Thursday, November 6, 2014

I “Become” Mayor of NYC

I “Become” Mayor of NYC

I was visiting my daughter in Connecticut this October.  My son and his family had joined us for a few days, flying up from Florida.  We all decided to go into Manhattan that Sunday of Columbus Day Weekend.

Our son had decided to visit his wife’s Uncles and was going to check into a hotel with his family and stay on until Monday.  The plan was for him to go into the city about an hour before us, check into his hotel and then meet us at the Museum of Natural History.  He and his family left for the city by train, we followed about an hour later.

My wife, I, our daughter and her family arrived at Grand Central Station, took the shuttle over to Times Square, and then the train to the Westside near the Museum.  We walked to the Museum from the subway and just as we arrived at our destination we got a call from our son.  He was delayed checking in and thought it would be too late for the Museum by the time he was finished at the hotel which was on the Upper Eastside.  We agreed to meet at the Plaza Hotel, across from Central Park.

We got a two taxis and told the drivers where we wanted to go.  The drivers told us they couldn’t take us to the Plaza because there was a parade that day on Fifth Avenue.  We elected to be dropped off at Columbus Circle (59th and Broadway) and walk to the Plaza (59th and 5th).

We arrived at the Plaza and contacted our son.  He was on the East side of Fifth Avenue, we were on the West.  The parade, a Latin American Parade, not the Columbus Day Parade scheduled for Monday was in full force.  It seemed endless, we couldn’t cross to each other.

We told our son to cross when he could and we would be in Central Park.  

Meanwhile a friend of ours was trying to reach us in the city.  He had driven in but was also on the East Side and could not cross no matter how far down he drove.  Also he could not get parking.  Eventually he gave up and went home.

After about 45 minutes, our son and his family finally joined us in the park. We walked around and played ball with the kids, and eventually decided to go to have dessert at Ellen’s Stardust Diner on 51st and Broadway.  We were walking along the south side of Central Park and stopped for a light.

I was just standing there, minding my own business, when this man approached me.

“Mr Mayor, Mr Mayor, how nice to see you,” he exclaimed.

Now truthfully, I have been  mistaken for Mayor Bloomberg before.  Once in North Carolina at a Bar Mitzvah, and a couple of times in Florida.  
Both Mayor Bloomberg and I have gray hair, approximately the same shape face and build, and are mildly alike in appearance.

I turned toward the man and took his outstretched hand in what I hoped was a “Mayoral Handshake”.

“Hi, how are you,” I replied.

“I’m great,” he said.  “We all are visiting from Toronto”.

“Well, welcome to New York.  It’s a beautiful day, I hope you are having a good time.  Make sure you take in some of our great Museums and things to do.  Especially go to the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There is so much to enjoy here,” I told him.

“Thanks Mr. Mayor, can I introduce you to my friends?”, he asked.

“Of Course,” I replied and went over to shake everyone’s hand.

They all seemed happy to meet “the Mayor”, and would probably retell this story to their friends when they returned home, how they had met the NYC Mayor (former) and he was so friendly to them.

As they were leaving, I gave them one last piece of advice: “Don’t drink any 24 oz sodas (a pet peeve of former Mayor Bloomberg), and if you have a problem you can call on Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck from NYPD Blue) and tell him “I” sent you.”

With that they all walked off and we continued on our journey.

At this point my daughter-in-law, who thinks I am a little crazy to begin with, was looking at me as if I were a lot crazy.

“Why didn’t you tell them you weren’t the Mayor?” she said.

“What would be the fun of that? Besides, this is a great memory for them,” I replied.

She proceeded to tell her husband and children what I had done.  She believes in keeping a low profile.  She, like my wife, think I talk to everyone. Something they avoid.

We arrived at Ellen’s Stardust Diner and got a table.  The waiters and waitresses are all aspiring actors and actresses in the musical comedy milieu.  As a result, they all perform musically in the diner with solo songs.

The waitress came over and introduced herself and told us what roles she had played.  Not wanting to be outdone, I introduced myself as the Mayor.

She had a sense of humor and proceeded to kid around with me, asking me about my policies (gun control and smaller sodas).  

As we were talking one of the waiters had passed by and eavesdropped on our conversation.  After our waitress left he approached me.

“Mr Mayor, how nice to see you, we were in a play together,” he stated.

“Really, which one?” I asked.

“Mary Poppins,” he said.  “You did a cameo in it while I was in the cast.”

“Great to see you again,” I replied.  “Hope you get a lot more parts”.

“Thank you Mr. Mayor, it’s so nice to see you here with your family”, he answered.

As he walked away, my daughter-in-law looked at me and just shook her head.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Too Old To Be A Burglar

Too Old to Be a Burglar

My daughter-in-law was in a bind.  She was getting a roof repaired on her parent’s house and having the air conditioning fixed in her parent’s other house, about 20 miles away, on the same day.  Her parents were out of town and she was being a good daughter.

She called me and asked if I could help her out by waiting for the air conditioning repair man.  

I was going to be baking that day, making desserts for Break the Fast the following day, but figured I could make it over to the house by one o’clock if she scheduled the appointment in the afternoon.  She readily agreed.

That morning, while I was baking, I sent Barbara to get the key and the code for the burglar alarm system.

Barbara returned just as I was finishing up the last touches on my Linzer Tarts, Raspberry Sauce and Lemon Mousse.  I had about twenty minutes to get to the house and left immediately.

On the way, I looked at the paper my daughter-in-law had written containing the code and password if there was a problem.  I called her to make sure I knew where the keyboard for the alarm was and passed through the guard gate at the entrance to the community.

I arrived at the house, unlocked the front door, easily found the key pad and punched in the code.

No effect!

I tried again. No effect!

Getting a little anxious now, I tried to punch in the code and various buttons on the key pad that said “Off”.  I checked what was written on the paper my daughter-in-law had given me to see if I was punching in the wrong code.  I punched it in very slowly.


The alarm starting clanging.  I mean REALLY CLANGING !

It was deafening.

I called my daughter-in-law to see if I had done something wrong.

She answered, but I couldn’t hear her because of the alarm.  I went outside and questioned her about the key pad.  I only had to punch in the code, no other buttons were needed.

On a hunch, I asked her to repeat the code to me.

The number she repeated was different than the one she gave me. She had written a 0 but told me 6 for the last number.

I ran back in and punched in the new code.  The alarm stopped.

I heard a phone ringing and ran to get it.  I lifted the receiver and yelled in the password, but the alarm company had hung up.

I told my daughter-in-law what had happened, and she assured me that the alarm company would probably call her and she would verify there was nothing wrong.

I hung up and called my wife to tell her about the fiasco.

Barbara told me the alarm company had tried to call her, but she hadn’t answered since she didn’t recognize the number, a practice we had been doing to avoid sales calls.  She realized it was the alarm company when they left a message.  Turns out we were next on the emergency call list.

We speculated that the police would probably be dispatched to the location.  She assured me she wouldn’t post bail if I got arrested and to have a good time overnight in a cell.

On that supportive note, I hung up and found a place to sit.

I had brought a book with me and settled down to wait for the repairman.  It was hot in the house since the air wasn’t working but I was semi comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt.

About twenty minutes later my daughter-in-law called me to see if everything was all right and to update me on the progress of the roofers.  When they finished she would come and relieve me.

While I was talking with her, there was a knock at the door.  Still talking with her, I went to answer it.

I opened the door to a fairly large Deputy Sheriff, and two patrol cars in the street.

“Hello officer,” I said, trying to sound innocent. “Come on in and I will explain”.

“That’s ok, can I see your identification please?”

I handed over my driver’s license.

“I see you own the car in the driveway,” he stated. “I’ve already walked around the house and could see no break in evidence”. 

I guessed he had run my plates.

“It’s my daughter-in-law’s parents house, I’m here waiting for the air conditioner repair man,” I told him.

“You’re the father?” he queried.

“No the father-in-law,” I answered and explained again what the relationship was.

“I was given the wrong code, and by the time I got the right code, all hell broke loose”, I stated.

He looked me over and wrote down my information.  

“Would you like to speak with my daughter-in-law, she’s on the phone with me now” I asked?

“No, that won’t be necessary” he answered. “You don’t look like a burglar, and besides if anything is missing I have your information”.

He got back in his car and the two cars then left.

I closed the door and went back to my seat.  

My daughter-in-law was still on the phone.  She, unlike someone I could name, was sympathetic.  She promised to relieve me as soon as she could and insisted I must be wrong about what she wrote for the last number of the code.  I wasn’t.

Eventually the repairman and my son and daughter-in-law arrived.

I got to thinking about the reason the deputy had not pressed me.  I wasn’t an owner at the house or even someone with the last name of the owner.  Why wasn’t he more suspicious?

I believe he took a look at me and decided I was too old to be a burglar.  

How insulting!

What kind of age discrimination was this? I was not too old to be a burglar!

Oddly for me I decided not to prove it.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why I Need A Social Secretary

Why I Need A Social Secretary

I always thought I could make my own decisions and appointments, but as the years proceed, I find I need a social secretary.

This decision has come about over a number of years as apparently my decision making leaves much to be desired in the view of my wife.

It started with her asking my opinion about clothes, makeup, social problems or decorating ideas.  

Invariably she asks me my opinion and once I give it, ignores it if it doesn’t coincide with what she wants to hear.  

Why ask me if she doesn’t care what I say?  Is this a ploy to undermine my ability to make choices?

When it comes to choosing a restaurant, I always ask Barbara where she would like to go or what type of food she would prefer. Barbara usually says “whatever you want is fine”, so I choose a place and immediately hear “why did you pick that place?”  

If she had a preference, why wouldn’t she tell me?  

Do all wives and women do this, or is it just Barbara? The answer is below.

The same holds true for making arrangements with friends and family.  Barbara will tell me to handle the arrangements.  So I do.

“Why did you do that” or “why did you agree to that”, is her usual response when I tell her what we had planned.

Tired of hearing her complaints, I now tell everyone to “Speak with my Social Secretary”.  

I have noticed that many of our male friends now do the same.  It saves time and nagging.  Guys don’t really care.  Just tell us where to show up.

This trend of guys getting Social Secretaries answers my previous question.  All the wives and women do this.  It probably is a form of amusement for them.

Now, even the pretense of taking my preferences into consideration has come under attack.

Barbara and I were recently visiting our daughter and her family in Connecticut.  We were all at the movies waiting for the picture to start.  There was a discussion about where we would all go to eat.  Barbara offered me three choices, Burgers, Spanish Tapas or Hibachi.  

I replied that the only one I didn’t want to eat was Hibachi.

Barbara looked at me, turned to my daughter and said firmly, “he wants Hibachi”.

Obviously, I was wrong again.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Time As A Pie Judge

My Time As A Pie Judge
The American Pie Council 2014 Championships

It was all my daughter’s fault.

My wife, Barbara, and I were visiting our daughter and her family at her new home in Connecticut.  We were planning on eating in and I wanted dessert.  She took me to a pie bakery in Norwalk, and as we entered, I noticed the various award citations on the wall.

Being the shy, reticent person I am, I engaged the owner in conversation about the awards.  

She had won several times with a couple of her pies at a national pie competition run by the American Pie Council.  Turns out it is held in Orlando, not that far from me, about 3 1/2 hours by car.

I explained that I was a big dessert person, preferring dessert over the main course any day.  Pies, cakes, cookies, fresh fruit, canned fruit, ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, any combinations of these things and I am in. I refuse to sit down to a meal unless I am going to get dessert.  I have always been this way, and anyone who knows me, knows I am always going to ask for the dessert menu.

After hearing this, the owner suggested I might want to go and be a judge.  How could I refuse this invitation?  My dream job has finally arrived!

When we got back to Florida, I went on the American Pie Council website and wrote them an email asking how I could become a judge.  They sent me an application which they wanted me to fill out.  It looked to me like they were interested in professional bakers or food critics, something I am not.  I wrote back to them that my 67 years of pie eating was a good qualification and I am the one who is going to buy and eat the pie, not just critique it. People like me should be represented.

Turns out, they agreed and I was scheduled to be a judge for the 2014 Pie Championship.

Once selected, I felt it was my judicial responsibility to get a base line of what pies should taste like.  I set out to eat as many pies as I could between when I was chosen, November 2013, and when the competition was, April 25-27, 2014.

My wife, while criticizing my decision, never turned down any pies I brought home, or ordered at restaurants.  Friends would join in to try pies with me, or get pies for me to taste.  Anything in the name of Judicial Research

About a month into my research, I had a doctor’s appointment. My doctor was not amused by my blood tests, but agreed to withhold judgment until after the pie contest, when I would return to my normal level of pie eating.

During this time, I started baking just to get the feel of what that is like.  I downloaded a pie recipe from the American Pie Council site of a past winner, and produced a very tasty pie.  I also baked cookies, Linzer tarts, Black and White cookies and a Rum Raisin Tiramasu.  I even made a chocolate flourless torte for Passover that was very good and got rave reviews from friends and relatives who came to our seder.

I now felt confident in my tasting ability and ready for the contest.

On Thursday, the 24th, Barbara and I drove to Orlando and checked in at the hotel.

It was a very nice hotel.  All the rooms were two room suites, well furnished and spacious.  There were three restaurants and a takeout cafe for us to eat at, a very pretty pool area and the convention center was located on the hotel grounds.  

There were two conventions going on.  The pie convention and a convention of nuclear cardiologists.  I wondered if that was coincidence or would some of us wind up as patients in the medical convention after consuming so much pie.  I viewed it as a built in referral and treatment option.

We went over to the convention hall and met the head of the American Pie Council and some of the people working and volunteering.  They were very friendly and I spent some time talking with them.

The only problem was I was told that the Food Network, that was supposed to be filming the event, cancelled at the last minute because of problems with the production company they had hired.  I was disappointed as I was sure I was going to be discovered and given a show of my own.  Oh well, the best laid plans of mice, men and pies....

The next day, I got up early, brought breakfast back to the room (juice, coffee and danish) for both of us, and then at 8:30 went to register for the pie judging.

There were about 100 people milling around waiting to go into the judging room. I met some of them.  Most were locals and had been doing the judging for several years.  They gave me advice on how much to eat and we talked about criteria. The man in charge announced a special meeting for the “rookies” in the group.  About 30 of us went to the special meeting.

At the meeting, Rich, the man in charge, gave us detailed instructions on how to fill out our rating sheets for each pie, how to do a tasting, and the importance of not discussing the pie we were tasting with the other judges until after everyone had rated the pie.  He explained that there was literally millions of dollars at stake for the commercial bakers and that this was serious business.  

Today was Commercial Pie day.  These are the people who distribute pies nationwide to supermarkets, C Stores, wholesalers, etc.  People like Krogers, Winn Dixie, and Legendary Bakers to name a few.

We were than joined by the “non-rookie” judges and more information was given and rules repeated.

The commercial people wanted “average joes” to taste their pies as we were the ones who would go to the stores and buy them.  That made a lot of sense to me, and I didn’t notice any professional people doing the judging that day.

The time had arrived and we all adjourned to the pie tasting room.  We were to be sequestered.  We had no contact with the pie makers on any of the days, so we could not be influenced by them.

We had each been assigned to a particular table, and there were five judges per table.  Each table was assigned 1-2 types of pies to judge.  My table got Apple Crumb and Banana Cream.  Fruit and Cream!  I was psyched.

Each table had a volunteer server assigned to it and that person would bring us the pie to inspect. They would then bring it to the cutting table, where a wedge would be cut off by “cutters” and then brought back to us along with the rest of the pie for further inspection.  Great care was given to the cutting. The wedge would then be placed in front of one of us and that person would slice off a sliver to taste, including the crust.  The wedge would then be passed onto the next person at the table and the process would continue.

We would then individually taste our sliver and evaluate it for flavor, texture, blending, identification of flavors or fruit, how well it met the expectations of its type, appearance before cutting and after cutting, first taste impression,  after taste. if we would buy it again, and overall evaluation.  The various criteria for rating the pie was on a scale of 1-9.  There was also a place for comments which we were encouraged to do.  The commercial people wanted to know our input, both good and bad.

In between pies we were to eat an oyster cracker and drink water to clear our palates.  We used new plates, knives and forks for each pie so as not to contaminate the tastes of each pie. No coffee, tea or soda was allowed as that would affect the taste.  

We were now ready and the first pie was brought out.

We dutifully followed our instructions and evaluated the first pie. Our evaluation sheets were collected and sent to the tabulation room after each tasting.  This was serious business, with people walking around monitoring us, wearing “Pie Police” T-shirts, making sure all the rules were adhered to.

Eventually there were 12 Apple Crumb pies and 9 Banana Cream pies to taste at our table. 

The pies ranged from pretty good, to not so good with most in the middle.  We were given a sheet that told us how to interpret the pie for price, based on the pies designation code. The Family being the lowest $3.00 selling price to Super Gourmet with a price in the $20’s. The price of the pie didn’t seem to matter.  One of the better pies was a cheaper one.  The price did not affect how we judged it.  We never knew who baked the pies.  All pies were presented with a generic code which we copied onto our evaluation sheets.  This was procedure was followed every day of the competition.

We were usually within 10-15 points of each other, high to low.  The highest you could score was 81.  I usually fell out in the middle, with other judges generally scoring higher and lower than me.  I didn’t give out any 81’s, the highest i gave was a 72, and the lowest I gave was a 44.  Since our scores were pretty close, I felt the scores were honest and correct.

We had been given a 20 minute break and I wandered into the exhibition hall where there were pie seminars and vendors of pie products.  There was a long table where all the commercial pies were set up for viewing.  These were duplicates of the ones we had sampled.  I managed to get a two pound bag of flour from a vendor as a giveaway.  When I asked for a T-shirt from the American Pie Council, I was told I had to buy it.  No freebies for us judges!

I returned to the judging room.

We finished up around 2:00 PM .  I estimate I consumed the equivalent of 3-4 pieces of pie during the judging that day.

I went to find Barbara.

She of course was hungry and demanded lunch.  We retired to one of the restaurants and she ate lunch while I just had a soda.

We found a shady spot near the pool and hung around until later in the afternoon.  We went up and relaxed in the room and then left the hotel for dinner at a town nearby, Celebration, which had many restaurants and shops.

Celebration is a planned community set up by Disney.  It has a small town feel and look.  Some people refer to it as the “Stepford” town for its orderliness and appearance.  It was very pretty, and we ate dinner, walked around and returned to the hotel.  

I awoke the next day and repeated the breakfast routine from the day before.  I then left for the day’s judging.

Today was amateur day.  

Again there was a special meeting for the rookies, I of course now being a veteran, did not attend.  I did go to the meeting later with the rest of the experienced judges after the rookies had been given their training.

We were all told that these people should be treated a little differently.  They took our comments very personally and we should not put down negative comments as that could bring on tears.  That was not to mean we should lower our expectations and raise our ratings, just not be cruel in the comments.  If you couldn’t say something positive, don’t say anything.  Good advice.

There were some professionals among us this time, not a lot, but some.  I felt they could be instructive after a tasting, giving their take on a particular pie.

We went into the judging room.

My table was assigned Chocolate Cream Pies.  Nineteen of them to be exact.  I like Chocolate Cream pies.  No professional at our table, but 3 of us had previous experience.

We began.

Once again, there was a wide variation in the tastes of the pies. I really liked two of them.  

The Bakers took a lot of care on the appearance and construction of the pies and many baked in some different ingredients in the pies.  Sometimes that worked; sometimes it didn’t.  One of the pies I liked the best was simply a chocolate cream pie, with no additions.

Once or twice we got a pie that we all sort of asked (after rating it) “did anyone taste this before entering it?”

Never the less, they all showed a lot of effort, thought and care. Some had very elaborate appearances. After all this, I still like Chocolate Cream Pie, although I may not have another for a while. 

By 1 o’clock we were through.  My hands were shaking a little from the sugar rush, but I persevered and I went to find Barbara.

There was a pie festival going on at Celebration, sponsored by the American Pie Council, so Barbara and I took the shuttle bus to go there.  

Of course Barbara was hungry and we (both of us) had tapas and sangria for lunch at a local restaurant near the festival.

After lunch we went to the festival.

The festival had vendors selling knives. baking dishes, aprons, dried fruit, spices and various other things.  There was also a section where the commercial bakers were giving away pie slices to anyone who was there.  Barbara got some pie, but for the first time, ever, I didn’t take any dessert. I was pied out!

The next day was Professional Day.  These are the people who own and bake at bakeries.  It is expected that these would be the best pies.  Everyone wants to judge on this day.  There are more candidates than there are seats for judging.

I had elected not to judge on this day, as my cousins were driving up from Tampa to visit us for lunch, and I wasn’t sure what time the judging would end.

I’m sorry I didn’t judge, but I was very happy to see my cousins.  Family outweighs pie, no pun intended.

After lunch we drove home.

Would I do it again?  Maybe.  I enjoyed being a judge, but it was quite expensive for me (about $1,000, including, hotel, food, gas, and tolls).  I will have to think about that, assuming they would have me again.

I did get to taste 40 pies and help determine the fate of some commercial baking companies.

What’s most important is I got to meet some nice people and I had fun.

Barbara and I are ready for our next adventure.  I heard about a Grape Stomping event where people do “The Lucy”.  Anyone want to join us?

As an aside, I’m fully recovered from my pie saturation and I am ready for dessert after dinner tonight.   

Commercial Pies

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Grandmother Would Be Proud

My Grandmother Would Be Proud

I have mentioned before how we have started cooking after 46 years of not cooking.  That is going very well and we are enjoying various recipes I have downloaded from the Food Network and other sites.

Now we are entering a new phase, Baking.

This phase started with my seeking out pies to eat in my attempt to do Due Diligence for my role as a judge in the Pie Judging at the American Pie Council/Crisco contest in Orlando.  

Unfortunately I was singularly unsuccessful in finding decent pies to eat and judge.  At first I could only find one place that had decent pies, the rest of the bakeries (and there are very few of them around) are not making pies because it had become uneconomical.  The supermarkets are selling pies at very low prices and people are buying them even though they hardly rise to the level of mediocre.

I recently came across a new pie bakery that has just opened and it is great.  They even have a Reuben Pie which I have been buying and eating for dinner (it consists of Kosher corn beef, cheese and saurkraut).  Much better than store bought chicken pot pie.

Nevertheless, I was determined to make my own pies and desserts.  Barbara was surprisingly hostile to this notion.

“Are you trying to make me fat?”, she exclaimed when told of my plans.

“What about your triglycerides, huh?”

I smartly avoided that particular discussion and the decision was postponed while I tried to convince her we needed a standing mixer.  She was having none of it, especially since the cheapest standing mixer (Kitchenaide) was $199.

Some of our friends tried to persuade Barbara to allow me to bake, and I added to the discussion by mentioning a family history of bakers in the family in Europe.

My Grandmother, who lived with us when I was growing up, would bake every Friday.  She would make Challah, sugar cookies, Babka, and apple strudel.  I would sometimes help her with the dough and of course with the eating.  Her family in Europe were from a long line of bakers, so I wasn’t lying when I used that argument on Barbara.  Strangley, she wasn’t convinced by that argument.

For months Barbara fought me on the standing mixer.  

Finally I was in Kohl’s, a department store that offers prodigious discounts and saw the mixer at an unbelievable price.

First let me say, I like Kohl’s for their marketing approach.  I get coupons and offers from them every day.  Their offers sound too good to be true, but oddly are true.  I don’t understand how they make money.

Often I go in there to buy something, buy $70-$80 worth of goods and wind up, after discounts and “Kohl’s Bucks” only paying them $5-$15 in cash (charge actually).  I don’t understand it, but if they are willing, I am willing.

Occasionally I ask the check out person what Drug Cartel they are laundering money for.  This usually elicits a sly smile, giggle, and in my mind, a furtive glance, while they try to deny it.  

Recently my sister-in-law went to Kohl’s for the first time at my urging, and had the same reaction I have about the money laundering.  Maybe I should keep quiet about it now, for fear of retribution.

Anyway, I happened to be in Kohl’s and they were offering the standing mixer, after discounts, rebates and credits, for the sum of $110!  

I hurried home to inform Barbara of this wonderful opportunity.  

She was surprisingly unmoved by this information, and vetoed the idea.  I bided my time.

That night we were going out with a couple who liked the idea of my cooking and baking.

I inadvertently let slip the news that the mixer was currently on sale for that unbelievable low price.  They were “aghast” at the price and ”they” insisted we go to the store to confirm it.

When we got there, we confirmed the price and they urged Barbara to allow me to buy the mixer.  I think my promising to make dessert for them, may have influenced their support, but maybe not.

Barbara, miraculously, in the face of this united front gave in.  

At home, I looked around for things to bake.  We were invited to a dinner party and I told the hosts I would make dessert ( the same couple from Kohl’s).  I found a recipe for Oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip cookies, a healthy and delicious choice at the same time.  Barbara insisted I prepare another dessert that didn’t require baking since this was my first time.  I also made a poached pear, dates, apricot and prune dessert that was delicious, thank you Ina Garten.

The cookies came out great and I was off to the baking races.

I have made Black and Whites cookies ( I never got to eat the first batch, they seemed to disappear before I could get a taste), Linzer Tarts, Apple/cherry Turnovers, Pineapple/cherry/vanilla/coconut pie, baked donuts and a Chocolate Torte with Raspberry sauce for Passover.  All of which have been delicious.  I am particularly happy with the Chocolate Torte for Passover, since I can’t remember the last time we ate a cake for Passover that didn’t taste like cardboard.

We have shipped the Black and Whites and Linzer Tarts to my daughter’s family in Connecticut, after she complained of not sharing the spoils of my baking with her.  They were gone by the next day after she got them.

My neighbors and friends have profited from my baking as the recipes call for large quantities and I give them away rather than eating all of them or letting them get stale.

I am waiting for my cousin, Elphaba (aka Rocky) to come over to make a Chocolate Babka like our Grandmother.  She is here for the winter, and it was her idea to make it. I have offered to get her a chefs hat, but so far she has refused to join me in baking.  Probably worried we would get into a flour fight.

Every time I begin to bake something, Barbara strenuously objects on the grounds I will make her fat.  And, every time, she eats the cookie or pie I have made, often twice in one day. I guess “no” means “yes” in this case.  She is also “reluctantly” eating the pies I bring home from the Pie Bakery.

She has allowed me to buy various baking equipment including a hand mixer for when I have to use two mixing bowls for the same recipe, and secretly lusts after my desserts. 

A rum tiramasu is next, who knows what will follow?

My Grandmother would be proud.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Low Carbohydrate Diet

A Low Carbohydrate Diet

It all started on Halloween.

We get about 60-100 kids coming around and this year was no exception.  However, at the end of the night, we had 3 bags of Hershey’s Chocolate Bars left over.  Barbara attributed this to over shopping on my part, but the rule is if there isn’t anything left over, you didn’t buy or prepare enough.

I, being the thrifty one in the family, put the bags in the refrigerator in the garage, planning on using them next Halloween.  Barbara had other ideas.

She put bags in the refrigerator in the kitchen, where they presented a tempting vision every time I opened the door, or even thought about them.

Barbara was basically forcing me to eat them, and so we did.  

By the beginning of December they had miraculously disappeared, just in time for me to take my annual blood screening test ordered by my doctor.

We arrived at the doctor’s office.  We both had an appointment and went in together.

I sneaked a peak at the chart prior to seeing the doctor and saw what the doctor was going to be complaining about.

As expected, when the doctor came in, she admonished me over my Triglyceride level.

“Why is it so high?” she inquired.

“It’s Ina Garter’s fault,” I declared. “You know, the Barefoot Contessa. She and all the chefs on the Food Network are creating my high Triglyceride number.  All the recipes start with: ‘Get a stick of butter’. What could I do? We are cooking now for the first time in 46 years and this is what is required.”

“Hmm”, she said, “why don’t you use margarine?”

“Because it tastes like crap”, I declared.  “What’s the purpose of cooking unless it tastes good?”

“The doctor gave me the “Look”, much as Barbara gives me when she wants me to stop something.  Must be a female thing.

“Oh, and maybe because Barbara made me eat three bags of Hershey’s Chocolate Bars,” I said.

“Three Bags!” the doctor exclaimed, looking at Barbara for confirmation.

Barbara confirmed my statement (at least to my eating the 3 bags) with a nod of her head.

“She forced me,” I said, “I had hidden them in the refrigerator in the garage, but Barbara moved them to the kitchen in order to tempt me”.

Barbara rolled her eyes and gave me the “Look”.

“That will do it,” the doctor said.

“And possibly, but probably not, my eating pies might have contributed to the high number,” I added.

“Pies?” she inquired.

“Yes, I have been appointed a pie judge at the American Pie Council Bake off in  Orlando in April.  It is my judicial responsibility to eat as many pies a possible between now and then in order to get a baseline of pie tastes for judging purposes,” I said.

“Really,” she inquired, “how did that happen?”

I proceeded to tell her how I had talked my way into becoming a judge at the contest, and why, I, an amateur, was qualified to be a judge among the professionals who would be there.

“Interesting”, the doctor said, “but that doesn’t solve the problem”.

“Don’t worry”, I responded, “I will cut back on carbohydrates, like bread,and potatoes and the number will go down immediately.”

We then had a discussion about different pies I had tasted and particularly about Key Lime Pie, which the doctor said her husband was very good at baking.

“Ok”, she said, getting ready to leave, “we’ll test you again in May after the contest and see what the number is then”.

“Good plan”, I said.

As she was leaving us she turned and said, “You know you are killing me with this”.

“Killing you?” I responded, opening my eyes wide.

She left without further comment.

We left the office and surprisingly Barbara was a little upset.

“That’s it”, she declared. “You are cutting out pastries and chocolate until your Triglycerides go down”.

“Sure, sure”, I said, “I’ll cut down on bread”

“I mean it”. she said, looking very determined.

That night she asked me to make pasta.

For the next few weeks, we didn’t keep pastries in the house, except for an occasional Linzer Tart, which is Barbara’s favorite.

Last week we were forced to buy a pound of butter cookies to give to my grandson who was sleeping over.  We swore him to secrecy and by the next day the cookies were gone somehow.

I am forced to still eat pies on occasion,  particularly when we are out with friends.  They have come to rely on my judgement in these matters when we order dessert. The last time, I was coming home late and my friends called me on the phone and asked me to stop by to judge a pie they had just bought. They needed my expertise, so how could I refuse?

Unfortunately it was terrible, and they agreed with me.  They are taking it back to the store to complain.  I was happy to be of service.

Barbara and I went to the farmer’s market on Sunday.  I discovered dark chocolate covered cranberries there.  

Delicious and medicinal, how could this be bad?  Of course we bought them.

Barbara chided me on buying them and admonished me for eating them.  She confined herself to eating  pistachio nuts,  which we also bought.

Last night, while lying in bed, I brought in some chocolate covered cranberries and Barbara tasted them.

“Wow”, she said, “lets have some more”.

Now, how am I going to stick to my diet with a request like that?