Sunday, May 22, 2011

To My Nephew

Isn’t it enough that time plays “River Dance” all up and down our bodies and stomps the living daylights out of us? My Nephew is graduating today and even though he’s my sister’s kid, I’m feeling age mentally kicking the crap out of me. I blame my memories for being so vivid. I can replay the time when my Mom, Sister, and I were making a trip back from Riverton, Wyo. with my Nephew in his car seat sucking his thumb with his pointer finger and bird finger stuck up both his nostrils. We had to pull the car over because all 3 of us were laughing so hard we had tears rolling down our cheeks at such an innocent sight.

That was 18 years ago. For my memory, it seems just this year. But time is funny that way. Something they don’t teach you growing up is growing old, how memories will be so valuable but again so painful. My mother tried to explain that to me, but it was hard to understand. It’s something you can be aware of, but you won’t understand it until you are there.

As I’m sitting here staring at his graduation card, I struggle for something profound and useful to write, Something that might stay with him in the back of his mind, Something that might impact a fraction of his life when I’m long gone and forgotten. I could write a great quote from some great writer or thinker, but that’s clique and corny and that is so not my personality. So, I will give you this story that I listen too once and I will try and not screw it up in repeating it. I always found it full of truth. With the way my brain works it was one of those things that stuck with me for the past 27 years. I have applied it to almost every aspect of my life sometimes successfully sometimes with great failure, but I always returned to this philosophy in its simplistic terms

“When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar........and the beer.

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents of the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. "Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided,” I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions--things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

"The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else--the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal.

"Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand." One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers."

To all the Graduates this year and years too come, I wish you happiness in all you will do, whether its prestigious or not, whether it makes you rich or not, whether you become a Doctor or Janitor, regardless, I wish you happiness in what you do and become.

Fanito! (But really, is just the beginning of a great wonderious adventure)

Friday, May 20, 2011


My father spent quite a bit of time living in Japan and Korea when he was younger. Living in Korea wasn’t so great seeing how it was during the Korean War and he was a communications specialist for the US Army. Dad never talked much about the war itself but often talked about time spent with his closest and dearest friend right up to his death. Dad lived in Korea from 1950 till 1953 when the armistice was signed on July 27th between North and South Korea. Shortly after that he was transferred to Japan and there he stayed until 1961.

Like his time in Korea, Dad never talked much about his service in Japan. The culture did, however, have a huge impact on him when it came to food, drink, and cleanliness. I became familiar with Saki, Hot Pots, Asian Noodles (Soba, Udon, and Ramen) and many other items growing up because Dad had his favorites that he craved. I think this might account for my Sisters and mine affinity to many different and exotic foods.

A month or so ago I saw an episode of Food Jammers making a hot tub with a built in Hot Pot and they made Shabu-Shabu. It brought me back to when my Dad first introduced me to this dish. I was pretty young and I remember my Father kept saying you have to dip the meat in the broth and say “Swish Swish” which later in life I found out was literally the translation of Shabu-Shabu. Go figure!

Shabu Shabu Hot Pot, Electric Mongolian Hot PotShabu-Shabu

For the broth and vegetables:
7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
One 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of your knife
8 scallions, white and 1 inch of the green parts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Max Burton Mr. Max Table Top Burner (Black)1 tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1 small Napa cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
6 carrots, thinly sliced
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless shell or sirloin steak
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, drained, and shocked in ice water

For the sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon prepared wasabi*
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ready! Set! Cook!
To make the broth, combine the stock, ginger, garlic, scallions, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Strain, discard the solids, and return the stock to the saucepan. Keeping the heat at medium to medium-low, maintain a slow, steady simmer while preparing the dish. Add the cabbage and simmer for 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large platter. Do the same for the carrots, peppers, and mushrooms, cooking the carrots and peppers for 3 minutes and the mushrooms for 2 minutes. Arrange each in a separate mound on the platter as they are cooked.

Place the beef in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until slightly stiff. This makes it easier to slice thinly. Cut the beef against the grain into paper-thin slices and arrange decoratively on a different platter. Add the peas to the platter.

To make the sauce, combine the sour cream, wasabi, chives, and mustard in a small bowl. Thin with water as desired. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.

Almost Done!
Set the fondue pot in the middle of the table, fill it with the broth, and bring to a simmer. It is up to each of your guests, in turn, to finish cooking this dish. Diners choose the vegetables they want and place them in their empty soup bowls. Then they take as much of the raw beef as they want and cook it in the fondue pot for 2 to 3 seconds (Hence the Swish Swish term). Next they add the vegetables selected, which should warm up in about 1 minute. Finally, using a slotted spoon, diners transfer their beef and vegetables from the fondue pot to their bowls and then ladle on some hot broth and a spoonful of the sauce.

Gekkeikan Sake

Takara Sake

This is a lot of fun and makes for good conversation around a table. I will recommend a good Saki such as Gekkeikan or Takara to go with your meal. Keep in mind traditionally if you have rice with your Shabu-Shabu you will not serve Sake with it as Sake is looked at as being a part of the meal and should not be served with rice. If you have rice then a Japanese beer would be more appropriate. Of course, in the end it’s up too you what you want, but that’s just a bit of Japanese dinning cultural faux pas.

Oh yeah, don’t forget your toast at the start of the meal “Kampi!”


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kobe Beef Steak and Main Lobster Tails

42 years ago and 9ish months (September 1968), a 16 year old Surfer girl and boy went to go see Planet of the Apes at a drive-in after a day of Surfing in the California Sun. May 3rd 1969 along came me! Go figure! That’s pretty much all I know about my real birth parents. Would have loved to know more but California Law’s and culture at those times didn’t allow for a lot of information exchange as is the case now days. 42 years later I wonder how I’m half way across the country living in a very remote state, happily married for 13 years and rising 2 children, already retired from one profession and working on my second. Life has taken so many strange and unexpected directions.

Now, I don’t typically celebrate my Birthdays anymore, mainly because it lost some appeal for me when I lost both my Mother and Father. I mean really, it Mom’s and Dad’s that make that day special. So, now it’s more of an opportunity for me to justify buying something I normally would not. My wife also thought it would not be right if I also didn’t add the fact that I milk it for 3 months prior to my Birthday for gifts (That’s her story but I don’t think it would hold water in court). I am blessed to have great people in my life, two of which gave us for Christmas this year some gift cards from an outfit called Lobster Gram. So with Gift cards in hand I sought out the Lobster Gram web site to place a Birthday dinner order.

I won’t go into a lot of needless detail about the website, but I really think I couldn’t do it justice with its wide range of selections. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. After about an hour of back and forth I settle for the following items; Main Lobster tails 6-7 oz., Kobe Beef steaks, and a 1Lb. of Shrimp.

And here my friends is the results of one of the best meals I have had in maybe two years!!

Kobe Beef steak
*Look at that fat marbling*

6-7oz Main Lobster Tails

Tail in Hand
The steaks are just simply seasoned with Kosher Salt and Black pepper.  I wanted to experience the flavor of these items in there natural state.  The Lobster was not seasoned at all.
I allowed the steaks to to rest with the seasoning for about 20 minutes all the while I prepped the Lobster and the Shrimp.

Just in case you were scared I blew my diet (laugh) the cocktail Sauce was Fat FREE!
And off to the grill we went

FYI Children don't give a rip about Lobster or Steak.  Even if the things were coated in chocolate and peanut butter they would still want hot dogs, so they got Hot Dogs and Mom and I ate like Lotto winners! 
Getting close to Dinner time, colors looking good!

Off the Grill and Heading back into the house to serve up Dinner.

Dinner table set and gearing up for quality family time.  Part of a Great dinner experience is spending those moments with family and friends.
Perfection in its simplest form.
I just don't think it gets much better.
And at the end of the meal all my children were concerned with is if they could have the shell to play with.  I figured since all they wanted was Hot Dogs at lest they could play with the bloody things!  
Last few bites and I wish it would have lasted forever.