Saturday Morning Coffee

Hello, friends! Are you still too stuffed from the Thanksgiving holiday to sit and chat over a cup of coffee? Continue reading “Saturday Morning Coffee”

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Copper or Fondue ?

Seven years ago today, Krystal and I married (each other, in case that needed clarification).

Copper is the tradition gift for one’s seventh anniversary. But while I am (mostly) tradition, Krystal (most definitely) is not. She gave me:

Anniversary Penny

Yes, it’s a 2012 penny, and this is what she said:

I looked for a new penny on purpose because I knew you’d look at it and say something like “Pennies haven’t been made of copper since 1982; that’s why I collect pennies before 1982 for squishing“.

Well, thanks to you, I already know all of that. I just gave you the penny to see if you’d say it. Muwahahahahaha

We didn’t exchange actual gifts this year, but we did go to our normal anniversary restaurant: The Melting Pot.

Melting Pot Raleigh

As it’s a bit pricey for our normal budget, this is a once-a-year, save-all-year event. We first went to the Melting Pot for our second anniversary, and we missed last year due to finances as Krystal was out of work, making this our Fifth Fondue-versary. We’ve never been disappointed.

Our server for the evening was Emily, who just so happened to be a first-year high school history teacher! As we arrived early in the evening, the restaurant was not yet busy so Krystal and I were able to spend some time giving her tips for surviving the first year.

But now, on to the good stuff.

The Menu

Cheese Course

Bourbon Bacon Cheddar – cheddar cheese, lager beer, mustard powder, garlic, bacon, Worcestershire, and a splash of bourbon.

Dippers included white & brown bread, carrots, tomatoes, and green apples.

Cheese Fondue

Salad Course

Krystal ordered the Caesar Salad – Romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, croutons, Parmesan-crusted pine nuts, Caesar dressing.

I had the House Salad – Iceberg lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, croutons, and a thinly sliced egg tossed with tangy house dressing.

I didn’t take a picture of the salads.

Main Course

We chose the bourguigonne fondue, a European-style fondue in canola oil that came with tempura and sesame batters.

We chose two different plates to mix and match our tastes:

The French Quarter – Cajun-spice-crusted filet mignon, chicken breast, and Pacific white shrimp along with andouille sausage.

I liked the chicken, but the sausage was only so-so. Growing up near authentic German & Polish delicatessens ruined me in that regard.

The Pacific Rim – Teriyaki- marinated sirloin, honey orange duck breast, more Pacific white shrimp, and chicken potstickers.

Krystal had the shrimp as I find it disgusting.

The duck is best, especially with an orange-cranberry-teriyaki glaze.

The plates also came with vegetables, including mushrooms, broccoli, and potatoes. The stuffed mushrooms once can make are second only to the duck.

Dessert

Around this time the manager came over to our table with an anniversary card from the Melting Pot staff. Such a nice touch!

We saw a new-to-us chocolate on the menu: tiramisu – espresso mousse & ladyfingers blended in creamy milk chocolate. It tasted just like tiramisu should.

As we also had a gift card, we decided to splurge a little more and get an “enhanced” dipper plate with out dessert. In addition to the usual bits of pound cake, blondies, and brownies and the slices of strawberries, bananas, and pineapple and whole marshmallows, we also received a large slice of rich chocolate-caramel cheesecake, two cream puffs, and rolled gaufrettes (a potato-flour wafer).

Worth every penny.

But Wait, There’s More!

A few weeks ago I received an email with a voucher good for a take-home box of hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberries.

They survived the two-hour-plus trip home and tasted delicious.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 

Until next year, Melting Pot . . .

 


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O Nerdmass Tree, O Nerdmass Tree

The Christmas season has officially begun.

While my season begins with Advent, I am the only observer in my immediate circle of family and friends, so family Christmas begins with Trimming the Tree.

Last night my wife and I sat down to a dinner of grilled cheese and tomato soup, put on the holiday classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas (both animated and live-action versions) and decorated the Christmas tree. Well, I got the tree out of the attic, aligned the pieces, checked the pre-strung lights, and let Krystal arrange everything else. She is so much better than I am at that sort of thing. I just kind of throw the ornaments around willy-nilly and let things land as they may. Apparently, that only works with tinsel – which we don’t use as it attracts unwanted attention from Smokey.

Over the years we’ve amassed a few ornaments; it’s become somewhat of a tradition to get three ornaments each year:

One ornament that reflects our interests.
One ornament from Starbucks.
One random ornament from Hallmark on clearance after the holidays.

This year, we realized just how nerdy our tree actually is:

An Apple [Pie] a Day

 
I’ve heard it said there’s nothing more American than baseball and apple pie.

Baseball I can do without.

Apple pie is another story.

 

Specifically, this story.

 

My pie starts with Grandmother’s pie.

For years, Grandma baked deserts for the lunch counter at the local sale barn.

Sadly, her legendary lemon meringue secret died with her.

When my mother married my father, she determined to make a better apple pie – specifically a better pie crust – than Grandma.

For years she labored, until one day Grandpa John said

I reckon this pie’s just as good as Gertie’s.

At least, he said something remarkably similar. This was before I was born.

 


 

Interestingly enough, when we moved Grandma out of that house sometime in the early 2000s, we found the secret to her pie crust:

packaged, premixed Flako Pie Crust

Flako Pie Crust Advert - Copy

Grandma was a cheater.

 


 

And so, for as long as I can remember, Mom made the best apple pie – no questions asked (or answered, for that matter).

I wish I could say I learned mad ninja pie skills at Mom’s knee, but the truth is I never really paid attention to what Mom did in the kitchen. What came out of the kitchen, everyone paid attention to.

Like countless generations before me, I didn’t miss Mom’s apple pie until I left home. One year I was given a very nice Pampered Chef stoneware pie plate, and I thought

I’m not going to let this go to waste. I’m going to learn to make an apple pie.

So I emailed Mom; several weeks later I received actual, hand-written recipe cards for our growing collection.

Even if I failed, I’d have these priceless family momentos.

Apple Pie Recipe Cards

I had several false starts.

Delicious false starts, but not quite what I wanted.

I set out to make Mom’s pie recipe my own.

I experimented with apple varieties.

I tweaked spice combinations.

I adjusted various and sundry quantities.

Finally, I baked a pie I was proud to call my own.

And when they next visited, Dad said

I think this pie is just as good as Mom’s.

And he’s not just saying that.

My pie is now in demand at nearly every holiday party.

My students frequently request a pie or two throughout the year.

If they pay for the ingredients, I’ll make them a few.

$20 will buy all the ingredients for two pies.

In fact, I’m baking pies today for a get-together tomorrow.

I started getting messages last Sunday that folks were anticipating my pie.

Now, I won’t tell you exactly what goes into my apple pie, but here’s some pictures to whet your appetite:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And don’t worry; I’m not the next Mrs. Lovett – or Mr. Lovett as the case may be.

 


 

Thanks to Vanessa of Petal & Mortar for contributing to the Prompt Box!

Apple Pie Prompt Card
 


 

Have a suggestion for a poem, photograph, or future post?

Drop a note in the prompt box!

 

Don’t forget to follow me on:

 
Facebook – where I share news stories, articles from other blogs, and various and sundry miscellany that happens to catch my eye. It’s stuff you won’t see here! Well, mostly.

Instagram – where I show you my Life in Motion and share quotes and such. The widget only shows my last three photographs – don’t you want to see them all?

Twitter – where you can see my thoughts in 140 characters or less. Also, funny retweets.

Pennsylvania Sympathy Ham

KummerspeckThe Germans have a wonderfully exact word (is there any other kind in German?) called kummerspeck. Idiomatically, it refers to weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, it means “grief bacon.” In the part of Pennsylvania where I grew up, we had a similar term. We called it “sympathy ham.”

I have no idea where the term came from, but I don’t think it’s related to the Germans (unfortunately). We’re a bit too far removed from the Pennsylvania Dutch/Deutsch for a cultural impact. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s possible.

Sympathy ham only came around when there’d been a death in the family. Where others might bring casseroles or stews or things like that, the people of Wayne County brought ham. Lots and lots and lots of ham. Baked ham, smoked ham, ham sandwiches, ham soup, and yes, ham casseroles. Glorious, salty ham.

Wait a minute! This is supposed to be about foods for celebration, and here I am talking about death. To you, a funeral is not a cause for celebration (unless you’re one of those kinds of people), but for me, a funeral is a celebration of life. We sit and talk about our loved ones: the things we remember fondly, their quirks and idiosyncrasies, family stories they had shared, and sometimes wondering about things we’d found out just a bit too late. All the time we munch on ham: ham with mustard, ham with mayonnaise, cold ham, hot ham, ham in all its varieties. Think of it like a modern wake, but without the alcohol. Great. Now I’m stereotyping. Sorry.

When my grandmother died, the ham seemed infinite. Our car seemed packed with it after church; our doorbell would ring, and there was more ham; I think someone even brought ham to the viewing. Perhaps I’m remembering that wrong. Whatever. Our refrigerators and freezers were soon maxed out with majestic ham. I think we ate ham for a month or more.

I know that science and medicine claim that salt may help stave off depression and that depression is likely to kick in after the death of a loved one, but I don’t sit down and eat ham thinking “man, I’m depressed. I need more salt.” I eat it because of the memories. Because when I eat ham I’m back in Pennsylvania sitting with family talking about days done by and things I never knew, things I half remember, and things I know all too well. Ham is the catalyst for my family’s history. Without it, I would be lost.

 A Note from the Author

Writing 101 has challenged me. Today, we’re supposed to write in our own voice, as if we were talking to a friend over coffee. So that’s what I did. I made myself some coffee and had a friend ask me “So, what’s sympathy ham?” and typed my response as if I were verbally answering them. It might be disjointed, but that’s how most of my conversations go: I start out technical, then realize I’m being too technical, and start to dial it back. Thanks for your continued patience.

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 10: Tell about your favorite meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory. Tell the story in your own distinct voice.


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