Category Archives: Editorial

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Cheating

Yes, I went to two cooking schools. I am a reader, scholar, educator, consultant, retireeĀ  but I just cheated. I did not look at the entire recipe for Croquembouche, just for ingredients and timing. I skimmed it, handcuff me now. OK, I’m going to add a bit of melted 70% chocolate before the crowning glory. That might be a life sentence according to Careme, the inventor.

It should be not so if I feed our friends. I haven’t made this for years, since cooking school, and will let my husband wave the caramel atop the structure I create. He is a physicist and would like the science of the sugar. Yes, Father, I have sinned. I did not read the entire recipe.

If you build it…. now I know he has to design and build it, it may be a pyramid, who knows? I’ll help with that and do the chocolate. To my memory he has never made a caramel cage. Cheers! Dee

The Triangle

The kitchen is a strange place. Many folks rent or own homes with substandard kitchens. I know rich people love huge kitchens but never cook in said kitchens.

I prefer a galley of sorts with tons of storage for pantry items and little-used cookware and things like a specialty slow-cooker I’ve never used for a year. I also have formal china service for 18, and a table for four. If possible, I’d love the galley plus extra island with prep sink. One can dream.

The galley kitchen design can be amazing, It makes movements from the stove, frig, sink and dishwasher easy. It cannot be too big, but four seats across the island make for a festive pre-dinner. Whenever one wants to make their kitchen huge and forget what is best for the cook to host guests, well, it means that person hires cooks.

I was offered a refrigerator the other day with doors that opened into a hallway. We spend too much to live here for me to go many extra feet to open a frig that opens backwards and arthritic me has to take more steps to get that cheese out of the freezer after 15 minutes to grate.

The cooking triangle is a sacred thing. We had a huge home when I was in college. When I visited and worked for summer I noticed that our kitchen was ginormous and not designed well.

Of course I’m making plans for a retirement home. Wait for it. Cheers! Dee

A Woman’s Touch

As I’ve been convalescing the past few weeks I’ve looked around our home. What is a “man cave,” anyway? He usually spends so much time around the country for work that when we’re together on weekends, we’re together. He doesn’t play cards or drink. He knows billiards but doesn’t wish to be alone in a basement we do not have at the moment.

A workshop, yes, while his younger brother was out canoeing and hunting deer, he built a workshop and invented things, like a micro-switch for the grain bin. Now that would be his kind of man cave.

As I contemplated my will and eventual demise I realize that I have decorated our home with artwork that is very feminine and beautifully framed. The quilts are from his mother, one flowery one she refreshed, from an ancestor and one she designed and made the squares in the seventies (we consulted on the design for years and made it of the seasons). Some are personal, such as of me as a baby, then cooking at the James Beard House.

Much art and photos are of dance. My kitchen is all me. Do you know what he brought to our relationship, actually our kitchen, besides his wonderful self and a work ethic that only belongs to someone who grew up on a dairy farm? One blue plastic colander his mother gave him to go to college. Of course we still have it decades later.

I’ll never forget those nine bulls 20′ away when I turned on the light on “meet the parents weekend” to use the bathroom. They stared at me, eyes shining so I shut off the light. They thought his father was getting up to feed them but it was three in the morning! Whoops. We married two months later, rookie mistake taken in stride by all. Not the marriage, the light and noise of the bulls.

My in-laws are being flooded out for a lake to serve a big city water. They have to move all the cattle. They must leave in 90 days. When I think of how his mother decorated it’s rational in terms of his and her needs and those of the “kids” who flew the coop years ago but love to come visit.

My husband has no interest in making a living space homey or attractive. When we met he was living in a man cave on the first floor behind mailboxes looking at a parking lot, with his dual-brained computer he built and string cheese wrappers littered between refrigerator and computer. Of course there was nothing on the walls.

Now we always have a view. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me! Everything in me wants to be with him for the rest of my life, but I know it will not be as long as his life. Every few years we have a two minute conversation with me asking him to re-marry after I’m gone and have a kid and he responds not to talk about that. He’d be a great father.

Should I will anything personal to my family? My parents’ wedding photos, beautifully framed. My father’s art (he took up art at age 80) of Tuscany and one Maori piece I love. The dancer’s pieces which should go to my brother, head of a dance company.

Or should I leave everything with suggestions if he does find another lifelong companion and hope that she is kind and caring, acknowledges that I did exist, takes care of my dog and most especially my husband and parcels the art she does not wish to have where I’ve designated. I do not wish to see him alone.

Oh, our wreath on the front door crashed yesterday with precious family ornaments. Pine needles all over the place. It’s in the guest bath right now awaiting judgment. I got it two days before Thanksgiving and think now that it may have been in storage for a month, as it is so dry. There are so many memories, ones we made for our years together of a snowman with a lasso, a reindeer in an apron delivering a tray of cookies, Santa on a bi-plane and me the moose lying atop a bi-plane with presents.

Santa in a kilt with bagpipes and me as the national flower of Scotland, the thistle. He as a moose riding a trout when his brother visited and they tried fly-fishing. I had to go “catch” three steaks for dinner! After all these years, there are more. Finger puppets, he’s the cow (dairy reference), I’m the horse and the dog is the dog. Now we’re all together on Dad’s evergreen tree, dairyman didn’t fall with the wreath, I rescued him and placed him back with us before the wreath fell.

We rescue each other, all the time. Cheers! Dee

 

 

Fathers

I awakened to the first anniversary of his death. He taught me everything and he will be missed forever. Dee

ps Thank you Thailand and Vietnam, for reading.

Beware

Hello UK, Romania, Hong Kong and Belgium. Beware that if your husband says “I don’t know what kind of jewelry you like so I stopped at the airport gift shop and got you a refrigerator magnet.” “Thank you, dear.”

Yes, we got a “new” frig yesterday and the gents who installed it were amazed by my array of magnets. Hong Kong, Bangalore, many places in the US. Hey, it saves me from wearing jewelry and paying for it.

I wear several things. First, my wedding ring and a Claddagh ring on the corresponding finger that designates love, friendship and loyalty. I also wear a leather choker (longer than that) with a carved wooden guitar pick etched with Celtic eternity. I wear it every day for Dad who died a year ago right now, he was an educator but grew up as a musician.

Husband got me two magnet bracelets for my arthritis over the years. They are on all the time. Dad got me a Turkish evil eye bracelet for luck. I’m up now because he died exactly one year ago, today.

I miss him so much. Dee

NEWS

Do you recall that the term means north, east, west and south? And that your local television only tells you about arson and murders in your own town? Forget the news part.

I’ve a one year-old buddy, a neighbor, who has grown leaps and bounds. Today I sent him a holiday note with greetings to his parents and his blind dog. I also gave him a stuffed animal, a narwhal, cousin to the beluga whale. It has a large tusk, think unicorn, going straight out from his face. I didn’t think any of his young friends have a “pet” narwhal.

Who’s Aunt Dee (to G and blind dog) to question? Today we got a “new” refrigerator. No, it was borrowed from someone else. Four times different specialists came in and attacked the problems of our ice maker that ceased to make ice and ruined our floors with leaking water.

Today they brought in an appliance from elsewhere. The doors were going the wrong way. I’ve rheumatoid arthritis for over 30 years and am convalescing from a fall. I cook, I need the refrigerator to be door-friendly so I can do so without walking into a hallway outside the kitchen to gain access to food items. There is something to be said for a kitchen triangle, a working space. If one must go to another room to access the refrigerator that is not acceptable to me.

In cooking mode I have to be able to work efficiently. They changed things out for me. When looking for a place to live, I look for a refrigerator that is cook-friendly, as I’ve had one where I had to stand at a window and jimmy myself between window and frig door to get a piece of cheese out of the frig.

If people don’t make space relative to efforts in the kitchen, chances are they missed everything else. Look at baseboards, paint, plumbing, electrical. Everything including attic, basement, foundation, termites. If they have a frig door that’s pointed the wrong way chance are they’re flippers or incompetent and doing everything else wrong. My brain says a big “no.” Do not live here, Dee. They changed the doors for me for a newer model. I’m hoping it works. Cheers, Dee

Breakfast a Deux

I cook really good meals but sometimes I hit it out of the park, so to speak.

Yesterday I toasted housemade white bread (not from our house) until brown and crisp. Four eggs, two per pan, sunny-side, covered and seasoned with salt and pepper. While the eggs are cooking place the toast in an oven-proof pan and cover each with two slices of prosciutto (I used American, even American Speck), top with barely cooked eggs. Top that with freshly grated sharp Wisconsin (or another state or country) cheddar. Pop under the broiler for a few seconds and voila!

I should have made a salsa out of heirloom cherry tomatoes but thought that was gilding the lily. My husband loved it!

Oh, when I turn the oven to 375 I have to use the useless stove fan. Broiling is not possible as it turns on the smoke detector. Our office is five feet from the kitchen and as it has a closet it is designated a bedroom and must have smoke detectors. We tried to have a MYOP (Make Your Own Pizza night) for a family with two kids, 6 and 2.

I made the dough then taught the kiddos to make their own. I prepared 20 ingredients for toppings. The older boy wanted cheese only. His young sister tried everything and probably topped her personal pizza with ten ingredients, including spinach, goat cheese and olives! Is she Greek?

The smoke detector hurt their ears, it went off every couple of minutes and my husband would have to wave a towel or pillow at it and open windows and doors… yes, the oven is clean. The architecture is flawed.

Bad news. Our ice maker has been on the fritz for weeks and tended by three different technicians. Yesterday I sent a thank-you note. This morning there is no ice and I’m sopping up water on the floor with “dog towels.” As some witty person once said, “it’s deja vu all over again.” Back to the drawing board, Dee! Cheers.

Ermine (the Vermin)

Recently, I uncovered a photo, used as a page marker in a cookbook I haven’t read in many years. It is of my old dog Chani, who died in 2001 before I met my husband, and his feline friend Sam. Sam was a neighbor’s cat who used to invite himself into our gated walkway every afternoon and lie a foot from Chani and they’d sleep in the sun.

As I introduce you to wildlife of the West, I must explain that cats have always come to visit my dogs, and my dogs have always visited cats. People find it strange but I used to get a phone call every few weeks from one neighbor 1/4 mile away. He would go out to get the newspaper, their dog would get out and at 7:00 a.m. I’d get a phone call at my desk. “Is he there?” “Let me look. Yep. I’ll take him inside until you get here.” It may be a skewed view of the canine/feline relationship, but it is my view.

My favorite cathedral is Franciscan (you know statues of St. Francis because he always has a bird perched on his hand) and I did go to a Franciscan school but they never talked about him, more about lesser saints who were sinners. Why? I wonder.

We lived in the back of the Wasatch mountains by three world-renowned ski resorts and an Olympic training facility. Our home, from the deck, was a foot from a trail where folks ran, jogged, walked their dogs, and skied. Two feet from the trail was a split rail fence to a 1,200 acre nature park.

One day two juvenile moose came right up to our place, neighbors were out watching and I invited a nature photographer upstairs to our bedroom balcony to take a few photos. Sad story, their mother was killed on the Interstate. The young ones stay with their mother for two years. They were young and knew that that they were on their own. They jumped the fence, after crashing a wedding up the street! Never saw them again but they did a good deal of damage by eating tree branches by the creek on the Preserve. I’ll bet that’s a wedding to remember.

We saw two elk, once. They weren’t there for long. Jumped the fence and were gone. My favorites were the Greater Sandhill Cranes. They arrived in March every year, from New Mexico where they had warm winters. It was colting season. They did the mating dance and then the eggs, usually two eggs, about five inches long I’m guessing, The eggs took a month before the colts hatched. The Cranes mate for life, and are very good parents.

These Cranes are from the Eocene Era and cry out very loudly, sounding pre-historic. They’ve a huge wing span. If a colt is sick or lame they will kill and eat it. Otherwise they’re great parents! They teach their colts to find and kill food, then to fly, so that in October they can go back to New Mexico. The colts have to find mates and a new environment. I remember that one parent would sit on the eggs and the other would go for food, then they would trade.

There were always coyotes and other predators out for the eggs and newborn colts. They were great parents (except for eating their young) and alerted each other to danger. Mama usually stayed with the colts and the coyote would lurk for hours knowing that to this Crane, HE was prey. He would finally give up and go away. I liked awakening in the middle of the night to hear the adults speak to each other, and told my husband the colts were hungry and she’s going out to the 7/11 to get them a pizza.

We lived out in the country for a few years as kids. At first it freaked me out to have mice running around inside our walls. Then it became a lullaby. Same with trucks shifting gears and braking on the only two-way street in town, that was after college and guests stopped staying with me because of the noise, a sound I no longer heard.

As Emeril would say, “let’s kick it up a notch.” Three ski resorts, lots of powder (snow, that is, pardner) so when it snowed the mortars would start blasting in the middle of the night. Avalanche control. It shocked me at first but once again, lullaby. I could turn over and say to my husband, “it must be snowing” and go back to sleep. Last year we went on a vacation amidst the ski resorts and it rained, fogged over, sleeted, hailed and snowed. We barely got to see the mountains but had three fireplaces, a hot tub and kitchen. First vacation in over 10 years, all on points.

Do you know what an ermine is? Look at any ceremonial robe a Brit wears for coronations and such. Around the neck is pure white with little black spots. That is the fur of the ermine, which has a tiny black spot at the end of its tail. That is what you see on the ceremonial robes.

The white is to blend into snow in cold climates. In warmer climes, the coat is brown. We had a brown one. Look up English history and how the first Queen Elizabeth used this critter to her advantage at Court. In the mountains, we each had a hot tub on the deck, and we had a great maintenance guy drain it because there was no way we were going to sit in it 1′ from the trail.

Ermine the Vermin moved into a 1″ hole underneath the drained hot tub, where he dwelled when he was not taunting old dog Zoe by running back and forth on the other side of the sliding glass door. These critters go for the back of the neck and can kill an adult cat in three seconds. We didn’t use the deck for a while, took Zoe out front.

Most neighbors are in this part of town only part-time, usually for skiing. Our neighbor showed up one day and asked me to lunch at her club. She had recently fired our maintenance guy for raising his fee by $5. Then she started finding disturbing things and told me he was doing it to get her back for letting him go.

I asked what kind of disturbing things? Dead animals in our hot tub! I said I wondered where he was putting them. Ermines are opportunistic killers and will kill way more than they can eat. He was living under our empty hot tub and poaching his prey next door.

When I first saw him, I thought he was an orphan baby tame ferret looking at Zoe as a mother figure through the glass. My husband looked up a picture and said “NO, don’t touch that thing!!!” Good advice, indeed. It was really cute, and mean. He taunted Zoe for months. She would get up in the morning and run down to the sliding door and they’d do their dance. Double paned glass. Thank goodness we still have our Zoe. Dee

Philosophy

I would like to add old friend Army Ranger to this. He has saved my life more than once. He was raised in the HRC, Holy Roman Catholic Church, as was I. He was Jesuit. I became more Franciscan. They both have their strengths but I had good mentors and learned a lot about life and education. He learned to think.

We had to take two religion and two philosophy courses to graduate. Philosophy was multiple choice, don’t think, just repeat what I said in class and you’ll pass this weekly test. NO, do not think! Just repeat what I tell you!

At age 18 I did not know how to get out of this morass yet two friars set me on a path to knowledge.

Years later I’ve wisdom and a life philosophy, thanks to many factors including my friars, friends including Jesuit/Army Ranger, his wife D and my husband of nearly 15 years.

Patron saints, too many to mention. Francis took care of the animals and that is what I do to this day. I get “happy pees” from pups so make certain to wear my closed Crocs so I can throw the shoes in the laundry.

In the end my religion is what it is. I only go to Mass in Italy as I love the Latin Mass and try to decipher the homily, Italian. I try to be very nice to the people around me. Dad died nearly a year ago and I am looking for something of his he’s had forever, that will be a nice addition, once I get it restored (already researched it and have the name) to give to a scholarship made in his name at his alma mater.

Dad taught me to think and to make things better. My life has been spent doing so. Consider where you are and where you are headed. After years of schooling this is your philosophy. Dee

Plans

Yes, I have them. They are never cast in stone.

Some plans are days, months, years before any action takes place. I just feel it. I bought this wonderful see-through wooden picture frame and was given a choice between a postcard Dad sent on a world-wide cruise or an autograph on the back from master chef Andre Soltner. What did I do? I framed a perfect photo of Dad for a day that he received honors for his service. I did the right thing, he died four years later and he’s looking at me every day, his eldest child.

The boat went into the trash and the Soltner autograph is part of a collage that details the menu, photos et all for the one time in my life I will ever cook at the James Beard House.

I know when a work engagement will go right or wrong. I know that my dog is dying, though my husband will not believe me. All I know is that I plan for things without thinking about them, sometimes years in advance. When the event comes to pass, I know I made the right decision to place that publicity photo of Dad in a pre-made, glass frame, facing my desk, and Andre Soltner’s piece amid my James Beard adventure in a very nice frame.

At the Beard house, my family was the largest in attendance so they got the open loft bedroom, with mirrored ceiling! I wonder what all the Catholic mothers and aunts had to say about that. I’ve no idea as I was in the kitchen. Next day we had all the leftovers and I re-made them into a brunch for 14 family members and 20 neighbors. I was exhausted but they deserved to share in my joy of graduation, plus food.

Brain and heart, I say. Perhaps it’s also my gut, Gibbs (NCIS). If I could ever have a cat again that would be the name but my dear husband is deathly allergic to cats, I would call him Gibbs. I only have female dogs and in delayed succession, one at a time. We did live out west for a while with old Zoe but were up in the mountains and never had polygadogs.

I’m seeing things now that will play out this week. I can’t even tell my husband about them. Dee

ps Thank you US, China, Thailand, Italy and everyone for reading. Send a note! Dee