Category Archives: food

The Whoopie Pie that tamed The Scorpion

A reference to thebhj  and his post about his daughter turning six.

There is this alien creature living in my house that happens to be my 13-year-old daughter.  She gets herself up every morning while we lie sleeping.  If not for her intrusion into our bedroom to use our bathroom I might not catch a glimpse of her before she slithers off to school. 

Her routine starts at 5:45 am with a 16oz glass of orange juice and ESPN.  She primps, obsesses and huffs, which also sometimes affords me the chance to notice her, until she jets out the front door to catch the bus.  If I happen to rise early either out of ambition or a nudge from my wife I might embark on a pre-dawn encounter with this strange being.  I might engage conversation with an offer to make a cheese sandwich for her lunch or I might get blitzed with snap finger demands like “can you make me an omelette?” or “where is my Northface?”. 

So off she goes and I am left disoriented.  No hugs but only a mumbling of  “love you” in response to my “I LOVE YOU !!!” and I think maybe it’s just out of habit for her because I thought I should tell my children “I LOVE YOU” a million times a day since day one because I don’t ever remember hearing it myself  growing up.  And little girls and boys too like to hear and say “i love you” alot….but she is not little anymore.  And I realize that I don’t get my ass out of bed early enough to just be there in the morning so she is not all alone and so grown up so fast.  And why don’t I ?  Well I should because I am sure this is the stuff she will remember and it’s getting really late in the game here. 

And she comes home from school and maybe I’m home that day and maybe 2 days have passed since I have last seen her.  You would never know I was in the room and she thinks that I am a plant table that someone placed in the middle of the kitchen floor and she digs right into the second half of that jar of Nutella with barely a hello.  And I realize why I was afraid of girls in 8th grade and 9th & 10th…..and so on.  And after “how was school?” falls flat on its face I get right into “when was the last time you cleaned the cat box?” and this is how I came to be known as the Dad who the only thing I talk to my daughter about is whether or not she has cleaned the cat box.  So I agreed with my lovely wife that I will not be the one to inquire about the damn cat box anymore.  Maybe I haven’t given it enough time but there have been no major breakthroughs in bonding and the fucking cat box has 5 days of shit in it.  So another good reason to get my ass moving earlier …..I’ll scoop the poop okay.

And off she goes again to cheerleading practice this time.  And it’s 4 days a week and like 8 hours on Sundays and it’s year-round because it’s not the cheerleading you’re thinking of.  So she will be home by 9:30 pm, then she will eat dinner…either a plate that I left her or she will make herself an omelette if she doesn’t like what I’ve prepared and she makes a damn good omelette by now because we’ve worked on that together.  And I’m not allowed to ask about her homework because she is a straight A student but I don’t know how she does it because she is always coming & going but mostly going.  I might get lucky or the planets may align and I can steal a few minutes with her as we watch the Food Network and she enjoys the Whoopie Pie I’ve made for her because I believe that is my way to her heart and she recharges her batteries before bed. 

 And even though I’m also known as the Dad who hates competitive cheerleading because it sucks and they rape my wallet at the competitions by charging me admission to an event after I’ve already sunk thousands of dollars into gym fees, airfare, motel rooms, accessories and fucking crappy food……I support her endeavor because she loves it and she is awesome.  And she is ripped, solid muscle and beautiful.  And I don’t like to stereotype but the groupies and all the freaks that surround this whole racket make my skin squirm and the music is loud and throbbing and it goes on and on and on.  So it just seems like another roadblock,  another contrariety in our relationship.

I press on and frequently, politely beg for a hug, fearing adverse outcomes.  Sometimes I’m obliged with a one-armed sideways hug because she is becoming a young women and I’m guessing she feels uncomfortable about her maturation and it makes me uncomfortable too.  And I so often ask her out to lunch or a movie only to be rejected.  And again I realize why I was afraid of girls and all the times that I wish I took more chances looking back maybe I’m glad that I didn’t. 

This past Friday she left again with her Mom to Washington D.C. for another competition and right before she left I experienced another beautiful moment in my life, that I took the time to relish.  As we stood there preparing to say goodbye, with her little sister hovering, she gave me a two armed hug, all shoulders… no chest and her little sister was so inspired that she exclaimed “I LOVE YOU!!” to her big sister and they hugged and Mom & Dad let out a huge Awww and each wiped away a tiny tear.  At that moment I realized that the breakthroughs are fleeting and I might feel at times that they will never come again.  But they do come, sometimes by surprise but often contrived or at least nudged along because relationships are hard work but if motivated by love the benefits are so sweet and so worth every bit of energy.

So I resolved to construct my Whoopie Pies and fill them with raspberry cream and drizzle them with melted Nutella and sprinkle them with powdered sugar in an effort to  tame The Scorpion.  I will take the nudgings and put them to good use….I will get my ass out of bed.  I will not however disclose that the cake was made with Guinness Stout or enforce the Bear Hug for she may become startled and strike or retreat. 

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Linguini with Clams

Why is it that life’s most precious gifts are most cherished after the moment has long passed ?  Those beautiful occasions forever embossed on your brain, reinforced with photographs and  accompanying letters.  The fleeting winks you must absorb and live with ferocious fanaticism lest they never come again.  And by the same token the tragedies you have witnessed and the mistakes you have made seem to tear at your insides for eternity, challenging your self-esteem, value to society and determination to start each day anew.  Snap shots of time that can’t be re-lived yet they play over in your mind like some relentless curse or reoccurring dream that won’t shake. It is all a part of the live and learn process I guess….but sometimes while we are living we are struck with a brief case of amnesia about what we have already learned and the moment  passes leaving us with desire, regret, sorrow and a yearning to go back.

My father had fought prostate cancer for some 7 years or so.  Hormone treatments and frequent trips to Slone Kettering Cancer Center in NYC seemed to be keeping things at bay.  He had an incredible passion for life….always, even before the cancer.  This made it difficult to get inside his head about what his own sense of finality was.  Pop always lived each day like it was his last.  And conversations of death didn’t happen, at least between us.  By 2005 his condition was changing or one could say in retrospect, getting progressively worse.  My Dad and Stepmom had just sunk some retirement  money into a two bedroom condo in Bradenton, FL.  They both were golfing as much as the weather would permit both up North and in Florida,  though it was not uncommon to hear a story about Dad on the golf course in December, 35 degrees out and a thin cover of snow on the ground…..he played those rounds solo.  He was talking about buying a bass boat and I was excited about that. 

That whole winter season down south was miserable for both of them.  The majority of time spent making 3 hour round trip treks to Tampa to another cancer treatment center….he was determined to stay in the warm weather even though returning North and resuming visits to Sloan may have been the wiser choice.  The first year in their new digs was not enjoyable and best be forgotten.

Thanksgiving came around and I packed up my family for the trek to visit Dad at his house, the town where I grew up, in the Hudson Valley.  I had recently written him a letter pouring out some emotions.  Stuff that he probably didn’t want to think about……you know death and dying shit….how much I admired him and valued him as a role model well maybe he wasn’t the best role model but he had heart and charisma…..mushy, mushy, ,mushy stuff.  He and I never got mushy with each other.  It was only but 10 years or so that we started giving hugs when getting together or parting ways.  He used to hug me all the time when I was a kid….why did that stop for so long….I wish it hadn’t.  Well, I never got his take on the letter I wrote him.  No phone call, no letter back….nothin’.  So, I was curious as to whether he received it or not.  I went snooping around up at his dresser but found nothing.  I didn’t bring it up.

He was excited about having us up for Thanksgiving.  He was an incredible cook with unabashed style and creativity.  He cooked what he wanted to eat and it was most of the time excellent.  His knees were bad from all the years of high intensity sports…basketball, tennis, badminton etc… plus he was a big guy at 220 lbs. and bad knees run in the family.  In general his faculties were in disrepair from the past months of treatment and I knew he would need help pulling off this dinner.  He was intense, barking out orders, making a huge mess in his kitchen but mostly in great spirits…probably drinking a few beers too.  My stepmother was always the one to take the brunt of his incessant demands…..even long before his illness.  She oh so lovingly obliged most all of his needs, occasionally replying with wit and mild sarcasm but always a genuine smile encouraging  challenging him to fend for himself because he was a big boy now.  Man….sometimes I’d be in the house, unbeknownst  to him and I’d here him bellow from upstairs, SUE !…..she’d be outside or something.  I would here crashing around up there and then he’d be down in the kitchen with a towel wrapped around himself, all red in the face and scowling, shocked by my presence.  I’d say smirkingly, “whatdaya looking for Pop”…….he wouldn’t tell but it was his freaking  jockstrap, cause it was Thursday night…..tennis night.  I thought that shit was the most hilarious reoccurring comedy that took place it that house….and I’d razz him about it every time.

So, the dinner went off okay, I helped out a bit but he caused a mini scene, embarrassing moment some slight uncomfortableness.  He was demanding about the order of courses served and other silly shit like garnishing, temperature and spoon size for the soup.  He was taking it out on my stepmom and it was pissing me off.  It was a tough call because of his condition and all but I gently put him in his place and told him to quit it.  Dinner was delicious and we had plenty of laughs too.

We were leaving that evening so I started the process of loading up the chariot with family of five weekend getaway luggage half the fucking house plus gifts from grandparents.  We were having trouble with the car battery or alternator or something and I had just purchased this piece of shit battery charger that wasn’t working.  I was all pent up with the emotions of the day, my panties were in a bunch and I started acting like my father.  I am his son afterall.  I was causing my own mini scene about not getting the car started.  I’m out in the driveway and finally got the damn thing started and threw it into reverse almost running poor Dad over in his own driveway…wouldn’t have known it but for the rap of his fist on the side panel.  He came limping around the passenger side of the car so I rolled down the window and blurted “what are you an idiot, you want to get run over?”  He softly replied, with his own little battery charger in hand “thought you might want to try this one”.  My heart sunk and I  gulped out “thanks, I got it”.  We left that evening after exchanging hugs.

By Monday Dad’s condition had drastically changed for the much worse.  It was as if he expended every last bit of energy on that Thanksgiving dinner.  Sue got him back down to Sloan for a three week stay…he was in rough shape.  By the Friday before Christmas he was back up at Vassar Brothers Hospital with Docs somewhat baffled but working hard to keep a fever down.  He had an infection that worked it’s way to his heart.  So I made the trek again back to the homeland by myself this time. 

I guess I caught him on a good day that Friday at Vassar Brothers because he was upright and hungry.  He wanted Italian food from some local joint that he raved about in Poughkeepsie.  I asked him what he felt like, that I’d be happy to go run for it.  He said “I want a menu”…….did I hear that right as I glanced over at my stepmother.  Normally I would have said “what are you freaking crazy”…It’s a red sauce Italian joint…just like ordering Chinese food….same menu every place you go.  But I stifled it and said “sure Dad…I’ll go get one”.  It was only 10 minutes down the road anyway and just the reminder of the comedian, crazy ass that my Dad was made it all the more worth it….all I could do was laugh and cry a little too. 

I get the menu back to him and he ponders it for a few minutes then exclaims “Linguini with Clams…lets get some Linguini with Clams”.  Okay, done.  I felt like Linguini with Clams too.  So I called the place, ordered our stuff and then called my brother to tell him to swing by the restaurant and pick up our order on his way over. 

There we were, the four of us, enjoying our last meal together in that depressing hospital room with Dad in his Johnny.  I hate those god damned things…..Johnies.  No one should have to eat one of their last memorable meals in one, nor with someone in one, nor have visitors while wearing one….they’re stupid !  That was it.  Although there was still a glimmer of hope that Dad would pull out of this mess because he had more zest for life than anyone I know and because he was a strong  Ox I knew the end was near.  That was the most memorable Linguini with Clams I will ever eat.  Not because of the clams at all but because of that beautiful yet so sad occasion forever engraved on my brain of us all together mostly getting along and Pop exercising his true form with his crazy, yet honest demands.

He passed away a few weeks later on January 12th 2006.  Not peacefully, not gracefully, not free of pain and discomfort and not quickly.  It was a crappy way to go but he fought to the very bitter end.  If you have a momentary lapse of compassion or memory and forget what you already have learned then you are only human.  Pick yourself back up and try to do better the next time.  I called my Dad an idiot and I’ll never forget that, yet I know it didn’t get him down because not much did get him down and it probably made him tickle inside because it reminded him of the way we got along when I was a teenager which wasn’t so bad at all anyways.  And more importantly because I know I didn’t mean it and I’m sure he knew that I loved him unconditionally.  There are no do overs, no replays, only todays and tomorrows ……… savor your Linguini with Clams moments and never deny yourself the innate right to love, cry, laugh, apologize and express your emotions openly, with fervor.  I love you Dad !   R.I.P.  11/07/1939 – 1/12/2006

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You will eat this……and you will like it !

Why would I cook something that I prefer not to eat ?  This mostly falls into the category of meals for my children.  The oldest claims to be vegetarian yet she will eat chicken.  Once upon a time her favorite food was bacon.  All that was spoiled the day I brought home a 60 lb. pig in the back of my truck ready to be tied to the spit for 8 hours of roasting.  The middle child has the worst appetite and the least appreciation for variety in his food although he is a chicken wing connoisseur.  He basically lives on pizza, hot dogs, shells & cheddar (not mac & cheese…..what’s the difference…smack) and some kind of frozen toaster shit for breakfast, the latest being muffin tops…..oh, his fresh breakfast item is cinnamon buns….okay he’s got something there only I don’t think he would dare try one of mine.  Silly boy.  The youngest, my 4-year-old, has the most promise.  Good appetite, willing to try almost anything and of course she is a Daddy’s girl, so it may be our special bond that has influenced her love of food. 

So, occasionally I find myself throwing frozen convenience food in the oven to satisfy the children’s desires.  I have in the past blamed this dismal reality on my wife.  She is the one who does the majority of the food shopping and has developed these young pathetic pallets into what they are.  If they had never been introduced to this crap they would never have evolved into such unappreciative little twerps when it comes to real food.  I would think and sometimes say “dinner is an expression of your love for your family”.  Never went over so well.  So, after 20 years I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut…most of the time…..but my thoughts are mine to fester and rot inside my twisted mind.  Give the wife a break right ?  She has the hardest job on the planet X’s 3. 

Herein lies the opportunity to cook food that others will not eat.  I cook 2 to 3 meals per week usually on my nights off.  Yes, it is always a challenge to prepare something that we all can enjoy.  Perhaps even something different.  Fingers crossed….will they like it ?  will I succeed in broadening their corrupted taste buds, their minds.  I usually fail at the mere description of the meal…..more room to learn.  Keep it simple, “we’re having chicken” uhhh I mean coq au vin.  WHAAAT…I’m not eating that !  middle child…smack.  Well mostly I aim for an enjoyable evening with happy bellies and big smiles.  Other times…screw it……we’re having Red Lentil & Eggplant Curry,  Fiery hot Jerk Chicken,  or all day roast pork shoulder with rappi.  And there I sit, all by myself at the dinner table enjoying my expensive beer and my food while mom fires up the microwave and soothes the babes back into their pathetic state of real food ignorance. 

I will win overtime because yes, everything is a contest.  It may take patience.  It may take new tactics but I will subjugate…it is my job, my destiny, my passion and my skill.  You will eat this and you will like it !

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Filed under Children, food