My very late report on the Celebration of Life for John Walton of the long-running Walton & Johnson Show.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I know, it’s been months since my last update. My apologies. I’m writing and reading and taking care of the house and helping with BF’s Dad these days. So much for New Year’s Resolutions.
I’ve been trying to finish this post since the day after the event. June 3rd, two days ago, marked a year since the last show with the late John Walton. I can’t believe it’s been that long, but it has. So it’s time for me to finish this blog post, darnit. I also have procrastinated so that I might do justice to the subject at hand, and give him the respect he deserves.
We’re talking about this man, a radio legend since the early 1980’s.
So, finally, here’s my report on our visit to New Orleans last July to celebrate the life of an incredible radio veteran.
The Walton & Johnson Show
If you’re not familiar with one of the longest-running morning radio shows in the US, here’s a brief intro. You can read the updated bio here on their website. That picture of two sharp-dressed men at the top is of Steve Johnson and Ken Webster, taken last year.
The video at the bottom of the page was made in the last few years, I’m guessing, and runs about five minutes. (It was also shown at the activity.)
John Walton and Steve Johnson began their joint radio career in Beaumont, TX, about 1981 or 1982. Somewhere in there, they were approached by a man named Phil Shaw from NOLA station WQUE to begin doing morning drive. He intended to hire someone else, but ended up hiring these two. John Walton once said on the air that someone took him to lunch in New Orleans, and he had the best food he’d ever tasted in his life, so he stayed for 20 years. And that was that.
I actually was listening to them that first day back in 1982, and it was just a “talk show” chatting kind of thing, where Shaw welcomed them to New Orleans, they discussed a few topics politely, and they were saying “thank you, we’re really glad to be here.” They were warned ahead of time that New Orlenians didn’t take kindly to Texans (tell me about it), but over time, well. . .I’m getting ahead of myself.
The next day, the full force of Walton & Johnson was released in the city of New Orleans. Funny. Silly. Rude. Raunchy. Topical. Irreverent. Satirical. Sarcastic. Naughty. Lots of hilarious and topical parody songs about current events. And always interesting and controversial.
It didn’t take long for these two “shock jocks” to bowl over listeners with their back-and-forth banter with the others on the air, at the expense of a competitive morning drive show called Scoot In The Morning. “Scoot,” (real name: Scott Paisant.) ruled NOLA morning radio for many years, until these two Texans blew into town with their different ways of doing things. W&J quickly gained a very faithful following in the metro New Orleans area and held on tight. (He’s on in NOLA now in the afternoons, but quite a bit different from Walton and Johnson, it seems.)
W&J worked at nearly every radio station in New Orleans and were booted off the air more than once for different reasons. According to one story Steve Johnson told on the air, they made a comment about then-president George H.W. Bush. The next day, two Secret Service gentlemen showed up for a “visit.” The radio station’s receptionist was used to greeting people that “wanted to have a word with them,” and she didn’t even flinch. Without missing a beat, she just called out, “Walton and Johnson, you have company!”
This story was also told, both on the air by Nathan Ailes, a former radio sales guy and longtime W&J ally, and at the activity. When they first started, it wasn’t long before the radio station’s salespeople began to revolt. “We can’t sell this show, it’s too nonstandard,” or something like it. Many threatened to quit. Radio station management just said, “sorry to see you go!” Most got on board and successfully sold the show’s advertising.
Taking The Show On The Road
Walton & Johnson started out in top 40 radio, and later migrated into what’s now called “classic rock radio.” A few years ago, the show moved into conservative talk radio. More on that later.
On a few of those “hiatus” periods when they were off the air in New Orleans, they left the city. They attempted to “set up shop” in Dallas, New York, and one or two other places. Dallas lasted a month, New York, not much longer. Ultimately, it was always back to New Orleans where their biggest and most loyal fan base lived.
Despite their popularity, you could only hear them in the NOLA area as long as they were on the air. But that was long before the Internet changed nearly everything in life. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself.
On Their Own
Somewhere around 1993, the guys split up for a while and worked with other people. They were successful but realized that they were better together–but on their own terms. They created the Walton & Johnson Radio Network. Instead of being employees of the radio station, W&J would be self-employed, and the radio station would be their client. It was rather revolutionary at the time, especially in NOLA, but it put them on par with national radio figures like Howard Stern (who they always beat in ratings.) It’s similar to how I work now as a freelancer.
Suddenly, the show could be heard outside of the metro NOLA area, and outside Louisiana on any radio station that wanted to have W&J grace their airwaves. Today they are on 15 southern US radio stations between Midland in West Texas and northern Georgia, as well as worldwide on iHeartRadio, streaming from the flagship station in Houston, KPRC 950 AM. I stream it from KPRC because I can’t stand the godawful local radio station that hosts it.
The Houston Migration
One of the things I did miss about leaving Louisiana in 1998 was Walton & Johnson. I did try streaming it online a few times using RealPlayer, but it just didn’t work well on dial-up, the standard for home Internet service at the time. I once heard a weird discussion of dinosaurs, and people kept calling in about it. A bit clunky, so I abandoned the idea.
Then one day in 2001, I was getting ready for work, and I got a phone call from my brother. He lived on the north side of Houston at the time. “Turn on your radio to KLOL,” he said. That was a longtime classic rock radio station that later became one of multiple Latino stations in Houston. I did, and there they were. WALTON AND JOHNSON!!!
I couldn’t believe it–they were in Houston! After 20 years in New Orleans, they decided to do their show in the Houston area, where they were both born and raised. Because they didn’t work at one radio station, there wouldn’t be any interruption–they would just be broadcasting from a flagship station in Houston, and would still be on all the regional affiliate stations.
This didn’t sit well with the New Orleans listeners initially, who were shocked that they would leave. One gent who called in to express his displeasure said to them, “but we’re gonna miss you here.” Walton explained that they would still be on the air in NOLA, and visit for personal appearances from time to time, but the show would now be based elsewhere. “It’s not like we come to your house for dinner,” Walton countered. Listeners were undeterred in expressing their disappointment over the move to Texas, but they still listened and called in as before. (You can always tell when it’s someone from this side of the Sabine even before they tell you where they’re calling from. Trust me.)
More To Talk About
Suddenly W&J discussed a much wider range of topics that weren’t all New Orleans-centric, and some that wouldn’t mean anything to listeners outside the Houston area. That wasn’t all of what they discussed, and still isn’t. I knew there would be listeners in Houston wondering about these two. But the Texas listeners caught on quick, and it wasn’t long before the top morning drive radio show in Houston was Walton & Johnson, too.
As was the case in New Orleans, they changed stations a few times in Houston. The mainstream press avoided talking much about them and their top-tier status on the radio. At one point, they were on the air on all their stations but Houston, making online streaming a necessity. Eventually, they found a home at KPRC 950, an AM talk station that is conservative- and libertarian-leaning. But in other places, the show is found on FM stations, like WRNO (also a talk radio station) in New Orleans and Classic Rock 92.1 in Lake Charles. (I still prefer the stream from KPRC, or listening from their iPhone app.)
The Listener’s Perspective
Granted, there were many times when I laughed hard at what I heard. But if I had to pick one thing about John Walton that I remember well, it was the day I was driving to work at Rice University (I wasn’t there long and laid off after 4 months). This was in the early part of 2001. There I was on the freeway feeder road (now called I-69), in the left lane, coming up on the Weslayan exit.
Walton was talking about the awful “music” that was popular at the time, namely, two grunge-style bands called Creed and Pearl Jam. They all sounded alike. The lead singers had a style that was hard to describe, a sort of growling moan. Walton had a name for it: “sick on seafood.”
I was laughing so hard I nearly crashed my car the wall on the overpass. Thankfully I kept control of my car, but only just. Anytime I heard him say “sick on seafood,” it made me laugh.
Another cold morning, I was on the Bay Area Park & Ride headed downtown for work and was listening on a small radio I bought just for this purpose. This was the period from 2013 through early 2014. I wish I’d bought my iPhone sooner, too, because I could have been streaming it live every morning on the bus and finishing listening on the 90-minute-plus ride home at night.
Well, this particular winter day, the discussion turned to a story about Dwayne Chapman, aka, Dog, The Bounty Hunter, with his big blonde mullet. (I will admit that I only know who he is through news stories, like where his wife passed away last year.) There was a picture in the Houston Chronicle of Mr. Chapman, and Walton asked, “Is that Outlaw Dave?”
Outlaw Dave is the “afternoon guy” from their days at KLOL, and now has show on KPRC in the evenings. They’ve worked together for a long time. He used to have a LOT more hair.
Suddenly I had a vision: an older couple, maybe mid-to-late 60’s, sitting at their little kitchen table by the window, somewhere in the New Orleans area, listening and having their coffee. They’re obviously enjoying what they’re hearing until they hear the comment about Outlaw Dave. The man stops with a puzzled look on his face and asks his wife, “Who’s Outlaw Dave?” The wife shrugs her shoulders and says, “I dunno.”
Dear Readers, those two were walking around Generations Hall that day. In spades.
There were so many other instances of John Walton’s incredibly fast, sharp wit that stopped people in their tracks. Naturally, not everyone was a fan, and they have been the target of derision many times.
This man rarely, if ever, took a sick day. That’s how dedicated he was to the show, and to the listeners who enjoyed it. It was, quite literally, his life’s work, even though he had other things going on, like owning a radio station in Beaumont.
Earlier in the year, he began to have a number of health problems. I don’t recall him talking about them on the air, although, admittedly, I don’t listen as often as I’d like. I keep up with the show on Facebook and listen sometimes with the app on my iPhone. But I still consider myself a “ten percenter” as well as a Texan.
Then one day I started to see people on Facebook asking about why Ken Webster was on the air instead. Mr. Walton was off the air receiving medical treatment, was doing ratherwell, and would be out for a little while. He was out for a couple of weeks, and Ken went from producer to fill-in host, with Steve doing what he normally does. It was the same great show, only slightly different with Ken’s voice from the other chair.
Mr. Walton was expected back on the air on Monday, July 8th. But about a week or so before, on a Friday, he decided to stop receiving treatment and go home for the rest of his days. He’d had enough, apparently, and passed away at his home in Fulshear, Texas, on July 1, 2019, with his wife and family at his side. It was a shock to everyone, including longtime radio partner Steve Johnson. When the news broke, fans were stunned, including me and BF.
Radio lost a true legend that day.
Future State: The “New” Walton & Johnson Show
Ken Webster is great about keeping listeners in the loop on the show’s social media channels, including using video. He also hosts his own show in the afternoons called The Pursuit Of Happiness Radio. It’s on the same station, and he also does it live on Facebook, as well as podcasts.
Ken did a video on Facebook that Tuesday, July 2nd, with updates, which included:
- They would be on the air the next day, July 3, at the normal time, as usual, but would be taking calls from friends of the show as well as listeners, and talking about the show’s past as well as future.
- The show will continue, as Steve Johnson is in great health and is ready and willing to keep going.
- The show will continue as long as listeners want it (and we do.)
- The name of the show will not change, out of respect for Mr. Walton, who founded the show and shared responsibility for its success and longevity.
- Listeners can expect more of the same, just with Ken in the other chair. (After 7 years of being in the producer’s chair, I think he’s got a general idea.)
- There would be a public memorial both in Houston and in New Orleans, where John Walton enjoyed living and visiting when he moved back to Houston. Details would be announced as soon as they had them.
Since this was just the day after Mr. Walton’s passing, everything was raw and understandably, nobody was quite sure what to do next.
I played the FB video on my TV, running the HDMI cord from my laptop to the TV (I do that a lot.) We sat on the futon and watched Ken’s video and talked about it a little more.
We both listened to that first show from the 5:30 am beginning, and I listened through 9:00 am. they started out as they did every day at 5:30 sharp with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Little Wing. BF listened until he got to work. I streamed it online and put it on the big speaker I have in front of my TV, listening until 9, and catching up on the final hour of the show later on the app. There were a lot of stories told about the 30+ years of the show.
One of their favorite things W&J enjoyed was going out to lunch. As Steve Johnson put it, “nobody did lunch better than Walton & Johnson.” He then told many stories about how they “did lunch,” frequently on the radio station’s expense account, and more importantly, getting away with it! But you’d have to hear Steve tell those stories, I wouldn’t be able to.
After that first show, they began the process of moving forward without him, but keeping the John Walton legacy alive. They’ve since taken some new promo photos as well, and they’re quite good.
The Celebration Of Life
When the show announced the New Orleans Celebration of Life activity, BF surprised me when he said, “I want to go to that.” So we made plans with The E-Man to go to New Orleans. We picked him up early and he was our navigator to the venue. Finally, BF met one of my oldest friends, The E-Man.
John Walton always told people that when he left the earth, he wanted a big New Orleans-style going-away, complete with a second line and all that. Because of all the connections that W&J made over the years, they were able to arrange it, as Steve Johnson said, “with just a few phone calls.” Everything came together fairly quickly, although it had to be postponed by two weeks because of Hurricane Barry. The New Orleans activity finally happened on July 28th.
Generations Hall is a place I’d never heard of or visited myself, but I have to say it’s quite a nice venue for whatever kind of activity you’re having. I haven’t done corporate event planning for a long time, but if I were asked to set up something in NOLA, I would definitely consider it.
Also in attendance was a classic rock band called Superchargers, and they were quite good.
A number of us thought they would play the show’s opening tune, Little Wing, but they didn’t. They just stuck to what they know and did it very well.
Meeting Webster And Johnson
Although I have met W&J once or twice before, it’s been many, many years. But thankfully, the guys were meeting the fans, and we greatly appreciated the opportunity:
Because I follow them on Facebook, I’m also friended with Morgan Webster, aka Mrs. Ken Webster, who’s as absolutely drop-dead gorgeous in person as she is on FB when she’s out with Ken. I talked her into a fangirl selfie, and she is ever so nice:
Honestly, Kenny and Morgan look so cute together! But at this event, they weren’t “together” much, because they were talking to literally everybody and mingling throughout the activity. But on social media, they are quite regularly together and post pictures of their Texas adventures. I didn’t get to talk to Christine Johnson, either, who is otherwise nearly always with Steve.
We stood in line for however long to talk to them for a couple of minutes and get an autograph on the little banners they handed us for the second line later. I told them about my “John Walton memory” of “sick on seafood.”
I’m sure they were all exhausted when it was all over.
Also in attendance was John Walton’s wife, Lainie:
This was the best pic I could get from the floor, I tried my best to get a good one. I also tried to get to talk to Mrs. Walton, but she wasn’t on the floor very much. I was only going to say Hi, and offer our condolences, but let’s face it–there were at least 1,000 people in there. She was hanging out in the VIP area, and under the circumstances, I was not about to crash it.
John Walton’s Car
The first thing we saw when we arrived was his gorgeous car, a 1966 (I think) Ford Galaxie:
I don’t have a picture of it here, but people were laughing about the Texas inspection sticker that’s on the lower part of the windshield on the driver’s side. The expiration date is 4/20, which is a thing for smokers of. . .non-tobacco cigarettes.
I know I’m showing my age when I say, “kids today don’t know what it means to ‘roll down the window.'”
Thankfully, it wasn’t raining. But it sure was hot that day. And BF did enjoy seeing the car up close.
It wouldn’t be W&J without some pictures and things:
And a canvas that people could sign, that I believe went to Mrs. Walton:
I signed it, but I think BF didn’t:
Hanging With The “Ten Percenters”
Listeners to the show are called this for one reason: they are the ten percent of the listening audience that actually *gets* the show and the exclusive, unique humor. This is true in any city that they broadcast in, but especially in New Orleans.
During their time in the Crescent City, W&J developed a few “catch-phrases” or “keyword phrases” that are unique to the show and the listeners. For instance, many years ago, Walton made the comment that Ten Percenters should have their own recognizable greeting, like “Green Beans” or “Ungawa.” It stuck. They were also called the “Radio Gawds,” in a nod to the New Orleans accent, markedly similar to a New York/Brooklyn accent.
It was a friendly, albeit raucous, crowd, and everyone had a story to tell about their connection to W&J. Many shared pictures. And then there was the man who had a little handwritten sign that said something like:
In 1991, I won the tickets to the Saints game on the 50-yard line.
He walked around with it, holding up as you would see someone on the side of the road.
Another man and his wife had strung green beans around their necks.
Lots of folks had Mardi Gras beads on, or clothes with purple, green, and gold. A couple of male attendees wore kilts.
Throughout the event, we had conversations with many folks who were fans and occasionally interacted with them in one way or another, either at events like this one, personal appearances, or the many benefit motorcycle rides they participated in over the years. Both did motorcycle rides anytime they could, and were avid riders.
Of Course, There Was Food
If you want to have a successful activity in New Orleans, you must have food, and this event had some interesting and delicious dishes.
In the courtyard, a local restaurant named Dragos was serving little shrimp sliders out of a food truck, but I didn’t get pictures of it, darnit. BF enjoyed that one first.
Of course, there was the requisite po-boy, a staple of New Orleans food, with fried shrimp:
I caught a shot of them making one up:
That’s a huge loaf of French bread, bigger than you get in the grocery store, even in this part of the US:
BF said there were slices of honeydew melon on the po-boy. It’s not traditional–shredded lettuce and tomato are, but this was a special event, so they jazzed it up. Shrimp pasta was also on the menu:
The classic “Dirty Rice,” with beef and spices.
There was also hummus, and an interesting way to serve it, alongside quinoa:
This not being exactly traditional New Orleans food, many folks weren’t sure what to make of it! (I thought it was tasty myself.) And then there was this very interesting version of sandwiches:
There was a specific and fancy name for these, but I didn’t write it down and I don’t recall what it was. They were similar to quesadillas but using pita bread, the round kind with pockets. Again, not traditional New Orleans food, so many people were a bit unsure and asked questions. But you know me, no complaints here.
It was also a free bar (it’s NOLA, what did you expect?), and BF and I stuck to the non-alcoholic imbibements. The E-Man had a beer or two, I think, but others were, shall we say, quite happy about the open bar kind of thing.
Kudos to all the vendors involved, because they all did an outstanding job for John Walton’s legion of fans.
The Show’s Other Members
Ken and Steve are the “chief protagonists,” but there are others who are on the air with them every day.
Mr. Kenneth, a professional hairdresser, celebrity expert, and fashionista of the Walton & Johnson show, was so much fun. He became connected to the show when he gave both of them George Michael haircuts back in the day. He loved my outfit, but said I shouldn’t wear so much red because it clashes with my hair. He said the background blue of my top works really well, but I was overwhelmed by the poppies. As a professional hairdresser, he knows that there’s nothing like red hair.
Billy Ed Hatfield, the show’s engineer from Clute, Texas, easily bonded with BF over cars and engines and other “guy things.” However, BF put him in his place when he started talking about “the hot redhead with the glasses,” because he realized Billy Ed was making comments about me. That didn’t sit too well with BF, who took offense, and he figured Billy Ed would be flirting next. There was no fighting, but BF politely let him know who I was with. Billy Ed apologized profusely and complimented him on his taste in women. Then he sheepishly went on to talk to someone else.
Mr. Eaux, from “the ‘hood,” was also sporting his best bling with his black zoot suit for the occasion. He didn’t want to admit he was sweating and insisted on leaving his jacket on. He, too, was a little flirty with all the women, but he was very polite to me. Maybe he saw how BF politely stood down Billy Ed. I also noticed Mr. Eaux steered clear of Morgan, as well, since Ken is a big guy, over six feet. He’s nice, but Kenny wouldn’t put up with Mr. Eaux or Billy Ed messing with her.
Then It Was Over
The second line brought Mr. Walton outside, where people paid tribute to the man, including a guy on bagpipes. People waved the little cloths around (except me, I don’t do that), and said goodbye.
Everyone went home, happy to have taken part in a momentous occasion. We all had a great time, everyone enjoyed the day. That’s what happens when Ten Percenters come together. I don’t know if the great staff of Generations Hall knew what to expect, but they did a fantastic job of keeping everything together and running well.
Ken and Steve also talked about having an annual John Walton activity, a benefit for charity, but not in July. Maybe in October, when it’s not so hot.
As they say, “the show will go on,” and both Steve and Ken have kept their promise to continue as long as fans are interested. We are. They were on the air on that Monday, but stayed in New Orleans and broadcast from, I guess, WRNO for a day or two.
The W&J app has a section of “The Best Of John Walton,” where you can also hear the five parts of the July 3rd show, including the 9:00 am hour where John’s wife, Lainie Walton, was the last person to call in.
Of course, there will never be another John Walton–everyone knows that. He “raised” Ken to be a great successor, even if he didn’t intend to when they hired him. But of course, John Walton will not be forgotten, ever, either by listeners, by his family, and of course, by Steve Johnson and Ken Webster.
Thank you for the memories, Mr. Walton. We appreciate the time we had with you and will never forget you.
And as they say at 9:59 every day on the Walton & Johnson Show:
Don’t forget, boys and girls, to eat it every day!
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!
Red Truck Bakery. . .let me tell you all about an incredible cake they make.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’ve got a few minutes to tell you about a cake surprise I received recently from longtime friend of the blog AK. You may remember a few years ago that she sent me a Suzy Homemaker washing machine I found on eBay and posted on Facebook just for fun. I still have it, and it still works, but it’s still packed in a box right now until I get more bookshelves and have a place to put it. Well, she sent me something else.
But first. . . .
I’m still working on Upwork, and BOOKED UP. I’ve been making money, not a fortune, but able to buy groceries and take care of some stuff for us. It’s not a lot, but we’re not on just his paycheck anymore. I’ve had some technical problems too, which I hope to solve soon so I can get on with it. I haven’t bought any more glasses, but that will happen again soon, probably after the holidays. I hate having just one pair. . .but it’s temporary. I’m hoping to surprise BF with a nice little (inexpensive) present for Christmas, too.
The Royal Wedding!
By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Megan Markle. This was a big non-event to BF, but I have ordered a McCall’s pattern that is a very close copy to the white one she wore from Line The Label. (View D) The pattern happened to have been on sale that day, and I ordered a couple of other patterns while they were cheap. (I miss Hancock Fabrics!) You can’t even buy that coat now, because they’ve all been bought and the company’s website crashed that day.
BF asks, “How does this affect my life here in Louisiana?” I responded that it’s a positive event happening in the near future. He didn’t agree.
I also came up with a new fitness goal for us. We need to get in shape for the Royal Wedding! Now, I’ve been busy and haven’t been exercising, but I’m planning to change that this week. I thought it would be a great way to set a fitness goal for both of us. But the minute I said “Royal Wedding,” that went over like a lead balloon.
For the record, I am still The Duchess Of El Dorado. In case you were wondering. . . .
And, BTW, wedding cake in the UK and Australia is traditionally fruit cake, if you didn’t know that.
Not The Same Thanksgiving
We didn’t host this year, and although I ordered two jars of Sur La Table’s turkey brine, I was glad. After last year’s mixed-bag of likes and dislikes, I kind of felt like my time as the star turkey maker was over. BF’s daughter is expecting her second child, and her partner had to work that day, so it kind of fizzled out. We went to his father’s place up the road, where BF’s sister-in-law made ham, potato salad with green olives and something else, and some other stuff I didn’t try. No, not traditional, but I like ham and the occasional potato dish. Maybe next year.
This summer, much to BF’s chagrin, I made three batches of fresh pesto for the freezer. The basil was growing wild again, so I made some, along with a batch of Pea & Pesto Soup for myself. BF called me from work one day and I told him I was making some. His response: “Oh, I can hardly wait.” Smarty-pants.
I’ve got what I hope is a good supply for the winter. Y’all know I love Pea & Pesto Soup!
If you read this on Facebook. . .my apologies.
Back in July, we had to head to Hammond for a couple of things, including a stop at the new Petco to get a “cone of shame” for the pit bull, who managed to injure himself and get caught in an fire ant pile. He looked like he’d been dog-fighting and lost, but that’s not really what happened. Poor puppy. We cleaned him up and applying some topical antibiotic stuff, but he kept scratching it. For three days he tried to pull the thing off, but BF’s ingenious use of zip-ties ensured that he couldn’t.
Petco is right there in the strip mall where Starbucks is. I also get the emails that let me know about goings on. For various reasons, BF is not a fan of Starbucks, but I am. So when I got the email announcing the free tea tasting that day, I made sure BF knew about it, and that we were going. Reluctantly, he agreed.
He Indulges Me
Starbucks was offering free 12-ounce (“Tall”) cups of their hand-shaken iced tea infusions, one per customer. I requested the peach-white tea infusion; BF, after some confusion, requested strawberry with green tea. I’m not a fan of the green tea, but he’s had it. They served us our tea, and I suggested to BF that he try a sip first, then add a packet of the stevia they have, since it dissolves instantly and completely. That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. BF. . .not so much. He didn’t take my suggestion of the stevia, instead, opting for a half cup of white sugar. It didn’t help. I drank most of it, but the sugar sinks to the bottom and doesn’t dissolve. Not wild about the taste, either, but I think stevia would have been a better option. He probably would have liked the peach teabetter. Oh, well. At least he gave it a shot, and it was free.
BF has frequently told the story of being in Kuwait and seeing his fellow service members stand in line in 100F heat waiting to get a hot coffee at Starbucks. Baffled, he asked them, why? “It tastes like home,” they said.
Yes, Starbucks DOES support service members, veterans and their families. There’s a long-running rumor that’s still rolling around the world. I’ll say it again–I’m not always wild about what the company puts out, but they are still a good company and mean well. Starbucks has always been great to me, and they do support our US troops. Anyway. . . .
Brownies. . .
Sometimes fast food is brought into BF’s place of employment. Usually it’s pizza, fried chicken or something else of the same nature. Sometimes management pops for food, sometimes they pool money. Recently BF walked in after work with this box:
It seems some of the folks had been to the new local Pizza Hut, and bought these, anticipating the finest creation from a patisserie. BF took them after they told him these brownies were “a little too rich.” Well, they look normal:
Yes, I tried a bit. (Cake-like texture.) Yes, they look like brownies. No, they don’t taste anything like brownies. They have no taste to them at all. Seriously. They taste like chocolate flavored rubbish.
Maybe it’s my age–I’m not 16 anymore. (My birthday was in October, nevermind how old I am!) Maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, or I know rubbish when I taste it. Or maybe. . .I dunno. BF ate them one at a time with his lunch, and they’re gone. Yuck.
Here’s my professional blogger/foodie advice: if you want pizza, go to Pizza Hut, your favorite Italian restaurant, buy a frozen one or make it yourself. If you want brownies, find a recipe or buy a mix and bake them yourself. Get a recipe from Pinterest and make waffle brownies. Stop at a bakery, coffee shop or even the grocery store. Or make some Yeast-Free Brownies with Swerve Sweetener. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t buy brownies in a pizza joint when you’re having a chocolate craving.
I mean, think about it. Would you ask your mechanic to decorate your house? Would you hire an interior decorator to tune up your car and change the CV joints? How about ask a dog trainer to babysit your cat? NO! So don’t buy brownies in a place where they specialize in pizza. Brownies from a pizza place are generally not what you’re looking for.
Speaking of brownies
I found the last picture of the lot from the einkorn article. Dunno what happened, but here it is:
More Hatch Chiles
I’ve been busy with writing and everything else, and I just never got around to really cultivating the Hatch chiles. Darnit. You Texas readers appreciate the Hatch chiles. I was thrilled to find them in this area, and even happier to find out that a few people actually know what they are. (Buddhist friend JL knows all about them and gets it.)
BF’s BFF, Big H, was working in New Mexico this summer and has discovered Hatch chiles after I told him *all* about them. I warned him about the “red or green sauce” thing, and he found out I wasn’t kidding. One day he sent me a picture:
Hot dawg! He tried it–and he liked it! Which is more than I can say for BF, who I believe is just the victim of way too many MRE’s in the Navy. I only seek to educate, and in Big H’s case, he discovered that the mild green chile is a pretty good addition to a burger. BF, on the other hand, has taken to telling everyone, particularly *my* friends, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” He’s still alive. If I was, he wouldn’t be!
The Red Truck Bakery Surprise
A few months ago, mid-summer, I got a FB message from AK, a fellow copywriter asking for my home address. I gave it to her–I’ve known her in person for several years–and she said that I should expect a package on Thursday. Oh, BOY! But what was it? She wouldn’t tell me. She would only tell me that it was coming via UPS.
Well, Thursday came. It was raining and it was getting late. UPS runs late, especially at the holidays, so I knew it might be night before the brown truck arrived. And about 7:30 that night, it did. The UPS guy was even interested in what it was, because I told him my friend in Idaho was anxiously awaiting my text of receipt. (He knew when he saw “Red Truck Bakery” on the shipping label!) When I saw where it was from, I thought, “oh, I don’t normally do this kind of thing.” But then I opened it up and discovered this cake:
CAKE! And yes, it was gluten free! AK knows me. Immediately, I sent a picture to BF at work.
And naturally, let her know immediately that I’d received her kind and generous gift.
Red Truck Bakery is a mail-order bakery in Virginia, and they ship nationwide. They even have a testimonial from former President Obama, who apparently loves pie. Hey–it’s like the royal crest, right? (Even if you didn’t like him–trust me, on this, the former POTUS has very good taste.)
AK has had a number of treats from Red Truck Bakery, including some gluten-free ones that she’s highly recommended.
I texted BF and let him know too, and what it was, and cracked open the box:
Now, I promise I’m not being ungrateful when I say this–but it doesn’t look like the picture on their website:
It comes in Red Truck’s lovely and classic bakery box too:
However, when you cut into it, you really won’t care what it looks like. I carefully unwrapped it:
You smell the delicious aroma of almonds and amaretto when it’s opened. However, I didn’t cut into it, I simply put it in the fridge and waited for him to get home from work that night.
After we had dinner, I cut us each a slice.
This almond cake has no flour and is called “gluten free,” but I’m telling you, serve it to just about any group and don’t say anything–they’ll never know. It’s not a “diet cake,” because there is sugar in it. A very, VERY delicious cake it is, and you definitely won’t miss any frosting. Great anytime, or with a cup of coffee or tea, this is the kind of cake you hope for when you buy one.
Red Truck Bakery is in Marshall, Virginia, and they ship nationwide. This delicious Almond Cake With Amaretto would be just the thing for holiday gifts for friends far away, whether or not they’re gluten-free. Red Truck also offers a menu of other delicious baked goods AK assures me are just as delicious as this cake is. Whatever you decide to order, apparently, you won’t go wrong.
I can highly recommend this cake to send as a gift, or to order for your holiday table. It really is incredibly delicious.
I talked to AK later and asked her what the occasion was. Well, I’ve been bragging on Facebook about the clients I’ve gotten, the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve made a little money with it. (It impressed the heck out of BF.) She said the cake was a gift to celebrate my recent successes, and hopes for many more.
I wouldn’t say I was “crushing it,” but apparently folks think I have been. That’s good. I really am working and making a little money. Sometimes I have more than BF–but it doesn’t last long. <smirk>
He Likes It, Too
BF had one slice, and decided it was very good, too. After dinner, I made a cappuccino, poured him a glass of milk, and we had dessert. But he only had one slice. I asked him if he wanted another slice of cake, and he said, “Well, it’s delicious, but it’s really for you.”
Awwww. . .I did finish it, eventually, one slice at a time.
Christmas Is Coming. . .
It’s coming whether you want it to or not, so think about Red Truck Bakery if you’re either stressed out, or would like to send a delicious gift to someone (including yourself.) This almond amaretto cake would be a perfect gift.
I’ll try to blog again soon–but if I don’t, please have a delicious and Merry Christmas this year.
Big Little Fudge–if you’ve seen it and haven’t tried it, do you know what you’re missing?
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Remember when I told you I was also doing work on Upwork? Well, I’ve been published–with a byline! Off The Grid News has published two of my articles! There is another in the pipeline, and I’m thinking about the next natural health topic to suggest to them. There’s a whole section of natural medicine on this website, where my articles are located. Look at this–tea tree oil! I didn’t write that one, but I just bought some for BF’s icky toenail fungus. He says the oil “stinks,” and says he’s “just humoring me.” (I’m using it straight.) He refers to his socks and shoes as a “containment field.” Wait til the stuff actually works. . . .
The Griddler is fixed!
I am SO happy, and yes, we’ve used it–for grilled pork chops, waffled burgers, and pizza waffles so far.
I couldn’t resist, it was just there, and I could cook those pork chops on the counter top and not worry about dripping grease anywhere. Waffled burgers just happened because the waffle plates were on the machine already.
It’s so quick and easy! We have ready-made crusts, pizza sauce and grated mozzarella cheese at the ready in the freezer. BF knows how much I enjoy using this appliance. He just smiles when I mention using it.
How about some foodie news?
To bounce off two previous posts, it seems that Libby’s canned veg will now be marked as BPA-free. Good move by Seneca Foods. We definitely need to know these things when we’re choosing canned goods.
Mug cakes go corporate
Someone at Pinnacle Foods, a/k/a, The Company That Owns Duncan Hines, has been paying attention to Pinterest. You can now buy your “cake in a cup” experience in a boxed mix. Seriously. They’re now making “cake in a cup mixes.” Isn’t the whole “cake in a cup” thing so that you don’t have to buy a box of cake mix?
No kidding. I just found this in Walmart the other night. So if you’re too lazy to mix two tablespoons of flour and sugar, an egg and some oil, here you go. Just remember that you’re still going to be mixing this mix in a cup. Anyone get that irony?
Ho, ho, ho!
The Green Giant brand has been bought by B&G Foods, and they’ve got some new things coming, including new Ortega products! They also sell some food products in Sur La Table stores and on their website.
Blue Bell’s new idea
Finally, Texas’ own Blue Bell now has an ice cream flavor to answer the conundrum of, “should I have a cone or put it in a bowl?” The new Ice Cream Cone flavor solves that problem for you. The cone is IN the ice cream, so you can have it whether or not you have a cone handy.
I kid you not.
More Texas sweetness
I had a little bit of home just recently when BF took us out for a little “date night.” About a month ago, we went to. . .Cracker Barrel in Hammond. If you’ve never been in one of these “country-style” themed restaurants, it’s quite nice with home-style food (think meat, potatoes, fried okra and gravy like your grandmother made), and salads. There’s even a fireplace in the dining area, which I appreciate, but they didn’t light it when we were there. He loves Cracker Barrel, and honestly, I can’t complain, either. There is also a “general store” attached where you can buy some nice things, a little bit like Buc-ee’s. As we were checking out, I noticed something on the counter. There are lots of things on the counter, but this one caught my attention. Oh, my GAWD. A little bit of Texas, here in rural Louisiana.
Big Little Fudge.
Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to attend the Houston Metro Cooking & Entertainment Show, and went with the Boeing Teammates Association, so it was a bus trip. No parking issues! Basically, it’s a trade show for food vendors and open to the public, primarily from Texas, but some from other places, too. Grass-fed beef. Premium olive oils. Himalayan Pink Salt. Gourmet vinegars that taste like wine. Community Coffee (no kidding!) and delicious coffees from everywhere–no Starbucks here. And of course, sweet stuff–artisan chocolate, especially. I told the folks on the bus driving home that most of what I ate was olive oil, garlic and chocolate. I wasn’t yet blogging, but if I were, you would have heard all about it here.
A quick search doesn’t show any evidence of a food show in Houston since 2013, so they may not be held anymore. I’ll have to start looking for “food shows” in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. You never know what you’ll be sampling, and you meet all kinds of people. Like any trade show, you go home with bags of cool stuff–but some cool stuff you get to eat. Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Wait–I’m a blogger now. Wonder if I can get a press pass for one?
Yes, Texas has great desserts too
One of those vendors was a company called Big Little Fudge, and they were giving out samples! Well, they gave me some of their delicious fudge to try, and I bought a couple of them too.
This deliciousness has been around since October of 2010, started by two longtime business partners, Robin Strickland and Kevin Graham, who had just sold their *other* business, and decided to launch a business making. . .fudge, in 2009. Naturally, you bring something chocolate to a food show, and people show up. There they were. Nice people, and they make a smooth, creamy fudge that you won’t soon forget. I know I never did.
Sweet, but not overly sweet
This is the one called Heavyweight Champ, which has dried cranberries in it. I haven’t seen it since, but you can order it from their website.
I’ve bought it a time or two since that date night in Hammond, but I have to be careful or I’ll be a BIG blogger!
Big Texas flavor in a little square
These pack a lot of flavor in a little chunk. I GASPED when I saw it in Cracker Barrel, and even BF was a bit concerned.
The blue one, Chocalot, was the first one, and Big Wally was the second one. I think those were the only two they had. One lady standing behind me wanted to know what the big deal was, and I told her–delicious fudge from Montgomery, Texas, here in Louisiana! I also mentioned that I’d met the owners at the Food Show in 2011. . .she wasn’t impressed by that, nor the fact that it’s gluten-free.
She responded that someplace around Hammond also had very good fudge, but she wasn’t sure if it was gluten free. I have no idea what place she was talking about.
Turns out that these two were part of a promotion in November to benefit the G.O.V.E.T.S. Foundation, and sold in Cracker Barrel nationwide. This is a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of our military veterans with things like job assistance. (Surprisingly, it didn’t register on BF’s radar for this sort of thing.) I’m guessing the Hammond store just had some left, and I was lucky enough to find them.
The rest of the story
You see all my pictures from that day at this external link–it’s on Facebook, but you don’t need to sign in or have an account. I’m only in one of them, when I took a picture with a man whose cookbook I bought and had autographed:
I looked pretty good in that picture. That shirt was way too big. . .soon, one day, it will be again.
Big Little Fudge, anytime
A little something sweet right now, party favors, holiday stocking stuffers, or corporate gifts for clients, or fundraiser sweets, Big Little Fudge has you covered. Just hop onto their website and take a look around. They also have a map function for you to find out where you can find these delicious morsels in your area. They’re available in some Sam’s Club locations, too. In my neck of the woods, the closest places showing are in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but of course, online ordering makes nearly *anything* available.
This is Prize-Winning Fudge
Big Little Fudge was chosen as the 2016 Buyer’s Choice winner for “Best New Chocolate” at ECRM’s (Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing) annual Candy Planning: Everyday & Summer Seasonal event held in New Orleans, August 28-31, 2016. Um, yeah! (Source: company press release.)
For a little treat for yourself, or for someone else, Big Little Fudge may be just what you need. Look on their website to find out where they’re sold in your area to satisfy your immediate chocolate craving. Need more? They ship anywhere, and made right in lovely Montgomery, Texas. I’ve been up there, although not to their factory. (Now, I wish I had.) This fudge is definitely worth seeking out, whether a single wrapped piece for yourself or buying a batch for corporate gifts or special occasions like parties and weddings.
Serve these babies at a wedding and your guests will ignore the wedding cake, OK? At least until they’re all gone.
Are you Tox-Sick?
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
The holidays are all over now, thank heavens. Have you considered getting “healthy” for the new year? We all do that, don’t we? Before you get too involved in your new diet/gym membership/exercise plan/other expensive resolution, I have a book for you to read, if you haven’t yet. It’s an eye-opener, and will make you think twice before you have a cheat again. I’m not kidding.
Enter The Resolutionists!
When I was at Boeing, there was a small fitness room for employees. Not a whole lot, just some treadmills, spinner bikes, free weights and a few other weird torture machines I wouldn’t go near. There was one TV, and whomever got there first got to watch what they wanted. We had basic cable available, and boy, did people get upset with me when I was watching The Food Network!
This time of year, people are all about “eating healthy” after the rich, heavy foods of the holidays. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you understand what constitutes “healthy.” Bread, pasta, pizza, potatoes, rice, and all the rest of the starchy stuff, along with sugar you didn’t know you were eating are going to derail any “diet” you start. Ever seen Advo-Care? Last time I saw those direct-marketing things, they were all loaded with sugar. Reading labels, as I’ve long mentioned, is key to whatever is in that stuff you’re eating.
Sugar is still sugar
Look at it this way: if you’re going to a party, or something bigger like a wedding, and you eat cake, candy, etc., you KNOW you’re getting sugar, right? If you’re diabetic, you know to avoid it, or if you’re otherwise watching your intake, then you have that cake/ice cream/candy/dessert knowing exactly what it is. But finding out it’s in tomato paste, or some other non-confection you’ve bought is more than annoying, especially if it’s labeled “healthy,” “natural,” or “organic.” Yes, there is “organic sugar,” even if it’s coconut or monk fruit sugar, so it has to be taken into consideration when you’re talking grams of sugar.
But what if you’re doing all the “healthy” things, exercising, drinking more water, getting enough sleep and still not losing weight? You wouldn’t be the only one. Or you start feeling ill and don’t get better despite antibiotics or other prescriptions your doctor gave you? Is it “all in your head?” What’s going on?
We’re all Tox-Sick, that’s what.
Before I go on, I want to issue my standard disclaimer on all things I write about that are health-related:
I am not a doctor, nurse, scientist or other medical professional. I am a patient who reads and pays attention.
Ms. Somers has a number of best-selling books on health and wellness under her belt. Like Ms. Somers, I’m primarily interested in keeping myself healthy and well, and not spending the rest of my life on the pharmaceutical drug train. While drugs have their place, there is too much emphasis on “better living through chemistry,” that is, a pill for literally everything. It’s one thing when I get sick with a throat bug. But I want no part of toxic, dangerous and expensive prescriptions that I would be told to take the rest of my life when there are actual treatments for debilitating illnesses. Many chronic conditions have organic causes, but are simply managed with drugs that are not a “cure.” I’ve seen way too many people go down that road, and it’s not for me. That’s why I’m a pain in the backside about these things, and I avoid the SAD, or “standard American diet.”
That includes the boxed stuffing mix or macaroni cheese mess I’ve made for BF–at his request. He doesn’t see that, or the sodas he drinks all day long, as a reason he suffers with chronic heartburn. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We all need to know this
I don’t know what made me think about reading Tox-Sick, but I’m SO glad I finally did. I got it as an e-book from the library and downloaded it onto my tablet. (Sshhh. . .nevermind *which* library; the free Kindle app makes it easy.) Transfixed from pretty much the first page. Environmental toxins are causing all manner of health issues, destroying the intestinal system (“gut”) and modern medicine hasn’t kept up.
Aisles are filled with of over-the-counter medications in drugstores, grocery stores and places like Walgreen’s, Walmart and Target. Other stomach problems? Other kinds of meds can help. But the standard allopathic methods only mask the symptoms–they don’t deal with what’s causing the ailment in the first place.
What’s in this book
Tox-Sick doesn’t discuss medical conditions that have established protocols and treatments. It’s more about the kinds of illnesses that we suddenly see a lot more of, such as peanut allergies in children. I never met anyone who had a peanut allergy when I was a kid–but that was sometime ago. I was talking to a lady on Facebook yesterday about something else, and she mentioned that she was born with a heart defect. That’s not the kind of conditions Ms. Somers discusses in this book.
The Doctor Joke
There’s an old joke that used to go around:
Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this!
Doctor: Well, don’t do that.
It’s sort of like that. But it’s really not funny.
Do you know someone who takes a lot of sick time? Someone who never really feels “right” but teams of doctors can’t find anything “wrong?” Or is it you? Have you been given the nebulous term “chronic fatigue?” Have you been called a “hypochondriac?”
You may be Tox-sick.
No, you’re not crazy.
I know, Charlie Sheen claimed the same thing.
You’ve heard the comment about people who drink a lot as “pickling their liver.” Actor Larry Hagman was a serious alcoholic who received a liver transplant later in life. Your liver is quite important, as any doctor will tell you. In fact, on his daily radio show, Dr. Hotze frequently mentions that when you take a pharmaceutical drug, even OTC (over the counter), your liver has to detoxify it. That’s true of something as simple as aspirin or as heavy-duty as a cancer drug. It’s also true of any other substances you may ingest, such as fluoride from tap water or from your dentist. Even if you’re not a drinker, don’t smoke the occasional you-know-what or ingest dreadful things you shouldn’t, your liver, GI tract and brain is under assault from everything from various environmental toxins, chlorine and fluoride in the tap water to inhaled allergens like mold.
Your liver can only do so much. Until it can’t.
And then you’re sick and nobody can tell you why. Your blood tests “are all normal.” Your PCP sends you to any number of specialists, who run various tests and you start hearing that “there’s nothing wrong with you.” Some may even imply you should see a psychiatrist, because it’s “all in your head.” It is if it’s a headache, of course, but if one of them gives you a psych referral, just toss it. Talking about why you don’t feel well is NOT going to solve the problem. Neither is an antidepressant.
You’re Tox-sick. You just don’t know it yet.
Suzanne Somers delves into the topic of illnesses caused by environmental toxin overload and the problems it caused her husband, stepdaughter and two of her granddaughters. They are not “mysteries,” they are illnesses with a specific cause and treatment. She knows where to find these doctors who do the kind of cutting-edge medicine who successfully treat these conditions. Her investigation into environmental illnesses led her to find an entire arena of issues that can be cured, but usually aren’t.
How many times has this happened to you?
You go to the doctor and spend five minutes with him or her and leave with a prescription. Headaches? Here’s a pill. Rash that won’t go away? Here’s a cream. Weight gain? A (dangerous) diet pill. Mood swings? Go to a psychiatrist, get prescribed a dangerous antidepressant, stay on it forever.
Your symptoms have become the diagnosis. “We can’t find anything wrong with you, so maybe you need a psychiatrist.” Because they don’t know where to look. And then it’s just a straight path to the drug train station, starting with the first antidepressant or statin drug.
It happens every day in America.
That’s no way to live
I’ll repeat what Ms. Somers says in a few of her books: pharmaceutical drugs have their place, for things like infections and curable diseases. But a drug you stay on forever, “managing” your condition? Not so much. But medicine hasn’t kept up, and it’s highly likely your doctor hasn’t, either.
Toxins not only make you sick, they can weaken your system.
Make Friends With Your Gut
BF chews Tums a lot, especially at night. He also takes an OTC generic form of Zantac, called Ranitidine, every night with a glass of milk. No kidding. He does not see the irony, nor does he understand that he’s feeding the yeast buggies in his gut while tamping down the acid they bring up through his alimentary tract into his esophageal area. But he’s not the only one. I’m told his brother, sister and father all have “acid reflux.” And they drink soft drinks all day long. His father drinks diet sodas because he’s diabetic. (EEEWWW!!!) It’s a shame, because there’s an easy fix, and the benefits go beyond ending the acid assault on your throat. But BF refuses to give up his Cokes, and drinks whole milk because it’s “healthy.”
BTW, any kind of sugar, including lactose, or milk sugar, feeds the yeast overgrowth in your gut. Same with wheat and other grains, that’s why I gave up wheat all those years ago. And the junk food BF eats sometimes throws gasoline on them. He does not believe me.
What nobody tells you is that taking acid-killing drugs also causes malabsorption of nutrients from food—they block stomach acid. The yeast cells come up through the stomach and up to the throat, bringing the acid with it and burning your throat. Dr. Davis is the only doctor I’ve ever been to as a patient that didn’t look at me like I’d lost my bloody mind when I mentioned yeast overgrowth.
It doesn’t work that way.
Now, think about this: if, while “aging,” our bodies produce less of our regular hormones and other things, why would acid production go UP? Parts wear out as you age; they don’t go bonkers except in unusual cases. You go to nearly any doctor in America and tell them you have heartburn, and they will insist that you have “excess acid,” then give you a pill to take. Seriously? At no time, unless you insist, will they take a blood test for yeast overgrowth, (or go to a doctor who will) but it’s a frequent cause. You just know you’re taking a little pill and it goes away for a while.
Yeast Isn’t Just In Bread
I’ve written many times about the Yeast Free Diet, and why you should consider it. (The Green Willow Tree has two articles one yeast overgrowth here , and sells OTC detoxing yeast killers as well.) An important part of starting your detox is getting your alimentary system in good working order. Much of what’s called “leaky gut” and “acid reflux” is an overgrowth of Candida albicans in the intestines and the damage it causes.
If you’ve ever taken antibiotics—and let’s face it, who hasn’t?—you may very well be suffering from yeast overgrowth. Probiotics, along with yeast-free eating and either a prescription for anti-fungals or an OTC preparation, can correct the balance and make everything work like it should. Probiotics are also important to re-build the good intestinal flora to keep everything in balance, and get you on your way to no longer being Tox-sick.
It starts in your stomach
Ms. Somers also discusses HCL, which I’ve taken before. Didn’t do much for me, but at some point in the future, I may try it again. I did offer it to a neighbor before, who was suffering with heartburn, and it seemed to help, but she stopped it. But as Ms. Somers points out, since she took radiation therapy for breast cancer, she will have to take HCL for the rest of her life. Oh, you didn’t know about that? Yes–radiation knocks out your stomach acid production, so you’ll have to supplement with HCL so you can properly digest food. They don’t tell you that when you’re doing radiation, and she found out the hard way.
Low-fat is NOT where it’s at
Are you still doing low-fat diets? Stop. Immediately. Low-fat diets are like filling your tank a quarter of the way and expecting your car to take you from New York to Los Angeles on it. Fats, REAL fats, are what humans need to continue to run the system. Whether it’s olive oil, butter, coconut oil, whole milk cheeses, nuts, meats or things like avocados, you need fat to STAY ALIVE.
Fake fats, along with sugar, hydrogenated anything and other fillers, just do nothing. You might “lose weight,” but without nutrients to rebuild your cells that your body is made of, you’ll also lose bone, hair, and even energy. Eventually the body starts “holding on” to whatever nutrition it gets–that’s why crash diets help you lose weight for a while, but then the trend reverses and the weight comes back. (That’s from Suzanne’s first diet/health/cookbook.)
Years of low-fat and fake foods have made us fatter than before, and decimated the gut.
Fat is what keeps you alive. Sugar can kill you.
NOTE: this is not a license to eat everything in sight, but fat also provides satiety. You can’t over-eat fat.
I say this as someone who might have accidentally eaten a few of BF’s cookies the other night. But I wasn’t feeling great either, and of course, after some “comfort food,” I felt worse later. DUH. And then there are the rare occasions where the Bell rings a little too loud and I find myself crunching on delicious tacos with a couple of packets of Diablo sauce. (This week.) I got through 5 years of Tulane at night while working a 40-hour week with the help of Taco Bell and PJ’s Coffee. Since then, these are rarities, including my favorite Starbucks, even when I had a full-time job. But to their credit, Taco Bell now has the Power Bowl Combo that are devoid of taco shells.
We all have times when it’s fast food or starve. There is an entire population of this country that doesn’t know how to eat anything but fast food. And there are healthier options at many places now. But fast food not something that should be in your regular diet.
A real-life example
The other night, BF was heading into town for a few things, and I asked him to bring back unsalted butter. When he returned, he brought me Country Crock instead. (I have a less polite name for it.) I asked, “why did you buy this instead of butter?” BF: “it’s the same thing.” Amy: “Do you need a chemistry lesson?”
This is what’s in a pound of Land O’Lakes Unsalted Butter:
And this is what’s in the Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Original he brought home:
To be honest, Land O’Lakes also makes “spreads and margarines.”
There’s a lot more ingredients in the margarine than in the butter. Still, to their credit, Country Crock is made with fewer ingredients and nothing hydrogenated. Margarine has improved since the last time I bought it, back in the 1990’s, I think. But I still want butter.
I really did buy Diet Parkay Margarine back in the day, because I didn’t know any better. They call it “Light Parkay” now, and it’s made with milk now, so it says. But. . .it’s still not real butter.
Another real-life example
After reading about fluoride in water and toothpaste, I immediately returned two tubes of Crest toothpaste and replaced it with Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free toothpaste. BF wanted to know why, so I explained it to him–fluoride is TOXIC. If you don’t believe me, check the side of nearly any toothpaste sold in the US. There is a black-box warning telling you to call your local poison control center if you or a member of your family swallows it. Did you know that?
Fluoride is a neurotoxin. Exposure should be minimal. (Thanks, Dr. Hotze.)
BF doesn’t like the taste of Tom’s, so he’s back using the Crest, under protest from me. But I make sure I point out that he’s putting extra toxins in his system that he doesn’t need. Again, he doesn’t believe me.
This is why you’re Tox-Sick.
Becoming Tox-sick is not just one specific thing–it’s a lot of compounded factors that over time suddenly manifest in things like cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions. Just eating the wrong foods damages the gut, weakens the liver, damages the heart, so the rest of the system takes a hit. Chemical out-gassing in your home’s carpet and new furniture can sicken you and your children. Eventually, the brain is affected as well, and you’re sick, but nobody can tell you why. Your symptoms become the diagnosis, and you’re told you have the nebulous “chronic fatigue syndrome.”
In the case of Alan Hamel, aka,”Mr. Suzanne Somers,” it was a matter of standing water in the unfinished basement of a rented house that caused mold contamination that severely sickened him. Nobody knew it was there, and once discovered, they moved out of it very quickly. Months of detoxification treatments helped Mr. Hamel feel well again, and he’s still healing from the damage. Her granddaughters were both in a school building that made them ill; one was bitten by a tick and developed Lyme Disease. Their journey back to health was hard on everyone.
Ms. Somers explains that she’s since heard from quite a number of people who were forced to move out of their dream home because of various environmental toxins, including black mold. Like the others, they didn’t see the black mold, so they didn’t know it was there. You may have mold living in the HVAC air vents, and the first time you turn on the heater when it gets cold, you’ve been hit with mold spores. Cleaning those vents is important!
Please read this book now and defend yourself
I say that because I know that this time of year, people are cleaning up their diets for a while and exercising and drinking more water and doing whatever is the new “healthy” this year. What happens if you don’t lose that weight? You could be Tox-sick, overlooking a health problem you don’t even know you have, and maybe your regular doctor won’t test you for. It’s like that with thyroid patients–they do the standard TSH and say, “your thyroid is just fine!” Been there, done that.
The Herxheimer Reaction
A few times in the last few years that I’ve lost weight, I’ve noticed that I get “hot.” The first time it happened, I called Dr. Davis and asked about it. The nurse at the time called back and said that because I was losing weight, excess estrogen that was stored in the fat cells was suddenly being released, and causing sort of a “synthetic hot flash.” I’ve lost about 20 pounds since I’ve been here in Louisiana, and yes, I tend to take my jacket off or change shirts because it’s a “hot shirt.” Sometimes I get hot at night. But I’m losing weight now, although not as fast as I was on the HCG Diet, so I’m getting the “hot” feelings.
Why do I mention this, and why should you care if you’re male?
Toxins are also stored in fat cells, and if you start detoxing and/or losing weight, the same thing can happen. Lose the fat cells, lose the toxins (and the excess estrogen, male or female.) It might not be a “synthetic hot flash,” though–you might find yourself with nausea, headaches, or some other symptom that makes you wonder what kind of bug you’ve picked up. If you’re doing the yeast-free diet or some other kind of detox or cleansing, it’s likely your body clearing toxins and stuff out of your system. This is known as the Herxheimer Reaction, or die-off. Oh, yes, I’ve had it–one day thought I wasn’t going to make it back to my desk at work before I could choke down the Alka-Seltzer!
Read. This. Book. NOW.
Reading Tox-sick will not turn you into a hypochondriac. Rather, it will arm you with the knowledge that you need to find out why you’re not getting better, why your doctor can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, or why your child or grandchild isn’t “right.” You will learn how to clean toxins from your system, and defend yourself from the toxins we can no longer avoid. Conversations with top doctors like Dr. Sherry Rogers, Dr. Stephen Sinatra and the late Dr. Nicholas Gonzales will help you on your path to true health, and do more than just “lose weight.” Get rid of the toxins and the weight may go away on its own. But don’t go back to eating junk food, either.
Don’t you want to be healthier this year?
I hate to see anyone suffer needlessly, especially when help is available. Detoxing is not just about drinking water for three days, eating lots of kale and fasting. Tox-sick is about clearing out the bugs, toxins and other stuff that’s keeping you ill and in Part 2, defending yourself daily against environmental onslaughts that are everywhere.
What am I doing now to keep from getting Tox-Sick?
Whatever I can, really–I already avoid processed food, with rare forays into the “bad stuff,” like the cookies the other night. Butter, not margarine. Switching toothpastes, too. Sticking with what I’ve been doing for years, best I can. I’m also going to re-read this book before the e-loan ends again and taking notes to go forward.
We’re not at the point where we can put in a reverse osmosis filter (“you want a WHAT?”) eat completely organic or even get grass fed beef here. But I plan to do more gardening than I did in Houston, and hopefully grow some of our own produce organically. I hope to eventually get back on all vitamins and supplements I was taking before I moved out of Houston so that I can continuously defend my system from toxins and the occasional bugs that go around.
Of course, I’m also butting heads a little with BF who thinks it’s all “hocus pocus.” We’ll get there in the end.
I’ve only scratched the surface
Honestly, there is so much more than I discussed here. Please read this book for yourself, your family, your friends, and, yes, even your pets. Cats and dogs can get Tox-sick from mold and toxins too, although that’s not covered in this book. And if someone you know is suffering from a “mystery illness,” give them a copy of Tox-sick, or at least, tell them about it.
To your health and wellness in 2017!