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Category Archives: Food-Cooking-and Eating

Ode(o) to Ben Carson

Not quite three weeks ago Ben Carson was being question by Katie Porter, a member of the House Financial Services Committee. For those who haven’t heard about it, or (assuming you’re reading this long after it happened) hadn’t heard about it, she asked him if he knew what REO stood for. It is a technical term that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should have known.

Instead, Secretary (or is it Buffoon?) Carson thought she was asking him about Oreo cookies. Hilarity ensued, especially on Twitter. My response was to take to Photoshop for a moment and whip together what went through my mind when I heard of this.


Can’t Fight This Feeling

PS – If you’re really interested, REO stands for “Real Estate Owned” and is used to designate properties that have gone into foreclosure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_estate_owned

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“Daddy, I See Fat People”

I wanted to check out the new Black Bear Diner here in Simi, so I took Alyssa there for lunch today. I had checked out their menu and was a bit blown away by how calorious most items were, but knowing they serve cinnamon roll French toast kinda tugs at my very raison d’etre.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, it appeared the parking lot was full and there were lots of people waiting outside. Alyssa, who isn’t exactly shy, noted that all the people waiting appeared to be considerably overweight. She did not want to eat there, as she’s long been concerned with eating healthy and wants to eat more of a plant-based diet.

We ended up eating Vietnamese food at the Bamboo Cafe. She had chicken with lemongrass over vermicelli. She struggled with the veggies, but I admire her doggedness. As for me, I’m definitely heading there for breakfast soon. I’ve got to try that cinnamon roll French toast, probably with a side of bacon . . . and coffee, of course.


Cinnamon and Coconut Glazed Donuts!

Sure look good, donut they?

Staying reasonably faithful to a diet that’s both fulfilling and healthful is made difficult here at work. Whenever there’s an event that involves food – and there are lots of them – it is set out on a group of lateral filing cabinets that are just a few feet from me. In fact, of the one hundred or so people on the floor, I’m the closest to the food.

Today, someone brought in at least five dozen donuts. I resisted successfully, but I would prefer avoiding the “near occasion of sin” where possible. Still, I cleared the hurdle, and I’m continuing my quest to drop down to 165 lbs. by my 69th birthday in early June.


OK – So I Gave Up On The Twist

This is the fourth post I’m bringing over from The Cranky Curmudgeon. When I’ve moved everything, I suppose I’ll shut that puppy down. No reason to have both my blogs up when I’m only updating this one. This post kind of proves even old farts can change. I’m not sure when it happened, but I finally just gave up on enjoying the little cocktail addition I’m lamenting about in this particular rant. I still, of course, enjoy Scotch, but I’ve taken to drinking it neat a lot more and when I do have it with water, I’m content to just have the two without the . . . see below.


Originally Posted 26 February 2006

TWIST AND SHOUT

“Hello! My name’s {enter favorite name here} and I’ll be your server tonight. May I get you something to drink?”

How many meals start off with these two innocuous lines? For me they are usually the prelude to the antithesis of what getting that drink is supposed to be, a short, appetite-stimulating moment of anticipatory relaxation prior to enjoying a calm, stress-free meal. I don’t know about you, but my week is normally far too hectic for most meals to be truly relaxing. I do the bulk of the cooking in our house, and I have no use (for the most part) for things like shake-and-bake. That means there’s prep work prior to, and cleaning during and after, the actual act of eating. Sometimes I eat half my meal while I’m cooking it.

Lemon Twist

Gone but not forgotten.

I am also a Scotch drinker; have been for a long time. Scotch is the only type of alcohol with which I can attain the proverbial “three sheets to the wind”, yet awaken the next day with no hangover. I have always attributed this to the fact that Scotch is usually (in my case always) imbibed either “neat” (all by its little lonesome) or with water in one form (on-the-rocks) or another (with, what else, water). There is nothing froo-froo about drinking Scotch. Nevertheless, while not necessary, adding a twist (for those of you who do not drink, a twist is a sliver of lemon peel, the twisting of which releases a spritz of essential oils; it is not a wedge of lemon or lime from which the juice gets squeezed into a drink) adds just the right amount of subtle citrus flavoring which, to my palate, goes well with the smoky earthiness of Scotch.

So, here’s the problem. Why is it April, or Jonathon, or Heather, or William can never, ever remember I asked for that little twist of lemon? Why am I always put in the position of accusing my server of not being able to do their job as well as I think I have the right to anticipate? Mind you, I’m a good tipper and I’m not really all that demanding. I grew up in and around the food business and have spent a fair amount of time putting up with demanding patrons at eating establishments. I know how difficult it can be and I appreciate someone who does it well. I frequently tip 20% of the total (including drinks and sales tax), even if they forget my twist.

But . . . why can’t servers remember this one simple, little thing? Why? Why must I frequently forego it just because it’s not really, really that important? Although I’m not usually at a loss for why I think things happen, I don’t have a good answer for this one. I’m stumped. I’m coming to accept it as a universal law, like – Hubble’s Constant. It’s a corollary to another law I’ve noticed in restaurants; servers will never notice, despite ample opportunity to do so, that I’m left-handed and will invariably place a new drink on my right side. But that’s another story.

P.S. – I realize this isn’t really that terrible a rant and probably not worthy of a true (and cranky) curmudgeon, but I have too much respect for working people, especially those at the bottom of the heap, to ever get too pissed at them. Call me a softie, but there’s plenty enough crap out there to get worked up about. This ain’t one of ’em.


Celebrating Sociopathy At The Grocery Store

Shopping Cart in Parking Space

This is one of many photos I found addressing this issue. Clearly, I’m not alone.

This post was the second in my “Cranky Curmudgeon” period. 😉 It represents a behavior I have long been irritated by, mostly because of what it says to me about the nature of so many people. It’s not as dangerous as similar behavior on the road while driving, but it’s still mildly disturbing and it happens far too often to be seen as a mere aberration. In fact, while looking for a suitable graphic to accompany this post, I was surprised at how many people have registered their anger at those who do this.

Originally Posted 24 February 2006

GROCERY SWINE

I think there are numerous ways in which our country’s celebration of the individual is unhealthy and counter-productive. One of them is clear to me whenever I go grocery shopping. There are two behaviors of many shoppers who demonstrate this. The first is those lazy jerks who, having either picked something up they no longer wish to purchase, or whose children have grabbed something from the shelf, leave it wherever they are when they change their minds or discover their little darlin’s behavior.

Now, if it’s a bag of rice or a can of soup, the only damage is it creates extra work for the folks working in the store. I suppose I shouldn’t say “only damage” as even the creation of extra work translates into greater cost and, eventually, higher prices. Even worse, though, is the tendency of those who decide they no longer wish to purchase something which needs refrigeration, to leave it next to the potato chips, where they happen to find themselves when their befuddled minds finally comprehend the shallowness of their culinary desires.

Add to that the folks who buy things they don’t really want, but wish to “try out”, and then return it after they’ve given it a go, and you’ve got some large ancillary costs that have to be passed on in order for expected profits to be realized. This “trying out” behavior isn’t limited to grocery stores, btw, but we’ll stick to that option for now.

There’s another thing that truly irks me. I’m not saying I lose any sleep over it. In fact, generally by the time I’ve left the parking lot I’ve forgotten about it. That may be why it’s taken me years to reach the point where I can remember to say something about it. But it does make my blood boil a little when I see it happening. It’s not as egregious, but it’s somewhat related to the practice of perfectly healthy people parking in handicapped spots (even if they’ve managed to con their Doctor into helping them get a handicapped placard).

What I refer to is those who, having transferred their groceries from the shopping cart into their vehicle, now feel it is their right to leave that shopping cart in the parking space next to them. Most of these people are actually thoughtful enough to place the front wheels onto the median strip that divides the parking lot, but some will even leave their carts just sitting next to them, right in the middle of a spot. I suppose this wouldn’t matter much in an area which saw little traffic, but in a busy store it can be a bit of a problem.

What bothers me about this is the message, which is “My time is more important than yours. My convenience is more important than yours.” I can’t figure out how much of this is sheer laziness, outright stupidity, or semi-pathological sociopathy. I’m inclined to think it comes from a culture which is increasingly slanted toward the “me-first, you never” mentality; a belief that life is a zero sum game and you have to grab all you can get or someone else will take it and you’ll be left holding the bag.

This is, undoubtedly, a theme I will continue to harp on as I touch on other subjects in my curmudgeonly quest, not to right all wrongs, but merely to anger those who commit these wrongs and – perhaps – spur others to action in calling people to task when they exhibit these piggish qualities.


This was written nearly nine and a half years ago. Unfortunately, not only hasn’t this issue gone away, I’m pretty sure it’s actually worsened, with the me first, you never attitude it displays spreading to other activities and behaviors. I console myself with the belief the darkest hour is just before the dawn, though I can’t help wonder just how much darker it can get.


Getting High on Pie. Oh My!

Banana Cream Pie

Just Like This!

My mother used to make the most delicious banana cream pies. I think I could have eaten a whole one when I was a teenager. One Thanksgiving I was taking one of her pies out to our second refrigerator in the detached garage (we lived on the border of North Hollywood and Sun Valley and the garage abutted the Alley just behind Roscoe Blvd.) and I dropped it.

It was in a Pyrex pie dish and just shattered. I was crushed – heartbroken. There was no way to salvage even one morsel because there was no way to tell where there might be pieces of glass. That was over fifty years ago and I think I’m still suffering over it.


Giving Thanks is a Year-Round Affair

Senior Center at Thanksgiving

Some carving, some cooking, and the calm before the storm.

Last night’s dinner at the Simi Valley Senior Center, organized by my Rotary Club, and for which I was a co-Chair, was a resounding success. There were a few less people than the past couple of years, but we still fed around 350 – 400 seniors, plus a ton of volunteers. It is so gratifying to see so many people come together to make something happen like this and, truthfully, it is all the Thanksgiving I need.

Today will be a lagniappe; a little something extra; a little more than I need or have any reason to expect.

I have so much to be grateful for. My family and, especially, the two beautiful girls without whom my life would be so much poorer (though I’m having some doubts about the 13 y/o 😉 ). My wife, Linda, who puts up with my volatility, especially since I retired from the job I expected to work at until I dropped dead at my desk. My life after retirement, which is slowly resolving into something considerably different than I thought it would, but that I’m settling into rather comfortably. The wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from. My numerous friends, both irl and virtual, whose sharing, comfort, and kindness have kept me from despondency and buoyed my spirits when things weren’t looking all that good, and who have also helped me continue to grow as a human being.

I’m also grateful for the ability to think critically and the strength to seek out the truth and accept its lessons, no matter how challenging or harsh they may be, without losing faith or diminishing the love I feel for the human race and this beautiful world we live in.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Be well, be strong, be faithful to the truth. Much love and respect to you all.


Why Do They Grow Up? Because.

Love it when they feed themselves in the morning.

Love it when they feed themselves in the morning.

There’s a large part of me that doesn’t want my children to grow up. I miss my three-year-olds and the ability I had to pick them up and hug, kiss, or tickle them. I miss the intimacy and the feeling I was enjoying the most important love affairs of my life.

Then there’s the other part that can’t wait until I don’t have to take anyone to school and pick them up every day. I’m also glad they can finally make their own breakfast. Aimee even makes pancakes sometimes on the weekend, though Alyssa is just figuring out how to use the toaster oven.


My Comfort Food of the Fifties

Pineapple & Cottage Cheese

Pineapple Chunks and Cottage Cheese – Lots of Juice

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley during the 1950s, a time many have suggested was idyllic here in the U.S. While we know that’s far from the truth, it was a time when we didn’t lock our doors and kids were allowed to stay out past dark; at least in Panorama City, where I lived. I traveled between our house and my friend’s house around the other side of our block not by sidewalk, but by cinder block fences and back yards.

It was, indeed, a much simpler time; if not in general, at least for a kid. Or so it seems to me. I don’t recall parents being worried about pedophiles or kidnapping or one of dozens of concerns expressed by today’s parents. In fact, most adults I came into contact with wanted the kids out of the house; the more frequently and longer the better. Kids were, after all, better seen than heard and the best way to keep them quiet was to send them away, preferably outdoors.

I got to thinking about this because yesterday I treated myself to one of my oldest comfort foods, which also reminded me of just how simple some things were. My comfort food – this particular one, that is – consists of two ingredients: Pineapple chunks and cottage cheese. I did change them a wee tad, due to the needs of my diet and the availability of items that didn’t exist back then. I used pineapple in its own juice instead of heavy syrup and low-fat cottage cheese instead of plain old whole milk cottage cheese.

 

Franco-American Spaghetti

Seasoned ground beef mixed with this stuff made for one happy boy back then.

I was in heaven and made three substantial servings out of the can of pineapple and the tub of cottage cheese I purchased. It’s gone, and I’m sated. I find myself now thinking about another comfort food – also pedestrian by current standards – that I enjoyed as I was growing up back then. My mother used to brown a pound of ground meat, seasoning it with lots of garlic powder, then mix it in with a can of Franco-American Spaghetti. I introduced my oldest daughter to it a while back and, in the process, managed to raise my blood pressure dramatically due to the very high salt content of the spaghetti.

Regardless, she loved it and I’ll probably do it again . . . I just won’t eat so much, or so I’m telling myself.

I have other favorite comfort foods – good, garlicky kosher pickles for one, but these two are biggies, and they really do bring me a modicum of comfort; perhaps especially because I can’t indulge in them very often any longer. I don’t mean to sound like a marketer here, fishing for comments, but I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s favorite comfort foods. I’m sure there’s a huge variety.


How To Shop

Clothing for entering a blast freezer

This is what I should have been wearing!

Many years ago, when I was in the wholesale food business with my father and brother, we got a new customer who sold to many high-end restaurants. Many would recognize the names of these famous Hollywood eateries, all of which were very successful and (bonus) somewhat recession-proof. This was a very good thing for us, as it provided a substantial boost to our gross income. I became the schlepper; the one who had to drive around every morning and pick up the items our new customer needed to service his clientele. I did not mind. I was young and full of energy and truly enjoyed arising very early in the morning to greet the day.

My job meant driving around every morning, picking up the items that had been ordered and getting them to our customer’s location, where they would be either stored temporarily prior to delivery, or further prepared for later  delivery to their customers. Generally, three days of the week required me to enter as blast freezer that was forty degrees below zero; so cold that it had no solid doors, merely thick plastic curtains as a safety measure, ensuring no one could be accidentally locked in. The freezer was huge and the doors big enough to accommodate a large forklift laden with several palettes of product.

I never had to pick up more than I could carry out by hand, so I wasn’t in there for very long. As a result, I made the decision not to spend the money to purchase the kind of clothing that I would have needed had I been required to spend more than a few minutes in that freezer. I would put on a sweatshirt above my regular shirt, a jacket, and a white butcher’s coat on top of that. Still, I can’t recall a time I was in there more than a minute before I found myself wondering what it would be like to freeze to death. It was painful almost from the instant I pushed aside those curtains and stepped inside!

This meant I would generally stand outside of the freezer for a few minutes and mentally chart the shortest course to pick up what I needed, which would facilitate a quick retrieval and egress. With the exception of stationery stores, which I view as museums of contemporary business practices (and which have those sacred items, paper and writing materials, enshrined within), this is how I have since shopped for everything. I suspect most men do the same, despite never having had to enter a forty below blast freezer. It’s how we roll.


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