Loafing around — March 22, 2023

Loafing around

Once again, I have gained fun and exciting knowledge from a book of fiction.

This time, the book is Jennifer Close’s Marrying the Ketchups, and the knowledge is the existence of something called sandwich loaf.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, “A sandwich loaf is a stacked savory party entrée made from a loaf of horizontally sliced bread. Typical fillings include egg salad, chicken salad, ham salad, tuna salad, and Cheez Whiz. While rare today, the food was quite popular during the mid 20th century in the United States.”

When I read Close’s description of a sandwich loaf, I couldn’t believe my eyes, especially when she explained that it was frosted with whipped cream cheese and resembled a cake. But then I found images on the Internet of various kinds of sandwich loaf, and they absolutely looked like cake, particularly when cut. It’s a sandwich cake, if you will.

My research also found that sandwich loaf was served at showers and luncheons. A character in Marrying the Ketchups considers sandwich loaf the “height of sophistication.” As most of the sandwich loaf I found were decorated to match a special occasion or holiday, she had a point. This character was part of my mom’s generation, so I asked her (my mom, not a fictional character) if she was familiar with sandwich loaf.

Mom looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.

My oldest sister said she knew what I was talking about and then mentioned pickle loaf and ham and cheese loaf. Pass the barf bag.

Anyway, I explained to my mom, my sisters, and my nieces about this fun and exciting discovery I had gained whilst reading fiction. (By the way, another character in the book regards reading fiction as a waste of time. What a dumb expletive. Readers of this-here column will know that this is the third piece of knowledge I’ve gained – and passed along – from a work of fiction in recent weeks.)

Regardless, my family did not share my enthusiasm for sandwich loaf. I sent them a link that featured 20 sandwich loaf recipes. Unlike me, I don’t think they pored over the recipes as if they would be tested on them later.

In fact, they seemed confused by my enthusiasm. That’s understandable. Except for the occasional tuna sandwich, I don’t eat cold sandwiches. Well, unless it’s an emergency. You know, like in the aftermath of an apocalyptic flood. What’s more, it would take too much space and time to explain my sandwich preferences, but let’s just say I would partake of only the bread and the cream cheese frosting if served a sandwich loaf.

But I enjoy exploring recipes, including those I will never make or eat, and looking at images of retro food. I think my sisters also worried that I would suggest we purchase a loaf or two of unsliced bread and create a sandwich loaf.

No worries there. I’m just sharing my fun and exciting discovery. However, if we were going to create a sandwich loaf, we’d chose these three meats – bologna, potted meat, and Treat.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Baking power — February 22, 2023

Baking power

A character in Fredrik Backman’s The Winners (the last book in Backman’s Bear Town trilogy) bakes a lot of bread. Indeed, he makes so much bread that I suspected a loaf of bread would play a pivotal role in the story.

Whilst I won’t tell you if that happens, I will tell you that it turns out the character bakes bread because he needs to create something. After all, he’s unfulfilled and unhappy.

When Backman dropped that introspective bombshell, I looked up from my device and stared into the void. Why? Because when I’m feeling exceptionally unfulfilled and unhappy, I bake.

I’d never realized that baking was a form of therapy. Instead, I characterized it as a hobby. Looking back, though, I recall specific times when I felt especially stressed or depressed. During those times, I instinctively went to the kitchen and made good use of my fancy mixer.

Once Backman rocked my world, I needed to know more, so I entered the search terms “baking mental health” into the Internets. As it turns out, baking can improve your mood. The step-by-step process requires concentration, which makes you more mindful. That, in turn, reduces your stress levels and makes you calmer. The entire process also gives you a sense of control.

Of course, all this hinges on baking for pleasure and having time to do so. If I am rushed or feel that I have to bake, it worsens my mood. So, if you’re reading this and recalling the time you learned at the last minute that you had to bake 120 cupcakes for that bake sale, I’m developing secondary stress on your behalf.

The same can be said for the daily trudge of cooking for sustenance. But if you cook for pleasure, then you can derive the same mental health benefits others get from baking.

According to my research, part of these mental health benefits come from sharing the baked goods. I have also found this to be true. Although I sometimes bake just for myself, I feel best when I’m baking for others.

For example, a few weeks ago, I had leftover carrots that I didn’t cook. (Yes, on occasion I eat my veggies.) I asked my niece if she wanted a carrot cake. Except for the batter, I don’t eat carrot cake. So it was a win-win for me. I got to bake and eat batter. Of course, as I shredded the carrots, I whined to myself, “Self, why did you offer to do this? You nicked a knuckle.” But those nicked knuckles were worthwhile because I enjoyed the process of baking the cake even if transporting it did cause me stress. (That’s another story for another day.)

Sometimes, I even listen to music and dance whilst baking. That’s what I did last week whilst making a red velvet cake. For the record I also do not eat RVC, as it’s known in my circle. But I do eat the batter.

Hmm. Maybe consuming batter also improves my mental health.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Double dip — February 15, 2023

Double dip

I am a woman of an advanced age and I eat Fun Dip.

To be clear, I don’t eat Fun Dip every day or even every year. Also, I’m not sure anyone actually eats Fun Dip. Instead, it’s more like one consumes Fun Dip, a powdered candy that comes in different flavors and is accompanied by a crunchy candy stick that is equally delicious. By the way, whilst researching the candy for this-here column, I learned that Fun Dip is similar to the powdered candy found in Pixy Stix. No, I hadn’t put that together on my own.

Anyway, whilst strolling the aisles of a store, a box of Valentine’s Fun Dip caught my eyes. Whilst on a video call with my adorable great-niece and great-nephew (emphasis on great), I asked if they liked Fun Dip. When they answered in the affirmative, I then inquired about their favorite flavors. My niece prefers the red flavor – cherry aka my favorite – and my nephew prefers “boo.”

Firstly, I had no idea what flavor boo aka blue represented. Secondly, I immediately decided a box of Fun Dip packets would make the perfect Valentine’s Day present for these adorable children.

The next time I strolled the store’s aisles, I grabbed a box of Valentine’s Fun Dip. I learned that boo is RazzApple, a combination of raspberry and apple, and that the packets could be personalized.

With the Fun Dip in my possession, I set to work personalizing the packets for the children. I decided to address the red packets to my niece and the boo to my nephew.

A few days before Valentine’s Day, I told them I would give them a surprise after they ate supper. My niece actually asked if it was a good surprise or a bad surprise. As if I, their great-aunt (emphasis on great), would give them a bad surprise.

They seemed pleased with the surprise. My nephew was almost as excited to read his and his sister’s names on the wrappers as he was to make that delicious stick disappear. My niece, an avowed fan of the red, decided to try the boo flavor.

As did I.

Firstly, it had been a few years since I’d consumed Fun Dip. Secondly, I wasn’t prepared for the sourness of the apple part of RazzApple. As a result, when that powdered candy hit my taste buds, my lips puckered and my eyes closed tightly. When I opened them, I saw my nephew with his hands clasped over his adorable face.

I’d made him laugh.

Happy Valentine’s Day to me.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Here to stay — January 25, 2023

Here to stay

In case you haven’t heard, our long national nightmare is over – Fritos barbeque flavored corn chips are back on a permanent basis.”

I’m not sure when this event of epic proportions occurred. Therefore, I’m not sure if it qualifies as breaking news. All I know is that in early December, as I stood at the dollar store checkout, my eyes spied two small bags of barbeque Fritos, as it’s known by fans. Fearing the company was teasing me by offering the chips on a limited basis, as they did in 2020 and 2021, I snatched both bags and added them to my order.

Oh, how I savored every chip as it would be the last. For, you see, I remember when Frito-Lay pulled the chips from the shelves, thereby breaking my heart and messing with my mind. Allegedly, this heartbreak occurred in 2018, but my taste buds say it’s been longer.

Regardless, I was in need of some barbeque corn chips in my life after Frito-Lay’s betrayal, so I tried Fritos’ chili cheese and honey barbeque varieties, but I didn’t care for either. And although I have eaten other companies’ barbeque corn chips, this has only occurred on an emergency basis. Along those lines, I will also only eat the original Fritos in an emergency because they leave an aftertaste.

In case you’re asking yourself, “Self, what exactly is a chip emergency?” here’s an example: Someone invites you to his or her house. You offer to bring chips and are told the chip situation is under control. You arrive at the house to discover Fritos Scoops being served with delicious bean dip. You find yourself in the middle of a chip emergency. The Scoops, aka oversized original Fritos, will leave an aftertaste, but you can’t not eat the delicious bean dip and you need chips to do so.

Anyway, after my find at the dollar store checkout, I didn’t expect to run across more barbeque Fritos. Once again, however, I was in for an early Christmas present. As I walked down the dollar store’s chip aisle, I spied several adult sized bags of the chips. I grabbed a bag without even checking the price.

When I relayed this to a group of friends, they legit gasped. Yes, dear readers, my cheapness is well-known among my friends. But what was I supposed to do? Not buy another bag after a years-long separation?

Since then I have bought only one more bag of the chips. I’m proud to say that the bag lasted four days. That’s a record around me. No, I haven’t gotten my feel of the “tangy, flavor-packed twist on Fritos’ classic corn chip,” to quote Frito-Lay. But I can buy a bag whenever I want because the chips are here to stay. I know because I checked the definition and that’s what permanent means.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Carb appeal — December 21, 2022

Carb appeal

Every year at Christmas, I view the spread of appetizers, desserts, and other snacks and goodies displayed at the Goff Estate, and proclaim, “We have to quit making so much stuff.”

Then, around mid-October the following year, my sisters and I start sharing holiday-themed recipes with one another, following up with such messages as, “Let’s try this at Christmas!”

Which is why I just inhaled several of those little pretzel/Hershey’s Hugs/holiday M&M’s treats. I ran across the recipe weeks ago, but apparently forgot to share with the class. Thankfully, I remembered the recipe a few days ago.

Of course, finding the three (only three) ingredients proved much harder than one would have predicted. One store had the Hugs but didn’t have the Ms. The other store had the Ms but didn’t have the Hugs. Locating the right pretzels turned out to be so controversial that we had to follow in the steps of that insurance company and the NFL and check the replay.

Anyway, I eventually assembled all three – only three – ingredients and tested the new (to me) recipe. It’s a good thing I made only several or I would have had to borrow my cat’s insulin. Yes, they were that delicious. And also filled with carbs.

I basically subsist by snacking, depending on one’s definition of snacking, during the holidays, mainly on sugary i.e. carb-filled snacks. I balance my diet with generous portions of dip and cheese ball, though. The cheese ball even contains nuts. Nuts are good for us.

Oh, I slather dip and cheese ball on, respectively, chips and crackers, both of which I believe might contain carbs.

Hmm. Have I mentioned the punch?

Seriously, I’m going to turn into lump of glucose. Or is it sucrose? Or maybe I’ll become a carb.

It wouldn’t be as bad if I was one of those people who would stop after eating one or two of whatever. Here’s my question to those of you who do: If you like it, why stop at one or two? If I like something, I will eat until it’s gone. That is why I don’t bake as much as I did in the past. It’s why, when I feel the urge, I buy a small bag of chips. Yes, I know it’s more economical to buy the big bag. But that big bag will disappear as if by magic almost as soon as it enters my house.

Christmas is my Achilles heel because it’s the only time I eat the cheese ball and drink the punch and make many of the sweet treats. Now, if only I would quit looking at recipes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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.

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.


This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.