My Aunt Connie’s Thanksgiving Gift

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  There is no gift giving, No real decorating to speak of unless you are Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart and I share a birthday.  That’s about all we share.

I love Thanksgiving.

Photo by Virginia Simionato on Unsplash

I cooked my first turkey when I was 15 or so.  I wanted to learn.  Easy peasy.  Even bad turkey is good.  I learned how to make gravy from the giblets.  I already knew how to make bread and Grandma Emma’s chocolate bottom pie.  I always have fresh cranberries for my mother.  Roasted asparagus for my brother.  Squash with sausage for my dad when he was still alive as well as cornbread dressing and regular dressing.  In fact, dressing may be my favorite.

Of course, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.  And Brussel sprouts.  I vow each year to add corn pudding but haven’t yet.  It’s already two full days of cooking and I’m getting old.  There will be wine and everyone’s favorite soft beverage. 

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Hurray! It’s National Coffee Day!

Today is National Coffee Day.  For me this is a high holiday.  I’m always tempted to decorate and make a luscious meal with wine that I can finish off with a robust cup of coffee – maybe with cream.  I generally drink, well always drink, my coffee black.  My father looked askance at me when I put cream in my coffee as if I was committing some crime.  Marines drink their coffee black.  None of this frou frou cream stuff.  After a grand dinner, however, I like the richness of cream in a really good roast of coffee not just for the taste of it, but the mouth feel and texture.  It becomes like liquid velvet. 

I drink Folgers coffee in the morning.  I do like a mild blend first thing in the morning, but it is one of my goals to be able to afford fresh ground Tanzanian Peaberry for my a.m. indulgence.  And indulgence it would be.  I think it reasonable to say that Tanzanian Peaberry is the nectar of the gods.  In my more hedonistic days, I used to buy a bag a month from a small coffee roaster in Milwaukee who was thrilled to ship it to me.  For a price. I’ve learned in life that you can have anything you want – for a price. 

But the immediate goal is to persevere with writing until it becomes a monetarily successive gig.  I’ve progressed from hobby writer to writer writer, but I’m still seldom a paid writer.  Don’t laugh, but I’ll probably celebrate my first book sale with a fine cup of coffee.  

Taped to the refrigerator, I have a quote by me: Sometimes coffee is a religious experience and others it’s just a caffeine delivery system.   

I once scribbled that in a notebook.  I said it to a few friends and one asked if she could quote me.  Flattered, I said, “Of course.”  I tried to meme it a few years ago, but alas it did not go viral.  I really do feel that way about coffee.  Folgers in the morning is a caffeine delivery system.  A robust blend with cream after fine dining is a religious experience. 

Whatever your preference – coffee, tea, hot cider or something else – please enjoy it today on this National Coffee Day in solidarity with me.  I swear, I can’t believe I don’t at least have a t-shirt for this holiday.  I have been remiss and shall remedy that later today! 

The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

I realize some people will think this is heresy, but the best grilled cheese sandwiches are made with Velveeta.  Yes, I know.  Not real cheese.  Get over it.  It makes a creamy, melty, cheesy, drippy, greasy mouth of complete goodness.  Complete.  Perfect.  The whole is more than the sum of its parts.  I’m talking about grilled cheese perfection.

A Velveeta grilled cheese requires Nature’s Own Whole Wheat Bread – yeah, the cheap sandwich stuff and tons of real butter.  Slathered sweeps of it across the bread and a goodly amount in a hot cast iron pan. 

If the pan is at the right temperature, the sandwich has a light crust that crunches when you bite into it releasing the ooey, gooey melty magnificent faux cheese.  I’m telling you.  It’s all about proportions. 

I had a cheese slicer which I used to make grilled cheese from the original rectangular block.  Two slices.  One is to fill up the top left side of the bread, the second cut in half so that there is a strip down the right side and another across the bottom of the bread.  Perfection.

The cheese slicer broke after a mere 40 years of use.  I was incensed.  I can’t find one that cuts to the right thickness.  I realize they’re adjustable, but evidently, I’m challenged.  I can’t get it right.  So.  I’ve taken to buying the extra-thick Velveeta slices.  I do have to admit, it’s more convenient if an environmental disaster.  However, the proportion of cheese to bread is just slightly off.  One slice is not enough.  Two is a tad too much.   I always go for too much, with a grilled cheese, with everything in life.  And is my favorite word.  I am a maximalist, not a minimalist. 

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Spam (and scalloped potatoes)

Comfort Food

It’s really stupid, but I particularly like Spam.  Yes, Spam –the luncheon meat – spiced ham. I was raised on it.  And then when we moved to Hawaii, we discovered it was like the state food.  I think their Spam consumption rivals their pineapple consumption.   Hawaiians eat Spam by the truckload.  You can get a Spam breakfast sandwich at the McDonald’s.  There is Spam sushi.  I am not making this up.

I like it fried with eggs.  I like it right out of the can at room temperature.  An old friend of my mother’s used to grind it up and make a ham salad sort of thing with it.  That was good too.

But I particularly like my Spam with scalloped potatoes.  That’s how my mom served it.  But she used Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup to make the potatoes.  Later, she started buying the boxed kind.

When I was 15 or so, I went on a tear to learn how to cook things from scratch.  I was given the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  I still have it.  I still use it.  Their scalloped potato recipe is to die for.  Really.  Well, it is with some modifications.  As I learned to cook, I also learned that most recipes geared toward the general populace are lacking in spice and pizazz.  I am very fond of savory foods. And pizazz.

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