In This Edition of HeatCageKitchen
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
OK, so it’s been a month, and you’re probably wondering what happened to me. Join the club, me too. And by the title of this post, you’re probably getting a fair idea of how it all went down.
To follow up on the last post, I eventually did bring back the oversized microwave and got. . .another small Rival microwave. But it’s not even plugged in. There’s a reason for that.
I’ll be as blunt as I can be: I am not living anywhere in Texas. Will I ever return? I don’t know, that depends on a number of factors. I hope to at least be able to go back and visit occasionally, since Houston is a five-hour drive from where I am now in. . .rural Louisiana. Someplace I never thought I would ever see, and never planned to be. But sometimes life takes you in different directions, no matter how you try to take your preferred path.
Take in this scene, which I politely call Cow Road:
That’s not the real name of it, of course, but I didn’t know that until the third time I went on it. But there are two farms on the right side of this scene, and one of them, I think, is a dairy farm. Do they sell raw milk? He doesn’t know. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Texas, and in particular, Houston, is changing fast. (Just today there was a shooting in a high-dollar affluent neighborhood, with six people injured, one of those neighborhoods where “this sort of thing never happens.“) Things have been changing quite radically for a few years now, and if it continues, well, Texas will probably not be Texas anymore, and then the rest of the US will be hosed too. Lots more people moving in than there are jobs available, and a lot of people are being left on the side of the road. Governor Gregg Abbott’s office estimates 340+ families migrate into Texas every month, primarily from California. It’s obvious with large numbers of new, high-end vehicles you see driving down the street, and paper dealership tags riding around Clear Lake and in Houston. Everywhere I went, someone talked about “how it works down here in Texas,” or the more offensive, “you people down here in Texas.” Without showing my ruffled feathers, I politely asked each one of them, “and where are you from? What brings you to Texas?” They’re quick to tell, and I’m quick to say, “oh, so that’s why I can’t find a job for more than 2 years.” Yeah–don’t mess with Texas women. (I now have a coffee cup and a small sign that say that.) After 18 years of living in the Houston area, I’m a Texan, and nothing will change that, including a change of address form.
People like me, over 50, are routinely being shunted out of the workforce in favor of the so-called millennials and those under 40. Neighbor E is still looking for work as well, and while we hope he finds work soon, it’s not looking good. That folly will catch up to industry eventually (and if you click around the ‘Net, you’ll see articles on both that and the forced removal of over-50’s), but it means that I have had to take refuge in a different kitchen, if you know what I mean.
I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with a nice man for quite some time now, but haven’t mentioned it much here. He’s cute, smart, funny, lovable and a pretty handy manly man. We’re not connected “in a relationship” on Facebook at his request just to keep things private. I’m OK with that, and I won’t say too much about him here. OK, I have to–but I’ll have to keep identifying details to a minimum, because he’s a rather private person. (I know–what was he thinking?) This came as a complete surprise, and he knew my situation at the outset. He has offered for months to drive to Houston and “rescue” me, and every time he said it, I said “no.” Louisiana was someplace I escaped from and never wanted to go back to. When I visited him in January, it was the first time I’d been over the Sabine River since evacuating from Houston for Hurricane Ike in 2008. I always presumed that things would, eventually get better, and he would visit me in Houston, but it didn’t happen that way. At least not until this month, and he showed up with his white Chevy truck (we call it “The White Knight“) and an 18-foot trailer.
I waited until the last minute, hoping that the last interview would be a successful hire. When that didn’t happen, then I pulled the trigger on the “rescue.” It was a writing job, and as part of the interview process, I was required to take two sets of tests–one grammar, one writing–and I did well with the first one, I was told. The second I worked off and on all Labor Day weekend. Sent it back to the recruiter, and then I waited, but not for long. A couple of days later, I got that “no thanks” email, for which I have a less polite name. With only a phone interview with someone in Ann Arbor, it was decided that I “wasn’t a good fit for the position.” Never met anyone. That’s when I called BF and said, “OK, it’s time.” It was not a decision I made lightly, but when you’re backed in a corner, there aren’t always many ways out.
Neighbor E and AC offered lots of help with packing, and we packed as fast as we could. Correction, THEY did, and I looked at what they did and realized I didn’t really do anything. (That’s what it felt like, anyway.) They worked their paws off, and as much as I appreciate their generous time and help, it’s a favor I may never be able to return. The GER came by with some tarp, too (I still owe him $28 for that) met my BF, and gave him some help tying down cargo. They started talking about cars, because both are petrolheads, and I knew they were bonded at that point.
And that’s how I came to be The Dislocated Texan. Friend of the blog AK says that I should start another blog on being over 50 in America now; she’s not far behind me. I’m still thinking about it, but if I do, you can bet that’ll be the blog’s name. I’m returning to Houston this week to retrieve what I hope is the last of my stuff, which is now stored in Neighbor E’s place. If I can, I’ll get me another one of those coffee cups from Buc-ee’s that says, “Don’t mess with Texas Women.” Preferably one that isn’t pink, to keep on my desk at my next job. I’ve also got a small sign with the Texas flag that will be going up in the kitchen where everyone can see it.
I am a Dislocated Texan.
I hope I can go back and visit Houston, and Texas, again one day, do some shopping at IKEA, Central Market, and maybe even my fabulous HEB. Get some Texas pecans from Buc-ee’s or Frohberg Farms one day. I finally took my BF over there to see my HEB, the day we started moving me. I said goodbye to the nice ladies who always helped me out and fed me deliciously every Saturday after the Buddhist meetings at LK’s. (Even HEB turned me down for part time jobs.) BF was impressed, enjoyed the sampling and the company, saw what I’d been telling him about for a long time, and then we left. For now, locally my choices for grocery shopping are Walmart and Winn-Dixie. In Baton Rouge, there is a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods, thank heavens, and if I find myself working down there (I have an interview tomorrow and continue to apply there and other local cities), there will be regular grocery runs on the way home from work on payday or Fridays. I’ll eventually find the equivalent of an HEB, or something as close as I can get to it. If not during the week, it’ll be when he’s working on Saturday or Sunday, and he can’t stop me. (HA!)
If HEB or Publix ever make their way into Louisiana, it’ll be a happy day for me. But Albertson’s, Rouse’s Walmart, Winn-Dixie and other local chains are likely to dominate for many years to come. Still, if they’d build an HEB in Baton Rouge like the one on Clear Lake City Boulevard. . .I’m just saying. But if you like HEB coffee, or lots of their other great branded products, you can buy much of HEB’s things online now.
I will, at some point, try to get back to see Dr. Davis and Woodlands Wellness, because I’d really rather not change doctors, but that may be what I have to do to get back on my hormones and back on the health track. (I have just started sleeping a little better after 4 years of not sleeping well at all.) We’ll see. I really, REALLY need to get back on all that, I’m feeling it, and it hurts.
Moving into someone’s house, away from everything I know in Houston, also means I now have ONE taste-tester, and he’s what us foodies call a “fussy eater.” This morning I offered him a bite of my Wheat Belly Apple Quick Muffin, which he sampled after having a bowl of some kind of sugar-coated wheat cereal with whole milk. (UGH.) He said it “tastes funny.” Interesting, since I made it with almond flour, just like the pork chops I made on Saturday, at his request, along with some black-eyed peas in the Crock Pot and some hurriedly cooked white (!) rice. He went back to work, I turned the classical music station back on the TV (there is no radio in the house, and cell phone service is spotty) and I later received a text message: “Lunch was awesome.”
He wasn’t wild about me using up that sausage in his freezer and pairing it with the last packet of Halloumi cheese from Trader Joe’s, out of my kitchen in Houston. (He thought the jarred roasted red bell peppers were tomatoes.) The next day’s slow-cooker meatloaf went over a bit better, but the pork chops and black eyed peas made up for all that.
I have more room to cook in. However, I will need to eventually clear out all the cabinets, put down more shelf liner (I think I have plenty), and organize everything so that we can put our hands on the stuff we more frequently use. There may be shelves hung at some point, and the pantry space will be getting more of those white wire shelves to use up the wasted space (I’ve done that before for stock and seldom-needed things.)
But I’m telling you, that George Foreman thing has to go–it’s a huge pain to clean! And somehow, I’ve got to replace the grease trap on my Cuisinart Griddler–I just waffled a pizza the other day, but now I can’t find it! GRRRR.
His sparse pantry, not much bigger than mine in Houston, has been filled to overflowing with everything that came out of my smaller kitchen in Houston, including what are the last few remaining cans of SomerSweet in existence. I just found out today that Somersweet, through a series of events, is no more. I’ll visit the Baton Rouge Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods soon for reconnaissance on powdered erythrytol and powdered agave, as well as other possible solutions.
The look on BF’s face was pretty funny when he looked at organic this and gourmet that stacked up around his boxed stuffing mix, macaroni cheese and canned chili. I said to him, “I know there’s a lot of new things in your pantry, but please, if you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it. Many of these things are expensive and will be hard to find around here.” He just smiled and shook his head. What did you expect a foodie to bring to your house–a checkers set? He doesn’t know what most, if any, of it is, but he knows I need it for cooking. Eventually we’ll be adding more of that white-wire shelving in there to use up the wasted space, like at the top and on the sides, and maybe something new for the inside of the door. I’ve added some small shelves I bought at IKEA several years ago that doubles space in spots, and he really likes them. I just wish I could get a few more of them for us.
I offered to make him some Overnight Oatmeal, but he passed–he prefers the “instant” sugared stuff out of a box. UGH!! When I mentioned getting organic milk at Trader Joe’s, he said, “Don’t go changing my diet!” Just improve, not change, that’s all.
I removed my Suzanne Somers’ EZ Gym from the suitcase last night, but it’s all rolled up in the storage bag. BF took one look and said, “are you going to kick my butt with that thing?” No. . .I suggested he go look at it on her website, but I don’t think he did. I hope to start using it again, and maybe hit the bike now and again, once things settle. No bike lanes in rural Louisiana, though, so I’m a bit skittish about riding on these skinny two-lane back roads. A bike trainer might be in my future.
I now have four slow cookers at my disposal–two oval four-quarts (one mine, one his), my large round six-quart and the small “Little Dipper” I bought a couple of years ago to help get rid of the cooking odors in the condo kitchen.
Oh, and here’s the ultimate irony: the cat lady now lives in a house with three big dogs, one of which is a 75-pound pit bull that just loves me. No kidding. I keep telling him I’m a cat person, but he doesn’t seem to care.
I’ve also met my new Buddhist leaders, PB and NM. I’ve known PB since 1988, and NM I only knew by reputation. They’re a couple, like me and BF, and came by to do a “home visit” last week. I was so glad to see both of them, and have also been in touch with LK since the move, too (plus she reads this humble blog when she has a chance.) I hope to make a Buddhist activity this weekend, but if not, it will be soon. Priority is getting all of my things out of E’s place, immediately, and getting unpacked and organized. Somehow. On his paycheck, at least for a while.
Because he’s such a manly man, he makes occasional furniture pieces from wooden pallets. You know, the stuff they use for shipping. I’m trying to get him into the mindset that we could pretty much rebuild the house with pallets, but he doesn’t see it that way yet. I helped my father when I was a kid in his workshop, so I’m not completely green on woodworking (oh, look, a pun!) I’m working on it. . .because I’d love to have a patio set, another kitchen rack, and lots of other lovely things that I see on Pinterest made from pallets. One thing at a time, of course.
So what does a food blogger write about once everything has changed? Well, restaurants–I’ve been treated to breakfast at a local place called Master Chef, a local fast-food place run by a very nice man named Tony. I’ve also been in a Waffle House–no kidding, again, for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve been in a Waffle House since the 1980’s, but last week, that’s where he took me to breakfast on our way to visit his cousin in nearby Mississippi. Know what? Some of the best scrambled eggs ever–they use American cheese. And it was gluten free–because I told them to give him my toast, ha, ha. Our waitress had no idea that some Waffle Houses take reservations for Valentine’s Day. She’d just moved to that location from a New Orleans store, and had never heard that. In some very remote areas, Waffle House is the only place in town, and they serve steaks, so, yes, they do. (I wrote about that a couple of years ago but can’t find it now.)
I’ll also be trying out more new recipes as I can, and bringing them to you as fast as I can get to the library. We don’t yet have Internet in the house, and as soon as I can pay for it, we’ll have it! Meantime, I have to find Wifi somewhere, and the local library is pretty nice too. Not nearly as big as my beloved Freeman Library on Diana Lane in Clear Lake, and certainly no gardening lectures that I’ve seen yet, but they’re every bit as helpful and nice.
There’s no Starbucks here (the closest is in Hammond), but there is one PJ’s Coffee, a New Orleans based coffee chain that was my first introduction into gourmet coffee shops with a fellow SGI member who now lives in Boston. (They also have Wifi.) So, if I’m working in Baton Rouge or Hammond, there will be trips to PJ’s or CC’s Coffee, the retail arm of Baton Rouge-based Community Coffee. Community is donating to help with flood relief here in Louisiana, so if you’re of a mind to do so, pick up a bag or two of your favorite Community blend next trip, please.
Hey–maybe I can take a ride and go visit Community Coffee sometime. I’m a food blogger, right? DUH. I did ask BF if we could, on his occasional Saturday off, take a ride one day down to Avery Island and visit Tabasco. He didn’t seem enthused about the idea.
I have not been well, for a long time, but I’m getting better, bit by bit, and I have the great support of BF. Even though he doesn’t read my humble blog.
Not long before I knew I was leaving, AC asked me to give her some help with her home computer, and uploading some videos of her work to YouTube for a job interview. I took care of everything, and I also installed an antivirus program and did a few other things to make it run better. When I got there, I smelled some deliciousness going on. You see, AC, too, has a new BF, and was cooking some pinto beans in the slow cooker for dinner that night. “You want to try some?” (GIRLFRIEND–You have to ask?) Oh, my GAWD, they were the best beans I’ve ever had! I told her that too–no joke, they really were delicious, I wasn’t just telling her that to be nice. She texted me the stuff she uses to make it, and the only thing that’s holding me back is a bottle of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I can’t find it here, so I’ll try to get it either in Baton Rouge or on my next trip to Houston. I can’t wait to make them for my BF, and show you how to make them, too.
My biggest challenge as a home cook and blogger is going to be reconciling BF’s love for junk food and processed stuff containing wheat and toxic chemicals with making healthy, tasty food that he’ll enjoy and not turn up his nose at. I haven’t yet made him the Pea & Pesto Soup, but I plan to. . .soon as I can find the blender. (I managed to bring five containers of my beloved pesto with me, and will have more land to grow more basil, tomatoes and anything else I want.) The other issue is that he’s quick to purchase things that are loaded with wheat and other rubbish, which I mentioned already that I won’t consume. I also warned him about the “no beans in chili or you can get shot” thing, but he doesn’t believe me.
So. . .that’s where I’ve been, where I am and where I think I’m going. I hope that I’ll at least be able to visit Texas occasionally if I don’t move back to it, and write about more new recipes and things as I get settled in and unpacked.
I am now the The Dislocated Texan. I’m working on it, and making the best of it. Fortunately, BF has my back, and reminds me frequently that he’s there for me. I hope to be doing things like baking fresh bread for him soon, and since I found the Hatch Apple Pie Filling, making that fabulous cake that Neighbor E and I had in HEB recently. I’ll do that when he has a day off.
Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope to be bringing more new things to you soon.
Amy, I really enjoyed the read. It sounds like your BF is really a good guy and is really doing a good job of having your back. He will soon learn to appreciate your delicious food and at the same time be eating healthy. I hope you can get a job and do the things that you want to do. Best of luck. Texas misses you our dear “Dislocated Texan”.
Thanks, Linda! He really does have my back, and I try to feed him well.
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