Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spice Girl

I think we all know how much I love Indian food; if you're new here and didn't realize it, let me assure you that this is one of the constants in the universe.

I've eaten at virtually every Indian restaurant in Ann Arbor, and have an assortment of spices -- Fenugreek, Cumin, Garam Masala, Saffron, Cardamom -- which help when I have a craving and need to cook something fabulous and fragrant.

And this was precisely the scenario one morning last week, when I could hear the Siren song of Indian food but would have no opportunity to go out at lunchtime and find some. I had no convenience items in the freezer and no leftovers from dinners out. It was up to me to save myself.

And so, I started to saute ... and I opened a couple of cans ... and I stirred and I simmered ... and voila! A quick and easy meal that smelled amazing as it cooked and as it reheated, and which was absolutely delicious with just enough "oomph" from the spices without burning my tongue.

Good thing I'm pretty limber, as I pat myself on the back for this one ... :)

Curried Chickpeas and Tomatoes

2 cups + 1/4 cup water
1 cup jasmine rice
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 small red onion, quartered, sliced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can chili-ready diced tomatoes

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan; add rice, cover, lower heat to "simmer." Cook for 20 minutes without peeking.

Once the saucepan with the rice is covered and simmering away .... In a 10" skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes, salt, garam masala, curry powder, and cumin seed; saute for 1 minute. Add onion and stir to coat with spices; cook for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Add chickpeas.


Stir to combine, then cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes.


Bring to a boil, turn heat to "medium-low," and cover the skillet. Let this mixture cook while the rice cooks.

Place the rice onto a serving platter and top with the chickpea-tomato mixture. Serve with naan or roti, or just "as is."

Serves 4-6.





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Monday, August 30, 2010

Entertainment for an Insomniac


My neighbors woke me up at 3:30 the other morning. They weren't throwing dishes at each other or playing football in the front yard or anything; they were just talking. But there was a group of 6 or 7 of them talking ... and talking 10' outside my open bedroom window. So, I woke up.

I'm a notoriously bad sleeper to begin with -- late to bed, early to rise -- and am sometimes up at 3:30 all of my own accord. But that morning, I had been sleeping. And I couldn't get back to sleep after a gentle "shhhh"-ing of the noisy neighbors and their moving further away from the house.

So, what did I do while Jeremy and Tom slept? I baked.

I had made apricot jam recently ... well, not exactly "jam." I don't bother with pectin; I just chop fruit, throw in some sugar (about 2:1 fruit:sugar), and cook it down into a sorta fruit puree. And Tom had given me some candied ginger, which I adore. So, I played matchmaker and fixed 'em up together into muffins.

A little batter, a little jam, a little more batter, top it with cinnamon sugar and ginger ... if I may say so myself, these were truly exceptional! They were a perfect accompaniment to the massive quantities of coffee I drank through the rest of the morning to keep myself going after my mostly sleepless night ....

Apricot-Ginger Muffins

I made these pareve ([PAHRv] = neither meat nor dairy, a designation for those who keep kosher and can't mix meat and dairy); but you could use butter and milk, if you'd like.


Muffins:
1/3 cup Earth Balance butter substitute
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1-1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup thick apricot jam or Solo filling

Topping:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup finely minced candied ginger

Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Make the muffins: In a large bowl, cream together Earth Balance and sugar; stir in egg. Mix in the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the soy milk. Place a golf ball-sized blob of batter into each of the lined muffin tins. Place about 1/2 tablespoon of jam over the batter; then divide the remaining batter among the tins, dropping it over the jam.

Make the topping: Combine the cinnamon, sugar and ginger; sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the tin, as they're a bit fragile and need to set before being removed from the tin.

Makes 12 muffins.

The Girl Creative

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Eat, Drink and Be Mary

I can't remember the last time I had a genuine Boston Cooler -- Vernor's ginger ale poured into a tall glass over vanilla ice cream -- which actually originated in Detroit ... yeah!!! I usually make them with strawberry ice cream or with raspberry sorbet; either of these makes for an exceptionally good time on a hot day. You get to eat some ice cream, and have a cold drink as well, with only one glass to wash ... gotta love it!

But we had some Breyer's peach ice cream in the freezer -- very few ingredients, no corn syrup, huge chunks of peaches ... it's like the old-fashioned hand-cranked stuff that people in my parents' generation always talk about with loving nostalgia. And so, I had a vision of brilliance: buy some Vernor's (since we don't usually keep soda in the house) and try a new variation on the theme.

So here is one of the easiest recipes ever, and also one of the most delicious and refreshing. I'm pretty proud of myself for thinking of this, even if it isn't necessarily the most inspired or impressive thing I've ever offered. It's hot out -- you want a cold drink, you want to eat some ice cream ... this will make you happy ... :)

Peach Ice Cream Cooler

8 generous scoops Breyer's peach ice cream
1 2-liter bottle of Vernor's ginger ale (if you can get it)

Take 4 tall glasses. Put 2 scoops of ice cream into each glass. Slowly pour ginger ale over the ice cream, being careful not to have the head spill over the edge. Add a straw and a spoon, and enjoy!



Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tag -- I'm It!

Kristin at Kuppy Kakes by Kristin tagged me in a post, and has seen fit to divert me from my usual obsessive devotion to food by asking me some questions ... and some rather dishy ones, at that. Well, what are girlfriends for if not for chatting and gossiping???

So, here are my instructions: I get to answer the 8 questions that Kristin has asked me. Then I pick 8 unsuspecting friends and ambush them with 8 questions of my own ... heh, heh, heh.

To begin with, here are the questions that Kristin asked me:

1. If you could be a fruit, which would you be and why?

Dragon fruit. I don't particularly like the taste, but it is the most gorgeous shade of pink!!! And with those green accents, it matches the decor of my blog -- how could I resist??? Dragon fruit is vivid and feisty, with many tidbits of intrigue hidden within ....

2. Have you ever had a one night stand?

Youth and indiscretion go hand-in-hand, sadly.


3. If you could have plastic surgery, no matter what the cost, what would you get?

My personal opinion is that plastic surgery is only warranted for medical, rather than aesthetic, reasons. If you can't feel comfortable in your own body, then you need a psychiatrist to help you improve your self-esteem rather than a surgeon to cut into you. I cannot begin to comprehend how people can literally risk their lives or their health for the sake of vanity! I could scrutinize myself from my virtually non-existent lips down to my flabby thighs; pregnancy 20 years ago has recently teamed up with gravity to wreak some nasty havoc upon me. But I am what I am, and I'm loved; and I do my best to dress in a way that minimizes the flaws while maximizing the curves. (God gave us lip liner and push-up bras for a reason!) That having been said, if I had time, money, and a less vehement stance against it, I would do the Mommy Make-Over.

4. Cats or Dogs?

I have one of each, and love them dearly; each has -- shall we say? -- some eccentricities and oddities that makes them either particularly annoying or particularly endearing, depending upon your point of view. But the cat (Bummie, short for Boomerang) doesn't make me go out into the rain, the heat, the cold or the snow; and he doesn't require that I revolve my life around his bladder the way the dog (Fuzzybutt) does. Therefore, cats should win ... but the pooch does such a joyous "Happy Dance" when I come home, and smiles adoringly at me for no reason whatsoever ... that goes a long way vs. the senses of entitlement and superiority that are the very essence of "cat." So, each has benefits and each has detriments; I can't decide ... there's a shock!

5. What would be your last meal, if you knew you were going to die the next morning?

Hmmmm ... too many choices, too little ability to make decisions!!! Pasta, I think ... fettuccine Alfredo, perhaps? I try to limit refined carbs and yeast most of the time, so maybe I'd indulge in a huge ol' deli sandwich from New York City? Chocolate. Excuse me, I didn't make myself sufficiently clear when I uttered that statement -- CHOCOLATE!!! Chocolate cake specifically, I think. Layer cake. Lots of frosting. No ice cream necessary. Extra frosting.


6. What kind of car do you drive?

A big ol' 1999 Chevy Suburban. I love my car!!!


7. Would you ever bungee jump or base jump?

There are insufficient quantities of liquor, sedatives and anesthetic in the universe to calm me enough to do this. Never. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever.


8. What is your talent?

Hmmmm. I'm an excellent listener and empathizer and nurturer. I'm very good with languages. I may write overly verbose and convoluted sentences, but I like to think that my writing has a certain fluidity to it. And I can take almost any leftover tidbits and turn them into some semblance of a meal.

Okay, now it's MY turn to come up with questions:

1. What item of yours has the most sentimental value, and why?

2. What is the best compliment you've ever received?

3. What did you want to be when you grew up?

4. Do you love or loathe family get-togethers?

5. What is your favorite breakfast?

6. Where were you born?

7. What is your favorite holiday?

8. What are you going to do for yourself today to make yourself happy?

And now, the unsuspecting folks being invited to this interview:



Tag -- you're it!!!




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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays: Tantalizing Tastes

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading and, as she states, "Anyone can play along! Just do the following":

Grab your current read.

Dying for Chocolate -- A Culinary Mystery by Diane Mott Davidson. Yeah, it's drivel about a caterer who solves crimes ... but it's food-related drivel at a time when my brain isn't up for much more of an intellectual challenge at the end of long work days.

Open to a random page.

Page 178.

Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)

"The juicy steaks were redolent of a garlic-Burgundy marinade, the flaky baked potatoes oozed melted butter, and every leaf of the green salad was unabashedly coated with thick guacamole dressing."

"Therefore, alongside our strawberry pie we had Schulz's famous chocolate-mint cheesecake."

Sigh ....



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Monday, August 23, 2010

Music Monday: The Disco Biscuits



Well, it's Music Monday. I haven't participated in this one for awhile, so that's as good a reason as any to do it again ... variety, ye olde spice of life. Okay, that's one tangential food reference; the title of this post -- The Disco Biscuits, which is the name of the group being featured here today -- is another. I think that's about it. It's not much, but it's all I've got!

I've been working extra hours of late, during our busiest season at work; I also went in yesterday, in addition to the standard M-F 9-5, and will work each of the following Sundays for the next few weeks. "Summer vacation" is an illusion, something that other people get to experience.

So I need diversion that isn't particularly taxing to my already increasingly-feeble brain. I need the kind of song that doesn't challenge me too much, but which is just kinda fun for the drive home. Eh, voila! Here it is.

This video isn't family fare, though it isn't exactly sleazy ... well, the tattooed chickie is! The visuals are actually kinda boring. It's the song, though, that keeps dancing (pun intended) in my brain ... this one and, inexplicably, Adam Lambert's "If I Had You." Don't ask -- I have no answers.

I am rather noted for my odd and eclectic musical tastes: techno, New Wave, gospel, French chansons, cheesey songs from the 70s (a particular favorite, and another food reference!), Italian opera, ethereal/New Age, Broadway tunes, old standards ... if it's new and interesting, I'm there; and if it's old and classic I'm there. But of late, the more mindless and purely entertaining a song is, the more likely it is that I'm listening to it.

So, because the group's name involves food and because the song is my current earworm, here is my Monday morning offering: "On Time" by The Disco Biscuits.




And while you're listening to the song, why not bake up a batch of my Spiced Pumpkin Biscuits??? These were a finalist in the "Best Bread in Michigan" contest sponsored by Zehnder's of Frankenmuth, Michigan Living Magazine and the Michigan Sugar Company in 2006. They're easy to make, nutritious, and a gorgeous orange color. What more can I say? Great to accompany a summer salad, perfect for any occasion during Fall, ideal for Thanksgiving ... enjoy!

Spiced Pumpkin Biscuits

3 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 T candied ginger, finely minced
12 T Earth Balance butter substitute
1 container (6 oz.) vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 C pumpkin, solid packed
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T vanilla soy milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a cookie sheet; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Add Earth Balance and mix flour with your fingers until mixture is well combined and looks mealy. Stir in pumpkin and yogurt, and turn dough onto a well floured countertop. Knead dough a few times, just to combine and to keep it from being sticky.

Roll out to 1/2 inch thick, use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut out 15 biscuits (re-roll if necessary). Place biscuits onto cookie sheet in three rows, touching each other. Brush tops of biscuits with soy milk, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden on top and set.

Yield - 15 biscuits.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chocolate 'n' Coffee, Coffee 'n' Chocolate


While I am mired both at work and at home in preparations for the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah [rah shah-SHAH-nuh] and Yom Kippur [yome kee-POOR], and can't see past Sukkot [soo-KOTE] (a pilgrimage and harvest festival, which follows a week later), others are apparently looking down the road to Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving and even Christmas. Well, I'll have to deal with all of those at some point, too, won't I??? So why not now?

Carol at The Answer is Chocolate is once again hosting a link-up for holiday recipes, crafts, decor and other notions:



And so, because I cannot ignore either the call of chocolate or of a friend who is so devoted to its power, here is my contribution to the cause -- Mocha Streusel Coffee Cake.

Now, this can be served for a Christmas brunch ... to welcome guests in the sukkah ([SOOK-uh] = a temporary structure built for Sukkot) ... for dessert with ice cream ... or just 'cause it's Friday. Really, there is no wrong time for something this delicious and easy to make!

I used butter in the streusel topping because that's the kinda girl I am. But you could easily use Earth Balance butter substitute -- the only one I'll endorse, by the way -- and make this pareve ([PAHRV] = neither meat nor dairy, a classification for those who keep kosher), dairy/lactose-free, and vegan. And no one will know the difference if you do, 'cause all the chocolate and coffee will make up for it!

Enjoy ... :)

Mocha Streusel Coffee Cake
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant's "Six-Minute Chocolate Cake")


Cake:
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup cold coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Streusel:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze:
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
few tablespoons cold coffee

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease an 8"x8" baking pan.

Make the cake: In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. In a measuring cup, combine the oil, coffee, vanilla and vinegar. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and combine well. You'll see the batter bubbling as the acidic vinegar reacts with the baking soda -- this enables the cake to rise.

Make the streusel: In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Distribute little blobs of this mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter.

Bake for 30 minutes or so, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

Make the glaze: Place the confectioners' sugar into a small mixing bowl. Add coffee bit-by-bit until the mixture is the consistency of paint. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let it set.

Cut, serve, graciously accept compliments (that is, if you share!).


I have to tell all of you that I was absolutely THRILLED to wake up this morning, turn on my computer, and find the most wonderful surprise: Rachel at Diary of a Chocoholic (gotta love anyone who labels herself a chocolate lover!) named me her featured blogger this week. But it gets better -- some very lovely things were written about me ... awwww, shucks. I'm blushing! Thank you so much for my day brightener, and on a chaotic day when I so desperately need the love as much as I need some chocolate ... :) Be sure to check out Rachel's blog, as it offers warmth and wisdom as well as wedding plans (mazal tov!!!), and it simply shouldn't be missed!


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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday 13 -- Kitchen Stuff and Nonsense

I'm not a gadget-y girl -- no food processor, no immersion blender, no Kitchen Aid mixer ... and my personal opinion is that bread machines are a sacrilege. I don't consider any of these to be essentials.

But I do have a very well stocked -- a.k.a.: overcrowded -- kitchen nonetheless! So here are 13 different items that I use on a fairly-regular-to-almost-never basis, but which are all still important to me and which form a part of my entourage:


1. Quiche Pan with a Removable Bottom


2. Bone-Shaped Doggie Biscuit Cutter


3. Small Moroccan Tea Glasses


4. Chopsticks


5. Cheese Tongs


6. Springerle Mold


7. Small Plates to serve BBQ Fixin's


8. Microplane Grater


9. 13"x9" Springform Pan


10. French Casserole Dish


11. Crinkle Cutter for French Fries


12. Garlic Saver


13. Alaskan Ulu




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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elvis Muffins

We all know of Elvis Presley's affinity for peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I make a pretty mean version of that -- spread some honey on the bread first, then some peanut butter, then a mashed banana; put it all together, spread butter on the outside of the bread, and fry it up like a grilled cheese sandwich.

Warm, gooey, sweet, with just a little bit of protein to delude a girl into thinking that it will balance out the carbs and sugars -- ha!!! Jeremy loves them ... LOVES them. I haven't made these for a long, long time; I might have to indulge him, to make up for the extra hours at work these days. Yes, I can buy his affection with food.

One of the ways that I cope with stress is to cook and to bake. Other people rely upon drive-thrus and take-out when life gets busy; I decompress in the kitchen. And the other day, I had some bananas to use up. But instead of making plain ol' banana bread, I made Elvis Muffins.

I'm sure you can already guess the primary ingredients in these beauties: peanut butter and banana. But there's whole wheat flour to make them more nutritious, and a sprinkling of honey-roasted peanuts on top "just 'cause."

They're easy to make, they were apparently quite the hit with Tom's co-workers when he brought some in to share, and the house smells amazing as they bake. These muffins are just "A Big Hunk o' Love."




Elvis Muffins

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 medium bananas, mashed
1 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Fill a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the bananas. Add the white flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix well. Divide batter among the lined cups. Sprinkle tops of muffins with the chopped peanuts.

Bake for 25 minutes or so, until a tester comes out clean.



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Monday, August 16, 2010

"And the Angel Said Unto Them ...."

Let me warn you now -- this is going to be a long post. I can hear you saying: "Honey, your posts are always long, unless it's 'Wordless Wednesday'!"

But as I embark upon telling this story, it will take some time to do it properly, to set the mood, to provide what I think is some necessary history, and to convey the message that was delivered to me. It's a meandering tale, but an important one ... and one I've been trying to write for 2 months, which finally crystallized in honor of today's 100th post. So let me begin ....

On Friday night, June 25, I was visited by an angel.

As those who've been following along for awhile know, in mid-May my boyfriend Tom had asked me to take "a break" -- whatever that was -- after some significant life situations that required some peace and privacy to sort out and recover from. No visits, no email, no nothin'??? Sure sounds like a break-UP to me. I cried, I mourned ... but that was difficult with no body to confirm the death. I moved on because I had no choice but to do so; and one of the ways in which I did that was by committing fully to this blog.

I signed up for the NaBloPoMo to provide a daily distraction to myself, something to focus upon that was fun and which utilized my talents -- it brought me amusement and a bit of a boost to my shattered self-esteem. So many of you responded to my daily blathering about food and whatnot -- sharing a laugh with me, supporting me, encouraging me, complimenting me, inviting me into your lives while following along with mine .... Truly, with abundant gratitude, I thank each and every one of you for helping to restore me and for becoming my friends.

And then, on June 18 -- and remember, the number 18 has significant import in Judaism as it represents "life" -- I received an email from Tom. He had been sitting at his desk, cleaning up icons and other peripheral nonsense on his computer. He looked down the list of his "favorites" and found Food Floozie. He hadn't checked my blog prior to that, feeling it was an intrusion upon my privacy ... but he clicked on it that day, just because.

Interestingly, given that I usually put my posts up a little bit after midnight, this didn't open up the Friday post "L'Chaim -- To Life!" It opened up "Thursday Thirteen -- 13 First Dates" ... hmmmm. He scrolled down to see what vile retribution I may have spewed about him, only to find that I had been very fair ... and also to see that there had been no resolution between us. Because of very confused circumstances, he'd felt our relationship was over; his memory of events was incomplete, and he hadn't realized that there was so much still to be said.

So he emailed me and asked if we could talk. And we did, the very next day, sitting on the grass on a gorgeous sunny evening

Full disclosure, though it may seem odd to others: we were sitting at the gravesite of my beloved friend Wendy's daughter Julia, whom I consider to be an intercessor and thus whose "home" is a place where I seek comfort. Tom had asked where I'd like to meet, and that was the one place that kept calling to me ... Julia kept calling to me. I believe she was watching over us, guiding us -- our process was remarkably smooth despite delving into extraordinarily painful realms.

After several hours of explanation and illustration and sorrow and comprehension and tears, it was as though the proverbial cloud had lifted. Tom and I started to relax, to joke, to behave with each other more as we had in the past, though there was still some tension and there were still some boundaries. He asked if he could give me a hug before we left, and that solidified our reunion.

Tom and I got together several times that week, after Jeremy and I returned home from Chicago. His daughter had a 2-hour layover in Detroit that Friday night, the 25th, as she was on her way to Seattle; so Tom picked up some sandwiches from Ann Arbor's famous Zingerman's Deli, I finally got to meet Cassidy (she lives in Philly), and we had a lovely picnic at a local park. (FYI: Tom ordered "Mary's Commute" with chicken salad and applewood-smoked bacon, so I reciprocated by ordering "Tom's New Job" with turkey and Swiss and cole slaw ... awwww.) We dropped Cassidy off for her connecting flight and decided to enjoy a gorgeous evening by the waterfront in Detroit ... hoping, perhaps, to find some ice cream along the way. So we drove on down to the big city for an adventure.

A radio station was sponsoring a concert at Campus Martius Park featuring a local band, the sun was shining intensely, the weather was neither hot nor chilly ... it was a fabulous beginning to the weekend.

We happily found a small ice cream shop on a side street, and one which wasn't a chain but rather one which was locally owned. One of the gentlemen behind the counter was wearing dress pants, a button-down shirt and a tie; presumably, he'd come from his day job to work at his own shop in the evening. And the other gentleman, who was more chatty, helped me with my usual brain paralysis to settle upon just one flavor of ice cream when they all sounded luscious. (I later found out that the shop is called Happy Cream Ice Cream and Deli. I was too giddy and infatuated to be in my usual blogger mode and take notes and photographs, so I had to do some hunting.)

Now here's the only food connection other than the sandwiches, so pay attention or it will fly on by! Tom ordered chocolate ice cream while I -- with the aforementioned assistance -- ordered a sublime Banana Pudding ice cream that came complete with vanilla wafer cookies in it ... sigh.

The ice cream was fabulous, the value was tremendous (huge servings for very reasonable prices), Michael Jackson songs were being played all day long in tribute on the anniversary of his death (yahrzeit [YAHRT-site] in Yiddish), and we will definitely go back again.


We walked across the street to sit down -- across the wide avenue from the band so that we could carry on a conversation, but close enough to feel a part of things right outside the Compuware Building. We relished our ice cream, we talked, we kissed, we combined ice creams to create an equivalent to my chocolate banana pudding (a recipe I still need to share with all of you, because it is divine!). Once we had finished, Tom and I took each other's hands, just sitting quietly together and holding on tightly ... very tightly, as our heads bowed towards each other.

And then an older African-American man walked up to us from a few feet away. He was short, dressed in a bright blue t-shirt and dark pants, sporting dreadlocks that came to his jawline. He didn't look scruffy, per se, but he clearly was someone who lives a difficult existence. His manner wasn't aggressive, and he stated without hesitation that he wasn't seeking money from us despite holding the ubiquitous red plastic cup that sadly identifies both beggars and alcoholics. His eyes showed that alcohol might sing a Siren song to him at times, but there was no odor of it on him when he spoke to us. He was polite, deferential and -- as he shook our hands -- profusely apologetic for interrupting.

"I don't know if you two were praying together, but it looks like you were. And you look like you're very much in love." We smiled broadly and nodded, affirming our love for each other. I cannot replicate this man's speech pattern -- Tom has wished we had a transcript of our interaction with him, and it would be really helpful right now. He spoke quickly and in a staccato fashion, and repeated himself frequently ... it was as though he's accustomed to being dismissed by society, accustomed to not being heard or listened to. (And he punctuated many of his statements by offering an Obama-style "fist bump," seeking consensus, too.) But what he was saying was important enough that he needed to keep reiterating it.

He mentioned that "she" -- we presumed his wife, but he told us that he's been trying to get her to marry him and she keeps refusing -- was inside ... the only thing open in the Compuware Building on a Friday night, besides the lobby with the pretty-colored mobiles pictured above, is a bar. He loved her very much, and they'd been through a lot together, but he just didn't feel that they were a team. To hear this man tell his story, he was doing the necessary work in the relationship and the woman he loved was taking it for granted. He didn't feel loved or appreciated in return for who he was, despite any complications in his life.

This man wanted more for us. He could see that we were in love, that we were clinging to each other's hands as though we might lose each other again and couldn't bear that thought. He kept talking to Tom, mostly -- apologizing to me in the process, but explaining that men needed each other and had to do some bonding periodically, sharing on their own spiritual level. He was partly sharing his sorrow at not having the fulfilling relationship he dreamt of and partly bemoaning the complexities of women and partly celebrating the joys of love.

"You've gotta try." Over and over, he reiterated that statement -- "You've gotta try." Life is hard, and there are all sorts of problems from health to money to children to work that can drag a person and a relationship down. This man had recently been released from jail, and he'd spent some time without a home, as well. But you've gotta try -- you have to talk, to share, to trust, to confide, to work at it. The relationship sometimes has to take precedence over the individual. You've gotta try. This man felt as though he was trying very, very hard ... sadly, though, the woman he was trying for didn't seem to be returning his devotion and his efforts.

After a significant amount of time listening intently to this man's story and remarking on his earnestness and sincerity, I asked if I might interrupt for a moment. Politely he nodded and extended an invitation to me.

"This may sound odd, but I believe that God sends angels to deliver messages that we need to hear. You said that you could tell that my boyfriend and I are very much in love, which we are. But we've only just gotten back together after some difficult experiences. We're trying very, very hard to get past the hurt and the pain, trying very hard to make things work this time. And then here you are, coming up to us on a Friday night and reminding us of the very lesson we need to hear, to remember -- that we need to try."

The man smiled broadly and nodded vigorously ... but I'm not sure he realized that I believe HE was an angel -- "our" angel, as Tom and I have taken to calling him. He absolutely agreed with the notion that messengers are sent, but I think it is abundantly clear that he, himself, had been sent to us on that Friday evening. He brought a message of hope, of reassurance, of insistence. Try. As the adage states: "Progress, not perfection." Try. At least make the effort. The person you love is worth trying for.

A few minutes later our angel then walked away, leaving us to contemplate having been visited by someone so unlike us, someone who is accustomed to being at the periphery of society and yet who felt comfortable approaching us when we were so immersed in our togetherness. He came up to us seeking nothing at all, not asking for money or cigarettes or anything else. Instead, he had been sent precisely to give us something -- to deliver a message of significant import to two people who not only needed to hear it but who would listen to it, to him.

Tom felt bad afterwards for not having asked for the man's name, and I agreed that it would be nice to know it; after all, a name provides an identity rather than leaving someone to be relegated to anonymity and not making any impact upon others or upon the universe. But in some ways, a name would have made the interaction more ordinary; being known as "Our Angel" bestows a grandeur beyond the mere human, I think. He's not just "Mike" or "John," but that rarified entity that most people dismiss or ignore -- an angel, sent specifically to us. A gift from God.

And so, in the past 2 months Tom and I have tried despite a flare-up of illness and despite some stressors and despite some issues that still require a bit of processing now and then. We have put "us" above everything. We remind ourselves that "Our Angel" told us we need to try.

I know that this very lengthy saga was only vaguely related to food, despite being the 100th post from someone whose very existence revolves around cooking food, eating food, photographing food, shopping for food, baking food, smelling food, writing about food, reading about food, talking about food, thinking about food, dreaming about food. I did, for the record, mention both sandwiches and ice cream! But this story was too important to leave as a draft, as it has been since June. It was fitting for an important occasion like today.

Try. You've gotta try. An angel was sent to convey this -- an unassuming-looking angel whom most people would either walk past without even noticing or actively try to avoid for fear of being solicited. But he was "Our Angel" -- I believe that with all my heart. He chose us, and we paid attention. And now it is my turn to share his message ....



Ghosts of Postings Past and Present

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