Larry And Lola (A Comfort Food Blog)

The Gerber baby, who appears on the packaging ...

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I have a weird relationship with food; in addition to just adoring it I name it.  Apparently, I started really young giving names to food based on the person I ate the food with or the person who introduced me to it. First, there was Larry. I was friends with a little boy named Larry when I was about 18 months. Larry consists of peach baby food (I have advanced to pears and fruit delight) and cottage cheese. Not mixed together. Ever. Eating Larry consists of a ritual dipping of a teaspoon into cottage cheese and then dipping it into Gerber and only Gerber peach baby food. (I honestly feel that I began to love babies because of the Gerber baby picture on all the jars.) Not only did I eat this when I was very young but still eat it on occasion. For freshness and sanitary sake, I now put the cottage cheese in a separate little bowl but eat the baby food right out of the cute, little, smiling baby jar. After all, nobody eats the baby food except for me. My children, when they were growing up did not have the same fondness for Larry as I did.

Lola. Lola is my mother’s best friend. She made a salad (of sorts) that I thought was absolutely delicious when I was a girl and now make it for myself (because no one else will eat it.) I don’t know why but when Lola served Lola everyone seemed to love it. Must have been her charm and charisma.  I made my mother ask for the “recipe” and then made it myself. First, buy a small jar of peas and carrots (go for the brand name, not the generic), drain the juice (or liquid as they say in America), and add mayonnaise (Hellman’s only) to the remaining peas and carrots. Stir. This is Lola and believe it or not Lola saved my life while I was on vacation in Spain because Lola, known as a Russian Salad in Spain, saved me from eating a lot of raw, wiggly fish that I couldn’t stand. In addition I attended a lovely Russian wedding last year and again, we were served a Russian salad that made me squeal with delight when I saw it;  it was, in fact, Lola with hard-boiled eggs. Imagine that. I don’t think Lola knows about Lola. I remember giving an old friend the recipe to make Lola and she burst out laughing uncontrollably when I got to the “drain the juice” part. Apparently she was guffawing because she said “as if anyone else would eat this.” I found that a little insensitive but we are all entitled to our own opinion. For someone whose comfort food was a plain hamburger, I say nothing.

My all time comfort food are soft-boiled eggs (peeled very carefully-this is critcal) in a dish with a teaspoon or more of butter and two slices of toast torn apart and mixed in. All you need to add is a little salt and there it is: ultimate comfort, it really doesn’t get better than that. My back up comfort food is always an American cheese sandwich on bread with butter. Scrambled eggs with Welch’s grape jelly or grape jam (depending on what consistency I want) and another comfort item called banana mush- mush, a dessert item, which is mashed up bananas (use a fork) with sour cream ( now plain fat-free yogurt) with sugar or sugar substitute.

I’ve taken a little survey and some responses to my question “what is your favorite comfort food?” are as follows: a black and white milkshake, brown sugar on bread with butter (rolled like a jelly roll,) buttered Saltine crackers with slices of kosher dill pickles on top, (the originality winner in my book), oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon, Swanson’s chicken à la king (on toast), Campbell’s tomato soup with (Kraft) American cheese and crumbled up Saltines, Yodels (peeled or unpeeled) AND… french fries dipped into an ice cream sundae. The last dish, definitely gets props in terms of combining sweet and salt.  Thanks guys for your help. I’m off to the grocery store now to see if there are new products to buy or to perhaps buy a new comfort food, borrowed from a friend.

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Move Over ESL, Cranky Is My New Language

A housecat named Princess who highly disliked ...

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It was one of THOSE days. You know the kind, when nothing goes right, annoying things happen and no matter what you try, it doesn’t help.  Made a decision, did you? Guess what, it was the wrong one. It was the day of Cranky. I spoke Cranky, I lived and ate and breathed Cranky. If I had a cat, her name would be Cranky.  I felt irritable with life’s problematic surprises and unexpected twists and I felt very out of control.

My children doused the only piece of furniture that I love, my green couch, with water guns. No, my children are not 4 and 6 years old, they are 16 and 18.  Need I say more? The couch, that I picked out, and the multi-colored  square rug beneath it have always made me happy. Why? Because it was the first thing that I bought with great strength of style and character; I was so sure about it and didn’t waver; to me, it was my own tiny corner of the Museum of Modern Art, at home.

Later that day we drove to a restaurant to celebrate my husband’s birthday. He got lost again and again. Nor did he have the directions with him, he didn’t NEED that, we had been there twice before, silly me!! When I suggested the GPS, he scoffed. He also made an illegal red turn with the (driving) teenagers in the back seat of the car. I was fuming. Dude, what the HELL were you thinking? You’re supposed to be the role model here. At that moment, fuming and cranky became first cousins.

Once seated in the restaurant our daughter, a vegetarian, asked for the chef’s special vegetable plate and we all knew she wouldn’t touch it. She played with her food and moved vegetables around that included: cooked kale and spinach, and fennel and she ate about two bites for 21 dollars. Before she ordered we suggested she order A SALAD  or pasta but she refused. She knew better and at practically 17 anything we suggest is useless. I even said she might want to tell the waitress the vegetables that she DID like but apparently my idea was stupid. Of course it was.

My husband and son shared a steak the size of a lobster pot, it was so large and bloody, it was hard to even take a glance at it.  I decided to have three appetizers: a buttery bibb lettuce salad with a light yogurt dressing  which was lovely, an appetizer of braised ribs ravioli, sweet and soft, the texture of the braised meat contrasting the delicate ravioli casing.  The red velvet cake I chose for dessert was extremely disappointing and tasteless. For those of you who know me, a dessert I don’t like is equal to a symphony of crankiness.

The heel of my left foot throbbed horribly with pain when I walked, the jabbing pain even woke me up in the middle of the night. Not being able to walk comfortably is crankiness personified. I have iced it, wrapped it, rubbed it and have tried at least ten different shoe and old, peeling orthotic combinations, nothing helps.  I’ve had this before and once it starts it takes a long, long time to go away. It’s a stubborn, stupid, painful, cranky, old ailment for cranky, old, me. It’s not enough that I don’t have energy? Now, I can’t even walk comfortably.

I’m tired as hell and just want to lie on the bed, since every bone and joint in my body is not just aching with pain but screaming with it. There are no medications to heal it, or relieve it, it’s something I have to live with every single day and night of my life. I am trying to stay awake and of course I fall asleep, the lights on, the computer on my stomach. I wake up two hours later, annoyed with myself.

The day and night have not gone well and I was glad it was almost over. I couldn’t sleep after my unexpected two hour nap so my night and day hours were confused. I glanced over at my dog who was sleeping happily at the foot of my bed and I watched her breathe and smile in her sleep.  I look at her with love and feel love. My dog is the anti-cranky.

Thank You, Erica

Candlelit Table for One

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I am not a paid restaurant reviewer so I am writing about my love of eating good food (not making it.)  I also have great admiration for those who cook incredibly well. Our friends, Mike and Erica, hosted a reunion a few weeks ago and old friends from the East Coast and the West Coast gathered together.  Erica made a divine appetizer of stuffed mushrooms based on Ina Garten’s recipe. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten and this is NOT the Food or Cooking Channel. We ate those amazing stuffed mushrooms with our eager fingers and never have I eaten such different tastes and textures in one appetizer. The sausage, olive oil, cheese, bread crumbs and mushroom appetizer combined with seeing old friends, talking, hugging and laughing, was a highlight of 2010 for me.

It felt like the kitchen scene from the movie, The Big Chill,  except no one died (although one person did leave the dinner table, head to the living room, wrapped himself up in a blanket, appropriated two pillows and apparently fell asleep on the couch for 3 hours.) I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Presently I fantasize about eating my favorite things in an expensive restaurant.  My husband and I would be seated inside a small dining room near a beautiful fireplace. A small bouquet of red and purple flowers sit prettily on the thickly starched white tablecloth where a soft candle would be burning.

To start, I would have jumbo prawns with cocktail sauce and a wedge of lemon (that had a paper coverlet on it to protect it from seeds.) In some circles the prawns would be the delicacy but in our family we have named the shrimp as the vehicle to which we get to eat the cocktail sauce. Another example of this would be that lobster is the vehicle to get to the melted butter sauce. You get the idea.

After that I would order a salad made with a lemon/olive oil, vinagrette salad dressing (the words truffle and champagne could be added although I don’t know exactly what they do.) Ripe cherry tomatoes, julienned carrots, red cabbage, and chopped parsley and chives would be on top. I love adding sweetness to things so for me, some craisins would be tossed in there as well.

The table is laden with “everything” flat crackers and warm, soft, dinner rolls with butter, room temperature (I hate hard, freezing cold butter)  shaped like sea shells. My entrée would either be the outstanding chateaubriand, like it is prepared at the  restaurant X2O or the divine filet mignon served at the Crabtree Kittle House, both amazing restaurants are located in New York. Rice pilaf or mashed potatoes would work nicely with this meal, but nothing fried and undignified as french fries and ketchup (those go with cheeseburgers only.)  Grilled brussel sprouts paired with a hint of maple syrup glaze and slivered almonds would be our vegetable.

Blood orange or lemon sorbet served in martini glass would be our palate cleanser. It would be served to help settle our wonderful meal and to leave room (not that this has ever been a problem for me) for dessert.  I am a sugar junkie and I like a variety of things so because it is my fantasy I am picking two desserts: a fresh fruit tart served in a marzipan shortbread crust with vanilla custard and a fluffy (never flourless) milk and dark chocolate mousse cake with real vanilla bean ice cream.

Thanks for joining me in my food fantasy. Here’s to 2011, with good friends and great food.  Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy and delicious New Year.