One of my family’s favorite appetizer to order in a restaurant is stuffed mushrooms. We truly love them, but we never order them as our own individual appetizer. I guess we don’t view them as “appetizer-worthy.” So, we always order them for the “table.” That means we ask for a few orders for everyone at the table to share in addition to our chosen appetizers. I’ll never forget the one time I forgot the unspoken, stuffed-mushroom rule, and I choose them for my own appetizer. Necks snapped as my family turned towards me, and with shocked eyes, they admonished me: “Rookie mistake.
Back in the day, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” was one of my favorite shows. It obnoxiously flaunted the wealth and extravagance of people I would never know, and featured kitchens larger than my home. But even though the wealthiest people were eating off 18-carat gold plates, they were eating the same food my parents fed me.
So maybe I was livin’ large, too. Now I watch MTV’s “Cribs” with my kids (just so they can explain to me who the rich and famous people are). My favorite episode featured Snoop Dogg who, as he led the tour of his mansion, couldn’t recall the name of the room with the big table and chairs. He’d never used it.
Hawaii or New York? Where should we go on vacation this summer? The wife wanted Hawaii; we have never been. I wanted New York to eat. I won this debate with one phrase, “Who cares about Hawaii, we ain’t got nobody there!” (She’s a sucker for family and friends.) She also knows the secret to our marriage is to ‘feed the beast so he remains a beauty.’ So, we were soon off to New York.
During the flight, I began to compose my itinerary: pizza and spumoni in Brooklyn, empanadas and lemon ice in Queens, pastrami and dirty-water hot dogs in Manhattan, a mozzarella hero on Staten Island, and a cannoli with espresso while sitting in traffic. Day one completed. The remaining nine days continue at the same pace and caloric intake.
The name “Buddy” has always meant so much to me. It’s the pet-name my eldest daughter lovingly bestowed upon me years ago. I have been the only “Buddy” in my kids’ lives… until recently. There’s a new Buddy in town, and he’s cramping my style. Whenever I call my youngest daughter to dinner, she replies with something like this: “One minute, Dad—Buddy and Lisa are having their fourth baby.” Or, “Wait, Dad. Buddy is putting the final touches on his masterpiece.”
I yell back, “I don’t care about Buddy, Lisa, Mauro, his sisters, or anyone else on ‘Cake Boss.’ Pause it, shut it, or tape it.” (I realize this reveals my age. Who tapes anymore?) “Let’s go—dinner time.”
Spaghetti. Now that’s one fun word to say. The word springs to life behind your teeth, and then readies itself on your lips until it bursts out into the open air. Spaghetti! Eating spaghetti is even more fun. There are those who use a spoon and fork to gracefully twirl the strands like a prima ballerina. Others gather the strands on their forks to create a nest that would rival the best bird architects. If you chow-down like my teenage boys, you use your utensils as pitchforks to toss unimaginable sized haystacks of pasta into your silo–sized mouths.
Did you ever just click with someone? I did with Lucy. It was love at first recipe. An outsider would think our friendship odd; we were born decades apart, and she was beautiful and smart, and I am, well… I can cook. Lucy is my friend’s mom and recently, she passed away.
Consider the phrases “hand-tossed,” “homemade,” “slow-roasted,” “fresh-cut” and “all-natural.” These carefully chosen words market the ordinary as extraordinary by talented advertisers.
I recommend you take your queue from the pros. Next time you’re asked, “What’s for dinner?”—don’t say, “leftovers.” Leftovers sounds as if they should be left alone. Re-purpose yesterday’s extras to achieve the equivalent of a buy-one-get-one-free deal. Inform your hungry prospects they will be dining on the blue-plate special: Pot-Pie Du Jour.
There are some foods you just can’t reproduce in your kitchen. The Coney Island Potato Knish (ka-NISH) is one example. A knish is a square of lightly seasoned mashed potatoes encased in thin dough. You eat it with your hands. Its simplicity puts it in a class all by itself.