About Me

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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My Freezer

My freezer is a goldmine of good intentions. It’s loaded with frozen potential suspended in various states of creation. There’s Thanksgiving stuffing from last year waiting for the right moment to either be thrown away or changed into pot pie topping with frozen chicken meat equally as old, and peas and carrots only bought for the said purpose.

Staples move through the freezer to fridge like soldiers to culinary war. The egg beaters ready for de-frosting to make cholesterol free baked goods or a Sunday omelette. Coffee in the bean form to stay fresh. Various tasty sausages are my arsenal against a boring weekday meal. They slip into stir fry’s, soup, or as a protein topping on salad. Pork tenderloin, ground buffalo, stray chicken breasts with or without their skin all contribute to the efficiency of the freezer stash.

In the door we have immediate, not-to-get-lost items. Nuts, whole, ground, and chopped jostle next to various sized household batteries that are stored according to an urban legend that they would last longer. True or not our freezer has been the battery's home in many of our houses and I can locate them quickly when the flashlight dims. Little plastic bags of chicken fat wait for rendering on top of a new freezer necessity, porcini powder. The powder was bought with all surety that this secret ingredient would blast through my culinary repertoire giving that secret umaji to my daily meals leaving the family panting for more and voluntarily joining the clean plate club.

As new occupants sit front and center, bits and pieces scuttle to the back only to be guiltily retrieved when I reach just a little too far looking for the frozen butter. Small containers of chopped clams bought for white clam sauce play hide and seek when I want them fast. Filo and puff pastry make seasonal appearances with their leftovers re-frozen for another day.

Last winter I decided to save the last cup of soup I would make and thus have a welcome addition to nights when I didn’t want to cook. A full season has passed and fall is upon me again as well as those little globs of frozen soup. They think they can hide in the back but my arms are long and off they go to the garbage. I don’t think I will continue the leftover soup practice.

There have been years when I dutifully froze pesto in ice cube trays, put tablespoons of leftover tomato paste on parchment paper to freeze and then in to baggies. The result? Flavored ice cubes with a hint of pesto and blobs of tomato paste that merged together during the freezing and defrosting cycle. Another example of efficiency gone awry.

There is only one habit I do religiously to foods I put in the freezer. I label and date them so I know when I can throw them away.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Lone Man and his Dinner

A worn key turned easily in its companion; opening the weary door that scraped and creaked, when the man entered. Inside, the living room held furniture that had seen better days. Fabric once colorful and stretched tight now sagged. Curtains rich with embroidery were brittle to the touch and rugs had traffic marks from years of shoes rubbing against their nap.

John was oblivious to his aging surroundings. They fit him. He had grown up in the house and was now living in the third floor apartment once reserved for servants. Shrugging off his suit coat he smoothed its lapel, straightened the sleeves, and removed his tie retaining the knot. Both were hung on a Victorian hall tree in the entry way.

Tonight was Wednesday. Nothing on T.V. All four channels were midway through their sit-coms. Another night alone eating dinner and to bed.

John shuffled into the kitchen and punched the light switch on. The kitchen was not much larger than a closet lined with cupboards that defied age with annual coats of cream colored paint. All surfaces were pristine. Even the top of the refrigerator passed a nightly white glove test. His eyes came to life as they embraced the kitchen. Opening the fridge, John assessed its contents. An absent-minded hum echoed off jars and tins. He delved in and began to gather ingredients.

Vivaldi jumped into the kitchen from a pre-programmed station. John’s hum couldn’t keep up with the pirouetting violins and abandoned song as he honed in on what to make for dinner. Foraging under the glimmering light; shallots, lemon, garlic, and parsley mounded next to the fridge. A chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio turned John’s attention to the cupboard. He removed a solitary Waterford crystal wine glass and filled it a scant ½ full. Swirling the golden liquid John inhaled then sipped from the glass letting its cool liquid caress his throat.

Veal scallops, butter, asparagus, and cooked red skin potatoes from a previous culinary adventure were added to the counter’s bounty. A second sip gathered the flour, olive oil, fry pan, and sauce pan.

Olive oil splashed into an aluminum sauté pan and water salted like the sea broke into a smile of bubbles on the stove top. Opening a drawer John grasped a steel in one hand and a carbon steel Sabatier in the other. A few well measured swipes against the steel brought the chef knife’s edge back to life and ready for work. The ingredients began marching to their destination with precision.

John’s whole attention was on the veal. His new culinary challenge was to teach himself how to flip food. Graduating from pancakes and not proficient enough for fried eggs, tonight’s venue was a perfect segue toward this accomplishment. Hot olive oil welcomed the flour dusted veal, sealing it and quickly and browning the edges. Moving the pan in a circular motion released the scallop so it slid freely around. Next, he thrust the pan back and forth until the meat was resting on the opposite side and slightly curling up the side of the pan. With a shake forward and jerk back the veal gracefully turned in the air and landed perfectly in the middle to finish its cooking.

A smile broke on John’s face while he thought of doing it again, a grumble from his empty stomach convinced him otherwise. Shallots, garlic, and a splash of wine went into the pan to reduce. Asparagus tumbled into the waiting water for a quick cook. Noticing his glass empty he poured another measureful. Aromas entwined with the baroque and steam warmed the kitchen.

John ran his dinner plate under hot water to remove the cupboard’s chill. Once warm it was dried, and the veal placed on the left side. Sliced potatoes went into the sauté pan with chopped parsley, and a large knob of butter swirling around and emulsifying. Three sliced lemons and a squeeze of juice finished the sauce. Drained asparagus joined the waiting veal and the potatoes wedged themselves between the two. Sauce was spooned judiciously over each item.

A single set of sterling and large linen napkin rolled tightly in a monogrammed ring went on the small dining room table. Candles were lit. John carried his glass and meal to the table. It was Chopin’s turn to accompany John’s dinner party. Lilting piano nocturnes soothed the room. At times like this John never felt alone he was his favorite culinary companion and critic. Wednesday melted away leaving an empty plate and a man content with life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pyramid Ponderings

The food pyramid has been niggling my grey cells recently. Setting my "phew" up in his first apartment and The Princess'’s second year of domestic bliss reminded me of food quagmires that young adults are thrown into by falling out of the nest and into their first apartment. By now they have mastered doing laundry-in fact The Princess was quite tired of my turning her delicates weird shades of chartreuse and relieved me of her laundry duty early in high school. I recently taught my "“phew"” about my secret cleaning weapon when his Polo was stained by a broken bottle of aftershave. The secret? "“Shout"” it out or throw it away. He bought a big bottle to combat his dirt demons. Now we are faced with fuelling the learning machine.

My "“phew"” arrived on our doorstep needing help in this final transition. What does he eat? What does he know? Can he follow a recipe? Will he call for help?

I made copious notes, pondered quantities and variety. Could I get him organized for independence? Then panic set in and I called my worldly Princess. "“What do you think? Should we get eggbeaters? What about spices? Kosher salt?"” my voice was rising as I estimated the set-up charge and thought about our car filled to the brim.

“Mom,"” her tone dripped of forced patience. "“Listen, boys eat anything that comes in a box- so get cereal, Rice-a-Roni, box Mac and Cheese. If he'’s interested get him some Hamburger Helper to create with. But forget the Wondra and chicken broth."

"“But what about veggies or fruit? Can we get frozen...?"”

"“Ma-its overkill- he'’s a big boy and believe me he won'’t go hungry."”

I sighed as I hung up on such sage advice and crossed off a few items on the list as I added canned tuna, sponges, and dish soap.

There we were, The Ant, Uncle, and "“phew"” hurtling down aisle after aisle pondering what to stock in the larder. We were informed that a trip to Costco was necessary for the survival of the "“phew"”. And true to form, steroid enhanced boxes jumped off shelves into our pimped out cart. Part of me was in heavy nesting for him and another part was in Costco denial. It was a tug-of-war down the aisles. He won with the gallon of salsa, and frozen orange juice (make note-need to buy pitcher); we won by talking him out of 96 rolls of toilet paper. He was captivated by a case of Ramen Noodles and eight pounds of penne pasta. We suggested frozen hamburger patties and double loaves of bread.

Then it was off to Albertson'’s to fine tune the chicken breasts. I was in my glory with The Princess slapping my wrists when I reached for a bunch of celery or other non-boy food. We settled on 24 rolls of toilet paper and in the box section I reached for one of our family favorite items- Near East Rice Pilaf Garlic Pasta. With a knowing look I snagged his attention and told him to save it for a special dinner with his GF. My dear "“phew"” flashed me the most wonderful smile and I knew he would survive.

I called The Princess later and regaled her about our adventure.

"“He bought a case of Ramen Noodles! Will he really eat all of that? And he only wanted one can of fruit. How will he... survive…"”

"Don'’t go there Mom, he'’s a big boy. And the Noodles? Trust me Mom, it'’s one of the boy food groups- remember boxes- he will eat them all- Trust me."

Now back to the pyramid. I recently discovered that the first food guide for children was published in 1916 by Caroline Hunt who divided food into five groups: milk and meat; cereals; vegetables and fruits; fats and fat foods; and sugars and sugary food. Now granted the term vegetable includes starch and non-starch vegetables it was a guide that was relatively easy to follow.

Reality struck a blow to the food guide in the 1930'’s. The government decided to change the guide into twelve categories which recognized different "“nutridense"” foods suggesting a balance between "“protective" foods that furnish essential nutrients, such as milk for calcium, and vegetables and fruits for vitamins A and C and high energy foods such as fats and sweets. At a time when any food on the table was an achievement for many I wonder how many were balancing the big twelve?

1943 turned the basic twelve into seven food groups: green and yellow vegetables; oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruit (interesting food group…); potatoes and other vegetables and fruits; milk and milk products; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dried legumes; bread, flour and cereals; and butter and fortified margarine (I guess olive, corn, and peanut oils weren'’t discovered). Since it was war time, portion and substitution suggestions were patriotically addressed.

The simplicity of suburban life and life with Ike was felt in the food guide and in 1956 those tiresome seven groups were reduced to four- much easier to follow- when foraging in the new brimming frozen aisle and burgeoning convenience sections. This is where my history begins with the food guide and those colorful posters with food divided into dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables, and grain products. I do understand that a lot of what we eat these days is hard put to fall into any of these simple categories. Life just isn'’t that simple anymore. Where does sushi go? But wait- it was easy to follow and figure out if we were listing toward a healthy meal.

Those heady days of 1979 brought back a whimper of moderation with the "“Hassle-Free Guide"” (how perfect is that title?) adding a shame-on-you fifth category; fats, sweets, and alcohol to drink sparingly. This still was a guide that any American could understand and connect the dots on healthy nutrition.

Much fanfare introduced the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid. I guess our growing sophistication rallied the USDA to create a guide that takes a nutritionist to interpret. The food pyramids of today have micromanaged our eating habits to the point of exhaustion. Each tablespoon of butter and ounce of oil can be pigeon-holed on the color-coded triangle. Now the pyramid is replete with a running figure dashing up the side of nutrition and what pretty colors our food groups are! We can even interact with our own private food pyramid on www.mypyramid.gov!!

I find this all well and good but getting back to my young adult relatives. I think a basic four or at the most five guide (they do need to know where the beer fits into the diet) is all they need to put basic nutritional components on the table. Once the rhythm of eating is established and the novel idea that a variety of foods makes for a healthy body, a pyramid can be slipped in with more nutritional fine tuning.

For now I hope that a bowl of fortified cereal is eaten each day, a can of tuna occasionally eaten, and the Ramen Noodles holds out until the next Costco run.

Scarlet Runners

It's all about color-and inspiration-in the kitchen! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dinner at Eight

For those of you who get TCM,netflix, or have access to a good video store (and yes, some blockbusters carry it), check out Dinner at Eight a 1933 black and white movie about a gaggle of stars culminating in their entrance to dinner. It is a wonderful story of morals and America on the cusp of the depression. I won't bore you with the amazing cast. TCM will be showing it on September 25 @8pm. Please leave me a comment if you are able to track this gem down or can watch it.
Watch and Enjoy!
Queen Art-o-Eat

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Finished Meal!

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A Corn Pancake Recipe

I was wandering too far down memory lane and forgot to share a recipe! This is based on The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison.
2 ears of cooked corn (about 1 1/2 C kernals)
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4t baking powder
1/4 C Eggbeaters
1/2 C skim milk
2 egg whites (from large eggs)
pinch of salt

Crumble corn kernals and mix with flour and baking powder.

Beat egg whites until they hold a stiff peak (a test is if a shell-on egg will sit on a mound of egg whites and only settle down 1/4". If the egg sits right on top, the whites are over whipped. If the egg quickly sinks- keep whipping).

Add Eggbeaters, mix well, add milk and pinch of salt, mix well. Lighten batter with a small scoop of egg whites. Then fold in the rest.

I use a 1/2C measuring cup for the pancakes.

Cook in a lightly oiled medium-heat pan and create your own memories!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Grandma and her Corn Pancakes

My grandmother was sitting on my shoulder last night. Images of her kitchen with its 1930’s glass front cabinets and red linoleum counters jarred my memory. There are dishes that are hard-wired into my psyche that she made those hot New Jersey summers when we would drive Back-East from Iowa. Meals were hot and served in an even hotter kitchen. But there were rewards for eating roast pork and sauerkraut in August. There was her sublime lemon meringue pie with its secrets laid to rest with her. There were German pancakes that I learned later were actually Crepes from a different country. But last night, my grandmother and I, made corn pancakes.

I don’t know where they came from- other than that they were a result of leftovers. We used to have them as breakfast after a night of more hot meals and corn on the cob. But having retired from breakfast duty, they became dinner for me. Everything Grandma did was economical and frugal. I’m sure she never planned leftovers as I do, looking forward to the second meal almost more than the first. Ah, but those pancakes were special. You see my Grandma had (what I thought was unique until recently reading Stand Facing the Stove about Irma and Marion Rombauer and the Joy of Cooking on page 242-243 where they mention the same technique) a special way of whipping egg whites. It was the only kitchen task that she did sitting down.

Resting on her lap was a smallish chipped platter. Egg whites sloshed together on the plate. With her right hand she grasped a fork and rhythmically beat the whites into perfect peaks. You should have seen her biceps! They turned from a flaccid mass under her arm to a muscle that could arm wrestle the trickiest white into full bloom. To this day I remember watching her with childhood eyes and listening to the sound of fork against china. As you can see it was a mesmerizing experience.

The pancakes are quite simple. I add ingredients as if I am making a crepe batter with least wet to most wet additions. Before I worked in the restaurant trenches, I also sat down and whipped my whites as she had done. My puny biceps ached as I beat the whites into submission. Now knowing the ways of copper and a balloon whisk I whip in the French method creating tiny tight white bubbles of air. I’m sure my grandmother would approve of this “modern” convenience.

I savored the pancakes as if I was young once again sitting on the grey painted wooden chairs with my feet swinging. My sister and I were in sugar high delight eating late summer’s bounty as a magical Pyrex coffee pot turned liquid from clear to brown as it brewed percolator coffee on the electric stove.

When my NSSP called from the Other Edge and I told him I was having corn pancakes, he sighed at the loss. These aren’t pancakes from his past but from our culinary collective stew. He knows that I eat them with Grandma and wishes he was there to indulge. When he comes back I will buy extra corn and we will share in my late summer celebration.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Deconstructed BLT or The No-Carb Version

Deconstructing food is all the rage-taking elements of tried and true dishes and giving them a twist without loosing the tasty comfort factor. Last week I made a BLT salad with chunks of lettuce, chunks of tomato, bits of perfect bacon, and a dressing of only diluted mayonnaise with milk. It worked but was hardly a gourmatized dish. The elements were rattling around in my brain. How could I make this a dish that would be worthy of a restaurant?

Then it occurred to me to cut hefty slabs of ripe tomato, chiffonade iceberg lettuce for the BLT crunch, and mix with perfectly rendered bacon pieces that had been slowly cooked to remove as much fat as possible. I tossed the lettuce and bacon with the diluted mayonnaise dressing a few grinds of fresh black pepper and Voila! A totally outrageous first course. Crunch, Salt, and Sweet sans the toast. Bon Appetit!
Queen Art-o-Eat
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is there an East Coast Tuna Sandwich in the House?

There was an article in the New York Times food section last Wednesday that I not only thoroughly enjoyed but also stimulated my “little grey cells” (as Hercules Poirot alluded to his brain). Under the Feed Me category by Alex Witchel was a piece titled Childhood Was Just Around the Corner. Ms. Witchel humorously describes how we cling to our food memories thinking that if we liked a said dish others naturally would. A second part of the story discusses our quest to re-create “historical” dishes. Then there is the culinary crossroad that some reach
when we try to adopt other’s food memories as if they are ours( I turn Mediterranean every summer with the plethora of vegetables), not only to be disappointed, but that they don’t connect the dots to our imagination.

One quest that Ms. Wichel was able to satisfy, thanks to her sister, was how tuna salad from Artie’s Delicatessen on Broadway at 83rd was a dead ringer for her Saturday night tuna at summer camp. This memory struck very close to home. You see, East Coast Deli Tuna is something I crave. I never knew that there could be different ways to make restaurant tuna until I moved to the Edge and now I have an almost fanatical yearning. I always order mine on toasted white bread. The cook uses an ice cream scoop and places the tuna salad in the middle of the bread so when it is cut diagonal there is a mountain in the middle, too thick to bite into and none on the edges. My adult additions include lettuce, tomato, and a slice of onion. Granted the lettuce and tomato are less than memorable but I like the added challenge to eating the sandwich.

The tuna must be white albacore and blended with copious amounts of mayonnaise to achieve an almost pâté-like consistency. Celery and onions are allowed but in infinitesimal dice so as not to distract from the salad texture. The perfect beverage? Lots of diner coffee at just the right almost tongue-burning temperature. I took this all for granted before I move to the Edge.

I should have known I was in for trouble the first time I ordered my tuna and coffee when the waitress asked if I wanted it with mayonnaise. I pondered- How else would it be made-

By the time my sandwich was placed in front of me, I was dreading my first bite. I removed the slice of generic tomato, onion, both true to form, and what was this? A piece of curly green leaf? Where was the armor of iceberg protecting the scoop of tuna with its curved shape? And then-blasphemy! The tuna used wasn’t albacore but chunk light. It didn’t have a smooth pâté consistency and pickle relish had been added. Yes, they grudgingly made it with a minimum of mayo or could it have been Miracle Whip? The mayo the waitress had asked me about was slathered on the toast. My eyes welled up with disappointment.

I had a revelation that day. I’ve turned into a diner eating east coast tuna queen. My NSSP goes back to his roots with corned beef or pastrami. I open the huge plastic menu and pretend I’ll order something different. Salami and eggs? Feta, tomato omelets- a Greek diner staple? Matzo Ball Soup? It’s all a ruse. I know the minute we slide into those huge Naugahyde banquettes with a metal bowl of pickles placed in front that it will be tuna and coffee. I will be in east coast heaven.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Bouquet of Friendship

How did my CN know that a riot of colors were just what this woman needed to cheer her up? Posted by Picasa

Summer's End

I have been dreading last night since the summer began. It was the night that the Princess went back to her six-digit college. The NSSP accompanied her to get her settled in. He then will proceed to a dip in the sands of Las Vegas for a convention earning the buckaroos for our lifestyle.

The last two weeks I was either basking in her presence or wishing she was “on the jet plane”. But yesterday there was nothing to keep the knot out of my throat nor the tears at bay as my sadness washed over me. There is no mention in child rearing manuals about how to deal with the flight from the coop. Yes, it’s cutely called empty nest but who talks to birds to see how they feel or cope? Going to college is a jubilant event- your child has reached a milestone and is on the cusp of an independent life. But for the parents it is the realization that we are getting old and forced into a change we didn’t foresee.

With two years under her belt, we were cohabitating quite well. There were no curfews. Meals weren’t mandatory, and there was late night entertaining on the lower deck replete with supine bodies haphazardly strewn on the floors of the lower level. Couldn’t this last a bit longer?

And so they left- taken away- to ride the red-eye back east. I was left holding down the fort with plants to water, animals to feed, and bills to pay. It was a hard night. I consoled myself with a Laurel and Hardy Netflix, and thought of my father who loved these comedians.

The next morning, when the alarm broke into classical song I reached across the bed to find Mr. B. Lightyear and not NSSP. I did have things to do. First there was a trip downtown to the library. What better place to “shop” for free! I filled my bag with abandon. If I get through three of the books I checked out that will be an accomplishment. In the mean time they are mine for the stroking.

An appointment for Mr. B. Lightyear’s nails meant a trip to my favorite grocery store. For some shoppers, their blood pressure rises with anxiety at the thresh hold of a grocery store. My CN calls it an allostatic load, a term meaning a time when we are faced with too many choices and become overwhelmed. I on the other hand get an endomorphic rush and my pulse slows as I grab a cart and throw my purse in the baby seat. I sailed through the produce section thinking of the two items I needed- organic milk and orange juice. I grabbed the ½ gallon of milk and then turned to stare at the o.j.

When the other 2/3rd’s are home we have a “no pulp” rule. I was brought up with pulpy orange juice meaning fresh-squeezed and extra good. Somehow this never translated to the other two so gallon after gallon I mindlessly bought no pulp. But now, a glimmer of healing, and shall I say rebellion to this rule crossed my consciousness. I reached for the pulp filled juice and it landed in my cart. Next there were the whole grain boules with dried cranberries and nuts voila la another slam dunk in the cart. Was that turkey pastrami that they all shun? How about a ½ #!

Although there would be neither extraneous noise nor extra mouths to feed I realized I could eat the forbidden lamb tonight with sautéed spinach and watch another black and white movie.

There is always a part of me that pines for the Princess. Her thick dark brunette hair, flashing smile, and ice blue eyes I attribute to her Great Grandfather. I also miss dear NSSP who takes the garbage out and walks the dog at night. But tonight I will regroup with the pets, admire flowers that CN sent to cheer me up and eat family forbidden food.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have crisp sauteed chicken livers flamed in cognac atop garlic mashed potatoes...I think I'm on the mend.

Queen Art-o-Eat

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Romancing the Strip

There are many smells that conjure up fond memories and stomach grumbles, but no aroma transports me like sizzling bacon. Pungent, unique, it stands alone or marries well with the steam of fresh brewed coffee.

But bacon…today it’s a rare occurrence and I feel decadent inhaling its salty, fatty essence. Each time a flood of memories leap from my past and vie for re-living.

There were the breakfasts of my childhood in Iowa. Amazingly crispy fried eggs that were achieved by sliding them in the too hot bacon grease. Bouncy scrambled eggs flecked with bits of leftover bacon crumbs that had stuck to the copper-bottomed Revere Ware fry pan. Sometimes bacon came with pancakes or French toast slathered in butter and swimming in as much maple syrup as I could pour before my mother noticed. The bacon in either case languished in maple syrup splendor adding a decadent sweetness to the already salty crunch.

Bacon in Bangkok was another matter. A short tour of duty in my middle years landed my family in Thailand and bacon bought at the PX. The humble hog parts had traveled miles in refrigerated ocean tankers and more often than not arrived slightly rancid. The unbearable temperatures made breakfast with bacon less than enjoyable. There was a respite from indulging in those dubious strips.

College and dorm cafeterias showed another side of bacon. Endless strips of bacon cooked in wee hours were held under heat lamps at the wrong temperature. They were undercooked, overcooked, black, and limp pieces to forage through until two perfect strips were discovered and put on my plate. Yes, I ate them, but they had not been lovingly prepared nor did they have the pervasive bacon perfume.

Bacon sidled up to lobster and cream cheese omelettes during summers spent in Maine. The sweetness of the omelette was a perfect counterpoint for you know what. The ultimate BLT was perfected. A contrast of hot toast, warm bacon, room temperature sliced August tomato, and cold iceberg lettuce slathered together with mayonnaise and eaten standing by the toaster while the next piece of bread browned.

My career in restaurants found me cooking bacon by the case. The sheets of bacon were deftly flipped onto sheet pans and cooked in fan blasting convection ovens. Bacon perfume permeated my whites. One whiff and I could be brought to my knees. For the first time I surveyed sheet pans of bacon and could pick the ultimate strip. I was in bacon heaven.

As years have gone by, bacon has shifted from a daily part of my food pyramid to a bi-annual splurge. I salivate for my summer’s BLT and the stray green beans sautéed in bacon fat. At Christmas bacon takes on many guises. It can be found starring in a Sky High Soufflé or enveloping my country pâté. Of course there is always breakfast. My passion for bacon hasn’t lessened but has developed into a deep respect and love for the humble strip. Each salty-meaty bite is a trip down memory lane.

Read, Eat, Enjoy the Strip!

Queen Art-o-Eat

Sunday, August 13, 2006

And the Answer to the Dish Dilemma?

With my NSSP in tow, we went to Crate and Barrel and stroked the dishes.Our eyes kept coming back to these pale-blue dishes and wonders of marital wonders we agreed on them! Life is good!
Their first food was breakfast prepared by the Princess- fried eggs and toast. Even Mr. B. Lightyear, the amazing four-footed Brittany, licked the plate in appreciation. NSSP made breakfast for us- A bacon scrap omelette with a few curls of cheddar chesse and toast with jam.
Welcome Nikko dishes to the Queen's castle!
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The Last Sasaki Meal

The last Sasaki meal was grilled chicken breast, broccoli and cauliflour, and basil pasta salad
-al fresco-
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Dish Dilemma

It started as a generous gesture. I offered a set of dishes to Bub, the Princess’s closest and oldest buddy. Finally, I thought, I can justify another set of dishes with the old set going on to college apartment life. We are not a single set family- more like a six set family (I forgot! We had seven sets until last year when #7 went with the Princess to college). Not all sets are complete but there are enough at any time to serve a small army of at least 75.

So why do I need a new set? Why can’t I be happy with five sets? Therein lays the question. You see, it’s not only food that I’m passionate about. It’s the plating, garnishing, and yes the dishes I want to use on any given night to express my feelings toward my family and to showcase the meal.

The everyday workhorse of my sets is a very pale pink Sasaki set. The plates themselves are slightly concave making them perfect for pasta or center presentations I have become a maestro of vertical presentations. Mounds of mashed potatoes studded with alternating green beans and slices of pork tenderloin. Keeping food separate is a bit of a challenge unless it will adhere to the sides. Sauces follow gravity.

Just for the record- I didn’t buy the second set- it was given to me, and how could I refuse a service for eight of Russell Wright American Modern in 4 amazing 1950’s colors? This set has put a new twist on setting a table. Sometimes it is an all one color night (well yes, I have added a few more plates, bowls, serving pieces-I have drawn a line on more cups and saucers), Sometimes it’s very calculated “spontaneous” combinations.Then if I’m particularly annoyed at one part of the triangle I give them the dreaded puke green plate. I usually find the dark turquoise or dusty salmon at my place. Salads look nice in the scoopy grey bowls and the chop plate and salad bowl are to die for!

Set #3 was a calculated purchase. Having been a caterer in the great mid-west I carefully washed more sets of dishes than I care to remember. One event introduced me to Manhattan Glass. Depression glass at its best with a smooth surface and ribbed underside. Food was back lit by the tablecloth and framed by the ridges. It became a must have and I gave two Ben Franklin’s to my favorite antiquing friends who were doing a foraging mission in Michigan. They were men with a goal. To return with a reasonable set of Manhattan’s for $200 or under. It became their quest and I became the owner of a budding collection of Manhattan dishes (did I say budding- well through the years it has become fleshed out with serving platters, large bowls, and sherbet glasses that I call Martini glasses). In the hierarchy of dish to guest these say: “Slightly formal, great care in the meal and its components, good wine, enjoy.” To the family they say, “Mother made a good meal, don’t complain, no elbows on the table, good wine, enjoy-or else.”

Set#4 is my dear Rosenthal. It took me years to decide on a formal set of dishes. Every time I looked Lenox and Wedgwood I imagined the plates with food on them. How would a Thanksgiving dinner look with flowers popping around the edges? Texture? Gilt? Bone? Porcelain? It became too much for me until one day I was stomping around Chicago with Baby Princess strapped to my front. I was sweaty and tired but there was a little china shop just a few steps down. I peered in the window and spied a demitasse cup and saucer. Pushing through the door I was met with cool air and a store full of glassware and dishes. As soon as my eyes found the demi- set I new Rosenthal was for me. There is just the ever so slight decoration around the rim. On the plates it is little blue rectangles that form a “sky scraper”. On the bowls this same design has gold demurely looping through the sky scraper. I was told that Rosenthal brings patterns back and this was a revival pattern. I feel I’m never far from NYC with these dishes. This set is FORMAL- sterling silver-always, good starched table cloth, generous napkins, best behavior, and great wine, ENJOY.

So far we’re talking about complete sets with the never used cups and saucers. My NSSP suggested one day (Oh, silly him!), that I could branch out and just get a few dishes- not a complete set- and that’s where four rectangular green back, cream front and bamboo design plates, came into my clutches. I don’t really consider them part of the set family- only four dishes- but they have become the Sunday Breakfast Dishes. And then there is the placement of the food. Do I cover up the arched bamboo design? Do I use it to separate the fruit from the eggs? Where should the wedges of toast reside? “T’ain’t easy”.

Sets #5 and #6 have been purchased On the Edge. Summertime is a time to enjoy decks and I discovered a Winsome pattern by Franciscan. What caught my eye was the elongated shape-little did I know that I had fallen in love with the rectangular servomg platters but they were perfect for a complete meal on one dish. The plates are big enough for corn, salad Niçoise, or perfectly grilled flank steak. Nothing touches and these burly boys come out and shine in the summer. I have added a couple of side dishes and a divided plate for fresh veggies. Lastly we have a new addition created from a purchase of very swank black bottom, cream top and the Z for Zorro in gold and black brush strokes on the top. How could I pass up $2 a piece and a set of 5? These dishes-and not to be alone- I complemented them with black bowls and triangle black plates from Crate and Barrel: are all about swell times and jaunty drinks. Food selection is crucial, stay away from brown sauces. Salads and fruit go great in the side dishes. Entrees can be artfully arranged on the plates with salsas, curry with condiments, or snow white rice. Silverware is stainless and tablecloths colorful.

And now to replace my Sasaki-I have settled on two patterns at Crate and Barrel and have enlisted my NSSP to give his opinion. One set is the palest of blue with slightly darker blue circles. The second makes a statement. It is dark on the back and a crackled cream front with a studied Asian influence. Which dish will reign supreme?

Any thoughts? Queen Art-o-Eat

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Dash to San Francisco

We're off this weekend to San Francisco- I'll fill you in on what I find!
Www.ingoodtastestore.com will soon be publishing their August e-mail. I have written a review of Joyce Goldstein's new cookbook, Antipasti lots of tasty treats and good advice from an amazing chef and learned cooking teacher.
Queen Art-o-Eat

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Arnenian Cucumber

Posted by PicasaI had to bring it home with me! The jewel like ribed skin was too pretty. I paid for it and tucked it under my armpit like a baguette!

Smoked Blue Cheese Squash Blossoms

A photo of the amazing blossom morsels. The picture doesn't do them justice. Posted by Picasa

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms are one of those fleeting foodstuffs and must be used the day you see them. I saw them. We were entertaining last night and the rest of the meal had been settled by my NSSP. He wanted to do something different, not a slab of beef, salmon,lamb, or chicken.

He suggested grilled sausages. "Sausages," I murmured. "Do you want them NY style with sauteed onions and peppers?" I was already trying to wrap my mind around this culinary desire. Usually he whatever is put in front but tonight he wanted to get involved.
"Yes, I think that would be good, on rolls and we can go the German store to buy them. I just thought something differ..."

Leaving him to his ruminations, I was already charging ahead with money in my pocket and stalls to enter at the farmer's market. Secretly I was hoping he was listening to himself- Italian sausages from the German store? I shrugged my shoulders and decided that I was freed from my usual Mediterranean summer fare. Fresh okra leapt into my bag. Flat Romano beans and then beautiful golden yellow squash blossoms nestled next to tomatoes and a gorgeous 2 1/2 foot Armenian cucumber (see above picture).

But I was in a conundrum. I had made squash blossoms before with a meat filling and if this was snausie night then that wouldn't do. On our way home we did stop at the German store and as I reminded NSSP that we were in a German store buying Italian sausages he mentioned how close the two countries were...As all good marital partners do in confusing situations, I blinked,shrugged, and steered us toward some German sausages as well.

So it was off to kyaking for NSSP and the Princess. I gratefully begged out and dashed into my car to finish shopping. Those squash blossoms were nagging at my creativity! As I entered my favorite New Season's I backed out of the recipe. I first thought of the coating. They would be deep fried in a panko coating. So we're talking crisp and brown. Then I thought about the meal, the snausies would be spicy with a snap of the skin. So what about a slightly sweet filling?

I drifted into the cheese department and thought of marscopone with its melt in your mouth texture. Yes! But it needs something else. My mind started to taste the different cheeses in the case. Then I spied those creamy white triangles with blue dots. Blue cheese leapt into mind. My favorite is the French Roquefort and as I paced back in forth the cheese guy came up to help. I painted the big pix of mascapone and blue and asked him what he thought of the Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue. I think he was almost salivating at the combination. There was a definitive yes to the combo. Just to get my 2 cents worth of his knowledge I asked him what other non-smoked blue he might suggest, that my palate would enjoy. He came up with a French Basque blue. The dish was almost completed as I pushed my cart through the store.

It needed one more ingredient. It needed an inner crunch. Hazelnuts and walnuts would be too raspy. I needed a soft nut. I looked at Macadamia nuts and swooned at the price. Almonds seemed too common and pine nuts too small. Salted pistachios sounded just right. So off to the bulk foods section for a handful and home I went.

I can't really give you a recipe although you can see from above there is a list of ingredients to be gleaned. I will say that those little blossoms never tasted as good! The filling became oozy inside and almost dripped down my throat. The outer crunch and inner crunch worked beautifully together.

The goop can certainly be used in other morphs- a touch as an omelette filling or smeared on a slice of bread. Even a little nugget tucked into a chicken or pork chop pocket would be great.

The night went to late to serve dessert so I packed up 1/2 a blueberry pie for our CN (Culinary Neighbor) and off she trudged up our driveway with dog in tow.

It was CN who suggested I write down the recipe I hope this serves as a jumping off point for your creativity.
Read! Eat! Enjoy!
Queen Art-o-Eat

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Pause to Ponder

I subscribe to a trade magazine, Nation's Restaurant News, and in-between the articles on franchises and chain restaurants there occasionally are nuggets of information that give me a pause to ponder. July 10 had a "consumer scorecard" analyzing the number-one reason to eat dinner out or "Why did you eat this meal away from home?" Now there is no mention of where this question was posed so we don't know if it was an Applebee's or Morton's or a little bit of both. Either way it was a depressing and whopping 41% who replied that the reason they were eating out was because they Didn't Want to Cook. The next category was 11% in Other, and 10% logged in twice for Special Occasion/Holiday and Out Shopping. We drift down to 9% who are traveling, 8% who Regularly Eat This Meal Out, a meager 7% On Vacation, 3% with Nothing to Eat at Home, and finally a mysterious category 1% Was Served/Available(so what does that mean?)

How scary that there are so many people on any given night who don't want to cook! Now I do have dry spells. Days when I go the grocery store and see absolutely nothing to intrigue or entice my palate; and there are days that I stare into the leftover laden fridge and pantry both of which are bursting with potential and find nothing to eat. But it doesn't take long to bounce back and sharpen my knives in anticipation of chopping onions and searing meat.

Cooking shows are a hot commodity and recipes abound everywhere. There are still 41% who don't want to cook? I wonder if those people even like what they're eating. What kind of culinary knowledge are they passing on to their children? I was brought up in a "no substitution" household. Other than liver night when my mother condescended to give me a hamburger there were no substitutions. We ate together and ate the same thing. We learned to tolerate what we didn't like and get on with the meal. What are we teaching children when each person at the table is eating something different? Where is the love transmitted from the household cook to the table? How will children learn to set a table if they only receive their silverware rolled in a tight bundle with a napkin?

What kinds of palates are being developed? Restaurants are in the business of providing a product and making money. To do so they must make their product unique, attractive, and tasty. Tasty is not necessarily good for you on a 41% frequency. High salt, sugar, and oils for mouth feel are all part of the restaurant's arsenal to make a memorable product and bring the customer back. For 7% on vacation, or even a 10% out shopping, a casual restaurant meal is o.k. because it is balanced with (hopefully) food actually cooked from scratch at home.

Once a person gives the power to someone else to prepare their food they loose control of their culinary destiny for that night. The household cook has a big responsibility to provide food that will build strong bodies and maintain health. Eating out frequently is hiding from that responsibility. Even when the cook buys processed food to become a "home-cooked meal", they are still making a conscious decision for the family's well-fare. Children need to be taught what are good choices and a menu of chicken fingers and fries is not the answer.

There were certain combinations that my mother put in-front of me that I hated. I couldn't get excited about the meat loaf, frozen lima bean and baked potato dinner but it was there and that was the meal. I was given the power to add ketchup and drown the triad.

The Princess has never had lima beans like I had never had Brussels sprouts before her. The reason? Both my mother who hated Brussels sprouts and I who hated lima beans used our power to ban them from the table.

I have no rocket science answers- Just think before you eat. Whether it's pizza in front of the T.V., an upside down dinner of waffles and sausage at night, or roast chicken, broccoli, and a baked potato; the cook is sending a message to the family when they eat at home. It's not the same as slapping a credit card down on a check.

Boogaloo Review!

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Boogaloo on 2nd Ave.

I've just finished Boogaloo on 2nd Ave. by Mark Kurlansky and would highly recommend it! It's delightful summer reading set in NYC. Mark Kurlansky has written several books including Salt and Cod.This book explores the micro society of 2nd Ave. It's a contemporary morality story centering around the Seltzer's and their apartment building during one summer. The cast of characters is so realistically portrayed that you feel you know them.

"Eli Rabbinowitz was shaped like a hamster, though larger and somewhat less furry. As Sonia Cohn Seltzer applied her long skilled fingers to his rubbery white flesh, he squeaked and sighed...Noises that reminded her of his rodentlike qualities." And that starts the book.

This microcosm, within the bigger NYC has every ethnic group represented and amusingly skewered. Food is treated like another character introduced with its own personality and importance. "There were the three Sals. They all sold homemade mozzarella and opinions."

Then there is the way people walk. Chow Mein Vega one of the main characters had a theory about the way Latins and Jews walked. "Jews walked to a very fast four-beat...dom-domdom dom-hey. Latinos have a three-beat like a cha-cha-cha sounding like du-dat-dat-dat. It moves your body a lot more, but doesn't get you down the street nearly as fast....Mordy's four-four was slower than the usual Jewish step, though his long legs covered the distance just as quickly. Rosita, next to him in a bouncy three-beat, had twice the movement but could not keep up. Anyone with a sense of rhythm could see that these two were not going to make a couple."

It's Kurlansky's observations on life and the city that make this book memorable. Many times I was reminded of Spike Lee's movies Do the Right Thing and most recently Inside Man where the city was a backdrop to the characters and random acts propelled the story.

For any of you who miss the city and need a city fix-grab Boogaloo and take a quick vacation on 2nd Avenue!

Queen Art-o-Eat

Friday, July 21, 2006

Salmon, Potato, and Asparagus Salad

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Salmon, Potato, and Asparagus Salad

If planned right, this salad can be made from leftovers. Just make a little bit more of the ingredients in previous meals and combine them with a zesty horseradish and dill mayonnaise.

1# cubed cooked Red Potatoes

½ # oil poached Salmon

1C poached Asparagus cut on the diagonal

1 stalk chopped Celery (about ½ C)

¼ chopped Red Onion (about ½ C)

1/3C chopped Chives

1/3 C sautéed Walnuts

1/2t Canola Oil


1/2C Light Mayonnaise

2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1T grated Horseradish

1t dried Dill

1t fresh Lemon Juice

1/2t Kosher Salt

Fresh Black Pepper to taste

Oil Poached Salmon-

½# Salmon

1C Olive Oil

2 cloves Garlic

1T chopped Onion

1 6” Rosemary branch

Juice of 1 Lemon

2 slices of Lemon

Cut salmon into 1” cubes and reserve.

Heat the oil to 160° and add the rest of the ingredients to a 1 quart saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Gently lower the salmon into the oil and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes or until “medium rare”. Turn off heat and let rest in the oil for 10 minutes. Remove salmon and drain on paper towels. Cover and chill. The poaching oil can be strained and kept in the refrigerator and used again.


In a small bowl add mayonnaise and olive oil. Whisk vigorously until the olive oil has become “absorbed” or emulsified into the mayonnaise. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

For Salad-

Sauté walnuts in canola oil until fragrant and toasty brown. While still warm, sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and toss. Save for the garnish.

Combine the rest of the salad ingredients and gently mix with the dressing. Garnish with walnuts.

This salad is best if made in the morning or a few hours ahead so the ingredients can absorb the dressing.

Garnish with walnuts.

Is there anything left that we can eat?

This is an article that was e-mailed to me through the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) www.food-culture.org It's an interesting group with a different view of food and culture- I hope you enjoy this article and it gives you food for thought!

Queen Art-o-Eat

With All the Conflicting Headlines, No Wonder We Can't Decide What to Buy

By Candy Sagon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2006; F01

I can't decide what to eat. I don't mean which recipe to make, or what restaurant to go to. I mean when I go grocery shopping, I'm paralyzed with indecision. Everything, it seems, is either ethically, nutritionally or environmentally incorrect. Guilt is ruining my appetite.

Take the other day when I went to buy eggs. Sounds easy, but this is the dialogue that played in my head as I stared at six shelves of egg cartons:

"Should I buy the omega-3 eggs that are supposedly good for my heart? But wait, they're not organic. Maybe I should spring for the $3.50 organic eggs from Horizon, even though I read that the company has gotten so huge, it's driving out the smaller organic farmers. Perhaps I should get the cage-free eggs from a small farm in Pennsylvania? Or the brown eggs from vegetarian-fed, free-roaming hens?

"Oh, never mind. I need to save money. So what if the hens are living a miserable existence in the poultry version of the state pen. The eggs are only 79 cents. I have bills to pay."

(Note to PETA: Don't worry. I couldn't live with the guilt. I ended up buying the brown eggs from free-roaming happy hens, so don't write to me.)

The point is, choosing what to eat and drink has become hard work. It's not simply a case of taste or price. Now we have to ask ourselves: Is this good for my health? Have animals suffered? Is it local? Organic? Bad for the planet? Harvested by child workers?

What's worse, the answers are often contradictory. Should I buy the locally grown lettuce at the farmers market, even if the farmer uses some pesticides? It's good to support local farmers, but what about pesticides' link to cancer? Then again, that California-grown organic lettuce at the supermarket has been trucked in thousands of miles, burning up thousands of gallons of fuel. Does that make environmental sense?

Even when you think you know the answers, it turns out you don't. Consider salmon. To prevent the over-fishing of wild salmon, which was also wildly expensive, farm-raised salmon was developed. It seemed the perfect solution to controlling cost, protecting the species and meeting the exploding consumer demand for the kind of fish that health experts insisted we needed to eat. Except that now farm-raised salmon is said to have high levels of chemical contaminants and other carcinogens because of the way the salmon are raised. Should we limit our intake? Switch to something else? (But not Chilean sea bass, which is over-fished, or shrimp, which is farm-raised in equally contaminated water in foreign countries, or canned tuna, which is full of mercury.) Or should we just take the risk because we're told -- this week -- that fish oil is good for us?

The tough decisions aren't limited to the fish counter. Books such as Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) have raised questions about the humane treatment of cattle and of the immigrants working in packing plants. Critics wonder how closely the federal government really inspects the meat we eat. The feds say our meat supply is safe, but companies aren't required to announce recalls of contaminated beef. And what about that Texas cow discovered last year to be infected with mad cow, the brain-wasting disease? Government officials played it down; should we trust them? Switch to chicken?

Oh, wait. Avian flu. Salmonella. Chickens raised in factory farms. Manure runoff polluting the Chesapeake Bay. Chicken-of-the-sea becoming literally true.

I think I need to lie down.

My anxiety over what to eat is what Michael Pollan addresses in "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (Penguin Press, 2006). The question of what to have for dinner has become complicated, he acknowledges. Fast food and processed food are making us fat. Dietary advice is confusing. Even organic is becoming big business, including organic junk food and organic factory farms.

But refusing to consider these developments is not the answer. Ignorance, he argues, is not bliss. It's just ignorance. "To eat with a full consciousness of all that is at stake" can afford great satisfaction, Pollan writes, because it lets you choose what is best for you. Bottom line for him in the dinner dilemma: Choose local.

Still, I wondered if there might be some moral and ethical template I could apply to my food decisions. Arthur Caplan is the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. He's usually asked about tough subjects such as stem-cell research and human cloning. I asked if he found moral predicaments at the grocery store.

"Oh, absolutely. And it doesn't even end with the food," he says. "One of my great moral quandaries comes when the cashier asks, 'Paper or plastic?' " (For the record, he chooses paper.)

Caplan believes there's no need to have "a moral aneurysm" every time we go to the supermarket. Every person, he says, needs to establish a scale of ethical priorities. Is taste most important to you? Cost? The environment? Your health? Animal suffering? Pick one thing that matters most and let that drive your decisions.

For Caplan, No. 1 on his list is whether suffering was involved. "So I want happy chickens, no veal, no foie gras. After that comes environmental impact, and then labor. I have an ethical guide in my head that helps me through the store."

He also points out that, in a way, we should be grateful we are even considering all these ethical questions. "These are the dilemmas of abundance," he says. "If we were living in Darfur, the only answer to 'what to eat?' would be 'anything I can find.' "

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Muffin and its Recipe

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Blueberry Muffins

It's blueberry season on the edge and I must admit that my freezer still held berries from last year. I knew my NSSP wouldn't approve of a new stash of berries so in a fit of domestic cooking I grabbed one of my Joy of Cooking's and made a quick Sunday batch of muffins.
These aren't the 600 calorie wonders of today but simple muffins from my 1942 cookbook. I find today that muffins have morphed into clawingly sweet cakes with fine crumb and no crumble. The muffins I made (and I did increase the blueberry amount!) reminded me of my childhood. Don't over mix! was the mantra. Overmixing will make the muffies tough! So with a few deft turns of my wooden spoon the wet and dry ingredients were combined, spooned in tins, and popped in the oven. A job well done and a taste down memory lane!
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Lobster Memories-

Summer and the 4th of July always flood my pea-brain with memories of lobsters. These days it's few and too far between when I can indulge in these pinching crustaceans. I live on another edge. The memories are always there to be relived and savored.

My introduction to lobster eating wasn’t in the summer but in the bleak late fall. My aunt and uncle had bought a home in Maine, well above Bush country and were fantasizing about turning it into a year round home. As we drove up Route 1 beyond Ellsworth, the road cut through the black night. There were no street lights to light our way. A lone light flickered up ahead denoting a cross road. We made a right turn onto a paved side road; which soon brought us to a driveway in front of a two story wooden home. A pick-up truck filled with lobster traps was parked in the driveway and inviting lights were lit in the kitchen.

My aunt and uncle were excited about the trip to Maine. We unbent ourselves and stretched in the cold fall air. The kitchen door opened and standing there waving us in was Lobster Man. I couldn’t see his face at first, it was in the shadows. I did hear his rolling Maine accent as he greeted my aunt and uncle by name. I was hugged and introduced, part of the “away folk”.

Lobster Man was big and beefy,not huge. He wore a matching outfit of grey green pants and shirt. A belt fastened tightly below his belly kept the pants up and cigarettes and matches filled his shirt pockets. There were white socks and well worn work boots at the end of his bandy-legs.

A hug from Lobster Man was a sensory experience. First was my physical crush next to an unknown person. A large body that some would call a beer belly but that beer belly was far from flaccid. It had been hauling traps for more than sixty years and was as firm as a curled bicep. Then there were the kaleidoscopes of smells. Sea smells, cigarette smells, burning wood, a touch of boat gasoline, and a hint of old fish. None of the smells were strong and offensive. They hung on Lobster Man’s body like an invisible cloak and were part of his personality.

I looked around the room and saw a Sears stove. On top was a big aluminum pot with a battered lid. Steam was escaping from the boiling pot. A little pot belly stove was glowing in the corner and the rectangular wooden table was encircled by sturdy mis-matched chairs with various chipped colors.

My aunt took control of the event and was quickly spinning stories of their recent tour of duty. Every once in awhile my uncle would interject a word or his own story into the conversation. I was left to watch and listen.

After awhile Lobster Man slipped outside and came back with a tub of lively lobsters. I had never seen them before and had only heard of them from my aunt and uncle. Lobster Man pushed the sea weed aside and I gazed at my dinner. Their dark shells moist from the sea glistened. They weren’t a uniform color but a greenish-black on top and orange below, the joints and claws had azure blue accents. The antennas were long sensuous appendages that lay straight along side the lobster ending at the tail.

Lobster Man picked up a specimen. It was mad and snapped its tail while the claw arms stretched out as if were flying. There were tiny hand-made wooden nails jammed in the claws to prevent them from pinching. One claw was larger than the other. I looked with amazement at this crustacean. Lobster Man showed me a trick. With his thick wrinkled thumb his slowly rubbed the lobster between its eyes. On the count of 10 the lobster lost its fight and by the count of 20 the lobster was limp in his grasp. Lobster Man winked and said we had relaxed it enough to be dropped in the pot.

I was given a turn at warming the lobster’s brain and we quickly filled the pot with lobsters. I was in for a shock for when they were done; they had turned a beautiful shade of reddish orange.

The table was covered in oil cloth and a healthy padding of newspaper. A small pot held melted butter. We were all given lobster crackers and little picks. I stared at the lobster on my plate and had no idea where to start. My aunt was expertly giving me directions but out of the corner of my eye I watched Lobster Man. Unlike tourists who ate the tail and claws then cast the shells away, Lobster Man started by breaking off the smallest walking legs. He then broke off the tiny “foot” and sucked the lobster nectar from the legs like they were flavored straws. I tried this and was soon flattening the soft leg with my teeth and extracting the smallest bits of meat.

Next Lobster Man broke the claws and laid them aside. He snapped the body and removed the tail. It was laid next to the claws. A pop off of the body shell showed the stomachs, brain, and other inedible bits. There was a white gelatinous film that was poached onto the underside of the shell; he ate that and I followed. Again it was just a sweet taste of the sea. After Lobster Man had exhausted all of the minor players in the feast, the claws and tail were eaten.

The claws took skill to crack without piercing the meat with the crushed shell. Just a pump of the cracker to apply enough pressure. There was a curious technique to extract the tail meat. By this time the lobster was warm. Lobster Man ripped off the tail fins as if he was bending back someone’s fingers; then he straightened the tail holding it in one had and pushed two of his fingers up the broken end. Quickly the whole tail meat emerged from the spot where the tail had been attached to the body. My lesson was complete. By this time we all were quietly dunking bits of lobster in butter and bringing the dripping pieces to our mouths.

I don’t remember if we were served other dishes at that meal. I’m sure there were no green vegetables but perhaps some soft rolls to soak up the butter. But really- when you eat lobster do you need anything else?

Queen Art-o-Eat

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My First Pictures

Last week I bought some porchinis from the market. A slice of fresh porcini is my first picture. The second is what I made for myself. The dish? crisp skinned duck magret fanned out on wide noodles with a porcini sherry cream sauce, and white asparagus. Dessert was fresh blueberries and strawberries.
Have a great weekend and 4th!
Queen Art-o-Eat

And Where the Porcini Went

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A Slice of Porcini from the Market

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

On the Road

I have just finished writing a review (find it at the www.ingoodtastestore.com website)of Two for the Road by Jane & Michael Stern. It's perfect easy- breezy summer reading for any passionate foodie.As I careened through the pages I was constantly struck by their passion for the food and people that cook it. On a monthly basis the Sterns write articles for Gourmet magazine and they have written over 20 books about their various passions. I delved into my library and discovered I have 3 other of their books.

For those who know me, and those who don't, I have a very high tolerance for kitsch. In my mind tacky is beautiful and as I write I can glance up at a picture taken last year of me in Las Vegas with none other than Elvis! Yes, he is alive and well! I do feel one can't be too over the top- a stray Hello Kitty here and a Flamingo there are just the right garnishes to make me smile.

The first book I have is The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste it extols the virtues of accordion music, aerosol cheese, bouffants,fake fur, maraschino cherries, wonder bread, and zoot suits.
Each submission is hilariously analyzed and justified as bad taste.

The second book is Square Meals, a romp through "taste thrills of only yesterday- from mom's best pot roast and tuna noodle casserole to ladies' lunch and the perfect living room luau." These are recipes gleaned from those little paperback cookbooks we used to find at the 5-10 cent store. Your party will be a success with Candlelight Salad. A simple recipe created by laying a ring of pineapple on a plate, sticking a piece of banana in the middle,dribbling some mayonnaise on top to simulate wax and inserting coconut and pimento to simulate wick and fire. Yum!

The third book I unearthed is American Gourmet "classic recipes, deluxe delights, flamboyant favorites, and swank company food from the '50's and '60's" . The Stern's turn their wit to entertaining and flaming skewers. The recipes embrace packaged food as most stay at home housewives did in the '50's-'60's. Nothing like Noodle Doodle & Cheese to fill the stomach. Just a quick dish with packaged macaroni & cheese dinner, cottage cheese frozen chopped broccoli, scallions, dried oregano and French fried onions, Manifique!

I do have my own collection of little dime store cookbooks and hope to share some pictures and recipes.

Do you have any favorites?
Queen Art-o-Eat

Sunday, June 25, 2006

My Romance with the Times

I have a secret (and soon to be exposed) fetish- I love the NYT (New York Times). It started over a summer in New Jersey. I don’t know the year- it could have been the summer I traveled alone by train from Iowa to New Jersey or another time, but I do know the B.O.B. (Burst of Brilliance).

I was sitting at my grandfather’s kitchen table. A non-descript faux colonial wooden table with barrel shaped chairs. In front of us billions of words and piles of papers were languishing. There was the sensational NY Daily, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Jersey Star Ledger, Daily Record. Hidden underneath the glossy adds and comics was the NYT. It was complete. It was untouched.

I don’t know why I grabbed that paper- perhaps it was because no one else had claimed it. The front page had a center picture in black and white. I dropped the paper in my lap and removed the first section. As I opened the first page my eyes fell on the upper right corner and a Tiffany’s add for jewelry, this habit continues.

As I laboriously read the paper I realized its tone was removed and analytical lacking the!! points and sensationalism that other papers possessed. At the time I couldn’t perceive the political bent or slight liberal persuasion, I just found it refreshingly dry and “tailored” to my point of view.

Sitting at the table that summer Sunday with my grandfather, I felt we were exploring the news together. My grandfather, a slight man who was quite wealthy always dressed in a matching Sears khaki or green shirt and pant outfit. Brown belt resting high on his waist, brown tie-up shoes and always snow white socks. His top shirt pockets were full. The left one held a pocket protector filled with pens and pencils. The right held his soft pack of Camel cigarettes and non-descript matches.

On the table his ever lit Camel was resting to the left in an ashtray and a Stangl coffee cup and saucer held black coffee. Of course we never spoke that day in the kitchen and I have no clue what he read in the mounds of papers in front of him but it was a quiet time that sealed my affair with the NYT.

My affair grew in college. I would scrape up quarters to by certain editions that I couldn’t live without. Fox Butterfield “wrote” me articles about China as I studied Asian history. I eagerly clipped Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey’s recipes not realizing it was a slice of culinary history taking place.

Shortly after I met the NSSP (see second entry for term) he was wooing me with a future in Grand Rapids, MI and away from my favorite city, Boston. Having lived in the mid-west I had few questions about my future there. I did want to know if we would be able to get the Sunday NYT. There would be no trip down the aisle without the NYT. Lacking computers, a phone call answered my question and off we went to seek our fortunes.

The paper wasn’t delivered to our door so a weekly trek to our little village and bookstore quickly became our family’s Sunday “church” amid the dedicated Christian Reform natives crowding the streets. At first it was hand-in-hand with NSSP. Later we walked with the Princess in her stroller as she randomly tested her vocabulary on each bump. Later we graduated to family bicycles and a goal of going from point A to point B without falling down.All to retrieve my beloved paper.

We’ve had several opportunities to live in different places, but the first and foremost question was if the NYT could be delivered. There was a brief time when we lived in New Jersey. Living in NJ and receiving the NYT was like getting its news in real time. If I read a review I could fantasize a trip to NYC. Museum event? No problem- 4-star restaurant- give me the phone. The reality of our lifestyle didn’t allow too many dips into NYC culture but to fantasize about going was “awesome”.

Today I live on the edge and each day I crawl to the top our driveway to retrieve my blue bagged newspaper. Yes, I could get it online but I would be missing “my” Tiffany ad on the upper right.

I love the blue plastic bag. Each day it announces a new weekly section. Monday is the sport section (the only part I overlook) and a little Metro department where people contribute their NYC observations. Tuesday is the Science section and Jane Brody always discusses timely topics with me. Wednesday holds the food section, and the amazing restaurant reviews by Frank Bruni.Thursday is a busy day with a circuits section hidden in the business section, a house and garden section And a fashion and style section! So what could be better? The Friday escapes and the two arts sections; one for the movies and the other for the museum openings. I coast into the weekend with Saturday’s stripped down paper and a few human interest articles. Finally it’s Sunday and a world of news awaits me.

My kitchen table today, a black marble rectangle that rarely sees the light of day, resembles my grandfather’s table from long ago. Mounds of reading matter wait to be read through the now necessary reading glasses and my mug of coffee.

Read and Explore!

Queen Art-o-Eat