Apr 302015

I remember the popularity of the Book of Lists. It came out when I was in high school, and I believe my friend Dave Peterman had a copy. I seem to recall a list of famous alcoholics, with Ambrose Bierce being listed as an “eminent tankardsman” but I could be mistaken. Despite its sensational and easily digestible format, I feel that lists are a useful way of organizing one’s thoughts. It’s also useful to write things down. I suspect, but do not know, that many people besides myself think in a similar way, particularly about rock bands, TV shows, or certain movies. We discover something we really like, and wonder why EVERYONE doesn’t feel the same way. Ultimately of course, it comes down to “matters of taste” so it’s difficult if not impossible to count these as objective esthetic facts. In any event, here’s my attempt to organize my own thoughts on things I’ve discovered which other people don’t seem to venerate to a similar degree.

1. Baked beans for breakfast. Popular in the UK, not so much in America. Americans are certainly willing to embrace sweet things for breakfast, particularly pre-sweetened breakfast cereals, or perhaps donuts for adults, but not baked beans. Ultimately of course, the argument is that they are delicious, not that they constitute “health food” as they are full of sugar.

2. The Leatherman tool. Jesus God in heaven, how I have tried to promote this meme. I have saved my own bacon and the bacon of others so many times since my first Leatherman tool in the late 80’s I have lost track. Just last weekend I helped fix a folding chair owned by my friend Alex using my Supertool 300. I keep it on a belt pouch so it’s always within reach, yet doesn’t weigh down my pocket. I also keep a “Micra” on my belt in a pouch. It has a small folding scissors, which is eminently useful. I have wished for years that Leatherman would scale up the Micra to a “full sized” unit, but this has not happened.

3. Net t-shirts. Way back in the stone age of the 70’s “net” shirts had a period of popularity. Many were made of synthetic materials, which I suspect may have led to their decline. That, coupled with the vaguely transgressive display of seeing men’s nipples…

I happened to discover a particular brand sold at K-mart that was sold as a t-shirt, and had very small holes, perhaps only a millimeter across. They were the most comfortable shirts I’ve ever worn. I suspect they were a cotton and polyester blend, or perhaps all cotton. They don’t even seem to have come back as hipster retro style, as big beards have. If I found net shirts as comfortable as the ones I wore in high school, I’d wear them again in a heartbeat!

4. Cutting food, usually meat, with the knife in the right hand whilst holding the fork in the left hand, then moving the food directly to the mouth with the left hand. This is a “Continental” or “English” style of eating, as opposed to the American style of eating, which sets down the knife in the right hand, swaps the fork to the right hand, then uses the fork in the right hand to bring the food to the mouth. Not surprisingly, I changed my behavior while in Europe. I was helped along by discovering the utility of using both hands to manipulate tools while working on cars. There are situations where it makes better sense to hold a tool in the left hand than in the right hand, usually due to cramped quarters. People often think of their “handedness” as a binary; either right or left. Yet it’s really just a matter of habit: I’ve found that I actually underestimate how poorly my left hand functions. Yes it feels less capable, it feels strange, but it’s really not as uncoordinated as I anticipated.

5. HP sauce, or brown sauce. Another quirk I picked up from Europe. Americans love ketchup, which I find sort of middling in value. Most American supermarkets have a section devoted to barbecue sauces which might include a tiny bottle of HP sauce, which is only one brand of brown sauce. Brown sauce is distinctly different from ordinary barbecue sauces, and compliments both beef and baked beans. Ultimately I don’t use it on a regular basis, as it’s full of sugar, and it no way could be defined as “health food.”

6. Bulgur. I love this stuff! Classified as a “whole grain” I find it cooks up easier than rice, or at least is less finicky. I like the coarser versions, which are given numeric gradations from one to five. I’m spoiled here in Seattle, as I’m not far away from an ethnic food paradise in the form of the DK Market in Renton. They sell a plethora of bulgur. Why is this wonderful grain not more popular?

7. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. Years ago when I started working on cars, I didn’t wear gloves. My hands would become utterly filthy, often a thick sort of grease mixed with dirt. At the time, I believe that liquid soaps that included pumice as a suspension would be the best, sort of like good old Lava soap. One day a gear head friend of mine suggested Dr. Bronner’s and I thought he was kidding. Amazingly enough, it worked better than the pumice style liquid soaps. I shower with the stuff, and it’s even possible to shave with it, but it doesn’t quite have enough emollients in it to properly shave with. It rinses off very well, and leaves no lingering perfume odor. Fantastic stuff, despite it’s hippie connotations and psychotic religious texts.

8. Coconut syrup. I had this over pancakes while in Hawaii. Delicious! With the current popularity of coconut “water” and “milk” I am befuddled why coconut syrup is not better known. Most Americans use maple syrup on pancakes, with sorghum and honey following in popularity. Why not coconut? I’ve seen it for sale only once here in Seattle.

I’m confident I will think of additional items, which is really a testament that we don’t always categorize disparate concepts in our minds under tidy category headings. I suspect that many people think the same way but may not have drawn up an itemized list. I encourage everyone to do so.

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