Tag: Chef’s Surprise

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My mother was not a good cook when she first got married. She said that her mother pretty much served meat and canned vegetables. Her father was Norwegian and didn’t seem to care much. Any cuisine that features ludefisk can’t be one for taste. But my father’s family was awash with great cooks, as one […]

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Chef Surprise…Oops, She Did It Again!

 

I’ve been cooking since I was nine years old. I’d bake cookies back then for our family of eight (at that point; it ultimately numbered 10) so the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package needed to be tripled. That is how I learned to add fractions, actually. Fractions were one of the rare sections of math that I succeeded in during my first go-round with school. (My math “a-ha” occurred during my second venture into college–another story.)

Well, in baking those cookies one had to do a “test” batch–just two cookies in a metal pie pan to check if you’d put in the correct amount of flour. Here’s where my first adventure in Cooking Fails started. I checked the “try cookies” as they were known, and it was obvious that more flour was needed. But, instead of measuring out another third or fourth cup, my brain was doing something else, so my hands picked up the sifter and turned the handle until all the flour had been emptied into the rotating bowl of cookie dough while the MixMaster was doing its best to incorporate it.

Chef’s Surprise: Taste & See

 

I’m going to cheat a little bit here and not write about food at all. Instead, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. In fact, I love it so much that it’s in my email signature.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!”
Psalms 34:8 CSB

A Chef’s Surprise Proved Revolutionary, or Taming the Delicate Palate of a Kid

 

San Francisco, a Valentine’s Day in the 1980s: It was a chilly day in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. The storefronts, coffee shops, and restaurants were decked out in their bright crimson St. Valentine’s Day best. I was still in my thirties, living out the cheerful but hectic routine of being a wife and a mother.

My spouse Jim and I were meeting up with our computer geek-y friend, Paul. Our eight-year-old son, Gabe, had created a Valentine’s Day card for Paul, decked out with illustrations detailing Jim and me sitting on the living room couch, with our tiger cat standing on our laps. Gabe was especially proud of the little mouse family that he had depicted as living in between our shoes.

Chef’s Surprise: Food on the Go

 

The janitor for my VFW post hustled to finish the morning cleaning before dashing off to his second gig, a pizza and wings shop. He proudly announced that a local network affiliate had featured his pizza joint as a “hidden gem” among restaurants located inside gas stations. This prompted memories of food along the road map of memory. I remember hot dogs at Howard Johnson, fresh crusty rolls with cheese and meat in small Bavarian towns, and the Triple T truck stop restaurant in Tucson, Arizona.

Early in life, when my parents took me and then my first sister, on the road, Howard Johnson was known as a safe stop with clean restrooms. My memory is of a special toasted hot dog bun holding a thin hot dog in a paper tray. A quick search online confirms that HoJo had its own bun design, almost like a slice of bread formed into right angles.

Operation Floral Chef: Pizza, Banana Bread, & a Side of Pollen

 

I had heard that Saturday was going to be the worst day for deliveries, and the weather certainly lived up to that. Blowing snow and biting cold is a pain to drive in, and harsh on flowers. We need to warm up the van and make sure all the flowers were well wrapped, or we would not live up to our reputation for quality. Everyone knows you can get poor quality flowers at Walmart for cheap – we can only compete via quality. You could say the invisible hand is holding the bouquet…

Previous installment here and here.

Culinary Love Language: Homesickness and Pineapple Cakes

 

When leaves have started to litter the ground, days are growing ever shorter, and sweaters become inevitable, I begin to want pecans rolls from the Old Mill. They’re a Thanksgiving tradition in my family, and there’s nothing else I’ve found quite like them in the world. I won’t eat more than one or two over the course of the holiday (I can only handle so much in terms of sweets), but they taste like making up little turkey dinners for the cats, listening to the high school football game on the radio, and the beginning of real snow. Like home. Living so far from where I’m from, and having in general such a tenuous connection to ‘normal’ American food, little things like that are especially important to me. 

Thanksgiving this year put me in mind of this more than it usually would. Normally, my Taiwanese friend, A, and I would buy a turkey, order all of the fixings ahead of time from Whole Foods (they’re a blessing for Americans ex-pats at the holidays), make Korean food while we waited, and then eat our meal with sparkling apple cider and Clint Eastwood movies. This year, I went to Russian, and then home. Lockdown meant that we weren’t allowed to have anyone not in our bubble around, and having no one to celebrate with, I couldn’t manage much spirit for the holiday. My celebrations amounted to buying a baby mincemeat pie from Waitrose, and being forced to discuss the meaning of Thanksgiving in Russian with Natasha. 

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Flower shops are one of the businesses that directly profit from death.  Alongside weddings, funerals are major sources of income.  When important people die, that’s usually the source of huge orders for flowers.  As death is one of the constants of the world, there are no exceptions for holidays.   Thus, as I stumbled down the […]

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Each month Ricochet has two group writing projects, intended to encourage the widest possible member participation. I have been the chief cat herder for the theme writing project for the past couple years. By way of exhorting and occasionally extorting participation, I have been known to threaten to fill white space with posts featuring bears, […]

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Some of you may recall that I previously narrated the saga of my work in a northwestern Illinois flower shop – Operation Bloom. That was in the lead-up to Mother’s Day, one of the busiest times for a flower shop. This is about a colder holiday, where we deliver flowers to sweethearts through snow – […]

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“Prince” has been on my mind lately. A prince among actors just left us. We’ve had discussion of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Superbowl this weekend has reminded me of another Prince who gave an iconic Superbowl half-time performance not so long ago in drenching rain. In keeping with this month’s writing theme “Chef’s Surprise”, ready to […]

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Chef’s Surprise: What doesn’t kill you might teach you something

 

Years ago, I was a consultant doing industrial data collection and control systems and one of my clients was IBM (Pro Tip – If you are a consultant, make sure your client is within at least two orders of magnitude of your size). This was back when there was a tax break for the production of pharmaceuticals in Puerto Rico and as a result, many pharmaceutical companies had a research facility in the States (usually either Pennsylvania or New Jersey) and a production facility in Puerto Rico.

As a consequence, I traveled multiple times to Puerto Rico with different IBM teams. We would spend nights on the coast where the hotels were and then travel to the plants which were inland. The plants got your attention – we were told to park with the front of the car towards the exit – “In case something bad happens at the plant”. The wrought iron fences around the plant had been eaten away at the bottom by some sort of acidic atmosphere.

Chef’s Surprise: The Movies

 

chef's surprise graphicTo kick off a month of posts by members on the theme “Chef’s Surprise,” let’s go to the movies. There have been a number of movies of varying quality made about or featuring chefs, cooks, cooking, restaurants, or eating. What follows is a summary of movies I have seen and enjoyed, to one degree or another. There are a number of critically acclaimed, and surely quite sumptuous, movies on the theme that I have not yet gotten around to viewing. This list is mostly middle to lower brow, but none will spoil your bowl of popcorn.

The finest film, and I mean that sincerely, on cooking, is Babette’s Feast (1987). Babbette is a Parisian woman, a great cook, who seeks refuge in a town on the Danish coast. There she serves and cooks very simple fare for many years in a very austere community and environment. Then news arrives that she has come into a small fortune, by a stroke of luck. A friend in her old life has renewed her subscription to a lottery each year and she has won.

She proceeds to throw a feast for the elderly community that has sheltered her. The preparations involve the arrival of all manner of supplies and Babette shows her full culinary mastery, enchanting the community. [Spoiler alert, read below the line at the bottom at your risk, if you have not seen the movie.*] This movie is also one of two G-rated movies on my list.

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Hey you! Yes, you. Each month, Ricochet members like you share a few thoughts, a bit of knowledge or creativity, playing off a theme. Sometimes it is no more than a concluding line or a throw-away to shoe horn their post into the theme. We are very casual about that. The whole point is for […]

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