Cookie and Dough

I’m not sure how proud of this I am, but I should tell this story for history alone. What I remember of it right now was hanging out, and overnights with friends in my basement. There was the work room as it was called was where all the tools were. (These were not my dads tools. The project manager in the house is my mother, but that is for another post. Or several other posts.) The main room had a pool table. Around a corner was a sectional couch that covered two walls and faced the TV. I spent a lot of time hanging out with friends in the basement because we could pretty much make as much noise as we wanted, and my room was too small to hang out in. My parents spent most of their time at night in the TV room on the ground level. The majority of refreshments and snacks were, however, on the ground level. After 10:30 or 11:00pm, I would be hesitant to leave the basement for fear of awakening or disturbing my parents. This left me wandering around in the basement looking for snack ideas. One of those magical evenings, I made a tremendous discovery: my mother had several rolls of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough buried within Downstairs Freezer.

Downstairs Freezer, it should be pointed out, was not an over-glorified cooler, and was not even a chest freezer, but rather a full-sized upright freezer that was in the back corner of the work room. Newman’s buy in bulk (this could explain many things). It’s more efficient that way and you always have what you need. What this also means is that we, out of necessity . . .

…and by necessity I mean, of course, to hearken back to forefathers on the Oregon trail who, if they had freezers instead of salt, would have done the very same thing…

…we, out of necessity maintained a dual-freezer operation. The two-pronged freezing installment allows for deeper inventory and more food options at the ready. Convenient. The multi-faceted freezer strategy also allows for inventory to become foggy. Upstairs Freezer contained everyday items. It was very noticeable if we went from, say, six ice cream bars in an evening to three. As a fat kid I would burn a lot of calories hiding the tracks of shame that led from all of the various snacking venues in my wake, so only one ice cream bar in a night. But if there are six boxes of thin mints downstairs, one (or five) cookies going missing at a time couldn’t be tracked as easily. Again – not necessarily proud of this story.

Towards the back of Downstairs Freezer on the right of the middle shelf there were several logs of frozen cookie dough. As it turns out, your standard metal teaspoon can carve through frozen cookie dough pretty easily, and I know this because many evenings from that night forward were spent passing around the frozen cookie dough log and then returning it to Downstairs Freezer. Growing up with this very special treat taught me that a frozen chocolate chip is better than a defrosted one. ergo a frozen chocolate chip cookie is better than a defrosted one. Not kidding. I’ll fight you over this. This is fact. The creamy and somewhat sugar-gritty dough holds the sharply contrasting burst that comes from striking through frozen chocolate. Simply Majestic.

I told you that, so I could tell you this. I will parlay this into a recipe of sorts, but first a side story about the first night I played Craps. When we Newman’s vacationed, it was often to destinations that featured incredible food, and often featured casino access. Mom taught us blackjack using shells or monopoly money or saltwater taffy as casino chips. That was her game. Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa played Craps. There were dice, some funny shaped stick, lots of money being thrown around, people yelling, people screaming. Very frenetic! A lot going on. Much more interesting to watch. And watch I always would. One night, when it was my grandmother’s turn to role, she asked the pit boss if her grandson could roll for her. If you’ve never rolled at a Craps table, it is quite the experience.

Imagine being the best surgeon at a teaching hospital. Step into the OR. Everyone is looking at you as you step to the table. Someone’s only job is to hand you the things you need. There is someone else calling out everything you do, because everyone wants to know. And everyone is watching you as you work. Reacting to everything you do.

This is being the roller at a Craps table. Step up to the table. Everyone is looking at you as you do so. Someone’s only job is to hand you the dice you need. There is someone calling out everything you do, because everyone wants to know. And everyone is watching you as you work. Reacting to everything you do.

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I don’t run from the spotlight. So this was quite the experience for me. I stepped up to the table. Grandma to my right, Grandpa to her right, and my Dad to my left. A huge intimidating expanse of green felt laid out in front of me. It’s Electric! Boogie-woogie Woogie! To start, everyone is shouting “Whirl!,” “Yo!,” “Hi-low!,” “Horn!,” “C and E!,” “Any Crap and a two-way Yo!” Chips of various colors are being literally thrown everywhere, and a team of three “dealers” are making them into little piles presumably anywhere.

With fervent efficiency the betting wraps up. “Dice out!”

Everyone draws silent as a man with a long stick with a short L-shaped end, like the profile of a very tall stick figure with tiny feet, or the world’s most ridiculous hockey stick, slides me the dice. The series of throws which follow I had no understanding of at the time, so I can’t remember most details, save two:

My grandmother would keep shouting “Whirl!!!”, and then put more money in front of me.


At one point a very wealthy looking man with a huge cowboy hat walked down from the other side of the table and handed me a green chip and thanked me for making him such a tremendous amount of money. I remember the hat because it seems so cliché.

The “Whirl” that my grandmother was so overjoyed by is a single-roll bet that is placed before the “come-out,” or first role. It pays if a 2,3,11, or 12 is thrown, and pushes for any seven. It’s an ironically-termed “risk-management bet,” and it was winning her so much money that she started betting it for me, $5 every couple of rolls. “Whirl for Jeff!”, “Whirl for Jeff!” The profits from which left me with in excess of $75 plus the green chip ($25) the man in the impressive hat gave me. So it was some few dollars over $100. Which adjusted for how old I was (13?) and how much things have changed, that would be like finding $1.24 million in the change cup of a vending machine. Later that same night I had a chocolate chip cookie. That’s what made me think of that story.

What you need to know on the subject of cookies is this: most of you have been eating your longer-than-ten-minutes-old chocolate chip cookies wrong your whole lives. I specify longer than 10 minutes because I am many things, but I am not so bold as to deny the wonder that is a warm chocolate chip cookie. Enjoy them. They are great. But here’s what you do:

Cookie dough in oven. Undercooked. Cool. Frozen. Done. Eat from freezer. You’re welcome.


The fat-kid-can’t-wait hot alternative is frozen cookie dough in a bowl. Microwave. 45 seconds.

You’re also welcome.

Both of these attack, from very different angles, the undeniable truth that cold chocolate chips in association with gooey or chewy cookie dough is your mouthparts in communication with, if only for a moment, wherever or whatever you think Nirvana (noun) is. None of my timely “Nirvana” (band; also noun), jokes seem to fit here because Kurt died when I was in fifth grade and it’s still too soon for me to talk about. Seriously.

The frozen chocolate chip cookie thing, though. It’s everything you ever needed to know. It’s magic. Give it a Whirl!

Deus Ex Cheesebread-a

I Don’t Know If You Know This About Me, but I went to school at Purdue University, home of the Boilermakers, in beautiful West Lafayette, Indiana. When the various athletic teams are not playing, if you aren’t endlessly entertained by staring at corn, it turns out, there isn’t an incredible amount to do in northern Indiana. This meant that with occasion, My Friend and Yours, Andy Martin and I would plant ourselves in the window seat at Harry’s Chocolate Shop, Home of the Great Indoorsman (Go Ugly Early!)

Simply put — if you have only one night to go out in West Lafayette ever, Harry’s is where you go. Period. But this night of nights actually started earlier that afternoon. As my last class ended, I headed to where one would most reliably find My Friend and Yours, Andy Martin —  watching SpongeBob SquarePants. Eating honeycomb. I got in a quick round of Tetris . . .
That’s hilarious – Me? Quick round of Tetris? Impossible! I don’t play quick rounds of Tetris.
I Don’t Know If You Know This About Me, but I am the second best Tetris player in the world. My friend and yours Andy Martin is the first. Alexey Pajitnov is in my Google Circle.
****[Editor’s Note — There have been many iterations of the puzzle classic, so I apologize for scrutinizing what is so obvious, but for those not following yet, I point out that we are going by the Universal Agreed-Upon Standard Unit of Tetris Mastery Measurement Scale defining optimum Tetris evaluation potential being present in Tetris DX version for GameBoy Color. Duh.]****
So – some Tetris later, we arrive at Harry’s Chocolate Shop. Andy’s favorite bartender, Heather, was there. She, in the words of My Friend and Yours, Andy Martin, was the perfect ratio of cute and hot. She finagled some things around and got us our table. Endless volumes of text could be written on things that have happened at Harry’s, and maybe I’ll tell more later, but suffice it to say we did some important work that day. It’s difficult to remember how long we were there, as alcohol makes brain go “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” all I remember is gratitude for how close I lived to where I was. Andy Martin parted ways at some point and then I was home.
And hungry.
Listen to me: I was HUNGRY…
For real.
For the record, one does not simply arrive at 430 pounds. (my weight pre gastric-bypass) One must put some thought, dedication and focus to achieve that. So…
I was hungry. I wanted Jimmy John’s, because honestly when don’t I? But…
Not Jimmy John’s. I wanted Mad Mushroom.
Oh, Mad Mushroom.
Mad Mushroom was a pizza place whose pizza and sandwiches where nothing to write home about, but holy good golly, their cheese bread was out of this world good. It was huge, cut in sticks, and came with a dipping sauce in each corner, Two marinara and two ranch. It was thin, as cheese bread traditionally goes, under crust sturdy enough to allow a gentle bowing of the bread, but not so much bread as to take away from the true action, which was the perfectly melted, greasy cheese goodness. I had to stop 6 to 8 times writing this just to dedicate enough active memory to keep a fully rendered image and taste/smell profile held in my brain space.
Just, again, to emphasize, this stuff was incredible. I can still feel me pressing warm, crisp crust into the corners of those ranch tubs, not wanting to leave one precious carb un-graced by wondrous dip. I’m really kind of having a moment right now.
So the point is, I wanted Mad Mushroom.
Nay! . . . I needed Mad Mushroom, but it was so late! Mad mushroom would takes so much longer than Jimmy John’s.
AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!! What’s a boy to do?
********Deus Ex Machina or “God from the machine,” is a plot device wherein some new story element or character is presumably sent from the beyond to put a pretty little bow on the end of an otherwise messy and or  unresolvable ending.********
Knock! Knock!
I was wrested from my hunger plight by a short, sharp wrap on the door-knocker. Now standing, walking towards the door, I struggled to consider who this might be, but moreover, I needed to get Mad Mushroom out of my head and just get food in me.
Knock! Knock!
I open the apartment door, and there before me stood, like an angel before my very eyes, I saw what must surely be an illusion. A fantasy. The dream of every guy up late night on a college campus has of what might mystically appear on their doorstep.
Mad Mushroom delivery.
“I have a large cheese bread for 136 Andrew Place, Apartment Three.”
Blazoned forth in my visage, and in my ear holes, and now . . .
Oh, Yes! Now infiltrating my nose parts, such thrilling a waft that brings confirmation. Here before me stands for real, the very same culinary masterpiece I was devouring in my mind just minutes before.
Had I summoned this from forth my lustful mind?
My roommates weren’t home. I just got home. What was happening?
I reach for my wallet I knew quite well was empty, if just to stave off this godsend’s departure. I opened my wallet preparing to act surprised it was empty, only to find a fresh new $20 bill. There was no explanation for this.
With very few words the deed was done. It was mine. And I stood, alone again, now with Mad Mushroom cheese bread. Confused.
Had I stolen someone’s delivery?
Where did that money come from?
Why did that guy have the correct address?
Was I on candid camera?
These were amongst the questions that I wondered. Later.
Much later. . .
For the instant the door shut was…
…you know how when a shark goes all “hunger beast-mode,” their eyes roll back into their heads? And consider for a moment the savagery that must ensue for every werewolf EVER to claim “temporary amnesia” the morning after the feasted with passion, pace, and purpose. They devoured.
Think about the proudest moments of accomplishment you’ve had in your life. That’s how I remember that night.
Sad, maybe, I get it. It’s not all jokes all the time here. I’m not proud of all of it.
Again, one just doesn’t arrive at 430 pounds.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the journey of 1,000 cheese breads starts with this here tub of ranch.
Like the slow cinematic pan across the battlefield after the battle, I could see myself from above, as my lights faded, eyes glazed over, I wrestled with the mysteries of the evening as I drifted off to sleep soon after. No doubt with a hunk of crust on my lip, and some ranch in my beard.
The following morning was the scene from movies we’ve all seen: I get out of bed and put on SportsCenter so I can think. Got some fruity pebbles and milk in a bowl, and start trying to figure everything out. I scanned my flip phone and turned out all my pockets from last night. As it turns out, while my modern and caveman brains were afloat in a daze proximal to drunky island, my fat-kid brain was laser-focused on relevant solutions. My call history indicated that after the bar and before I got home I reached out to my favorite cheesy bread vendor, Mad Mushroom. I had timed my call for cheese delivery shortly after arriving home. A receipt in my pocket revealed fat-Jeff brain also thought to have me stop at an ATM (I have no memory of this) to fully fund my further-fattening fiasco.
Fantastic, right?!

The best omelet you’ve never had…


I don’t know if you know this about me, but I make the best omelette you’ve never had. I know this for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s because it’s true. Of the omelets you have not eaten, I make the best one. Second: I do an omelet unlike anyone you know. When I make an omelette, I always remove my right shoe. There’s about a half an inch of rubber and plastic on the bottom of my kicks. (Are the kids still saying “kicks?”) It is simply remarkable the effect you can have on superb omelet-craft by adjusting, ever so slightly, your horizon…
I hope that even just one of you believed that, if only for a second. What actually needs to be considered is this: I’m a gastric bypass patient. I was professionally fat for 28 years. I have simply thought about good food longer than you have. Fat Jeff put in so many hours pondering omelette strategy, that what is five or ten minutes in the kitchen now, is actually years of testing and refinement. Thinking back: it started on a family vacation when I was very young. I have this enduring memory of a breakfast buffet which had a chef available for made-to-order eggs/omelets. This omelet super-station was the ultimate force in my universe in that moment.
First off: kids have zero perspective. If I told my son that in two nights we would be going to the best restaurant on earth, and spent two days reminding him of this, 48 hours later he’d be foaming at the mouth as we pulled into the Village Inn. It’s all perspective.
So when I saw the omelette stand, my first thought would not have been “I wonder what kind of car the omelette-dude can afford? Nor would it have been “I bet flipping those eggs must pull some serious tail.” So, not understanding or being in any way aware of how much the attention of females or access to money would affect future interests, I set in my mind that this was something I wanted to know how to do. Let’s stop and consider: As a fat kid, home breakfasts were cereal or toast or a bagel or going hungry. Learning to cook was essential.
I’m unsure of the etymology of “fat kid in a candy store,” but me at a made-to-order breakfast station is what I think they were getting at. I stepped up and a confident, friendly and welcoming gentleman asked me what I’d have. In moving up in line, I could finally see all that was laid out: I suddenly felt like I had been denied a real breakfast my whole life. Someone or several people had dedicated all or most of their morning thus far finely chopping a veritable cornucopia of omelette-worthy accouterment. Tomato, peppers, onions, bacon, various cheeses, ham and pesto, but there were mushrooms… gross. There were bowls for everything, ingredients laid out side by side, oil, eggs, towels, and other frequently used items close by the pans. Cold items further away. The guy had up to four egg pans going at a time, kept conversation going with the guests, and nailed it every time. What a champ!
This experience made a grease stain on my ever-fattening mind. This was soon after parlayed into a family tradition of sorts. From a very young age, whenever we had overnight family guests, in town for an event or visit or some such thing, there would be a morning when I made breakfast for everyone. It became quite the event. I would set up the night before, or be up early that morning to cut and prep the ingredients. As people entered the kitchen, I’d have everything set up: bowls laid out side by side with ingredients to choose from. I recall being super passive aggressive now and again by placing the mushrooms (gross!) separate and further away than every other topping.
To make your way to the kitchen table, you had to pass by the ingredients. The orange juice and fruit were already on the table. Ladies first, ingredients would be called out and personalized omelets were on the way.
******** It’s important to note here that later on, potatoes were added to most omelet productions. These will not be discussed here at this time, as I have to believe there will be an entire post dedicated just to those ********
******** Additional side note that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else: I’m pretty sure this is pure science, but seeing freshly chopped green and yellow and red peppers, onions, and tomato make your brain believe that whatever comes of this will be healthy. So when you add in the cheese, and bacon, and sausage, and cheese, and oil, and feta, and cheese, it still ends up a “healthy” choice because colorful healthy food is in there too. Science. ********
For every individual who has ever put thought into making an omelet, there is a variation of omelet strategy. I’m not here to defend or extoll any one approach over another, though I will probably come back around to do just that before this is over, but here’s what I do: precisely nothing until or unless I have an omelet pan. This is NOT because I can’t cook an egg in just any random cooking vessel, but do you think Davinci settled for just any old brush when he painted the hand of G-d? You must have an omelet pan. Some commoners may call it a “small sauté pan.” Call it whatever you want. The name is not important. A rose, by any other name, would still not cook an omelet as well as an omelet pan. It’s not just a clever name. It’s 8 inches I think. I’m not sure. I know what an omelet pan looks like by looking at it. It’s an omelet pan. Get one. Have one.
This is mine. I’ve had it over 2 decades.
photo 1
Alright, while we’ve come this far, let’s do a brief 500-70,000 words on non-stick vs. stainless steel vs copper. Some people out there are solidly in the non-stick camp, while others will defend stainless to the grave. And we haven’t even mentioned cast iron. Since you’re begging for my take on it, here I go: non-stick is required for certain things like pancakes and eggs and lots of breakfasty things, now that I think of it. No other surface will do to a properly cooked grilled cheese (future post?) what stainless will. Cast iron is AMAZING for stovetop-to-oven transitions, and the colors and textures it will turn cheese has my inner fat kid screaming in delight. (Also, put a cast iron pan on your outdoor grill, and slice hot dogs into slices and then half-moons. Cook low and slow. You’ll thank me.) Copper is for people with disposable incomes who want to hang beautiful cookware from the ceiling from one of those gorgeous-but-pretentious pot’n’pan hanging things.
Also, copper has unmatched heat consistency and distribution, is wildly efficient, and when made well, it lasts forever. You know, so there is that. For the record, though, I would own said cookware-hanging-implement in a heartbeat were I to design and have someone else pay for my dream kitchen.
Where was I? When I left my house to move away to college, I had a few requests to take household items that weren’t, per-se, “mine.” Second on my wish list was the omelet pan I learned omelets with. It’s still in my stable of cookware. The first on my list was my childhood spoonula. A must. Essential. It got me through college, and I still reach for it first when it’s clean (or clean enough). It’s blue and perfect.
photo 2
Consider: at Taco Bell the Spork is the perfect tool. Its scoopy, its pokey, its everything you need. The spoonula is the spork of the kitchen. Spoonula’s offer the scoop potential of a spoon, the flip action of a spatula, all while benefitting from a rubber edge that is assertive, without being pushy. That edge is pivitol at positioning breakfast potatoes from burning to the bottom, instrumental in incorporating a succulent sauce in and amongst penne, and is the very assassin in the night for keeping a solidifying omelet from sticking to the edge of the pan. Which brings us to another love for spoonulas: Your (eeeek!) metal instruments are bad for non-stick finishes. Non-stick is very nice to you, be kind to it. Get yourself a spoonula. Life changing. Do it now.
So – to the business. A pat of butter in your pan. Let it melt and move it around. Not a bad idea to hit the edges with your preferred non-stick cooking spray too, but well spread butter will do the deed. Keep your burner around 6 or 7. The order is this:
First in are ingredients that want some cooking time. Onions, tomato, peppers, ham, garlic, etc. Vary pace and addition of ingredients based on ingredient. Play around and customize based on preference. Generally onions can go as long as you want, whereas most people don’t like limp peppers. The longer a tomato cooks, the more water it gives off. Things to consider.
Bacon has its own category because first of all it deserves it, show some respect, but also because it will ideally have been cooked, cooled, and crumbled prior to omelet making time. As such, it doesn’t need to be cooked again, but simply allowed to “open up” and share some of its wonder and delight with its omelet-stuffing companions. This allows crisp bacon to not be completely limp and unsatisfying by the time its in the omelet and ready to eat. Add bacon about 2/3 into the above process.
While these things are happening, in a vessel of your choice, two eggs, a splash of milk, salt, pepper. If you love pesto, which everyone should, throw a spoonful or two in. Whip it with a fork, but don’t go crazy. The longer you whip, the more you break down the egg. Pour this into the pan.
What happens next is a combination of experience and intuition. The goal is to evenly cook as much raw egg liquid as possible prior to the flip, while keeping the ever-thickening egg surface from latching onto your pan. We want an omelet moving freely within and around the pan. Depending on the amount of cooked ingredients, how much milk was used, how big the eggs were, how much egg white was lost when you cracked the egg too hard, how much water did the onion and tomato give off, etc., you will have varying amounts of raw egg liquid. A couple of different moves:
– Hold the pan above the burner, as you tilt the pan to the left and right and around, the egg will follow gravity around. Thin egg areas can be lifted to allow egg liquid to slide under.
– As liquid rotates around the edge, a thin layer will solidify against the wall of the pan, every couple of layers, give the omelet wall a cuticle push back down onto the omelet.
– bubbles may gently form in the middle while cooking. Purists will say not to pop them. I say do what you feel. If you pop them, you can slide liquid in the hole, and get rid of more.
Get rid of as much of the egg liquid pre-flip as possible. While managing this, what we are paying attention to: the longer the egg cooks, the more it moves as one, giving it more weight. We want a good solid base underneath, because it’s momentum that will land our 180 clean. Now its game time.
This move has a name. It is not a name I gave this move. It is not a name I am going to write in something that will exist forever. Come find me and ask if you really must know. I may even tell you the real answer. But here’s the move. We must flip this egg. It’s still partly raw egg on top, some dispersal of randomly weighted ingredients throughout and an ever thickening base. Tilt the pan away from you and in one motion, as the egg slides off the edge of the tilting downward pan away from you, a flip of the wrist brings the formerly tilting down-and-away pan back up and hooking back towards you. Ideally, the egg and liquid all pull a 180 and land cleanly in pan. It’s what the kids used to call “tight” or “wicked” or “rad” FroBird would call it “G.”
I once had to pretend to be interested while my college roomate’s brother, upon learning of my omelet aptitude, told me of how he would cook the add-ons (onion, tomato, ham, etc.) first in his omelet pan, then remove them, presumably to let them get cold and soggy. Then, in the same pan, cook his egg, and then tuck his cold and wet add-ons into his egg blanket. Thats obviously not how he sold it to me, its just how I remember him describing it.
Wow. Where do I start? Cooking the add-ons fully creates surface tension even on your non-stick surface. This is going to latch on to the egg when poured, you’ll never stay detached from the pan enough to get a clean flip. In the same way that heat isn’t gone from your stovetop because you turned off a burner, the ingredients we added at the beginning don’t stop cooking just because we add egg. You must cook your initial ingredients knowing that they will continue to cook in the egg and during the melting of cheese (my favorite part).
If everything has gone well, we are looking at the fully-cooked former underbelly of our omelet. If things didn’t go well, you now, literally, have scrambled eggs. (Finish cooking and enjoy.) If you are still with us, this is when we would add feta, blue, or any shredded cheeses. This is also where you would put in some wilted spinach or anything else that didn’t want to cook with the initial bunch. This is where you should grace your omelet with some slices of avocado. Holy macaroni, it’s amazing. As the cheese begins to melt, the rest of the liquid egg is cooking, now underneath. The finishing move is to slide half the omelet out of the pan and onto your plate, lifting the pan over to fold the omelet onto itself on the plate.
There it is.
Just one of my thesis projects from 28 years in A.P. Fat-Kid.

Four letter word starting with F…

I Don’t Know If You Know This About Me, but I love all things orange, but more on that later. Here’s what’s crazy about life: you never ever know if today will be the day you meet the new most important person in your life, or if later this afternoon, you’ll make a discovery that will change how you make decisions, or even if tonight will be the night you bridge a logical connection in your thoughts that lifts untold weight from your shoulders and stress from your chest. It is due to this unknowing that you must be constantly vigilent; ready to take in and react to anything the world might throw at you. Many years ago, on just any old day, I was given a gift that has stayed with me every day, and has even grown and developed with me as I’ve gotten older and wiser. To understand the impact of this gift, let’s consider for a moment the epic pairings of our time:

Ground coffee beans and hot water

Jobs and Woz

Peanut butter and burgers

Cheese and anything

This list obviously could not be complete without adding spinach and feta.

Feta – crumbly, sharp, salty, perfect.

Spinach – subtle flavor base, almost creamy, and Popeye. Hello?

Ultimately the Greeks win, as they have long held onto one of the hightest plateau’s in the culinary world — inventor of Spanikopita. Layers of phyllo dough (buttery, flaky amazingness – think outer croissant layer) seperate layers of more butter, spinach, and feta. Perfection. If you know a greek family, see if they make it. My high school girlfriend was greek. Her Mema (grandma) was off-the-boat Greek. No english, yes mustache, and I estimate 3.5 ft tall and 3 ft wide. Picture a wrinklier Danny Devito, but with hair. The things they did with feta in that house still bring a smile to my face. (see also Tiropitakia) But let’s get back to my gift.

I was in the kitchen of my aunt’s house. She at the time was big into weight watchers, and had a low-points recipe she thought I might enjoy. (my immediate family spent a lot of my youth trying to talk to me about my weight without talking about my weight). Let’s take a minute to examine different world views. People in weight watchers see the world as a series of points, and eat food like they play golf — always trying to shave points and get the lowest score possible. Fat kids see the world as a series of flavor profiles and textures, endlessly focused on finding new favorites, while shoving as many of the existing favorites into our faces as we can. The sheer volume of Mountain Dew I would consume in a day was a gentle combination of awesome and suicidal. And orange Gatorade. Oh, my! Orange gatorade.

Quick side note: So the average sized human might reach for a 20 oz. after a workout.

orange 20

Lots of sugar and calories. Electrolytes, which apparently are important, and a size that should satiate most. This looked like a shot glass back in the day to me.

A long, enduring day spelunking or mountain climbing or preseason two-a-day practices or something like that might call for something a little more substantial. 32 oz. This used to be cracked open, tilted back, and it was gone before it left my lips again.


The 64 oz is the one you’d buy and throw in the fridge for the week. I was putting down 15/week. Thats on top of the Mountain Dew. (again, I’m not proud, merely reporting)


Additional side note, and this particular topic will get more attention when the time comes, but for the moment it’s important for you to understand that orange is far and away the greatest color/flavor for food ever.



I’m not supposing. I’m not estimating. I’m stating a fact. Fruit. Starbursts. Gatorade. Skittles. Scented markers. Don’t even get me started on Tic Tacs. Everything is better when flavored orange. I know my homeslice Morris knows what I’m talking about… Point being – as I was listening to my Aunt describe what, at the time, was probably an incredibly healthy item, all I could hear were opportunities to fatten it up.

Here is what it has become: Cottage Cheese, a metric ton of shredded cheese, flour, and eggs give this a quishe-y quality. It’s sorta soufflé-ish. Kinda casserole-y. Add diced tomato, sun dried or otherwise, depending on preference, onion, spinach, feta, seasoned appropriately, baked until the top and edges get golden and crispy perfect. In a 9×13 it’s shorter and has more surface area so it will be more firm. In an 8×8 it will be taller and mushier in the middle. Both are delicious and neither are the wrong decision. Another phenomenal choice would be to line the pan with phyllo dough. Simply incredible.

Now, for those of you who have stuck around, I’ll unlock another secret for you: you were NOT reading a typo, but rather one of the most important social and scientific discoveries of our time, when you noticed I recommended pairing peanut butter and cheeseburgers. West Lafayette, Indiana is home to many things: The Purdue Boilermakers (Go Boilers!), The Boilermaker Special(which I have had the honor of driving), and XXX Burger (On the hill, but on the level since 1929). XXX is a all day diner, and where one might end up after a night at Harry’s (read about Harry’s in this post). XXX is home to another of my greatest discoveries, the Duane E. Purvis All American Burger.


A burger for the more adventurous! A 1/4 lb. of 100% ground sirloin with thick,
creamy peanut butter served on a toasted sesame seed bun with melted
American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion. A very special treat!

I’m not one for bold statements, but I have only two words: life changing.

Now for those of you who are cursing my name, or wrinkling your face in disgust, know this: that face you’re making is NOT cute, and you need to stop. Second – you’re wrong and the sooner you know it, the sooner you can move into a life where you benefit from such incredible knowledge. Knowledge is power, and more on that soon, but for those of you who are into history and causation, I’m fairly certain that when Steve and Steve melded minds and created the company that brought you the device you’re most likely reading this on (or the device you wish you were reading this on) they had sat down moments before and feasted on burgers with peanut butter, and some or several combinations of spinach and feta.

Avuncular Wisdom

I Don’t Know If You Know This About Me, but I’ve spent my time thus far on this planet collecting as many intriguing nuggets of wisdom as possible. Knowledge is power, and with great power comes great responsibility. It is, therefor, my responsibility to share and pay forward as much wisdom as possible. As the Talmud says “When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.” So I’ll share as much as I can as often as I can.

My parents kept an impressive liquor cabinent in the house, a fact I was almost entirely unaware of until I got to college and discovered alcohol. I was far too busy in high school for any of that. Dad was a scotch man, and though the everyday scotch was Dewer’s White Label, up in the back on the top were always a few of the Glens. Glenmorangie, Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Glen Garioch, Glenfiddich, you know…the Glens.


Now – there are many benefits of being raised by an older sister and a mother who is the primary disciplinarian. I am, among other things, a great shopping companion. I instinctively carry bags and open doors. I have valid and reasonable things to say about fashion, and also know when not to share those things. Also – I am a planner. Many would debate whether this is a good or bad thing. It is unquestionably, however, who I am. And for those of you in my life now who think you are the first to determine this about me, My Friend and Yours, Andy Martin has been calling me “Plan Nerd” since somtime after Y2K and before 9-11. This is a much better nick name than many others in college got from Andy or myself. A mutual acquaintance in a social organization we were both a part of was “The Fun Sponge” because she could suck the fun out of any room. There was also “Rats” who was called such because her breath often smelled as if she had just recently been chewing on rats. “76” was another one we knew. He earned many nicknames, but this one came after he told a very long and very uncomfortable story about how he paid $75 for a happy ending at a gentleman’s club and still had to pay a dollar for the jukebox. Another time, this gem of a human, 76, answered a phone call from his girlfriend while he was in his car cheating on his girlfriend. I’ll spare the details, as I wish I hadn’t ever heard them, but he stayed on the phone while “not-girlfriend” was in the act. There were good nick names as well. “Hot Kathy” was a girl named Kathy who was hot. (Our wordplay wasn’t always super duper clever, just most of the time) And “Where the Wild Things Are” was a girl we were both “interested in” who had all the characters from the book tattooed everywhere. Neither of us ever saw all of them, but we did want to go “Where the Wild Things Are.” Andy and I were both called “Captain Peer Pressure” at times, in part because of one of our favorite bar games called “Prove It.” (Think “That’s what she said,” but funnier, and often with a much more entertaining outcome. Also – more interesting to say, as you can linger on the “it,” as encouragement.) Try it. It’s fun. “Prove Iiiiiiiiiitttttt!!!” All of these nicknames were used around said individuals, with the exception of “Rats” and “The Fun Sponge.” But I digress.

I am a plan nerd. This also makes me a pretty decent host. Come to one of my dinner parties and try and tell me otherwise. Everyone who is any good at anything started by learning. I’ve learned many important lessons from many important people. Here are a few.

The whole family was over, probably for Thanksgiving or something, and I was getting drink orders for the guests. I was young and always on alert for ways to make mom and dad proud. My Uncle Welles has worn many hats in his day. In addition to Uncle, Father, and Mentor, he has skills in carpentry, banking, and general awesomness. I was always very excited whenever he came by. Uncle Welles wanted scotch, and I knew big events called for the good stuff. Usually the stuff all the way on top. On this particular day was the 18 year single malt Glenmorangie. Always wanting everyone to have just what they want, I offered a few ice cubes for his drink.

He looked at me in that uncle way. It was a look of concern and a little confusion. Had I done something wrong?

When my parents gave me this look, I worried if I was in trouble or about to be. When Uncles give this look, its seems to mean “Oh, dear, we have so many things to teach you.”

“Jeffrey,” he said. “A wonderful, dedicated, and focused group of people spent 18 long years removing all the water from this fine fine creation. We shouldn’t dare put any back in.”



Next – Also Thanksgiving. Uncle Mark this time. A year or two prior I had taken over turkey carving duties. This was a responsibility I took very seriously. Thanksgiving was always the biggest event of the year in the Newman household. Prep would begin days ahead of time, and the day of was always amazing. 20-30 family members crammed around several tables side by side. We’d move the couches out of the living room to fit everyone in. This was the one day a year my father cooked. (This has changed in his semi-retirement, but my whole childhood, the one or two nights a month he was in charge of dinner would usually mean KFC.) Cutting the turkey was the last event before the meal began, so it’s importance was magnified. As people were making it to the table, and I was filling the serving platter with steamy, juicy, incredibly fragrant, delicious turkey. It was as I was finishing up that Uncle Mark wandered by my carving station. “Let me show you something you’ll love,” he said as he reached towards my serving platter.

You know how they say never to try and pet a dog while they are eating, for fear they will instinctively bite in defense of their food? A similar warning should be delivered to anyone reaching towards delicious foods within proximity of fat kids. Especially when they wield large carving knives. My brain thankfully overtook my instincts and I did not chop off my uncle’s fingers.
He reached for a piece of skin (now he was pushing his luck), grabbed a juicy piece of dark meat, wrapped the skin around it, and a few shakes of salt later, it was gone. “That,” he said “is the best thing about Thanksgiving.”

I tried it. . .

OK. Listen. If God or Gaia or Buddha or whomever you do or do not believe in were to put together amuse-bouches, this would, without question, be on the plate.

If I had to choose between those bite sized morsels, and everything else in the oeuvre of Thanksgiving, it would not be a difficult choice.

If anyone else ever offers to carve the turkey going forward, I would fight them, for fear it would inhibit my access to this wonderment,. . . and J-Bird  does not get a pass just because I gave him life.

Uncle Mark said this was the best food at Thanksgiving, and not only was he right, I was mad at everyone with whom I’ve shared Thanksgiving for not bringing this to my attention earlier…

Fat kid side note:

Most people burn emotional calories worrying about the fat and calories they have consumed.
Fat kids burn emotional calories worrying about the fat and calories they haven’t.

There are so many important lessons I have learned from so many important people. These were two. More to come, and thanks for tuning in. If you liked this – share it with someone important.