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!


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