Hawaii. The name conjures up pictures of beautiful beaches, surfing, snorkeling, pineapples, and coconut. It’s what most people believe is paradise. No, I’m not going to Hawaii anytime soon. But as I’ll explain, the Aloha State is important for agriculture and the food that’s brought to your table.
Hello again, Dear Readers:
Have you tried Mint & Parsley Pesto yet? It took a while to get that mess cleaned up, but it’s all done now. BF is still acting the way he does when I mention pesto. Aunt Ruth wrote back and said she likes mint in her tea, but never thought about making pesto with it. Sit tight, Aunt Ruth—a blog post on tea is planned and in the draft folder.
A Little Birthday Cake
BF’s birthday was Sunday, and I made him a delicious—and little—birthday cake from scratch.
His favorite is the boxed yellow cake mix with the prepared chocolate icing. I made it from scratch from the Easy Cake Cookbook by Miranda Couse, both the cake and the chocolate frosting. It’s a great book for making small, easy, everyday cakes.
Sure, books like the Death By Chocolate series have some amazing creations—even a chocolate raspberry wedding cake (who needs a groom?) So do many of Martha Stewart’s books. But for a quick bake that comes together quickly and doesn’t require a long ingredient list, the Easy Cake Cookbook is a great go-to cake book.
Amy’s Cake History
Now, most people buy a cake, and that’s fine. Aunt Ruth will probably remember this one.
Years ago while at Boeing, I somehow became the “IT Party Girl” for all department celebrations. I didn’t mind, it was kind of fun, although I was pretty tired when it was all over. When a cake was requested, I just went to HEB and bought one, or ordered it if I had enough time. I always ordered buttercream icing, and everyone loved it. They were consistently delicious and the most requested cakes.
Then one day, there was a celebration I wasn’t involved in when someone was transferring to Boeing’s DC location. After starting the yeast-free diet, complete with prescriptions, I wasn’t about to touch a piece of cake. (I’d also shrunk a couple of dress sizes.) But I sat down next to the lady from Facilities, and she leaned over and said in a low voice, “did you have anything to do with this?” I said, “no, why?” She said, “I can tell.” I asked, “how?” Her response: “the cake.” I just smiled.
It seems that while the cake was beautifully and expertly decorated, the taste did not match the appearance. Being the nosy person I am, I sauntered up to the table and asked one of the women responsible for the event, “nice cake—where did you get it?” The proud response: “Sam’s!”
I wasn’t about to give BF a birthday cake from Walmart or Winn-Dixie.
Happy Birthday, Honey.
Yes, I know—the verdict in Depp v. Heard came in the day after I published. The plaintiff is working—on a tour with Jeff Beck in the UK. He reportedly went to a Birmingham (UK) Indian restaurant this past weekend with Jeff Beck and 20 of their friends. He paid a dinner tab of about $62,000. The owners closed the restaurant for the private party and swore all employees to secrecy. Imagine their surprise—and there was Johnny Depp asking questions about not only the place but even their CCTV system. The owner said he had a nice chat with the man and was quite friendly.
In fact, JD enjoyed the dinner so much that he asked them to make him a takeout meal for him, based on what they served. No hotel room service that evening.
The defendant has disappeared for now.
Now that the trial is all over, we can all go back to our normal, everyday lives.
Celebration Across The Pond
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, celebrated 70 years as the reigning monarch in the UK this past weekend. There’s never been a Platinum Jubilee before. (I know, I know—but she’s the Queen.)
Incidentally, if you haven’t noticed, it’s been four years since the most famous royal wedding in recent history involving an American. Four years on, nobody seems to care about these two. At the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this past weekend, they were actually booed leaving a church service. They’re back in California now with the kids, after reportedly having a very short meetup with Her Majesty at their UK home, Frogmore Cottage.
On the flip side, have you seen Her Majesty’s short video having tea with Paddington Bear? It’s SO CUTE!! (Marmalade sandwiches!) Listen, I know she’s THE QUEEN, but at 96, I don’t see why she can’t have a little fun with Paddington Bear. Her sketch 10 years ago with Daniel Craig as 007 was great, but this was even better. Even her family didn’t know about the sketch. She kept it a secret from everyone, and the BBC spent half a day with Her Majesty. Prince William’s three grandchildren were thrilled, as were all the other children who love the adorable Paddington Bear. (If you’re not familiar with PB, here is a background bit on him.)
Hawaii, the 50th State
Let’s take a long plane ride to Hawaii, shall we?
Spring and summer bring thoughts of vacation time. People from all over the world travel to the Islands every year. Although it’s an individual state, it’s a collection of several islands that have a long history and culture. There is a total of eight islands, but a few of the smaller islands are uninhabited.
Hawaii is one of those places that many people say, “I’m going to go there one day.” Actually, some people say they’re going to go, and they do–and they never go home, as I’ve discovered. Howard Hughes was one of them. Sounds like Texas, but it’s different when they swarm in on The Lone Star State.
One of my agency clients has two non-legal clients on the island of Maui, the second-largest island in the state of Hawaii.
So, I do a lot of writing about The Valley Isle, as it’s called. The content is about different things that are either Hawaiian or Hawaiian but relative to Maui. I’ve learned a lot, and it’s interesting reading.
BF and I occasionally talk about where we want to go one day, and Hawaii is one of those places. I said no, I want specifically to go to Maui. We’ve never been there, not yet. I’m still trying to make a trip back to Houston to visit.
Where I Got The Idea
Recently one of my client project managers, who lives in Florida, found out about my little food blog. She said, “hey, why don’t you write a blog post for our client about traditional Hawaiian recipes?” Who am I to say no? So I did. And I thought I’d keep the idea in the draft folder for a later blog post here. Because Hawaii also has an interesting food scene, in addition to agriculture. (I’ve also suggested topics for their various clients occasionally, too.)
Everything has to be shipped at least 2,000 miles to the Islands, so it’s quite expensive to live there. Yet everybody keeps moving there and building. Like former President Obama, who is building a home on the island of Oahu. (Because he was born there, so he said.) Just last week one of my legal clients said he was headed to Oahu with his wife and kids–he met and married her there. Other well-known celebrities have homes in Hawaii, particularly on Maui, which isn’t as developed as The Big Island (the island that’s called Hawaii.)
The state participates in the Hawaiian Electric’s Clean Energy initiative, in which the state works toward all clean energy, including:
- Water, also called hydropower or “ocean energy”
- Waste To Energy
No, I’m not copying and pasting one of those articles here, but I am referencing some of the research. It would ruin the SEO for both my site and the client’s site. (I know better.)
Brief History of Hawaii
Prior to becoming a US state on August 21, 1959, the collection of islands was a territory, and before that, it was a sovereign kingdom. It had a monarchy between 1810 and 1893 but was overthrown in 1893 by European capitalists and landowners.
Hawaii offered considerable assistance to the United States during World War II and pushed for statehood. People living there did not wish to be subjects, but citizens, and voted to become a state rather than stay a territory.
Like Texas, Hawaii was an independent Republic until August 12th, 1898, when the US made it a territory. For 60 years after that, it became it remained a non-self-governing territory until becoming the 50th state. Since joining the United States, it has become an integral part of the US, even though it’s 2000 miles from the California coastline.
Note: don’t refer to people who live in Hawaii as “the natives,” it’s considered insulting. They’re called “locals,” because not everyone was born there, and therefore aren’t “natives.” Also, don’t say “back in the States,” because you are in the States. What you mean is The Mainland. There is also a language called Hawaiian Pidgin that’s spoken by people both born there and relocated there. Folks don’t normally speak it in front of tourists, but if they do, just smile.
Maui itself is both an island in the state of Hawaii and an entire county by itself. With 64 parishes in Louisiana, and 254 counties in Texas (Houston’s Harris County is the largest), it’s a bit different to wrap one’s head around one county, one island. But they do it, and Maui is only 728 square miles. Galveston Island, by contrast, is only 27 square miles, although Galveston County is larger.
So, what does that have to do with my silly little food blog? Well, for one thing, the State of Hawaii grows quite a few crops that are exported all over the US and the world. You’d expect things like pineapple, bananas, avocado, coconut, and macadamia nuts to be grown there. And, you may not realize that some of the food you buy could have been grown in Hawaii, or even on the Valley Isle.
While Maui has a considerable amount of coastline, it’s not all beaches. The Valley Isle also has several different ecosystems, called “microclimates.” This means that you can go from a coastline to a desert area in a car ride, and then pass through a tropical rainforest on the east side of the island. You can also go straight up a mountain and find yourself shivering at a higher elevation. It also means that different crops grow in different spots. It’s Terroir, as the French call it in relation to winemaking.
But Maui also grows and exports other crops that you may not realize, such as:
- Cacao (chocolate)
- Coffee, particularly Kona Coffee
- Jackfruit (hard pass for me)
- Lettuces and other green leafy vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Taro, a locally grown starchy root like a potato that’s used in a range of traditional dishes
Maui and Hawaii’s crops are consumed around the world.
Maui’s Agriculture Today
Until 2016, sugarcane was a prominent crop and industry. The former sugarcane land in north-central Maui is now owned by a California-based company. They have plans to turn that area into sustainable farming with non-GMO crops, bring more jobs to the area, and increase the amount of locally grown crops for Maui and possibly for export.
Ironically, Maui imports about 90% of its food from the Mainland US. Everything is flown in from elsewhere, hence the higher cost of living. This includes food, medicine, fuels, and pretty much every consumer good you want to buy. Don’t forget the postage.
Should Hawaii’s supply chain become seriously disrupted due to a hurricane, tsunami, or another disaster, Hawaii would have no more than three to ten days of food available. People who live there want to make sure that the entire state of Hawaii can develop a more self-sufficient food supply that isn’t dependent on 2,000-mile trips from the Mainland. Remember, it also takes fuel to get the food and supplies to the Islands.
If you go, what can you expect to eat? Seafood, according to one of my former Boeing coworkers who just went to Maui. But, surrounded by ocean, what do you expect? No complaints out of me, that’s for sure.
But if you go, Maui as well as the entire state has some fine dining using locally produced ingredients. There are organic family farms on the Valley Isle and plenty of local coffee shops and other places to eat. Don’t expect Texas-style anything, that’s for sure, but you’ll find a range of delicious local options.
There are some unique foods you’ll see that will catch your attention. Some will likely turn BF into a dieter whenever we get to Maui.
Poke’ and Poke’ Bowls
Poke’ bowls (pronounced “POH-keh”) began with Hawaiian fishermen who would simply cut some freshly caught fish and vegetables, season them a little, and eat their lunch. That’s it. The word means “slice or cut” in native Hawaiian, and of course, is one of those things you get everywhere on the Islands.
If you remember my post on Spam last year, you’ll recall that this canned meat is quite popular in Hawaii. The company has a recipe for poke’ using Spam.
In the Mainland, poke’ is new and trendy, and there is even a poke’ place in Hammond. We haven’t been in it yet, I guess I’ll do that on my own one day—no way BF will touch that, he already told me. A couple of weeks ago, we had to run an errand in the Baton Rouge area and saw one near Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. I couldn’t get BF to go in with me, but we needed to get home anyway. Next time.
I’m going to admit that I prefer “bowl food” because it’s just easier, and poke’ sounds like a winner in that category. Here’s a primer on how to make a poke’ bowl at home, if you are so inclined. This poke’ primer is from the infamous People magazine, but it’s also basic.
If you go looking for cookbooks on poke’, be prepared to see books on “poke cakes.”
The USS Nemo Restaurant in Naples, Florida offers a primer on how to eat a poke’ bowl, too. Hint: it’s not like spaghetti and meat sauce.
The basics are:
- Cooked rice
- Fresh salmon or tuna, sushi-grade, or a non-raw protein like cooked chicken or shrimp, canned crab or tofu
- Sesame oil (just a little—it’s very strong)
- Toppings such as soy sauce
- Anything else you want to add, like veggies, sunflower seeds, etc.
Of course, if you’re making poke’ at home, you can use whatever you like—quinoa instead of rice, for instance. I’m not interested in chopsticks, although I do know how to use them. Have at it.
Believe it or not, banana bread is a really big thing in Maui. No kidding. You see, the entire state grows lots of bananas. They grow everywhere, especially in Maui.
One reason that Maui banana bread tastes the way it does is because of the apple banana grown there. Many bakers also use organic sugar that’s harvested on the Valley Isle. And, well, there’s also a little Aloha baked into every loaf, making Maui banana bread unique.
That’s not to say your own banana recipe isn’t any more special. It’s just that Maui’s is special, too, for a few reasons. Bananas thrive in Maui, and the locals take their banana bread very seriously. If you go, make sure you try some and don’t forget to say “Mahalo.”
The Rise Of Hawaiian Banana Bread
Why is banana bread a thing in Hawaii? During the Great Depression, growers found themselves overloaded with more-than-ripe bananas. Hawaiians simply started baking banana bread to keep them from going to waste.
When baking powder became available, it was easier than using yeast. So, home bakers could make the bread easier and faster with all those brown bananas. Since then, banana bread is a beloved tradition in Maui that’s loved by locals and tourists alike.
Incidentally, banana bread is one of the most popular recipe searches online. Check out Pinterest, Martha Stewart’s website, and The Food Network, or just do a simple Google search for “banana bread.” You’ll find millions of recipes and never run out. Your biggest problem will be picking one.
BF’s favorite is in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. It includes shredded coconut and walnuts, but I use local pecans instead. This bread freezes well. I need to bake more soon; we gave away the last loaf in the freezer.
If you can’t go to Hawaii this year, enjoy some homemade banana bread at home while planning next year’s trip. Make sure to try the banana bread while you’re there.
You’ve probably heard of this but might not know what it is. Sure, it’s a feast, but it’s way more than that. It’s a celebration of Hawaiian culture, food, and an ancient way of life that’s been preserved through the ages.
Modern luaus are big parties held at the beach. Traditionally, they are for celebrating things like marriages, births, and other milestones. But now they’re available for visitors, just find one, make your reservations, pay in advance, and go.
They are traditionally held at sunset, and of course, you’ll be given a lei upon arrival. Etiquette note: do not remove this lei, it’s considered an insult. Pregnant women are given an open-ended lei since it’s considered bad luck for her to have the closed one.
Guests sit on ground mats by low tables, although tables and chairs are available upon request at some luaus. Dress casually and comfortably, of course. Luaus now run for about three hours and include food, some drinks (or may have a cash bar), and traditional Island entertainment. Fire dancers, hula dancers, or traditional dance that tells the story of Hawaii are the most common. You’ll learn more when you make your reservations.
Food At The Luau
What kind of food is served? You’ll dine on traditional slow-roasted pork, roasted all day in an underground pit with hot rocks, no kidding. Sweet potatoes are also included in the pit. Other traditional foods include:
- Chicken long rice
- Fish dishes, naturally, including Lomi salmon and Poke’
- Coconut custard, called “haupia”
- Kulolo, another pudding made with steamed and grated kalo and coconut milk
- Poi, a traditional Polynesian dish made from the native taro root
- Salads from locally grown produce
- Rice (which is probably all BF will eat anyway)
- Desserts made from locally grown tropical fruit, i.e., mango, pineapple, papaya
Cocktails include Mai Tais and other tropical drinks along with non-alcoholic drinks for children and those of us who prefer not to drink.
Always at least try some of the native dishes, as it is a sign of respect. Native Hawaiians and longtime locals are big on respecting traditions, the culture, and the land, and that includes beaches.
Hula dancing is traditional and also taken seriously. If you’re of a mind to do so, get up and hula dance with everyone else. Just don’t make fun of the other dancers, it’s considered rude.
Recipe Redux: Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters
Macadamia nuts are synonymous with Hawaii. So if you’re having a hankering for some, I’ll help you out here.
Remember a while back when I reviewed Emilie Bailey’s vegetarian keto cookbook? I made those lovely-looking chocolate macadamia nut clusters. Unfortunately, we weren’t crazy about them. Well, I figured out why.
Normally, when I buy nuts for cooking or baking, I get them from the baking aisle. But that’s not what I should have done with this recipe. What I should have done, and I did the second time, was to get the roasted and salted nuts from the snack food aisle. That’s why the first batch of chocolate nut clusters just didn’t taste all that great–the nuts were raw.
But roasted and salted macadamia nuts made all the difference, and the result was so much better.
They were quite delicious on their own, too.
I also chopped the nuts this time.
We really enjoyed them the second time, so that’s another back-pocket recipe we have for Valentine’s Day and other date nights at home. What can I tell you? They were so much better with the roasted nuts and extra salt inside and on top:
Here’s the recipe if you want to print a copy for later. (So glad I found WP Recipe Maker!)
Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters
- 1½ cups sugar-free chocolate chips I used Hershey's but there are several brands, including Lily's
- 1½ cups roasted and salted macadamia nuts From the snack aisle
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ½ tsp vanilla extract look for no sugar brands
- Flaked sea salt
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high. Stir every 20 seconds for about 1 minute 30 seconds, or until completely melted.
- Once melted, stir the vanilla extract into the chocolate mixture.
- Pour the macadamia nuts into the chocolate mixture, and stir until coated.
- Use a tablespoon to drop mounds of the chocolate-macadamia nut mixture onto the parchment paper. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt, and chill for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm. Store in an airtight container or zip-top bag in the refrigerator.
It isn’t Maui, but it’ll do for now.
Until Next Time
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s culinary visit to Maui. Right now it’s the closest many of us will get to the Valley Isle, but that’s OK. I bought a nice pineapple today for my Buddhist altar.
As I mentioned, I’m planning a blog post on tea soon, because, well, I like tea, too. But I’m picky. It’s got to be British tea, which comes with a lot more history than American tea. Well, except for the Boston Tea Party, of course. At this point, I think we’re on better terms with Britain, with long-term mutual respect in place. At least if Harry and the American Duchess would please mind their own Spotify- and Netflix-sponsored business.
And if you like iced tea—time to make some, yes?
Happy New Year, and Welcome to HeatCageKitchen: Automotive Edition! There’s some delicious barbecue in Central Louisiana, and BF and I were cordially invited to have some.
Happy 2018, Dear Readers:
Welcome to another edition of “What Are These Two Lug Nuts Up To Now?”
No, I promise not to mention you-know-what that me and BF are supposed to be getting in shape for. Haven’t been able to carve out exercise time just yet. Need to do that soon–it’s February! I’d be riding my bike now if I hadn’t hurt my back this week. . .standing up from a seated position. No kidding. It’s getting better now.
So, does your office coffee look like this? Mine does.
I posted that on Facebook the other day, and a former coworker was actually jealous. He worked with me at Boeing and now lives in the Seattle area.
I’ve got a short break in client work, so I thought I should try and finish a blog post. Irony: I know from writing blog posts for digital marketing agencies that in order to get rankings in Google and other search engines, you need to regularly publish useful and relevant content. Yes, I can do that. . .soon. Besides, I’ve already paid for the domain name for another year (It’s not expensive.)
Let’s get started.
Vegan Beef Jerky
You’re probably thinking, “what’s this foolishness?” Like I did when I saw this stuff in Whole Foods recently:
This is not a joke:
If you think that’s healthy. . .no, seriously, it’s not. And it isn’t cheap, either.
For a bunch of soybeans and sugar for people who eat “nothing with a face,” but it’s made to TASTE like something with a face. (Remember last year the “beef-free beef broth” I found in the same Whole Foods?) It’s similar to this product from my favorite snack company Epic, which is also available in Whole Foods, and about the same price with actual MEAT. But this “vegan jerky” has no beef in it. What’s the point of fake-me-out “beef jerky” made with soybeans?
If you’re vegan, why are you going to mess with something that tastes like something you don’t eat? Makes no sense, but, well, supply and demand and all that. Apparently the company makes several types, too. Here’s a picture from their Instagram page via their website that says “Happy Science Fiction Day.” Oh, the IRONY.
I’m still allergic to soy. Just say no and save your money for real food. Yuck.
The Christmas Kittens
Christmas was relatively low-key for us, just like Thanksgiving. We were alone, and we went to visit BF’s daughter, her partner and their son, then to his Dad’s place up the road. BF will have another grandson in March, which we were notified of about October, I think. His Dad was thrilled that we went up to that little room upstairs and cleared out all of BF’s old rubbish, and burned a garbage bag full of old bills from 10 years ago. Mr. C. said it was the best Christmas present ever.
At the kids’ place, someone dumped off two very tiny, helpless kittens a few days earlier. These two millennials were going to leave them to starve out in the cold. She’s pregnant, they have dogs, so. . .on the way out, I scooped them up and brought them home with us. They made themselves comfortable immediately after they had some food and water.
These two were just all over the place:
It subjected me to an adverse environment:
The full-grown cat was VERY unhappy to have these interlopers. I never intended to keep them, of course, just to make sure they didn’t meet a terrible fate outside. These two weighed about as much as a sandwich, and they’d been outside in the cold on their own for a few days without their mother or shelter, fed once or twice. BF understood, and didn’t mind me taking them home for a rescue.
The pit bull puppy wanted to play with them, and they put him in his place with some hissing and swatting.
I kept putting the little fur balls on the other side of this “doggie gate” BF built to keep the dogs in the living room. I wanted them to stay back there so that they’d be safe. But they’re so tiny that they just kept walking right through the slats.
They tried to make nice with the big cat, but Tabbicat wasn’t having any of it. A week of keeping them separated with a makeshift litterbox in my office was all we could take, but we endured. Tabbicat whizzed in a corner, then moved on to BF’s living room chair, multiple times. I think we got the smell out, but BF still isn’t sitting in it. There may be a slipcover in its future.
Only the big cat minded. Because Tabbicat is very, very bonded with BF (he should announce their engagement) he didn’t mess with the kittens when they climbed up his chair and onto his chest. I had to peel them off BF, so that their scent didn’t mix with his.
I attempted to contact several local animal rescues, and only one responded. The lady from the one I got to met me at the Hammond Starbucks that Friday and I sadly handed them over. (I was crying on the drive down there.) She noticed that they were very docile, and they should be adopted pretty easily. I told her that if I ever found out she was involved in dog fighting I would hunt her DOWN. She laughed at me. I knew they were going to have a better life, and I wished them well, told them to be happy in their new homes.
It would have been nice to have adorable kittens a little longer. But we know we did the right thing by them.
The New Year’s Eve Barbecue
I’ve probably mentioned this before, BF is a car guy. He’s not only a mechanic, he also builds race engines. Additionally, he also knows people in the genre, and he’s been to a number of events where he’s met lots of people. This is similar to my going to AWAI Bootcamp and other conferences where I’ve met people that I’ve kept in touch with over the years.
But on this day, we drove a couple of hours to a small town near Lafayette, Louisiana, for Mr. Earl Schexnyder’s annual get-together for all his “race guy” friends. Well, OK, there were women too, but the majority of the race people were guys. Us gals were there as dates and to see what they get up to. Fortunately, BF doesn’t drink, smoke or anything like that. And I was there as a food blogger, taking pictures and nibbling like the rest of them. Oh, boy, did I nibble–just like at Bootcamp.
BF has known this man for many years, meeting him at an annual event called Drag Week. However, due to his work schedule, BF has never been able to go on New Year’s Eve. This year, he put in for a vacation day, since Mr. Earl decided to schedule his annual cookout for the 30th of December. It fell on a Saturday, so we got up early, took care of things, and hit the road.
Mr. Earl has been doing this annual cookout for many years, and enjoys inviting the people in that he has worked with and knows from his business. While he’s doing gumbo, he’s not the only cook.
This was the chicken they added to the Gumbo. Please note that I have no idea what “Slap Ya Mama” is like, nor do I condone such violence.
And rice to go with the gumbo:
Some 90 miles from home, we passed all manner of vehicles, including at least a dozen with Texas plates on them. Through areas with nothing and little areas with lots of mobile homes, we ran the gamut of Louisiana. I talked him into taking me to Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge on the way home. We had three week-long freezes, twice with snow, and I wanted to make sure that I was stocked up with chocolate almond milk. No way am I giving up my yeast-free hot chocolate for anybody!
Remember, this is an auto repair shop, not a professional kitchen.
It’s a social event, of course, and a nice marketing thing, too. Think of it as the mechanic’s version of a cocktail party, and everyone enjoys themselves.
So, some of the things we saw when we walked in:
It was the first thing I saw, and it was a white cake with all that frosting. I didn’t touch it, honest. But what I did touch, multiple times, was this:
BF stayed away from this, I think it confused him. It looked like 7 Layer Dip, but I didn’t ask. I was too busy nibbling at it. And I couldn’t keep my paws out of these, either:
Being garage guys, you know there are:
And of course, cars, cars, and more cars. With guys talking about cars. But we’ll get to that later, OK?
But let’s talk about something really important to a Texan, native or naturalized. Barbecue.
Meet Alvin Calhoun
Now, I’ve always enjoyed barbecue. I make my own barbecue sauce (when BF isn’t home so I don’t have to listen to it.) I believe that Texas has the best barbecue, but that’s an 18-year prejudice. I’m not saying Louisiana can’t have good barbecue–but that stuff BF likes in Hammond has absolutely no taste to it. It looks like dog food, and tastes like it could be (not that I’ve sampled dog food myself.) On this occasion, BF was telling the truth, and we met some nice people, too.
In this little town on the other side of Lafayette, in an auto repair shop, on a slightly cool, and cloudy day, was the best barbecue I’ve had in a very long time. BF kept telling me about this man with a long history of doing all kinds of things, including car stuff, and now he does barbecue, too. Everyone loves his barbecue. When you have it, BF says, “It’s a life-changing event!” I was about to find out.
This is the very nice and very avid barbecue guru, Alvin Calhoun:
In all seriousness, you’ll notice this man is in a wheelchair. I won’t go into the specifics, but yes, he’s in a wheelchair, and he’s creating barbecue. Delicious barbecue. As in, you wish you hadn’t eaten all that other stuff before you had this delicious barbecue. Because now you’re going to need a wheelbarrow to get back into the truck to go home. His barbecue has won awards, beating out New Orleans’ own Brennan family. That should tell you something.
Now, all my Texas readers are thinking, “what does he use in his barbecue sauce?” Well, my Lone Star friends, Mr. Calhoun has a different opinion of barbecue sauce. Much as I like barbecue sauce, he said something I wasn’t expecting.
“Barbecue sauce is for when you have something to hide.”
No kidding. I wasn’t expecting that.
Mr. Calhoun is from North Louisiana, but now makes his home in the Baton Rouge area. He was taught by a friend how to barbecue. His approach was to think about how primitive man found himself with a feral hog on a fire, and finding out it was delicious.
How He Does It
Mr. Calhoun uses a dry rub, the ingredients of which are secret. I wouldn’t be crass enough to ask what’s in it, and he wouldn’t tell you anyway. But he’s always cooking, and he’s known far and wide by folks who appreciate it.
While these were cooking, we had a nice chat:
Of course, Mr. Calhoun has some great help, too, and I offered to bring him water or whatever he needed while he was tending the grill pits. We all had a nice time talking about stuff, but for some reason, he thought I was a food critic. We’re all “food critics” to a certain extent, but no, I’m a food blogger. I just write about stuff. Admittedly, since 2012, I’ve mentioned a few things to avoid (like Splenda and Aspartame.) But barbecue from Alvin Calhoun’s barbecue pits is not in that group. Do not avoid this man’s cookery.
So, after a while, he asked around for a plastic knife. What the heck? Because it’s ready when you can cut it with a plastic knife.
He offered me the first piece.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Alvin Calhoun makes some really incredible, delicious barbecue. Two thumbs up, and if I had more, they’d be up too. Hot from the grill, but not pepper hot, but not overly sweet, either, like some barbecue can be. A great flavor with a hint of sweet, a hint of spice, but *not* the kind that whacks you upside your head and has you begging for a fire extinguisher.
And did I mention the husband and wife who drove in from San Antonio to meet Mr. Calhoun and visit everyone? We talked about HEB and other great Texas stuff. To which BF said, “and nobody cares but you.”
Don’t Miss The Barbecue
If ever you are invited anywhere this man is cooking, DO NOT eat anything else until after you have some barbecue, because you will, indeed, regret doing so. As I often say, I speak from experience.
Thank you, Mr. Calhoun. Everything they said was true.
There Were Other Things Besides Barbecue
Ok, so, BF reminded me that it wasn’t really a “barbecue.” Mr. Earl’s was a cookout that had barbecue on the side. Well, it really was on the side–since it needed to be outside, Mr. Calhoun and his equipment was parked under the car port at Mr. Earl’s house on the other side of the parking lot. And of course, doing barbecue with pits, there’s the whole smoke thing, so he needed to be outside with it.
There was gumbo, cooked by Mr. Earl himself:
I didn’t have any, because I’m not a gumbo fan, but BF was all over it.
And then, FRIED TURKEY
Let me preface this by saying that frying an entire turkey in a vat of hot oil can be a very dangerous thing. Stories abound about the *wrong* way to fry a turkey. Fortunately, we witnessed nothing like that.
Baton Rouge General Hospital has a series of ads about their different medical services, and this one involves the potential dangers of fried turkey. It’s short, but funny.
So, what I was told by Mr. Bill Doucette was that they injected the turkey with something that I can’t remember–something that’s made for that purpose. (The “Cajun Injector” kind of thing.)
They used peanut oil (I think) because of the high smoke point:
It doesn’t take long, either, something like a half hour, maybe. Remember that to roast a 22-pound turkey in the oven, you’re looking at about four hours.
When it comes out, it looks like this:
And they let me try it. Honest, it’s nothing like the brined turkey I like to make, but it is indeed good. A different flavor than the brined/roast version. I might try to do this one day, but. . .not until we have at least two or three new fire extinguishers available. And the undisciplined dogs are completely away from everything.
And Of Course, Cars
If the GER had been with us, he would have been licking his chops over not only the barbecue, gumbo and donuts, he would have been salivating all over these cars. Alas, my friend, I offer you the pictures I managed to get off my phone.
Every other day of the year, Mr. Earl runs an auto shop called Schexnayder Racing (this is his Facebook page.) We went in the ultra-reliable White Knight, but others were in, shall we say, much more aesthetic vehicles than we were. Then again, the White Knight is a truck, not a race car, just like Mr. Earl doesn’t run a restaurant.
This ancient vehicle is a mid-1930’s Pontiac, so says BF. Someone actually drove this to Mr. Earl’s place, no kidding.
But something tells me it’s not completely finished.
Pop the hood:
This is ACTUALLY what Mr. Earl does the rest of the year.
There were other project cars in various stages of completion, too.
All these cars, all while there was cooking and barbecue going on.
Now this one was particularly interesting:
We saw some amazing vehicles. But I didn’t get to ride in anything but The White Knight.
Mr. Earl’s Gift To His Father
The other big event was this car being unveiled:
The elder Mr. Schexnayder had a house fire a while back, and lost literally everything, including his race car. His family, including Mr. Earl, got together and found another car just like it, and have been sneaking around behind his back to have it not only restored, but to make it exactly like the car he lost in the fire. They had a heck of a time with it, but they found one, in Texas somewhere. It’s not finished yet.
When they were ready to take it out of the truck, BF leaned over to me and said, “You’re about to see a grown man cry.”
The car isn’t quite finished yet, but the elder Mr. Schexnayder was quite happy with his gift.
Before we left, I looked across the street and saw this:
How’d you like to drive this one?
A Pretty Good Saturday
It was a long, but very enjoyable Saturday for us, and I ended up driving home after we left Baton Rouge and Trader Joe’s. BF took a nap, and I streamed some music on my phone (that he didn’t like.)
Many thanks to Mr. Earl of Schexnayder Racing for the great food and the great time we all had. It was great to meet everyone, and BF was quite happy to see people he hasn’t seen in a while.
And of course, to Mr. Alvin Calhoun, Louisiana’s Barbecue Master. I’m serious–if you ever have the opportunity, do make the effort to see Mr. Calhoun and sample his wonderful barbecue. He’s a really nice man and we really enjoyed spending time with him.
I’ve bought some new things in the last few months, and I’m not finished. No, I’m not buying lots of “trinkets,” as BF puts it, but I can contribute to the household and cover things BF can’t. But right after the barbecue, I bought something we needed around here, and next time, I’ll unveil the new “baby” that’s in the kitchen.
Meantime, Happy New Year, and Happy Cooking!
RaceTrac–a nice little place to stop in the South.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s Good Friday, and I’m in Starbucks today! Why? The library’s closed. It’s open on Saturday, but not Good Friday. I haven’t seen anyplace close down for Good Friday since I worked at Baylor College of Medicine–how long has that been? But that’s OK–it’s a “star dash” weekend, giving extra points for the Bacon Gouda Breakfast Sandwich. I had two, although not at once, and it bumped up my points. I now have two free things coming, which I’ll save for my next trip to New Orleans.
As you’ll see in today’s post, Starbucks isn’t the only place to get coffee when you’re out and about in the South. If you see a RaceTrac on your travels, I’ll tell you why you need to stop there.
Progress in La Casa de Rurale
BF put up my EZ-Gym, finally, seven months after I got here and four months after taking it out of my big suitcase. I’ve actually used it this week, too, while watching one of my Britcom DVDs. Since the episodes are exactly 30 minutes long, it’s a great way to time your exercise, especially on a machine like the Nordic Track. But the EZ-Gym is a neat thing to have, easy to use once you get the hang of it, and portable if you need it to be.
We don’t have a Home Depot or Lowe’s, but we do have a small Ace Hardware (where I went to visit the baby chickens a while back) and another “hometown” hardware store that BF has taken me to a few times. (There is a Lowe’s in Hammond, 30 minutes away.) I went in for the wood screws to mount it to the wall, and came out with a canvas painter’s drop cloth, too. What the heck?
In the latest issue of Mary Janes’ Farm magazine, there’s an article on making “budget” linen tablecloths out of them. I’ve considered using drop cloth before (for projects from the old Martha Stewart Living magazines), but the stuff in Home Depot was too heavy and stiff. Our local place had the exact same brand and type that Mary Jane Butters used, so I grabbed one. You use the 6 ounce weight, because the 10 ounce is too heavy.
As MaryJane instructed, I washed it three times, let it dry outside the third time, then washed it a fourth to make sure it didn’t smell like a manufacturing plant. It feels pretty nice now that it’s all washed out. It’s a 9-foot by 12-foot piece, which comes out to 36 yards of fabric, for $17.99. That sounds like stuff I bought at Hancock Fabrics. I’ve got the big dining room table measured, I just haven’t made the tablecloth yet. But I can’t wait to tell people it’s “an expensive Belgian linen tablecloth.” Pictures when I finish it.
BF says he needs to get back into exercising and back into shape. For some time, my “exercise routine” has consisted of moving and unpacking boxes, doing laundry and washing up, chasing a frisky 60-pound pit bull around, investigating and cleaning up cluttered corners and moving stuff either out to the rubbish pile, the burn pile or to the trash can for pickup on Thursday. Since I’ve been busy freelancing (still no million-dollar paychecks yet) I haven’t been doing that, hence, the EZ-Gym being installed on the only free wall stud in the studio. (BF had to make his silly joke about “looking for a stud? Here I am!”) If I ever start traveling again, I’ll buy another one to keep in my suitcase. It’s not going to work setting it up on a door in BF’s place. I can see the TV from that spot, too.
He has rather muscular arms (particularly the biceps), and wants to start lifting those 15-pound hand-held weights again, as well as use his regulation punching bag and boxing gloves out in the garage. I’m using my kettle bells again, in addition to the EZ-Gym and the old Exercise TV No Sweat Yoga DVD last Saturday morning. (This morning was an hour of walking, partly with the Hounds.) I explained kettle bells to him, but he said, “yeah, we did that in the Navy.” Okay, bud. But I guess it’s time we started working out, either separately or together, or both, because he watches a lot of TV after work. And we aren’t getting any younger.
If I could just get him dancing properly. . .he grabs my left hand and doesn’t understand that it should be my right. Maybe I should find a “couples yoga” or “dance with me” DVD for us. . . .
I told him that if he really, REALLY wants to lose a few pounds, his Cokes would be a good thing to eliminate. In addition to all the awful things that soft drinks are, Cokes are 140 calories a can, primarily sugar. He drinks 4 a day when he’s at work, and occasionally one or two, more buying them by the case twice a week. So that’s at least 560 calories per day he could drop, and replace it with something healthier (like water, darnit.) Additionally, he could drop the L’il Debbie “fairy cakes” he likes to pack with his lunch (just my sarcastic nickname for them.) Now, calories aren’t the be-all and end-all of weight loss, otherwise we could all subsist on chocolate bars and be thin. There has to be real nutrition to keep the “machine” running. Or you can see this in your future:
Anyway. . .between the EZ-Gym, the Thighmaster set (yes, I use it regularly), yoga, and kettle bell moves, I hope to get back into a better shape this summer, and beyond. Biking, well, not so much yet, since I’d be by myself, unless I decide to get myself one of those bike trainers you put your cycle on and pedal while watching TV. (Gotta rustle up more clients and money soon!)
The gardening still isn’t going on much, although I do have some new little tomato seedlings. The Hatch chile seeds, however, did not germinate, and there are no seedlings, darnit. I know where to order some seeds, but will keep trying with the ones I have been saving, first. GRRRR. . .I’ve only met one person here who knows what Hatch chiles are, everyone else, I have had to “school.”
The Key Lime and Meyer Lemon trees are doing well, and I see lots more buds than I did in Houston, and we’ll have a bumper crop of key limes, too. I haven’t planted the darn trees yet; maybe this weekend. I’ve got green onions going on, and I hope I haven’t killed my little Rosemary plant. If I did, I can go back to the local Ace hardware store and get another one, while visiting the little baby chickens. (Haven’t done that in a while.)
I know, I know. . .pictures, Amy.
Miss Shirley, you will be happy to know that sitting here in Starbucks, I just discovered a place I need to go investigate.
It’s probably not like the Genoa Friendship Garden (that was a fun place!) but it’s local, and it’s all about gardening. When I get there, I’ll give a full report.
Now, if they have Hatch chiles, I’ll be tap dancing on the bar!
Longtime readers know of my affinity for coffee, and for Starbucks. But in addition to the local PJ’s, I’ve also discovered a new place to get pretty good coffee. It’s a convenience store that sells more than just Twinkies and Cokes.
When I visited BF last year, I needed petrol for my rental car to return home. Because it was right there off the freeway (or as they call it here, “th’ Innerstate”) and coffee for my soul (and the trip back to Texas) it was my first stop on the way out. I have to say it was pretty darn good coffee, and a nice clean place. But I was on my way back to Houston, and never gave it a second thought. Because. . .I was never coming back, right?
Nine months later, I’m lamenting the loss of my fabulous HEB, IKEA, and multiple Starbucks within a five mile radius, one walking distance from the front door. The Racetrac in my new ‘hood is being renovated. When they finally re-opened, it was much nicer than before, with lots of new menu options, including frozen yogurt and packaged salads.
This is a petrol station?
It sure is, and a lot more. Really, REALLY nice people work there, too.
I’ve gone in many times with my black 16-ounce stovepipe Starbucks travel mug and gone for the hot, fresh decaf on the way to the library, and shot some Hazelnut or Caramel sugar-free flavoring in before adding in half & half.
Recently RaceTrac installed a new center-island fixture that has, among other things, three kiosk screens to order yourself some food or fancy coffee drinks. On one trip, I was filling up my Starbucks mug for a 98-cent “grande” when I was asked, “Would you like to try one of our new espresso drinks for free?”
Someone is offering me free coffee? Yes, please! I just say “thank you.”
Well, I did ask if they could make it decaf–yes, we can! So we were off. After handing me a coupon to take to the register later, we walked over to the kiosk screen and I tapped it in. Cappuccino, French Vanilla flavoring, whipped cream, extra shot of espresso. . .POOF! Off it went to their ordering system behind the coffee counter, where the nice lady made it fresh on this machine:
They can flavor it any way you like:
They can also make the iced coffee drinks for you, too:
Those machines, of course, are designed for heavy industrial use–every day.
I paid for the regular coffee and the cashier rang up a $3.75 coffee drink for free. Of course, I said “thank you” many times–I’m no slouch! I took that and my *regular* coffee with me to the library, sipping the cappuccino first on a clear, cold Louisiana day. Suddenly, the day was a little bit better.
There have been other times
Occasionally, randomly, I have poured some hot decaf, fixed the way *I* want it, got to the counter and was asked, “is that all you have?” Yes. The cashier’s response has been, “have a nice day,” or “OK, you’re good.” In other words, your coffee is free today! It’s a random thing, or maybe I should download the RaceTrac app and know when they have “free coffee” days. While I have spent a fair amount of money on 98-cent coffee over the last few months, especially when it’s cold, I’m heading over to pay the water bill for BF, or I have a few minutes before BF gets out of work, I have also been randomly offered free coffee, too.
I just say “thank you.”
It’s a Southern thing
RaceTrack is headquartered in Atlanta, and operates facilities in 12 southern states. While the stores here aren’t as big as Buc-ee’s, the folks are every bit as friendly, and darnit, the coffee’s good, too. They have a full breakfast menu–even croissants!–and breakfast wraps that look pretty good (although I haven’t tried them yet.) I’ve seen those packaged salads, but not bought any yet. With three kiosk screens, they make up some of the food on demand, as well as the espresso drinks.
An Epic Discovery
And what do they have mixed in with the candy bars, small bottles of liquor and little packets of cake? Epic Bars! No kidding–in semi-rural Louisiana, they have my beloved Epic bars, but only one kind–the Bison with Cranberry. Nobody else here has them, except RaceTrac. Sometimes they’re on sale, 2 for $5, and I’ve bought a pair and taken them to my “work place” at the Tangi Library many times. (Can’t do that too often, though.) I can get a full line of them on Epic’s website, of course. I can also find them locally at Whole Foods in Mandeville, Baton Rouge and New Orleans (not sure about Hammond, but I haven’t looked, either.) But here? Even the cashiers don’t know what they are! I think I’m the only one who buys them, but of course, I’m happy to have them available.
BF has less than polite things to say about Epic Bars, but, well, maybe that’s one too many MRE’s in his past, too. Guess I shouldn’t have given him the turkey one to try first.
Your Southern Summer Stop
If you’re traveling this year to see friends, family, or just going somewhere in the South, RaceTrac is a good place to stop. Starbucks has forced everyone to up their game, so better coffee is more available, even in decaf.
Like I said, Racetrac isn’t Buc-ee’s (which is a Texas thing), but it’s a pretty nice place. You can find RaceTrac locations on their website, and you can also go to their Facebook page and read more about them. RaceTrac also has an app you can download to find out about new stuff and get points or something. If ever I do download it (whenever I upgrade my rather aged iPhone, of course) I’ll let you know how it works.
It’s not Buckingham Palace, OK? Not even Buc-ee’s. But RaceTrac is a good place to stop if you’re driving through the South this summer.
Made a new friend this week
Speaking of Atlanta, I met a lady in the library the other day who moved here with her adult daughter and husband temporarily. It was great to talk with someone. . .who knows what it’s like to have that culture shock! She said there is a company in Atlanta that’s similar to RaceTrac, where she moved from, called QuickWay. Apparently, RaceTrac goes head-to-head in the Georgia Market.
Know what else my new friend misses? The awesome east-coast grocery chain Publix. Just like I miss my HEB! However, she has married an African man. No, I mean, African from Africa; she’s a black American woman, she’s from here, too. Her husband is from West Africa, and they are getting ready to relocate overseas. No kidding. The wars are over, and they are going to Liberia to help re-build the country (he’s in construction.) She’s been there before, of course. I can’t blame her for being excited–it’s a big adventure, and of course, her relatives in Louisiana are not happy about her going all the way to West Africa. I can certainly empathize–my parents didn’t want me moving six hours away to Houston at the age of 34, and they don’t even like me!
Anyway. . . .
Winn-Dixie’s new Plenti
Winn-Dixie is changing their rewards program, and the new one is called “Plenti.” Whatever. The cashiers all have new shirts, and the bags are now a bright robins-egg blue. They nag you until you agree to changing it all over. The black cards are going away. I have so many cards from all over the US, I just didn’t need another. My new friend and I were discussing that too. Big, fat hairy deal. Still no place to put your coffee in their baskets.
Here’s a tip: put them all on a separate key ring. Just don’t punch a hole in any magnetic strips. Keeps your key ring from getting too heavy and damaging your ignition.
Until next time
Here’s hoping everyone has an enjoyable Easter Sunday with a great holiday dinner. As I’ve long said, there’s nothing wrong with spending holidays alone, if that’s what your only option is. You make and have a good dinner, wine if you want it, and a tasty dessert. Enjoy a day off to do something enjoyable, whatever that is (unless you’re lucky enough to have a job and are working.)
I don’t yet know what we’re doing, but it won’t be the big thing I did at Thanksgiving. No, BF wants “simpler,” so, if we’re having The Kids, it’ll be a lot of what *he* can cook up quickly. I think my days of big gourmet adventures are about over, long as I live here. (Unless the GER asks.) Heck, I might end up at RaceTrac, I dunno.
Easter is another Sunday to me, with chocolate. I want a steak salad, and the DVDs I got from the library, with the sewing machine on full tilt. I hope the cat can handle it.