Hallelujah! It’s a mirepoix! A (post) Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I was worried last night – I seriously thought I’d jinxed the Superbowl for my beloved by waiting to buy a lobster tail. Lesson learned: if you want lobstah rolls for dinner (to compliment a Patriots victory), you need to secure one prior to the day it’s wanted. Unless you want a whole lobster.

If you’re disappointed in the results I am sorry, but Paul is an unapologetic fan of his Patriots and I am an unapologetic fan of Paul’s, and since I understand next to nothing about football beyond the intent being for each team to run the ball to the opposite set of goalposts, my support comes in culinary form. Every year I devise a menu to support Paul and whatever he is supporting.

Paul is South Boston born and bred so his teams are naturally the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, Notre Dame for college football, and the New England Patriots for professional. Considering what we’d eaten in Boston and Rhode Island, mostly seafood, with me ordering clam chowder everywhere I went and only once in a restaurant since then which was every bit as disappointing as I suspected it would be. So I thought, how ’bout some lobstah rolls and clam chowdah to cheer our Patriots to victory?

We went with crab cakes for starters, since we couldn’t get a lobster tail. I made a spicy horseradish remoulade to top them and they were not at all a disappointing substitution but, after the abysmal first half of the game I worried I’d ventured too far south with my cooking, gotten too close to the culinary Georgia border.

We had our chowdah topped with some spicy Cajun oyster crackers I made, and watched Lady Gaga turn in a beautiful, high energy performance, her only politics being a gorgeous medley of American anthems before literally diving into Born This Way. We had a plump slice each of the Boston Cream Pie I had planned as a celebratory dessert, now used to stun our sorrow into submission with sugar and transfats.

We switched over to PBS’s Victoria and felt a bit sorry for the poor young queen as she learned most of the men she’s loved in her life were all too human, just like Tom Brady, apparently.

But then, a last switching over to see how bad it is and what is this miracle? A victory snatched from the jaws of defeat! Paul’s nephew in New England screaming at the haters in all caps on Facebook! An excuse to eat another slice of Boston Cream Pie! (Which we didn’t, because we are Adults, and therefore Sensible, most of the time.)

If we were having coffee I’d pour you another cup if you were feeling a bit poorly after your Superbowl Sunday, whether that was caused by over indulgence or disappointment, and send you on your way with a slice of Boston Cream Pie for later.



Spicy perfection

I often say that the taco is the perfect food: meat, veg, dairy, and carbs in one convenient, hand-held package; it’s really just a sandwich in a crunchy, spicy, perfect delivery system.

The sarnie of my childhood.

Sandwiches have endless variety, especially when you open your mind to things beyond the pure simplicity of childhood baloney and cheese on Wonder bread (sometimes with potato chips inside; shhhhh don’t tell my mother). Now I’m a “grown-up” I love a good vegetarian sandwich just as well as a sloppy, artery-clogging meatball sub; chicken salad, roast beef, hummus and cucumber on pita or naan are all equal to peanut butter and jelly in my heart, the latter being the only reason I survived childhood at all. It’s like having multiple children, or loving all our differing friends: we don’t love one more than the others, we love them all the same, but differently.

When I was a teenager and spent my summers destroying my skin on the beach all day, the 17th Street liquor store in Huntington Beach made the best ham sandwich I have ever had. It was just ham and Swiss cheese on grainy wheat bread, mayo and mustard, with abundant crisp lettuce, but I’ve never found it’s match in all the possibly thousands of ham sandwiches I’ve since eaten.

Gyros at the Greek Festival

Every culture has a sandwich – the aforementioned taco, Italy’s pannini, Greek Gyro…. I will wager that long before the Earl of Sandwich put a hunk of meat between two slices of bread, cultures around the world had their own versions of a nutritious and easily-transported meal – the sandwich, dressed up in local attire.

A sandwich does more than feed your body; sometimes it is a love offering. Not for nothing our mothers gave us soup and sandwiches when we were sick.

My love for my husband is often professed in tuna sandwich form. Like Hobbes, Paul is kinda stupid when it comes to tuna sandwiches. Currently both of us are frayed beyond reason with the move, hotel living, our incarcerated pets, the new job. He snarked, I snarked and suddenly we got into a blazing row which we never, ever do. By morning we both saw our own culpability, made apologies for our respective assholery and all is well, but I was really glad to pack that tuna sandwich in his lunch bag this morning. I thought I needed to put icing on my apology and for Paul, a tuna sarnie is the best icing. I’m hoping it conveys, with great eloquence, “Yes, I can be a righteous bitch on occasion, but always I love you. Always I want the best for you, and I am sorry for the times my impatience and self-absorption result in me spewing forth all my worst qualities all at once. Forgive me?” Is that asking too much of a sandwich?



Paul himself is the unquestioned champion of the sloppy joe, another delicious form of the

Picture him holding a platter of sloppy joes

ever versatile sandwich. When I’m sick or just exhausted he banishes me to the couch, hands me the clicker and takes over the kitchen, whipping up a batch of curative sloppy joes. Despite feeling a bit like I’ve entered a Star Trek Mirror, Mirror episode, I also feel immensely loved and cared for. Those of us who like to cook acknowledge our kitchen offerings are in fact edible love tokens, but when I get a plate of hot, spicy sloppy joes from Paul it is doubly so, because he doesn’t enjoy cooking. When he hands me a sloppy joe, it’s his version of standing solidly under my window with a boombox blasting Peter Gabriel.

Is it any coincidence we have so many sandwich shops in the US? Potbelly’s, Subway, Quizno’s, Which-Wich, Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse…. and all the local ones specific to a region. Po’boy shops in Louisiana, the sandwich Nazi in New Jersey (yes, there is a sandwich Nazi in New Jersey, where I got the best eggplant parm sub I have ever had), not to even mention the plethora of hamburger chains and independents.

Eggplant Parmigiana

And so I come to the end and yet I feel it’s only the beginning, because in writing this I’ve hit on something (I think) profound and important: sandwiches make the world go round. Without our ever realizing it, they are the glue quietly binding civilization. I suggest in our next election cycle we solicit the prospective candidate’s opinions on the noble sandwich, in all it’s forms both humble and glorious and in so doing, we shall ascertain far clearer pictures of their characters than politics will ever provide.

via Daily Prompt: Sandwich


Weekend Coffee Share: Waffle House Edition

Last Saturday, Paul and I got our coffee and breakfast fix at that bastion of ‘Murican greatness, the Waffle House. I can’t help sharing it with you, and hope you might come to know and love it as we do.

It’s not fancy. It’s definitely not elegant, and you have to be in the American South but, while Waffle House might be a Southern thing, I believe it is the best of ‘Murica, writ large.

They all look the same: small rectangular buildings along or close to a major highway, black letters on yellow simply announcing itself to one and all: truckers and travelers, junkies and late-night revelers in need of a beer-sponge, businessmen, families, and parties of one. All are treated as equals, all are welcome to a quick, hot, good meal served cheerfully by the hardest working people you might ever meet.

Waffle House Plano East color

The menu is simple: eggs about any way one can cook an egg, pancakes and waffles of course, breakfast steaks and pork chops, and a variety of breakfast pig: bacon, sausage, and ham. Hash browns come any way you like: covered, smothered, diced or chunked, peppered, capped, topped, scattered, and country.

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Paul as Kilroy.

If you wander into one during lunch or dinner you can get a decent burger or sandwich, and I think there are other items too, but truthfully, I go for the breakfast, served 24/7. Cheesy eggs, hash browns covered and country (with onions and country gravy), toast and ham. My arteries begin clogging the instant I order, and I never finish the whole thing but I enjoy every last heart-stopping bite.

I watch the wait-and cook-staff clear tables, take orders, prepare food at the galley-style grill, and all pop up and call out, “Good morning!” each time the door opens to new customers. They are unfailingly pleasant and efficient, and I consider how much harder they probably work than I did when I waited tables, and how much less they probably make (based on the smaller bill totals of each check). They never stop. In the 15 minutes Paul and I waited for a table yesterday, the entire restaurant turned over.

It’s a good place for coffee and breakfast, and they keep your cup full. We could go through three or four cups while working our way through breakfast.

Paul always gets the All-Star Special, and I feel compelled to tell you that his waffle hadn’t yet arrived when I took the picture, lest you think I was a bigger glutton than he. While that may be true enough, were the waffle on the table it wouldn’t look like it, anyway.

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Mine looks huge because: perspective. Also, Paul’s waffle isn’t there yet.

As we pushed our plates away I might suggest you watch chef Sean Brock introduce fellow chef (and Yankee) Anthony Bourdain to Waffle House for the first time. A little professional testimony to bolster mine.

As we sat clutching our distended bellies, I’d tell you that we’ve found a place to rent for a while in Texas but the landlords didn’t make it easy and we wondered for a bit if we’d have to submit DNA analysis or witness statements about our characters in order to secure it. One year a home-owner and I’ve forgotten about the tribulations of renting, and maybe as we finished our coffee, you’d agree with me that this worry goes on my ever-increasing list of First World Problems I should give thanks for having.

And as we waddled out to our cars and said our goodbyes I’d wish you a happy week, and ask your prayers for my attempts at Organized Packing and the immediate future. Much to-doing to be done, and I’m gonna need all the help I can get.

Fresh Strawberries #Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, I’d serve you a slice of homemade quiche with a side of these gorgeous strawberries, bought from a woman who sells them from the parking lot of the Petsmart where I buy dog and cat food and, truth be told, treats and toys for them, too.

IMG_5581 (2)We would marvel at their color and sweetness. So much better than grocery store berries,  more like the strawberries of my youth in Southern California, where we once lived in a new subdivision planted in former farmland and where a few farms still remained. One hill and a couple of streets down, there was once a fruit and vegetable stand where my mother bought fresh eggs, flats of tomatoes, and baskets of fresh strawberries.

When my great-aunt Nadine was alive she lived in Garden Grove, California, home of the Strawberry Festival, or it was when I was nine years old and we went to the Festival. The Grand Marshall was Lt. David Rehmann, a former Vietnam War P.O.W., and his was the name  engraved on the P.O.W. bracelet I wore in protest of the war.

Even as a pre-teen, I was a little political.

This is one of the bracelets being sold on e-bay, which makes me feel a bit ill; my bracelet got snapped in half when Lt. Rehmann returned home. It’s what was done with P.O.W. bracelets. But this is exactly what mine looked like:

David Rehman POW bracelet

So there is some obscure, Vietnam War-era trivia to go with your coffee, quiche, and strawberries.

I actually got to meet Lt. Rehmann the day of the festival; he was nice, and appreciative of the support while he’d been imprisoned. Some months later my mom ran into him at a sporting goods store where she was shopping for my 10th birthday present, a 10-speed bike. He helped her choose one, a beauty with a sparkly blue metallic paint job. This made it special, and also especially hard when it went under the wheels of the car that ran a stop sign and hit me two years later. The bike was completely destroyed, but I flew over the top of the car and walked away banged up and massively bruised, but intact. If we were having coffee, I’d admit the experience made me a bit cheeky about crossing streets; I always figure having been hit once, what are the odds it would happen again?

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If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I’ve also driven through Watsonville, California, alongside fields where pickers, bent double at the waist, harvested fresh strawberries under a relentless sun, and seeing how literally back-breaking the work is makes me appreciate them even more.

And while we savored the last bit of their sweetness, I’d tell you that if she’s there next weekend, I’m thinking of buying an entire flat of strawberries from the woman in the parking lot, and making jam. And if in a couple weeks we were having coffee, I’d send you home with a jar of homemade strawberry jam.



If We Were Having Coffee…. Farmer’s Market Edition

IMG_5099 (2)If we were having coffee I’d totally get to make up for being such a downer last weekend, by telling you I got to have coffee this morning with this guy, who actually has today off, and it’s a special day for us – we exchanged emails for the first time on April 9th, five years ago. And who knew then that these years later would find us in South Carolina, walking the Farmer’s Market? But here we are.

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It was cool and breezy at first, but warm in the sun. If you’re not a Southerner, I would explain there is a thing about boiled peanuts here in the Deep South. And look how happy the vendors are! There is truth in their advertising. For those who love them, each boiled peanut is a tiny happiness bomb.

IMG_5080 (2)One can buy all manner of things at the Farmer’s Market – fresh fruit and veggies of course, but also artisan cheeses, like these. We picked up a brie infused with chipotle pepper called The Spice Must Flow, both because it is delicious and also because no self-respecting nerds could resist the name. (And we’re nothing if not self-respecting.)

I might suggest this vendor needs to rethink their notions of supply and demand. I love granola, but it doesn’t go all that well with coffee, or at least not as well as the cinnamon rolls would. IMG_5060 (2)

IMG_5030 (2)Ah…. Belgian waffles. They go with most things, and especially coffee. We had the croque-monsieur, though I missed the bechamel.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you we saw every manner of dog there: tiny yapper dogs, large, dignified Boxers, Great Danes, and what looked like a giant Scottish Terrier, quite tall and 85 pounds at least.

I wonder if he’s looking forward to the new season of Outlander tonight; I know I am.

Maybe we’d agree it’s always nice to see some friendly cops, hopefully earning some welcome OT pulling easy duty. Here’s another sign you have to be a long-term Southerner to appreciate.

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If we were having coffee I’d tell you about all the original, one-of-a-kind artsy things one can buy, like this pelican, from a gentleman who paints on reclaimed lumber and sports a luxuriant beard almost a work of art in itself. I’d tell you I am glad to get one of the pelicans as he says it’s been a year of desks, lately, old battered desks he and his partner keep finding on the side of the road and with which he’s creating whole new pieces of art.

I’d tell you I wish I was artistic, but I’m not. Instead I cook, or take pictures of other people’s art.IMG_5094 (2)
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I’d tell you about the street musicians, all serious concentration and talent in the middle of the Greek olive oil and pastry sellers, the Korean barbecue, and fancy soap, and how I wished I hadn’t quit guitar lessons when I was twelve.

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I would ask what you thought of someone’s idea of Lovely Rita the Meter Maid. Paul and I agreed she was nothing like either of us pictured. I might wonder if you’ve ever met someone first over the phone and formed a solid mental picture of him or her, then were completely surprised by the reality. I’ve been on both ends of that, myself.IMG_5106 (2)

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I would definitely tell you, with unabashed glee, about this tiny, free-standing library stuffed with books for the taking. Best. Idea. Ever. I hope you would agree with me we need tons more of them everywhere immediately.







When we’d walked the whole thing twice and our step-counters were delirious with joy, IMG_5121 (2)we headed back to the car which took us to a magical place where Beer Goddesses bring pints and Rocket Tots.


I’d tell you this day was a good day and offer you another cup, with a Greek pastry or a slice of artisan baguette and cheese.


A Lesson in Graciousness

It’s Monday. Yesterday, despite having recently been dragged to see both Room and Carol, Paul took me to the glory that is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The Carolina Panthers did not win the Superbowl, and I’m nursing a case of chips and Rotel cheese dip, shrimp and cocktail sauce (extra hot), buffalo chicken tenders inspired heart burn. Who knew such a combination would irritate a once cast-iron, now middle-aged stomach?

I’m also aghast that anyone thought they could make “opioid-induced constipation” into an amusing ad. I mean Dude, seriously?

So I sit eating my gentle bowl of oatmeal and reflecting on the day before all that first-world madness, wondering how to convey the quiet miracle I witnessed on Saturday.

Saturday was St. Simon & St. Jude’s turn to help feed the homeless of Columbia. I’ve written about it before, and I’ve done this sort of thing at my parish in Lewisville, Texas, many times. Always I leave the event feeling buoyant and wondering how that’s even allowed, how is it legal I get that for simply showing up and passing out hot dogs?

handing offIt’s not the serving of hot dogs, or even the ladling of chili on them that leaves me feeling elated, it’s the sincerity of all the “God bless you” and “Thank you” I hear.

And this time, something else I noticed: community. They come to the parking lot at Suggs & Kelly Law, off Taylor and Hampton in downtown-ish Columbia, and they are white and black, male and female, friends and lovers and married couples and singletons, mothers and children. Some are charming and talkative, like Keith who introduced himself to me with a gap-toothed smile and gave me a rundown of his long work history, including grave-digger. We both agreed the bones he’d moved while working for a funeral home held no danger to him, however superstitious his brother might be about it.

Miss Monica’s Chili is always a hit

As they passed through the food line and I ladled Miss Monica’s heaven-scented chili and offered onions for those who cared for such, I noticed how they cared for each other; stripped bare of pretension and most of their worldly goods, these folks took time to notice if a newcomer in their midst walked off without taking a banana for later, or directed one another to the pile of donated sweaters and coats when they noticed the need.

I am not always good at community; I’m an introvert by nature, an “ambivert” by training and necessity, so I understand the ones who pass silently through the line and avoid eye-contact; there can be myriad reasons for their silence. Trying not to intrude with chili, onions, or unwanted conversation, I take no offense when they walk by without a thank you. As well as obvious health and dental issues, there is a lot of mental illness on display among the homeless, something I often wonder if the general population understands. But as I watch them interact with each other, and smile and joke with them about onions being good for them, I realize if those who are locked within themselves reaches out, one of the others will help them, in whatever why they can. And I find that incredibly inspiring.

Interstate 26 was slow as molasses on the way home, giving me plenty of time to reflect, try to put a name to what I saw happening Saturday in that parking lot. The best I have been able to come up with is graciousness. There is a grace to them, in how they treat each other and in their thank yous and God bless yous to me/us. I learn something every time I help, but honestly didn’t see that one, graciousness, coming.

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Coffee and clothing

Wonder what I’ll learn next time?

Star Fruit and Shopping Carts

We had a nice Christmas, able to fly Charlotte out from Chicago, give each other a couple of nice gifts, send some cash out to the kids and grand-kids in Texas. But like about everyone I know, come January we’re feeling the pinch.

So I was comparison shopping with greater care and squelching the impulsive buying that generally typifies any expedition to the grocery store.

With the whole week to go grocery shopping, Heaven only knows why I procrastinated until Saturday. Kroger’s was packed, from the line I waited in to buy my Powerball tickets to every single grocery aisle. It was hard to pass through without waiting for clearance and everyone seemed in a bad mood. Maybe they’re all broke, too. But even amidst all the grumpiness, one woman stood out: a young mother with two children and a sour, dissatisfied expression on her face. She just looked angry, and no matter what aisle I was on, they were, too.

The elder of the two kids, a girl, looked about 12 and she pushed the grocery cart while mom snapped at little brother to stay with them and scanned the grocery shelves. “They sure don’t seem to carry a lot of family-sized things here,” she opined, scowling.

Encountering them again on the pasta aisle where they impeded all progress, she was filling one of the half-empty cardboard boxes holding ramen noodle packages, making a full case. They were on sale for $.20 ea. I waited to move past them, thinking judgy thoughts. “Give me five more,” she commanded her daughter, who swiftly complied. Letting my inner Judge run wild I thought, bet they don’t gainsay Momma if they know what’s good for them.

With other shoppers behind me I had nowhere else to go and something about her furrowed brow, the dark eyes counting plastic packages of noodles and darting about her shopping cart, made me look closer at its contents: several 1-pound chubs of the cheapest hamburger; family-sized boxes of cereal; cans of beans and bags of rice; store-brand loaves of bread; boxes of macaroni and cheese and all those ramen noodles. And my inner Judge shut up and slunk back to the darker recesses of my brain as I realized where her seemingly churlish attitude came from.

From the look of the cart, she was doing a monthly stocking-up shopping, the kind one does when one squeezes every penny earned. She wasn’t intentionally scowling, she was worried, the deep-seated, gnawing-at-the-bones worry of a mother wondering if somehow, she could make it all stretch until the end of the month. I will go out on a limb and say she didn’t spend $5 on Powerball tickets.

What is her life like? A delicate web of multiple jobs, or one, not-great-paying job that barely covers the bills? God forbid the car blows a tire, or needs a new battery; any unanticipated expense might throw her whole carefully budgeted world into disarray.

Never in my life have I wanted to buy someone’s groceries as much as I did right then.

I couldn’t do that, but I did the one thing I could,  went back to the pasta aisle and bought four cans of ready-to-eat Spaghetti O’s, which were on sale 4 for $5, for the Snack-Pack ministry at my parish. We provide take-home snacks for local schools to distribute, confidentially, to children facing “food insecurity”, the latest politically correct way of saying, “hunger”.

All weekend I’ve thought about the woman’s grocery cart, piled high with packaged, boxed, highly-processed, cheap food. Virtually no fresh fruits or vegetables, which are perishable and can be expensive. I thought about how when Charlotte was elementary-school aged and we were at the store together, I’d let her find the weirdest looking or most exotic fruit or vegetable in the produce section and we’d try it. Star fruit, Ugly fruit, kumquats, Asian pears, and parsnips were some of the oddities that made it into our shopping cart and onto the table, a few of them becoming regular players in our diet. I never counted the cost because I was more interested in her growing up to be an adventurous eater, open to trying new things and you know, it worked. But now I realize what a luxury such thinking can be, here in the richest country in the world.

And I just think that being able to try star fruit shouldn’t be a luxury.

“Food insecurity, [ … ] is a situation of “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways”, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).” – From Wikipedia.org

The Curative Taco

Who knew that Kroger’s at 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon is a freaking combat zone? Shouldn’t all those pushy/oblivious/rude people be home watching football? Did they not see us carefully staying to our side of the aisle and could they not do the same, instead of stopping dead center while sending text messages? And what was up in veggieland? Do they not restock the shelves? Is there a run on green onions I should know about?

Such were my self-involved, first-world thoughts yesterday. No one seemed friendly except the poor, harried clerks who are instructed to be so. It was easy to fall into, “They’re not as friendly as Texans!”

One of my Facebook friends posted a photo of a taco truck,  a successful new venture for someone she knows, and I pitifully commented that she needs to drive that thing to South Carolina, pronto, as I’m dying of taco deficiency. Yes, this is a serious medical condition.

But last night and more clearly this morning I put my finger on it: I’m homesick, but not for California, for Texas, my home of just over twenty years.

tacos the perfect food
Tacos: the perfect food.

I wasn’t a healthy enough human when I left California to recognize and process homesickness. Instead, it manifested in entirely, ridiculously unfair and frankly obnoxious comparisons between the two states.

The ocean, the beaches, the lazy, nasal drawling beach-speak of my youth will always have claim on my heart but Texas, as I’ve written before, burrowed into my heart without my knowledge or, truth be told, my permission. I miss the well-marked streets, the madness of the campus and all my “frequent fliers” – the kids who get into too much trouble and thus, became fixtures in my office (they’re the same ones who will hug you when they see you need one, by the way).  And I’m fruitlessly searching every street corner for a taco place. In Southern California, we’re basically weened on salsa and Mexican food, so tacos are pure comfort. Texas took that comfort and said, “Here, let’s wrap that in bacon and grill it over mesquite. Don’t you feel better now?”

“This too shall pass… like kidney stones….” I hear  Jeff calling to me from heaven, and a friendship made in Texas. I also know his next line would be, “It’s character-building and you’ll be a better person for it.” After he’d stopped snickering and had dodged my swing, he’d pointedly tell me, “You can get down off the cross – the job has been filled,” then gently remind me through the simple words of beloved St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” And as always, he would be right.

But I let myself shed a tear or two anyway, if only for the stunning lack of tacos here, and the horrifying discovery that Campbell’s makes “mild salsa,” apparently from whatever was scraped off the tomato soup processing plant floor. Some things can’t be unseen, and must be mourned.

Fortunately, I know the cure: open my heart to all the possibilities inherent in the phrase, “shrimp & grits,” schlep more boxes to the new house, and make it a warm and welcoming place not just for Paul and me, but for the friends as yet unmet, the family to visit, and in which the comfort of tacos and salsa are offered to all comers.

I wonder where I can get some mesquite?

Buried Treasures: Swiss Steak

We bought a house! Now we just need to move into it, made far easier by our intrepid realtor getting the deal done with a bit of over-lap between apartment and house. My free time is now spent schlepping boxes to the new place, and reveling in having time to organize it just right.

Because I’m neurotic, I’ll just own that here, I always clean a place before I move into it, no matter how clean it looks. I feel better if me, my sponge, rubber gloves, and our good friend, Bleach, have given everything a once-over. Yesterday we all went over and started on the kitchen, wiping out the cupboards in preparation for lining the shelves, and what to my wondering eyes should appear in the tucked-away corner cupboard but this little stash of forgotten treasures:

Buried Treasures
Buried Treasures

A full set of Ginsu knives! Fondue pot with Sterno! A can of Budweiser Paul will want exorcised from the house (Fr. Mark, I hope you do house blessings). But what I loved most was the well-used old electric skillet thingy. How many delicious meals came out of that? Because except for the color, I think it’s the same one my mother had. Hers was, of course, avocado green since it was born in the 1970s.

Following my nose from the front door to the kitchen, it was a good day to come home and find the electric skillet on the counter, nearly as good as opening the door to the scent of chili, or a big pot of beans and ham hocks bubbling away on the stove. It meant two things: my mother was up and active that day, and something particularly tasty was nearly ready to serve. Pot roast and Swiss Steak are the two things I best recall simmering in my mother’s avocado green electric skillet.

“What on earth is Swiss Steak?” asked Charlotte when I sent her the photo. I never incorporated it into my own cooking repertoire because it wasn’t one of my favorite childhood dinners. Though it was delicious in flavor, it contained two of my then-least favorite ingredients.

The flavor of my childhood.
The flavor of my childhood.

“It’s some cut of cheap beef, usually round steak, pounded within an inch of its life, seasoned, floured, seared and then simmered in a tomato gravy. My mum served it with mashed potatoes, which was my favorite part. But my mum made hers with big, gloppy, stewed tomatoes and green bell peppers, both of which I hated, so I would dramatically scoop them off of my plate and dump them on my mum’s, complaining the entire time.”

“Sounds about right – no one likes stewed tomatoes.”

No one except the grandmother Charlotte never knew, but from whom she inherited slender, elegant feet, perfect teeth, and beautifully arched eyebrows (though not the ability to cock one independently, which my mother did at me often, and to terrifying effect).

“I’d give a lot to have a dish of that now, though. I’d even hide the green bell peppers so she thought I ate some.”

Maybe once we’re settled in I will attempt my own Swiss Steak and if it’s good, I’ll make it for Charlotte when she next visits, though with noodles rather than potatoes (she hates potatoes – still haven’t figured that one out, what with all the Irish); she can taste a bit of my childhood while imagining her mother as an impossible middle-schooler complaining about abundance and a meal prepared with love, as children do the world over, never knowing in their innocence how much they’ll miss it once it’s gone.