Day 437 – National Sausage Pizza Day 

If you are ever ordering sausage pizza for Lola, hold the onions. I learned this lesson last year on National Sausage Pizza Day although I learned it too late. That’s when I came home with a pizza from North End Pizzeria topped with plenty of sausage and a plethora of onions. In my defense, when I have had sausage pizza before it was usually at her sister Cherie’s house who enjoys the taste of onions and sausage (maybe even peppers too). But Lola’s not Cherie and I discovered that she is not a fan of onions on pizza the hard way. I think she may have been hungry that night too and craving the pizza that I was boasting about bringing home. When she saw the onions, we slipped into a bit of a dispute that night. A hangry disagreement that mushroomed. Needless to say, it wasn’t my most favorite National Sausage Pizza Day ever. I vowed that this year would be different.  I would learn from my mistakes. Today, I would order the pizza without the onions. There would be peace at our dinner table tonight.

I got home early enough so that we could explore pizza options outside of our usual. Sometimes you just crave something different and I had time to explore tonight. I asked Lola where she wanted to order pizza. She suggested Pomodoro’s in Bristol – the spot we went to on my birthday who, rumor has it, serve a great pizza and coincidentally, I had been thinking about them too. I called and unfortunately got no answer. That was odd and I really hoped they were not closed on a permanent basis. Most likely it was just a phone mix up or they were too busy to answer (or possibly closed for vacation). Pomodoro’s would have been our preference tonight but we had to come up with another plan. We decided to order from West Main Pizza which is on the other side of town (although only a team minute drive). They have a good reputation and a lot of Lola’s friends swear by it. I’ve had it before and it was good, so I had been craving it as someplace different for pizza and it seemed like a good idea so we could mix up our pizza usuals. I called in the order and then went to go pick it up when it was ready. Sausage pizza, no onions.

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I am happy to say no fighting ensued tonight. We just sat back and enjoyed our pizza like a loving couple. The pizza was loaded with crumbles of sausage which were tasty. Plus it had tons of cheese which is always a pleasure. When you get pizza from a place outside of your norm, you tend to give a tough evaluation of the quality – trying to decide if it deserves to be in your top choices of places to go. West Main was good, but we decided we’d stick with our regulars. The crust at West Main is whole wheat which, although I like the doughiness of it, the taste is not my favorite. I guess I crave the usual crust. Lola also felt the sauce was just ok – a little too ketchup-y. Sauce critique is usually Lola’s thing – she knows a good pizza sauce. When we had been there before, the pizza I ordered was one of their specialty pizzas which was really good and topped with really tasty toppings. Tonight, we just ordered pizza with sausage, so not their specialty. I’ll always recommend West Main to anyone asking especially because so many of our friends like it, I just don’t think we’ll go out of the way to get it again.

Don’t tell Lola but I was hoping that the pizza tonight would have been the kind with sliced pieces of sausage scattered around with plenty of onions too. I just think the two make a nice combination. I of course understand why someone who doesn’t enjoy onions wouldn’t like that and why I should have known this about my wife. But still, that is my vision of a good sausage pizza. That’s the kind of pizza that deserves it’s very own day of celebration. This year’s National Sausage Pizza Day was better than last year’s, but I still have a ways to go before this day becomes my favorite day of the year. That’s going to take finding a new pizza place and negotiating and acceptable onion compromise. I’ll keep trying. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Next Up: National Pulled Pork Day 

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Day 436 – National Angel Food Cake Day

Last year on National Angel Food Cake Day I made my own cake. I remember it being an odd cake to make. I recalled it using a lot of eggs and checking back, I was right. It used a dozen egg whites in the recipe. That was the day I figured out the difference between a Sponge Cake and an Angel Food Cake (Sponge Cake uses yolks while Angel just goes egg white) and making one is not unlike making a meringue except you add in flour and sugar. I remembered it wasn’t that hard to make and it was kind of good, although I made a note about too much almond extract and that triggered a sense memory of that particular taste. I ended up serving it with ice cream and topping it with chocolate and caramel. My recollection was that it was a good dessert but not crave-worthy. That was my dilemma tonight: should I make a cake that I wasn’t all that excited about eating? It sounded like a bad use of my time. I decided that the best solution would be to buy one.

My plan was to stop at the grocery store after work but when that time came, I made a stop at Lowe’s first and when I was finished in there, I plum forgot to go to the market. We were going to have leftovers for dinner and that’s why stopping at the grocery store wasn’t a priority in my mind. I didn’t realize this until later that night when I was home and about to get into something else. I stopped in my tracks and let out an, “Oh No!” Lola asked me what was up and I said I needed to get an Angel Food Cake. She jumped to my rescue though and said she would hop out to Clements and pick one up. She was the angel of the Angel Food Cake today (which I think is a Juice Newton song). I told her to look for one that was already made in the bakery or freezer sections and if that wasn’t an option, look for a boxed mix. When she got home, she had a fully baked and ready to eat Angel Food Cake from the bakery. She had saved the day. We ate our leftover dinner and then later, it was time for dessert. Now I just had to think about how to prepare it.

During the day I was looking up recipes for Angel Food Cake hoping to find other ways to use the cake so that I wasn’t just be eating a piece of spongy cake. I kept seeing calls for churros made with Angel Food Cake. Now that was something I could get behind. That was that game plan. I took the cake out of the container and cut off a few pieces and I cut those into rectangular pieces. Then I heated up some coconut oil in a frying pan and when it was hot enough, I fried the cake in the oil. That crisped up the outside nicely although I did have to keep a watchful eye as a few pieces seemed to get a little crispier than intended. When the freshly fried pieces came out of the pan, I tossed them in a bowl with some cinnamon and sugar and thoroughly coated each piece. Then I put the pieces on a plate and I served it with some heated chocolate sauce.

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First off, they looked great. It’s hard not to look at anything coated in sugar and cinnamon and not be pleased. They didn’t taste exactly like churros but they were still good. They had a good crispy texture on the outside and they were nice and warm too, especially when dunked in the chocolate sauce. You could taste the Angel Food and that meant the taste of the almond extract was strong. That’s not my favorite taste. Lola’s main contention was the texture of the sugar and cinnamon which was a little coarse and reminded her of sand – probably Lola’s least favorite texture. After some deliberation, we decided they needed a creamy element to the plate like fresh whipped cream or even better, vanilla ice cream. In truth, they were just ok. A good idea but it just didn’t come through in the end. I would have rather had plain Angel Food Cake or regular deep fried churros.

I guess I am more a traditional cake lover. I like the density of a nice piece of cake that can support good heavy frosting. The lighter, fluffier sponge cakes or Angel Food Cakes just aren’t my thing. I will say that they are good for soaking up the flavors of whatever you serve it with. That’s one of the things that went wrong tonight – the cake soaked up the flavor of the coconut oil and that flavor came out in the end. Angel Food Cake has a good texture in and of itself. It’s almost bouncy on the tongue which is a nice change of pace. Still not my favorite, but on National Angel Food Cake Day, I did my best to celebrate.

Next up: National Sausage Pizza Day 

Day 435 – National Moldy Cheese Day

Growing up, moldy cheese to me was the cheese that we’d find in the cold cuts drawer of our fridge that decided to hang around a little longer than it should of. My mom would look at it, smell it, see if she could somehow salvage it, and if it was completely unrecoverable, throw it away. My mom had some kind of evil plan to make us eat moldy food. She always said it was because she was a child of the Great Depression which taught her to make everything last as long as possible. That meant if a loaf of bread went moldy, she’d dig into the bag of bread and find a few pieces that weren’t too bad to make our sandwiches. I can barely speak of the liberties she would take on the state of freshness of the turkey that she’d use for our sandwiches. I guess if it didn’t smell too bad, that would be ok for our lunch (which would sit in our locker unrefrigerated for a few hours before eating). I’m still sketchy to this day about deli turkey and will rarely use it if it’s been in our home for more than a few days. Then, if the cheese was moldy, my mom could just cut around that or she would mix it into a mac and cheese where it would melt and we’d be none the wiser. That’s moldy cheese to me. You can understand why I was a little taken aback at a whole day devoted to celebrating this holiday.

Thankfully, moldy cheese is not cheese that has gone bad. The moldy cheese we were celebrating today were those cheeses that actually want mold inside them to give them more flavor. It is made by piercing a ripening block of cheese with skewers in an atmosphere in which mold (specifically penicillium roqueforti and the penicillium glaucoma fungi) is prevalent.  The mold grows within the cheese as it ages and it creates distinct blue veins in the cheese, which gives them their name and, often, assertive flavors (like your Roqueforts, Gorgonzolas and Stiltons). Sounds gross, but to the cheese lover, this was a great development. Last year on this day I made a favorite that we will bring to parties sometimes – dates stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and sprinkled in honey. Always a hit. This year, after searching online to see what I could make with a  moldy cheese, I found my answer in a pasta dish. I liked the recipe I found but I also felt it needed a little something else, so I ended up creating my own dish. And you know what? I may be on to something here.

The recipe I found was from a place called Framed Cooks and it was for Pasta with Blue Cheese Spinach Sauce. It was a very simple recipe and I liked that it was made with spinach to help cut the strong flavor of the blue cheese. But then I wanted it to have more. I thought about tomatoes and how well the taste of tomatoes goes with blue cheese. I figured adding that in would be simpatico. I started by putting the pot of water on for the pasta. The recipe called for a short pasta and for some reason, bow tie pasta was what I decided on (and it was the right choice too). When the water came to a boil, I dropped the pasta in which would cook for 12 minutes. After 11 minutes, I added a whole tub of baby spinach right to the pot and it cooked along with the pasta. Then I drained it all and returned it to the big pot. While the pasta was cooking I diced up some onions and garlic and sautéed them in some oil. Then I plopped in a whole container of grape tomatoes and let that cook. I just learned this term, but this is called blistered tomatoes because you essentially cook them in a pan until they soften and actually burst open. This cooked the whole time the pasta was cooking so after I returned the drained pasta and spinach to the pot, I added in the tomatoes , onions and garlic. Then I dropped in about a half stick of butter (maybe a little more) and two 5 ounce containers of crumbled blue cheese. I added salt and lots of pepper. Then I stirred it all together. It took a minute or two before the cheese started to melt, but then it did and all of a sudden, I had something good on my hands.

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We were watching the Yankee game and Lola was lost in her work while I delivered her a beautiful bowl of the pasta. She said it looked good and she was excited for it. Then we both tasted it. Wow. This was awesome. The flavor of the blue cheese came out strong, but not overpowering. It was cut by the butter and juice from the tomatoes. The pasta was cooked perfectly so it was soft enough to soak up the sauce which gave each bow tie extra flavor. The tanginess of the spinach was perfect too adding a little earthiness to the pungent blue cheese, and then also softened by the sweetness of the tomatoes. A blistered tomato lets you bite it without fear of it bursting all over your self. You still get the juiciness of each tomato and in this dish, that juice mixed well with all the blue cheese. Pardon my boasting, but it was a beautiful balance of flavors and a great creation. A surprise hit. We thought that some sandwich steak chopped fine (or any steak diced up for that matter) would go well in here too. This was really a dinner that surprised us on how delicious it turned out to be and one I will be making again for sure.

I guess we really can celebrate moldy cheese with a smile on our face. I’m just glad my celebration was not a warm turkey sandwich on moldy bread and some spotted-green cheese packed with a note that said “pick around”. No, moldy cheese is much more of a complex and enjoyable flavor. Blue cheese is usually reduced to salad dressing or something to dunk our hot wings in, however on National Moldy Cheese Day, we realize that it is more than that. It is a complex cheese that was made with care specifically to bring out that pungent but delicious flavor. That’s what we celebrated today – the flavor that moldy cheese delivers. I’m here to say moldy cheese deserves our celebration. It needs to be saluted when it shows up on our cheese boards. It needs to be respected when it is melted into a cheese dip. And it definitely needs more love for being something that is wonderful in pasta. Yes, I learned to love the moldy cheese today. I guess my Mom was ahead of her time on knowing to appreciate that.

Next up: National Angel Food Cake 

 

Day 434 – National Fluffernutter Day

To celebrate a Fluffernutter, you have to start with Fluff. There are other spreadable marshmallow cremes on the market, but for anyone in the know (especially New Englanders in the know) the only acceptable brand of marshmallow creme is Fluff. Fluff is made in Lynn, MA although it was originally made in Somerville, MA. It was created in 1917 by entrepreneur Archibald Query who came up with the recipe and then went door-to-door selling his sweet creation which makes me wonder why there are no more door-to-door marshmallow salesmen anymore. There were other marshmallow cremes before Query’s, even one by the great, great, great grandchild of Paul Revere, but Fluff was the one that really took off and part of that success was because Query sold his Fluff recipe and rights to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920 for about $500. As far as combining Fluff with peanut butter to create a sandwich, that came earlier in the century from some of the other marshmallow cremes on the market and took off in popularity during World War I when Americans were asked to give up meat one day a week to help with the war effort. The name Fluffernutter wouldn’t come around until the 1960’s when Durkee & Mower hired a PR firm to help sales. That’s when some marketing genius invented the name that would eventually become world famous and even have a holiday named after it. That’s what today would be all about. 

I decided to have a Fluffernutter for breakfast because I had to go to work at 11. I asked Lola if she wanted one too and after a long moment of consideration, she said yes. I had wheat bread on hand and that would work for our sandwich although I personally prefer white bread. I decided to toast my bread although Lola is a firm anti-toast believer for her Fluffernutters. She gave me a stern look of disdain at my own choice of toasted bread, but I couldn’t help it – I just love how the peanut butter starts to melt on the hot toast. We agreed to disagree. Making a Fluffernutter is easy enough, but it’s a dirty job. Fluff sticks to everything it touches, so you usually have to use two knives so as not to mix the PB into the Fluff and vice versa. Then when you slice it, you get it all over your cutting surface. I used to work at a restaurant that sold a Fluffernutter (available at market price) and it was always the worst sandwich to make because you had to completely clean your station after you made one. For today’s sandwich artistry, I had lots of Fluff on hand because that’s what I use for my fudge and for the peanut butter, we used Skippy. I spread the peanut butter first on both pieces of bread, then topped that with a big scoop of Fluff which I spread out as best I could. I then closed the sandwich up and cut it in half (I cut Lola’s into quarters just to be cute). 


I was glad I toasted mine because the peanut butter gets melty and mixes perfectly with the Fluff which also starts to melt. We ate our sandwiches at the kitchen table and that was more a defensive move because eating a Fluffernutter can get so messy. You need a plate underneath so that the peanut butter can ooze out onto something. That becomes part of the joy of eating one too because you get to mop up the peanut butter and Fluff off the plate with the sandwich. It is also a sandwich that requires liquid on the side otherwise you get all that sticky stuff left in your mouth. Ideally you would want milk but we opted for good ol’ water. It’s a great sandwich. The peanut butter is dominant and sweetened by the sugary joy of Fluff. I also realized that it’s a great sandwich to have before a long shift because it gives you instant energy and a sugar high that lasts for a few hours. You just have to make sure you wash your face and hands afterwards, otherwise you smell like peanut butter for the rest of the day,

Massachusetts started legislation to make the Fluffernutter the official sandwich of the Commonwealth. That motion has been stalled in the State House for over ten years which I don’t understand. Who is voting against this sandwich? Who wouldn’t want to take credit for this creation? If it were up to me, I’d be voting YES! I’d be proud to have this sandwich represent my home state. It’s a sandwich of great renown in these parts and well as being one worth our celebration. Official or not, it’s still a sandwich that gets high praise in our house. It delivers simple joy with the best of local ingredients. It gives us comfort. It gives us ease. It gives us warm, happy flavors. That’s the New England way and why we are here to stand proud with Fluff. We’ll promise to clean up after too.

Next up: National Moldy Cheese Day
Info on Fluff from Mental Floss 

Playing Catch Up: Days 425 to 433

I’m way behind and I can’t seem to catch up. I know, I’ve been saying that for a while now, but every time I get close to getting all caught up, I end up taking a day or two off from writing the posts and the hole gets deeper. The celebrating is still happening. I’m right on pace there, it’s just the blogging part. I had to right the ship. With some hesitation, I have decided to pull the nuclear option. I’m just going to slam out one longer post which retells my celebration tale of the last nine days. Not the way I like to do things, but I feel this will be the only way I can get back to some kind of normalcy. Well, at least the kind of normal life where you are celebrating every day.  So here we go. I’ve unlocked the football, I’ve put in the codes in, I’ve wished Godspeed to all those within ear shot and I’ve hit the button. I’ve gone nuclear.

Day 425 – National Coffee Day
Every day is Coffee Day, at least in our house. Although today, Lola wasn’t around. She had gone to New Hampshire to visit a friend. I woke up early and, as usual, made myself a cup of coffee using our Aeropress which is a contraption to give you good strong coffee. There’s a whole process to making coffee with an Aeropress that Lola likens to the dance of shooting heroin. You start by putting the filter in the bottom, then your coffee goes in, you pour boiling water over the top, stir, and then slowly work the top half of the contraption downwards into the bottom half like a plunger. That air presses the coffee out the bottom through the filter right into your cup. After I added my frothed milk (I’m a fancy boy), I grabbed the cup and walked outside to our deck to look at the sun which was rising in a particularly brilliant fashion. Later, on my way to work I stopped at Starbucks to get a Grande Non-Fat Latte (I speak Starbucksese). I don’t usually stop here as it is a bit out of the way, but I thought I’d make the special trip for National Coffee Day. I’m not sure if it was worth it. The coffee was fine – I really do like Starbucks coffee – but there were no other redeeming qualities about the visit. It was just business as usual. Later in the day, I made a cup of coffee at work. Nothing fancy here either. We have a Keuring machine and fresh cream in the fridge. It’s perfect for that afternoon pick me up which is what it gave me today. Last year on National Coffee Day I enjoyed nearly ten cups of coffee. This celebration was more sensible. I thoroughly enjoyed each cup for what it was. It helped me get through the day and I looked forward to that first sip from every cup. That was a celebration that was worth having.

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Day 426 – National Chewing Gum Day
I had a long day ahead of me at the Vineyard and I was running late. (I could start every Saturday post with that exact statement). On my way out the door, I remembered it was National Chewing Gum Day so I grabbed a package of gum that has been sitting in our cabinet since the start of the summer. It was a pouch of Big League Chew. I can’t remember why I purchased this gum outside of thinking Lola would enjoy it. Apparently she doesn’t share the nostalgic fondness for this type of gum that I do. In any case, I tucked the pouch into my pocket and headed out the door. Later that morning, I remembered that I had the gum in my pocket, so I pulled it out and tore it open. I took a pinch of the strands and placed it into my cheeks. I don’t think there’s a way to do this without feeling like you’re shoving a wad of chew into your mouth. As a kid, that was a neat feeling because you had watched baseball players do this for years (with tobacco) and Big League Chew allowed you to mimic the same action (with less nicotine). I understood why I and every young baseball fanatic liked this gum. The gum is good too – fresh bubble gum flavor, very chewy, the pouch keeps it from drying out and it has excellent bubble blowing capacity. Not much more you can ask for. I asked a few other people if they wanted some. Not everyone did, but most were excited to see this blast of gum from their past. It evoked instant memories. Even the smell. It was a moment of joy. It reminded me of the time in our lives when gum was kind of a big deal. It was more than just something you toss in your mouth to give you fresh breath. It was a treat. It was fun. I shared that today with some people. That’s what celebrating gum is all about, and all it took was a pinch between my gum and cheeks.

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Day 427 – National Homemade Cookies Day
Last year’s Homemade Cookie Day was kind of a big deal. It was the wedding of my young cousin Sam, so we were in Connecticut with my side of the family. I made cookies for the occasion that my sister-in-law Becky was nice enough to school me in (in fact, she made most of them). They were shortbread cookies that we decorated as musical notes reflecting the musical theme of the wedding. They were a smash hit. This year however, there would be no baking. My celebration would be just an appreciation for the homemade cookie. I did this by enjoying three cookies with milk after dinner. The first cookie was a Tollhouse cookie that I had made a few days ago for my sister’s birthday. She had requested them. I am not a famous Tollhouse Cookie maker by any stretch, but my grandmother was and it’s what my sister was craving. She even gave me one of Gram’s secrets to her cookie making – to use half butter and half shortening for the recipe. That’s what I did. The cookies were ok, but not like my grandmother’s. I’m not exactly sure why. Someday I’ll figure it out. The one I had tonight was fine. I just can’t seem to make a great Tollhouse Cookie. The second cookie was an Oatmeal Cookie which was made with love by the mother of one of Lola’s friends. This was the friend Lola had gone to visit in New Hampshire and one of the side benefits of those visits is that Lola is sent home with a plate of treats from her friend’s mom. We call them Jarvis Treats and they are the best. It’s always an array of goodies like chocolate bark, fudge, some kind of peanut butter thing and always some cookies. Whenever Lola walks into the house with them, we have an instant feast like we just found our Easter Basket. For my cookie from the plate of treats, I went oatmeal. That was actually the only cookie left although there were still other non-cookie treats that we could enjoy later. It was good – soft and chewy with just the right amount of crunch from the oatmeal on the outside. A few raisins mixed in and that’s not a bad place to find a raisin. Anytime you can have a Jarvis Treat is a big deal to us, so I savored this one especially because it was National Homemade Cookies Day and I was paying homage to one of the finest homemade cookie makers we know.

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The last cookie I had was actually from Clements which wasn’t really homemade. Still, it was from their special cookie section which are made and baked in-house. We’ve had these cookies before and they taste homemade. It was a double chocolate chip and it was good. I know this was not exactly perfect for this celebration, but it was tribute to the cookie itself which was still made locally in their bakery. It didn’t have that processed, mass produced cookie taste – it had the same taste you would get from any cookie made in house. It works for me and it was actually a nice taste. My Homemade Cookies Day celebration wasn’t about what I could make today but rather about enjoying the handiwork of others. I saluted the first cookie baker I ever knew with Tollhouse cookies, I indulged in the sweet treats of another special baker in our life and I even paid tribute to the local tastes of one of our community bakers. A sweet celebration in every bite, and a glass of milk on the side. What more could you want?

Day 428 – National Chili Week
October is not only National Chili Month, but the first week of October is National Chili Week. Monday night is also a good night to make a good hardy chili to have some for the whole week, so that’s what I made. I picked up some ground beef and tomatoes at the store. When I got home, I sautéed some onions and garlic. I had some fresh jalapeños in our fridge so I diced those up and sautéed them along with the onions and garlic to bring some heat. Then I added in the beef. I seasoned the hell out of it all and let it cook. Then I added in the tomatoes and beans and let it cook more. Pretty easy. I wanted a little more liquid in the chili, so I decided to pour a full beer in. Couldn’t hurt. All in all, it came out pretty good and I found it to be one of the tastier chilis I have made in a while. I made some Jiffy corn muffins on the side (which seems like a must-have for chili). I served us bowls of chili with cheese and sour cream. We enjoyed it on our couch watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Now we have chili for the week. We had a nice hardy and warming supper. And we celebrated this great food as if it was a holiday, which it was.

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Day 429 – National Soft Taco Day – Caramel Custard Day
Not going to lie, this was a hard one. It was National Caramel Custard Day and to celebrate that, I was going to pick up some flan at Whole Foods. I looked online and they said they carried flan there so I drove to the spot in Cranston after work. That’s when I realized that Whole Foods lied to me because they did not carry flan. With tears in my eyes, I left and headed for home. I would have to break the news to Lola. She takes her flan seriously. I couldn’t think of any other place to get flan outside of a Mexican restaurant which seemed too far out of the way to go pick up, so I decided to celebrate the fact that it was also National Soft Taco Day. This was an easy fix because I had soft tortillas, I had chili for a protein and I had all the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese to make a taco. When I got home, after a half-hour verbal berating from Lola on why we were flanless, I started to make dinner. The tacos came out looking pretty good. However, in practicality, this was a fail because the chili was a bit too liquidy for tacos, especially soft tacos. Once they sat for a minute, all the chili soaked through the tortilla and the tacos came crashing apart. I was able to get a few taco bites in, but then I essentially had an open-faced taco which I ate with a fork. I should have known better, especially as someone who considers himself knowledgeable in taco making. The taste was great, I just failed in my construction. Not a banner day of celebration, but still I paid tribute to the greatness of tacos. If only I had more time to celebrate them.

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Day 430 – National Taco Day
Well look at that! Another day to celebrate tacos! This was the big taco day. The one that was trending on social media. The one that almost every restaurant was yammering about. The day that would be filled with stupid taco puns. This was the big daddy of taco holidays. Lola had a meeting in Boston and was heading back in to town at about 7:30, so we decided to go our for some taco fun. We went to a place in Bristol called Casa Margaritas. Lola had been here before but it was new to me. When we walked in, we were greeted right away by a super friendly host who may have been the owner. That was a good start. Then, because it was Wednesday, they had a margarita special which meant their large margaritas were the same price as their regular ones, so we ordered up a couple. (Excellent margaritas 👍)

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We ordered fresh guacamole which they made table side. Lola asked our server how she likes her guacamole and she told us that she puts a special hot pepper in hers that is lightly fried to bring out more flavor. The server was nice enough to get us one so we could try. We mixed that right into the guacamole. It was spicy – not in the front but kept intensifying on your tongue. It was good. I would have liked more cumin and salt in the guac, but that’s just me. Then we ordered tacos to which our server remarked that it was National Taco Day. We told her that we knew this. Lola went with all pork carnitas tacos while I went with an order that had one carnitas, one chicken and one steak. The tacos were good and fresh. Each had beans and rice in the taco along with fresh salsa and sauce. All cooked perfectly too. Great flavor in all and I was a fan. This will be a place we will come back to for our next Mexican food craving.

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We were stuffed as a wood tick, but then they showed us the dessert menu and there it was – Flan! I knew it was a day late, but I decided to order it and celebrate National Caramel Custard Day too. It was a great flan served with caramel over the top plus some chocolate and strawberry sauce on the side along with ample amounts of whipped cream. The texture of flan is always alarming – it tastes like you’re biting into phlegm. But once you get past that, the sweetness of it all gets better. A good flan. All in all, I think we did a nice job at celebrating National Taco Day. We found a new local, authentic restaurant. We toasted with big margaritas and we capped it off with a delightful flan. That’s a good day on any day, but particularly special for National Taco Day.

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Day 431 – National Apple Betty Day
Betty and I go way back. I recalled this special treat from last year and when hearing about it, not knowing what it was. It’s pretty much an apple crumble. As far as who Betty is, no one really knows. Only the legacy of her special treat carries on. When I got out of work, Lola was over her sister’s house so I decided to head there to say hello. We ended up getting home at about 8 PM which meant I still had to make an Apple Betty. Thankfully, it’s super easy to make. I had picked up five granny smith apples at the store along with some vanilla ice cream. I peeled and pared the apples and tossed them in a pie plate with some orange juice. Then I made the crumble from butter, flour, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon (Full recipe from Genius Kitchen). I sprinkled that over the top and then tucked it in the oven for about 45 minutes. It made the house smell awesome – baking apples tends to do that. When it came out, I let it sit for a minute or two, but then I scooped out a couple of pieces and topped them with some vanilla ice cream. Honestly, this is everything you could ever want in an apple dessert. The apples get soft while the crumble gives you a more hardy texture. You get the sweetness coming through from the crumble (and from the apples) and it is all paired with the creaminess of the cool ice cream. It’s perfection, and perfect on a nice Fall night, even if that night is seventy degrees. I am always amazed at how much the apples break down. They almost turn to mush, but not quite. When you bite down, it just melts in your mouth. I still don’t know who Betty is or was, but I’ll forever be grateful for her contribution to the dessert table. It really is one of the best tasting desserts you’ll find for the simplest of cooking procedures. Thank you Betty, for your apples and your crumbles. Today you were celebrated with spoon and ice cream, and life was a bit more joyous because of you.

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Day 432 – National Noodle Day
I learned today that there is a difference between noodles and pasta. It has to do with the type of flour used in the noodle making. Noodles are actually thousands of years old and come from China. Italians started making noodles after Marco Polo brought them back from his adventures in the East. The Italians started making their noodles with durum or semolina flour and that’s what would become known as pasta. Today however, I would be using spaghetti which is a pasta but made in the tradition of a classic noodle. We were still celebrating National Chili Week as we had been all week with the batch of Chili I made earlier in the week. We find that chili spaghetti is a great way to get another meal out of a batch of chili. It brings a little variation to the party after having had straight bowls of chili all week long. I think chili spaghetti is a Cincinnati thing, or at least that’s where we first saw it featured on a cooking show. It intrigued us, so we made it one time and it got a big thumbs up. There’s nothing fancy about it or no special preparation. You make the spaghetti as normal. When it is drained, I like to add some butter to the hot noodles just to give them some flavor. Then you top each portion with some heated up chili. You dress it like you would your regular chili with cheese and sour cream, but then you are ready to go. It’s essentially a thick meat sauce on your pasta, like a bolognese but more hardy. Tonight’s offering was particularly tasty. We both remarked on this although we couldn’t figure out why. I felt like the pasta was cooked perfectly while Lola hypothesized that the chili was a bit more saucy than normal which helped. Whatever the reason, this was a great dinner. It’s filling but oh so tasty. The noodles absorb the flavors of the chili so each strand brings a little flavor to the party. Plus the chili gets mixed throughout. It was really great and I always recommend serving your chili this way when you are laboring your way through that week of chili. By the third or fourth day, you just want to mix it up, but you also want to use up all your chili. This gives your meal another life and I may even say it’s the best way to eat it. For National Noodle Day, this was a great way to honor the noodle and what it brings to the table. The noodle soaks up all the flavors that you are working with and delivers. That’s why the Chinese created this wonderful food and why the Italians took the recipe and ran with it. Maybe that’s what the Cincinnatians did too when they thought of chili spaghetti. Who knows, but all we know is that we celebrated with glee.

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Day 433 – National Frappe Day
There are essentially two kinds of frappes. The first kind is an iced coffee beverage made from instant coffee originally from Greece. This is the drink that you get at Starbucks. The other kind of frappe is a milkshake or more specifically, it’s what a New Englander calls a milkshake. I’m not sure who this New Englander is because all the New Englanders I know call them milkshakes (or cabinets, but that’s a Rhody thing). In any case, I was going to enjoy my Frappe after work and because I didn’t need a boost of caffeine at that time, I decided to celebrate the milkshake type of Frappe. I always tend to lean towards celebrating with ice cream when I can. After work I headed towards Frosty Freez thinking I could get a fine frappe made just to my liking. I soon discovered that Frosty Freez has closed for the season. A sad day here on the island. I was picking up some Chipotle for dinner, so I decided to check one other spot for a Frappe to go: Newport Creamery. They were open, but the ice cream line was too long for my patience. I decided to just make a frappe at home. I picked up our burritos and came home to Lola and we feasted on our dinner in style. Later in the night, it was time for my frappe. Lola asked me if I was making it the way her friend makes it: with Nestle Quik and a little bit of vanilla. I wasn’t going too, but that sounded like a good idea. I grabbed the blender and filled it with milk, vanilla ice cream, generous amounts of Quik, a capful of vanilla, a few squirts of chocolate syrup and then for fun, a scoop of Fluff. I blended away and then poured it into my glass. It was nice and thick and it passed the straw test – that’s when you put the straw in the middle of the drink and it stays there (it doesn’t fall to the side of the glass). This was actually one of the finest milkshakes I have ever made. It was really chocolaty thanks to the syrup and the Quik. There were lots of creamy elements to it with the slight tinge of vanilla as a nice finishing touch. The Fluff didn’t really blend well so that was floating around in chunks and getting stuck in the straw, however, it was nice to have the little bites of marshmallow when you got them. A little more sweetness never hurt anyone (except a diabetic). It had been a long hard day at the Vineyard and this was a nice way to end the day – with a cold, creamy thick frappe. I may be that New Englander that starts calling these things frappe – it just sounds a bit more celebratory.

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I’d like to apologize for two things to my loyal readers. First, I’m sorry I have fallen so far behind at getting these posts up here. I know you have bigger problems to worry about then why I haven’t posted, but I do feel like I was letting you down. I’m going to get better at it now that I’m back on track. Second, I apologize that this post is so long. I didn’t get into much detail with each day of celebration and I may have overwhelmed you with nearly 4,000 words. This isn’t the norm – it’s the nuclear option and you really can’t use that all that often. So thank you for your patience and understanding. I’ll get better. The celebration continues and I am grateful for all your support.

Next Up: National Fluffernutter Day 

Day 424 – National Drink Beer Day

This was a holiday that was going to be pretty easy to celebrate. All I needed to do was drink a beer. I have no problem finding beer these days. I know right where to look for them and when I buy them, I never get any hassle. Apparently, I’ve aged out of that “let me see your ID” stage. I’m also not the kind of person whose need of a beer (as in having already had too many) is often questioned. The hard part was going to be selecting the place to have a beer and of course the type of beer to have. Both of these questions were answered for me. Today we had an after-work team event at a local golf and entertainment complex and there was going to be beer there. This would be the perfect place to celebrate National Drink Beer Day.

The place is called Mulligan’s Island which is kind of your typical golf and entertainment place. It has both a Par Three and a Pitch and Putt course but also a driving range, two mini golf courses, batting cages and beach volleyball. It’s in Warwick and somewhat oddly situated alongside the State of Rhode Island Department of Corrections. (No, that’s not a facility where they help you correct your swing.)  Our group had use of the driving range, the batting cages and the mini golf (that was our “time in the yard”) plus we had some burgers and a station for beer. It ended up so that only about 15 or so people were able to come, but it was still a fun group and an enjoyable place. I started off in the batting cages where I swung mightily at the slow pitch softballs while the ladies took on the fast pitch softball machine next to me. Yes, I felt a little less manly waiting casually for my lob pitches as the sound of whizzing softballs coming in hard against the backstop filled the air. But slow pitch is more my style. That’s probably the only speed at which I have hit a baseball in the last thirty years and I wasn’t trying to be a hero today. I got some good swings in – probably a bunch of doubles, maybe even a homer or two. But then the pitches kept coming. We were paid in advance, so the machines didn’t stop automatically at ten balls. They just kept coming. Pretty soon, I had broken a sweat and my hands were starting to callous.

After the batting cages, we went back over to the party area where the beer was ready for us and I was quick to swoop one up. I went for a can of Corona which seemed ideal. The design of a can of Corona, a somewhat new addition to the beer aisle, is pleasing to me. It resembles the iconic Corona look that we have seen for years on their cases. The white of the can makes that logo really stand out when you see it. In any case, it’s a fine looking can and the perfect choice for a cool Fall night at the driving range. I opened it up and then moseyed on over to the range with a bucket of balls. I’ve never been one to enjoy hitting a bucket of balls. I enjoy hitting a few balls, maybe even half a bucketful. But if you give me a whole bucket to hit, it wears me down, my hands get calloused and I get bored. Part of that comes from my inability to hit a driver. I can crush an iron and even hit it straight some time. But if you give me the big boy clubs, I flub it. Sometimes they barely go ten yards even though I put all my energy into the swing. Every once and a while I can get it right, but usually I just hit a high pop fly right back at the pitcher. Also, when you are at a driving range you get the feeling that everyone is watching you (they aren’t), but this adds to that sensation of failure and embarrassment. I managed to stick with this activity for a good chunk of time and even outlasted most of our group out there, but then I had to quit. My hand was blistered. My arms were sore (my neck was sore too because I was smacking it with the shaft of the club on my back swing – that’s a new one). And I was hungry, so I put down the club and went to go grab a burger.

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It was National Drink Beer Day so when I finished up my first Corona, I reached in for another. I kind of felt that I was giving this holiday an appropriate celebration. I could have gone crazy today and grabbed a beer ball of Genesee Ale from the packie and finished it off with Lola in our backyard – an exercise in excess. But today, I drank beer in that perfect social way. It helped break the ice in what could have been an awkward social gathering. Just having a beer in your hand makes this kind of event easier – a 12-ounce aluminum crutch. But it also keeps you refreshed too. A little way to take the edge of a long day, and a way to hydrate yourself after working up a sweat swinging sticks at balls. You can’t drink a nice glass of wine after hitting a 40 mile an hour, arching softball clean over the pitching machine – you need to drink a nice cold beer like a man. It just seemed right for the night and a proper tribute to the enjoyment of drinking beer.

Right after I cracked open my second one, the call to play mini-golf was sounded so I joined up. There was a group of five of us and we took off to the links. They have two courses there and one was more difficult than the other. The less-difficult course had more people on it, so we opted to play the hard course. And it was challenging. It didn’t really have obstacles likes lighthouses and clowns, but it had long greens with different hills and uneven surfaces, it had thin bridges and rocks to hit around and over, and it had a certain amount of water threatening nearby. I started off playing terribly with my first putts landing my ball in nasty corners. That was followed up by playing the back and forth game and hitting the ball three or four times before it plunked in the hole. As play moved along I got better, but it was too late. I had already fallen too far behind to even try to catch up. I ended up getting a 36 on the front nine with a 26 on the back, but it was not enough. I came in fourth place. I suppose the worst outcome was that they sent an email out the next day with all the pictures from the night and I was featured in one digging the ball out of the water hazard. It wasn’t my ball – I was trying to save someone else’s – but I’m sure everyone just assumed I was having a tough day on the course. Still, I held tight to my beer in true celebration of National Drink Beer Day.

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That was Drink Beer Day. This has been something I’ve been celebrating for over thirty years. It started in high school, although honestly, I really wasn’t drinking that much beer in high school (I seem to recall more grain punch and bug juice). I picked up my game in college, and then some (our 11 in 11 party comes to mind – 11 kegs in Townhouse 11). I’ve been drinking beer regularly ever since. It’s the drink I will opt for when asked. It’s just nice and easy. Always refreshing. Today’s celebration was a more mature take on this day. It made me appreciate the act of actually drinking beer in a more social and enjoyable way. Still enjoying it all, but in moderation and as the ice breaker. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been out there without a beer and that’s a testament to why we drink it. I’ll keep drinking beer as long as I’m in social situations. I just hope I can correct my slice.

Next up: National Coffee Day

 

Day 423 – National Corned Beef Hash Day

I always thought I was a lone wolf in my love for corned beef hash. Not completely alone – it’s still a regular on most breakfast menus, but I just felt like it was one of those old fashioned meals that you hear about but don’t actually order, although I do. It’s not the breakfast meat of choice of this particular generation (that would be bacon). Not long ago, I went to breakfast with my brother and sister-in-law and it turns out they are fans of corned beef hash too. I wasn’t alone. And then I started to hear about other people who like corned beef hash too. Apparently this is something that people like. I think the corned beef hash community needs some positive PR work to get it back front and center in the land of breakfast. More people have to come out of the corned beef hash closet and know that it’s ok to be a fan. National Corned Beef Hash Day is a perfect day to do this.

While I didn’t find the exact history of corned beef hash, you can make some easy assumptions about where it came from. It’s a way to stretch your food and leftovers. You take your left over beef, your left over potatoes, some fresh onions. You chop them up and then fry them up in a pan. It’s economical – stretching your food for another use (like making a soup). I’m sure corned beef became a popular variety of hash because it was cheap and with all the preservatives, it would keep a little longer. Once again, another product of frugal folks in the kitchen making food supplies last. I first discovered corned beef hash in my house. My mom used to make it and she was always a fan. Me? Not so much back then. She would make it using a meat grinder which was a tool that belonged to my grandmother and was probably purchased in the early 1900’s. It was hand-cranked. She’d take it out of the cabinet where it was stowed, affix it to the table by the vice clamp that was part of the design. You’d feed leftover corned beef and potatoes into the top and they would be ground up and spit out the business end as you turned the crank. The hash would come out in long strands of chopped up mixture which would fall apart in the bowl where it collected. It made a gross sound too as it ground – just imagine what meat being pushed through tiny holes sounds like. As a kid, this machine was fascinating and you always wanted to work it. You could nibble on the stuff that came out the front (it was already cooked) and that was ok. My mom would then make patties from the ground up meat and fry them up for dinner. I didn’t like that as much, but later in life, I learned to love corned beef hash. At some point I had the epiphany that hash was just ground up corned beef and potatoes, both of which I liked, so why wouldn’t I like hash? I tried it and I’ve been a fan ever since.

I celebrated today by going to our local breakfast spot, Reidy’s. That was something that I don’t think I’ve done before – stopping there for breakfast on my way to work as if I was a regular. Usually my trips there are leisurely on a day off or weekend, but this one was all business. I had to get in and out because I still had to get to work (and naturally, I was running late). I sat in a booth. I could have sat at the counter but it looked mostly full and there was chatter amongst the regulars. I was looking for peace and quiet and wanted the comfort of my own space at a table. I sat down and was greeted right away. I ordered a cup of coffee and two eggs, over easy, with corned beef hash and rye toast. As I waited, I played on my phone trying to be as antisocial as possible. My breakfast was ready within minutes and I was left alone to enjoy my National Corned Beef Hash Day feast.

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I should do this more often. Everything about this breakfast was perfect. The hash was nice and flavorful and cooked perfectly too so the outside had a beautiful crispiness to it while the inside was moist and juicy. You could taste the flavor and saltiness from the beef and you also got the hints of onion and potato in each bite as well. The eggs were over easy and as soon as I ran my knife through them, the yolk oozed out over the plate. That made the perfect pairing for the hash too giving me the added hints of egg flavor in each bite. The best way to eat this was to take a piece of toast and build little bites of egg and hash. The rye toast was kind of the star of the whole dish. I usually opt for white or whole grain bread, but for some reason I went rye. Rye? I don’t know. It was the perfect firmness for my constructed bites. It had great flavor and it was perfectly toasted with ample butter on each piece. This was a great breakfast. Even the potatoes were good too, although I didn’t eat all of those – I had enough potatoes in the hash. I was finished and went up to the register to pay, a smile of contentedness upon my face. I was in and out in fifteen minutes and on my way to work. I can really seeing myself getting in the habit of doing those more often.

I have a feeling corned beef hash is one of those foods that is going to suddenly become popular again. Some hipster in Brooklyn will probably open a restaurant that specializes in it (he’ll likely call it The Hash House). It will be featured on Food Network and then interest in this delicious but old-fashioned breakfast treat will become popular again. There will be hash restaurants in every city and even special kiosks at the mall. It will reach its height of popularity when Subway starts featuring it on one of their subs. When all this happens, I can be proud to say that I was in the know from the very beginning. I was ahead of the hash fad, although I suppose I have to credit Reidy’s for really being ahead of it all and serving a great one. My celebration today reiterated my love for corned beef hash. I will continue to make this my order at breakfast places. I may even make the sojourn to The Hash House when it opens – that’s how good corned beef hash can be.

Next up: National Drink Beer Day 

Day 422 – National Pancake Day

Lola must think I’m out to sabotage her and her attempts to eat healthy. To start, while I was making dinner last night, I decided to make a batch of fudge. There were a few occasions coming up where we wanted to send some fudge to some friends in fudge-need, so it was a good thing to have in our house. I made it last night and put in the fridge before I went to bed. While I was texting with Lola throughout the day, I reminded her that there was a whole tray of unadulterated fudge in the fridge. Lola might say that living with me is like living with Walter White who leaves a fresh batch of Blue Sky stashed in the house. In any case, she was home, slightly hungry and wanted something sweet to go with her coffee, so she ate all the fudge. Not really, she just had a few pieces. But she was probably hopped up on sugar for the rest of the afternoon. By the time I got home from work, she was strung out and hitting a sugar low. I became an enabler. I made her pancakes.

Pancakes for dinner are always fun. It’s not something you want every night but some nights, when you’re tired and don’t want to play the “what’s for dinner” game, pancakes can be pretty great. For tonight’s cakes, I decided to go with the mix. I could have made my own, but the mix was just easier. All I had to do was add water, although I did add some cinnamon and syrup into the batter for a little extra flavor – that’s semi-homemade, right? I used a mix from Hungry Jack. No reason for this decision other than it was just what I picked up. Usually I’m a Bisquik our an Aunt Jemima guy. The picture on the box of Hungry Jack looked more enticing and it offered thick and fluffy pancakes which I was interested in. I heated up my griddle and coated it with oil (Hungry Jack’s suggestion). Then I let it heat up until it was nice and hot. Then the pancake production began. Things came out nicely.

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These hit the spot. If I were judging a pancake competition, I don’t think these would make the finals. They were a little plain albeit spruced up with the spices I added in. It’s what you would expect from a batter made with water. However, I wouldn’t say they were bad in any sense of the word. In fact, they were just perfect for tonight. They fluffed up nice and thick and I got a good dark color on the outside. Each was topped with a pat of butter and lots of maple syrup. The pancakes soaked in all that goodness too so every bite was full of the sweet, syrupy love. They were really quite good and just what we wanted. Sure, had I made them with buttermilk and measured out my own flour and baking powder they would have been tastier. But for ease and for just a simple dinner pancake, these were perfect. Lola was happy too. Once all that sugar from the syrup hit her veins, her eyes rolled white and she fell back into a deep sleep, the fork still in her mouth. Jeff VanVonderen and Candy Finnigan are coming in this weekend. I think I’ll make them cookies.

Pancakes for dinner are a treat but really pancakes at any time are a special thing. There are few foods that offer so much: the texture of cake, the warmness of temperature, the balance of syrup and the hint of melted butter. No wonder they have their own day of celebration. It doesn’t matter if you make them from a mix or if you make them from scratch. It doesn’t matter if you get them at a breakfast place, your grandmother’s house or an international establishment sworn to uphold the joy of pancakes. All that matters is that you enjoy them and that you don’t take them for granted. Pancakes are special and should be treated as such. Treat them with the joy that you see on a child’s face when they are served a pancake. That’s a joy we should all know and cherish. That’s what we celebrated tonight. But be warned, they could be addictive.

Next up: National Corned Beef Hash Day

Day 421 – National Lobster Day

If most people were on a journey of celebrating every day, when National Lobster Day would roll in to town, they’d probably be pretty excited. An excuse to go out and grab one of the most famed delicacies in all the land, especially the land of New England. Not me. I’ve never cared for it all that much. It doesn’t really taste like anything to me outside of seawater and whatever you soak it in (like butter). Plus, it has a weird texture. Kind of chewy, almost rubbery. It’s just not my thing. I get the allure. There are few foods that look more fun to eat especially when you get a bib and a pair of crackers alongside it. It’s exotic and exciting. Just not for me. As you can imagine, this was a little bit of a relief because lobster can be expensive – $30 per pound in restaurants. That was too much to pay if I knew I wasn’t going to like something. But I had to have lobster someway. I decided to take the easy route and opted for lobster bisque.

It was a Monday night which tends to be the night where Lola and I are both exhausted. I’m not sure why that is – maybe it’s part of the weekend recovery or the gloom that comes with the start of another work week. Whatever the reason, it’s not a night that we put a lot of effort into our dinner. I had bisque on my mind as I went to Clements after work in search of dinner, although I was a little worried about what I could do if I was bisque out of luck. They didn’t have any lobster bisque in their hot soup station, but after looking in their prepared food section, I found a container of lobster bisque from the folks at Legal Seafood that I just would need to heat at home. Perfect. Legals has a good reputation for anything seafood so I figured this would do me fine. I only bought one container which I was going to split between Lola and myself. Lola is a fan of lobster bisque and I figured if I didn’t eat it, she could finish it up. I realized too that this was not enough for dinner so I marched through the store trying to find something else. If I could not find lobster today, I had a back-up plan to celebrate one of the month-long holidays of September. I knew it was National Rice Month and National Italian Cheese Month so I’m sure I could find something that met one of those criteria. And even though I had found my lobster, I found something that would work for both Rice and Italian Cheese month to go alongside the bisque. They were Arancini (rice balls) from a company called Alfredo’s based out of Massachusetts. They offer some frozen entrees that we have enjoyed before so I knew they put out a good product. These were made with rice and with Mozzarella and Burrata cheeses – nice Italian cheese flavors which was a perfect match for today. I picked up a box. When I got home, I threw the arancini in the oven and heated up the bisque on the stovetop. The bisque was ready first so I served that up in some mugs as if we were in an authentic seafood spot.

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Whenever I mention bisque to Lola, she quotes the “Yada, Yada, Yada” episode of Seinfeld where Elaine explains to Jerry that she’s yada, yada’ed over sex before.

Elaine:             I met this lawyer, we went out to dinner, I had the lobster bisque, we went back to my place, yada, yada, yada, I never heard from him again.
Jerry:               But you yada yada’d over the best part.
Elaine:             No, I mentioned the bisque.

Kudos to Lola for quoting Seinfeld, but also some cheers to bisque for being the kind of food that you remember. A good bisque is craveworthy and remarkable. Something you think about having again as soon as you finish it. You pine for it. That wasn’t the bisque we had tonight. It wasn’t bad and naturally it was something made for mass consumption, so it wasn’t going to have that same allure as it would prepared fresh at a restaurant. To me, it tasted like lobster and sherry, which are two tastes that I don’t love. Lola gave me a better assessment. She said the bisque had a heavy lobster taste without the presence of lobster meat in every bite. That was disconcerting. She also felt it needed a creamier texture with a more genuine sherry taste. I guess it just felt a little manufactured. Again, I’m sure the fresh version at Legals is great. The at-home version just didn’t live up to yada, yada status.

I liked the arancini however. They heated up perfectly so the outside got a little crispy (as crispy as baking something can get) and when you bit in to one, the cheese would ooze out (but not in a molten lava kind of way). The rice was good and hardy so it kept everything together and it soaked in the flavor of the cheeses. There was a bit of a chemical taste to it and that was disappointing. It was a reminder about the difference between fresh and frozen food. Still, I liked them and they more than made up for my dislike of the bisque. Lola and I were late to the burrata fad but now that it’s almost over, we’re starting to really enjoy it. It worked well in this situation letting all that milky, creaminess ooze out in delight.

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I work in a place that serves a lot of lobster and you’d be surprised at the comments we get about how great it is. From the fresh lobster, to the claws to the lobster mac and cheese, people rant and rave about this crustacean as if they were magical. To some they are. But to me, they are just no big whoop. I’m never reaching for one nor do I ever feel lucky if one is served to me. In fact, I feel just the opposite. Still, I can appreciate all the hullabaloo that comes with lobster. I appreciate any food that gathers that kind of support and garners that kind of hysteria. That’s celebrating a food for the joy it brings. Who am I to poopoo that? Today, I’ll just heat up the bisque, look for the lobster, yada, yada, yada, and I’m off to my next celebration.

Next up: National Pancake Day

Day 420 – Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving

When looking for days to celebrate today, I came across something called Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving. Naturally this intrigued me. Who is Schwenkfelder? What does his (or her) Thanksgiving involve? Does this require cooking a giant turkey? Will there be pie? So, I went to the interwebs. It turns out that the Schwenkfelders are, like so many things along this quest, a Pennsylvania thing. They were a religious group of exiles that came to America in search of a land of religious tolerance. They landed in Philadelphia in 1734 and so grateful were they for their new land, that the day after they arrived the group held a thanksgiving service to celebrate and thank God for their new-found safety. Since then, for over 280 years now, a similar service has been held in one of the Schwenkfelder Churches. The feast is traditionally a simple one, mainly consisting of a meal of bread, butter, and apple butter – a meal more apt for the pious and dutiful. There is still a Schwenkfelder community in Pennsylvania, mainly in the Upper District of Hereford and Upper Hanover townships of the Perkiomen Valley, and they too would be celebrating this day of thanks. I figured I might as well join in.

I found a recipe for apple butter which looked somewhat easy to make but required a full day of slow-cooking. I decided that I didn’t have the time for that so on my daily trek to Clements, I looked for a jar of apple butter. I wasn’t exactly sure where to look for this but I decided that I should start by the peanut butter and jams. My instincts were right because that’s where I found some. I went with a brand called Mother’s Prize which sounded both old fashioned, good and creepy. Then I picked up a nice loaf of crusty bread to go with it. I knew I should pick up some other stuff for dinner too because if I served Lola bread and butter for dinner she’d write me a bad review on Yelp. To stay in the Schwenkfelder theme, I picked up some chicken and some Pennsylvania Dutch Egg Noodles. When it was time for dinner, I started with the bread and apple butter. I had tossed the bread in the oven so it got nice and warm and then spread the apple butter generously over the top. It smelled like applesauce and it kind of spread in a similar fashion, although it was much darker in color. I gave it to Lola and we took a moment to say a little prayer of Thanksgiving before enjoying.

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To be honest, this was actually really good and filling. I had made a good choice on the bread because it was nice and crusty on the outside and warm and doughy on the inside. The apple butter really tasted like an applesauce too, but with a thicker and deeper warming flavor. It gave you a hint of sweetness along with that touch of savory cinnamon joy. Were it a cooler Fall night, this would have been a treasure. Still, it was a delight and even Lola gave it a five-star rating. She may even have this again during the week as an afternoon snack. While we were munching on that, I cooked the rest of our non-traditional Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving feast. I had bought some chicken which Clements had breaded in garlic bread crumbs and I cooked those up in a skillet as the water for the noodles came to a boil. The egg noodles are a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food and honestly serving them was in the spirit of the day. The Pennsylvania Dutch, which the Schwenkfelders are a part of, has a rich history of food that has become part of the universal American diet. They have had a big influence on many of the fine tastes we know and love, so egg noodles today would be a tip of the cap to their culinary ingenuity. Plus, they’re delicious. Dinner was ready in no time.

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These were great too – at least the noodles were. I served them with butter which is the traditional preparation that the Pennsylvania Dutch prefer (although I felt like we were having the meal of a five-year old). The chicken was just ok – it was a little rubbery which if you have ever tasted rubbery chicken is a bad texture. But the noodles were hot and filling. I realized that when you have egg noodles, you need to serve them with some kind of gravy so the noodles can soak that up. I made a quick gravy to accompany the chicken, but it wasn’t my best work. In truth, it wasn’t the best dinner I’ve ever made, but it sufficed and it was a way to pay tribute to the gratefulness of the Schwenkfelders. It was a way to say thanks for finding a home in a land of religious tolerance. Oddly enough, tolerance seemed like a hot topic today with protests throughout the NFL about standing up for the flag or taking a knee to protest the oppression of people of color. Maybe we could all learn something from the Schwenkfelders about country and freedom. They were grateful to God because they had found a country that allowed for freedom of religion and speech. They saw this new land as a place where all men and women could find hope and prosperity to live without persecution for their beliefs. That kind of life would really be something to be grateful for.

I’m sure I didn’t celebrate Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving in the most traditional way and honestly, as someone from New England, how could I? Their ritual is steeped in the history of their people, their religion and their journey to America. Schwenkfelders live a life that’s probably a pit more devout than mine and they probably have more tried and true recipes that are part of this holiday. I did my best however. I discovered the joy of apple butter. I stuck to egg noodles on the side. And I even said thanks to the Good Lord for the blessings he has bestowed upon us. That counts in my book. I may not celebrate this again, but since it’s been going on for over 280 years, I don’t think the Schwenkfelders will care one way or the other. But for me, any holiday where you get to enjoy a feast, say thanks and take a knee in gratitude is ok in my book.

Next up: National Lobster Day

(Schwenkfelder information from the Schwenkfelders Exile Society website.)