I Wouldn’t Walk a Mile for One!

There was a big To-Do here recently when we learned that imported foreign fish are being served at the NC Seafood Festivals.  Before I ginned myself up for outrage, I wondered, it being a North Carolina festival, whether “foreign” meant that it came from Virginia or South Carolina.

Nope.  Turns out that the festival fish needed passports, having been imported from China, Thailand, Canada, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ecuador.

Serving it at the NC Seafood Festivals does sound a little misleading, don’t you think?  Then again, ninety per cent of the seafood we eat in the US comes from those countries.

We have a new seafood market in town and I was thinking of checking out their selection.   Thank goodness I received additional  information.  A friend who eats meats and organs that I wouldn’t consider food (like lamb’s heart, which he tried–and loved– on a trip to Iceland) recently asked if I had any camel recipes.  CAMEL!  It seems that the new seafood market in town offers that and other unusual meats and he’s anxious to try it.

Seriously?  I have been pondering this ever since he told me about it.  Granted, I don’t travel much.  Do people actually eat camels?  Is camel on menus in New Yawk City?

Camels can carry about 650 pounds.  That would save me a lot of trips to Home Depot for mulch.  It would be like having your own moving van and it wouldn’t  need gas.  Whether or not it HAS gas,  I don’t know.

Where would a Charlotte market get camel meat?  Is there a global market for camel meat, or did one random camel come to a bad end somehow?  Did it carry one too many straws?   Did it get stuck when a rich guy tried to shove it though a needle’s eye?

Then it hit me as to exactly how a local seafood market came to have camel in its meat case.  The answer is simple:  it came over along with the “local seafood.”

Wonder if they threw in a few monkey patties.  I don’t even want to know.

 

The camel has a single hump;
The dromedary , two;
Or else the other way around.
I’m never sure. Are you?
Ogden Nash

 

Half-Baked

The house is quiet again.  That’s both good and bad.  We miss those grandchildren like crazy, but our muscles do need time to heal.  So does the house.

Dearly Beloved went bowling and/or played basketball with the three grandsons every day.  He admits that he’s not the player he used to be.  His jump shot lacks one thing–any hint of daylight between his shoes and the ground.

He developed a bruised breastbone and sore shoulder which he claimed prevented him from Furminating the dog.   After I said he’d need a note from the doctor, he found that he could manage the task after all.

Let me digress for a moment here:  I have mentioned several times that it takes him forever to walk the dog because he and Scout stop to talk and sniff every pup and owner they encounter.  (I hope you aren’t going to ask which one does the sniffing.)   On one of their walks, he talked to a woman about Thanksgiving and she told him of the fabulously prepared Thanksgiving dinner that she pre-orders every year and picks up on Thanksgiving Day.   As he was telling me this, I already had the phone in my hand to order.

Now, back to my story. . . . The youngest grandson (age 9) hit a wall on Tuesday when he came down with horrible stomach pains and a headache so fierce that he couldn’t handle TV, book, electronic games, or even food.

The family planned to run in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.  In fact, Youngest Grandson and DB were to do the 1K (DB had been practicing so he wouldn’t embarrass himself) but when YG couldn’t run, DB refused to solo.  Nevertheless, he took the two older grandsons over to watch them run their 5K while their parents ran in the 8K.

That left me with one sick grandson, one 17-month-old granddaughter, and Thanksgiving preparations for 11.  The word toddler has never applied to that little girl.  She is Turbo-motion with a capital T and the sound of her little feet on the hardwoods is a constant background noise, like a spoon tapping softly on a table.  That, of course, sets off a lumbering noise–me running after her–because this is not a child who sits quietly with her dolls.  She needs to know what is in every drawer, every cabinet.  She questions my furniture arrangement and her tiny arms manage to lug large footstools throughout the house.  It’s like seeing a stool levitate around the house.

I thought I’d done a good job of preparing for her by moving any tchotchkes.   Unfortunately, I had underestimated her climbing skills, so I started cramming things in closets and drawers too hard for her to open.  If only her granddad shared her ability to jump and climb!

Nevertheless, I managed to get the sweet potatoes and green beans prepared during that time.  The meal we’d ordered was for 8 to 10 people–the only size they offered–so I’d supplemented by preparing additional  sides and another dessert.  In a moment of panic, I’d even ordered a fried turkey from Bojangles, which I knew the grandsons and son-in-law would enjoy.  They’re the big eaters, so that reassured me that the other turkey, regardless of size, would be enough for the rest of us.

Because this was my first time buying a pre fixe meal like this, I’d naively assumed that since we were picking it up at 11:30 on Thanksgiving Day, that the turkey had been in the oven at 11.   Imagine my panic when I opened the two huge boxes of food to set out the meal and found instructions:  Bake the turkey for two hours.  I tore open the Bojangles package and found the identical words.

Two turkeys and four sides in covered aluminum pans, not to mention the extras which needed warming in pots on the cooktop.

I had ONE oven and 10 hungry people milling around, waiting for a Thanksgiving meal.  A feeling of doom encompassed me and threatened to defy my deodorant with an infusion of flop sweat.

About that time, my daughter asked, “Has anyone seen Ivy?”

The last time any of us had seen her, she’d been out in our fenced back yard.  Now the gate was open and there was no sign of Ivy.

My hungry diners hit the streets by automobile, bicycles, and on foot, looking for Ivy.  I sent a plea via our Neighborhood Watch list, asking neighbors to look out for her.

I remained at the house, tossing food in and out of the oven while checking on sick grandson and chasing granddaughter.  Thank goodness, she had found something to play with after all–the basket of dog toys.

Three hours later, at my brother’s suggestion, DB checked with the golf starter at the country club in the next block.  Yes, they had spotted a dog bouncing along the course.  The Pro went after her in the golf cart.  She cheerfully jumped on the seat beside him to ride shotgun, back to the clubhouse.   The guy took her to his home and began printing flyers.  DB, Daughter and Dog were reunited eventually and returned home where finally it had started to smell like a Thanksgiving meal was in the works.

Doing the math, you know that three hours didn’t give me time to bake two turkeys and all stuffing, scalloped potatoes, roasted root vegetables in those huge aluminum baking pans, but I have two words for you.  CLOSE ENOUGH!

Dearly Beloved says he thinks it was the best Thanksgiving ever.  You know what?

I think I agree!

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Oh BroJoe, Where Art Thou???

We thoroughly enjoyed the 666 barbecue of my earlier post.   In fact, I’d give it a 9-9-9 (with a nod to Herman Cain) on a scale of 10-10-10.

Doctors don’t recommend The Southern Diet.  In fact, they recommend moving our appetites to another warm locale, say, with The Mediterranean Diet.

My brother, the health nut, has always turned up his nose at Southern-fried anything.  When our mother used to want to go out for “fish fried so that it curls up at the edges,” BroJoe would shake his head in horror.   Just the word “grease” could set off his gag reflex.  So when he sent this photo, I was surprised that he’d even gone inside any place that served this stuff.  I couldn’t imagine him bellying up to the buffet line just to take a photo!

What th'...?

(Take a guess.  I know what they are, but not how they taste.  I’ve never eaten either.)

I wrote back to BroJoe that the one on the right used to be one of Mother’s favorite dishes.  As a joke, I asked which one he tried.

Astonishingly, he answered, “Both.  I ate them for lunch.  Now they’re eating me.”  

Not a 666, though the aftermath does sound beastly.  Nope, I’d say this one was an o o, possibly an o o o o.

“In God we trust. All others must pay when they order.” – Sign at Southern barbecue joint

(Okay, Connoisseurs,  the pans hold fried chicken livers and gizzards–livers on the left.  Expecting something else?  Nope, this is a chitlin-free blog.))

Anyone ‘Comin Thro The Rye’?

A British friend–the same friend who introduced me to Pimm’s Cup at a most memorable luncheon –wrote that she and her husband are hosting a party on January 25.  I love hearing about what is going on with her and I found this one especially fascinating.

The print on her e-mail was small and I read it as B-U-M-S night supper.  Her menu– Cullen Skink soup, haggis, bashed neaps and taties– didn’t disabuse me of that notion until I googled the various dishes to see what they were.  Turns out it’s a BURNS Night Supper to commemorate the birthdate of beloved Scottish poet Robert Burns.  His admirers have been holding these suppers for over 200 years, but don’t feel too bad if you have never attended one.  Meal-wise, you haven’t missed much; they serve the same thing every year.

As for the haggis, several of the websites I visited advised one to “eat it, don’t think about what’s in it.”  Easier said than done, I imagine, since haggis consists of sheep’s offal, tripe, suet, oatmeal, and spices cooked in a sheep’s stomach.  Traditionally it’s boiled, but I found baked and even deep-fried recipes… as if the cooking method is what is troubling about the dish.

I don’t think A-1, Heinz 57, or catsup are up to the challenge either.

Having a Burns Night Supper without haggis would probably be worse than having a wiener roast without hot dogs.  After all, has anyone penned an eight-verse ode to a weenie.  (Perhaps it is worth mentioning that Burns also wrote six verses in Address to a Toothache, so an appropriate excuse for not eating the haggis might be that you are in need of a root canal.)

Yesterday’s e-mail from my friend sounded a bit anxious.  Some of her guests are “finding all kinds of excuses” not to eat haggis, including one who claims an allergy to onions.  My friend doesn’t understand it.  She said,  “We used to boil up most of that stuff for our dogs and they seemed to like it.”

The neaps and taties–turnips or rutabagas and potatoes–sound divine by comparison.  I asked whether she’d considered one of the recipes out there for vegetarian haggis, but she fears flipping Robbie in his grave with the vegetarian substitution.  You can see why.  The man was definitely a carnivore.   Here’s his Selkirk Grace which is always recited at the suppers:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Even if there is not be a bagpiper in the group, Burns’ music should be a part of the evening and it always ends with Auld Lang Syne, which Burns loved, even if he didn’t write it.  Male guests wear kilts; it’s definitely a tartan night.  I’m not sure about the women.  How about something in a red, red rosy color?

There are speeches, toasts, recitations, songs, and plenty to drink–Scotch, of course, and perhaps wine as well.  Dessert, my friend says, will be shortbread and Cranachan–raspberries, cream, honey, Scotch, and toasted oatmeal are the main ingredients.  For awhile there she was considering clootie dumplings, but dismissed them as being “awfully stodgy.”
Too bad it wasn’t Burns who said that life is uncertain; eat dessert first.
My friend is holding her Burns Night Supper at her home, which was built about 300 years before Burns was even born.  (I don’t think she’d mind my sharing this picture.  She sent it to me last spring when we were trading gardening photos.  Note the thatched roof.)
If it’s too late for you to plan your own Burns Night Supper this year, how about a simpler commemoration? How about a nice bowl of cock a leekie soup and a toast with a raised tumbler of Scotch?  It’s exactly what it sounds like: chicken and leek soup with barley.
At least listen to Eddi Reader’s rendition of a favorite poem.  This is from her album of the songs of Robert Burns.

The Poke Salad Saga

Here’s another one of Dearly Beloved’s stories from his college days on the cattle ranch.

POKE SALAD

Yes, poke salad is real.  I had never had it unt il my junior year in college.  I was staying at a boarding house in the small town near the cattle farm where I worked.  After my morning classes I would go back to the boarding house and have lunch in the dining room with the locals.  Mr. and Mrs. S. ran the boarding house and turned the dining room into a family style restaurant at mealtimes.  Mrs. S. was an excellent cook and was well known for “down home” meals.

Prior to running the boarding house, Mr. and Mrs. S. ran a small restaurant in town, and Mrs. S. also cooked for the jail where Mr. S. was the jailer, working for the sheriff.  Mr. S. was a lazy man.  I’m not sure why they went into the boarding house business.  Maybe being the jailer was too much like work for Mr. S.  In any event, Mrs. S. did all the work at the boarding house, from cleaning the rooms, buying the groceries to cooking and serving the meals.  She was as industrious as Mr. S. was lazy.

She was slightly plump, wore a hairnet over her salt and pepper hair that was generally in a bun.  She always wore an apron except when she sat in one of the rocking chairs on the wrap around front porch.  This happened most nights after she had cooked three meals for 5 to 15 or so at each sitting, cleaned the house and taken care of the other chores.  She did this all with a smile, but there was a furrow in her forehead that never left.  In the evening, when everything was quiet and her work done, she would take off her apron and almost ceremoniously fold it over her rocking chair’s arm and sit peacefully.

There were five boarding rooms with two or three occupied by regulars and the others by short-timers that would stay for one night up to a month or so.  She was careful not to rent to troublemakers, but there were several who had checkered pasts.  Mr. S. was quick to declare his friendliness with Sheriff C., who lived around the corner, so there was never any real trouble.  Mrs. S. was nice to everyone.  Not so much, Mr. S.

Mr. S. was a big man, well over 6-feet.  He had broad shoulders, large hands, but looked soft, and he was.  He had red hair, a large hooknose and always wore a 10-gallon cowboy hat, except when he was eating.  He had no teeth.  Well, he had some, but never put them in.  Eating was somewhat of a problem, but he accomplished it nonetheless.  He was partial to Mrs. S.’s biscuits with honey and chicken and dumplings.  He constantly smoked Pall Mall cigarettes through an FDR type cigarette holder.  There was nothing else about him that would remind you of FDR, other than he was always sitting.  His favorite TV program was “The Rifleman”, which he never missed.  He was fond of saying “Wooo!” about things he liked, which he would say about most anything the Rifleman did.

After lunch each day, I would change clothes and go work at the farm.  One afternoon I was trying to build a new feed trough for the cattle.  I wasn’t having much success.  The incessant cackling of a bantam rooster increased my exasperation.  Just when I slammed the hammer into my thumb, the rooster ran across the yard.  He was about 20 yards away, but seemed like he was in my ear, cackling louder than ever.  Now it sounded more like a loud laugh.  I turned and in one motion threw the hammer at him.  The hammerhead hit him in his head.  He was dead immediately.

The rooster was wild and had hung around the barn living off of whatever bugs and seed he could find.  Apparently he had not done too good a job of it because he was skinny.  Nevertheless, I thought Mrs. S. could put him to good use, so I put him in a burlap bag and headed to the boarding house.

I arrived several hours before I normally did and Mrs. S. was in the kitchen.  She was delighted when I showed her the rooster.  She had planned for supper to be a redo of lunch.  In addition to Mr. S., there were others who would have supper that also had lunch there.  She was ingenious at leftovers, but there was only so much even she could do.  And she took pride in her meals.

She immediately began work on the rooster and asked me to go outside and pick some poke.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  She said, “It looks like a cross between dandelions and turnips.  It’s wild.  You’ll know it when you see it.”  Outside I went.  I knew it when I saw it, picked a grocery bag full and brought it in.

She said she didn’t need my help any more.  She would call me for supper.  I went upstairs to study.

Dinner came and she had a nice crowd of about 10 or so.  The menu was chicken and dumplings cooked with more butter, pepper and salt than normal.  The green side was poke salad.

When I sat down, Mrs. S. put a finger to her lips signaling me to say nothing.  The normal chatter included compliments about Mrs. S.’s cooking and this night was no different.  Mr. S. let out a “Wooo” when he tasted the chicken and dumplings.  She had worked magic cooking that tough skinny old rooster.  We had homemade chocolate pie for dessert.

Later that evening, I went out.  As I drove away I saw Mrs. S. sitting peacefully by herself on the front porch, her apron folded neatly on her rocker.

Reunited And It Feels so G-o-o-d!

Dearly Beloved and I attended high schools 200 miles apart, so we didn’t know each other during our teen years.  I don’t mind at all.  That way, I can believe without any doubt that he was as terrific a football player as he says, as Troy Donahue-handsome as his mother says, and as hard-working and industrious as his friends tell me.

In contrast, he pictures that I was not the plain, skinny, mixed up girl I remember (an awkward stage I didn’t outgrow until my 30’s.)

Would I attend one of my own class reunions?  I’d sooner empty Miss Piggy’s anal sacs.

On the other hand, Dearly Beloved’s class reunions are held locally, so it’s easy for him to attend.  He has another one coming up this month– the big 5-0.  I’ve attended two of them and know that the record of the couple who produced four children in three years will remain intact and that the guy who had been divorced four times may have increased his lead, since the astonished expression on his new bride’s face at the last reunion revealed that she was unaware of his dubious distinction.

If they recognized the guy in the best physical shape, DB would be a strong contender.  Sure, his medical records have as much ink as the rest of us, but his exercise regimen–walking a couple of hours a day– has him looking as trim and muscular as he must have been in high school.

Earlier this week we were driving somewhere when he pointed out to me that the sport shirt he was wearing was one he hadn’t been able to wear for some years because it had been too tight.  To show me, he said confidently, “Reach over here and button the collar.”

I leaned over and gave it a try.  No dice.

“It’s not going to work because of your turkey wattle,”  I told him.

“My WHAT???”  He looked genuinely stricken.

“This,” I said, reaching under my chin and flapping my own seductively at him.

“You and I don’t HAVE turkey wattles,” he said, quite definitely, yanking down his visor to confirm his statement in the mirror.

See?  Rose-colored glasses!  I love that about him!

He reached up and buttoned the shirt himself.

“LOOK!”  he said smugly.

I nodded quickly so that he’d undo it before his eyes started bulging.

“Oh yeah.  Lookin’ good, Babe,” I answered.

Here’s a question for you:  Is it a waddle or a wattle?  If you want to waste an afternoon on the internet looking into it, let me know what you decide.  I tried, but stopped to try some of  the exercises one could do to get rid of it, like bending your head from side to side but not touching your ear to your shoulders.  The cellophane sound popping in my neck was so annoying that I moved on to Option B–something about rubbing female testosterone on it.  I couldn’t imagine DB being interested and, since we plan to waddle through life together, I looked no further.

Maybe I’ll knit him an ascot.  They worked for Cary Grant when he could no longer button that top button, not to mention Elvis.  Heck, he couldn’t button down to his waist some days.

Nah.  DB wouldn’t wear it and it doesn’t matter anyhow.  His reunion is the week before Thanksgiving.

Gobble, gobble.

 

 

 

 

 

(Fabulous photo of the ascoted turkey is being used with the kind permission of LynnGuppy.  Her blog is LynnGuppy: Live Music, Fine Art, and General Mischief.  I’m not sure whether this is art or mischief.)

I Knew You Were Coming, So I Baked A Cake

Not surprisingly, since we’re complete opposites, Dearly Beloved and I have different thoughts about when bananas are ripe for eating.  He prefers them more the color of a Granny Smith apple than the golden hue I prefer.  Once a brown spot appears on the peel, DB shuns it.

Luckily, he doesn’t apply the same hard-nosed attitude toward wives or I’d be a goner.

He’s a banana-a-day man and also a Low-Sodium V-8, two slices of toast with honey, and coffee with light cream man.  DB isn’t big on variety, which may be the reason he doesn’t apply the banana standard to me.

But I digress. This is about the cake.

The kids and grandkids come to the beach-house-not-on-the-beach every July 4 week, so we arrive early to get things ready.  Since the fruit bowl had an abundance of freckled bananas, I decided to make a banana cake to get rid of the accumulation and have a dessert ready for the first night everyone was here.

While I used to make cakes weekly when the kids were young, Old Batter Butt here rarely makes cakes even for birthdays any more and certainly not at the beach, where the equipment consists of a hand mixer that sometimes rejects one of the blades.  If there are any cake pans here, they’ve been pushed to the back of a cabinet.  They may have even been relegated to the garage.

I scrounged up a Pyrex dish of “you’ll do” size and was immediately beset with a problem. The recipe called for a baking temperature of 275 degrees.  Backing off 25 degrees because I was using glass felt wrong when it was already so low, but then again….

I settled on 260, compromising with myself.

The cake batter hovered just beneath the Pyrex dish rim even though I was sure it was larger than the 9×12 pan the recipe recommended.  I thought I should shorten the baking time, but since I’d forgotten to set the timer until the cake had been baking for at least half a Daily Show rerun,  I made a wild guess as to how much longer it had.

The grandsons and their parents were going to the July 4th games at the park and when little Elmo asked me to go along so that I could watch him zoom on the plastic slide, I forgot all about the cake and jumped in the car.  Dearly Beloved stayed behind to wait for the cable repairman.   He was unaware there was a cake.

I was standing at the base of the slide watching Elmo when I remembered the cake.  I hurriedly called DB, who told me the timer had already buzzed, so he’d cut off the oven.

“Does the cake look done?” 

“Not really, so I left it in the oven.”

I pictured a dehydrated banana pone.

“NO!  Turn the oven back on if it isn’t done.  You can tell when a cake looks done, right?”

“Not a clue.”

I might have told him the top should look like a ripe banana, but by his standards, he’d turn blue, waiting for it to turn green

“I’ll be right home.”

When I returned and checked on the cake, he had indeed turned the oven back on per instructions, but the temperature had risen to the default 350 degree-temperature.  The cake was now a sickly grey soufflé.  I turned the oven back down to 275 and waited.  And waited.

That sucker took longer than a fruitcake to reach anything resembling a golden tinge and even then the middle looked a bit hinky. I was supposed to then freeze it for 45 minutes and since I hadn’t read the recipe in advance,  I had to clear out some freezer space in a hurry.

I tossed the popsicles that had a Best by date of 2006 and two strange turkey legs that I swear I’d never seen before, several bags containing two flattened hot dog buns, and some other items which may have been holdovers from the previous century.

When I removed the cake from the freezer, I halved and frosted it as a layer cake so it wouldn’t take up as much space.  The resulting dessert must be eight inches tall and I can’t even guess how much that sucker weighs.  The cream cheese frosting disguises the anemic color, but I topped that with toasted pecans just to make sure there were no naked spots.

Good Egg Son and D-I-L had arrived while the cake was into its second hour of baking.  They came bearing goodies, including some bananas they hadn’t wanted to leave at home to rot.  Thus, even though I’d used several for the cake, the fruit bowl was once again full of bananas in varying stages of ripeness and decline.

That first evening, Good Egg Son pronounced my banana cake one of the best cakes he’d ever tasted. The rest of the crowd loved it, too.  Dearly Beloved was so pleased with it that he referred to its preparation as a team effort.

The thing is, the cake is so dense and Dagwoody, slices must be small.  Perhaps it regenerates at night.  At any rate, the family really needs to eat faster.

Tonight looks like banana cream pie.

On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it’s just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the hell did you get that banana at…” – Mitch Hedberg

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana” – Groucho Marx