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Friday, February 24, 2017


Someone I know posted an article online the other day along with an interesting statement. She said that she thinks that black pepper is overused in cooking, and that it often doesn't really enhance the foods that we automatically sprinkle it on. The article was written by someone who quit using pepper in their cooking years ago. She (the author) hadn't decided to quit using pepper; her pepper mill just quit working. She noticed that her foods began to taste better without the pepper, and then quit using it in her cooking.

When I decided to comment, I hadn't yet read the article. I fall more firmly into the salt camp as far as favored basic seasonings. There were some commenters to my friend's post that were vehemently pro-black-pepper. And some for whom that last sentence would be a gross understatement. There were others who were also bigger fans of salt than pepper.

I don't think that any of us were anti-pepper, it was just that we agreed it was routinely overused. How many recipes have you seen that instruct you to "add salt and pepper to taste"? Mashed potatoes? Add salt and pepper. Salad? Ditto. Just about every recipe you read except desserts will include that instruction. And with the trend toward savory desserts, even those recipes aren't all free from pepper!

Here's my problem with pepper - it can be like a person who thinks they're irresistible. It can come on too strong. Pepper, with its volatile oils, has a distinctly strong flavor. Instead of enhancing the taste of some foods, it can overpower it. Salt, in my opinion, is more likely to improve the flavors of many foods, whether they are robust or delicate. And you won't ever catch me eating popcorn without it! I am also a fan of different varieties of salt. I have Himalayan Pink, both ground and in a grinder, and Hawaaiian Red. My kitchen also houses Black Cyprus salt that looks like little black pyramids, Fleur de Sel, Chocolate salt, Bacon salt, Lime Salt, and Murray River salt from salt deposits in Australia, to name a few.  

One commenter said something to the effect that salt kills and pepper heals, a statement with which I must respectfully disagree. Pepper, with such a strong, hot, or bitter flavor, can be too much for may people. And life without salt is impossible. Both humans and animals are drawn to it because it is necessary for their well-being. When my guardian Bill had horses and cattle on his land, there were always salt licks for the animals. 

In many eras of human history, salt was valuable enough to be a form of currency or exchange. Even the ancient Roman legions couldn't function without salt. In addition to their ration of food and drink, they were paid in salt. In the non-coastal regions, it was precious enough to be a wage, and the word for salt evolved into the word salary.  Litle wonder, then, that we have sayings about being worth one's salt - if we are competent at what we do, we are worthy of our salary, our salt. Pretty amazing for something we can now buy easily at a market, isn't it?

In the end, it's all a matter of personal preference, or perhaps I should say taste. My favorite of the two is salt, and I use it far more, but there are dishes that simply aren't as perky without that zing of black pepper. It comes down to loving the flavor of your food. Whether you favor one over the other doesn't matter as much as making food that will make you happy. So shake or grind or sprinkle - and enoy! Bon appetit!


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Old Friends

It's been a few weeks since I've written, and I freely admit to feeling guilty about it. I've toyed with various ideas over the last few days while I piddled away time binge-watching tv series and reading books. Okay, wait a minute, reading books is definitely not piddling away one's time. Last night I had a very vivid dream about someone that I haven't seen or spoken to in close to 25 years. I woke up thinking about this friend, and all of my ideas for blog posts slipped away. I needed to write about my old friend.

In this odd but incredibly realistic dream, I was in a school-type setting. I wasn't in any classrooms, and it must have been a college because of the lovely open campus setting. I walked into a room where a slightly older, very kind gentleman was sitting down on a classroom chair. He was a counselor or advisor of some sort, and I knew that he was very busy. Even so, he spoke to me for a few moments. He advised me to go to a woman named Kris B, with whom he had worked on an award-winning project.

My face broke into a huge smile because I knew her years ago. I told the man that I used to know her, and even went to New York City with her. He smiled as I told him how Kris had given me a wonderful compliment all of those years ago. She told me that among all of her friends, I was the only one who didn't just talk about going on a trip, but actually planned it and went. And we did go, one lovely early September. She was patient with me when we got off to a rocky start and I said I'd just as soon go home. Within hours, I fell in love with the city. And I was patient with her getting-ready-to-go routine that we joked about. 

Anyway, in the dream I was a bit nervous to see Kris because our lives sent us on different paths and I was afraid that she wouldn't want to see me. When I saw her, busy at her work, she embraced me and made me feel welcome. Somehow I can see a real life reunion going exactly that way, and liberally sprinkled with joyful tears.

When I woke, I couldn't stop thinking about my old, dear friend Kris. We met at our banking workplace, both in the teller department. Our friendship developed fairly quickly, as I recall. We obviously got along well or we wouldn't have taken the plunge to go aross the country together. What fun we had on that trip! From the Statue of Liberty to the Hard rock Cafe (at that time only the second HRC in the world!) and Central Park, we saw so many wonderful things. We fell in love with the Carnegie Deli (just recently closed, to my great sadness) and its bickering waiters. It was with Kris that I discovered on our first full day in the city that we were slightly lost - in the Red Light District!

We went to Macy's and Bloomingdale's and Sak's and my favorite, Tiffany. We ate all sorts of wonderful food varying from street fare to dinner in the Crystal Room at Tavern on the Green. We rode buses and subways and acted like the city was ours. In fact, a woman who sounded like she was from New York stopped us to ask for directions to a specific address. Without skipping a beat, I was able to tell her exactly how to get there. We loved it.

My joy and zest for travel were awakened then. I've gone to several states and made it all the way to Budapest and various points in Hungary to find my family. I've seen Vienna, Austria and the incredible city of Paris. If I could, I'd jump on a plane tomorrow. Hey, my passport is still valid! Although it would take a little while for Trent to get one...

A little over a year after our great adventure, she was very supportive of me when I was hospitalized and diagnosed with lupus. Her dear sweet husband Joe, a paramedic, even stopped at the hospital to check on me. When I was feeling a bit better, Kris and I went to see a fairly new movie in the theater, a "chick-flick" called Beaches. In a nutshell, it's the story of two friends over the course of some years. One becomes very ill and dies. We wept profusely all through the movie. After the lights came on Kris told me, "I was sitting here thinking, she looks like Katrina when she was sick." And I told Kris, "I was sitting here thinking this is what I put my friends through." I have never seen the movie again. When I recently saw ads on the television about a made-for-tv remake, I announced that I will not be watching it, and I wondered whether her feelings would be the same.

As I said, life has taken us in separate directions and we drifted apart. I think of Kris from time to time, and very lovingly. If there was any way that I could help her in a time of need, I would do so without hesitation. Could we rekindle a friendship? I don't really know. After all of these years, we're different people now than we were before, so it could never be the same. And that's a good thing, because if it was the same it would mean that neither of us had experienced any life or any growth. But I will cherish the knowledge and memory of having such a wonderful and amazing friend, one that I will always carry in my heart. Thank you, Kris, for all of the love and memories.


The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Cat's Tale

This is the true story of a cat.

Trent and I have never really been cat people. I think that a big part of this for me is the experiences I had with Alice. During the hellish couple of years that I lived under her care, it was evident that cats were more important to her than human children. Especially more important than the orphan children of her husband's Hungarian relatives. As a result, I went through a period during which I actively disliked cats; this phase ended many years ago. 

Trent has been a dog person for many years, as have I. We both take issue with the type of cat that will walk all over the kitchen counters and things of that nature. It kind of disgusts us. But we have had cordial interactions with cats who own humans of our acquaintance.

Many changes have occurred recently in the land of The Lunatic and company. Perhaps these will be discussed in a future blog post. One of the results of these changes is that Liz, my sister, has become a member of our household. Along with her comes a well-behaved and shy (reclusive?) cat named Brutus.

Brutus is a substantial (chunky monkey) grey cat that Liz adopted as a kitten. He was a motherless feral cat, and has some issues as a result. It takes him a while to warm up to people, and when he sleeps, as some cats seem to do for about 20-odd hours per day, he cries because of his bad dreams. It's sad and very touching, and frankly a bit heartbreaking.

So here's a brief rundown of Brutus' first week at the home of The Lunatic.

On Wednesday evening Brutus arrives in a pet carrier lined with his mother's bedsheets. The carrier door is opened, and Liz and I adjourn to the living room. Within less than an hour, this shy and frightened cat comes into the living room and gets on the pullout bed with Liz. He gives me a look, jumps off the bed, and hops up on the loveseat next to me. He allows me to pet and admire him and then goes back to his mommy. Brutus quickly discovers that the furniture here really suits him - both the pullout bed and the recliner provide hiding places that are perfect for a shy, fat cat.

Each evening, Brutus comes out from his nesting areas and cuddles with Liz. He also comes to see me, asking for some treats from the package I keep nearby. By Monday evening, he walks over my lap to visit Trent for treats, and allows him to pet and admire him until the treats are eaten. He then hisses something sassy about no treats, no touching, and goes back to his mother.

On Tuesday evening, Brutus is surprised to find himself more interested in the actions and behaviors of the other humans than he expected. He hears me place his bowl on the counter and get him some canned food which I bring to the living room. He eats some with gusto, and does more of his customary exploring. He becomes frustrated when his desire to follow Trent conflicts with his desire to stay with Liz. He deals with this by going to one of his hiding places. When Trent sprays some air freshener from a loud spray can, Brutus gets startled and runs for cover. In his aunt and uncle's bedroom! Liz comes in a short while later to lay on the end of the bed. Brutus joins the family and places himself between mom and aunt and allows both to pet him, AKA worship the cat.

When The Lunatic moves around during the night, she discovers that a big fat cat has moved so that he can lay next to her leg. She later feels him jump on the bed (after spending some time with Liz) but doesn't feel him lay down. That must be when he was with Trent. One cat, two new humans, and seven nights - I think we have been accepted as not only residents of his new home, but members of his family. Welcome to the family, Brutus. And don't ever start jumping on the counters!

And now his tale is told.


The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

Thank you for reading!