Thursday, August 06, 2009

Cooking Challenge - Week One

Carlos recently finished reading the book Julie & Julia. For those not familiar with the book (or the upcoming movie): a housewife (Julie) decides to make all 500+ recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook – in one year.

Inspired by that, Carlos and I are trying to accomplish something similar. I have 70+ cookbooks.

Here are my actual bookshelves. (Click to enlarge. You can actually read the titles)…

Every Wednesday night - until we are tired of this latest idea - I will cook whatever is on page 67 of one of my cookbooks. Why page 67? Since I was born in 1967, I thought it would be easy to remember.

Carlos wants to be surprised by each meal so I can’t tell you exactly what we will be having until after the meal. Since we have now had our first meal (last night), I can reveal that this week I cooked out of a cookbook called Cajun Cuisine. Page 67 contained a recipe for Crab Soup.

Here is the recipe:

Crab Soup

1 ½ cups of butter
4 small onions, grated
1 bay leaf
¼ cup of chopped celery leaves
Pinch of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
½ cup of flour
2 quarts of water
2 pounds of fresh crab meat
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
½ cup of chopped parsley
Lemon slices (garnish)

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan; add onions and cook until onions are transparent.
2. Add bay leaf, celery leaves, thyme and garlic and mix well; add tomato sauce and mix again.
3. Stir in flour and mix until well blended; slowly add water, stirring, until mixture is well blended; add crab meat, salt and pepper, bring to a boil and simmer about 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Serve in soup bowls, sprinkled with parsley and topped with lemon slices.
Yield: 8 servings

I bought imitation crab meat, which is much less expensive, but it tasted fine.

Christine invited us over to her house last night so we provided the soup course. We also had delicious bread, a main course of pork loin, birthday cake in honor of Pam’s birthday, and lots of flowing wine. All the food was really, really good.

Carlos and I arrived around 6:30 pm and left around 9:15 pm. We had a great time.

In addition to expanding my cooking skills, we are using Cooking Challenge to reconnect with our family and friends. We have invited Christine, Karlie, Pam, Kurt (Pam’s husband) and their daughter over for week two’s dinner. It’ll be a full house! For future dinners, we will be inviting other family and friends.

Week two of Cooking Challenge will be taken from page 67 of Rick Bayliss’s Mexican Kitchen cookbook. I’ll post the dish and details on the dinner next Thursday.

Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Not Commander's Palace - Follow Up

I never did receive a reply back from the email I sent Karlie, but my sister Christine sent me this reply:


I am sorry that you all felt left out. Karlie was not the master mind behind the plan, though. I would imagine that she was probably confused to get your email.

The Friday night plan just evolved from no particular person. Yes, she had a gift certificate and yes, she wanted to treat Jeff and Claudia. Pam is a permanent fixture in our house/life. That really was all there was to it.

That said, I did put 2 and 2 together and realized that when Friday came, you might feel left out. I think things would be different if Pam were a friend and not family. The “problem” is that she is both. So then it seemed like the family was going to dinner without you and Carlos. In reality, Karlie and I wanted to do something nice for Claudia and Jeff. Pam is just always there. She is a friend and family.

I messed up by not saying something. I guess I had the money aspect (i.e., this is going to cost us a fortune) stuck in my head. In hindsight, I should have asked ya’ll to join in and everyone just pay their own way. That did not dawn on me (I don’t generate options well, just ask my therapist!). I was thinking that we were treating Claudia and if you were there, we would be treating you, too. I don’t know why I thought that. It seems stupid now.

I did hope that the night would go by un-noticed. There were many other nights where we had plans for dinner that you did not know about. On those nights, the dinner plans just happened and we did not tell anyone. I hoped for the same on Friday night so that you would not feel left out. Obviously that did not happen. I am sorry. Please know that no one wanted to leave you out. It happened unintentionally.

Karlie in no way would have known to say something to you and Carlos. She did not have any “intentions.” She did not exclude you. I am sorry if I gave you the impression that Karlie wanted something in a particular way. It was not like that at all. She would never leave you and Carlos out. She would be upset to know that you or Carlos felt left out. She does a lot to include the entire family in many events. We love the family, and have no desire to leave anyone out -- particularly you, my only brother, and Carlos who is so kind.

I am glad that we will all be together tomorrow. There’s a lot of love here.



I invited Christine and Karlie to my house for dinner tomorrow night. (More on that later.) They already had a birthday party planned for Pam so we're going over there.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Not Commander's Palace

Claudia, my younger sister, in town from Atlanta for the week, around 3 pm Friday: "Well, we'll see you when we get back tonight."

Me: "Oh, where are you going?"

Claudia: "Commander's Palace" a really nice, expensive restaurant here in New Orleans "with Christine" my other sister "and Karlie" her girlfriend.

Me: "This is the first I'm hearing about this. How long has this been planned?"

Claudia: "About a week. I wouldn't worry about it. Well, I gotta go."

My cell phone rang 10 minutes later. It was Christine.

Me, looking at the caller ID: "Hey, Christine."

Christine after AT LEAST 5 minutes of small talk: "So I wanted to let you know that Karlie got a gift certificate to Commander's Palace from one of her clients. Jeff" Claudia's husband, also in town this week, along with their three kids "has never been to a really nice restaurant so we wanted to treat them."

Me: "Did Claudia just call you?"

Christine: "Uh, no. Anyway, I've felt guilty all week about not inviting you and Carlos."

Me: "Then why not invite us?"

Christine, avoiding the question: "Well, it's Karlie's gift certificate."

Me: "Do you realize by leaving us out that you have really hurt our feelings? If it were me, this is what I would have said right away: 'Christine, Carlos and I have a gift certificate to Commander's Palace and we would like to take Jeff and Claudia out. We would love to have you join us, and, if it's okay with you, the four of us can split any extra not covered - and give Claudia and Jeff a free night out.' I would never have thought to exclude you."

Christine: "Uh, do you and Carlos want to come with us?"

Me: "Christine, a pity invite is worse than no invite at all."

Christine: "Oh, we'll you'd have to wear and coat, and it's an expensive restaurant and ..."

Me: "I know you're trying to make the situation better, but you're just digging yourself a deeper hole. You should just let it go. I hope the four of you have fun. Seriously. In the future, however, I wish you would think about the feelings of others and how your actions affect others."

Christine: "Pam and Kurt" Karlie's sister and brother-in-law "invited themselves along so there are actually 6 of us going." That means that everyone from our generation except for Carlos and me are going to dinner.

Me: "Christine, you really should stop trying to make this situation better."

Knowing that she would repeat this conversation to Karlie, she and I laughed that Karlie "is dead inside" and "wouldn't really think any of this is important". Then we hung up on that positive note.

I can't really fault Karlie. She has a brain for business, not interpersonal relationships. (On the decision making function of the Myers-Briggs test - basically if thinking or feeling determines your decisions, she always scores very, very high toward thinking. Carlos and I usually score toward feeling.)

You can read more about the test here.

All of us, plus our parents, plus Claudia/Jeff's three kids (ages 4, 3, and 4 months) hung out at my house Saturday night. Friday night was not brought up - or alluded to - AT ALL. I was hoping at least Karlie or Christine would apologize. My guess is that since Christine follows Karlie, and Karlie probably laughed off our feelings for the event, Christine followed Karlie's lead.

This afternoon, I sent an email to Karlie:

Friday afternoon, Claudia and then later Christine mentioned to Carlos and me that the six of you (including Pam and Kurt) were going to Commander's Palace Friday night. Christine told me about your gift certificate and wanting to treat Jeff to a fancy restaurant because he had never been before. Because Carlos and I were the one couple in our generation excluded, we really felt left out. Especially when Christine told me that she "felt bad about it all week and was hoping we wouldn't find out".

I am sure that was not your intention, but I do wish you would have said something early in the week - or even Saturday evening - to Carlos and me about this. Even just to explain why you wouldn't be able to invite us. We would never had excluded you from anything like that that we would plan. And we never will.

I have said my piece - and made my peace - with the situation. I do not expect any reply from you. I just wanted you to know how I felt.

I really am now going to let it go. And I really do not expect a reply from her.