NOTE: I started this two weeks ago and then got distracted playing Candy Crush.
We, meaning Richard, Mitch and I, decided to spend the Labor Day holiday in Louisiana visiting Brent. Paige was miffed that she didn't get an invite, but being way out west in Lubbock and into her first week of classes, it really wasn't feasible.
Floating on the Aggies' miraculous 52 - 28 win against South Carolina the night before (Johnny WHO?), we left mid-morning on the last Friday in August and drove the five hours east and south to Leesville and Fort Polk, much of that in a wet drizzle. Brent was waiting for us with a fully stocked bar, and a townhouse that was quite a change from the empty one we'd toured in March after his redeployment. He'd bought furniture, all very masculine, and very tasteful. No posters of half-naked girls, no beer bottle collection like his father had, tho' I do suspect the plastic folding table that was covered with a nice cloth and used for dining during our visit, moonlights as a beer pong table. The reason I know this is because I found three ping pong balls lurking in a small box on the kitchen counter.
Earlier in the week, Richard and I had a disagreement over what to fix for Friday night's dinner. He wanted to grill steaks; I wanted something more southern, like shrimp and grits. He said the boys wouldn't like grits, which I took to mean that he didn't like grits, or at least the way I prepare them, so I said, "You and your steaks can KISS MAH GRITS!" in my best Flo the Waitress voice. In the end, the steaks persevered. It's difficult for a lone female to compete with three males and their need for bloody meat.
My only contribution to dinner was a horseradish cream sauce, something that is normally served with prime rib, but what the heck. The problem here was that Brent's kitchen is devoid of all but the most basic kitchen tools, so I was forced to whip the cream by hand. It took roughly 40 minutes. Just as I was starting to give it up as a bad job, it began thickening. It's stuff like this that makes me wonder how certain things came to be, like whipped cream. I mean, what would possess someone to sit down with a bowl of fresh cream and start beating the hell out of it? And keep in mind, this was before electricity.
As it turned out, the four expensive filets de boeuf we bought from our favorite butcher cooked to perfection. This led to some intense discussion as to WHY they were so good, because, in all honesty, Richard's grilling technique is a tad spotty. Brent opined that it was probably his tiny Weber grill. The chef said he thought it was because he bought choice instead of prime. I chalked it up to luck and getting the coals just right. Mitch had no opinion because he subsists on Taco Bell five days a week. Brent was even nice enough to compliment my horseradish cream sauce, tho' by serving time it was a bit watery and broken down from not getting a proper whipping.
Bedtime was problematic, as it nearly always is when one sleeps with Richard. Being just this side of stone deaf, I always thought I'd make the perfect wife for a man who snores. Instead, I married Richard who jerks, twitches, spasms, and flops all night long. And at Brent's, for the first time in decades, we were faced with the prospect of sleeping in a double bed. Our newlywed bed was a double, but 34 years ago we were both a lot skinnier. Needless to say, for one of us it wasn't a restful night.
Saturday we drove to Natchitoches, about an hour or so north of Leesville. Despite its spelling, Natchitoches is pronounced NACK-a-tish, for some unfathomable reason, and is the oldest town in Louisiana, founded in 1714. If you've never been, you really should visit. In fact, I have decided that this is where I want to retire, even if it means having to put up with the scores of LSU and Saints fans that are everywhere in this state. Richard wasn't nearly so receptive to this idea, and the boys looked at me as if I'd grown horns, especially Brent. He can't wait to get out of Louisiana and here was his mother talking about moving in.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the downtown area and doing the tourist bit. Downtown fronts the Cane River, and is a smaller and much cleaner version of the French Quarter. During lunch, a real live monk walked into the premises and headed for the bar. He was decked out in a brown robe, sandals, a rope belt, and a tonsure. I was so enthralled with this time traveler straight out of the medieval ages, that I didn't even think to snap his picture. The restaurant staff seemed to take his presence for granted, so maybe there is a monastery somewhere in the area.
After our encounter with Friar Tuck, we went across the street to a public garden, Beau Jardin. Here are some photos:
It was another drizzly day and while it was not hot, it was very muggy. Looking to get into some air-conditioning for a couple of minutes, Richard and I moseyed unsuspectingly through a modest door and into the wonderland that is:
This is one of those places you have to see to believe. Hardware, kitchenware, household goods, toys, CLOTHES. Perhaps buoyed by his culinary success, Richard kept wandering over to the BBQ section and stealing looks at a Big Green Egg on display. I was busy going back and forth between the kitchenware and the toys. One could easily lose a whole afternoon lost in a trip down memory lane:
I could not resist purchasing these measuring spoons. I mailed them to my daughter to give to Texas Tech's executive chef (she works with him), as I thought Dewey would get a kick out of them. Notice the amounts: smidgen, dash and pinch. Now we know what grandma was talking about in those cryptic recipes that never gave precise measurements:
After a stop at a local bar to wet our whistles — I had ONE drink, it is important that you know this — we headed back to Leesville. A little two-lane highway, 117, connects the towns. I wrote about our first excursion down this road from hell in the black of night, and the numerous deer grazing alongside, and how wound up I got for thinking one of the animals would get it into its head to leap in front of the car. One collision with a deer, and you are scarred for life, trust me on this. This time it's dusk, happy hour for those in the Cervidae family. I am in the back seat trying not to hyperventilate, and wishing we had some kind of deer radar, like the thingymabobs people use to alert them to speed traps. Sure enough, I spy with my eagle eye two deer, perhaps 100 yards ahead on the left. I did what one does in such circumstances: I yelled, "Watch out for the deer!", screwed my eyes shut, and braced for impact. When nothing happened, I cracked open an eye. The car was stopped, Mitch had turned in the driver's seat and was glaring at me, and the deer I'd seen were actually two mailboxes. I have a feeling I'm not going to live that one down.
Musta been a heckuva strong drink,
Today's blog is a public service announcement.
I was wandering around my local Kroger the other day and decided, on a whim, to try this Herdez brand microwave meal, see the photo below. I also bought a pork chile verde entree. I can't be bothered to cook lunch for myself, so it's soup, or a sandwich, leftovers from dinner, or a frozen meal I can nuke in the microwave. Unless I'm meeting someone for lunch, I seldom go out; the high fat, high calorie choices out there are too tempting.
Notice the Spanish at the top of the box. It says "con toda confianza". Now, my grade school Spanish is pretty bad, considering how it was contaminated with a lot of Yiddish, but even I can translate the words to English. It says with confidence. Also notice the nice chunky morsels of tender beef swimming in the guajillo chile sauce.
So it was with confidence I bought the two entrees, and with that same confidence, I decided to try the beef version for lunch. When I took the bowl out of the box, my confidence started to ebb. Through the plastic I could see a mound of rice on one side, and a brown blob on the other. No meat was apparent, but I figured it was lurking down at the bottom of the bowl, beneath the frozen sauce. Five minutes later, here's the result:
Now, I don't expect the actual meal to look exactly like its advertised counterpart. The Whataburger I buy doesn't have the lettuce tweezered on just so, nor has the fry cook picked through a bushel of tomatoes to find just the right shade of red, nor is the cheese precisely placed so that the corners flop daintily and evenly over the sides. But the elements advertised are in their promised shape and form. What happened to the CHUNKS of meat seen in the photo? This was nothing but shredded glop.
Surely, this had to be an anomaly, so I opened the other Herdez entree, the pork chile verde. This was even worse:
The beef, at least, was identifiable as beef, or maybe beef-like. This "pork" was completely unappetizing, a grey mush with tiny bits of mystery meat.
So, how'd they taste? I have no idea. I was too revolted by the "pork" to want to try either, and both ended up in the trash.
I am confident I won't be buying Herdez products in the future.
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