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1Heinz catsup is asking people interested to sign a petition to have the Monday following the Super Bowl declared a national holiday. Certainly football is a sport revered by many Americans. Personally, I feel it doesn’t carry the weight of say a President’s Day or Veteran’s Day. However, several men I have dated along the way might strongly disagree with this statement. For some fans Super Bowl ranks among the great achievements in history such as inventing the wheel and the ancient brewer who thought to mix grains with hops to get beer. One argument for a Super Bowl Monday would be many of those rooting their teams on to victory will most likely be hung over and hoarse the day following. Having spent a day or two in the office in my earlier years jockeying position between my desk and the toilet I know I would probably have served my employer far better had I remained at home in bed with an ice pack and a bottle of aspirin.

Our team was notably absent in both the playoff standouts as well as the big game. Not that they made a good showing at any point. Generally, they blew the season tripping over their embarrassed protruding lower lip showing up second in the league. Second from  the bottom that would be, not the top. Rick and I faithfully tuned in the 49er’s all season in spite of the fact they haven’t done much to get us out of our chairs.  Don’t misunderstand me. No stones are being cast here. Athletic talent isn’t in my genes. The point here might be, however, no one is paying me millions of dollars to carry a football over the goal line.

High school P.E. was a misery for me. Track and field in particular. Most events I managed without the involvement of any emergency medical personnel, but tumbling, baseball and track and field got the best of me. The worst grade came for, of all things, throwing a softball. Why this was part of track and field still has me scratching my head, but nonetheless. With half my class watching after a dramatic windup the ball landed  approximately two inches beyond the toe of my tennis shoes. A nearsighted gibbon could have done better. This was to be a feat I continued to live down until the day I received my diploma. I set a new record that day for shortest distance a ball had been thrown since the athletic department purchased its first piece of chalk. Swell.

Water sports were mostly where I shined. Also, to be immodest, I was an excellent tennis in player my younger years. For the most part though, even with a group populated by friends, my name was rarely the first one yelled out when picking teams. Hold your pity please. I may not be a talented athlete but I like to think as the years progressed I have developed  other talents equally as noteworthy, thank you very much. Sorry.

Constantly I remain amazed at the salaries these highly gifted athletes command. Someone explained this huge amount of money is needed to stretch over the lean years after the athlete’s bodies no longer can produce or should they sustain an injury. I’ve managed to stretch far less over my lean years and still had food in the cupboard. I rather doubt many of the retired athletes with these lucrative contracts are sweating their next burger, but possibly I am wrong. According to Mr. Rick some have lost their fortunes due to poor management or excessive spending habits. In general, however, most probably move seamlessly into retirement picking up a gig here and there touting insurance or the blessings of aluminum siding.

Most of the pictures of me taken between ninth and twelfth grade reflect a smiling young face with either a black eye, skinned knee or a limb carefully encased in casting material. Had social services been more observant my parents might have had some ‘splaining to do. Let me be clear, my parents never abused me. Rather, when coordination was handed out I must have been out getting a bag of Cheetos from the vending machine. If there was an elephant in the room, I would manage to trip over it or spill coffee on it. My mother actually used modeling clay to glue her valuables to tables and armoires lest Hurricane Susie accidentally sent them crashing to the floor with an errant flick of a sleeve or a poorly placed wave of a hand. Kindly, she said this was in the case of an earthquake, but I knew  with my casualty count rivaling that of WWII, the body count would be diminished somewhat by her efforts.

So, I have my wings in the wings (if you will) awaiting their entrance stage right this afternoon accompanied by ranch dressing. Ripe avocados in the basket to be gloriously paired with lemon juice, onions, and seasonings for my delicious guacamole, and my system is preparing for the unhealthy onrush coming down the chute as the game commences.

I look forward to spending the day manning my armchair and enjoying the best of the best go head to head for the ultimate prize. Why is it I wonder some individuals are culled from the herd for greatness while the rest of us muck around in relative obscurity? Guess that’s another question to be left unanswered. For me, I’m happy to be who I am with all my blemishes and scars and that will do nicely for today.

These delightful little bites of flavor will happily blend in with whatever else you’re serving for your Super Bowl party.

Lamb Koftas

1 lb. lamb mince
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. crushed mint leaves
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (desired heat)

Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients with hands in large bowl until well blended. Form into small balls.

Heat oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Brown in two batches, turning often to keep from burning. Continue to cook until browned on all sides and cooked through.

Makes 24

Cucumber Yogurt Dip

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Mix together and place in refrigerator for 1 hr.

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Our family has been blessed, or cursed, depending on your perception, with a rather quirky sense of humor.  My son from the moment he exited the womb, adopted his Irish heritage, and innate playfulness and was nominated for salesman of the year before he sucked on his first teething biscuit.  I believe, but can’t confirm, that he was the front man in negotiating a contract a new diaper service contract with the RN’s while he was still wrapped in his blue blanket in the nursery of the maternity ward.

As a little boy he found his passion in sports and participated in everything available.  As he got further along in elementary school it was obvious that soccer was going to be his strong suit, and is, in fact until this day.  I bought cleats for this and cleats for that.  Couldn’t they just have one cleat that works across the board?  On top of the initial expense with one pair for each individual sport, at that age they grow out of them in one season so you’re on the hook again the following one.

Nonetheless, we supported his obvious gift and interest in sports.  On entering high school my young athlete was still height challenged.  A small straight-haired blonde, standing just a hair (and we always counted that hair) above five feet.  In his freshman year he expressed an interest in football which seemed a little out of his range, but if he wanted it, we were there behind it.  I remember going to his first game.   One particularly diminutive player sprinted out onto the field.  I questioned my friend on allowing such a little guy to play, when she pointed out that the number on his back belonged to my son.  Ach.  When that line of larger players moved in his direction I just covered my eyes.  He took his lumps, and what he lacked in stature he made up for in heart.

In his junior year he achieved a growth spurt that was quite amazing.  In that year he went from a small blond-haired boy to a man standing nearly six feet tall.  It was like watching reruns of the Incredible Hulk.  Gone was the straight wheat colored hair replaced with a dense mass of black curls.  His neck, which up until that point had adequately supported his head, suddenly spread to a point where it could have supported several heads adequately with room to spare.  Stretch marks appeared on his young body and suddenly he went from a bud to a full grown flower overnight.  For me it was just unnerving.

Blessed with his dad’s Irish charm and good looks, along with the addition of the curly black locks and lopsided sense of humor he drew young girls in his peer group like meat bees to a barbecue.  They would call in groups and take him to dinner, and more than once I found one bailing out of his bedroom window in the middle of the night.  During those times you might have seen me sitting in a rocker outside of  window with a chew of tobacco stuffed in one cheek and a shotgun resting on my right leg.

At eighteen he enlisted in the army, and with the bright star that seems to shine on him, got assigned to Ewa Beach, Hawaii.  After doing his basic training he and three others of the same rank took an apartment off base and enjoyed the pleasures that Hawaii has to offer, mostly the endless supply of young girls coming and going as the planes landed and took off.

I began to wonder if one in particular was ever going to catch his eye or if I was going to continue to just become accustomed to one fresh young face when it was quickly replaced with another. Mandy’s, Buffy’s and Tiffany’s flew through my life like hopefuls at the Playboy Mansion. Finally, in his mid-twenties he found one that had his number, but wasn’t dialing it, and that was that.  Soon they announced their engagement. 

In celebration we invited them to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, Le Virage in Walnut Creek.  Not only was their food outstanding, but the restaurant was charming both inside and out.  The exterior walls were brightly painted with murals on all sides giving you the feeling that you were strolling down the Rue du Pont Louis-Phillipe on a cool Paris evening.  People dressed to have a meal there, and the waiters and head waiters returned the compliment by moving through the intimate dining areas in black dinner jackets and crisp white shirts.  Old time charm prevailed. Caesar salads were prepared at the table in wooden bowls seasoned with garlic and tossed with a raw egg as it’s supposed to be done.   Desserts were flamed at the tables, and their veal dishes were truly out of this world.

That evening we enjoyed a delicious meal and our waiter and my son spent the evening sparring good humoredly with one another.  When the bill was delivered, my son, with a twinkle in his eye, told the waiter that the people seated at the table across the room were picking up the tab.  The waiter looking for a little reciprocity for the playful ribbing he’d been taking all night at our table, bowed slightly picked up the check and went over to the table indicated.  My son, totally taken aback, which was unusual for him, turned the color of a rich borscht, and for once his mouth remained tightly shut.  After an animated discussion between the waiter and the couple at the other table they waved and smiled and kept the bill.  As it turned out, they were neighbors of our waiter and happily participated in gigging my son a bit.  All being said and done, they did not, however, pick up the check, which would have been most appreciated.

I believe the restaurant has closed after many years in business.  For me, it will be missed.

I mostly fly by the seat of my pants when I cook.  Taste, taste, taste, and then adjust.  I write tons of notes and readjust, and then readjust again. Every once in a while I run across a recipe that just intrigues me and I go with what’s written on the page.  This one I wouldn’t change a thing, well slightly tweaked.  My other half was totally thinking this wasn’t going to be good, but something told me the blending of flavors would, at the very least, be interesting.  This is from Bon Appetit mag for this month with a few minor adjustments, but I  have to say we liked it a lot. I hope you do as well.

Fettucine with Prosciutto and Orange

Kosher salt
12 oz. fresh fettucine
2 Tbsp. butter
2.5 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1″ pieces
Zest and juice of one large orange
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly ground Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a small  handful of Kosher salt. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, stopping 2 mins. before directed time. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Melt butter in large heavy nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add prosciutto. Saute until browned, about 3 mins.

Add reserved 1/4 cup of pasta water, orange juice, zest, and cream. Bring to boil. Add pasta. Stir until sauce covers pasta. About 1 min. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and divide among warm bowls.

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