Category Archives: Education

Cheating

Yes, I went to two cooking schools. I am a reader, scholar, educator, consultant, retiree  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

Morning Has Broken

It’s a couple hours ’til that here and we were up late due to fireworks displays that are always done on the 3rd big-time. Nice display, not Pyro Paula but close. I think the “big city” lets the little ones have their displays on the 4th.

Leadership. I was twelve. Everyone in class was a year older and I was a teeny girl. The natives started getting restless. I asked them to stack the chairs in the back of our wonderful light-filled, wood-floored classroom and grabbed the first album I saw and placed it on the record player. The former Cat Stevens sang Morning Has Broken. Then I put on Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind.

I was a dancer and early gymnast. I had everyone stand an arms’ length apart and we did a light stretching session for 30 minutes. The teacher never showed up. We ended up with a very quiet and relaxed class who got along and went on with their day.

That day, thanks to courage and the right music, I became the leader Dad always wanted me to be. I organized and calmed down 30 kids, all older than me, just by playing music and relaxing their muscles. Lean to the right, lean to the left. Try to reach your toes. Stay ten seconds, nine, eight…..

I wish schools now would do that every day, ADHD would be at a minimum! The chaos that is awakening, dressing and eating a toaster waffle and catching the bus impacts a child’s day, especially if it is me, being taunted on the school bus by three bullies down the street. They did it once, and 12 family members (kids), from them and their cousins, addressed the bullies non-violently and the bullies never spoke to me or harassed me again. I remain in touch with those families. Not the bullies.

We lived in the country, outside a small village. At birthday parties we built hay forts at the neighbors’ and ran around in cattle dung. Of course my sister and I had to wear white blouses, skirts, lace anklets and patent leather Mary Janes to do so when everyone else was in jeans or overalls and boots. You wouldn’t like to be me after the first such party at age eight. Oh no, my little sister couldn’t be blamed at all. I was responsible as the eldest.

Leadership is a gift and a burden. Dad would tell you that, may he rest in peace. I believe it is a presence and a sense of purpose, smarts, and knowing who you’re dealing with at the moment.

Years ago the light from the 2nd floor windows, bare wood floors and the music helped calm thirty unruly students when our teacher failed to attend class. At age 12 I had no teaching certificate, but at the end of that “class” everyone talked to each other and got along. That was my certificate. Happy 4th! Dee

Set, Spell a Bit

It’s cool on the porch today, sweet tea and biscuits?

It is nice under the umbrella table now, some iced tea and fresh cherries?

North and South, it is our nation and I grew up in the North (father-in-law says I singly staged the War of Northern Aggression). I assure him it is not my fault as I could never be that old. I married Texas and the South.It seems 1860’s to me but it’s only 15+ years.

How about some chicken enchiladas? I made them for the hands.

Would you like some beef rouladen with spaetzle? Then I learned about Lady Bird Johnson’s recipe for Pedernales Chili, 1962. They cooked for 5,000 including JFK at the Johnson family ranch in Pedernales, outside Austin. It’s Texas. No beans. I purchase and grind my own beef and choose my spices. I’ve never made it for his family. His cousin S made a good version of chili, a wonderful Texas gal, and she added beans! That Lady Bird chili I started making years ago brought my sensibilities about The Empire State and The Lone Star State together. We have a lot in common!

The funniest thing is that both our families hail from infamous towns in Switzerland. My husband grew up on a dairy, and I on what might be called a “hobby farm” with Dr. B and a northern family.

The southerners still don’t “get” the flavors of lebkuchen and mincemeat, but bet they would love prime rib and Yorkshire pudding over the holidays. Alas, I only cook there for Thanksgiving and m-i-l and I spend up to five days preparing for the feast. She loves having our old dog Zoe there for the marathon because it saves on vacuuming!

In every country I’ve visited and spent much time in, I have found the southern regions more amiable. I once had a non-conversation with a Greek cigar merchant knowing good morning, thank you, you’re welcome (kalimera, efharisto and parakolo), laughing and doing hand movements while my sister and I tried to purchase a few cigars for my father as a souvenir. You girls want to smoke cigars? No, they’re for Dad!

Twenty-five years later I named every mezede (appetizer) on the table for Dad’s 70th birthday aboard a sailing yacht. The staff, chef included, were speechless. Hey, I’m smart, and I listen. Spanakopita, dolmades, keftadakia, risosalata, taramosalata, tyroppita and I went on to include eggplant, octopus and more. I make a great moussaka but my husband will not eat eggplant. Go figure, he’s from Texas! Cheers and good cooking! Dee

Inspiration and Aspirations

Never mind perspiration. I awakened thinking I was late on a Sunday to take her out. Turns out the sun was bright and it was 5:30 in the morning and I awakened her.

If I were to opine, I’d say that when her eyes first opened as a pup she realized she was living in squalor. She knew she was a mutt, and wanted to get out of there pronto. Luckily the folks that allowed her to have worms, coccidia et al dumped her litter at the local shelter. Neither I nor my husband ever grew up in those conditions but we understand them and are grateful for shelters who take care of needy animals.

We were married a year and “settled in” as much as a software guy can be coming off the dot-bomb era so decided to get a dog. We met Zoe and were smitten. She was taken. We saw other dogs but liked “Camilla.” They called the next morning, said the hold was released and that she was ours. She was so excited coming home in that cardboard box she jumped right out!

I threw the box in the back seat and she relished sitting on my lap and driving in the car (windows closed, of course, AC on). Oh this was the second shelter to nudge nudge. wink wink change the name. We were down to a list of five. After 20 years of volunteering with shelters and also helping spay/neuter over 2,500 feral cats we settled on a name. Zoe, Greek for “life.” It has suited her all these years as she is the happiest dog I’ve ever met.

Her aspirations were realized. A good family and new/no hips. Yes, by the time she was four months old, at under 20 lbs. she had the worst hips her surgeon had ever seen. I did two weeks of research and we got her in to Val the Vet at six and nine-months of age for two FNHO’s, femoral head and neck ostectomies, they took out her hips. Back then they didn’t have titanium hips for smaller dogs so she had to grow her own hips and that she did. We walked her, my husband had her sneak into the pool for water therapy and she just took it on, life as usual.

Zoe is a trouper. All these years later she is kind of a mascot in our community and all the kids call out “Look, it’s Zoe!!!” My name is irrelevant. She is so kind and gentle to people, little ones, other dogs, even cats. She does have a forever home and has since she turned six weeks old. She is an inspiration to me for the light she gives others, and an aspiration as to what one can do with no hips.

I’ve had two dogs. The first was abused by a Deputy Sheriff, terrified of men in uniform, men with a cap, men in general and all children. I cured her of that in a month. Well, until my Navy neighbor came out in his dress whites. I just said “Chani, it’s Chris!” and she ran up to him and luckily didn’t get any yellow fur on his uniform. He usually wore a tee-shirt and camo shorts to work. She had never seen uniform or lid.

Zoe was to be raised from the day she turned six weeks old, a little puff ball, to now, with love and training and knowing she would be with us for the rest of her life. We’re family. We have inspiration, aspirations and have shared some perspiration to get there.

I like to think our little family has harmony. My brother just says Zoe is needy. Well, she has her own sign language (stare language) and sometimes he and usually I, know what she wants or needs. Out? Need “Precious” that is her only toy?

There was a terrible story yesterday about a tremendously malnourished, frightened and probably abused dog. She looks like my Chani before rehabilitation. Now with a foster family, I hope she gets the food and care she needs to find her own forever home. I know we saved Zoe, as in Texas rather than have two hip surgeries many would have put a bullet in her head. She chose well. Zoe has taught us too, and made a lot of friends. I will be with her, holding her, until the last moment of her life. Right now she’s happy and healthy.

Zoe was offered a mowed goat pen first time in Texas 13 years ago, so I asked my husband to go without us. Then his dad scrubbed an old dog crate and put it in my husband’s old room. Zoe walked in and out in a few seconds and wanted the bed. Now she stands on the sofa on “grandpa’s spot” and watches him come home from feeding the cattle. As she ages I do not wish to fly her anymore. If I’m driving, she has her own setup in back with 4″ orthopedic bed…and she still loves the car. When we fly in “grandma” is always upset that Zoe is missing, even bought her a matching stocking to ours last year because “she’s family.” We do up to five days of cooking and need someone to pick up crumbs. That would be Zoe. Here’s to the dogs in our lives! Dee

Catholic School

This is college. Homework one night was for the entire class to see a documentary rumored about something concerning hookers and the love canal.

Of course students were asking why we were assigned, in a history class, in a Catholic college, to see such a film. Of course they secretly wanted to see it.

I lived in the area (not the immediate area) at the time and was well aware of the Hooker Chemical Company’s illegal disposal and covering and lies and deception regarding hazardous waste. As I was underage I only heard it on the news or newspapers and certainly was not working for them nor did my family have anything to do with that industry.

The planned community near Niagara Falls, NY was sited on landfill that held the toxic waste. After covering it over, Hooker sold it to the school district for $1, to build School 99. People died. I believe it is still a Superfund site.

I probably told a few friends before the class assignment. Everyone else thought it would be a lurid film that would not be shown in that place. I wanted them to see it, without knowing what it was about, so they could know what these people were going through.

The news around Buffalo was saturated with this story, perhaps still the largest environmental disaster in US history. Sadly, Dee

Hog Wild

On A Cook Abroad (a BBC production) I saw a horrific scene of dogs going after a wild boar (cingiale in Italian). They’re nasty critters, I know as they take down calves at my in-laws’ ranch in Texas.

On the show featuring Monica Galetti the dogs were feasting on the boar’s flesh when one hunter slit the boar’s throat. I know that le Francais think you’re so superior to Americans. Let me tell you how we do it better. And this is Texas, where you think folks are all backwards. We’ve got an edge on France.

Why would a top end London chef want gnawed meat ravaged by dogs? To her credit, Chef Galetti showed shock and remorse.

Trap the wild hogs humanely in a large enclosure with food. Bring a truck and trailer and fashion your wire “hallway” to get from large trap to hallway to cage. My father-in-law and his friend never touched the hogs. Drive to a place in a nearby town, put them through a weigh station (I never got near the crazy beasts) and I charted the weight, stay out of the way and get out pen and paper, that was my job. Get paid by the pound. Two hogs are not nearly enough to pay the mortgage but money is money and neighbors get together to make tasty large enclosures not to make money, but to save their crops and cattle.

Hogs are transported to Ft. Worth Texas for slaughter and the meat placed on planes to FRANCE. Texans do not want to eat them, yet.

None of them have been roughed up by humans or dogs. As long as France and England want wild boar on the menu, Texas will continue to provide it. No gnawing dogs. Cheers, Dee

Service

A lot of it is based on manners, and if your parent(s) didn’t teach you any you are at a loss in the world. Back in the day I had to balance a dictionary on my head, take violin, ballet and piano and call family friends aunts and uncles. Not all at the same time.

Please and thank you always, thank you notes were also a must. Shake hands, allow hugs. Also cheek kisses from older women (one I loved as a grandma) with lots of lipstick.

Client service is not included here but I’m good at that, at least I was before retirement. Customer service is included.

Manners. Greet the customer, treat him/her with respect. If a supermarket clerk asks me how bad the rain or snow is outside, I answer. They’re trying to be friendly as they hear thunder and watch the skies open up. “Is there anything I can help you with?” Unless it’s an over-eager bra saleswoman bursting into your dressing room while you’re naked, that’s a good thing.

Leave your personal problems at home. Whether a flower store or a desk that is designed to make people who pay your salary feel safe and sound, go the extra mile and make things happen.

Late last night our brand new smoke/carbon monoxide detector (installed yesterday by professionals) started chirping. No-one would help me. I was asked if my husband was home to fix it. No. “Well then you’ll just have to get up there and start pressing some buttons.” We pay this person’s salary.

This hiree then said she would not lift a finger to help me, except to put in a work order for the next day. I had a massive headache for listening to these sharp sounds for four hours and my dog’s ears had to be hurting. I checked this morning and she never bothered to put in a work order!

My husband makes more in a day than she does in a month. We pay her salary. Yet she slings out nasty comments and cannot even greet me when I see her. That is callous, rude and unprofessional.

A new system was installed again this morning and as of now it is chirp-free. Yea! There have been over 100 employees/contractors here during our tenure. Let’s say there were 100. Ninety-nine would vouch for me and my husband and dog Zoe, likewise on our end. There’s just one bad apple.

More rules. Be professional and do your job. Greet people as if you are happy to see them. If there is an issue, correct it or know who can do so and contact them if the situation warrants. I can tell you right now that I do not feel safe with that person late at night as if Zoe and I were to be attacked, robbed, raped it could be right in front of the windows where she could see, she’d never bother calling 911.

Laziness is not an option. You may not wish to work wherever you are working to get through school or have a first job but you must know that getting the job done is your priority. Recommendations go a long way for getting into a four-year school, military, anything. If you treat all your customers like you’re above them and they are dirt when they pay your salary, you’re going to have a problem finishing your education AND getting a job afterward.

Attitude matters as well as manners. Also, lying to customers and promising to do something you’ve no intention of doing and think you’re sly and beating the game, does not work and will come back and bite you in the behind. So will smugness and haughty behavior. In the end I don’t really care if you dress for work better than I dress to take out the dog. I’m retired.

If you want a job somewhere, present yourself well, get hired and do your job the best you can. I’ve been friends with old-fashioned elevator operators, janitors, restaurant staff (one just stopped me at the butcher counter the other day after their restaurant closed two years ago), butchers, drycleaners, folks at our new hardware store.

Our old elevator operator, Tony, ran a hand elevator in a significant building in which I worked. He’s probably retired now but last I heard they put in electronic elevators and moved Tony to Security where I hope he made a lot more for his pension!

These were gorgeous wood elevators with a brass wheel for control and he hit the floor on the mark every time for the six years I worked there. It was like it was my magic elevator, he knew my floor and he always started the morning with “bella ragazza,” beautiful girl in Italian. Now that is customer service. Ciao, Dee

 

 

 

Words

When we were kids we got paid fifty cents allowance per week and had to do many chores to earn that money. We were fined five cents every time we called each other dumb, stupid or an idiot.

We never ventured to learn if we learned to swear or place a hand on one another.We didn’t need to do so. We had words.

I’ve never been in a physical fight in my entire life and since I’m nearing sixty, will not engage in one. It is verbal or written. Yes, I have my fights. I am the butterfly (rest in peace Muhammed Ali) that dances around and finds out my foe’s weaknesses. Even what’s wrong with driving or walking the streets and how to sweet talk my way through the byways.

Words, writing will take him/her down. I can do it if I wish to put in the effort (sometimes it’s better to let it go) and hit them where it hurts, whether it’s a business that has treated me really badly or a restaurant with horrible food and service.

I think people have been taking advantage of my age, of late. Luckily I’ve my dog to protect me. It’s interesting that she protects me and I her, and my husband protects her (and me). Some folks, like my butchers, all know me and take good care of me.

Two weeks ago I lent someone a new piece of jewelry. Neither the lendee nor the jewelry has showed up for weeks. Today she is here. I don’t think she is long for this staff assignment so I asked for the piece back. She went into a locked closet until she thought I was gone for nearly an hour then finally came out and threw it at me.

Ah, gratitude. She wanted to learn how to twist metal and never thought I would miss my new bracelet. Hey girl, I wear a wedding ring, Claddagh ring, two magnetic golf bracelets and a Turkish evil eye bracelet from my Dad. I’m not into jewelry so know when things are missing. Oh, I do keep pearls from my great aunt’s wedding in the 40’s but rarely, if ever, wear them. All the rest of her stuff was stolen decades ago including the pewter/wood cigarette box she gave me to put all the sapphires in. I’ve been looking for them on eBay for years.

I still have faith in people, most people. And animals. No, you can’t take me to the Pound because I’ll end up with an extra dog! There’s already a dog around and he’s blind. He and Zoe get along great. They enjoy each others’ presence but ignore each other all the time! As a visitor, I love that! Dee

Routine

Zoe is a herding dog, an Australian Shepherd mix probably with a Border Collie and/or Golden Retriever. I got to see her pack when she was five weeks old and they looked like Aussies. She thrives on routines. First permit me to say that she is an indoor dog who loves frozen raw food and dried food for travel, that she is lifted up to our bed to sleep at night and goes out 4-6 times per day. She is now 88 in people years.

We’ve also our routines, my husband and I, that have changed. Zoe and I were out at 5:30 this fine Saturday morning and husband is sleeping and snoring before nine. I’m wondering what to make for breakfast.

He’s gone during the week so we make do and I eat fruit and yogurt and perhaps some fish (he’s deathly allergic) and Zoe’s routine is similar but she knows Daddy’s gone so goes to extra lengths to protect me. When we’re both at home she just lies where we can’t get away and no-one can get into the front door without her knowing about it and making some noise.

I used to make bacon and eggs and toast with jam, and tea and OJ for breakfast for my husband, not me. Not anymore. My routine took about ten minutes, including the tea. He used to bring me flowers.

Now I use one vase (asters and accents/fillers last week) and clean it and buy him flowers every week. Friday, half price Friday, but at another spot I found him some wonderful tulips, cut them down and arranged them. For much of our lives together he’s bought me flowers. Now, as he arrives home late Friday night I get them for him. The routine has changed and everyone who rings me up sales-wise compliments me not just on my choices, but the fact that I buy flowers for my husband. I’m guessing most women don’t do that.

So, there is routine and breaking routine. I like both. Our Zoe loves routine. My husband gets to change it at will, sleeping ’til noon and when I’ve a full normal breakfast for him arranged will ask for oatmeal with milk and fruit. I roll with the punches. Over the past year this non-cook has asked to learn how to make pancakes and fresh pasta. He must be looking for a new wife!

Yesterday I ran into a neighbor with a gorgeous dog we’ve taken care of for a few weeks. Our dogs get along great together (another change in routine). There’s a four month-old pup of that wonderful breed available that makes me salivate but Zoe is the only dog in my life for now except when L moves in for a week or two. They’re two peas in a pod.

She’s sending me a link to the pup. I can’t do this. It’s against routine. Dee

I Bought Him Flowers

My husband, a small bunch of pink and yellow tulips in vase overlooking the lake. He flew in Saturday afternoon for a steak and baked potato dinner.

Easter Sunday we took it easy, I’d gotten a rack of lamb the day before and marinated it in olive oil, salt and pepper, sprigs of fresh thyme and leaves of rosemary all day. I forgot the garlic, the entire head was in a bowl elsewhere.

Simple roasted rack of lamb, boiled red potatoes with butter and seasonings, and a salad with his favorite vinaigrette, no, not mine from a half dozen acids including several vinegars and fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil, he wants bottled ranch dressing so he got that one.

It was a good weekend. Perhaps Texas Chili and my Ten-Minute Lasagne (on the site) next weekend. As a young girl or young adult you could always see me reading cookbooks and helping out if I was allowed to do so.

Thanks to all who helped me learn how to cook, from a very young age to caterers to college (I cooked for all my roommates) to work, work, work, then cooking schools. I thank everyone for contributing to my education.

Recently unable to sleep or really read because of an eye issue I’ve been up at night watching/listening to The Mind of a Chef, brainchild of Anthony Bourdain, and Michael Pollan’s concise and interesting distillation of his book Cooked.

It is fascinating to learn more about cultures, flavors, icky things I may never like to eat (not on the show but I never had haggis in Scotland) but Chef Pollan brought something to light. Many folks I know never cook a thing. I cook three meals a day plus feed and take my dog out, another thing people hire out.

Yes, my sink nearly fell below because the glue that held it together was not strong enough. Why? It’s a double sink and I use it many times a day and do hand-wash certain special dishes, large pots and pans and wash my hands. In the years we’ve been here no-one has seen this happen, because no-one cooks.

Dear Michael Pollan,

I like the way you pull people in instead of push them to feed their family healthy, home-cooked foods. For nearly thirty years I’ve shopped the outer aisles of the grocery store. I barely know my produce folks because they change out all the time but I bring my Texas Chili (Pedernales riff, of course no beans) to my butchers. Yes, I’ve a meat grinder on my 28 year Kitchenaid and at my age move it across the kitchen to put on the grinder.

I graduated PKU, Peter Kump’s which is now ICE.

I pick out all my 4# of hand-chosen meat (sale days are great) and take it down and do a Texas grind. The rest of it is up to the onions, garlic and spices. You may want to look up Lady Bird Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili that was served in 1962 for 5,000 guests at the Ranch west of Austin. The guest list included JFK. If you look up the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Museum it’s on the site, or just Google it.

It’s very generic as a recipe because they don’t have what we do today and I’ll never use “chili powder,” so make my own from Penzey’s. This recipe was the most requested White House document in 1962 before JFK was killed.

Sharing this information is important to our future. Cooking made us human. Shopping at a grocery store for microwave or ready-made foods is ok a day or two a week but it probably means you’re at the TV and spouse is online and the kiddos never got to have dinner with their family.

Caring for one’s family is most important. Don’t tell your kids how many hours you had to work this week.  Tell them you’re having what I’ve done for kids, MYOP night. I make pizza dough in advance but if they’re not my kids (we don’t have kids) I always have them make a ball of dough before they get tired to take home and rise in the frig for tomorrow.

Kids roll out their own dough and top their own pizzas with anything from caramelized onions and anchovies, tomato and plain mozz, pepperoni and it runs the gamut from sauteed spinach, roasted garlic………