Category Archives: Food

Traditions Have to Start Somewhere

I used to playfully envy my ex — his people hailed from the next batch of ships after the pilgrim’s landed, and they had a fancy family tree to prove it. I on the other hand had 2nd generation immigrants on my mom’s side and 1st on my dad’s. I would marvel at my mother-in-law’s stories about how her great-uncle was a photographer (hello, invention of the camera) and brother to Thomas Moran the painter. I had a French Canadian great-grandfather who was a poor farmer in Quebec. A little better was my Dutch great grandfather who was the captain of a passenger ferry. I was never a person who envied other peoples’ wealth, but I did envy their pedigree.

Luckily, all that envy has dissolved — with my divorce, my maturity, and just witnessing firsthand that pedigree isn’t necessarily better. I’ve learned that the more important thing is, do people around you love you, and will they give you wine and cheese willingly if you ask for it?

I mistook pedigree for traditions that matter, and traditions, such as the continuation of wine, cheese, and food with lots of butter are worth holding on to as long as you can. But families age and change; your beloved only child has absolutely no interest in the spritz cookies that defined your childhood Christmas experience and that you painstakingly make each year; so now just you and your sister eat them. He prefers the Nestle Toll-House dough you buy at the store. But truly, I’m not bitter. And parents get older and eat like birds, which is good because most of the traditional menu would make their primary care doctor put us on an “abusing elders by high salt and fat holiday food diet” watch list.

This year my family reached that point of hey, traditions are cool until they no longer serve, so what should we do this year?

I paraphrase “The Graduate” and the career advice the middle-aged neighbor gives Ben: “One word: plastics.”

Our new tradition should be one word: corn.

Like our epic tale of Beocat, this tale starts with an impossible task. To celebrate a Christmas when there is a new venue, the attendants all need to be picked up, and the holiday falls on a Tuesday in the middle of a work week. Oh, and there was a medical emergency just days before the holiday. (Everyone is OK!)

On Christmas day, my sister realized she had no vegetables to accompany the short ribs she was making in the crock pot. Or did she? Resourceful as ever, she dug around in her pantry until she found a can of creamed corn and a can of corn. Score! A quick trip around the internet revealed several viable recipes, some with cream cheese and bacon, also things my sister had on hand. Turns out folks in the South love creamed corn casseroles, cheese and corn, bacon and corn, corn and corn — it’s some kind of tradition down there. So my brother-in-law hunted down more cans of corn from the only store open on Christmas day, the CVS, and we were in business. Perhaps we have even started started a new tradition. Seems like there are plenty out to choose from, and it doesn’t take a pedigree to try them. It just takes a small panic and a stocked pantry.

Even if we don’t make it a new tradition, my sister said she always wanted to be the kind of cook who could look into her pantry and make a meal out of it. Congrats, sis, you can cross that off your bucket list.

Corn photo credit: State Street Farmers Market in Tennesse

 

 

 

 

Top 5 for 2018, Cuz We’re All in Hurry

I usually do a top 10 or top 11, because it amuses me, but this year I just have time for 5, but I’m guessing you won’t mind. You’ve got things to do too, don’t you. I just want to say thank you for reading in 2018, thank you if you’ve been reading longer than that (check is in the mail, I swear), and thank you for continuing to read in 2019, if you are so moved. I love that two pieces I wrote eons ago continue to get readership–it cracks me up and lifts me up : Jilted by My Hairdresser—Twice and Shaving, Waxing, Electrocution: A Primer on Women’s War on Hair. I just realized they are both about hair, one flippant and one serious. So we must all have a thing about hair–hmmmm. Food for thought for 2019. Or maybe hair for thought.

Happy new year and here’s to making 2019 better than 2018. The bar is pretty low, people.

Anyway, here are the top 5 posts for 2018. I swear I’m not insulted that they aren’t all from this year. That’s cool. Really. Fine, I’ll work harder next year!

5. Wine Whine  : So I’m guessing you all like wine, and that’s why I like you. Some of you are sommeliers, and more power to you. Me? I’m a simple girl. Show me your wine rack that’s organized in a way people can decipher and no one gets hurt.

4. X-Files: The Bad Boyfriend I Can’t Leave : This one is the 2nd in the series, so I would be negligent if I didn’t  encourage you to read the first one: Christopher William Carter, You’re Grounded and then #3 X-Files, Fin. The fact that neither of those made the top 5, or the top 10 for that matter, may be an indication that it’s similar to the Star Trek movies: only the even numbered ones are any good. Whatever. If you are an X-File fan, prove it and read them! If not, you’re forgiven. There is a high probability the 2nd one is better than the other 2, but you didn’t hear that from me.

3. It’s a Cute Hamster Week : Not sure why you liked this one better than this one, which was so cute, it hurts: It’s Time for Cuteness. But maybe the cute hamster week, with the hamster hanging on is more relatable than cuteness that hurts. You can be the judge of that.

2. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: So I posted this twice, once in 2017 and again in 2018. I think that makes it a classic. (Hint: you will most likely see it in April 2019–for testing purposed only, I swear. Enjoy!

1. Alpha Flee: OK, so I’m going to pretend that the top post for 2018 is NOT a post I wrote in 2016. I’m going to be flattered you found it. Buried underneath 2.5 YEARS of OTHER FABULOUS POSTS. Did I shout? I didn’t mean to. I’m just SO EXCITED that you found it.  And now that I’ve reread it, you’re right. That is some damn good writing. So you’ve got impeccable taste. I totally knew that.

For the record, my personal favorite for 2018 was the Beocat Epic tale. Long live Sir Beocat!

Happy New Year my loves and see you in 2019.

Merry Christmas

There, I said it. It’s a holiday, so I hope you are spending it the way you would like. I’m with my family, so you’ll have to look for my witty banner next week. Wait–that wasn’t a side eye to my family. I swear.

I will give you my friend’s holiday-related post which I thoroughly enjoyed. Bumble vs Winter Warlock  anyone?

Anywho, here’s a picture of my tree–that’s all you’re getting this week. Kisses and lots of eggnog and cheer for you!

In Praise of Things That Are Bad for You

It had been awhile since we’d been together. I had to give you up because, well, you’re just no good for me. But I got to missing you, and of course, the more I tried not to think about you, the more you popped in my mind, unbidden, at awkward times. Worse was when I realized how close you were to my work place. Part of what had helped me avoid you was that you had disappeared from your usual haunts, and that was good. I knew I couldn’t run into you unexpectedly. But there you were, so close. I managed to resist for a good 6 months, but then one day, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I walked into that deli near work and ordered an American sandwich.

Actually, I first asked if they had bologna, an essential ingredient. The counter person had to go to the back room to check. In case you haven’t been paying attention to this food travesty, bologna has been slowly disappearing off of deli menus in the Boston area. Even the cafeteria at the hospital where I work stopped carrying it. I get it. It probably has the same amount of real ingredients as a Twinkie, but also like a Twinkie, it’s soooooooo yummy, in a terrible-for-you-don’t-ask-what’s-in-it-fat-and-salt-heaven kind of way.

He returned to confirm he did have bologna. So I asked for an American sandwich, which is not on the menu, but it’s a good Italian deli, so I know they’d make whatever I wanted. He looked a little puzzled, so I explained it’s an old-fashioned sandwich, the American version of an Italian. And then I felt weird emphasizing “American” to him — he had an Italian accent — and for a second, I thought, oh crap, I hope he doesn’t think I’m emphasizing the American thing because I’m against immigrants and their sandwiches. Really, sir, I just love crap food, this isn’t political at all. Thanks again Cheeto flea for seeping your nonsense into an innocent food transaction.

Don’t let anyone try to tell you it’s ham, turkey, and cheese. That is so wrong, wrong, wrong. Turkey is nothing but an interloper here. I explained it’s made of bologna, ham, and American cheese. Ugh, more emphasis on American! I flashed my most welcoming I-come-from-immigrants-too smile. He nodded and came out from behind the counter and walked into another part of the store, and I lost sight of him. I waited awkwardly, assuming he was doing something related to my sandwich, but when it seemed he’d been gone for several minutes, I worried I really had insulted him. Several people came and went with their sandwiches while I waited, impatient, nervous.

Finally he appeared with a small, beautiful pile of perfectly sliced bologna. He proceeded to make my sandwich with artistic flourish — clearly this man knew sandwiches: extra mayo, yellow mustard, lettuce, tomato, and extra pickles — the heavenly little cubed ones.

I called him my sandwich hero and thanked him for making my day. I’d rather he think I was a sandwich weirdo than a MAGA weirdo.

Back at my desk, I unwrapped the deli paper carefully, gazed upon my long-lost love, and enjoyed every single phosphorus-infused bite.

Praise bologna!

Wine Whine

I’m all about doing my errands to and from work, so the other day I popped into a new wine store on my way home. That the sandwich board said something about cheap wine was merely a seal on the cork. Turned out to be more like a snake in the grass.

I walked into a sleek, white space, and it’s not just me saying it. The Google blurb calls it a “sleek liquor store.” It also says it has wine tasting machines that dispense samples, which must be well-hidden. Or maybe I was so distracted by the sleekness, I missed them. Sleekness apparently means bottles must be stored upright, 6 bottles high, with an additional 4 inches high of space per bottle. That is approximately 2-3 more bottles high than I can reach. I’m pretty sure no one under 6 feet tall could reach the top shelf. If you want to force customer interaction and make me ask to get a bottle of wine, move your business to the South. Ain’t no New Englander got time for that. Especially those after a long day at work. See, if we New Englanders want help, we’ll ask. If we want to chat, we’ll go visit a friend. Got it, Sleek?

As I was puzzling over the overwhelming display, a young one came out of left field, or actually from the left side of the store, and startled me. He of course asked if I needed help, and when I said I was just looking, he said something curt and turned away. That would have been a good time to offer the wine dispensing machine, my friend.

But personally I think it was because he knew damn well the wine rack system was incomprehensible without his guidance, and he was mad he didn’t get to explain it. Note to young hipsters: if I have to spend any time figuring out your wine storage system, you’ve probably already lost me. And maybe you didn’t want me in the first place, so perhaps the feeling is mutual. Fair enough.

Now there are occasions when I’m buying for another person, and I love nothing better than saying to a wine store person, “I need a wine to impress a Frenchman who is rather picky in his wine choices and drinks only reds, preferably grown in sandy soil.” They love that shit, believe me. And depending on the friend, I don’t mind spending money.

But today I was just buying for me, looking for a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc. But the Sleek Wall of Wine didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason to it. There was a sauvignon blanc over there and another up here. I wondered if it was like a bar, with the “top shelf” stuff higher up and the bargain stuff at the bottom? Or maybe it was alphabetical? Nope. Then I notice 2 big labels: 1W and 2W. They were sitting near each other, with no explanation. Was it code? A bad rhyme ? 1 wine, 2 wine, red wine, white wine? Cripes, now I need a key or decoder ring? I glanced around, but didn’t see a key posted anywhere. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to ask the hipster now. This was war.

That’s when I realized there were no price tags. What fresh retail hell is this?

winewhine1

So, you’re going to make me ask you to recommend a Sauvignon blanc and you’re either going to hand me a $30 bottle or ask me what my price range is and just like the real estate agents do, you’ll make sure to stay in my upper range. Hey, hispter, what’s in your 2/$15 bargain bin? Oh, wait, all this sleekness discourages a bargain bin, despite your “come hither” sign about cheap wine. What a scam.

At this point my head was spinning, and not in a good way from drinking too much wine, so I left. I was pretty sure there was another wine store before I was going to get on the train.

Sure enough, several blocks later, I saw a little store with wine and groceries. Ahhhh. Familiar wooden racks, wines displayed on top, and the extras directly beneath, laying horizontally snug. And hey, looky here! Three Sauvignon blancs next to each other and 2 from New Zealand. All with sticker prices. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I picked a bottle, handed the nice man my 10 bucks, and was on my way.

I do wish Sleek Wine Store all the best. I’m sure you’ll be great down South.

Paying It Forward

Another quick one, my chickadees. Yours truly had too much fun this weekend, and you know what that means. The facade I like to cultivate that I’m a dedicated, organized blogger gets blown to Cheeto land. I did get to see my best friend from childhood and her delightful, funny husband. They live in the desert, and I don’t get to see them very much, so that was completely awesome.

Back at work today, I got a text message from the kid to tell me his friends were over again and that they’d used my card to get food. I sighed heavily. They have been frequenting my house several times a week for the past few months. I get it, this is their last summer together before college changes everything. But today I got crabby. Where are the other parents? I muttered to myself. Why is my house where everyone gathers? No one offers to pay for anything. We end up driving everyone one home. Grumble, bitch. I checked my account for the food delivery damage. $60 bucks. Sigh.

But then I thought about my childhood friend. Her house was the gathering house. It had a yard all around it and had the advantage of not having a dad who yelled, like I had at my house. In the summers, we practically lived at her house, showing up before lunch and staying way past sunset to play hide and seek. And all day we inhaled immeasurable amounts of ice cream, Popsicles, sandwiches, snacks, and Kool-Aid. True, there were 7 kids who actually lived there, so what was a couple more, but still. I never heard her mom complain about us being there, sprawling all over the furniture, running around the yard, or consuming mass quantities of food.

So as I sit and listen to the kid and his friends laughing and talking trash (OK, it’s Dungeons & Dragons trash talking), I realize, I’m paying it forward for all those summers of freeloading as only kids can do — freely, without malice, and with gusto. Thank you summer second mom, I’m honored to carry on your tradition.

Week Two

It was kind of a rough week. I don’t recall the last time a president’s executive order increased my work load in hospital communications. So you can blame the Cheeto for this short post. His nonsense took up most of my energy this week having to write something to calm employees and patients about the immigration ban. Meanwhile, inside I felt like an old school journalist, sweating under deadline, in a cloud of cigarette smoke, and wishing for a Mad Men-like flask in my drawer. The week did end well, though, with a family gathering for my son’s birthday, and a Planned Parenthood meeting at a friend’s house. Some quality family time and political action does a girl good. I learned a number of things at the meeting:

  • Planned Parenthood provides Pap tests, breast exams, birth control, HIV testing, health care for men and women, and more.
  • In many communities, especially rural ones, Planned Parenthood is the only safety net provider of family planning.
  • I need a group, a glass of wine, and tasty snacks to help me write political letters. A while ago I had put in a reminder to myself to write to my US representative Katherine Clark about something. So, I thought I’d finally do that as well. When I pulled it up on my phone, it said “Thank Katherine Clark for not going to the inauguration.” Um, yeah, so clearly I can’t be trusted by myself to get the job done. In addition to asking her to keep funding Planned Parenthood, I was sure to thank her for all she was doing. Better late than never, I suppose.

So, that’s all I got this week. That and the photo from a long ago, far away vacation (back in September) with my sis and bro-in-law on Hilton Head island. That is my current happy place.

If you’d like to help keep Planned Parenthood funded, go to www.istandwithpp.org/call .