Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WHAT IS A SENSATIONAL TRADITIONAL MEXICAN LUNCH WITHOUT FLAN!?!

Tomorrow for lunch I will go Mexican and it will be traditional, though none of the overly processed ingredients that leave you itching and tossing and turning from MSG nightmares. I will make my own tortillas from scratch, tortilla corn flour and water fried in hot oil until golden brown and served with homemade refried beans, boiled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and yellow onions. The homemade refried beans you have to begin preparing at least a day in advance don't forget because it is imperative that you soak them and then pick out the shells, rocks etc. that get into the bag. I may even throw together a homemade salsa to top it all off. The thing about traditional Mexican food when properly prepared is that it is far different then the Mexican food one orders in Mexican restaurants in the states. The traditional food is actually blander and thus purer and more delightful to eat. I know that sounds peculiar but I shun from the addition of extra salt on food. I feel it takes away from the natural flavor of the ingredients instead of enhancing them. The only thing I will do differently then they do in Mexico or at least in old Mexico is that I won't use lard. I really don't care for lard as I think it has dangerous effects on the body over the long haul. One in a while doesn't hurt but once in a while can easily become habitual. As a side I will put together a wonderful Mexican rice dish using onion, garlic, green peas, tomato juice, broth, chicken legs and topped off at the end with slices of boiled egg. Another side that must be included is succotash. This dish is easy and cheap to create. All you need is zucchini squash cubed, corn and lima beans (optional) sauteed in oil with onion, garlic and a pinch of cumin.

Did you know that originally the Mesoamerican Mexican people prepared their food over hot fires or by boiling. It wasn't until the Spanish arrived that frying food became a common method of cooking food in Mexico. Before the Spanish arrived bringing goats, pigs, sheep, cows, olive oil, onions, and a variety of spices the Mexican people ate as well a large variety of foods including turkey, other wild game and insects, fish, corn, chili peppers, mushrooms, beans, various seeds and other vegetables, tubers and various plants. The combination of the culinary cultures created the brilliant foods we have today in that country. Who doesn't love Mexican food? I don't know anybody. Though there are numerous corn based drinks I don't think I will tackle those recipes though atole is quite good. As I always do while preparing my Mexican cuisine I will play Jose Feliciano songs even though he isn't Mexcian, the music makes me think of Mexico and the wonderful trips I have taken there over the years. It saddens me that the country is going through such terrible times making traveling to certain areas rather dangerous and unpredictable. I will never forget those trips to Mazatlan and driving out to the desert town of La Noria in the beat up old blue pickup truck driven by a man named Jorge with a gold tooth and a cowboy hat chatting away in Spanish as if we could understand a word he was saying. Mexican music playing over the radio as the countryside rolled past, orange dust from the dirt road leaving a cloud behind us as we drove. We entered the old colonial town and ate tortillas topped with chicken and washed down with coca colas before heading over to the old abandoned Hacienda Las Moras that today has become a luxury hotel. I have written of the grounds before so I won't go into the details here. Mexico is such a beautiful country with a vibrant culture, beautiful women, friendly elders always ready for some company and a good laugh. And doesn't seem to you that everyone down there loves to dance. I can't wait to get back there and go to one of the zocalos and dance with the pretty girls in their traditional Mexican dresses with fresh flowers pinned in their hair.

But what traditional Mexican lunch can be complete without a delicious flan? My grandmother used to make the most wonderful flan I ever tasted. Flan is a creamy custard with a hint of orange. The ingredients are as follows:

1 cup of heavy cream

3 egg yolks

3 full eggs

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of whole milk

1/4 cup of orange juice

1 tablespoon of grated orange rind

1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Cooking instructions:
Melt sugar in a pan until it turns a light yellow/orange color. It takes between five and twelve minutes depending on altitude. Pour melted sugar into molds and let cool.

Pour all the ingredients except the heavy cream into a bowl and with a mixer get it nice and smooth. Then add the cream and blend for a few seconds so mixture is smooth and mixed. Then pour mixture over the cooled sugar in the molds.

In a deep baking pan place the molds and fill the baking pan halfway with boiling water. Place the baking pan into the oven and bake for at least an hour or until the mixture is set but jiggles when shaken. Once ready let the flan cool and put into the refrigerator for about 3 and a half hours and then it is ready to serve. To serve it loosen the flan from the mold with a knife by sliding it around the edge of the flan and serve flipped upside down on a plate. It is wonderful.




Monday, November 24, 2014

JUST GIMME THE LUTEFISK ON A BED OF MASHED PEAS ALREADY

Even though it is not yet Thanksgiving and being that it is my favorite holiday one might think I would have it on my mind, which I do, but tonight I made a heavy decision. I think this year for Christmas Eve I am going to have a traditional Norwegian "The Night Before Christmas."But I don't want the sound of television or video game zap, zap polluting the evening. I want it as if it is Vigmostad in 1842 with a foot of snow on the ground, 10 degrees outside, roasted spareribs on the rack and glasses of Mjop, the homemade wine that, even back then, the children would sip out of a sniffer.

My Christmas Eve's while I was growing up in New York were special times. My parents worked hard to make it so for us children and it was magical. Earlier in the evening we would go down to the church and put on a play telling the story of the birth of Jesus. Many hymns were sung, there was a candlelight vigil and a children's moment when my sister would sing to them, "Christmas was Meant for Children."  There was always snow on the ground back then or falling that night. I rarely remember a Christmas go by without a nice coating of snow on the ground. The misty breath in the chilly night and icicles as big as carrots hanging from the gutters. Afterward we'd drive around town and look at all the Christmas lights that people had on display. Then we would return home, the tree ablaze with lights, candles in all the windows of the house, the bushes with white lights making the snow glow, it was very beautiful. We'd then sit around the tree and tell stories and eat cookies and chocolates and my sisters would always open up a small present from my parents which was always jewelry. Before bed we would put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Grandma would always be there also for Christmas. She'd sit with a smile and tell us funny stories about her Christmas eves as a child in the early 1900's. She lived to be 101 before passing on a few years back.

So I figure this year I will make Christmas Eve special for my little one and being that she loves to bake she will make the Norwegian cookies, the bakkels and hjortetaaks. Of course I am not familiar with how to make these cookies though my great-grandmother most likely made them for my grandmother while she was growing up, so I looked up a recipe. It was as follows:

Eggs
Sugar
brandy
butter
amonium carbonate
cardimum
flour
lard

Notice the last ingredient...lard! In this day and age that is like saying a curse word. Cooking with sugar, yolk and lard has become a taboo in the age of olive oil, Splenda and egg whites, but the idea of baking cookies with my daughter using lard as in old norway seems so romantic with the Christmas music playing and the tree all lit up, glistening from the tinsel. In Norway back in the old days, to light the tree they used real candles. Talk about a fire hazard. The idea of having real flickering candles on the tree is magical and I imagine breathtakingly beautiful. The scent of the fresh pine aroma fused with the burning candles and cookies baking in the oven filled with sugar, brandy and lard, it is maudlin. For the Christmas dinner I am considering preparing a roasted rib rack served with mashed peas, boiled potatoes, Christmas sausage and cod boiled in salt water and served with a red wine sauce and lutefisk. Extravagent. You might be wondering what lutefisk is? It is a white fish that has been lying in water and lye for days. It is then cooked in the oven. The protein of the fish decreases by up to 50% and the fish turns into a gelatinous consistency. I have never had this holiday treat and to be honest it doesn't sound particularly appetizing being that jellied fish might take some acquiring, but I love fish, all seafood really and my favorite restaurant is a Norwegian eatery in Orlando, Florida with a fish buffet. It is located within Epcot and I believe it is called Akershus Princess Restaurant. Sensational atmosphere and food. After researching the preparation of Norwegian food I wonder if their food tasted as good as it did because it was both smoked and cooked in lard? We should leave the secrets to the chefs I say and enjoy the food while it is still fresh!

Norway seems to me, especially in winter to be such an enchanting land and cuisine and style of old-fashioned dress I practically want to go out and take Norwegian language classes. An interesting fact about my great-grandmother who immigrated to the United States from Norway in 1902 is that she sailed aboard the ship "The Majestic." The significance of this ship is that the Titanic was built to replace the Majestic and the captain of the Majestic in 1902 was non other than Edward Smith, the same captain that went down on the Titanic on that fateful nigh thirteen years later. With her she brought the traditions of Norway including a short record from a relative of how Norwegian Christmas was spent in the old country which is what gave me the idea. The importance of Christmas as all holidays is to make them as special and magical as possible, especially for the children. They will remember those wonderful holidays just as I did while I was growing up. An old Norwegian once said something to the effect of, "No matter where you are, you want to make Christmas special." Of course that is translated from Norwegian but it is something that is universal regardless of what country one lives in, rural or urban, rich or poor.

And if you want to get fancy and keep the atmosphere going, the following day, after everyone is finished opening presents and the light breakfast of toast and smoked salmon with a hard boiled egg, and why not throw in scrambled eggs and bacon, meat cuts, muffins with jam spread, coffee, fruits and after eights for desert you can serve up a nice farikal for lunch. Farikal is the national dish of norway and consists of mutton (lamb) and cabbage. All you do is layer the meat and cabbage in a large pot with salt and peppercorns, cover with water and simmer until the meat is tender. If you wish for a thicker situation add flour to your liking. The dish goes splendidly with peeled and halved boiled potatoes. And there you have it. You very first Norwegian holiday if you are so inclined as I will be this year. And don't forget to say grace before you eat!

By the way did you know that horse meat and whale meat are commonly used to make sausages in Norway? Other popular Norwegian dishes for your palate include:

Svinekoteletter - braised pork chops served with fried onions and potatoes.

Fiskboller - cod fish mashed together with cream, flour, heavy cream and eggs.

Krumkake - flour, eggs, heavy cream and sugar.

Smalahove - the boiled head of salted sheep.

Kjottboller - meatballs served with a heavy cream sauce.

Lapskaus - a sausage or meat stew with a variety of vegetables to your liking, potatoes, carrots, peas root vegetables, onions etc.

Stekte polser - fried sausages served with peas and potatoes.

Sodd - a meatball and mutton soup with vegetables.

Surslid - which is pickled herring that everyone is used to.

There are many more and variations of traditional recipes tweaked by the family cooks. It doesn't get any better than that. Kan jeg far se pa menyen?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'LL BACON YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING WITH BACON

This morning I couldn't help but wake up and throw half a pound of bacon into the skillet. The smell of bacon sizzling in a frying pan is like no other smell in the world. The only thing that comes close to it in terms of perfection is the aroma of an Ashton cigar or maybe a freshly poured Guinness. But really, the smell of bacon cooking, any time of the day, will make even a Vegan's mouth water and having bacon available, makes me wonder how anyone could say no to a nice fat helping. Pun intended. Some days it is just nice to fry up a good helping of bacon and stick it on a buttery English muffin and other days it goes well with eggs smothered in cheddar cheese. It goes well on pizza and wrapped around scallops or really any seafood for that matter. It goes well on a salad, with chicken, in a quiche, in any casserole or simply blended into your smoothie in the morning. Today I had two separate helpings. One on my eggs and cheese between two English muffins dripping with butter and the second time around plain. As always it hit the spot and was followed by a few hours of heartburn but nothing a couple of tums couldn't cure. As I sat in my recliner, feeling myself getting fatter, I wondered if it was possible to create a dish that bacon wouldn't go well with? The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that it would be an impossible feat. Bacon goes with everything. I think it would even go splendidly in a Miso soup with the seaweed and tofu. It is a superfood for the taste buds. There is nothing like it. Salt and butter can go with nearly everything but there are instances where both salt and butter ruin a dish, for example oatmeal. Neither salt nor butter enhance the flavor of the oatmeal but some crushed up bacon make it medieval good.

Earlier today I was watching a show about Henry VIII and his Hampton Court home. The majority of the show was about Henry and his wives, his fall from the horse that made him lame and crazy and the chaos that followed. It talked about the elegance of the palace where he lived and his obesity but then they got into why he became obese. One man located an old recipe from that time period, a bone marrow custard that he prepared and tasted on camera. He admitted that it was rich and very beefy, but also said that it wasn't exactly appetizing. The first thought that came to mind was, imagine Henry made the custard with fried bacon instead of bone marrow. He would have eaten a thousand of those little custards and died at 56 weighing 800 pounds instead of the paltry 400. The show said that the last fitted armor that was made for him had a girth sized 54. That is enormous. That can pretty much incapacitate a man and as for his attraction to the women you can imagine it dwindled. For Henry it did and one wife was so appalled by his disgusting appearance she wouldn't even kiss the ogre. Lucky for her it only ended in divorce instead of his affection for head removal. The king had a bad leg that he dragged about that he got from a fall jousting. And it is said after his fall that he may have injured his cerebral cortex which was why he became such a rotten bastard, but this hiccup in his personality, in my opinion, could have been cured with three square meals a day topped with the finest fried bacon accessible. You'd think even back then the queens would know that the quickest way to a man's heart was through his stomach. Henry knew it all too well only he went after the wrong dishes to combat his depression and habitual pain in the leg.

What is bacon you ask? The best bacon is streaky bacon and comes from pork belly. It is either cured by soaking in brine or dry curing in salt or smoked with different kinds of wood, peat, corn cob etc. Takes around 18 hours to cure bacon.

And no, turkey bacon is not a substitute! It is probably one of the leading causes of depression next to the seven day work week. How many of the world's problems could be solved by people starting off their day in a good mood and keeping that mood flying high by actually sitting down and enjoying a great meal? That line could easily be taken out of context by the plant eaters, but think of it metaphorically. Lose the discipline for a day and fry yourself some extra fatty bacon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

MOZART’S COFFIN: BODY OF A MASTER OR A BOX OF ROCKS IN ST. MARX CEMETERY


The mystery into the death and burial of my favorite composer has intrigued my mind since I first learned of his demise in detail during my trip to his hometown of Salzburg some years back. What truly became of the greatest mind of musical composition the world ever knew? How is it that there is no definitive record of his actual burial? Many claims that some were there and none were there. As tradition of the times his wife Constanze remained home in mourning but did his friends stand by on that calm day to make sure he was carefully put into the ground by the gravedigger? It is said that he was abnormally thrown into a pauper’s grave with fifteen to twenty other coffins but if that was the case then someone was there and was able to see what had become of him. We will never know the truth and the location of this mysterious grave is a mystery. How odd it is that his wife didn’t visit his grave until seventeen years later. How odd it is that he may have been poisoned. When his sister-in-law Sophie inquired for a priest to give him is last rites the priests in Vienna refused saying that Mozart lived his life in sin. That he was not a good Catholic. A man lying on his deathbed should never be rejected a last rite. What sin aside from murder, rape and molestation of a child, none of which Mozart was accused, could be so bad to turn away the men of God? Politics I imagine. The power of politics and corrupted influence. Maybe it was the jealousy of Mozart’s fame and his egotism of his unbelievable talents. It is all a wonder and puzzlement to me what happened leading up to five minutes to one in the morning on December 5, 1791 when he breathed his last breath, his sparse funeral in the lobby of St. Stephen’s cathedral and the supposed burial in a pauper’s grave. A man of his stature never received such ill treatment in the history of Vienna at that time, before or since. Could his gigantic debts have played into this monstrosity? Surly there were friends and family that would have taken up a collection for him even if his bitter wife refrained. It bothered me then when I first learned about it and it bothers me still today. Was Mozart’s coffin really only filled with rocks and put into the pauper’s grave to mislead a curious public and his remains secretly buried elsewhere? Did his wife actually visit is grave regularly along with friends and all of them taking the actual location of Mozart’s body to their graves with them? As curious as it would be to learn the truth maybe it is better off that he rests in peace wherever he lays, hidden, away from the prying utensils of science.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

THE AMELIA EARHART EPILOGUE

First of all scientists better be pretty damn sure that they actually found a piece of her plane or getting something that big wrong is grounds for immediate exile. The piece of aluminum was discovered back in 1991 on an uninhabited atoll. The next question that is sure to follow is, "What about the body?" Not just one body but two. Ameila also had a navigator with her. More than likely they had gotten lost and ran out of gas but what are the chances that maybe they survived the crash? In 1937 the pair had taken off from Puerto Rico in search of immortality of which they achieved. Over the years there have been many different ideas and theories as to what might have become of her. For a time the claim was that she had been shot down over or near a Pacific Island and held prisoner by the Japanese eventually being either executed or freed and living out the rest of her years at the base of Mount Fuji. Another rumor was that the plane was forced out of the sky by a colony of giant pterodactyls. Believe what you want. She bought her first plane for $2,000 and thought she had been ripped off. You can't even buy a good lawn mower for that kind of money anymore. Gas prices are lowering as they always do right before an election. And then right afterwards filling up your Beamer gas tank feels like your filling up a G5.

Amelia Earhart learned to fly at an airfield near Long Beach, CA, the city where I used to live. Her instructor charged her $1 an hour or so it's said. Not a bad deal. For that kind of bargain I'd take flying lessons though I'm so uncoordinated and absent minded I would most definitely crash. One thing I think about with Earhart is the "what if" factor. What if she survived the crash and was able to make it to the small island. At first you'd be grateful that you survived but then the thirst, hunger, sickness, loneliness, depression, sunburn come into play and you start wishing you'd been killed outright in the crash. The death would have been a slow and painful one, even if she'd sustained injuries and died of infection or fever.

Sometimes mysteries are better left as mysteries. The headline read "Finally Found!" Or something to that effect, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, maybe that wasn't such a wonderful thing. If I was her i'd be turning over in my grave because that will be the end of the legend. More than likely if she was discovered her story will quietly slide off into history and become just another statistic of a plane crash. The shows about her used to keep me glued to the T.V. Death is such a mysterious thing and dying in a mysterious way such as Amelia Earhart, Mozart, Vincent Van Gogh and others just adds to the immortality even though in life they may have suffered. Now of course people will take that comment out of context but it is what it is.

Earhart was an interesting person in life and of course the legend that most people are familiar with, but what you might not know is that she was a good student. Good students make good airplane pilots or at least that is supposed to be the idea. The fact of Ameila's disappearance isn't due to her academic prowess but the lack of technology of the times. Anyone interested in flight knows that the chances of a smaller plane going down is far, far higher than a jumbo jet that rarely ever crash. Amelia was an explorer, a product of her time and she perished as so many before her like Faucett searching for The Lost City of Z, Ambrose Bierce and others.

I hope her legend continues to live on even if her plane is discovered. Should her remains be found on the island than that will open up a whole new collection of theories and tales, though only time will tell.

Monday, October 27, 2014

PARIS HILTON HOEDOWN AT THE GRAND CAYMAN OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

Paris Hilton in a twitter war with a rival D.J. over her newly acquired spin skills. Hilton hits the nightclubs of the Mediterranean raking in millions in a couple of nights of a pulse pounding, block party, two-stepping, all-night hoedown. The rumor in the mill was that another D.J., whose name I forgot, was/is aggravated because, in my opinion, she simply has more sex appeal and as Marilynn Monroe taught us, sex sells. D.J. music sounds the same in every club you go into, so branding becomes the big thing, marketing an image and who has a bigger club scene image than the Hilton girls, particularly Paris? Ask any cranked up 16-year old, four shots to the wind, and they will tell you the same. So what's the big deal? Girls just wanna have fun. If anyone knows the club scene it is Paris Hilton. I don't understand the angle that D.J. was going for bashing this girl for trying to make a buck. I am not a fan, per say, of Paris Hilton and I don't even know the name of the angry D.J., but to save face now would be a good time for him to quietly bow out of the feud. I don't know the D.J. and I am not familiar with club music so he might be good at what he does, I am not belittling his talent, just his participation in a feud that is as boring as shoveling pig shit into a bucket. He should know that Paris Hilton is the queen of twitter and other social media feuds and is currently in another one with Kelly Osbourne. No comment on that one. All press is good press they say. Anyone who can make $2.7 million for a couple nights of DJ-ing has my kudos any day of the week, you go girl. Kinda makes me wish I was skinny and blonde.

Say what you want about her but she is a fun read. I wouldn't call it talent or even being in the right place at the right time. It is a coordinated lifestyle that is impossible not to have an opinion about. Some see it as shallow and lame, others as glamorous and sexy but who really cares what the label is if it's bringing in the bread and not hurting anybody. So I guess that would mean a short-lived career in mixed martial arts is out of the question... Cage match Paris vs. Shailene Woodley. Talk about "Hot." Sorry Paris, but Shailene would knock you out in about two minutes. Though I probably would put my money on you against that D.J.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SOUNDS OF THE STREET REDUNDANCY

The sounds of the street below are redundant. The horns, the rush of traffic, the 

metallic clanging of trucks driving over sheets of metal placed over swollen and 

decrepit areas of 1st avenue desperate for repairs. The neighborhood uninterested in 

changing its old ways, driven to despair. Tenets in the old tenement putting in their 

time. The daily grind. Making love and severing ties. Un-walked dogs bark from 

claustrophobia and seclusion. Park benches worn. There are no stars to be scene, 

only neon chaos. Chinese food sits heavy in bellies. Strong drinks lighten the mind. 

Weary souls wander the streets like rats. The stink of summer air. The detachment of 

bitter winter. Cold pavement and snowy rooftops. Lonelieness becomes lethargy, 

isolation like a leper. Love the disillusion, the grim fantasy. The hysterically laughing 

bum, high on cheap bourbon, rotten teeth and rotted dreams. Tenement life. Tortured 

life. A writer’s life. A long time ago.