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the punch line

18 Jul

I have a bad habit. I laugh at my own jokes. Like, a lot. Once, Josh and I got caught in a short hail storm in Washington DC, and as we peered out of the car windows at the little ice bombs dropping from the sky, I shouted with mock indignance, “OH HAIL NO!”

I almost died laughing at that line–and not just a “funny ha ha” laugh, but the deep-bellied Gina laugh some of you might recognize as especially, ahem, boisterous–while Josh just had to sit and wait my laughter storm out. (Confession: Sometimes one of us will bring this little anecdote up, and I laugh all over again. I’m pretty sure you know you’ve got a good joke when it still cracks you up years later. Even if you’re the only one laughing. …Right??)

I think they meant to use the “Chelada” font to spell the word “Gross”

Fast forward to last night, when my sweet husband drove me to the grocery store to get some mint cookie ice cream. He had been craving a beer himself, and I suggested he get a can of Bud Light & Clamato–one of his favorites (despite earning an official Beer Advocate score of Awful).*

Josh shrugged. “I don’t think Bud Light & Clamato will go well with the ice cream.”

“Um, Bud Light & Clamato doesn’t go good with itself,” I shot back.

There was the tiniest silence before it happened. I roared–I am so witty you guys!

“Gina… that wasn’t even that funny.” Josh noted tenderly between my giggle fits.

And you know what? I kind of see his point. But it was too late, the Gina Joke laughter dam was broken.


* This review sums up the Bud Light & Clamato nicely:

It’s somewhat tolerable, didn’t make me gag too much and I might’ve been able to nurse it until it was gone, except you weren’t kind enough to put it in a regular 12-ounce can.

Oh no.

Instead you decided to put your clammy concoction in a huge 24-ounce aluminum jug, making it impossible to finish without it getting warm, which makes the Chelada feel like someone rinsed their mouth with it and spit it back into the can.


katz curried oatmeal

27 Mar

Very often when I tell someone I have a food blog, the first question they ask is, “Why food?” The answer, of course, is because I love food. I love how sensory it is. I love that food can be both tradition and experiment. I love the different experiences it has to offer–whether you eat at home, at a restaurant or from a cart on the street. I love the peace of cooking, and of enjoying a meal I’ve made myself. But more than anything, I love the moments food allows us to share with others.

Several years ago I bought a book at a used book store in Daytona Beach called Eating Through Literature and Art. Grouped like a cookbook, according to meal type, each section includes excerpts, notes and recipes from people like Franz Kafka, Allen Ginsberg and John Cage. I was flipping through it a couple weeks ago, and this breakfast entry by Steve Katz, a response to the editor’s request for a recipe, captured just exactly the feeling. It’s stuck with me ever since, and I can’t help but share it with you here:

Katz Curried Oatmeal

I never expected to express this as a recipe. I like to think of it as the culmination of a morning mode, following the processes of eyelid lifts and other sophisticated exercises that result in eventual verticality. One happy result of following these instructions with some sincerity is that you will find yourself vertical by a seascape so beautiful I wouldn’t trust a description of it to the world’s best writers. That’s the shores of Cape Breton, preferably at dawn–erect at dawn , supine by sunset. You go there to get the oatmeal, Ogilvie’s Scotch Style Oatmeal, generally for sale at the Co-op in Inverness or at McLellans. You can probably get it at other stores elsewhere in Nova Scotia and Canada, but I can’t see why you would want to. If you can’t go that far, and want to simulate the recipe, I suggest you avoid Quaker Oats and find some loose steel-cut oats in a health food or bulk grain outlet. Quaker Oats don’t give you the nutty texture you want for the awakening this dish ideally provides.

To cook 1 cup of these oats you will need 4 to 5 cups of freshly drawn spring water. This water is best from the hills of Foot Cape, but I am sure you can find an adequate substitute. Many people like to cook the oats in a double-broiler or on a low heat throughout the night. I have tried that and it made for some soft oats, but I prefer the texture you get cooking them directly over the flame, and stirring frequently. Bring the water to a rolling boil, add the oats, lower the heat to a simmer, and stir frequently. The oats foam up and threaten to escape the pot at first, but you will find that as you tend them, they will calm down and become quite tame to your attention.

These oats take twenty minutes to a half hour to reach their optimum texture, which for me is more or less “al dente.” When they are about half way you can add the spices. If you have a preferred curry powder you can stir in 1/2 to a full teaspoon of that, according to taste. I’ve liked some curry powders, but what I have consistently used and preferred is the following combination of 1/4 teaspoon each of cumin, ground coriander, tumeric, and cayenne. The amounts of each can vary according to taste. Add salt also to taste. At least five minutes before the oats are ready add 1/2 cup of diced dried fruit. I enjoy a combination of raisins, black or golden, preferably not treated with sugar, and unsulphured dried apricots. After you add the fruit check occasionally to see how much water it absorbs, and if the pot needs it, add some boiling water.

To finish the porridge saute some raw sunflower seeds in butter. I prefer the lightly salted butter of Tatamagouche, when I can get it. When the sunnies are light brown pour them into the nicely bubbling porridge. You will hear a heavenly hiss from the disturbance of steam that for the moment will drown out the sound of the waves breaking.

Four to six of your friends are sitting outside the tipi, or on the deck, or with their feet dangling off the bank, as they watch the early sunlight come over the hill to touch the crests of the waves. This should fill a nice bowl for each of them, that will warm their bellies for much of the day. Serve it to them with a bowl of yogurt, and some coffee brewed with cardamon. They are your friends, and there will never be another morning like this morning.

1 cup oats (Ogilvie’s Scotch Style, or steel cut)

4-5 cups spring water

1/2-1 tsp curry or 1/8 tsp each cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, cayenne


1/2 cup diced dried fruit

1/2 cup sunflower seeds



I am fortunate to know, and have shared a drink or meal with, most, if not all, of the people who read this blog. You are my friends, family and colleagues–and these are among my most cherished memories.

’tis the season for popcorn balls

4 Dec

Grandma Marie's famous popcorn balls

I think everyone has special holiday treats that are a part of their family traditions. For the Welkers, it’s Christmas cookies and popcorn balls, lovingly prepared by my godmother, Grandma Marie (you know, the one who makes the heavenly canned peaches).

Grandma Marie used to make these every single year, but it’s been a while since she’s done it–so when my mom called me to tell me they’d gotten a box, I immediately begged for her to send me one. (Love you, Mom!) Popcorn balls are just one of those things that make me think of the holidays and being a kid; as I unwrapped my popcorn ball from this year’s batch, I could practically hear my mom warning me I would get cavities if I ate too many.

Naturally, that never stopped me from devouring the entire thing in one sitting.

Happy holidays to all!

hot spot: poor herbie’s

5 Oct
poor herbies

Grandpa Ed at Poor Herbies. New Jersey, 2010

I made a trip to New Jersey/New York last week and have to tell you guys about Poor Herbie’s. Poor Herbie’s is an old family run pub and restaurant in Madison, New Jersey with an Irish-American feel and an Italian-American menu. Grandpa Ed first took me there when I was a sophomore in college, and that is when I first tasted Poor Herbie’s house salad with creamy Italian dressing. My life hasn’t been the same since.

House salad w/ creamy italian dressing, Poor Herbies

House salad w/ creamy italian dressing, Poor Herbies

This trip marks the third time I’ve gotten to have that salad in the past 10 years, and even though there’s nothing to it but lettuce, tomato and dressing, I’ll be damned if it isn’t still super freaking delicious.

Of course, the company is always great, too. :)

eat, memory!

23 Sep

I don’t know about you, but I have so many memories that are defined by food, and thought I would share some of those with you now and again. I had the opportunity to field this idea by friend and co-worker Jamie Fortune while on the road from Charlotte to Tallahassee last weekend, and was so delighted to hear some of the food memories from her family–I hope you will share your own in the comments below.

Canned Peaches, 2008

In 2008, my dad, mom, brother and I made our way back to Boise, Idaho, for my grandmother’s passing. Since my immediate family moved from Boise to Florida in the ’80s, we haven’t had too many chances to make our way back and so every trip there is precious to me.

During this visit, my parents, brother and I stopped to see my godmother, Grandma Marie. Grandma Marie is nothing if not at home in the kitchen, and for years sent family and friends boxes of goodies like peanut brittle and popcorn balls for Christmas. She invited us over for breakfast, and friends, if there is one thing I will never forget in my entire life, it is that meal. Homemade biscuits and gravy, eggs, waffles–and the piece de resistance, canned peaches.

Grandma Marie and her daughter Penny Nancy (Woops, other daughter–thanks, Mama!) pick peaches and can them just about every year, which makes every year I spent never having tried them add up to what I consider a gastronomic tragedy of untold proportions. If I could have willed my stomach to be bigger so I would never have to stop eating those peaches, I would have. They were perfectly bright and beautiful sitting in a small crystal bowl next to my plate–the sun coming in from the window shining off of the juice just so–and, on a trip otherwise marked by sadness and loss, they were heaven.

Three-scoop Sundae, 2000

Another thing many of you already know about the Welkers is that we have a deep-seated love for ice cream, and so it only makes sense that Friendly’s has played a somewhat pivotal role in my life. In fact, one summer during college I actually applied to work there, filling in the desired position as “Ice Cream Artist.” I hold a grudge to this day that they never called to interview me.

Fortunately, there was a Friendly’s where I went to school in Deland, and during the year my friends and I would make what you might call frequent trips for dessert–that is, until one day during my sophmore year.  I had rallied the troops for our normal ice cream trek, and seven of us drove across town to Friendly’s, where we were seated in a booth and chatted back and forth as menus were passed out. But when the waitress came back to the table, there was dead silence.

“Are you guys gonna order?” I asked.

“No, I don’t want anything,” someone said.

“Nah,” said another.

I sat there, confused, until finally one of them confessed: “We only come here because you like it so much!”

I swear to you, I stared at them with jaw dropped for what felt like hours as my mind tried to process the idea that anyone could not love ice cream as much as I do–but apparently, it’s true!

So, Dear Eaters, what memories do you have?