Sunday, December 9, 2018


For a while now I've been intrigued by the notion of sous-vide cooking. Basically, you seal whatever food you want to cook in a plastic bag and put it in a hot water bath at a very specific temperature for a long time until it slowly reaches that temperature. It over complicates something while being more precise which somehow appeals to my nature. Typically a sous-vide device attaches to a large pot of water and circulates that water while maintaining a very exact temperature. The cheapest one on Amazon is $50 but you can pay well over $100 if you feel you need for wi-fi and bluetooth connectivity. It occurred to me that I could use a temperature controller I have on hand along with a hotplate to perhaps achieve the same results.

Last night I ran an experiment. It also happens that I wanted to hard boil some eggs. So I set my temperature controller to 170 and threw in some eggs, and left them for an hour. My temperature controller has a high and low alarm which I set to 172 and 168*. The alarm never went off which means the temperature was within a single degree of the 170 mark. I'd love to tell you how the eggs turned out but I make them for my lunch so I won't know until Monday.

Today I wanted to make a real go of it and sous-vide some steaks. Wendy and I stopped by Wal-Mart and picked up a couple NY strip steaks, 1.23 lbs total or about 10 oz each. $12.26 for the pair. We followed these instructions. It took a minute to dial in the hotplate and temperature controller. Turns out you want to set the hot plate to just barely enough to keep it at the desired temperature. If you simply put it on high it will heat the water too much and bounce well above your set point. That website recommended from 129 to 134 degrees for medium-rare. So I set the temperature controller to 130 and set the high/low alarms to 135/128*. The only time the alarm went off was when I felt the need to mess with the equilibrium by moving the steaks around. After an hour we started our side and after an hour and a half we took out the steaks and gave them a sear on the stovetop. Fear not Pop, I'm totally down with the Maillard reaction.

I have to say, it was about the best steak I've ever had. Wendy liked it too. The only seasoning we did was to salt and pepper them before putting them in the bags. We actually bought some A-1 steak sauce while we were getting the steaks but I didn't need that at all. It was so juicy and delicious and wonderful.

All of the sous-vide units sold brag about their precise temperature control, to within a tenth of a degree. But all sous-vide recipes give a range of temperatures. So why do you need control to within a tenth of a degree if there's a 5 degree window on the recipe? That being said I might actually shell out for a standard sous-vide device. While doing research I read reviews that suggested something pretty awesome. You can use those devices in an igloo style cooler. And they even have sous-vide balls to put on top. Can you imagine cooking in a container insulated on all six sides? I can't fathom getting much more efficient than that. One drawback of this method is that all the steaks are cooked the same. So if the family can't agree on how they're cooked it's a no go. But as Wendy found in an article she read online, if you want your steak well done *cough* my ex *cough* then why are you bothering with sous-vide?

All in all, it was a grand success.


*respectively. Of course, it's respectively. What kind of lunatic would say a pair of this and a pair of that and it wouldn't be respectively? Saying respectively is redundant.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Emergency Room Visit

I'm fine...but I did go the emergency room late Saturday night. The short story is I had an extremely sore throat that was cutting off my airways that turned out to be strep. It started Friday evening with a mild sore throat. All day Saturday it got worse and worse. It got to the point where it was both extremely painful and extremely difficult to swallow. I was gritting my teeth every time. This, however, still isn't enough to warrant a trip to the ER. The real problem is when I went to take a nap Saturday. The moment I fell asleep my airways relaxed and closed and I woke up gasping. I thought maybe it was a sinus thing (turns out, definitely not) so I went and bought some (generic) Sudafed. That evening I tried to sleep again. This time in a recliner chair so I was propped up a bit. Plenty of time had passed if the Sudafed was going to do anything. I had the same problem, the moment I fell asleep my airway closed and I woke up gasping. This was the point it became untenable and went to the ER. I drove a very unhappy Adam home first and went in. Seeing as I had a non-life-threatening problem on a Saturday night I was braced for a long visit.

There were, blessedly, only two people in front of me. The throat culture (also blessedly and unfathomably) only took 20 minutes to run. They gave me a single shot for the strep throat. Which is pretty cool in and of itself that they can cure strep with a single, if not quite painful, shot. It still hurts today. They also gave me a couple pills for the swelling. I told the doctor my airway was being cut off but I couldn't help but notice when he referenced it he said it felt like my airway was being cut off. The second time he said felt I pressed him on it. It turns out the sensation I was feeling as I fell asleep probably wasn't actually cutting off my airways. It felt like what it feels like when I fall asleep on my back and I snore terribly. It did occur to me before I went in that that snoring sensation may not actually cut off my airway. But when I snore all night I wake up with a sore throat and a swollen uvula. So if I'm starting out the sleep session with a sore throat and some very swollen tonsils (did I mention the super swollen tonsils?) then what sort of state am I going to wake up in? It wasn't quite as bad as cutting off my airways but still untenable* enough for an ER trip. The nurse said the pills would reduce swelling for 24 hours. He also said the shot would cure the strep in 24 to 48 hours. That math was not missed by me. So I asked specifically to make sure the swelling would be reduced until the strep was cured enough not to swell up again. He laughed and assured me it would.

Here's the best part of this story, I've been saving it for last. When I was waiting in the lobby for the strep swab test results somebody come to get me. She said something along the lines of we'd like to put you in room 8 with an I'm-sorry-about-this look on her face. I said I'm sure room 8 is fine, I'm not picky. She said it's a little weird, there's only a bed in the middle of the floor and nothing else. No chairs, nothing. But the doc only has to go over the test results, give me some meds, and I should be in and out. I said I'm sure it's fine and I love the sound of in and out. As we went to room 8 another person asked where she was going with me? Like, we're full, where you going? She said room 8, the look on the other lady's face was fascinating. A look saying, wow, really? And she didn't say another word, oddly so. Upon arriving in room 8 I thought about taking pictures. In retrospect I really wish I had. I didn't wan't anybody to see me taking pictures so I didn't. Let me describe room 8. It was basically the psych ward of ER exam rooms. Imagine a padded room, without the pads. Imagine a jail cell without the weird toilet sink combo unit**. There was in fact only a bed in the room, right in the middle of the floor, high enough to sit on comfortably. This bed was not easily moved, possibly impossible to move, I didn't try. Made of solid wood. There was a very prison-esque mattress in that it was vinyl covered foam. Although I must say, decidedly thicker than a prison mattress**. There was a fairly standard pillow and sheet. Other than that there was utterly nothing else in the room. Including door handles on the inside of the two doors. Let me repeat, the doors had no handles on the inside. It was like the hospital was saying, "It's not quite enough to lock you in here, we must remove the handles so you're clear there's no hope of escape." While I was in there the door was propped open. As a couple funny asides, when the nurse gave me the shot it was in my rear so he wanted to shut the door but propped it open first. Before doing so he said to someone outside that if he's not back out in five minutes to come get him. Also, the administrative lady that talked with me about billing accidentally knocked the door as she left and it started to close. You've never seen someone jump up as fast as I did to catch that door. You'd think I just got another shot in my ass. And finally, I'm ending with the best part of this room, the wooden bed had a strip of molding going down the middle of both sides horizontally. There were 3 inch slots every foot or so. Perfect if you wanted to strap someone down.

The next time you visit the ER you might tell them you're fine with room 8. You'll look like you have inside knowledge and it should trigger an excellent expression. Of course, it's unlikely you'll ever go to the ER for anything quite as trivial as strep throat so you might actually need a medial device or two in your room.

Man o man, I wish I had taken some surreptitious*** snapshots. And wow has this turned into the longest email about a minor ER visit. That room 8 was just so cool. We should totally make an escape room and call it room 8. That's such a good idea. People would ask why we called it room 8 and we could say it was based on an actual room at the hospital. And once in a blue moon a medical person would come through and ask how I know about room 8 and I can look them right in the eye and say with a ominous voice, "Because I've been there."


*Great word, I can use it twice.
**Yes I'm embarrassed but just a little bit proud that I know this.
***Great word and an alliteration