As regular readers know, I don’t need a national day commemorating tea to drink tea. Tea is a staple as much as water and air. Hot tea is good for a cold, a sore throat, a mental health pick me up. There are so many varieties to choose from, not to mention the tisanes (herbal “teas” that don’t use actual tea leaves). In the above photo is my most recent cut of hot tea and two of my favorite flavors. With these two in particular, I add two teaspoons of sugar and a little bit of milk. The PG Tips takes especially good this way. If you want to complete the British tea experience, add a cucumber sandwich with marscapone. However you prefer your tea, drink up, but be careful: it’s hot!
We happened upon this lovely speciman while we were on vacation last summer. It was one of the choices for breakfast at our hotel in Quebec. I had to laugh at its ‘luxury’ adjective even as it gave me flashbacks.
Thirty-five years ago this month, very close to this day in fact, I was traveling with my college roommate throughout the British Isles between the fall and spring semesters. We were traveling by foot mostly with trains, buses, and hitchhiking interspersed where necessary. We stayed in hostels the whole time except for one bed and breakfast in Warwick. Except for that bastion of civilization that included a delicious English fry-up and a bathtub, we carried and prepared out own food. On any of the two night stays we were able to procure eggs and milk or other refrigerated items to use.
On the other days we breakfasted on mueslix. Not this luxury variety from Kellogg’s, but a no-name baggie of oats and other grains, almonds, and raisins. Mixed with hot water, it was….vile. Maybe I should have added milk and butter as if it were oatmeal, but we never had milk or butter at our disposal; only water that we could heat. Sometimes we ate it cold.
At least the tea was good.
I fully intended to try this ‘luxury’ branded muesli, but I never got past my aversion filled flashbacks to try it. I tried to get one of my kids to eat it so I could taste it, but they wouldn’t succumb to the pressure. It was as if they could read my memory.
Tis the Season.
December is a time that many foods return. The first photo is my favorite at this time. It is usually my birthday treat.
This second photo (below) was an impromptu family day I organized for us. It was the last night of Chanukah and the first night of Advent, we had just put up the tree, and it still needed the lights. In addition to offering sugar cookies with sprinkles, I made hot chocolate with marshmallows. We then proceeded to watch Fiddler on the Roof, something I haven’t seen since childhood, and something that my kids have never seen. Overall, the day was a success!
My daughter came up with this recipe. It is excellent for those in your life who prefer their vegetables crunchy and just barely the other side of raw as she does. I was complaining of her lack of vegetables in her cooking and she decided to show me up by frying up some apple slices and baby carrots in what was left of the chicken tenders in the pan. We ate it over rice, and it was not only very good, it was refreshing as well.
Later on that same weekend, I made a similar dish with fried chicken breasts and buttered egg noodles. My veggie combo consisted of: apple slices, grape tomatoes, and dried cranberries sauteed in about a quarter stick of butter with a tiny sprinkle of fresh ground pepper and a pinch or so of apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice).
My apples were not crunchy at all (and that was how I liked them) and unfortunately, I was the only one who liked the tomatoes and cranberries, but experimentation is at the heart of cooking. Had I mashed them, they would have made a nice chutney.
Try something new. That’s been my husband’s refrain for the last couple of years: TSN! (Try something new.) I wonder if chopped pecans would have improved it a bit. Ah, but next time.
What would you have added to my sauteed apples that would have been better?
My husband put together a fabulous heavy-on-the-vegetables dish, and we had many extra vegetables, so I played around with what was left, and what wasn’t going to last much longer and this is what I came up with for one of our holiday dinners last month.
I heated up a wok with olive oil until hot. I would have preferred the carrots to be a bit thinner and longer, but with my daughter cutting them, she did them her way. They still tasted good. I threw in the rest of the snap peas, and then what was left of the grape tomatoes. I sprinkled in some lemon pepper and some chopped scallions to finish it off. 10/10 would make again.
Dinner included roast beef with gravy, potato slices roasted in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and basil, the above vegetables, and sliced challah bread.
One of the easiest and delicious foods to make is Ambrosia Salad. It is always fresh tasting and perfect for summer and fall. I made it recently for Rosh Hashanah dessert and I’m planning on it again this week. You’ll find the ingredients below the photos.
Cool Whip and Sour Cream, folded together.
Can of crushed pineaapple
Can of mandarin oranges
Maraschino cherries, halved
The beauty of this type of recipe is there is no recipe. Put in what feels right until it’s the consistency you want. When I make it again I will add two cans of mandarin oranges, but for the rest I used about 8 ounces of sour cream, half a container of Cool Whip, half a small bag of coconut flakes, and half a bag of mini marshmallows. If any of that is too much for your sweet tooth, add less. Too much, add more.
Set in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve in a dessert bowl.
The first time I had a jacket potato was in Warwick in the Warwick Castle cafe. It was a special treat. Warwick was a food oasis. We were hiking and staying in hostels and so we cooked our own meals – mueslix for breakfast, canned hash or peanut butter for lunch, hot dogs. We had eggs once. Warwick was the castle cafe and dinner at Toby’s Carving Room. No idea if it’s still there, but that was delicious.
It may have been the food on the go that made this jacket potato so amazing, but it stayed in my head for years; decades. It was simple and it was delicious.
It was simply a baked potato with stuff in and on it. I can’t remember what it contained. I have a vague memory of melted butter, freshly shredded cheddar, and sour cream, but there may have been bacon and there were definitely chives.
It became bigger than life in my memory.
When my family went to Wales a few years ago, we ate at a wonderful cafe that I had eaten at on my solo trip in 2009, The Bell Tower Cafe, and I ordered a jacket potato with a salad. It was amazing. It lived up to the memory of Warwick Castle. It was laden with cheese, and honestly on baked potato even with stuff in it doesn’t look like much, but it fills you up, and you’re set for the day. With all my instagramming, I still can’t believe I passed up the opportunity to take a picture of it!
Recently for dinner, we had roast beef, and instead of making my usual leftover meal of Shepherd’s Pie (I know, it’s cottage pie, but my mother in law was from Antrim in Northern Ireland, and if she could call it Shepherd’s Pie, then I can call it Shepherd’s Pie). But I digress. I decided instead to make jacket potatoes with the leftovers.
I baked large russet potatoes in the oven for an hour or so at 400, and when they were finished, sliced them open, added butter, an already warmed up mixture of roast beef, gravy, peas & carrots, onions, and Worcestershire sauce, topped with shredded cheddar, sour cream and chives.
As I type this, I want one right now!
Community: Neighbors, neighborhood, rainbows, household helpers, tools, the murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests.
By the second third of the pandemic timeline, community became more important and more visible, sometimes as basic as are my neighbors wearing masks/having parties but beyond that as well.
There was more waving at each other as more people were home during the day. There were phone calls from my parish checking on our needs. The same from the kids’ schools about school meals and available wifi. Our area, and many others put rainbows up in their windows or on their lawns to be instagrammed or facebooked with area code rainbow hashtags, like a mini-scavenger hunt (hello GISH). One family in the neighborhood bought prisms and left them out, socially distanced for neighbors walking by to help themselves to. I sat outside in the front of my house reading, meditating, praying, watching the local world go by. I heard kids in strollers, on bikes, and nearby church bells ringing.
After the murder of George Floyd, I saw one or two Black Lives Matter signs in my very white, seemingly unaffected area, although it made me realize that no one is, nor should be, unaffected by the murder of a Black man by the police. The quarantine and lockdown enabled many to protest, and despite right wing complaints about social distancing, there was not much of an uptick in covid cases due to protesting as compared to political rallies held indiscriminately on the other side of the aisle.
I continued adding to my covid resource center, and my family cooked some of the recipes I was sharing. I attended church online and began to attend remote retreats, which I found both a distraction and a new way of prayer and contemplation. I wish I could say I wrote more; Maybe I did write more, at least here, and I’m proud of my work here. I tried to let the world flow around me and not put too many expectations on myself. I was home for my kids in a greater way than usual even though I’ve been home for my kids since they were born. This was the first year family didn’t ask when I was getting one or encourage me in that way of theirs to get a job. I already have several, thank you very much. We rediscovered our teamness. Looking forward to next school year in a few short months, I’m going to miss them when they return to school which we expect them to.
We were also able to go on vacation at the end of the summer. We remained in New York State since we were comfortable with the rules put in place by the state for covid precautions. I’m not sure how much longer my adult son will be willing to go along with us, and we’re enjoying time as an entire family.
Prism from neighbor
We belong to a neighborhood Facebook group, and at the beginning of the pandemic there were many posts offering suggestions for how to entertain the kids, especially the younger ones who weren’t in remote school. One of the fun, community activities we included ourselves in was the #Rainbow project. Houses and businesses began to put rainbows in their windows, on their garages, painted on pallets, flown on flags and banners, and included a hashtag of the area code with the word rainbow so those of us walking throughout the neighborhood could take pictures of all the rainbows we found, and post it online – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, that sort of thing on social media.
My artifact came from one of our neighbors in the Facebook group. The family bought several prisms online and put them at the end of their driveway in a bucket with a rainbow flag. They posted on the Facebook that they were to be taken whenever folks walked by on their neighborhood romps, but of course, to please take only one per family. They went quick! We were lucky to be able to get one on her second round. When it’s held in the sunlight, it makes rainbow reflections on the walls, windows, and other surfaces. Just looking at the clear glass teardrop shape makes me smile and think of how lucky we are to be in the place that we live. Also, rainbows are hope and promises of better times.
We all discovered our kitchens again. I was reminded very much of the nesting that went on after 9/11: we stayed home, kept our families together, simplified our lives, and more than ever before, we cooked. At least that’s what happened in our house, both after 9/11 and during lockdown. I’ve mentioned before about Chef Jose Andres’ Recipes for the People on Twitter. While we were on vacation, we had clementine oranges in our breakfast bags provided by the hotel and I became obsessed with having a delicious, juicy orange almost daily.
I bought this great little tool while we were in Buffalo from a five and dime store. I couldn’t figure out how it worked at first, but it was labeled as an orange peeler for sixty-nine cents. If I knew how much I would love this little gadget, I would have bought fifty of them! Well, maybe not fifty, but a dozen. I’ve already put this five and dime on my list to pick up some more the next time we go through Buffalo (hopefully this summer on the way to Canada). It was one of those things that I didn’t know I needed until I had it. I will never peel another orange without this perfectly constructed tool. So simple. So easy.
About the time in the summer that political signs went up, I saw this same sign on my neighbor’s lawn. I didn’t know this neighbor, but I stopped by anyway to ask about it, thinking she had gotten it locally. At first, I think she thought I was complaining about the inclusivity of the sign. She was happier that I liked it and wanted one of my own. She got hers from Amazon, and mine arrived about twenty-four hours later. I added the American flag, and we’ve added more flags for Memorial Day weekend and then buntings for 4th of July. We’ll leave this sign and one or two of the Stars & Stripes until fall clean-up.
The entire sign reads:
In this house, we believe:
Black Lives Matter
Women’s Rights are Human Rights
No Human is Illegal
Science is Real
Love is Love
Kindness is Everything.
This one sign really says it all. Really, what more is there to say?
Part III coming soon.
I was eating a Dole fruit cup – cherry mixed fruit or something – and I was transported back to my childhood. We didn’t have the individual plastic cups like the one I was eating from. My mother would buy the cans of fruit cocktail, and we would most definitely fight over the cherries because there were never enough, and they really were the best part.
When we would have a special dinner – a holiday dinner – whether it was Thanksgiving or Rosh Hashanah or Passover, it didn’t matter which, there was always a multi-course meal with special dishes. Some meals like Rosh Hashanah would begin on the top plate with a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a scoop of chopped liver. There might also be a soup course – matzo ball – always a good choice, even on Thanksgiving. There also might be half a grapefruit with sprinkled sugar or a small dessert dish with fruit cocktail in it.
I loved those dessert dishes. They were small and squat and sat on little pedestals. They were perfect for fruit cocktail, jello, chocolate pudding (with whipped cream), and all sorts of interesting foods. The one problem I found as a kid was the texture of the dish. It wasn’t smooth so you could never scrape all the little bits of food left from the nooks and crannies, and they were annoying to wash, but I loved opening the cabinet just over the sink and seeing them, wondering what wondrous sweet treat they would next hold for us.
I still have them although they’re packed away in our basement. I wanted to find them last month for chocolate pudding, and then again to include a photo in this post, but our basement is a mess and in need of pruning. Finding them will be a goal for the next twelve months, but in the meantime I’ve included a photo I found of them from Ebay. We’ll see in the future if this photo that matches my memory will match the real ones when I find them.
Sometimes it’s not the food that’s nostalgic, but the containers we use.