Family Stuff

I don’t have anything notable to share on the food front, so instead I will make good on a promise I made in an earlier post – I want to talk a bit about my children, who really were the source and inspiration for this blog.

I am blessed with four fully grown offspring, ranging in age from 32 to 26.  Without getting TOO specific about them, let me share this:  First,they are pretty much scattered across the country – two in the Northeast, one in Texas and one has returned to the west coast where I live.  Two girls (women), two boys (men); three teachers (at present) and a marketing executive.  The two women are married and my eldest daughter had a son in December – our first grandchild!

Those are some of the more concrete details.  What’s more important is this:  they are beautiful, loving and healthy young people with good minds and good values.  They have all been very supportive of me (and, I’m certain, their mother as well) as I’ve tried to navigate this very daunting decoupling process.  My children are the lights in my life, and I love them.  You’ll see a picture down below from a few years back.  How those good looking youngsters came out of this ugly old man I’ll never know…. Guess I married well.

OK, further on the family front, one of my sons suggested that I incorporate some of my poetry into this blog.  Hmmm, hadn’t thought of that.  You see, shortly after our divorce started, at the suggestion of a friend and one son, I sat down to write, as therapy.  Figured I would write a short story or essay…but what came out was a poem.  I had never written a serious poem before, so I was quite surprised.  But I guess I must have liked it, because I’ve written 45 poems since February.  Most about my marriage or the breakup or my sadness since, but not all of them.  Anyway, let me try one on you.  It’s about the birth of our grandson and is entitled, “Fresh Air” (click on the link).  I hope you like it.  And below that is that picture.  Too much?  Let me know.  Thanks.

Fresh Air

ChristmasPhoto2013

Going, Going…Gone

Last night I wrote about the penne dish I prepared – and loved.  I was, however, castigating myself for preparing far too much.  Turns out my fears were unfounded.  Was running around today, so leftovers fit the bill nicely.  For lunch AND dinner.  Yeah, I had my penne for both meals.  If I had thought of it, I might have had it for breakfast, too.  That’s how good this stuff was.  I say “was” because, despite my concern about cooking too much, it’s all gone now (I just ate the last bite).  And it made GREAT leftovers!

Hmmm, questioning myself, overblown fears and still a favorable outcome…. I’ll try to keep that in mind for other matters I’m dealing with.

Just so you remember the penne dish, I’ve added the picture once again, just below.  Still looks yummy, doesn’t it?  That’s because it was.Penne Pleasure

Penne To The Rescue

It’s been a pretty rough week for me, emotionally speaking.  But I’m getting a bit better at doing things to distract myself from the dark side of my mind (“I am your father, Luke”).  Long dog walks, talking with friends, pursuing new work opportunities, doing laundry, etc.  One not so pleasant distraction: trying to sell our beautiful RV, from which my wife and I got far too little use while still together.  It’s a great vehicle… but also a very specialized rig and more expensive than most people understand.  So, we get all sorts of inquiries, mostly from “lookie lou’s” or from people who have little knowledge of the RV ecosystem.  And, some real bottom feeders – making low ball offers without ever seeing the van, that type of thing.  Had one today that was pretty much all three – even showed up to look at Queenie (its name) with his whole family… for an RV that sleeps only two.  Tried to tell me that it was a 2014 model year, not a 2015 – even after I showed him the registration. I guess it was part of a negotiation to get the price down – even though he already knew it was the wrong van for him.  Groan…  Oh well, at least I wasn’t thinking about my other troubles while dealing with Mr. Opportunity.

I kind of wanted to end the week with something positive.  So I decided to “step out” and make something good, and new, for dinner.  While visiting my daughter, we had talked about our favorite pastas.  Mine is penne rigate.  I like the shape and texture and have enjoyed it in a wide variety of dishes.  My daughter and I discussed possible combinations and ways to use penne, which I found fun and intriguing.  Leveraging off that conversation, I came up with a variation on the theme that excited me.  Hmmm, excited seemed like a good way to wrap up the week, so I went for it.

Below you will see a picture of my effort – which I think was pretty darn successful.  It is penne with a heavy cream/Alfredo sauce into which I added spicy sausage, sweet peas and sun-dried tomatoes.  Oh, yeah, and some shredded parmesan on top, as taught by my daughter.  Full disclosure: I ran into a couple of issues in the preparation.  First, I completely charred the first batch of sausage (better to cook it in patties or larger clumps than cutting it down first.  As I found out, way too easy to burn the smaller pieces.  Damn, some really good sausage down the drain).  Second, I clearly need to work on my portion control (I can hear my children snickering and/or nodding their heads vehemently at that comment) – I ended up with far more than I needed.  A high grade problem as it turns out, because the dish was absolutely fabulous – as judged by a panel of one.  I guess I’ll just have to eat the extras tomorrow…. shucks!  Good food and a little lift at the end of my week.  Could be worse, right?  Take a good look at the picture, then try it yourself.  Well worth the effort.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend to one and all.Penne Pleasure

Kick Start

Ok, so I’ll put it out there.  I am really struggling to keep my equilibrium and perspective as I deal with this huge change in my life.  It is VERY hard to come to grips with the loss I’m experiencing, feelings of both guilt and anger and my lack of confidence in what lies ahead for me.  Other than that, as they say, I’m fine.  I suspect you don’t believe that.

I just returned from a trip to the other coast in which I visited my eldest daughter and her family – which includes my first grandchild, now 5 months old.  It was a wonderful visit with lots of good time spent with my grandson.  I should be buoyed by the trip, but instead returned home more aware than ever of the trauma and changes to my life and that of the family.  Plus, I’m tired. Bottom line is that I’m really in a funk, very down.

Now to the food connection.  In my third post I shared my retro, childhood type breakfast.  I neglected to mention that breakfast has long been my favorite meal. I’m also aware that my choice of breakfast has a major influence on my mood, energy and focus.  So, upon waking up feeling miserable and with little energy or motivation, I knew I needed more than Zucaritas, no matter how good they taste.  So I made a more complete and serious breakfast, hoping for some help with my funk.  The picture below shows my “Big Boy” breakfast:  Some tasty chicken apple sausages, two eggs over medium (not the prettiest eggs I’ve ever made – kind of got distracted trying to nail those sausages), a particularly wonderful blueberry muffin and once again my juice of choice – POB with Emergen-C.

The muffin was a very serendipitous find.  I am not a coffee drinker, never have been.  So, I don’t have much use for a coffee shop.  But there is a coffee place right across the street from my building and it looked appealing.  So, at the end of the morning’s walk with my dogs, I decided to go in and check it out.  My curiosity was rewarded by the sight of a whole glass case of beautiful, compelling muffins.  So, I bought one.  Great complement to the eggs and sausage.  I guess I was rewarded for being a little adventurous.  The meal was a winner.  And, I felt just a little better afterwards.

Here’s the picture.  Talk soon.Big Boy Breakfast

Being Bold

Sometimes I laugh at myself for talking about bold beginnings.  Or bold anything, for that matter.  Truth is, I rarely feel “bold” these days. There was a day when I convinced myself I was bold, and pretty much acted like I was.  But convincing oneself that you’re bold is still different from being bold.  Whenever I would make a hard decision or take an aggressive action, something inside me would tell me I had no business doing that and I held my breath, just a little, until the outcome of my action was determined.  Mind you, I doubt many people knew or guessed at my insecurity.  I was good at looking confident. But try as I might to ignore it or pretend it didn’t exist, at one level or another I always knew it.  Hard to live with.

Then, I ran into some real challenges – physical, emotional and situations I put myself in. I’ll get into specifics at a later date, but suffice it to say that most of my pretenses and failings were laid bare.  Interestingly, despite my embarrassment at showing my faults, I found myself, at my core, more comfortable and at ease with myself and the world than ever before.  It felt good to be genuine, transparent and openly vulnerable.  I honestly felt I was becoming a better man, with more to give to those around me.

Now, just as I was finding my balance and comfort, I am faced with a whole new challenge – and it has me on my heels.  I feel as uncomfortable as ever – actually, more so.  I find the world a constant challenge, and unfamiliar to boot.  There is little I find easy or rewarding.  Things I once relished are an effort to enjoy.  I feel bad; I feel like hiding.  So, when I talk about being bold, I worry that I’m fooling myself once again.  Or worse, trying to fool you.  I certainly don’t feel bold, and tend to minimize any accomplishments I do manage.  I don’t feel like any prior version of me to which I might relate.

But they say that courage is NOT about not being afraid; rather, it is about staying one’s course despite feeling fear.  So, I’m using that as my template for being bold.  I’m telling myself that it doesn’t matter how hard I have to work to get something done.  I’m telling myself that ANYTHING I can do is a step in the right direction; that any victory, no matter how small, is still a victory.  I’m telling myself that boldness is simply about keeping going and doing something, anything.  I’m telling myself that it will become easier if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Like writing a blog where I talk about this stuff.  Or learning new meals to cook for myself.  Or learning to believe in myself once again.  One step at a time.  I’d love your thoughts and reactions to that approach.  And, thanks for being with me.

Feeling Like A Child

I wish I could say that my progress was steady or that I was consistently moving in the right direction – both emotionally and from a culinary perspective.  The reality is that I’m still very early in the process of learning how and liking being on my own.  Truth be told, I never really know how I’m going to feel on a given day: confident, resolute and bold (a la spaghetti with pineapple teriyaki chicken meatballs) or caught up in the past – nostalgic, sad, lonely and/or needy.  Because I’m not happy about my situation, the latter happens more than I like to admit.  When I’m having that type of day, I try to distract myself: taking the dogs (I have two) on an extra long walk, focusing on getting my new apartment shaped up, biking or other exercise, etc.  It doesn’t end my funk, but it does seem to moderate its impact and duration.  The alternative, of course, is to sit in my chair and feel sorry for myself.  Usually with the TV on.  Yeah, I do that, too.

And then there is food.  Hard to be pineapple teriyaki spaghetti bold when I’m feeling this way.  I’m not proud of it, but sometimes I give in and fully revert – and no better meal for that than breakfast.  The other day I caved completely and served myself some very familiar breakfast comfort food:  a bowl of Frosted Flakes (we call them Zucaritas in honor of the yummy natural sugar variety we found in Los Cabos); a bagel with butter and strawberry jam and my juice of choice – Dole Pineapple Orange Banana juice (POB), into which I always mix a packet of Emergen-C.  I know, criminal to be talking about such a meal on a quasi-food blog, but the truth is…. I felt better after that childish fare.  I did, at least, use good organic milk!  Screw it, I’ll be bold another day.  Sometimes I need to lick my wounds.  Zucaritas help with that.  A picture of my retrograde breakfast is below.

Breakfast Backslide

Spaghetti, Take 2

Ok, in response to my daughter’s challenge to be “bold”, I decided to try my hand again at that spaghetti dish, but to let the stops out… to the extent that’s possible with meat sauce and pasta.  I decided it required me to take a real chance.  I think there’s going to have to be a lot of that in my life going forward – that is, if I want things to be interesting and tasty.  Like my spaghetti reprise  – which I put together with my delicious meat sauce, shredded parmesan (got it this time)  and teriyaki pineapple chicken meatballs.  So, what the heck was a pineapple teriyaki meatball doing in an Italian pasta dish?  Well, those meatballs were just too scrumptious to pass up, and I had spaghetti to use….

I thought for a while how to blend those disparate flavors.  I decided to cook and simmer the meatballs in olive oil, pepper, parsley and sage.  And a dash of sugar, like the sauce (I made it a little sweeter to help blend).  Threw in just a bit of syrup, too, to help finish the outside with a nice glaze.  Then the leap of faith…. put it all together and gave it a taste.  The picture of my “Spaghetti Zinger Meatballs” is below.  I recommend you all try it – it was WAY better than I expected.  Yep, just as good as that picture.  Hmmmm…. maybe life does hold some promise after all.  A few risks, a bit of bold might go a long way.  Ciao.Spaghetti Reprise

Bagel Burgers Explained

So, why the funny name for this blog?  And what the heck is a bagel burger?  As I explained in my first post, I recently started sending to my children pictures of meals I had made for myself – letting them know the old man was fending for himself I guess.  The first meal was a plate of spaghetti.  The second was a minor and hasty improvisation: I seasoned up some ground turkey and made a very tasty burger, which, lacking for a proper bun, I served myself on a toasted bagel (melted cheddar, lettuce and ketchup, as I like it).  I added some grapes and lemonade and I had my spartan but very passable bachelor meal.  Ok, no big deal, right?  When I sent the picture out to my very much grown and independent offspring, I received compliments and supportive remarks…and the inevitable challenge.  My eldest immediately suggested that I start a blog.  Hmmmm, “Eating in Exile”?  Might be interesting.  No, I replied, my repertoire is WAY too limited. The comeback: “It’s part of the fun/ would get you to expand your horizons.  I mean, burger on a bagel is bold but it’s just the beginning”.

THAT made me laugh – and think.  As much as I’m afraid to admit it, here I am at 60 and, like my food skills, just at the beginning.  Of what I really don’t know.  But it’s certainly true that I will need to expand my horizons to be happy and fulfilled.  So, what the heck, why not take the suggestion and start a blog about my new beginning, my journey and my culinary evolution?  And I couldn’t resist the alliteration of bagel burgers and bold beginnings… So, here I am.  That yummy and inspiring bagel burger is pictured below.  Bagel Burger #1

New Life, New Challenges, New Food

From the title of my blog, you might think it’s going to be about food and related stuff.  Actually, I want to talk about transitions, new beginnings, challenges and, I hope, the occasional victory in the process of starting a new life late in my years.  Food is a proxy – a humorous foil that came from my interactions with my adult children (who, supportive as they are, LOVE to tease their father… who, in turn LOVES their teasing).  I will talk about food as an indication, a tangible measure of where I am in my personal journey.

So, here’s the scene and genesis of this blog.  I am a 60-year-old man who has been married nearly 35 years and madly in love with that same woman almost 42 years.  For reasons I won’t go into here – except to admit I don’t fully understand them – my wife decided a few months ago that she no longer wished to be married.  She wants her independence and the chance to focus on her own growth, needs, etc.  I hope I said that accurately and without bias – I intended it that way.  I will say that her decision came as a complete shock to me and was, from my perspective, both sudden and very final.  No real discussion and no chance to change its course.  Yeah, so after a veritable lifetime of loving and being companions with this beautiful woman, I found myself completely adrift, in shock and incredibly depressed about the divorce and my life in general. We are working through the divorce process with respect and kindness – it is not one of THOSE splits – but, honestly, that doesn’t help the hurt or loneliness one iota.  Frankly, it might just be easier if I didn’t have the love and respect for her I do.  I’m finding it hard to fall out of love. I imagine I will have more appreciation for how it stands once I get some distance from it. Fingers crossed and all that…

What I DO know is that I am starting over, almost from scratch, on my own and well into the back half of my life.  Ok, I’ll say it: as a senior citizen.  I’m hoping that saying about old dogs and new tricks is wrong; I need to pick up some new skills and perspectives right away. Which, finally, brings us to food: below is a picture of a simple plate of spaghetti I made, then jokingly sent to my kids (more about them later, I assure you), saying, “it’s only spaghetti, but it’s mine…and it’s good” .  They all congratulated me, but one daughter asked where the shredded parmesan was…heavy sigh.  At any rate, this WAS something of a declaration on my part:  I’m on my own, it might not be pretty or fancy, but I’m going to figure it out.  And THAT is what this blog is all about.  I’m hoping my culinary skills and tastes evolve and grow, just as I hope my single life will become more rich and more fulfilling.  I would love to have you accompany me on that journey.  Next blog: the famous Bagel Burger and why it’s in the title of this blog.  Thanks for listening!

Spaghetti #1