The Pace Of Friendship

Several years ago, to increase sales by getting more people to eat TexMex type food, there was a salsa commercial.  It resembled the eat-beans-and-fart scene in the movie, Blazing Saddles.  Five or six Stetson-wearing good-ole-boys, sitting around a campfire, alternately dipping salsa from a bowl, with tortilla chips.

As the salsa bowl neared empty, one of them commented, “We’re almost out of salsa.  I’ll go get some more from Pecos.”  “No, no, don’t do that!  This here’s PACE salsa, made right here in San Antonio.  Pecos buys salsa that’s made by a company in New York City.”  (All together) NEW YORK CITY??!!

Somewhat more recently, the wife went into La Commida Latina, a small bodega, specializing in south-of-the-border food, to get Ceratex flour to make some Salvadoran pupusas.  Before we got out, she had adventurously purchased a bottle of Goya Salsita Ancho Pepper hot sauce.  She found she loved it, although Shimoniac stays with Rants’ Sriracha, and I like a Chipotle BBQ sauce.

When the bottle ran dry, and we tried to get more, we found several stores which carried the Goya brand, but not the Ancho flavor.  In doing a web search, I found that it is bottled in Secaucus, NJ.  Not exactly New York City, but still a somewhat unusual place to find “Mexican” spices.

Several months ago, I shipped a Loonie and a Twoonie, Canadian one-dollar and two-dollar coins, to Madame Weebles.   She’s a born and bred New York City gal, and proud of it.  She moved over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey before Chris Christie shut it down.  She says that she crossed the river to pursue employment and a marriage.  Weebs is a sweetie, and a wonderful lady, so I’m ignoring the rumors of villagers with torches and pitchforks.

She lives close enough to Ellis Island to look up Lady Liberty’s skirts.  She asked if there was anything she might do to repay my tiny gift.  I jokingly said that she could drive a few miles over to Secaucus and get me a couple of bottles of the Ancho sauce, but insisted that I could not have her doing my shopping for me.

Imagine my pleasure and surprise, when I recently received an email from her, saying that she had been able to locate two bottles of the sauce, and was sending them to me by mail.   Finding two coins to send to her was as quick as sticking my hand in my pocket, and mailing them almost as easy.

Finding two bottle of hot sauce meant shopping, something I’m not much better at than most guys.  Shipping them meant carefully packing them first, and the cost of the sauce, as well as the freight, was well beyond what I had expended.  I am humbled to receive consideration like that from someone who only knows me long-distance, from reading a few of my posts, and a few of my comments on hers.

Used to years of loner-ship, it was a pleasant startlement to be treated so kindly, by a stranger, who is a stranger no more – and then my received kindness/friendship doubled.

White Lady in the Hood had read my post where I patted myself on the back for donating a couple of coins, and knew that I had not managed to complete my set of the 50 US State quarters.  I take so much US coinage back, on our infrequent visits, that I don’t receive enough in change to find the ones I need.  After over five years, I still needed three.

WLITH now handles the book-store at the elementary school where she works, and sees lots of coinage from kids buying small school supplies.  When I told her that I needed ones from Arkansas, Hawaii and Kansas, she replied within a couple of days, saying that she had the A and K, and had seen H, and would keep an eye out for it again.

Her email request for a mailing address mysteriously fell into the delete file.  I suspect the cats were ordering pizza online again.  Feverishly digging it out before it disappeared into the ether forever, I responded affirmatively, and the two coins have now made their happy way to me.

By the time I published this post; she has also found and mailed the Hawaii quarter – and “something else interesting, just for luck.”  I am excitedly looking forward to it, but I have so much good luck, having friends like this, that I don’t know where I would keep any more.

Having cultivated an almost solitary lifestyle, I am seldom treated badly, but the chubby old word-spewer is seldom treated so well, and by two lovely ladies, nearly simultaneously.  These demonstrations of blogoverse friendship just take my breath away, or maybe it was the second trip downstairs for ice-cream, to celebrate.

Let’s have a round of applause, in appreciation for what these two gals have done for your favorite old Archon.  They are both competent and entertaining writers.  If you haven’t already, click on the links above, and give their sites a visit.

While neither of them is exactly a “stranger”, do any of you have a tale of someone you didn’t really know, who went out of their way to help, or do something nice for you?  Perhaps the “Me” generation hasn’t completely taken over, and there’s still a spirit of goodwill out there.      😀

Harvest Moon

It’s all about food and drink, one way or another.  Well, perhaps not all, but much of what we do involves sustaining ourselves with caloric and fluid intake.  Working is obvious, driving to and from work, shopping, all work toward filling us up.

We could say that things like blogging are just to satisfy our creative and social needs, but even there, KayJai posts about what she does at work, Hotspur blogs about what he sees and does on the way to work, and produces three books about his experiences, which he hopes to sell, to make money to buy food and drink.  I don’t feel guilty that so much of my stuff revolves around food and drink.

It’s that time of year again, harvest time.  Many of the things we like to have to eat are ripe, and plentiful.  The wife and I have been at it again, actually three times in the last two weeks.  We’ve been canning again, and again, and again.

I looked up the concept of canning in the dictionary.  Many people only understand the term *can* to refer to a metal container, but the word goes back to Old Norse, and means any type of vessel, so we “can”, in glass jars.

I remember helping my mother can, lo these many years ago.  Back then, she melted paraffin wax and poured it on the top of foodstuffs she was preserving.  Some people cut lengths of string and hung them on the sides of the jars, so that they could use them to pull the wax off the top.  We just used a knife to pry the wax off, and then a standard lid for refrigerator storage.

First the wife and I went up to the farmers market and bought a half a bushel of Roma tomatoes, to make homemade salsa with.   As we were buying the half bushel bag, there was another woman who was getting a bushel and a half to also make salsa with.  The wife asked her if she ran a restaurant, but the answer was no, it was just for the family and gifts for friends.  I’m glad our family is small and we don’t have many friends.

I do a lot of fetching and toting, but the wife is stuck with the old-school chopping and preparation.  De-seeding a half bushel so that we had just the flesh, took her most of an afternoon.  Then there were the onions and peppers to chop up.  I peeled the onions, but she did the rest.  By the time we were finished, we had 21 pints of glorious homemade salsa to garnish my beloved Tex-Mex dishes for a year.  We will be making quesadillas for supper this Saturday, but I’ve already had some on another platter of nachos on Monday.  Delicious!!  We saved the skins and ran them through a manual apple-saucer, and used the residue to make an exquisite home-style tomato soup.

We also bought a half a bushel of cucumbers carefully chosen for size, to make some dill pickles with.  We preserve dill pickles in a variety of shapes/styles, for different uses, and still have certain ones left from last year.  We bottle a few whole dills, some dill halves, a lot of quartered dills, some dill slices, for hamburgers and sandwiches, and dill chunks.  These are cut off the ends of cucumbers a little too long to fit in pint jars, or ones with bad spots.

A quart of chunks, run through a Magic Bullet food-processor and drained, yields a pint of dill relish, which the wife and son prefer to sweet relish for hot dogs.  You can also mix it 50/50 with mayonnaise, some lemon juice and a few drops of Tabasco sauce to produce a great tartar sauce for fish, or home-made falafel patties.  We put down 18 pints of dill quarters, and four more quarts of chunks.

As a special treat, we have come to love crab-apple jelly, especially on croissants for Sunday brunch.  The taste is exquisite, but it’s fairly expensive, because tiny crab-apples require more labor to harvest.  The daughter lived on a street where there were four apple trees on the boulevard, alongside a church parking lot.  We picked our own for several years.  We went back last year, and the city had widened the road, taking down the trees.

The daughter found a house backing the community trail near her place, which had two trees beside the trail.  The owner told her she could have all the apples she wanted.  We made a big batch of crab-apple jelly last year.  We went back this year and found that the home-owner had removed the trees.  She must eat it a lot faster than the wife and I.  We still have enough left, but the daughter is out.  She paid the bucks and bought a six-quart basket at the farmers’ market and gave them, along with a bag of beet sugar to us, for us to make her a batch.

It took three days of on-and-off labor, but we finally bottled 17 half-pint jars of this ambrosia.  So crystal clear you can read a paper through the bottles, but with a deep golden/claret color.  If you are lucky enough to find it in a store, each of those little jars would cost about $3, but if you ever spot any, it could be worth the money.  Of course, the store-bought stuff isn’t nearly as good as our home-made product.

I think that’s it for produce this year.  Next stop is to start accumulating ingredients for home-made Christmas cake.  Gotta stop typing now.  It’s snack time!  You coming?

In Shape

Has anyone seen my diet?  It should look a lot like me, lumpy, round and swollen, lying someplace, moaning softly, and trying unsuccessfully to drag its ass off a couch or chair.  Poor thing never had a chance.  The, I’ll have some of this, and try some of that; at last Saturday’s Multicult festival was just the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning.

The wife bought some deformed asparagus at the market last week.  Not straight and neat, it was bent and almost twisted, but twice the amount for the same price.  The wife has developed a recipe for broccoli soup.  Chop it up, boil it, drain it, buzz it in a food processor, and add it to chicken broth.  She’s allergic to milk products, so we added some shredded Kashkaval cheese.  The name Kashkaval translates to cheese made from mare’s milk, but the stuff we get is from goat’s milk.  It has a crisp biting flavor much like cheddar.

She thought she might make up an asparagus soup, much the same way.  We didn’t put the special cheese in; rather she added a cup of Coffee Rich, liquid, non-dairy creamer.  Milk allergies, remember?  Not exactly a cream soup, but nice and rich, served with pumpernickel rolls and butter.  The son and I were supposed to sprinkle shredded cheddar on ours, but I forgot to shred.  That was supper, Tuesday night.

People who grow zucchini are always looking for ways to get rid of it.  We have found that slicing it ¾ of an inch thick, and frying it in a butter/olive oil mixture, sprinkling it with garlic salt and topping with shredded Kashkaval cheese is one good way.  Another way is buying larger zucchini and splitting them lengthwise.  Gouge out the center, retain the pulp, buzz it in a food processor, and add it to fried hot Italian sausage meat.  Steam some of the excess moisture off and add bread crumbs.  We buzz down a couple of Portuguese buns.  Seal the cut edges with Saran Wrap, and microwave the little green submarines for a minute.  Place the halves, cut side up, fill with the meat/bread mixture, and bake for 45 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese, we use the Kashkaval, but mozzarella, cheddar or Monterey Jack are good.  Place back in oven for five to ten minutes to melt cheese.  Serve to overweight blogger.  That was supper Thursday night.

At market, we were offered a deal on avocados, a whole flat for $5.  What in Hell are we going to do with sixteen avocados?  The daughter says she just read that you can freeze guacamole, and it comes back well.  Next thing I know, the son and I are making four big batches of guacamole.  I froze three, and left the fourth in the fridge, because we’re always having some kind of TexMex.  Friday, for lunch I had a platter (that’s platter, not plate) of nachos with the home-made guacamole, and some previously home-made salsa, as well as sour cream.

Saturday we had homemade pizzas, two 14 inch large.  I fried up some more of the hot Italian sausage, as well as some mushrooms, added sliced pepperoni, bacon, mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan.  We always make the two large, to put some aside for lunch for the wife and/or I, as well as a mid-night meal for the son at work.  It was a real struggle to actually have some left over.

I took the daughter to a thing called Barterworks, held at the back of a downtown vegetarian cafe, where a number of folks, as well as anyone who wanders in to the cafe, can buy, sell or trade whatever is displayed.  The son asked me as I left, to stop at a little bakery on the way home, and pick up a loaf of thick-cut French bread, so that we can have a feed of French toast and bacon (Mmmh, bacon!)  for Monday brunch.

On the Canada Day holiday Monday, the daughter and grandson are coming over early to help make supper.  We’ve decided to make up a couple of batches of perogies.  The daughter is allergic to potatoes, so we’ll use sweet potatoes as a base for hers.  Serve these little calorie grenades with some nice beef gravy and some 99% lactose-free sour cream and it will soon be hibernation time.

The doctor told me to watch my weight, so I put it out in front of me, where I can keep an eye on it.  We put aside some of our cooking in Tupperware or Ziploc containers, for the son to eat in the middle of his work-day.  Some jealous co-workers complain that he eats better on leftovers than they do with the stuff they bring.

My doctor told me I need more exercise.  I asked what I should do.  She said, “When you’re sitting at the table,”  “Yeah, yeah??”  “put your arms down by your side.”  “Yeah, yeah??”  “Bend both arms at ninety degrees, and then firmly grasp the edge of the table, with both hands.”  “What then??”  “Push away from the table before you take a second helping.”  I’m doomed, I tell you, doomed.  Maybe I could get a job as a stunt double for the Michelin Man, or Poppin’ Fresh, if I can haul my ass off this computer chair to apply.

I didn’t intend that this be a cooking column.  Did anybody get some ideas for a meal?  Damn, now I feel hungry again.  Is there a bit of cheese left in the fridge?