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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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food

Just Fish Eggs

In simple terms, caviar is Sturgeon fish eggs.  There are several species of Sturgeon fish.  As a result, the caviar produced varies in colors depending on the species.  Caviar is full of protein and vitamins making the delicacy a healthy meal.  The United States was the leading distributor of caviar around the year 1900 producing over 600 tons a year. However, due to the over harvesting of Sturgeon fish for the caviar, a ban was put in place to protect the Sturgeon from becoming extinct.  The population has never recovered sufficiently since the ban, resulting in caviar’s continued status as a luxury item.  (Courtesy-National Day of Calendar)

When I was a kid we had a place on one of the Finger Lakes in New York state. We often ate pan fish, sun-fish and perch, that we caught ourselves. My three older sisters and I learned to clean the fish at an early age. We were taught to carefully slice open the fish to remove the innards and retrieve any egg sacks. The girl who found the egg sack had first dibs on eating it once Dad fried it. We rarely gave one up, unless Mom wanted it. She called it the caviar of the poor.

About ten years ago I went to a very posh wedding in Boston. The tables had eight layers of table cloths and it was hard to pull your chair up to the table because there was so much fabric in the way. How do I know? To my husbands chagrin, I leaned down and counted them. I’m a fabric nut. The hors d’oeuvre table had black caviar on it. Most people, who had never even tried it, stuck their nose up, said “Fish-eggs,” and walked away. I had at least three bites and enjoyed them tremendously. This reception was a total waste of money in my opinion, I would have preferred to have had the cash to put down on a house, but then I’m way to practical for my own good. Side note; the couple is still married and they have four children.

For fun I looked up the price of caviar. You can get a can about the size of a snuff can for anywhere from $400.00 to $1200.00 depending on the type of sturgeon and where it is caught. Thank you, no, I’ll stick to my pan fish type and enjoy every little tiny egg with no salt added.

 

 

Everyone’s Favorite

It’s National French Fry Day. I can’t think of a single person in my circle that doesn’t like the finger shaped deep fried potatoes. I do know a few people that choose not to eat them because they are greasy and all carbohydrates, but those people have more will-power than I do.

In the early 1970’s as a young military wife, I had the privilege of living in England for three years. The first time I heard talk of going to the “Chippy” I thought they were talking about the flat slivers of deep fried potatoes. You find out what a big world it is when the same words have different meanings. Of course, they were talking about French Fries. I have fond memories of the Rock fish and chips wrapped in the large sheets of paper that looked like the paper you pack your dishes in when you move. I can still smell the aroma that was noticeable a few buildings from the shop.

When I moved to Washington state in 1979, I had another lesson in how to eat fer-fer’s as my son called them when he was little. It was very common in the restaurant I worked at to be asked for tarter sauce to dip fries in. I couldn’t see dipping something greasy in more fat, but once I tried it I was hooked.

In Mississippi we ordered potato wedges. They took a baking potato, cut it into four quarters lengthwise and fried those big pieces until the outside was almost crunchy and the inside was hot, fluffy and very white. That’s where I learned to eat my hot fries first and the rest of the meal after because cool fries just aren’t as pleasing to the mouth as hot ones are. There we sprinkled on white vinegar and chased it with ketchup.

Today my grandchildren dunk everything in ranch dressing. I guess dunking French Fries in something has been around as long as French Fries have been. If you want a healthier version you can coat your potatoes in olive oil and bake them, or use sweet potatoes. No matter which form, or what you dunk them in, I think most everyone will agree, hot and fresh is best.

Tis The Season

It’s National Strawberry Sundae Day. In western New York state, we are at the peak of strawberry season. I like to drive by the fields and see the people crouched down to pick their own strawberries. The plants grow very close to the ground so picking them can be as painful as it is rewarding. I admit, we don’t pick our own anymore.

Growing up my family preferred strawberry shortcake. My mother would make a fresh buttermilk biscuit the size of a round cake pan. Once it was cool enough to handle she would flop it into one of her hands, then carefully slice it in half crosswise. The bottom half would go on a large plate. She would slather it with butter then cover it with fresh smashed strawberries. Next she would turn the top of the biscuit upside down on the bottom layer so it too could absorb a layer of butter, then more strawberries would be poured on top of that. We always let it sit while making fresh whipped cream to top it with. The result was a gooey, yummy dessert, only enjoyed when there were fresh strawberries.

Currently my husband and I have a local farm we like to go to. They have a dessert stand and you can get either a strawberry sundae or shortcake. On a summer evening, there is nothing like berries on cold refreshing ice cream. They also have some goats in a pen near the stand, so we take the grandchildren and enjoy watching them pet and feed the goats. Goats also love strawberries but are happy with the long grass we can pick in a nearby ditch.

All too often these National Days have something to do with food, and I like food. I don’t usually think of a strawberry sundae at breakfast time, but I am today. I think Saturday will be a mandatory let’s go get a strawberry sundae event.

White or Dark Meat

It’s National Fried Chicken Day. Who doesn’t like fried chicken? I always thought this dish was a southern “invention” but according to the National Day of Calendar, it was introduced to the southern part of the U. S. by Scottish immigrants. I sure would have gotten that question wrong were I playing Jeopardy.

I have to admit I have never made fresh, coat it yourself, fried chicken. I guess it’s because I’ve never been around someone that knew how to do it the right way and come out with a juicy inside, crisp outside, piece of cooked meat. I have used some Shake-n-Bake in my day, but found it too salty for my taste. About once a year I get a hankering for Kentucky Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, cole slaw and a roll. Once a year is enough because the amount of salt in the coating outweighs the taste of the chicken.

When I was a kid, my mother believed in fresh food, but occasionally she would let me have a Swanson TV dinner. I always picked the fried chicken. There’s just something about picking up a chicken leg to eat that satisfies the primal. Of course a napkin at hand was a necessity.

These days I do eat a fair amount of deep fried chicken in the form of Buffalo Wings. They originated in Buffalo, NY. Every once in a while the group I am with will have a good laugh about being expected to eat the chicken wing when we were young. It was considered the least important part of the chicken back then. Now, it is fried, slathered in hot sauce and people order them on purpose, ten or twelve at a time. In fact, I have some leftovers in the fridge from the last time we went out. I guess they will be my lunch today.

I Love Onions

It’s National Onion Rings Day. One of my best memories of onions in my youth came about when I stayed overnight with my oldest sister and her new husband. I think I was eleven. People did a lot more cooking at home back then. We got some really big sweet onions at the grocery store. G. cut them into 3/4 inch slices, dipped them in batter and fried them in a single layer in an electric frying pan that held boiling oil. They were soooo good. The onion still had lots of flavor, the batter was light, and we ate them as each batch was ready. It was a long slow process, but doing it together and getting our fill is part of why it’s so memorable. I also remember thinking it was a lot of work and quite messy.

These days when you order onion rings in a restaurant, they are mostly breading, very little onion and cooked to death. I guess I’ll never find a ring that lives up to the memory of the home made ones I shared with my sister.

I have always been an onion lover. There is a family story that my father went to get the box of onion sets to plant the garden when I was four and the box was gone. He wasn’t happy. The explanation goes, my babysitter had peeled them and I had eaten them all. That I don’t remember doing, but I wouldn’t doubt it.

I attended my 25th high school reunion and one of my classmates said to me, “You know what I remember about you? Onion sandwiches.” She was right. I ate an onion sandwich most days before I got on the bus to go to the afternoon session of kindergarten. I wonder if all the onions I have eaten have helped me stay healthy over the years.

Another time I ate all the onions was when I had lunch out with my aunt. There was a jar of chopped onions on every table because it was summer and people ate them like relish on their hot dogs and burgers. This particular jar was so sweet with just the right amount of tang, that my aunt and I ate them with a spoon. We were surprised when at the end of the meal, the jar was empty. We felt a little guilty.

If you love onions like I do may I suggest you make your own onion rings at least once. While eating them picture the idolized big sister making them for her little sister. I bet they’ll be the best you have ever had.

Black, Green, or Other

It’s National Olive Day.  The olive, one of the world’s oldest fruits, is part of a traditional meze/tapas culinary experience. The olive branch is a symbol of peace, hope, love and friendship. It is also one of the most versatile fruits as it is used in breads, drinks, salads, stews and as a snack. (I’m not sure I knew it was a fruit.)

Growing up, Thanksgiving dinner was always at our house. The cousins would come down from the city to our country house 50 miles away. One year, I must have been around seven or eight, the dishes of black and green olives had been put on the adults table before dinner. Our big old house was designed so you could walk from room to room in a full circle, the bathroom having a door on both sides. I walked the circle enough times to be able to sneakily consume the whole dish of black olives before people were called to the table. It was the one and only time my mother sent me to my room. I remember being really scared because she had never done that before. She came upstairs to scold me about being selfish and let me go down for dinner, but you can bet I never did that again.

We often serve a dish of black olives when my grandchildren are here. Usually it is available before dinner to snack on. If the little ones don’t finish them by the time the meal is over, their uncle empties the bowl so none have to be put back in the fridge.  My husband has green olives on his daily lunch salad, and I eat a few while I make it. We also have them on our pizzas. Wegman’s is our local grocery store and they have an olive bar so you can easily get all different kinds of olives, prepared antipasto fashion, or just plain. They sure make it easy.

Olives have good health benefits. They are an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cancer preventive food. They also provide copper, iron, fiber and vitamin E. The bottom line, eat your olives, but make sure you share.

Take Your Own

It’s National Brown Bag-It Day. For you young people, that means what you carry your home-made lunch in, to where ever you are going. We used brown bags before metal lunch boxes/pails and before zippered insulated plastic cooler bags. I still send my husband to work with one on occasion. Sorry, I’m old school. And yes, he is expected to bring the bag back home because it has handles, is the perfect size and can be reused.

What does one put in a brown bag. Well, when I was in grade school, there were thin sandwiches, bags of chips, an apple, and home-made cookies. Wait! Think about how many carbs there were in that. I guess a growing child could handle them at the time as we still played outside and didn’t have video games to veg in front of.

I recently visited two different people close to me in the hospital. One is a diabetic and when the first, liquids only, meal arrived, we just stared at the tray which held juice, Jello, ice cream, and milk. He drank the milk. The sugary things he left where they were. It took a day or so before he could get a meal that wasn’t a load of carbs. One young lady was very helpful in seeing he got what he could eat. His sister came to visit too. She had a bag with her, unfortunately not brown. It held radishes, cooked green beans and sushi made with no rice, plus cashews for dessert. His eyes lit up. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have thought to bring that type of meal, but I would have enjoyed eating it.

The second person was in a different hospital, but the meal she got wasn’t much different; loaded with carbs, salt, and sugar. If you think about what I was taught as a young person and the five food groups, the meal fit it to a tee. I think with all the new facts about nutrition and the overweight problems of Americans, the five food groups pyramid needs a major overhaul and so do hospital menus.

The moral of the story; no matter where you go, making your own lunch to fit your own dietary needs is probably a good idea. I’ll give you a break, forget the brown bag and use one of those nice insulated mini-totes made especially for the purpose.

“They were awful!”

It’s National Pizza Party Day. Really? I know a family that has pizza every Friday night for dinner. Does that make every Friday night a party? I doubt it. Who needs a party to order pizza. We probably have it three times a month, and it’s usually on a night I have been “busy” doing something else instead of making dinner for my hubby who still works lots of hours. The definition of busy could be anything from sewing, writing my blog, shopping or having lunch with the girls.

I have heard that pizza isn’t really Italian, but the National Day of calendar gives facts that says it is. It also says the original pizza used only mozzarella cheese, mainly the highest quality buffalo mozzarella variant which was produced in the surroundings of Naples, Italy. The first United States pizza establishment opened in 1905 in New York’s Little Italy. I guess we’ll give the Italians credit for pizza without argument.

It was estimated that the annual production of pizza cheese in the United States in 1997 was 2 billion pounds. That’s one heck of a lot of cheese. How much of that was consumed at your house?

I was the youngest of four girls, so from 7th through 12th grade, I lived at home with just my parents. I’m a people person so on many Saturday nights there were a few extra girls overnight. I liked to eat even then, so for a snack I would make a Chef Boy-ar-dee Pizza from a box. There was a package of dough mix that only needed water added, a can of sauce, and a package of very dry parmesan like cheese. I would add pepperoni or mushrooms sometimes. In my memory it seems like we usually ate most of it. I now have lunch about once a month with one of the girls involved. She admitted to me one day, “Remember those pizzas you used to make. They were awful, but you liked them so we all ate it.” I wish you could have seen the look on her face when she told me that. It appeared she could still taste how awful they were. We laughed and talked about what good memories those pajama parties left us with.

Next time you have pizza, don’t just have it for supper. Call some friends, get out the cards or a board game, and turn it into a party. Oh, and by all means, order a good one with gooey thick hot cheese and the toppings of your choice.

 

 

Add Some Nuts

Today is National Walnut Day. I would guess, though I didn’t look it up, that walnuts are one of the most consumed nuts alongside the almond. Walnuts make a great addition to cookies, cakes, breads, and all by themselves are a protein filled healthy snack. What would trail mix be without them.

One of my family’s treats at Christmas time when I was little, was a full dish of assorted  nuts in the shell. We had two crackers and four meat picks. The four of us girls would eat the filberts first, then the almonds, then the walnuts. We would see if we could crack the walnut-shell open in order to get a complete half. Somehow they tasted better if they weren’t broken. How innocent the mind of a young person is to believe that. (I miss those days.)

Also at Christmas time, we gave home-made Mrs. Clause Fudge and date nut bread to the milkman, the paper boy, the post office employees, the Charlie Chip man, our teachers, and friends. Both of these contained walnuts. There wasn’t the concern then about nut allergies that there is now. To this day when I make date nut bread, I give half of it away so I don’t eat all of it because there is nothing better hot or cold, with lots of butter on it, especially if the dates are left in bite size chunks. Now my mouth is watering.

I don’t know too many cookies that aren’t better with a handful of chopped walnuts  thrown in the dough. And let’s not forget maple walnut ice cream; another one of my favorites. Can you tell I like food. It’s rough being one of those people who lives to eat and likes everything, well most everything.

Whatever your plans for the day, may I suggest you take a resealable sandwich bag full of walnuts with you. They are a much more healthy snack than that sugar filled coffee you pay five dollars for.

Little Piggies

It’s National Pigs in a Blanket Day. My thoughts went to sausage links wrapped in pancakes that I served repeatedly when I worked at a Denny’s. Then I looked at the picture provided and saw mini-hotdogs wrapped in pastry. My husband likes both items; I don’t care for either one.

I know I have told you in the past that I eat most anything. For whatever reason I have never liked breakfast sausage. I have tried to figure out which spice it is that turns me off, to no avail. Generally nobody knows of my dislike, or comments, because when you go out for breakfast you can always order bacon or ham instead. That works for me.

We often go out to breakfast. I order a vegetable omelet, with artichokes if they have them, and my husband orders sausage patties, eggs over easy and pancakes. He puts the sausage on top of the pancakes, the eggs on top of both, covers it with pepper and maple syrup then breaks the yolks before he starts eating. I don’t mind my food touching, or the flavors blended, but the pepper mixed with the syrup keeps me from stealing bites.

At a party, my husband goes for the mini-hotdogs first, wrapped in pastry or just floating in bar-b-q sauce. I bypass them and go for the chips. Potato chips are one of those things I rarely buy. Too dangerous to have in the house. They disappear very rapidly, then I wonder, just for a second, why I never lose any weight.

I guess the visual attached to some food names depends on where you live and what you like to eat. Did you know that in England, sausages are called bangers? Bangers in a blanket doesn’t sound quite the same. Where ever you live and what ever connotation Pigs in a Blanket has for you, if you like them, I hope you have some soon.

No Thank You

It’s National Lima Bean Respect Day. In my opinion, they need a day to demand respect. I eat most anything, but lima beans are at the bottom of my list, and I avoid them if possible. They are that childhood vegetable that would keep me sitting at the table for hours because I wouldn’t eat just three.

According to the National Day of Calendar, lima beans are an excellent source of protein, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.  They can increase energy levels by helping to restore more iron.  Most of us tried them as a child and didn’t like them.  They advise it’s time to give them a second chance as adults.  They can be delicious in soups, stews, salads, casseroles, by themselves or mixed with other vegetables.

I have to admit, as a child, I didn’t like the texture of lima beans as I chewed them. They were gritty and made my teeth squeak. Now I will eat them in soup or a package of mixed vegetables and pretend they aren’t there. If they are such a healthy food, maybe I should give them a real chance to change my opinion by trying them with nothing else, and an open mind. Well, maybe not. Some parts of me haven’t matured enough to go that route.

It just hit me, if there is a day of respect for them, I must not be the only one that doesn’t like them. That makes me feel better. If you like lima beans I’ll give my respect to you.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

It’s National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day. And, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, the one day of the year everyone is Irish. As a non-Catholic, I assumed corned beef and cabbage was an Irish dish. Wrong. According to the National Day of Calendar it is an American dish. The Irish used a bacon/pork meat that got changed to beef in America in the mid-1800’s when they immigrated. I’m not too concerned about who decided the meat and vegetable went together, I’m just glad they did. I also like to swap out the cabbage for sauerkraut. We have already had it for dinner twice this week. I take advantage of corned beef being on sale and put a couple in the freezer for later in the year.

My father died on St. Patrick’s Day in 1992. Seems like yesterday and I still want to call him when  I have news to share. I really didn’t know my father all that well. He was one of those silent types and he worked the evening shift at a local manufacturing plant. When I was a youngster, one didn’t talk about the fact their father was an alcoholic. My sisters and I are all over 60 now and we are talking more about our growing-up years. One sister just told me that Dad was very active in AA and sometimes when he went to work, the boss would come to him and send him to help another employee with a drinking problem, on the clock. When Dad died, we got a very nice note from a man who I went to school with. It said he too was an alcoholic and he always went to the AA meetings my father went to in order to hear him speak. I wish I had known that side of my father. It is a comfort to know he helped other people. In his later years, he had an antique shop. The kitchen table was often surrounded by people with coffee cups in hand, and the topic was how to keep from drinking that day.

Dad

I generally write this blog in my pajamas. Today when I get dressed, I will put on my green, maybe even call my old boss and take her out for corned beef and cabbage, but I’ll be thinking of my father, pictured above. The “stuff” hanging on the kitchen cupboards are antique kitchen implements. You couldn’t sneak in one of those cupboards for any reason. The name of his shop was the Mousetrap Antiques.

 

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