Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Phyne Dyner’s Herb Dip

In Recipies on January 31, 2012 at 11:34 am

I can’t believe I’ve failed to share this with fellow Phyne Dyners. I must be slipping…


One of our favorite weeknight suppers is a modest repast of pita, fresh fruit, an assorted bit of cheeses, a couple of bites of smoked fish, and a glass or two of (cheap) wine.

A small cruet of oil sits by each place setting, along with a small plate.

It’s time to dip!

Each summer, my garden grows a bumper crop of fresh herbs. These are carefully washed and dried. Then they are placed in zippered bags for storage in a dark, cool place. Where bruschetta and its fresh-grown toppings rule in summer, pita and dried herbs reign in the cooler months.

First, a generous spoonful of herb mix is placed on the plate. Then, the olive oil is drizzled over the herbs. The finishing touch is a minute pinch of sea salt over all of it.

Simply break the pita, dip, and eat.

The herb mix?

Let’s make some.

The recipe calls for dried “everything” and it’s really fun and rewarding if most of the dried “everything” comes from your own garden! If you forgot to grow herbs last summer, use freshly purchased dried herbs of good quality.

The anise-like flavor from the fennel seed really compliments the herbs. Sometimes, I substitute dried peppermint for a completely different flavor. Be bold and experiment a bit with combinations.

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp fennel seed

1 tsp dehydrated garlic, NOT powdered

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp Aleppo pepper flakes

¼ tsp ground black pepper

Having a small mortar and pestle is a real plus here. When my heads of garlic start getting long in the tooth, I peel them and cut them into pieces about 3/8 of an inch in size. I run them through my dehydrator and then bag them up. You need a mortar and pestle to crush the dried garlic into pieces just larger than a grain of sand. Powder tends to clump in the mixture and, despite being a garlic-phile I really want to get the full range of flavors from my herbs.

HINT: When drying herbs, try to leave the herb leaves fairly large. Then just before use, put them in a small sandwich bag and crush them. Crushing herbs too far ahead of time allows the volatile oils (where the flavor is) to evaporate.

After processing the garlic, turn your attention to the fennel seeds. Place them in your mortar and pestle and give them a few vigorous “grinds” to release their flavor.

Place all of the ingredients into a good quality small jar and store your dipping herbs out of sunlight.

This mixture is also outstanding as a pizza seasoning and as an herb flavoring when enjoying whole-wheat pasta and oil.



Kinhin and a good walk

In Lifestyle on January 31, 2012 at 11:32 am

“Golf”, said Mark Twain, “is a good walk ruined.”

Last summer, shortly before Mrs. Phyne Dyner and I began our meditative journeys, we noticed an elderly Asian gentleman slowly walking down our street. His face was impassive as cars whizzed by him, the drivers oblivious to the signs posting a 25mph speed limit. Occasionally, the man would stop and peer into a tree, study a bush, or look at the ground. After a few moments he would resume his walk, his hands clasped gently behind him. Sometimes, he was accompanied by a young boy or by a woman of interminable age.

After winter (thankfully a mild one) settled in on America’s Ukraine of Iowa, we only saw the man occasionally. When he did appear, he was bundled up in a large, quilted coat that looked to be a good three sizes big for him. His wrinkled face peered from the depths of the coat’s hood.

A few weeks ago, as I swept a bit of snow from our walks, the gentleman ambled by. I waved a greeting and he waved back. He paused and watched me swing my broom, the snowflakes scattering before it like children pouring from a schoolhouse.

“Looks like we’re going to have a good winter”, I called to the man. He smiled and nodded vigorously. I introduced myself. He nodded and said his name was “Hugh”.

At least it sounded like “Hugh”. I found out a bit later that his name is Vietnamese and “Hugh” is actually “Hieu”, meaning “dutiful to parents”.

After a bit of an awkward silence the man raised his hand in farewell and slowly made his way down the street.

The topic of meditation never came up, but I’m fairly certain that the gentleman engages in kinhin (or kin hahn in Vietnamese), meditative walking. The Japanese version of kinhin we practice does not lend itself to public display; walking slowly (one pace per breath) with one’s hands clasped in front would be a sure way to alarm the local Scandanoofian Mrs Kravitzes who peer suspiciously at strangers from behind tented lace curtains.

It seems inconceivable to the Phyne Dyner that so many morbidly obese Iowans feel perfectly comfortable parading about in bicycle attire, but would call “the authorities” if a group of folks walked by doing kinhin. It’s why I meditate.


After a brief sitting meditation, we begin a short kinhin around the dining room table. Princess Adi gazes at us in wonderment while we walk. It is an interesting practice, as one must remain un-mindful, yet mindful to avoid tripping or stumbling.

Get off your zafu and walk

For the past few weeks, I have turned my daily non-meditative walk into a faster-paced version of Hieu’s. The unseasonably warm weather has brought out droves of walkers, bicyclists, and runners. Yesterday, after a wonderful sitting session in the warm sun (!) of the patio deck, I dragged my zafu cushion back indoors and then went back out to join them.

Hieu was among them.

We met and Hieu nodded politely. I exhausted about 75% of my Vietnamese vocabulary with a polite “Chao anh”. Hieu smiled broadly and said in impeccable Midwestern English, “Have a very pleasant walk.”

It was very pleasant.

Kim Chee: The saga continues!

In General Information on January 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

The Great Phyne Dyning Kim Chee Saga continues.

After four days, I dutifully retrieved my huge jar of homemade kim chee from the corner of my basement workbench. I turned on the bench light and peered cautiously at the contents of the jar; half expecting to see the mass of vegetables within heaving rhythmically.

I saw only a few champagne-like bubbles flitting between the cabbage leaves.

Now reposed on the kitchen prep table, I again peered into the jar. Nothing peered back and for this I shall be eternally grateful. The contents had “settled” by about half of the volume and it brought to mind the bodies of hapless road kill, bloated at first, and then collapsing under the corruption of decay. I flipped the bail on the spring-loaded top of the jar. There was a malevolent hiss and the room was filled with the unmistakable odor of fermenting cabbage and fish sauce.

From the next room, our parakeet Thelma fluttered nervously in her cage.

My fork poised in the mouth of the jar, I gave it a quick shake. Nothing emerged from within. I speared a small piece of cabbage, withdrew it from the jar, and held it to my nose.

One cannot tell if kim chee has gone bad. Ironically, good kim chee smells like it has gone bad.

Hundreds of Japanese epicureans die annually from tetrodotoxin poisoning after eating fugu, a kamikazi pufferfish meal. While my kim chee bubbled in the basement, I did some scouring of the Internet for lists of kim chee victims.


Despite this, and the virtual absence of illnesses caused by “bad” kim chee, the New York City Health Department has a ban on restaurant sales of homemade kim chee. The edict does not point to known health risks. Rather, the ban got its authority from the fact that kim chee is fermented at 55 degrees. Safe food handling guidelines say that no raw food should be stored at temperatures above 41 degrees.

The NYC measure killed off the home kim chee biz and idled thousands of Korean grannies.

I put the piece of foul-smelling cabbage into my mouth and chewed.

Crunch, crunch, crunch…

Whoa baby!

Asian foods are remarkable for contrasts in texture, tastes, and smells. Throughout Asia, soft foods are combined with crunchy nuts and sweet is a foil for sour.

My kim chee is tart, but sweet. It has the pungency of strong fish and the floral tones of ginger. The heat is beyond diabolical, but the cabbage seems to moderate the flames.

This is bloody good stuff.

I ate my first sample on Sunday evening. So long as no creature burst from my ribcage during the next twenty-four hours, my next kim chee sampling would be with breakfast.

My cup of rice steamed before me. I plunged my fork into the fermented cabbage and onion mixture and withdrew an enormous wad and tossed it on top of the rice. Next, I used a small spoon to get a bit of the surprisingly clear liquid from the jar. I stirred my rice bowl gingerly. A tantalizing aroma drifted to my nose and my salivary glands went into overdrive. I ignored the bottle of soy sauce. Mrs. Phyne Dyner leaned over the table and studied my face as the first forkful slid home.

Yep, it was good.

I have a suspicion that three pounds of the stuff will not last long.

Those evil, uninsured people…

In Editorial on January 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Banker? No, insurance CEO.

Blaming the victim…

When did America turn so mean-spirited?

A good part of the promotion for President Obama’s health care reform consists of hooting and pointing at the uninsured as a large part of the reason America’s health care delivery system is in shambles.

Let’s look at one of these “irresponsible” families…

Lisa and Bob have two, small children. They have no health insurance. Lisa earns $9.25 per hour as a retail clerk and Bob earns $11.50 an hour in a mechanical repair shop. After taxes, they bring home around $2,700 a month. Their home and its insurance eats $750 per month. Childcare consumes $600 per month. They have two cars; one car is paid for. The payment on the newer car runs $275 per month. Insurance on the cars? $100 per month. Gasoline costs another $100 per month. Groceries cost the family about $600 per month. Utilities and telephone for the family runs about $150 per month. When their daughter, Emily, and son, Jason got just past the toddler age, they moved them into separate bedrooms. Lisa bought $1,000 worth of furniture with a credit card…monthly payment $35. If everything goes right, they have $100 left of their net earnings each month…$25 per week.

Where can they buy health insurance to cover the whole family for $100 per month?

How dare they be so irresponsible!

Suppose Bob and Lisa have a modest health policy with 100% of the premiums paid for by Bob’s employer (LOL!).

Such policies typically have annual deductibles of $5,000 and cover 80% of “usual and customary charges”.

Bob and Lisa could not afford to pay even $2,500 of the deductible in a year. Until they pay $5,000 they remain virtually uninsured.

Americans, like insured Bob and Lisa, frequently end up owing huge amounts of unpaid dollars to health care providers through no fault of their own and they are, consequently, part of the health care problem.

They have health insurance that is virtually worthless because of high deductibles, policy limitations and policy exclusions. Their insurance card is little more than a financial IED in their wallet or purse; waiting to go off when illness strikes or if the illness happens to be an illness excluded from coverage.

Consequently, they end up with mountains of uncovered medical bills they cannot pay.

The GOP response…

"No pets for poor people!"

Bob and Lisa need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get better jobs. They need to go without cable-TV, cell phones, ice cream, and sell their pets to research labs.”

The problem with GOP trust-fund babies, they don’t even know what a “bootstrap” is or where they would find one. For tightie-righties, the world of the working poor just isn’t mean enough.

This song gets sung to the poorer Republicans, the ones without trust funds, who pick up the refrain that being poor has all the advantages.

But I have, yet, to meet a working class Republican who is willing to trade places with one of the poor so they can get their share of the breaks that come from being poor.


Once loved, now hated…

Remember the sit-coms of the 1950s? Ralph Kramden drove a bus and his pal Ed Norton worked in the sewers. Cartoons of the era reflected respect (at worst, bemused respect) for the poorer, laboring class. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were loveable cartoon versions of the proletariat. Andy of Mayberry shared a house with his Aunt Bea.

The shows highlighted the nobility and erstwhile dreams of the working classes.

I recall episodes where one of the characters became ill or injured. I never saw Ralph, Ed, Fred, or Barney whip out a Blue Cross-Blue Shield card.

Mr. Obama would call them “part of the problem of the uninsured”.

The solution, according to Mr. Obama, would be to herd the Rubbles, Nortons, and Kramdens into the clutches of companies selling virtually worthless health insurance policies to consumers who cannot afford to use them.

The irascible Fred Flintstone would refuse to buy mandatory health coverage and would be sent to the Bedrock Penitentiary until he did. It would make a wildly funny spin-off show as the blustering Fred attempts to talk his way out of gang rape, by real criminals, in the prison showers.

But that is what will happen to scofflaws under the Obama plan.

Unable to pay what a federal-corporate bureaucrat thinks they should pay, the uninsured will become a new criminal class.

Charles Dickens would recognize this new class as fodder for workhouses where Mr. Obama’s uninsured will languish until they cough up for a federal-corporate product they cannot afford to buy…and cannot afford to use after they bought it.

Buy broccoli, or else!

Who wins?

Health care reform, as touted by Mr. Obama, is what it is…corporate welfare for health insurance companies. It is akin to subsidizing broccoli farmers with a government mandate that, in the name of healthy living, every family

must purchase two servings of broccoli per day, or go to jail.

Every broccoli farmer could have his own business jet and would dutifully lick the hand that made it possible to buy one.

It is what it is.

Still MORE stuff!

In Lifestyle on January 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm

With bait(ed) breath…

Be patient!

In almost eighteen months of Phyne Dyning history, no recipe has gotten more reader attention than my recent offering covering kim chee making. The past few days brought a flurry of email inquiries and hopeful requests for status reports.

The stuff is bubbling away merrily in my basement. I shall “un-cork” it in a few days.

Acquaintances are asking about “samples”…

…YES! Soon, my children, soon.

Going to the dogs…

A kind reader asks for a status report on Phyne Dyning’s dogs.

With the passing of your last old buddy, Jack, are you going to get another dog?


Not sure when the reader first stumbled into the Phyne Dyning lair, but the house “re-hounded” shortly before “Abe” passed away. The Phyne Dyning kitchen sees regular visits from HRH (Her Royal Highness) Princess Adi.

But I don't want a sister!

Adi will soon be joined by another of her species as, in a few weeks, another Phyne Dyning Road Trip will bear fruit in the form of an arrival of another greyhound…“Shai”.

More, later, on this story as it develops!

Do not read this at the supper table…

I found a copy of “Mop Men” in the bargain box of my local bookseller.

The book covers the true adventures of Crime Scene Cleaners as they mop up the immediate (and often long after the fact) effects of fatal accidents, suicides, and homicides.

The owner of the company grossed (I love words!) over $4.5M in 2009 by cleaning up the stuff most people would prefer not to know about.

Hey, somebody’s gotta do it.

Cutting the cord(less)…

Mrs. PD and I hold periodic audits of our holdings. One of the bigger line items was for wireless technology. YIKES! One of the lessons learned was that “bundling” wireless services accomplishes one thing: It keeps the cost of wireless out of view.

With wireless expenses of $50 per month for her “dumb” wireless phone and over $95 per month for my “smart” wireless phone, the line item begged for an audit.


Mrs. PD’s usage averaged about 4-5 minutes per month and mine ran in at less than a quarter of an hour! The usage gave us an effective rate of…

…about $7.50 per minute!

Our low usage belies our tendency to prefer face-to-face commo and the fact that our arm does not automatically curl toward our ears when we put the key in our car’s ignition switch.

The verdict?

TracFones for everyone and a Virgin mobile Wi-Fi ad hoc hot spot to keep my iPod’s email and browser cruising.


About one-fifth of our previous monthly wireless expenses…for both.

Cutting Cost(co)…

I have an indefinite moratorium on visiting Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart (cue up Evil Empire music). So, what does the Phyne Dyner do when he simply must have 250 pounds of feta cheese or a three-pack of mop heads? Costco.

For the past two years, the nice folks there began pestering me to “upgrade” (Or, was it “move to the next level”) to Executive Membership. Their kicker line was that I would get 2% of my purchases “back” as rebates.

Costco’sProletariat” level of membership allows the unwashed to wander among the obese clustered around the sample stands (we call them “pigeon feeders”) for $55. To shop with those who are vainly hopeful to become One

When ya gotta have a lot of peanut butter...

Percenters will cost double that.

To break even on the extra $55 for the fancy, black card, one must commit to spending $2750 more per year!

THAT, is a butt-load of cheese and mop-heads!

No thanks.


The Occupy Wall Street movement was a lot more popular than corporate-controlled media would want folks to know.  OWS was most popular among…

suburban middle class earning more than $30K/yr but less than $100K/yr, the urban working poor, Latinos, and African-Americans. (Source: BBC)

Music to get pepper-sprayed by…

While watching a PBS documentary covering the life and music of Phil Ochs, I realized how much the movement needs music. Not just any music…

…that old-timey tear gas in yer face stuff.

Now, I saw Ochs some time between 1971 and 1973…for some reason, I lack total recall of those years. Methinks it may have been in Ann Arbor or Lansing, Michigan.

And then…

The other night, I sat in my chair and wiped my eyes as I sang along with a black and white Ochs as he belted out “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”. It had been decades…

Now, more than ever, we need men and women like Ochs, Seeger, Guthrie, Dylan, Baez, and others.

Speaking of war…

Hate to break it to all the hopefuls out there…the long-anticipated war with Iran is off…

…until after 2012.


Today’s news reports out of Israel tell me that the evil Mr. Amindinajabialphabet will not have an atomic bomb until…after 2012.

Lessee…what else takes place some time in 2012?

Oh yes…American presidential ”elections”.

Speaking of Israelis…

Where do Israelis go when they want to split their ties with Israel?

Boca? Boro Park? Skokie?


GERMANY?! Why, that’s the land of the very bad man with the very funny moustache, Wagner, and all the bad Jewish history.

According to the BBC, the number one destination for Israelis of German ancestry is Germany. It seems there are a LOT of Israelis with family ties to Germany.

Who’da thunk it?

Oh, the irony…

You’d think you’d look for (religious) Jews in Israel. Yeah, and “OY-sters” should be kosher because they sound Jewish.

According to recently released results of the Gutman Center’s religion in Israel study (2009 data), 49% of Israelis are either secular or “anti-religious”. The wack-jobs wearing streimels and spitting on non-Jewish tourists only

Greeting tourists, Hareidi-style...

make up about 7% of Israel’s population.

The rest are Mesorati (“traditional”) Jews like most of us.

Over 64% of Israelis believe Conservative and Reform Jews should have equal (civil) standing to the folks dressed up like 1850s Amish.

But, guess who gets the headlines?


Some of G-d’s worst salesmen for Judaism make up the loudest, but smallest group of Israeli Jews.

Making Kim Chee: Mystery no more…

In Recipies on January 25, 2012 at 10:21 am

I love kim chee.

For Korean families, this is serious. (Internet)

Kim chee is a staple of the Korean table and no self-respecting Korean would be seen buying a jar of the stuff at a grocery store. But, sometimes, needs must. When I lived in Texas (genuflecting wildly), I found some of the finest store-bought kim chee at a small market just off the Gulf in Corpus Christi.

I had no idea what was in it, but I stopped buying it when I learned that it contained shrimp paste…my Invisible Friend has an edict about eating shellfish.

For a while, I could find shellfish-free kim chee at my mass food retailer. Suddenly, it disappeared. Then it came back…costing $3 more per jar!

Like nobody will notice a $3/jar hike?

I began to scour the Internet for kim chee recipes. At first, I was daunted by recipes calling for dozens of heads of Napa cabbage. I only wanted to make a batch to nibble at and had no commercial interests in mass kim chee production.

With a bit of poking around, I found several small batch recipes and blended them into one that suited me.

High-tech kim chee cooler (Internet)

I wanted to share a recipe with Phyne Dyners who may not have access to a Korean grocer carrying gochugaru powder. I have been a fan of Srirachi chili-garlic paste for years and decided, after a bit of experimentation, that the paste was an excellent substitute for the Korean chili powder.

It took a bit more work to find “fish” sauce that did not contain oysters or shrimp. Most good-quality fish sauce uses “finfin” fish instead of shrimp or other “forbidden” stuff. Read the label if your Invisible Friend has a prohibitive edict on shellfish and oysters.

I dunno…”OY-ster” should be Jewish. Who knew?

Okay…safety first!

Gochugaru powder or Srirachi chili paste should be regulated substances. DO NOT use either without wearing rubber or latex gloves! One online recipe database warns this in an anecdote about a man making kim chee who suddenly got a “call to nature”. Everyone washes hands after performing the “necessaries”, but seldom wash up before. The poor man in the story spent an evening in the ER with a blistered…you know. So, don’t be rubbing your eyes or “other parts” with chili-covered fingers. And, yes, the stuff is hot enough to raise blisters on exposed skin. So, glove up, people!

I included ground ginger as a substitute for folks who cannot find fresh ginger. It at all possible, use the fresh stuf

Okay…let’s make kim chee!

1 head Napa cabbage

1/2 C rice vinegar

1 C kosher salt

1/3 C fish sauce

3 green onions, chopped (include green parts)

3 cloves garlic, pressed

2 TBS sugar

1 tsp ground ginger (or 2” knob, grated)

2 TBS Srirachi chili paste

OR use 1 C gochugaru chili powder

Remove any damaged or dirty outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in to quarters and carefully trim away the tough stem at the base. Place the cabbage in a large, clean dishpan (cut sides up) and sprinkle it with the kosher salt. Add cold water until the cabbage can be completely covered with salt water. Use a large, heavy plate to keep the cabbage submerged during this step. Allow the cabbage to stand, at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

Check to see if the cabbage is ready for pickling by breaking a thick leaf. The leaf should easily bend (almost like it had been blanched), but should “snap” crisply yet. Carefully rinse the salt water from the cabbage at least twice, allowing it to drain a bit in a colander. Then, squeeze out as much water as possible. Yes, “wringing” is acceptable.

Cut the cabbage into 1-2” pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the green onion and mix well with your hands. Add in the chili paste and mix well. Wear gloves for this step or toss well with salad tongs. You want to evenly coat the cabbage with chili paste. Allow to stand at room temperature while you mix the other ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix the rice vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, sugar, and ginger. If you are using fresh ginger, a Microplane works great (grate!) here. Taste the cabbage coated with chili paste. If you like, you can (gently) add a bit more chili paste to the liquid ingredients. REMEMBER! This will get more fiery and pungent during fermentation. So, go easy with the hot stuff on your first batch.

Traditional kim chee pots (Internet)

Carefully pack half of the cabbage into a sealable container. Pour in half of the liquid. Then pack the rest of the cabbage into the container and cover with the remaining liquid. Seal the container. Some people ask about using sterilized containers. I would ask those people if they think Korean farmers sterilize their reusable kim chee pots (that they bury) each time they make kim chee.

[FUN SCIENCE FACT: Kim chee ferments best at a temperature of 55F. Due to “thermal inertia”, the underground temperature at a depth of about four feet is an almost constant…55F.]

Place the sealed container in a cool, dark place for 3-4 days. Bubbles should form in the liquid…this is normal. After the kim chee has fermented, place the container in the refrigerator for storage. Kim chee will keep for 1-3 months, but don’t despair if your kim chee gets a little “long in the tooth”. Use it to make kim chee soup!

I eat kim chee every morning with a small bowl of rice and a cup of tea. Think of kim chee as “Korean pickles” and serve it on hot dogs, hamburgers, or next to almost anything!

My basement...55-degrees!

Living “the life”…

In Lifestyle on January 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

It’s time for another quick lesson on the Phyne Dyning lifestyle.

Today was baking day.

I usually bake on Wednesdays or Fridays. Wednesdays are handy if I have a lot of baking to do and Fridays are wonderful if the baked product will be a feature on our Shabbat table.

We completely stopped buying store-bought baked goods several months ago. We still buy the odd loaf of sliced bread to keep in the freezer for mornings when a bit of toasted bread would be nice, but we forgot to leave a loaf of my home-spun out to defrost.

Today, I baked a couple of dozen burger rolls and another 40-50 “cloverleaf” dinner rolls for the freezer.


Once you’ve eaten your burgers on homemade rolls, you will never go back to the gloppy rolls sold by your local mass food retailer.

I promise.

Supply and logistics, Phyne Dyner style…

Folks are amazed when we tell them that we make bulk purchases of onions, garlic, potatoes, and other staple ingredients. The fruits of our bulk purchase expedition swing from hooks in the ceiling of the basement.

Basements and “root cellars” were once near synonyms until conspicuous consumerism dictated that every home must have a “finished” basement. It only made sense to convert what used to be bulk food storage space into recreational space, since the kitchen of the house had long ago become merely a smartly decorated room where one sips wine with guests. Most meals in such homes are carried in by the paper bagful and consumed in gulps over the gleaming stainless-steel sink.

Bulk food purchasing is not just getting back to days gone by.

We have found that buying bulk supplies cuts 20-40% off of our food budget. Fifty-pound bags of rice are broken down into 5-pound, vacuum-sealed bags and are stored in food-grade 5-gallon pails. Flour and sugar gets a similar treatment. Bulk canned items are carefully packed into storage bins. Raw items, like onions and potatoes, are transferred to netted sacks and hung from the basement ceiling.

I began growing and processing my own herbs two years ago. These are harvested and carefully dried. They are then placed in zippered bags and “treated roughly” to remove the herb leaves from the stems. The stems and other debris are carefully removed and the herb leaves are vacuum-packed into one-ounce portions. These are stored in basement bins.

As previously detailed on these pages, the Phyne Dyner Phreezer (sorry) gets filled with containers of broths and stocks. Vegetables from the garden are usually blanched and then vacuum-packed for freezer storage or are dehydrated and then vacuum packed for bin storage.

Meats are purchased only rarely. But, meat and fish (along with chicken) gets vacuum-packed and tossed into the bottom basket of the freezer.

No, it’s not food storage for Armageddon. It simply makes sense to buy in bulk and then store the food for later use.

Making the things we love affordable…

Kim chee is among one of my most favorite things. But I stopped buying it when the shellfish-free version topped $8/jar.

I began researching kim chee recipes and found a couple that sounded pretty authentic.

No, I’m not going to bury kim chee pots in the garden. My sources tell me that perfectly wonderful kim chee can be made in those inexpensive sealing containers. You just let them bubble away for a few days and then move the stinking mess (a compliment to good kim chee) to the fridge where it will keep for months.

Another recently unaffordable favorite is Vietnamese nuoc mam. I begged and cajoled the guys at Hmong Egg Rolls (Downtown Farmer’s Market) for the recipe for nuoc mam they serve with their veggie egg rolls. My begging and cajoling were met with stony silence and wide smiles. At my last visit with them, I kept the small container of the precious fluid for analysis at home. My recipe is coming soon on Phyne Dyning.

New friends!

During one of our re-supply missions at Campbell’s Nutrition, my beloved began gesturing wildly. I misread her gestures to be subtle hints that she wanted to visit Zumi’s and lovingly finger the Bohemian-wear within.

She wanted to introduce me to…

…Akram and Patty Nagi, owner/proprietors of Nagi’s Mediterranean Grocery.

Located facing 42nd Street in the Uptown Shopping Center, Nagi’s grocery is a trip into any neighborhood market in Israel or Lebanon. The place is wonderfully cramped and the shelves bow under the weight of products from Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, and Greece.

It is a Phyne Dyner’s paradise!

Nagi’s offers halal, kosher, and vegetarian products ranging from canned goods to fresh products.

Patty Nagi is a wonderfully friendly soul, born and raised in Des Moines. Husband, Akram, originally hails from the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon. We did not have the pleasure of meeting Akram during our visit, but we learned that he is the decision-maker on what to import for sale in his shop. After browsing his inventory, it is safe to say that he knows his stuff.

Get this…stuff is gently priced far below the boutique price range.


Nagi’s has a wonderfully tolerant flavor. Patty’s car sits nearby, a graphic “COEXIST” bumper sticker plastered on it. In eastern Mediterranean custom, our visit soon turned to politics and we learned that Nagi’s live the message of Patty’s bumper sticker.


Nagi’s is open seven days a week with early evening hours on most days.

On the other hand…

 Today, I learned that Iowa icon Hy-Vee is catching some flack over its dismissal of a mentally challenged man. He was sacked over…

…twenty cents worth of bottle redemption coupons.

The man’s side of the story is sad and compelling. If true, details of the story will give the Phyne Dyner cause to boycott Hy-Vee permanently.

Most disturbing, are allegations that the ulterior motives for the man’s dismissal were wage-control incentives…

…the complainant had worked at the Hy-Vee store on 86th & Douglas Avenue for twenty-five years. Because of his lengthy tenure (with excellent reviews right up to his dismissal) with the company, he was earning $13 per hour and amassed 4 weeks of annual vacation.

According to the complainant’s attorney, the manager responsible for the dismissal offered to relocate the dismissed employee to another Hy-Vee location, contingent that he re-start his Hy-Vee career at minimum wage and with no benefits.

In my opinion, the man may lose his discrimination complaint. Employers regularly sack good employees, without regard to protected class, when they become “too expensive”.

Wal-Mart has used firing as a means to control wages for decades with impunity.

The practice is shameful and this incident begs for an intervention by the local OWS group. Rumor has it that the local group is considering such “crisis intervention” demonstrations when they become aware that a local business or corporation behaved heartlessly toward its workers.

It’s a great idea!

Have a wonderful Shabbat and don’t forget to enjoy your weekend!

More “stuff” to talk about…

In Editorial on January 19, 2012 at 10:03 am

Rekha Basu…a couple of strikes…and a home-run

One of the things that the official news organ for the Iowa Ministry of Economics and Tourism gets right is its retention of veteran columnist Rekha Basu.

Basu regularly pulls the tightie-whities of the tightie-righties into an atomic wedgie with her social liberalist views (often shared by Phyne Dyning).

But I am beginning to wonder if Basu’s knife is getting dull.

Last week, Basu opined that over-pricing was the official boogeyman of health care. In her op-ed column, “A lesson in health care: Indian style”, Basu held forth with her personal observations as a medical tourist in India.

She pointed out that she paid about $40 for a pair of eyeglasses from an Indian optometrist and wailed pathetically that the same pair, purchased in Des Moines, would cost “hundreds more”.

Here are the facts…

The average laborer’s wage in Des Moines is approximately $9/hr and yields a net income of about $1200/mo. According to data published by the New York Times, an Indian dabbawalla earns about 5000 rupees ($123) per month. [A dabbawalla is an honored guild profession of men who deliver home-cooked meals to Indian workers.]

The eyeglasses purchased by Basu, according to her, were “reading glasses” (single-vision). Such eyewear is readily available from many Des Moines optometrists for as little as $79/pair.

Do the math…

$40 eyeglasses on $123/month?

For the dabbawalla: The $40 Indian eyeglasses will cost about 33% of his monthly wage.

For the Des Moines laborer: The $79 US optometrist eyeglasses will cost about 7% of his/her monthly wage.

Even for a minimum wage Iowan, the $79 American glasses would cost only 8% of his/her net monthly income.

As one online wag put it, “Rekha is not very good with numbers. But she is very passionate about them.”

On the other hand…

Ms. Basu (almost) redeemed herself today. In her (near) home-run column, “There is flawed logic behind public-aid drug testing”, she takes on mean-spirited calls for drug testing welfare and unemployment assistance recipients.

A lot of people on the misinformed right (and left) hold the mistaken belief that recipients of public money (the poor recipients, not the corporations) use that money to buy drugs and live the good life.

Some people like such myths because they validate their world view that, “Being poor should be humiliating. I’m going to make sure they are humiliated.”

Besides, what good is it to be “better” than someone if you cannot lord it over them or dish them up a steaming bowl of humility?

What could be more humiliating than being forced to urinate into a small bottle in front of a perfect stranger for a bit of money?

Once again, the statist seeks to order someone into conduct for which they would otherwise be hauled to jail. Just try standing on any street corner with a sign advertising your willingness to publicly pee into a bottle for cash.

The truth?

According to research cited by Basu, people on welfare do not use illegal drugs at a higher rate than the general public.

Unfortunately, Basu ruined her otherwise excellent column with a bit of her own mean-spiritedness:

It’s not that government doesn’t have the right to set conditions on the aid it provides, especially in the interests of improving public health. Let them eliminate sodas and junk food from the items that can be bought with food stamps.:

“Let ‘em eat broccoli and bran flakes!” eh, Rekha?

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin gives the “right” outlook on this. What if the junk food and sodas purchased with food stamps will be consumed at a birthday party for an impoverished child who has an illness from which he or she will not survive to the next birthday?

Less dramatically, what if the soda and junk food are the only pleasant things the welfare recipient will enjoy? Telushkin echoes the sentiments of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, “Aren’t the poor entitled to some happiness?”

Just before Christmas, I stood in a checkout line at my local mass food retailer. Ahead, was a young family paying for their purchases. They had frozen pizza, chips, sodas, dips, and other such foods in their purchase. They paid for their items with a food stamp debit card. Behind their food items, were two twelve-packs of bad beer and an enormous bottle of cheap whiskey. The young man paid for the booze with cash…$67.79.

A nicely dressed couple behind me began to loudly complain that, “It must be nice…” to have taxpayer money so the young family could have a party. At one point, the man leaned over my shoulder and called to them, “You’re welcome!”

The young family ignored the taunts. Being publicly shamed for one’s poverty is the price of being poor in Iowa.

I did some quick math…

If there are 500,000 workers in Iowa, each worker contributed less than one penny of his/her tax money toward the purchase of the family’s liquor and food. I turned to the nicely dressed couple and asked them to “give it a rest” and offered them a dime to more than re-pay them for “their contribution” to the young family’s (obvious) Christmas party.

The nicely dressed man protested, “But it’s not just one person, there are thousands of people on welfare doing this.”

“Ah”, I replied, “but you are publicly humiliating only this family for the abuses committed by thousands. It hardly seems fair, eh?” The man muttered something and walked to another checkout lane.

While I admire Rekha’s social conscience, she missed the ball here. Like every statist liberal or statist tightie-rightie, they want the state to be the arbiter of what is acceptable.

According to Basu, it is “wrong” for the state to drug test welfare recipients, but it is “okay” for the state to tell them what they can (or cannot) eat.

We want you, Big Brother

Oh the irony!

The (dis)organized Washington, D.C. crime syndicate will consider “piracy” with an upcoming vote on House Bill 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and Senate Bill 968, the Protect Intellectual Property

A meeting of Congress

Act, or PIPA.

Senator (and social media guru) Charles Grassley co-sponsored the senate version. Up for re-election and not wanting to look like a Kim Jong Il media censor, he now says the bill “needs further discussion”.

And, speaking of pirates!

“It’s not about the money…”

According to an article in the official news organ for the Iowa Ministry of Economics and Tourism, the city of Des Moines raked in almost $300,000 from its I-235 speed cameras. After paying its co-conspirator, Gatso USA, the city’s cut in the loot came to around $200,000.

The Register article (bylined by Josh Hafner) dutifully slobbered, “Luckily for drivers, the traffic camera citations count as civil infractions and don’t impact licenses.” The comment struck the Phyne Dyner as similar to saying, “Sure, I’m going to illegally sodomize you. But it’s a relatively small penis.”

Down the road, the sleepy hamlet of Windsor Heights is salivating at the prospect of installing their own digital highwaymen. Aside from its reputation as a University Avenue speed trap, Windsor Heights is best known for being a home to a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club.

Hanging Chad

The Iowa GOP unwittingly (it came naturally to them) supported Dr. Steven Bloom’s assertions that Iowa lacks sufficient sophistication to keep its “first in the nation” election status.

Another rat...same name

After weeks of waiting breathlessly for the caucus results to be certified, white smoke finally poured from the chimney at the headquarters of the Iowa Republican Party.

The new GOP pope?

Willard (What tax returns?) Romney!

Phyne Dyning was particularly amused with this, just under the headline in the Des Moines Register:

THE RESULTS: Santorum finished ahead by 34 votes
MISSING DATA: 8 precincts’ numbers will never be certified
PARTY VERDICT: GOP official says, ‘It’s a split decision’

According to Jennifer Jacobs, author of the Register article, the Iowa caucuses…”are a loose process in which colored slips of paper are gathered in cardboard boxes and plastic buckets and

Iowa Cuacuses: 2016

counted by hand as witnesses gather around — about as precise as choosing a class president.”

Methinks the next Iowa caucus should be monitored by United Nations election watchers?

Fun with words…

In Shameless plug on January 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

It has to be extraordinarily funny for an online pass-around joke from my email to make it to these pages. Anyone who plays around with words for fun or profit will enjoy this gem that arrived in the Phyne Dyning mailbox. Enjoy!

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

Be the frog…

In Lifestyle on January 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm

On edge? A bit cranky? Feeling overwhelmed by life? Did the December holidays leave you limp and drained

I prescribe…


It’s not what you think.

It’s not about “transcending” or finding some magical “enlightenment” (a very misunderstood term), or about “tuning out”.

To the contrary…it’s about tuning in.

Do you often feel like your mind is running so fast that it will fly apart like a broken flywheel? Are you perplexed if you don’t have a “Plan B”? Are you always looking forward to (or back on) a pleasant memory or dreading (or regretting) something in the past (or future)?

Try meditating.

It’s about being. It’s not, “not doing anything”. No, meditation is “actively sitting”.

Be the frog…

In his book “Meditation: Now, or Never”, Hagen describes a day in the life of a frog sitting on his lily pad. The frog is aware of, but does not react to, the nearby birds, a squirrel, or a dragonfly. But when a meal flies by in the form of a fly, the frog whips out his tongue and eats. If he sent his tongue after things he could not eat, he’d soon tire and probably starve. If he remained unaware of the fly as it buzzed by, he would miss a meal and could starve.

When a raindrop splats right between the frogs eyes, he just blinks in acknowledgement and resumes “sitting”. He doesn’t worry much about whether the rain might herald a flood or if it might be the last rain for a long time. He simply acknowledges, “It’s raining.”

Then, he resumes sitting.

Hagen says, “When it’s time to croak, croak. When it’s time to eat, eat. When it’s time to sit (meditate), sit.”

Just be the frog.

And, so it is, with meditation.

Thoughts are just raindrops. Thoughts are only thoughts. Acknowledge them, but do not react to them. Just let them slip away while you just be. Events you dread (or look forward to in anticipation) are not here yet. Neither are the events you regret (or remember fondly). They are just “thoughts”.

Isn’t now enough to keep you busy?

We can’t impact the events in our thoughts. The events no longer (or do not yet) exist.

There is only now.

Dealing with events that do not exist only adds to our workload? Why add more to the “In” box?

With more events over the horizon and completed events behind us added to the load in our “In” boxes, we can only be certain of one thing…

…our “In” box will never be empty.

Consequently, the stuff we can deal with “now” gets complicated and made more difficult by adding stuff from “then”.

No wonder we feel overwhelmed!

Take fifteen minutes today…

…and deal with only one thing in your “In” box.

That “one thing”?

Just being.


[Phyne Dyning heartily recommends Hagen’s book and is a regular visitor at . ]