Confession No. 81 — I’m in my 40s and still haven’t used algebra
I’m a writer.
During my career, which has included broadcast news and production; newspaper and magazine reporting; and public relations — I’ve never used formulas or had to deal with coefficients, quadratic functions or polynomials.
Oh, I can count backward from 60 or 30 (seconds) and speak for exactly 15 or 30 (seconds) without using a stopwatch. I can also look at something typewritten and tell you — with a single glance — how many words are there … give or take a few. When an editor tells me he is looking for 15 column inches of copy, I know exactly what he is talking about.
I learned those (adding and subtracting) skills in second grade.
I’m a husband and father
I know that anniversaries come once yearly (or annually, for you language buffs), along with birthdays, Christmas and Halloween. I can count the days with enough proficiency that I’ve yet to miss buying gifts or costumes on time. (Although my buying choices aren’t always looked upon favorably.)
I can look at a thermometer and see that someone might have a 100-degree temperature. In order for them to not have that fever (98.6 degrees, or lower), I might have to administer some pre-measured medication.
I know that school starts by 8 a.m. So, with the knowledge that it takes about 15 minutes to drive from our home to the campus, I know we must depart home no later than 7:45 a.m. — so long as I’m willing to drive the speed limit.
Speaking of driving
I know that our Prius uses about $25 worth of gasoline every two weeks, versus the Armada, which uses about $80 weekly. (That’s a $135 difference, for those who doubt my addition and subtraction skills.) I also figured out recently that it costs about $1,000 for a new set of tires for the beast — versus about $350 for the little hybrid.
And those vehicles cost us a pretty penny, including some funds that went to pay for interest on the loans. Funny thing is, I was never taught about compound interest in any math class. I learned the hard way — as an 18-year-old with a Chase Manhattan Visa and a $5,000 line of credit. Who knew that 1¼ percent interest per month could add up so quickly?
I’m an aspiring food snob
I can measure in ounces, grams, drams and liters. I learned (most of) these skills in fourth grade, if memory serves me, but truth be told — I cheat with measuring cups.
I know that the boiling point of water is 212ºF, but I’ve honestly never observed the progress of the rising temperature over a burner. I’ve just always known that it’s at the boiling point when you see bubbles. Also, I know better than to stare at it, since a watched pot never boils.
I couldn’t tell you the sum of rice grains that are in a raw one-cup serving. Nor could I begin to know how much area an 8-ounce cup of red Kool-Aid would cover on a porous tile floor. I do know, however, that it’s a pain in the ass cleaning either spill.
I’m also a baseball fanatic, gardener, fledgling guitar player and lover of Western movies. So, it should be a given that I can calculate WHIP, ERA and BA; parts per million; quarter notes; and how many shots are left in the bad guy’s six-shooter.
In all of this — my life — there is one mathematical thing missing. I’ve not tried to avoid it, rather the need to use it has just never reared its head. So, almost 30 years later, I ask the same question that I once posed to a first-year teacher.
Will I ever use algebra in the real world?
February is Meyer Lemon Month at my homestead this year. The tree that grows outside my west bedroom window is loaded with ripened fruit — ready to be picked and enjoyed. While we’ll use the tangy gems to make recipes like the one below, at least 2-3 Meyer Lemons will end up juiced over fresh ‘Lula’ Avocados (the big ones grown in the Rio Grande Valley — that taste like toasted walnut), while another dozen, or so, will be squeezed, measured and frozen.
While you might be looking out your window and seeing a blanket of white stuff, just know that you can grow Meyer Lemons in your neck of the woods. As I mention in my profile, I went off the deep end for a few years and became a purveyor of Meyer Lemon and other citrus trees. We shipped thousands of trees over the years to places like New York, New Hampshire and even Maine. So many people became believers that Family Circle magazine showed up at our east Texas farm to do a feature article. In July 2002, about 11 million copies of the magazine were shipped worldwide, featuring our trees and quotes from yours truly. The Associated Press followed with its own series of articles. — In Thursday’s Food Snob Chronicles, I’ll feature in-depth information about this fruit, another Meyer Lemon recipe and I’ll tell you about the best source in the U.S. for miniature Meyer Lemon trees.
For now, if you can’t get Meyer Lemons at your local produce stand (or from your own tree), substitute 3 parts lemon juice to 1 part orange juice, and you’ll be in the neighborhood of what Meyer Lemons taste like. You can substitute grated rind using the same ratio.
Meyer Lemon Chicken
5 – Chicken thighs (or 3 split breasts), trimmed with skin on
Grated zest and juice from 1 Meyer Lemon
¼ cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
⅓ cup – Dry white wine (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc)
4 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp – Dried Thyme leaves
1 tsp – Dried Oregano
½ tsp – Dried Rosemary, crushed
Meyer Lemon, cut into wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
In a medium bowl, combine, Meyer Lemon zest and juice; olive oil; wine; garlic; and dried herbs.
Arrange chicken pieces skin side up in a glass baking dish or roasting pan. Season lightly with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour combined liquid mixture evenly over chicken. Arrange Meyer Lemon wedges between chicken pieces.
Bake, uncovered, until chicken is done — about 30 minutes. If a darker brown skin is desired, place under broiler for a minute, or two. Remove from oven; cover; allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes.