I made a birthday cake for the boyfriend of a friend of mine. He's turning 40, so it was an "over the hill" sort of theme. I made a mountain – or the upper part of a big mountain – all brown with little bits of grass here and there and gray rocks around the base…and at the bottom of the cliff at the back of the mountain. Then I made little signs like you'd see while hiking a trail, and on them were numbers: 5, 10, 15 and so on up to 40. The top of the mountain had a white drape of snow, upon which I wrote the requisite "Happy Birthday" message. The signs – construction paper glued to toothpicks – the only inedible part of the project – began a the bottom and pointed the way up a winding, zig-zagging trail to the top of the mountain. The "40" sign was at the back, angled down, pointing at the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Over the hill. I should have taken a picture.
I used to take pictures of all my cakes. But apart from family birthdays, I haven't done a whole lot of cake-making. This was kind of fun, this cake I just did. I'm never really satisfied with them, but my son thought it was terrific – it looks rather similar to the two "volcano" cakes I've done for him (with plastic dinosaurs all over the terrain) for his past two birthdays. He liked the fondant rocks, especially.
And my friend liked it, so that was a good thing.
She came by yesterday morning to pick it up, after calling first to make sure she had the directions right. She hasn't been to my house in a few years.
When she called, I was making my breakfast.
I'd fried some bacon – left over from last weekend's camping trip – HAD to cook it up or it might go bad. Right? Of course I had to. So anyway, bacon, nice and crispy the way I like it. (My husband likes his less crisp. But he wasn't home.) I toasted an english muffin. And made myself a peanutbutter and bacon sandwich. Okay, I had two of them. Yes, coronary in the making. I don't have them very often at all, (the sandwhiches, I mean), so I figured it was okay. And let me tell you, even cold, those were the yummiest things I've had in ages.
I think I needed something yummy and containing my two favorite food groups: fat and starch. I've had a lot on my mind and it's been affecting me in unexpected ways. For instance – Friday night we went out for dinner – with the kids – at this old restaurant near our house. It's a relic of times past when banquet halls were everywhere and turkey dinners made with canned gravy were common. They specialize in old-fashioned comfort food. They have meatloaf night, for example. I've never had their meatloaf, but I'm sure there are a slew of regulars who come specifically for that dinner every week. It's a great place to bring the kids, mostly because it's casual and they have good kid food.
We ordered drinks and appetizers and then the meals. And here's the weird thing…I ordered a glass of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay. Because they don't have a wine list and it's something that I know I like.
And this time, Friday night, I took a sip and it tasted like olive juice. Not olive oil, but the liquid in a jar of olives. I tried another sip, thinking maybe I was imagining it. Nope, same taste. Bill noticed the odd look on my face and said "it's gone bad?" and I told him what it tasted like to me. He took a sip, evaluated it, and shook his head. "It's fine." I tried another sip, as if maybe his pronouncement would kick my taste buds into behaving properly. No – still tasted like olive juice.
And when our meals came…he had ordered the prime rib (Friday's special) and I got baked stuffed shrimp so we could share and have our own surf-n-turf. I had some of his prime rib first, and it was excellent. He had shrimp and moaned with delight, practically. I had a bite of shrimp…and it was cooked perfectly – had that sort of "pop" feel when I bit into it – and not overcooked at all. But it tasted…off. I don't even know how to describe the taste. It wasn't like fish gone bad or anything…it just had some strange industrial taste. I ate the whole piece, thinking, like I had with the wine, that my taste buds would correct themselves after a while, but no. So I gave Bill the other shrimp and ate the rest of my mashed potatoes. The carrots were from a can. I gave them a pass.
And that was my meal. Very odd. Other elements tasted right – but those two things were so very off. Very disappointing. At least I didn't have to do the dishes.
So yesterday I cooked dinner. And here's what I made. It may gross some of you out, but hey, at least you weren't in the kitchen while I was cooking it, so be thankful.
I made mashed potatoes with red skinned potatoes, butter, milk, salt and pepper, a little bit of minced onion, and the remaining bacon, chopped up into REAL bacon bits. Y.U.M.
And here's the best part – I took the bacon grease (oh yeah) and sauteed 4 sliced onions in it until they were golden and soft, then moved them out to the edges of the 14" pan and added two pint containers of chicken livers. Yes. That's what I said. And I seared them on one side and then flipped them over and seared again. Then I turned the heat down, added a slosh of red wine and salt and pepper, and simmered the whole thing for a while until most of the liquid was gone. I added one more slosh of wine, sprinkled some dried thyme over it all and stirred that in, simmered a little more, turned off the heat and then stirred in some sour cream. Oh yes.
Fortunately neither kid wanted any of it. Bill had some – he has come to like chicken livers, although he told the kids last night (when they said they didn't like the livers) (they tried them though – that's the important thing) that he only pretended to like them the first few times I cooked them. Really? Well. That scores points – it's very sweet.
Anyway, we also had spinach, and guacamole and chips, and some smoked bluefish. An odd mish-mash of menu items, but there was something for everyone, and that was my goal.
I am starving now, just reliving that meal. I may have to have some for breakfast.
I'll talk to you later. In the meantime – what's comfort food for you?