Fair game — November 16, 2022

Fair game

On Halloween night, as we hid from tricks and/or treaters, my sisters and I reminisced about days of yore when we feasted on squirrel.

For those of you who are aware of my legendary status as a picky eater, yes, I willingly and knowingly ate squirrel. I can’t recall how it tasted, but, unlike meat loaf or sausage or beef stew, I didn’t refuse to eat it. So, it must have sated my discriminating taste buds.

Anyway, my youngest niece had oodles of questions for us. For example, she wanted to know where we got the squirrels.

“Your Poppaw hunted them,” her mom aka my second oldest sister explained. “These hills are full of squirrels.”

They weren’t as full of them when our dad, the late great Burton Goff, was still hunting them. I can remember him walking down the road on chilly autumn mornings with freshly-hunted squirrels affixed to what looked to me like a huge safety pin. Then, he’d sit on the back porch and skin the squirrels.

After that task was completed, Mom either cooked the freshly-skinned squirrels in gravy or put them in the freezer so we could feast on a rainy day.

My niece asked why, if we considered squirrel the epitome of gourmet dining, we’d ceased eating them.

Her mom and I couldn’t give her a satisfactory answer. Tastes change. That’s the best I could offer.

My oldest sister, however, had a more definitive answer. When she overheard Daddy saying that a squirrel had a wool in it, she tapped out. Later, I asked her what “wool” meant. She said, “I don’t know, but it didn’t sound good.”

Needing to know more, I asked a friend whose dad was also a squirrel hunter. He wasn’t sure about the definition of wool, so he looked into it. He sent me an explanation that I felt sure would make me gag, so I asked for an overview. Here’s the gist: Some sort of fly gestates under a squirrel’s skin and then the larvae burrow out –

I’m going to stop there.

I guess the fly goes by the alias of wool, but I’m not sure about that, so don’t quote me. I am sure my parents didn’t serve us wooly squirrel, but I’m not sure how they disposed of said squirrels.

Although we hadn’t satisfied my niece’s curiosity vis-à-vis squirrels, she swerved slightly off course and asked about other small wild game like rabbit and groundhog, neither of which I can remember eating.

My oldest sister can remember eating them. Indeed, she recalled that, as a child, our parents rewarded her after a minor surgical procedure with a baked groundhog. That’s what I call positive reinforcement.

My niece asked her what part of the groundhog – or the squirrel or rabbit for that matter – she ate.

Giving her a puzzled look, my sister said, “The meat.”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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Less is more — October 5, 2022

Less is more

In case you haven’t noticed, the portions of certain foods have been drastically reduced. Indeed, have you seen a Mallo Cup recently? It’s the size of a nickel. But there’s one portion I’m glad the powers that be decided to reduce – the size of a box of the Supercenter’s assorted cookies.

As the name suggests, you can expect to find an assortment in a box of said cookies including chocolate chip and shortbread. I particularly enjoy the shortbread as well as one we’ll call a spice cookie.

The cookies are packaged in festive boxes that celebrate that month or season’s approaching holiday. For example, the orange fall box features a pumpkin-shaped spice cookie sprinkled with orange sugar.

A coworker introduced me to the cookies approximately nine years ago and I’ve been enjoying them ever since. I eat my aforementioned favorites and then share the others with friends and family. What can I say? I’m a giver.

In fact, during my short-lived experiment with the Supercenter’s grocery pickup, they once substituted sugar cookies for the assorted cookies without my permission. (This represents one reason the experiment with grocery pickup was short-lived.) I do not eat sugar cookies, so I gave them to my neighbors. I should add I had never met these neighbors until that day, so they might have wondered why this strange woman showed up in their yard bearing a box of cookies.

Anyway, at one point, I thought the assorted box contained butter cookies. Thus, I tried to make butter cookies. They didn’t taste as bad as sugar cookies, but they certainly didn’t taste as yummy as my favorite cookies in those festive boxes. So, I decided I needed a cookie press to whip up a delicious batch of butter cookies. When I shared this plan with my sisters and nieces, they told me the cookies I had identified as butter were actually shortbread.

This perplexed me because the shortbread cookies in those festive boxes, whilst yummy, taste nothing like the shortbread cookies we prepare for the holidays. Nevertheless, I decided my sisters and nieces were right. I didn’t need a cookie press. When I take a hankering for those cookies, I can buy a box of assorted cookies.

That’s what I’ve continued to do. But I found that even with help from others and my love affair with carbs, I have trouble making an entire box of assorted cookies disappear. So, on a trip to the Supercenter, I was happy to see they are now selling somewhat smaller boxes of assorted cookies. After I empty the box of the shortbread and spice cookies, that leaves fewer cookies to share with others.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Stand up for chips — August 24, 2022

Stand up for chips

I’m something of a potato chip junkie. I try not to buy chips because I will legit empty a bag almost as fast as I bring it into the house. A bag doesn’t even make it to the pantry. It sits on the counter, waiting for me.

As with other foods, I’m picky when it comes to chips. Unless it’s an emergency, I won’t eat baked chips, which are usually packaged in matte bags. As the joke goes, the shinier the bag, the better the chips taste. On an unrelated note, I once accidentally sampled a lime chip. I do not recommend lime chips.

Although I like barbeque Lay’s chips, I prefer plain Lay’s or original Snyder chips. By the way, at the Goff Estate, we call Lay’s “glazed” chips because that’s how my youngest niece referred to them when she was a wee lass. I use the term Lay’s to comprise the national as well as the store brand. I will eat either, but I have found the store brand to be greasier.

Also, once upon a time, I couldn’t remember the name of the Snyder brand and called them the German chips. After all, it has Snyder of Berlin stamped right there on the bag. My mom was the only person in the family who knew what I was talking about. I later learned that the Berlin in question is in Pennsylvania and not Europe.

When it comes to Doritos, I will only eat the nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips aka the ones in the red bag. No blue bag Doritos for me. My only fault with Doritos is the dust they leave on my hands.

Now that we have those important details squared away, you might not be surprised to learn that I only eat original Pringles or as we call them at the Estate “stand-up chips.” Dozens of years ago, whilst suffering from an excruciating migraine, I heard my late great father come home from a trip to the store and tell my mom that, in addition to the items on her list, he had bought some stand-up chips. In spite of the stabbing pain in my head, I laughed. It made sense. The chips, I mean potato snacks, do come in a tubular container that stands up.

Anyway, recently whilst grabbing some stand-up chips, I noticed the slogan “bursting with flavor” printed on the side of the container.

I love plain Pringles. I could win a plain Pringles-eating contest. Those tubular containers do not last long around me. I’m sure the slogan is printed on the sides of the brand’s dozens of flavors. But believe me when I say it’s not needed to describe the original “flavor.”

Indeed, that’s one of the reasons I’m such a fan.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Take my advice — July 20, 2022

Take my advice

As another birthday approaches, I think it’s time for me to once again share some of the life-changing wisdom I’ve accumulated with age.

  • For the most part, I prefer generic brands. (This does not include cleaning supplies and trash bags. Parenthetical advice: It’s best to spend that extra money when it comes to trash bags. Trust me and the mess I had to clean up.) But I buy generic oatmeal, condiments, pasta, etc. When it comes to other foodstuff, such as my beloved Boyardee, I insist on buying brands. This brand-name splurging includes toaster pastries aka Pop-Tarts. Much as with the trash bags, I learned this lesson the hard way. A few years ago, I bought a box of store brand toaster pastries. I popped one of the cherry pastries into the toaster oven, allowed it to brown, took one bite, and recoiled in horror. Cardboard tastes better. And I should know. I feasted on cardboard as a child.
  • On the subject of food … Always check your order whilst you’re still in the drive-thru. Once whilst a passenger in a car, I told the driver of my intention to go through the bag to ensure our order was accurate and complete. Said driver legit yelled at me, “Do you expect me to sit here in line while you look through the bag?” Well, yeah. Trust me, dear readers, I know from where I speak. On the few occasions when I haven’t followed my own advice, I’ve arrived home to find that my chicken sammich did not also contain bacon or that my bag did not even contain a chicken sammich. These experiences gave me the sads.
  • On the subject of restaurants … If you’re ordering a drink at a place that offers free refills, always go with the smallest size. That way, you can keep filling up that cup on the restaurant’s dime. Just the other day, my heart filled with happiness as a young man stood at the other drink machine and sipped and filled and sipped and filled. Just as did I. And people say these younglings have no gumption.
  • On the subject of drinks … Back in the day, I usually ordered water at restaurants. After all, water is almost always free and I’m cheap. But I’ve accidentally developed a debilitating addiction to fountain drinks in my advanced age. Don’t be like me. Don’t accidentally develop a debilitating addition to foundation drinks. Stick to free water. But if you’re in the area and you enjoy Dr Pepper, which my adorable great-niece and great-nephew shorten to Pepper, I recommend ordering Taco Bell’s Dr Pepper. Be forewarned: It will change your life.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Canned goods — July 13, 2022

Canned goods

It’s safe to say I’m not a foodie. If you’re unaware of the term, our friends at Wikipedia define a foodie, in part, as “a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food.”

So unrefined is my interest in food that, as a reminder, I didn’t learn egg rolls are egg free until earlier this year. No, except for goat cheese and pairings, I don’t have refined tastes in food. As a friend has noted, my food preferences haven’t evolved since childhood. One could make the argument that goat cheese and parings is a grown-up version of a childhood snack.

Indeed, as a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, I made meals out of cheese and crackers, potted meat and crackers, Vienna sausages and crackers, milk and crackers, and, my favorite, balls of bread. I haven’t enjoyed potted meat and Vie-ennie, which is how we pronounce it at the Estate, in dozens of decades, but there’s one canned food of my childhood to which I have returned – Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs.

I actually hadn’t had Boyardee in dozens of decades, either, until I developed a hankering for it a few years ago. My renewed interest in Boyardee disgusted my sisters. (They have no room to judge. You should see some of the “food” they eat.) They’re not the only ones. When a coworker saw me stuffing my face with the sketti and meatballs, she informed me it wasn’t food. It was Styrofoam.

Then it’s delicious Styrofoam.

Admittedly, I have to watch my intake of Boyardee. For starters, tomato-based products do not agree with me. Besides, when it comes to Boyardee, I have learned you can have too much of a good thing.

With the exception of roast beef, tacos, and an occasional burger from a certain fast food franchise, I’m not a fan of beef. But the meatballs in Boyardee are scrumptious. The friend/coworker who broke the news to me that egg rolls do not contain eggs is one of the few Boyardee fans in my circle. She, however, said she has concerns about eating meat that sits on the shelf of a grocery store for years.

Maybe that’s why I like it. Maybe I would like more beef dishes if they sat on the shelf of a grocery store for years.

If memory serves, there were but four meatballs in a can of Boyardee sketti when I was a wee lass. Now there are six. Just as when I was a kid, I save those yummy meatballs so I can savor them.

As a child, I also ate and enjoyed Boyardee ravioli. It’s still being produced. I’ve seen it on the shelves, but I haven’t bought a can.

Yet.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A sticky bun situation — July 6, 2022

A sticky bun situation

Prior to my annual Fourth of July Jubilee, my guests and I compile a list of stuff they need to bring to the event. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, what kind of hostess tells her guests what to bring?”

This kind of hostess.

Besides, we also compile a list of food they want to eat as well as soft drinks they want to drink. Then, I go to the store(s) and purchase said stuff.

For example, this year I bought four kinds of chips. For another example, until this year I’ve been serving steak. I also serve shrimp. Just in case my great-nephew (emphasis on great) decided not to eat – it’s always touch and go – I bought a box of banana popsicles, aka his favorite food, so he wouldn’t go hungry.

So, I can be forgiven if I ask them to bring, for other examples, coffee and onions. (By the way, I also don’t eat ketchup, buy I hoard ketchup packets from restaurants so my guests can slather the condiment on their burgers and dogs.)

Anyway, as we studied the list, my youngest niece asked about buns. You know, for hot dogs and hamburgers. I glared at her and explained that I had already purchased both kinds of buns. When my oldest sister – not her mom – came into the room, I shared the list with her. After perusing the list, she asked about the buns.

What’s with these people and buns!

They think I can be trusted to buy hot dog wieners and hamburger patties but trusting me to buy buns is just too much.

On the subject of buns … whilst in the bun aisle, I once again asked myself a question that has plagued people for decades. No. It’s not if a hot dog is a sandwich. I care not about that. It’s why are there 10 wieners in a pack but only eight hot dog buns in a pack? Shouldn’t those two things match?

I looked to the Internets for an answer and here’s what I found. According to the National Hot Dog Sausage Council (NHDSC), “Sandwich rolls, or hot dog buns, most often come eight to the pack because the buns are baked in clusters of four in pans designed to hold eight rolls.”

If they’re not going to change the pans, then why don’t they start selling wieners in packs of eight, you might ask. Because a standard hot dog wiener weighs 1.6 ounces. I’m not a mathematician, but even I can multiply 1.6 ounces by 10 and get 16 ounces aka one pound. Selling stuff by a pound makes sense.

Regardless, there might be an end to this bun-wiener mismatched pack national nightmare. Heinz has started the Heinz Hot Dog Pact to bring hot dog companies and bun companies together to agree on one number to rule them all. Wonder Bread has already started producing hot dog buns in packs of 10.

Perhaps Heinz can start a pact to get my family to trust me to buy those buns.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Cabbage check — May 25, 2022

Cabbage check

I tried an egg roll.

As you might remember, a few weeks ago I broke the news that I had never eaten an egg roll. Indeed, I had avoided egg rolls because I thought they contained scrambled eggs. And who would want to eat a scrambled egg wrapped in deep-fried flour?

Anyway, I had the hankering for fried rice and sweet and sour chicken (sans sauce), the only Chinese fare of which I partake (with one notable exception – keep reading), so I swung by a Chinese place that offers takeout from the buffet. When I spied the egg rolls, I said to myself, “Self, why the expletive not?” And I added one egg roll to my takeout box.

I had concerns that the egg roll would taste horribly, so I decided to get it out of the way first. I also had concerns it would contain an onion aka my nemesis. Luckily, I did not detect onions. In fact, I enjoyed the first bite, so I took another one. I tasted either chicken or pork and vegetables. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t the best food I’d ever eaten, either, but not everything can be as good as soup beans.

Then I took the third bite. That’s when I tasted the cabbage. That’s when my association with the egg roll came to an end.

When I shared this saga with my sisters, they opened their mouths to protest after I arrived at this part of the story. After all, they’ve seen me feast on cooked cabbage. But that’s different. I don’t eat any other form of cabbage or food that features cabbage. No cabbage rolls. No coleslaw. No sauerkraut.

Stop rolling your eyes. I have told you people repeatedly that I’m a picky eater.

By the way, I have another food update. I also recently shared the breaking news that doughnuts make me high. No, I have not tried a chocolate glazed doughnut to see if that phenomenon continues to hold true, but my lunch at the Chinese buffet reminded me that I can eat Chinese doughnuts. You know, the kind that seem like canned biscuits that are deep fried and rolled in sugar.

Now, I’m not saying that’s how they’re made in the restaurants. Hence, the word “seem.” I’m just saying that’s how they taste. They’re light and almost like air. If air tasted sweet and was full of dozens and dozens of carbs.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

What’s in a name? — May 4, 2022

What’s in a name?

Monday, April 25, 2022, will go down in history as the day I learned egg rolls do not contain eggs.

I can hear the guffaws from the smart expletives who were apparently born knowing this. To you know-it-alls, I ask, “What was I supposed to think? Egg is in the name!” After all, chocolate chip cookies contain chocolate chips. Orange juice contains oranges that have been squeezed into juice. Bean dip contains beans that, along with other ingredients, have been turned into a delicious dip.

But apparently, egg rolls have been getting by with false advertising all these years.

I learned this historic truth from a friend/coworker who shared the ingredients of a hillbilly egg roll she had during Hillbilly Days. When I inquired about the whereabouts of the egg, she gently explained, well, you know what she explained.

Obviously, I have never eaten an egg roll. Honestly, the thought of eating one repulsed me. I like deviled eggs and sometimes I’ll eat hardboiled eggs. Otherwise, I’m not much of an eater of eggs. So, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of eating a scrambled egg that had been deep-fried in flour.

Yep. That’s what I imagined an egg roll to be.

I repeat, “What was I supposed to think? Egg is in the name!”

Speaking of eggs … my sister and I almost came to blows whilst making cookies last Christmas when she claimed fried eggs and scrambled eggs taste the same. Granted, I have never eaten a fried egg and have rarely eaten scrambled eggs, so maybe she’s right. Still, I maintained that if they taste the same, then why are diners given the option of scrambled or fried?

Anyway, after learning the historic truth about egg rolls, I wondered why a foodstuff that does not contain eggs has the word egg in its name. Thus, I consulted our friends at Wikipedia. Here’s what they have to say on the matter … “it is unclear how the word ‘egg’ appeared in the name, since the predominant flavor in American egg rolls is cabbage, not eggs. A 1979 article in The Washington Post speculated two possible theories: 1) that the Chinese word for ‘egg’ sounds very similar to the Chinese word for ‘spring,’ and 2) that Chinese chefs in the South relied on using actual eggs when trying to make the thin noodle skin from flour and water.”

In other words, who knows?

So, now that I know the truth, do I plan to sample an egg roll? As picky as I am, I’ll take that on an egg roll by egg roll basis.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A doughnut or a dough-not? — April 27, 2022

A doughnut or a dough-not?

As I’ve mentioned before, to the dismay of many, I do not eat peanut butter or drink coffee. Well, dear readers, get ready to once again be dismayed. Thanks to a conversation I had this week, I remembered another popular foodstuff I avoid – doughnuts.

Unlike peanut butter, which I have loathed since our first encounter, I spent years enjoying doughnuts. (I also drank coffee from childhood into adulthood.)

Indeed, one of my aunts is something of an expert when it comes to preparing doughnuts. She frequently made them for my cousins, my siblings, and me when we were wee lads and lasses growing up on and/or near the Goff Estate.

What’s more, one day in elementary school I, a lifelong cheapskate, agreed to go halfsies with a classmate and purchase a jelly doughnut. That was a big deal for me because I had never eaten a jelly doughnut.

And I didn’t eat one that day, either. When we cut into the doughnut, we discovered it was a glazed doughnut sans jelly. As you might be able to infer, I have not let go of that disappointment. Sometimes I wonder if my life would have turned out differently if I had gotten to eat one-half a jelly doughnut that day. Or if I had asked for a refund upon learning the doughnut was free of jelly. You never know. That could have been the turning point in my life.

Anyway, my sisters and I learned to make doughnuts and for years we would legit jump up at dern-near any hour of the day and whip up a platter of doughnuts. Then, for some reason I can’t recall, we stopped making them.

Maybe it was because we could more readily and easily purchase tasty doughnuts at the stores. And purchase them we did. As an adult, I discovered that jelly doughnuts left a bad aftertaste. This discovery elated me. So, I stuck to glazed or chocolate glazed.

But at some point a dozen or so years ago (it’s not like I noted the date in my journal), I realized that doughnuts made me feel, well, high. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, what’s wrong with that?” Nothing. Unless you’re feeling high at work.

Once I studied on the matter, I further realized this doughnut high had been occurring for some time. And it was always followed by a migraine.

Oh, there’s more. I also remembered that I had developed my first doughnut-induced migraine in college. Of course, that was a certain type of microwavable yeast doughnut that I swore off after it caused the second headache. These glazed – chocolate or plain – doughnuts hadn’t started bothering me until a dozen or so years ago.

What changed?

If I knew the answer to that question, I would be penning articles for medical journals.

All I know is that when I tell people I don’t eat doughnuts, I detect their disappointment. It’s as if they just cut into a plain doughnut…

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Coffee break — March 30, 2022

Coffee break

I don’t drink coffee.

Most people react to this statement with disbelief. They stare at me with widened eyes and open mouths before peppering me with such questions as “Why not?” and “What’s wrong with you?”

There’s not enough bandwidth or time to properly answer that last question. As for coffee, unlike my aversion to peanut butter – another admission that folks struggle to understand – I don’t have anything against coffee. In fact, I enjoyed a cup a day for 20 years or so.

If memory serves, I started drinking coffee around age 11. By Goff Estate standards, that defined me as a late bloomer. I grew up in a family of coffee addicts who still drink the stuff all day. They’ve drunk it for so long that they’re immune to its caffeinated effects. Indeed, my mom and oldest sister have fallen asleep whilst drinking coffee.

At any time of the day, you’re likely to hear my mom, my sisters, or my nieces ask, “Whose turn is it to make a pot?” They go through coffee pots like they’re paper plates. Once, when Mother’s coffee pot started misbehaving, I said, “You’ve only had it for little more than a year and a half. Oh, wait, I guess that’s the life expectancy for a coffee pot around here.”

Of course, a single cup of instant coffee is not out of the question, either. Some people don’t care for what my late father referred to as boiled coffee. During my coffee-drinking days, I couldn’t tell the difference between instant and what he called percolated coffee. It all tasted the same to me.

Even back then, though, I wasn’t interested in anything like espresso or zucchini spiced mocha latte. And I’ll never grasp the concept of iced coffee. At the Goff Estate, iced coffee means you’ve talked so much that your previously-warm coffee needs “hottened up.”

Anyway, in adulthood, I finally sought help for my migraines. During a consultation with my doctor, he advised me to rid my life of caffeine. I complied, curbing my intake of chocolate, switching to caffeine free soda (that didn’t last), and quitting coffee.

If this change in lifestyle resulted in night tremors or hallucinations, I don’t remember them. Nor did I look at a cup of coffee with regret and longing.

Fast forward a decade or so later. Whilst making shortbread cookies one Christmas, my taste buds recalled that I had savored coffee with those cookies. Suddenly, I decided that one cup wouldn’t hurt. I poured some coffee and nibbled on a cookie as I waited on it to cool. As soon as I was sure it would not burn my tongue, I put the cup to my mouth, experienced my first sip of coffee in years and immediately said, “Yuck.”

It tasted terribly bitter and dern-near ruined the cookie. It also reminded me that when it comes to coffee, I’m not missing a thing.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.