Okay, Rachel and I have been taking turns beating up on you guys for the past month...as we poured out our emotions.
I've given some thought to this the past few days (as I was typing and editing my "farewell address".) Therefore, I tried (successfully, I think) to come up with a topic that would be upbeat and bring a smile rather than a frown.
When people get down, they often turn to "comfort food". Well, in the following stories, the food was far from comfortable for me, but Julie enjoyed and I think you might also...
Julie ate slugs...YUCK!
Okay, actually they were snails...escargot. Hey, they both leave slime trails...that's enough to disgust me.
Julie, of course, tried to convince me of how delicious they were...cooked with garlic butter or chicken stock and served with a sauce, maybe garlic, thyme, parsley and pine nuts. AND, she said, they are NOT slugs. My response was "Well, excuuuuse me...you are right...slugs are "homeless snails; you only eat their rich relatives." Julie always tried to get me to try one...you'll like it. She would point out that "You can't even taste the snail, all you taste are the seasonings!" My response was simple "Well, hell, then just give me a big serving of seasonings...and return the snails to nature!"
Speaking of slime...and the same premise. Oysters! What is it with these slithery things that people consume, yet do whatever is necessary to avoid the taste? Julie loved raw oysters (before she finally gave them up after reading more and more reports of the danger to individuals with compromised immune systems.) She tried (unsuccessfully) to get me to "Try one, Ronnie." FAT CHANCE...Ronnie don't do "extreme cuisine"!
However, we had a good friend...Steve D. (Steve's probably telling Julie some piece of heavenly gossip as I type...Steve loved his gossip!) Well, Steve would try anything, especially if he had imbibed a few too many drinks. Remember the night well...sitting in a restaurant in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Julie ordered the oyster appetizer...both ordering an entrée of "bugs". When the appetizer came, Julie offered to share. I rolled my eyes, others declined, but Steve was game. Julie demonstrated the proper way to eat a raw oyster...tilt the shell and let that sucker slide on down the throat. Voila...yum, yum. Steve was hesitant, but "fortified". Steve tilted that shell like a pro, but lost his courage in mid-swallow. Out popped the oyster, landing on the floor. We laughed and to his credit, Steve did NOT void any additional stomach contents.
Then came the "bugs"...lobsters. Actually, this was NOT a high-class restaurant. The lobster offering was "tails" only...frozen, not fresh. In fact, the tails were STILL frozen inside when they were served. Actually, if memory serves me correctly, Julie's tail was properly cooked...Steve's was cold and half raw. Julie insisted that Steve send it back to be cooked properly; Steve by then (remember the oyster) had lost his appetite. Anyway, Julie finally cornered the waitress who grudgingly took the lobster back to the kitchen. After that, I don't really remember what happened. Steve and I had decided that drinking was better than eating anyway.
If you have been following my postings, then you know that I've already reported on Julie's "love bug"...in Lobster's Rock. Included "bug" in the title of this posting simply because I liked the sound of it!
Julie enjoyed other (what I consider) "extreme cuisine". Rachel could probably provide you with an exhaustive list, but I know Julie was into sushi (again, before she became more concerned about her compromised immune system), squid (aka calamari), and did I tell you about duck's feet?! As for sushi, Julie loved it, but failed to entice me to join. I don't do raw fish; hell, I can't stand most fried fish. (Probably my Catholic upbringing when "back in the day" it was fish every Friday...NOT just for Lent!) Squid...you gotta be out of your mind! I mean have you taken a close look at those "suckers"...I mean those suckers actually have suckers on their appendages! Gross me out...
Okay, I confess...I've eaten calamari. Julie "got me". Ordered calamari in a restaurant...I didn't know what the hell a calamari was! Some kind of cauliflower variation? It was deep fried...looked like onion rings...Ronnie loves onion rings. Ate several while drinking a beer...life was good. Should have known something was up when Julie kept watching me and then finally inquired "Do you like those?" I responded that they were quite tastey...and Julie smiled. After a pause, I asked "Uh, just what is calamari?" Julie was proud...when she told me, I didn't flinch...didn't even barf. Looked that girl right in the eye, lifted my beer to my lips, took a long swallow, and said "Why I think I'll have another!"...and did. (Ain't had any since, but there was that one time!)
First thought this story occurred in Chicago, but it may have been San Francisco. Julie loved Chinese food...especially an appetizer named Dim Sum. Dim Sum are little deep-fried pastry thingies with a variety of "innards"...chicken, beef, pork, cat, dog, whatever. (Okay, I'm being naughty!) Anyway, we go to this restaurant in Chinatown with Julie's brother, David, his wife, and some friends. We all decide what we want to order. While waiting for the waitress to come take our orders, we notice an item on the menu..."Duck's Feet". We laugh about that, speculating as to what it was and how it was served...was it a pastry of some sort, like a "Bear's Claw", or was it meat (is there any) from the feet, deep fried like calamari, or steamed in a pastry shell like Dim Sum.
Hey, there's only one way to find out! After placing our individual orders, we boldly ordered a serving of duck's feet. After about 15 minutes, we made our discovery. Folks, if you are ever in Chinatown and order duck's feet...expect to get DUCK'S FEET! The waitress brought out a plate and placed it on our table. Standing in the middle of that plate...amputated at the knees (do ducks have knees...does a chicken have lips?)...were four duck's feet...like they just came off of Daffy! Our mouths dropped open...NOT with an eagerness to chow down. After a moment, there was an uncomfortable snicker around the table...and silence. Finally, one of our friends calmly picked up a saucer and placed it gingerly over the top of the plate containing the amputated feet of some dearly departed duck...pair of ducks. Oh, yeah, we laughed our heads off about those duck's feet...later, much later, after leaving the scene of the crime!
Julie DID draw the line at one famously slime entry...okra. I found that strange...not the okra, which I would never try just because of what I'd heard (again, I'm not into slime anything); I found it strange that a woman who loved slime "animals" to eat would balk at a slime "vegetable". I mean if I were given a choice - HAD TO DO ONE OR THE OTHER - I would pick the vegetable. (Of course, I tend toward being a vegetarian...more about that later.) Julie's father loved fried okra, so she would fix it for him. However, that was HIS delicacy...Julie was having none of it.
Incidentally, Julie's love of oysters was not halted or denied completely. Julie discovered cooked oysters, especially Oysters Rockefeller. Again, it was another of those things where they would "cover up" the oyster (and the taste thereof) with a variety of ingredients, mostly parsley or spinach. Julie tried to create her own version at home...once. It must have not been up to restaurant quality...as I said, she tried it once. The best ones we (make that SHE) ever found was in a restaurant (the name eludes me) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after returning from a Caribbean cruise. We even went back the next day for lunch, since we were departing for home later that afternoon.
Things that go moo in the night?
"Beef...it's what's for dinner."
Julie loved beef! (Actually, the "moo" is one of those "double entendre's"...as in Julie loved RARE beef...which I always expected to "moo" as she sliced into it!)
Julie would brag to one and all about my culinary skills and the ability to turn out a super tender steak...what she dubbed "Ronnie Steaks".
Well...EVENTUALLY she did. It took YEARS of practice!
My problem in "getting it right" was a result of my childhood. Don't remember how old I was, but I was just a puppy (kitten?) of a child. Back in the day (we're talking the pre-TV era), it was common for families to get together on weekends, adults playing cards, kids running wild in the yard. We went to Villa Ridge where I had grand-parents, aunts, uncles, etc. On this occasion, we had a "cook out" with the standard fare of hot dogs and hamburgers. Well, it came time for me to eat a hamburger...a nice, plump, juicy burger. I took a big ol' bite of that hamburger and blood shot everywhere! I probably looked like I had been stabbed...or had taken a bite out of some other attendee...vampire style! Gross me out!!! Don't remember if I threw up, but the experience made quite an impression.
So, when I started my steak-cooking career - on a tiny hibachi - I tended to over-cook steaks. Julie was nice...Julie was tolerant...Julie acted like she really liked the steaks that I cooked for her...and me. (In later years, I abandoned steaks and most "solid" meats...except, ironically...hamburgers, although WELL DONE!) Then, one day, Julie happened to mention that she was growing somewhat tired of shoe leather. Ah, the honeymoon was officially over!
So, the next time I grilled her a steak (by then we had moved up to a gas grill), I was determined to make it rare...to no avail. Still could have soled a pair of shoes. Must have taken me a couple of years...with repeated apologies "I tried, Julie...I thought it looked rare this time!" It was only when I started timing myself that I was able to succeed in satisfying her blood lust!
There were a couple of times that I had to smile...times when I brought the steak in to Julie, the Vampire. Julie cut into it, blood ran, and she said "Ronnie, can you put this back on the grill for a couple of minutes?"
And, steak salad!
One of Julie's favorite meals was a collaboration. I would be assigned the task of grilling the steak...that's how you get a RONNIE steak. Meanwhile, Julie would prepare a bed of lettuce and cucumbers. When the steak was done - but NOT too done, I would bring it in. Julie would let it "rest" for a few minutes and then carve it into bite-size pieces. Those would go on top of the previously prepared salad bed, topped off by some fresh tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, croûtons, and blue cheese dressing (with possibly a dash of Italian dressing). It was one of her favorite meals to serve to guests.
Well, that's it...hope your mood is lighter!
If these stories made you hungry...SORRY. You could always drop by and join me for a nice, crispy hamburger!