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Coffee-aholics Unite! April 8, 2011

Hi! I am Gr8ChefMB and I am a coffee-aholic! Yeah, I am one of THOSE people. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE coffee in all its forms. I have cultivated this love affair over many years. It didn’t start out to be that way, though. As a kid, we couldn’t drink coffee – it was a beverage only for grown-ups. At that particular time, my only vice was iced tea, until decaffeinated tea bags came out…LOL! I could drink gallons of tea, and probably still could if I didn’t enjoy my coffee and plain water so much…LOL!

When I got into high school, I tried coffee a few times, but it was more like, “Have some coffee with your milk and sugar!” I just couldn’t drink it black, or even muddy brown. It just HAD to be loaded with lots of cream and sugar until it was almost white. When I think about that kind of coffee, I think, “What was the point of that???!!!” Talk about a waste of coffee… I remember one of my best friends’ mom literally drank coffee from sun up to sundown. I did think that was a little strange…silly me!

After I got out of high school and dabbled with college, I started working full time. My first ‘real’ job was as the front-desk receptionist for an independent insurance adjusting firm. I sometimes carpooled with my mom and a friend. We would stop at Denny’s for morning coffee. I would still doctor it the same way. Because the company breakroom was stocked with free coffee, I started drinking more coffee. Of course, being a front desk receptionist, I didn’t have freedom to move about the office. I got two breaks and a lunch hour. If I needed to attend to other needs, I had to get someone to relieve me. I discovered it was easier to just pour and run; hence, learning how to appreciate coffee without a bunch of additives became my game. I grew to appreciate my coffee black. I started discovering that there were other varieties other than basic Folgers/Maxwell House/etc.

——The coffee angels start singing here: aaahhhhhh!—— 🙂

When I got pregnant with my son, all the medical pundits said that caffeine was bad for pregnant women and fetuses.  AAaaaarrrggghhhhh! I had to give up my beloved coffee……I can’t tell how freaking hard that was! Instant coffee at that particular time was crap…weak and bad flavor…didn’t taste at all like coffee. Folgers came out with instant coffee bags similar to teabags in a decaffeinated variety. I was absolutely so desperate for a cup, that I used those, but they really were quite awful. Still, it was better than nothing… Nowadays, apparently 1-2 cups are okay to drink during pregnancy. I wish they had come to that conclusion 18 years ago.

My love and appreciation for that caffeinated delight grew and grew. It got to the point where I was a coffee junkie…couldn’t function without that brew, especially first thing in the morning! Eventually, it got to the point where I was drinking a 12-cup pot (or more) by MYSELF! When I went for a physical one year, my doctor asked my about caffeine intake. Of course, I didn’t lie (probably should have, though!) and told him exactly how much coffee I was drinking at the time. My doctor is fairly easy going and nothing really seems to phase him, except for this bit of news. He absolutely BLEW A GASKET! I can’t recall ever seeing him that angry. He read me the riot act, especially because my cholesterol and blood pressure was fairly elevated around that time, hence the physical. I had to cut down on my coffee intake or I would die – his exact words. That kind of put the scare into me…for about three or four months… I did cut down to only 4-6 cups a day. Yeah, I know…that wasn’t quite what he had in mind, but, hey, at least I did cut down some.

When my son was attending Sunday school at church, they were desperate for volunteers. I decided to volunteer since I had to go there anyway to drop him off and I wouldn’t have to pay for tuition. Of course, those weren’t the only reasons…I really do LOVE to volunteer for various things. It’s a nice change of pace, something to do and I love to meet different people and learn new things. As I became more active in my church – I was born and raised Catholic – I started to adhere more to my religion, which means making some sort of sacrifice at Lent. I know you are probably thinking, “She really didn’t do it!” Yes, indeedy…that was my sacrifice. I gave up my caffeine for 40 days and 40 nights. My family and friends were incredulous and didn’t think I would make it all the way through Lent to Easter. My students were placing bets as to when I would crack…no pun intended. That was even more difficult than giving it up during my pregnancy, because this was VOLUNTARY! I allowed myself two cups of hot tea every day, but they were herbal teas, and I drank a lot of water and decaff iced tea. Whaddayouwant…at that time, caffeine was my only vice and thus, the only real sacrifice I could make. I couldn’t very well give up working…. 🙂 I actually did make it to Easter Sunday, but I had to wait until after Easter Mass for my first cup. Golly, Mass seemed to drag on for 3-4 hours…actually, not really; it just seemed that way. After we got home, I headed for that magical machine that puts forth that magical devil’s brew. However, my mother stopped me and said wait a minute… She gave a pretty new coffee mug in which to enjoy my first cup. It was kind of egg-shaped in a periwinkle blue with a cute little design painted all over it in a lighter color. (I still have that mug, too. The inside is cracked, so I can’t drink from it anymore.) That was such a sweet thing for her to do. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed and savored that first cup….aaaahhhhhhh! BTW, I had a checkup after that Easter, and my cholesterol had gone down drastically, so I guess my doctor was right. I hate it when that happens! I did give up caffeine every Lent after that and made it through 4-5 years until my brother-in-law passed away rather suddenly. That was such a shock, and it still is, even five years later. When we went for the viewing, I got such a severe headache from crying so hard and trying to comfort his family and my family…I ended up breaking my Lenten sacrifice. I feel pretty sure that God understood why…the grief we all felt was so overpowering. He was my youngest sister’s husband identical twin. It was such a waste because he was so funny and musically talented, but he had a problem he just couldn’t seem to overcome, no matter how he tried. I miss him, still… After that year, I did still make my annual Lenten sacrifice and made it for a couple more years, until another bad year…

After being overcome by my own problems last August, I was put on some medication that reacts badly when I imbibe too much caffeine. These days, I am pretty much limited to no more than two cups a day. It’s probably better that way, because my intake was starting to creep back up to ungodly levels again. Because of that, it is more diffficult to make that sacrifice. I do love my coffee and will drink it hot or iced. Sometimes, I do add a bit of cream; it depends on what variety of coffee I am drinking and what time of day. If I had unlimited funds, I would probably go to Starbucks every day. As it is, that is a once-in-awhile treat. My fave brand at home has to be Folger’s. They have really branched out and come up with some delicious flavors, including their Black Silk. In fact, Folgers has a give-away opportunity to win a prize package including coffee, a singnature red coffee mug, black silk robe, and biscotti. Visit http://www.themommy-files.com/2011/04/folgers-wake-up-with-black-silk-giveaway/ to sign up to win.

 

A ticket to Alaska and a Hot Dog Cart July 19, 2010

Here is a short story written based on a prompt found at http://blog.writersdigest.com/promptly/. It was kind of fun exercising that lump separating my ears! Hope you enjoy it…

“Hey, Joe! Have you got a reindeer sausage left? If so, lemme have one with spicy mustard and kraut on it! Can I get a grilled pretzel bun with that, too, please?”

 

“Sure thing, Eddie! How’s the family doing?”

 

“Oh, they’re doing fine. They would be here with me today, but little Jenny has the sniffles and Marg decided it wouldn’t be a good idea. She is sure that the other two will get sick, too. You know how it is – bugs get passed around….hahaha!”

 

“Here’s your dog! Thanks for the business. You are my last customer of the season. I’m getting ready to fly south for a few months. I hope Jenny feels better real soon….”

 

Flashback to three years earlier…

 

Today was the final straw for Joe Murphy. It started out badly when he overslept and was late to an important meeting to discuss a new buyout of an ailing company. It got worse during the meeting because the client wouldn’t budge on a couple of contract options. After lunch, his soon-to-be-ex-wife called after lunch screaming about some minor catastrophe that she blamed on him. “Yeah, sure! All that is my fault? Guess again! This is why we can’t stay together, Cathy. You are driving me crazy!!! It was a short put, anyway. Pull yourself together and get over it. Don’t call me at work again.” Click.

 

To top it off, today marked 45 years that Joe had been walking this planet; no one, not even his ex, remembered or mentioned it.

 

To console himself, he stopped at his favorite watering hole, a dive called the Blue Goose. He propped himself up at the bar and ordered a tequila shot and a Negra Modelo. The bartender placed a steaming basket of chips and hot sauce in front of Joe as a welcome gesture. Joe slugged the shot down, and then took a sip of beer. Joe ordered the evening enchilada special along with another shot. The bartender just shook his head, and asked, “What’s up, Joe? You usually don’t drink tequila.”

 

“It’s my birthday, and I have had a lousy day. You really don’t want to hear about it, trust me! I think I’m going to cash everything in, move to Alaska and buy a hot dog cart.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear about your lousy day. Happy birthday; this one’s on the house. Alaska, huh? You could sell reindeer sausage along with those hot dogs. You’d probably make a killing during the Iditarod. Hahahahaha! What a crazy idea! Good luck with that one!”

 

He’s having a midlife crisis. Only instead of a sports car, he buys … a ticket to Alaska and a hot dog cart.

 

Flashback to present day…

 

“Yeah, thanks to you, Joe! I hope you enjoy your trip, you crazy SOB. I wish I had thought of this myself. I can work 12-hours days for two or three months straight just to get the next nine to ten months free. So, whatta you gonna do with all that free time?”

 

“I think I’m going to go to culinary school, maybe in Paris, maybe in Italy. All that time I was stuck in the office dealing with all that shit, I kept thinking about how all I wanted to do was cook, and maybe open a little restaurant someday. Well, some day is here, and I have some cash saved up. Next year, I’ll have some great new sausages to showcase.”

 

How did you get that gig, anyway? August 2, 2009

Have you ever wondered how certain individuals get certain gigs? I certainly have…This morning, I woke up, grabbed a cup of coffee and turned on one of my all-time favourite programs, Texas Country Reporter. In Dallas, it comes on at 10:00a on Channel 27, and nationally, reruns are aired on RFD TV (‘Rural America’s most important network’) at 10:30a (and other times, too). I have been watching Mr. Phillips when his program started out as 4-Country Reporter, I think, around 1972 or 1973. He travels around Texas to do profiles on various people, events, etc. that are interesting, weird, heart-touching, thoughtful, unusual, or all of the above.

 

Sorry, I digress…I was watching his show this morning, which featured a guy who restores old license plates, a bait-seller (on the Lake O’ the Pines in East Texas)/poet, a band director who plays songs on a turkey baster (yes, you have read that correctly – a turkey baster) and a couple of other stories…As I was watching, a thought popped into my head – “How did he get a gig like that?” Another thought popped in after that one, “Where does he find these people?” Actually, I have wondered this about Mr. Phillips for a long time. His is quite an interesting job. He has definitely talked to some seriously unusual people!

 

As I am a big fan of NASCAR, after Texas Country Reporter, I flipped the station to Speed Channel. I had seen on ESPN a day or two ago that qualifying had been rained out, so I was hoping the race at Pocono would not be rained out as well. I love watching John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace, Hermie Sadler and Wendy Venturini on Speed Channel’s NASCAR RaceDay. I have often wondered how Wendy got her gig as pit reporter. Unfortunately, it is still somewhat rare to see a female sportscaster or reporter. Ms. Venturini has been doing an excellent job for the past several years, and man, would I LOVE to trade jobs with her! I have loved car racing since I was old enough to watch the Indy 500 every year. I have been a fan of NASCAR for the past 20 years or so…ever since I watched Dale Earnhardt, Sr. bump and grind his way to all his Cup championships.

 

I would have loved to have been a sports jounalist/on-air personality like Wendy Venturini, Susie Kolber from ESPN or Jillian Barbieri. How in the world did they end up doing what they do?? I love sports in general, and particular ones, hockey, auto racing, baseball, especially. I like to think that I could have been a good sportscaster even though I am a woman. I also like to think that I could have Bob Phillips’ job in a heartbeat if I could operate a camera…I can certainly talk with people and take notes.

 

These are only a couple of examples; the world is filled with even more. How do taste-testers get started, or recipe testers? How do you get a gig as a traffic reporter? Who do you have to know to become a sports arena broadcaster? I guess it’s just one of those quirky things that occupy my mind sometimes. Perhaps, one day I will have some answers.

 

Hello world! July 30, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Hello world! — Gr8ChefMB @ 2:11 pm
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Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

 

Rather ominous words, don’t you think? The greeting is a put offputting, too…I have never fancied myself to be a writer. It was an arduous chore in school, except for fifth grade. It was Mr. Sefzik’s first year, and he had yet to become jaded and apathetic to his students. He was full of promise and, perhaps, naivete. On Fridays, he assigned creative writing exercises, such as ‘what would you be like as a robot.’ He wanted specifics and descriptive imagery.

 

Flash forward about thirty years; it’s a brave new world out there! Practically anyone with half a brain can put their ramblings online for the entire world to see. Seriously, how cool is that???!!! Well, we will see…time will tell.

 

Welcome to my life, such as it is. Hopefully, you will get to know me and I will get to know the world just a little better, and perhaps, understand it a little better.

 

Currently, I am readying Julie Powell’s hilarious account of drifting through life at a dreary governmental job and suddenly deciding to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Through this period, she blogs about her experiences as her life takes turns for better and worse. (I don’t think I could deal with faulty plumbing on a continual basis.) The book is titled Julia & Julia; it has been made into a movie with Amy Adams as Julie and Meryl Streep as Julia Child….can’t wait to see the movie. I’ll let you know later how it is….

 

As I am reading this book, it got me to thinking…would the world care what my life is like and what my thoughts are? Who knows…

 

Ms. Powell’s adventures in cooking and eating are hilarious, especially since she is such a picky eater. I can honestly say that I am not a picky eater; I will try almost anything at least once. As she learns new cooking techniques and ingredients, she broadens her horizons and opens her mind. I have been cooking since I was at least 7 or 8, and reading cookbooks and recipes for almost as long. I can remember that my very first cookbook was entitled just that and Mom ordered it from Imperial Sugar after saving the required number proofs of purchase. I wish I still had that cookbook. I think I first made sugar cookies out of it.

 

I am now more of a cook rather than a pastry chef-type. Baking requires precision, the ability to follow exact directions/proportions and attention to detail. With actual cooking, these things are rather optional. It helps to ensure the outcome, but sometimes when not present, the outcome is still good. I think of recipes more as guidelines and suggestions. (Think about the pirate’s idea of parlay in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie!)

 

I have been successful more often than not and I have learned that one shouldn’t drink alcohol whilst cooking shepherd’s pie from a recipe in one’s mind. (It was so awful, the dog wouldn’t even touch it with a ten-foot pole!) Also, don’t cook bone-in chicken and Stove Top stuffing without reading a recipe and/or instructions after inviting a new boyfriend home to dinner with your family. (Very bad idea – raw chicken and boiled stuffing! Uuugghhhh! Of course, I was still young and somewhat inexperienced in the kitchen.)

 

Life is kind of like cooking, I think. You are either really good at it or not so good. So many people come with excuses as to why their life just isn’t working out the way they think it should. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person. Well, guess what! You have to start out with quality ingredients and pay attention. Listen to advice you have been given (just like reading directions for a recipe) and take what you can use. If you don’t have quality ingredients to start out, work hard to get them and get what you want out of life, whatever that may be. It does help to be somewhat detail-oriented. It also really helps to use your imagination, too.

 

Here is a closing thought:

Continual cheerfulness is a sign of wisdom. – German proverb

 

Happy Cooking! 🙂