bold personal experiment

the experiment
From: John Reese 
Subject: bold personal experiment
Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2000 19:21:24 -0700

As an economic and sociological personal experiment, I will not be
dining out during the month of September for any meal, although I may
make an exception if there are special circumstances.

I will prepare an FAQ addressing common questions regarding this
policy.  Rest assured that this does not mean that I: (1) hate you,
(2) have taken your advice, (3) have ignored your advice, (4) have run
out of money, (5) have a life-threatening disease.

Carry on, and enjoy your respective selves at September dinners and

This message was sent to the "people John T. Reese occasionally eats
with" mailing list.  I do not anticipate that many messages will be
sent to this list.  In fact, there isn't really a list -- I just typed
a bunch of names into the "To:" line.  If you do not wish to receive
additional emails of this nature, you don't need to do anything: this
message is the first and last of its kind.
Feel free to pose questions for the FAQ.

WHY? DEAR GOD WHY? (submitted by Justin "Kitagawa" Dog)
The restaurants I've been eating at aren't that good. This is the inevitable result of socializing with people who don't like eating as much as I do. Therefore, I am using an immersion technique in the hopes that the terror of starvation will force me to develop the skills to provide myself with acceptable food.
Will jtr starve? (submitted by Wesley Tanaka)
No. I like eating too much to starve to death. Therefore, my project will succeed (see previous answer).
Did jtr find someone to cook for him? (submitted by Wesley Tanaka)
Oh, so jtr will have food delivered to him, then? (submitted by Wesley Tanaka)
This is getting pretty annoying. I guess I deserve it.
Is jtr sure that he does not have a life-threatening disease? (submitted by Wesley Tanaka)
Well, not totally.
How did your parents talk you into it? (submitted by Nerius Landys)
For future reference, I only have one parent, a "father." My "father" is, as far as I know, unaware of my bold personal experiment. He has objected to my former policy of never, ever preparing my own meals, but I ignored his objection then and I am ignoring it now. (See assurance #2, above.)
What will jtr eat? (submitted by Wesley Tanaka)
In answer to this, I intend to keep a log of every meal I do not purchase from a restaurant during the month of September, right here.
  • 9/01/00 - 9/04/00: on an isolated beach in Alaska, eating food my paw cooked for me.
  • lunch, 9/05/00: I think I ate something awful on the airplane.
  • dinner, 9/05/00: prepared a cream of oyster mushroom soup from scratch based on instructions from a "cook" "book." The soup was tasty, although perhaps a little salty. The oyster mushrooms were a brilliant innovation that I made after I grabbed the wrong thing of mushrooms at the store.
    I'm still a little hungry.
  • breakfast, 9/06/00: rewarmed leftover soup
  • dinner, 9/06/00: eggs scrambled with diced andouille sausage and onions and boiled potatoes. Meh.
  • lunch, 9/07/00: microwaved veggie burger patties from the iSpheres kitchen.
  • dinner, 9/07/00: watercress soup prepared from scratch. I gave myself first-degree burns when I poured boiling soup into the blender and turned it on at a speed that was apparently way too fast. Boiling green liquid spewed out in all directions. My left arm hurts like hell. There was enough soup left that I could continue the recipe (after I decided the soup was sufficiently pureed). There were no further crippling mishaps.
    The soup was ok, but a little bitter. Not as good as the mushroom soup.
  • lunch, 9/08/00: more goddamn soup
  • dinner, 9/08/00: soup plus cheese and apples (I was at the office -- what's wrong with me?)
  • lunch, 9/09/00: sausage, oyster mushrooms, and onions cooked together in butter and served with Russian Hot Mustard (which is not hot). I'm going through my butter awfully fast. Meal was good, but the tastes blended together too much.
  • dinner, 9/09/00: grilled scallops and mushrooms and stuff (Jerome was bbqing).
  • lunch, 9/10/00: apple, cheese.
  • dinner, 9/10/00: steak, cuz I couldn't find the catfish filet. Coincidentally, the kitchen is a huge mess and there's a nasty fish odor coming from somewhere. Yuck. I blame my roommate. My wrist is still discolored from the soup burns of 3 days ago.
  • lunch, 9/11/00: insalata caprese, which was awesome, although the basil was sad.
  • dinner, 9/11/00: barbecued (the lazy fallback when I don't have any ideas)
  • lunch, 9/12/00: goddamn hot goddamn pocket with more goddamn apples and cheese. Jacques has pointed out that I could plan weekly menus on the weekends.
  • dinner, 9/12/00: poached eggs (cheated here, used boiled eggs) on canapes with swiss cheese fondue sauce. Pretty good, but just god damn salty. Gotta watch that "french cookbook" on the "add salt" front.
  • lunch, 9/13/00: another insalata caprese
  • dinner, 9/13/00: pretty much nothing -- snacked at work. Sad. Must plan better.
  • lunch, 9/14/00: sandwich with way too much of "Durkee's special sauce"
  • dinner, 9/14/00: am I eating every day? How am I still alive?
  • lunch/dinner, 9/15/00: an omelet
  • lunch, 9/16/00: sandwich
  • dinner, 9/16/00: um, nuthin
  • lunch, 9/17/00: sandwich
  • dinner, 9/17/00: grilled catfish filets, beer
  • lunch, 9/18/00: a sandwich with the extremely important "avocado" feature added
  • dinner, 9/18/00: uh, adlibbed. Cooked diced potatoes, onions, and mushrooms in a frying pan. At some point, I decided to add vermouth to the pan and let the stuff boil. Then I remembered that I should cook up some fish, so I ran out to the grill and started a catfish filet grilling. I flipped the catfish filet and part fell off, so I took it back inside and threw it in the boiling vermouth/potato/onion/mushroom mixture. When the rest of the catfish was cooked, I put it on a plate and dumped the boiling vermouth/potato/onion/mushroom/catfish mixture on it and diced the catfish and sat back and watched the Olympics so it could cool off a little bit.
    It was ok.
  • lunch, 9/19/00: I'm getting tired of sandwiches. I'm also getting tired of eating in the office. Part of the reason I always ate out was that I wanted a reason to leave the office every day.
  • dinner, 9/19/00: Damn, Khorkina is a bitch.
    3 egg omelet with smoked jack and grated swiss cheese and an onion-mushroom-potato vermouth reduction.
  • lunch, 9/20/00: "roasted" bell peppers with fondue cheese
  • dinner, 9/20/00: microwaved one of those emergency TV dinners -- not very filling
  • lunch, 9/21/00: fried egg sandwich and grilled turkey and swiss sandwich with grilled onions
  • dinner, 9/21/00: got back home late, about 11:00 PM. Cooked up some mushrooms with garlic and salt.
  • lunch, 9/22/00: glad I discovered that garlic -- made scrambled eggs with grated swiss cheese and garlic mixed in. Very good; garlic was subtle, overall flavor was strong.
  • dinner, 9/22/00: party food
  • lunch, 9/23/00: in the office. Ate a burrito.
  • lunch, 9/24/00: leftover indian food
  • dinner, 9/24/00: scrambled eggs. I noticed this last time I tried to cook for myself, years ago... when I'm lazy I just start eating eggs all the time.
  • dinner, 9/25/00: mushrooms. Garlic. Sounding familiar? Well, I went shopping today, maybe I can do better tomorrow.
  • lunch, 9/26/00: hard won insalata caprese, around 4 PM
  • dinner, 9/26/00: corn and tomatoes off the grill, and some terrible microwaved dinner
  • lunch, 9/28/00: insalata caprese and meeting food
jtr didn't *actually* "prepare" something, did he? (submitted by Wesley Tanaka)
OK, you don't get to submit any more questions.
Are you really going to bar Wesley from submitting questions? (submitted by Leslie Horgan)
Do you go to the grocery store? If so, what do you buy? (submitted by Leslie Horgan)
Yes, I have been using a "grocery store." Up until this project, I used grocery stores only to purchase beer and frappucinos, but it appears that they also contain materials which can be used to construct food.
These have been my grocery trips:
  • 9/05/00, Safeway: purchased onions, basil, thyme, eggs, flour, pots and pans (well, ok, just a pot), other cooking utensils (well, ok, a wooden spoon), frappucinos, chicken broth, italian-spiced chicken broth (note: yuck), andouille sausage, butter, potatoes, some frozen dinners in case I get desperate, ice tea, lemons, oyster mushrooms, and whipping cream. $110.
  • 9/07/00, Safeway: purchased beer, watercress, and beef broth. I bought beef broth because of my long-standing feud with the chicken. I thought when I first started cooking with it that the stale soup kitchen beef odor might make the food taste like rat poison, but it became less objectionable as it cooked. $26.
  • 9/09/00, Safeway: purchased mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, lettuce, pretzels, salsa, vermouth of the "dry" variety, milk, whipping cream, salmon steaks, and catfish filets. $50.
  • 9/09/00, further Safeway: having been unable to find tortilla chips and scallops on the first trip, I drove to a different store where I purchased scallops, tortilla chips, and a magazine that said something about a Hollywood writer and actor strike. $30.
  • 9/11/00, Ratto's, caprese makings: bought buffalo mozarrella, and olive oil at Ratto's.
  • 9/12/00, Safeway: bread, nutmeg, corn starch, swiss cheese. Better planning, and I could do, like, one trip a week instead of 29 every day. That might be good.
  • 9/13/00, Ratto's: another mozzarella purchase
  • 9/25/00, Safeway: kahlua, $65 port, green onions, mushrooms, spinach, mint, tarragon, milk, whipping cream, tomatoes, eggs, avocados, Bailey's Irish Cream, cottage cheese, beer, and frappucinos. Notable things I forgot to buy include butter and breakfast cereal. $159.07, and that's after the "club discount." Ms. Horgan sez I should check out the Berkeley Bowl; I'll try to check that out tomorrow, although my schedule will be tight, what with the season premiere of Buffy.
Have you really never purchased anything besides beer and frappucinos before? (submitted by Damien Sullivan)
I was exaggerating for humorous effect. However, it has been extremely rare over the last several years for me to buy much more than that. Sometimes I buy ice tea.
How many time prior to this bold experiment have you ever not gone out for a meal? (submitted by Damien Sullivan)
People occasionally cook food for me. For example, my aforementioned "father." The real question is how many times have I cooked my own meals. About a year ago, I made myself omelets on perhaps half a dozen occasions; I also had a disastrous experiment with beer cheese soup. When I was a sophomore in college, I experimented with omelets and quesadillas, but quickly decided it was better to eat out.
What's with all the soup? (submitted by Suth Hettich)
A pertinent question. I think I'll try something else next.
In the past, jtr has been, if anything (read: "nothing else"), dependable as company for what would be an otherwise one party meal. What assurances can you give to us that the jtr of old will return to form by October 1, 2000? (submitted by Tony Tran)
I can make no sweeping promises on this point. I prefer to eat food that tastes good and doesn't give me food poisoning later. If the date is after October 1, 2000, and you suggest a meal at a decent restaurant to me, I will probably be up for it. Decent is, of course, defined entirely by me.
Have you eaten any vegetable that are green over the last month? i.e. Not potatoes, onions or Vermouth. (submitted by Justin Puppy)
Green onions and basil. I guess the answer to your question is no.
Are you currently considering purchasing "real" vegetables in the future? i.e. Lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, etc. (submitted by Justin Puppy)
Uh. What are you up to?
Have you tried overtipping the grocery clerks? (asked by anonymous party; submitted by Leslie Horgan) (this anonymous party was later revealed to be Wesley Tanaka, circumventing his question ban)
Somehow I think this could get me thrown in jail.
Notes and tips
Vague ideas on things I might want to eat