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Boom-de-yadda
There were never any "good old days" — they are today, they are tomorrow
the evolution of a dish 
2nd-Dec-2007 09:54 am
food, Bascove peaches
Sit on the sofa wrapped in a wool blanket with the cat curled up tightly against you for warmth. Consider the butternut squash you picked up at the store because it's winter and a butternut is a good thing to have on hand.

Decide that butternut lasagna would be tasty and would suit the weather admirably, especially since it'll mean the oven will help heat up the kitchen.

Search the net to find a roast butternut lasagna recipe. Read ten of them. Realize that 95% of the pages found are variations on the same recipe. Decide they're unnecessary and proceed forward sans written recipe.

The next day, stop by the Berkeley Bowl (at 4:30, which is not during peak shopping hours, because that's way too masochistic in a really unfun way) to pick up onions and chèvre. Spend too much time pondering salad dressings and plain yogurts and miss the #18 AC Transit bus by → ← that much. Wait 20 minutes for the next one.

Wrap scarf more securely around neck. Decide to transfer to the #14 at the stop at E. 18th Street and Lakeshore because the stops downtown tend to be subject to the Broadway Wind Tunnel Effect, which makes it at least 5°F colder downtown than elsewhere in Oakland. (The Piedmont Avenue Effect works the other way and makes it a few degrees warmer there. Not that it makes a big difference in chilliness level when waiting for a bus, but it's something to think about while waiting.)

Get on the #18. Gaze out the window at the passing scenery as the noise from the rowdy teenagers in the back washes over you. Avoid making eye contact with the too-cheerful, too-chatty woman sitting by the driver. Feel quietly relieved when she chooses the passenger sitting opposite her to be the recipient of her mostly-a-monologue.

Sit on the motionless bus at a downtown stop as the driver wrestles with the user-unfriendly controls for the wheelchair ramp. Think for the thousandth time how wretched the Van Hool buses are compared to the older ones.

Continue sitting on the motionless bus as the driver helps the passenger in the wheelchair secure the chair. Wonder idly whether spiritualmonkey is right that the purchase and use of such clearly problematic buses means that somebody made a perhaps-not-quite-legitimate bundle off the deal, or if it's the result of cumulative bureaucratic incompetence.

Watch as the #14 you had intended to transfer to pulls up next to the #18, lets off its passengers, then pulls away.

Continue sitting on the motionless bus as the driver finally gets the chair secured and returns to his seat. Ride the bus through downtown and get off at the E. 18th St./Lakeshore stop. Check the schedule and realize the next bus isn't due for 12 minutes.

Spend the next 27 minutes standing in the bus shelter (because it's way too cold to sit down on the metal bench) pacing idly back and forth (because it's way too cold to stand still). Pass the time counting your breaths instead of being annoyed at the other person waiting in the bus shelter, who keeps checking his watch and sighing and making annoyed tch! noises at the bus's lateness.

Spot the #14 finally coming around the curve. Pick up the shopping bag and board the bus, noticing that half a block behind it is another #14. Figure this indicates that the bus you just got on is indeed an entire 15-minute cycle behind schedule. Feel amused and sympathetic toward the driver, who is clearly doing her best to make up the time — who knew a bus could go up E. 18th that fast?

Get home, take off shoes, change out of work clothes, turn the oven on to 400°, and sit down with your feet up while the oven heats. (Feel briefly extremely cranky about still being unable to walk without pain three and a half months after the foot injury.)

When the oven is hot, peel the butternut squash, using the Y-shaped peeler, which works much better on tough-skinned vegetables than the standard one does. Cube, toss in a large Pyrex baking pan with olive oil, and roast until done, stirring every 20 minutes.

Decide that it's gotten entirely too late to do lasagna. Boil some penne. Fry a fresh sage leaf in a little bit of olive oil, then toss with penne, some of the squash cubes, and some goat cheese. Realize (again) that you're really not very fond of sage, even though every cookbook in the world says it goes well with squash. Resolve to use rosemary instead for the lasagna.

The next night, turn the oven to 350°. Submerge a sprig of rosemary in a cup of soy milk and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the rosemary has infused the soy milk.

While it simmers, dice an onion and cook it on medium-low in a little olive oil until mostly tender. Add leftover roasted squash and continue cooking until tender. Use a potato masher on the mix until there are no chunks left, although not entirely smooth.

Go to make the béchamel sauce. Realize that the butter in the fridge has a "sell by" date of May 2007. As you throw it in the trash, reflect that at least this indicates that butter hasn't been playing a huge part in your diet.

Make a roux using olive oil instead of butter. Cook until olive oil is fragrant and flour just barely begins to smell toasty. Remove rosemary from soy milk and begin stirring into roux, adding more as it thickens up to keep the proper consistency. When it's absorbed as much as it will (with 1T oil/1T flour being able to thicken about 1/2 cup of soy milk), remove from heat.

Take three large square wonton wrappers and cut them to the right size and shape to fit the baking dish you're using.

Put a spoonful of sauce in your baking dish and spread it out to cover the bottom of the dish. Place a sheet of pasta in the dish on top of the sauce. Add a layer of onion-squash mixture, then a layer of crumbled chèvre. Grate Parmesan cheese evenly over the layer.

Add another pasta wrapper and spread half the sauce over it, then another layer of squash, chèvre, and Parmesan.

Place the last pasta wrapper on top of the squash-chèvre-Parmesan layer. If it's at all too large, ensure that the edges are tucked neatly down around the edge of the dish so they won't get dried out and crunchy. Spread remaining sauce over pasta, ensuring that it's all covered. Grate Parmesan generously over the top.

Realize that there is no aluminum foil in the apartment. Place baking dish in 350° oven and rest an oven-safe lid from a different baking dish on top of it. Bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake 15 minutes longer.

Eat while sitting on the sofa wrapped in a wool blanket with the cat curled up tightly against you for warmth.



Things to try next time: More rosemary in the sauce. Instead of mixing onions and squash, mash squash by itself. Cook chopped Swiss chard with onions and add as additional layer to lasagna (which will probably also make it look nicer).
Comments 
2nd-Dec-2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
AC Transit is introducing our new Van Hool buses. Unlike any other bus running in the United States, this bus has a 100 percent low-floor for easy entrance and exit.

Yeah. But once you take that ever so convenient step inside, it's a navigation nightmare with about 30% of the overhead handles it needs, tiny walkways (usually clogged with Hummer-sized baby carriages), and seats that anyone with less than 100% mobility then has to clamber up into because of the low-rider engineering. Fewer of them too.

These buses suck so badly, SOMEONE had to have gotten rich off it. I am confident in that belief.
2nd-Dec-2007 11:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, they must have.

*looks at cache of things to rant about* *discovers link is dead and archive.org doesn't have it*

Grr! I hate it when I procrastinate and that happens. Well, http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/alameda_county/montclair/16660771.htm for whatever the reference is worth.

Vague synopsis: someone ordered a few of those buses to try out. The reason to order expensive buses from overseas was "we need three doors!". Surveys found three doors to be much less efficient. Most riders complained. AC Transit board meeting, on the table is the purchase of 250 of those buses. Being a (somewhat) open meeting, someone from the public comes in and asks why they are buying these uncomfortable buses. The board has no clue that they were buying them: it was a done deal, committed by someone or other, so they cannot reverse it. Riders lose!

Darn! I really wish I had the text of that article. It was quite biting. Having personally seen older people try to get into the seats, they are clearly trying to convince people to drive instead.
3rd-Dec-2007 07:31 pm (UTC)
When are the best times to shop at the Bowl? I'm not in Berkeley too often, but when I am I'd like to give BB another try. (I went there once just before Thanksgiving- it looked like it'd be a wonderful place when not filled with a million people.)
4th-Dec-2007 04:04 am (UTC)
I think mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and late evening are probably best. You don't want to be there between 5:30 and 6:30 when all the Berkeleyites are trying to pick up dinner fixings. And I usually give it a miss the whole week before Thanksgiving — the other customers can be difficult to deal with* even when there isn't the added stress of a holiday.

And if you value your sanity, avoid the parking lot. Park a block away and walk. You will be so much calmer and happier than if you try to deal with their parking lot.
*From a few of the reviews on Yelp: "I have never known grown adults to be so petty, rude and mean." "[T]he people who go here are some of the worst humanity possible."
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