Friends in my head

Bridget and Julia on the set.

I was talking about how much I love Life Below Zero, but I would never consider living like that on the frozen Tundra. I watch these shows over and over again and enjoy them so much, I feel as if some of the people are friends in my head.

Another thing I love is cooking shows. Mostly on weekends I have taken to watching them all. And yet, I don’t even like to boil water. Yet, like Life Below Zero, I find them very relaxing.

I know what roux is and I know how to caramelize onions. I just don’t do that. I love eating it all, but I don’t care to prepare it. I know what stone fruit is and I love all of it, I just don’t bake. I know where capers come from and how to make chicken in a Moroccan tagine; and I know not to turn fish on the grill, it will release itself when ready.

Dan and friends in the kitchen

I know what Sara Moulton is up to and what recipes Jacques Pepin‘s mother used to make. I know how Bridget and Julia like to brown a turkey and how Dan Souza prepares his Indonesian-Style Fried Rice, and when Martha Bakes, watch out!

I know what size oysters should be before they are harvested and how to kill a caribou and ptarmigan in the Arctic. I don’t put any of it to use, but it’s all in my head!

It’s all about tofu

I saw a great episode of tasteMAKERS this weekend – about tofu, which I never liked, but after seeing this episode it looks pretty good.

There was a time when my mother tried sneaking tofu into things. She is a gourmet cook and has recipes that she’s used all our lives – mostly Italian stuff, like meatballs, lasagna, etc. So when we started seeing strange things in the meatballs, we threw a fit. “What is this?” I asked, “You’ve been making these all your life and you’re known for your meatballs and now you’re changing the recipe?”

She said she was trying to hide the tofu in the meatballs, it was a funny scene.

Anyway, this lady, Jenny Yang bought a tofu store/factory in Chicago after the owners closed it down. Jenny depended on their products and the only way to keep getting them was to buy the business. While doing that, she ended up supporting so many other local businesses.

It’s a great story and as I said, the tofu looks pretty good, too, in it’s many incarnations.

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The affogato cartoon

Today’s cartoon may be a flop. Not sure. If you don’t know what an affogato is, it makes no sense. I think I only learned about an affogato a few years ago at a local gelato shop. I loved them and had them often.

I just laugh when I see this one. You either know or you don’t.

An affogato is gelato with espresso poured over it. I usually would get chocolate gelato with this. You get them separately usually and you pour the espresso over the gelato yourself. Try it. The mix between the cold and the hot and the espresso and the gelato is so great.

It’s all about the coffee

The last two comics published yesterday and today are coffee related. I guess I have coffee on my mind. Maybe it’s because I gave up drinking coffee a couple of months ago. I’ve been drinking green tea instead of my usual two or more cups of coffee a day!

The rough. Yes, this is a comic idea from a few years back.
That’s Jacomo diving into the coffee and Tombo asking, “How does he do that?”

The above comic was originally planned for Jacomo and Tombo, remember them? The mole and the rabbit comic I used to have called “Paws?” Jacomo was swimming in the coffee and Tombo was reacting. In theory anyway, I had this old scribble on my desk and I drew it as the comic above rather than having Jacomo doing the swimming.

This other one which is running today was also a scribble I had on my desk. I actually have hundreds of scribbles on scraps of paper. People ask me where I get my ideas from, I don’t really know, but I do scribble them down when they cross my mind. Sometimes they marinate for years until I use them.

Today’s comic

Menacing in the shadows

I don’t like to judge people when I first see them, but it’s human nature.

I go to this place in town for lunch often, maybe two or three times a week. You can’t eat inside, but you can eat out in the closed off street or you can take-out at the window. I’ve mostly go alone for take-out, but I’ve eaten there with friends sitting at tables, too.

From the first day I started going during the pandemic, months ago, I’ve seen these two guys there – every single time. No matter when I go, at lunchtime, there they are. Sort of near the take-out window, in the shadows, drinking beer. They usually have dark masks on or they are holding them and for some reason, they look at me and I look at them and no one says anything. I find them menacing.

I live in a small village, and everyone knows everyone else, but these two guys are strangers to me. But there they are, every single day at lunchtime, menacing in the corner, drinking beer.

Well, the other day as I parked my car nearby and got out, one of the guys was walking toward me on the sidewalk. I didn’t realize who it was until he said, “Hello.” When I looked up I realized he was one of the menacing ones.

But there he was, he was a harmless, skinny, gray haired guy in his 60s and didn’t look very menacing. I stopped him and said, “Tell me, what are you guys about? I see you every time I’m at the restaurant.”

He tells me he is a college professor and his friend is a computer IT guy or something like that. They are working from home these days (zooming as he called it) and they take a daily break to meet up for lunch/beer. He told me his name, so next time I go by, I’ll call out, “Hi so-and-so,” and I’m sure his friend will get a kick out it.

But it’s interesting how we judge people and how they are different in different locations and situations. They never said anything to me before, but I never said anything to them. We were just there. Seen but not heard.

I love when people persevere

josh

My friend Josh

My friend Josh, a tv producer, is now the Key Lime Pie King around here. So from behind the camera to in front of it – he was featured on GMA yesterday. I remember one day he told me he wanted to get a cart to sell his pies around town. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but a week later he sent me a picture of his pink and green monster – he already had the cart and was selling pies from it around town.

Josh is a tv producer (you probably know so many of his shows) – who loves making and selling the best key lime pies! The grass is always greener, how many would rather be a tv producer (and cameraman), he filmed this whole thing himself since GMA was unable to send a crew out!

What I love about this story is the success of it. So many people are out of work due to the pandemic and this is the time to realize our dreams. It’s a time of change. And rather than sit around and mope, Josh started doing something he loves – baking!

Whenever I see one of these success stories on tv, I literally get up and touch the person on the tv. Seriously! If it’s a mom who started a million dollar business from her kitchen table, or a guy who saved the family farm or whatever, I am very interested in that. I thrive on that. I touch them so I can get a piece of them – a piece of their energy. I do that for people who also have come back from a bad illness or accident, too. And to know someone like Josh, who I would touch through the tv, is even better – especially since I can touch him in person!

josh-tom

Josh (right) and me selling pies last Sunday.

The North Fork

northfork

Halyard at Sound. Photo courtesy ILoveNY

I was watching a show called TasteMakers yesterday and it featured an escargot farm in the North Fork of Long Island, NY. One of my favorite places – the North Fork, not the farm, although I love that, too. You can watch that episode here. Notice the scenery of the area – the farms, the Long Island sound, the villages.

The North Fork of Long Island is closer to New England in feel and location than it is to the rest of New York. It’s closer to Connecticut and Rhode Island than it is to NYC and the North Fork has a New England flavor. There are a lot of farms and wineries and old villages; the South Fork is where The Hamptons are and it’s more beachy.

Most people prefer The Hamptons, especially in the summer, but where I live in Miami it’s like The Hamptons, 365 days a year – so I prefer the New England-y feel of the North Fork, which is different than my normal life.

Map of Long Island

Map of Long Island

Long Island is shaped like a fish and the tail, the east end, has “two forks” – North and South. You can see here how close it is to New England, rather than NYC. That inlet just above the North Fork, in Connecticut, is New London to the left (west) of the inlet and Mystic to the right (east). Also, one of my favorite areas. The Cross Sound Ferry, is a car ferry which takes you  over the Long Island Sound, from New London which goes to Orient Point, the tip of the North Fork on Long Island. It saves driving all the way around, through Manhattan, The Bronx, and Queens and the rest of Long Island to get to the eastern end.

Anyway, there’s a place that was shown on TasteMakers regarding the farm called the Peconic Land Trust. The conserve and protect land on Long Island – 13,000 acres, which are farmed and protected from development.  23 acres are shared by farmers who are new to farming and want a place to get started, so they may be given an acre each to do their thing and try their hand at farming. The Trust encourages and helps working farms and farmers.

If it wasn’t for the cruel winters out there, I would love to live on the North Fork of Long Island. I’ve written about Riverhead before, one of my favorite towns on the north fork.

Related story: 48 Hours on the North Fork of Long Island

Food is fresher, have you noticed?

pumpkin2

I was mentioning Mother Nature’s revenge and the reverse of climate change in an article at the end of March. The air is fresher, the ozone layer is closing, the water is clean – I noticed the other day how clean the ocean is. When I was a kid it was gin clear, you could be waist deep and still see your feet at the bottom of the water, my cousins from New York always were amazed at that. But over the years with the over-population of the state and more and more and more pollution, the water got murky.

Another reason could be that the cruise ships are not going out cruising and they are not dumping any trash and oil into the sea. Over the years the ships proliferated in number and of course the pollution caused by them proliferated.

I noticed another thing – fresh fruit and produce. Either Instacart shoppers are choosing the best there is or the produce is fresher and I tend to believe the produce is fresher simply because it’s always brought in fresh and the turnover is daily. People are buying more and more these days so the stores are stocking up more frequently, probably daily. I noticed it with lemons, celery, broccoli, apples and other things.

I’m sure the produce is going through the same amount of hands but you don’t notice it.

I have a neighbor who owns citrus and avocado groves. Every year for Christmas he would give each of us a case/carton of grapefruits or something like that. They were the freshest and most tender I ever have. I asked him why and he said only one pair of hands touched them, they came right off the tree into the carton, that was it. No other handling!

Which of course reminds me of apple picking in October in the Hudson Valley in New York state. I hope that happens again this year.

I saw an article about the future of concerts which mentioned 4th of July. I sent the first paragraph to my cousins, whom I spend 4th of July with: “Where were you planning to be on the Fourth of July this year? Backyard barbecue with your crankiest relatives, fighting over who gets to light the illegal fireworks that your derelict cousin smuggled in from South Carolina? Or maybe out on the Chesapeake Bay, arguing about the amount of mayonnaise in the crab cakes while drinking warm National Bohemian beer? Better yet, tubing down the Shenandoah with a soggy hot dog while blasting Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘We’re an American Band’?”

We laughed at the “crankiest relatives,” which is all of us at one time or another. We spend the 4th in The Hamptons, not Chesapeake Bay, but sort of the same thing. We are all hoping for a “normal” 4th of July this year.

My new addiction

instacart

I’m getting addicted to Instacart. I’ve using them to order from Publix, but it does get expensive. I’ve noticed that the prices on Instacart are a bit higher than in the store and then you add the delivery charge and tip and it’s way up there.

The deliveries are happening fast now, usually within a few hours. At the beginning of the shelter-in-place order, they were taking up to three to four days to deliver. I felt like I was out in the wilderness, like those Alaska shows I like. There was no running out to grab something I needed, I had to plan ahead.

And at the beginning, I was tipping high, too. I read that if you tipped well you would get better and faster service. I’m a good tipper, but I was extraordinary. I’m back to being just a good tipper now.

As the days go on, I just add to the list, I shop at any time, you know, add this, add that and when I’m ready I place the order.

While I’m addicted I don’t see myself using the service after this pandemic is over because I like going to the store and seeing what’s around, what’s new, feeling the food, etc.

At first it was frustrating that I couldn’t get in touch with them if there was a question or issue. But the other day they gave me a lot of free things with my order – it must have been part of someone else’s order – so I got a couple of Taleneti Pistachio ice creams and beer battered fish and some other stuff. I tried to contact someone, but there was no way. I just figured I’d pay for it if they asked for it back – I have to now, I ate most of it already.

Art, food, music, friends and of course cucumber punch at Gifford Lane

Once a year, in our little village, we have what’s called the Gifford Lane Art Stroll – it’s about art, but it’s also about food, music and friends – it’s an old fashioned block party and it’s a place where everybody knows everybody else.

I took a Freebee over, it’s a little golf cart that drives people around town, and the driver told me, “The whole town is there!” And that’s the way it’s been for 21 years. It’s one of our favorite events of the year.

Money raised through the art, food and cucumber punch – the best part of the event, goes to two local charities.

My friend Dave and his wife Trina, who started the event so long ago, open their house to visitors. The green cucumber punch is ladled out in the kitchen and people stroll out back to their tropical back yard. It’s old Florida.

A funny thing is that Dave calls out to people as they obliviously walk by, “Thank you for coming! Take all the punch you want!” If I said it, that would be sarcastic, but he means it. And that’s part of the charm of the whole thing.

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