cook, especially when it comes to herbs and spices. We’ve all seen little kids at self-service soda machines: they try to mix Coke with Seven-Up with Root Beer with Mr. Pibb, with maybe a dash of raspberry iced tea for good measure. The end result of this type of experimentation is usually deplorable. I’m not saying that young chefs are quite in the same category, but sometimes it seems that way.

As the generations change, it is inevitable that the type of foods on offer will change as well. There will be a lot of dishes I will never try because the ingredients fight with one another more than complement one another. On the other hand, there are some successes, such as California Pizza Kitchen. Their chopped salads are superb, and some of their pizzas are excellent (especially the Sicilian). Martine refuses to go there because the menu contains too many of what she considers “experimental” combinations.

I suppose that the ultimate thirty-something places are Starbucks and Jamba Juice and their imitators, neither of which I patronize. I don’t drink coffee; and juice is verboten for all diabetes sufferers (juices concentrate the sugars and carbs and throw out the fiber).


Yerba Mate

Mate and Bombilla

Mate and Bombilla

This has been an unusually cold winter for Southern California, so I have been drinking more hot tea for my own comfort. In the mornings, I drink only Indian black teas, such as Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Assam—but at night, I have switched over to yerba mate (in Argentinian Spanish, pronounced SHARE-pah mah-TAY).

This is a direct result of my two trips to Argentina, where drinking yerba mate is an obsession. In fact, throughout both Argentina and Uruguay, people travel with the “fixings” for a serving of the tea, which they share with friends and fellow travelers. These fixings consist of the dry tea itself, a thermos filled with hot water, a mate gourd (mine, shown above, was purchased in Colonia Sacramento, Uruguay), and a bombilla, or metal straw, for sucking in the tea without getting a mouthful of the leaves. Shown below is a vending machine at the Buenos Aires Zoo for refilling thermoses:

Vending Machine at the Buenos Aires Zoo for Refilling Thermos Bottles

Vending Machine at the Buenos Aires Zoo for Refilling Thermos Bottles

Many people do not like the taste of yerba mate. Martine, for example, has tasted it but doesn’t care for it. I liked it from the start. Every day while in South America, I had a version of it called mate cocido at breakfast time: This is nothing more than yerba mate in tea bags.

At night, I switch between mate cocido and the loose yerba mate served in my Uruguayan gourd.

There are many health claims made for yerba mate, but I drink it because I like the flavor and because it makes me feel good, especially on a cold night.

In case you’re wondering about the specks on my mate gourd in the photo above, they are nothing more than small bits of yerba mate that bubble over when I fill the mate gourd with hot (but not boiling) water. They dry almost instantly and are most visible on the metal rim of the gourd.