Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 31. Fish and Chips

At our favorite bar, fried fish with chips/fries. Homemade tartar sauce. Watching the people, laughing together, drinking beer and eating fish. Bartenders on first-name basis give us our check: at the top our name is "Ladies who watch". Each night like coming home to our place.

This is what makes a life.

A life worth living.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May 30. Pickled Things

Cucumbers of course. Pickled any which way, but homemade garlic dill my favorite, saving the garlic cloves for last. Squash, onions, carrots, beets all have a place on my garnish plate. Not eggs.

She wants me to do a pickle juice shot. Whiskey followed by a chaser. I don't know why I'm hesitant. Let's go.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

May 29 Rye

He was leaving my house and although he would come back it would never be the same and we stood at my counter exhausted by the summer and filled with grief and trepidation for the future; the bottle of Rittenhouse poured into mason half-pint jars. Clinked them together.

"Why do we drink this?"


Monday, May 28, 2018

May 28. Grapes

Things with artificial grape flavoring always confused me: popsicles, kool-aid, dimetapp, candy. I like them but why do we call them grape flavored? Raised on big green grapes, eating them from bowls in front of TV, in lunchboxes, on picnics, I didn't get it. Until in the woods one day I tried them in the wild.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

May 27. Tomatoes

He'd come home from work, hot, dirty, sweaty. Take off his boots while I sliced a tomato from the garden. We went through hundreds of hours and tomatoes at that little table. Salt, pepper, bread, olive oil. Tell me the story. Make me want to hear more. Boy, let me love you up with simplicity.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

May 26 Smithwicks

I asked to try the house red ale, curious because I love a good red ale. I tried it, the bartender watching my face. He shook his head. "I'll get you a Smithwicks."

He poured and brought it to me. "Its hard to compete--three hundred years making beer, everybody wishes they made Smithwicks."

Friday, May 25, 2018

May 25 Rice

 A Vietnamese friend of my mother's told me: put rice in the pan, set it in the sink and put your little finger on the top of the rice. Fill the pan with water until the first knuckle touches water. Boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Perfect sticky rice. I think the best kind.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

May 24 Saltines

Saltines are sick food. They aren't a regular item on the table. When I was young, though, I would have saltine sandwiches with blackberry jelly and peanut butter. Or margarine and jelly. Or just jelly. It was a simple Saturday morning treat or after school staple. Now they live in my desk drawer for hungry kids.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

May 23 Coffee

Iced or hot. Sweet or straight. Milk or black. It really doesn't matter.

Triple shot with whole milk over ice was my go-to for the longest time.

Heart palpitations followed.

I cut back, wisely, eased out of the addiction. No headaches. No more palpitations.

Now it's two cups, brewed, milk. Occasional treats more than that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

May 22. Seltzer and Lime

I decided in 2014 that I was drinking too much. So I switched to seltzer and lime. Bartenders would make it for free, assuming I was the designated driver. I love it. But about 5 months into my sobriety trial, I abandoned it. Correction: I drink it all the time. But I also drink whiskey.

Monday, May 21, 2018

May 21. Popcorn #2

My parents left me and my brother Ian alone for the week, looking for houses before the move. I was  in 9th grade and he in 5th. I put the oil in the pan, on high. Popcorn was nostalgic and this was pre-microwave. I knew something was wrong before I turned around and saw the fire.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

May 20 Popcorn #1

My dad worked evenings. My mom would send me to bed and make it on the stove in our apartment. I would hear the theme song to Hill Street Blues or M*A*S*H and sneak out to the front room where she would sit in that red chair. I could have two pieces. Then back to bed.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

May 19. Frozen Custard

Ted Drewes is the local custard stand, two locations,  never franchised, serving perfectly smooth rich vanilla frozen custard. My dad's cardiac ICU had it analyzed in the lab for caloric content of a large concrete back in the 1970s for a patient needing to put on weight. It was found to do the trick.

Friday, May 18, 2018

May 18 Sourdough bread

I’ve heard that different parts of the country, even different kitchens, have variations in sourdough flavor. All based on microbes available. I had a starter for years that died in 2006 during a stressful summer. Neglect. It made a tangy chewy bread, essentially a butter sponge. Writing this makes me want to try again.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

May 17. School Cafeteria Food

Chicken rice stick to your ribs casserole. Corn from a can. Chocolate milk from a paper carton. Mandarin oranges in the fruit cocktail. I lived all over the country and it was all the same. And those rectangular pizzas, oh how I could write an ode to those hot cheesy slices of school food heaven.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May 16 Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberries

Sliced, sugared, chilled and served over a wedge of vanilla ice cream from rectangular prism half gallons on hot evenings. I didn’t get the chance to spend much time with my grandparents growing up, and my cousins’ stories, happy or stressful, fill me with jealousy at not being there, but I was there for this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May 15. Fries

Hot salty fries with the perfect ratio of crispy outer edges to soft insides. My diet downfall if there ever was one. The only potatoes my daughter Maeve will eat, what saves her from being a total blood traitor, according to her sister. “Your name is even Maeve for goodness sake. Eat your potatoes.”


Monday, May 14, 2018

May 14: Brisket

I’m a one-time Texan. I like Texans and I like people who spent a little time in Texas. Texas is a good place to be from. It ruined me on barbecue. Pork smells, tastes just too piggy. Barbecue is beef. Brisket falling apart on the plate with burnt ends. Always sauce on the side.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 13. Ricotta Cheesecake

After a lifetime of smooth bland palatable cheesecake a mere setting for strawberries and whipped cream, I made a crustless ricotta cheesecake and the scales fell from my eyes. Robust, unfussy, stands alone without adornment. I like these things without adornment. I like things that stand alone without apology, powerful and luxurious on their own.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

12. Irish Coffee

I ordered an Irish coffee. She had a Bud Light, sighing, “I wish I thought of things like that. I am not creative.” This proved true as she told me the last time we met that my marriage was a sacrament and I needed to stay. I came for a friendly ear and got a sermon.

Friday, May 11, 2018

May 11: Irish Stew

My first crockpot recipe with peas, lamb, potatoes, onion. Stir in parsley at the end. Better the second day. My maid of honor gave me the recipe when I visited back when she was single. Before we stopped being friends and started pretending to be friends. And now can never even be pretend friends.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 10: Syrup

I grew up with fake maple syrup--found out as a la leche leader that the natural flavor was likely fenugreek, which promotes lactation. I didn’t have trouble with my supply. But I loved fake syrup until my Vermont friend Kathleen introduced me to lovely Grade B. I could put it on everything.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

May 9: Vodka

There’s a cliff in my head, dry, desert cliff, brown, edge of a mesa in my mind. By the time I feel the vodka, I have already fallen off the cliff into the air, headed straight for the ancient windworn rocks below marked with petroglyphic warnings about how I wasn’t going to drink vodka again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

May 8: Manhattan

He would give me the garnish, a maraschino cherry soaked in bourbon bitters sweet vermouth. “Manhattans taste like childhood,” I say smiling, knowing full well how disconcerting those words are. I can’t knock back Manhattans so they are perfect for me when I’m out with those I must drink with but cannot get drunk with.

Monday, May 7, 2018

May 7: Apple Brown Betty

Why isn’t it apple cobbler? Why does apple get its own name? Oat and flour crumb top brown sugar with apples chunked and cooked down with cinnamon nutmeg cloves sugar. Apples are cheap, forgiving in the oven, and complementary with many flavors. If my mom made dessert not from a box, this was it.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

May 6: Fruitcake

Dark brown spice cake, raisins, weird neon jellied fruit, maraschino cherries. My father the registered nurse made fruitcake and infused it with bourbon but not by wrapping it in soaking towels. He used a spinal needle, wrapped them in brown paper and set them aside until Christmas. You really only need one slice a year.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

May 5: Watermelon Pickle

I made watermelon pickles because of the poem. Put them up in a single jar alongside jams and cucumber pickles. When I opened them a few months later, tried one, I realized the poet had never actually tried a watermelon pickle. There was nothing summer about them. They were clove and cinnamon, dark brown: Christmas.

From the poem:

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May 4: Tullamore Dew

We stood in the overwhelming liquor store staring at the Irish whiskey, totally unsure of ourselves.An employee approached and gave his reviews. Several he said to try in a bar first. Not this one. He sold us on the 12 year, a smooth finish whiskey perfect for sipping.

Turns out I'm a whiskey girl.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

May 3: White Dip

I grew up with cheap potato chips and white dip: a block of cream cheese with enough milk mixed in to make it a dip. Nothing more. No one else I've ever met who doesn't share my last name has ever considered doing this. And most are unimpressed. It features prominently at funerals and holidays.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

May 2: Grits

Cup's worth of stone ground white corn simmered in five cups of whole milk. Salt and pepper, stir constantly until thick. No cheese in my grits. Nothing fancied up about them.

I drop in a stick of butter.

"Mom, NO!" my sixteen year old declares, horrified.

I laugh. "Baby, that's why they taste so good."

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May 1: bread pudding

We have become connoisseurs: a slice of bread pudding with caramel sauce, a la mode. Warm soft sweet end of a meal. Dishes cleared, restaurant empty, just talk and a glass of whiskey. 33

It's a simple little poor man's dessert but nothing is poor about this. Waste not want not and I want nothing more.