Ratatouille: Not Picture-Perfect

Ratatouille: Not Picture-Perfect

A movie rat taught me how to make ratatouille – but by then it was already too late. My mom interprets, rather than follows, recipes. So when she made ratatouille, it followed the traditional dish in the sense that there are vegetables and an oven. But let’s just say that no Frenchman – or rat – worth their salt would recognize the dish as one of their own. After watching the movie, I looked up an actual recipe. I read it about halfway through; then decided it was more time-consuming than tasty, no matter how it turned out. So, I stick with my mom’s recipe, adapting it as the season and my pantry dictates – not unlike the French.

It’s a dish that receives both rave reviews. Though when I refer to it as ratatouille, the response is inevitably the same: it looks nothing like what the Disney rat made. True enough, but would you want to eat something that looked like a rat prepared it?


My Impression of Ratatouille

2-3 zucchini, cut in spears

1 onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1-2 colored peppers, cut in spears

1-3 carrots, sliced


1 can diced tomato, 1 can tomato sauce, spices as desired; or

1/2 jar pasta or marinara sauce


Method 1:

Oil the pan, dump vegetables on it, and sprinkle with salt a pepper. Drizzle a small amount of oil, or just use spray oil to coat. Toss vegetables and arrange so that they cover the pan evenly. Roast at 375 for about 45 minutes – maybe closer to an hour. Stir every 10-20 minutes. After they’re roasted, put everything in a pot and added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce and spiced as desired – in my case that means basil, parsley, and anything else that looks green appropriate.

Method 2:

Alternatively, you can sautee everything in a pot and, when cooked, add the tomato-based products.

Method 3:

Follow the direction in Method 1, pouring jarred pasta or marinara sauce to the pan of veggies – about 1 cup. Continue as directed above. Easy, breezy, beautiful – and delicious.

Shoe Repair: Stop-Gap Shop

Shoe Repair: Stop-Gap Shop

I have not given up on my people. But meanwhile, I need a place that can fix what’s broke, be it shoes or watches or the ability to arrange for a friend to be in the right place at the right time. A place that will live up to my exacting, if unrelated to workmanship, standards. I may have found it. Esther’s, despite it’s clean windows and lack of burnt-out bulbs, looks like it was last refurbished during the first Bush administration. Even better, they advertise enough services to make you wonder if they’re also offering haircuts in the back. Best of all, they have the requisite shady character lurking in their doorway, the kind of person who is either taking a smoke break from the flower shop next door, or arranging to corner black market – it’s hard to tell. Whatever it is they do there, it appears to ensure some fancy footwork.

The Original Crowdsourcing

The Original Crowdsourcing

I need a Kitchen Mailbox contingent. Kitchen Mailbox is a brilliant invention of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; it’s a coterie of cooks with memories longer than time itself. Kitchen Mailbox is the place to go if you want to know how a bakery, defunct for nearly 50 years, used to get its chocolate chip cookies to the perfect gooiness. If you can’t figure out what happened to that recipe for Strawberry Shortcake you clipped from the Pillsbury Best cookbook of 1983 – the recipe that was the source of countless birthday cakes for your son who is now a groom and wants that exact cake for the wedding – you write a letter to Kitchen Mailbox.

I’m not sure who is the source of the Kitchen Mailbox knowledge, but there is always a response. In other words, Pittsburgh had a Reddit for all things culinary, decades before anyone knew they needed one. While we’re on the topic, can anyone find me a recipe for cabbage strudel?

Canadian Rockies: Potential Death Trap

Canadian Rockies: Potential Death Trap

Every time I travel, I think I’m going to die. I went to the Canadian Rockies and assumed I’d fall into a glacial crevasse. But when I got to the glacier there was an emergency response team practicing crevasse-rescue. My fear was assuaged.

Miracle on Ice

Rather, it was assuaged until I went hiking up a mountain and discovered that the Canadians trusted me not to fall off of it. My terrible balance and a footpath of pebbles on a cliff-face seemed like a poor combination. But I was there already, so I kept going. I hiked until the Canadians informed me, politely, that I’d hit the end of the trail and it wasn’t safe to continue onward. I took a deep breath, turned around, and made it back alive. Then, I drafted a letter to the provincial government explaining that they may want to use larger font a sign which warns that walking past it may result in falling off a mountain – as getting close enough to read it might have the same result.

Having learned my lesson, my next hike wasn’t on the edge of a mountain but solidly in the middle of one. So all was well and good until the Parks Department warned me off due to the potential for bear attacks. But as with the glacier and cliff, I shouldered my fear and kept moving forward. After all, I had already survived so much. That, and I had a bear bell for company and glorious scenery to view.


My bear bell felt like good company, with its bright jangle. Or it did until I stopped in a shop and heard the woman behind the counter telling a fellow tourist that they were not permitted to travel down the mountain without bear spray. The tourist held out her bear bell in response. The cashier, a knowledgeable and adventuring Aussie, explained, with a hint of fear, that heading out with only a bear bell for company was as good as hitting the trail barefoot. A terrible, hazardous, and stupid idea.

I went down the mountain in a bus, uneaten by a bear.

All’s well that ends well
2017: Where the Bots Were

2017: Where the Bots Were

Well, 2017 was quite a year. One day, I’m sure we’ll look back on with fondness. Meanwhile, it looks like a morass of things we don’t need to discuss. Except for one: the proliferation of bots worldwide. We all know about Fuzzy Bear in the East and 4Chan in the West. But the list below indicates that either bots have a foothold in every corner of the Earth. That, at least, is more believable than my Kuwati reader.