jayfurr: (Default)

Mom was a child of the Depression. She was born two months before the market crashed and she grew up one of eight kids in a rural Florida family where the father was frequently unemployed and the mother was frequently in mental hospitals. A large percentage of what they ate, they grew or raised themselves. One simply didn’t waste food.



Even after she put herself through college at Florida State, went off to grad school at the University of Michigan and then at Duke, she hated to waste food. She would make jam and jelly from the raspberry and blackberry bushes which grew in profusion around our house in the mountains of Virginia, and seal the jars with canning wax. The seals didn’t always hold well and we’d find mold on top of the jam, but Mom wouldn’t hear of throwing it out; she’d scrape the mold off and insist that we eat it. More often than not, the jam went to sugar and was grainy and unpleasant, but again — waste not, want not.



When I was in middle school, she was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and told to avoid salt as much as possible. So, the next time she canned tomatoes and made tomato sauce, she used “No-Salt” instead of regular table salt. “No-Salt”, in case you’ve never had the misfortune of tasting it, is a vile salt alternative that, I swear to God, tastes more or less exactly like plutonium. It’s a nasty, bitter, metallic-tasting abomination from the pits of Hell, and Mom had a bumper crop of tomatoes that year. A decade later we were still unearthing jars of that stuff and staring at each other across the dinner table, afraid of pointing out that we’d rather go chew broken glass than eat any of the awful stuff. Mom would not have been amused.


In the end, though, the memory of Mom and food gone wrong (but eaten anyway) that I treasure the most is the time she had couples from Dad’s department at Virginia Tech over for dinner. She had purchased a couple of large tubs of sour cream and some Lipton dried onion soup mix to make what the people of that era called “California Dip” or “French onion dip”.



Only… she’d grabbed the wrong box of dried soup mix off the shelf at Radford Brothers’. When she went to open it, she found she’d wound up with Lipton … chicken noodle soup mix.


She used it anyway. Little tiny noodles and all. It wasn’t the worst thing any of us had even eaten, and I had to admit that the little tiny noodles gave the dip an interesting crunch, but still, the look on her guests’ faces when they dipped a potato chip and took a taste was something to behold. Expecting onion, they got … poultry.


In her defense, Mom never let her refrigerator get packed with spoiled or ancient food — she made sure things got eaten well before they’d evolve sentience. And she was a very good cook. It’s just that, like anyone, she made mistakes… and we all got to experience them right along with her.


Miss ya, Mom.1)RIP Dora Ann Mondon Furr, 1929-2011


Footnotes   [ + ]

1. RIP Dora Ann Mondon Furr, 1929-2011
jayfurr: (Default)

Waring Blender

Just killed my red Waring bar blender trying to make Carole a smoothie with skim milk, frozen berries, and frozen yogurt chunks (which she’d prepared in advance in a silicone cube tray). Apparently there are some things that are too much for a Waring blender — deep frozen 1 inch cubes of frozen vanilla yogurt, for one, and Warren Zevon for another.


Note the Oxford comma there.


Anyway, the thing gave me 11 years’ service, so I’m not too broken hearted.


I went to look up and order another and to my horror, the blender arms race has gotten a bit out of control; they make Waring blenders that go up to almost a thousand dollars. I assume those are for making the Bruce Banner smoothies out of pitchblende, carnotite, basalt, and, of course, skim milk.


jayfurr: (Default)
So tonight I was shopping for groceries for the next few days. I think the cashier wasn't accustomed to seeing one guy buy:

5 jars and refrigerated containers of chunky salsa
3 boxes of various forms of high fiber cereal
3 bags of vegetarian meat substitute/ground beef alternative
3 boxes of snack packs of dried raisins and cranberries
Multiple cans of low-sodium beans

Aaaaaaaaaaand a gallon of skim milk.

I could see her sort of looking back and forth over the groceries, big question mark floating in air over her head, as I was swiping my credit card. Thought about saying "WE PARTY TONIGHT!!!" but I decided that, for once, I'd just hush my mouth and not melt some poor stranger's brain.

jayfurr: (Default)
So tonight I was shopping for groceries for the next few days. I think the cashier wasn't accustomed to seeing one guy buy:

5 jars and refrigerated containers of chunky salsa
3 boxes of various forms of high fiber cereal
3 bags of vegetarian meat substitute/ground beef alternative
3 boxes of snack packs of dried raisins and cranberries
Multiple cans of low-sodium beans

Aaaaaaaaaaand a gallon of skim milk.

I could see her sort of looking back and forth over the groceries, big question mark floating in air over her head, as I was swiping my credit card. Thought about saying "WE PARTY TONIGHT!!!" but I decided that, for once, I'd just hush my mouth and not melt some poor stranger's brain.

jayfurr: (Lounging on the Vision)
I really, really like salads made from mixed greens, baby spinach, blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, little bits of walnuts, tossed with vinaigrette.

So there.

I also really, really like dolmas, but regrettably, Vermont has a tiny Greek-American community and the only Greek restaurants offer Greek items as a side line to traditional diner-style fare. Sigh. For the ten thousandth time, I must remind myself, one does not move to Vermont for the food.

Meat

Apr. 1st, 2009 09:57 am
jayfurr: (Default)
I've lived a strictly ovo-lacto vegetarian lifestyle since Ash Wednesday, with only one screwup -- the Sunday after Ash Wednesday I had a McDonald's southwestern salad and dutifully, and diet-consciously, asked for the grilled chicken instead of the crispy chicken. About three-quarters of the way through the chicken I blinked and said "DAMMIT!" My dietary subroutine ("get the lean grilled chicken instead of the deep-fried crispy chicken") was operating and cancelled out my "don't-eat-meat" subroutine.

But other than that one screwup I've had no problems. The basement full of vegetarian meat substitutes and the ready availability of vegetarian salad wraps in the cities I've traveled to have made it all possible.

Carole thinks that I'm going to pig out on meat at the Easter brunch at Butler's because, hey, Lent'll be over. I suppose I could: they certainly have lots of tasty options on the Easter buffet. But I'm inclined to think that I shouldn't end the vegetarian experiment just because a religious observance called Lent has come to an end. It's not like we're actually Catholic or anything.

jayfurr: (Default)
Apparently the chief executive officer of IHOP is really, really confused, equating maple syrup with some sort of weird effete highfalutin' thing that her down-to-earth customers want NO PART of. And it gets better: their official corporate spokescritter has never tried maple syrup, but is looking forward to the experience. This is the spokesperson of the INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PANCAKES we're talking about here. NEVER tried maple syrup.

Sigh.

Well, at least they've agreed to let the first-ever Vermont IHOP offer real maple syrup for 99 cents a pop, in little quantities barely large enough for a single pancake. Carole says we should just bring in our own.

Lent

Feb. 26th, 2009 11:40 am
jayfurr: (Vortex)
I'm not a religious man, although at times I think of myself as a spiritual man. I'm also deeply sentimental in many ways. Don't even get me started about how much I like furry and feathery little critters. I feel guilty if I see that my birdfeeders have gone empty and birds are hanging around looking woeful wondering where the chow is. I've gone out barefoot in the snow to refill a birdfeeder so the birds wouldn't have to wait until after I've had my morning shower and gotten dressed. If I ever saw a woodchuck get hit by a car on my way to work and struggle away, slightly injured, I'd probably stop and see if there was anything I could do for it. I'm sort of peculiar that way. (Never mind the one time years ago that someone arrived at a party in Durham, NC and told us that they'd seen a recently-struck-by-car deer lying dead by the side of I-40 and I whimsically said "Hey, let's go pose for pictures with it!" -- and did so. Sometimes I confuse myself with the stupid-ass things my reptilian hindbrain tells me to do.)

Despite that, I've never made much of an effort toward vegetarianism. I guess it's partly to do with the distancing effect of letting the killing take place far, far away in distant slaughterhouses and it's partly due to the ubiquity of meat in our culture. If I leave a customer's office at 5 pm, having skipped lunch again, and decide to stop off at a fast food restaurant for a quick bite on the way to my hotel, it's not real often that I'm going to have a lot of vegetarian options to choose from. I shrug and get a hamburger.

But I've decided to actually give it a try for the next six weeks. Starting on Ash Wednesday, I've given up meat. Since I don't eat fish or any kind of seafood to begin with, I'm not weaseling and saying "Ah'm givin' up meat -- but pass the catfish and tater tots!"

I've got various vegeburger options at home -- faux ground beef, vege-franks, chik'n bits, etcetera, in cans at home, the result of a buying splurge when I found out they were orderable from Amazon.com and could even be bought at a 15% discount if you 'subscribed' to them. Amazon never cares if after the initial order shows up you cancel your 'subscription', so it's like, hey, free 15% discount.

The vege-franks are sort of weird, not really that much like real hot dogs, but if you put a little mustard on them they're actually OK. The chik'n bits are, however, surprisingly good -- add them to a recipe that calls for chunks of chicken and you scarcely know the difference. But best of all is the faux ground beef -- it comes in a can, slightly moist in a big cylindrical hunk, without any pre-added spices so you can use it wherever you'd use ground beef. Add it to chili or sloppy joe mix or whatever and you'll never know you're not eating the real thing. And even though we're trying like mad to save money while Carole's unemployed, I've ordered a couple more products to help me through Lent: chik'n bits and 'fried chik'n' (think "fake chicken nuggets").

I'll readily grant you that fake meat out of a can isn't going to be to most people's liking, but it works out a lot cheaper than going to a local organic/vegetarian-oriented grocery and buying a la carte, and again, I find these weird Frankenfoods surprisingly palatable once I stop thinking of them as 'meat' and accept them for what they are. (And again, if you do the 'subscribe' option, Amazon gives you 15% off the listed price.)

I'm also hoping that skipping meat and trying to eat a vegetarian, salad-oriented and fake-meat-oriented diet will help me lose weight. Now, if I can just fight the urge to make up a big bowl of pasta or couscous to have with dinner each night that I'm at home... :)



For the morbidly curious, here are the items I referenced above.




jayfurr: (Default)
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Ray's Kingburger.

It was a very small fast food chain in North Carolina and western Virginia when I was a kid in the early 1970s. There was a location in Blacksburg right next to the Radford Brothers supermarket (this was before we had chain supermarkets in town), back when there was no Burger King or McDonald's or Baskin Robbins downtown. Despite the size of Virginia Tech, we just didn't have chains or malls in those days. Everything was local.

So my idea of the ur-fast-food-restaurant was Ray's Kingburger. It had a blue logo with a big swooping lower-case 'y' in the word 'Ray' (if I recall correctly, and this was decades ago so I may be completely misremembering) and it had some sort of tie-in with Richard Petty. Petty, who after all, was nicknamed "The King" on the NASCAR circuit, especially back in those days.

We rarely went there to eat but since we shopped at the grocery next door it was always there serving as a reminder of what a fast-food restaurant looked like. It did things like char-grilled burgers, hot dogs, etcetera. Pretty standard food, but to a six-year-old, it was all So Exciting(tm).

They closed sometime in the 1970s and the chain itself was gone by the early 1980s. The only Google link I can find about them whatsoever is this page:

http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/nc.html

Ah, Ray's. We hardly knew ye.

jayfurr: (Iceberg)
I really don't like ratatouille.

In 13 years of being involved with Carole (December 1995-January 2009) I have never, even once, prepared ribs for her. My parents never served ribs at home and my first experience with them at a cookout was "okay, insofar as that goes, that was food, I guess, but now I'm all sticky, where's your restroom?" Also, I don't own an outside grill or a smoker and my barbequeing buddies assure me that you've got to have one to do ribs right. So I simply don't make them.

I am, for some odd reason, really jonesing for some fries with ketchup right now. Since I'm dieting, I'm not going to have any, but cold black coffee isn't serving as much of a substitute. Perhaps one of these Crystal Light beverages might confuse my taste buds.

Gravity should be optional.

Wait, that last one isn't a 'food thought'. Never mind.

jayfurr: (Abbey Pond Inna Flannel)


Mo's Bacon Bar. It's real, and it's SPECTACULAR. Saw 'em for sale at a brand new kiosk at O'Hare today. Wish I'd bought a ton. Sigh. The makers are gonna get mondo rich.

You can order yours from:

http://tinyurl.com/baconbar

You can see Carole and me enjoying the damn thing here:

http://tinyurl.com/baconbar2

Corn Dogs

Sep. 1st, 2008 09:14 pm
jayfurr: (Underwater Mightiness)
Corn dogs are God's perfect food.

Unfortunately, they are also laden with grease and my Earthly metabolism, lacking as it does the divine perfection of the angels of the heavenly host, is prone to turn them directly into fat.

Regrettably, I must subsist on raw vegetables and low-fat wraps and stuff if I am to lose weight.

DAMN YOU MY INEFFICIENT, SINFUL METABOLISM!

(and don't even get me started about Moon Pies. Sigh.)

jayfurr: (Taco)
In honor of today being National Soft Taco Day, I hereby pose a question to y'all:

Describe your ideal taco.

Is it on a hard shell, soft shell, or one of those weird combinations with two shells, one hard and soft? What does it contain? What kind of meat, if any? What kind of cheese, if any? What other stuff?

In fact, if there's a specific place/restaurant/location where you once had a truly outstanding taco, please tell us all about it.

INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW!

jayfurr: (Default)
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jayfurr: (Default)
Thanks to a recommendation from my students at the hospital, I had dinner last night an a Phoenix landmark, the Fry Bread House.



Very good food. 100% Tohono O'odham owned. (You may know the tribe as the Papago, but see this Wiki entry for why they don't use that name any more.)

I ate more than I should: I got an order of their red chile stew and an order of their green chile stew, each of which came with big tasty pieces of Indian fry bread, then to tamp it all down, two red chile tamales. Their tamales were a little odd -- corn husk, which I of course removed, then corn meal batter, then MORE corn husk, then more batter and then the tamale filling. I can't imagine eating the corn husk on a tamale (a shibboleth for detecting tourists is that they try to eat the corn husk) but having double layers like that made it a bit difficult to avoid. As for the stew, it was excellent; I'd have a very hard time saying which I liked better, the red or the green.

Tonight I'm going to try to meet up with my wife's aunt and uncle in Tempe and tomorrow morning, early, I fly home.

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