Bugs of the sea

I always used to wonder who it was, exactly, that came up with the bright idea that lobsters would be something good to eat. After all, they have claws. They’re not pretty. They can be hard to catch. They can be very heavy and not yield a lot of meat relative to that heaviness.

Still, there’s something sublime about lobster when it’s done right. Broiled, grilled, boiled, sauteed – I can’t think of any way I’ve eaten lobster that has been bad unless it has been cooked to death or drowned in some sauce that hides the natural sweetness of the meat.

And tonight? Another successful meal that had as its focus the big bug of the sea.

Split lobster tails, angel hair pasta, salad – a work in progess.

Some of the split tails that remained after everyone had been served the first round.

The rest of dinner. The orangey stuff in the front is a chili vinaigrette that was quite tasty on the lobster and the pasta. My water. I go through a great deal of water during a meal, to help get the food down.

The beginning of my plate. Alas, I still have to skip the salad, as I just cannot manage lettuce at all. I did, however, eat quite a bit of the pasta and both halves of this particular lobster tail.

Gratuitous sleeping kitty photos from earlier today.

And then, there was dessert, after we sat around outside by the pool for awhile, talking and digesting the main course. This was my first time making a chocolate-hazelnut tart, and the recipe was sort of made up as I went along. Unfortunately, I failed to write down the proportion of the ingredients. That should make it even more interesting to try and recreate this for the bash next Sunday.

Hazelnuts (or filberts, if you prefer) need to be toasted and the skin peeled before you use them. These were roasted in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes, then wrapped in a dish towel to steam for a few minutes. Some vigorous rubbing in the towel, and the skins pop right off.

The other ingredients were mixed and the hazelnuts added.

Then the lot was dumped into a deep dish pie crust (didn’t make this – I was trying to neaten up the place a little for our dinner guest so they wouldn’t think us total slobs).

Baked at about 275/280 for an hour and a half. This leads nicely to the dessert course, with a tall glass of milk.

There was one lobster tail left over. I do believe I hear it calling my name, along with one of the leftover cobs of corn…

Tomorrow? Mom has requested hamburgers and more corn on the cob. So those will be grilled, but I’m thinking about sausage. On the grill. Perhaps some chicken-apple sausage. With a side of zucchini, done some way. That would be nice.

Bok bok bok

That’s what a friend of mine says to me from time to time.

But chicken was on the menu tonight, so it popped right into my head as I was pounding out chicken breasts to prepare them for slathering and rolling. The slather? After sprinkling the newly-flattened breasts with salt and pepper, I layered on some spinach and some gruyere, then rolled them up and secured them with toothpicks. Those went into the oven while some long grain rice bubbled on the stovetop. Since my brother and his son were surprise guests this evening, I broke out one of those ubiquitous blue boxes of mac and cheese for the kidlet, since he is not a big rice eater. Add some sliced tomatoes, and presto, a meal is made. It was good enough – the eaters ate it very well – but unfortunately, I could not really taste the chicken very well. The healing continues.

I also came to the realization today that the remainder of the painting will have to be done by someone else. Between the moving, the painting, the cooking, and the work of setting up new servers, switches, and reboot ports, I’m achy and exhausted, so something has to give. Since it certainly won’t be the cooking, and my real work must take precedence, that means paying someone to finish the cutting and trim in the living room/foyer (which is almost completed and which looks great in this color) and to paint the kitchen. I don’t suppose it helps that I stepped on the edge of something while coming down off the ladder this afternoon and managed to fall – but managed not to land the roller on the floor. Small victories.

Something amusing about hazelnuts. I’ve been having a hard time finding them at the local stores, so went to Fresh Market, which certainly should carry them, right? However, the first person I asked, who happened to have a significant southern drawl, had no idea what hazelnuts looked like. I thought for a moment. “Filberts,” I said. “Have any of those?” They certainly did. Now I have hazelnuts for the chocolate-hazelnut tart that will be part of Sunday’s dinner. Let that be a lesson: when in doubt, remember where you are and name things accordingly.

Dinner Sunday: grilled wild Maine lobster with drawn butter and a chili vinaigrette (for those so inclined) atop a small bed of angel hair pasta, salad, corn on the cob, chocolate-hazelnut tart.

Let there be pork

And there was pork, and boy, was it good.

Tonight’s menu.

Pork tenderloin with a maple glaze
Roasted sweet potato wedges
Roasted asparagus with lemon zest

This was my plate.

A plate for someone arriving later.

And dessert, for those who can actually eat bread-y type desserts.

For Saturday, I’m considering spinach and gruyere-stuffed chicken breasts with a lemon buerre blanc. That depends on there being someone around to eat, of course, and I think there will be. Should be good. Those of you in the area…well, you know.

Eating out

During the lockdown sessions in radiation, one of the (many) things I told myself as I waited to get through each session was that when I healed enough, I would return to some of my favorite places to eat, and continue my quest of trying a new place each week.

One of those favorites was Yoshi’s, a sushi restaurant. A dear friend of mine took me out to dinner a couple weeks ago for my first dinner out in public in a year, and my first choice was Yoshi’s. Alas, they have closed, so we went to a backup sushi place instead, which was good enough, but not quite the same.

However, the public dining experience was not altogether bad. This past week, since I have been without a proper refrigerator while awaiting delivery of my nice, shiny, new one, I’ve eaten out several times at Biscotti’s, a bistro-type place near where I used to live. Tonight, once again, I ate there and finally had the tuna tataki I had promised myself during those long months of treatment and recovery. I’m happy to say I finished all of it, plus a cup of soup, and a few tiny bites of a small mocha chocolate-mousse torte with chocolate ganache. I’ve found that really sweet items like the torte kill the fillings on the right lower side of my mouth. I’m not sure why this is, and why non-sweet things do not (although I do experience some pain if I’ve been eating quite a bit and chew on that side), but I’m betting there is some valid physiological reason for it. I suppose I’ll have to ask my dentist about that during the next trip when they see if I can open my mouth widely enough for a real cleaning.

In any case, we (the royal we) are making progress, I think. I am not the patient sort with myself, though, and progress is not fast enough, in my opinion. Since it can’t be changed, though, I suppose I’ll have to keep hammering away at it.

The new fridge arrived this morning. It’s very pretty, and now needs to be filled. That’s my plan for Friday, along with making brownies and a test run at that chocolate-hazelnut tart. Any taste testers available?


In our last episode of visiting the medical staffs at various doctors’ office, yours truly promised to keep using the tube and pour a couple cups a day down it until the scales stabilized. I have to confess that’s one promise I’ve not kept. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case except for the fact I can’t stand using it, the formula makes me queasy (or worse), and now that I’m eating more real food, it smells worse than it used to when it was only formula going down. Smell, you ask? Why yes. Because the tube basically goes into a hole in your gut that’s continually trying to heal itself, you not only get gunk around the tube itself – this is why it always has to be dressed and can’t just lay against the skin – you also get a small but continuous amount of gas escaping from around it. Now, this is not noticeable, really, to anyone but the person carting the tube around with them all day long. Namely, me. And I’m getting pretty sick of all of that plus having to constantly readjust it around my neck to avoid having it get tangled up with itself. It’s painful, even after all this time, and it’s a little odd to be talking to someone and trying to adjust the tube at the same time. They always wonder just what it is you’re doing with yourself there – not quite the faux pas of a baseball player adjusting himself on national television, but annoying and sometimes embarrassing anyway.

So I’m considering going forward with scheduling a date to have it removed. Unfortunately, that date will have to be after the big bash on Memorial Day weekend, and I know I will be out of commission for the day after it’s removed and possibly for part of the next day since the procedure is almost the same as when they put it in. Nothing like being pumped up with air like a ballon and then having to let the air dissipate naturally. It hurts and I hate it, but there’s no way around it in order to get the tube removed.

I know this is going to be a bone of contention with those around me, and it was a lifesaver during and after treatment, but at this point I simply think it’s time for the tube to go.

Missed opportunity/duty calls

So I missed a chance to cook for some people I’ve never cooked for prior to this point. Something intervened, naturally, and the window of opportunity closed. I’d like to be able to convince people to screw up at more convenient moments for me, but I expect this is a futile endeavor. I think it would have been quite a good meal, even if what popped into my head when someone was casting about for suggestions didn’t actually make it on the final menu. However, it did give me an idea for a menu to make at some point for my steady tasters or whatever group happens to be around at the moment:

Pan seared pork chops on sweet potato pancakes with pan gravy; black bean-mango salsa; roasted asparagus with lemon zest (or haricots verts if asparagus isn’t available); jalapeno cornbread.

I’ve added that to my collection of Things to Cook One Day. I’m hoping One Day will arrive at some point soon and there will actually be people with regular schedules and ready appetites to eat whatever it is that strikes my fancy at a given moment. Otherwise I’ll have to start chasing after strangers on the street, begging them to try the food while assuring them that I’m not crazy or trying to poison them.

Feed me, Seymour!

Party time is creeping up on us. If everyone we’ve invited comes, we’ll have 30-40 people here. What, then, of the menu?

Here’s a rough outline of what I’m planning.

Ribs, rubbed and smoked, with homemade bbq sauce on the side (smoking on Saturday)
Chicken, burgers and dogs for those who don’t like seafood (not many of those people)
Guacamole & chips – a huge batch, which will look similar to the picture I posted down a bit
Homemade salsa
Baked beans (made by someone else)
Potato salad (made by someone else)
Homemade hummus and pita
Fresh fruit
Homemade pickles (and possibly a try at Wickles as well)
Grilled veggies
Shrimp – boiled and grilled, with homemade cocktail and remoulade sauces available
Blue crab, steamed with Old Bay, assuming we can procure these on a Sunday
Grouper – fried and grilled, with chile-lime butter and a roasted garlic/herb sauce available (both of which would also go well with the shrimp)
Fresh bread, depending on me
Cookies – chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, madelines (maybe)
Apple tart? Chocolate hazelnut tart? (maybe) – Any voters who would like to cast their ballot for one or the other or both?

Some of these things can be made ahead of the party, of course: pickles (way before), sauces, salsa, coleslaw, desserts, bread, salad, guacamole. The ribs will be done on Saturday before the party Sunday. That will leave Sunday with prep only for the actual grilling and frying. I think it will all come together nicely.

Before the party, though, the painting of the foyer/living room and kitchen must be completed, and we must continue to put the house in order.

I am looking forward to being able to try my ribs for the first time since I started making them for other people. I won’t be able to eat much of them, but a taste will do. The fish will be easier to handle, and I do love some grouper. It should be a great day to be gathered around with everyone. And of course, if you’re reading this, we know you (every if we only have just met you!), and you’re in the area, come on along a week and a half from now. Bring your swimsuit and a towel or two. Eat and make merry with us.

Full of spirit’s melancholy And eternity’s despair

Since there is no way my hand would hold up writing this out on paper, and my writing would never keep up with my brain the way my typing does, once again, the electronic version wins. Skip if you’e not interested in things non-food related.

I remember during treatment that the medical folks (and the counselor types) said that there would be low points – sometimes, there would even be incredibly low points where doubt and other things would take up space in my head. They weren’t referring to the treatment itself, but the mental fatigue that sets in as a byproduct of trying to survive the intentional damage being done to your body in order to remove the traces of the invited guests that have taken up residence. These low points, they said, could come during treatment itself, or even on the upside of healing once treatment is over.

I recall only a couple of points during treatment that I would deem low, since I, like many others going through it, was in such a fog from a couple weeks onward that so much energy was taken up just getting through the day that pondering too closely on anything was out of the question. One moment I do not remember well. The other I do: breaking down completely and apologizing to my mother and one of my sisters because they had to take care of me so much. It’s always been my job to take care of other people, you see.

Continue reading Full of spirit’s melancholy And eternity’s despair


When I was a kid, I walked everywhere. When we lived with my Grandmother, my uncle – only a handful of years older than me – and I would walk to the movies, to the park, and anywhere else. When I got a bit older and into junior high, I finally got a bike of my own. From then on, I rode everywhere: to the park, to the community pool, just around the neighborhood, along the well-worn paths in the woods, and anywhere else there was enough space for me to squeeze through.

These memories came back to me the other day when I locked myself out of the new house. I have never, in all my years, done this. Of course, it’s rare that I have a door with a lock on both the handle and a deadbolt. Generally speaking, the places I’ve lived are deadbolt-only types. So it was without thinking that I stepped out the front door to pull my baby herb plants under cover in preparation for the severe storm that never arose and let the door shut behind. I must have missed the one way exit sign on my way out. I’d also locked the back sliding glass door to the patio. So, with no phone, no keys, and no id, and with an eye to the blackening sky, I plopped myself down in a chair.

Where I promptly fell asleep for about 20 minutes or so. It was a combination of many things: fatigue, the soft gurgle of the pool as the pump ran, the pines trees swaying in the increasing wind, that same wind gently nudging the chimes outside, and then whistling through the screens on the open windows as it gusted, the distant rumble of thunder promising something it would never deliver…

I awoke to the sound of a few raindrops hitting the top of the patio roof, and thought the storm had finally arrived, but as I roused myself, I realized the sun had broken through and the seven raindrops were all the rain that would be coming. So I hauled myself up and out to find a phone to call someone with a key to get over and let me in.

Overall, I was outside for almost two hours in enforced idleness, almost half an hour of which was spent napping. I can think of worse ways to spend a late spring day.