Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Leisurely Sunday Breakfast

I rarely come home from the grocery store with everything on my shopping list. Not because I change my mind or forget something. Invariably either an item is simply not there (my favorite cereal was AWOL for three weeks) or a restaurant owner comes in and cleans out, say, all the asparagus.

On the flip side, it's always fun to discover a brand new item on the shelf--the store is so small that you notice these things. Worcestershire sauce, French's mustard, Heinz pickles are now available, for instance. Yeah, they are more expensive, but if you saw the color and consistency of the alternative local relish you'd gladly fork over the difference in price.

And even the produce section has improved. We now have several interesting greens like baby arugula, baby spinach, and Thai salad. This week, for the first time ever, I spotted containers of blueberries and immediately put one in my buggy.

Now these weren't the plump berries we're accustomed to. They were quite small, to be truthful,

but Cynthia loves blueberries (it's one of the few food items she asks me to buy at the grocery when we're in the States) so I thought I'd surprise her.

Turns out the surprise was also on me. When I rinsed them in the colander last night I discovered that hidden among all the tiny berries were a lot of sticks and little leaves. Worse--much worse--out of the 2000 or so tiny berries about 1980 of them had tiny stems still attached. They looked like little blue bombs from Roadrunner or Yosemite Sam cartoons.

I could have pretended they weren't there and proceeded to toss them into the blueberry muffin batter I planned to make this morning. But I just knew we'd both be feeling around with our tongues for tiny stems in every bite, so I stood there and sorted through the pile for what seemed like eternity plucking them off.

While doing so I thought of two things: 1) these teeny berries would have been left on the bushes for birds to eat back in the States, and 2) how in the heck do U.S. farmers get those damn stems off before packaging the berries?

I imagined (I told you this took a long time) the berry pickers here saying to the boss, and everybody up the line all the way to the grocery store saying to their boss, "I'm OK with these stems. You OK with them?" But did I get a vote? N-o-o-o-o----.

So I got up bright and early today ready to prepare a scrumptious breakfast. I have to admit up front that, while I consider myself a pretty darned good cook, baking is not my strong suit. And our South American oven is most definitely not of stellar quality, always struggling to reach and maintain the correct temperature.

I had downloaded a "Double Blueberry Muffin" recipe that had lots of stars and positive reviews. The "double" part meant there were crushed berries mixed into the batter as well as whole ones folded in right before baking. The now stemless tiny berries proved to be remarkably resistant to my attempt to mash them, as the recipe called for, with the back of a fork. By the time I was finished I had almost broken a sweat and my forearm looked like Roger Federer's from the effort expended.

After creaming, measuring, crushing, beating, and spooning, the muffins finally went into the oven. When I went into Cynthia's office she asked, "What was all that racket?"

"I was beating the batter for the muffins," I replied.

"Oh, I was afraid you'd say that. Don't you know you're supposed to barely combine the ingredients for muffins so they'll be light and fluffy?"

"Uh---huh--huh--huh----no----," said ButtEdd.

I'm now envisioning that I've created a new bakery item--the Tuffin.

What the hell, they're in the oven and it's time to move on. I'm preparing bacon, scrambled eggs, Double Blueberry Muffins, and half a grapefruit this morning, and that grapefruit needs to be cut.

The grapefruits here have seeds.

A LOT of seeds-----

I was reminded while I was plucking out all those bastards why we don't have this particular fruit very often. Vitamin C is much more easily attainable elsewhere. I'm no expert on GMO or cross-breeding, but to whoever created the seedless grapefruit I say, "Right on, brother."

The timer rings, the muffins come out, and Cynthia says, "Those look----interesting." That's code around here for, "I don't want to be judgmental so I'll just say those look-----."

Turns out they tasted fine and the breakfast was lovely.

Will I buy those blueberries again?

Oh, hell, no! We'll be back in the States for the holidays soon enough. Trust me, I can wait a few weeks.

NOTE: An Ecuadorian friend and restaurant owner read this & wrote to inform me that what I thought were blueberries are actually called "mortiƱos." They are a wild berry from the northern Andes of Ecuador that are only found in markets this time of year, and are used to make a typical drink called "colada morada" enjoyed only during the upcoming "Day of the Dead" celebration. She laughed at what she called a "new approach" to using Ecuadorian ingredients. That's a kind way of saying, "What a dummy!"

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Day of the Living Dead

It's noon and I just left Cynthia a voice message--my first spoken words of the day. Usually by now I would have uttered hundreds (my wife would more correctly put the word count in the thousands).

But this is by no means a "usual" day. I just returned home from the States alone last night while Cynthia remains behind for a few more days. Our maid came yesterday so it was great to walk into a clean house. And to lie down in our comfortable bed on clean sheets.

I didn't sleep particularly well, and discovered that my internal "alarm clock" has been reset to the much earlier wake up call of our family. I definitely need to work on that one. How odd it was to hear the murmur of traffic outside but no sounds of awakening babies.

All day travel involving three flights takes a toll on me, and I've found myself wandering around the apartment somewhat aimlessly all morning. I managed to take a shower and get the luggage unpacked in fits and starts, but was so tired by mid-morning that I went back to bed for awhile. I have a strong notion this is going to be a two nap day.

Cynthia had the foresight to cook and freeze something to eat before we left. I couldn't muster the hindsight to remember what was in the container. Beef stew. Shweet! Meal in a bowl and thankfully no cooking for me tonight.

A trip to Supermaxi is nevertheless my one absolute agenda item for the day. We did an awesome job of eating almost everything in the refrigerator and pantry, which now puts me in Old Mother Hubbard mode. I could survive indefinitely on peanut butter sandwiches and milk, but----. Looking at the grocery list I compiled I'm pleased to note that items from the produce section outnumber everything else in the store.

Speaking of which, a quick aside. I was stunned at how HUGE the fruits and vegetables are in the US. Apples the size of small grapefruits? I sometimes read about GMO's, but, wow, what a visible example of Monsanto doing what they do best.

I brought back the usual assortment of food products, personal care items, and clothing. It appears TSA and I have broken up or at the very least are going through a trial separation. They always leave a nice note in my luggage telling me how much they enjoyed rifling through my Target & Kohl's purchases. This time when I checked---nothing. I'm brokenhearted but will find a way to carry on.

It's time to do a zombie shuffle over to the grocery store and replenish the food supply. I can with great confidence predict an early bedtime tonight.

My visit had so many wonderful memories, the funniest of which I shared with you. I'm already looking forward to returning for the holidays!