Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The stars lined up (under a piece of meatloaf)

As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with all things American Indian. From the first piece of jewelry my mother brought home from one of her trips to my obsessive collecting of parrot jewelry, the American Indians have always been on my mind.

As soon as the weather in South Florida drops into the 80’s, some of our weekends take us to the Miccosukee Indian reservation, where we happily camp in the parking lot of their casino resort, watch the sunsets across the Florida Everglades, and feast on the offerings in their four restaurants. 

It doesn’t hurt that my husband loves his toys in the casino. So far he’s ahead and he never risks very much so the angel on his shoulder hasn’t turned into the devil. Ever at the ready, my Kindle keeps me company because I hate to gamble. When forced, I always win. Every time my husband hands me money and tells me to place a bet, I win, because I walk out with my original money.

The best part of camping at the casino is that I don’t have to pack the refrigerator with food. When we spend the weekends on the beach in the Keys, the ingredients for our dinners come with us because I can’t bear to leave the seashore. And who can pay Keys prices for inferior food when the alternative is a seafood dinner at the Miccosukee resort, complete with unlimited oysters and scallops on the half shell, mountains of smoked salmon (lox) and crab claws and shrimp, paella (I like theirs and no one else's)…I could go on and on, but I’ll wait until later….for $12.95.

Sunday morning we were ready to go inside for breakfast, but, as is our malady on the weekends, the clocks in our heads were broken, and by the time we looked up, breakfast was over. One alternative was their incredible Sunday brunch. The problem with the brunch is that I have to start with dessert because there’s nothing more frustrating than looking at their desserts and not having any room.

On our what used to be frequent cruises on Carnival, the waiters got used to my silly eating habits: I had to eat the what I called “chocolate mushy thing” first or I never had room for it. Their melting chocolate cake, is so unbelievable, that when they gave me the recipe, it wasn’t hard to figure out why: Heavy cream, butter, chocolate, sugar, eggs.

We’ve had to give up the melting chocolate cake in favor of the food at the Miccosukee resort because we adopted Wesley. Wesley, our first what we think is a Tibetan Spaniel, is an escape artist, and we can’t leave home without him. So, whereas we used to leave our menagerie in the hands of our friend, I couldn’t trust Wesley. He’s the reason we spend every weekend in a motor home, but we love it, so I’m not complaining.

Nor should I complain about the remarkable food and desserts at the Sunday brunch at the Miccosukee resort. It just makes me crazy when I can’t eat enough at a buffet to make it worthwhile. Who can eat all the seafood in the ocean, along with lamb, rib roast, pasta as you watch it prepared, and on and on. Whatever you can think of that belongs on the best brunch you can remember is there. 

So we skipped the Sunday brunch and ate at the lunch buffet set out for the plebeians, all of us who are just hungry and want food. We’d eaten there many times, were never able to try it all, and were never disappointed. The salad offerings included everything that is too costly for most salad bars. The egg salad, pasta salads, and the like are all worthy of the gourmet shop on the Upper East Side that shall remain nameless. But, as always is my problem, I can’t have it all.

I took some macaroni and cheese, my favorite comfort food, passed up the fresh carved roast, chicken Florentine, mahi, and barbecued ribs, fresh vegetables, potatoes, and tried the meatloaf. But I hate meatloaf. 

I think they called it “Home Style” or “Southern,” but it didn’t taste like any meatloaf I’d ever been coerced to eat. The first thing I could pick out was pine nuts, not toasted to within an inch of their lives, but still white. I’m guessing there were capers and caramelized onions and garlic and cumin or something else to make it taste like sausage, and for the rest, I give up.

When I looked around the room I realized that not many people understood that they were dining, not just eating. I even asked the manager of the buffet, someone whom we had spoken to many times, if he had tried the meatloaf, and he looked at me like I was from another planet. So now my challenge is to figure out how to share our discovery with the rest of the general world.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Early Morning Headache

     When I picked up my Miami Herald from the driveway at five in the morning, I put it aside while I waited for enough daylight to come through the skylights to illuminate my living room.  I sort of wish I hadn’t picked it up, but, alas, today is Thursday, and sometimes there are some interesting recipes in the living section.

     The food section, with its recipes and articles may be my primary reason for fearing the demise of the printed newspaper (sorry, trees). For as long as I could hold a pan, I clipped recipes from the New York Times  and still get excited when one of Craig Claiborne’s falls from one of my favorite cookbooks. Isn’t  it amazing how the Times could get a complete recipe in a few column inches and today, if I try to print something that I find on line, I have to waste an entire sheet of paper. Then I never can quite figure out what to do with the recipe. So I have these papers stashed alongside my dishes and I’m lucky to be able to find what I want.

     Today’s Food Section contained a reprint of Bill Daley’s Chicago Tribune article debunking everything I have come to believe about MSG and glutamates in general. Chances are that Mr. Daley has never suffered from a migraine headache, since more women than men are afflicted with the horrendous disease. If he had, perhaps he wouldn’t have dismissed the anecdotal evidence concerning glutamates and their link to migraine disease.

     He is quick to label granulated MSG a villain, perhaps because “real” chefs don’t admit to shortcuts, but lists “glutamate-laden vegetables like tomatoes and mushrooms, plus cheeses, fish, meat — even seaweed.”

“Don't overlook what's in your larder for glutamate-rich flavor boosting. Drape some anchovies on hard-cooked eggs or a salad. Shave some Parmesan cheese atop a fresh tomato sauce, itself an ingredient loaded with glutamate. Toss bacon — a veritable umami bomb — wherever you can, from salads to sauces to side dishes.”

     Just because ingredients add flavor, they don’t necessarily flirt with the problems that glutamates cause. What we who suffer from migraine disease can and cannot eat is purely personal. I for one can eat anchovies and Parmesan cheese. In fact, one of my favorite pasta dishes comes from an old Marcella Hazan Italian cookbook. It combines broccoli, anchovies, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and, my own addition, dry white wine. Someone else who suffers from migraines could possibly get a killer headache just reading the recipe, but it doesn’t affect me.

     I’ve been trying to figure the whole thing out as perhaps being a matter of degree. Perhaps if I space the killer meals, they might not really kill me, but sometimes I’m not so brave. My husband loves fried chicken from the supermarket (Publix or Winn Dixie, because we live in Miami). I’ve known that it gives me headaches but sometimes I get weak and try “just a small piece.” The other day I had my proof: Listed among the ingredients is, in plain letters is monosodium glutamate. Sometimes they try to masquerade the stuff—it can have all kinds of other names—but this was blatant. I didn’t eat the chicken and didn’t get a headache.

     Then there was the biggest dilemma of all. I love to barbecue ribs. I hate the fall off the bone ones that they insist on serving in restaurants, but like mine with a spicy dry rub, barbecued from the raw state. And every time I make them I get a killer headache. But I can eat barbecue in a restaurant. Then it occurred to me, it’s not the ribs or the stuff I put on them but the length of time allotted for the ribs to develop their own glutamates--slow cooking does that.
     So, being the glutton for punishment that I am, this week I’ll pre-cook the ribs and just finish them off on the barbecue…….to be continued.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tweets Fly on Their Own Wings

     I’m so tired of the news cycle; it goes round and round and gets repeated ad nauseum. Sure Chris Christie’s too fat, so the press found out that he had lapband surgery. Will it make him a better governor? Shouldn’t the electorate decide that? Is he too fat to be healthy? Isn’t that between him and his doctor?
     Why do we look across the room and judge people before we know anything about them? Look at the watch, look at the shoes, how about the clothes? Are they too fat, sure they are, isn’t everyone too fat in this era. If you’re bigger than a Barbie Doll, you too are too fat.
      Then I thought about the article I read in Elle Magazine in August of 2011. The author had to choose between gaining 80 pounds from psychiatric medication and a living hell. As she gained the weight, the former stick thin young woman couldn’t wear a scarlet letter, nor could she hide; 80 pounds is the weight of a very large dog. 
      My daughter, who battled eating disorders while she battled the normal issues as she grew up, found herself in the same position. No one understood. I didn’t even understand until I read the article in Elle. I had even called the drug companies to try to find out if there was anything she could do. Their answers were to be expected: eat less and exercise more. In other words, there was nothing she could do.
      I don't Tweet very much so I didn’t understand the power of Twitter, but I tweeted the link to the Elle article. That was this morning. I keep getting notices from all the people who have re- tweeted the link. Elle even re-tweeted it to their millions of followers. I guess that’s what’s called “going viral.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We Can’t Blame it All on Race

     I’ve been reading Hillary Clinton’s Living History, the book she wrote about her life before she became Secretary of State. She was a superstar in her own right before she met Bill. Her intellect, on full display since President Obama selected her to serve as his Secretary of State, was evident from a very early age.

     Hillary tells a fascinating story about her life, a story that so many of us can identify with, though hers has reached higher highs than most of ours have. She was a great student and went through all the angst of growing up and trying to make the right decisions about her education and her future. The charismatic Bill Clinton won her over and together they tried to improve the healthcare system for our country. 

     Reading the account from Hillary’s viewpoint is fascinating and sheds  a different light on the entire era. All that is history and can be ascertained in news accounts and a myriad of books.

     What has shocked me into reality and forced me to take another look at my current view of our political system is that the pushback and virulent attacks on the Clintons and their attempt at reforming healthcare was no less vile than what has gone on since the election of our first Black President. It has been so easy to blame everything that has been going on in DC on hatred directed at Barack Obama because of his race. They did the same thing to Bill Clinton, a good old white southern boy.

     The Clintons didn’t pass healthcare reform. President Obama did. How he did it against all odds, who knows?