Our Deep Fried Life

Running some errands this evening, and came across this food truck. Well, it’s not really a food truck, because it’s pretty much a permanent, or at least, semi-permanent structure, but it appears to be based on the same “quick, cheap, but better than fast-food” premise.  Among other things, this parking lot establishment specializes in polish sausages, shell pizza, and sweet treats of the carnival variety. I’ll be honest, it was the abundance of fried confections that caught my attention. I mean, come on!  Deep fried Twinkies and Oreos!?  Deep fried peanut butter and jelly!?  Be still my heart.

My first thought was damn, I bet those are scrumptiously delicious…admittedly with a tad bit more excitement than is probably normal for someone over the age of 5.

My second thought was “what the hell is wrong with us?”  The “us” of course being people, the community, our society, and country as a whole. Seriously, what is wrong with us? Is it possible that it’s just because everything is better when it’s deep fried? I’ve seen deep fried cheesecake on a menu. Deep. Fried. Cheesecake. So yeah, I wouldn’t argue the idea that deep-frying has the potential to make most foods even more mouth-watering. But really? Is this what we’ve come to?

I don’t know whether to embrace our descent into decadence or hang my head in shame. I suppose whichever stance doesn’t get peanut butter and jelly in my hair.

When Irish Eyes are NOT Smiling

As most of you know, I live in a very small, rural town, and it’s not as though people expect to go through our historic streets with the one traffic light and come across an Irish pub, let alone an authentic one. Believe it or not, though, we do have one…well, technically speaking anyway. In reality, what we have is a posh bar, with a fancy sign. You’d think the owners would at least try to make it a legitimate Irish pub, but there, you would be wrong. Oh sure, the menu is covered in clovers and Celtic knots and has elaborate dishes with the words ‘Irish’ and ‘Dublin’ liberally strewn about, but that doesn’t make it a decent Irish pub. Although I have yet to make my heart’s desire journey to Ireland, one thing I do know is pub food. As a matter of fact, there is a quintessential Irish pub about an hour away, so I do have that oasis…but still, it’s quite the hike for fish and chips, no matter how good it may be. And trust me, it’s amazing.

So when this new joint first opened, I had high hopes of ditching the long commute in my quest for bangers and mash, and the aforementioned fish and chips. But alas, those hopes were dashed like a bottle of Guinness caught in a wave against the Cliffs of Moher. My main gripe with this place is its hours and upscale, hipster vibe. It gives every impression of being an upper crust establishment, with upper crust prices for extravagant dishes you’d never see in Ireland, let alone any self-respecting pub. Calling a brie-cheeseburger covered in crab imperial (a Maryland specialty by the way) a Dublin Burger does not a Dublin Burger make.  I won’t even get into the portions that look like they’re meant for an elf, and a smallish elf at that. As for the hours – now I know my town rolls up its streets at dusk, but still…no self-respecting Irish pub closes before 10 PM on any given day. I mean hell, that’s when all the best drinking starts. I can’t be the only one who thinks that, right? Right!?

But their ploy is working, this bar was actually voted ‘Best Irish Pub’ in the area. Although given what else is in the area with regards to food and entertainment, maybe that’s not so hard to believe after all.

The Best Room Ever

Okay, I need everyone to pay attention because what I’m about to tell you may be the single most important argument to ever be made in the history of debate…

The kitchen is the best room in any house. Period.

Now I know I’ve started a frenzy among all the “man cave,” “she shed,” “bedroom” loving people, but I hereby stick to my claim that the kitchen is the best room in any house ever.

Think about it! The kitchen really is the focal point for all the activity inside any house or dwelling. It’s where all the action takes place. Sure, the living room sees a lot of feet shuffling through and a lot of butts on furniture but the entertainment is mostly derived from the television. All the *real* action is happening inside the kitchen.

I’ll break it down for you because I’m not leaving until I’ve convinced every single one of you that I’m right… Okay, granted, you could close this blog at any time so I guess I can’t really enforce that… so… I’ll just let it go and continue with making my point… hopefully you’ll stick around.

Let me start with a little background –

Growing up, we would visit my grandparents every summer. Both sets of grandparents, as loyal readers already know, lived in rural West Virginia, my parents’ old stomping ground. My maternal grandparents (Grandma Mooney and company!) had a pseudo-living/sitting room set up where the dining room should have been – but it was more of an extension of the kitchen. It’s just how the old farm-house was made. The first floor was just one big room basically, with the kitchen proper to the right and the dining room/sitting room to the left – no walls in between and close enough that you could fling a coffee cup from the sitting room and hit my grandmother in the head as she made breakfast (not that I would suggest doing that, however, if you wanted to live past the first serving of eggs). The centerpiece of the sitting room was a huge, round dining table made out of solid wood that I remember always had a green gingham vinyl, felt-backed tablecloth in place.

If you ever peeked in the windows, you would find everyone sitting around that table, playing cards, chattering up a storm, eating fried eggs, or watching the smallest t.v. I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not even sure it was in color. It got maybe three channels. There was a living room in the house – but it was on the second floor. And I never once saw anyone up there, except for me when I was playing house. No, being near the kitchen was the place to be.

In my childhood home, there is a family room and my parents are quite happy there whenever they’re watching t.v. But when company comes – including my grownup self – we sit at the kitchen table, coffee cups in hand, hopefully potato soup (if I’m lucky) or some other gastronomical treat from my mother’s massive repertoire in front of us, and talk the day away.

Like my parents, a great-aunt (Grandma Mooney’s daughter) of mine moved from West Virginia to the concrete jungle of the city, Baltimore to be exact. My parents eventually opted for a more suburban route, but my aunt and her family stayed in the city. My aunt kept her country ways though and sure enough, life took place in the kitchen. Visiting her every Sunday saw us sitting around the kitchen table, eating homemade crab cakes, polish sausage, and drinking coffee or sweet tea.

Now, speaking of kitchens, West Virginia women know how to cook. Between my great-grandmother, my grandmothers, my mother, and my great-aunt…these ladies took comfort food to a whole new level. So who wouldn’t want to hang out in the kitchen and be a taste-tester or gobble up the so-called rejects of whatever meal they were preparing? Or if you were brave, sneak something off a serving plate before it made its way out to the table?

But there is more to it than food, so much more. For me the heart of the house is the kitchen. We’re a family in the kitchen. Good news, bad news, shared joys and sorrows – all happened in the kitchen. Oh, we had food, we’re a family that loves food, but in the kitchens of my childhood, we also had camaraderie – we shared laughter and gossip, tears and heart to heart talks. Life was lived in the kitchen. Still is, in so many ways.

So, for those of you trying to make it work in that cramped two-bedroom apartment the size of a photo-booth, and especially those of you with lots of room to spread out (you know who you are…you can go a full day and not see another member of your household or family) – here’s a piece of advice for whatever it’s worth.

Hang out in the kitchen. Maybe cook dinner together every once in a while, or throw together some snacks and play cards or a board game at the table – whip up something awesome, and I’m not just talking food.

Finding Your Bliss

Everyone from New Age leaders to yoga teachers to enlightened guidance counselors will encourage you to seek out your bliss. To find your purpose. To embrace your passion in this uncertain world of ours. To be successful in this sometimes lifelong pursuit is to reach a new level of pure happiness and peace and even a sense of freedom…of mind, of heart, and of soul. One never knows where this ultimate revelation may occur or what might happen to infuse your spirit with this deep feeling of enlightenment. Well. My personal search for bliss ended at the Acme Market not very far up the road from my home. Who knew such sought after joy could be found so close to home? And only $3.99 a jar. My search is over. I have found Heaven.

jiff-cheesecake

What’s For Dinner?

I’m an admitted foodie and I love…well…food. Nothing beats a good Irish pub, but I enjoy branching out and trying new things, to a point. Not that I like Burger King on a good day, for a variety of reasons, but their recent mishmash of food items has just reached a whole new level of ridiculousness.  First it was mac and Cheetos. An insult to mac and cheese if you ask me. Though others I know have raved about it. Now this. Cheetos chicken fries. Uh…no thanks. I’ll pass. Is this what we’ve come to, folks? This is what we’re offered as “food.” Really? I mean, I know it’s fast food and all and they’re likely trying to get that eccentric crowd who enjoys the strange mash-ups often served at carnivals, but seriously, this is just going too far.

 

cheetos-chicken-fries