Saturday, March 30, 2013


This is one of those special days that I find difficult to deal with, and please know I am strictly speaking of food and the secular aspects here, I know it has significant religious meaning for many people.  To me, Easter represents a time of awakening and renewal for the coming season when things begin to grow again, beginning another cycle of life.  So things tend to focus on friends, family, and generations rather than food.  Again, food helps, but it’s not really the point.  Leave that for Thanksgiving and New Years.  And no wonder..  I don’t know what you grew up with, but at the Feeders home in Michigan (after I would find the Paas dyed eggs in green plastic grass basket and (BRACH’S!! Jelly Bean trails)) we would sit down to dinner and have a ham slice adorned with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries, maybe a nice pyrex dish of sweet potatoes and marshmallows, and those cooked to death (canned) green beans with soggy bacon.  It is just what you did, and Mom (are you looking down?) worked hard and was proud to put it before us and we all loved it.  Other than nostalgia, that menu might not be too popular in these days of enlightened culinary tastes..

So what is the poor conscientious cook to do?  Not too much can be done to a ham.  It’s a ham.  Ham.  Not a lot to work with.  A good alternative in the spirit of the season might be a nice leg of lamb, which offers much more latitude in preparation and options for sauces and such.  Maybe a good approach would be to modify my mantra on wine (DWTHYL) to: E(at) Whatever the Heck You Like!  In fact one of my friends is doing a Surf and Turf (Steak and Lobster).   Good on them.

Now that I am feeling good enough to get out a little, I made a quick trip to the farmer’s market south of town this morning.  I wanted to get some more meat from the WAG meat guy, and check out whatever else there was.  Not much was the answer.. greens not quite there yet (or at least present today) and the meat selection was a bit slim (got two packs of chops and some ground beef).  There were a fair amount of folks including families, not too many vendors, but there were also a few unique visitors.  They were there for petting purposes, not culinary supplies..Awwww

Anyway, hope you have a good day tomorrow, and as for the food, the point might be that it is a time to be with friends and family, remember and honor those who are not with us anymore or are in faraway places, and perhaps just enjoy a good meal.  (Sorry Mom, no pineapple).  And, I think it would be appropriate to


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hunkering Down...

If any of you watch the weather channel much as we do (a sign of advancing age, I am told), you may know that they have decided to “name” winter storms.   Just like NOAA bestows monikers to hurricanes, the weather channel, (the self proclaimed “Winter Weather Authority”) came out with names for the major storms which have occurred this year.  I don’t keep track but I think they are well into the lower third of the alphabet.  Storm? Name.  Storm? Name.  Storm? Name.  Not sure of the criteria but there you have it.

Which, believe it or not, is not the point of this little post.  But, like it or not, I think I may take a page from their almanac and give names to the colds I have endured this year.  Hopefully currently  on the down/up? side of the annual Maryland day one, I will in fact name it.  But before revealing the name, I have a little question for you..  In similar circumstances where you feel like crap, do you ever find a little escape place where you can kind of hunker down, try to ignore how awful you feel and maybe get a little solace from crossword puzzles, a magazine article, or maybe a book?  I do.  So I am going to name this cold “Oyster”!.  No, it is not alphabetical, it is in honor of the little place I retreated to while awaiting for the amazing human body to expel the bugs or whatever.   I alluded to it the other day, it is a book in which I immersed myself.  I have become enamored of it, which may or may not have something to do with the subject matter!!

I actually read all of the recipes (which I didn’t count) in the 248 pages, each of which of course called for the little bivalves.  But while they were interesting and creative, what made it so nice was the information about each recipe, giving provenance where appropriate and the inclusion of all those little notes and historical recipes.  Because I don’t have much else to talk about (cough, cough, hack, hack, sneeze, sneeze) I’ll pass along a few.

From John Farley, 19th Century England on how to make fish stock:

Take a pound of skate, four or five flounders, and two big eels. Cut them into pieces and put to them as much water as will cover them.  Season with mace, and onion stuck with cloves, a head of celery, two parsley roots sliced, some pepper and salt, and a bunch of sweet herbs.Cover them down close and let them simmer an hour and a half, and then strain off the liquor of use.  Being thus provided with your fish-stock, take what quantity of it you want.

Easy, eh?

Or this tip from Sir Hugh Plat, in Delightes for Ladies, 1609 on how to:

Barrell up Oysters, So As they Shall Last for Sixe Moneths Sweet and Good, and in Their Naturall Taste

Open your oisters, take the liquor of them, and mixe a reasonable proportion of the best white wine vinegar you can get, a little salt and some pepper, barrel the fish up in a small caske, covering all the oysters in this pickle

Six Moneths??  whew!! There was another from Robert May, from “The Accomplisht Cook or the Art and Mastery of Cooking”, 1660 on Oyster Pottage which called for using “boild pease” and “great oysters fryed with sweet herbs and grosly chopped” and so on.  What sort of struck me about them was that at the same time the colonists were running around in St. Mary’s City and Jamestown trying to stay alive, there was some genuine “gourmet” cooking going on.  It is easy to assume that “old” is synonymous with crude or rudimentary cooking.   Anyway, I came across another which immediately caught my eye:

Hey!   That sent me to Google to search on Mary Ann Chase, and I found that the recipe was included in a book called “Maryland’s Way, The Hammond-Harwood House Cookbook” which contains a number of historical Southern recipes including some Oyster entries.  The referenced recipe for “pye” was fully called: “Sotterley Oyster Pye, Mrs. Plater’s Way.”  Savvy local history buffs will immediately recognize Plater as a key name in Sotterley Plantation history. 

So far, I have been unable to trace down exactly who Mary Ann Chase was or what she did, but I remain on the trail.. I have some feelers out.

At the time of this writing, I feel better than I did yesterday at this time.. maybe the Oysters had some literary effect.  I will definitely keep the book, so don’t look for it in the book sale next year.

Quick Sporting Note

Tonight marks the beginning of the “Sweet Sixteen” in NCAA men’s basketball.  There are still four Big Ten teams alive, including my Spartans which encounter Duke tomorrow night.  My (for recreational purposes only) bracket presented me with a conundrum.  I had both those teams advancing to this show down, but I couldn’t find it in my head (regardless of my heart) to go against Duke and Coach K.  So on paper I’m rooting for them, but wouldn’t mind to see the men of Izzo win.  We’ll see…either way I sort of win.

And once again I will comment as I do every year and then I will shut up.  Since the men were on hiatus, Tuesday night we watched the women’s NCAA, particularly the Michigan (8)/Stanford (1) game.  How in the world can a number eight seed lose to (yes) a number one seed by 33 points!!  What’s wrong here?  And that is not an isolated case (Michigan State/Maryland).  Huge disparities in scores!!   It may have something to do with letting higher seeds play at home?  Who knows.. anyway, the finals will be worth watching..
and given our current state it is out of the question that we will

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Annual Events...

Two things happen every year around this time . 

First things first, it was Maryland Day weekend, celebrated at Historic St. Mary’s City on Saturday and then on the “actual” day (the 25th) at Colton’s point, near St. Clements Island, the actual landing point of the colonists in 1634.  MFO and I went down to the City on Saturday morning, she to hand out programs and I to help if needed.  We did escape (that day) at least half of the normal Maryland Day weather: rain and cold.  We had the latter, but not the former.  A brisk wind kept the chill in the air however, abetted by the venturi effect of the tent where the ceremonies were to take place.  While MFO handed out the programs I took the familiar walk out to the Chapel to see if any help were needed there.  I think I mentioned in my heads up about Maryland Day there was to be concerts in the Chapel, and I arrived at noon, just about the time the first one was to start.  Larry Vote led the a cappella choir in singing some period music, which, as I have stated many times is just wonderful in the chapel.  Between the acoustics and setting, you can kind of transport yourself back to the 17th Century.  How neat is this?

Since the ceremonies were to start at one, I left before the conclusion and went back to the tent for the ceremonies.  As usual, they started with a flourish of the Calvert Family flag, as would be done in battle by the Militia to locate and rally the troops.

All this was explained by Governor Leonard Calvert himself, who bears a strong resemblance to Aaron Meisinger

After that, the program descended (my term) into the usual speeches by dignitaries, local politicos, and officials of St. Mary’s City. There was a keynote speaker, but I won’t say much about that (the “Thumper” rule applies – personal opinion).  The Cross Bottony was bestowed upon Dr. Larry Leak, a wonderful choice (as was MFO last year…. Ahem).  The ceremony concluded with the Parade of Flags, wherein the kids from various elementary schools present the flags of all the counties in Maryland.  They go in reverse chronological order, so St. Mary’s is last and the little person is always dressed in period clothing.  Would be nice if they all… but it is always cute and they just beam.  I refrain from taking shots of kids, leaving that to professionals with release forms and parents.

Monday we journeyed down to the “Seventh”, and Colton’s Point for the second observance of Maryland Day, near the site of the real deal.   This day, as you might recall, Maryland Day showed her teeth with driving rain and snow, numbing windchills and generally crummy conditions.  Although usually held outdoors (no tents) they mercifully moved it inside the little museum there.  That kind of lent an air of coziness to the proceedings, and the attendees were not nearly as numerous as the City version.  More politicians, commissioners, and the Lt. Governor were in attendance.  While waiting for the honored guest to arrive, we were treated to “remarks” by Jack Russell, who always presents an “interesting” account of history.  Given the audience it was kind of a gutsy move, but I don’t think he made any major gaffes.  I think I mentioned that the keynote speaker here was Dr. Julie King, who made an excellent little talk about Thomas Gerard, a colorful character in the colony and occasional thorn in the side of the proprietor.  Was a nice little ceremony, and MFO met many of her local “history buddies” there.  Nice local stuff. 

So, that was it for Maryland day.

The Second Thing

And, as always happens after being outside, I contracted my annual Maryland Day Cold, which seems to follow those days as surely as the sun rises.  So today I am sitting here, coughing and hacking, feeling generally lousy.  Maybe it’s part of the “seasoning”, the meaning of which is left to the reader as a homework assignment from history class.


So with no enthusiasm for anything actually helpful to the household enterprise, I picked up a book I got at the book sale: “Oysters, A Culinary Celebration”, by Reardon and Ebling.  While I am only started, I found it to be a delightful volume.  Its intention is a cookbook, but the authors have sprinkled a great deal of knowledge, history, and anecdotes around oysters.  Basically an East Coast setting, they talk about oysters from Cotuit bay.  I’m only slightly into “appetizers” but it contains a wonderful collection of cold and hot preparation.  Starts out with recipes for nine or ten sauces for raw oysters (all in one place not strewn among the various dishes).  There are 5 variations on Oysters Rockefeller (Oysters Florentine) plus a little history of the dish, which they claim began as a New Orleans substitute for Snails Bourguignon,  then many others for Oysters Bienville, Rofignac, and so on.  Lovely.  They include several quotes from here and there, such as from Seneca: “Oyster dear to the gourmet, beneficent Oyster, exciting rather than sating, all stomachs digest you, all stomachs bless you!”.   And to end with, here’s a dear one following a recipe for Oysters Casino (yes, adapted from clams) by Johathan Swift:

Who can Believe with Common Sense,
A Bacon Slice Gives God Offense

Even in the 16th Century, pork fat rules!  More reports to come.  Nice book, makes me want to

Except I feel like crap


Friday, March 22, 2013

Bites and Bits

How’s your bracket looking today??

Just a quick couple of notes about retirements and things to do this weekend…. not necessarily related

As we are all well aware, the first colonists from England arrived on St. Clements Island on March 25th, 1634.  They got us started to where we are today (a bit gratuitous, but you get the drift).  So every year there are celebrations held to commemorate that event, this year marking the 379th anniversary of "Maryland Day"  Locally, Historic St. Mary’s City will hold their annual program tomorrow, with kid stuff to do (kites, etc.,), sites to visit, and there are a couple of concerts in the Brick Chapel at noon and two thirty (by the a cappela chorus from the college), all woven around the ceremony at one.  That will feature speeches (Keynote from Prof. Cheryl La Roche (U of Md) on “looking past big stories in history”) and the bestowing of this year’s Cross Bottony award recognizing outstanding achievements on behalf of Historic St. Mary’s City.  The awardee will be Larry Leak, a long time friend and supporter of the Museum and who also serves on the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission.   As you (hopefully) remember last year’s award was to MFO.  At the end of the ceremonies, fourth (?) graders from each County of Maryland will brandish their County’s flag.   That is really fun to see.  City opens at ten, and admission to the city is free, so you can also visit the Dove, the Plantation, and so forth.

Then on Monday, there will be more celebrations at the St. Clements Island Museum down on Colton’s point (in the famous 7th!!).  They always do it on the “real” Maryland day (the 25th).  Their keynote speaker is Julia King, who is always worth driving to hear.  She’ll be speaking about Thomas Gerard.  Come and find out about him.  They start at eleven.

MFO and I will attend both.   If you can you should come and see these special local festivals, they are unique.


Went to a retirement dinner last night for a friend who is retiring from the Government job he occupied for a long time, mostly on the F-18 program in its various guises.  I worked with him for years here, and fortunately we have remained in touch fairly often.  He is a fountain of knowledge and experience on cars, HVAC, and other “homeowner” related problems which we all endure, so we have lots to talk about. Anyway it was held “on base” at the Officer’s Club, now known as the River’s Edge.  Pretty nice venue for that sort of thing.  It was really nice to see so many of the people I used to work with, and have a chance to say hi and catch up a bit.  That is what I really miss in retirement.  Since most of them were around when the Bottom Feeder was formulating a lot of them said: “you’re going to write this up, aren’t you?”.   Well, sort of.  We were gathered after all, to recognize the (immense) contributions of the retiree, and help him into his well deserved retirement.  So food was not the focus, and was just part of the evening.  Knowing what the situation was, one would expect relatively well prepared “institutional” food.  I mean that in not a critical way, just a descriptor.  When you signed up to attend you had to choose either beef, pork, or fish.  So expectations were that you would get exactly that, along with some starch and a vegetable.  And, not surprisingly, that is exactly what was served.  MFO had a piece of salmon, I had prime rib, and I think by the time they got to our table, the pork was gone.  Wouldn’t say it was all hot, but certainly not cold.  Taste was okay, the beef did have flavor and wasn’t riddled with fat.  Service was accomplished by the ladies that have been there as long as I can remember.  They did serve salads to the ladies first, but then it was all the fish, all the beef, and all pork without regard to gender.  So, for those of you who asked, it was fine.  It's all about expectations.

And as I said the evening was really fun, Mr. Organizer did a great job, the speeches (from some very important people) were short and to the point. And even though the honoree is sometimes given to lengthy oratory, he made a very nice and touching speech.  One more good guy in the ranks of the retired!!


And concurrently with Maryland Day, tomorrow is also the "Taste of Solomon’s" their annual food festival.  You buy tickets ($4) and then trade them for grub at participating outlets.. (CD Café; Ruddy Duck; Bistro Belle Maison; and Lotus Kitchen to name a few (of the 15) more interesting ones (IMHO)).  It’s a chance to taste some of the food you may not normally indulge in (yes, the sentence ended with a preposition, deal with it).  And not one is a chain.  There is a little writeup in the Enterprise’s insert “Weekend” about it.  See that for more details.  Interestingly to the Feeder, they also quote the owner of Boomerang’s talking about people getting a chance to try their local establishments where the “food is made from scratch, instead of the corporate chains dominating St. Mary’s County”.  At the end another quote from the owner of Back Creek Bistro (nee Vincenzo’s) “We get St. Mary’s customers also.  The folks over there, most of the restaurants in St. Mary’s are corporate, national chains.  Not to criticize them….”.

Granted, only two people with vested interest in promoting their own places, but nice image of St. Mary’s, eh?.   I hope they realize that while we are being assaulted with the box stores there are still plenty of great independent restaurants to choose from..where you can


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Classics

Food for thought, or is it thoughts for Food?
As readers should know by now, I tend to lean toward traditional dishes and cooking, no matter the cuisine.  Foam and molecular gastronomy are fine, but I prefer dishes that have lasted the test (and taste) of time.  One of (the plethora of) my pet peeves is when I see the word “classic” used on a menu associated with a particular dish.  In my mind a classic dish is one that has been made the same way for enough time to set a standard for that particular preparation, so that's what it should be.  A quick example that leaps to mind would be Sole à La Meunière, or as we commonly see: “Dover Sole”.  Ingredients?  Sole, butter, lemons and salt and pepper.  That’s it.  No purees, flavored oils, drizzles, just fish and butter.  It has been described as: “The perfect (classic?) sole meunière is golden brown, which is a result of a harmonious balance between the brown butter and the lemon.”  I would say that if the dish was listed on the menu as “Classic Dover Sole/ Sole à La Meunière”, you should know exactly what you are going to get served.  So I am always wary of the (over) use of the word.

A case in point:  I was at a local restaurant and there was menu entry for a “Classic Iceberg Wedge” salad.  But the description of the dish included such things as green peas, garlic croutons, baby carrots, crumbled Feta cheese, and (gasp) ranch dressing!.  You can google the recipe and you will find that all of those things do NOT belong on any wedge with Classic in the name.  Fortunately they honored the feeders note and it has been changed eliminating the "c" word..

Another instance of my paranoia resulted in a very interesting and on-going conversation with a restaurateur regarding “classic”.   Their sandwich was offered as a Classic Reuben Sandwich, and included marbled rye bread. As an aside, I am do not like marbled rye (or most anything marbled for that matter) so I am biased. The rest of the sandwich was indeed classic (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing), but I allowed as how using marbled rye should erase the “classic” designation.  (The Reuben is such a classic American sandwich that two people claim to have invented it: Reuben Kulakofsky of Omaha, NE, who enjoyed the sandwich at a weekly poker game, and New York deli owner Arthur Reuben, who said he first made the sandwich around 1914)  In order to prove my point I did some research on recipes for “Classic Reuben’s” and did indeed find a minority did use a marbled rye, so I backed off some.  I still think the original (1914?) sandwich would have been with straight rye (and we won’t argue caraway seeds).  Anyway, we did have a good e-discussion on “classic”.   It was pointed out to me when does “classic” become “classic”?  Rock music from when I was not in my first year is now called “classic”.  How long does it take to achieve that status?  My restaurant friend said they had been making the sandwich with marbled rye for 20 years.  Does that qualify?  My retort was then to name the sandwich “Our Classic Reuben….”.

Anyway, it is a good discussion to have over a glass of (Classic?) Bordeaux or Burgundy perhaps.. 

As part of poking around trying to define the word, I found a few quotes that are interesting (a lot come from literature)  such as:

A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off

More of a food related one surfaced from some writing about Julia:

To Julia, a classic would be a master recipe that utilized time-honored techniques. Once these were understood and mastered, the techniques could be allied to an infinite number of dishes that were essentially variations on the theme. In fact, she went as far as to say that once these essential recipes and techniques were imprinted on our brains, we wouldn’t even need a cookbook. We could do anything.

If I had to generate my own description of a classic dish, it would be along the lines of something that has been prepared the same way, with the same ingredients by a series of highly esteemed chefs ( such as Auguste Escoffier; Fernand Point; Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême;  or more recently Alain Ducasse; Paul Bocuse) without alteration over a long period of time.  No modifications because it is beautiful and speaks for itself.  Fish, butter, lemon.

And finally just because I liked it a quote from Voltaire (again literature based):

"Let us enjoy, let us write, let us live, my dear Horace! ... I have lived longer than you: my verse will not last so long. But on the brink of the tomb I shall make it my chief care - to follow the lessons of your philosophy - to despise death in enjoying life - to read your writings full of charm and good sense - as we drink an old wine which revives our senses."
So if you are going to eat a classic dish you damn well better be

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Sail Away

Well, there were no starred restaurants or destinations on the Feeder’s agenda this weekend. This is pretty much what he looked at Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday:


Yes, those are thousands of books in the Non Fiction building of the annual Friends of the  (St. Mary's County) Library Book Sale.  Kind of the culmination of a year’s long effort to put on the event that brings monies to the libraries.  Last year we donated over $20,000 to them, just from selling the books. People donate books for the sale all year long, and they are housed in the back end of the Leonardtown Library (you can drop them by anytime the library is open).  Volunteers spend many hours sorting them into boxes for fiction, non-fiction, children’s, and the occasional “rare” finds. Then the week end before the actual sale, the books are “migrated” to the fairgrounds.



Several trips are necessary to get them there with the help of pickups and more volunteers


Once there, they are delivered to the appropriate building, and even more volunteers (get the picture here?) take them from the boxes, further categorize them and arrange them on tables


That table is one of the feeders favorite locations.. lots to look at


While there are hundreds of cookbooks, wine references, and "church lady cookbooks" to paw through in the main building, I did take a minute to go over to the “rare and unusual” building and found a couple books of interest (to me).  I have no idea how these wind up in a book sale, somebody decides they don’t want them I guess.. 


I do, and was willing to plunk down the 12 whole bucks to take them home.  Amazing.

The Boquet is a “gastronomes tour” of the provinces of France highlighting restaurants of note, but it also has wonderful pen and ink drawings in it


It’s a bit dated, but what a beautiful thing to hold in your hand.  We are currently signed up for a trip to Normandy next summer, so it will be of great use.

So mostly I sit at the checkout table (Friday 11 – 8; Saturday 9 – 5; Sunday 11 – 3), and take money for the purchases made (two bucks for a hardback, one for a “trade paperback”, little paperbacks fifty cents).  There are virtually new volumes that get sold for those prices.   Friday was “members only” day, and that is the day when only members of the Friends and the “dealers” (who gladly "join") are allowed to shop.  The dealers arrive with tubs and their little scanning devices that gives them a retail price in an instant, and they fill up the tubs. We had one dealer that left after giving us over a thousand dollars, and that was just Non-Fiction alone.  I would hesitate to guess what they will realize.. 

But the fun is the small children that find a treasure and ask Mommy if they can have fifty cents and are just thrilled when they can.  A book of their own.  Maybe it will lgenerate a spark..

And on Sunday, when the sale ends,  there are still many, many books left.  At this point more volunteers show up (from a local civic organization) and load EVERYTHING into giant cardboard boxes called “Gaylords”


Which are then put into rent-a-trucks


They are then transported to an organization that sorts and sells some, and then the bulk go overseas to places that desperately need books.

And so ended a week in the life of a book.  And next year we’ll do it all over again!!  Meanwhile MFO and I were pretty tuckered out, so we didn't worry much about getting




Thursday, March 14, 2013

Just a small slice of....

Pi.  I was taken to task today by an alert and long time reader (remembering my penchant for numbers) for not mentioning that today is so called “Pi Day” in that the date on March 14th is 3/14 which is the same as the first three digits in Pi, or 3.14.  Two years from today, in 2015, we get two more in the series or 3.1415.  and then with a little engineering license, if we append the date of September 26th, at thirty five minutes and 8 point 97 seconds past five, one would have a pretty good run on pi..( 3/14/15;9:26:5:35;8.97)..  I’ll bet there will be parties (serving pizza.... Pi's)…  and for once I think you can safely say it will never again happen in recorded time, at least in this universe.  And just for whatever… here are more digits:

3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164  

The other quick mention is that tomorrow is the start of the annual Friends of the Library book sale at the fairgrounds.  Once again there are thousands of books, and ridiculously low prices, like two bucks for a very nice hardcopy.  Tomorrow is “members day” allowing members of the Friends to get early pickings.  It opens at one for them, and you can join for a small fee of (I think) 15 bucks.  There are tables and tables of cookbooks by the way..

I’ll be in non-fiction.  And really not


And PS, tomorrow IS the Ides of March.. beware!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Driver's Ed...

We all like to be safe when we are in our cars, and when navigating the roads here in Southern Maryland, it helps to have a few tips.  So besides (maybe) guiding your tastes in food and dining venues, the Feeder would like to provide some helpful suggestions that will aid your journeys to such places..

First a definition to help us (gleaned from the net, so I am not making this up, italics and emphasis mine):


1.     Combine or cause to combine to form a single entity,.
2.     Blend or fade gradually into something else so as to become indistinguishable from it

1.     To cause to be absorbed, especially in gradual stages.

Traffic engineers (as a civil engineer by training, I know this to be true), recognize the above concept and help us by designing roads with a lane devoted to that purpose.  At an intersection with a busy road, a lane provided to enable the “gradual” fading into traffic is helpful.  You turn out, and increase your speed to match the prevailing traffic, turn on your left turn indicator, and if some kind soul doesn’t allow you space there is usually one soon available.  And since you are all travelling the same speed you don’t need a huge one.  Easy, you’re part of a single entity..

Unfortunately, local custom has a different concept for “merging”.  That is, you position your car stopped dead at approximately ninety degrees in the stupid so called “merge lane”, often rolling down the window to stick your head out, and wait whatever time is required (two, three minutes, no matter) to allow all the traffic lanes to clear (courtesy of a demon infested light) and then, and only then, go directly across the superfluous lane and turn into the nearest traffic lane and be on your way.

Ah, but to that same enlightened driver, the merge lane provides another wonderful service.  Say you are going home from work from the base and traffic is crawling along all three main lanes.  By golly, “there’s nobody in that other lane that I don’t know what is for”;  yank the vehicle into that, floor it and speed past all the idiots that don’t know any better..  whoa! There’s an island ahead!. no matter I’ll turn right, go through the bank/restaurant/store parking lot and force my way back in with the morons!  Hah!

Other time saving techniques:

If you notice that the light turns red at the next intersection down the road ahead of you and the fool in front of you is just coasting to arrive maybe when it turns green, floor it and pass him on the right/left, cut back in and with heavy braking you can be ahead of him while you all wait for the green!!  One more car down... you win!

As many of our roads are just two lanes, and traverse the county from side to side (such as Hollywood Leonardtown Road, or Rte. 4), getting there in as little time as you can is crucial.  So if the car in front of you is silly enough to approximate the speed limit, you can reduce your arrival time by making sure you tailgate as close as possible even though there are no turnoffs for miles.  Or, you can get on the bumper, then back off, then accelerate to the bumper position, and repeat this as many times as possible as a lesson to the stupid driver that he is obeying the speed limit.  you win!!

A Stormy Day (extra)

As I was sitting here ranting (thinly disguised, eh?) there came the last vestiges of today’s rain storm.  It was nowhere near the intensity of the other day, but interesting nonetheless.   Realizing I could have set up a tripod and done a real “time lapse”, it was nice to watch it come and go.

in progress


And as it departed there was a hint of a rainbow!

And finally back to sun!

Always something on the river..
Road Warrior Update
MFO visited the FOJTY's yesterday, and today zipped up to STL to RON and have dinner with the FOJTE's..  Tomorrow she'll point the MOMSTER II toward home and be back Thursday..  House cleaning begins in earnest!!  And of course tonight she will be

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dining Out

Well did you spring your clocks forward today?  A lot easier than the other season's falling back. Raise your hand if you don’t like daylight savings time!  Day will be over before you know it..

With MFO continuing her odyssey through the South and Midwest (arriving Cape Girardeau today) and not wanting to cook for one, I have some food time on my hands. 
Last week I went to Café Des Artistes for dinner with a friend .  People often ask me what is my favorite restaurant, to which I always (mostly, anyway) reply “it depends”.  Are you talking lunch?  Quick sandwich?  Dinner?  Fun time? Special occasion?  Many different answers.   Anyway I think CDA has to rank in the top few for almost anything.  One thing I always enjoy there is their “special” menu, for some reason routinely printed on pink paper.  Quite often there is an interesting wine by the glass available, and lately I find there are some unusual and creative dishes offered.  Things you don’t normally run across.  On the recent visit (kind of in Mardi Gras season) there was a seafood Minestrone offered as a soup/starter, and how many times have you seen Snapping Turtle Gumbo on a menu?  Being the owner a somewhat delicate constitution, I am always leery of anything that potentially is spiced to the nines. And there is that (misguided IMHO) school that thinks Cajun/Creole isn’t real unless it blows your head off.  So I asked our server who replied that she had not tasted it, but didn’t think it fell into that category.  She thought more smoke than spice.  So we continued to ponder the menu, and pretty soon a small dish of the gumbo appeared at my elbow.  How nice is that?   A taste confirmed that it was not at all spicy, just nicely seasoned with a little smoky thought.   So, I had both the Minestrone and the Gumbo and was rewarded with both dishes.  The soup had a rich tomato based broth with plenty of seafood bites.   Kind of in the same vein was the Gumbo which had shrimp and (should go without saying) Okra as well as the turtle meat.  I would suspect this is the first time that I have (knowingly) had snapping turtle.  No, it doesn’t taste like chicken, and I didn’t catch much distinctive flavor, but here were competing tastes in the dish.  It was a little on the chewy side, but hey those snapping turtles are rough customers.  Quite an enjoyable meal, and service was competent.  There are other options in Leonardtown and as I said, different occasions might direct you to one or the other, but think you can always count on a nice experience at the Café.


Grander Scale

From a party of two to a party of over one hundred.  Last night, I went solo to the River Concert Series Gala, their annual fund raiser for the summer events.  I/we have been going for a long time, a pretty standard affair with silent auction items, drinks and apps, a sit down dinner and a musical program from the always interesting Jeff Silberschlag.  This year, like most non profity things it was kind of scaled back.  Less people, no oyster shucker, and (thank goodness) no live auction.  With MFO on the road, I didn’t feel like donning the “black tie optional” duds but did DFD in my nice suit.   These days you find a dwindling number of gentlemen in tuxes it seems.  If the lady has a swishy cocktail dress fine, but going alone didn’t seem worth the effort (besides with no “valet”, the tie, studs, cufflinks, etc., could be a bit challenging.  

As with most events like this you tend to see the same folks, and with the reduced numbers it was quite pleasant.  Passed apps were limited to bacon wrapped water chestnuts, some little empanadas, and some phyllo wrapped brie with raspberry sauce (hard to eat).  A salad preceded the entrees, billed as romaine hearts with oven roasted tomatoes, parmesan curls and a toasted herbed focaccia spear.  A pretty apt description of what appeared on the plate.  And, bless them, for once the salads went out just prior to seating so they were quite a bit fresher than in the past where they were there when guests arrived.  Entrees consisted of your (pre chosen) choice of beef, fish, or vegetarian.  While the salad conformed to its description I am not sure the main courses did.  On the menu card (and in the response form) the beef was: Stuffed Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Cognac”; the fish was “Fish en Papillote Sustainable fish filet with Fume Blanc and Shrimp”.  A bit odd descriptions, think the word “sauce” or “reduction” might have crept in there.  Our table of nine (no MFO, but a former colleague whom I greatly enjoyed talking with) had (as I remember) all beef except for my fish as did one other lady.  The beef was nicely cooked, more to the rare side than I expected, but was fresh and juicy.  To be honest I didn’t get a close look, but didn’t really see the alleged mushroom and cognac (assume not in a glass).  Here is my fish dish as served:


I would hope the readers would immediately say: “Hey! That’s planked! No papillote there!”  I would agree, and the Fume Blanc (also definitely not in a glass) was scant.  The stuff under my (not favorite) vegetable is a risotto type offering (a bit dry).  However if there were any gaffes between description and dish, the quality of the food kind of overcame that.  I have been pretty critical of Bon Appetit’s efforts in the past, but both these dishes were quite good.  I was pleased to see that.

The music featured the Chesapeake Orchestra Big Band, and they were quite accomplished as was the vocalist, Sarah Gray.  Big sound, small space.  Even if MFO were accompanying me I wouldn’t have danced so after a few numbers I exited.  I did write my bidder number on one item, but as of this writing I am not sure if I was “successful”.  Money for a good cause however.  Speaking of good causes, the Chesapeake Charter School Alliance folk had their annual raiser same night.  Had already committed to the Gala, but hope they did well.  You just can’t go to everything even though


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's for Dinner, Chief?

As mentioned in yesterday's post (if you haven’t seen that one, scroll down (or look at yesterday's email), it is pretty interesting) after I visited the archeology site at the City I went over to the college and Cole Cinema to listen to a talk given by Dr. Helen Rountree, a highly respected expert on the Native Americans of the Middle Atlantic and the Powhatans in particular. She has written many books on them.  Pretty colorful lady who apparently doesn’t suffer fools easily.  When asked by Disney Studios to consult on their production of Pocahontas, she found they were more interested in drama than history.  After the romanticized version was released, she tried to “set the record straight” and was quoted as saying: “Pocahontas was no “Buckskin Barbie,” as one reporter wrote, but a short, bald and naked 11-year-old laborer.”

Anyway, her subject for the day was (and I borrowed the title from her) “What’s for Supper?”, and was centered around foods of 17th century Indians.  And most of the talk was placed before the Colonists introduced animals (pigs, cows, etc.) from the Old World.  Her theme was what you would eat if you were a guest of a “Chief” for a formal dinner at this time of year (March – the “Hungry Season”)  So didn’t really deal with day to day food, although in a response to a question later she replied “they would eat anything that crawled, flew or swam”. 

After washing your hands (unlike the English, the Indians were big on hygiene) and saying a form of grace (no translations found) you would be seated either on a mat or perhaps a low bench (smoke rises), eat with your fingers from shared bowls.  She didn’t mention if somebody announced “they would be taking care of you”.  It would be a multi course meal, starting with “appetizers” that might include oysters and cornbread.  She emphasizing that they didn’t eat what they didn’t have: no beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, cheese, goats, sheep, and so forth.  No cream sauces!  For main courses there might be venison, more corn (a precious commodity at this time of year commandeered by the chief), perhaps fish, and maybe wild turkey.  The dinner would take a long time because things were prepared a la carte, meaning they might be skinned right before cooking.  Oh, water would be the beverage.

So it was an interesting talk, but she was limited to about 45 minutes, so it couldn’t be with much detail.  One thing she mentioned that caught my attention.  During a remark about how their food would by our standards “bland”, because no spices/salt used (or available) she remarked that perhaps texture was more important than taste. She said “texture vs. taste” in various cultures was an interesting study.
So just more of nothing to do in St. Mary's County..
am sitting here watching whitecaps on the river, and have been out twice, once to retrieve the Weber from the fence, and again to secure a piece of flashing by one of the windows.  The nice little weather website from the Solomon's is still down, but the weather app on my clever phone says 35 mph.  I believe it.  So far, no snow... And I can't but help wondering about all those romantic people on Facebook hoping for snow!   why?  you like shoveling?  Chiseling your way out of the driveway?  Slipping and sliding on the roads?  A dusting is pretty, maybe an inch or so, but not multiple inches..
Southern Living
MFO reports that things are going well in Lafayette (pronounced "Laffy - ette").  had Oyster Po'Boys for dinner last night along with a lecture on Louisiana history.  She was surprised it took almost 20 years for the evicted Arcadians to reach Louisiana.  Today a concert/talk by a fiddler, and also a visit to an Accordian Factory.. (Lady of Spain....).
Sure she will be appropriately