Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Notes From All Over, Late Morning Edition -- May 6, 2020

This just might be the best year of my life. LOL.
  • no traffic;
  • crawdad festival;
  • steak revival;
  • grilling;
  • Sophia 
  • cooler spring / summer forecast;
  • books galore; 
I never ate much beef over the years. There were many, many reasons why I didn't, least of which I lived half my active adult life overseas where beef was not a big deal. In fact, with the beef scare in England, my beef intake really dropped. What was that scare called? Oh, year, that's right, "mad cow disease" which is even less scary sounding that COVID-19. So it was pork in Germany, mussels in France, lamb in Turkey, more lamb in Morocco, and mystery meat in England.

But now, nearing my eighth decade of life, with no colon cancer and having not died of premature heart disease, I've started to enjoy steak again. Sort of. I might have steak once a week.

It is pretty funny. Up until last week I had no steak in my freezer. But then when the rumors started flying that there may be a beef shortage and our local supermarket practically giving away ribeye steak (but only one package per transaction), I started stocking up on ribeye. I now have three ribeye steaks in my freezer.

I emphasize my because I have two boxes of Omaha Steaks in our daughter's freezer over at her house since my freezer was not big enough to hold what I had ordered. I ordered that about two months ago and have not opened it. Saving it for the "real beef shortage," I guess.

What got me back into steak? What was the tipping point? A reader invited me for a steak dinner at a really high-end chop house a few months ago, something I had never experienced before and it was awesome.

So, now, I'm back into my grilling experimentation. I guess I did grill some steaks a few months ago -- I blogged about "caveman grilling" or grilling steak directly on lump charcoal. But I digress.

As posted previously, our local supermarket had an incredible steak sale last week (and it continues this week, apparently) in which $20-rib steaks were selling for $8.00.

But, let's cut to the chase.

In this process, I discovered that one of my beefs with beef is that I could never find the "right" steak knife. We always used those cheap paring knifes when we had steak, and then graduated to frilly, sterling silver-handled steak knifes, but none seemed to be perfect.

For whatever reason, this last week I tried using a "really-serious" knife for steak and it made all the difference in the world. The best part: keeping the knife sharp using a whetstone (from Amazon a couple of months ago). I've also learned not to be OCD about the fat prior to grilling.

So, the knife on the far right is now my go-to steak knife.

Off the net for awhile -- back to reading The Wisdom of the Birds.

The Travel Page

If I had a bucket list -- and I don't -- visiting Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, would be on the list of places to visit.

What was the backstory to ornithology and Cornell? About that I've always been curious. And now we know a little bit more.

Connecting the dots. From The Wisdom of the Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology, Tim Birkhead, Bloomsbury, c. 2008, p. 76 and following:
The story of the chick embryo's remarkable development was beautifully summarized by the Russian émigré Alexis Romanoff in the late 1940s. Born in St Petersburg in 1892, Romanoff worked first as a school-teacher and portrait painter, serving as a military engineer during the First World War, where he was on the side of the White Russians when the civil war broke out in 1917.

When the Reds gained control melted into obscurity, moving first to China and eventually to New York, where he turned up in 1921 with little more than his wits and a couple of references.

Entering Cornell University in 1923 at the age of thirty, Romanoff gained a B. Sc. in 1925 and his Ph. D. in 1928. As he put it, he 'simply fell in love with egg. You know why? Egg is wonderful creation.' It was while studying for his Ph. D. that he decided to write the definitive account of the egg's biology.

Twenty years in the making, The Avian Egg was a tour de force. The manuscript and 435 beautiful illustrations, all of which he had prepared himself, filled two suitcases. In 1947 Romanoff travelled from Cornell to New York City and presented himself and the suitcases to the publisher John Wiley.

Impressed, but horrified at the prospect of such a enormous book, Wiley suggested he cut it by half.

Romanoff firmly but politely refused, explaining how he and his wife -- his co-author -- had spared nothing for the book.

Luckily for science, Wiley relented and the 918-page book was published in 1949, to great acclaim, Romanoff even featured in The New Yorker and, when asked by a reporter how he had been able to produce such a comprehensive account, he said: 'I enjoy to beat other people by working hearder. Others ask how can I do book like this even in twenty years. We work all the time -- day, evening, weekend. Otherwise book would take twice more time ...'

They rarely took holiday; had no children and no other distractions from their studies of eggs. The Avian Egg became the avian embryologists' bible.

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