Sunday, May 30, 2010

A-Z Monday: A Smorgasbord of S Foods

The letter S presents a challenge to this food series. There are so many great S foods, yet there is no one in particular that leaps out at me as being THE "S" food. So I must list a handful of the ones that, if they are not leaping out, they are at least limping forward.
First, in honor of Memorial Day, great summer-like weather, and grills being fired up everywhere, we salute the STEAK. What carnivore doesn't like the occasional steak, whether rare ("moo") or well done (charcoal). I prefer somewhere in the middle.
Next up is SPAGHETTI. It is not my favorite Italian dish, but I am always agreeable when Linda says "How about spaghetti tonight?" It's fun. And always entertaining to watch the dog eat a spaghetti noodle.

Then there is the plethora of "S" SEAFOOD: You have your SHRIMP (my sister used to love shrimp on her birthday, for years) and SCALLOPS (my mom used to love scallops, not necessarily on her birthday), and, well, we just had some really tasty SALMON patties.

The salmon patties were helped out, so my son and I thought, by some SALSA. In this case, some salsa verde, you know, the green kind. I got familiar with S.V. during a trip to New Mexico a number of years ago. I noted that the Wendy's in Santa Fe would slather salsa on your burger if so ordered. Salsa is good on lots of things, and not just Mexican food. I am a big fan, although "medium" is about as far as I go, hotness-wise.
A nod to STRAWBERRIES. They are ripening soon if not already around here, and Linda and I will undoubtedly make our annual trip to someone's strawberry patch and pick 'til we're sick of the whole process.
A shout out to the typical lunch menu choices of SOUP, SALAD, and SANDWICH, though we will have to wait until W to cover the increasingly popular Wrap.

Finally, S has the corner on bad breakfast meats. I refer to SPAM, about which the Monty Python troupe wrote a wonderful tribute, and SCRAPPLE, which, along with SAUSAGE (which I admit that I enjoy once in a while), fits into the "don't ask/don'tell the ingredients" category.
To end on a healthful note, we just picked some SPINACH leaves and, along with the salmon and salsa, they helped make a delicious sandwich.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's Bloomin' Nuts Out There

We usually get our flowers blooming sequentially -
one species, then another, and then another.
But this crazy, sultry summer weather has caused a bunch of 'em to pop,
as evidenced below.
The heat and a good walk gets the dog's tongue to pop as well...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Mondays: The Letter R

As much as I would love to spend some time with you extolling the virtues of the rutabaga...
well, I am not going to. I am sure it has its place in the pantheon of wonderful foods, in there with turnips and beets and other such things, but I am going to concentrate on something that has taken over my yard...I mean my life.


Here is what our little ol' raspberry patch looks like today. The bees are working it hard, getting that pollen around, and it looks to be a bumper crop.
If you feel you cannot garden - can't successfully grow anything - try your hand at raspberries. These little darlin's will take over your garden and your yard if you let 'em. This is our crop of red ones. It's nuts, how they have grown. We are now digging them up as they cross various borders into areas of raspberra non grata.

I do enjoy walking out in the morning and picking a handful of the berries to toss on my cereal. Or just to eat by themselves.

Six of us took a three-week trip across the USA in an Oldsmobile station wagon in 1998. I sometimes refer to it as "the best three weeks of my life", and in some ways it truly was. One thing I did along the trip was develop an addiction for raspberry iced tea. I got it in my head that it was better for me than, say, a diet coke, with perhaps less sodium, and, you know, "real fruit". Anyhow, ever since that journey, I have probably quaffed a few hundred gallons of the stuff.
Just yesterday, in a restaurant, I was all ready to order the customary raspberry iced tea, and...I did not order it. I decided to find out what all this fuss is about an "Arnold Palmer". Why is a mixture of lemonade and iced tea named for a golfer? What does a Jack Nicklaus taste like? Anyhow, it struck me as a bit sour, so I added one little paper container of Splenda (R) and it was pretty good. I may try it again. But I digress from the letter at hand.
The "Arnold Palmer"

Other R foods worthy of some praise include: roast beef (I don't have it often, but I loves it when I do!); Reuben sandwiches (excellent combination of food ingredients that I never would have thought to put together - although I tend to cheat these days and get the turkey Reuben); raisins (we always have some around, mix 'em with nuts, toss 'em on cereal when raspberries are out of season...), and rhubarb pie (when it is done right, it is wonderful). I am probably missing a few important ones, but R is a pretty good food letter.

And we didn't even discuss riboflavin...
More discussion of foods beginning with this letter over at the creator of this whole meme, Jen.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Monday: A Challenging letter

This week we come to the letter Q, which always puts us in a quandary until we either quit or quote some quack.

Here is the run-down:
Q stands for Quiche, which is some sort of upscale omelet, and which was dissed in the past as way too effete for any manly man to claim as real food. I would not know. I really have not eaten much quiche in my time. I have had more omelets, and way more eggs in things like huevos rancheros, which do not come near beginning with a Q, and thus which are irrelevant to this discussion.

Whilst reviewing things latino, however, there is the matter of the Quesadilla. I am a reasonably supportive fan of this dish, which is you basic tortilla with cheese, and then with any combo of other items added. My son was in a band for three or so years of high school, and the first song he ever wrote (that I am pretty sure the band refused, for the most part, to play along with him) was entitled "Quesadilla". It was a cute, light, humorous little ditty, and really, the only original song I recall him ever performing where a large portion of the audience was singing along.

Here are the words from the chorus of this wonderful song:

"Cheese, cheese, cheese ... on a tortilla
Ques, Ques, Ques, Quesdadilla!"

We are so proud.
Moving along, we can skip "Quahog" because I had no clue what it was. It came up during my research. A clam, they tell me. Sorry, teeming millions of quahog aficionados.

As far as I am concerned, we are left with two great American institutions that, truth be told, I do not ingest all that often. The first is Quaker Oats oatmeal. Sometimes, especially in winter, the time is just right for the stuff. As covered previously. Under O.
The second is the venerable McDonalds Quarter Pounder. It is, really, a pretty good hamburger, as these fast food things go, and the product has been around for decades. It seems to run second to the Big Mac, which appears to get more attention, and has had more advertising jingles, but it is a pretty good burger, all told, almost on par with, say, a Whopper.
So that's all I've got for Q Week. Perhaps not so big on Quality, but no too shabby on Quantity.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oberlin Folk Festival

Finney Chapel, Oberlin College: fairly awesome venue

Had a blast last Saturday night over in Finney Chapel in Oberlin, as we caught the last three acts of the weekend Folk Festival. Cam in halfway through the set of Roosevelt Dime, whose novel lineup includes bass/drums/banjo/trumpet/clarinet. Yeah, they can make some noise.
Roosevelt Dime

My favorite of the three, musically, was called Crooked Still. Also a nontraditional lineup, they went with singer (playing some guitar)/violin(fiddle)/cello/upright string bass/banjo. The mesmerizing rapid fire banjo and fiddle work was underpinned beautifully by the cello and bass, and the singer's voice was haunting and just right for the mood of the music.
Crooked Still

Last up was an incredible entertaining trio called the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Three African Americans from, yeah, (N.) Carolina, with a female handling most leads with an absolutely marvelous voice. They traded the instruments around, all seeming proficient on three or four, and handled banjo (the instrument of the night, evidently), fiddle, guitar, snare, autoharp, castanet-like bones. And, um, jug (see below). Evidently there is a history of Black bluegrass-type music; the predecessor of the banjo migrated here from Africa, in fact. Anywhow, the Drops had the kids dancing in the aisles.
Carolina Chocolate Drops

A wonderful evening of purely enjoyable music.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Albino Squirrel in Tappan Square, Oberlin College

Good camo in a snowstorm. Now? Not so much.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Monday: Two P Foods

Not sure if that title sounds good or not.

Be that as it may, I have two items that I need to list for "Foods Beginning With A 'P'"
The first is an insane passion of mine: peanut butter. I have spent a career willfully carting off peanut butter sandwiches to work with me. Whilst others may enjoy dining out, or bringing something to heat up in the microwave, creating a fragrant aroma throughout the office, I just unwrap that sandwich bag and am happy to bite into the peanut butter sandwich.
I have gravitated to the PBJ variety, with a dash of Welch's grape jelly (yeah, we're talking pretty darn pedestrian tastes here) or, if I am feeling a bit puckish, jam. And, I mean, I'm a happy guy. Toss in an apple and a couple cookies and it's lunch.
Sometimes I don't even go the jelly route. For years, I have enjoyed the simplicity of a peanut butter and butter (or, more likely, margerine) sandwich. My wife points out that this combination is not optimal for cardiac health, so it's not like I bust out the PB-B every day. But once in a while, I go this route.
"Crunchy or creamy?", you ask. I do not have a favorite, and I am happy to mix it up a bit. I don't mind some of those "low fat", "low sodium" varieties, if it is still major label. Where I have not warmed up to the product is the case where you get the aging hippie in the whole food store to actually mash up real peanuts for you and stick the resulting paste in a container. Sorry; too bland. Needs some artificial chemicals or something. I need unhealthy processing, I fear. Perhaps some day when the cardiologist looks me in the eye and says "Change your ways or prepare to meet thy maker", or however they put it, most likely using a lot of large words they learned in med school, I will force myself to purchase this concoction.

OK, my second P entry is an historical cookie called the Penguin Cookie. I am not aware that you can purchase these in the 21st century. My buddy next door used to get them when I was growing up, or, rather, his mother did. They were a fairly regular staple over there, and it was always a good thing when the Penguins were offered, sometimes along with a Great Shake (refer to my "G" post).
Penguin Cookies were sorta like the valuable prize of a car at the end of "Wheel of Fortune", when we used to play a little game over next door entitled 'You Have to Eat it". We would take my friend's mom's Lazy Susan in a cabinet and give it a spin, sticking out our finger in a fixed position. When the Lazy Susan came to rest, we had to eat a sampling of whatever we found at the tip of our pointing, extended index finger. The item could be corn starch, or flour, or sugar; you get the picture. Maybe there were some spices in there; I either do not recall or have blocked out some horrible childhood memories. But the best prize on the Susan by far was a Penguin Cookie. Thus it eaqrns a place in what is becoming my Alphabetical Food Hall of Fame.

Find out what P Foods others find notable at Jen's blog...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A-Z Munchin' Monday: The "O" Foods

I have to admit off the bat that no food or drink starting with the letter O leapt out at me as being fundamental to the core of my very being, as much as, say, hamburger, or even graham crackers. So instead of hitting one much-loved item hard, I am going to survey several items and give them only brief mention.
We begin with olive oil. We have switched at our house, and use this stuff a lot in place of other oils, such as your vegetable, canola, 10-W-30, etc. I like those Italian restaurants where you can dip your bread into a pool of the oil. It is a nice touch, and I am led to believe that it is relatively good for you.
Second, I have to ask: What is the deal with okra? This slimy stuff looks like someone went a long way to say "yeah, it's edible; it should be a basic vegetable". Well, no, it shouldn't. It is bizarre. As I noted above, it has this slimy feel to it, and if you really study it on your plate, you can accurately make it out to be some alien pod that, left unchecked, could grow into some forboding creature that could quite possibly take over the earth and make our people slaves to do its bidding for centuries. No thanks.
I love a good orange. When the juiciness and sweetness converge, an orange is heavenly. I despise those dried out ones, and a bitter orange is not a good experience whatsoever. But when all the features are positive, it's good eating.
I prefer to slice my orange into quarters and peel off the skin. Others just peel and eat the whole thing, pulling off sections as they go. Some people even get their kicks out of jamming a straw into the orange and squishing the juice out of the poor thing. Whatever your method, I am pro-orange.
Like the orange, an onion can be a very good thing if it is "just right". I am not big on the strong ones that send people away, teary-eyed and gasping for breath. I like my onions fairly, let's say, weak flavored. But an onion can add some flair to that burger or brats or whatever, so I give the thing my props. My sister once grew an onion in the back yard. The onion went higher and higher until the whole plant structure just kind of fell over one day. What was that all about?

I am a seafood fan: I love those "boiled captain's platter" type meals where they give you all kinds of stuff. Among them can be oysters. I am not big into the whole oyster/clam/mollusk/"mussels alive-alive-o" thing. Speaking of alive, the legend has it that my Uncle John the biologist once took a stethoscope to a live oyster bar and let my mom, or his wife, or someone, hear the little oyster's heartbeat. Suffice it to say, Mom (or whoever) did not partake of the live oysters. I may have this story totally wrong, but it went something like that. If you knew Uncle John, it is totally within the realm of possibility.
"redneck calamari"
And I know that calamari is squid and not octopus, so it really should not be mentioned here, but I found this picture entitled "redneck calamari" that I thought was fairly humorous. They were clearly carving the wieners into octos and not squid.
I cannot conclude a survey of "O" foods without a shout out to oatmeal. It is about as exciting as the color change you observe when the paint is finally dry, but it is a mainstay and a resolute friend on those cold winter nights when you believe it would help to consume something that is believed to "stick to your ribs". When in fact, food that literally sticks to your ribs would be quite damaging to your health.

And finally, there is ouzo. I recall drinking one or two of these beverages in a Greek restaurant in Chicago many years ago with a number of fellow workers from several states. Potent beverage, as I recall. And the fact that I recall anything speaks well for me, I think. I know you are supposed to yell "opa!!!!" a lot when consuming the stuff. I found this definition for "opa!!!":
"a word that Greek people use for no apparent reason at all. ... "Yeehaw!" " Seems like the appropriate word for Greek rednecks to holler while downing some ouzo and redneck calamari.

And speaking of the letter "O", the new picture up top there is of the Ohio River from a trip I took this past week to do some work down in steel/coal/God's country. The State of Ohio is on the left; West Virginia is on the right.