Thursday, 4 July 2013

Super-Chili Recipe

Whoops, I accidentally didn't post anything through all of June. I was busy turning 22, dammit. To make up for it, have some delicious chili.

I don't know why chili gets such a bad rap. Maybe it's because people mistakenly believe that red meat is bad for you. Maybe it's because people pair it with beer and beer is terrible for you. Whatever the reason, chili - or at least, my chili - is one of the healthiest dishes I cook. Kidney beans, lean ground beef and mushrooms pack a ton of protein; tomatoes bring vitamin C; spices boost your metabolism and a couple shots of cinnamon practically elevate this recipe to the level of superfood. Eat this every day if you like. You'll get strong and healthy!

In a soup pot, cook 1lb lean ground beef, separating and stirring with a spatula to get it evenly browned. Add black pepper to taste, Mexican hot sauce, three or four shots of tabasco, 1tbsp smoked paprika, 1tsp dried parsley, a bay leaf, a pinch of salt, and some chili peppers (I used a couple of dried chile de arbol ground up in the food processor, but fresh would be great too). Add about three cloves of garlic, minced. Cook until meat starts releasing fat. Add about 1-2tsp ground cinnamon.

Add 2tbsp tomato paste and mix it evenly with the meat. Add about 1C diced or crushed tomato (more or less to taste). Thickly chop mushrooms (as many as you want) and stir them in. Fully rinse 1 can dark red kidney beans in a sieve under running water and add. Finally, add corn to taste - about half a cup. Can be frozen or fresh.

Add about 1/2tsp fresh chopped cilantro. Taste and add more spice if you like. Heat through, remove bay leaf, and serve with a little grated parmesan or sharp cheddar if you choose.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Whoops, I haven't posted here for a month. In my defense, I've been busy. However, I'm breaking radio silence because of a graphic that came up on my Facebook feed this morning.

Okay. So here's twenty rules plus some value judgements and arguments by authority. Let's look at them one by one.

1. Drink a large glass of water before every meal. No excuses.
True. Doing this will solve two problems at once; the chronic dehydration that many people suffer from if they don't really pay attention to their water intake, and the fact that it's very easy to confuse thirst with hunger.

2. Don't drink your calories.
False. I think what this probably means is "don't drink soda" (which is a good idea, but not for this reason) or "don't drink fruit juice" (again, has nothing to do with calories; it's just better for you to eat the whole fruit and drink plain water in addition). But it ignores the idea of drinking protein shakes, which I do in abundance and which is pretty crucial if you're planning on building muscle and not just getting skinny-fat, and which in my case account for over 600 calories a day.

3. Eat protein at every meal - or stay hungry and grouchy.
True, but rude. You should be eating protein at every meal because if you don't you will never, ever eat enough protein and you won't build enough muscle. But the tone of "eat your protein or go to bed without any dinner" is patronizing and offensive.

4. Slash your intake of refined flours and grains.
True. Refined grains contain way less fiber which is an essential component of going to the bathroom once you're actually eating the amount of protein you're supposed to. I've heard they also mess with glucose/insulin levels but I don't know enough to say whether that's actually true. The fiber intake is a good enough reason not to bother with things that aren't whole grain.

5. Eat 30-50g fiber every day. 
True. God, yes, as a minimum. See above. Bowel movements are desirable.

6. Eat apples and berries every single day. Every. Single. Day. 
True, but kind of arbitrary. Eating any variety of high-fiber fruits or vegetables every day will be good for you. Apples and broccoli would be just as beneficial. Oranges, bananas and collard greens are an equally good choice. Berries are often high in fiber and antioxidants so they're a good choice, but they're also very expensive compared to other choices. Don't feel like you have to break the bank or sacrifice other (more) important foods like chicken breast just because this dude decided to pick berries from the list of things that are good for you.

7. No carbs after lunch.
False. Especially if you're planning on lifting in the evening, but also for this reason (see #3).

8. Learn to read food labels so you know what you are eating. 
True, but with caution. Labels aren't everything, and ideally, you really out to be eating mostly things that don't come with labels. But knowledge never hurt anyone and knowing how to read the labels isn't a bad thing.

9. Stop guessing about portion size and get it right. 
False, mostly. Eating the right amount has nothing to do with portion size, it has to do with paying attention to your hunger and stopping eating when you've had enough. Measuring out half a cup of pasta and one-third of a cup of pasta sauce and one tablespoon of parmesan not only spoils any possible enjoyment of the food and reduces you to the equals sign in a math equation, but it also takes away your responsibility to pay attention to your own hunger, and therefore reduces your ability to learn about your own body and feelings.

10. No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones. 
Half false. Artificial sweeteners are terrible for you. They fuck with your insulin levels and make you crave food when you don't need it (see #5 in the article linked above). Natural sweeteners, though, are fine. Put a couple spoons of brown sugar on your oatmeal in the morning. Eat yogurt and honey - local honey if you can afford it, because it has a slight innoculating effect against local pollens and can reduce hayfever symptoms. The idea that any amount of sugar is bad for you is insane alarmism. There's nothing wrong whatsoever with using natural sugars as ingredients in meals. Of course, there is also a difference between eating plain cultured yogurt with honey, granola and sliced fruit and drinking a bottle of Mexicoke that is made out of carbonated water, caramel coloring, 23 teaspoons of sugar and pure cocaine.

11. Get rid of those white potatoes. 
Irrelevant. White potatoes aren't bad for you; just don't peel them. Potatoes are a great pre-workout food, and the skins contain a lot of important nutrients. Sweet potatoes are probably more valuable than white or red potatoes, since they contain more protein and a metric fuck-ton of vitamin A, but there's nothing inherently terrible about white potatoes and I'm honestly not sure why they're being brought up.

12. Make one day a week meatless.
False. Do this if you want to fuck over your gains and spend a day hungry, cold, and not getting nearly enough protein to support muscle recovery from your weight lifting the night before.

13. Get rid of fast foods and fried foods. 
True, false. Fast food is a waste when you could be cooking something good for yourself with much more nutritional value per energy unit, that also tastes a million times better. Fried foods, however, are fine. Demonizing an entire cooking method displays a woeful lack of imagination and assumes that healthy people are ones that live off nothing but salads and solitary laughter, rather than ones who respect their bodies and also food as an entire creative medium. Also, olive oil is damn good for you, use it when you fry.

14. Eat a real breakfast. 
True, assuming that you know what a real breakfast is. You want something high in fiber, protein and energy (calories). Don't eat a grapefruit, a bowl of special K and a cup of tea. That's not enough food. My favorite breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, strawberries, cinnamon and milk (about 180 calories), a double scoop of chocolate protein powder (400 calories) with water and a little milk (30 calories), and scrambled egg whites (60 calories) with one whole egg for taste (70 calories) and a shot of espresso or a tall glass of black coffee (fresh ground). That's a crap ton of food, nearly 750 calories, and it enables me to go do my physically demanding job without getting hungry or tired, or burning muscle.

15. Make your own food and eat at least 10 meals a week at home. 
True. It's better for you, you can control exactly what you're putting in your meals, it tastes better, it tastes fresher, and it's a creative pursuit and a valuable skill. Learn to fucking cook and keep practising all the time.

16. Banish high-salt foods. 
False. There's nothing wrong with salt. It's often used to cure meats and it tastes great. If you eat more than about a teaspoon of salt a day, though, adjust your water intake so that you don't dehydrate.

17. Eat your vegetables. Just do it. 
True. After high-quality protein, vegetables are the most important thing you're going to be eating. But that doesn't mean salads. It doesn't mean lettuce. Vegetables that are high in fiber are your friend, such as broccoli, greens (esp collard greens), mushrooms, carrots, sprouts, avocados and eggplants. Find vegetables you like to eat. I don't like the last two on that list and I almost never eat them.

18. Go to bed hungry. 
False. See 7. Also, when I do this, I wake up in the morning feeling like I'm about to throw up; on a few occasions I've dry heaved in the shower as a result. Just don't overeat.

19. Sleep right. 
True. Get between 5 and 10 hours of sleep a night; more or less than that is bad for you.

20. Plan one splurge meal a week.
False. This is a bad mentality. Every meal you eat should be delicious, creative and fulfilling. You should never, ever, ever feel denied eating food, and you should get into the habit of wanting food that is good for you, rather than waiting for the one chance you get to 'splurge' and eat what you 'really want'.

Well, those are the rules. Now let's examine the blurb at the bottom.

Firstly, I'm put off that he had anything whatsoever to do with The Biggest Loser. That show is demeaning, promotes stereotypes about fat vs thin people (fat people sweating uncomfortably on the treadmill while being yelled at by aggressively slim personal trainers), and doesn't work. Practically everyone gains back, not least because their self esteem has been effectively pulverized by a season of being made an example of on national television.

Secondly, the 'skinny' rules? I don't want to get skinny. You shouldn't either. The best thing to be is 'fit'. You want strength, speed, flexibility. You want to gain abilities you didn't have previously. Body type is irrelevant. You want to improve yourself as a person, and this means gaining knowledge and gaining skills. The shape of your body doesn't fit into either of these categories.

Thirdly, "simple, nonnegotiable(sic) principles". Well, they aren't simple, for one thing. A part of gaining knowledge is not only knowing what you should do, but knowing why you should do it. You can't just do as you're told and expect to change your lifestyle. You have to acquire the knowledge yourself, and that is never simple. It might not be difficult, and it ought to be fun, but it isn't simple. Also, as I think I've demonstrated, these principles are definitely negotiable. And they ought to be. A lifestyle should be adaptable. If you give yourself rigid rules, you're going to break them. If you give yourself flexible knowledge, you can bend and adapt it to your situation, be it financial constraints, curiosity and a desire to try new things, moving to a different country or going on vacation and being surrounded by different foods, or anything else.

Long story short, don't base your value on your appearance, and don't let anyone else tell you what to do. If you want to accomplish something, accomplish it yourself. That includes acquiring the knowledge, as well as keeping up the motivation.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Shopping around

I edited this week's shopping list pretty significantly since I first posted it up, and I'm going to re-list it here, but this post is mostly going to be about the benefit of shopping around. Being a wop, I'm a huge foodie. However, I'm also married to a Jew (Writer Husband) who manages our money, including the grocery budget, groceries being something that I am obviously in charge of. It is therefore in my best interest to shop around and get the absolute best price on everything, because if I spend more money than I have to on fresh basil and imported wine, I'm going to be stuck buying the shitty 99c spaghetti from Safeway instead of the whole wheat pasta for a buck forty-nine, and fresh mozzarella is totally out of the question. So I shop around. I have prices for certain essentials (like olive oil and tomatoes) memorized for comparisons at different stores. I compare food by price per weight unit. And goddamnit if I didn't buy some fantastic food to feed a family of four for a week at only $95.89.

First off, we went to the Grocery Outlet, which is my absolute favorite store in the world because it sells imported wine at a price I can actually afford. Sure, I don't get to choose what type of wine, but the sad truth is that from the age of four I was raised by a single Englishman who suffered from severe depression and at this point, I don't actually know enough about wine to care. So I picked up two bottles of Sangiovese di Rubicone at six dollars plus tax each, and after a quick scout around the store we also got:
10lbs of potatoes
Seven bananas at 25c each, compared to Safeway's 39c (yes, I have this memorized, and if you don't then you don't care enough about bananas)
A jar of pickle chips for $1.99 compared to Safeway's $2.29 (seriously, I'm not even checking any of this. I don't even like pickle chips! They were for Vet Tech Husband!)

From the Safeway, I bought:
Two loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread
One can of diced tomatoes
Three cans of albacore tuna
Two cans of beef broth
One can of sliced black olives
A tub of margerine
Three tubs of full fat plain probiotic yogurt
A parmesan wedge from the deli
Garlic hummus
Two bunches of collard greens
Half a pound of white mushrooms
A box of whole wheat penne and one of spaghetti
1lb of fresh mozzarella at 50% off
A three-pack of yeast
Frozen strawberries and peaches
One shallot
A gallon of fat free milk

I spent fifty-six and change on that.

Finally, today before work (for which I have to carry a backpack full of cleaning supplies with me on the bus), I walked one and a half miles each way to get to an asian market in the International District in Seattle to pick up the last few bits and pieces I wanted. For $15.89 plus great exercise, I think it was well worth it.
5lbs of fresh chicken breast
1lb of ground beef
One fresh mango
1.2lbs of sweet, sweet tangerines
A HUGE bunch of fresh basil, I mean HUGE
A can of pineapple

For reference, the absolute cheapest you can buy fresh chicken breast at Safeway is $3.69/lb. Frozen, it's $2.49/lb. That means that from Safeway, the chicken breast alone would have cost me $18.45. Frozen chicken comes in 4lb bags for $9.96, but 5lbs worth of it would cost $12.45. Oh, and the cheapest you can buy ground beef is $3.49/lb. And don't even get me started on fresh basil! I'm not even quoting the price here because nobody should buy it. Get it from the Asian market like I do, or buy a basil plant.

I got home at around seven o'clock tonight, immediately got dinner started, and by eight-thirty we were eating whole wheat spaghetti with bolognese sauce (fresh onions, fresh garlic, fresh basil, fresh beef, fresh mushrooms, canned olives, canned tomatoes, red wine, olive oil), bread fresh out of the oven, deli parmesan and a generous couple glasses of red wine! Exactly what I wanted to eat after work and all that walking, and yes, cooking it myself made it taste even better.

To finish up, from the Italian-Jewish household, a flawlessly Italian-Jewish argument that was had earlier this evening.

Me: Yeesh, it's freezing in here! I guess the heat's still not on...
Writer Husband: Hey, I've been saving a lot of money by keeping it off.
Me: But it's so cold!
Writer Husband: Well, I just saved you twenty dollars that you can spend on food!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The best bread recipe ever

As someone who struggled with making bread for six years before finding this recipe, this claim is pretty outrageous. Before, I would have said there's no such goddamn thing as a good bread recipe, just different variations of frustrating and sticky and flat and crap and time-consuming. The soft, fluffy sandwich bread that rises more than a hand's width is literally made out of magic and capitalism, because nothing I've ever made with flour and yeast has ever come close.

And this isn't sandwich bread! But it does make the best dinner rolls or sandwich buns ever. It's whole wheat, it's soft and fluffy on the inside, pleasantly crunchy on the outside, and it only takes 30-40 minutes meaning you can cook it alongside the rest of the meal, start to finish. I don't remember where I found the original recipe, but I've modified it sufficiently everywhere from the ingredients to the cooking temperature that I don't feel even slightly bad posting it as mine.

Since I discovered this recipe, I have been literally baking my own bread from scratch whenever I fancy eating some bread. That just never happens with other yeast bread. You have to plan ahead and schedule it in because it's going to take you at least four hours to make. But no, with this recipe I'm just like, "I feel like some bread and jam for lunch", and half an hour later I'm eating fresh, hot bread that just came out of the oven.

I appreciate that half an hour might seem like kind of a long time for some of you to wait for bread, but given the freshness, the smell in my kitchen, and the fact that there's usually at least a half hour wait for any of the food I eat that is more complex than yogurt and honey or a piece of fruit, personally I think it's more than worth it.

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1C warm water, 1tbsp white sugar, 1tbsp olive oil, and 1 packet yeast, in that order. Mix with a wooden spoon and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

When yeast is frothing, stir in 1/4tsp salt and 1 egg. Add 1C AP flour and stir. Add 1C whole wheat flour and stir. Then scoop out 1C AP flour and add from the cup until dough is just barely not sticky. It's nice when it's moist in my opinion. I have rarely finished off the whole cup.

Let dough rest for 5 minutes. Then split into whatever shapes you like - I like to split it into 9 balls and put them in a square cake pan to make dinner rolls, but you can do it however you like. I grease the (nonstick) pan with olive oil and flour all the dough balls, so that the finished product comes out dusted with flour on the tops.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Enjoy with fruit preserve, gravy, tomato sauce, honey, or even just plain butter - the bread is delicious enough to make it taste sublime!

Olive oil pie crust and shopping lists

So today I really wanted to make a quiche, but we're out of stick butter and have been for a while, and it's not grocery buyin' time just yet. I do, of course, keep three liters of olive oil in the house at all times, and I thought I might as well just google to see if there was a way to make pie crust with olive oil.

Turns out that not only is there, but it's simple, takes half the time and mess of butter crust, and instead of rolling it out and laying it down in the pan you squish it with your fingers, meaning that there's no waste and none of that "flour your worksurface" nonsense that I hate so much!

The method, which I found (and modified slightly) here, is to boil up 1/4C water and 1/3C olive oil in a pan.When it's boiling, take it off the heat and add 1C AP flour sifted with 1tsp baking powder, and just stir the shit out of it until it forms into a basic ball. Put the ball in the greased pie dish and just press it down around the bottom of the dish and up the sides with your fingers. It literally couldn't be easier and it is SO flaky and light!

I haven't tried it yet, but I have a suspicion that it would be better with the liquid ingredient quantities reversed; that is, 1/4C olive oil and  1/3C water. The crust was slightly on the greasy side for me, and also tasted faintly of olive oil even though I didn't use EVOO; for a sweet recipe I think it would be too strong of a taste.

Thanks to a recent budget change, partly due to Writer Husband managing the money now, and partly due to me having a job, we now have enough money to buy the food I want to buy every week. So - this is mostly for my loyal reader Olga whom I know loves reading this stuff - here is my shopping list for the coming week!

Pre-sliced whole wheat bread
Albacore tuna in water
Beef broth
Cottage cheese (4% minimum)
Medium cheddar cheese block
Parmesan cheese wedge
Whole milk mozzarella (the wet kind)
Full fat plain yogurt with active cultures
Frozen pineapple, mango and strawberries
Canned tomatoes
Gala apples
Collard greens
Roma tomatoes
Russet potatoes
White mushrooms
Fresh basil
Whole wheat penne
Thin-cut beefsteak
Chicken breast
Red wine

And the ingredients that I already have in my fridge/pantry and won't run out of before the following week are:

Skim milk
Tomato paste
Peanut butter
Fruit preserve (strawberry and blackberry)
Whole wheat flour and AP flour (plus associated baking ingredients like baking powder/soda and salt)
White sugar
Brown sugar
Steel-cut oats
Brown rice
Spices and dried herbs including ground oregano, dried basil, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, cayenne pepper, curry powder, oriental mustard, etc.

So I have an emphasis on whole grains (rice, oats, bread and flour, pasta), protein (beef, chicken, cottage cheese, tuna), and a variety of fruits and vegetables. I use white sugar for proofing yeast and brown sugar as an oatmeal topping, along with cinnamon and nutmeg. Peanut butter is a favorite post-workout snack and I love honey and yogurt as a dessert! Also note that I just buy sliced bread for sandwiches to take to work; if I'm eating at home, I make my own bread from scratch, the recipe for which I shall be posting shortly.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Food choices

It feels like months since I've posted here, so I'm glad it's only really been a couple of weeks. I've been pretty exhausted on account of starting my new job as a housekeeper! The company I work for is called Exec. They were a big deal in San Francisco and they've just moved to Seattle this month (so if you live in Seattle, please hire us!).

As a result of making regular money now, I've been thinking a lot about food.  I have heard people refer to foodie-ism as a kind of oral fixation, and while I guess that's kind of potentially true, there's also a great deal of skill and artistry in cooking. I also appreciate food from a health point of view; things like garlic, ginger root and local honey are actually really good for you (for the immune system, the digestive system, and for pollen allergies and hay fever respectively). Eating well makes me feel well, and that matters to me!

As such, I've been thinking about what kind of food I want to keep in the house. Plenty of meat, for sure - chicken breast, venison and veal are good, as well as beef. I want to start cooking with rabbit and lamb more often, too. I want to get good cheese; we stopped buying Kraft grated parmesan long ago, but even so, we're still only getting soft wedges of parmesan and bags of grated Lucerne cheddar and mozzarella. Good cheese is a wonderful thing, and honestly, I miss getting wet mozzarella, I miss brie, camembert, halloumi, emmenthal, feta. Cheese is so damn good for you. There were years when I was so disordered and mixed up when it came to food that I wouldn't eat cheese. I was scared of the stuff. Shows how warped I was! That's what you get for buying into diet logic. Cheese is high in protein, not to mention calcium and vitamin B (teeth, bones and skin). Delicious!

After meat and cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables - a LOT of them - is my main concern. We've been poor for so long that everyone's immune systems are totally in the shitter. I'm talking grapes, oranges, apples, bananas, strawberries, mangoes, coconuts, pears, peaches - the works. Same for veggies.

As for bread... I'm a fan of bagels but honestly, I have enough quick bread recipes that I don't really feel like we need to load up on carbs. Oatmeal? Yes. I want to get steel-cut oats, which are universally acknowledged to be the best kind.

I'm buying a food processor, and I'd prefer to buy nuts and mason jars and make my own nut butter than I would to buy big jars of Skippy. Up until now we've only ever had a blender, but home made always leaves me feeling better afterwards. I want to buy jam, though, and plenty of good olive oil. And yogurt, plain probiotic Greek yogurt that I can put fruit and honey in.

I don't care about eating 'raw' or 'paleo' or about carbs or whatever the hell else. I don't count calories, I don't eat fat-free or sugar-free or calorie-free (what does that even MEAN? How is it food if it doesn't contain energy?). Fats are necessary for your body and eating sweetness without sugar will fuck with your blood sugar levels. I would rather learn to eat well, to feel good when I put the right things into myself and bad when I put the wrong things, than to cheat my way around it with things that aren't what they appear to be. I definitely don't do diet fads, never ever again.

I just want to eat as fresh as possible. I want to eat exactly what it feels like I'm putting in my mouth, nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Perfect cop, perfect person

I love cops. My brother is going to become one. Writer husband almost did become one. I always trust them and have always been friendly with them, and I've never regretted it. Least of all now!

I mentioned in my previous post that we'd had some very disappointing trouble with a neglected dog. We found a very old Irish Setter wandering on the street with no collar or microchip, and it was in a deplorable state. Nails untrimmed, fur greasy, very severe hair loss, a rash covering its entire body, fleas, an eye infection, a double ear infection, a secondary skin infection, open wounds under its front legs from scratching, three cysts, and worst of all its canines were broken off and its teeth were all black and yellow and worn down. We brought it inside, gave it a bath (we had to change out the water twice), and took it to the vet, where we spent about $250 on veterinary care, prescription medications, flea control, dog food, a collar and a dog bed. We had its ears cleaned and its nails trimmed. We had its teeth examined. The vet told us it would probably need a full mouth extraction, or would at least need to lose most of its teeth, in order to be healthy.

This dog was utterly precious. It was sweet, quiet, wagged its tail, it was very affectionate, very loving. It knew sit, but nothing else. We named it Atlas.

Well, to avoid being charged with stealing a pet, we called up our local animal shelter, which also happens to be the authority for animal control in our city, and reported it as a neglect case. I made it very clear that I was afraid of any owner who would allow their pet to remain in this condition, that I was afraid the dog would go back to the owner, that I wanted to help the dog and the entire situation alarmed me.

The shelter gave my phone number to the owner without my consent and not ten minutes later the owner called me at home demanding his dog back. We immediately booked a cab that we couldn't really afford to get to the shelter and have the vet there look at Atlas, since the shelter couldn't legally withhold a dog without seeing it first to determine its condition.

We had to sign Atlas over to the shelter in order to have it examined - this was, at the time, our only recourse to prevent a neglected animal from going back to its original situation.

The vet, to put it bluntly, did not give a fuck. Phrases that were used included "Well, it's not normal in terms of a dog you or I would own, but..."; "Oh, the teeth aren't broken, they're just worn down. You know, from chewing on rocks and stuff."; "Your vet says the teeth are rotten? That's a matter of opinion."

As our vet pointed out, if a dog is chewing rocks, it's hungry. Plus, the owner had already said the dog had a flea allergy (and yet he did not have it on flea control), and that its skin condition was entirely an allergic reaction. The unpaid shelter vet refused to acknowledge the secondary infection that the vet we paid to make an assessment said was definitely present. The shelter vet then walked away from us as we were speaking and refused to commit to either educating the owner on dog care when he came in, or setting a checkup visit for the dog. Basically, she saw a neglect case, but she could weasel out of it and she just didn't want to do that much work on a Sunday.

Atlas went home with his neglectful owner the next day.

That day, we called the shelter to ask: has the dog gone home; was the owner educated on dog care; did you give him the prescription medications that we paid for and show him how to use them? We were told "we took care of it" three times in a very clipped tone, and then hung up on.

We called the owner back and left him a voicemail offering to buy his dog flea control. 24 hours later we hadn't received any response.

The day after, I was pretty much sick of it. Neither of us could get over the fact that we had taken a neglected dog to the people who are charged with protecting animals and nobody had bothered to make sure it was comfortable and living happily.

I spent all day on the phone. I called the county police. I called state patrol. I called just about every major shelter in the state. Four hours later I had nothing. I was transferred and redirected so many god damn times and half of those transfers were to the shelter that had blown Atlas off and sent him back uncared for.

Every time I called a law enforcement office, I received the same automated message: If it is an emergency, or if you want to report a crime, please call 911. Okay, I thought. Is it a crime?

Hoo, boy, yes it is. The full law is here, the relevant parts are as follows:

(2) An owner of an animal is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty, the owner knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence:
     (a) Fails to provide the animal with necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention and the animal suffers unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain as a result of the failure.

Suddenly, I had a crime to report. I called up Everett Police to make sure it was all right, and after hearing the story, I was advised to wait until the shelter was closed so that the case wouldn't be sent right to animal control, i.e., the shelter, and then call 911 and ask an officer to go out to the owner's house. We found his address by checking his number in the directory, and I made the emergency call and explained the situation.

Pretty soon the officer on duty phoned me directly to ask me to tell her the whole story again. She commended us on the "phenomenal" effort we put in to making sure that the dog was all right, and went straight to the owner's house to check up on Atlas.

She took my concern for my privacy seriously and simply told him "I understand you've been involved with the animal shelter recently". She told him that if he continued to neglect his dog, the police would have to intervene. She educated him on the basics of dog care, and told him that that care had to be ongoing.

She then called me back, related this to me, and told me that the animal neglect (second-degree animal cruelty) law works a lot like trespassing or child neglect - the offender has to be warned first, before any action is taken. She gave me the incident number and her name, and told me to call back in a month, and she would personally go out and check up on the dog to make sure it was doing better.

The moral of this story is that just because a place says it's an animal shelter, says it has the best interest of animals at heart, just because a person says they're a vet, or that they care for animals, it's no guarantee of anything. And unless you live in New York or New Jersey and you have the ASPCA at your disposal, your best bet is the find the relevant legislation FIRST, and get the cops involved at the first sign of mishandling or irresponsibility.