July 17, 2013

If you ask most Americans what their favorite Italian food is, you will probably get an answer like pizza, pasta, veal parmesan  gelato or the like.

All wonderfully good choices indeed, but not my picks especially on a sunny warm July morning.
A day when the local melons are ripe and juicy and one  of the best gift  of God to His people is available .
So, if you want to eat  like an Italian, then you must pick up the  very best melon you can from the fresh produce market. Then head to your favorite Italian deli or grocery store for about a 1/4 pound of their very best prosciutto. Have them slice it so thin you can see though it. Your Italian Nonna would be so proud!
Then as soon as you arrive home slice the melon and put it in the fridge  for at least 15 minutes, to get it a little cool.
When you can’t take it any more, put the melon slices on the plate and drape the sliced prosciutto over them.

With cup of strong espresso, take the luscious, sweet, silky, salty madness out onto your  patio and enjoy a simple pleasure that is pure Italy .



Grandpa’s Prunes

July 8, 2013

Prior to turning 60, I don’t think I ever ate a prune.

OK I might have eaten a few plums here and there during their lush summer season, but no prunes.
Now however, prunes and raisin bran have become my daily breakfast companions.
I don’t know what it is, but as one gets older prunes become more delicious.

I so much prefer them to a nasty bacon, cheese omelet with a stack of buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.
I did not realize how attracted to and protective of  my prunes I had become until Sydney and Kate were over the other day.

They were rooting though the “snack” basket on the kitchen counter,  when their mother, Wendy admonished them.

“Do  not to eat grandpa’s prunes.”

“Oh we won’t!,”  They snickered.

I don’t know why they laughed, but I was happy when they ate some Cheetos instead. And now I have recently found out that some prunes have essence of  orange  in them.
Now this is a fruit I could get behind!

The Ice Cream Snob

July 5, 2013

mikey and oscar

The waiting


Just about everybody who lives in St. Louis and the near midwest is aware of the ice cream that is Ted Drewes.

Personally, I think it is among the top ice creams in the world. The others being Blue Bell from Texas and the Italian Gellati one can get in the shadow of the Pantheon in Rome.

Until recently however, I was unaware of how particular other species can be when they are selecting their ice cream choices.

Now cats are notorious finicky eaters. Remember Morris the cat in the commercial, who would only eat a certain brand of food. Well, we have our own “Morris.” His name is Oscar. He is about 13 years old and weighs in at a solid 25 pounds. He is also diabetic and receives 2 insulin shots daily.

His buddy is Mikey, a 4-year-old Welsh Corgi who will eat anything. Mike maintains his show weight at 28 pounds.

Occasionally, we will have ice cream in the house. Sometimes, it is Ted Drewes. Sometimes it is another quality ice cream. Donna usually reserves about a teaspoon for each of “the boys.”

mikey ice cream

Mikey eats his share with wild enthusiasm.

Oscar however is more circumspect and will sniff the sweet dessert first. If it is Ted Drewes, he will lap it up as eagerly as Mikey. If it is not his brand he will walk away leaving it untouched.

He has done this consistently for years only agreeing to eat ice cream if it is Ted Drewes.

I don’t know what he would do if presented with the gelato on Garibaldi street, but I am not going to fly him to Rome to find out.

The summer job

July 2, 2013

It has been about 4 weeks now since Sydney started her summer job at the tennis club.

She works in the cafe making salads, nachos, serving  drinks and sometimes running the cash register.

But her main area of responsibility is the snow cone station. There she whips up shaved ice masterpieces covered with sweet flavored syrup.
She is especially busy on hot days and holidays.
Since Sydney is six months away from getting her driver’s license,  her mother usually takes her to work. Sometimes however, if her mother is busy, I get to drive her. The other day while taking her to work, I asked about her job.
“What is hardest snow cone to make?”, I inquired.
“Rainbow” she said with a slight frown. “Because you need to put all these different colored syrups on the ice.”
“Does anyone ever ask for extra syrup?” I followed up.
“They all do.” She sighed softly, ” I say ok, but then I don’t give them extra.  One pump is enough.”

“Do you ever get any tips?” I asked.

“Not really, but yesterday I got a quarter from the ladies who play cards.”

So maybe the tips aren’t so great, but apparently, Sydney is making a difference and her approach is working.

The snow cone operation is making a profit this year. Sales have been brisk… and refreshing.
Happy 4th of July. And enjoy a snow cone!

Growing up in the 1950s, and born to depression/WWII era parents,  life was a lot different for kids back then than it is now, in many ways.  Some obvious, some not so much. One of the more subtle differences came to mind the other day during Ellie and Bennett’s visit to southwest Florida.

Sixty years ago,  there were no interstate highways, no jet transports, most food commerce was local except for canned goods. People of that time were grateful to have what they could get. There was not a lot of fresh fruit available, except in season. In the fall, you would get an apple or some grapes and maybe an orange around Christmas, but having fresh fruit year round was unheard of.
One of the items we nearly always had however, was canned  fruit cocktail. It came in a syrup type substance and included cut up pieces of peaches, pears, grapes, pineapple and the occasional maraschino cherry.
It wasn’t until I was about 9 or 10 during a visit to my rich uncle Leonard’s, (the doctor) house that I had real fresh fruit mixed and macerated together.

That was a revelation.

Fast forward 50 years. We are having dinner in a local restaurant and Les Petits order the ubiquitous chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese from the “kids” menu.

It comes with a fruit cup. Which is the same fruit cocktail from 50 years ago. Heck that stuff lasts forever, it might even have been the same fruit!

Well, kids being suspicious of anything new or different said, “What  is that?”

Apparently they had never been served canned fruit cocktail before. Both their mother and the school system insisting on fresh fruit.

It should be pointed out that Aimee and Co. are from Colorado and that state’s residents pride themselves on wholesome freshness in all things consumed. Why just recently, they have begun growing their own recreational herbal medicines.

Anyway, back to the fruit cup. I knew immediately what it was so I told Bennett and Ellie it was fruit cocktail. Warily, they opened up the little plastic cup and slowly tasted the contents. Each one moving in on the maraschino cherry first. Their eyes lit up as they tasted that sweet syrup and pronounced to their mother.

“This fruit cocktail is so good, you need to buy this at home!”

Surprised, Aimee wondered aloud, “do they even sell it in the stores?”

It was a revelation.

Farm fun

January 15, 2013

These past few days saw a visit to “papa’s farm” by Aimee and Co.

Ellie and Bennett were most interested in picking some oranges and visiting with the cows. We started after breakfast and got to the grove about 9:30. After a quick explanation about trees and what we will see, we met with John and Francisco who were injecting  liquid fertilizer into the irrigation system to give the trees a shot in the arm they will need. Not all that interested in the chemistry of that process, Ellie and Bennet headed straight for the trees hanging heavy with ripening fruit.
I grabbed a fruit bag and followed hoping to save some of the crop from The Petits.

After getting about a half a dozen each, they wanted to eat them.  In a  few minutes there were sticky hands and faces everywhere.
 Being satisfied for the moment, we headed for the pasture and the cows.
Piling into the bed of John’s pick up we soon came  across our first cow.
I said, “Oh look,there is Aimee!”
The kids looked up to see this big old gal with her black head bent down enjoying the dew laden grass.
“Aimee” they said, ” You named a cow, Aimee?”

“Yes, and she knows her name too.”  With that I shouted to the cow.

“Hey Aimee”

She  raised her head up and while still chewing, gave a shake and a nod.
The kids look at me in amazement, their mother looked at me with daggers.
It got more fun each time we passed a similar cow, the kids would yell, “There’s Aimee!”
We came upon a few more bovines and Ellie wanted to know when we were going to milk the cows. I started to say, these were not milk cows, they were hamburger cows, but Aimee cut me off. So I said they need the milk for their babies.
Passing by a new mother, very obviously engorged with milk for her new-born, John nearly lost control of the truck laughing so hard when Ellie blurted out

“Oh look, there are her milk things

We then saw a couple of bulls, that looked bigger than when I last saw them, obviously their new digs agreed with them. Thankfully, there was no mention of  “milk things” at the bull viewing.
After the tour, we retired to El  Pirata, Arcadia’s finest Mexican restaurant for a lunch.

With thoughts of Papa’s cows fresh in their heads Bennett had a beef taco and Ellie ordered a hamburger.

That’s the Petits!

I never had heard of turducken until Aimee attended Tulane University and a bunch of her friends cooked one up. It apparently is a big deal in New Orleans. The dish is a portmanteau** of turkey duck and chicken.It involves deboning the individual parts, stuffing, cooking, assembling and cooking some more. The technique is referred to as engastration and originated in the Middle Ages in Europe. 
The end product comes out looking like a Thanksgiving turkey. But it is without the bones so slicing it is a piece of cake…Turducken.

Every year Big Charlie, who is not that big since he lost weight (we would call him Little Charlie, but we already have a Little Charlie, so Big Charlie it is) has a Christmas lunch featuring the Turducken. Big Charlie is one of the Ford boys and runs by far the best service department in the land. He has a fondness for fine wine and cigars, scratch golf, classic Bentleys and of course, Turducken.
We had the Christmas lunch this week and it was as always very special.
With the house wine of the south, sweet tea,  flowing nicely, Charlie carved the birds and we enjoyed the moist succulent meat with all the fixings.

About an hour later, as I was heading back to work,  I developed such an overwhelming wave of sleepiness, I nearly had to pull over and take a nap. Several other people I spoke to later said they also felt the same way. Now, none of us ate that much food and there was no watching of football to induce a Thanksgiving like slumber.

My experts tell me it is the fault of the tryptophan in the turkey. Well, that may be,  but except for my sleep deprived army days, I never experienced that intense a narcolepsy before.
So now I am thinking, maybe, as a cure for my insomnia, I could eat a plateful (small) of  the Turducken about 8 pm each night and sleep like a baby.


** a made up word. come to think of it aren’t all words made up?