Dining with Carol - Part 1
My mother was a lot of things, but a culinary daredevil was not one of them.
She liked her resturants simple and her meals even simplier.
I probably have quite a few "Dining with Carol" stories, so rather then share them in one massive post, I figured it would be easier to break them down, one at a time.
The thing to remember with each of these stories, is the overall theme - which is,
Carol Versandi was a fussy eater, but in the simplest of ways.
I know that might not seem like it makes sense, but stick around
...you'll see what I mean.
So, without further ado, here is the first installation of my new series,
"Dining with Carol".
So, as mentioned, Carol liked her meals simple. Another way to put it, would be to say she liked her food plain.
And yet another way, would be to say that she liked her food bland, uninspired and flavorless.
Her favorite meal was boiled chicken.
That's it. Boiled chicken.
Here, let me pass on her recipe...sort of, my gift to you, from her.
Take chicken. Doesn't matter which part. Thighs, breast, a whole chicken..whatever...and dump into pot of boiling water.
Under no circumstances are you to add any seasoning whatsoever.
Wait until chicken turns milky white.
Serve with nothing.
My mother LOVED this dish.
She cooked it all the time.
Don't get me wrong. My mom was an excellent cook.
In fact, I got my love of cooking from her. When my brother and I were kids,
she used to cook something new every single day. And not just dinner. But a main course, all kinds of side dishes and dessert. Every night.
But for whatever reason, as she got older, she got less picky...or more picky, depending on how you look at it.
My mom was also a stubborn creature of habit when it came to eating at restaurants.
We used to go out for dinner at least once or twice a week and always to one of the same four restaurants.
- Zan's Kosher Deli in Lake Grove.
- International House of Pancakes in Lake Grove.
- Akropolis Greek restaurant in Ronkonkoma
or Famous Dave's BBQ in Smithtown.
These places were considered to be safe because she had eaten
there without incident.
What would an "incident" be, you might be wondering...
Glad you asked.
Here's where our story truly begins...
There is an Italian restaurant not far from where I live called Ragazzi.
Nice place. Not super high end black tie fancy. But not your run of the mill - buck a slice - pizza place. In terms of New York Italian, it's moderate.
I brought my mom there once just for a change of scenery.
I figured it was Italian...and who doesn't like Italian?
So we go, we sit down and we look at the menu.
Pretty standard stuff.
You've got your antipastas, your insalatas, your Italian small plates, your pizzas and your pastas. Something for everyone.
I order the Pollo Gorgonzola. Lightly breaded chicken breasts topped with a Gorgonzola cream sauce and a side of steamed vegetables.
My mom orders Spaghetti and Meatballs.
There's 2 full pages, front and back of menu items, but she has to
order from the Kids Menu....Spaghetti and Meatballs.
I'm surprised they didn't offer her crayons and a coloring book
while she waited for her food.
So the food arrives. She takes one bite of her meatballs, makes a face like she just drank sour milk and says "Ewwwww!!" and pushes her plate away.
"What's wrong?", I asked.
"This tastes funny. I don't like it. Here, try it and tell me what you think".
So I take a bite and it tastes fine. In fact, it's a pretty damn good meatball.
I tell her it's fine and to stop making a fuss.
She then proceeds to dissect this half-eaten meatball with her fork.
She has gone from a simple dining patron to Carol Versandi, CSI.
She pokes...she prods...she inspects....she takes notes....makes comparisons and finally comes to a conclusion.
It turns out that not only did they put some kind of exotic foreign spice into the meatballs...possibly salt and oregano...but they added Parmigiano cheese!
Eureka! My mom has solved this high profile caper!
But, Parmigiano cheese has something that Carol does not like....flavor!
So she scoffs and scowls and huffs and puffs. She was really in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, but not the fancy schmancy high falutin' kind.
Perhaps a can of SpaghettiOs would have been more her speed.
But that's ok.
She has a solution.
To combat the offensive taste of the Parmigiano cheese, she
decides to sprinkle it with that white shredded cheese that all
Italian restaurants put on the tables.
Which as some of you might know is Parmesan cheese.
Which as some of you might know is Parmigiano cheese.
Which is what is currently mixed into her meatballs.
I point out this seemingly obvious flaw in her plan.
"I like the cheese on my meatballs - not in my meatballs!", she replies.
To which I say nothing.
Because honestly, what can you say to that?
There simply is no response.
She's content and that's all that matters.
I'm happy to say that the meal was not a total bust.
On the way out, on the hostess stand was a bowl of jellybeans.
Free for the taking. Kind of like how some places offer you free mints.
Well, this place has jellybeans.
And this made my mom happier then a kid at DisneyWorld.
Not only did she have a big smile while reaching in and taking a handful,
but she giddily thanked the hostess and told the people that were walking into the restaurant while we were walking out, about the awesome free jellybeans!
She even called me the following morning to thank me for a great dinner.
Even though we were not allowed to go there ever again...you know...due to the whole "meatball incident".
In fact, here is an actual, honest-to-God, text message conversation we had about future dinner plans.
I miss you mom.
I really really miss you.
There will never be anybody like you.
I love you.