Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bird is the Word

What would you do if you sat down to your family's Thanksgiving dinner, only to find the most important dish was missing? 

Maybe you look forward to the sweet potatoes with tiny melted marshmallows on top -- you start thinking about them, salivating at the thought of them, in September. Or maybe your mother made green beans in a specific way that nobody else can duplicate and if they're not on the table on Thanksgiving life will have no meaning. 

One Thanksgiving when I was around 19, my parents, brother, and I joined a family friend's family for Thanksgiving. I didn't think it could possibly be that different, or that I'd care if it was. But then they served ham. HAM! On Thanksgiving!!!!

It's silly, but I remember being just horrified when that ham was brought to the table. And I remember being mad, actually MAD at my mother for bringing us to this turkey-less place. What the hell was wrong with these people?

Now, I was a kid then, and as an adult I like to think I've grown somewhat more adaptable. It might have to do with spending Thanksgiving with assorted other people's families over the last 10 or 15 years. And with the fact that I've yet to come across another family who dared serve me anything but bird.

But this year, some family friends are joining my new family (in-laws galore!) for Thanksgiving. And there was a discussion about these friends bringing something to the feast. One offered stuffing, and I found my alarms ringing. Mrs. Food Guy's mother makes the best stuffing I've ever eaten, and it was like I was 19 again:

"NO, Don't let them change the stuffing... Anything but the stuffing!"

And that's when I realized it doesn't matter how old you are. When there's a meal you love and you only get it once a year, you just don't want anyone messing with it. 

So good luck, and may your friends and relatives chose another day to experiment with the menu.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Creature (of Habit)

Same Old Same Old

I'm a creature of habit. As much as I love food, I'll eat the same old thing day after day after day without getting tired of it. I can do this for weeks. Months, even. 

When I was first out of college, I'd eat nothing but Lipton Rice with Sauce packets, with the occasional Pasta and Sauce thrown in just to keep things exciting. They came in all different flavors. I'd brown up some ground beef, dump it in the rice, throw in some frozen corn (gotta have a veggie) and consider it a feast. Sometimes I'd even broil up a loaf of supermarket garlic bread to go along with it. This was dinner, 5 nights a week. 

A few years later, I came up with another perfect routine -- the same three meals for dinner on a rotating basis. All purchased from Costco. All frozen. All delicious.

Meal #1: Frozen Cheese Ravioli and a half of a jar of whatever pasta sauce was available. Sometimes, if I was feeling REALLY crazy, I'd brown up some hamburger to go in the sauce.

Meal #2: Frozen Potstickers. They came with their own sauce. No muss, no fuss.

Meal #3: Frozen chicken Cordon Bleu. Breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese that oozed out if you over cooked it. 

I wouldn't dream of eating this way anymore, for a lot of reasons. 
I eat much healthier now -- my diet even includes many green vegetables. 
I like some variety.
My wife would kill me if I cooked frozen ravioli every third night...

But because I'm still such a routine bound person, I have the same thing for lunch just about every day. Almond butter and jelly on whole wheat. When the almond butter is gone, I switch to peanut butter for a jar. Then back again. 

I find odd comfort in knowing what's for lunch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Instant Soup

For the first time in years, I had a cup of instant soup for lunch. You know the kind -- it comes in a cardboard cup. You peel back the foil lid and fill with boiling water. Cover and wait 5-8 minutes... That was hours ago, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, the soup was quite a step up from the old Cup o' Soups I used to buy. Today I had Dr. McDougall's Black Bean and Lime soup.

It was vegan and gluten free (thank goodness! Everyone knows gluten is the enemy... ahhh, I think I'll save my rant about the gluten-phobics for a later date). The ingredients were all actually pronounceable. If you're going to eat food that lives on a shelf and cooks in a cup, it's about the best you could do.

On the other hand, it was REALLY salty. And sorta sludgey. Obviously out of practice with such things, I thought I had stirred the heck out of it when I added the water. But apparently I didn't because I ate several clumps of wet seasoning that were a little disturbing. They didn't taste that bad, to be honest, but they were weird. And I might not have been patient enough to let it cook for the recommended time, so it was a little crunchy (which is not a quality I particularly enjoy in my black beans).

But I sorta liked it. 

I'm so ashamed...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Three Words

Breakfast For Dinner.

What else is there to say? Who doesn't love eggs and bacon (yes, bacon again) and homefries and toast for dinner? Or a scramble with onions and peppers and chunks of sausage, maybe even some zucchini or spinach? 

When I was a kid, my mom did all the cooking in our house. And she was a really good cook, adventurous for somebody who learned to cook in the late 60's. Sure, she cooked some things we were all a little afraid of -- like lentil loaf (which I'd probably love now, but when I was 12 I couldn't go near it!). And yeah, sometimes she cooked delicious dinners that were so far over our heads that we'd beg for simple spaghetti and meatballs. But overall, I've never had any complaints about my mother's cooking.

On those rare occassions when Mom wasn't home to cook us dinner, Dad took over the stove. And there was nothing, NOTHING we liked better than when my father cooked. Because the only thing he EVER cooked was Breakfast for Dinner.

And there wasn't just one breakfast dish at which he excelled. He made omelets filled with, of all things, grape jelly, which were just amazing. He made better matzoh brei than either of my grandmothers could make He made the fluffiest scrambled eggs and perfect bacon. He made toasted bagels coated in what we called "jellyosis" -- the messy mixture created when you butter a hot bagel and then quickly slather it with jelly (from the sound of it, we ate a lot of jelly when Dad cooked). When you got some on you, you had to yell "Oh no, I've got jellyosis!!!!!!!!!" 

I'm not one of those people with millions of happy memories from childhood. So I'll take what I can get and chalk up my lifelong love of Breakfast For Dinner to those nights when Dad cooked. 

But that's just me. Why do YOU love BforD?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tiny Food

My new work routine includes eating a tiny little wheel of cheese and drinking a miniature V8 every day at 3. I like having something to look forward to after lunch and it's good for me to get a little nutrition mid-day. And, man, do I mean LITTLE.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not the best judge of reasonable portion sizes. But a 5.5 oz can of V8 is barely enough to get my mouth wet. Is that really a full serving of vegetables? The answer, I just learned, is yes. According to their website, a half cup (or 4 oz) of V8 is a full serving of veggies. So my tiny little can is 1.25 servings. Goody for me!

Despite what I just learned, I kind of have a hard time believing it... yet I drink it each day, along with my wheel of Laughing Cow Mini Baby Bel Light (there are more words in the name of the cheese than there are bites of cheese!). I actually enjoy them both, but I am starting to hate their diminutive proportions.

They sit in my hand, looking all petite and smug. Like they're taunting me -- "What's the matter Jumbo? We don't look like enough food for you??" All I can do is polish them off as quickly as I can and try to convince myself that I won't be hungry again until dinner.

Fat chance.