I like to plan and cook meals for guests, especially if I have a theme. Tomorrow evening’s theme is Morocco.
- Appetizers on porch: hummus with pita and small rounds of Merguez
- At the table:
Until about two years ago I didn’t think of myself as someone who had groceries delivered. That was for rich housewives who lived in penthouses in Manhattan. Then a neighbor tried Peapod and liked it, so I tried it too and liked it. Since then I’ve also tried Amazon Fresh and Fresh Direct. I’m hooked.
Vegetables came from cans and were then overcooked on the stove: slimy green beans, mushy asparagus, soft carrots, even sometimes potatoes.
Liver was served semi-regularly and we were required to eat it until the taste made my brother projectile vomit over the table.
That time I accidentally ate raccoon barbecue at the Dutch Inn picnic.
Raised on Wonder and Rainbo breads, it took a while before I could eat whole wheat bread. I still prefer white bread (especially sourdough), but I know the benefits of whole wheat. My husband is only barely getting to where he’ll eat it, but he never buys it or asks for it at a restaurant.
When I am on my own I usually make-do with leftovers for as long as possible. I rarely make a cooked meal for just myself, and usually resort to smoothies, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, raw vegetables, peanuts, and fruit most of which is eaten standing at the counter and only when I am hungry.
I started growing herbs when we lived in Alexandria (around 1986) and cannot imagine not having an herb garden in the summer. Not only do I grow parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (French*, lime*, German), I’ve also planted basil (plain, holy*, Thai), cilantro, dill, lavender, bay, tarragon (French*, Mexican), chives*, oregano*.
*not currently in my garden
I asked for more beds in my raised bed garden for Christmas a few years ago and my family obliged. Since then I have planted tomatoes, peppers (red, jalapeño, habanero), lettuce, arugula, beans (vine, bush), cucumbers, nasturtiums, a fig tree, cape gooseberries and herbs. I added zinnias and sunflowers this year.
Family building my beds
When I was about ten my grandparents took me to a tractor pull. As we stood in line to purchase food at lunchtime I saw a huge sign that proclaimed BRATS! $3.OO! I remember being offended that my grandparents would consider buying food from a vendor that called children brats. (Figured it out years later)
Yes, I admit that I prefer Miracle Whip for sandwiches over any mayonnaise. That’s because mayonnaise, to me, is at best tasteless, and at worst bitter. However, I use mayonnaise (Duke brand these days) in most recipes (potato salad, pimento cheese, tuna salad, etc.)
Have I won your respect back, blogger friends? No? Go away.
Whenever I suggest something for dinner my husband’s first question, is “What’s the starch?” He was raised on a farm and their meals were always made up of meat, potatoes, vegetables and bread. (that’s two starches).
He’s gotten better and now accepts rice or pasta as starch but not farro, freekeh, wild rice, or couscous.
Like Italian beef and Morris BBQ, I miss Friday fish fry. When we moved away from the Midwest we were surprised that local bars and restaurants did not regularly serve fish fry on Fridays — at least not like back home. We either had to make do with fish and chips or make it at home.
I adore you, Wisconsin supper club, you’re not a typical restaurant experience, but more like the owners have invited me for dinner and I am sharing a meal with the restaurant (in this order):
- old fashioned
- relish tray
- salad bar
- warm rolls
- prime rib
- baked potatoes with cheese sauce
- brandy Alexander, grasshopper or pink squirrel.
While I started out drinking cocktails (Singapore sling, tequila sunrise, daiquiris) and was always game for a good gin and tonic in the summer, I preferred wine. These days, however, I’m getting into some fun cocktails with exotic ingredients. My favorite two recent discoveries are the last word and aviation.
An aviation on the porch
I developed a taste for whiskey in Ireland in the seventies and for decades only drank Irish Whiskey (or rye if the bar didn’t have the Irish variety). My tastes changed the night David poured us a wee dram of Highland Park Scotch. Now I usually prefer to drink Scottish Whisky, the smokier the better.
After a brief but intense fling with Shiraz around the turn of the century I realized I liked white wine more than red. My favorite is a crisp, citrusy NZ Sauvignon Blanc, but I also enjoy an oaky Chardonnay. I still drink some red, but usually only in the winter or with a hearty meal.
Years after the first two wine experiments I finally developed a taste for it. No longer a teetotaler I asked the bartender at the Elbow Room in Pittsburgh, a burger joint slash bar we frequented, what wine he recommended. He poured me a Valpolicella. I liked it. I think I also just like saying Val-pol-li-CHEL-la!
Though I wasn’t a drinker, Dad suggested I bring a bottle of wine to Marcia‘s party. He picked up a bottle of port because it was sweet and thought I’d like it.
I am still not sure who cleaned the bathroom, changed my clothes and put me to bed that night.
My first alcoholic drink was a glass of wine poured from a gallon jug, accompanying a meal of spaghetti and meatballs at my parent’s dinner table. A little later I walked to my waitressing job. The glow I felt inside must have shown because I got more tips that night then any night after that.
In 1991 a neighbor gave me a Penzey’s spice catalog. Then it was made of newsprint with no pictures. After my first shipment I loved the spices so much I never looked back. Today my spice cupboard is overflowing with Penzey’s spices.
I admire owner, Bill Penzey‘s, commitment to integrity and contempt for the current administration.
In grade school I wrote a poem about sauerkraut that ended with something like “I love sauerkraut even when my mom burns it.” That statement is still true, although these days I eat it cold, sometimes right from the jar. My favorite is made in Olympia, Washington. Currently there are four jars in my fridge.
In my vegetarian days (late 1970s to late 1980s) lentils saved my life. When I lived at home Mom refused to cook differently for me so I learned to make lentil loaf. Later, on my own or with Dean I cooked lentil shepherd’s pie, lentil soup, lentil burgers…
I still cook with lentils often.
At some point in my twenties I learned to make a roux and it changed my life. Finally perfect gravies were a guarantee as were creamy cheese sauces (sans Velveeta). It was one of the first recipes I taught my children to make: equal parts fat and flour cooked over medium heat until thickened.
To me, opening a boxed lunch is like opening a gift on Christmas morning. What kind of sandwich will be in the box? What kind of chips? Will there be fruit? A cookie perhaps? I suppose if I had them a lot I would not like them so much. Or perhaps I’d like them more.
I once dreamed a pea-boy pal got squished and oozed green blood. From that day on I refused to eat cooked peas, only raw (no green blood appears). Cellist Natalie Hass also likes raw peas and named a song “Pea in the F-Hole” after a raw pea snack fell in her cello’s f-hole during practice.
In March I admitted my embarrassing little secret about actually liking Kraft Singles but I need to stress that other processed cheese food is not on a list of things I will eat. I grew up with Velveeta being just about the only “cheese” my family ate, even on trips to Wisconsin, the Dairy state.
Some say, “It’s just a French Dip.” But those of us who have lived near Chicago know better. An Italian Beef is spicier and must be served on soft Italian rolls (Gonnella if possible). It needs sport peppers but, please, no cheese. Sadly, it’s rarely found outside the Chicago area.
Beef Villa is my favorite
It might have been the spotlit statue of the pigs on the roof of the tiny Elgin restaurant, but I doubt it. It was the soft bun soaked with the juicy, vinegary, tomatoey sauce, the pickle-spiced shredded beef or pork topped with vinegar-based coleslaw. It’s just a memory now though, Morris Barbecue closed decades ago.
The first meal I cooked for my now-husband/then-boyfriend included gravy bread*. At the time I assumed everyone ate this delicious treat. It wasn’t until years later I learned it was food poor people ate — a way to stretch the roast from the day before.
*Stack, in this order:
- Gravy (hot)
- Roast beef (cold)
- Bread (white)
First it was cherries, June 2016 — my lips, throat and tongue began to itch, then peaches in July — same symptoms. I tried apricots, nectarines, and plums in August and they all caused the same reaction. While really just a nuisance, it feels like a tragedy to me because stone fruit is my favorite kind of fruit.
I don’t make quiches often, but when I do I remember my dad’s reaction to a Father’s Day gift I sent him: the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. He phoned after opening it and laughingly said, “real men don’t eat quicky?”
He liked the quiches I cooked when visiting, but always called them quickies.