THINLY SLICED – Marilyn Armstrong


Yellow peppers

That’s about as Julienne as anything gets in this house. Actually, Julienne is almost always a preview to dicing, but I love the way it looks, all neatly stacked in a pile on the cutting board.

I use red, green, orange, and yellow peppers in a wide range of dishes. Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten good at cutting them. I’m also really fast. That’s probably why I tend to slice off my fingertips, too.

Oh well. It’s my sacrifice to the gods of cooking!

RDP #13 – SMORGASBORD – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #13 – Smörgåsbord

Finally, I can spell it! This is one of those words that has permanently escaped the grasp of my spelling.

I don’t have much to say about it, especially since the places that used to serve it seem to have disappeared. These days, we have “buffets,” also known as a huge table full of food, much of which I don’t like.

So I will pass on what my father said about “smorgasbord.”

Go for the expensive food first. They always put the cheap, filling food — potatoes and rice and such — at the beginning. By the time you get to the good food at the end of the table — where they have the shrimp and roast beef — you are already full. Eat the good stuff first.

I always go for the good stuff first. Just as well. I fill up really fast!


Placating the furry friends

They want food. It doesn’t matter if they are hungry. It doesn’t matter if they consumed an entire meal a minute and a half before. They figure if we are in or even near (which is to say, on our feet and moving) the kitchen, they want something. Anything. Literally anything — except pickles. It’s the only food they won’t eat, even on a bet.  Note to self: Buy more pickles.


Why? It’s probably our fault. They are absolutely sure that any movement on our part indicates a treat in the works. It can be a big treat — “That leftover half sandwich would work for me,” says The Duke — or a little crunchy, tasteless thing from a big jar of little crunchy tasteless things.

Recently on Amazon, I found a version of tasteless crunchies from Milkbone that declare them to be “the guilt-free” treat for over-treaters.

I think we are probably over-treaters. We are easily guilted. A stern look from eager dogs makes us sad. We feel, after all, that can get anything we want from the fridge or cupboard, but our poor pathetic (beefy, overweight) dogs depend on us.


So as soon as we finish up the approximately 20 pounds of stuff already bought and in closets, I’m going for the guilt-free stuff. Really, they are only big boxes of very small biscuits and we probably will wind up giving them two or three of them, even though I know for a fact that it’s the idea that counts with dogs. They really don’t notice if it’s a big lumpy thing or a tiny little thing. It’s all about the concept.


I had never realized how much guilt dogs could stir in a human heart. I think I had the same problem with cats if I remember correctly.

I have toughed it out with the plants, though. I do not water them no matter how much I want to.  At least plants don’t bark or meow at me if I don’t water them.

They merely wilt. Frankly, I find that difficult enough.


If you are looking for a great meal and a fantastic place to eat it, the Blackstone Valley isn’t IT.

We can find a few diners that are good and at least one interesting hot dog joint in Worcester … but otherwise? Let me give you a hint — an inkling — of great dining you won’t find here. Or anywhere in the area, including Boston.

Rich’s post today on his home blog brought me waves of nostalgia about food in Jerusalem. When I first moved there, I was lost. I couldn’t cook because I didn’t recognize the packaging and things were usually just a little different that they had been back in the States. Eventually, I worked it out and became a better cook than I’d been at home because I no long relied on prepackaged ingredients. I learned to make everything “from scratch.”

When I first got to Israel, I didn’t even know what good food meant. Eventually I discovered a million tiny restaurants tucked into neighborhoods all over the city, all with the name “Mother” in title.

Sure enough, Mom was the head cook. She had a few daughters and maybe a niece or two working their way up — as well as half a dozen sons and nephews handling the serving, busing, management, shopping … and cleaning. Restaurants — the good ones — were family affairs and ALL of them were good.

Dishes were some version of Middle Eastern Jewish — meaning no pork or dairy in it, but that was no problem. Muslims don’t eat pork either and dairy isn’t generally a part of dinner anyway.

The absolutely best food EVER was served by friends and neighbors on Shabbat.  Our Moroccan neighbors with whom Owen played could cook. I don’t know if every family were quite as brilliant as those neighbors on Hebron Road, but … OH my LORD.

Owen got to eat out pretty much every Friday night. His friends mothers loved him. “Look at that tall skinny kid — doesn’t anybody FEED HIM?” They could feed him to death and he’d roll home and tell us about it. I’d drool.

Middle eastern food is labor intensive to a degree that is hard to explain. It takes days to make all those little chopped up dishes that are wrapped in couscous or grape leaves or some light yet delightfully crunchy cover. Served plain — with a sauce — or as part of a soup.

We called those skinny roll-ups in thin filo dough “cigarettes” which they resembled in form, but too delicious to describe.

Everything was chopped, seasoned, sometimes cooked, sometimes semi-raw or entirely raw, and  wrapped. Then there were the sauces ranging from red (hot) to green (blow your head off hot). Owen learned to love ALL of it. I never quite made it to the green stuff, but I loved the red sauce.

It’s a very short hop to vegetarian or Vegan cooking, too. Meat isn’t the big issue in any of these dishes. In these native lands, meat was in short supply, which is why is was shredded and chopped. A single chicken could serve a lot of people that way.

There were some other foods, too. Israel adopted a bunch of Vietnam boat people who had nowhere else to go, so they took over opening oriental restaurants. Some were pretty good, some not so great, but at least it was different.

Italian was popular:  Kosher which meant meatless because the cheese was more important than the meat — or non Kosher. But it wasn’t as good as Italian restaurants in New York. Then again, few Italian restaurants are as good as they were in NY, unless you went to Italy where my mother assured me you would find the BEST food in the world. She used to diet in advance of traveling to Italy because she always came back 10 pounds heavier.

In Israel, though, the  great food was “tribally” local. Moroccan, Tunisian, Syrian, Persian, Algerian and sometimes Kenyan or generally Arabian — everything was GREAT. Also expensive. Eating out was surprisingly expensive, so getting an invitation from a neighbor was like getting invited to the best restaurant in town. Better, really.

I miss the food. I can make just about the best humus you’ve ever eaten, but the rest of it the food requires mother and three well-trained daughters — and about a week to prepare it. You don’t see that around here. Maybe in other cities, but not in New England.

We settle for good Japanese food. Sushi and tempura and anything that comes in rolls. But so far, not very good Chinese. There were some wonderful Chinese restaurants in Boston, but not out here.

That both Garry and I have eaten some amazing food in amazing places probably explains why we find most of the local eateries uninspiring, to say the least. Other than a couple of Japanese places, we haven’t found anywhere worth the price. Food is bland and the preparation is uninspiring. As for Italian, try mine. Much better. For that matter, try my son’s. His is much better, too. We do not live in great dining out territory.

I’m told there are good Indian places in Worcester and in Providence, but we don’t like a lot of traveling for dinner. I don’t mind going, but when we’re full of food, we don’t want a long trip home.

Retirement, you know?


Leftovers aren’t sexy. Throwing them out is not considered morally or ecologically wrong by most Americans. This has created a garbage crisis in this country. Americans throw away 27 MILLION tons of food each year. The average person wastes 3.5 POUNDS of food each week. This habit clogs landfills, generates greenhouse gases and costs the economy approximately 144 billion dollars a year.

 Leftovers are now the largest source of edible food waste in American homes. There are two major reasons why people throw out food. One is that people stash leftovers in Tupperware containers that get pushed to the back of the fridge. Then they’re forgotten about until they’ve gone bad. Not much we can do about the forgetting factor. But the other reason is that people just don’t like eating leftovers.

We need to bring leftovers back into favor in order to save the planet! Apparently, leftovers were held in much higher esteem before the 1960’s. Being frugal and saving food was actually considered patriotic during WWII. But then it got very cheap to buy lunch instead of brown bagging it. It also got cheaper to order out or buy something new for dinner rather than eating that two-day old pot roast again. So use of leftovers has been on the decline for a long time.

I happen to love leftovers. I love eating cold meat, plain or in a sandwich. In high school, I’d eat leftovers like pasta for breakfast.

When I was a young housewife with two kids, I was very organized about shopping and cooking. I did full menus for the week along with a shopping list of all the necessary ingredients. I always incorporated the leftover meats and vegetables into the weekly meal plan. I scoured magazines and cookbooks for recipes that could use already cooked meats. Curries, stews and casseroles all work very well with leftover chicken, pork or lamb. I also often threw leftover meats into a tomato sauce and served them over pasta.

Tom does not love leftovers. I have to go all out to dress them up if I want him to eat them. I’ve gotten pretty good at fooling him. I don’t always tell him in advance that he’s eating Tuesday’s pork chops or Wednesday’s chicken breast. If he compliments the meal, then I’ll spring it on him.

I also try to freeze leftovers that I think will go bad in the frig. But I have to admit that I often forget about them in the freezer. When I rediscover them, freezer burn has set in. So, while I do try to waste as little food as possible, I don’t always succeed.

This is actually an important issue. People need to change their attitudes towards leftovers and become more aware of the problem of food waste. Unfortunately, today there are a few other issues competing for attention from the media and the population. Maybe when we have a new president and a people oriented government again, we can afford to turn out attention to things like food waste on a national scale. The sooner the better.


Gremlins? What are you saying about my family? Is that some kind of bizarre racist attack? We have some strange family members, but no one has ever called them … gremlins. I think there may be one on my son’s lawn, though. I’m not sure. I’ll have to look.

In line with it being Thanksgiving today, I will offer you the best, fastest, simplest cranberry relish recipe anywhere.


1 bag of fresh cranberries, uncooked (as in raw)

1 fresh orange (get one of the thin-skinned oranges with juice inside)

1 cup sugar


I hope you have a food processor. If you don’t, you might be able to do it in a blender, but you’ll need one of these two machines. The processor is the better choice.

  1. Pour the cranberries into the food processor. (Don’t forget to put the blade in first.)
  2. Cut the orange into bite-sized pieces. Dump them into the food processor, too.
  3. Add one cup of plain, white sugar — or brown sugar. I’ve used both and it’s fine either way.
  4. If you feel like it, add some cinnamon. I make two — one with cinnamon, one plain.
  5. Turn the machine on and leave it on until the whole thing is the texture of applesauce.
  6. Put it in a container with a lid and store it in the refrigerator. It’s ready to go.

You can add a half a lemon (cut up) if you like, or a bit of lemon juice, but it’s unnecessary.

Great with turkey. Actually it’s great with anything. I eat it like dessert!


Hard to believe Thanksgiving has arrived. I’m still mentally stuck somewhere in October. In fact, I’m still waiting for Autumn to really begin. Everything is happening much too fast this year.

Share Your World – November 20, 2017

If you were having difficulty on an important test and could safely cheat by looking at someone else’s paper, would you do so?

I’m pretty sure I needed help in several tests in high school. Once I was past studying material for which I would never have any need, I also never needed to cheat. Cheating is something you do when you are forced into a testing situation for which you are either unprepared, or for which nothing you could do would prepare you.

I was never going to understand my French teacher’s spoken French. I could read it, but I couldn’t understand a word she said. Later in life, I discovered I understood French a lot better when French people spoke it.

I don’t think I’ve been tested for anything since I left school. I’ve had to study a lot of things, but there was no test. Only having to write a thousand page book on the subject which other people could understand and use. No test required.

What things in nature do you find most beautiful?

That’s an impossible question to answer. I find many things beautiful. Animals, rocks, mountains, water.

The sky and the sun and the dark. In cities and in the wild. The answer to that question is a book, not a few paragraphs.

Complete this sentence: When I travel I love to….

Take pictures and try the food.

About the food, the thing I find the most incomprehensible are travelers who only want to eat food that is exactly the same as the food they ate at home. Looking for the nearest McDonald’s when you are in Japan — or, for that matter, Phoenix — is mind-boggling. Why aren’t they out there tasting all the remarkable new flavors of the new place they are visiting? Isn’t that at least half the reason for traveling?