Monthly Archives: October 2011

You Need Not Fear Clam Chowder

Most fears we have are of the unknown and untried. Base jumping (to be more accurate base falling) into alligator infested waters is one. Not far behind is preparing clam chowder. Prepare first what you

My greatest fear is base jumping into the unknown - a bowl of Manhattan style clam chowder. Photo from Wikipedia

know, then build on that. In other words try jumping (or falling) five hundred feet into a baby pool of gold-fish first.

Clam chowder is one of those foods you order at a restaurant or buy in a can. It is seldom homemade. There is no reason to fear making it at home. That is unless you have ostraconophobia ( fear of shell fish or ostracism – like who doesn’t) or ecophobia (fear of home or a bad economy). Nevertheless clam chowder is very simple. Clam chowder is just a stones throw from a simple cream gravy.

The first time I was schedule to prepare clam chowder panic set in. People can get down right mean if the chowder ain’t just right. Once the recipe was read and I realized how simple it was it became a snap.

I’m speaking of New England style and not Manhattan style. I don’t know of anyone who has ever eaten Manhattan style clam chowder. I’ve never seen it in a can or on a menu.

Here is my imaginary ordering of clam chowder in a restaurant.

“I”ll have a bowl of clam chowder.”

“New England or Manhattan style?”

“Manhattan.”

“It doesn’t exist.”

A Meager Recipe for Two or One Hog.

A bowl of New England style clam chowder. I was only able to find one image of Manhattan style. It was being eaten by Big Foot.

Dice a potato. Use one just a little larger than a baseball. Leave the skin on it (make sure you scrub it good, dummy).

What is done to the potato is up to you. Fry it, bake it, or boil it. When that’s done set it aside.

Saute a half cup of chopped onions in butter.

Drain the juice from a 6.5 ounce can of minced or chopped clams. Set the clam juice aside. Add the clams to the onion at the end of the cooking process. When everything comes to a sizzle again remove it from the heat. When clams are over cooked they become rubbery. Sprinkle a little flower in the clams and onions. Perhaps a teaspoon or two, enough to soak up the butter. Make sure it is stirred into a smooth paste.

Melt ¼ pound of butter and stir in flour until it is smooth paste. On a low flame slowly add the clam juice and a pint of milk. Add the potatoes, clams, and onions. Allow it to come to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Once it thickens get ready to chow down.

There are some variations to this recipe. Chopped celery equal to the amount of onions can be sautéed with the onions. A small can of sweet corn can be added near the end of the cooking process. Chopped bacon or ham can be added.

The thickness of the chowder may vary according to one’s preference. What I strive for is something like a milk shake.

By the way, before adding the flower, taste it to be certain it is not powdered sugar.

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The Day Mom Quit Driving

Mom was 92 when she quit driving. It was a difficult decision for her. She loved to drive and giving up that privilege signaled giving up something very important to her – independence.

This isn't my Mom, but it could be. I got this from the wordpress blog, Tales of the Vinly Villiage.

My Dad lost his license for drunk driving when it was nearly impossible to lose a license for drunk driving. In those days if you could stay on the road and get home while drunk you were a real man. Thus, Mom did all the driving.

Mom really loved to drive. When I was 14 we planned to visit her brother and family in Houston, Texas. From Lima, Ohio to Houston was a good twenty-four hour drive. Mom drove it without stopping. Something happened to her when she got behind the wheel – she came alive!

In 1970 She was visiting her oldest daughter in Gulfport, Mississippi. She got the news of the death of her oldest brother.

She left Gulfport as soon as her bags were packed. She drove into the night. Although alert and at the same time distraught she drove on.

Suddenly she saw the lights of a highway patrolman and she pulled over. He told her she was speeding (imagine that, I’ve seen Mom do 90 mph without a sign of concern or fear – she had ice water in her veins). She said she was sorry, but she just lost her brother and was anxious to get home. He decided to give her a warning. He asked her where she was headed. She told him Lima, Ohio. He said, “Mam your ten miles inside of Georgia.” I can’t imagine the anguish and embarrassment on Mom’s face. In spite of that I’m certain she began to calculate how much faster she was going to have to drive to put her back on schedule.

In Mom’s grief she drove across Mississippi, Alabama, and was now in Georgia without realizing it. The officer turned her around and gave directions to shorten her trip so she would not backtrack all the way to Gulfport.

Mom made it all the way back to Lima, without stopping to sleep.

In her 70’s she still drove Ohio to Florida without staying in a motel.

When Mom started into her 90’s my youngest sister on occasion echoed a concern that Mom was getting too old to drive. Mom drove to her house about everyday. When my sister drove some place with Mom she noticed no discernible difference or any call for alarm. She didn’t leave a trail of wrecked cars or dead pedestrians in her wake. In every respect she was driving fine.

My sister and I lamented the day her keys would have to be ripped from her hands. In my Mom’s case, ‘If you want these keys, only from my cold dead hands’ – literally.

The day came and it was quite unexpected, but yet only as Mom would have it. She drove to my sister’s and handed her the keys. Mom said, “I drive as good as anybody. My reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but I’m never distracted and I think that makes me as good as anybody else on the road. But the day is gonna come when I’m gonna get hit by some young punk. Here I am over 90 and some lying little _ss hole will lie his way out of something his fault. I think it’s time for somebody to drive me around from now on.”

Mom was not about to admit her limitations without acknowledging other’s first.

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Pancakes Made Easy as Pie

I found this picture on the internet. There is not nearly enough syrup or butter.

My first pancake batter from scratch was made in 1967. I used the Army’s recipe (this will make two hundred pancakes). I haven’t used a recipe since. Click here for a link to a video.

My theory is that if the ingredients are anywhere near to being close you will have a pretty good pancake. If nothing else, each effort will be unique.

Here are my ingredients; flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, milk, a dash or two of vanilla, and a secret ingredient. I mix all the dry ingredients, add the milk, add eggs until the batter is off-white to light yellow. Notice I omit salt and oil. There is little that these items do for the pancake.

The tricky part is the thickness of the batter. I personally like mine thin. I want it to pour freely from the ladle when poured on the grill. I don’t want to force it out of the ladle. For some sort of comparison try molasses or go down to AutoZone and get a can of Motor Honey.

Have the grill buttered at 325 to 350 degrees. Turn them when the bubbles burst on the uncooked side or lift and see if they are a golden brown on the grilled side.

If you are lost at this point make a batch or two from a scratch recipe until you get the feel for the ingredients.

Recently I thought of trying a healthy alternative to milk. I purchased a half-gallon of coconut milk and a package of cookies. To me that’s party time. Years ago I had coconut milk from the coconut. I thought it was delicious. This most recent experience made me wonder. The stuff I had a few days ago tasted like it came from chalk concentrate. If not for the cookies it would have been a completely empty experience.

I can’t find anyone who will take the rest of the milk off my hands, which begs the question, ‘Who buys coconut milk anyway?’

It’s sort of like having an ugly daughter; you dress her up in something to disguise what she really looks like and hope some far-sighted guy with a bad prescription proposes before he has Lasik surgery.

I used the coconut milk in the pancake batter instead of cow’s milk. I don’t want to sound like a paid spokesman for the coconut milk board, but it was pretty darn good.

Cooks are always looking for a way to kick something up a notch. I added a glubb glubb of Bailey’s Irish Cream. I grilled them, added enough butter to sink a battle ship, enough syrup to float it and went to

If you cook with liquor it is best to taste it first. A rule of thumb is taste five times more than you intend to use.

town.

The Bailey’s Irish Cream added a special flavor that made me want to stuff my mouth and savor until the syrup oozed from between my lips.

So we can expect the Bailey’s Irish Cream and coconut milk to be in short supply on grocery shelves in the future.

Remember the secret ingredient mentioned earlier? It’s corn syrup. When I was in the Army a baker said he always added a little to his cake batters. He said they made the cakes more moist and they retained moistness longer. That baker’s cakes were always moist. I always add a tablespoon or two to any type of cake batter.

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Mom Gives a Short Lesson in Conflict Resolution

Somewhere about the age of fourteen or fifteen a boy starts thinking he is a man. At least, that’s the way I remember it. I had a patch of hair on my chest and shaved twice a week. I didn’t have the strength of a man, but I had more stamina and all the answers.

I thought Mom and I were about to have a Leave It to Beaver moment - not even close.

I was starting to make a lot of my own decisions. I was picking out my own cloths. I had chores on the farm to do, but allowed to manage them myself. I chose my subjects in school.

Looking back now I realize that in every category just mentioned my choices were wrong. I dressed like I was color blind, I never completed anything, and my subject choice in school was based on the class with the cutest girls.This led to a lot of underlying frustration. I couldn’t figure out why things were going so bad for me. I had no girl friend (who wants to go with a guy who wears plaids with stripes), I had no time to do what I wanted to do (because I squandered my time), and I was failing in school (I was failing French, because all I took time to learn was the dirty phrases and failing Algebra because of a fear of the unknown – so I said).

One Saturday Mom asked me to take out the trash and burn it (This was before global warming. We didn’t give a crap about the environment.). I gave Mom some lip. I was expecting her to really get after me. I stormed up stairs and stretched out in bed. ‘Who does she think she is,’ I thought. ‘She’s ordering me around like I was a teenage punk (which I was)’.

After fifteen minutes or so of brooding Mom’s soft scintillating voice found its way up the stairs, to my room, and in my ear. “Come down stairs. I have something for you.”I thought Mom and I were about to have a Leave It to Beaver moment – not even close.

A good five minutes before Mom’s voice arrived the smell of cookies wafted through the entire house. A vision of Mom, cold milk, and warm cookies fresh from the oven ran through my mind – sort of like a scene from Leave It To Beaver.

‘She’s finally came to her senses,’ I thought. “Be right there, Mom,” I said. I hopped from bed and ran to the stairs. All I could think was, ‘Milk. Cookies. Let’s party!’

Hulk Hogan may have popularized the clothesline, but Mom was the one who invented it.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs, stepping one foot into the dining room it was like the door slammed on my face. I fell back against the stairs. I looked up expecting to see a closed door, but instead it was my five feet two-inch Mom with her arms folded like Mr. Clean. I felt something warm come from my nose. It was blood. I began sniveling like child (which I was). Mom executed what they call in football the perfect ‘clothesline tackle.’ She caught me with a forearm like it was a crowbar.

“Don’t ever speak to me that way again!” She said.

That was not the last disagreement we had, but from that, I leaned how to approach conflicts and doorways with more caution.

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The Neely’s Mix Southern BBQ with Motown

My sister was in love with the Neelys and their cooking program, Down Home with the Neelys. She watched them all the time. I asked her if she ever tried any of their recipes. She hesitated and said no. The

The Neelys: put on some Barry White and enjoy.

hesitation was because she forgot it was a cooking show.

Perhaps that is a huge part of their success, good cooking is more than stuff that taste good – it is an experience. I don’t like food prepared by angry cooks, no matter how good it taste. Some how it comes out in the food. The Neelys have put joy and romance back into cooking.

The Neelys are a loving and cute couple, but frankly their cooking program is personality driven only. When ever I watch the show I swear Barry White music is in the background. It’s a show with a lot of “Hey baby,” and “Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.”

The Neelys show has a Motown feel to it.

Interestingly the Neelys are originally from Detroit. The show has that Motown feel. Like with Motown music, it is heavy on romance and sensuality and light on substance. Like with Motown music, it was a way to introduce classical stringed instrument arrangements as background to a generation locked into an urban setting for life – it is a way to introduce good healthy food and have fun while doing it.

I have an idea for an episode: Have the Neelys dress up as The Temptations and prepare a salad to the tune of “Poke Salad Annie.”

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Dad Could Never Handle Mom’s World

It seemed like Dad aged overnight. One day he was youthful and full of life and a day later he took naps after work that lasted two to three hours and then slept an eight hour night. A life time of hard livin’ will do that to any man.

Dad’s job had few physical demands. In fact, he slept on the job. He worked at an institution for the criminally insane. If the inmates were taking meds and in their cells there was nothing to do.

Nevertheless Dad came home exhausted.

Valiant Lady was the first soap opera I recall in which my Mom had an interest.

Mom had boundless energy. She often worked full time and took care of the house also. We had a garden and she did canning. In spite of her demanding schedule she always had time for a soap opera or two. She watched Valiant Lady, As the World Turns, and The Guiding Light.

One day Dad came home from work, flopped in the living room chair and lit a cigarette.

Mom told him Barbara was pregnant with Trevor’s baby and she was trying to get a divorce from Howard.

Dad immediately sprung forward taking a huge drag from his cigarette and clutching the pack firmly. “What’s she doin’ messin’ around before she gets divorced anyway. And who is Trevor? I thought she was married to some guy named Bob. Howard, is that his middle name?”

Mom said, “She hasn’t lived with Howard for six months and besides he’s been tryin’ to date his secretary, Carmen.”

Mom liked As the World Turns also. I think in many ways it was an escape from her own life.

“Secretary!” Dad said. “Bob doesn’t have a secretary. He drives a beer truck.”

“Whose Bob?” Mom said.

“That’s Howard’s first name,” Dad said.

“Howard who,” Mom said.

“The Howard who knocked-up Barb,” Dad said.

“It was Trevor. What Howard are you talking about?” Mom said.

“How should I know,” Dad said. “This is your story. I thought you was talkin’ about Bob Ashcroft the beer truck driver.”

“No,” Mom said. “Howard on my soap opera. Besides he’s an attorney. ”

“What!” Dad screamed. “I thought we had a crisis on our hands.” He threw his pack of cigarettes across the room, stormed into the bedroom, and

Mom and I loved to watch The Guiding Light. It had a nice family feel to it.

slammed the door behind him. He didn’t come out until the next morning.

Dad could not handle Mom’s fantasies let alone her realities. That was Mom, she could handle any crisis that came along – real or imaginary.

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Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives), Real People – Real Food

Diners Drive-Ins and Dives is the only program that speaks to me and, for that fact, ninety-nine percent of the people who live in the U. S. It is about food that people eat everyday. It’s people’s food not critic’s

Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives - it's about real people and real food.

food. It’s not food that is held on the tongue and savored, it’s food you stuff your mouth with because you know your belly wants it.

The steam that pushes the pistons to run the locomotive is restaurateur from Northern California Guy Fieri. He’s a guy’s guy. The kind of guy ya like to have a couple of beers with and swap some stories.

Unlike many of the Food Network personalities he sees the connection between people, food, and fun. People are the most important ingredient. With other shows people are just props that get in the way of the judge’s or chef’s ego.

I’ve gone to a few of the diners, drive-ins, and dives featured on his program. Tastes are highly subjective and arbitrary. A couple of the places he has featured didn’t quite do it for me. But his program is not meant to go in there and be critical. He goes to a restaurant with the idea of telling you why other people like it. ‘The place may be nothing but a dive, but it’s our dive.’

The point of the show is that food brings people together. Where we eat and who we eat with says everything about who we are. Guy Fieri by that measure is a real person who likes real food.

Although I watch other programing from time to time on the Food Network, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives is the only one I look forward to watching.

I would like to see an episode where Guy Fieri takes a car load of the Barefoot Contessa’s friends to one of his joints. The tension would halariously unbearable. Then I’d like to see the Barefoot Contesa back in one of those kitchens. I wonder how long it would take before somebody held her hand to a greasy grill? That’s the reaction I’d pay to see.

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