Wondering What Happened to Peta

Yes, I’m from Rhode Island. No, I’m not wondering about what happened to a guy named Peter. I’m wondering where the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have gone along with Lynx. As I wandered around my home state over the holidays and trudge into my job in the city, I am surrounded by fur trimmed collars. Yes, some of them are not real fur, but a lot of them are. All those red and black parkas with the red and white arm patch are trimmed with coyote. Now I realize that most people aren’t fans of coyote, but are they all that different from mink or fox, chinchilla or beaver?

A quick Google search and it’s clear that PETA is still around. Interested? You can check them out at peta.org where you’ll discover that they are concerned about the coyote but you’ll need to scroll down past the buttons to join, publicity about their successes, suggestions that you choose a vegetarian lifestyle, and a plea for you to end “speciesism” – just when you thought you knew all the isms. But you will have the opportunity to urge a number of companies to stop selling fur.

Still a far cry from the 80’s where we were bombarded with television ads and media stories. Am I the only one who remembers red paint throwing fanatics, celebrities exposing their naked bodies and the horrific ad campaigns created by Lynx. Lynx has been replaced by Respect for Animals, respect for animals.org, who is still focused on anti-fur efforts but maybe not as effectively as its predecessor.

My friends and I would have found it unconscionable to wear an inherited fur let alone go out and buy a new one. Closets full of mink, fox, raccoon, beaver and chinchilla were turned into teddy bears, hidden in the backs of closets or even slipped into the bottom of bags for donation. There was a time that you couldn’t give them away let alone sell them. Yes, there was always one “glamorous” woman who said to hell with us all as they strolled around the market in their full length fox, but for the most part fur disappeared.

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s trim rather than large pelts. Did it start with those pompom hats? No one seemed to be bothered, so let’s see if they can tolerate a little more. Well PETA was bothered and at least as early as 2016 was encouraging us to discontinue this trend, but it doesn’t appear that we were listening.

Maybe a new generation needs to take over the fight. Why aren’t PETA and Respect for Animals Insta accounts making an impact? Is there not a way to create an anti-fur TikTok that could go viral and impact Millennials and Gen Zer’s in the way David Bailey’s Dumb Animals video affected me and fellow Gen Xer’s.

Am I angry that people are wearing fur or am I angry that I missed out on wearing fur for the last thirty years? Is it time to pull the mink stole out from the back of the closet to be refashioned or is it time to question this resurgence? And yes, I eat meat and have plenty of leather shoes, coats, and purses so is it hypocritical to even begin to question fur? Maybe, but we all draw our lines differently and I guess I’m just not ready to cross this one yet.

Wandering to Bristol, RI

Bristol is only 32 miles from the town I grew up in and yet as those of you who know Rhode Islander’s know, it might as well have been a million miles away. Hoping to catch my niece on the lacrosse field on my last week of unemployment I began the 80 mile journey to Bristol.

I’d missed the Brahmin tent sales last year and was not sure I could make the May one so I made a quick detour to the Brahmin Factory Outlet in Fairhaven, MA (77 Alden Road). Although I love the variety and excitement of the tent sale, I have found it a bit overwhelming. In addition, the best discounts at the tent sales occur when buying at least three bags.

After twenty more minutes of driving I reach the red white and blue lined streets of Bristol. I’ve missed the guided tours at Linden Place but for $12 can still walk around with a printed script on a self-guided tour. I love a knowledgeable docent lead tour but getting to spend as much or as little time in each room especially on a rainy day when I had the whole house to myself was a delight.

The house was built in 1810 for the George DeWolf family who made their money in the Slave Trade. Only recently does Rhode Island seem to be acknowledging the significant role it played; if this was discussed at all during my twelve years of public education in the 70s and 80s it certainly was not emphasized.

For reasons not disclosed on their website or included in the tour materials fifteen years later a now bankrupt George DeWolf and his family abandon the house in the night to avoid creditors. Some fifty years later the house is purchased by Edward Colt for his wife Theodora who happens to be the daughter of George DeWolf. The mansion stays in the Colt family for over 100 years until 1987 when the Friends of Linden Place raise money to purchase the property.

Looking for a warming liquid, I asked at the gift shop for recommendations on a great cup of coffee and was pointed to Empire Coffee & Tea down one street closer to the water on Thames. Empire began in Newport where it has two locations and there is another in Middletown. I had an excellent latte and also sampled a carrot cake donut from Knead Doughnuts of Providence and wouldn’t hesitate to go back if I find myself in Bristol again.

As it turned out, my niece’s lacrosse match was played against Mt. Hope High School which plays at Colt State Park. The park is the former gentleman’s farm of Theodora and Edward Colt’s son Samuel; I love when. these serendiptous connections occur. A gorgeous setting even on a cold, damp and dreary afternoon.

Wandering in the first garden cemetery in the US…

Sometimes we miss out on things because they’re just too close to home. I’ve recently discovered the culinary joys of eating at Anna Sortun’s Sofra Bakery Cafe in Cambridge and have begun looking for excuses to go back. Waking up to sunshine and the bright yellows, reds, pinks, purples and chartreuses that make spring a happy time for me the memory of Mount Auburn Cemetery came to mind. Although I’ve never been inside its walls, I could see the massive granite gate in my mind; if I time it just right I should be able to find a parking spot on Mount Auburn Street giving me walking access to both the cemetery and lunch.

Timing is everything and technology helps too. Spots near the Star Market were open and Cambridge has a great parking app for those days when I’ve run low on the quarters I still “borrow” from my Dad. This National Historic Landmark cemetery which actually straddles Cambridge and Watertow was consecrated in 1831. Its 70 acres of rolling landscape did not disappoint. Through some trees I spotted what I thought was a tower and headed that way. The Tower on the Hill is actually a monument to George Washington built between 1852 and 1854.

Tackling the 95 or so steps to the top rewards you with sweeping views of the City of Boston to the east as well as Cambridge, Brighton, Watertown and Arlington.

Although some might find it macabre, I’ve always been fascinated by gravestones and the artistry of monumental masons.

I could have spent all day here wandering from path to avenue, up and down hills or sitting on a bench enjoying the solitude, but it was lunchtime.

Arriving at Sofra at noon I expected a wait, even on a Thursday, but to my surprise I walked right up to the counter to order and even found a table outside. I tried the 5 meze choice plate with a pita (from left to right – Beet Tzatziki, Stuffed Grape Leaf with rice, pine nuts, currants and spices, Baba Ghanoush, Whipped Feta with pequillo peppers and a Cous Cous salad). Sunshine and fragrant fresh flavorful food … sometimes the trip around the corner is as memorable as any.

Wandering for a week in Panama City, Panama

While out for a girls’ night, my friend Maria started discussing her upcoming trip to Panama. Out of the blue I asked if my husband and I could come. Panama had not been on my travel wish list, but I did remember my husband and I watching a show on the Panama Canal and discussing that it might be cool to see it someday. She said yes, my husband said yes, the airline and hotel had room for us. We were going to Panama! Can you spend a week in Panama City? Yes, you can!

We stayed at the Marriott Executive Apartments Panama City, Calle Columbia & Calle Republican del Paraguay. The Marriott offers a friendly staff, large clean rooms (having a refrigerator is always a plus for multi day stays), a large outdoor pool with plenty of seating and sun throughout the day. There is also onsite parking here and Budget Rent A Car Panama is right across room hotel on Via Espana. Thanks to inexpensive Uber rides, we were able to see all that we wanted to see.

Day 1, Wednesday:
Arrived in Panama City about 4pm, sailed through customs and baggage claim and headed for a taxi. Negotiated a $10 a piece ride into Marriott about half hour drive. Easy check-in and grabbed our first $3 Uber to Casco Viejo to a bite to eat that turned into an evening out.

1st stop: Tantalo Kitchen and rooftop bar, Calle 8a Este con, Ave B – we enjoyed beautiful views of Panama City and some happy hour specials.

We walked around a bit and stop 2: A rooftop bar located at the Casa Eusebio A. Morales, on Calle 8a Este at end near Av. Eloy Alfaro. I have no idea the actual name of this place – there is a large lighted Corona sign on the roof deck but no menus, very little English spoken and bills are handwritten but… amazing for and views! If there’s no one in lobby, no worry – head up stairs, grab elevator to top and then head up the stairs to this lovely little hideaway. We enjoyed sharing an amazing dish of grilled octopus, potatoes and cherry tomatoes with pickled red onion over a thick sheer or mashed potatoes – one of my favorite bites of the trip.

3rd and final stop of the night: Lazotea, Av Eloy Alfaro y Calle 11 on the roof of the Hotel Casa Panama.

Day 2, Thursday: We decided to take the ferry from Flamenco Marina out on Amador Causeway over to Tobago Island. We did not make reservations because we were not going on the weekend and we were at the end of season – rainy season was just days away. We were able to get a ferry over at 9:30am but had to come back on the 2:30 ferry verses the 4pm ferry that had been fully reserved by the time we arrived. Tobaga Island is 8 miles from Panama City. The ride is about half an hour, there is both covered and outside seating, a bathroom and they sell drinks, including beer and chips onboard. And as we we would continue to experience the prices on the ferry were either the same as everywhere else or with a slight mark up – no $4 waters or $10 beers here like you’d experience in a similar situation in the US.

We spent a little time being tourists then headed to the beach. $2 local beer (Balboa became my beer of choice with Panama a close second) on the beach were a nice plus. We rented 4 chairs and an umbrella for the day for $20. Sitting on a beach with the ocean between you and Panama City is cool. The beach is not “gorgeous” but we enjoyed our time there and I did get to collect some beach glass.

We had lunch at Restaurant Playa Honda, Calle Francisco Pizarro and had probably one of our favorite fried fish of the trip – a lovely red snapper. Unfortunately we all forgot about island time and had to take the rest of our meal to go in fear of missing our ferry back!

After a dip in the pool, we headed to dinner nearby at Restaurant Tinajas, Calle 51, convenient (a short walk from hotel) and an opportunity to try many typical Panamanian dishes. They host a 9pm show of traditional dancing and costumes but we did not stay.

My crew loves pool so we headed in search of the Londoner Pub – beers here are pricey $5 drafts for national beer – however the pool is free so make sure to grab a table or challenge the winner and get some table time! Everyone here was friendly. We ended the night at La Gintoneria,Calle 49 y Columbia near our hotel at Hacienda Reale, this steak house looks good but we did not eat here. The waiter who looked about 12 did his best to educate us on gin and the crafting of the enormous variety of cocktails on the menu. The young lad was not thwarted despite the fact that we were more focused on taking turns swinging and I kept lamenting that I hated gin. We each chose a cocktail $9 each (craft cocktails in Boston these days can easily hit the $15 mark). Low and behold I liked this gin drink – we all loved our drinks and would send any of our friends here!

Day 3, Friday: Ocean to Ocean Tour, $135 per person with Jarin and Willy. Picked us up at hotel at 6am, provided lots of cold breakfast options and hot coffee for the drive over to boats that took us out to see 3 or 4 type of monkey, a crocodile, numerous birds and cayberra And sloth. I was thrilled – had secretly wanted to see a sloth but couldn’t image we’d actually see one. They move slowly but not as slowly as we had all anticipated.

We drove over the locks on our way to the Fort at San Lorenzo. In addition to exploring the fort and sharing a picnic lunch, we also got to see and hear howler monkeys and witness leaf cutter ants at work. Then on to the Agua Clara Visitor Center at the Canal.

We headed back to Casco Viejo for dinner starting with fish tacos and mushroom crostini at Mahalo on Ave A, then for the appetizer sampler that included 3 types of ceviche and a couple types of fried fish and seafood and also a platter of grilled octopus at Nazcar 21, Calle 8a Este 507, a Peruvian restaurant– octopus was good, over salted in my opinion and the ceviche was good but not the best we’ve had – favorite part of appetizer was the shrimp ceviche and fried fish stick, could have skipped the rest.

Then onto Danio’s Jazz Club in the American Trade Hotel, the most expensive night – it’s small, music was incredible – but at $18 (we were there on a Friday – looking at their site it might even have been $25 cover) and $8 drinks it was easy to blow over $50 bucks a piece in short order – well worth it though and as most of our evenings out were in the $20 to $25 range – this was a fun splurge. Idania Dowman

Day 4, Saturday:
Decided to bike Amador Causeway about $6 to Uber to Bicicletas Moses, a little before the Biomuseo –we rented bikes and biked out and back about 4 miles – bathrooms and shade along way – we were only crazies out at mid morning. Decided to skip the museum and head back to Casco Viejo.

Café Sucre CoffeeHouse Calle 8 and Ave B – right across from Tantalo – great coffee. Walked over to check out the Morning Market at Plaza de la Indepenzia. Then on to Finca Del Mar at Calle 2a Oeste– ceviche and beer at an outdoor covered bar with swings – an enjoyable way to whittle away the afternoon.

Next we were off to the Mercado del Mariscos (Seafood Market). More ceviche and another fried fish!

I rarely travel without visiting a supermarket and this trip was no exception, Supermercado Riba Smith Bella Vista, Calle 45 Este at Calle Venezuela was an easy walk from our hotel. Panamanian coffee and some coconut candies made it into my suitcase home. On the recommendation of our tour guide we grabbed an Uber to Taqueria Mordida de Burro, Calle Hercilia Lamela, Edificio Arnold 1A, El Cangrejo Belllavista they have a kitschy back room. You punch 6666 into the payphone on the back wall to gain entrance to their little speak easy. Tacos were not our favorites but the nachos and mixed drinks did not disappoint. And then back to the Londoner for some more pool.

Day 5, Sunday:
We spent an hour or so walking along Cinta Costera – a lovely land reclamation park along the ocean.

The rest of the day at the pool then off to Ocean Sun Casino, formerly the Trump Casino to enjoy sunset and 2 for 1 Coronaritas ( a baby Corona suspended upside down in a frozen margarita at their rooftop bar located on the 66th floor, Trump Tower, Calle Punta Colon, Punta Pacifica.

Then on to El Trapiche Calle 71, San Francisco for an amazingly delicious dinner of traditional Panamanian food.

Day 6, Monday:
After days of enjoying the Panamanian flag flying on Ancon Hill we decided to attempt the hike up. Our Uber driver dropped us off at a gate to an area with some private homes that looked like they may have been built as government housing during the days of US jurisdiction until its return to Panamanian control in 1977. In addition to the panoramic city and canal views you also have the opportunity to walk through a dry tropical forest. We saw multiple cayberra, sloth and even a few monkeys. Stop at the local home selling food and drink for a respite on the way up or down or both!

Back to Casco Viejo for another great coffee at Café Sucre then it was on to La Rana Dorada (the green frog). Calle 9 con Calle Boquete for happy hour. La Rana Dorada is a brewpub with a great vibe and delicious beer and before 6pm the drafts are half price.

Then to Pip, Calle 9a Este for a $5 Miller and ceviche happy hour special. An early evening after a visually entertaining dinner at Marzola Parrilla Argentina, Calle 8a Oeste.

Day 7, Tuesday:
I always love opportunities to learn more about the history of a place so we headed up to Panama Viejo,just a $7 Uber ride away and paid a $15 entrance fee to walk around the ruins of the original city founded in the early 1500’s and burned to the ground in the 1600’s after being attacked by pirate Henry Morgan.

Grabbed a delicious roasted chicken lunch down the street from our hotel at Rosticeria Don Gallo, Edificio La Exitosa, Calle 45 Este at Columbia St.

And yes, of course we headed back to Casco Viejo for our final day. Started at Pedro Mandinga Rum Bar, Calle Avenida A Casco Antiqua for a couple of rum drinks.

Then on to the rooftop bar at CasaCasco, 10 Calle Este, then over to Terrazzo del Soldado on Calle 5a.

Another stop at Finca del Mare and finally back to the unnamed rooftop bar at Casa Eusebio A. Morales for more octopus!

Next time we’d definitely go to San Blas Islands and visit some of the more beach resorts, but we loved this city and would gladly return!

Why I wonder and wander…

While applying for law school, my application required a personal statement about why I wanted a law degree. I no longer have a copy, well maybe I do, but we’re talking pre-cloud days here and I no longer own a computer that reads a floppy disk. Why I still have a draw full of floppy disks is a whole other discussion, but as I recall I mentioned something along these lines.

I grew up the daughter of elementary school teachers. My father was the first in his family to earn a college degree via the Marines and the G.I. Bill. The Marines and the University of Rhode Island forever changed my father and would go on to shape my world and my choices. As I saw it there were two types of people, “my world people” and “the world” people. My Father was the later. The former were good people they just didn’t seem to worry about what was going on outside their circle of influence. They watched the local news, cheered for the Pawsox, went to their kids’ little league games, to fish fries at the Elks or dinners at the Grange and they’d give their brother of their neighbor the shirt off their back but they saw the world in terms closer to their own backyard.

“The world” people may do all of these but they also look beyond. They wonder and they worry about people, the environment, whether there will be clean water to drink, whether the Russians were going to attack, whether nuclear energy was the way to go, the gas crisis, the AIDS crisis, what we could do for the starving children in Ethiopia, why Imelda Marcos had all those shoes.

My Father was of the world. He read the paper everyday, both the morning and evening edition back then; he watched the local and the national news and 60 Minutes. He called me in to watch the shuttle launches, the resignation of President Nixon and other events he informed me were historic. He reminded me that it was my duty to vote, to make my voice heard, to care about what was going on in the world as well as what was happening in my world. My memories are of him with his head in a dictionary, an almanac or a volume of the encyclopedia. Soon an oral report on the location and economy of some remote country, the accomplishments of some prominent figure or the salient facts of an event or invention was filling our ears. If he was unfamiliar, unsure or just plain curious he investigated. Curiosity, one of the many gifts he gave me.

One of eleven children, he and his younger brother Don were the first to leave New England and to graduate from college. Prior to the Marines, Boston was the most exotic destination for a poor kid from Rocky Brook, a small close knit neighborhood of Peace Dale a village in a rural coastal Rhode Island town where food and friendships were more prevalent than the degrees issued right up the road at the state’s land grant college. Boot camp at Parris Island then Camp Pendelton in California before heading over to Okinawa, Japan. Fortunately the Korean War was ending; helping to return life to normal rather than to fighting. I credit this time with my Dad’s willingness and desire to travel even though the life he had chosen as a local civil servant did not afford the salary to plan lavish trips. The travels of my youth were to see people or history, not to relax. In 1972, he and my mother were able to travel to Germany to see a URI exhibition game and my father became German. He loved German food, German beer, he came home with a German hat and a beer stein and above all a desperate desire to share this experience with my brother and me.

After 10 years of saving and planning we flew into Karlsruhe, Germany. As a 16 year old, I was less than appreciative of being “dragged” away from my friends and life on the beach to travel with my parents and younger bother. Fortunately I kept a journal on this trip. Based on my entries it is clear that I presented as an ungrateful brat, however, somewhere around day five I indicate that “I am actually enjoying myself, but I am not going to let anyone know.” Although it was many years before I could consider myself an adventurer, I credit this trip with my love for travel. In my 20s I proclaimed my love of travel in a group, a close friend leaned over and whispered, “but you don’t go anywhere.” Luckily I have been able to change that.

Wondering about a cranberry blondie

This recipe was given to me by my wonderful friend Martha (not Martha Stewart)- as a cake recipe. I’ve made it about a hundred times and every time I do the same thing happens: people initially weren’t very interested. Unlike brownies that sell themselves, I always had to make sure that I’d removed a piece or arranged squares on a plate and even then it usually took one adventurous soul to get the party started. Initially I was thinking it was the “cranberries” – maybe everyone isn’t the fan I am but after going on a homemade brownie kick I started to see my cake in a new light. The recipe had no baking powder or soda, it’s dense and sweet. Maybe it’s not a cake. Maybe it’s my cranberry blondie!

Set oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. I use a Pyrex one and although I usually use crisco to grease pans, my butter was so soft that I ended up using the butter wrappers. Add 3 eggs to your mixing bowl. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment.

Add 2 cups of granulated sugar, I know it seems like a lot, but this is a desert! You’ll mix this on medium speed for about 5 minutes, you’ll see it transform from the thick yellow mixture below (original color will depend on your eggs)…

to a light a fluffy pale mixture – see below. Add 3/4 cups softened butter (1 1/2 sticks) – mine was pretty soft, I have softened in microwave in past – as long as it’s not “hot” you should be okay – and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and mix on medium again for 2-3 minutes.

Add 2 cups of all purpose flour, I usually try to sneak wheat flour into most my baking but I wouldn’t try it here. I mixed on low just to combine and pulled it off mixer and removed paddle giving a final mix by hand – you don’t want to mix too much once you add the flour – it starts to activate gluten and can make things tough.

Then gently fold in 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of cranberries. I like to be able to taste th blondie as well as the cranberries. I usually go with about 1 1/2 cups and mine were frozen, I didn’t bother to thaw them out. If you like nuts you can also add in 2/3 cups chopped pecans. I’m usually taking mine to a party and with so many nut allergies these days I tend to skip the pecans.

This will be a very stiff batter. I plop it in the pan and then use an offset spatula to spread it evenly throughout the pan.

Then comes my favorite part. I sprinkle the entire top with about 2 heaping Tablespoons of granulated sugar.

Pop the blondie in the center of your preheated oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until toothpick in center comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy! I have not tried this warm, but I will next time! I have also not tried freezing this but on rare occasions it has sat out on my counter for up to four days and it’s still great on day four.

Cranberry Blondies

Set oven to 350 degrees

Grease 9 x 13 x 2 baking dish

3 large eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of cranberries (fresh or frozen)

2/3 cups chopped peacans (optional)

Beat eggs and sugar until light in color – about 5 minutes on medium. Add butter and vanilla and beat on medium for 2-3 minutes. Stir in flour until just combined. Fold in cranberries and nuts if you are using them. Spread in greased pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until center comes out clean.

Wondering why I was surprised that a talk on happiness would be full of people who were not…

Last Tuesday I went to a Cambridge Forum talk by John Leland, NY Time journalist, regarding his new book Happiness is a Choice You Make. My initial attraction was that John’s book was about his experience spending a year with members of the oldest old, those over the age of 85. As John describes it he was initially anticipating writing about a “malody of the month” but then realized that there was a different message and he needed to share it.

He challenged the audience to focus on “what is” instead of “what isn’t” and to think about learning how to train our brains to see life as amazing; that seeing ourselves as the author of our own life can lead to more satisfaction. He discussed some of the people he followed for a year sharing a lesson learned from each. From one a lesson on gratitude, from another a lesson on purpose. Lessons that John took to heart, making a conscious decision to choose happiness.

Unfortunately it wasn’t until my 40s that I too realized that happiness was something you chose not something that happened to you. I do now believe that it is something you can make. How I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self to stop waiting for someone or something to bring me happiness. Not sure if I was initially wired to see what I did not have instead of what I did or whether it was my family or society that focused me outward instead of inward.

Fortunately at a friend’s 40th birthday I had a moment of shear joy – maybe the first since childhood when we are focused inward and don’t understand the judgement of ourselves and others. Dancing on an outdoor patio on a perfect summer evening, I became lost in the beat of the music, twirling, spinning, smiling, shining. A sense of peace combined with euphoria, a lightness that I could not recall entered and seemed to fill every fiber of my being. I remember telling my friend about it the next day and she said she thought she had a photo that may have caught the moment. When she sent me the photo I nearly cried to see the joy on my face. You could see if in my eyes as well as on my lips.

Choosing happiness, meditation, mindfulness all fall into the same box for me. They all seem too simple to work. There has to be more. The more is that as simple as each of them are, the committment to them is what makes the difference. For those of us used to seeing the cup as half empty and always waiting for the other shoe to drop it’s hard to shift that focus. Meditation in an of itself may feel silly. I remember when I tried it years ago doubting that it would do anything and I proved myself correct. And if I’ve heard or seen the word mindfulness once this week, I’ve seen it a hundred times. It’s everywhere and being touted as the answer to everything.

Slowing down this year, meditating, understanding that although I can’t always choose what happens to me, I can choose the way that I react, that I can look for and see the lesson or the positive in any situation and being in the moment has increased my own level of happiness. Mindfulness for me is trying to quiet the voices in my head that are always thinking about, planning for or worrying about what’s next. Sometimes it is easier than others. But it is work and hard work for me to not be planning dinner while I’m eating a buttery mouth watering croissant let alone enjoying a hot new band when the voices in my head are worrying about getting a job and taunting me with thoughts that I may never work again, who will want to hire YOU. So I really get it.

I should have gotten up at the end of the talk after hearing one depressed and or struggling person after another come to the mike. They wanted an answer, a path, a fix. Choosing to be happy doesn’t sound substantial enough and for those with true depression it is not. But for those of us who are spending too much time wondering or worrying about the “what ifs” choosing to focus on the facts, the “what is” and finding some joy or peace there can be the answer. It’s not easy but it is simple.

Wondering how often we cook a meal to transport us back in time.

My mom and dad first traveled to Germany in 1972 to see the University of Rhode Island football team play in an exhibition game in Munich. My father came home smitten with the country and everything German. The one thing he was able to copy and share was schnitzel. My father turned 86 this week so for his family birthday dinner I took a stab at a German themed meal complete with pork schnitzel, homemade spaetzle (a noodle pasta), and a sweet and sour red cabbage. The meal would probably not pass muster with my German born and raised uncle but we all enjoyed it. I enjoyed so much that I decided to make it again a few days later for my husband.

I started with a pound and a half of boneless pork loin that I cut into about 8 slices, trimming off the fat. We enjoyed 3 slices for dinner and my husband was thrilled to take pork schnitzel sandwiches to work this week.

I placed each slice between waxed paper and pounded to about 1/4 inch in thickness.

After all pounded out, it was time for the holy trinity. Flour that I’d added kosher salt and black pepper to, a couple of beaten eggs with a little water (that’s the way my mom always did it) and seasoned breadcrumbs (because that’s what I had). Not sure why I went left to right, just happened that way.

I covered them with wrap and put in the frig for later. I had about 3 cups of sliced/shredded red cabbage that had been cooked for about 10 minutes in boiling water with a tablespoon of kosher salt left over from the birthday dinner so I downsized my red cabbage recipe that calls for a medium head of cabbage. I cooked 3 peices of bacon till crispy in my Dutch oven.

I removed the bacon to a paper towel and poured off about half of the drippings. Then added 1 Tablespoon of flour and 1/8 cup of dark brown sugar and stirred to combine then added 1/2 of a small chopped onion, 1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar (you can use white) and 1/4 cup of water. I stirred those around for about 2-4 minutes, letting the onions begin to cook.

Then added the cooked cabbage and bacon (I ended up eating a piece so I only added 2) broken into pieces.

And then the part I love, you’ll see the cabbage transform from a lovely indigo to fushia before your eyes.

Cover and cook for about 20 minutes on medium/low, stirring often. I was too lazy on a weeknight to make spaetzle (it is easy though) so opted for egg noodles and green beans.

Dad had bought me the monster of all electric fry pans so I was able to cook the schnitzel in 2 batches in under 20 minutes. I heated the skillet to 300 and added a Tablespoon of Crisco and a Tablespoon of olive oil. When all was melted and shimmering I added the pork.

It look about 4 to 5 minutes for the bottoms to be crispy and brown. I added a tad bit more olive oil as I turned them over to make sure they would not stick. I love my OXO tongs for this purpose.

When nice and crispy on bottom I would typically remove to a cookie sheet, covered with tin foil and placed in warm – but because 5 of these were for lunch I didn’t bother – we just ate the last 3 out of the skillet. I should have served this with lemon, but I forgot!

This meal like so many bring me back to a place and time. Memories of family dinners. Memories of my mom. Laughter and a smoke filled kitchen. Although I can’t really go back to the 70s, every once in a while I can go back there in my mind.

Wondering about chocolate loaf cake

I’ve always loved a woman who can bake and cook, why do just one when you can do both. Julia could and maybe that’s why I enjoyed Nigella Lawson so much. That and her late night snacking on the treats she had made also made me love her. English accent didn’t hurt either.

Visiting my almost 86 year old father this weekend when he mentioned he wished he had something sweet in the house. There’s not much you can buy for an 85 year old with a sufficient pension nor much you can do for a proud man who believes that allowing his kids to help with anything around his home is admitting to some type of weakness in character. What he does allow is an occasional home cooked meal, if it’s not too much trouble and anything sweet – especially if it involves chocolate.

Nigella to the rescue. I recalled a chocolate loaf cake that we used to enjoy from her How to Be a Domestic Goddess cookbook. A quick Google search did the trick …

Set oven to 375 degrees. Grease and line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper. Melt 4 to 6 oz of bittersweet chocolate (I used 6 oz of chocolate chips because that’s what Dad had – I melted them in the microwave). Mix 1 cup of softened butter -Dad had salted (original recipe calls for unsalted) with 1 and 2/3 cups brown sugar, I generally choose dark but light was already opened, so used a cup of that with 1/3 of dark.

Add 1 tsp vanilla and 2 beaten eggs (I used large- which are typically used in baking) and beat till well incorporated. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Add the melted chocolate and gently fold in until just incorporated.

Mix 1 tsp baking soda in to 1 and 1/3 cups flour. Then you will alternate mixing flour and 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water into the chocolate batter – do this in about 4 additions each. This will produce a very liquid batter. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Mine fills to about 1 inch below top of pan (if yours is going to go higher, internet directions suggest baking off the rest in one or more ). Also suggests placing a pan in oven below for any overflow.

Bake for 30 minutes then lower oven to 325 degrees and cook for 15 minutes more. Recipe explains that cake will still be “squid day” but that you should remove. In my experience cake is “raw” at this point and I have never been happy with taking it out at this point. I have always left it in over for at least an additional 15-20 minutes. Even an hour in, my tester never comes out clean – but for me the cake seems reasonably done and still on the squiddy side so I take it out. Remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan. Don’t worry if top sinks in a bit. As soon as it was cool we jumped right it. It’s great on its own and even better with some fresh whipped cream!

Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

1 cup soft unsalted butter

1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water

Wandering around Providence

Just 50 miles south of Boston is the city of my youth. I grew up 30 miles south, but for Rhode Islander’s Providence is everyone’s city.

On Friday, I hoped in my car to meet my cousin for a little ‘downcity’ exploring. We started our morning at PVDonuts, 79 Ives Street (corner of Ives and Wickenden) for what PVDonuts claims to be Rhode Island’s first specialty donut shop.

We were in luck, only a few were sold out. We chose 3 so we could experience the 24-hour raised brioche-yeast stuffed – bourbon peach crumble, a 24-hour raised brioche-yeast unstuffed – maple bacon and a cake donuts – chocolate birthday cake. They also have old-fashioned, cruller, vegan, fritters and flourless options. These are locally sourced, homemade donuts and when they are gone, they are gone for the day and when they are all gone, the shop closes!

Stuffed but happy we headed to the Providence Place Mall – currently offering 3 hours of free parking and a beautiful view of downcity…

Despite tempertures in the teens we walked along the river walk – home of Providence’s Waterfire – to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum, 20 North Main Street. Admission is $15 (free under 18, $12 for 62+ and free on Sundays from 10-5 and on the third Thursday of every month from 5-9pm).

What a gem. I am sad to say that despite growing up in RI and considering myself an unofficial permanent resident, I had never been to the RISD Museum. Don’t miss out, there’s everything here from Gilbert Stuart portraits to a Chihuly chandelier.

We’d walked off our donuts, well sort of, so we headed for Ellie’s Bakery, 61 Washington Street. Arriving at a bakery after 3pm means you’ll take what you can get and although initially disappointed we soon were savoring an amazing seafood chowder loaded with muscles and monkfish and all sorts of other goodies along with a savory flaky kale and feta croissant – YUM!