Thursday, March 27, 2008

You Can't Un-Crack an Egg

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
~ C.S. Lewis

Some of us are chronic worriers by nature.
This is a nasty affliction on its own merits. However, when coupled with a compulsive desire to control everything; the resulting condition is a cross to bear not only for the afflicted, but especially for cohabitants of the affected party.
In this case, I am the chronic-worrier-control-freak and my kids somehow, are managing to grow up, in spite of my condition.

The formal arrival of spring in New York was accompanied by an overnight frost and a pending late-March snowstorm. As I readied my home for an Easter celebration, any expectation for dining
al fresco was squelched by too-cool temperatures and unseasonably high winds. Faced with lamb, a ham, and no particular plan, I set about to prepare a feast for an indefinite number of guests. My daughter’s request to include one or maybe three fellow college freshmen in need of a holiday meal was sprung upon me like an early bloom; a welcome delight notwithstanding the additional attention required.

It was the day before Easter and in my usual frenzy of too much to do in too little time; I contemplated how my eldest and most educated might contribute. While I refused to relinquish control over
ham-glazing, plastic-egg stuffing, cheesecake baking, basil-tearing (never knife-cutting for any true Italian), mozzarella-slicing,
yogurt-mint-processing (for the purpose of lamb-marinating),
or garlic-chopping, I could only force myself to release my grip (temporarily) from the Windex bottle. And so, with blue bottle in hand, she dexterously cleaned the front and back doors and promptly returned to the Guitar Hero competition already in progress in our TV room (where son and husband furtively retreated to escape the wrath of one seemingly peri-menopausal woman expecting company).

Exhausted and overwhelmed, I escaped to my closet hideaway-turned-egg hunt-headquarters to pack plastic eggs full of pastel pleasantries and provisions for children of all ages (including
college man-boys and brooding teenagers). As I sorted Hot Wheels and hot sauces, I thought about the very first egg hunt I hosted almost fifteen years ago. It was a time when my kitchen was a whole lot messier, and holidays were a whole lot easier. It was a time when I welcomed chubby, little fingers to join mine while mixing and shaping meatballs or chocolate chip cookies, with little concern for perfect platter presentation.
If someone had told me then, that years later I would discourage my daughter from cooking her own eggs for fear she would blow up the gas stove or heaven forbid, leave a mess, I would have thought
them insane. But alas, sometimes we fail as parents to execute our own best laid plans.
And so often the worrier in me chose the easier path, the one promising a safer, less eventful arrival than the better path.
Good parents guide and support their children in choosing a path which offers experience; an opportunity to learn and to grow and perhaps even to fail. As I have learned from my own failures,
so too should they.
But all too often I felt compelled to spare them difficulty and disappointment simply by doing it for them.
How foolish of me to consider this a viable method.
While parenting is not rocket science, it challenges the very core of our beings. If we allow fear to take the wheel, our children may never enjoy the scenery along the road less traveled.

As I crammed the last, sample-size bottle of “Ass Kickin’ Hot Sauce” into a snap-tight pastel egg, I considered the sheer irony of the task. You see, it was my daughter who first introduced me to the delightful combination of eggs and hot sauce.
On a steamy, sticky Sunday last summer, at a local bagel shop where we were both employed, I watched in amazement as she doused a perfectly prepared omelet with hot sauce. My amazement came not from her use of the condiment, but from the realization that this daughter of mine, the one I was so reluctant to share my kitchen with, was managing a grill for countless hungry customers, turning out perfectly cooked eggs with nary a twitch of her brow.
Weekend mornings routinely found me clinging to the bagel counter like a cream cheese schmear to a pumpernickel, while she willingly and adroitly manned the grill, juggling orders for scrambles,
over-easies, sunny-sides up, and four-egg he-man specials.
She was a natural at feeding people and unfortunately, I had
little to do with it.

Our Easter celebration turned out to be a great success (with the exception of a too-small dining room and too few chairs, and a
short-lived marital dispute over grill-master husbands who believe that black char is a welcome flavor element on a lamb chop).
But nonetheless, a fun time was had by all.
Thanks to the kindness of relatives headed in the same direction as my daughter’s campus, my eldest and her guest(s) had a free ride back to college in a brand new mini-van. With room to spare, my daughter requested as many leftovers as I was willing to part with
for the sake of hungry, travel-weary undergrads.

A late-night phone call revealed that a second feast was shared in my daughter’s dorm room and for those unable to attend, engrossed in late semester projects, plates were prepared and delivered.
She made sure that the few remaining cannolis were saved for the unfortunate few who had never heard tell of such a delightful indulgence (a fact neither of us could wrap our cannoli-loving
heads around).

And so the fact remains that while we can’t turn back the clock or grant ourselves a “do-over” in this challenging game of parenting,
we lucky few are rewarded by life’s little surprises which so often outweigh the burden of our regrets.
Like daughters who grow up to be beautiful young women
who occasionally do their own laundry, make their own beds
and always invite friends to share a meal.

Because even though you can’t un-crack an egg,
they figure out what to do with it anyway.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


I’m pleased to share with you a fool proof recipe for a delicious cake that is delightfully moist, flavorful, and so easy to prepare.

Since Easter came right on the heels of St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to repeat a favorite dessert—Bailey’s Bundt Cake. The recipe is a modification of one I found on the internet years ago, which called for copious amounts of dark rum. I replaced most of the rum with Bailey’s Irish Cream and added a few of my own ingredients for flavor. You can exchange your favorite liqueur for the Bailey’s and make it your own.

But first, be a good egg and take a moment to read a few quotes about one of nature’s most perfect foods, the egg

I have had, in my time, memorable meals of scrambled eggs with fresh truffles, scrambled eggs with caviar and other glamorous things, but to me, there are few things as magnificent as scrambled eggs, pure and simple, perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned.
James Beard, 'On Food' (1974)

"Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken."
M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992)

An egg of one hour old, bread of one day, a goat of one month, wine of six months, flesh of a year, fish of ten years and a wife of twenty years, a friend among a hundred, are the best of all number.”
~John Wodroephe, English commentator
'Spared Hours,' 1623

The world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome, dubious eggs, called possibilities.
George Eliot

Faith is putting all your eggs in God’s basket, then counting your blessings before they hatch.
~Ramona C. Carroll

When you feel neglected, think of the female salmon, who lays 3,000,000 eggs but no one remembers her on Mother’s Day.
~Sam Ewing

I do not like green eggs and ham I do not like them Sam I am.
~Dr. Seuss

It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.
~Dorothy Parker

The difference between 'involvement' and 'commitment' is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was 'involved' - the pig was 'committed'
~Author Unknown


** I suppose you could use any cake pan with good results, but I strongly recommend you dig out your favorite bundt pan and be sure to grease and flour it well. The shape of a bundt cake lends itself well to the decadent glaze topping.

1 Cup chopped toasted nuts (I used a combination of pecans and almonds)
1 Box (approx. 18.5 oz) White Cake Mix
2 Boxes (3/4 oz. ea) Instant Vanilla Pudding
4 to 5 eggs (I prefer to use 5 large eggs. If yours are extra large, use only 4)
1/2 Cup plus 2 TBS. Cold Milk
1/2 Cup plus 1 TBS. Vegetable Oil (I prefer Canola oil)
1/2 Cup Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur
2 TBS Dark rum
1 Cup Toffee Chips (Skor toffee bits or Heath toffee bits *NOT chocolate-coated toffee bits)


1 Stick Butter
1/4 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Bailey's Irish Cream
2 TBS. Dark Rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle toasted nuts on bottom of pan. Combine all cake ingredients (except toffee bits). Beat for two minutes on high with electric mixer. Add toffee bits to batter, incorporate by hand with spatula or wooden spoon.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for one hour. Cool in pan on wire rack. Invert cake onto serving plate when cool. Prick top of cake with toothpick or fork. Drizzle glaze (recipe follows) over top of cake. Use pastry brush to re-glaze drippings over cake. ** I add extra glaze once the first layer of glaze has dried. This step is optional.

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil for five minutes over medium-high heat STIRRING CONSTANTLY to avoid burning. Remove from heat and CAREFULLY add rum and Bailey's (it will steam and sputter). Mix well and glaze cake as recipe suggests. Extra glaze can be stored in glass container, covered.


Monday, March 17, 2008

You Say Tomato, I Say Connecticut

“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and home grown tomatoes.”

~John Denver, 'Home Grown Tomatoes'
(from a song written by Guy Clark)

If you are fortunate to share dialogue with my mother and you happen to mention the word microwave, she will abruptly and momentarily stray off-topic to inform you that said microwave
does in fact “cook from the inside out.”
This is likely a factoid she picked up in the late ‘70s, committed to memory, and now spontaneously recalls, as she suffers from an involuntary stimulus-response condition I like to call ‘momism.’

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed hearing, deconstructing and mocking these mom-isms.
One would think I repeat them for the sheer sake of folly at Mother’s unfortunate expense. But the fact of the matter is, while I listen and laugh, I also learn.

Over time I have come to realize that certain trigger-words encourage these colorful, if not always logical descriptions.
Where most of us depend on basic adjectives, my mother adds a bit more flavor to the pot. Old becomes “As old as Methuzula.”
More than will become “More than you can shake a stick at” or
(my personal favorite), “More than Carter has little liver pills.”

While I have never met Methuzula (but I would imagine she is still alive), my stick-shaking days were over before they started, and Carter sounds like a good candidate for rehab, I cannot deny my appreciation for my mother’s involuntary response to any discussion about the tomato

Years ago, for my mother’s birthday, I purchased a Wusthof
tomato knife. As I presented her with the gift, I expected and hoped she would re-tell the story of her summertime youth spent visiting relatives in Waterbury, Connecticut.
She was both pleased and panicked by my gift. While she appreciated the form and function of the knife, she feared the backlash of inherited Italian superstition which dictates that the recipient of any sharp, pointed object must immediately compensate the donor with a penny to ward off any opportunity for malfeasance or conflict.
Impatiently, I yielded to a momentary delay as she rifled through her purse in search of a penny for the sake of peace. I knew better than to deny superstitious reciprocity, and so I pocketed the penny as her tomato story unfolded…

She, an only child, traveled with parents and elders from
Brooklyn to Waterbury during the dog days of summer.
The seemingly endless trip met with steep, hilly roads before
finally approaching the old storied house with the coveted
front-porch entry. Upon arrival, barely able to contain her excitement, she bounded barefoot into the backyard and made a beeline for the garden where her eager palms would be baptized with the sweet, pulpy nectar of homegrown tomatoes. Heat-fatigued and ravenous, there was little time or energy for ceremonious slicing or sandwiching. She plucked and ate the scarlet orbs as if they were apples, one after another, allowing their green caps to fall
back to the earth.
Sun-kissed and satiated, she retreated indoors to absorb the annual enchantments of her visit; doting relatives, a prized piano that mysteriously played itself, a sleepy sun room, and cool breezes invited by a favorite front-porch swing.
Those were good times.

I never grow tired of hearing that story. The older and wiser I get however, I realize that like any good story, this one evolves over time. With each re-telling, the trip gets longer, the hills get steeper and the summer gets hotter. But nevertheless, the tomato experience remains the same, and each time I am left with a nagging thought;
I want that tomato.

My own personal experience with fresh tomatoes is bland, at best.
I seem to have a knack for choosing the most flavorless,
mealy-fleshed specimens at the market.
Where gardening is concerned, I have been shamefully remiss in cultivating and caring for such prolific perennials. I guess that
leaves me at the mercy of commercial growers who harvest green, under-ripe tomatoes (for the sake of shelf-stability and transport), which then undergo a chemically-induced coloring to attract unsuspecting shoppers.
While those of us vulnerable to commercialism (and too lazy
to kick up a fuss) see red and reach for tasteless tomatoes,
those well-informed, proactive consumers see red, and magnanimously call for change.

The fact is a good tomato, like a good story, should be allowed to ripen naturally. Most would agree that the best tomatoes are indeed homegrown.
Some would argue that only heirloom varieties come close to those prized tomatoes of yesteryear.
And likewise, where mom-isms are concerned, their intrinsic value is rooted in a lifetime of noteworthy events and ideas whose constant recollection and usage become a natural part of ones permanent landscape.
A dialogue shared with my mother free of mom-isms, would offer the same experience as sharing an under-ripe, chemically modified tomato; flavorless and forgettable.

And so, as I browse seed catalogs and await the arrival of summer’s bounty in search of sandwich-worthy specimens, I will be mindful of that Connecticut tomato and how lucky I am to have shared a colorful memory, ripe with hyperbole and flavor.

I don’t expect I will soon forget the collection of family stories
I have been privy to over the years. My mother has more of them than you can shake a stick at and I’ll bet you a dollar-to-a-donut that there are still more untold. I expect that I will share my own stories, as well as hers, with my own children until I am
as old as Methuzula or until I’ve forgotten.
And perhaps on a day when it’s raining to beat the band, I will cozy up with a hot mug of something from the microwave (which incidentally, cooks from the inside out) and write them down
so they might live on long after I’m gone.

Because what would life be like without true love and
homegrown tomatoes?

Two things money can’t buy, that only get sweeter with time.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


A few noteworthy tomato quotes:

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
~Lewis Grizzard

Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world—except for a nice MLT—mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is lean and the tomato is ripe.”
~William Goldman

A number of rare or newly experienced foods have been claimed to be aphrodisiacs. At one time this quality was even ascribed to the tomato. Reflect on that when you are next preparing the family salad.”
~Jane Grigson

High-tech tomatoes. Mysterious milk. Supersquash. Are we supposed to eat this stuff? Or is it going to eat us?”
~Annita Manning

And by the way,
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite mom-isms:

While we Irish folk (on my father’s side) were content with
Erin Go Bragh” to express our appreciation for
‘Ireland the Beautiful,’ my mother and grandmother were more comfortable (literally and figuratively speaking) with this one:

Erin Go Bra-less

I heard it once a year for at least twenty years and I don’t doubt it passed her lips at least once today.

Monday, March 10, 2008


No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
~From The Works of the Greek philosopher Epictetus

The fig is a man-whore.
Well, not all figs, actually. There are some figs (like some men), capable of productive, fruitful relationships.
The ‘Caprifig’ however, is not one of them. Its claim to fame is that it is the only type of fig to have flowers which possess male parts and therefore produce pollen. This pollen is critical to the fertilization of more than one type of fig. Caprifigs are often described as “small, hard, inedible and unappealing” (no big surprise there).
Commercial growers purchase Caprifigs and the orchard-worthy specimens are pimped out to pollinate other types of figs.
So basically, the Caprifig lives for sex.
The whole process is referred to as ‘caprification’ and depends exclusively on a ‘fig-wasp’ which inhabits the Caprifig, and is responsible for transferring pollen and laying eggs.

There are other, more common varieties of figs like the Mission fig, which develop without pollination. Introduced to California by Franciscan missionaries, these are popular with home growers and consumers for their dependability and flavor.
None however, can match the flavor or girth of the coveted Smyrna fig, said to have larger, more flavorful seeds as a direct result of pollination (apparently, the rewards are even greater for a ficus completely dependent on Capri’s man-fig, living the life of a
sex addict making frequent, if not meaningful, fruity-calls

Allow me to free myself from the accusal of man-bashing.
Quite honestly, I can think of a married woman or two
who flirtatiously express interest in peeking under someone else’s
fig leaf, when they need not look beyond their own backyard for a perfectly good Ficus.
But as is often the case, nature presents us with what seems to be a cruel injustice. “Wham, bam, thank you M’am” is as much of a reality to the plant kingdom as it is to the animal kingdom.
It is what it is.

The fact remains however, for all its flaws and infidelities, I love the fig nonetheless. I can’t think of a more succulent, satisfying orb worthy of prosciutto’s salty embrace. And although fresh is first choice, there are few fruits to compete with the nutrition, portability and flavor of a dried fig.

My relationship with figs is not a complicated one.
Where propagation is concerned, at first I didn’t succeed
and so, I never tried again.
When my significant-other planted our first and only fig tree, we knew not of caprification or the need for a fig wasp and so,
our poor little tree likely met its demise well before it was
burlapped for the winter.

I suppose it was a blessing of sorts because years later, I heard tell of an elderly relative who, with little time left, waited for her promising backyard-harvest to ripen. To her delight, an early sunrise revealed a fig tree bursting with ripened fruit. By midday however, backyard birds had rendered her beloved ficus devoid of even one single, edible fruit.

Fellow fig-lovers have reported that occasionally, even when all criteria are met (good drainage, plenty of sunlight, protection from the elements), their once-abundant fig trees will mysteriously remain fruitless for a season or two and then begin bearing fruit years later, as though production had never halted.

These seemingly cruel acts of nature have been experienced countless times by fig fans across the globe, and one would wonder if there is a greater lesson to be learned here.

As I pause to consider the significance of such a fickle fruit, I am drawn to writers and philosophers of the (recent and not-so-recent) past, who so eloquently made reference to the fig.
As art so often reflects life, it is evident that the fig metaphorically describes life’s fleeting opportunities for love.
Where the fig-grower is concerned, care and cultivation are secondary only to good timing.
Where romance is concerned, be it new romance or old, I would suggest that care, cultivation, and good timing hold equal billing in a successful relationship.
If we fail to recognize life’s abundance, leaving the fruits of our labor vulnerable to waiting wings, we may find ourselves faced with insatiable hunger beside a fruitless tree.

Perhaps Sylvia Plath said it best:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7

And although no fig tree stands in my yard these days, my desire
to procure such a delicate, complex fruit is unwavering.
I remain mindful however that the temptation of Smyrna’s succulence and heft will be short lived. As I await the unpredictability of fresh-fig season, I recognize the value and dependability of the more humble, common, dried fig.
Where fresh, young figs offer spontaneity and excitement, it is the more mature, dried variety which offers consistent flavor, unconditional reliability and longevity.

But alas, do not mistake the fig for a fool.
While the commoner patiently lurks behind darkened cupboards
and pantry doors awaiting the opportunity to satisfy,
the foolish sins of neglect are often repaid with spoiled sweetness.

And so, in matters of figs and life it is essential that we acknowledge and celebrate what lies beneath the leaf.
Should we fail to nurture our own fruitful harvest in a timely fashion, we risk a quick descent by waiting wings to make light work
of stolen figs.


And, speaking of stolen figs…
I leave you with a recommendation for a great book and my
most recent read:
Stolen Figs by Mark Rotella.
For those, like me, who pine for Italy and fresh figs with equal measure, this book offers a charming account of Calabria and its people (with a short chapter suggesting a not-so-legal method of procuring figs).

I am also happy to share with you some interesting fig facts
and a favorite fig recipe below.
But perhaps most appropriately, I will make my exit with a
borrowed mom-ism from my mother and friend who taught me
first, to appreciate what stands in my own backyard and
secondly, to appreciate a good play on words (no matter how corny);

I’ve gotta run.

I have a date
With a fig
On Prune Street.

Until next time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


In case you give a fig:

Of the three members of the Moraceae family, the fig has spread most widely. It was first recorded in the tablets of Lagash in Sumer (2738-2371) BC and has since appeared in the recorded history from Egypt to Greece, where it was a staple food of both rich and poor. The fig was such a staple food that Egyptian armies are recorded as having cut down the figs and vines of their enemies, and whole baskets of figs have been discovered among the tomb offerings of dynastic kings.

The Egyptians, being preoccupied with their digestion, had a habit of fasting. The fig, having mild laxative properties, appealed to them as food which was delicious as well as good for them. Figs are rich in calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium. Vitamin C and the B group vitamins are also present in small quantities. They are also high in fibre. Figs have the highest overall mineral content of all common fruits. A 40 gram (1/4 cup) serving provides 244 mg of potassium (7% of the DV), 53 mg of calcium (6% of the DV) and 1.2 mg of iron (6% of the DV). Figs are fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free.

Homer wrote of figs when he described the orchard of Alcinous, visited by Ulysses, which featured figs, olives, pomegranates, apples and pears. The poet Alexis of Thuria in the 4th century celebrated the fare of the average Greek which included "that God-given inheritance of our mother country, darling of my heart, a dried fig."

Cleopatra ended her life with an asp brought to her in a basket of figs.

The fig’s importance in Hellenic culture and economic life is second only that that of the grape and the olive.

In the first half of the sixteenth century, the fig was brought to England by Cardinal Pole, a few years before Cortez introduced the tree to Mexico. Fig trees reached North America in about 1790.
~From The Sensuous Fig by Margaret E.Walker

For centuries, writers have made reference to the fig, noting its connection to fertility.
In Greek and Roman mythology, figs are sometimes associated with Dionysus, god of wine and drunkenness, and with Priapus, a satyr who symbolized sexual desire.


Caramelized Figs with Mascarpone Cheese
Fichi Caramellati al Mascarpone
From Kyle Phillips

Late summer is the season for rich, ripe honey-sweet figs, and though you may be tempted to eat them directly off the tree, this is a pleasant, quick way to serve them up when friends come calling. To serve 4:

• 8 perfect, perfectly ripe figs
• 8 tablespoons cane sugar
• 2/3 pound (300 g) Mascarpone cheese
• 1/2 cup (50 g) powdered sugar
• 8 tablespoons vinsanto or passito wine -- both are sweet dessert wines

Select 8 ripe, blemish-free figs. Wash them, pat them dry, and make two perpendicular cuts half way into each fig from the stem end, as if you were going to quarter them. Put them on a cookie sheet covered with oiled paper.

Sprinkle a teaspoon of cane sugar over each fig and run them under a broiler for 2-3 minutes, to lightly caramelize the sugar.
Arrange the figs on 4 plates, and continue the cuts almost all the way down to the base, so the figs open like so many flowers.

Beat 2/3 pound (300 g) mascarpone cheese (a soft, mild-flavored cream cheese will work in its stead if need be) with about 1/2 cup (50 g) powdered sugar and 8 tablespoons vinsanto or passito (both are sweet, white dessert wines). Divvy the cheese among the figs and serve.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

When Mojo Needs Mo' Joe

The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., "Over the Teacups," 1891

I have never been quite clear on the term “mojo.”
My kids would have me think that it’s a concept beyond my comprehension simply because I am a product of a generation
still struggling with the idea that a flip-flop is no longer referred to
as a thong.
I would argue however, that any term that predates both their generation and mine is fair game. And so, like any self-respecting mother of teenagers, I called upon that omniscient eSage of
word-regurgitation, Google. I was surprised to find that mojo has several definitions (some of which exceed my PG rating and therefore will not be listed here). I decided I would subscribe to the one about “soul or life force,” but still had no idea how to define
my own mojo.
I would suspect however, that it has something to do with food.

When I pause to consider what drives me or makes me tick, two things come to mind; gastronomy and coffee. In fact, both of these things are what I think about before I fall asleep, and both are what I look forward to at the first chime of my alarm clock.

I have often referred to myself as a “foodie” but lately it seems that this term has been manipulated to include only those who are afficionados of gastronomy (not me), while excluding those who share a passion for the preparation and consumption of
good food (me). In my opinion, the most valuable food education comes from research and development driven by the enthusiasm and appreciation for the final goal—the feast.

Some would argue that coffee has its rightful place within gastronomy. But I would urge them to consider its timeless contribution to la dolce vita and the simple joy-factor its consumption offers. My experience as an Italian American forces me to provide well-deserved exclusivity to such a titillating tonic
and so for me, it remains in a class by itself.

My love affair with all things culinary began some time in my adolesence when I found myself with some free time in an empty kitchen full of possibilities. The unexpected success of my first concoction, a humble bagel-burger, gave me the confidence to eventually face the challenges of tempering chocolate and proofing bread dough. I am still intrigued by the processes of cooking and baking, but neither would fulfill me without my passion for
eating and sharing good food.
I would imagine that my need to research, dissect, rewrite and develop recipes for one particular food for months at a time, has its share of OCD tendencies. At the risk of misappropriating diagnostic terminology, I would suggest that the “C” is interchangeable and on any given day could apply to Cake, Cookie, Cheese, Chocolate, or Coffee.
My Obsessive Coffee Disorder is a story that began many years ago…

It began well before my adolesence and will likely continue until my mug and I are planted where the coffee grinds meet the compost.
Coffee and I share a tumultuous love affair plagued by treason and infidelity. Our tale is one of unrequited love and misunderstanding.
I love coffee. It doesn’t always love me back. I have tried to understand its complexities but they elude me.
Yet I am a willing victim nonetheless.

My earliest memory of coffee is one I have tried to recreate, to no avail. It involves one beat-up aluminum espresso pot (the flip-and-drip kind), a can of ground espresso and a small congregation of early risers. For as long as I lived in my childhood home, “black coffee” was a daily morning ritual for my mother and grandmother. As a young child, I acquired a taste for that smoky bitterness only espresso can offer. Years before that (likely even before I had teeth), my great-grandmother would temper it with warm milk and any available (edible) object of dunkability. Once the pot was empty and housed only the compressed cake of exhausted granules, we moved on to “brown coffee,” which was the chaser of choice for a domicile dictated by caffeine and a love-hate relationship with its inevitable effects as a drug and a diuretic.

By the time I moved out and had my own collection of coffee pots,
I was already dependent on the grab-n-go variety of coffee to supplement my own brew. I even developed an affinity for the cardboard cup, much to my mother's shagrin.
None however, could mimic the flavors of my caffeinated youth.
That is not to suggest however, that I am partial to one particular type or brand of coffee. Years ago, I adopted my mother's policy for determining a coffee's drinkability; any brew that tastes too weak is "pish-water" and anything too strong should be avoided for fear it would "grow hair on your chest," but everything in between is fair game.
From my description, one might think I drink an excessive
amount of coffee. I don’t.
Typically, I hover somewhere between two and four cups per day.
On a good day, one of those is a cappuccino. And this is where I break from tradition because I come from a froth-free family. They only drink their espresso straight-up with a bit of sugar. Coffee purists might argue that froth or cream is merely a distraction from the quality, flavor and temperature of the brew, but I want
clouds in my coffee because they taste good, period.
And where taste is concerned, I continue to disgrace coffee connoisseurs worldwide. I have never had a firm grasp on the
whole bean to brew process anyway, and so I make most of my coffee purchases based on what I like and what will fit into my
Keurig brewer. My one experience with an imported, overpriced espresso machine left me pining for a simpler, more flavorful cup from my mother’s dented aluminum pot. So, I sold the monstrosity on eBay and now I depend on Bialetti’s version of the stovetop
moka pot and a three-dollar, battery-operated mini-frother
from Ikea. Together they make a mean cappuccino and
no one had to sell a kidney to support the purchase.

The best cup of coffee in my opinion however, is a free one.
I hold no prejudice when someone else is buying. And quite honestly, the promise of coffee is often the single motivating factor behind many a daunting task. My favorite caffeinated concoction has supported me through countless written reports, early exams,
diner-therapy with friends, self-inflicted yard sales, dialogue with teenagers, taxes, and most recently, part-time employment. In fact, on most days it is exclusively what sees me through a five-hour shift of selling and accommodating big-brand beaurocracy. Some would suggest I quit the job and switch to decaf, but it pays for bills, bad spending habits and (most importantly) baking.
So, I surrender to my own hypocrisy for the sake of survival
here in suburbia.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the unwavering support from one sympathetic co-worker who consistently offers me a piping hot cup of perseverance when I need it most. Unfortunately, I can’t return the favor because he happens to be the only Italian-American I know who doesn’t drink coffee (go figure) and so, I barter baked goods.
And what about decaf? Quite honestly, on the rare occasion that I drink it, I do so primarily for the sake of others. While I consider it the anti-coffee, it has saved many a social evening from my
rapid-fire ranting and excruciating enthusiasm.
Not so much fun, if you ask me.

Perhaps it is foolish for me to place such high expectations on a beverage. But, love is blind and my passion for the percolated is supported by a lifetime of significant events when my cup was literally and figuratively full.

And whether or not I figure out how to define my own life force,
I am certain that my journey will reveal that both gastronomy and coffee are staunch supporters of my own mojo.

At this point in time, I can say with complete surety that
my mojo needs some mo' joe and so, while I go fire up the Bialetti
I will leave you with a recipe for a favorite (easy) coffee dessert
and some of my favorite quotes about coffee.
I have also listed a few definitions for mojo, but this term is one
I strongly encourage you to define for yourself.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


From Everyday Italian by Giada DeLaurentiis


This dessert is the Italian version of a hot fudge sundae. Traditionally it's made with vanilla ice cream but you can substitute your favorite flavor.
It will come as no surprise to you that I prefer coffee ice cream for this dessert.

1/3 Cup cold whipping cream
1/2 Cup boiling water
1 TBS instant espresso powder
*(You may substitute hot, freshly brewed espresso for the boiling water and espresso powder)
1 Pint of your favorite gelato or ice cream
(Giada strongly recommends chocolate ice cream)

In a medium bowl, beat the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (can be made up to four hours ahead).
In a 1-cup glass measuring cup, whisk the boiling water with espresso powder until powder is dissolved. Scoop gelato or ice cream into 4 dessert bowls or glasses. Pour 2 tablespoons of hot espresso over each, top with whipped cream and serve immediately.


Coffee Quotes:
(A good read, if you ask me)

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness. ~Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with. ~Drew Sirtors

Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. [Coffee] is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat. ~Author Unknown

No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils. ~Henry Ward Beecher

A morning without coffee is like sleep. ~Author Unknown

Conscience keeps more people awake than coffee. ~Author Unknown

I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee. ~Flash Rosenberg

Mothers are those wonderful people who can get up in the morning before the smell of coffee. ~Author Unknown

Way too much coffee. But if it weren't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever. ~David Letterman

He was my cream, and I was his coffee -
And when you poured us together, it was something
~Josephine Baker

In Seattle you haven't had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it's running. ~Jeff Bezos

The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself. ~Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case, 1995

Don't laugh at the coffee. Some day you, too, may be old and weak. ~Author Unknown

It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity. I bet this kind of thing does not happen to heroin addicts. I bet that when serious heroin addicts go to purchase their heroin, they do not tolerate waiting in line while some dilettante in front of them orders a hazelnut smack-a-cino with cinnamon sprinkles. ~Dave Barry

Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis - a good hot cup of coffee. ~Alexander King

Coffee gives people energy, and cafes bring them together--a potent combination. Voltaire downed as many as 50 cups a day. Beethoven would count 60 beans into a single cup. Balzac walked across Paris to get three kinds of coffee from different shops to make a blend that kept him awake to write from midnight until midday. He explained that when he drank coffee, "...ideas begin to move...the paper is covered in ink."-- From A Passion for Coffee by Hattie Ellis

And my personal favorite…

I bought a decaffeinated coffee table, you can't even see a difference. ~Author Unknown


Mojo is a term commonly encountered in the African-American folk belief called hoodoo. A mojo is a type of magic charm, often of red flannel cloth and tied with a drawstring, containing botanical, zoological, and/or mineral curios, petition papers, and the like. It is typically worn under clothing.

The word mojo traces its origins to Congo, Africa (from moyo, meaning "soul" or "life-force") and entered the English language during the era of slavery in the USA. It has been widely known from the 19th century and early 20th century to the present.

Jim Morrison of The Doors named himself "Mr. Mojo Risin" — an anagram of "Jim Morrison" — in the song "L.A. Woman." This usage of the word was spoofed by Mike Myers in the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, in which the title character has his mojo stolen, and loses his sexual confidence and prowess.