Saturday, June 11, 2011

Culture Vulture

Da cruise, da cruise!!

June 2, 2011
6:59 am - and the headlines include:

Fierce fighting in Sanaa, Yemen
Japan's Prime Minister Survives No Confidence Vote
The Dow fell 279 points
Shaquille O'Neal Announces Retirement

Well, Sanaa is burning, badly. The no confidence vote was just plain mean, as far as I am concerned. I am going to miss seeing Shaq on the court - any court - as the Big Guy has always remained my all-time favorite.

As far as the Dow is concerned, let us remember that on Black Thursday, 1929, it fell all of 75 points and THAT was the moment the stock market crashed and plunged this country into the Great Depression. Our government needs to stop pretending that all is well, or at least getting better. It's not, and it hasn't been and it's not going to.

I have an idea - let all the governments, foreign, federal, state, and local, declare General Day of Debt Amnesty. All debt, private and public, should be eliminated - wiped out. Every person and every entity starts with a clean slate. I am no economics genius, but my idea can't be any worse than what the real, self-proclaimed experts have been trying to do for the past few years.

Happy Anniversary to Me!
Eight years ago today I had my insides rearranged. It was worth it, although I still have some unpleasant side effects. The benefits outweigh the bad stuff, and knowing what I do now, I would still go forward with the surgery.

I really hated having to buy that suit, as I knew I would never wear it again

It's time to get culture.  Does that make us culture vultures?  Our last shore excursion takes place today, shortly after the ship docks at Costa Maya on the Yucatan peninsula.

2:31 pm
What a terrific port! And what a terrific day. I finally did find my very favorite perfume of all time, "First" by Van Cleef and Arpels. We went on a wonderful shore excursion, the "Mayan Culture Experience". First we headed to an impressive Mayan ruin right in the middle of town, then to a Mayan home where the owners were Mayan descendants and they prepared a traditional meal in which the delicious chicken had been cooked in a pit, and the Señora offered handmade tortillas which were unlike any other fresh tortillas I've ever tasted.

Yes, that's me.  Rob always cuts off my head in favor of a shot of my cleavage and/or the food

The tour guide was an absolute gem. His depth of knowledge was incredible and he kept it interesting.  Also, he let me speak fractured Spanish to him.  Now that's a nice guy!

This Mayan Ruin sits smack in the middle of town, on the side of the road

The family maintains a shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe

I did not buy any vanilla. I may regret it later, but I have a big bottle in the pantry, and there is limit to how much vanilla any one person can use. I do regret missing out on that rum cake when we were at Mahogany Bay, but as it is said, that should be the worst of my problems. Yesterday we picked up Kahlua and Myer's Dark Rum in the ship's duty free shop.  You know ... the good stuff.

I beg your pardon ... I never promised you an herb garden ...

La senora serves the chicken that el senor brought out from the underground "oven"

I miss my Boy. I am concerned that I did not leave him enough to eat. Rob scoffed at me, until I reminded him that his mother still worries about whether he is eating enough, and he is 65 years old. She will drop off sandwiches and cooked entrees at his office, in case he doesn't have a chance to leave to pick something up. I understand this completely, as it is a Mom Thing.

I also miss my furry babies. Today, the señor y señora tienen dos perros y un gato, un Siamese, en su casa. I spoke to them in Spanish, and it was a very satisfactory exchange. But I still miss talking to my own kids - two legs, four legs, fur covered, clean shaven. I know they can take care of themselves (or at least most of them can - not sure about Indiana, he's still just a big gawky baby), but . . . all together now . . . IT'S A MOM THING!

By now you may be wondering why we haven't taken disco lessons with Butch, Your Cruise Director, or tried out the two story pool slide, or played some serious bingo, or let a complete stranger named Sven place hot rocks on our naked backs. Well, let me reflect just a little bit on this vacation. There is so much to do on a cruise ship, and you can't do everything. Because we live in Florida and there's a pool at our house, pools and sunbathing aren't anything special, although I certainly understand how they would appeal to someone from up north. Rob isn't into water sports, and neither of us are crazy about sand. We don't gamble, because I have such an aversion that I won't even buy a lottery ticket. We like shows, but not enough to stay up late and breathe cigarette smoke. Shopping is nice if we want something specific, but otherwise just okay. I had a massage once when we sailed on NCL, and I found it to be a weird experience I did not care to repeat. We love going to the formal dining room and meeting new people, and to the casual dining and getting room service and ice cream at midnight. Yeah, it's all about the food. We love the shore excursions that take us around the town or island. We love learning new stuff about a new place. We love the onboard art auctions but right now we have a substantial collection and have run out of wall space.

Most of all we like to spend time together exclusive of the stresses of everyday work and life, and the cruise ship is the perfect environment for that kind of vacation. I may never try to snuba but I will always be able to snuggle.

I never realized how much fun it would be to take a cooking class with Rob until we took the class in Cozumel. Which just reinforces my desire to go on a celebrity chef cruise. Rob and I both agreed we would have loved to go on the cruise with Chef Anne Burrell last spring (I think it was last spring) but unfortunately it was WAY above our pay grade, in part because it involved two round trip air tickets to the Mediterranean. Just have to post that one on the bucket list and hope for better days.

Working diligently on the cat's paw scarf, reading a Janet Evanovich "between the numbers" Stephanie Plum novel, and still watching the Casey Anthony trial . . .

We sat at the bar like grown ups and had our usual - gin martini for Rob and a cosmo for moi. Yes, I was a trifle tipsy. Our missing couple showed up again tonight and Rob spent a good part of the dinner convincing the guy to try taekwando or at least tai chi, and explaining why any city, like Atlanta, that can contain an awesome barbecue restaurant like Thompson Brothers as well as the Holy Grail of Hot Dogs, The Varsity, can't be all bad. I remembered why I shouldn't have ordered the baked Alaska for dessert. Speaking of Alaska, Sarah Palin is taking a family vacation riding cross country in a very big bus that would make Buckaroo Banzai jealous, accompanied by most of her staff. But she's not running for President in 2012. There are big honking pictures of eagles and American flags on her tricked out bus, but she's not running for President in 2012. The Lady and her entourage landed in New Hampshire the same day Mitt Romney throws his hat in the ring and starts serving chili to registered voters, and Sarah Palin is still not running for President in 2012.

I can't wait to see who else isn't running for President in 2012. Maybe Mike Huckabee, eh?

The last little towel buddy.  I knew him well, Horatio.

When I got back to work after the cruise, I was telling my coworkers how I would be trying to speak Spanish to the folks in Mexico while they were trying to speak English to me.  It made for fun, as we were all trying to be friendly and respectful.  Then Brenda Paralegal and I started kidding about my limited Spanish - Brenda is one of my "tutors" - and Brenda was saying that she really speaks "Spanglish".  Well, so do I, except Brenda speaks more "Spang" while I speak more "Glish."  Actually Brenda was born in the US and speaks perfect English.  She had to learn Spanish in a hurry when her family moved to Puerto Rico while she was in elementary school.  She did a much better job of it than I did, since I've been trying to learn Spanish since seventh grade.  I love the language, I find it useful, and while I think it would be better for everyone who lives in the US to be able to speak English, I understand the reality of having to learn another language and I'm willing to make accommodations to communicate.  Working in Osceola County, which has the second-highest number of Spanish-speaking residents in Florida, I feel fortunate to have so many willing tutors available to me in my office.

Back to the real world.  I am leaning towards preparing a beef stew, but can't settle on what kind.  Wait.  What about a choucroute?  I know that's not any kind of beef stew, but it is big and bold and everyone in this house loves it.  Also, if there are leftovers, Cory will scarf them up during the week Rob and I are gone.  So do I make "my" choucroute or Emeril's choucroute?  I think mine is better, bwah ha ha.  No, really. 

One of my very favorite cookbooks of all time is Emeril's Potluck.  This is my kind of cooking, big dishes for a lot of people.  He offers a choucroute recipe which looks good, and if you've never tasted mine, will probably love madly.  His Kickin' Chili recipe is the only chili recipe I have ever made that my family likes almost as much as mine. 

Emeril's Potluck    Louisiana Real and Rustic
My two favorite Emeril cookbooks - and yeah, I have most of them

My choucroute garnie recipe was originally found in a cookbook "Great Dinners from Life" by Eleanor Graves.  I think it is seriously out of print, and my copy is literally falling apart at the seams, but I have gotten some very fine recipes from it over the years.  I had to tweak it a little to suit the availability of ingredients, and my son is crazy for it, which is a good enough reason to prepare it.  It's not difficult at all, by the way.  The biggest problem has always been what to serve with it.  I would like to offer potato dumplings, but damn if I can find a recipe that works for me.

So I went to Publix, and figured out what to do.  Tonight, Rob and I are going for sushi at Mikado.  Well, Rob is going to have sushi.  I am going to have a nice cold glass of plum wine.  Then tomorrow, I will cook up the choucroute and some sweet and sour meatballs for the rest of the week.  Tomorrow we're going to Kobe's for an early Father's Day dinner with Rob's parents.  Early because Rob and I won't be here on Father's Day.  God willing and the crick don't rise, we'll be leaving Atlanta and heading to Kodak, Tennessee.  Yes, we are going on yet another vacation.  Oy, I know.  After an extremely dry period for even taking mini-vacays, caused by the Omnipotent Tax Season, we fell into a scheduling conundrum of having to take too many.  Normally, we would never take time so close to our annual trek to Little Rock, but Rob's birthday and the availability of a great cruise all came together that last week in May.  Never mind that the ATA Worlds are always the third week in June.  This year, we enjoyed an abundance of riches in the travel department, and I don't regret one crazy minute.

I'm going to go with Vigo brand potato gnocchi.  One day when I have time, I'll try to perfect the potato dumpling.

From Kodak, which is near Gatlinburg, we'll be heading to Memphis, and then finally to Little Rock, where we will put down roots for 5 days.  I'm still hoping we can take one of our free days and head over to Hot Springs.  I have it on good authority that we've absolutely got to check out the barbecue at McClard's.

This trip is probably the best for sampling the best barbecue in the country.  There is Thompson Brothers in Atlanta, Interstate in Memphis, and Whole Hog in Little Rock.  Plus there are a whole bunch of barbecue joints, especially in Memphis, that we haven't even tried yet.

America the Beautiful, America the Delicious.

"Live, Love, Eat!" - Wolfgang Puck
"And then blog about it! - Me

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