Going Old-School, Heirloom Spaghetti Sauce

My friend Christa said she would be thrilled to teach me a recipe and how about the whole family come over on a Sunday afternoon!  The girls can cook while the boys watch football.  Which is like blowing off the dust on the sexology file,  How Men and Women Should Spend their Sundays.   Hey, why not?  This could be *retro fun!

For those of you who know Christa, you probably think of her as a gentle soul, calm and patient, the perfect temperament for teaching a novice to cook.  As I’ve gotten to know Christa, however, what others might mistake for a shy demeanor is actually really, really good listening skills.  I was looking forward to being in her company and listening to her this time.  This Sunday, the roles would be reversed in more ways than one! Continue reading

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My assessment of the “Man’s Kitchen”

I’m taking a look at OUR kitchen with new eyes today.  My excuse for this room has that it’s a man’s kitchen, the place where my husband spends a lot of his time and the place where I do not.  (Think about it, guys, a new take on the man cave!)  J-M’s acquired responsibilities are grocery shopping and preparing meals.  I never do these things unless he physically cannot (i.e. he is away on a trip or is sick).  This means he stocks and organizes most of the cupboards with the equipment and ingredients he needs.


A man doesn’t mind putting Off in with the sugar… and garlic pills? Continue reading

I’ve been trying to pay attention

So far 19 of you have offered to teach me how to cook for Operation: Recipe Swap!  This does not even include the women who do not own the internet and I definitely want to include in this experiment.  I figure I’ll need 25 in total, if I want to start right away and go right up to my 40th birthday (that felt ghastly to write).  The difficult next step is scheduling everyone in, but I have started.  Expect a call from me shortly. Continue reading

Operation: Recipe Swap

This post has been written, but not published, for over a month.  The idea has been percolating in my head since the summer.  I’ve held onto it because it actually frightens me to suggest what is set out below.  I will become accountable to my words.  But as time passes by, the longer I wait, the more I feel an urgency to make this happen…

A few years ago, John-Mark went away for a couple weeks.  I had a friend over to cook for me because – for fear of repeating myself – I don’t.  When this friend asked for items to aid with the preparation of the meal, like oven mitts, baking sheets, or serving dishes, I was at a  loss to find them.  Did we even own any?  When she used the stove top, it emitted a noxious odor from something that had spilled over from a previous meal from who knows how long ago.  When I went to set the table, I was embarrassed to see that our cutlery drawer was unorganized and full of crumbs, as if someone buttered their toast directly over it, for weeks.   How had I not seen that before?  My excuse for all these things, which I repeated to my gracious friend ad nauseum that evening, “This is a man’s kitchen.” Continue reading

15 years in

Today I am celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary to a guy I am totally in love with.  Like so much in love, that if someone asked me whether I had to choose between $10 billion or John-Mark, I wouldn’t even hesitate to say John-Mark, only John-Mark!  And then, if they upped the price to $11 billion? Same answer, but I’d hesitate slightly.

Even though he’s so priceless, I still did not get him a card or a gift because that’s what happens on your 15th anniversary.  You’re OK without that stuff (although if J-M snuck me a little something, I’d not turn it away).

Plus we did “JUST go to Costa Rica, HELLO.”

That’s me quoting my teenage daughter, when she heard we’re heading out to dinner at a swanky restaurant.  That’s because our friends gave us a gift certificate for marrying them at an impromptu ceremony.  Remember that?  It’s also because we’re indulgent.  First a tropical vacation and then dinner out?  So. Weird.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to post an old entry from four years ago. Not because I’m lazy and it’s easier to recycle old entries, not because I’m late for dinner and really should change into something besides shorts and a tank when patronizing a reputable establishment… but because in our 11th year, I discovered a life-changing truth about marriage that keeps me thrilled to be married to this guy 15 years later.

Check it out:  Elevenses.

Happy Anniversary John-Mark.  You’re worth more than $10 billion by a long shot.

So you think you can speak Spanish?

J-M and I did our best to pretend we were bilingual while in Costa Rica.  We tried to be somewhat discreet with our Spanish – English Dictionary, but it accompanied us everywhere.  We would memorize the basics, like numbers and greetings, and then look for opportunities to practice them.

I can remember a missionary friend from Guatemala, serving in Toronto, telling me she became bilingual by learning one word a day.  No problem.  In our own language-training course, we were also taught that words are more easily learned by using them to describe what you are doing, as you do it.  For instance, you would recite sentarse as you sit down or levantarse as you stand up.

I know that perro means dog, interchanged with the term estúpido in certain situations.

Here are some of our favourite Costa Rican Spanish words and the experiences that helped download them into our lexicon.

Pura Vida

This phrase is specifically Costa Rican vernacular; you wouldn’t use it in the same way in, say, Brazil or Mexico.  It is directly translated “Pure Life,” but is used in all sorts of ways, such as hello, you’re welcome, no problem, cool, great…  This is the one Spanish phrase we learned, but chose not to practice because we didn’t feel entitled.  This one is Costa Ricans Only.

Buenas

This is a typical Costa Rican greeting, if not pura vida or hola.  It is short for buenas dias (good day), buenas tardes (good afternoon) and buenas noches (good night)It’s just good.  Makes for a very positive place when everyone says GOOD! to each other.

Tormenta electrica

Our first day in Costa Rica at Playa Juanquillal in the evening, we were given a magnificent display of a lightning storm over the ocean.  The following day, there was a thunderstorm that kept us indoors most of the afternoon and forced us to relax.  By day three, we were getting used to them.  In fact, tormenta electrica came in some form (great or small) every day, except for our last.  We even experienced a thunderstorm in the sun!  I could fully see my shadow through the downpour and I wondered, “Should I or shouldn’t I get out of this pool?”


In case of thunderstorm, keep out of the water.

In rainy season tormenta electrica is part of the fun.  Especially when you put on your best Count von Count accent when you pronounce it, hah hah hah.

Gaseosos

Pop is called mineral in Ghana and soda in the USA.

Soda is called pop in Canada and means fast food in Costa Rica.

Therefore, gaseosos is the least confusing word to order my daily dose of Coke Light at the soda.


Fast food restaurant in San Jose where we stopped for dos gaseosos, por favor.

Con mucho gusto

When directly translated it means with much pleasure, but con mucho gusto is the Costa Rican response to thank you, if not pura vida. Whereas, in other Latin American countries it would most likely be de nada.

It got to be ridiculous when we were at Rio Celeste and so very grateful and over-said gracias to the staff there… And then we stopped, so as not to inconvenience the servers to give us the five syllable response.

When we left Rio Celeste and ate at a restaurant on the road, we were surprised and a little relieved when our waiter only said con gusto to our gracias.  That’s fair.

Macho

Let me just say that J-M was loving this Costa Rican slang term for a blond male.

Peligro

I asked J-M at one point if he thought we could live without the GPS alerting us to “DANGER! Bridge ahead.”  All 159 we crossed were clearly marked with a yellow PELIGRO sign.

Pastor

Hey look at this!  I showed J-M the cheat sheet on the menu that directly translated pastor as shepherd.  Of course J-M knew that already and, also of course, shepherding one’s congregation is the duty of the pastor.  This translation makes so much sense.

But we forgot all about this banter on our last day in Costa Rica, when we were hoping to purchase a piece of art in San Jose. It would be the ultimate souvenir, an original painting of a well-known Costa Rican painter of the mountainous landscape we’d come to love.  And it would be our ANNIVERSARY PRESENT (how we would justify the expense).  The cost was exorbitant, beyond what we could afford, never mind what we were willing to pay. But we were enamored with the painting.  I played the “pastor” card and told Amir, the curator, that we could not afford his price because my husband is a pastor, so if he couldn’t give it to us at our price, we would have to say no.

Amir said, “I am a pastor too!  In my village in the mountains!”  J-M was skeptical for a couple of reasons, including the number of nudes Pastor Amir had in his collection… and what the heck was he doing selling art in the city if he had a congregation to pastor in the village?  But Amir insisted.  “From one pastor to another, you can have the painting at your price!”

It wasn’t till much later – too late to clarify with Amir –  that we realized, He meant shepherd!  He thought you were a shepherd!

And I, a shepherd’s wife.

Estoy Contenta

At our last dinner at a chic little restaurant in an old building with a young crowd, jazz music playing, and us feeling privileged to be there, I told J-M, estoy contenta, which means I am happy/content.  The trip from start to finish was a total success in that we enjoyed everything we experienced, it was a much-needed investment into our marriage, and just the right length of time. We were ready to return home.

The only bummer was that we felt like we just got the hang of the language – to hear it in conversations and be able to respond to some degree – only to have to leave that behind.  Being surrounded by the language and practicing it wherever you go is certainly the fastest education and we were halting that by leaving.

Just then the waiter came by and J-M proficiently put together and pronounced a string of Spanish words, so that there was no confusion and the server did exactly what was asked of him. My, my, my didn’t J-M look suddenly very attractive!  I told J-M that he could practice his Spanish on me anytime…

So now, when J-M says to me, “Cuenta por favor? Acepta tarjeta de crédito?” I don’t mind a bit that he’s asking me for the bill and whether I accept credit cards.

Si, estoy contenta.”