Food Friendly May: To Share or Not to Share

When Twistie wrote about comfort food over the weekend, I felt sorry for myself.

I  can’t eat when I’m stressed and we never did the comfort food thing in our house.

With four generations to feed and a lifelong case of food hate, my sensible RN grandmother didn’t have the time or inclination to whip up something special just because one of us felt low.

When we were sick it would be the hospital-approved BRAT diet until we felt better, and the only thing that got me was a lifelong distaste for bananas, rice, applesauce and dry Pepperidge Farms sandwich white.

But then I thought about the first time I tasted elderflower cordial, in a tiny house on a tiny island off the north coast of England where the fire alarm was a handbell and we took vows of silence save for one hour a day.

I thought about Whitt’s pulled pork sandwiches in Nashville and the Snug Harbor –a miraculous variation on the eggs Benedict theme, with a soft shell Chesapeake blue crab taking standing in for the eggs– at the long defunct Fred’s in Annapolis.

I thought about the old fashioneds at the Driskill Hotel and a really well-pulled pint of Guinness in Ireland.

I thought about a proper haggis.

Some parts of me want to share these things with HLB, but in a way I want to keep it private: my unaltered memories for myself alone.

I opened Hot Latin Boy and his pals up to the magical world of shrimp and grits, sweet potato pie, gin and tonics and just yesterdayCampari.

In exchange, his mother has introduced me to tamales with prunes in them (apparently a Guatamalan thing), pozole (which made up for the prunes), huitlacoche, and some delightful but totally mysterious green thing made out of pig spine that cured me of my cold but created further problems I am too delicate to describe.

We already have a collection of “us” foods:

Baked apples will always have a special meaning, even though I whipped them up because I had to get rid of two old winesaps and the dregs of some granola, celery soup –brought steaming hot when I was sick– will always remind me of our first months in Villa Plumcake even though I think he made it because he wanted to use the immersion blender.

If he ever manages me to frogmarch me down the aisle, you can bet there will be rosemary in my bouquet as a wink to one of our first dates at a painfully sophisticated restaurant where he accidentally ate an entire twig of garnish and tried to save me from the same fate by loudly saying “Novia! Don’t eat the little tree! It’s so strong!”‘

Still, I’m not sure how I’d feel about sharing the foods and moments so associated with a special, personal time. What if he didn’t like haggis? What if he liked it too much and it became one of “our” things instead of set in that crystalline moment off the coast of Scotland half a decade ago?

Do you share your sentimental favorites or are remembrances of meals past better left just as they are?

And how was YOUR weekend?

Okay gang, I am writing this under cover of darkness.

Technically I am writing this under cover of Hot Latin Boy being on the patio lifting all sorts of heavy household good in preparation for my personal exodus out of Villa Plumcake which is happening in oh, about four hours. Which is why I should be moving stuff. But I’m not. Because I’m here.

It also doesn’t help that I’m all bruised, battered and generally in less than in ideal moving condition because –wait for it– I fell in heels.

I know. I was as shocked as you are.

For the first time since the Toothfairy Ball incident of 2005, wherein I had to emcee for a charity in a costume that included these boots:

and a industrial-sized bottle of codeine cough syrup consumed entirely on stage which people thought was part of my clever dentist costume but was in fact because I had pneumonia.

Anyhoodle, steep stairs, a raging cough syrup high, and six inch vinyl hooker boots does not a well-balanced Plumcake make (in either sense of the word) and I went tits over teacups on stage in what I was told was a rather breathtaking way.

My most recent tumble was not nearly so exciting, but I came off quite a bit worse.

On Friday night I went to my former village’s one restaurant to say goodbye to some pals and avail myself of the tuneful stylings of a man billed as sounding exactly like Barry White, which he does, providing you a) have severe head damage and b) have never actually heard Barry White.

I was going solo for the night and the problem with the village is any woman under the age of about six thousand is considered a hot commodity.

As a result I have perfected the Polite but Potentially Armed rebuff, which involves among other things not letting anyone other than my friend the former Golden Gloves champion boxer walk me to my car.

He wasn’t available, so after having my Manhattan, enjoying a nice chat with an oncology surgeon I hadn’t seen in ages who has graciously extended an invitation to Morelia, and biting a lounge singer (I told him if he touched my cheek one more time I’d bite him, so why was he surprised that when he touched my cheek during a particularly horrible rendition of the already horrible “After the Lovin’” that I kept my word. He’s lucky I didn’t keep his finger, too) I walked to my car.

Remember last summer when I wrote that anyone who thinks cobblestones are romantic either has smaller breasts or cheaper shoes than I do? Well, it holds true. Cobblestones can [redacted] right off.

I mean what sort of world do we live in where a totally sober woman in a pair of extremely solid, bordering on sensible Diane Von Furstenburg cobalt pony hair heels can be assaulted by the forces of gravity in such a cruel and unprovoked manner?

The damage was relatively minimal: One cut-up hand, a skinned knee and an impressive case of road rash on my left elbow.

The shoes, thank God, are fine.

Once again my borderline germphobia saved the day because I was able to immediately disinfect my cuts and scrapes with the many MANY bacteria-killing products in my car, leaving Hot Latin Boy to pluck out the bits of gravel from my person when I arrived safely (all things considered) home.

So…that was my weekend and I think I hear HLB trying to move my booze cabinet so I should probably go supervise. I might be a little scacre this week, but in the meantime, how was YOUR weekend?

Remember

It’s not about the sales, the swimming pool or the hangover on Tuesday morning.

I wish I could be at Arlington today to decorate my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ graves, but I can’t. Shamefully I can’t even be postive as to which of my great great-grandfathers was the last member of the Plumcake clan to spend significant time in Mexico, although I know it was in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

But for all the barbecues and mattress sales and bad cartoon Uncle Sams trying to sell you something that’s almost certainly made in China, I hope my American brothers and sisters will all pause and bow our heads in thanks to the men and women who gave their lives in service of our country.

On behalf of Twistie, Manolo, and the whole Manolosphere, I wish you a peaceful and meaningful Memorial Day.

Food Friendly May: Play With Your Food

In reply to my entry yesterday, reader and all-around awesome person Txbunny wrote:

Ms Twistie, please post your momma’s Mac & Cheese recipe. I could really use it.

 

Txbunny, I honestly wish I could. Alas! I don’t have it. In fact, I’m not certain there ever was a written recipe for it.

On the other hand, you can create your own version with a little experimentation.

See, when you come right down to it, cooking is chemistry. If you’ve got a decent rough estimate of proportions and a general idea of time and temperature, you can create your own recipes, or just adapt ones you already have available.

Continue Reading…

Food Friendly May: A Plate of Comfort

Comfort food often gets a bad rap. Eating with your emotions in mind??? ZOMGDEATHONASTICK! But you know what? I’m in favor of comfort foods. I’m in favor of eating something gooey over falling into despair or taking a hockey stick to a deserving person’s face. I’m in favor of renewing emotional ties that come with tucking into a dish that means something to you.

But the funny thing is just how broad a spectrum of foods are comforting. When I went looking for an illustration for this article, I was thinking mac and cheese or – as pictured – tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. But in addition to those items, Google tossed up photos of: meatloaf, loaded potato skins, chicken and waffles, fish tacos, s’mores, tonkatsu, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken noodle soup, saag paneer, pancakes, shepherd’s pie, lasagna, fried chicken without waffles, waffles without chicken, biscuits, quiche, hamburgers, mashed potatoes, lo mein, roast chicken, challah bread, potato chowder, cupcakes, a fried egg on baked beans… and the list goes ever on and on.

The lesson here? Comfort is a highly personal thing. It comes in many, many forms and sometimes we don’t know the reason why it’s so comforting.

I know why I find mac and cheese so comforting. My mother made a killer mac and cheese with a combination of five different cheeses that resulted in gooey, gooey goodness on a plate. For me, mac and cheese needs multiple cheeses. For some, mac and cheese comfort requires a box with day-glo orange cheese powder, but my comfort is made from scratch.

But I also find tomato soup one of the most comforting things I can possibly eat, and I never had it growing up. Mom never once made tomato soup in my lifetime. I don’t think I ever even tasted it until I was in my teens, and then it was something instant that bore no resemblance to the flavor of actual tomatoes. So I don’t know why it soothes my nerves and settles my soul. I only know it does.

When I first started dating Mr. Twistie back in the Dark Ages, when he got down, he wanted ‘a hot meal’ to make him feel better. During our dating days and the early days of our marriage, I tried making all kinds of good, hot meals to make him feel better. I roasted chickens, made soup, spent hours over a good beef stew, only to have him say mournfully that what he really wanted was ‘a hot meal.’

We’d been together for ten years before he finally explained that ‘a hot meal’ is a specific combination of eggs scrambled with sausages (preferably chicken apple, but they can be any kind of sausage he’ll eat including hot dogs), onions and garlic with a side of steamed rice.

Then again, he can also find comfort in tonkatsu and a couple specific kinds of sushi that don’t involve fish.

One day last week I had a hellish day. Everything went wrong. I got some bad news from a friend. Every time I tried to get something done I got interrupted at a really inconvenient point in the proceedings. It was One of Those Days, and I slipped into a nasty little funk. It doesn’t happen often, but I wound up in a Very Dark Place emotionally and I couldn’t pull myself out.

By the time Mr. Twistie got home, I was sitting in the dark sniffling. Moments later I found myself bundled up in the car. He was taking me to dinner at the place he knew had the best mac and cheese ever: the Pacific Coast Brewing Company in Oakland.

One cup of potato leek soup, one house made root beer, and one bowl of killer mac and cheese with ham and bacon, melting with a mouthwatering blend of cheeses later, I was a new woman. I did thieve an onion ring from Mr. Twistie’s plate (What? they were beer battered and served up with a really garlicky aioli), too. I took half the mac and cheese home to eat the next day. It was fabulous cold for breakfast with a good cup of black coffee.

And you know what? I was able to face the rest of the evening not only with equanimity, but with joy. One good meal did that for me. When Mr. Twistie got home from work the next evening, there was a lovely balanced and delicious meal waiting for him and a ridiculously chipper wife.

Good foods, properly applied, can do wonders for us emotionally. They just have to be the right foods for us.

So what’s your comfort food? Do you have more than one? Have you ever had an experience where the right meal at the right moment did you more good than anything else on Earth could have?

Help a Reader: Pretty, Natural Plus-Sized Sleepwear

Happy Friday gang. Boy am I glad to see this week’s tailfeathers shaking in the rear-view mirror. First server woes then my Facebook and email started acting up and then I saw The Avengers because I like Tom Hiddleston except it made me weep for the standards of contemporary American cinema if that is what qualifies as a “smart” film. To paraphrase MftBG favorite Terra Cotta Sugarbaker, I have heels higher than those standards.

Anyhoodle, the other day I received an email from superfantastic reader Rachel:

Dear Miss Plumcake,

I apologize if you covered this before on Manolo for the Big Girls, but I am looking for some nice sleepwear (and I think others who are plus sized and not 21 any more might appreciate). I’m looking for something pretty, made with fabrics found in nature and something I can actually sleep in. Any advice you could give would be much appreciated.

Thank you.
Rachel

From personal experience I got nothin’.

I am what my baby brother used to call a “wuff sweeper.”

Try as I might, I cannot find a nightie, jimjam or other form of nocturnal costuming that doesn’t end up wrapped around my throat or lodged irretrievably in one of my more tender nooks and crannies after just an hour or so of sleep. If I attempt to sleep in anything more substantial than moisturizer, I risk serious self-injury, and frankly that is NOT something I want to explain to emergency responders, especially not in Spanish.

Pretty and nice are subjective as is something you can “actually sleep in”, and “not 21 anymore” covers a lot of ground, so the best I can do is offer my one feeble suggestion and open it up to the crowd.

I have heard good things from people whose taste and style I respect about Eileen West sleepwear.

She does old-fashioned nightgowns and pajamas that might fit the bill.

I don’t find them particularly alluring, but I think some of them could possibly fit the description of pretty if you cast your net wide enough. Also Vermont Country Store seems to offer Eileen West as well as a few other purveyors of olde-tymey sleepwear.

So okay girls, open your pajama drawers and help Rachel out.

Five Great: Kitchen Gadgets Worth the Counter Space

Some unforeseen technical jackanapery means this post is two days late.

In the intervening 48 hours, I made Hot Latin Boy his first ever banana pudding.

He’d never had it before and by the low moaning sounds he’s been making –similar to the sounds my shar-pei makes when I rub his ears, I call it an eargasm– I can tell the pleasures of warm, homemade vanilla pudding (do you even need to ask whether there’s bourbon in it?) are new to him.

Over on the Facebook page, I pondered which is the greater sin: using a half of a Hershey’s bar when making a single s’more (excessive and ruins the whole delicate taste and texture ratio) or those miserly folks who only use one slice of banana per Nilla wafer in their banana pudding.

One reader seemed unclear as to the usage of the phrase “banana pudding”.

It is not the same thing as banana-flavored pudding.

Banana pudding is alternating layers of Nilla wafers and sliced ripe bananas drenched in warm homemade vanilla custard and let to chill. Some people top their pudding with meringue and others with whipped cream.

Some may use homemade ladyfingers as their cookie and some use Chessmen (though usually this is seen as embarrassingly bougie and most likely to be sign of a social climbing Methodist who wants to impress the Episcopalian Daughters of the King) but if it isn’t homemade pudding –and honestly there is no reason not to make your own custard, it takes five minutes and is infinitely superior to any boxed variety– it’s not banana pudding.

I don’t even have the strength to discuss Cool Whip as a topping.

Which brings me to my next point.

I don’t want to overgeneralize or make some sort of inflammatory logically indefensible assertion here, but it must be said:

I’m pretty sure people who don’t make their own mayonnaise don’t get into heaven, at least not on their first try.

Admittedly, this might not hold up to rigorous theological testing and Duke’s enthusiasts probably go to limbo instead of straight to the bottom floor. I haven’t really worked out all the details yet. Hmm, I wonder what Mayo Limbo would be like…probably a place where you can get shrimp and grits but they’re lumpy and made by some guy from Connecticut.

*shudder*

Anyway, the other day Twistie was talking about kitchen gadgets she didn’t need. I also have an aebelskiver pan, although I’ve never actually had aebelskiver as I was most likely vaccinated against it as a child.

Although I’ve been felled by the siren song of a completely useless gadget once or twice (I’m looking at you, bread machine) I tend to save my serious errors in judgment for outside the kitchen.

Still, one must look on the sunny side, so here is a list of five kitchen tools that more than earn their counter space.
Continue Reading…