we’re jammin’

 

friendly, non-intimidating kitchen

One of my goals is to gain more confidence in the kitchen.

If you’re new to my blog, one of the first things you should know about me is that I’m not a perfectionist.

I just happen to like it when things go perfectly.

I’m not an alarmist either. So when I made tomato jam the other day, I didn’t think about botulism or accidentally poisoning my friends. My jam-filled jars weren’t going to shatter in a pot of boiling water, exploding magnificently in my face. And I never once thought about investing in a welder’s helmet. Or a beekeeper’s outfit (for deep frying: onion rings, chicken, Snickers bars, etc.).

I had to stop procrastinating. I had some beautiful tomatoes I bought at the farmers’ market and I had to do right by them.

tomatoes

So I began at the beginning. I read the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving”. Set out the equipment and ingredients. Started chopping.

chopping tomatoes

A few hours later, the tomatoes were cooking nicely on the stove. But wait – my jam looked more like soup! Oh, the horror!! I glanced at the recipe again and it didn’t mention covering the pot with a lid. Which I did. And I shouldn’t have. Doh!!

Another four and a half hours later, the tomatoes finally cooked down and I tried the hot water bath technique for the first time. The jars didn’t shatter. I still have my face and am not going to need plastic surgery (at least not for this reason)!!

Three and a half pounds of tomatoes and eights hours later:

the "fruits" of my labor. sorry. it's my grandpa humor. I realized later that I put pears in the photo when I really should have tomatoes. Good thing I'm not a perfectionist and this is not going to drive  me crazy.

The “fruits” of my labor. Sorry. It’s my grandpa humor. (I realized later that I put pears in the photo when I really should have tomatoes. Good thing I’m not a perfectionist and this is not going to drive me crazy.)

All that work resulted in three, almost four, half-pint jars, two of which I’m planning to give away. Tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself. Kind of sweet, savory, tomatoey, jammy, and other yummy, nonsensical words.

I really hope I don’t poison my friends. If I do, I’ll try to write from prison. They allow free-writing time in there, don’t they? Maybe I can start a canning group! We’re jammin’, jammin’, and I hope they’ll like jammin’, too…

 

the portland effect

 

IMG_8922

Pine State Biscuits (top left), Cascade Brewing (middle left), breakfast at Pine State (bottom left), Salt & Straw (right)

…medic…medic!!!…postpone cholesterol test…check belly to see if it has morphed into a biscuit…

I just came back from attending a wedding in Portland, OR. Have you ever been? If you have, then you know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by the amount and variety of food and drink in the city. It borders on ridiculous. It was the first time I wished I had kept the baggy overalls I used to wear in the ’80s. What? Text you photos of myself in overalls and poodle perm mullet? How dare you!! You are very lucky my belly biscuit prevents me from coming after you.

Fortunately, I was with a group of friends. I tend to eat less when eating family style or doing tasters of beer. That being said, no one helped me eat my biscuit sandwich with fried chicken and gravy. My fangs – which I try to keep on the down low – would have definitely sprung out if anyone tried coming near my plate.

I was super impressed with the creative and artisanal energy of the city. We would be driving in areas where I would think to myself, “Doesn’t seem like there’s much out here…” and then !kapow! a little pocket of interesting restaurants and businesses would suddenly appear.

While my belly was definitely in charge of this trip, my heart was being pulled all the while, knowing how much natural beauty the rest of the state had to offer.

Wait for me, Oregon, I’ll be back for you.

For those who are interested, this is where I went:

Blue Star Donuts
Voodoo Donut (I preferred these over Blue Star, but am willing to do another tasting comparison)
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Pine State Biscuits (twice)
Life of Pie (best mushroom pizza I’ve had in a looong time)
Pok Pok (delicious chicken wings & refreshing drinking vinegars)
Nong’s Khao Man Gai (keepin’ it simple with great chicken & rice)
Rev. Nat’s Cidery & Taproom
Bailey’s Taproom
Hopworks BikeBar
Cascade Brewing Barrel House (twice) (excellent sour beers)
Breakside Brewery
Upright Brewing
Ruby Jewel Ice Cream
Salt & Straw Ice Cream (super friendly & unique flavor combos)
Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery
Food carts (dizzying amount of choices)

happiness is a warm taco

My friend Mae took this photo during a moment of our champagne tastes and caviar dreams (I didn't have a picture of me eating a taco).

My friend Mae took this photo during a champagne tastes and caviar dreams moment (I didn’t have a picture of me eating tacos).

The alternative title to this post was “happiness is hugging a warm taco”, but doing so is decidedly messy. Don’t believe me? Try it, then get back to me.

The other day a friend and I went to get tacos at a local Mexican market. It’s no frills and the tacos are soooo good. You walk in, pass the glass case filled with ready-to-go carnitas, salsas, cheese, chicharron, and crema, and head towards the back where you can order your deliciously warm tacos. Did I mention that they are $1.50/each??

When they call out your order for pick up, you can sit down at one of the few tables or hoist yourself up on a bar stool and sit at one of the counters.

I hoisted.

I hugged my taco.

I spoke with my mouth full: “Thi foo make me happy.”

If you’ve made it this far into the post, first of all, thank you from the bottom of my taco-loving heart. Second of all, you might be thinking, “Poor girl, she thinks she’s posting a review on Yelp. tsk tsk.”

Yes, sometimes I get confused and think I’m on Yelp, Match.com or even forget where I am in general, but today, talking about tacos reminds me how something so simple can bring such joy. When everything is so clearly simple and solid and in-the-moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a taco, a stunning view, or breaking out in uncontrollable laughter with a friend. I’m grateful for any fleeting moment that causes you to connect to yourself and something even beyond that. Something bigger than yourself…that intangible feeling of…love?

I don’t know why my lesson was sent in a taco, but hey, I’ll take it. There’s a reason why I’m always proposing to food. Mr. T and I pity the poor fool I fall in love with: “Marry me or else I’m going to make a taco a very happy husband!!”

Hey, that’s a good title for a Match.com profile…

 

old yelper

I’m thinking about creating a Yelp account for my 91 year-old dad.

oldyelper prepares to review the persimmon trees. Those poor persimmons don't stand a chance.

oldyelper prepares to review the persimmon trees. Those poor persimmons don’t stand a chance.

His reviews will be concise, yet murky:

“Not bad.”
 Translation: meh.
“The meat is soft.” What he’s trying to say: Tender! And I don’t have to chew that much.
“I don’t know.” His answer to the questions: “What does it taste like?” and “What’s in it?”

He often uses the word whatchgall when he can’t think of the name of something. Here it is used in a sentence: “What’s the name of the restaurant where we had the whatchgall?”

It’s great fun, almost like playing a game, trying to guess the answer:

me: “Seafood Palace?”
oldyelper: “No!” (looks at me like I’m crazy)
me: “Great Grannie’s Goulash Garden?”
oldyelper: “That’s not it!” (more crazy looks in my direction)

Readers can look forward to going to that unnamed restaurant and asking the wait staff for the whatchgall that oldyelper ordered the other night.

Ermmm…I’m beginning to have second thoughts about this. I am thinking about the content of his potential reviews. I love food so much that a real-life comment like this pains me: “I won’t be eating those tacos again. I like it when it has a little cheese, lettuce and tomato – like at Taco Bell.”

This broke my heart a little because my dad was talking about a hard shell taco with “American” cheese, iceberg lettuce and flavorless tomatoes. You can’t teach an elderly dad many new tricks. Believe me, I’ve tried when it comes to Mexican food. I wanted to convert him to the deliciousness of carnitas and *lengua and mole, and different styles based on different regions. Expand his palate. I thought at the very least that I could get him to use the word salsa instead of “sauce” and “dip”.

We must have tried at least a dozen different Mexican restaurants (including bastardized versions), but oldyelper was never impressed. One night I decided to make the tacos my mom used to make when my brother and I were younger; the only kind of tacos to which my dad could relate: store bought hard shells, McCormick taco seasoning, ground beef, shredded Romaine (don’t tell him it wasn’t Iceberg) and homegrown tomatoes.

this is old school seasoning, yo.

this is old school seasoning, yo.

As I was sprinkling the seasoning on the meat, my mainly Japanese-speaking mom said, “Smells taco.” Yup. Smells taco. Just like she remembered.

That night, oldyelper gave me this review: “Good!” And then he helped himself to another taco.

It eased some of the pain. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good review.

*I gave my dad a lengua burrito once and told him it was beef. It wasn’t a complete lie. What?? Like you’ve never lied to someone about something that’s for their own good??