No Reservations about Bizarre Foods

My son and I watched Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations last night. I would be a regular watcher but I always seem to forget when it’s on so I normally catch it the second or third time around which is OK too. If you’ve never seen the show before the premise is simple. Anthony is an author and a chef who travels the world, trying local foods along the way. I find Anthony very endearing in an intelligent yet innocent way. He seems to always be very respectful of the culture he’s visiting without being patronizing. If he doesn’t like the food he is being offered, he flashes the camera a worried look before he carefully digs in. I know how he feels, I’ve had the same experience at my mother-in-law’s house a time or two (sorry Nancy).

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The Patron Saint of Gravy: Chicken Fried Steak and Creamy White Gravy

Just when I thought I was pretty well caught up on technology, here comes Twitter to put me in my place. I have finally figured out my digital camera (well, kind of), I can turn my computer on all by myself, forward e-mails, and I can send a text a good 60% of the time. My husband and children are finally pretty proud of me and my technological accomplishments. Now, here comes something else to challenge me. For Pete’s sake, enough is enough. As usual, I will probably grumble about it until my family finally pushes this old dog to learn this new trick too. I guess there’s always something waiting around the corner to confound us.

I think dread of technological challenges are one reason that I love cooking so much. It is something that I really understand and feel safe doing. Oh sure, I’ve had some disasters.

Shortly after I married I almost sliced my index finger off with a mandolin slicer and fainted dead away in the kitchen with a lounge full of guests waiting for supper. Then there was the time I tried a new recipe for a red onion tarte tatin for Thanksgiving dinner. Since this was a Delia Smith recipe and I was an experienced cook, I figured that it would certainly turn out to be delicious and I could break my long standing rule that I never tried a new recipe on a special occasion. Well, let’s just say that it turned out to be less than edible and it is now referred to as Karen’s penicillin pie escapade. Usually, I would never let a recipe defeat me but, it was so bad that I’ve never even attempted to give it a second try. Thank goodness that my successes far out number my failures.

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Dewberries and Copperheads: Berry Cobbler

When I was a girl growing up in South Texas, it was good and hot by the beginning of May. Back then, women were governed by the old “no white shoes until after the end of May” rule. As a little girl, I felt immune to silly fashion rules. Easter rang in my summer season and brought with it flowing dresses, white patent leather shoes and hair bows as big as a birds’ nests carefully clipped to the hair on the back of my head that was closely cropped into a never fashionable “Pixie” cut. Ugh, I hated that hairstyle and I bet that the pixies did too.

In addition to the changes in fashion, late spring and early summer also brought with it dewberry season. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these berries, they are, for all intents and purposes, wild blackberries. The women of my mother’s family would walk the fences of my aunt and uncle’s small farm or along the sides of endless country roads identifying future harvesting points. The berries would start out as little white blossoms perched atop deceivingly vicious tiny thorny rope like vines. Within a few short weeks, they would turn out to be plump aubergine colored berries bursting with juicy sweetness.

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Pub Grub: the good, the bad, the ugly

I miss the wonderful things about England; the beautiful rolling meadows outlined by ancient stone walls, the perfectly sculpted colorful gardens and well prepared English food. I also miss the not so wonderful things about England too; the urine soaked car park lifts, the Barbie and Ken size refrigerators, the lack of ice, the rationing of ketchup, and poorly prepared English food.

England has always had a bad reputation when it comes to its food and I don’t really know why. My theory is that the reviewers must have been visiting the country’s more commercial, high profile pubs than the more quaint establishments where the really good English fare is served. The Peacock at Redmile, Stapleford Park, Langar Hall and Martin’s Arms (I could go on and on), are, in my opinion, the places that serve the best of the best. Oh, my heart aches for these most beloved of establishments. Thanks be to G*d and my husband’s fat expense account, I was able to try them all, several times over.

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April in Paris

Like most everyone else in the world, I have the same routine every morning. I get up, let the dog out, make coffee and turn on my computer. First, I check the spam in my mailbox then I move onto reading the food blogs of others. Normally, I don’t make a practice of mentioning other people’s blogs because I’m afraid that they will recognize themselves and burn my house down, but I’m going out on a limb today.

I joined a website sometime ago that randomly chooses five blogs everyday and features their titles on a sidebar that is located on my site. Some days checking out these titles takes me only moments, some days it may take me and hour or so. In addition to exploring these blogs, I sometimes click on the sites that they are following, then the sites that they are following and so on and so on. Before I know it, I am Gretel lost in the forest without Hansel or a handful of breadcrumbs. Usually when this happens, I do what I do best to get out of trouble in cyberspace, I push the power button.

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Humble Pie and Artichokes

My daughter is home from college for the summer. I have the next three months to sleep soundly at night knowing where both my children are when I go to bed. I going to savor this because I know that my days are numbered. I figure that just about the time she settles down and begins life on her own, my son will start up with all of the normal teenage shenanigans, breaking curfew, talking back and the worst of all, driving (and that’s if we’re lucky); so I am really going to enjoy the next few months.

Since she will be cooking for herself next year at school, I decided that it was time to teach my daughter to cook in earnest. During her first year at university, she was required to live in on-campus accommodations which included her meals. Now I’m not saying that the food was great, I’m just saying that it was pretty good, well, kinda. At first she loved being free from my pattern of protein, carb and veg for supper. She was free to have whatever she wanted. If she wanted nothing at all, that was her choice too. Her life was good. By the end of the school year, she hated even walking by the dining hall. She tugged at my heartstrings by reporting that her suppers usually consisted of cereal and chips. I really hated it not so much because it was going to kill her but because we were paying about $8.00 a meal for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and fried potatoes. My son’s going to love college.

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A Midsummer Night’s Tale

Everyone in the UK will be glad to know that many of the 4th of July crazies are safely in residence here in Colorado. No kidding, yesterday as I was making my daily trip to Walmart, here came “Mr. Patriotic”, up from behind me on the interstate with a full size American flag draped across the roof of his car, tucked into his windows, blowing wildly in the wind. When I was in school, we were taught that there were strict rules about the American flag. As I recall, we were told that if it even touched the ground (no five second rule here) it was to be surrendered and ceremoniously burned by a military entity, so I don’t suppose wrapping your 1988 Chevrolet in it is proper flag etiquette. I guess that this rule has gone the way of many traditions, as dead as fish on Fridays.

When I was a very young girl, the 4th was a day of parades, family parties and fireworks. Since we usually visited my grandmother’s farm in the country, we would have to make our own fireworks display which was OK by us. After all of our relatives arrived and hours of begging, our fathers would pack all of the children into the back of the station wagon and head to the nearest fireworks stand. Now, I’m not really sure why we were always so excited because our purchase was the same year after year, hundreds of firecrackers, a handful of snakes (that never worked properly on my grandmother’s dirt driveway) sparklers (lots and lots of sparklers), a couple of bundles of bottle rockets, and, for dads only, the “ultra dangerous” eight shot Roman Candle. Did I mention this was a simpler time? Anyway, having blown our entire budget we would jump in the car and head back to my grandmother’s anticipating a night of dazzling pyrotechnics.

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Night Swimming and Midnight Buffets

It hasn’t been much of a summer here in Colorado. A few days ago was the coldest day ever recorded in our state in the month of July. It has rained every afternoon for as many days as I can remember. This really wouldn’t be much of a problem, but in Colorado summer storms are accompanied by thunder, lightening, hell fire and brimstone. My poor little dog is on his last nerve.

Everyone knows by now that I was raised in Texas. I guess that it is just conditioning but when I think of summer, Texas summers are what come to mind. The black pavement on the streets would become so hot that as kids, we actually fried eggs on them. We were always a bit disappointed that they didn’t sizzle, but as I remember, even though it took them about half an hour to reach a sunny side up degree of doneness, the results were pretty satisfying. I guess you could say that this was how I got my start in cooking.

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Ginger Haired Babies and Pizzas on the Barbie

My two grown nieces just left here after a five day visit. My younger niece, Kheili had flown up for a friend’s wedding and her sister, Melanie had decided to come with her. All of this just happened to take place on my birthday weekend which made it doubly special for me. Accompanying them, were Melanie’s thirteen month old fraternal twin boys, Harper and Hayes. I don’t even know where to begin with these two. Everyone says that the babies in their families are cute and these boys are no exception. They both have red hair so they make absolutely everyone smile as soon as they see them. I mean, you KNOW that these two are trouble. They have creamy white complexion with rosy red cheeks and noses to match. My arms ache as I write about them. My niece and her husband affectionately call them “Big Truck” and “Pretty Boy” so let me tell you, in case you haven’t gotten the picture, they are cute with a capital “C” times 2.

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My life in dogs

I love it when the house is quiet and I’m left alone to concentrate on my culinary creations. I say alone, even when my husband’s at work and the children are at school, I am never truly alone. Since we are a family of dog lovers, I have had a string of loving companions by my side every moment of every day for my entire adult life. Over the years we have had some great dogs and some that were no more than terrorists in fur coats.

One of the bigger characters we adopted was a dog we named Roxanne. Roxanne was the first (and last) big dog that we ever owned or, should I say, ever owned us. When we rescued her from our local shelter she was shy and scared of her own shadow. I cringe to think what made a six month old puppy so frightened of everything. We worked with her tirelessly and it took a couple of weeks, but we gradually won her over and she was soon acting like she owned the place. Roxanne’s specialty was chewing; before we knew it, she had chewed the accent lighting off our deck in the back garden and disabled our air-conditioning by chewing the wiring in two. As if this wasn’t enough to make us want to kill her; she also took great pleasure in sliming our young daughter’s head and making her cry by either pushing her down or scratching her with one of her enormous paws. I hate to admit it but getting away from Roxanne definitely factored into our decision to move to the UK. We were sad yet greatly relieved when we dropped Roxanne off at her new home in the country with the sweet old lady who, no doubt soon after we left, was walking around her home in the hot Texas sun wondering why her air-conditioning had stopped working.

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