Archive for February, 2011

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column (Story 9)

February 20, 2011

                       Sleep with Me, It’s a Scream!                    

Some women I’ve spent the night with will tell you, “Sleeping with Jim is a scream.” The guys I sleep with will agree since I can start screaming like murder at any time.

It’s your basic 1950’s scream right out of horror movies like the Body Snatchers or Dracula. Aside from this, I’m fine, really—your average writer, father, chef-kind-of guy. Also, for the record, I should say that the women I’m talking about are my wife and daughter and the  men I’m talking about are my son and fishing buddies who share a cabin with me on fishing trips.  

I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve tried to discover why, but the jury is still out and that includes the analysis of two separate therapists who have heard me scream, though that was when they handed me the bill.  

It doesn’t happen every night.  It’s more like once a month, but that doesn’t make it easier to take for those within earshot. Imagine how it is for them. They’re peacefully dreaming along when, “Ayiiiiiiiiiiyiiiii” comes blasting out at a level that could drown out a jet.  That’s got to shake you up and it’s tough on me, too. I haven’t been invited over for a pajama party in years.

My next door neighbors, the Polanzanis are still suffering from a traumatic screaming experience that happened several years ago. Our houses are close together. It was a warm summer night and my wife, Merry and I were sleeping with the windows open. That night, I let out a 9.0 scream on the “Screechster Scale.” The next thing I know, though a daze, I hear the screen door of their house fly open as Bob Polanzani shouts to his wife, Linda, “You go around the front, I’ll take the back!”

They were coming to our rescue not knowing what they might be running over to confront.  But that wasn’t stopping Bob and Linda. Goodness, what neighbors! What fearless human beings! Fortunately, I was able to stop them.  “Bob,” I shouted, “it’s okay. It was a nightmare. I’m soooo sorry.” They never said a word and we’ve never discussed the incident; I’ve always been too screamish, er squeamish to bring it up.   

I do know this: 90% of the screaming has to do with dreams in which I experience my death.  I go all the way, too. I don’t just jump off a cliff then wake up before I hit the ground. Oh, no. I jump off the building, hit the ground, die, then realize I’m dead. That’s when I wake up screaming.

My kids, Zoë and Sam are convinced it’s because I read Stephen King and Dean Koontz books constantly. Or maybe, I’m rehearsing my death so it doesn’t come as a shock and kill me. I could also be screaming at the gross injustices of the world like the price of popcorn and soda at the movies. $10.00?!! Yeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! . 

That’s it. Again, I apologize to all who’ve experienced my episodic, neurotic behavior. Maybe it’ll all go away when I’ve finally died and am laid to rest. But I’m putting all you folks who attend the wake on notice. If it’s an open casket and I’m lying there looking like I’m asleep, well…you’ve been warned.     

Pizza Heaven on Earth

 Obviously, I need to find peace on earth, but since that appears difficult, what about settling for pizza on earth? Naturally, it has to be the best, which takes me to a pie similar to the one they make at Sally’s Pizzeria in New Haven, Connecticut. I saw a show on the Food Network recently that proclaimed Sally’s Pizza as the best in the world.  When I saw that show, I screamed (the pleasant kind) since Sally’s is where we went when I was growing up.  

This is thin pizza with minimal ingredients. It’s cooked in a brick oven, but in lieu of that, I crank the oven up to 475 o. I don’t fuss with dough either. I buy 2 1/2 pounds of raw French Boule dough from the local bakery. You can also find pizza dough at bigger grocery stores in the dinner rolls section.  

What youza need for three 12” inch New Haven pizzas:

2 ½ pounds French Boule dough

1 16 oz can Italian Crushed Tomatoes

3-4 Tbls olive oil

Parmesan cheese to please

16 Oz. shredded Mozzarella  

7 cloves garlic diced

2 Tbls oregano flakes

12 leaves fresh basil, salt, pepper, a few shakes red pepper flakes

Parmesan cheese

Salt, pepper, dash of red pepper flakes

Cooking spray for pans (get ones that are holy and will bless you with a crispy crust)

(Optional) Pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, yadda, yadda  

Do Dis Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 475o. Spray pizza pans with Pam and set aside. Pour tomatoes in a bowl and add all the spices and herbs. Dats a nice. Now, make three balls of dough 3-4 inches in diameter or the size of a baseball. Make sure the dough is at room temperature. Squish each ball down flat and use your hands and a rolling pin to start the spreading process. Letting the dough rest a few minutes as you go will help prevent it from constantly snapping back. Also, make sure your rolling surface is not covered with too much flour.            

Roll each dough circle out it’s about 1/8 inch thick and slightly larger than the pan. Stop just short of being able to see through the dough. Spread it on the pan until it overlaps the edges about 1”, then fold the edges back on themselves to make a crust. Spread the sauce over the dough in a thin layer then add a thin layer of mozzarella. Add your favorite toppings, then shake on Parmesan cheese and add streaks of olive oil over the top. Bake on the low part of the oven for 12-15 minutes until the top is done and bottom is crispy, not burnt. Remove pizza but wait until it cools down to take a bite or you’ll start screaming.


My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column (Story 8)

February 20, 2011

               Eerie Sound in Jamaican Singing Caves—“Ka-Ching!”

 Cold days like this make me think of warm, wonderful Jamaica and the mistakea we made in Jamaica once while traveling. It happened when we were in Port Antonio with our friends, John and Joan. It was a rare rainy day so we decided to take a road trip to a place we found in a guidebook called the “Famous Singing Caves.” Wow, caves that sing?! That had to some kind of natural phenomenon worth a visit, so we headed out.

 About 10 minutes before we were due to arrive at the caves, a big, muscular Jamaican guy on a motorcycle pulled in front of the car and waved for us to follow him. He soon led us down a dirt road to an area where we saw a number of shacks and some fields. Our bike buddy pulled up and so did we. That’s when the entire town of 25 people came running out to meet us, cheering and waving.  

John looked skeptical. “This is going to get interesting,” he said. Our motorbike buddy was obviously the leader and introduced himself as Carlton. I told him we wanted to see the Singing Caves.

“Yeah, mon” he said, no problem, but first we show you our beautiful town.” I was going to say “but we don’t want to see your beautiful town,” when a Jamaican appeared alongside each of us. Four people. Four guides. Four people to tip. Let “The Ka-Chings begin!”

They took us on a long walk around their village to see things of cultural interest like the 10 huts, five fields and two dairy cows. Finally, the tour ended and we tipped our guides generously. “Now, can we go into the caves?” I asked Carlton.

“This way” Carlton said and led us to a small entrance, where, on cue, the next production began. Carlton clapped his hands and with the choreography of a Broadway musical, a child suddenly scooted up alongside each one of us to take our hands and lead us into the Caves. Four darling kids. Four more Ka-Chings to reckon with.

Carlton lit some candles and began his well-rehearsed speech. “Welcome, men, women and young children to the famous Singing Caves of Manville Town.” The tour had formally begun. I didn’t need John to shed light on the obvious—this was a major way the town earned money. They grew a few crops, milked their cows and milked The Singing Cave for all it was worth.  I don’t mean to sound insensitive; when you visit Jamaica you need to contribute to the economy, but supporting it singlehandedly is another thing. I secretly hoped the tour would end soon and it should have since there were only two rooms to see.

Carlton continued, “Now people, you be ready to experience total darkness for de first time in your lives. The children put out the candles and we were engulfed in complete blackness—well, at first and then it was almost complete blackness and then it was just quite dark. I could easily make out John’s face. It had the terror of projected Ka-Chings written all over it.

As we entered the second room, the children disbursed, ran up some rocks and pulled  back a tarp revealing makeshift musical instruments. Carlton took his position in front of the group to conduct and the secret of the Singing Caves was revealed. The caves didn’t sing at all. The kids did. And, they didn’t sing just one number, oh no, mon. They sang …Ka-Ching!…and sang…Ka-Ching…and sang.

This was the denouement of the tour and we were soon outside again. I grabbed John. “What do we give this guy?” I asked. “Your first born son,” John wisecracked. John and I asked Carlton point blank what the wonderful tour cost. “$50 dollars U.S.” he announced. Whew,” I thought. That’s not too bad. “Per person,” Carlton added.

$200 dollars cash? That was pushing it. I wanted to be fair, I wanted to help the small town out, but I also wanted us to be able to eat the rest of the week.

“Look, Carlton,” I said, “we can’t pay you $200. We don’t even have that much on us.” “We trust you, mon,” he said, “you go get de money and come bock.”

John was less diplomatic. He opened his wallet and said. “All right, Carlton, here’s the deal. You get $100 bucks U.S., take it or leave it.” Carlton took it and was very happy, much to my relief.  “Yeah, mon, no problems.”


Spaghetti con Tonno

 ( Spaghetti with Tuna)                                                     

With ka-chinging ringing in my ears, I present a fabulous dish you can have for a song—not from little Jamaican children—but from big grocery stores where you can buy all the ingredients for just a few bucks. Spaghetti with tuna is very entrepreneurial. Open up two cans of tuna and you’re in business! This dish is the essence of delicious simplicity. The tuna is transformed into something else. Is it chicken of the sea? Sorry, Charlie, it’s fish!

What Youza Need  
2 small cans of tuna (with oil)

4 Tbsp spoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, diced

½ cup parsley, chopped

2 ½ Tbsp oregano

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

1 Tbsp spoon garlic powder

7 leaves of fresh basil

2 bay leaves

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup white wine

1 16 oz can of Italian crushed tomatoes

21 halves of black olives (okay, maybe 22)

8-10 capers (6 antics, they’re stronger)

1 lb thin spaghetti

Sheik Technique   

Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the can of crushed tomatoes. Toss in all the spices and ingredients, including wine and simmer sauce for half an hour. Now add el tonno. Cook for 15 minutes max. Meanwhile, cook the pasta ‘til its al dente. Add the parsley to the sauce. Drain the pasta, pour it into a warm bowl, stir in the sauce and celebrate a dish that’s on the money—KaChing!