One of my favorite things to pick up at Trader Joe’s is their carnitas-in-a-bag heat-n-serve deal. Nothing like putting that on a tortilla with a little chopped cilantro to make you feel you made the right choice. It was maybe the third time I did so before I thought, $5.99 is a ridiculous price to pay for two cups of stewed pork. So I resolved to make my own. I recalled a “Splendid Table” episode that spoke of the wonders of the pork shoulder, a poverty cut well-suited to slow-roasting. I went online, found the recipe — mmm, a “mole-inspired spice rub” — and set out for my own culinary adventure in make-your-own carnitas.
The first problem was with the “3-1/2-pound organic pork shoulder.” They must breed some wee little piggies for the organic trade, because at the Gratiot Central Market’s Temple o’ Pork, the very smallest pork shoulder I could find was eight pounds. Still, at $1.29 per, it only cost me $10 and change. If this thing dollars up, I’ll be way ahead. The recipe is maddening for someone as impatient as me — rub, entomb in a heavy dutch oven and cook for hours in a very slow oven — but now, at the three-hour mark, I’m starting to get some pretty good smells upstairs.
Yes, it’s another write-on-Sunday-for-Monday entry. School lets out at noon Tuesday; I expect the week to kick my ass.
After-dinner update: Mmmm, slow-roasted fatty pork. Poor people get all the good chow.
That’s one consolation, I guess. Although, even rich people have it rough these days. They’re scared, I tell you. Here’s Tom Friedman in Sunday’s NYT:
So, I have a confession and a suggestion. The confession: I go into restaurants these days, look around at the tables often still crowded with young people, and I have this urge to go from table to table and say: “You don’t know me, but I have to tell you that you shouldn’t be here. You should be saving your money. You should be home eating tuna fish. This financial crisis is so far from over. We are just at the end of the beginning. Please, wrap up that steak in a doggy bag and go home.”
Tom Friedman, one week (one! week!) previous:
Now is when we need a president who has the skill, the vision and the courage to cut through this cacophony, pull us together as one nation and inspire and enable us to do the one thing we can and must do right now:
I am a happy and satisfied New York Times subscriber — at least as happy as I get with any newspaper — but I’m starting to get frustrated with this phenomenon of rich guys panicking. Ben Stein, same paper:
The problem now, as in 1929 to 1940, is that the economy is not functioning normally. It is shot through and through with fear, even terror. Worse yet, and unlike the situation in the Depression, government miscues have been only a part of the problem. This fear is so pervasive that it has brought the credit sector to a virtual shutdown, even to borrowers with good credit. At this point, the lending sector is so panicked — largely from the government’s inconsistent behavior and failure to rescue Lehman Brothers — that it is frozen. Not totally, but way too much for ease of lending and maybe even for the survival of a robust economy. And if a colossal worldwide deleveraging spreads to Treasury debt owned by foreigners, the situation will be deadly serious.
“Shot through with fear, even terror,” so he thought, what the hell, can a little more be all that bad? It’s always interesting to me how many different personas Ben Stein deploys in maintaining his fabulous career. In the pop-culture joke sector, he’s all about the voice and the “anyone? anyone?” gag. In the NYT, he’s the serious economist. And there’s always room for another face, as his role in “Expelled” demonstrates. But he’s a rich guy now, he’ll still be a rich guy if the whole economy falls into the toilet, and I wish he’d save the fear and terror for those who might actually be going hungry or turned out in the street if such a thing happens.
All I can say is, thank God for Gretchen Morgenson, who explains it isn’t necessarily “fear” that has frozen lending. After all, didn’t we all recently chip in $700 billion to get the system oiled again? Yes, but oops, there seems to be a hitch in the plans:
When the Troubled Asset Relief Program of the Treasury Department handed over $125 billion in taxpayer money to nine banks a month ago, they were supposed to lend to small businesses, home buyers and other worthy borrowers to keep the economy’s gears in motion.
At the time, the Federal Reserve Board and three bank regulatory agencies said: “The agencies expect all banking organizations to fulfill their fundamental role in the economy as intermediaries of credit to businesses, consumers, and other creditworthy borrowers.”
Alas, that admonition wasn’t accompanied by any real requirements to lend. When the Treasury gave taxpayer billions to the banks, it attached no strings. So is it any surprise that lending is tight?
But remember: It would be wrong to loan Detroit automakers 20 percent of that amount. Because some Senate staffer bought a Chevy Vega right out of college, and it went through oil like you wouldn’t believe.
So I guess we’re either screwed, or we’re not. I eat tuna fish in good times and bad, and I don’t think the solution is to stay home and wait for the inevitable. I always wondered, reading about apocalyptic events in history, how ordinary people weathered them, and the answer seems to be — they did what they always did. (There are exceptions. Pompeii comes to mind.) As for me, I’ll continue to buy local, put money into Salvation Army kettles, floss, pet my dog and only pull the covers up over my head when I’m really tired.
Cautionary note: I’m always confident and expansive after eating a good meal.
Some good bloggage for you today: A fascinating read in New York magazine on Bellevue, the city’s infamous psychiatric hospital. News peg: It’s on the verge of closing. (Now I’ll never get to check in in a straitjacket.) What does it take to get committed to Bellevue? A lot:
Bellevue is not for “some Upper East Side suicidal neurotic or whatever—they’d go to NYU Medical Center next door. Our patients were the ones with no money, no resources, and multiple stressors.”
That, or their behavior is so extreme—criminal or otherwise—that no other option presents itself. Merely wandering into the middle of Broadway while muttering incoherently? Probably not enough. “You know, the brilliance of the schizophrenics when they’re directing traffic,” says Covan, “is that they always direct it in the direction it’s already going, so their grandiosity is reinforced. But if they start to direct it in the opposite direction, or if they’re assaulting other people, or if you came in and said you really wanted to kill yourself, not just that you were thinking about it … You know, Bellevue is not the place for you if you’re just not feeling good today and you’re really worried about the stock market.”
Remember when I talked about seeing people in motorized wheelchairs driving on the city streets? I wasn’t kidding. Jim @ Sweet Juniper has photographic proof.
Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Coozledad are adding to their happy menagerie, newest member seen here. Actually, they’re getting two mules, and they don’t match. Coozle reports he’s learning to drive them, and their favorite command is whoa. As they are now the hands-down smartest critters on the spread, I expect his blog will be even more of a laff riot.
Ten o’clock already? Time to study Russian.