Category: Notes

Many Thanks


My parents hold hands two months ago when we brought them together from different ends of the same hospital.

My family and I would like to thank everyone for the continued notes on my father’s passing December 29th. We’ve still not had the funeral. Mary, Aaron and I were visiting mom today. She’s finally been moved to a rehab unit, and as long as her strenth continues to improve it may be possible to have dad’s visitation and funeral sometime within the next couple weeks with her in attendance. That’s what everyone, family, doctors, nursing staff, etc., is working toward.

The Nosebleed from Hell, a Fart Broadsides My Heart: Yes, I Know Where My Towel Is

The following post is rather graphic in nature. If you don’t like talk of blood and such, please skip this one.

Where’ve I been? Well, lemme tell ya’ …

Sunday March 9th, I got up first thing in the morning and headed to the loo. Grabbing some toilet paper, I blew my nose.

I am never blowing my nose again for as long as I live.

There was blood everywhere. I was gagging as it ran down my throat. The little bit of toilet paper I had in my hand was far from enough and I panicked as I tried to stop the flow. It wouldn’t stop, only getting worse. I yelled for help, and 9-1-1 was immediately called.

There were eight people in that bathroom from all over town before the firehouse siren even went off. They couldn’t stop the flow either. One of them commented later that it was spurting, as though an artery had been severed. At one point I felt a pop. There was blood running from my right eye. The EMT who had taken charge looked at it, and told me it had come from the left nostril, through the tear duct into that right eye.

After the ambulance ride to the hospital the next couple days faded in-and-out. I came home once, only to go back in a few hours, bleeding just as badly as earlier. The E.R. docs tried every trick they knew, including a foley catheter jammed through my nose into my throat, the end inflated, the ballooned end pulled back against the sinus, packed and held in-place by inflatable bladders jammed into my left nostril, the inflated catheter clamped off with a 5″ hemostat laying against my left cheek.

I’d lost so much blood I ended up hallucinating for a while.

Through all of it there was a towel in my right hand. I went through dozens of those towels, feeling as though I was in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and someone had asked me if I knew where my towel was.

They escalated me to the O.R. and E.N.T. teams by the next morning.

24 hours later, after three emergency surgeries, and an angio where they tried inserting coils into my nasal arteries (which also failed to work), they finally severed the ethmoidal artery that feeds blood into the left side of my nose from the cranium.

The flow finally stopped, almost 56 hours after it had started.

That was Tuesday evening.

Wednesday afternoon I passed a little gas. Really, not much gas at all.

It was as though someone had flipped a switch. My heart went into atrial fibrillation, my pulse going to 170 almost instantly and my blood pressure bottoming out to 80/50. I spent till yesterday in cardiac ICU. They wanted to shock me into a cardio-conversion using paddles, but because of my nosebleed they ultimately decided it was too risky.

So here I sit, finally at home, towel nearby just-in-case, my heart still in a-fib, three units down on blood, weak and light-headed from losing 24 pounds in that first four days.

Am I alright? I don’t know the answer to that. When people ask I answer, “For now.” What was the cause? No one knows. When the ambulance folks arrived my BP was 213/138 … but there was serious debate whether that was from prior to the bleed or from my panicked state at the time.

One doc removed all the packing from my left nostril on Sunday. I told him I could feel something was still in there. He looked and said “No, there isn’t.”

I change the packing in that nostril three times each day. This morning when I pulled the cotton out to spray the nostil and replace the cotton, something was stuck to it.

Mary stood by with my towel as I took probably a full five minutes to gingerly pull a full six feet of bloody, mucused 1/4″ cloth packing tape from within my left sinus.

Really, don’t do that unless you absolutely have to. It’s still raw up in there. It would help if I didn’t have to breathe.

Sure, I’m ok. For now.

But really, you never know what might happen.

Just make sure you know where your towel is.

Recipe: Whitefish-Stuffed Salmon


This picture is from June 2006 when I first developed this dish. The camera I used was an original
circa 2000 Kodak DC3200, with its 1.2 megapixel CCD sensor and an additional 256M flash card.
While the camera still works and is sitting right behind me, we’ve been using duct tape to keep
the battery compartment closed for some time now.

When I posted that image yesterday of the new bar at the Frog Leg Inn, it dawned on me I hadn’t blogged since last weekend. We had lots of good food around here this week, from some freshly-cut pork tenderloin medallions wrapped in bacon, to another necessary and massive batch of chicken noodle soup.

Really though, nothing to write about.

So, a couple years back at a local restaurant, I ended up choking down a fish dish.

I like fish. Really, truly enjoy the stuff. Yesterday on The Great Canadian Food Show Carlo Rota had this Salmon Tartare that looked for all intents and purposes like Cat Vomit On a Plate. The chef at the restaurant in Montreal had chopped raw salmon fairly small, made up a fresh mayonnaise with was slightly yellow, mixed it with capers, dill and chopped shallots, and then added the pink salmon.

I’ve cleaned stuff that looks like that off the couch.

But still … what was on that plate … yeah, I’d have eaten that, even though it looked the way it did. Fer sure. At least it wasn’t warm …

A few years back this one couple, some of our best friends, gave us a gift certificate from a local restaurant. I saw on the Specials board they were serving a Lobster-Stuffed Whitefish. Now I don’t care too much for lobster myself. To me, lobster is just an expensive way to eat butter. I’d much rather have my butter on an English muffin with a nice glob of orange marmalade on top, heavy on the orange zest.

The Lobster-Stuffed Whitefish sounded interesting. Who’d have thought to take a salt-water crustacean and embed the stuff into a light-and-fluffy freshwater fish? Would it end up being the seafood equivalent of a Fig Newton?

Er … no, it wasn’t the “seafood equivalent of a Fig Newton”. It was … interesting? No … Different? Definitely. A pleasant combination of contrasting flavors toying with my taste buds?

Not.

It was closer to … gross.

The lobster had apparently been folded into a sage stuffing intended for the Thanksgiving turkey, with about twice as much sage as was needed. I could only taste either of the types of seafood by doing some fishing with my fork and pulling out individual chunks. Otherwise, all I had was a mouthful of sage.

My mind wandered. Man, what I wouldn’ give for a decent hunk of salmo …

Wai … what? What was that? Salmon? Yeah, that would work here. Get rid of that lobster stuff … But salmon’s heavier than whitefish. Put the salmon on the outside, whitefish on the in … sage? No, not sage stuffing. Cornbread stuffing, yeah that’s it. Nice and swee … binder, need a binde … the asparaus is a nice touch, goes good with Hollanda … Hollandaise?? Make the cornbread, cook the whitefish, combine the two with Hollandaise, stuff it into the salmon, and grill the whole of it …

When I made this Whitefish-Stuffed Salmon a couple days later, even Mary-who-doesn’t-like-seafood really liked it.

This is really the first dish I ever created on my own that worked as well as I’d hoped. It’s a nice comfort food for a cold winter day, and is the kind of thing you can prep in advance up till the point of the final grilling, and make a party of.

Whitefish-Stuffed Salmon

Deep Prep: Making The Cornbread (the day or morning before)

2 cups flour
1-1/2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups yellow corn meal
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups whole or 2% milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Sift the flour, then measure out the required amount. Add the baking powder, salt and sugar and sift the mixture. Add the corn meal and mix it thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, milk and melted butter. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients, and mix it only till the dry ingredients are moistened. Dump into a greased 9 x 13 pan, and cook at 425 degrees for 40 minutes.

Making The Dish

1 pound skinned whitefish fillet
2 cups Hollandaise sauce
2 cups coarsely-crumbled cornbread
skinned Chinook or Coho salmon fillet, 3″ x 6″
2 tbsp fresh chives
1 tbsp fresh thyme
unsalted butter
Kosher salt
ground pepper

Place the whitefish in a buttered baking dish. Brush with melted unsalted butter and season with salt and pepper. Bake the whitefish in a preheated 425°F oven until the flesh is opaque but still moist, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Let the fish cool, then coarsely flake it. You should end up with about 2 cups of flaked whitefish.

In a pan, mix the flaked whitefish with the crumbled cornbread. Add only half of the Hollandaise sauce and the fresh thyme and chopped chives. Set this pan over warm heat and let the stuffing mixture heat through.

The salmon should be approximately 3″ x 6″, sliced about 1/8″ thick. Spoon a few full tablespoons of the stuffing mixture onto one end of the salmon slice, and roll up the salmon around the stuffing.

Grill the whitefish-stuffed salmon briefly over medium-high heat.

Serve over a bed of cooked wild rice, garnished with whole stalks of fresh blanched asparagus and a bit more of the warm Hollandaise sauce.

Notes:
• Any cornbread recipe will work for this. If you have your own favorite, feel free to use it instead.
• Don’t care to make cornbread from scratch? Using a box of Jiffy cornbread muffin mix from the Chelsea Milling Company in Chelsea, Michigan, works just as well.
• We don’t include the recipe for Hollandaise sauce here. It’s listed in plenty of cookbooks but can be a bit on the difficult side. However, if you’d like to make it from scratch, go right ahead.
• Like a bit more of a corn flavor? You could easily thicken the cornbread/whitefish mixture with a bit of thick creamed corn for a very interesting result.
• You can also use pre-sliced smoked salmon for this dish. The type of smoking used will certainly modify the flavor. As the rest of the dish is a bit on the sweet side, a nice rich hickory-smoked salmon would work well.

On Food Blogging

One of the questions asked of me at the BlogsMonroe blogger’s picnic a couple weeks ago was where I get enough material to blog on an almost daily basis. I’m not sure what my answer was, only that, whatever it was, it was very non-committal.

[… and that fulfills one of the goals for the day, “use the word ‘non-committal‘ in a sentence while actually spelling it correctly” …]

I’ll tell you what, food blogging is fun. It’s a blast! It’s a reason to use the sentence, “Honey, it’s for the blog” on a regular basis and actually get away with saying that. It’s fattening, that’s for darn sure, but hey, I’m big-boned anyway, knowwhatImean?

Food blogging may look easy. I’ve been told I make it look easy. It’s not. It’s a serious struggle on a daily basis to come up with something new, something that will make Dan Shaw hungry, something that will make people want to come back and read more, later today, tomorrow, or even next week.

It’s a struggle every single day to write something that will maybe, hopefully, possibly, cause someone, somewhere, to want to leave a comment.

Food blogging, writing up interesting items, formatting and drafting recipes, taking photos … all of this is difficult enough that renowned food blogger Matt of Matt Bites will be teaching a class on the subject at the Whole Foods Market Bowery in NYC on July 15th. Matt’s food photos are legendary on their own.

But finding material to write about? You would think there’s enough going on in the world of food that this would be easy. It’s not. Yes, there’s a lot going on. No, not all of it’s interesting.

I have a blog entry buried in the database here within BlogsMonroe.com that may never see the light of day. I’m just not sure if it’s interesting enough for you, my readers. It’s about U.S. laws regarding alcohol, but looking at it from outside the U.S. There’s also an email in my mvps.org inbox with a link to an artcle where, apparently, a chef in Ireland is trying to convince other chefs to “stop smothering natural foods with sauces”. That’s another one I’m not sure will be interesting to talk about here.

Yesterday, the “Question of the Day” over on Serious Eats was one of mine: What are your favorite “simple” foods? As I explained in the description area:

Yesterday [Monday], in 90 degree heat and 100% humidity, I was dumbfounded by a mouthful of chilled strawberry jello with drained canned fruit cocktail in it. I could have eaten a pound of the stuff … One of my favorite simple foods is a properly slow-roasted pig. Just reach in under a skin flap, grab a handful and pop it into the mouth … What’s yours?

There have been 36 comments to my question so far (37 if you count a comment by moi), with some amazing replies. “Frozen grapes.” “A real nice bread with some butter.” “A nice, crisp granny Smith apple.” “A nice crisp and garlicky dill pickle.” And one of my favorite replies, “Cottage cheese. Plain. From the container.”

Some are surprising. I spotted the one that says, “Shake & Bake pork chops, Mac & Chz in the box….has a sense of nostalgia for me.” Knowing what the writer, tyronebcookin, does for a living, this was a real surprise. But moments later, it dawned on me that what I already knew, that even chefs love when others cook for them, was now further cemented by tyronebcookin’s simple comment … that these professional folks are obviously not as high-falutin’ as society has always made them out to be.

Recently, Chef Mario Batali, one of my favorite chefs out there, dissed food bloggers completely. One of the gang over at Serious Eats went on the offensive. Both viewpoints are linked from here. From Chef Mario’s rant:

Many of the anonymous authors who vent on blogs rant their snarky vituperatives from behind the smoky curtain of the web. This allows them a peculiar and nasty vocabulary that seems to be taken as truth by virtue of the fact that it has been printed somewhere. Unfortunately, this also allows untruths, lies and malicious and personally driven dreck to be quoted as fact. Even a savvy blog like the one you are reading now has strangely superseded truly responsible journalism … the blog is now a new partner, and this bit of shoddy journalism will be picked up and promulgated by the rest of the gray zone and march its merry way toward the center of the road. Eventually these blog posts become factual information lost in the sauce … But, in the end, I do not hate the blogger. I just expect, and want, more from many of them.

“Vituperatives” … gotta look that one up … 

I’m far from anonymous, to the point where I’ve been recognized on the street as “LunaPierCook”. Untruths? Lies? “Malicious and personally-driven dreck”? I try not to do that, and if I screw up in that direction, I’m sure either Dan Shaw or someone else will give me a virtual smack on the noggin.

Right, let me back up a few … yes, I have to admit, I haven’t said many nice things about the food coverage at the Toledo Blade. That’s only because I see the whole “high-falutin'” thing happening there, while here I am, finding chefs to be some of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. That “high-falutin’, high-society” thing doesn’t work for me in relation to food, cooking or chefs. I see Chef Anthony Bourdain on “No Reservations” going ga-ga over whole roast pig, and writing the only cookbook I’ve ever seen that’s laced with profanity. I see Chef Silverio Conté of the Bolles Harbor Café, taking chilled bottled water outside to the gardeners he’d hired to spiff up the place this spring. I see Chef Tad of the Frog Leg Inn using the popular and inexpensive Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce in one of his more-popular specials, and owning up to doing so right there on his menu. And I see Chef Jeremiah Kouhia of Manhattan’s in Toledo, grilling Italian sausage over charcoal in his backyard, and offering some to Mary and I without even knowing so much as our names at the time.

Pretentious? “High-falutin'”? Not the chefs I know and/or admire. Sure, there are chefs in the Toledo and Monroe areas with egos the size of their … hats. But my experience has been that these are few and far-between.

And yes, I’ve gotten into writing negative restaurant reviews. Why? Maybe it’ll be helpful. Frankly, if I cook something someone doesn’t like, I want to know about it. Yesterday evening, I grilled some pork chops. My opinion was that they were rather dry. Still, one neighborhood teen (… david-JAMES!) and my daughter each ate two of those chops. If anyone had mentioned how dry that pork was, I’d have admitted to cooking them too long over heat that was too low, and that, next time, they’ll get seared first, then slow-cooked (to preserve the juices), like I should have done last night. It’s certainly a matter of constructive criticism, which is how I like to write most negative blog entries anyway.

That is, except when I write about someone else writing about all that high-falutin’ nonsense …

Material? I get it wherever I can find it. It’s as simple as that. If I can’t find something, I’ll drag something out that’s been on my mind, such as that simple question of, “Where do you find enough material?” There’s a lot of food out there, a lot of places to get food, a lot of food writing to comment on. And in the summer, there’s a lot of food events and festivals to find, with there not being near enough time to get to all of them.

But I’ll only cover what I think is interesting to you. And that’s certainly not everything.

Most of all, I’m glad folks like (for the most part) what I write. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep struggling with what to write. I think y’all are worth it.

I think my wife Mary is especially worth it, and I’ll tell you why. She put me on this path by telling me I do know a bit about cooking, I treasure her deeply for many reasons, including telling me that when I didn’t know it myself … including her tolerating my cooking mistakes as much as she does … and for not sighing too loudly when I say, “Honey, it’s for the blog!

Morning Coffee

When Mary and I got together in 2004 one of the traditions we developed was Morning Coffee. Each and every day, including weekends, I’ll make coffee, now in the Cuisinart stainless Grind-and-Brew we got for our wedding reception in June 2005, and take it to her in bed. We’ll have this coffee while watching the fine folks at the morning news show on 13abc, and on weekends, GMA Weekend. Frankly, when we miss Morning Coffee, as does sometimes happen, the rest of the day simply doesn’t feel right, and when I am able to take care of it the next morning, it’s even better.

For countless years, Mary’s dad has gone to the tiny dining area in the front of the Meijer store on Alexis Rd. in north Toledo to have coffee and small-talk with his friends. There, they would sit and chat for hours about anything and everything, enjoying the bottomless cups of coffee provided by the store.

John hasn’t gone to Morning Coffee at Meijer for at least a few months. Few of you know this … Chef Tad, Sandy, and Joey do … but John has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Not wanting treatment, he has accepted arrangements for hospice at home. Part of the reason Mary rarely comments in here anymore is that she spends a huge amount at her dad’s house assisting with his care.

Yesterday morning, John had his morning coffee at Meijer for the first time in months. I made coffee for Mary and I at home, loaded the Cuisinart thermal carafe and our travel mugs into the car, and drove the mile to John’s house. There, I woke Mary up on the living room sofa next to the La-Z-Boy John basically lives in. There, she and I quietly had our traditional morning coffee before John woke up.

Later in the morning we grabbed an O2 tank, loaded John into his van, and drove him to Meijer. He only had water as he can’t stand coffee any longer. But between Meijer greeter Bill, and John’s “girlfriends” Helen and Pat in the dining area, John was happy, laughing, joking and flirting as we hadn’t seen in some time. We only stayed for a short while, maybe 45 minutes, Mary and I at another table but nearby, while John spent time with his friends. When he felt he was getting tired, we took him away, with him grabbing another couple friends on the way out for a short chat. After we got him home, he slept.

Mary feels her dad had to do this, as though it was something he had to check off a list of things he must do. She also feels it was his last time at Morning Coffee at Meijer.

Somewhat sad, yes. And for John, somewhat satisfying as well. It’s all in how you look at it.

And at the same time, this small happening only makes Morning Coffee with Mary that much more important a tradition to keep.