Friday, February 24, 2012

The EEL Story OR How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Home

When I was in elementary school, my dad drove me to school every morning.  I attended St. Vincent's Academy on Market Street in was near (right across the street) St. Joseph's R.C. Church and a fire house.  I could sit in my third grade classroom and look out the window at Martland Medical Center which later became UMDNJ (my sister graduated med school from there hundreds of years later).  But, I digress.

I have come to the conclusion that apparently the kitchen was not always the heart of the home.  It was not the gathering place, the warm fuzzy place, the 'just grab a chair and sit at the table' place that it is today.  When I think of my grandparents' homes, and even the homes of other relatives and friends, the kitchen was typically tucked away in the back of the house, non-descript, and basically a room where 'work' (women's work) was accomplished.  When I was very young, the 'living room' was where everyone gathered. 

Whatever was going on in the kitchen was for the cook to be involved with, and probably no one else.

What follows is possibly how that all changed.  I am guessing that after many incidents similar to what I am writing about below, it was decided that if a wife or husband or grandmother or great-aunt was cooking something/anything, they were not to even think about venturing out of the kitchen proper.  It's not difficult to imagine that THIS is how the kitchen then evolved to become the heart of the home -- it was just safer this way!

My dad didn't talk alot while we were driving.  The first part of the ride he prayed, and when he was finished, he would turn on the radio.  Once in awhile, we would notice something....a printed sign, or some such thing, and either I would ask a question, or he would comment, but we were both rather quiet otherwise.  Comfortably quiet, mind you.

I was in third grade when my father told me this story which means I was eight years old at the time.

One morning we driving down Springfield Avenue in Newark, NJ toward school, and on the window of a Fresh Seafood store was a really large paper sign with the word 'EELS' on it.  We both saw it at precidely the same time.

 "Eels?" I exclaimed.  "Eels?  Why would they sell eels?" 

"People eat them," my dad replied.

Calmly.  But starting to smile....which was odd at that hour of the morning.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

A smile at 7:00am could certainly be construed as 'funny.'  We were usually rather quiet together.

And, then my dad told me the "EEL STORY."

He told me that when he was six years old,  his father, my grandfather, was standing at the stove in the kitchen.  The big stock pot was on the stove, the gas was turned on under it, and the lid was on the pot.

My dad had just entered the kitchen, and Grandpa was turning to leave the kitchen.

My dad continued: "Grandpa said to me, 'Leave the lid on the pot.  Don't open the pot.' "

 I knew for a fact (perfectly obedient, first-born child that I was) that at six years of age, being told 'not' to open something was as good as receiving an engraved invitation to get one's grimy little hands all over it and totally open it to see what was inside.

I knew that at six years of age that being told not to open something wasn't even going to register....a six year old's brain wasn't even going to process those words.

A typical six year old never imagines that THIS will happen:

A typical six year old is told "Don't open that pot!" and sees and hears this:

OR this:

Or this:

You get the idea.  The six year old, or five year old, or seven year old is going to open the pot, sack, bag, box, door, jar, window, whatever it is.  The key word here is OPEN.  But, you knew that!

My dad continued:  "Grandpa walked out of the kitchen" 

I was only eight years old, and even I knew that Grandpa should not have walked out of the kitchen.; or at least he should not have gone far.

My dad continues.  "So I dragged a stool next to the stove and climbed up." 


Those 'household accident statistics' have apparently been recorded for a very long time.

I was on the edge of my seat.  Seat belts weren't invented yet.  My father hadn't said this much to me on our morning rides in two years.  I was enthralled.  I had to hear what happened next.

"I climbed on the stool,"  my dad says, "And I lifted the lid off the pot."

He's laughing now. "The lid was barely off the top of the pot, and I began to scream and shout: SNAKES!  SNAKES!"

My eyes, normally big as saucers, grew twice that size.

"Snakes?" I practically shouted.

My dad is laughing and shaking his head no.

"Eels!" he tells me.  "Eels!"

"They came out of that pot as soon as I lifted the lid.  They slithered out of the pot, onto the stove top, and then were on the floor all over the place.  Slithering all over the place."

Okay, that was a visual I didn't need, but it clearly had stuck with him through the years!

"I'm screaming, 'Snakes!' and Grandpa comes running into the kitchen.'

"There are eels all over the place," my dad is laughing.

"Grandpa picks up a skillet that was on the stove, and he starts hitting the eels with the skillet.  He is going all over the kitchen hitting eels.  He is on his hands and knees on the floor hitting eels."

My dad tells me that at the same time Grandpa is exterminating eels, he is yelling at my dad:

'I told you not to open the pot.'

My dad said he was running around the room in tears screaming 'Snakes!'

When grandpa had finally finished doing whatever it is one does to eels with what was probably a cast iron skillet (no flimsy Farberware in those days), he looked at my father and started laughing.

And, he says to my father, smiling:  'Scared ya, huh?'

For sure, Grandpa.  Any individual who can remember in perfect detail something that happened probably 25 years earlier, well, they were probably scared.

And, in my opinion, the prospect of things slithering around one's kitchen is in part responsible for a school of thought which developed...that being that no small child should be left alone in a room with a pot of something that could exit said pot in a slithering fashion.

Hence, the kitchen became the heart of the home.

And, that, Mimi, is the EEL STORY!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Are My Kids Telling Everyone That We Are NOW Gluten-Free Vegans? Oh, Right....Because We Are Almost One Week Into Eating GF-Vegan........

LONG STORY SHORT:   (and when does that ever happen?)

On the day of the Nordstrom's Rack Meltdown, my husband accompanied the kids to the American Girl Store at Tysons for the Valentine's Day Cookie Decorating Event (I don't get mad, I get even! *wink*wink).  He, did, however, get to spend time with the lovely LM (and I would have gone ONLY to spend time with LM, but I was seething....beyond mad.....seething) and she was telling him about The China Study and her decision to switch to a vegan eating style.

Husband was fascinated.  Two nights later when I was finally speaking to him and listening to him, he toldme about The China Study and LM's decision and we decided to give it a more than him probably because I am the one who does all the grocery shopping and cooking.

I sprang into action.  A mere three nights later (I needed time to get up to speed, time to feel like I knew what I was doing, oh yes.....and time to understand exactly what vegan IS) we had our first (cooked by me) gluten-free vegan dinner.  Gluten-free because the ONLY cookbook I could find at Wegman's (that's right - still no trip to barnes and noble) was GF and V.......onward I went.

FTR, they loved the dinner -- it was delicious.  BIG THANK YOU to LM.  I am loving being in the kitchen again.  THIS change makes me have to pay attention and think and plan.

So, I am sharing here with you (my loyal reader:  Cousin Mimi (((hugs)))    b/c I think that mnot days, Mimi is the only one who reads my blog......and I haven't forgotten about the eel story, Mimi) 

Tried in my kitchen to quell the whining of 'there is nothing to eat in this house'...which was always heard in THIS matter HOW much there was to eat

And, no, THOSE are not what the recipe is for......the recipe is even better!!

These are amazing!  My husband LOVED them and he is the pickiest eater on the planet -- my kids are right in line behind him.  TRY THESE!

2 cups puffed rice
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
1/4 cup chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup currants or raisins (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegan chococlate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup macadamia or cashew butter (or other nut butter of your choice - we used cashew)
3/4 cup brown rice syrup (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE - USE BROWN RICE SYRUP)

Place the puffed rice, seeds, nuts, currants, cinnamon,and chocolate chips into a large bown and mix together.  In a smaller bowl, stir together the vanilla, brown rice syrup, and nut butter, then add this  mixtur to the puffed rice mixture.  You will need to stir this together really well so it will hold when you cut it into bars.

Lightly spray a 9-inch square pan with vegetable oil non stick spray and spoon the ingredients into the pan.  With wet hands, spread the mixture out so it fills the pan.  Refrigerate until well chilled.  You can cut into bars, or cut bars as you need them.


Monday, February 13, 2012


The house was going to be shown Sunday (yesterday) between noon and one-thirty which meant we had to vacate.  We are getting rather good at being displaced, but I guess I had reached my limit, hence, the
Nordstrom's Rack meltdown -- you can read about it here:

Dh took ds to dh's office to put up art work (he has a new office and is decorating) - I took the girls, and we were going to barnes and noble (our new home away from home when our house is being shown) -- nordstrom's rack is next door to barnes and noble. I have been tring to run into NR for four weeks and get myself a new pair of casual flats for every day. I tell the girls, let's run into NR, I need flats - just flats and then we will go to B & N and get a coffee and do schoolwork.  I do wonder WHY? I am doing school work -- I went to school, I graduated college.....why can't I go to B&N and get a triple tall americano and read a mindless magazine?

Enter NR.  I am looking for what I want, and the two girls begin the parade of 'Isn't this cute -- it's my size.' Well, of course it's freaking your size -- why else would you be shoving it in my face. I repeat to them that I was buying shoes -- PERIOD. The entire weekend had already been one big spend fest for dd12 as she had cotillion, mani-pedi, hair trimmed, blow dry, new dress, pantyhose, lipstick & eyeshadow and make-up application at Elizabeth Arden where her hair was taken care of, etc. AND.......everything they were showing me was for much warmer weather -- it was 28 degrees here yesterday -- the clothes they were selecting were thin as tissue paper. I did explain that to them.  They did look at me as if I had lost my mind.  Hadn't I heard of 'layering?'  You know, tissue-paper thin fabric on top of tissue-paper thin fabric -- oooooh, cozy warm!

I continue to look at shoes -- finally find two pair and I go over to the 'knee high' section because it has been too cold to go without socks or something.

My phone rings -- -- it is DH. Hey, he says. You guys aren't at B&N so I just walked into NR -- I know you are here -- where are you?

I do consider diving under a carousel of clothes and telling the whitest of lies:  'Nordstrom's Rack?  What are you talking about?  We are at Barnes and Noble......the one in Reston!  Oh, ha-ha-ha, you looked for us at the one in Fair Lakes.'  Lord, forgive me.

I decide to be honest.  I look around and see him and wave. As he approaches me, both girls also find me and they are carrying no less than 20 items each of essentially 'cruise wear.' 'OM gosh!' DH says. 'Who said you could buy them all that stuff.' 'I'm not buying all THAT stuff.' I say. 'They are fantasy shopping while I get two freaking pairs of shoes.'  I am clearly STILL delusional at this point to think I am going to get out of the store with anything.....least of which might be what I want.

'WHAT?' both girls say. Now pouting.  They dump their stuff into the cart and stomp away in search of even more tissue-paper thin clothing dotted here and there with sequins........which no doubt to pre-teens aids in the seasonal transition of clothing from winter to, errrr, still winter.

DS11 comes over practically buried under long sleeved (thank heavens -- someone with a brain in his head), Ralph Lauren plaid shirts (which are essentially his uniform) -- but I usually only buy one or two at a time (they are 'marked down' to $36.  Now call me crazy, but I consider that a little high priced for a shirt for an 11 year old who has to be reminded to shower) -- he had about 6 of them.....shirts, not showers. 

'Mom!' (WHY is it always MOM? WHY not DAD?)

 'Look. They have my shirts. I am almost out of them -- we should get these today.'  I have a fleeting thought trying to fathom how one 'runs out of shirts,' but I quickly give it up. I take the shirts from his arms, and he sprints away calling over his shoulder: 'I'll be in the boys' shoe department.'

DH is headed over to men's shoes, and I follow him -- my cart is piled high, and my two measly pairs of shoes are buried.

By the time I negotiate my way to men's shoes, dh is wearing one very nice brown dress shoe and asking me what I think of it. I am Switzerland.  'It's nice,' I say, as neutrally as I can.  As neutral as the gorgeous pair of Tory Burch ballet flats I DID find in my size that are marked down from $350. to $49.67........THAT neutral.  He agrees -- I'm going to see what else they have, he tells me. Oh, he says -- how much is all that in the cart?

'WHOA!' -- I say -- I came in for a pair or two of shoes -- we are not taking all this stuff. Most of it is for spring and summer and looks like it is for a life-sized BRATZ doll and not coming anywhere near my house - except for ds' shirts, and he doesn't need a passel of Ralph Lauren shirts.

I continue:  'And, I don't know how much all this is -- my intention was to walk out with shoes and socks -- nothing else.'

'Oh' says dh.

'Don't we have an NR $20. gift certif at home?' Yes we do.  But I don't know where.  And, I don't say that I have a pretty fair idea of what all the crap in the cart costs and $20. isn't going to even make a dent in it -- the freaking little Kate Spade socks I selected to go with the TDF Tory Burch flats are $20.

 He says that he and ds (who has put three pairs of shoes in the cart at this point and says he is going looking at jeans) will run home and CALL me with the Certificate # so I can give them the number when I check out and get $20. off what I have now estimated to be $350. worth of merchandise NOT including my shoes.

By the time I say 'No - don't do that - we are not buying thise stuff. And I am not giving them a number when I get in line -- I don't want to feel like an a** if they won't take the #........' he is out of the store.  DS is giving me the thumbs up and waves as he runs off with his father.

I stood there. I take a deep breath, my hands are shaking. I feel tears welling up. I turn and say to the two girls, 'we are going home.' And I started walking out of the store. 'Wait!' they say. 'You didn't get your shoes.'

I continue walking.

We drove home -- 1.3 miles from NR.

I walked in the house -- 'What are u doing here?' says dh -- 'I'm getting ready to call you with the gift certificate #.'

I have not included any of what I said next.  It is better that way.

'Take the kids and go do something fun with them please,' I reply. 'Right now.'

'You didn't get your shoes,' he says.

'You all need to go and I need to be unavailable to you all the rest of the day. Do you understand?' I say.

And, they leave (I've given you the pleasant version -- I DID totally lose it with them.  Totally.  I was even able to work in the heritage of one's parents and the offspring of one's parents peers.)

I sat for hours and listened to the sound of 'silence' in the house -- no one picking or pecking at me. It was delightful.