Autumn (or as I prefer to call it – gravy season)

The leaves and the temperatures are falling; the flower beds are raggedy; the days are getting shorter. It must be Autumn. Time to harvest and store for winter. Our yearly reminder that all life must end.

But fear not. Spring will come again! Life will be renewed.

But until then, bring on the sweaters. Pile on the blankets. Light the fires. And please pass the gravy. Or stew. Or soup. Or meat pie. And lots of stuffing and potatoes and more gravy please.

gravyOf course here in the United States we will be celebrating Thanksgiving soon. And in the true spirit of that holiday we give thanks for our abundant blessings. Traditionalists share a meal of turkey and dressing and sweet potatoes and corn and cranberries – all foods native to North America. We will  celebrate and remember the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving. And we top off our meal of thanksgiving with pumpkin pie (which is sort of the gravy of desserts – no chewing is required).

I suppose sumptuous meals lessen my seasonal depression. I don’t like cold weather. I don’t love snow. I find winter bleak and dreary. So when the occasional gravy-smothered meal is served it eases my loss of blue skies and warm weather. And bulky sweaters assist in covering up an expanded waistline. Seasons change. Weight fluctuates. It’s the circle of life.

However this year I’m determined to not board the “gravy boat”. I will maintain a healthy diet. I will resist all temptation. I will face those cheesy casseroles and warm muffins and gravy-laden delicacies with resolve. I will say no to the extra helping. No to the second dessert. No to the cup of hot cocoa with those adorable tiny marshmallows. No to the warm puddings covered in cream. No, no, no!

But who am I kidding? If God had wanted us to starve all winter he wouldn’t have created Autumnal foods in the first place. Mmmm – meatloaf! Even the name sounds decadent.

So pull up a chair and pass the platter. And please excuse me while look for my favorite pair of loose-fitting jeans and that bulky sweater with the gravy stains.



Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone…

Man cannot live by bread alone, or so the story goes. And of course it’s a metaphor for life but I love bread. And with a glass of wine, I’d be just fine. I love all bread (and if rice and pasta count) then my life is complete. I love Italian bread and French baguettes and Indian naan and New York bagels and big yeasty rolls and pita and biscuits and hard rolls and well, you get the idea. I LOVE BREAD.

bread-collageYears ago when we were in France with our family having lunch at a little outdoor café, there was a small (very small) basket of bread at my place. We were enjoying our meal and then someone asked if there was any more bread. I had eaten all of mine. It was then that I realized no one else had been given a basket of bread – because THE BASKET was for the entire table. Apparently the French are very stingy with their bread (others at our table thought that I had eaten more than my share but they were wrong).

My grandkids are big bread-eaters, too. I encourage this. I wish that there were more bakeries. I would like to see a campaign for bread like those milk ads of recent history. With athletes and celebrities shoving there faces into some doughy confection and extolling it’s virtue with a “Got Bread?” tagline. Nothing is better than a warm, crusty roll fresh out of the oven. Nothing smells better than bread baking. Nothing brings the same comfort as bread and butter. One of the joys of living in England last year was the multitude of bakeries near our village. We had fresh bread nearly everyday. And cheese – glorious cheese! Bread was always a part of each meal at our table and sometimes bread alone would have been enough (with the aforementioned glass of wine).

So why can’t we live on bread alone? Because we need butter, too. And wine. Even Jesus needed bread and wine. Metaphorically speaking we also need more than just bread. We need diversity. We need choices. Life would be boring if everyone was the same; if everyday was like the day before. I believe that the messiness of life provides the ‘flavor’. The uncertainty of life can be challenging at times  but it can also whet our appetite for more: more adventure; more opportunity; more joy; more love.

So I suppose as much as I love bread I still can’t live on it alone (or that I would want to) but I think that I could live on bread and wine and cheese and chocolate. Oh, and don’t forget bacon! Man might be able to live on bacon alone. But then again…



It’s Good And Good For You

I’m blessed to be married to a good cook. Actually “good cook” is an understatement; great cook or fabulous cook is more accurate. It’s fair to say that we eat better than most. Our son who cooks professionally credits his mother for both his success in the kitchen and his love of food.

My standard line when served yet another delicious meal is usually, “It’s good and good for you.” Truth be told, the “good for you” might sometimes be a stretch. Someone much smarter than me once said, “Man cannot live by bread alone.” So occasionally we need a little butter or cheese or chocolate…

After living the better part of last year in England people often ask us if we miss our life there. The answer is always yes. When asked what we miss most, I usually say the food (and wine). There’s a common misperception in the U.S. that English food is bad. We found it to be quite to the contrary. The produce and meats and cheeses in our local markets were fresher and usually locally produced. And good French and Italian wines were inexpensive. English wine is lousy but this is made up for by the excellent cheese and goat butter.

Wild Duck Inn - Ewen, England

Wild Duck Inn – Ewen, England

Dining out in England could be at times challenging. There are plenty of ‘Fish and Chips’ shops and every village seems to have a Curry restaurant. Some of those places are a bit dodgy. But great restaurants can be found and often in unexpected places. Two of our favorites: The Wild Duck Inn located in a tiny village called Ewen and Cricklade House in Cricklade which is an old Saxon town. Both were just minutes from where we lived. Of course our best meals in England were served in Oaksey in our own cottage – thanks Deb!

I’ve never intentionally plugged a business in my blog but recently we had a restaurant experience that reminded us of some our best meals in England and Europe. We dined with great friends, which always makes a meal better, at a small restaurant just minutes from where we now live. Another amazing meal in an unexpected place. Stone Soup Cottage in Cottleville, Missouri is without a doubt the best dining experience we’ve had since leaving England (with the exception of Deb’s kitchen of course).

Chef Carl and his wife Nancy have converted a small house into an intimate restaurant. The food is beyond spectacular and the warm and welcoming environment add to the charm of the place. In Europe when you dine out you “own the table” for the evening. No one would ever bring you the check until you ask. None of this “I’m just leaving the check, please take your time.” which translates into “Please hurry up, we’d like to seat someone else at this table.” In much the same way at Stone Soup Cottage we were allowed to dine at our leisure. Carl’s creations were exquisite and Nancy’s wine pairings were perfect. We thoroughly enjoyed and savoured every morsel.

Dining at Stone Soup Cottage is not inexpensive and it might literally take months to get a reservation but it’s worth saving your pennies and planning ahead. After all, sometimes treating yourself really is “good and good for you.” And Deb deserves a break every now and again.

Bon appetit,


Waitrose, Sainsbury, Tesco and clotted cream

Salad cream?

Grocery shopping in England is an adventure. We generally shop at Tesco because it’s close by and reasonably priced by UK standards. It’s clean and well stocked. Deb prefers the more posh Waitrose and I like Sainsbury near my office for quick pick-up items and great (and cheap) wine selections.

Onion marmalade - really?

Regardless of where we shop, I’m amazed (and often puzzled) each time by some of the products available. Our shopping trips are getting shorter but my attention span in grocery stores is shorter still and I am not as fascinated by the 17,000 varieties of olive oil as my dear wife.

In all fairness, Deb is an excellent cook and knows what she needs to prepare fabulous meals. The challenge is sometimes finding the proper ingredients, especially with me standing on the sidelines tapping my foot or grimacing. “Oh, for the love of God just pick an olive oil!”

Spanish, Italian, Greek, Israeli...

Because I’m bored and to “help” I have become Deb’s ‘advance man’ in the grocery markets. While she leisurely glides the trolley through the aisles, I run ahead like a dog in search of the elusive rabbit for the next item on her list, which I retrieve and return to her usually to find it’s “not exactly” what she wanted. Defeated I return said item back to its proper place like the sad pup that I am and try again.

This game continues throughout the store. Next item and I’m off in search of the ‘Holy Grail’ of vanilla paste or clotted cream or lemon curd only to have my hopes dashed again and again and again. But I can’t stop myself! Deb and I are like the tortoise and the hare of Tesco: me madly dashing from aisle to aisle while she calmly (painfully) examines each of the items and makes her careful selections. And she ALWAYS wins!

Of course this is further complicated by the multitude of varieties and British names of items on her list. Who knew grocery shopping would be so challenging? And so fun. I love my wife; I love my life. I’ll meet you at the till!



A Scone By Any Other Name Would Taste As Sweet

One of our big concerns about moving across the pond was the food. To be honest, English food is not universally renowned. Oh, of course there’s Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips but beyond that most non-Brits can’t name a single English dish that they’ve ever eaten and enjoyed or more importantly ever ordered in a restaurant.

It turns out that we have been pleasantly surprised. Not only have we found some lovely pubs (for the record ‘pub’ is a misnomer – most pubs are more like casual restaurants that happen to sell ales) but we have also discovered some fabulous ‘green grocers’ (produce shops).  And the full-line grocery stores that we’ve shopped have great meat, dairy (especially cheeses) and bakery – not to mention the puddings!

Add to all of this the fact that Deb is a fantastic cook and there’s a very good chance that I will come home weighing an additional stone or two.

Last night at dinner we discussed the fact that we haven’t missed any foods from home. Not one – not once. Plus with the availability of inexpensive French and Italian wines we’ve been dining like royalty.

Much of the food here is the same as what we’re used to in the States. But there are notable exceptions:

  • Scones – scones here are not the giant Starbucks variety, which are often coated in sugar. Instead they are typically small, round, dense delights that sometimes have sultanas baked in but I think that the best ones are plain. Simply delicious with a cup of tea.
  • Carrots – carrots are small, sweet, and fresh. None of the little whittled-down type that are washed and ready to eat that we find at home (which seem to have been bleached of all germs and taste).
  • Beef – British beef is wonderfully marbled and red. Brits don’t seem to be afraid of a little fat (hence the concern about gaining an extra stone or two).
  • Chicken – It tastes like chicken from when I was a kid. Maybe it’s not raised in a ‘poultry factory’ over here.
  • Swedes – A root vegetable, that can be mashed, roasted, baked – always delicious.
  • Meat Pies – What can I say? See beef and chicken above.
  • Ginger Beer – A soft drink; like rootbeer but with an attitude.
  • Puddings – Actually all desserts are called puddings here but the real puddings; those delectable concoctions of sponge cake and warm sauce are a little slice of heaven. I love them all – Sticky Toffee, Chocolate, Caramel with Pecan Sauce. Yum, yum, yum!

So we’re eating well and learning to love some new foods along the way. I’ll continue to thank God for all the blessings on our table. Now if I could just master holding my fork in my left hand then I could dine like a proper Brit. 

Happy Eating!


Made With Love

“What would you like for dinner?” That’s Deb’s usual request as I’m walking out of the house on my way to work each day. My response: “I don’t care” or “Whatever you would like” or some other non-response. I might as well say “I can’t be bothered with that right now!” And I’m ashamed of myself for doing that…

I’m not a ‘foodie’ but I love to eat. And I love to eat good food. But I can’t (won’t) cook and I don’t know what’s “in season” or what it takes to prepare most meals. It’s not that I don’t care; I just don’t care that much. This makes me kind of a rat-bastard because Deb loves to cook and she puts so much thought into each meal. And I (on most nights) just come home and wait to be served. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate it and I am always thankful but I don’t necessarily understand the ‘art of cooking’. It’s similar to my complete lack of regard for opera or ballet – never quite acquired an appreciation for either. I suppose that the ‘finer things’ in life are often lost on me.

But yesterday when asked, ““What would you like for dinner?” I thought about it and replied, “Something light or summer-timey”.  And away I went. I never gave it another thought.

To my delight when I came home Deb was preparing bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. Now I don’t think that she needed Julia Child’s cookbook for this meal but to me it was as wonderful as if she had prepared Boef Bourguignon. The BACON smelled amazing! And the fresh lettuce and tomatoes, that she had ‘hand-picked’ at the produce market down the road, were perfect. Not to mention all of the other produce that she purchased: peaches, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries and carrots.

I savored that BLT! It brought me back to a simpler time. And the worry and stress of my day slipped away. It occurred to me (once again) why my wife is such a good cook. It’s because all her meals are made with love. She takes the time to plan most meals based on my half-hearted suggestions and then she goes the extra mile by hand selecting the ingredients to prepare whatever is on the menu du jour. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Veal Prince Orlov or Sloppy Joes she always adjusts her recipes to add a ‘dash of love’. And often a dollop!

Cooking with Nana ~ a living legacy

So when you sit down to dinner tonight and give thanks to God for your blessings don’t forget to thank the cook, too.

Bon Appétit,


P.S. Deb, I reckon that we’ve shared over 13,000 dinners together – that’s a lot of love!  I can never really thank you enough (but I’ll keep trying).