Here’s to Mt. Fuji

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‘My favorite “Nope-I-Don’t-Eat-Sushi” Sushi Place’

I was in the Liquor Store Next To The IGA the other day, looking for my bourbon—”Hey, where’s Jim? Are you out of Jim?”—when Maureen Who Works There, after directing me to the spot on the shelf where Jim Beam now resides—”You moved Jim?”—remarked that she had recently been to Zakura.

“Zakura?”  I asked, thinking this must be some sort of Buddhist retreat or something. “What’s Zakura?” “You know,” she said. “The sushi place.”

“Oh! You mean Mt. Fuji.” Another customer in the place nodded along, “Yup, she means Mt. Fuji.”

Hungry for sushi stories? Here’s a yummy Ad World story: “Radio Days

Maureen was actually right; the sign outside this place does indeed say “Zakura,” and has for fifteen years or so. But, before that—ages before that—it was called Mt. Fuji. And that’s what everybody who goes there still calls it, “Zakura” sign be darned.

Could this be a sign that sushi’s for dinner?

Now, Zakura/Mt. Fuji may not be the best sushi restaurant around—or maybe even the better of our family’s two fabled sushi haunts. The late, lamented Shabu Shabu, the very restaurant where The Dude and I had our first date (and where I polished off a plate of sashimi for the first—and only—time in order to impress him) was probably better. (He said he loved sashimi, so by gum I was gonna order sashimi, not actually realizing that I was about to be confronted with a whole platter of raw fish without even any rice or little wrappers to kind of mitigate it.)

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“Pop” goes the weasel

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‘My popovers? Not so much.’

First, full disclosure. The popovers portrayed in the photo at the top of this post are not of my making. They were produced by The Dude’s talented Cousin Christine, who is the daughter of the Best Cook — and Popover Maker — on the Planet Earth, Dude Man’s Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor too busy enjoying a toast at her 90th Birthday Party to make any popovers

Why, back in the Olden Days, when I had first met The Dude, we would look forward all year to an Eleanor Christmas, when we would gobble up not only perfect popovers, but sublime roast beef accompanied by some crazy-good potato dish that was sort of like scalloped potatoes but on some whole other level of deliciousness.

(I could go on and on, but I promised I would write this post before lunch, and this is torture.)

I knew I couldn’t replicate the whole menu, but, silly me, I thought because Eleanor said that popovers were “easy” and that she “just threw them together” that I could make them too.

Dude, scanning the horizon for piping hot popovers. Er, make that piping plovers

Hah. I tried every recipe I could find, including — yes — Eleanor’s own. But my popovers flopped. They were wimpy and chewy and blech. Lucky for me, The Dude eats anything and everything so he didn’t really notice that my popovers were less than fantastic. Well, except for the time the oven caught on fire because the butter I’d greased the pan with overflowed onto the gas jets and burst into flames. That batch he noticed.

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This Christmas is going to pot (roast)

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‘It’s high time to bring back that classic.’

As I wrote in my sort-of-whiny and somewhat-navel-gazing post last week, I’ve practiced a rather opt-out attitude toward the Holidays in the past few years.

Some years my “decorating” consisted of switching the turkey napkins for the reindeer ones

I remember only too fondly and well the famous Marilyn Christmasses celebrated at my late great Gramma Peterson’s when I was a kid. Nat King Cole on the stereo. Gumdrop tree on the table. A luxurious evergreen so bushy and tall Aunt M would often have to crop it so it’d fit in the living room. (We believed her when she told us the top, complete with angel, was in the bedroom overhead.) 

A Marilyn Christmas Classic: The Cousin Lineup

After that, during Dude Man and my Early Married Years, there were the amazing Aunt Eleanor Christmasses: lobster, shrimp and, if you saved room, an incredible roast beef dinner complete with popovers. Gramma Whitmore, who made it till a week before her hundredth birthday, would hold court while Eleanor cooked, champagne glass in hand.

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Where I grew up, fish came in a stick

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‘Not that my palate is all that sophisticated now’

I had fish for dinner last night. Which means that I ate in a restaurant. (Yes, I was masked. Except when I was actually eating said fish.) See, now that I am a grownup — and a rather broken-in grownup at that — I can handle eating fish. Certain kinds of fish. Once in a blue moon. But I still can’t cook it.

Me, after having not cooked fish for dinner

See, fish was not something in my Mom’s meal rota. We had pork chops (which came with mashed potatoes and canned corn), and “Swiss Steak” (which came with mashed potatoes and peas), meat loaf (ditto), chicken (double ditto) and sometimes — because it was “good for you,” — liver (which came with creamed potatoes and green beans.)

And fish was generally not found on Midcentury Midwestern restaurant menus. I can’t remember fish appearing, like my salmon last night or my branzino last week, even in “tonight’s specials.” No, fish mostly came in a stick, battered and fried — and was primarily eaten at school lunches on Fridays as sort of a penance. Or during Lent. Ditto.

I don’t have a photo of fried fish sticks. But this one of fried chicken is much better. In many ways

In all my growing up years, I can’t recall anyone of my acquaintance — certainly not anyone in my family — saying, “Gee, Mom. Let’s have fish for supper.” No, fish was what you ate as sort of a default option.

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Nope. It doesn’t rhyme with “squish”

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‘Tasty slips of the tongue, menu edition’

Back in the Seventies, all the cool lunch spots were festooned with macrame and spider plants. Yes, back then we young working people actually left work to go to out to lunch — and not just to grab a pannini or an acai bowl to bring back to eat at our desks.

Me, in my Houlihan’s for lunch days

Nope, about mid-morning we’d run into each other at the water cooler (seriously) or, more likely, the coffee machine (which was a Mr. Coffee we all took turns filling up and turning on) and discuss where to have lunch that day. The Middle-Eastern Place with the really yummy backlava? The Vegetarian Place run by the ashram? Or maybe Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue? Most of the time we’d head to Houlihan’s Old Place.

Note: All of these places were gussied up with macrame and spider plants. (Well, except for Arthur Bryant’s. You shuffled along in line at Arthur Bryant’s and, if you were smart, ordered the barbecued sandwich, which a guy with a missing finger cut in half for you.)

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Yes, we have no bananas

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‘I’m thinkin’ bananas just wanna be bread’

A couple of weeks ago I chauffeured The Child up to the Big Ferry at Orient Point so that she could catch the train back to Boston. (You may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck” that not only can The Child drive now, she drives an F350. But it’s not a stick, and both our cars — the “new” ’98 Toyota 4Runner, and the old ’91Honda wagon — require stick-shifting skills.)

The Child and her BF pose in front of their new home. Yes, that’s a honkin’ big truck — but it’s not a stick

Anyway. The drive up to the Big Ferry is a pretty one (you ride on two little Shelter Island ferries on the way) but it does eat up a good chunk of time — it’s an hour and a half each way. To stave off starvation, I tossed a banana on the back seat.

Well. What with feeling sort of Mom-sad about bidding my one and only Child good-bye, I never did feel peckish. So when I got home I reached around to retrieve the unneeded, uneaten banana. But, instead of it being at its beginning-of-the-trip peak of tasty ripeness, now — just three hours later — it was looking rather, well, brown and bedraggled.

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How do you milk an oat?

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‘Lactose intolerant? I’m any-kind-of-milk intolerant’

A couple of nights ago, Trevor Noah was talking about how facing a second wave of coronavirus while still fighting the first was kind of like when he was a kid and his mom would serve him vegetables at lunch that he hadn’t eaten from dinner the night before.

This reminded me of when I was a kid and my Mom would try to enforce milk drinking. “Young lady, you are not leaving this table until you drink that milk!” Well, any of you who has ever had a child or been one will realize that there is no way to force a kid to consume anything.

So that glass of milk would go back in the fridge — only to be brought out at the next meal. And the next, and the next. Until the milk ring inside was positively etched into the glass. No way I was going to drink that milk. Continue reading

Bean me up, Scotty

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‘At the end of my rope. Er, supply chain’

So The Dude went by the new apartment — the very tiny one we bought late last year and were in the midst of spiffing up when we got locked down — well, he just popped his head in for a peek and, lo and behold, something peeked right back.

It was a rat. A really big rat. Now, our soon-to-be living room is small — very small. As in 11 by 13 (feet!) So even a run-of-the-mill rat would look pretty large. But, huge as he was, Mr. Rat took one look at Mr. Dude and took off. He ran right into the bathroom and disappeared down the waste pipe where the old toilet used to be and where the new toilet is supposed to, er, go.

What will eventually block Mr. Rat’s private entrance into our apartment

Well. I figured that even Andrew Cuomo would agree that getting somebody to block off Mr. Rat’s personal subway entrance into our apartment would count as “essential,” so I got our contractor on the case.

As much as I hate vermin, I must admit it made a nice change of pace to worry about something besides what to make for my 59th dinner in a row. (In case you think I am superficial or callous, of course I worry about the sick and the dying. The unemployed and desperate too. But this is a humor blog, for heavens sakes. And, trust me, I am distracting myself as much as trying to distract you.)

I am totally nostalgic for the Olden Days when choosing the right shade of grout kept me up at night

Even in the Olden Days I turned to cooking for solace in times of stress. (Turn back time by taking a look at “And Then There Were None, ” a piece from what feels like a hundred years ago.)

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Pots and Pandemics

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‘Cooking for the Apocalypse’

Okay. How many of you out there know what “pork shoulder calas” is? Hint: it’s not pork butt.

Pork shoulder calas is what I scored from the almost-empty meat case the other day when I made my once-weekly foray, gloved and bandanna’d, into the local IGA. I go at around 8:30 because, even though it’s “seniors only” from 9:00 to 10:00, they only let in 30 shoppers at a time. (I found out the hard way that getting there at 9:00 means standing — er, shivering — in a socially-distanced line, waiting until one of the lucky First Thirty exits the store.)

A fully-laden shopping cart in Happier Days. When it was filled with what I wanted rather than what I could get. I would kill for those paper towels

While I’m waiting, either in the car (when I’m early) or on the line (when I’m not), I go over my shopping list.

Then, when I get inside, I realize my list isn’t worth the scrap paper it’s scribbled on because, basically, nothing on there is in there.

Empty bread aisle, also from happier days. Then it was 4th of July hoarding, which was at least temporary

As a senior who’s earned her early-groceries stripes, I didn’t think much could surprise me anymore. But every week when I go IGAing, I’m stunned at the total absence of once-familiar items. There are whole sections of the store that are empty. The usual suspects — peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, canned tuna — have been missing for weeks, not to mention toilet paper. Which is such a classic Corona MIA that my Beloved Only Younger Sister joined in the TP fun. Yup. Her post went, ahem, viral.

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Viral Smiles

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‘Making the world a better place, one grin at a time’

A couple of nights ago, The Dude poked his head into the kitchen and asked, “What are we doing for dinner tonight?” Well. Ordinarily I wouldn’t find this hilarious. But ordinarily we are not cooped up together 24/7 in state-suggested social isolation.

The Dude asking what we were “doing” for dinner reminded me of my Old Days in the Ad Biz when we Ogilvy Peeps would fly Midwest Express out to Appleton, Wisconsin, to call on our client Kimberly-Clark. (You can read about that wackiness in “HooHah Time is Story Time.”) Bless their hearts, the stewardesses (yup, “stewardesses”) would put a cloth napkin on your tray table and ask sweetly, “Will you be joining us for dinner tonight?” I always wanted to reply, “Oh, I don’t know. I was thinking of going out.”

Well, it’s Day 32. (Only Day 32?) And our dining options, at least out here in Amagansett, are limited to A) eating in our kitchen or B) eating at the counter in our kitchen.

Where we eat: A) the kitchen B) the kitchen counter

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