Friday, July 9, 2010
Macaroni salad, the side dish, is a nonevent in the world of taste buds. My grandmother, Nana as we used to call her, somehow managed to raise the bar for her macaroni marvel, essentially endowing it to become a meal-though a la carte. She managed to achieve a perfect balance of dressings, vegetables and spices that came together to create a culinary gem. In my more youthful days, I could (and often did) eat 2 pounds of her delightful summer surprise, down it with a Coke and experience gastrointestinal nirvana for the rest of the day. ‘Best in the world’ is what I told her every time she made it.
As for myself, I can parlay a few special ingredients to whip up above average French toast, BBQ’d onions or linguine with clams. But, at the core, I am mostly a cook to eat and survive person. My adoring companion, as I may or may not have let slip by, is by nature only capable of making or eating food with a three and a half star or better rating. I am often blessed with lamb or pork chops (from a local gourmet shop naturally), flawlessly mashed potatoes, and then topped with a vegetable gravy so wonderful that I eat without breathing. Occasionally, birthday’s etc., I am the recipient of a stepped up and grand eggplant dinner. And her pasta salad, with its own special blends of oils, olives, peppers, cheeses and zing is so appealing that I had to stop bringing leftovers to work for lunch. A major distraction would unfold, as everyone in the room wanted a sample. So for years now, with cooler in hand and dining by car radio as my most frequent workday option, the pasta never leaves the boundaries of my front seat.
Now enter in a fact that would be easily deduced by most of my readers: I try to give thought before I provide opinion.
Impulsiveness, however, brought on by 27 years of ingrained familiarity with esteemed comrade, caused me to suddenly chime in when her long locked siblings were ready to crown the title of ‘best brownie maker’ at our 4th of July annual this past weekend. ‘Excuse me, dear sisters, but my mother (who can’t hold a candle to lady’s meats, gravy’s and eggplants) is hands down the best brownie maker that I have ever known. And while we are handing out awards, no one in any home or castle has ever made Irish Soda Bread better than my mom as well.’
Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle and you are all wet is the response that I received from the gallery in attendance, including a fellow blogger. But after some additional fishing and reflection I have discovered the impasse. Fairest is a nutty person and Mom is not (is that right?). I suppose a better clarification is to mention that when I leave for the grocery store, instead of the classic ‘don’t buy any green bananas’, I hear ‘make sure you get a bag of almonds.’ Born again of a different core and not being a nutty person either, my only craving comes before boarding an aircraft. And while I have little doubt that my favorite chef does make terrific brownies, my abilities to cast an honest vote have been compromised.
A second and more dramatic eye-opener confounds this clash to boot. No mention was made of my lover’s truly over the top, unquestionably and unbeatable dessert special. I am referring to a bowl of such rareness, that when graced with the optional (should be standard) dose of heavy cream, I think of .400 averages in baseball and other records unlikely to ever be surpassed.
Now back to addressing the chuckle part. I have decided to take an action that will preempt any possible impetuous outbursts. I will annually, post to my blog, five inductions into a newly established Great Hall of ‘Best in the World’ homemade food or drink. The parameters for induction are simple, yet exceedingly difficult to achieve. The side dish, appetizer, entrée, dessert, drink or baked specialty must be so fabulous that I have never ingested even a worthy runner-up in any home or commercial establishment. Rule number two: If I cannot give an objective opinion because of a character defect, allergy (ex: crab meat) or other unforeseen circumstance I must then obtain no less than 5 ‘Best in the World’ nods from committee members. Please let me know if you would like to be on the committee. Rule three: Inductions shall take place the first Friday following the 4th of July.
And so, after five days (common theme here) of consideration, here are the 2010 Christopher’s Views, ‘Best in the World’ hall of homemade delights and the honorees:
Nana is being inducted posthumously and most likely laughing from heaven.
Out of this World Irish Soda Bread
I have no intention of letting these slices of splendor slip away. I have procured the recipe plus secret. Noteworthy hint: The secret is not in the raisins. My first two loaves baked came quite close to earning an authentic grade label. I believe that I will capture glory in the third round.
Fair lady thinks she knows the secret behind these tender chunks, water chestnuts and mushrooms. But she has yet to fully master the exact flavors and crunchy allure of this indulgence. It is another complete meal unto itself, and affectionately referred to as my aunt’s chicken whenever served at home.
I have been nearly negligent so far in providing little mention of this Queen of cuisine, who is arguably the most versatile of all the candidates and a plausible challenger for multiple awards. These thinly wrapped harbingers of digestive pleasure move along the palate without effort. They will add up though-I recommend knowing your limits. Additionally, I never order this specialty in a restaurant, for if any wait person mispronounces the name my faith is lost before even getting served.
Can't Miss Apple Crisp
Each year, in the early fall, our family trek’s to apple orchards in Upstate New York. We follow military style orders regarding which varieties and quantities of fruit are to be garnered. However, the overtime work of that one day pays a great dividend. We are bestowed with enough daily portions of the absolute best in the world crisp to transcend us all the way to Thanksgiving Day.
The hall has spoken. I look forward to collaborating with committee volunteers, in preparation of the 2011 ceremony. I have already got my hopes up for a promising Cajun fish recipe, a holiday pie, medal winning Pina Coladas, a few men to cross the threshold, and of course-closure for the brownies.
© 2010 Christopher’s Views
Saturday, July 3, 2010
We are living in the midst of continually difficult economic times. The jobless rate officially slogs along at around 9.5%, and there is substantial debate that the true unemployment number is much higher. Interest rates are at, or near all time lows, but few people are buying homes. Hordes of students are graduating from college with jumbo loans and few prospects. More likely than not, what many experts are calling the Great Recession of today, would be another Great Depression if not for the government assistance and social service programs which were nonexistent in the 1930’s.
Our nation is struggling with winding down the war in Iraq, bringing about stability amid the corruption and confusion in Afghanistan, and fighting against home grown terror.
Business owners and residents along the Gulf of Mexico are stuck in the persistent trauma and nightmare caused by defending against the largest offshore oil ‘spill’ in American history.
All this said, and I haven’t even touched on anything beyond page one of the news.
Personally, balancing my commitments to a relatively middle class life style is as stressful as any time over the past twenty years.
Perhaps that is why I am glad to escape into the land of beaches, boardwalk’s, firework shows, BBQ’s, Tiki torches, golf clubs, ball games, and outdoor music this 4th of July weekend.
Along the way, I will see many U.S. flags flying. I will, at times, think of: ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ I will think of the men and women in the armed forces who have and who are defending the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’
I will, for a moment, give thanks while I ‘stop and smell the roses’.
© 2010 Christopher’s Views