Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Free Advice: Wave To Your Garbage Men (and Winter Vegetable Soup)

So you've heard about SOPA and PIPA.  And you've heard about the internet blackout today by many of the big sites protesting the passage of these bills.

Mel, over at Stirrup Queens, had an awesome idea (because she is full of awesome ideas, and full of awesome, in general): that instead of going dark in protest, she was going to sponsor a Free Advice Day, a positive alternative to the blackout, proving what good the internet CAN do when people are given the opportunity to put their heads together (which they should really do to brainstorm a better way to prevent piracy).

I realize that I give advice all the time on this blog.  I probably sound downright preachy sometimes.  Cook this, do yoga, love your neighbor.  Hopefully it doesn't come off sounding like I know anything about the answers to Life, the Universe, and Everything, because the best response I've got for that was 42, and I got that out of a book I read a while ago (I bet you've read it, too).

So, from someone who doesn't really have the answers to anything, here's my unique, never-printed-anywhere-else contribution to Free Advice Day:

Wave to your Garbage Men.

This is actually a corollary to a more comprehensive piece of advice, which is Appreciate the People Who are Underappreciated and Underpaid, and includes administrative assistants, clerks, the people at the DMV, the people working the counter at your local post office, your mail carrier ... you get the idea.  But let me elaborate.

On garbage day, my street usually looks like this:

Note the upturned garbage cans, tossed to the side of the road.  This is actually an unusually good day, too.  More often they're rolling around, halfway down the street, especially on a windy day like today.  In fact, about a year ago we invested in a turn-over-proof garbage can, because ours became so damaged from the weekly abuse.

Now before you start thinking I'm critiquing the garbage men (and yes, they are men, so that's what I'm going to call them) ... this is not a job I would want.  Maybe it pays well, but it's smelly.  It's thankless.  People heap all kinds of stuff at the curb that they are barely willing to touch themselves.  And in the wintertime, like this morning, it's damn cold.

But, dear readers, I submit to you, our garbage can, post-collection, without any manipulation:

Yes, it has been rolled back up our driveway.

I have no idea whether it's legal for our garbage men to do this, but they do, without fail, every week, starting about two months ago.  So, what's my secret?  To what do I owe this remarkable garbage can treatment?


Every Wednesday morning, on garbage day, I stand with my 11 month old daughter at the door, and I wave to them.  And she waves to them.  Because I taught her to wave to them.  And I stick my head out the door and say thank you.  And they honk the horn, and they wave back, and they smile, and they roll my garbage can, right side up, back up my driveway.

Think about it.  How many people do you think stop to wave to the garbage men?  How many people do you think remember that the garbage men exist?  When was the last time you waved at the garbage man?

Or, to put it another way: when was the last time you appreciated the people who do the crappy jobs that make your life easier?  (I'd love to show you Pete Souza's picture of President Obama fistpumping a janitor here, but I'm not sure SOPA would let me.  So I will offer a link instead: ... )

Now, it's unlikely that if everyone waves at the garbage men, they will begin to roll everyone's garbage cans up their driveway, because it takes more time to do that, and they have a route to finish.  But perhaps they wouldn't toss them down the street.  Besides, would it really kill us to be thankful?  Even if they're "just doing their job"?

Recipes are an interesting form of intellectual property, because as I understand it, they both are and are not protected.  While all of the pictures and thoughts are my own, a lot of the recipes I share here are ones I've taken from somewhere else and tweaked.  Sometimes I attribute, sometimes I'm less diligent about attributing.  I suspect that if SOPA passed, I could be shut down, that is, if anyone cared about my blog enough.

So while the internet is still a free place, here's one that was simmering on the stove as we watched the garbage truck drive by.  Make it for people you need to appreciate, and make the world a little warmer place to live.

Winter Vegetable Soup
adapted from the New Basics Cookbook

3 T. olive oil
3 T. unsalted butter2 c. diced leeks
1 1/2 c. diced onions
1 c. diced celery
1 1/2 t. dried tarragon
1/2 t. dried thyme
smoked sea salt and pepper to taste
5 c. stock
2 1/2 c. diced potatoes
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed (or 1 lb. fresh, cut into chiffonade)

In large soup pot, heat olive oil and melt butter, then add leeks, onion and celery.  Cook over low heat until the vegetables are beginning to become transparent.  Add herbs and spices, and stir well.

Add stock and potatoes; simmer until tender but not mushy (about 15 minutes). Add half the spinach, simmer 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Puree half the soup (a stick blender doesn't work as well here because the spinach doesn't seem to puree, so I recommend using a blender) and return it to the pot.

Simmer the soup over low heat and add the remaining spinach and the cream, being careful not to boil. Heat through, adjust seasoning, and serve.
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areyoukiddingme said...

The soup sounds delicious...although the name made me cautious. I'm not a fan of vegetable soups, generally.

I love your garbage man idea. I've always had the misfortune to work with people who consider the support staff as somehow lesser. That's not true - every one of those people make my life easier on a daily basis, and I appreciate it. I'm never home to wave to the garbage men, but I've always known that it's the people who do the crap jobs that make my life better.

Geochick said...

...and now I think I'll have to add your blog to my list for cooking ideas. :)

I occasionally will cook a bona fide fancy meal, although that doesn't happen too often. I'm in awe of my friends who find cooking to be a fun hobby that they love to pursue for hours on a weekend, while I'm waiting for the weekend so that we can go out!

Jjiraffe said...

I think your "wave to the garbage men" idea makes so much sense and can't believe I've never heard it before. I am going to do this from now on because ours are MAD at us, as far as I can tell with the placement. Also, you're right: they really are unappreciated heroes. Why do we get annoyed that they make as much as someone on the lowest rung of the investment banking ladder?

RunningMama said...

THIS was a great post. If I only had leeks, I could make this soup.

Oh, and love the fist bump photo!

marwil said...

Such a simple gesture to appreciate other people. I used to work as a postman years ago and it was so nice when people waved, said hello, or now and then placed a bag of new baked goodies by the letterbox. Another tip maybe :)

JeCaThRe said...

We regularly make nice with the garbage men, the mail carrier and the various delivery truck drivers. But then, I live in Mayberry where we all smile at each other and say hello. The recycling men even stack our bins together after they've emptied them. Maybe I should bake them cookies.

Recipe copyright law in the U.S., as I understand it, holds that the list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted, but any accompanying stories, instructions or illustrations can be.


Mina said...

I started out as a secretary, one of the underpaid, overlooked people. I know first hand how people can treat you when they think you don't matter. Let's just say that a few of them found out it did 't do much good to know my boss, since they treted me like crap. We have a saying that until you get to meet God and lay your matter before him, the angels will eat you up.
Very good piece of advice. If only more people were nicer to everyone, what a refreshing change that would be.
I love your recipes.

Stephanie said...

I care enough about you to shut you down. If I had the power, I'd totally show my appreciation by taking down your site. ;) Lovely post, as always.

KeAnne said...

Excellent advice! My son LOVES garbage trucks and every Wednesday, my mother-in-law has him wave to the garbage men and they wave back. A couple of weeks ago, they gave the garbage men cookies & my son was proud to show them the garbage truck he got for Christmas. I have a new respect for garbage men I never had before based on seeing them through my son's eyes.

rebecca said...

Awesome advice!!!

Chickenpig said...

We used to wave at the garbage men. But in my new house not only do they come at the crack of dawn, but the house is behind trees so we can't see it coming. brother drives a garbage truck, and we wave at him every time he drives by, does that count? :) (we wave at EVERY garbage truck, because we can't see the driver, we get lots of honks and waves back. At our old house, the truck had really nice garbage men that rode on the back, but that was in town. Our garbage truck now just has a driver...the truck does all the work.

ana said...

First, sorry, I can't comment on this post but can reply to comments (stupid old IE version at work).

Second, I really love this. What a great way to build community (and teach your children about treating others with respect). And who doesn't wants to be acknowledged and thanked for the work they do. It makes my day when it happens to me, and I'm sure it means a lot to the garbage men, DMV workers, etc... too.

jhl said...

Chickenpig, that TOTALLY counts. And it's more than just the garbage men, anyway ... so even when we've transitioned to a robot truck, I hope we still appreciate the people who do unsung work!

jhl said...

Little ones are great for that, aren't they? Turning our worlds inside out? :)

jhl said...

I bet they'd love your cookies.

And yes, I hadn't actually thought too much about copyright law for recipes before, but I should be more considerate of fellow recipe-writers. It's an interesting exercise in not-plagiarizing, since some of it really *is* paraphrase ...

jhl said...

Mina, I always treated the secretaries well, too ... my thought was this: there's a finite amount of work. We all work together, and so all of the work is valuable. In my old job, sometimes I'd think that the secretaries were the ones really running the university!

Thanks for stopping by!

jhl said...

Um ... thanks for the blog love? ;)

No, really ... I am going to be more thoughtful about this from now on ...

jhl said...

I try to bake for our postman especially on the snowiest days of the winter. I can't even imagine what it's like to slog through the ice just so that we could get our mail!

jhl said...

Geochick, I often cook at night ... I like free weekends, too. It makes for a sleepy HalfBakedLife in the morning, though! There must be a better balance. :)

jhl said...

areyoukiddingme, that's really what it's about anyway ... not just the garbage men. I think of all of the people who were underappreciated support during our infertility journey, too ... I tried to thank every one of them when my daughter was born.

Dawn Black said...

And this is why I love your bog! I love the added words or wisdom, or just thought provoking ideas. Everyone of us can make a difference in our world, small as it may be, those we affect for good can continue in spreading the goodness around them. I used to be a receptionist, and I'm not much farther up the ladder now. Back in the day the Dr.'s would ask how those being interviewed, or other person's waiting for meetings, would treat me. Their decision to continue a professional relationship depended on how they treated the "least important person" in the office. It felt good to be a part of that team, in whatever position I held. I like to make others feel the same way. Keep up the preaching!

Lisa said...

The soup looks great, and I'm on board with the waving...totally. My mom was always like that when I was a kid---to the mail man, the garbage man, the paper boy. My parents also always tip the housekeeping staff in hotels/motels everyday (since they're sure it wouldn't be fair to tip one person all on the last day). At Disney World one time, this got us lots of extra mickey soap, a new friend, and some really nice notes.

Anonymous said...

I love this advice. It's funny, I was never home enough to have any clue who our garbage people or postman were. Since I've been home I've gotten to know them by name and garbage day is practically a holiday at my house. My son loves watching the trucks and we always say hello and they always honk and wave in return. Such little things that make life more pleasant - for all of us, I believe.


jhl said...

*grin* Love the bit about mickey soap.

jhl said...

Thank you, Dawn! And I'm glad that you have worked for people who respect *everyone*'s role in the office, and who have treated you accordingly ... really, you can't function as an office without good support staff!

Emily said...

Garbage men are awesome. As kids we would always be at the window on garbage day waiting to waive and watch them do their job. A bunch of my cousins wanted to be garbage men. We thought it was a cool job. We have a good relationship with our garbage men. I met them when I first moved in and if you talk to them and ask nicely they will do you favors like take "special" garbage or just be nice to your garbage can.

Adele said...

I love this. And agree with it 100%. It's kind of amazing how certain professions are largely "invisible", and don't therefore get the same respect. I bet they get a kick out of it, too. (And, clearly, they appreciate it).

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