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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All About Nothing

I look forward to this week each year as if it were my one shot at heaven. For the third year in a row we've rented a house in North Truro (Cape Cod) for a weeks vacation. The best part of this vacation is the chance to sit and do absolutely nothing. Everyone else went kayaking or into town while I stayed here and read a book (Robert Penn Warren's "All The Kings Men"). It was very recuperative (chillable? restive? cool? sleepy?). I need one of these do nothing vacations every year just so I can get through another year of work.

This vacation has allowed me to catch up on almost all of my reading. Book one during the start of vacation was Phillip Roth's " Exit Ghost". I love books that create intense character studies of people that immerse you in the heads of the characters and Roth is one of the best at making you live the character. I wouldn't however put this one at the top of his creations. It is a continuation of a character that has appeared in many of his books as he has grown older as a writer. They are, to some extent, an autobiography of his life, or at the least a self examination of his experiences. Although I enjoyed the read, it was tough. I find it increasingly difficult to read stories about older characters examining their past and trying to reconcile their decreased functionality as they have aged. Ok, it's a bummer getting old. Trust me, I get it.

Book two on the vacation reading list was John Updike's "The Centaur". A very interesting look at a father and son relationship with allegorical chapters comparing the father to a mythical Greek centaur. It was a literary read (better described as you have to stick with it to enjoy it). Another look at age related self examination.

Book three is the previously mentioned "All The King's Men". As I get older my view of politics gets increasingly more radical. Although taking place in the depression years, this one tells me that when it comes to politics we have learned nothing over the years. We have only traded in local machine politics for the politics of big business.

Enough of the summer reading material. Let's talk about the important stuff: Food. Since this is our third summer vacation near P-town, we've now had the chance to start developing a taste for the local restaurant scene. The best so far is The Mews (as in a cat's meow, not as in the Greek muse or inspiration). Although expensive, the food is always great and leaves me talking about everyone's food, not just mine. I had the special (chili dusted scallops skewered on sugar cane, with corn puree, Moroccan couscous, leeks and a light pesto/lime aoli). I would have never pictured these ingredients working together but the chili powder was just subtle enough to offset the sweetness of the other ingredients. Outstanding. The other meals around the table were:

Roast duck breast with shrimp and sushi rice cake in a coffee molasses demi-glace (the coffee taste was barely discernible but the sauce was excellent)

Roast duck with mashed potatoes and asparagus (nicely crispy skin)

Falafel (could have been better)

Crimini mushroom ravioli with sundried tomatoes and golden raisins (good)

Appetizers: mushroom strudel, crab cakes (Spicy remoulade) and blue marlin carpacio (lots of garlic: excellent)

Sarah and Jay will be eating lunch today at the South African restaurant so maybe we'll have to call in guest reviewer for next week. From the sunny shores of Cape Cod......Ahhhh.......

Monday, July 14, 2008

The wind is Blowing 100MPH....

There's an old saying about boat owners that the best days of a boat owners life are first when he buys a new boat and second when he sells it. There's always something wrong with it, or it sounds funny or it's not running right or you can't get out there enough to enjoy it. This was one of those weekends where it was worth it. We spent time on the boat on Saturday and Sunday. It was the annual "stop here and get free ice cream" cruise on the lake Saturday. The association has an annual boat parade (we missed it) and at night you can stop at one of the homes and get a free ice cream sundae. The weather was perfect and we picked up a few strays along the way (the Foley's). Sunday was challenging. The wind was blowing in strong 35 MPH gusts but we were out there. The moron was on the lake again (I'll talk about him some day once I've calmed down) so we kept it cool. A truly gorgeous day for boating.

I might make Monday's my recipe day on the blog so I'll add one today (someone please agree with me that it's Monday; I'm still not awake). It's more perfect food for a barbecue. This recipe goes really well with ribs, jambalaya/gumbo, chicken or anything that you would consider barbecue food. It's different; sort of a creamy, corn custard taste, but when cooked properly is just half way between a dry muffin and a pudding. A great replacement for corn bread.

The Corn Bake Stuff
(Hey! There's no other name for it; Thanks to the wife's boss Rhonda for the recipe)

1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn
8 oz sour cream
1 package of Jiffy brand corn muffin mix
1 egg
1 stick of melted butter
Salt to taste (about 1 tsp for me)
White pepper to taste (er... you're guess is as good as mine for how much)

Bake at 350 F for 1 hour in a 8" X 8" or 9"X 9" pan. A double batch fits really well in a 9" X 13" lasagna pan. This recipe reheats well so you can make it a day ahead if you want. The fresh ingredients make it perishable, so I'd say it's good for four days tops in the refrigerator. I've been thinking about some nice potential adds to change the taste and keep it different. Try one or more of these in the recipe some time: chopped jalapenos, chopped pineapple, chopped red sweet pepper, cilantro, chives.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Going straight to hell

It seems that as I get older, all of my preconceived notions and beliefs change. We missed church this morning, formerly the sure road to hell. Our grand niece Kayla has been here this week, attending her annual two week period at the summer camp put on by the town. She is a great kid, but she requires constant attention. The girl is relentless in pursuing the things she wants to do, and very persistent that we do them with her. She is a great introduction to grand parenthood prior to having a grandchild of our own (no pressure here kids). Kayla hasn't spent a lot of time at church, so although we thought it might be a good experience for her, our common sense prevailed and we decided an hour of her fidgeting in church just wasn't worth it. When the wife asked me if I was going to church (by myself) my immediate reply was " No, I want to be in the same hell that you're in."

Of course she laughed, not because we were both going to hell for missing church, but because this is one of those things that we say to each other when we do those things we were raised to believe would send us to the nether world. Don't ask me to list them, it's just too long a list. It includes everything from eating meat on Friday (accidentally of course) to looking at another woman cross eyed (honey, I would never do that). It started one of those brain rushes about heaven and hell, God and the devil, and the existential nature of religion in general (whew, ain't that a mouthful of BS). Regardless of what my upbringing keeps whispering to me, any heaven where I can't remember my past life or can't exist with those people I've grown to love, just isn't a heaven worth living in. So, for today at least, if she's going to hell for missing church, I want to go to her hell too.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Could someone please hand me a tissue?

There's nothing more miserable than a summer cold. I don't remember the last time I had one, but it must have been pretty miserable becasue I remeber being miserable. Maybe it's just that men in general are whiners when they're sick. I've been trying to remember the wife when she's been sick with a cold, but I can't. That's because when she's sick, she's silently sick. Me, I need to let everyone know that I'm sick.

The first phase is the " I think I'm coming down with something" phase. This one lasts a minimum of two days, and sometimes can last a week. Most of the time it never leaves this step, it's just a prolonged, low level whine. Then there's stage two which is the " I've got a sore throat" phase. It could be we just need a drink of water, yet there we are predicting doom and gloom. I swear, I can predict the effect of a good whine causing the sore throat.

The real whining starts when the nose gets going. There is nothing worse than spending every waking hour sniffling (except maybe passing a kidney stone or giving birth). It's bad enough in the winter when you really don't have a whole lot to do anyway, but in the summer time it's ninety degrees and who wants to sniffle when it's ninety degrees out. It's just not right. The only redeeming quality for a man with a cold is it's a good excuse to lay on the couch all day and watch TV. Maybe that's wht we go into phase one so often.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hey, he's talking about his food again

After seeing my daughter Sarah's Blog, I decided to give it a try. I'm sure this will end up a mess of scattered thoughts, recipes, reading materials, movies, music and rantings but here we go anyway. The posting for today will be my world famous rib recipe:

For all the rib lovers out there, the recipe:
The Rub:
1 tablespoon each of the following spices: ground cumin, ground corriander, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, thyme, kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

You should remove the "silver skin" from the back side of the ribs before putting on the rub. This is the thin membrane on the boney side that covers the ribs. If you start at one end and slide a knife under you can start to pull it up. Grab hold with your finger tips and it should peel off. Don't worry if you can't get it off. You really need to see someone do this to understand. The ribs will still be good with it on. Put the rub on the ribs the night before. There should be enough for about two racks of ribs. Rub it in well with your fingers (if your afraid to rub some ribs with your fingers too bad; it's the only way). When it's time to cook there are two methods you could use. The first (and easiest) is to place the ribs on cookie sheets (uncovered; sorry Fran) in your home oven and bake at 275 for 4 hours. The second is to place on the grill using the indirect heat method for 4 hours (low and slow). If you don't know how to indirect cook don't try this method. The ribs will burn if you haven't tried this using indirect before. It requires a lot of attention to the fire. Do not use Q-sauce until the last 20 minutes. The sugar in the sauce will burn if it's left on for any length of time. Use your favorite Q-sauce (I make my own and I'm still fooling around with it so no one gets it yet). My favorite store bought sauce is KC's Masterpiece Hickory. The classic southern style is a thin, vinegar & spice sauce, very different from most New England sauces.

Play with temp and cooking time as you get better at them. 4 hours at 275 gives you the falling off the bone kind of ribs, well liked in New England, but not classic barbecue. For the classic southern style, four hours at 225 to 250 is more like it. They will not be falling off the bone but they will have that juicy, sort of chewy flavor. I like the southern style better but it's hard to do without a smoker. Some day I'll figure out how to get a good smoker and then you'll see some real barbecue around here.