Tag Archives: Blogging from a to z challenge

T is for Taste!

TVery excited about taste. Tasting. Tasty.

This weekend I have the great privilege of being on the faculty at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. And one of my workshops is called Eating Your Words: Make Them Tasty! It’s all about using the sense of taste in your writing to impact your readers’ connection to your characters.

I’m equal parts thrilled and terrified to give this workshop. I fear I’ll either blurt everything out in under ten minutes, or I’ll never be able to get through all the material in my outline.

People, I made a PowerPoint. It is certainly not the finest example of a PowerPoint presentation, but it will work.

It features two different photos of chocolate cake. But only one of my dog.

Um…now I feel like I need to state clearly, for the record, that the chocolate cake photos speak to using how things taste, while the photo of the dog is one of several photos used to emphasize that eating or consuming is a universal concept, and everything alive must consume something. I would never presume to speak about how dog food tastes, even though I accidentally ate a Milk Bone once.

One of the things I love about tasting new dishes is trying to figure out what’s in them. It’s a very palatable puzzle for me. Does this chili have cinnamon in it? Did the cook put some tarragon in the spaghetti sauce?

In my opinion, the former is a wonderful idea, as long as one uses a light hand with the cinnamon. The latter is not a good idea, but that’s because I’m not fond of tarragon. Too much like licorice, a flavor I have never enjoyed.

Really, though, there are very few flavors I have a strong aversion for. It’s more about texture, which is luckily another “T” word. I was subjected to liver and onions, periodically, when growing up. All that iron was supposed to be good for growing bodies. And I could just about tolerate being in the same room with, until that fateful day it was my turn to cook dinner and liver was on the menu. After I stuck a fork into a piece of raw liver, I never put another piece of liver in my mouth.

Addendum: this applies to beef liver. I’m nuts about chicken livers. Go figure.

Tapioca. Can’t get around the texture. Canned asparagus, to me, takes on a texture no vegetable should be forced to endure, limp and slimy and yet somehow still chewy. Oysters. I want to like them, and will eat them fried, but slurping a raw one out of the shell? No, thank you.

What are the tastes and textures that drive you wild, either in a good way or a bad way?

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S is for Salsa

You will never be able to convince me that salsa is not the most versatile food on the planet. S

You can make it out of almost anything, with tomato being the front-runner. But I have a version that uses oranges and roasted tomatillos that is divine. And a cabbage based salsa that people can’t stop eating, plus it’s great on fish taco.

It can be the simplest combination of chopped, juicy, ripe tomatoes with chopped onions, some minced jalapenos for tingle, fresh cilantro for herby goodness and a sprinkle of salt to bring it all together. There are complicated unions of black beans and fruit that I don’t understand but I would be willing to try. There is mango salsa, a condiment about which epic poems should be written and anthems should be sung.

And does any other food perform so many duties? You dip tortilla chips or carrot sticks into salsa. You can mix in some sour cream and serve it cold, or mix in some

salsa

Who wants a recipe?

cream cheese or Velveeta and serve it hot! Cram it between two tortillas with some cheese and you have a quesadilla!

Add some vinegar and olive oil, you’ve got a salad dressing. Add some mayo, and you’ve got a dressing for coleslaw, or something to spread on burgers.

It works as a pasta sauce. It works as a pizza sauce. You can cook chicken parts or pork chops in it. You can use it to transform avocados into guacamole, which is another kind of magic.

It’s been added to egg, chicken, pasta and potato salads, to the betterment of all involved.

Eggs. Salsa does beautiful things to and with eggs.

It can be green, red, black, purple or any combination thereof. The heat level can range from just tangy with no heat to blistering the skin off the inside of your mouth.

It’s all good. It’s all salsa.

Where are my chips?S

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R is for Retirement

First up, full confession, I know that I’m behind in my blogs. This “R” blog should have posted on Friday, and “S” should have been yesterday. So…I won’t take this Sunday or next Sunday off, so I can still end with a “Z” post on the 30th along with everyone else participating.

Retirement. Show of hands, who is looking forward to it?

For a long time, retirement was something talked about and done by people older than I am. Much older. But now I have friends talking about retirement, and I know of some people younger than I who have retired. And folks, I’m not that old. I’m still in my early 50s, which I sometimes call my very late 40s or my excruciatingly late 30s when I’m feeling sassy.

For a large part of my adult like, I was a lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom. Which begs the question, how does one retire from that?

And what does retirement even mean? It can’t just mean not working at a paid job any longer.  Many people who join the Armed Forces spend twenty or more years serving their country, retire, and start new careers. So they’re both retired and working, which confuses my brain semantically.

What does one does one do after one retires? Especially if you’re in your fifties and in reasonably good health? Is everyone on the planet a better money manager than I am? How much traveling do you want to do? How do you shape your days? How do you know when it’s the weekend?

Obviously, I think, I am a person who needs structure in their life. If I have nothing I “have” to get done, then nothing gets done. But I can’t imagine the rest of my life as a free-floating, responsibility-free flow of days with no demands on my time or attention.

Are y’all planning some really intensive hobbies? Is your To Be Read pile taller than your house? Have you spent years working in a field that you care so little about, you can walk away without caring and without a second thought? Are you going to learn new languages or take piano/guitar/tuba lessons? Are you driving your motor home across the country, visiting all the places you’ve always wanted to visit and tying up traffic in spectacular snarls? (I’m rooting for this one, because that’s my dream. Drive around the country and visit farmers markets in every state.)

If you don’t mind sharing, what are your retirement plans? Not the financial side, because that’s none of my business. But what will you do with all that time?

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Q is for Quitting

How do you know when it’s time to stop? What tells you the endeavor will no longer move your forward, and it’s just time to quit?

You can quit bad habits. I wish everyone would give up smoking, partly because I’m rabidly anti-cancer, but also because there are a lot of old white men heading up tobacco companies who are laughing their asses off all the way to the bank. My own bad habit, Diet Pepsi, was a monster for me to beat, but I finally did it. Still crave it occasionally, but so far I’m holding strong. I’m also keeping the makers of various flavored sparkling waters in business.

You can quit a job. I’ve done this twice, and both times it felt like throwing a couple of two-ton boulders off my shoulders. First time, I figured when your boss yells at you so hard that spit flies out of her mouth, and youQ‘ fear that she’s going to have a coronary, it’s time to leave. Actual part of that conversation:

Boss: I won’t be lied to!
Me: What did I lie about? (Seriously had no idea.)
Boss: I asked you when that report was sent to NY, and you said last week!
Me: I did send it last week. I sent it on Friday. If you had asked me what day, I would have told you.
Boss: That’s the exact same thing as lying!

There’s even a country song on the topic, Take This Job and Shove It.

Note: I don’t advise quitting your job without a back-up plan.

You can quit a person. It can be a friend, a relative or a romantic entanglement. If it’s just making you miserable, you can quit. You don’t have to take other people’s shit.

You can quit yer bitchin’.

Have you ever quit anything? Was it planned out, or a spur of the moment action? Did you find it empowering? Depressing? Something else?

I’ll quit asking questions now.

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P is for Pickle Police

PThere ought to be a law that any pickle relish available for public consumption, at either public or private events, must be clearly labelled “dill” or “sweet.”

It’s an abomination to think you’ve just smothered your perfectly grilled (read: somewhat burnt) hot dog with mustard, onions and dill relish, only to take a huge bit and realize that some sadist put out sweet relish.

Deviled eggs? Do not need sweet relish.pickle

Potato salad? Does not need sweet relish.

Grilled meats, to include hamburgers, hot dogs and their vegetarian counterparts? Do not need sweet relish.

You could arguably use just a smidge in tartar sauce, but even that is really better with the dill variety.

(I will not devolve into a discussion of the hideousness of the hellish beasts who spring Miracle Whip on unsuspecting guests in their home.)

I’m not a prissy pickle person. I like most kinds of pickles. When I was a kid, a sweet gherkin and a glass of root beer was a fabulous snack, best consumed when watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.

I used to make pickled garlic all the time. Pickled garlic is an especially wonderful thing to add to a vinaigrette, and the pickling process dilutes the potency.

Pickled okra, carrots and green beans are among my favorites. I do love a good pickled beet, which is even better is the person making it sneaks a few slices of jalapeno into the jar. You just can’t go wrong with a pickled beet.

I’ve pickled eggs. Those were a throwback to my childhood, and while they were tasty, there are only so many pickled eggs one desires to eat in any given week.

Grapes? I’ve pickled ’em. I thought they were interesting and would make a lovely addition to a charcuterie board (something I never make). The spousal unit was not wildly enthusiastic, and Things 1 and 2 gave them a serious thumbs down. Infidels, the lot of them.

Where would cheap, greasy nachos be without the addition of pickled jalapeno slices? Nowhere.

I’ve never tried pickled pigs feet, and though I don’t see them in my near future, I wouldn’t rule them out completely.

My grandmother made the BEST mustard pickles, and my sister and I agree that the best part of those was the cauliflower. The pearl onions come in second, and the chunks of cucumber a distant third. Nothing better than a mustard pickle, I assure you. An Easter dinner with ham was not complete without them.

I’ve a fondness for little pickled cocktail onions. I suspect that half the reason for that is turning them into eyeballs near Halloween. (I desperately want you to think I only do that around Halloween.)

Just keep that freaking sweet pickle relish clearly labelled and well away from me.

(Bonus: When I ran spellcheck, it wanted me to say I love pickled beats. I’m intrigued by the notion, with no idea how to carry it out.)

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O is for Orange

OIt’s day 17 of the A-to-Z blogging orange-webchallenge, and I persevere!

Never mind finding a word that rhymes with orange. Tell me how you would describe the flavor.

You can’t just say sweet. That could be a candy bar, a popsicle, a blueberry pie, or rice pudding.

I suppose you could say it’s a sweet citrus flavor, because citrus implies a certain tang on the tongue .

But imagine you’re talking to someone new to our world. Before they bite into that orange segment you just handed them, presuming you’re not the kind of asshat who would hand them a whole orange without instructing them to peel it, how would you describe the first juicy taste of an orange?

How would you describe the unpleasant taste of biting into orange peel? Not talking the candied variety here, just the straight up peel. Bitter, for sure, but what else?

I’m always amused when people try to describe a flavor by saying it tastes like chicken. Because first, it never does, and second, they never specify which part of the chicken. Is it tiny crunchy earthy bits like the toenails? Acrid like burning feathers? Earthy like the liver, or rather bland like the breasts you buy at the Megalomart? (Bonus if you get that reference, by the way.)

My sister once described fresh eggs as tasting more chicken-y than store-bought eggs. After considering it, I had to agree. And then there are duck eggs, which take egg-ness to yet a higher level, kind of the pinnacle of something you want to dip toast in when cooked over easy.

Not only are the yolks bigger, fatter, and richer, they come in a deeper orange hue.

You could pair them with a glass of orange juice for breakfast. But only if you tell me how you would describe the flavor of an orange.

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N is for Nevermind

How many blog posts can I start and then discard, consigning them in perpetuity to the Nevermind? N

I could relay the latest story from Thing 2, wherein she was harassed by the sub-slinger at a Subway on a Friday night when she was the only customer and he was the only employee. Summary, she called back the next day and reported him to the manager, who relayed the message to Corporate, who called Thing 2 back to get details and apologize, and she was really impressed by their efforts. So I don’t like your food very much, but huge kudos to Subway.

I could talk about my new business venture, but I’m not quite ready.

I could talk about my weird dream last night, but the only thing more boring than listening to someone talk about their dreams is maybe watching golf on TV.

Pet antics? Eevee is pestering me for a walk, but she does that every day at 11 a.m. She’s not bringing anything original to the game today.

Went to a delightful book launch yesterday for Becky Clark’s “Fiction Can Be Murder,” but I think Becky did a pretty good job getting the word out AND posting photos on FB already.

Got a new phone. Pretty much same as the old phone.

Realized I can’t math after 7 p.m.  Or I’ve lost the ability to differentiate between 3 and 5.

Made a new breakfast dish that was completely meh.

My new (handheld and extremely cheap) spiralizer doesn’t work. No big surprise there, sometimes you don’t get what you don’t pay for.

Wrote a new first chapter and am much pleased with it. Hoping that critique group will feel the same.

I have a lot of thoughts on mopping, but…nevermind.

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M is for MB

Because my ego is THAT BIG.

Or not.

I came up with what I Mthink is a marvelous idea while hanging out with Things 1 and 2 this summer, but I now I seek a broader range of feedback.

A while ago, one of my author friends mentioned that you have to develop a signature for signing books. You can’t use the same one you sign at the bottom of, say, checks and legal documents. Otherwise, you’re giving hundreds of complete strangers your legal signature.

This may seem obvious, but it had never occurred to me. Possibly because I’m not at the point of having any books to sign. But I started speculating on how I would change my bold, swooping, half-legible signature into something my adoring (I hope) fans would want.

And then it struck me. I’ll sign every book with two words that start with MB. My first thought was that it would be hilarious to sign Martin Balsam or Mario Batali, but that was before Mario’s fall from grace, and I don’t want to associate my books or my career with someone who holds such little regard for women, especially those in his employ.

But that doesn’t mean the idea is without merit. I could sign MayBelline. Or Many Beers. Or Moldy Bologna (except I’d have to sing the Oscar Mayer song every time I used that one). Martha Bertha. Marva Belle. Mustard Balls. Mink Balloons. Mauve Bathroom.

I have visions of happy readers excitedly comparing signatures. “I got Milk Beard!” “I got Mossy Bolts!” “I got a rock.” (Couldn’t resist, standard joke in our household.)

I realize that some people would think this is hysterical and would totally get the joke. Some would roll their eyes and tolerate it. And some folks would be completely confused and either think that I was mentally deficient or that I was trying to insult them. I can’t argue the first, but I would never intentionally do the second.

Does this idea have legs? Or should I work on figuring out a new way to just sign my own name? Or should I spend more time on writing and less time fantasizing about hypothetical book signings?

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K is for Kippers

Once again, today was a day with a lot of choices in what to write about.  Some I’ll save for the autobiography that will be published after I’m dead. (Certain people might heave a sigh of relief right now.)

Kippers for breakfast. Ever had them? I have not, but I bet I would like them. Kippers are small fish that have been salted,K dried and smoked. You’d think that any one of those would be preservation enough, but the English go for broke with all three.

I want to see kippers on a breakfast menu. There’s a line in a Supertramp song, “Could we have kippers for breakfast?” and I guess it stuck with me.

I like things that are a little outside the norm for breakfast. Cold pizza is a given, but that’s not really thinking outside the (pizza)box, is it? Pretty common. But I will judge a new pizza place on how good the pizza is hot as well as how good it is cold the next day for breakfast.

I’m a big fan of oatmeal. And green chili. And green chili on my oatmeal. Obviously talking about unsweetened oatmeal here. Oatmeal is just a plain, basic flavor, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go savory with it instead of sweet. Although oatmeal with bananas, almonds and maple syrup is also a favorite.

Any corned beef hash fans out there? I still remember the best I’ve ever tasted, at a swank hotel in Newport, RI. And that was 20 years ago.

For a while I was hooked on smoothies for breakfast. Protein powder, coconut water, then whatever fruit I could scrounge up, plus a handful of green if I had any. I find the combination of blackberry and pineapple to be unusually delicious. I also find that arugula doesn’t really belong in a smoothie.

But the kippers. Still looking for a restaurant that offers kippers, so I can fulfill my teenage dreams.

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J is for Jam. Or Jelly.

My name is MB and I’m a jamoholic.

Take me to a craft fair, anywhere, and I’m likely to come home with several jars of the sweet stuff that someone has carefully crafted. I’m especially a sucker for anything with rhubarb in it. And anything with hot peppers. My favorite sandwich is peanut butter with jalapeno jelly. J

Things 1 and 2 are fully aware of this tendency, and have been known to gang up and drag me away from towering, jewel-toned displays of these wonderful creations. (Thing 1 tends to distract me with something shiny, while Thing 2 will use a full body slam to move me along.)

The best appetizer in the world is either biscuit dough or crescent roll dough, smooshed up the side of a mini muffin pan, filled with a blob of either cream cheese or brie, then topped with jalapeno jelly and baked. If you can throw a candied jalapeno in there, under the cheese, so much the better.

Yes, candied jalapenos are a thing. I think I’m down to one (large) jar of them in my fridge. You just never know when they’ll come in handy.

If I happen to travel through Palisade, Colorado, where the best peaches on the planet are grown, you know I’m not leaving without at least three different kind of preserves. Maybe a plain peach, a peach Melba, and a peach poblano spread.

I have the best recipe for cranberry pecan bread that calls for a big dollop of jalapeno jelly in the batter. And a fresh minced jalapeno, too. It’s spicy and tart, with a mellowing influence from the crunchy pecans.

You know where else jalapeno jelly is delicious? Heated and thinned with maple syrup, poured over some really crispy chicken and waffles.

Or stir a little bit into leftover cranberry sauce to make the best post-Thanksgiving sandwich on the planet.

Jalapeno jelly. The world just seems more secure when I know I have a couple of jars waiting for me in the pantry. That’s a small price to pay for security.

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