Fit For A King

Messy boy, after eating sandwich

So I’ve mentioned before that I’m a pretty good cook. But I certainly didn’t start out that way. Quite frankly, it would be kind of hard to make that claim since I’m on record somewhere as saying Spaghetti-Os is my favorite Italian dish.

However, as a young boy, I did have a go-to lunch selection that, in my mind, was perfection. In fact, the combination of ingredients needed to be so precise I was the only one who could make it correctly. And I would love to share this secret recipe with you at this time:

You’ll need bread. White of course; Wonder is preferable.

Pickles. Dill, whole, kosher.

Mayonnaise. Kraft. Is there any other kind?

Braunschweiger (aka Liverwurst): comes in a yellow wrapper.

Make sure all your ingredients are on the counter. For a proper sandwich, assembly must be done quickly. This is key.

Step one: Place bread slices in toaster.

Step two: While bread toasts, thinly slice the Braunschweiger and slice one pickle lengthwise.

Step three: Open the jar of mayonnaise then hover over the toaster.

This is the important part. Next steps should come in this order and in quick succession.

As soon as the bread pops us (bread should be warm but not fully toasted), slather one slice of bread with the mayonnaise, put down a layer of the Braunschweiger slices followed by a layer of pickle slices. Braunschweiger may slightly overlap the sides of bread but not excessively. Pickles should be oriented so they lie vertically (their ends should be at the top and bottom of the bread slices.) Cut the sandwich in half widthwise. Never diagonally.

Eat immediately while bread is still warm. There’s a small window of opportunity. Be advised that eating a cold Braunschweiger sandwich is a different culinary experience. Chase with a glass of cold white milk.

It takes practice to get everything exactly right. But I promise you, if done correctly, it will be 60s kitchen counter dining at its finest. If memory serves.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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A Foodie Memory

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Our kids pulled out all the stops this year. First, they gifted us with a wonderful theatrical experience by giving us tickets to WAITRESS. And then they provided us with a gift card to try out Norman Van Aiken’s new Mount Dora restaurant, 1921. This restaurant prides itself on using fresh items found in and around Florida.

OMG. What a special meal.  We were greeted with specially printed menus that had an anniversary greeting at the top. We opted for the chef’s tasting menu that gave us a sampling of all of this talented chef’s favorite creations. It is something I would recommend to anyone going to this restaurant (and I will be recommending this restaurant to everyone.)

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First up, an Italian country salad with pomelo and pistachio pesto. I’m not much of a salad guy but it was easy to clean this plate.

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Next, roasted octopus with artichokes. Our server, Mason, explained that the octopus found in a particular section off the Florida coast dine primarily on crab which gives them a kind of sweeter taste. I dreaded this plate before it came as it would normally be something I would turn my nose up at but I have to say it was my second favorite course. Meaty and flavorful. Quite a surprise.

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Up next, a substitution. Instead of the red snapper that was on the menu, we were treated with a special catch of the day: Pumpkin swordfish. Pumpkin because its flesh, when raw, has a distinctively orange hue. It is because it eats nothing but shrimp and the keratin buildup causes its skin to change color. Served in a lemon-caper butter sauce, I would have gladly accepted seconds were it available. By far, my favorite course.

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Rounding up the entree sampling was a beef shoulder tender served with white asparagus. A little on the heavy side (we aren’t big red meat eaters) but certainly can’t argue with the taste or presentation.

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Finally with our decaf coffee we accepted a banana panna cotta for dessert drizzled with bourbon caramel.

It was not just a dinner. It was a full-on culinary experience. Our server took the time to explain what made each course unique and educated us on the process that goes into developing the menu that can change daily based upon what their vendors bring them that day.

A big thank you goes to our kids for such extraordinary (and extravagant) gifts. You made this anniversary so special for us and gave us a break from giving gifts to each other. We just decided to enjoy the ones you gave us. Believe me, it was more than enough. You helped us make a memory today.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories by taking old home movies, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos or slides and converting them to digital forms. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Some Like It Hot

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I was running late at the studio yesterday so, instead of coming home to prepare dinner, I stopped off at our local Thai restaurant and brought home some chicken curry. I ordered it medium hot. One bite and I was reminded that my definition of hot and the Thai definition are separated by a few hundred degrees. It reminded me of one of my very first dates as a shy and awkward youth.

After summoning up the courage to ask a young lady for a date, I sought advice from her friends on where they thought she’d like to go for dinner. The response was immediate and unanimous. “Chinese food,” they said, “She loves Chinese food.”

“Perfect,” I thought, not knowing my Moo Goo from my Gai Pan. But I threw caution to the wind and booked a reservation anyway. How hard could it be? Food is food.

I didn’t recognize a thing on the menu. I let her order her course and then relied on the classic fall back position. “I’ll have what she’s having.” What I didn’t understand then was what she was having was extra hot.

I have a few very specific physiological reactions to extremely spicy foods… none of which are attractive, especially if you are aiming to impress someone.

First my nose begins to run. Like a fire hose. Next my eyes water. Think Terms of Endearment on steroids. And then, (and I didn’t even know this was possible), I begin to projectile sweat. Literally.. sweat droplets would leap from my forehead like they were launching themselves from the decks of the Titanic and, to my utter embarrassment, without regard to where they might land.

Throughout all this I kept trying to make small talk to keep some semblance of order and dignity to the date. Thankfully the waiter noticed my plight and brought me extra bowls of rice with the helpful advice, “Eat. You feel better.” I would have replied but my tongue was now swollen to twice its size.

I never went back to that restaurant. I never had a second date with the girl. But now, with every Chinese meal I eat, I order an extra side of rice. One never knows.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitizing of film, videotape, audio tape, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Eat in the New Year

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I don’t know about everyone else’s New Year’s Day menu, but if you were to dine with our Southern household, I know exactly what you’d be having for dinner tonight. It was the same every year.

Ham Steak, Hoppin John (a black-eyed pea concoction), yellow rice, corn bread, and an orange jello salad. We were told that such fare was a family tradition that brought health, wealth, and good fortune to those who partook of the meal.

Ours was not the only tradition that was played out at the dining room table around the world. There seem to be as many New Years Day food staples as there are cultures:

SPAIN:   If you celebrate the New Year in Spain, you’ll be wanting to bring twelve grapes with you. Their custom is to pop a grape with each chime as the clock strikes midnight.

NETHERLANDS: The Dutch will be looking for a local food cart for their annual portion of oliebollen (fried oil balls). These doughnut-like dumplings contain currants or raisins and are sprinkled with powdered sugar.

JAPAN:  As far back as the 1600s, Japanese families are accustomed to eating soba noodles at midnight to symbolize their desire for longevity and prosperity.

ITALY:  Italians end the year by celebrating La Festa di San Silvestro and partaking of the traditional sausage and lentil stew known as cotechino con lenticchie. The lentils are said to represent money and good fortune.

DENMARK/NORWAY:  You’ll see towers of cake in these nations as the residents celebrate with their traditional Kransekage (wreath cake). Concentric rings of cake are layered one atop another, decorated and oftentimes have a bottle of wine situated in the center hole.

MEXICO: Tamales, a favorite food at any time of the year, becomes even more prominent at New Years. It is often served with menudo, a soup said to be able to cure hangovers.

AUSTRIA/GERMANY: There will be plenty of pigs on the table in a German/Austrian household. Suckling pig is sure to be on the menu as well as Marzipanschwein, little pigs made of marzipan.

POLAND/SCANDINAVIA: Pickled herring is the go-to meal for New Years in these countries – often served in a cream sauce or with onions. A special treat called Sledzie Marynowane is make by soaking salt herrings in water for a day and then layering them in a jar with onions, allspice, sugar and white vinegar.

VARIOUS COUNTRIES: A tradition that spans multiple cultures is the baking of a New Year’s cake. Within the cake is usually hidden a gold coin or figure and the person who finds it in his slice is said to be destined for a prosperous year.

Whatever your tradition, eat heartily and have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories – even those found around the dining room table. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.