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Archive for the ‘Food and Drink’ Category

Remember General Tso’s Chicken–that sweet and spicy staple of Chinese restaurants? The kids used to love it and I used to call it meat in jam sauce. Which it is, basically–but recently I found a recipe for it and have made it a few times. And what do you know, it’s really tasty. YES, a certain amount of work, but worth it. That dark spicy sauce, those crispy little nodules of chicken!
So yesterday was easeful Saturday and I thought I would ORDER OUT–something I do very rarely, but which the kids do all the time–and I bade Grubhub fetch me some of that tasty General Tso’s chicken from a local establishment. Alas, NOT a success. The restaurant version–or at least, the quotidian restaurant version–is indeed meat in jam sauce, an insipid sauce which is neither dark or spicy, but rather a sickly red syrup.
Well, I managed to choke it down, but have come to realize that either 1) I have to try this dish from some more distinguished restaurant, or 2) continue to make it myself. Or of course, 3) stick to the old curries and pasta standbys.
And, SPEAKING of General Tso’s chicken, remember that ghastly but irresistible movie called Legend, starring Tom Cruise as a wayward whimsical WOOD ELF kind of chappie, and Tim Curry as a spectacularly horrid Lord of Darkness? Tim Curry’s outfit had him glistening as if he were covered in red syrup–one couldn’t help but instantly picture him as a toothsome nugget in that delectable dish. This unfortunate image has persisted in my mind for over 35 years….

NOTE: There was also a UNICORN and a PRINCESS in the movie. It was exquisitely dreadful.

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On Monday I rose especially early and sprinted for the bus stop–endured the extreme vexation of seeing the bus pull away from the bus stop as I approached–stoically waited for the next one–and I was OFF, embarking on Day 1 of a VERY VERY LONG two day meeting.
NOT perhaps the best Monday and Tuesday ever, but not the worst either, and it eventually drew to a close.
Once finally home on Tuesday night–a full HOUR later than usual said the cats with meaningful glances at the empty food bowls–I fed the starving throngs, and then gazed sadly into my empty fridge.
HUNGRY.
But NO, couldn’t face eggs for dinner again.
The cupboard was rich in half full boxes of spaghetti.

So, climbed into car and drove to grocery store, bought some meatballs and a jar of tomato sauce.
The meatballs had a strange bounciness, seeming to resist the teeth, and the tomato sauce had a cloying sweetness, with that canned tomato soup flavor–very familiar from childhood, but not a recent experience for me.

However, I manfully chewed away–and after all we cannot always be eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.

This weekend I shall don the apron and cook REAL food.

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My morning activities are completely circumscribed, elegantly scheduled, so that I appear in the kitchen exactly an hour after rising from my bed–washed, brushed, dressed, and ready to feed the ravenous cats. As I fill their 3 little bowls, I usually sing them the Cat Feeding Song, but they have no interest in art, merely prowling back and forth darting me sad looks of anguish and starvation. Once the bowls are down and the cats are gobbling their breakfast, I turn to my own humble meal. Today: oatmeal! With dried cranberries and raisins, a veritable feast! As it cooked in the microwave I expertly made the coffee–a complicated process which involves grinding the beans, setting them in the machine, etc. I flatter myself on my coffee prep skills–if there were a prize for making the breakfast coffee, I would surely have a good chance of winning it. And as for apple slicing, well, I cannot but confess that I wield the corer and knife with astonishing dexterity.
Oatmeal done! Neatly turned into the bowl, sprinkled with sugar.
Then, I opened the refrigerator to get the milk.
But, THERE WAS NO MILK.
I had forgotten to buy milk.
Sigh.
In the end, I opened a can of evaporated milk, and reluctantly poured a bit of the oddly beige liquid onto my lovely oatmeal. It was…OK. I managed to eat the oatmeal and its alien milk.
But I thought, next time check your supplies, Mrs. Expert Breakfast Preparer.

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Yesterday I did all the chores, paid the bills, folded the laundry–and even did a little yard work!–after which I felt completely justified in meeting some friends for a lovely dinner at a charming Belgian restaurant.
I have known these ladies for many years; we are all widows, all mothers of large families, all grannies. So there we were, demurely sipping our wine, chatting enthusiastically, and wielding the fork and knife with surpassing skill–when I heard someone calling my name. “Hope! Hope!” I looked up and there was my cousin from Minnesota, his wife and his son! Sitting at the next table!
Well! The lad is going to AU, and his fond parents have visited before, but still, we looked at each other with a wild surmise, struck all of heap. Then of course we all got to chatting and then they said goodbye and went off, leaving us to carouse as before.
Not really so surprising that they should be in that fine little restaurant, actually, being discriminating diners, and as this is their last child, of course they come to visit often. Still, it was a surprise!
It made me think of all the hidden coincidences we know nothing about, the person next to you on the bus whose grandmother, perhaps, was a dear friend of your grandmother–or whose cat is brother to your cat.
Or sister, as it might be.
Or uncle, of course.

In any case, a very fine dinner.

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On Sunday evenings I welcome a darling son to dinner, and thus have a delightful afternoon of cooking and baking–and as I am having a party NEXT weekend, I also made up a few batches of cookie dough in preparation for future festivity.
Sunday is also the day my darling daughter calls from her far away habitation in the exotic northern parts of the United Kingdom, and we chat pleasantly for a time.
Sunday is in fact a charming catch-up-with-family day.
Yesterday’s menu featured chicken pot pie, a favorite dish. As I chatted with far away daughter, I got the chilled pie dough from the fridge and commenced rolling it out. Up and down, back and forth! Finally it was the right size, I set it over the chicken filling, brushed it with egg wash, sprinkled with salt and pepper and WHISKED it into the oven.
An hour later, out it came, handsome, brown, bubbling: a triumph!
But as we ate our pie, it seemed to me that it was somehow–sweeter than chicken pot pie usually is. Good, you know, but...sweet.
AH.
The pie dough still languished in the fridge. I had used the cookie dough to top the pie.
Sigh.
Still, rather tasty. We ate it without complaint.

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In all the excitement of Christmas preparation, it may have happened that I purchased a few more food items than were strictly necessary.

Or even, MUCH MORE than a few.

Adding an impetus to the problem, many of my family found themselves unable to relish their meals due to a superabundance of truly wicked Germs, which caused non-festive behavior and led to much time spent in the smallest room of the house. So that in making a current comprehensive assessment of available viands in the house, I find I could readily entertain as many people this weekend as I did during the festival itself.

However, my children are all fled to the far corners of the earth, and I own to a longing for quiet. Lucky thing there is the FREEZER, that seemly apartment for storing food. Mine is luckily quite capacious. There is also the fact that the current COLD temperatures keep any food items carelessly tossed into the garbage from making themselves known via heinous bad stinks.

So, mostly we are back to pre-holiday status here, aside from the lavishly arrayed freezer. There was however a large container of ricotta which had to either be tossed out or used. HA! There was also a large bag of dried figs (what MADNESS descended on me as I bustled through the bursting aisles at Costco, truly, I am baffled at such wild behavior) and suddenly I thought—FIG AND RICOTTA PIE!

Nice looking, no?

Though what the hell I am going to do with it, one wonders–my powers of eating are limited– but at least I have used up the pint of ricotta!

So there’s that.

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When the painter said he couldn’t start until the 14th, I SHOULD have said, OK, we’ll have to wait until after Christmas. But instead, with that imbecilic fecklessness which is one of my (very few) flaws, I brightly bade him go ahead. Which is why instead of baking cookies, making casseroles, and wrapping gifts, I have spent the weekend dusting books and objets d’art –and they are VERY DUSTY INDEED, (for which I blame no one, least of all, myself) and putting them back on shelves. The shelves are now gleaming white and looking very well indeed, but possibly their former dilapidated and grubby aspect would not have materially depressed our holiday spirits.
SO–having not had time to do all the cooking and baking I usually task myself with, I steeled my nerves and set off for COSTCO to purchase food stuffs. And wine, of course. Getting there is slightly terrifying, a trip I could never make without Siri and her firm directions–horrifying high speed expressways intersecting in bewildering complexities. But, made it there, and as always was overwhelmed–it is a TEMPLE OF GREED–everything you could want is there, towering up to the ceiling in huge piles of luxurious amplitude. I spent quite an astonishing amount of money, filling up my little car, and am now back home and ready for lunch.

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