Food Friday: Love is in the Air

Or it could be snow. This might be a good weekend to stay in and cook. A bubbling pot of chili always radiates a nice, homey feeling. But you should be thinking about next Tuesday – hint – Valentine’s Day.

You will need to step up your cooking game for Tuesday. Because, really, who wants to go out to a crowded restaurant for an expensive and indifferent meal, when one cooked at home can be imbued with ardor? According to the Wall Street Journal , Valentine’s Day is a day when romantic gestures can be costly. The cheapest Champagne they list is a Dom Perignon, Rosé, for $795. The least expensive restaurant dinner is $395.00 per person, with wine. Heavens to Betsy! Look at all the money we have just saved!

If you cannily start to hunt and gather your ingredients this weekend, you can have a titillating Valentine’s meal at home. Mr. Friday always feigns surprise when Valentine’s Day rolls around. He assumes that it (and Christmas) should only pop up on the calendar every four years – like Leap Year, or the Olympics. So I can’t expect him to be the one scouring the cookbooks looking for a way to woo and delight me. Instead I will buy a few candles, and will stock up on some deelish Prosecco ($15.99), and Nigella and I will use the kitchen to lavish upon him some earthly delights.

Nigella Lawson has some fabulous ideas for romantic meals. One that she suggests is a simple steak for wooing a new love – because you both are nervous and giddy and clumsy and can’t handle chop sticks or French sauces. Assuming you are not dating a vegetarian, her Tagliata Steak for Two is a bold and confident approach to a first Valentine’s Night meal.

We usually have steak on the weekends, cooked to Mr. Friday’s exacting standards. So I will be springing another of Nigella’s sensual entrées on him – my personal favorite – Buttermilk Roast Chicken.

My favorite meal has always been chicken and rice (except when it was spaghetti and meatballs) and I find it a familiar, yet celebratory, dish. And while the chicken is marinating in the fridge, I can chuckle to myself that I am working so hard to prepare an appetizing and enticing dinner. And it took me at least twenty years to perfect this rice recipe – but I will share it with you, Gentle Readers: prepare rice according to package directions – except use chicken broth (homemade is best, but Swanson’s will do) instead of water.

1 cup rice
2 cups water (broth)

Bring water (broth) to a boil in a small saucepan
Stir in the rice
Cover the pan, and reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

Two servings. Perfection!

Buy a bag o’salad.

Nigella is the queen of desserts. You can wander through her books and website and gain weight just by looking at the images. You might prefer her Chocolate Raspberry Shortcakes.

I am going for all the gusto – and will be stirring up a Chocolate Guinness Cake. Yumsters!

And after we have consumed our swoon-worthy meal we can curl up on the sofa and watch Monday’s Stephen Colbert, which we cleverly programmed on Tivo. Romance in the 21st century.

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Food Friday: Downton Abbey’s Time Travel Nachos

Gentle readers: Food Friday is away, but has rummaged around in the Way Back Machine, looking for a gentler time. We will return to the craziness of 2017 next week. In the meantime, please remember your manners, and be kind to one another; play nicely.

Lady Mary Crawley is ever so sylph-like and elegant. She looks as if she has never eaten a sandwich in her entire gloriously privileged Downton Abbey life. She appears to have wafted on from the inconvenience of Mr. Pamuk’s nocturnal death, through the reluctant courtship, growing love and untimely tragedy with young Matthew Crawley. She is now managing the fatstock sales of 1925 without capitulating to the siren song of the lowest common denominator: food. Or so you might think.

Lady Mary, leaving behind no more than a trace of her eau de cologne and the distant click of her ropes of pearls, has been glimpsed will-o-the-wisping through the servants’ hall on the rare nights of televised sport, when Mrs. Patmore prepares her renowned Time Travel Nachos. These are the nights when Mr. Carson takes off his white tie, and Mrs. Hughes loosens her stays, and Mr. Molesley lets down his dyed hair. Quick as a flash, Lady Mary samples the nachos, and then disappears back upstairs.

Mr. Barrow smiles knowingly, as he and Miss Baxter share a glass of beer, and put their hard-working feet up, enjoying the blend of hot cheeses, bean dip and the thrilling burn of the exotic jalapeño peppers. The times they are a changin’ at Downtown Abbey, and Mrs. Patmore is going to bring everyone’s taste buds screaming into the twentieth century. Just wait for their heads to explode when they get to the guacamole! So long, bubble and squeak!

Perhaps we should not share any of these recipes with Robert, (spoiler alert!) in case his ulcer blows again, but we common folk are rather fond of almost any dish that serves hot melty cheese, crispy crunchy corn chips with a slew of ingredients that could mirror the cast of characters at Downton for sheer variety and eccentricity.

The onlookers at a fatback auction are nothing compared to a hungry crowd that has gathered at your humble crofter’s cottage for the quaint American activity known as the Super Bowl. Lord Grantham, be forewarned. The game is afoot.

We here at the Spy Test Kitchens abhor soggy nachos, so we recommend making several cookie sheets worth of nachos for your Super Bowl activities. It means more time hovering in the kitchen, and maybe missing some of the commercials, but that is why YouTube was invented. This way, everyone will be sure of having nice hot, crisp and cheesy nachos. We bake ours at about 450° degrees for about 7 or 8 minutes. Don’t wander off!

Use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil for an easy clean up. Daisy has enough to do already, and doesn’t need to play scullery maid to you rude Americans. This way you can keep a continuous conga line of nachos moving up from the Kitchens through to the Great Hall.

Hint: don’t overload the chips with toppings – you’ll avoid sogginess and it is so much easier to eat lightly dressed chips with your fingers. (Don’t forget to take off your evening gloves, first.)

Here are some toppings for your own Mrs. Patmore’s delicious game day nachos:

Corn chips:
Buy them, or be prepared to spend your day hunched over a frying pan.

shredded Cheddar
Monterey Jack
Colby cheese

pulled pork
shredded rotisserie chicken
crumbled Italian sausage
browned taco meat
grilled steak

avocado slices
chopped sweet or red onions
shredded lettuce (add after cooking)
refried beans
black beans
chopped tomatoes
sliced pitted black olives
diced green, red, and yellow sweet peppers
jalapeños (use fresh – don’t use icky, pickled peppers)
fresh cilantro

To add after the nachos have come out of the oven:
shredded lettuce
sour cream

Mrs. Patmore also suggests strongly that Maryland’s Eastern Shore folks might enjoy this variation – crab and corn nachos.

8 ounces crabmeat
3/4 cup corn
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 teaspoon mustard

Spoon into tortilla scoops;
top with shredded Monterey Jack, then bake.

Mrs. Patmore knows her business!

(The Dowager Countess has already had a platter delivered to the Dower House; Violet is always planning ahead.)

Violet: “First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

Avalon’s Weekend Marquee Update

Each week, the Talbot Spy will be sharing with our readers the MCTV produced Weekend Marquee with Tim Weigand as host. We hope you enjoy this short two minute preview of what’s coming up over the next few days.

Food Friday: We are Toast

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about! I listened to a report about the perils of toast and potato chips this week. The plummy BBC accents did not make the reality any less harsh. There are new threats lurking in our kitchens, thanks to our fondness for the exceptional versatility and deliciousness of bread and potatoes. Toast and fries are a menace!

Acrylamides, the combination of water, sugar, and amino acids which are the very things that make bread toasty and tasty, are created when bread is heated in the toaster. They are what cause the browning of the surface of the bread, and make the delicious odor that wafts up from the toaster into your waiting nostrils. The essence of the the comfort we deride from toast is what is going to kill us all. Just when we need lots of hot sugary cups of tea, and plates of warm, buttery toast.

So long, toast.

Toast is the gateway ingredient for many other delicious meals. I remember my mother bringing me a trays of cinnamon toast when I was lying on the sofa, recovering from the mumps. Nothing more delicious had ever slid down that sore throat. And cinnamon toast was the first recipe I ever managed on my own. (The next was my famous peanut butter and potato chip sandwich, a classic combination of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy.)

If you can’t have toast, you can’t have grilled cheese: Grilled cheese is the basis for many a child’s sense of independence. One feels such autonomy when trusted to cook a grilled cheese unsupervised for the first time. From there it is a short hop, skip and jump to re-heating frozen pizza in the Toast-R-Oven.

Nor can you enjoy a grilled egg and cheese sandwich the Dan Pashman way: And nothing delightful and unexpected as this grilled cheese and kimchi sami: Ciao.

You won’t be able to consume French toast with abandon: So long to using up that stale bread and getting to drown your hungover Sunday in sweet lashings of maple syrup.

Say bye-bye to my favorite lunch, the BLT. And I cannot even begin to wonder what role acrylamides play in making bacon crispy and delish. Here is a more sophisticated and complex recipe, in case you ever get tired of the purity of a basic BLT:

When I feel like I have to order something for lunch that makes me exude worldliness, I will often order a club sandwich. Not any more, I suppose. I will be getting by with suggestions from the water sommelier. (I kid you not: How very depressing. Thank you Pioneer Woman for this very gussied up club sandwich:

While you are at it, you might as well whisper, “adieu” to the Croque Monsieur and the Croque Madame:

Say farewell to the best part of Caesar Salad, the crouton. Sigh. I fry ours in bacon fat, so I guess I am killing us off twice as fast.

And that’s the swan song for French Onion Soup, too. Frankly, the dripping browned cheese and the crouton are my favorite part of onion soup. That and trying politely to wrest a mouthful of melted cheese-draped bread out of the soup bowl without bringing shame to my family.

And toodle-oo to cocktail parties! No more witty banter while trying to appear poised enough to be a John Cheever character, as I successfully navigate the crowded room, a highball clasped in one manicured hand, the other winkling out a delicious toast point, coated with egg and a smidge of caviar.

It is the end of our happy times. Godspeed.

“It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. ”
― Nigel Slater

Talbot Historical Society Project Rewind: Takes the Train

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Project Rewind: Talbot County: Not sure what is more special in this Talbot Historical Society H. Robins Hollyday Collection photo, the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train or the car? Maybe our automobile experts followers can date the year of the car? Wonder where this photo was taken?

Contact: Cathy Hill to share your old photos. Comment, Like our page and join THS!

Mid-Shore Culture: For the Love of Cars in St. Michaels with Tad duPont

For more than fifty years the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels has been a standard in the world of nautical history and education, but it is safe to say that that makes the CBMM so special is that satisfies people’s special passion for boats. Families flock to the CBMM to look at and ride on boats, while individuals, from teens to senior adults, use the museum’s programs to learn how to build and repair them.

If Tad duPont, president of the Classic Motor Museum in St. Michaels, has his way, that same kind of passion will eventually be found for those who love of cars and motors at the soon to be open campus on East Marengo Street.

With the significant benefits of a historically restored house functioning as office and learning space, and the recent addition of a custom built barn, designed by Amish craftsman and capable of parking twenty-one rare automobiles, du Pont might very well get his wish.

Taking advantage of a community that has long been known for its love of old cars (there are more than 400 antique cars registered in Talbot County alone), the Classic Motor Museum’s leaders have a strong conviction that over time the CMM will be the Mid-Atlantic’s premier car destination.

The Spy talked to Tad last week about the origins of the Museum, the Museum’s launch plans, and his board’s effort to quickly reduce the $400,000 plus loans associated with the barn and campus improvement. He also talks about the extraordinary economic impact the Museum could potentially bring to the region.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Classic Motor Museum, please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Big Time Lawyer Ron Liebman Becomes Legal Thriller Bestseller

For several decades now, the book publishing world has embraced and thrived with the addition of the so-called,” legal thriller” among its many offerings. From Scott Turow to John Grisham, this subgenre of crime fiction has soared in popularity with the reading public as writers use the law in the same way as police work has done in the solving mysteries.

Now with five books behind him, the former lawyer and big-time prosecutor of such high profile politicians such as Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandell, Ron Liebman is beginning to be recognized as one of the new masters of this kind of fiction. The retired Patton Boggs attorney has attracted the attention of some the country’s most prestigious publishing houses like Simon & Schuster and Random House with his remarkable tales of legal intrigue, including his latest book entitled Big Law.

The Spy asked the Mid-Shore resident to talk about his new book as well as his own experience as a lawyer at one of the country’s largest and most successful law firms.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Big Law is available at local bookstores and on Amazon here. Ron will also have a reading of Big Law at the Academy Art Museum on February 3, 2017 from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Food Friday: The Common Cold

The temperatures have been dancing up and down, although it hasn’t seemed too much like a grim winter yet. Oh, dear. I’ve gone and offended the winter weather gods, and we will have blizzards throughout February. My apologies.

But that’s OK. I can just rack up some more quality time spent in bed, with my box of tissues, my dry up pills, and my Kindle. It is thoroughly demoralizing to be felled by a cold. Are there special colds, or just the common denominator kind? I have lived through car accidents, broken bones and childbirth, and nothing has made be feel more puny and vulnerable than a cold.

There is none of the middle-of-the-night drama of appendicitis, or the heaving violence of intestinal flu, thank goodness. I just lie against the pillows, hoping that I look vaguely like Camille, and cough cough cough. So attractive. And even more so now that my nose has gone a positively incandescent rose madder red from all the blowing. Who needs mousse? My hair stands up in spikes, all by itself.

Sadly, Luke the wonder dog speaks cough cough cough. He scuttles over from his comfy cushion in the corner of the bedroom, to sitting worriedly by my side of the bed, staring sadly at me. I wonder what doggy expletive I am shouting out to him whenever I cough. He does not react well to swearing as it is.

I let out a stream of oaths the other day when I dropped a bottle of wine, and it smashed to smithereens on the kitchen tile. Luke was so worried about that blue streak of swear words that spewed unbidden from my otherwise lady-like (Camille, remember?) lips, that he scuttled over as if he had been to blame. (I might yell at myself for stupidly dropping a bottle of cheap white wine, but I would’t yell at him. The poor dog has a misplaced sense of guilt and responsibility.) That is the sad, sincere, guilt-ridden face I see staring up at me whenever I have a coughing jag.

Luke does not let his responsibility for my cough cough coughing interfere when his internal clock announces that it is time for a walk. He might just be mutt of a dog, but he has a great facility for telling time. He might be Swiss, because at 8:00 AM, 12:01 PM and 4:59 PM he makes a dramatic show of wagging and wriggling himself about with anticipatory pleasure, insinuating himself between me and the computer, or me and the drawing table. That is very charming behavior normally, but when I have to drag the sneezy snotty cough cough coughing self out from the warm embrace of my Black Watch Pendleton blanket nest, and take someone out for walkies, I am aware of the injustice in the universe. I can hardly wait for the weekend to come, when I will either feel better, or Mr. Friday can walk Luke the wonder dog.

In the meantime, when I am not whingeing about poor, poor pitiful me, here are some things you can use to tempt your patients to consume; things that will improve their outlook and their poor raw noses.

Tissues – be sure to stock up on boxes and boxes of the kind suffused with lotion.

Fluids – Ginger ale, orange juice, Gatorade, tea

Bendy straws

Beef broth – you too, can pretend to be on the Queen Mary, wrapped in a thick wooly cruise ship rug, reclining on a spindly teak deck chair, watching for icebergs while sipping the warm broth as supplied by the nameless (yet attentive) deck hand.

Chicken noodle soup – when Mr. Friday had the cold he went through a couple of gallons of this.

Kindle, Netflix enabled or with any recent bio of Queen Victoria; the book will outlive the cold. It took me a week of steadily plowing through one biography, and King George VI had just died, and Victoria had just turned 18. If my cold worsens and I come down with pneumonia, maybe I’ll get to the wedding to poor, dear, doomed Albert.

Snacks – forbidden childhood favorites. Utz cheese balls. Yumsters.

Ice cream – for your sore throat

Drugs – you name an OTC cold remedy that we haven’t tried. Our Go To drug seems to be NyQuil, for its reliable powers to knock you out. Thank heavens. Otherwise Luke wouldn’t get a wink of sleep at night.

Here is a recipe from our clever friends at Food52. But I think you can cheat and use a can of Campbell’s. Shhh. You didn’t hear it from me!

“The only way to treat the common cold is with contempt.”
William Osler

Senior Nation: An Adult Son and Aging Mother Find a Solution at Dixon House

Perhaps there is no greater and more difficult decision to make for an adult child of an aging parent than to determine that independent living has come to an end for their mother or father. While “aging in place” has become an increasingly attractive and realistic alternative for many in their senior years, those who enter their 90s, or in some special cases even their 100s, simply are not physically capable of maintaining houses or apartments.

That was certainly the case with Eric Horst and his mother, Natalie Horst. Eric, Natalie’s only living child, had difficulty at first convincing his mother, who was a healthy person overall, that it was time to leave her own home. She had led an active life as a realtor and was a very social person. He comments, “She wasn’t managing the household well anymore, her hygiene habits had changed and she wasn’t cooking meals any longer.”

He adds, “I had heard good things about Dixon House being a well-run facility from community members. It was also an affordable option for us and I was really impressed by the staff here. With its 18 rooms, it felt like a Victorian boutique hotel.”

Eric and Natalie came for a visit and looked at a room adjacent to the second-floor screened porch. He recalls, “The room was unoccupied and stark, so I decided to decorate it for her with blue and white bed linens and valences, in her favorite colors, her artwork from home, and some temporary furniture. I brought her back for the second visit and she stayed the night.”

Eric remembers that the first week of Natalie’s stay at Dixon House, she got her hair done and had a pedicure. With her usual sense of humor, Natalie quips, “I came for a haircut and pedicure and decided to stay!”

Natalie has made friends at Dixon House and Eric feels she is content. Eric’s partner, Mike Thielke, now also serves on the Dixon House Board of Directors. As a special treat on Natalie’s birthday each year, which she shares with one other resident, Eric buys crab cakes for all the residents and staff and hosts a birthday party. He also contributes throughout the year as needs arise, recently donating a flat screen television at Christmas. He comments, “I am a big fan of Dixon House. I have peace of mind that my mother is safe and being cared for here.”

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information on Dixon House, please go here.

In the Footsteps of Martin: Walter Black Jr. Looks Back on Civil Rights on the Eastern Shore

As Martin Luther King Day approaches at the same time the country’s first African-American president is preparing to leaves office, It’s a natural time to reflect on the significant arc of history for civil rights in the United States. And there are very few people in Talbot County that was in a better place to watch that history locally than Walter Black, Jr.

From the age of six, Walter started to realize that there was a racially-divided community when he noticed that white children were being picked up by different school buses than he and his friends. By the time he attended Morgan State in 1960, he had already been active in the NAACP on the Eastern Shore, and from that point forward has dedicated his life to fighting first segregation and later discrimination in Talbot County and the entire state of Maryland as a long-standing president of NAACP’s local chapter and a leadership role in coordinating the civil rights organization in Maryland.

In his Spy interview, Walter, who recently turned 80, remembers what it was like to live in a segregated world and also recalls the tensions that existed in Cambridge during the 1967 demonstrations. Walter also talks about the future of race relations as well as the need to keep Martin Luther King’s words always in mind that, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

This video is approximately eight minutes in length 

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