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International Food Tidbits

Late Winter 2019

Last week, I was in need of a new pizza slicer. Actually, I was in need of a new brand of frozen pizza. The only grocery store choices presently available to me are thick, flavorless dough topped with flakes of flavorless cheese; or thick flavorless slabs of zucchini, mushroom, and cheese on thin bits of dough. My Tortilla-Pizza (Summer Cook-In 2018) is a bit time-consuming and it’s much more delectable in the summer.

After a long hiatus, I have returned to eating Amy’s and adding a few choice morsels atop it. The Margherita version is great for summer with salad, although I don’t know when I’ll be making a salad again. I prefer my Romaine without salmonella or nasty bacteria.

Once again, I looked in the physical store for a pizza slicer and came up empty. Online I went and found a terrific cutting tool. The reviews were even better!

Lost this in the divorce so I bought this one to replace it. Had the old one ten years.

Now it seems to me that when a man misses his pizza slicer more than the Ex-wife, something vital was missing in the marriage. Maybe a delicious pizza to bond them together at dinner time. Maybe a meal to bond them together at dinner time. Maybe both of them at the table at the same time at dinner. At any meal! Anytime!

Cuts pizza great: Would do a number on any home burglary.

This review was the one that sealed the deal for me! This self-defense weapon has not yet been regulated or outlawed in California!

Small-business eateries are becoming more and more scarce here in California. For me, California dreaming now partakes of thin-crust pizza, made by artisan-hands (other than mine).

There is also a serious Chinese restaurant crisis here in Placer County. It’s incredible to me — incroyable — that I can find only mostly Chinese-made goods in stores and online, materials made of what is known as Chinesium. But I cannot find a decent meal made by any Chinese restaurant, privately-owned, in this part of California. Maybe that irony is not so ironic.

Before the Eternal Recession began, there were more than a few superlative non-chain, non-corporate franchise Chinese restaurants in this region. One was called “J Empress”. My family and I were so impressed by its food that we made it Our Chinese Restaurant for over a decade. We frequented the establishment every so often. I am not of the mind, or stomach, of one Yelp reviewer who sets aside $60 a week for her Chinese food budget. Once every four or five months was the going going or frequency of dining at J Empress.

During the winter of 2006, J Empress was no more. I’d driven to the local fabric store (which also is no more), located near this restaurant.  The restaurant space was vacant, but FOR LEASE!

I’ve been searching for the delicate spicing of those high-quality ingredients ever since. By 2012, the Year of the Chinese Water Dragon, the travel distance took me to parts of the County that I would not otherwise visit. One place, Chinese Villa, started off well, but then there must have been a change in cooks because every entree started to acquire the same bland, greasy taste.

By the summer of 2018, I was forced to try hole-in-the-wall joints in various small strip malls. Disastrous! A person could drown in the amount of chili oil used to cover up cheap chicken and zucchini.

I recalled a phrase I heard during my childhood, from a wife hectoring her fourth husband at the start of each happy jalopy journey: “No greasy spoons.”

“No greasy woks.”  It’s a nice line I draw about the nirvana of twice-cooked pork.

I have my theory about the disappearing Twin Dragons of Chinese restaurant fare:

The State of California has slain them with taxes, regulations, and fear — of things only a Chinese restaurateur in California could describe. Global Corporate Franchises are replacing many small-business “ethnic” restaurants in a State where ethnicity is the sacred cow. Good job, Jerry, and the newest Nutcase following lobbyists’ orders to the bank. Buy Global, Think Looney.

My local doughnut shop is run by a group of Russians who probably have no fear of the California Polito-Crats. Those Russians probably still own their Soviet version of the pizza slicer!

One other ethnic fare, the enchilada, was a creation that I’d avoided making until this past New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, we eat Chinese take-out and then watch “After the Thin Man” (because the film contains a Chinese restaurant as a major setting). That cuisine tradition was deep-sixed by the dearth of palatable Chinese restaurant food. Ergo, The New Year’s Eve Thin Man flick was replaced with the shallow but highly overrated Laura. She’s a one-nighter, if ever there was one.

For New Year’s Eve dinner, I decided to buy enchiladas from Costco, to eat with some shrimp on the side with cocktail sauce.

Admittedly, I did not know how to make enchiladas. During my early years here in the Golden State, it was difficult for me to learn how to make the humble enchilada. Not that I did not try to find a good recipe. The young women of Mexican origin whom I encountered — they did not want to cook the foods of their cultural origin. In fact, they did not want to cook at all!

A few days before the celebration of the last day of the year, I went to the local Costco to purchase the circular array of shrimp and the Trial Enchiladas I’d purchased a few weeks earlier. The shrimps were there, but the enchiladas were not. The look on my face must have been pitiful. I mentioned to the person standing beside me at the display counter the missing enchiladas.

This woman of Mexican ancestry eyed me. She slowly said, with much sarcasm: “You could make your own.”

I then looked terrified. She laughed.

I told her that I’d never found a good recipe. But — I did have a whole chicken at home, waiting to be roasted. This wonderful woman enthusiastically gave me her authentic recipe! I questioned her about using olives and she said, “Just a few. You don’t want to overpower the taste.”

It was then that I knew I’d found The Recipe for Real Enchiladas. I suggested a sprinkle of some green onions and this woman smiled. She knew she’d found a real cook!

We wished each other a Happy New Year, and each of us went on her merry homemaking way!

Later, I looked online at the recipes on various sites that claim to know the art of cooking, or at least the craft of making food that people can eat. It is utterly ghastly what some people are doing to the simple enchilada. Sour cream, garlic, bacon, spinach (?), cream cheese (!) — ingredients to smother the identity of this Mexican creation.

Dear Husband calls my chicken enchiladas a “masterpiece”. I just call them delicious.

Muchas gracias, buena cocinera !