Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘food memories’

Taco Soup

Taco Soup, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Family Recipes

Family Recipes, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Simple Taco Soup


1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can Mexican chili beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
1 package taco seasoning mix


Brown ground beef and stir in the taco seasoning. Add canned veggies and simmer until flavors are blended — about 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with your choice of cheese, sour cream, cilantro, or tortilla chips.




Top With Your Choice

Top With Your Choice, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Comfort Food - Taco Soup

Comfort Food - Taco Soup, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sometimes it’s a gift to be a product of a blended family. There are different sets of parents, plumes of siblings, cousins galore. When I was in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago visiting my brother after his liver transplant, part of my Southern family showed up on the doorstep and surprised me. After driving the 10 hours from South Carolina, they literally stepped right out of the front seat of their car and into my brother’s kitchen. They came bearing gifts for a celebration of Thanksgiving. It was the first time in 45 years the Robertson side of the family had been together.

Though I’m not much of a cook, I love easy-to-make meals. One of my favorite gifts was a spiral bound recipe book. Daddy and Judy had handwritten simple recipes they collected from different members of the family. And behind the pages of the recipe cards, they tucked vintage family snapshots.


Like this one:


April 1973

April 1973, Vintage Family Snapshot In Recipe Book, Morristown, Tennessee, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


If you look closely, you might spot me there in Tennessee, in a half circle with my paternal grandparents, Ada and Jess, smirking behind that 70’s smile. So many memories.

Back in Minnesota, it’s a lot colder, and I’m a lot older. I pull the ground beef out of the freezer and open the handmade recipe book to Taco Soup. Since I’m late getting home, Liz starts dinner (if you are from the South, you might say “supper”), and I walk right into the middle smell of a family memory. The recipe book makes a creative Holiday gift. All you need are recipe cards, a fast writing pen, and a strong wrist. Food and family photos are a natural combination, a memory maker that keeps on giving.


-posted on red Ravine, with gratitude to my family, Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

-related to post: Memories, Writing, & Family Recipes

Read Full Post »

By Lita Sandoval


Let’s just say that 2009 has not been my best year. I was laid off from my job in January. I accepted a position for another job soon after I was laid off and it turned out to be a terrible situation. I quit within three months. To add to the stress of finding a job, I got kidney stones twice, caught two teenage girls trying to steal my car from the driveway, and even had my garbage can stolen!

I am fortunate I have a temporary part-time job, which basically has saved my life. I make just enough money to pay bills and only have enough left over for a few extras. I’ve been thinking about how I am going to afford Christmas gifts for my family. I cut my list way back to gifts for immediate family only. My daughter also wants to give gifts to her friends—six of them.

I decided that I would make gifts for everyone. And I wanted my daughter to make gifts for her friends, too. Together we made jewelry for her friends. It was fun spending time together picking out beads and deciding which friends would like certain beads and colors. The whole idea of making gifts together was definitely cost effective, but what came out of that experience was a great bonding opportunity. It was also fun watching my daughter’s creativity explode. We can now check six people off the Christmas list!

My father helped me to decide on very special gifts I will be making for my sister, niece, and daughter. My father is always heavy on my mind during the holidays. He passed away seven years ago. The man was a fabulous cook. Family and friends still salivate when they talk about his amazing marinated steaks or his incredible paella. I thought it would be cool to gather all of his recipes, re-type them, put them in a beautiful box and give them to my sister, niece, and daughter for Christmas.

It has been an incredible experience going through those recipes! It was like going back through a time machine. I can look at a recipe and associate a special occasion with the meal my dad prepared. On many of his recipe cards, he wrote little notes that made me remember his wicked sense of humor. He named dishes after himself or altered the name of something that would incorporate his name.

Some of his notes were just cool, like the one on his paella recipe. He named it Paella Al Al. My dad’s name was Al and if you speak Spanish, you get the humor in the title. At the bottom of the recipe card it says:

Recipe from a restaurant at La Carihuela – a fishing village on the Mediterranean outside Torremolinos. 1984


While going through the recipes, I found one of my favorites: my dad’s Tequila Shrimp. I had never attempted to make this particular dish. I decided I would make the Tequila Shrimp and take it to a party I was invited to.

I used to love going to the grocery store with my dad and helping him find just the right ingredients for his meals. Going to the store and picking out ingredients for the shrimp dish with my dad’s very particular eye was important. I was excited to put it all together. I took out the special cazuela my dad gave me and took care to make sure the tequila shrimp not only tasted good, but looked good. I think I succeeded.

I hope my sister, niece, and daughter will think of my dad when they try out one of his famous dishes. It really is a wonderful legacy that he has left all of us. What better way is there to connect with family and friends than to sit around a table with a wonderful meal? And because I saw that my mom had her own little box of recipes, I’ve decided I must put hers in with my dad’s. Most of her best recipes aren’t written down, so we made a date to sit down and write them all out.

Needless to say, my stress of holiday gift giving has gone by the wayside. Jewelry has been made, recipes have been written out and precious time has been spent being with, thinking of and enjoying time with family. It seems as though my year has ended so much better than it started out.





Dad Grilling, photo of Al Sandoval (Lita’s father) grilling
steaks at home circa 1966, photo © 1966-2009
by Olga Sandoval. All rights reserved.







Tequila Shrimp

  • 2 lbs. cooked shrimp
  • 2 oz. Tequila
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 bay leaf broken up
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • Garlic salt to taste

Mix well and add to shrimp. Coat well. Add:

  • 1 lemon and 1 lime thin sliced
  • 4 pearl onions thin sliced
  • 1 cup black olives sliced
  • 2 Tbs. chopped pimiento
  • 2 roasted, peeled, chopped green chilies

Marinade in refrigerator for at least three hours.






Lita Sandoval is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a local blogger (currently on hiatus) known as Adelita—she made the top five “Best Bloggers” in Albuquerque the Magazine’s Best of City 2009, and for the past two years she’s been in the top three bloggers in the Alibi‘s Best of Burque—who writes about the funky hometown she affectionately calls “Burque” (pronounced boor-keh, extra roll on the “r”). She’s also a jewelry artist (check out her work at her Etsy shop, although she warns that she hasn’t had time to add much to it lately but will in the new year) and collector of many unusual things. Her teenage daughter keeps her on her toes, as do her rowdy dogs, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Etta James. Her favorite saying is, “Oh sí liar!”

Read Full Post »

Liz Really Liked It!, BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude for our many blessings. And a time for good food. I walked over to the fridge this morning and under a Morton Salt “When it rains it pours” magnet was this faded recipe card for Chicken L’Orange. Liz’s mother (oliverowl) mailed it to us after a discussion on Memories, Writing & Family Recipes.

She told us that Liz’s maternal grandmother, Frances Oliver Biggs, loved that Liz liked the Chicken L’Orange. So much so, that she handwrote her comment on the back of the family recipe card she sent to Liz’s mom:

Does Liz remember the recipe for “Chicken L’Orange” that her Nana sent me? I still have the card in my recipe box. At the end is her comment, “Liz really liked it!” (Sent after Liz’s visit to CA.) It is probably similar to what you had on the Cornish game hens.

My contribution to yesterday’s meal was Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad (OLD family recipe) and a Cranberry Sauce that had orange juice and a whole jar of Orange Marmalade cooked with the fresh berries!

Now the recipe card with Liz’s grandmother’s handwriting hangs on our fridge. I told Liz I want to try Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad this year. It reminds me of my family’s version of Jell-O salad with whipped cream. Below is the recipe that Liz’s mom Marylin dropped into the red Ravine comments.

__________________________________________

 
 

Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad

 
 

1 large box of Lime Jell-O
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 14-15 oz. can crushed pineapple, including juice

 
 

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge, so it begins to soften. Prepare the Jell-O, using 1 less cup of water than the recipe calls for. Chill it until it begins to thicken, but don’t let it solidify, or you’ll have a mess!

Since I only have one mixer, I whip the cream and place it in a small bowl. Then I cut the cream cheese in small chunks and place them in the mixer bowl and beat it well. When the Jell-O is a thick syrupy consistency, I add it to the cream cheese and mix until they are homogenized! (You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.) Next, the pineapple is mixed in and then the whipped cream, both at the slowest speed. Refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!

_____________________________________

 
 

We’re going to stop at the store today for last minute ingredients. What traditional recipes will you be sharing this Thanksgiving week? Are there any that have been passed down by your grandmother? Bob mentioned he’s making Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters. ybonesy’s family always makes tamales for Christmas. And my family makes Southern Banana Pudding for almost every family gathering. Old recipes are invaluable to memoir writers. Family flavor.

Hope you enjoy Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad. And if you put together the two front and back photos of the recipe card in this post, you’ll have the Biggs family recipe for Chicken L’Orange — two great family recipes, one post. And any leftover turkey? Try Amelia’s Soft Dumpling Recipe.

 
 

Chicken L’Orange, When It Rains, It Pours,  BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Post Script: The Morton Salt girl has always been a favorite icon of mine. She’s officially called the Morton Umbrella Girl and according to the Morton website, the slogan, “When it rains it pours” first appeared on the blue package of table salt and in a series of Good Housekeeping magazine advertisements in 1914. The slogan is adapted from an old proverb, “It never rains but it pours.”

You can read more about the history of Morton Salt, view vintage ads, and see the transition of the Morton Umbrella Girl from the roaring twenties to the 1968 image that we still view on packaging today. They’ve also got a recipe section with Winning Kosher Salt Recipes.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

-related to post: Reflections On The Other National Bird*

Read Full Post »

The most wholesome, delicious potatoes I’ve tasted in a long time came from the Minnesota Garlic Festival this summer. It was pouring down rain when Liz and I ducked under a canopy that led to a small booth of farmer’s produce. On the table were two paper dishes of homegrown potatoes. One held a buttery Yukon Gold variety. The other, Russet baking potatoes about the size of a garlic, so clean and shorn it was hard to believe they emerged from under the Earth.

We came home with the baking potatoes, sliced them up, boiled them and served them with butter and pork chops a few days later. I’m a big potato lover. In fact, anything carbohydrate hits the spot. Potatoes remind me of Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl days but maybe that’s because I was watching a documentary on him at 2am Monday night because I couldn’t sleep.

Last night for dinner, we had a couple of steaks grilled on our new Grill It! from the Minnesota State Fair and microwaved Bob Evans mashed potatoes from Byerly’s. The last time I was at a Bob Evans was with my brother after he picked me up at the Baltimore airport. On the drive back to Harrisburg, we stopped at a Bob Evans and had dinner in between catching a few geocaches. I’m sure I must have ordered mashed potatoes.

I remember Granny’s mashed potatoes, my paternal grandmother who lived in Morristown, Tennessee. That woman could cook. I was probably in high school the last time I saw her. But it’s the holiday dinners at her home when I was a much younger child that I remember best. I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted mashed potatoes like that anywhere else in the world. She also canned her own green beans; she’d sit on the porch and snap them one by one into a glass bowl. Always served with butter. In the South, vegetables were always served dripping with real butter.

Mashed potatoes are comfort food to me. They are cheap and filling. You can buy the real deal or microwave them in tater tot form, bake them au gratin, shred them into hash browns, or scrub their skins with a vegetable brush and pop them into the oven or microwave to bake, then slather with butter and sour cream.

There is nothing as flexible as the iconic potato. And if you free associate the word “potato,” that tricky deadly Nightshade can take you all the way to Ireland, or sliding down the back steps of the political campaign of Dan Quayle. Now that’s a versatile tuber.

 

-related to Writing Topic post: I Found Potatoes In My Pantry (& They Scared The Hell Out Of Me)

Read Full Post »

Potatoes are a heroic food. They emerge from the dirt, lumpy and misshapen. It is rare to find a perfectly round potato. They are the Salt of the Earth among vegetables. Not a diva or prince among them. If potatoes were people, they would be the peasants, toiling in the fields.

I love the potato, filling and hearty. There is little as satisfying as potato salad made with small red potatoes, mayonnaise, spicy mustard, dill, and hard-boiled eggs. Sure, the accoutrements add flavor, but it is the potato that takes the show.

And the mashed potato is a dish without compare. Wasn’t it just the other day that Dee was craving roasted turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy? A meal that satisfies like no other, and while one may give credit to the turkey and the gravy, it is again the potato that keeps us going back to that ensemble again and again.

Jim says that the potato is most prone among vegetables to be affected by toxins in the environment, and I suppose in that way the potato is the toad among vegetables, warty and thin-skinned. And like the toad, the potato is an essential member of the ecosystem, a staple in the food pyramid, like corn or wheat or rice, and among all of those the potato takes you further, sustains you, keeps your tummy from grumbling overnight.

Mom was a fan of potatoes. She sliced them thin and fried them with garlic and onion, and we ate them greasy and salty with a piece of overdone meat and a salad. Or cubed in teeny tiny squares reminiscent of board game pieces, mixed with ground beef—filling for tacos.

The potatoes of my youth were always greasy, except for baked potatoes, although I don’t think Mom made those until after we were out of the house. Three fried Russets could feed a large family, whereas the same number of baked Russets feeds only three.

Jim buys his potatoes now during Growers Market season from the Johnstons. They are among the handful, maybe less, selling potatoes. They grow small red ones and one that is such a deep purple color it looks like a bruise, and I have to say I’ve never tasted as smooth and creamy a potato as theirs.

Tonight it’s turkey cutlets, which I’ll lightly bread and fry, and some of those bruised potatoes, which I hate to peel, but there’s nothing more appetizing than a cream-colored mashed potato (and with my girls, anything that resembles mashed prunes will be rejected outright). And gravy. To satisfy the need in all of us for heavier food, to keep us warm during cooling nights.

If I were to write a potato haiku, it would read:

Mister Potato
hero among veggies
Here to save the day




-Related to topic post I Found Potatoes In My Pantry (& They Scared The Hell Out Of Me) and haiku 2 (one-a-day)

Read Full Post »

By Bob Chrisman
 

Aunt Annie Saluting, photo 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Here’s to you, Aunt Annie!, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.




A cup of tea with sugar brings back memories of my first cup, the day my mother said, “You’re old enough to drink tea.” Sacks of pale orange “circus peanuts” remind me of the stale ones in Grandma Hecker’s candy dish. Homemade caramel-covered apples take me to Mrs. Wallace’s kitchen where I taste tested them the night before Halloween. Ritz crackers transport me to Mrs. Thompson’s house where we played Ring-Around-The-Rosie.

Certain recipes hold special memories. I bake scalloped potatoes topped with pork chops the same way my mother did and in the same glass loaf dish. When I make Hamburger Splatter, I remember the adults who my mother babysat when they were children stopping by for the recipe. My favorite holiday dish recipe is scalloped oysters. Aunt Annie, Mom’s youngest sister, made them every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I asked my cousins why their mom fixed such an exotic dish for such meat-and-potatoes people. Neither of them knew but thought a neighbor might have given the recipe to Aunt Annie. Oysters don’t grow in northwest Missouri. My mother and her sisters didn’t have unusual tastes in food. Yet every holiday dinner, sitting next to the freshly roasted turkey, the real mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, and the fresh raspberry pies made from home-canned raspberries, we’d find the scalloped oysters.

I asked my aunt for the recipe. I didn’t want her to pass away without someone having it. “I don’t really have a recipe anymore. I just know how to make it,” she said. She wrote down the ingredients and instructions on a piece of notebook paper, which I lost the first time I used it. My recipe, which I carried in my head until now, captures the taste and consistency of the original.

Scalloped oysters remind me of family gatherings when my mother, her sisters and their husbands were in their prime. I remember long prayers while we held hands followed by huge meals, hours of card games, and the feeling of being loved.

Most of all I remember my Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete. They loved one another very much. They had an ease with one another and they treated each other with respect. She wasn’t always easy to live with (none of the sisters were), but Uncle Pete never fell out of love with her. I always thought, of all the sisters, Aunt Annie had the happiest marriage.



Uncle Vernon (Pete) O. Simmon in uniform, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Uncle Vernon (Pete) O. Simmon in uniform, image
© 2009 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.





Photographs from the 1940’s capture a dashing young man in a military uniform and a dark-haired beauty. They made a striking couple all of their lives.

After he returned from the war, they bought a little house on Garden Street where they raised their three children and hosted many holiday dinners. I always envied my cousins for the parents they had.

I grew closer to them as I aged. Many times I would leave my mother’s house and stop by theirs before I drove home. Aunt Annie told me stories about her sisters and the family, things my mother never mentioned. Uncle Pete would interrupt, when he could, to offer his two cents on the subject. I loved them both and came to treasure those times with just the two of them.

Uncle Pete died of pancreatic cancer in October 1996. His death broke Aunt Annie’s heart. They had been married for over 50 years. She went through the motions of living for about a year before she took sick and died in December, 1997. I think that he was waiting for her when she passed. If he had anything to say about it, I know he was.

Here’s the recipe for her famous scalloped oysters. I hope the recipe generates some good memories for you and your families.




Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete, image © 2009
by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.





Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters



1      1-pound loaf of Velveeta Cheese (sliced)
32    Saltine cracker squares (approximately one package out of a box of four)
4-5   8-ounce cans of oysters (pieces-and-bits or whole or a combination)*
2      12-ounce cans of evaporated milk**


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice Velveeta Cheese into slices about an eighth of an inch thick. Open four cans of oysters and drain off most of the liquid. (Note: Keep some to pour into the casserole to add more oyster flavor, if desired.)

Use a casserole dish that has a lid (even though the lid isn’t used except for storage of leftovers). Grease it with your choice of oil; I prefer butter.

Then begin the layering process:

Crush enough Saltine crackers to make a layer on the bottom of the dish. Next place a layer of oysters with some liquid from the can. Cover with a layer of slices of Velveeta Cheese. Pour enough evaporated milk to wet the layers. Repeat.

The amount of the ingredients given above makes about three layers. Top the dish with another layer of Velveeta Cheese. Bake until the cheese on top is melted and a warm brown, about 90 minutes (longer if you want it crustier).

This dish will serve at least 8-10 people and maybe 10-14 if plenty of other food is available. You can make smaller portions by using a loaf pan and only making two layers. I do that when I have no one else to join me. The leftovers make a tasty, if unusual, breakfast treat.


*The number of cans of oysters you buy will determine on how “oyster-y” you want the dish to be. I found that four cans make generous layers. I usually buy two cans of pieces-and-bits and two cans of whole oysters.

**You will have approximately 1/2 can of evaporated milk left when you finish. My youngest cousin says that she uses regular milk.

Hopefully you have a strong heart and clean arteries. Bon appetit.




Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. His other red Ravine posts include Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, The Law Of Threes, and In Memoriam.

We’d like to thank Bob for providing this recipe and the story of the aunt who inspired it. And thank you, Aunt Annie! We’ve been dreaming about scalloped oysters since last Thanksgiving, when Bob made mention of the dish in a conversation in the post Reflections On The Other National Bird.

Read Full Post »

My first and probably last food fight was a snowy Thanksgiving in Missoula, Montana. I was in my 20’s, and since my family lived half way across the country, due East, I formed community with other Montana transplants.

There was Bev from Ohio, K.D. from Los Angeles, Mary from Pennsylvania, Gail from Minnesota, Leslie from Iowa, Lynne from Idaho, to name only a few. Many of us came to Montana via college, the University of Montana, and loved it so much we decided to stay. Others followed friends out West. I had always dreamed of living in the West. One day I just did it; I picked up and moved.

The food fight was after a Thanksgiving feast:  big old Butterball turkey, smashed potatoes with skins, homemade gravy and biscuits, cranberries, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pies. Back then we all drank, so there was lots of alcohol around. I don’t drink much anymore, a glass of wine on occasion. But then it was different. I would return years later for a reunion of these same friends, and many had gone into recovery. It was good to visit with them sober and clean.

There were a few native Montanans in our group, friends who knew the lay of the land. Some grew up in eastern Montana, Billings, some in the western areas of Great Falls, Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena. I would end up visiting these places over the course of the time I lived there, skiing the valleys, hiking the mountains. I lived in a two-story yellow house on Orange Street near the tracks, when there were no strip malls on Reserve Street, just a series of grassy fields.

The food fight was a culmination of hours of planning, cooking, talking, eating, and playing live music. At the time, we had a drum set, McCartney-style bass, keyboard, and a whole array of random percussion instruments in a basket in the corner. We usually played music together on the Holidays, anything from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young to lots of bluegrass — it was Montana in the 70’s.

That Thanksgiving I ended up with mashed potatoes in my hair. Bev threw a biscuit that landed in a ladle of gravy and splashed up on to our shirts. There were cranberry stains on the table cloth that never came out. I remember those days in Montana as good times, even though we all had our problems. We acted, well, we acted like we had not lived as much life as we have lived now.

Food is a metaphor for substance, nutrition, community, family, and friendship. Food is used to show love and nurturing. Food is mother’s milk. Food is not to be wasted. But it’s not good to take oneself too seriously. A good food fight once in a while never hurt anyone. Still, in some places, food can be scarce.

I have often thought of working in community service over the Holidays, something like a soup kitchen or a food bank. I’ve never done it. But I’m keenly aware this time of year that there are people in this country who don’t have enough to eat. They can’t afford it. You don’t have to go to other parts of the world to see how people without enough money to afford food struggle to make ends meet. How people sometimes have to make choices between healthcare and food.

I know a woman, a single parent, who has five children, temps for work in a corporate office, and has no health insurance. It’s available to her through her temp agency, but by the time she purchases it for herself and her five kids, she doesn’t have a paycheck left. She told me she’s one of those people who falls between the cracks. She works hard but makes too much money to apply for additional support for health insurance.

When faced with hard choices, she chooses nutrition for her family. I guess that’s a different kind of fight — the fight for everyone in this country to have healthcare and plenty of food.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 20th, 2008

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC – COOKING FIASCOS

Read Full Post »

Last night for dinner I made Pasta Puttanesca.  This is a basic Italian dish with not-so-basic ingredients: garlic, capers, gaetta olives, and anchovies. Yum.

What? Not yum? You don’t like anchovies? No capers? Olives? Not even OLIVES!?!

OK, some people don’t like olives. Or, if they like olives, they only like California pitted olives, the kind you can stick on each finger and eat off, one by one.

Olives are one of my favorite foods, after watermelon and white rice and Greek strained yogurt. Oh, and coffee. But if you don’t like olives, I understand. I don’t like shrimp. The texture is like rubber.





According to this blog, the “top five food items people almost unanimously hate” are:

  1. Black Licorice
  2. Anchovies
  3. Prune Juice
  4. Spam
  5. Anything Banana Flavored Except Bananas

Olives didn’t make the list, although anchovies did. If you’re among the “almost unanimous” food haters, you can make Pasta Puttanesca without the hairy little fish. But don’t leave out the olives.

Apparently, a lot of people like olives. Just ask the marketing folks at Swank Martini. Some people even use olive brine to make martinis. Which is a little like the adult version of what my kids do, which is drink pickle juice.





What about you? Do you like olives? Green or black?

Do you sometimes wonder what to do with pit after you eat an olive? Have you ever dropped one in a potted plant while at a cocktail party? (If you answered “yes” to that question, chances are you’ve stuck a piece of ABC gum under a chair at least once in your life.)

Write about olives. What memories do the bitter little fruits evoke? At family gatherings, was there always a stick of salami, olives, pickled cauliflower, stinky blue cheese, and Saltine crackers? (If so, are you my cousin?)

Pungent foods, and especially those that are also basic and symbolic, often create pungent memories. So if you don’t have much to say about olives, write about some other sharp, zesty food that you’ve eaten through the years. Write about jalapeños. Or write about your least favorite food.

In any case, you know the rules. Fifteen minutes, keep the pen moving, don’t cross out, don’t stop to think. Everything I know about olives…. Everything.




Olive, doodles and scribblings ©
2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Food. And I am reminded of the mystery of life. Mine I denuded. I unsheathed, peeled back. Uncovered and consumed. Such complex succulent creation.

When I lived in Spain I ate a banana every day to remind myself I was alive. I had no kitchen, no oven, no hot water. My small living area, shared first with Pepe then Paco, students at the Universidad de Granada, boasted two electric appliances. One a space heater that sat under the big round table blanketed like an old woman. And we youthful things were to spend nights with our legs under the blanket, good Spanish grandchildren tucked into grandma’s folds, doing our homework by dim light.

Our other appliance was a hot plate. One to be exact. One coiled burner and one cheap saucepan. I bought a box of chamomile teabags, which in Spain came with sugar built in. The one thing I ever cooked in an entire year, hot chamomile tea. I smoked and drank and ploughed my body with sugar, and so the tea was a reminder that I was loved. By a mother and father far away, a whole world accessible through crackling phone lines, although we rarely talked.

My staples were:

  • Cafe-con-leche, which I bought every morning from another Pepe, the owner of La Llave, the tiny narrow bar a hop-skip-and-jump across the cobblestone street. That Pepe opened La Llave by 10 each morning, when the street came alive with pigeons making their noisy coo-coo-coos, little delivery trucks stopping and starting, aluminum doors rolling back. Pepe’s son called from up the street, Pa-pa, Pa-pa, his small voice echoed and made grand by the old, tightly wedged buildings.
  • Crusty white bread I ate with hard cheese. Spanish women my age pulled out the chewy insides of the loaves so as not to gain weight. I bought mine from a small bakery whose glass cases opened to the street, and I defiantly ate the whole thing, like a savage at times.
    Grapes from the fruit vendor, which after I ate them made me feel as if I had swallowed water balloons and was floating inside myself.
  • Pasteles and nuts I bought almost every morning from Mina, a billowy working-class neighbor who my vieja landladies called vulgar because she spent nights in La Llave. For a long while I preferred the packaged cakes (they were small, and not exactly cakes) in Mina’s kiosk over the freshly baked ones from the bakery. One time during that phase I walked across Plaza Romanilla and as I passed an entryway to a cigarette shop, a fat, toadlike man clucked his tongue at me and said, “Te engorda.” “It’ll make you fat.” I told him calm and businesslike, as if I were bidding him good morning, “Gordo, tu, tocate el pollo.” You, fatso, go jerk off. I held my head high and jiggled on down the road with the 20 pounds I’d already gained.
  • Sweet Cortesia white wine, after noon, of course.
  • An occasional plum.
  • And small bananas brought across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco. Or so I imagined.

The bananas in Spain were an explosion of taste, sweet and thick. Not a drop of water in any bite. Rich like cream or an old woman’s rice pudding.

I never knew where I was going in Spain, only that I was navigating away from loneliness. The bananas were not exactly a compass, but they were an anchor. They were what was right about being in Spain, what was wrong with the U.S. I assigned them to the continent of Africa, and rendered my life in Spain that much more exotic. Located in Europe, accessible to France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, and a hop-skip-jump even to Morocco and then the rest of Africa. I allowed that I (nor anyone in America, for that matter) had never truly tasted a banana, not in all my 26 years. That we were inferior, unschooled, unsophisticated. White and bland, so unlike southern Spain or even the dark, vast, wondrous, bounty of Africa, rich in minerals, raw materials, rhinos, and true bananas.

My banana this morning musters only a memory. It is sweet and bittersweet. I was looking for myself, and what I found was a tiny ray of sun in an otherwise gray, muffled aloneness. I drudged through each day as if it were a sentence in prison. I would do my time. I eventually enrolled in aerobics, which I took from a teacher with firm everything. I noticed when she undressed for her shower that she had a dimple in her left buttock.

My banana today is big and long–too much for my tastes. In my mouth a bite smacks gloppy. I don’t like the sound of chewed American banana. Did it take too long getting here from southern nethers? How did it lose so much?

I picture a monkey jumping from Ceuta to Gibraltar. Monkeys lived on that rock, jumping in easy hops across the rough surface, a hop-skip-jump. Monkeys eating sweet creamy bananas, African style.

Still. Any banana is a miracle. It’s a miracle any of us survives. Our flesh is delicate.

Read Full Post »