THE POINT OF THE HOLIDAY IS GRATITUDE – Marilyn Armstrong

I know that theoretically “Thanksgiving” is about gratitude. Personally, I think it’s much more about overeating than gratitude, but call me skeptical. At age 72, I’ve can remember probably 50 to 60 Thanksgiving dinners and while none of them were particularly unpleasant or angry, (no hostile relatives and no arguments allowed), none of them celebrated anything except food and sometimes, getting to see people you only saw once or twice a year during holidays.


It’s really not my favorite holiday. Firstly, I’m not fond of turkey. The small ones taste better, but are hard to find unfrozen. The big ones take so long to cook, by the time they are done they taste like stuffed dust. So we usually have something else.

It used to be ham, but recently it has been lamb. This year, we aren’t sure. Owen says if they don’t have the right size piece of lamb, he’ll get some kind of beef roast. Garry pointed out that neither of us eats very much, so try not to get into a bankruptcy level of food. (NOTE: It’s lamb!)


We bought a couple of pies — a Dutch apple and a Strawberry-Rhubarb, plus little rolls that need to be baked and a gallon of apple cider. I’m thinking of getting some apples and celery and adding all my walnuts with a bit of sour cream and mayonnaise. Surprise the crowd with something different.

It’s not much of a crowd, but it’s the whole family.

Moving on to music, the hymn du jour is “We Gather Together.” Why do I like the song? Well, the words of the hymn were changed and it became my High School’s “song.” It always made me laugh every time I was supposed to be singing the hymn. Somehow, my high school’s song popped up.

So I’m not particularly sentimental about the holiday. It’s hard for me to celebrate eating when I eat so little, but it is a chance to actually get everyone together on the same day, same time, same station.


And I still say that anyone who wants to work on any holiday should feel okay about it. Not everyone has a family with whom to celebrate — or a family with whom they want to celebrate. For many people, it’s an opportunity to make a little extra money and in a many families, overtime is a big deal.

Stop warning me how I should care more about the holiday. I’m glad there IS a holiday, but as far as how one celebrates? I’m in favor of complete freedom. Complete personal freedom. I really believe in it. And frankly, as a non-Christian? I’m extremely tired of being ordered around by Christians who believe they own the road to god. Until God tells me him or herself, it’s just someone else’s opinion.

WHAT’S FOR DINNER? – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: What’s For Dinner

It’s been an interesting eating week. I got tired of cooking. To be fair, I’ve been tired of cooking for at least 10 years, but Garry doesn’t cook and apparently, isn’t planning to learn. I decided to try something new and buy a lot of cold food we can use for salads and sandwiches.

I was going to cook some redfish for dinner, but I’m tired and headachy, so I made sandwiches and the fish will wait for tomorrow. I’m not all that fond of redfish anyway, even if it is from the Gulf of Maine.

THE EASTER BOUQUET – Marilyn Armstrong

The Easter Bouquet – FOTD – 04/24/2019

It was Easter. We weren’t going anywhere or doing anything. No one seemed to be doing anything and to be fair, I was just grateful I didn’t have to cook a huge meal that I couldn’t eat anyway.

I have to say that when you can’t really eat, cooking loses a lot of its attraction. And after cooking for a husband and kids and other people since I was 18 (was I really ever 18?), I could do without ever cooking for anyone ever again.

But I do because Garry doesn’t cook and if I don’t cook, he won’t eat. He might go so far as to open a can of soup, but that’s pretty much it. These days, though, cooking for a crowd is not on my agenda. I occasionally get enthusiastic about trying out a new dish. Mostly I do a lot of sighing while saying: “I suppose I have to COOK.”

Meanwhile, I am waiting for Garry to say those magic words: “Don’t worry Sweetheart. I’ve got this.”

The closest I get to that is (1) he will put a frozen pizza in the oven, and (2) he’ll drive to Mickey D’s and buy el cheapo chicken sandwiches.

If there was a good take-out joint in this town, we could occasionally work something out, but we don’t have anyplace worth going. Even when we can afford it, it isn’t worth the effort much less the money.

But I get flowers.

Sometimes, he brings home amazing bouquets and I don’t dare ask how much they cost. He no longer buys them in the grocery store, either. He goes to The Flower Lady who does all kinds of really fancy arrangements. He won’t cook, but he buys me flowers.

And he has gotten really into our birds. He watches the feeders and as soon as they get a little bit low, he’s out there filling them.

“Big group for dinner tonight,” he says, staring out the window. Like me, the first thing he does when he gets up — even if it is just to go to the bathroom — he has to look out the window and see who’s there.

We get pixellated by the birds. You go into the kitchen for something, but instead of whatever you were doing, you just stand there, watching the birds. “I see the pigeons have done a good job cleaning up the deck,” he adds. “You know, while I was feeding them, there were a few on the rail giving me a look which says ‘Get out of the way, fool. We’re hungry.’

“We didn’t get any squirrels today, ” he comments. I assure him we did. Between flocks of birds.

So I guess I’ll keep him.

Garry, I mean. The birds belong to the woods.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LITTLE VICTORIES – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night, dinner was perfect. I cook dinner every night except for the few when we are away from home, order in, or actually go out to dinner. Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time pondering what to cook.

When we lived in Boston, we ate out. A lot. There were so many good places to eat, too. A lot of our choices took us down to the wharf where they had some great places for fish and lobster and clams. A lot of them were shorts and sandals kinds of places and some of these rather rough little restaurants had the best seafood you could imagine.

Dinner, anyone?

Then came The Big Dig. Between the construction which seemed to have closed every street in Boston and turned the usually difficult traffic into a calamity, those restaurants disappeared. Some of them reopened in other places in the city. They kept the same name, but they weren’t the same restaurants. They got fancy. All the effort that had previously gone into creating great food now went into dining room decor.

We left Boston. Of the many things we never imagined we’d miss was food.

The Blackstone Valley has its wonders. A beautiful place … with such pathetic restaurants. It must be something about we the people. Food is drab. No spices. Anything stronger than salt is regarded with deep suspicion, so bland is the name of the game. When anyone asks what we’ve got in the way of dining, I say “white bread and brown gravy.” But that’s not fair. A few places also make really good hamburgers.

We stopped going out to dinner except for very special occasions. I’m pretty sure there were better restaurants some years back, but they closed down. So we eat at home and periodically, we develop an intense boredom with food. It isn’t lack of appetite, though we don’t eat as much as we used to. It’s more that I can’t think of one more way to make chicken that doesn’t seem drab.

My goal in home food preparation is to keep feeding us without boring us into starvation.

Last night, I made “breakfast for dinner.” We don’t eat breakfast. We have coffee. I have an English muffin too. Garry just drinks a lot of coffee. Sandwiches suffice for lunch. This week, we’ve had chili, one of my standards. Sweet-and-sour chicken. Baked salmon. Shrimp with onions and peppers over rice. And frozen pizza.

I had cheese, bacon, and eggs in the fridge. Time to do something with them.

I make bacon in the microwave. Do not judge me. I do not like cleaning grease off half the kitchen after frying bacon, so I have developed a way of cooking it in the microwave that skips most of the grease and still turns out a pretty good platter. Timing has been the major issue, but last night I got it perfect. For 8 slices of bacon, two layers of paper towels on a platter (make sure it is small enough to rotate). Another double layer of towels on top of the raw bacon. Cook at full power for five minutes. Let it sit for a minute or two. Turn it back on for another 2-1/2 minutes at full power. Perfect and not all wrinkly. Chewy, but not raw. Everything was still hot when it got to the plate —  a small miracle in its own right.

Even the cheese omelets were perfect. I was still congratulating myself on dinner as we were going to bed.

This was a little victory, but still, a victory and all mine. A simple dinner in which each piece was as close to perfect as it could make it. Easy to clean up after, too. If I have to spend an hour cleaning up the mess, I feel a lot less victorious.

It’s the small things, you know? Big things can be overwhelming. These days, in a time when there is far too much “big stuff” blowing in the wind, my world is complete if dinner is perfect. Small victories help keep the wheels of life rolling smoothly.

THE “WE DON’T EAT THAT” FAMILY FOOD LIST

It’s that time of year again when we all get together to share one giant meal. It’s amazing we manage it because it’s not like we all have a passion for the same food. We are all very particular, each in our own way.

I’m medium to a little bit brave. As long as they don’t put anything weird in the dish — snails or things that actually move — I’m mostly okay. Things that turned out to be edible include alligator, which does not taste like chicken. It’s much closer to squid. I like fish and shellfish, but what do you call squid? Emu tastes like the dark meat on the turkey. Well, it’s a very big bird, so I guess it stands to reason.

I refused to consider horse. I’m very fond of horses. I don’t eat my friends, regardless of whether they have hooves or toes. I tried pheasant long ago. It is basically chicken, but kind of dry. Chicken tastes better. Buffalo is so close to beef if they didn’t tell you, you might not know, but it cooks faster because it’s lower in fat. Hard to keep buffalo rare. The cuts are different too, but it is a different creature.

Garry WILL eat anything, at least once. Except for PEAS, OATMEAL, CUT CORN (but he’ll eat corn on the cob), or LIMA BEANS. Owen won’t go near any kind of fish, eggplant, mushrooms, or beets. All those things taste like dirt to him. My granddaughter won’t eat any kind of pepper — green, red, yellow, orange. NO peppers. But she can tank down sushi with my husband and that’s saying something.

 

I don’t like anchovies, snails, or octopus. Squid’s okay if it’s properly cooked. I love shrimp and lobster, but usually I don’t eat lobster because it’s too messy. There so much digging around weird body parts. It gets overly intimate for my taste.

Nobody in the family likes turkey. We have lamb on holidays.

I like hot (spicy hot) food and so does Garry as long as it doesn’t chemically remove his teeth, but no one else in the family will touch it. Garry, me and Kaity will beg for sushi, but everyone else whines about raw fish. Fools. They don’t know what “good” is.  This is not even going into actual allergies which include (without naming names): green pepper, mussels, and duck. Duck? Yes, duck.

It’s remarkable we ever manage to eat together at all. We are lucky. No one is a vegan,vegetarian, or Glatt Kosher.

DINNER ‘CHEZ KAISER’ – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Sometimes things happen that everyone involved remembers fondly. These events become part of a family’s oral history – one of the stories retold and enjoyed. Our family has a very special ‘Remember when …” story. It’s special because it involves two families and three generations.

In August of 1996, our close friends, the Millers, were visiting us in Connecticut, from England, with their two children. The parents were Christine and Jay and the kids were Sam, age 17 and Katie, age 15. My husband at the time was Larry Kaiser and our kids were David, age 16 and Sarah, age 11. So now you know all the main characters in this tale.

Christine, Jay and I decided to take a day trip to a preserved Quaker village in Massachusetts. That left Larry alone with the kids all day, at home. Larry decided that they all needed a project to work on. So he decided that they would surprise the traveling parents with a fancy dinner, “Chez Kaiser” when they returned home.

Larry was a fun, energetic guy so he made this into a big adventure for the kids. They all went crazy in the local gourmet supermarket, Stew Leonard’s. They bought tons and tons of food! They planned five courses, from corn on the cob to seafood to two choices of beef, then cheese and fruit and finally, dessert. They bought much of the food ready-made, but they still had to do some cooking and lots of prep work. This also required serious organizing in order to pull this off well.

They set a beautiful table with the good china. They plated everything with style and flair. Larry paired wines with each course. Katie knew some French, so she printed out a full menu, in French!

Menu plus Sarah and Katie on right and Larry on bottom left, Christine, Larry’s Dad and me, all at dinner party

Since they were going to all this trouble already, they decided to invite my kids’ grandparents too, who lived nearby. So my mother was invited and so was Larry’s father and step-mother. Now it was dinner for eleven!

When Christine, Jay and I arrived home, we were ceremoniously ushered into the fully set up dining room. We were overwhelmed. It was also a great surprise to see the grandparents there. And the kids were so excited!

Larry and the kids did all the serving, with great bravado. They cleared the table after each course and brought out and served the following course throughout the meal. No grown-up, other than Larry, was allowed to help. The kids even poured the wine for us! It was a classy event all around.

Larry and Katie serving

It was an epic evening. Everyone had a wonderful time. The enthusiasm and pride that the kids exuded made everything more delicious and more special. This was one of Larry’s stellar moments as a parent.

We all remember it as a joyful time of bonding, between families and between generations. It is a cherished memory for all of us.

Dinner table – My mom, Sam and Christine on left, Larry’s Dad, then Me, Sarah and Larry’s step-mom on right.

SMALL VICTORIES

Last night, dinner was perfect. I cook dinner every night except for the few when we are away from home, order in, or actually go out to dinner. Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time pondering what to cook.

When we lived in Boston, we ate out. A lot. There were so many good places to eat, too. A lot of our choices took us down to the wharf where they had some great places for fish and lobster and clams. A lot of them were shorts and sandals kinds of places and some of these rather rough little restaurants had the best seafood you could imagine.

Dinner, anyone?

Then came The Big Dig. Between the construction which seemed to have closed every street in Boston and turned the usually difficult traffic into a calamity, those restaurants disappeared. Some of them reopened in other places in the city. They kept the same name, but they weren’t the same restaurants. They got fancy. All the effort that had previously gone into creating great food now went into dining room decor.

We left Boston. Of the many things we never imagined we’d miss was food.

The Blackstone Valley has its wonders. A beautiful place … with such pathetic restaurants. It must be something about we the people. Food is drab. No spices. Anything stronger than salt is regarded with deep suspicion, so bland is the name of the game. When anyone asks what we’ve got in the way of dining, I say “white bread and brown gravy.” But that’s not fair. A few places also make really good hamburgers.

We stopped going out to dinner except for very special occasions. I’m pretty sure there were better restaurants some years back, but they closed down. So we eat at home and periodically, we develop an intense boredom with food. It isn’t lack of appetite, though we don’t eat as much as we used to. It’s more that I can’t think of one more way to make chicken that doesn’t seem drab.

My goal in home food preparation is to keep feeding us without boring us into starvation.

Last night, I made “breakfast for dinner.” We don’t eat breakfast. We have coffee. I have an English muffin too. Garry just drinks a lot of coffee. Sandwiches suffice for lunch. This week, we’ve had chili, one of my standards. Sweet-and-sour chicken. Baked salmon. Shrimp with onions and peppers over rice. And frozen pizza.

I had cheese, bacon, and eggs in the fridge. Time to do something with them.

I make bacon in the microwave. Do not judge me. I do not like cleaning grease off half the kitchen after frying bacon, so I have developed a way of cooking it in the microwave that skips most of the grease and still turns out a pretty good platter. Timing has been the major issue, but last night I got it perfect. For 8 slices of bacon, two layers of paper towels on a platter (make sure it is small enough to rotate). Another double layer of towels on top of the raw bacon. Cook at full power for five minutes. Let it sit for a minute or two. Turn it back on for another 2-1/2 minutes at full power. Perfect and not all wrinkly. Chewy, but not raw. Everything was still hot when it got to the plate —  a small miracle in its own right.

Even the cheese omelets were perfect. I was still congratulating myself on dinner as we were going to bed.

It has been a long month and it’s not over. This was a little victory, but a victory. One dinner where each piece was as close to perfect as it could make it. Easy to clean up after, too. If I have to spend an hour cleaning up the mess, I feel a lot less victorious.

It’s the small things, you know? Big things can be overwhelming. These days, in a time when there is far too much “big stuff” blowing in the wind, my world is complete if dinner is perfect. Small victories help keep the wheels of life rolling smoothly.