Posted tagged ‘Cooking’

“I can make another list because the choice is mine. A list of what to do. So I won’t be listless ever again.”

August 10, 2017

My eye survived the laser though it felt as if something irritating were in it, something I couldn’t remove. I also had a headache, a common after-effect I was told. I took some Tylenol and had a nap. Both helped. Everything now is just fine. My other eye is scheduled for Tuesday.

My neighbor is putting in a new septic tank. His giant truck is parked in my driveway so Gracie and I had to maneuver around it to get into the yard. While I was doing that, I was attacked by a wild rose bush. My usual morning on the deck with my coffee and newspapers had to be cancelled. I could smell the old septic. All my doors and windows are shut and the AC is on, all to thwart the aroma of septic.

Yesterday was a glorious day, cool enough will lots of sun and no humidity. I did a few errands, and when I got home, I filled the bird feeders. All of those exertions made me tired enough to need a nap though I confess I could have done nothing all day and still have needed a nap.

When I lived in Bolga, in Ghana, the post office and most kiosks closed every day between the hours of one and three. My students had a mandatory rest period. It was Ghana’s siesta time. It was also the hottest time of the day. Despite the heat, I enjoyed afternoon naps. The school compound was quiet for the first time since very early morning, and the heat made me drowsy. I learned the value of an afternoon nap.

Yesterday I had three sticky sheets on my table filled with schedules and things to do. Today there are none. I finished all the items on the lists. There is now a hole, a space needing filling. I love lists. They keep me organized and sort of compel me to accomplish something. If it is on paper, I pay more attention.

I don’t remember when I started to make daily lists. I do remember when I was having company for a big dinner I always made flow charts and lists. One list had all the ingredients I needed to buy and another had the names of each dish and their sources. I learned that last one the hard way when I had ingredients but didn’t remember the dishes and when, a couple of times, I forgot to serve a dish. The flow charts listed what I needed to do and when I needed to do them, things like shop on Thursday and what to start making on Friday. On the day of the event, the flow charts were explicit and intense. One would list what I did in the morning, the final preparations, while others listed the times to put in and take out stuff from the oven and at what temperatures to cook them. I used to tape the lists to a cabinet above my work space. and check off my progress. My sister made fun of my flow charts. I didn’t care.

“I’ve buried a lot of my laundry in the back yard.”

July 27, 2017

My quiet mornings ended this morning. I heard a dog barking, a little girl yelling from down the street, two mowers from different directions and voices from the next door deck. Gracie even barked out the front door. I didn’t bother to get up to see why. I was hoping to fall back to sleep, but then it got quiet and the silence was as loud as the noise.

Today I have people. Skip, my factotum, is completing the deck decorating. He has connected the umbrella light, gotten the fountain working and put down the deck rug. The barbecue has been cleaned, and the squirrel nest on the tray underneath the burners has been cleared. My shower has a new board replacing the mushy one. New lights are on the rails just waiting for the spawns to eat. Lee and Rosanna, my cleaning couple, are due here in the afternoon. Peapod is coming Saturday morning with all my groceries. My job is to write checks, worthwhile checks, as a recent study has shown that if you hire people to do household jobs you are far happier. That would be me sitting here with a grin on my face.

It was sunny when I woke up, but clouds have taken over the sky, and the breeze makes the air feel a bit chilly. Last night I woke up cold and added a light blanket. How silly this weather is for late July.

My menu is set, my movie chosen and the deck is ready for movie night. The only issue is the weather. It may rain on Saturday night at the movies so we’ll have Sunday night at the movies.

I’m getting the urge to cook again. I used to love making new recipes and inviting people to dinner. I’ve been mulling an international dinner with dishes from a variety of countries, each identified by a tiny flag. It would be fun.

When I worked, I had a schedule for weekdays and another for weekends. I got everything done: the cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry and garden and lawn work. Now I have people. The only thing left for me is the laundry, and I admit I procrastinate. The laundry bag sits in front of the cellar door for a few days and sometimes even a week. I don’t even care. If I could hire a laundress I would. I have no pride!

“Quiet is here and all in me.

June 25, 2016

The weather is still perfect. The days are warm, even hot, and the nights chilly. Even upstairs, on the third floor, I need a light blanket at night. What a delight to feel chilly!

Yesterday was major errand day as I haven’t been out so I can keep an eye on Fern. Animal food was the priority then my food. I bought wonderful food: a cooked tenderloin, orzo salad, Caesar salad, barbecued shrimp, watermelon, kebobs, chicken salad, a Clark bar and honey wheat bread. I have a feast in my fridge.

Last night I was trying to find a movie to watch from On Demand. I told my remote to find science fiction movies. I went through all of them and read the information on the ones which interested me. Come to find out many of them had something in common. The destruction of the human race was a prime theme. Aliens seem hell bent on eliminating us. They want our planet or our water. Et was the last friendly alien.

Fern is doing better. This morning she woke me up by lying on my hip and purring in my ear. She waited around until I’d patted her several times. I have given her only one medication so far, three more to go. She caught on to the pill pockets so I have to be inventive. She can jump on my bed and on the couch where she is sleeping right beside Gracie.

My neighborhood is quiet except for the birds. It is as if only I exist here in my house. I haven’t even heard a car. It is a sense of aloneness. Out my window I can see the sun through the branches, the birds at the feeder and the leaves slightly blowing. The view is almost magical in its perfection.

I have the urge to cook. I keep saving recipes from magazines and newspapers. Usually I cook a dish for the first time and invite friends. I just hope for the best. I’m thinking I might do an international dinner. On the menu will be kelewele. I am so looking forward to Ghana when I can eat it every day.

“The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you’re afraid of it.”

January 7, 2016

Today is warmer than it has been which is good as I have a few errands to do. The cats need dry food, and I need bread, life’s essentials for the cats and me. I did vacuum and dust a bit yesterday so I have a small sense of accomplishment.

I didn’t even know how to work the washing machine my freshman year in college. The bell went off once, and the machine wouldn’t work no matter what buttons I pushed. The idea of an uneven load never entered my head. I didn’t even know the load could be uneven, unbalanced. I ended up pulling out the clothes and wringing them by hand before putting them into the dryer. When I mentioned the bell to my mother, she explained about redistributing the clothes in the drum. I was thinking we should have had a laundry lesson before I left.

My junior year in college I had an apartment. My roommate and I had been classmates starting in the first grade and all the way through except for the year on the Cape. She had always worked to put herself through school. She was one of those waitresses who could heft full trays. Her right arm had more muscles than her left. She could cook anything, and I was amazed. I could cook things like eggs, hot dogs or hamburgers, but that was it. She even made meatloaf and gravy, onion gravy. I was more than happy to do the dishes if she cooked.

I was mostly inept when it came to household stuff. I never did laundry, never cooked and didn’t even have to make my bed. My mother did it all. That made apartment living an adventure. Learning to clean was easy. Learning to cook took a bit more time, but I got good at it.

Being in Africa was a test of sorts. I had to survive without machines or devices including an oven and a washing machine and dryer. My wringing skills came to bear on wash day, all done by hand. I ate mostly chicken with a sauce. The meal was cooked over a charcoal fire and the sauce was usually made from tomatoes and onions, the two most plentiful veggies. I did a little frying as well. I was spreading my culinary wings.

Nothing fazed me after Africa. I conquered the wash and kitchen duties and could cook just about anything. I was never to be afraid to try. That was the best part of it all. I had some failures, the bagels come to mind, but the successes were delicious, still are.

“If God had created celery, it would only have two stalks, because that’s the most that almost any recipe ever calls for.”

November 21, 2015

Today is the quintessential New England fall day. The sun is shining, the sky is a light blue, a breeze becomes a wind then a breeze again and the temperature is in the high 40’s, low 50’s. This is the sort of day when all the fathers in my neighborhood would rake then burn the leaves. Each would stand on the side of the street in front of his house rake in hand as he tendered the fire and fed it leaves. The smoke carried that wonderful smell which still means fall to me. I loved to watch the small fires and listen to the crackling sound the leaves made. I remember the smoky smell stayed on my jacket long after the fire had gone out. I miss that smell of burning leaves. It was my favorite fall ritual.

When I was growing up, my mother was an average cook or maybe I should say cooked average foods or common foods. She knew fancy meals and my father were not a good match, and we four kids would probably refuse to eat something for dinner hithertofore unknown. What is it was usually the kiss of death for any new dish. I’m not eating that said in disgust generally followed my mother’s answer. Potatoes were always mashed and so were carrots to disguise they were vegetables. I don’t know why vegetables had such a bad rap with every kid I knew. Just saying the word gave us a shutter. We knew they’d be at least one on our dinner plates, and we hoped it was a vegetable from the sanctioned list of acceptable vegetables. It was a small list. Peas topped my list and corn of any sort was on all our lists. Creamed corn, though, was not a huge favorite of mine. I always hated how it spread all over the plate and its color wasn’t all that appealing. We seldom left food on our plates because my mother was smart. She always served us stuff she knew we’d eat.

When we were older and our palates had expanded, my mother cooked all sorts of food for us. By then I had gotten over my distaste for vegetables except for beans and Brussels sprouts. Potatoes didn’t have to be mashed and carrots no longer needed a disguise. My mother, it turns out, was a fantastic cook. She had hidden her culinary talents until we were old enough to appreciate them.

I was my mother’s sous chef. It was a huge honor.

“I made a sandwich out of things. I’m an American. We can eat anything as long as it’s between two pieces of bread.”

January 24, 2015

The road was covered in slush when I went to get the paper. I left deep footprints and could see the track of the car which had been driven down the street some time this morning. Gracie was hesitant to go down the back steps. They were covered in slush like the road. It was raining, but there had been a sprinkling of snow first. After Gracie came in, I threw de-icer on the steps. I don’t want the steps freezing. Off-Cape is getting the snow.

Today lends itself to laziness. It is an I won’t get dressed day or do any chores day. I will most decidedly take a nap later. That is not in question. I may have a pizza delivered. I don’t know. That sounds too much like a plan, and today is not a day to plan. It is a whatever happens day. Fern and Gracie are asleep on the couch beside me. They are my role models.

I cut out recipes and have a gigantic folder filled with them. Periodically I go through the gigantic folder and put the recipes I’d most like to make in a smaller folder. I have yet to make any. Most times I fall back on the familiar: my curry recipe, my brother-in-law’s chili and my uncle’s sausage cacciatore. This week I am going to make Peg’s corn chowder. She brought it down when she and Bill last visited, and I loved it. It is a perfect winter recipe, one to warm the innards.

When I was young, my mother sometimes gave us Campbell’s tomato soup and her grilled cheese sandwiches especially on cold days. I still love grilled cheese sandwiches, especially gooey ones, but mine have become a bit more sophisticated than using yellow cheese unwrapped on Wonder bread. My aunt was the first to give me one with tomato, and I still like tomato as a basic addition to the sandwich. I also like bacon, jalapeño or avocado with pepper jack. I think grilled cheese is the best sandwich to personalize. A BLT is just that. Bologna is about as unsophisticated as a cold cut can get.

A couple of Christmases ago I got a panini maker from my sister. It elevates sandwiches from a simple lunch to something far greater, far tastier. Avocado is the best addition of late to grilled cheeses and regular sandwiches. I now have an addiction to them. When I was a kid, I would have thought avocados too squishy and far too green. The rule of thumb back then was to avoid anything green. The only exceptions were green beans and unripe bananas as they had a yellow future.

“Dust is a protective coating for fine furniture.”

April 5, 2014

My dance card is empty this weekend. I’m thinking Miss Gracie and I might just go for a ride down cape. That means traveling on the inside lane so I don’t miss anything. It would be nicer if the sun stopped playing peek-a-boo, but it will be warm, close to 50˚, so I’ll take that as compensation. Last night it rained again.

I never cooked when I was a kid. I never baked a thing. My junior year of college I had an apartment, and my roommate knew how to cook, good thing too as we had decent dinners most nights. If she wasn’t there, Dinty Moore beef stew was my back-up dinner. I ate a lot of beef stew. It was a similar lifestyle my senior year but with different roommates. None of them could cook either. We were more like seagulls eating whatever we could find in the fridge and the cabinets. Dinty Moore was a feast.

I became a really good cook, not bragging, just reporting. When I have friends over, I am willing to be daring so I try new recipes. My favorites are foods from other countries. I figure I am expanding my own and my friends’ palates. It has been a while since my last dinner party, and I’m thinking of having another, an eclectic buffet of foods from a variety of countries. The planning is fun, and I always have a flow chart.

I have to sew on a button today. That is my one sewing talent. I sew other things by hand, like seams or small holes, but they never look good, and I usually jab myself a couple of times. The seams tend to buckle, for want of a better word, and where the holes were are still apparent even after the stitching. My friend sewed curtains for my bathroom using my African cloth. The curtains are beautiful. I am in awe of her talent.

I am a great duster, and I wield a mighty mop.

“Baking is like washing–the results are equally temporary.”

February 15, 2014

Batten down the hatches! A storm is a comin’, and the Cape is going to get walloped, all the weathermen agree. They just can’t agree on how much snow. The estimates range from 8″ to a foot or more. It is supposed to start this afternoon which gives me time for storm prep. I filled the feeders earlier then made a shopping list. After I finish here, Gracie and I will head to the dump on a most non-traditional day then on to the grocery store. I need bread, one of those must get before the storm comes items, but such of the rest of the list is good for the soul, not so much the body. Chocolate is on the list as is coconut ice cream. If I can’t be in the tropics, I can taste the tropics and imagine palm trees and soft breezes.

The morning was sunny and warm. Since then, the sky has become that funny whitish grey color I always associate with a storm. It’s a still day. The dead leaves on the branches just hang without even a flutter. Even the birds have disappeared, probably somewhere sheltered jockeying for space. Snow, even yet to fall snow, makes the day quiet.

My house is clean, and I have no laundry to do. I can spend my day reading or watching movies or baking. That’s right. I said baking. I am a good cook and I am not being boastful, only truthful. I used to have dinner parties all the time and serve elaborate meals. Choosing a theme was first. Mostly we visited other countries, and my table decorating matched our destinations. I even made papier mâché buildings which I painted true to color. My onion domed Russian churches were the stuff of legends. The piñatas were colorful and covered in layers of tissue paper. For every meal I made a flow chart and followed it religiously. It began with the recipes I’d chosen and the ingredients listed aisle by aisle in the supermarket. Then came the two-day preparation. I started most of the dishes and stopped at a step which I would continue the day of the dinner. The last list on the flow chart was what cooked at which temperature for how long. Today, though, I will not be as ambitious. I’m thinking plain old cupcakes without fanfare.

Spring training begins today for pitchers and catchers. There will be a summer. I have hope. 

“I learned that if I could read, I could cook. I surprised myself I like it.”

September 20, 2013

I slept in until late this morning then I just took my time reading the papers and doing the crossword puzzles. Before I knew it, the morning was just about gone, and here I am with a list of chores and errands to do. I haven’t even brushed my teeth or gotten dressed. First on the list is the chocolate pie, tonight’s dessert. The chili was made yesterday, but I still have much to do and here I am lollygagging.

The desk got dusted last night. It was one of those chores I needed to get done, and I was determined to finish it before I went to bed.  The top of the desk can now be seen, and its glass protector is reflecting all the wind-up toys on the top shelf. I keep looking at it with a bit of surprise at how good the desk looks though it does make me want to move along to dusting the shelves.

My mother never made us to do chores when I was a kid. Many of my friends had to make their beds, clear the table and wash or wipe the dishes, but I never had to do anything. I never questioned that; however, there were some disadvantages. I never learned to cook as a kid. My mother did it all, and I never watched. The washing machine was a mystery when I got to college. I had no idea the buzzing meant an uneven load. When I got an apartment my junior year, my roommate did the cooking. She could make gravy and cook just about everything. I was in awe. She had learned how to cook when she was growing up and had been responsible for cooking dinner at home a couple of days a week. I served Dinty Moore if I had to make dinner, and what did my roommate do? She made dumplings for the top of the stew.

Strangely enough, cooking became one of my favorite things to do. I have made all sorts of dinners including Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Greek and, of course, African. I love the challenge of making something new, something difficult. I even go so far as to match the table decor with the meal. That, I believe, trumps the dumplings.

I have mastered the washing machine to the point where I no longer have uneven loads, and that buzzer never rings. Now that is an accomplishment!!

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”

August 10, 2012

The morning is dark and humid with thunder and lightning storms possible tonight and tomorrow. Everything is still and quiet. Today is a favorite sort of morning. From the deck, I can even smell the ocean.

I clip recipes from newspapers, magazines and even grocery flyers. I keep them in a folder bursting at the seams. Periodically, while watching TV, I go through the folder looking for something new to try. I make piles of the possibles: appetizers, meats, sides and desserts. This summer I’ve tried different appetizers and just about every one of them was a keeper. It’s fun for me to read the ingredients and imagine how the food will taste and how well dishes will go together. I’m going to be working on movie night’s dinner today.

While growing up I was never interested in anything having to do with cooking or sewing or any sort of handwork like knitting or crocheting, and my ineptitude was of little concern or consequence. My mother did it for me; however, that changed when I got to college. I had to be inventive. I learned solutions for all sorts of problems. Lose a button? Use a stapler. A hem falling? Use tape. Need to make dinner? Open a can, and I was not alone in a total lack of housewifery skills. My friends shared the same ineptitudes as I did and none of us really cared.

The first time I ever did any real baking was at Christmas time in Ghana. I made cookies. They were delicious so I expected a parade celebrating my new skill, but, alas, there wasn’t one. I had to be content with eating and sharing the cookies. The next year I even made pies for Thanksgiving, paw paw pies. I made my own crust for the very first time and rolled it out using a beer bottle, a Star beer bottle, a make-do innovation. The pies were delicious. I was hooked on baking. It seemed I had a hidden talent now brought to light by circumstances like no super-market.

It’s been a long time since then, and I have honed my cooking and baking skills. I can make almost anything and make it well. I love trying new recipes and have enough confidence to make them for company. As for the other housewifery skills, I still need a stapler and tape for those unexpected sewing problems. They’re in my sewing basket, my very large sewing basket.