Thursday, August 20, 2015

Korean Have Fun Marinate Wonder Sauce

This is a good one for chicken, tofu, shrimp or what have you. For best results marinate overnight, well covered, if there’s too much marinade, bag it and freeze it. AND if you feel like ‘bumping' up any of the ingredients (garlic, ginger etc); what can it hurt? Have fun!!

Korean Grilled Whatever marinade
¼ c. good soy sauce (Amino)
¼ c. unsweetened apple sauce (boil and mash a damn apple)
¼ c. chopped onion
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger root
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sesame seeds, plus more for topping
2 thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Friday, August 14, 2015

Central Grocery

Central Grocery
            If I were sight impaired and someone walked me through those doors I would know the perfumed vapors of an old timey Italian market. They’re the smells of garlic, olives, cured meats, hard cheeses and old appetites satisfied. It is an olfactory equivalent of being wrapped in your grandmother’s wool shawl on a cool autumn night; yummy, secure, safe. Linzalone’s in old Chelsea, Molinari’s in North Beach, Central Grocery in New Orleans.
I recently sat down with Tommy Tusa, third generation owner/operator of Central Grocery at his shop at 923 Decatur Street in the French Quarter. As we all know, Salvatore Lupo (Tommy’s grandfather) is said to have been the originator of a more than extraordinary sandwich, a sandwich that is as indicative of New Orleans as the Mississippi River: The Muffuletta. Tommy is tall and trim and, if such a word can be used, dapper in appearance. His age is nebulous; he appears to be ten years either side of fifty years. He and his cousin Frank Tusa run the day to day operations. Like all true Sicilians, Tommy talks as much with his words as with his facial and physical expressions. We sit at the far end of the eating counter, he, of course sits where he can see his employees and the action.
PL: First of all, can we tell everyone, once and for all, what is the proper pronunciation of the sandwich?
TT: Muffuletta, pronounced “moo-full-lette-tah!” People call it a lot of other ways; we don’t really care, as long as they want one.
PL: And the name means?
TT: From what we can make out from the stories that my mother tells, it probably came from a baker named Muffuletta and was called Muffuletta bread long before we started making it into a sandwich.  That’s as much as we can make out, we don’t know if it’s true but it stands to reason.
PL: How did the store get started?
TT: My grandfather, like a lot of Italian immigrants, came here and worked in the grocery business. In 1906 he opened his own grocery about a block away and in 1919 bought this property and opened this (gestures). The Market workers used to come in and buy the ingredients for the sandwich from us, then they’d go outside and buy some bread from a pushcart, sit on barrels and such places, eat the bread (tearing motion) and ingredients. Then my grandfather got the idea of making the sandwich. There were at least six Italian bakeries in the Quarter at the time; in fact there were shops like this all throughout the neighborhood.
PL: This used to be a large ethnic neighborhood. Do you ever see that coming back?
TT: I remember like it was yesterday, the ice house, the fish markets; no, I don’t see it ever being the same. My father was raised in the French Quarter. It was a real neighborhood up until about 1950 and then it started to change. Now what we have here (indicates the street) are these street people; they sit outside panhandling, they camp out at night and you have to clean up after them in the morning, their garbage, food scraps, beer cans. You have to chase them away during the day “you can’t sit here, you can’t sit here” you’ve got to keep telling them. They’re ruining businesses and no one is doing anything about them.
PL: I was told that it’s their first amendment right.
TT: (raised eyes) Yeah, the ACLU…. What about our rights?
PL: Onward. Your mother wrote a cookbook? (1980 Marie’s Melting Pot)
TT: Yes, my mother and my two grandmothers; it took three or four years. Writing recipes, testing them and cooking, cooking. I remember the stories, my mother tells all the old stories, I know those stories. My mother lives in Covington, she’s 103 years old and frail so she doesn’t do interviews… obviously.
PL: Any thoughts on retiring? Any other family members coming in?
TT: I’ve worked here since 1970 so that’s forty-five years; no, there’s me and my cousin and there’s no other generation coming up behind us. Besides, what would I do if I retired (shrugs)? Stay at home and be bored?
PL: Were you looted during Katrina?
TT: Yes, all the businesses were. We opened after three months, and one day after that, Jim Belushi came in and saw that his picture was still on the wall and he pointed and said “well, at least they didn’t get me!!” We get a lot of celebrities in; I’ll show you the photos. Goodman (John) loves the Muffuletta; he can’t eat it here because they (gestures at the customers) won’t leave him alone.
PL: How many sandwiches have you made?
TT: on a busy day we’ll make about five hundred
PL: So you’ve made a million Muffulettas
TT: More than one million. A few million, at least. We’ve been in business over a hundred years (looks at me to indicate that I should do the math). And we ship. Overnight, next day delivery.
PL: What do you see as the future?
TT: Kids these days, they don’t know how to work; you have to tell them over and over how to do the same thing. You tell them to stay off their cell phone and then (making an imaginary call at waist level) you see them in the corner. I’ll tell you a story; when I was just starting working here, one day I made myself a little sandwich and sat down; my uncle came up to me and said “what are you doing?” and I told him. He said (slightly raising his voice) “Hey! You don’t eat here, you eat at home, after you get off; now, get back to work!” And that’s the way it was. Nowadays…
PL: When I was a kid, I had a friend named Rocco, my mother used to call him a “Bacciagalupe”. When I asked her what that meant, she would just point at him and say “Him, he’s a Bacciagalupe!” Do you know what that means?
TT: (laughing) Yes, I’ve heard that word; I think it means wiseguy or weirdo or some such character.
PL: Now, here’s the big one; what advice would you give young folks coming up? What advice do you give your children?
TT: I have two daughters and grandchildren. What would I say to them? (looks heavenward and then into my eyes). I would say “Do whatever you do to the best of your ability. Do it well; and never never give up. Never let anyone discourage you!”
And then, like a true business owner, he shook my hand, thanked me and said: “I’ve got to (indicating the sandwich counter) get back to work.”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Getting Older

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Every Silver Lining
Touch Of Gray

Okay, here’s your life story: From birth to the ‘age of reason’ you’re pushed around and told what to do and when to do it, if you have any gumption, you push back and are called a spoiled, willful, spiteful brat. At seven or eight you’ve entered the world of other people, you become aware of peer pressure, fashion statements and kids that are better looking, better liked and better armed (to take on the world) than you. At twelve you feel the rumblings of your hormones, at sixteen you become a sex and acceptance addict. By twenty five you’re golden and three years later your spirit has tire tracks from being thrown under the bus. At thirty you’ve immersed yourself into a career (because you don’t really know who you are), by forty-two you’re in a mid-life crisis and it’s downhill from there.
In between those years you’ll experience growth spurts, pimples, cramps, confusion, children and a bucket of responsibilities and expectations to live up to. Scraps and scrapes and scars to prove it. You’ll have hated your parents, smoked things, made a fool of yourself, imbibed strong spirits and lost your self confidence and virginity on several occasions. You’ll be told what it is to be mature by a good number of (well intentioned) friends/lovers/kinfolk/others and just how unaware you are of the poor job you’re making of it
Awareness: knowing what’s going on while it’s going on; you’ll experience little of that and sometimes it is a case of “wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” And of course, if you live long enough, you’ll look in the mirror and wonder who that old person is.
 We’re told from an early age that if we live long enough… we’ll get old. What we’re not told is that it’s gonna hurt. Knees, back, neck, shoulders, feet; they’ll hurt one time or another during each and every day. They didn’t tell me that; in fact, there’re lots of things they didn’t tell me. I’m not sure how the rumor got started that getting and staying older was such a great thing. It’s not. Let me tell you how I know: I am older –and, if you can’t tell-- I’m not liking it very much, if at all, and I don’t think that you’re gonna like it either.
Tee shirt: Mill Valley, California. 1989.  “Eat Right, Exercise, Die Anyway.”
            “Flab. They didn’t tell me that my fine, tight gluteus maximus fabuloso was gonna become my gluteus maximus flabuloso; think that’s funny? Ask anyone my age what they think of their bottoms falling out and ten to one they’ll want to take a swing at you. Smart ass kid.
            Your hair will become as thin as your patience, your teeth will require regular checkups to no avail, your eyesight gets far and near and then hardly at all, your (“What’s that you say?”) hearing(?)…well.  The way you don’t bounce back from a night on the town (if you can stay awake that long) is telling. That fine firm flesh? You can kiss that six-pack goodbye; everything you eat is going right to your waistline and your hips. And that’s the good news.
            You’ll have insurance: health, home, vehicle, life and burial. You’ll have cards for Costco, Blue Cross, AAA, the library, CVS, RTA, AARP and Walgreens. You’ll be cautious about driving, walking, drinking, the safety of your pets and loved ones; by now you know that there are boogie men out there with names like COPD, Dementia, IBS, incontinence, UTI, menopause, Fibromyalgia, ED, arthritis, and cancer. Stick around, Kid, see what it’s like.
You won’t know any of the new technology, popular culture or music and you’ll reflect that the last dance steps you learned was to the Electric Slide. Sex will still be always on your mind but you’ll do less and less about it. You’ll take supplements (and not be any more supple), vitamins, calcium and floss your teeth. You’ll watch your icons, critters, friends and loved ones die... some prematurely.
Aging is a real pain in my butt—and adding insult to injury-- sometimes I’ll see myself through another person’s eyes, the myopic ignorance of youth perhaps, that, like in the Bradbury story, regard me as a being that has been created fully blown ancient. Bitter and pessimistic? It’s hard not to be; but, what’s the alternative? Looking into retirement homes and making out a will? Dying? That’s all I got? Are you friggin’ kidding me?
             Time. Time is something that I have now, it comes too slowly and it goes too fast.  Time is not money or security or something you bottle up and store under the sink for later. Time is ice cream, fried chicken, fresh peaches…bacon. Time is exactly the right temperature, uncomplaining and unconditionally. Time lets you know when to stand up for yourself, when to quietly sit down and how high your bulls**t meter will go before you tell somebody to take a hike. Time is shared like chocolate and fine wine.
            Time is not to be wasted or anesthetized, neither is love or youth; and I’ll venture that you’ve spent enough of it reading this. So, back away from my views, get that picnic, Frisbee, cinema ticket, fishing pole, wine glass and/or bicycle and with a special person (or not), take a deep breath and repeat after me: “evil spirit….depart!