I have a list of things I must have. Most of the stuff on that list is food. There's other stuff, but yeah, I'm doing food this time around.
NOTE: I quit smoking dope a couple of years back. One of the weird side effects was that while I still get cravings, it's not just for any stupid thing to stuff into my face anymore. It's always for something specific, and nutritious. Food actually tastes better now, and my appetite has diminished! So hey, all hail 'realizing that I'm not 16 anymore' shall we?
Food was a big weird deal when I was growing up. My mother used it as a weapon. And she was from the generation that believed that if you boiled everything you ate, it was safe. Which is great as far as cauliflower goes, but not so much steak. And yes, boiled steak. That thing went in the pan and the lid went on and that chunk of cow turned grey all the way through. All the people they knew, that whole generation, they all did that shit, and I figured OK, this is old people food.
But see, my mom would figure out what you liked, and when she got mad at you? Off the menu it went. Permanently. Me and my dad both. We used to love it when we had company; she'd make a big, huge, serve-yourself taco spread and it was like "OMG vegetables! Cheese! Ground beef! Salsaaaaaaaaaaaa! There is a God!"
By the time I moved out we were down to stew Every. Single. Night. And I mean stew done up in a pressure cooker.
You remember that sound? That steam release valve rattling? I remember that fuckin' thing rattling around for two solid HOURS. She'd light up a smoke and be into Merv Griffin or doing the T.V. Guide crossword and that thing would be whistling and rattling and sputtering out grey watery stuff, and I'd creep past thinking Please God No. Everything that came out of that pot was like the victim of a transporter mishap. Those chunks were big, kids. Mom didn't have the lung capacity left to go around chopping shit up fine. So carrots, potatoes, onions like dead jellyfish you find on the beach, green beans...but it was all the wrong color, and it all fell apart like an old snowman the instant you touched it. And the meat? No. You could knit with that stuff. It would all separate into long strands, and the fat was all melted out, so you got this little goober of stuff doodling around in there. It was ghastly. And she didn't give a damn. Not one. Hell, she grew up eating oatmeal three meals a day during the Depression. Plus, she was a smoker - no filter - and her taste buds were dead. My dad? He'd stop off at The Red Lantern on the way home every night, have dinner, get plowed, come in and shove whatever was slapped in front of him into his face; he didn't care. His sense of taste was vacationing in Canada. He wasn't registering a damn thing.
So. List follows.
I must have:
Fried Chicken. Mashed Potatoes. Gravy. This is a perfect meal. Hot or cold. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack. Cold fried chicken and a tall glass of cold milk is one of the great lunches in the world, period.
Meatloaf. Cream Gravy. Mashed Potatoes. This is also a perfect meal, but you have to do it right. You don't let that poor meatloaf boil in there. You pour off the juice halfway through the cooking time and use it in your cream gravy. Oh Hell Yes. You can even make a sandwich with this meal. Let it all set up overnight and then put it between a couple of slices of bread. That cream gravy plays the part of the mayonnaise. Just let it be. Blop on a few spoonfulls of cold mashed potato and then lay a slab of meatloaf on there, and chow down.
Now, I do not mean you should eat disgusting gross meatloaf that has had a bunch of fucking ketchup or tomato sauce or BBQ dumped all over it. THAT IS NOT MEATLOAF. No Tiki meatloaf abominations either, like people putting slices of pineapple on that shit. DO NOT DO THIS AMERICA. Meatloaf is a beautiful thing. Don't abuse it with your depraved tastes. Let it be free. Put it in the pan, get your hand wet, or use salad oil, and smooth the top all over until it's a glossy and perfect dome. Let it spend the last 15 minutes of cooking time right up on top of the oven under those heating elements so it gets all brown and smooth on top. THAT is a meatloaf and it is glorious.
Spaghetti Bolognaise. Yes you have to put that minced chicken liver in the sauce, with the tablespoon full of strong black coffee. If you don't, you fucked it up and now you just have plain spaghetti with tomato sauce that is lonely for it's two buddies. Still, it's better than having no spaghetti with tomato sauce at all. Anything is better than that, face it. I have this very dish almost every morning for breakfast, and I drown it with
OLIVE OIL. Gotta be the good, nippy Spanish stuff. Extra Virgin Cold Pressed. I will put a quarter cup of olive oil on there. I will even drink a shot of olive oil plain every now and then, because I crave it. Why? I do not know; but I have the arteries of a 16 year old track and field star.
Pork Chops. Now, I can take or leave a hot pork chop, but a cold pork chop is Heaven. One of my favorite lunches is to wander around my garden, eating a cold pork chop and drinking a Bloody Mary. It is a perfect combination of all the senses. And the Biker can make a glorious pork chop that makes lesser pork chops hide in shame.
Kim Chee. I love this shit so much that thinking about it makes my mouth water. Kim Chee is better than puppies. Not cooked puppies or raw puppies; I'm not a monster, I'm just saying to mean that Kim Chee is one of those perfect combinations of flavor. Up our way we have a little lady who has a shop called 'SUJINS' FERMENTATION.' It is in downtown Anacortes. This lady, Ms. Sujin, this woman touched by God's hand, makes kim chee that is so delicious that you will weep for joy and gratitude. She makes it in huge clay pots that she buries for a year in her back yard, and what comes out after that year is a miracle. And she makes all different sorts too; it isn't about just Napa cabbage. The Korean people have a whole galaxy of fermentation-preserved vegetable combinations and there isn't a bad one in the bunch. When I was down there this last time I ate a whole jar of it. I jones for this stuff. But the best thing is that Kim Chee is like chicken soup - it cures whatever ails you. If you have any digestive disorders, kim chee will fix them. It replaces all your tired ass, worn out gut flora with beautiful, brand new, healthy flora, and gives your insides a good encouraging pep talk and fixes you up so that by the end of the day you feel better, everything that needed to get gone is gone, and your stomach is your friend again. Kim chee on rice with a splash of toasted sesame oil is another breakfast favorite of mine. And if you doubt my claims as to it's superhero status, look that shit up. It's one of the most healthy things you can eat on the face of the earth.
Now one of you is going Waa Waa I don't like spicy food.
Fuck ya, you pussy.
Kim chee doesn't need to be red hot. Yes, it has lots and lots of red pepper in it, but it can just as easily be mild red pepper as it can be hot; the Scovilles don't change the delicious flavor. Ms. Sujin makes mild, nippy, hot, and 'hot enough to eat it's way through two decks of the Nostromo' varieties of everything, so even your pussy ass will be able to enjoy it. Kim chee? The only health food that I believe in 100%
...except for CHICKEN SOUP. I was taught how to make chicken soup by Shirley, that lady in the picture there standing next to her husband.
That is the old Dave's Delicatessen down on 3rd and Morrison in Portland, Oregon. They were so good to me there, and I miss them so much. I always came out feeling full and happy. Bless them both.
The soup has to cook for three days. This means overnight too. Yup. You just turn it way down to almost nothing and cover it with a little gap left open for the steam so it doesn't get that stale, crock-pot taste. And you don't boil it, ever. The top of the soup must just shiver a little. You must stir it a lot so that everything breaks down and releases it's essence. If you want to scum off that grey, curdy stuff that floats on top, go ahead. It can be kind of liver-y tasting. Now from this beginning point you can go in hundreds of different directions. You can strain and clarify it, add some this and that and make regular chicken stock. You can eat it as is if you don't mind picking out bones, but don't because it's gross. You can strain it, reduce it, and just season up the broth to drink; there's nothing left in the solids anyway; throw those down at the corner of the garden for the birds. Put that finished broth in the refrigerator, it will set up like pudding overnight and any stray solids will have sunk to the bottom, ready for you to scrape off and feed to your gimp. Chicken soup is MAGIC for children. You have a kid with any kind of a complaint, you feed that child some nice warm chicken soup in a mug and just let them sip on it, and it will cure that child. I tested this on my own child. She grew up and got a career in engineering. Coincidence?
El Yucateco Green Chile Sauce. Do not eat this ever. You will die. It will kill you. I have been eating it for so many years it's nothing to me whatsoever except DELICIOUS. It has a fruity, flowery, almost a citrus flavor, a real green pepper flavor that loves eggs like Mickey loves Minnie. With Huevos Rancheros, or Chorizo with eggs? Now I'm hungry. On top of plain old refries and cheese is the best way to eat it, though. I drown it. The whole top of that bowl will be green once I'm done. You can do dog work for a whole day on one bowl of that. Once again, the combination of beans, cheese and chiles is one of the most nutritious meals you can eat. You'll be the healthiest corpse in the mortuary.
Cabbage Rolls. A Roma lady taught me how to make these when I was 19. She and her whole family were on their way up to the Feast of St. Anne celebration in Canada, and the whole huge group of them had chartered a flight and a block of rooms where I was working. To thank us, she and her daughters made hundreds of the things and everyone on staff was called into the office and we all feasted. Now what she was making was exactly halfway between a knish and a cabbage roll, but her version had apple vinegar and a metric shit-ton of sweet smoked hungarian paprika (You can find it in bulk at a halal store. And no, it's not hot, ya pussy.) - I know this sounds kind of appalling but believe me, it works. Every now and then, I get a ferocious craving for these beauties, and nothing else will do. It has it's own unique delicious, apart from every other food.
Raw Oysters. Oh get over yourself. A little raw oyster that has had a happy life, innocent of all toppings, seasonings and sauces, is an entire tour of the ocean in every single sweet, mild, ethereal bite; all textures are hinted at, all the places in the sea, and all the creatures. A small raw oyster that's been purged correctly is a masterpiece, something you think about and eat slowly. It is the only food that I will drink wine with, and I want a very light, mild white wine, not dry at all, but just enough fruit there to put the period at the end of the sentence. I will linger for an hour over a plate of these; twelve happy, innocent creatures who gave their lives to a grateful human. A Penn Cove oyster can bring me to tears.
Chow Mein. Good old sleazy, goopy chow mein. There are times when only fake ass, white people chow mein will do. And it has to have a little soy sauce on there too. When covid hit hard, a few months ago we were getting scared, and it got to be too much, I looked at the Biker and said 'Dude, we need some chow mein,' and he said 'OMG we do!" and he made some chow mein, a huge pot of it, and it saved our sanity. This sounds ridiculous, but it's true. Maybe it's a childhood memory thing, because for him and I, going to a Chinese restaurant back in the 1960's was the height of special exotic events. That was a birthday thing, an anniversary thing, very fancy indeed. Chow mein saved the day.
A Reuben sandwich/Monte Cristo sandwich. I lump these two together because they both fill the same craving place. A Reuben with Swiss cheese, a simple sauerkraut, good corned beef, a nice, rough mustard on rye served with a kosher dill pickle spear and a Scottish Ale is LUNCH BITCH. One of the great lunches. And lunch is a very particular meal. Breakfast is necessary and dinner is something you think about, but lunch is for the working person, and it has to be a certain way. You either need it to get you to dinner, or to make up for breakfast, and for me, the Reuben meets the challenge. You gotta put it on the flat top and get it warm and the cheese melty. It can take a little manhandling. It isn't drippy. It has strong, delicious flavors that work really well together.
Now I have been all over the fuckin' Net and I cannot find a decent Monte Cristo to save my ass, so here is how it's supposed to be made the RIGHT way.
Start out with a really dense bread. NOT sourdough. Potato bread is good, a light rye even better. Now you need Thousand Island dressing. Yes. And Swiss Cheese. Corned beef, a little plain sauerkraut, and scrambled eggs. Now let's put this fucker together. Stack it up evenly - structure is crucial. Spread the Thousand Island on the sauerkraut side only. Make sure that corned beef is sliced thin, but that there is a lot of it. Now turn it sauerkraut side UP and press the whole thing with a pan. Don't reef on it, just get it all evened out and everybody in there acquainted. Heat up that flattop and get a lid ready; heat it up. Now, dunk that whole sandwich into the scrambled egg, and I mean sozzle that thing around in there. Get it good; get all that scrambled egg into every crevice. Slap it on the flat top and put the lid over it. Give it a minute. Turn it over; back goes the lid. Now take the lid off, make sure it's all dry, that no egg is running out. Press down and give it another squeeze to make some juice run out and turn into a crust that you fold back onto the side of the sandwich, and put that fucker on a plate, slap a pat of butter on top, and sprinkle it all with powdered sugar. Send it out. It makes no sense. It is probably against the law. You will have to take half of it home with you, so wrap it up good and put it in your pocket or your purse and have that other half for dinner. It will turn you into a hero. This sandwich will actually convey heroism upon you. You will be lifting rail cars off small children and doing parkour; people will ask you for your autograph, you will be able to turn the channels on your television with your MIND.
Duck liver pate'/chicken liver mit schmaltz. See, I know how to make this stuff. People complain about the 'cardboard' taste of liver, but if you know the secret, and I do, you don't get any cardboard taste. You get the very mystery of the animals' life. When I used to do Christmas Eve Open House I always had one or the other on hand, because I knew that I'd be the only person brave enough to eat the stuff. You poor saps do not know what you're missing. And that's fine with me. I'll just take that...
It is stupid o'clock and I have run out of 'must-have' foods. That probably means that I've got the essentials down, though, so I'm happy with that. Recipes gladly shared via request.