Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ten Cars (not ranked)

1. Chevrolet Corvette. (Never owned) When I was little, this was the car I wanted. I'll take the model from the year of my birth, 1964.

2. Ford Mustang. (Never owned.) Love the old Mustangs.

3. BMW 2002tii. (Never owned.) Car I wanted in high school.

4. Porsche 911. (Never owned.) Still in love with the look of a Porsche.

5. Volkswagen Bus. (Owned a 1972.) I loved my bus. So much character. I've thought often about getting another one.

6. Honda Element. (Own a 2005.) Some have called it the VW Bus for the 2000's. Don't know about that, but it's a hell of a vehicle. We've camped in it, hauled lumber, stacked 4 kayaks on top and it's never complained. I can see me replacing this one with another one....if the time comes!

7. Datsun/Nissan Z series. (Owned 1982 280ZX) Sigh. Only car in which I almost killed someone else. Twice. Of course, I would have been dead too.... Alcohol played no factor in either. Well, there was a third time someone was hood surfing at over 100mph. I probably wouldn't have died in that crash but Pat would have. For the record, I beat the RX-7 with Jon on the hood.

8. GMC Sierra/Chevy Silverado. (Own a 1996) First full-sized pick-up I ever owned. I'll never be without one. Redneck.

9. BMW 3series. (Own a 2005) A high school friend had one, in high school. I thought it was about the coolest car in the world. At the time, none of the typical makes of car high schoolers drove had the uniqueness of his BMW. (Well maybe a Volvo.) Wife bought a new one in 2005. Still a fine car. Sure, "poor man's BMW"--but still a BMW.

10. 1974 Oldsmobile 98 Regency. (family owned a 1974) Has to be the 1974. We were fascinated that when you turned the radio on the antennae rose out of the hood. The seats moved electrically. Inside the glove box was a button you pressed and the trunk opened!!! Do you not see how awesome this is?!? How about velour seats?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ten Pets. (only one ranked.)

  • Popcorn- Gary P.'s cat. I think it was a Siamese. Caused my allergies to flare...which masked symptoms from something else. First cat I ever really knew. Can't remember whether it was a male or female.
  • Muffin- We got Muffin soon after my father died. She was to be my sister's dog. A Peekapoo. She spent a lot of time in the sewing room while being house trained. She actually chewed the vinyl flooring to pieces, starting in the center of the room. Lovable dog. She hated Gary.
  • Gretel- Miniature Dachshund. She was pre-Muffin. We bred her and kept one of her pups, Longfellow. Poor dog died in her food bowl. Literally.
  • Chip McCoy- He was a blue parakeet. One day after school I must have opened the door to my bedroom and entered too fast as the bird flapped wildly a few times and fell to the bottom of the cage. Dead. A friend who was with me at the time helped me bury him, but not before we used his shoe-box coffin as a percussion instrument for his funereal parade. With him in it, of course. Not one of my finer moments of pet ownership.
  • Jazz- Maybe a Jack Russell mix, maybe some Basenji mixed in there. My girlfriend at the time had parents living in Homestead when Hurricane Andrew came through. They took a pretty big hit and wound up living out of a motor home while the house was repaired. One day during breakfast a stray dog wandered up and they fed it waffles. Thus Waffle became their dog. Jazz was the spawn of Waffle. She was a cutey! I could pat my chest and she would run, jump and roll over so that she landed in my arms face up. She got out of the fence one day and was hit by a car. Sad day.
  • Lucy- She was my Granny Franny's mutt in West Virginia. She had two spawn, Peggy and Patty, and my grandmother still tells the story of how the three of them would hunt critters. Very loving dog and very smart.
  • Amonte- Probably had some dachshund in her, maybe basset. My MeMaw's dog. I think my Aunt Ella named him. It was sad going to my grandmother's house and finding out the dog had died. Of all the many trips to Panama City to see MeMaw, I remember that one especially well.
  • Monk- Our guess, Jack and Chihuahua mix. Currently he's our only pet. He would be number 1 if cuteness were the only factor. We got Monk when we had another dog, Dizzy. I wanted another big dog, but somebody else won that battle. I don't regret it at all. I chose him at the pound one morning and picked him up after work. He rode standing with his hind legs on the passenger seat and his front legs on the dash, looking out the window as we drove home. About 3/4 of the way home he came over into my seat to say hi and we've been buds since then. He's a great rat/mouse killer and is pretty serious about it. Displays all the smarts of a terrier but also is a tad neurotic and a little OCD. Case in point, just about every time he comes through the front door he has to go under the desk and loop around the chair even if his ultimate destination is in the opposite direction. But I love this guy!
  • Dizzy- He was a small yellow Lab. He passed away unexpectedly in October of 2009 at 10 years old. It's likely he ingested something that ruptured his stomach and/or intestines. This is odd because he never was a dog to explore with his mouth. We got him from Big Dog Rescue when he was three. His name was Jesse, but we didn't like that name. Within days his new name came to us because of his incessant running in circles around us. He would do this until the day before he died. So, so tragic to see such a spark of energy pass at an early age. Our biggest problem with him was that he loved to fight. Actually, he loved everything. If another dog wanted to play...he loved to play. If, instead, they wanted to fight...he loved to fight. And he was kind of good at it. Strangest thing-- from the day we got him he was afraid of water. I don't know what was done to him those first three years, but it scarred him pretty bad. Dizzy was a lover boy. I miss him dearly.
  1. Niko- Best pet ever. Intuitive. Smart. A gentleman among dogs. Not so much of a lover boy, he'd rather play fetch or Frisbee than be petted or fawned over. Was always gracious to visiting dogs, allowing them to hit the water bowl first or not minding if they got their treat first. When it came to swimming, he was always the first mammal in the water and last one out. His last days, with cancer creeping in, we had to lift him out of the boat and into the water, his desire to be swimming was so great. I don't bother comparing other pets to Niko. He was the saint among the mere mortals.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top Ten Foods (ascending)

10. Fresh baked bread with butter and honey. Come on. Who doesn't?

9. Chilis/Soups/Stews/Chowders. I know it's a broad category, but I can't choose Texas chili over a seafood chowder over my Irish stew recipe. Our last trip to Italy I concentrated on soups. Had a couple different versions of Tuscan bean soup that were out of this world. If anyone has a great recipe for one I'd love to try it.

8. Pancakes. I like waffles and crepes too, but pancakes are king. Lots of butter and no syrup. I remember when I was young, restaurants would have "Silver Dollar (sized) Pancakes" on the kid's menu, heck, maybe they still do. I could eat a hundred of them that size. Still can.

7. Legumes. (Except lima beans and English peas) I'm from the South so we distinguish between limas and butterbeans. I LOVE butterbeans. Limas? Not at all. Give me some snap beans, snow peas, green beans, pole beans, black-eyed peas, black beans, lentils, garbanzos and I'm in heaven! Don't like English peas. Probably because I went through a phase quite young in life where I wouldn't eat any of my veggies and due to their frequency on the table, English peas must have been my parent's favorite. Still to this day will pick them out of fried rice when I see them, although I'll leave them in a pot pie or soup.

6. Oysters. My earliest memories of oysters are at MeMaw and PaPaw's house in Panama City on Thanksgiving with all the men sitting outside around a bushel of oysters cracking them open and putting them on a saltine. I love them raw, steamed, fried or grilled. Partial to eating them with a saltine, cocktail sauce and extra horseradish. Nothing like Sunday afternoon oysters with my sweetie!

5. Roasted Red Peppers in Olive Oil with Garlic. I got addicted to this through Bob K., the owner of Scafidi's in Crawfordville, Florida. (miss that place). My wife has perfected roasting peppers and we've learned to eat them on just about anything, but you can't beat fresh bread and a bowl of peppers & garlic in oil for an appetizer.

4. Fried Fish. Bass or bream or trout or catfish or mullet or grouper or snapper and on and on. It's so easy to mess this one up. That's why when you find it just right it's to die for. My Uncle Dewey makes the best fried fish. Don't try telling me no lies otherwise.

3. Dal Makhani. Arguably this could be under #9 or #7 and it's also the only real "recipe" on the list. That's how much of a favorite dish it is. Googlit if you don't know what it is. I've tried to make it, but never to my satisfaction. Luckily, there are a couple Indian restaurants in Tallahassee that do a pretty good job. Best I've ever had is in New Delhi at a place within walking distance of the Claridges Hotel. Wish I could remember the name of it. This is a great introduction to Indian food if you think you might like to start trying it!

Edit 10/28/2012--  I've since made multiple trips to Khyber Restaurant in Bombay (the location opposite Jehangir Art Gallery). Their Dal Makhani wins the Best Award.

2. Pizza. Italian style. The crust shouldn't weigh as much as your head. The cheese should accentuate, not smother. Any other ingredients should be chosen to blend with the crust, sauce and cheese rather than play the dominant flavor. Fresh garlic, fresh basil and some thin strips of #5...Yum!

1. Hamburger. A perfect hamburger is truly sublime. The beef. The grilled beef. The grilled, juicy beef. And the bun. Lightly buttered and toasted. Mayo to brown spicy mustard 2:1. Crisp lettuce, a homegrown slice of tomato and chopped red onion. Then a slice of cheddar cheese melted over two strips of bacon* and married to the beef. There are all sorts of spices that can be added to the beef or maybe you're a Worcestershire sauce kind of patty maker. Tip: Knowing what I know about the industry, don't ever order a burger any less cooked than medium unless the cook knows who ground the beef. I prefer mine medium rare, but the risks are too much with industrial ground beef and a chain restaurant line cook being in charge. So, get your meat guy to do it or grind it yourself. (let that sentence settle....) Tip: When forming your patties make a dimple in the middle of each side. This way when the burger expands it doesn't bulge in the middle, rather, comes out an even thickness. This tip also prevents you from having to push down on the burger to maintain uniform size. Pushing down=No-No.

Missing from the list?

*Bacon. American smoked bacon. No other kind. It IS one of my favorite foods and I can eat it by itself, but it goes so well with so many other foods, (See #1. #7 fried in bacon grease with bacon pieces. With #8, duh. Crumbled on cream/milk based #9s), that I couldn't bring myself to have it stand alone on the list.

BBQ, "Mexican Food" and "Sushi/Sashimi". Maybe I should have taken the easy road like I did with soups, etc. and included these but it wouldn't feel right. With BBQ there are so many types, styles, methods, rubs, sauces, cuts, regions....and I can't pick one over the other. Again, Tex-Mex, border Mex, "authentic" Mexican. I lived on the border of Mexico for nearly three years. I've had lots of types and love them all but they're all very different and I hate to pick a crispy taco with ground beef and lettuce over a soft tortilla taco with carnitas and white cheese, so I won't. Same with sushi & sashimi. You have nigiri, maki, aburi and seafood, shellfish and roe, and raw and cooked get the picture. I think I'm just more passionate about these three genres than I am soups, etc. so I can't allow them to go on the list as catch-alls, but the sum of all soups, etc. outweighs any single item from these three. (Or do they? I guess I can edit this any time...)

I've been fortunate to travel all around the world and dine with many wonderful people as they share their cuisine. And I still do. It's funny to look at this list and see the comfort foods in my life yet think about the amazingly intense dinners I've had and whether there can be ten things that top a list. Khati rolls at the Khan Market in Delhi. Carbonara at the restaurant of the same name in Roma. So many places in New Orleans so many times. But I'd throw all of them away if you told me I could never cook for myself again. That's the most important thing when it comes to food. Enjoy, learn and pass it on in your kitchen. --pd

The first.

Why Ten Things? Because it lacks imagination. Seriously. I don't have to think very hard about the topic and can concentrate on the content. My lists will change over time. Each list represents how I felt while writing it that day. Sometimes they'll be ranked, some times they'll be out of order, sometimes there may be 30 things in my head but I only list 10. We'll see. ---pd