Southern Man

Friday, September 15, 2006

Survival 101

Well, I see that this blog hasn't been updated in a while. The reason is simple: Southern Man has been busy, busy, busy for the last few weeks. However, not so busy as to deprive the blogosphere of the first edition of Southern Man's Survival Tips for Single Guys. Today's issue covers one of the most important needs in the single man's life, and that is food.

Oh, you were thinking of that other most important need in a single man's life? Sorry, got nuthin for you on that. Check back in a couple years, or post your own tips if you got 'em. Do remember that this blog is rated PG, not NC-17.

And I'm not talking about procuring food using the time-honored methods of VISA or Discover. I'm talking about actually preparing food in a kitchen. That's the room with the sink and the cooktop, by the way, if you've never actually been in there. At some point you have to quit eating out three times a day and learn to cook at least some basic meals. So here are some tips to get you started:
When milk is on sale, check the expiration date. There's a reason when milk that's normally $3 per gallon is suddenly marked down to $1.38, and that's usually it.

Ditto for soft drinks. When name brand soda is on sale for $2 a case, that means it was abandoned in a hot semi trailer for a couple of weeks and has been chemically transmuted into the equivalent of your middle school kid's science experiment. On the other hand, when you forget this rule you can call the toll free number on the can and complain and they'll send you coupons for free cases. Try to keep these requests down to one or two a month; more than that is just plain greedy.
The above are specific example of a more general rule: you get what you pay for. Consider the difference between name brand chili at $2.79 a can and the generic stuff at two for a buck. The first is sometimes edible; starving stray dogs will turn their noses up at the second. The only known exception to this rule are some of the generic cold cereals, which can actually be pretty good as long as you don't pour that $1.38 milk on 'em.
The little one is the "teaspoon" and the big one is the "tablespoon." Don't ask why, just remember it. While we're on the subject of kitchen measurement: there are three teaspoons to a tablespoon, two tablespoons to an ounce, eight ounces in a cup, two cups to a pint, two pints in a quart, and four quarts in a gallon. And you thought the damn metric system was hard. If you need more information than that, what you're trying to do is too complicated; throw it all down the disposal and go to Chilis instead.

When following a recipe, ignore terms like cream, blend, whip, beat, fold, stir, and sift. Just dump the stuff into a big bowl and bash at it with a tablespoon (that's the big one, remember?) until it's all mixed up.Your oven will never know the difference.

Lots of food has what's called a shelf life. That means it don't last forever. Be aware of this and eat things before they grow legs and walk away. Rotate your fruits and veggies (you are buying fruits and veggies, aren't you?) and keep an eye on your leftovers. In fact, write dates on your to-go boxes and throw them out if they get a couple weeks old. Take-out Chinese does not age as well as you might expect or hope.

However, some things can still be eaten fairly late in the game. In particular, overripe apples make good apple butter and mushy brown bananas make terrific banana bread. Find good recipes for apple butter and banana bread and learn to make them. Don't worry about cream, whip, blend and all that, just throw the stuff together and it'll turn out just fine. Trust me.

The directions for heating frozen foods are always for a microwave you don't have, so ignore them. Instead, nuke for two minutes and check. If it's not hot enough, do it again. Repeat until you're hungry enough to eat it anyway. Note that "nuke" is the only microwave setting you'll ever need.

If you're like Southern Man and have kids that deign to visit on occasion, keep plenty of kid food in the house. Southern Man's girls are content with Easy Mac and Kid Cusine and his son will eat canned clam chowder and ramen noodles and all will eat various flavors of Hamburger Helper. Find out what your kids like and keep plenty of it around. Also keep candy and chips and popcorn and ice cream and their favorite drinks in the house. You do want them to come back, don't you?

Learn to cook one meal well. You never know when you'll need to entertain and guests are impressed if you can actually produce something in the kitchen. Spaghetti is relatively foolproof, especially if you grab a loaf of hot garlic bread on the way home, make the sauce by dumping a jar or two of the cheap stuff into a pound of browned and drained hamburger meat, and buy Caesar salad mix in the bag. Dry spaghetti can sit in the pantry forever but don't forget about shelf life on that salad. No one is impressed by brown Romaine.

Note that a few enlightened companies now realize that there is a market for the kitchen impaired. That's you, by the way. Seek out their products and buy them. You can get some surprisingly good meals that require little preparation once you know where to look.

OK that should be enough to get you started. If you have your own tips, post 'em and I'll steal the best ones for the next edition of Southern Man's Survival Tips.


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