Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Anecdotal Evidence: The Miracle of the Secret Sauce

Part of an occasional series on "statistics."  A good statistician will tell you that those two words – anecdotal and evidence – never belong next to each other.  But I am only a mediocre statistician so I proceed without fear to present some anecdotal evidence on random topics.

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If I put my secret sauce on food they hate, the family will eat it, and like it.

Evidence, with n=2 foods hated and n=2 food haters.

Evidence for n = tofu
For a long time, I have been trying to cook tofu that is palatable to the rest of the family, with the goal of eating less meat-based protein. I like tofu, simply pan-fried, but the other two don’t. 

I asked a pastor friend of mine the best way to cook tofu, and he said, “You have to season the hell out of it.”  Which seems like reasonable advice from a pastor.  I’ve tried a number of different recipes over the past few years, but nothing appealed to my clientele.

Saturday April 18, 2020, Day 34 of stay-at-home.
I decided that dinner would be tofu in honey-garlic sauce, the family’s dislike of tofu be damned (I feel my pastor friend would agree with that sentiment).

A miracle!  All members of the Common Household liked the tofu! The key was not the honey-garlic sauce, but my secret sauce.  Here’s how I made it:

I cut the tofu in pieces about ½ inch thick, and marinated it in a mixture of honey, soy sauce, and minced garlic.  Dipped it in flour, and then fried it (almost burned it, but not quite).

I transferred the tofu to a serving bowl. I put about ¼ cup of plum sauce (from a jar) in the hot pan, plus a dollop of ginger paste (from the tube) and also added the remainder of the honey-garlic sauce from the marinating step.  I heated it briefly, and then poured it over the tofu.  Then, like Mikey in the Life Cereal® commercials of my childhood, the tofu-haters ate it, and declared that it was actually tasty.  Success! 

Evidence for n = broccoli
Saturday April 25, 2020, Day 41 of stay-at-home
At 6 PM it became clear to me that no one else was going to make dinner.  I yanked some tilapia out of the freezer.  I also realized we had fresh broccoli, bought on Monday, that needed to be cooked immediately.  As I hauled the broccoli out of the fridge, the other Common Household residents made faces and declared they would not eat it. 

We'll see about that, I thought.  I sliced some onions and then threw the fresh broccoli in the frying pan.  After the broccoli was cooked I took it out of the frying pan, and I made my secret sauce:  some minced garlic in the pan, fry for 1 minute.  Then add 1/4 cup of plum sauce and a dollop (about a tsp) of ginger paste.  Stir for another minute to heat, then pour over the broccoli w/onions.  Everyone ate the broccoli, despite their declared hatred for it.  Secret sauce for the win!

God help me if the family decides that I must eat mayonnaise during stay-at-home.  I will refuse, because mayonnaise is a sauce from hell.

More anecdotal evidence:

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Here is the original recipe for Honey-Garlic sauce, which is more involved than what I did for the tofu.

Honey-Garlic  Sauce

1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. sriracha
1/4 c. water
2 tsp. corn starch
1/4 c. sliced scallions (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water, until the cornstarch dissolves completely. Set aside.

Combine soy sauce, honey, garlic, lime juice and Sriracha in a small saucepan over medium heat.

When the mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat and add the cornstarch mixture. Bring to simmer again and cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.

How to use:
Use on broiled fish (apply in the last few minutes of cooking).  Or on baked or stir-fried vegetables.  Or on tofu.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Sacred Use for a Kippah

Greater love has no one than this: that she wear a mask when venturing into a public place during a novel coronavirus outbreak.  My mask protects you, and your mask protects me.   
- The Book of Admonitions 15:12-13

And you shall fashion a face mask out of any cloth you find in the deep recesses of your abode.  Lo, you shall unearth the sewing box from its hiding place of the past 20 years and you shall discover bands of elastic that appear to still be stretchy, even though they be as old as Methuselah.  Praise the Lord.

The Lord will place upon your heart the shape of a face mask; God will write upon your mind the shape of a kippah.  Behold, the shapes are nearly the same.  And you will remember the way in which you ordered far more kippot than necessary, for each of your children’s bnai mitzvot, because they had to be ordered in batches of 144.  The Spirit of God will lead you to your office, on top of that filing cabinet, where you will find the plastic bag that, lo and behold, is still filled with kippot from those blessed events. 

And you shall engage in all kinds of craft, just as in the great tradition of Oholiab and Bezalel, including cutting, tying knots, stapling, and taping.  You shall find a youtube video to get you started.  Thus shall you create a face mask so that you may keep the ordinances and statutes concerning the protection of your community from the covid-19 virus.  And God will declare this to be a holy use of the kippah.
- The Book of Exertions 5:23-31

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I made a passable face mask out of kippot from my children’s bar & bat mitzvahs.

This is not meant to be a mask for medical staff.  I made this because the Governor of Pennsylvania announced that in the event that we ordinary folk must go to a public place, such as the grocery store, we should each and every one of us wear a mask.  It's impossible to buy a mask these days, so we must be creative and make our own.  Having a homemade mask does not mean we should go traipsing around and mingling in public places, but it makes it safer for those around us when we must go out in public. 

Here’s how I did it.

This youtube video gave me my starting point.
(I am too tired to figure out how to embed the video.  If the link doesn't work, go to youtube and try searching on "Homemade Kippah Masks Otto Dube".)

Materials used for one face mask:
a kippah (yarmulke, skull cap)
two 10 inch pieces of elastic
standard-size paper clip
masking tape or freezer tape

A kippah is a yarmulke, the head covering that many Jews wear.  For a bar/bat mitzvah, it is customary to order kippot, one for every guest, with the budding adult’s name stamped on the inside.  We have a number of these left over from the ceremonies of our three children.  The top layer is some kind of nylon or satin fabric; the inside layer is something sort of cottony.

Once I found our leftover kippot, I washed a few, along with some cotton napkins that also might be made into face masks.  The kippot survived the washing machine just fine.   I believe this is a small miracle.

I tried the technique in the video with a kippah from my daughter’s bat mitzvah.  The trim around the edge made the resulting mask bunch in the wrong places.  And the rubber bands I had were very uncomfortable and did not fit correctly. 

So I started over, and set to work to remove the gold braid trim.  This was easier than I thought it would be.  After a few snips, I was able to pull the trim right off.  The rest of the kippah remained intact.  Whew!

Using some very old elastic I found in my ancient sewing box in the basement, I then measured a 10 inch length of elastic, and then a second 10-inch piece.  I put the two ends together, and tied a simple knot.  And again for the second piece of elastic, resulting in two loops of elastic, like a rubber band, but better sized and more comfortable.

Sorry it's blurry.  You put the two ends together,
wrap 'em around your finger, and pull through to make
a knot.  If you are Scout you will know the
name of this knot, but I do not.
The resulting knot.  Blurry, I know.

I then used this elastic loop as in the video – I found the inside seam in the kippah, placed the elastic loop there, folded over the edge of the kippah, and stapled it.  Just one staple seems sufficient.  And repeat on the opposite end of the kippah.


Then I took a standard-sized paper clip, bent it straight, and then bent it some more to put a little bump in the middle.  This will be to bend over your nose, for a better fit.

I put the paper clip at the top of the kippah-mask on the inside.  I taped it there with freezer tape.  We will see how the tape fares goes when I put this mask in the washing machine for re-use.
In this photo, the top of the face mask is to the left.

Then I folded over the kippah fabric on top of the paper clip, and put in four staples.

The mask is done.

You put the kippah over your nose and mouth, attaching the elastic behind your ears.  Press down on the paper clip to make it tight with your nose. 

Take the decorative trim that you removed from the kippah and find a new decorative use for it.
Press gently on the paper clip portion of the mask
to help the mask fit closely over your nose.
It won't be a completely tight seal.  

New use for decorative trim

I wore this mask when we went tonight to pick up pizza.  This was the first time I had been out of my neighborhood in more than a week.  This was our first time getting take-out food. We've been cooking in, mostly.  The mask worked fine, and it's now ready to be washed for re-use.

Next task:  making a mask out of an old t-shirt.