I Just Drove Back From Baltimore And Boy Are My Crab Cakes Tired

It was a big meeting full of blowhards. Of which I am one.

Early arrival the evening before meant time to scope out the local crab cake scene. Had two giant and delicious ones at a modest family restaurant attached to a Ramada Inn. Then came a group dinner at a fancier well-known crab house where the crab cakes were just as big but even more delicious and more expensive.

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Not enough room for the side dishes. A single crab cake took up all the dinner plate real estate.

Since this was a business dinner, I had to stay sharp which means I had to forego my customary bottomless martini glass. So in summary: Crab cake levels are up; cocktail levels are down.

Speaking of shellfish …
Without confessing too much about my customary television watching habits, let’s just say that I became familiar with the bombastic creations of Sondra Celli through the American version of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. There’s one particular piece that I cannot stop thinking about and that is the Lobster Dress that she made for Miss Maine to wear in the 2013 Miss America pageant.
sondra celli lobster dress miss maine

“We really went to town on the shoes. We wanted people to see them and have a heart attack,” said Sondra Celli, the Boston designer who outfitted the sea-inspired look

Love at first sight. What you can see of the ensemble here is most enchanting – the big ruffled skirt, the bead work on the bodice  that has not just rhinestones but real shells and clear acrylic beads that look like water droplets, the headpiece that looks like a live lobster tangled up in a net with shells and seaweed, the sandy-bottom lighthouse heeled shoes … It is not an exaggeration to  use the word fabulous here. Click the pic to get a real eyeful. But! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Look at the back:

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The lobster tail train is created with boning and wire bends and folds like a crustacean. “We went to bed dreaming … ‘What can I do to this to make it look like a gown?’” said Celli. And this is her genius. Most people would look at a gown and think “What can I do to make this look like a lobster?” Sondra’s looking at a lobster and picturing it as a gown.

 

 My favorite part is the tail fins that drag on the floor. You can see them better in B&W:
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I’m past the prime ballgown-wearing stage of my life but I’m telling you right now, if I should ever go to a  pageant, a ball or get up on stage for anything, I am going straight to Sondra Celli for something outrageous and blingy. Like, I could be a big sparkly pieorgi or maybe a Meyer lemon tree with Christmas lights embedded in the train and a tiara made of fragrant and shiny green leaves and blossoms. Something that reflects the inner me. Maybe something queen-like done  up in shimmering  aqua and adorned with  ice cubes and my golden hair is done up to resemble twisted lemon peel.

First They Came For The School Lunches

and I did not speak up because I didn’t buy school lunches. Then they came for the mothers…

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This could have been an entirely different blog post if they had titled the article “Study find that home-cooking disproportionately burdens High Powered Executive Business Women.” I could have gladly agreed with that.

Stupid mothers! First you can’t even figure out what to feed your kids to keep them from becoming obese and now you have to waste everybody’s  valuable time “… preparing meals, only to be rewarded with family members’ complaints — or disinterest.”

Why even bother? The future is now! Why don’t we just have communal town suppers? Or maybe wait for the healthy food trucks to come rolling down suburban streets? Stupid mothers, you can save your  time money energy and focus by letting someone else worry about what your family members should eat and how it should be prepared. Someone who knows better than you, stupid mothers. Someone who will select, cook, deliver and monitor your family’s intake. Never mind who the recipients of these services will be or who will pay for them. That’s not the point.

And now that we’ve got the from each according to his ability part down, we can all move on to each according to his need. Phase III coming soon to a family near you:  How Much Food Does Grandma Really Need Anyway?

Footnote: Mothers with a Princeton and Harvard education who cannot figure out what to feed two little girls are not included in the definition of “stupid mother.”

I Am Less Sure About Things Than I Used To Be

Last night, I found a big staple in my take-out potato salad. I wouldn’t mention except that this happened shortly after I had take-out chicken wings that still had some feathers on them.

Now the chicken wings came from a Chinese take-out place. I’ve had them before and they were very good. They weren’t your basic hot wing configuration with the  drumette separated from that other double bone part and then they have the nerve to tell you that you just ordered the 8-pc size implying that you got 8 wings when in reality you received only 4 wings total. No, the Chinese chicken wings are whole wings, coated and deep fried.

There are benefits to ordering your fried chicken wings from a Chinese take-out. First, they are on the “side order” menu, lumped randomly with other fried things like french fries and fried crab sticks. And they come 4 to an order so you don’t have to make a commitment to more wings than you want and that gives you latitude to get fried dumplings or a small lo mein as well. Also, there are a lot of items that your husband can order for his own dinner if he ever should ever want to order anything besides the Chicken with Broccoli combination dinner.

So one night when it was obvious that we missed the shoppping/cooking window for dinner preparation, we started wondering what we should eat for dinner and where should we get it from. I hadn’t had wings in a while so I was really looking forward to them. Sami says he didn’t see them but I sure did. White feathers on the edges of the wings. Maybe they were pin feathers but even so they were pretty sizeable, something like 3/4″ long. You would think that someone would have seen them when they coated them or when they put them into the fryer or when they took them out of the fryer. Pretty hard to miss.

And it just tuned me off of that place all together. We’ve tried other Chinese take-outs (but not for fried  chicken wings) and they haven’t been good for one reason or another. And Sami doesn’t mind going back to the same old place for himself because he didn’t actually see the feathers. But its ruined for me. I can never have take -out from that place again and I cannot even think about fried chicken wings without seeing those feathers in my mind’s eye.

A few weeks after this incident, Sami told the the place recently got a new owner and that fits the timeline for a likely new directive to find a cheaper meat supplier, hence the carelessly plucked chicken wings.

Last night, we were in that same old  missed the shoppping/cooking window for dinner preparation and so we decided to order BBQ ribs with small sides of cole slaw and potato salad. Not from the Chinese place, from Chicken Holiday. I always forget that BBQ ribs mean beef ribs, not dainty little pork ribs like you’d get from the Chinese place which you already know I cannot patronize anymore. Lucky for me or maybe not so lucky, the ribs were huge and super greasy and the sides were extra tangy in a way that I would never make if I were making them so I only ate about half of everything and when I was scraping the potato salad off my plate, I saw this very big staple emerge from the mayonnaise.

And so goodbye forever to Chicken Holiday.

So maybe I’ve been eating feathers and staples in take-out food all along. And my mother once told me she knew somebody who knew somebody who found a little green snake head in a bag of frozen green beans, so there’s that too. Must I give up my lazy life style of take-out food on the spur of the moment and return to home cooking in which I would be the cook? If any of you reading that last sentence think that is ever going to happen, then you are either a first-time reader, a big dreamer or a highly gullible individual.

It’s big problem.  I’m probably going to starve to death.

 

Big Yes For Government Regulation

I know! I never thought I’d want this either but there’s a story in the news that struck a deep chord with me. This is something I’ve been grousing about to anyone who would listen so I am glad to add my support for this:

Sabra Files FDA Petition to Establish Standard of Identity for Hummus “A food item that is not made of chickpeas… is not hummus.”

 Sabra Dipping Company has filed a citizen’s petition with the FDA to establish a standard of identity in the United States for hummus under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.According to the petition, hummus must be comprised (by weight, besides water) predominately of chickpeas, and must be no less than 5% tahini. 

That’s right, posers. No white bean hummus, no red bean hummus, no small dish of paste calling itself hummus. Hummus has always been a simple dish, a staple of Mideastern diets and made of unvarying ingredients. Then the hipster  foodies came for it.

Although these two don’t look like they’ve ever laid eyes on the Mediterranean, they are online to demonstrate the only authentic hummus recipe. The key move is the sprinkle of cumin on top when it’s served.

I am so onboard with this movement that I am prepared to break it down into three separate  stages:

  • Stage One: No monkeying around. Limit the term hummus to the classic Mideastern recipe using chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Period.
  • Stage Two: No vegetables. Deny use of anything except fresh warm pita bread, ripped into pieces from an 8″ round – for dipping. No carrot sticks, no celery sticks, no cucumber slices, no corn tortilla chips, no dehydrated sweet potato slices, no crackers and no commercial pita chips*.
  • Stage Three:  No Sabra. Give it up, Israelis. Stop trying to take over Arabic foods and pretending they were yours first. This goes for hummus and for falafel, too.

So there we have it. Go out and get a can of chickpeas and some tahini. Don’t under any circumstances substitute peanut butter for the tahini.

*I confess that on occasion, I have used a stuffed grape leaf as a hummus delivery device. Sue me.

A Mature Businesswoman Sits Alone

No matter how much insight I gain into my behaviors or how much planning I do to become a better version of myself, my first instinct when I find myself alone is to “eat something good.”

The criteria for “eating something good” has a small picklist:

  1. an odd food combination
  2. a leftover
  3. a vast quantity
  4. a messy food
  5. must always be eaten in complete privacy

I am able to adapt these specifications to the home setting as well as business travel.  Examples:

  1. an odd food combination

I have been known to place a room service order for hot wings and a yogurt & fruit plate with granola. In fact, that’s almost always what I order from room service. Traveler tip: never order a chicken pot pie from room service. The thing that is delivered to you is not a pot pie and the only relationship it has with an actual pot pie is that there are recognizable cubes of chicken meat in it.

2. a leftover

Best served cold! Includes lobster from last night’s business dinner kept in the mini fridge overnight.

3. a vast quantity

Now’s your chance. Eat it up. The best is to eat it all but if that cannot be done, then at least east a lot of it.

4. a messy food

Anything that is likely to drip onto your clothes or your chin. All perverts please leave now. I like to keep 20 paper napkins nearby for these events. Then I throw them all away even if I only use 2. Come and get me, environmentalists.

5. must always be eaten in complete privacy

This lets out restaurants and other humans. Dogs are okay but sharing with them is not.

And so I’m sitting in the pre-dawn Saturday eating angel hair pasta with cottage cheese and diced green peppers while I watch a chopped down Sex In The City episode from the 90s. It’s not that good. The plot is Carrie suffers a disappointment from Mr Big, Charlotte’s vision of perfection is shattered, Miranda flashes a big yellow-toothed smile and Samantha purrs. I only like the episodes where Baryshnikov has a recurring albeit unbelievable role as Carrie’s love interest.

p.s. – I couldn’t finish all of the pasta but I gave it a good shot.

 

 

6 AM Theater

I don’t know about you but when I first get up in the morning, the last thing I want is to get riled up over the news or – lately – the weather. What I want is to ease myself gently into the day. In nice weather, I do that out on the deck. In winter, I do it in front of the TV.

So at 6am, my best TV option for that gentle transition  is Father Knows Best. A few days ago, Cornel Wilde was the guest star and he came to the Anderson house to consult Father on urgent matters of car insurance. One thing led to another and Margaret invited him to share their dinner of pork chops. Cornel Wilde accepted and expressed hope that the pork chops would be baked with sour cream and onions the way his mother used to make. Margaret said that coincidentally, that is exactly what she was serving that night while Father stood by and looked like he’d rather get his hair cut by Fronk the gardener’s lawn mower than have anything to do with  pork chops baked with sour cream and onions.

Margaret appears with a silver tray full of  caviar canapes and then Cornel Wilde volunteers to babysit for Kathy so Father and Margaret can keep their date to play cards with another couple. Father refers to the caviar canapes as “this junk” as soon as Margaret is out of earshot and enlists Cornel Wilde in a chummy laugh about it because this is after all the patriarchy that we’re talking about.

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Don’t laugh, Margaret. They’re laughing at you.

Bud spilled the beans when he thoughtlessly stated that his mother was making him run to the store for sour cream and onions. Everybody had a good natured laugh when the truth came out but Margaret said she really thought she might like to try making them that way. Apparent, her plan was to use this recipe:

  • Step 1  – glob some sour cream and onions on top of pork chops
  • Step 2 – bake.

… which if it’s good enough for Margaret Anderson, it’s good enough for me. And so that’s what I did today but instead of using an oven I used a crock pot. And so the nice little thin pork chops coated in flour, fried in a pan and then squirted by a thick wedge of lemon immediately before serving that had been filling my dreams got hijacked by Cornel Wilde.  Or more likely by some Hollywood script writer who made it up out of whole cloth, if this is anything to go by:

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So the pork chops crocked with sour cream and onions were good but they were not the pan fried pork chops of my dreams. Frankly, I don’t know what Cornel Wilde sees in them.

Another dinner time observation from Father Knows Best: Do you realize that Father sits at the head of the table with all of the dinner plates stacked in front of him and surrounded by serving bowls? I saw him dish out a meat lump, a baked potato still in its jacket and exactly 2 spoons of peas onto a dinner plate and then pass it down the side of the table until all were served. He is a practiced Father so he was able to do this while keeping up some  light dinner table patter and simultaneously wondering what was bothering Bud. The thing I found so interesting was that Father used the same two serving utensils to take from first the meat lump dish and then the potato dish, then he would delicately lay them facing each other into the potato dish and pick up the dish of peas which had its own serving spoon sticking out of it. I was fascinated.

Really, when you sit alone in a dark room staring a the TV as you slowly sharpen up for the day, these things can make quite an impression on you.