What if I told you that you could cook a dish better than a world-famous chef?
And what if I told you it’s a one-pot meal, that’s both cheap and easy?
The chef is Chef Boyardee, and the dish is beefaroni (wait … stay with me, I’m going someplace with this).
“Chopped” is a show on Food Network. Four chefs are confronted by three baskets with four mystery foodstuffs in each. With them, they must cook an appetizer course, then main course, and finally dessert. The time is limited, and the pressure is immense.
After each round, one contestant is eliminated, so at the dessert cook-off only two remain.
The Kid and I are big fans of the show, and do lots of back-seat cooking.
I always get blue around St Patrick’s Day.
While refrigerators all over the country are stocked with corned beef and cabbage, the fridge at Chez Matthews is barren.
I adore Irish boiled dinner. When there’s a steaming slab of pink beef within reach, I lose all shame and self-control. I can eat my weight in that stuff.
Like every other right-thinking resident of the Bull City, Petey, The Kid and I miss Honey’s. That quintessential Southern diner fueled and filled generations of locals.
When my friend Bosco attended Duke, he often dined there.
Nobody’s called the fire department yet; but eventually somebody probably will.
And when they show up, I’ll invite them in and offer them a taste of the best home-cooked steak they’ve likely ever had.
Last week I waxed rhapsodic about well cooked, freshly milled, Southern grits. I mentioned that I like them topped with sliced steak and a light pan sauce.
In high school, I went to a CYO retreat. In the morning we were given powdered, scrambled eggs and grits. We all sat down outside to eat picnic style.
Suddenly heads began popping up from all over the field. It looked quite like a convention of startled prairie dogs.
As each person took a bite of their grits, they realized something was very, very wrong.
Who doesn’t love a Mexican feast? But making one at home is a giant hassle, with all the different dishes that go into it. It takes forever and turns your kitchen into something resembling a frat house on Sunday morning.
But, The Kid and I figured it out; with just a little work, and very little outlay of dough.
At the Matthews house, it’s not even a question. We are true-blue Dukies.
Unfortunately, my fandom is heavily colored by my general dorkiness. As much as I dream about meeting Coach K, I’m also petrified that the opportunity would turn me into a full-on stalker, and I would spend my twilight years in the state pen. So, it’s probably best that I’ve never run into the great man.
A hack is a tip or trick to make your life easier.
Want to play the theme from the Power Rangers on your cell? There’s a hack for that (press 3-3-2-3-9-3).
Have a big honking pimple on prom night? There’s a hack for that (dot with the liquid from an Advil gel cap).
Trying to open one of those impossible blister packs? Yep, a hack for that too (use a manual can opener).
There are a couple of food buzzwords that I think are ridiculous. One is “sexy”. Antonio Banderas is sexy. A plate of risotto is not. Black suede, thigh-high boots with a 4 inch heel are sexy. A well-cooked, medium-rare steak, while beautiful and delicious, is not sexy.
The other word so over-used that it means almost nothing, is “superfood.”
“It's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don't get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal.” (“The Simpsons”)
In the past few weeks, I’ve had brunch a couple of times at Watts Grocery (1116 Broad St.). Chef/owner Amy Tornquist’s splendid food is full of local, fresh ingredients and has something for everyone.
One day in my high school cafeteria I was delighted to find breaded veal patties.
I sat down with my lunch and my best buds, Bo and Rhi, eager to eat my unexpected bounty.
Excited, I took a bite — and shrieked. It didn’t taste like veal; it tasted like what Alpo smells like.
“Oh my gosh, they’re feeding us dog food!”
I won’t twerk. So don’t ask me.
I also won’t watusi, foxtrot or tango. Not a big dancer. In the first grade, I took ballet, tap and jazz for about six months. My 137-year-old teacher frightened me so much I quit. Thus my chance at being a Solid Gold dancer vanished into thin air.
Mrs. Dawson, our music teacher, gave me the lead role in our second-grade play.
I played the part of a sweet potato. I was completely engulfed in the costume Dad built for me from wire and yards and yards of orange cotton. My best friend, Lynette, had the supporting role of a stick of butter. She carried a knife that was as tall as we were, and together we danced and sang with buttery, carbohydrate abandon.
The first time I met Mildred Council (Mama Dip), she made me mad.
She had come to the bookstore where I worked to sign copies of her first cookbook, “Mama Dip’s Kitchen.” She also brought a few items that she’d cooked up from the cookbook. One of them was her pecan pie.
That pie was the basis of my ire.