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East-Coast Food Combos

July Food Fest 2024

When this Jersey girl wed a boy from Nevada City, California (in Nevada City), I’d had no idea that my food combos from the Northeast were so unheard-of, here in the West.


I’d not ever seen BROWN rice before moving to California, various types of lettuce, or any mushroom that wasn’t the common white button kind.  This world of edible fungi awaited me:  crimini, portobello, shiitake, and porcini.


Even in the most posh of restaurants, in the East, white rice, sliced button mushrooms, and iceberg lettuce were pretty much the norm before the mid-late 1990s.  The advocates of Nouvelle Cuisine were trying hard to expand the American menu palate in restaurants, but, in the early going, variety was a tough sell, a very tough sell.


Ah, yes!  I can still recall not only my salad days, but my days, and nights, of serving only the most weird of salad dressings.

I still wonder whatever happened to Green Goddess Dressing in eateries, a ghastly goop that I never tasted.  The green was odious.  Martian-like.  Besides, a true goddess is not green!


Susan Oliver as Vina in the Star Trek episode, The Menagerie, was not, in my opinion, a goddess.


The title of that show, however, was very much in keeping with the keeping by aristocrats of animals, wild, exotic, foreign and domestic during a bygone era, une époque révolue.  In the long long ago, sovereigns all across Europe maintained zoos at their royal courts, to entertain courtiers and honored guests.  I’d say the zoo-like exhibitions persist!


The royals have always had their curiosities.  The Versailles of Louis XIV boasted a huge menagerie.  To some extent, Versailles still does!  Leopards do not change their spots.  Chassez le naturel ; il revient au galop.

Here, in America, we merely have ghetto-zoos in the urban zones (our form of no-go-zone) where, as the then-Speakress of the House proclaimed To All on TV, “We feed them.”


Moving on (en marche) — to Russia . . .


Good old Russian Dressing is a gloppy mixture of mayo, ketchup, and relish.  It’s still around, but it’s been p-c’d into Ukrainian Sauce.


And then there was “French dressing”, a perfectly hideous thin yet viscous solution of reddish-orange hue.  It was an oil slick of artificial coloring to the max (the darker constituent floated atop the bilge).  I added that one to the list of insults by the klassy Americans to the cultured French!

During my single years in Sacramento, I’d already been through the humbling experience of going to the fish/meat counter at the local supermarket, and asking for a pound of flounder to make Flounder Amandine.  Being told that the fish is found only in the waters of the Atlantic gave me great pause as to how to arrange my dietary habits and needs in a strange new world called California.


That strange new world offered me halibut, just for the hal-of-it, and a fish from Hawaii, Ahi, which is either tuna, or yellowfin.  Either species, I discovered, is too fleshy and dry to support the addition of slivered almonds.  And almonds, bless those Central Valley growers, are, during El Niño years, abundantly plentiful in northern California!

It was a rough go of it for me, the Easterner, here, living alongside those navigable waters of the Golden State.  Of course, those years pre-dated, but just barely, the environmental and legal elevation of The Fish, especially the endangered ones, to the status of religious icon.  My attitude toward the edible, aquatic, an-amniotic, gill-bearing vertebrate animal got noticed.  Oh, yes, it was noticed!


I boldly decided to introduce Dear Hubby to food combos from the East that could be easily attained, albeit not trapped, in the West.  The cultural-cuisine food exchange was not one-sided.  Dear Hubby-to-Be acquainted me with the lunch-time chomping of fresh (and cooked) venison on a Muzio roll.  It’s an acquired taste.  I felt the same way about moose-meat.


I see that venison has gone trendy.  French-dip venison sandwiches are now the rage in the USA, which might be yet another reason for the French to rage, aka protest, but they’re quite engaged in staging bigger revolts!


My grateful response to my buckaroo for showing me the cowgirl ropes on hunter-fare was to share with him with such delectable simplicities as:

— a sandwich of cream-cheese and green olives on rye bread;


— baked pork chops with sauerkraut;


— sautéed chicken livers and onions;


— the punch bowl combination of equal parts of cranberry juice, orange juice, and diet 7-Up, with a block of striped sherbet floated on top for some added pizazz;


— baby shrimp atop a block of cream cheese for a New Year’s Day snack. served with soda crackers; along with little deli pumpernickel bread sandwiches of ham-and-Swiss, cream-cheese with black olives, tuna salad; and pigs-in-a-blanket; and cold rotini/penne/rotelli/ pasta salad with vegetables; any pasta form other than elbow macaroni for salad was a revelation to Mr. Nevada City.


There was also the matter of spaghetti sauce.  Dear Fiancé had only partaken of an orange-to-brown sauce, in a rather oily form, which, after I ate it, concluded was neither Italian or healthful!

The surname Milligan is somewhat a misnomer.  I basically left New Jersey, to later journey 3,000 miles to marry a California native of half-Italian, albeit of Emilia-Romagna extraction.  He was not at all familiar with Sicilian, or Neapolitan (which does not refer to a 3-colored striped ice cream) cooking.


If it is true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, my spaghetti sauce, with meatballs, sealed the matrimonial deal!


Dear Hubby had never heard of those foods that were old favorites for me, with the one grand exception of pigs-in-a-blanket; and that greasy mess soon got jettisoned from the Milligan menu!


In the West-World of Mr. Milligan, sauerkraut was for hot dogs.  I taught him how to cook pork chops with sauerkraut.

He’d never heard of Hot-Dogs-All-The-Way.  That savory meal was pioneered and sold in taverns throughout the route from my family abode in Prospect Park to the Baptist church in Paterson.  The return trip home from the religious service (morning, evening, or Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting) was not complete without a take-out order of Hot-Dogs-All-The-Way.

The long dog, in an equally long bun, was covered with a soupy, brownish chili-sauce that contained some ground beef; chopped onions, and grated cheddar cheese.  The original makings of the chili-sauce is lost to memory and posterity and, for all I know, has been outlawed in Bergen and Passaic Counties.

I’ve re-created the scrumptious supper for home consumption (which does not imply there’s a lunger, or person with consumption, or TB, in the house).  I forego the chopped onions, but that omission is just a personal preference.  Some fresh summer Maui sweets or Vidalias (Georgia onions) are very tasty additions to the dog.  Some sliced pineapple on the side is delightful, either from the can, or, as a real treat, fresh from Hawaii.


California Hot Dogs All the Way


BBQ your favorite hot dogs.  Shred the cheddar cheese and place into a bowl; set in the frig.  Heat a can of Ranch-Style Beans, on the stove, or campfire; warm the sauerkraut.  Serve the fixins alongside the dogs with buns (I prefer Home Pride Wheat Bread).  Let the guests decide what going all the way means for them!


The cream-cheese and sliced olives on rye bread is a favorite of mine for my typically late-breakfast in the summer.


I cannot create this sandwich without remembering when I’d make it in my First House, and sing to my toddler Son:


There were seven Spanish Olives, on a single slice of bread.

Seven Spanish olives,


and one mouth to be fed.”


I don’t really eat 7 Spanish olives on that slice of rye-bread.  Three are my limit; I cut them in half and arrange them symmetrically on the Philly cream cheese which does have an esteemed place in my frig.


Those lyrics are my version of the duet, “Seven Spanish Angels,” by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.  That recorded performance had been plastered all over the air-waves on the car radio.  The song was inescapable.  It was such a huge hit that it was played on the radio for YEARS after its stellar success.


I didn’t, and still don’t, like the juxtaposition of the voice of Ray, a marvelous miracle of the human instrument, melodically coordinating with the tinny, twangy, eerily vibrating timbre of Willie Nelson.  Willie could, and did, write terrific songs, such as “Crazy”, but I cannot abide the sound of his worn-out, weary, whacked voice.

I’ve read that the success of this duet was owing to that unique blend of oppositional sounds.  For me, Ray carried the weight of that soulful story, as he always did; Willie just nasally twanged in on the ride.

The original lyrics of the chorus are:


‘There were seven Spanish angels at the altar of the sun,


Praying for the lovers in the valley of the gun.”


Here, in California, prayer and guns, and real angels, are on the outs amongst the ins of the rudderless ruling class.  Shows how much they know about real culture!


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