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Our gift to the planet

Two large trash sacks full of paper?

Check.

Large trash sack full of plastic bottles?

Check.

Three boxes filled with empty wine bottles?

Check.

Flattened cardboard containers?

Check.

Large sack full of empty, cleaned tin cans?

Check.

Seems the load is complete.

I go back inside the house and check the landfill site. Empty. The debris has been carted to the garage.

The trash truck is loaded and we are ready to go.

It’s time to take one of our periodic trips to the recycling center.

Sixty miles away.

Whenever Kathy’s Landfill is jammed with recyclables, we load the truck and we make the trek.

Kathy’s Landfill is an area inside the house where Kathy stores most of the items she wants to recycle. We know it is full when we can no longer get around the pile to go to another room, our way blocked by a landslide of cans, tumbled towers of paper, wine bottles rolling all about. The process begins with several empty containers. In a week, the containers are full and chaos ensues.

Kathy’s Landfill is where we store our recyclable goods.

Once the landfill erupts, the next step is to load all the items, by type, into the trash truck. In our case, the trash truck is a Lexus 350. I drive a real truck (a decrepit 1994 Chevy pickup) but Kathy fears — probably rightly so — that we could never successfully make the round trip to the recycling center. She has visions of us stuck off the highway in a ditch, surrounded by coyotes.

And why do we make the drive?

Regardless of what I say, Kathy insists we cannot recycle the items she has collected here in Siberia With a View.

“They recycle everything over in Durango.”

“Seems like a hefty venture just to unload trash. From a Lexus.”

“It’s the earth-conscious thing to do.”

I attempt to explain that driving 60 miles to leave your trash is hardly an environmentally friendly act. After all, how much fossil fuel is burned in the effort?

Shortly after I begin my extremely rational defense of remaining home, (where I can curl up on the couch and watch a Cops marathon), Kathy is up and headed out the door.

“Come on, Chubby. We’re taking the trash on a trip.”

An hour later, and three and a half gallons of gas later, we pull up at the recycling center. We unload the trash truck, dutifully depositing items in the correct bins and slots.

Then, we get to the real reason for the trip

“Oh, you know, I just realized: there are a few things I need to look for while we’re over here.”

Dear lord.

Thus, the plan is unveiled.

“I need to look for some items for Banzai. He’s growing like a weed, you know. Maybe someone is having a sale on things like socks, undershirts, jammies.”

Jammies.

“Oh, and while we’re here, I thought I would check and see if there are any sales of clothes for me. You never know.”

While we’re here.

“And I need to get a light fixture to match the one I got on sale the last trash trip over here.”

Light.

“Plus, it’s such a nice day. Wouldn’t it be a perfect time to get lunch, sit somewhere outside? Enjoy the beauty of the day?”

Perfect.

Any bets on whether she finds some jammies?

Any bets on how many pairs she finds?

Can you believe there’s a terrific sale on women’s clothing at the mall?

What an incredible coincidence!

While Kathy mows her way through racks and stacks, whistling a happy tune all the while, I stroll over to the Hefty department and find some socks and a shirt or two. After I pay, I go in search of Kathy. She is nowhere to be found. I call her on my cell phone. She is in a changing room, with 22 outfits. I tell her I will wait in the car.

“I could be a while.”

Indeed.

A stop at a detestable Mega Mart results in yet another opportunity for me to spend quality time, alone. Thank goodness there is a liquor store nearby. I find a bottle of Kermit Lynch Cotes de Rhone and hustle it back to the car, hiding it under a stack of baby clothes.

Kathy wheels a mess of consumer items through the parking lot and deposits them where once piles of trash sat, and we are off.

“I’m hungry.”

She’s right: It’s a lovely fall day. We sit on the patio of the restaurant and have a lovely meal, taking our time, watching some obnoxious kids careen up and down the sidewalk on a garishly colored, and extremely noisy plastic scooter. Their parents, seated at a nearby table, think the tykes are the most adorable little things in the universe.

I want to melt the scooter with a blowtorch and tell the kids frightening stories that will keep them awake at night.

But, Kathy is a happy gal, packing down falafel and a mighty fine tzatziki sauce.

Me, I go for a pan-fried hake fillet, bedded down on a large, bready pita with bitter greens, tomato, sliced red onion and tzatziki. There is side of nondescript orzo mounded at the edge of the plate. I ignore it, spritz the contents of my sandwich with fresh lemon juice, apply a smidge of salt, fold the pita in half and dive in

Quite nice.

And easy to reproduce and, perhaps, improve upon.

Hake could be hard to procure here in Siberia With a View, but not the case with some other fairly firm white fish — like flounder. Frozen flounder or haddock fillets work quite well, if thawed and handled properly.

Getting the monstro pita could be difficult. The only kind that will work in this application is more like a large round of soft flatbread, quite unlike the industrial, smallish and tough pita we’ve become sadly accustomed to. Pita is not terribly hard to make, but it is labor intensive, and I have only so much labor to invest.

So, I might opt for thinly sliced bread. Or even one of those “flatbreads” sold in the bread section at the local market. I have never tried them, but …

Bottom line: the fish is important in a sandwich like this, but the accoutrements, and especially the sauce, are critical. Hake, flounder, haddock — they are all fairly bland. The zip is found in the additives.

Tzatziki is simple to make: Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, lemon juice, chopped mint, diced or shredded seedless cucumber. Whip it up, let it sit for a while. Good stuff.

But, I think I will stray from the mark and prepare something a little more flavorful — as in a piquillo aioli. Like the tzatziki, not a major project. Why bother making your own mayonnaise when at least one storebought (Best Foods, or its eastern brother, Hellman’s) is just about as good. I’ll puree some piquillos and garlic in the processor, add a severe wad of mayo, some lemon juice, perhaps a touch of extra virgin olive oil and whiz it around a bit more. Other seasoning? Skies the limit: basil, oregano, herbes de Provence, maybe even some hot Spanish paprika. Whiz, whir, taste, add, whiz, taste, etc.

The fish gets a dusting of seasoned flour (the seasonings mirroring the additives in the aioli) and is pan-fried till golden and done.

The bread of choice is warmed, slathered with aioli, blanketed with peppery greens and some very thinly sliced red onion and tomato.

A fine dinner idea and I contemplate the production as I haul the bags of booty from the trash truck to the house.

I figure the “recycling trip” has cost us six hours and $250.

A gift to the planet.

Kathy looks at the pile of stuff sitting in the living room and figures differently.

“Wow, once we get everything unpacked and unwrapped, we’ve got at least half a load of trash on hand to take to the recycling center.”

Wow.